Interview with Comic Writer Rachel Deering

I’m a superhero comic kinda gal, but this is my second interview with a horror writer this month, and I’ve gotta say, this is stuff is great. Rachel Deering‘s writing is top notch, and the art that accompanies it is totally strong (perhaps even as strong as the  female protagonist of Anathema, which, by the way,–and I just figured this one out– isn’t simply a cool, creepy sounding name, but actually means something relevant. Look it up). Quite frankly, I’m honored to have had the opportunity to interview such a successful female comic writer:

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

Following the age old advice of “write what you know”, I make comics about lesbians, werewolves, tortured souls, and fucked up dreams.

What is your favorite comic or graphic novel?
The Warren Publishing books are my favorites. Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella, etc.
What (or who) inspired you to begin creating comics? Why did you begin writing and creating comics?
I started making my own comics after repeatedly reading and re-reading the small stack of horror books given to me by my uncle. When I could recite those stories from front to back, I knew it was time for some new terror tales, and the only way I would get those is by creating them myself. There were definite drawbacks to living, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere.
If your comics had a soundtrack, what songs/artists would it include?
Sopor Aeternus & The Ensemble of Shadows, Devil Doll, Miasma and the Carousel of Headless Horses, and Hammer horror movie soundtracks.
You did some editing for the Womantholgy book. How does wearing the editor’s hat influence your writing?
Having an editorial background, I tend to consider all aspects of creation when I’m scripting. I can see the panels in my mind, how they should be laid out, where the lettering will go, how the words and images will flow together and lead the eye down the page. I’m extremely mindful of each element and how it will work within the overall composition.
We don’t often see strong female leads in comics, especially not lesbians, like the main character in your horror comic, Anathema. When you decided to write a comic with a lesbian lead, did you have any concerns about how it might be perceived or pegged by readers, reviewers, etc?
Not any more than I’m concerned about how people will perceive me. I’m a lesbian, myself, so I was just writing what I know. I don’t tend to think about my sexuality much. I’m sure other people do, and some of them may even work themselves up into a frenzy about it, but I couldn’t care less. If you let yourself get upset over something so simple and irrelevant to your every day life, you should probably just stop reading comics altogether.
What path led you to becoming a professional comic writer?
The intense and undying need to tell stories. I honestly have so many ideas rattling around in my brain at any given moment, I can’t think about much else. Day jobs were terrible because of how much I would daydream about these fantastic characters and settings in my mind. Eventually, I had to give up the steady paychecks and chase my dreams. Luckily, my wife has a really good job, so we have enough money to pay the bills and keep health insurance.
What was most intimidating about breaking into comics, and what tips would you give others who are hoping to break in as well?
For me, it was that nagging uncertainty that comes with most creative brains. Constantly doubting myself and my abilities. Worrying about whether or not my stories were good enough for other people to read. I was constantly telling myself to give up the charade and go running back to the day jobs. That whole thing has subsided a bit, but not completely. For others who might be in that particular mindspace, I’d say just keep working and turning out stories. Not every story is going to be a hit, and maybe the majority of them will be crap, but you’ll eventually turn out that one idea that really works for you.
Like many comic creators today, you used Kickstarter to fund Anathema. Can you take us through the process—from idea to publication—for making Anathema a reality?
It’s a dreadfully long story, but here are the basics: I was taking a shower and the idea came to me. I told some artist friends of mine, and they all said it would be an impossible sell. I didn’t listen to them. I self financed three pages of art and took those to kickstarter. I raised enough money for issue 1 and released that to the world. The story was well received, so I went back to kickstarter to finance the remaining issues in the series. Now, here I am, waiting (im)patiently for issue 2 to be finished.
How do you think the experience of comic creating and publishing differs for men and women (if it does at all)?
I’ve never tried publishing as a man, so I don’t think I could provide any sort of clear comparison. I would HOPE that the experience is not at all dissimilar from one gender to the next. I know I don’t think about what’s between my legs or under my shirt when I’m writing. I’m just telling the stories that need to be told.
What is your next project?
I currently have seven projects in various stages of production. There will, of course, be further issues of Anathema. I’m also working on my all ages book The Other Side, a whole host of anthology stories, a capes and tights one-shot, and a dark fantasy/adventure/humor series. Like I said before, lots and lots of ideas rattling around between my ears.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Don’t listen to the hype. Don’t believe anything anyone tells you. Every single person makes their own way in life and uses experiences and lessons in a different way. If you’re trying to live your life by the mistakes and successes of another person, you’re almost certain to fail. Or come out the other side a copy-cat, which is probably worse than failure. Be yourself and tell the stories only you can tell.
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Interview with Comic Artist Chad Cicconi

Chad Cicconi is one of those comic artists whose work you can easily identify, like a sharply dressed French man in a police line up of beggars. What I’m trying to get as is he’s got a cool, distinct (and dare I say, somewhat cartoony?) style that sets his work apart from the “typical” superhero stuff. His probably most well known comic work has been with Fracture, a superhero comic with a twist. I’ve been lucky enough to interview Chad, and so now you, too, can learn a thing or two about living the life of a successful comic book artist:

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

If you like action-packed, thought provoking, funny, and brilliantly-drawn comics, you will love FRACTURE from Action Lab.

