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Episode #24 | J Adam Farster

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On this weeks episode of “Adventures in Interviewing” Chris Hendricks interviews  J. Adam Farster

“There’s probably gonna be a robot.”

Join Chris while he finds out makes the delightfully inspiring and motivating creator of the Humalien series, J. Adam Farster tick! Adam, Indie Comic creator, graphic designer, Kickstarter, and one of the founding members of the Indie Comic think tank and collaboration group, “The Lab”, shares his own personal origin story, how he creates his comics and drops some mad wisdom for new and wanna’ be creators along the way. So turn it up, put your brain on “soak in” mode and let’s meet J. Adam Farster!

 “Don’t be afraid of failing, because the entire process is about failing.
Even when you’re succeeding, you’re probably failing somewhere”. – J Adam Farster

[podbean resource=”episode=b9yt4-804a9e” type=”audio-rectangle” height=”100″ skin=”1″ btn-skin=”108″ share=”1″ fonts=”Helvetica” auto=”0″ download=”0″ rtl=”0″]

Connect with Adam

Twitter  |  CXC Profile





 

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Comic Shops Open Up About How to Get Your Comics on Their Shelves

sell comics stores

If ever there was a field where independent creators have it rough, it’s the comic book industry.

Completing any project can be a feat in itself but with comics, you have to have it all (as in finished comic book product) and hope that you can recoup your expenses monetarily or at least in the capital of prestige/notoriety.

So, as a way to help guide indie creators to greater heights, I talked to several different comic book stores about their ordering processes, how indie books make it to their shelves, what books seem to sell and ideas on getting indie books in stores. If you don’t already, you should fully understand the juggernaut you’re up against coming out of the gates. Out of the stores contacted the majority reported their independent/non-DC/Marvel titles sales were only 5-20%. Since Image was included in these numbers (which is essentially just a smaller version of the Big Two) it’s safe to assume the percentage for non-Image independent books drops even further. Obviously, as in any competition against established products, the uphill battle is very steep indeed. But not impossible, and this is where the owners have keener sight and advice.


1. Any Insight into why certain titles seem to take off compared to other titles? What seems to misfire?

Dave Michaels of eXpertComics: “I find what works in the indies better than anything is word of mouth. If a book is not doing well, it is probably because the fans and retailers are not spreading the word in the shops and online.

Jim Drucker of NewKadia.com: “Marketers have been trying for about 150 years to figure out what products the public will grab onto. You never know.”

Benn Ray, co-owner of Atomicbooks.com: “I think some non-DC/Marvel titles fail because many are uninspired 3rd rate DC/Marvel/Image/Dark Horse wannabe books. The publishers are simply trying to create what other publishers are already doing better, maybe in the hopes of securing a job with those publishers. Some creators seem to think “indie” is simply a step up the rung. I also think many floundering indie titles could benefit from stronger editors. Overall, crappy art, lame writing, uninspired storytelling. In many cases, you can judge a bad book by its cover.”

John Robinson, co-owner of Graham Crackers Comics: “Indie titles are just like a mainstream book. It’s like Batman except his butler is a girl! Whoa. It’s like Superman only he’s kind of a jerk. It’s like Justice League only they hate each other.”


2. How does the person responsible for ordering make their specific choice of titles and the quantity they order?

Dave Michaels: We specifically have on online subscription service. I believe we order based on what is pre-ordered mostly, and secondly, we try to order based on mainstream exposure and/or ‘hype.’”

Jim Drucker: “Based on past sales of those titles.”

Ryan Liebowitz, owner of Golden Apple: “Diamond Previews is our main catalog but we also look at emails, mailings and get many calls and visits directly from creators and publishers alike. Generally, we will look at the creative team, publisher credibility, story concept and artwork to help determine ordering levels.”

