Today we are thrilled to be joined by an inspiring comic creator who’s been making comics for “Longer than he’d like to admit”. But you know what? With great experience comes wise counsel, and awesome stories!
John is the creative mind behind titles like Ayla – Speaker for the Dead, Joe Bushkin, Boxie and many, many others. With a vast library of past work, John has a great deal to be proud of, and it sounds like his creative engine is just getting started. Ambitious? Yes. Driven? You know it! A true creator, John continues to allow the Muses do their work on him and giving his fans what they want. More comics!
So pull up a chair. If you’re under 25, get ready to Google some names and be impressed! John’s been around the Comicbook block and he’s imparting some excellent advice for all you up-and-comers, as well as some fun tales for the comicbook curious.
Let’s get to it!
Thanks for joining us John! To start, would you tell our readers a little bit about the comics you make?
JOHN: Right now I’m working on several different comics. I post them online, I try to do one page a week, and then collect and print.
Ayla Speaker for the Dead: “In Death she seeks the justice they were denied in life.” Set in a future New Orleans life hasn’t changed that much for those on the bottom. No one cares when you’re alive, so when you’re killed they care even less. One less murder to investigate. Except for Ayla. Her voice is the voice of the unwanted dead. She brings justice for them.
Boxie: 14 year old Amanda sees an alien robot fall to earth. What she doesn’t know is she’s been picked to be the next partner for the alien warrior and soon they are protecting earth as Boxie
Life During Wartime: What would our world look like under a Trump presidency that actually lives up to his rhetoric? What happens Roe v Wade is repealed? What happens if he demolishes the 1st amendment? What happens when he destroys the last decade of advancement in gay rights? That’s what this comic looks at.
I was working on The Almighty Project, which I always describe as my Young Adult comic novel, but after problems with a second artist on it, I’m going to put it on the back burner for a bit.
Is there a style or genre you focus on? What kind of comics do you create.
JOHN: Any kind. Science fiction, crime, super hero, young adult, slice of life…there’s no subject matter that can’t make a good comic. I don’t want to limit myself to one genre or style. Whatever the story demands is where I go.
When did you first start making comics?
JOHN: Longer ago than I want to admit, lol. I started getting published by the indie comic scene back in the 90’s. At the time there was an explosion of black and white comics being published and a lot of publishers were springing up trying to cash in on the boom. Still I managed to get published in some of the better publishers, like Fantagraphics, Kitchen Sink and a few others. I took a long break sometime between then and now, getting back into comic writing in the last few years. Instead of trying to break into other publishers right now I’m focusing on publishing my work myself.
How did you get into creating comics?
JOHN: I always wanted to write and I always loved comic books. When I first started writing I tried my hand at the science fiction magazines. I was a big science fiction fan at the time. But even then my goal was always to end up writing comic books.
You are clearly very self motivated considering all the titles you’re publishing at the moment. What advice would you give to those who are struggling to keep momentum and want to give up?
JOHN: Just keep working. It helps if you’re working on more than one thing. If you have all your eggs so to speak in one basket and it doesn’t pan out, it can be hard to keep going. But if you’re working on a project that you start feeling like is not going anywhere and you have another project to jump into, it helps keep things going. I’m constantly working on so many different projects, that when I start to feel things slowing down for me on one I just move to another for awhile.
But in the end you just have to want it bad enough to keep going.
Even if you don’t sell anything you have to want to write enough that you’ll do it even if no one else sees it.
Where do you get your ideas/inspiration from?
JOHN: Everywhere. Anything and everything can inspire me. Ayla was inspired by the hurricane Katrina and the tv show Homicide and my ex girlfriend. Mix all that together and I came up with Ayla. Move beyond comics to inspire you. If your inspiration is coming strictly from comic books something is wrong.
You should look at everything for inspiration. Movies, books, tv and even more importantly life.
Is there one thing that you absolutely could not live without during your creative process?
JOHN: I guess I would say my pen and paper. I’ve tried to write on the computer, but I find the creative juices flow better when I write the first draft on a notepad with a pen. Then I can take that and put in the computer and revise as I go. But the original writing is done simply with ink and paper.
What was the first comic you published.. Any memorable experiences during the process?
JOHN: A four page backup in Bill Loeb’s JOURNEY comic that was published by Dave Sim, who did CEREBUS. The artist was Sam Kieth (yes, that Sam Kieth that created the MAXX). Bill’s wife Nadine was editing JOURNEY and the backups and the story I originally proposed was going through the editing process.
I guess it was a couple weeks, I’d call and we’d discuss it and then I’d go back and write it. Well, during this I sent Sam this other four page story and he drew it and sent to Bill and Nadine and it ended up in the back of JOURNEY with no editing process, lol.
You’ve had a very interesting career and worked with some pretty iconic people. Are their any stories that come to mind you’d like to share?
JOHN: Perhaps a comic con, publisher, social media, family etc. story Speaking of Sam Kieth, back when Image was forming and he was one of the first artists not part of the founders asked to contribute he was coming up with the idea for the MAXX. Originally he asked Bill Loebs to write it with him, but for whatever reason Bill declined. So Sam came to me, we had been working on a lot of stuff together before he broke in to Marvel, so we got along pretty well.
A few months went along and Sam and I would talk about what he wanted with the MAXX but we never really got very far along. Then Bill decided that he would work on it with Sam. Sam was very nice about it and I couldn’t blame him. Bill was a great writer and we really hadn’t gelled on the comic.
But from this I was able to get Sam to do a cover for my first self published comic DIEBOLD.
What would you say is your ultimate goal working in comics?
JOHN: My ultimate goal would be able to make a living from this, but it’s not a goal that I am counting on. In the meantime I’m happy to be able to write and publish my comics and get out there and meet people and sell comics.
What do you think the big publishers could learn from the Indie scene?
JOHN: I’d like to see them rely less on continuity and more on just telling a good story, but they’re really not set up for that. Their fan base wants each issue to build off the past issues and the characters to be the same all the time.
Just tell a good story.
Are there any interesting projects or books you’ve created you’d like our readers to see? And are their any comics you’re currently working on that your fans can expect?
JOHN: Besides the comics I have a collection of tips on comic book writing called FOR WHAT’S WORTH and will be coming out with a companion book called THE MAKING OF A COMIC BOOK, which details the creation of Ayla Speaker for the Dead from the idea to getting it online and printing. I also have a kid’s book called THE VOODOO BEAR coming out this month also. And by the time this interview is out I’ll probably be coming up with some new idea that I want to do.
Well it’s been a trip. But that’s it for this edition of COMIXCENTRAL CONVERSATIONS!!.. sations… sations..*words slowly drifting off.
We want to thank John for taking the time to give us some insight into his extensive career. I hope you learned something, I know I did! Just keep creating what you love, no matter how long the game may be or seem, if you’re making things you love… it’s all worth it. Thanks for that John! Truly inspirational.
If you’d like to learn more about John, buy some of his comics or just connect with him, all the links to do so are below.
Now go make some comics!
Connect with John
Comixcentral : @john_holland
For all John’s titles: Shop by Holland