Interview with Comic Writer Kara Barrett

It’s not every day that I stumble upon a comic that 1. has a strong female lead 2. has awesome art 3. involves fighting, superpowers, and other such kick-ass elements. Kara Barrett’s The End Is Totally Nigh gets a little checkmark for each of my qualifications for a throughly enjoyable comic book read. And there’s a lot to learn from Ms. Barrett, who made her dream comic happen through the help of Kickstarter, hired artists, and a ton of hard work. In this interview, she shares her experiences and advice for those looking to get their comics out into the world. (Oh, and check out a preview of the comic here.)

Convince us, in one sentence, that your comics are awesome.

The End Is Totally Nigh is one BIG burrito-wrapped apocalypse of awesome filled with hellfire, horseheads, heroes and demons! How’s that?

What is your favorite comic or graphic novel?

My favorite comics right now are Rachel Rising and Saga. But I’m always looking for new titles. You have any recommendations for me? I’ve also backed a few on Kickstarter that I can’t wait to read.

What (or who) inspired you to begin creating comics? Why did you begin writing and creating comics?

I read comics when I was a kid and then stopped. When Buffy went to comics, I picked up a few copies and fell back in love with them. A few years ago I started writing this story in a loose format. I looked at different mediums for my story, and ultimately decided that comics were the way to go. I think they are a great way to put your story into people’s hands.

Tell me about  The End Is Totally Nigh.

The End Is Totally Nigh is a story about a girl with mysterious abilities who is trying to stop the impending apocalypse. She suddenly has the ability to exorcise demons, but it isn’t sure how or why she is able to do this. All she does know is that the demon army is about to rise and Lucifer is going to walk the Earth. It’s up to her and a group of ragtag demon hunters to try make sure that doesn’t happen. It’s a supernatural story filled demon bad guys and plenty of apocalyptic drama. I think readers will really enjoy it.

If your comics had a soundtrack, what songs/artists would it include?

The End Is Totally Nigh playlist? Yes, I’ve got to create that!  I think there’s some country music on that playlist. T-R-O-U-B-L-E and Amarillo by Morning for the main character Jane. And Thunderstruck. That’s a must. I’ll have to ponder on the rest.

Why did you decide to write a comic with a strong female lead? When I began work on my own graphic novel, Fusion, I purposely wanted to break gender stereotypes so prevalent in superhero comics. Were you motivated at all by a similar “feminist” objective?

I definitely wanted strong women in this comic. The End Is Totally Nigh is filled with great female characters who take charge. They are also drawn in a more realistic manner than a lot of what you see in today’s comics. I hope that is a refreshing change for some readers.

You used Kickstarter to fund The End Is Totally Nigh. Would you use Kickstarter again to fund another project? Why did you choose to use Kickstarter in the first place?

I heard about Kickstarter and decided to try it as a last attempt to make this series happen. It was a lot of work but totally worth the effort. I think crowdsourced funding is helping a lot of indie writers get their stories to public. I think that means we can expect a lot more variety in comics and graphic novels. I would definitely try it again and may do so very soon. The End Is Totally Nigh is funded from my own pocket, so I will be in need of an influx of cash soon to keep the series going. 

What was most intimidating about breaking into comics, and what tips would you give others who are hoping to break in as well?

I think I read something recently where someone said, there is no such thing as ‘breaking’ into comics anymore because of sites like Kickstarter. If you have the gumption, you can just go out there and MAKE a comic. I think that’s true. Write a story you believe in, find an artist and get your funding. Anything is possible!

What advice would you give other aspiring comic artists and writers in regards to getting their stuff published? What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?

Self publishing is a lot of work, especially if you are new to the business and no one has ever heard of you. But the upside is that if you self-publish you can keep all of the profit. If you have the time and money to devote to self-publishing, then go for it. Personally, I am juggling full time work, freelance work and writing and promoting this series. My plate is pretty full. I have recently found a small indie publisher willing to help distribute the title. I hope to be able to announce who that is very soon. Once I have more experience I may pitch a new book to a big publisher and see if gets picked up. Ultimately, I think it’s really just a matter of what you have the time and money to accomplish.

How do you think the experience of comic creating and publishing differs for men and women (if it does at all)?

I really don’t know. This does seem to be a male dominated industry, but that is changing. Kickstarter and sites like that are giving a lot of female writers a chance to create and publish their own projects. That is really exciting. I’m glad to be a part of that.

What is your next project?

I have two in the pipeline. One is a mini series and the other is a one issue horror story. I hope to get the funds to do one or both of them later this year. Right now I’m devoting my energy to getting my series off of the ground and hopefully hitting some cons this year.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Please visit  our Facebook page and “LIKE” us so you can keep updated on news, release dates and information about the series!