What is your favorite comic or graphic novel?
Other than my own work, of course, my all time favorite graphic novel is the original Marvel She-Hulk graphic novel from the late 1970’s featuring the best John Byrne art I’ve ever seen.
What (or who) inspired you to begin creating comics? Why did you begin writing and creating comics?
I’ve been a doodler my whole life, as well as a comic reader.  I’ve always wanted to try my hand at creating comics, but only got the courage to do so in the last six or seven years.  I only wish I’d done it much earlier.  In terms of my art inspirations, I’ve been strongly influenced by artists such as Art Adams, John Byrne, Kevin Maguire, Adam Hughes, and more recently, Stuart Immonen. 
If your comics had a soundtrack, what songs/artists would it include?
I’m going obscure 80’s on you here —
Swing out Sister – Break Out, Twilight World
Other artists — Chieftans, Basia, Howard Jones, James Taylor, Save Ferris, Aquabats
Tell me about  “Fracture.”
One man’s descent into madness as he slowly discovers he has multiple personalities — one of which is a supervillain, intent on destroying the city’s greatest hero, and the other of which is… wait for it … the city’s greatest hero.  The story follows the main character’s attempts to save himself without losing his grip on reality.
What path led you to becoming a professional comic artist? What was your experience with comics before taking this position?
As someone who loves to draw, and who has been a comic book reader for as long as I can remember, drawing comics was pretty much inevitable for me.  That I’m able to do so at a level where someone other than me wants to read them is just icing on the cake.  I’ve been working on drawing comics “professionally” since about 2006.  Before becoming the artist for FRACTURE, I drew a book called Mercury & the Murd for another independent comic publisher called PKD media, and prior to that, I drew a comic called “Baby Boomers” for Markosia, a comic company in the UK.  “Baby Boomers” was my first published work.
What was most intimidating about breaking into comics, and what tips would you give others who are hoping to break in as well?
As with many things, the first step is the most scary and intimidating.  Putting your own work out for someone else to see, rate, review and potentially criticize is a frightening thing, but it’s essential to do in order to become a comic artist.  So the best advice I can give anyone else is to draw as much as you can, learn as much as you can, and get your work out there, either in print or on the web.
What advice would you give other aspiring comic artists and writers in regards to getting their stuff published?
Just get your work out there.  The barriers to “publishing” are lower than they have ever been.  A writer or artist can create comics and publish them in small print runs or via the webcomic form, with little money or assistance from others.  And this is a good way to get your work in front of others who might want to work with you on other projects or to publish your stuff to a wider audience.  Don’t wait for someone else to “discover” you.  Get out there and do it yourself.
How do you think the experience of comic creating and publishing differs for men and women (if it does at all)?
As a male comic creator, I can obviously only speak from my experience.  I’ve been lucky enough to work with a number of talented female creators, both in my own projects, and as part of Action Lab Entertainment.  I know (or at least I hope) the opportunities for female creators are out there, and increasing, but I’m not naive enough to think that there’s an equal playing field yet.
What is your next project?
I’m hard at work on FRACTURE volume II, which is currently scheduled for a release sometime in 2013.  This will be a 4-issue story arc, and will take our main character even deeper into his own psyche.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Only that it’s been great fun so far working with Shawn Gabborin (the writer of FRACTURE) and all of my colleagues at Action Lab.  In addition to FRACTURE, I’ve also been involved to a minor extent in helping to put out the other titles that have been released in the last year or so by Action Lab.

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!

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.

Interview with Comic Writer Jeremy Whitley

Yeah, I know, I interviewed a dude. But give this guy a chance! He’s got a lot of interesting things to say about women in comics. First of all, he writes the comic Princeless. The title is pretty self-explanatory, and, if you’re interested, you can read more about the comic in my recent review.

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

 
It’s about a princess who saves herself, rides a dragon, and faces down terrifying monsters with nothing but a sword and her wits.

 

What is your favorite comic or graphic novel?

 
All time, Y: The Last May by Brian K Vaughn and Pia Guerra.  Currently…Batwoman.
 
 
Who is your least favorite author (of any medium and genre)?
 