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Interview with Comic Artist Bill Blankenship

I was perusing samples of Bill Blankenship’s work, and I literally said aloud, “Wow! Awesome art!” Really, I seriously did. Bill’s work is technically awesome while maintaining a strong sense of personal style. So, it is my honor to introduce Bill Blankenship, comic book artist.

Convince us, in one sentence, that your comics are awesome.

My comics are made by someone who loves comics and is devoted to the craft, and he is chained to a desk in my basement.

What is your favorite comic or graphic novel?

Nextwave. That book is a combination of everything I like.

What (or who) inspired you to begin creating comics?

Greg Capullo was a huge influence on me as a kid. I was reading Spawn probably way younger than I should have. I think 11. That and The Maxx around the same time. I think this is around the same time I was a Power Rangers fan so it’s mixed. Ghostbusters was a really early influence and one that I think stuck.

If your comics had a soundtrack, what songs/artists would it include?

The Black Keys, Dr. Steel, Gogol Bordello Ronald Jenkees, Die Antwoord, Fugazi, B-52’s, The Like, DJ Shadow, Hockey, Muse, Radiohead, Puscifer. That’s some of stuff on my go-to work playlist.

Tell me more about “Abigail and Rox.” I saw the sample pages online and found the comic’s tone/themes familiar—with clear Alice and Wonderland inspiration—yet somewhat haunting.

That was a collaboration that helped me work out my environments. It had a lot of amazing and creative settings that you could elaborate in order to show what kind of world you were dealing with. The story had this feeling of the loss of childhood and I wanted to portray that as best as I could.

How have you developed your personal style, both as a writer and artist?

A lot of work and study of the techniques of artists I like for starters. I mean years of work. Study of the craft of cartooning, the science of it, to get that base to work from. For a while I really didn’t allow myself to really play with style because I knew the foundation wasn’t there. I’d also see a lot of young artists use it as a crutch and as appealing as that can be it’s not serving the story and I knew that. My simple page layouts are probably a symptom of that.

What was most challenging about self-publishing your novel, Special Edition?

Promoting it and scheduling. I really didn’t plan ahead as well as I should.

What advice would you give other aspiring comic artists and writers in regards to getting their stuff published?

I’m probably the last person you want to ask for advice but I think it’s pretty evident that doing it yourself is the smart thing. I’d recommend learning all the parts of the trade. Don’t just be a penciler. The next generation of creators to succeed are those who control their works and go directly to the audience. Make comics. Put them out there. Promote them. Listen to feedback. Strive to improve. Expect to work for 5 years before anyone cares about you. You have to be devoted to the craft.

How do you think the experience of comic creating and publishing differs for men and women (if it does at all)?

I think it’s pretty obvious that mainstream comics lacks a woman’s voice, but the reaction to that has been a swarm of amazing women creators in the indie world. That indie world is going to be a lot more important to comics as a craft and business in the next few years in my opinion.

What is your next project?

Without saying too much it’s going to be done with Action Lab, as with every other project for the foreseeable future. I’m hoping to put some things I’ve learned and things I suspect to the test. It’s something I’ve had in planning for a long time and something I think a lot of people will be excited to see.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I do hope anyone still reading this continues to support Action Lab and our projects in any way possible as we strive to make comics that people want to read, and I’d like to thank everyone who’s supported us so far in his endeavor. It’s been amazing so far.

And mostly I’d like to thank my wife Darcy, without whom none of this would be happening.

Comic Books 101 — Part One

Fridays at 8:30 in the morning, I sit in a class filled with fiction, gaming, art, and film majors to learn about comic books. More specifically, how to write them. I recognize that I’m insanely lucky to have this opportunity, so I’m going to share my experiences. Let’s call it Comic Book 101. And this is part one.

The first class blew my mind. I was told I’d have to write a script, a proposal, an elevator pitch, and convince an artist to draw the first six pages of my novel for my final project.  HOW COOL IS THAT!?

I was told there’s no money in comics (I’ve been told this before). I was told it’s difficult to find work as a comic writer.

I was also thoroughly convinced this is something I want to pursue.

So what did I learn?

Comics are special. They have their own unique culture, cliques, and genres.

Comics are corporate. Comics are about doing whatever you need (even if that means writing Scooby Doo) to get work.

Comics are commercial. You can make a lot of money off licensing. Or, you can make no money at all.

Comics are changing. People don’t read comics like they used to or in such volume.

There is nothing shameless about working in a comic book shop to break into the industry. Self-publishing isn’t only for losers who can’t get their stuff published; it’s for serious writers who want to attract some serious attention from publishers.

Comics are a community. It’s a small world.

Comic writing is not poetry (mostly). It’s creating a foolproof script any artist could understand. Comic writing is the foundation of comics, but it’s like being the drummer in a band.

That’s what I learned this past Friday. Check back next week for what I’ll learn next.