Is is fair to take Stephenie Meyer?  Should she be off the table as too obvious?  Scott Lobdell goes here for comics, but I feel like that’s phoned in too.  He’s just too awful.
 
 
What is your dream job?
 
Professional writer.  Not of one thing in particular though.  I want to have my own creator owned stuff, but I’d really like to add something to that great superhero mythos as well.  I’d love Marvel to hire me to write a B level female superhero, one of the ones I feel just doesn’t get the stories she deserves.  Storm, Misty Knight, Dust or Ms Marvel.
 
 
What (or who) inspired you to begin creating comics?
 
I’ve always loved comics, but I had not read them in some time while I was actually studying to be a writer.  I stumbled on Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men while hunting down issue 1 of Buffy Season 8 and it reminded me why I loved comics.  From there, I put my head down and went for it.  So…while my dad got me into comics initially, I guess Joss Whedon inspired me to start writing them.  Never thought about it that way. 
 
 
What was the last book you read?
 
I honestly haven’t read many non-graphic books recently (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but the last thing I read was this great new all-ages comic called “The Intrepid Escape Goat” from 3rd World Studios.  It’s kind of an amazing book.
 
 
If your comics had a soundtrack, what songs/artists would it include?
 
“Sister Rosetta” by The Noisettes
“Feeling Good” by Nina Simone
“Creator” by Santi White
Definitely something by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Regina Spektor
 
 
No doubt your comic, Princeless, attempts to break down stereotypical portrayals of women in fairy tales (and comics). What inspired you to create Princeless? Were you ever concerned that writing a strong female lead might deter some readers?
 
I wanted to write this story because at the time I was considering the future and that my wife and I hoped to have a daughter.  I wanted to be able to share my love of comics with her and I wanted to write the sort of story that I would want her to be reading.  I’ve always been incredibly bothered by the princess culture that we push so many girls into. It’s okay for girls to like what they like, but if all they ever know is helplessness, rescue, and subjugation then what are they going to become?  I certainly want more than that for and from my daughter.
 
As for whether having a strong female protaganist would deter people from reading, the thought hadn’t really crossed my mind.  I guess I figure that if strong women bother them than they’re not my audience anyway.  Also, probably not people I want to get to know.
 
 
What advice would you give other aspiring comic artists and (particularly) writers in regards to getting their stuff published?
 
Think.  Work.  Create interesting characters.  Keep putting things out there.  Go to conventions even if you don’t have anything to sell.  Talk to the people who are doing what you want to do.  Make connections and make friends.  Keep going.  If you can’t find anyone to publish your stuff, publish it yourself.  When you have success, it’s going to feel like luck, but remember all the work you put into being lucky and don’t stop working.
 
 
What was most challenging about founding (and managing) Firetower Studios?
 
The most challenging thing about being an Indy comic creator is also the most challenging thing about being an indy comics publisher:  Keeping your head up.  It feels like no one is reading your comic.  To this day I’m certain I’ve spent more money on Firetower than I’ve made and that’s especially tough as a writer where you have less chance to do commission work at conventions and make your table money back.  In fact, I think SPX last year may be the first show where I actually made money…well, if you don’t count what I spent on the hotel and food.
 
 
How do you think the experience of comic creating and publishing differs for men and women (if it does at all)?
 
I’m obviously not an expert at being a woman in comics, but it seems to me that it’s way harder for women.  There’s a fair amount of misogyny in the industry and fanbase, but beyond that, there’s the question.  How will people receive your work once they know you’re female?  Will that effect whether or not they buy your work or hire you for a job.  Then there’ll always be those that insist that you only got the job because they needed a girl who blanks.  I’m very rarely asked what it’s like being a white man who writes comics, but no matter how good female creators are, that’s always going to be a question for them.
 
 
What is your next project?
 
Well, Princeless Book 2 should start making its way out a little later this year, but right now I have my fingers in a lot of other pies.  Firetowerstudios.com puts up new webcomics every weekday and we’ll have two (maybe three) new books coming out this summer.  All of them are written by me and all feature female leads.  That wasn’t a plan, it just happened that way.  “Illegal” which I’m doing with artist Charlie Harper is a book about being an undocumented immigrant in an increasingly monitored and socially stratified future.  It’s an action book, despite that description.  “Skip”, which I’m working on with artist Rich Lombardi, is a more traditional super hero comic, but it follows a superheroine who’s very new to the business and finds herself in the middle of a fight to the death between the forces of good and evil.  Finally, “The Last Fairy Tale” which I’m working on with artist Jason Strutz is a story about a future where magic has devastated the world and the few lone survivors live in magically protected communities.  One girl stumbles on one such community that suffering from a mysterious, but incredibly familiar curse.