Benn Ray: “I think my filter works something like this: if the book looks like a wannabe DC/Marvel superhero book, I’m not ordering it. If it’s a hokey-looking genre book, sci-fi/ fantasy, I’m not inclined to order it. If I’ve never heard of the publisher, the writer, or the artist, it’s unlikely I’m going to take a chance on that book. If the art looks poorly computer colored, computer-generated or the story concept seems hackneyed, I’m probably not going to order it. If the art looks “manga-inspired” I’m probably going to skip the book. My store focuses on alternative/underground books, so I’m more apt to carry those. If it’s a publisher I recognize as doing quality work, if the book has artists/writers I know I have an audience for, I’m more apt to carry their book. I’d rather miss an issue or two of a new comic and have customers ask me to order it than get stuck with a really crappy book that I”m embarrassed to have on my shelves that I can’t get rid of.”

John Robinson: “Managers base their ordering on their personal tastes, number of pre-orders from customers and the current amount of buzz surrounding the title.”

3. In terms of sales does anything stand out to you as remarkable from the past few years, as far as indie publishing?

Dave Michaels: “I don’t know if this counts but I would say the resurgence of Archie and the whole relaunch of the Archie line of comics shocks me. Whoever decided to reboot the line in that way is absolutely brilliant! I think the indie market should be thinking about tapping into that fan base.

Jim Drucker: “TV shows and movies and other mass media and massive social media all contribute to sales of various titles.”

Ryan Liebowitz: “Image Comics are starting to outsell Marvel and DC titles. We also have seen much success from publishers like Black Mask, Boom!, Valiant and others on select titles.”

Benn Ray: “We’ve seen a big resurgence in interest in self-published mini-comic.”

4. Any advice or suggestions as to how someone with a self-published book would best go about getting it on comic book store shelves?

Dave Michaels: “My best advice for indie creators would be to use the times and social media as much as possible. We live in a big “convention era.” Try to get booths at cons both big and small, do panels, interact with fans. Also, the internet and social media is our best tool today. Get online make Facebook pages, do the Twitter thing, get a Kickstarter going. These are the best avenues we have today. Also, go to local comic shops and ask them to put your stuff on the shelf. There are not many stores that won’t support local content. Make friends and fans and get out there!”

Jim Drucker: “ A, have a ground-breaking idea. There is no substitute for quality and originality. No amount of great marketing can sell AND maintain sales for a lousy product. B, have a strong social media presence. If young musicians can find a worldwide audience from YouTube, aspiring writers and artists and comic book creators can to with the right product. C, have the necessary capital. Starting any new business takes a great product but it is expensive. I have seen HUNDREDS of comic books that published only one issue. Many, deservedly so. But some, I thought had some potential, but for reasons unknown to me, there was never a second or third issue. My guess is that poor early sales sapped their budget. There are countless examples of products in other industries that took YEARS to catch on. If you’re on a shoestring budget, you may not stay in business long enough to catch on.”

Ryan Liebowitz: “Self-published works that are not solicited through Diamond are very difficult to get onto shelves. Their stronghold on the industry is criminal and another distributor needs to form to help all publishers get into the hands of comic book fans.”

Benn Ray: “There is no magic bullet or quick fix or trick to this.”

John Robinson: “The thing I tell anyone that is self-publishing is to take a hard look at their own buying habits. Ask yourself some questions. Do you buy Stray Bullets every month? Are you interested in Zombie Tramp? What indie titles have gotten you to buy them faithfully month after month and what was it that got you to try them? I constantly get people that buy only Marvel/DC type books doing their own self-published book and not understanding why no one buys it. Every item in the store is fighting for your attention–what’s unique about your property? Could be just great art. Could be it fills a niche that is currently not being filled in the marketplace.”


So there you have it, folks, straight from the mouths of those who know and want to see indie, self-publishers and creators succeed.

There are certainly a few key takeaways. Even if you can’t use a hot established property such as Archie, maybe try and tap into the essence of what is attracting so much attention today both in comics and Comic related TV programming. Support other indie/self-published books. Research and explore the market. Be original, don’t clone the big Marvel/DC titles. Or if you do, put a real spin on it that no one has read before. (It’s the Justice League but they’re vampire zombies!) Lastly, and most importantly, network the hell out of yourself and your book. Without that, even the greatest of indie comic books will stay undiscovered.


*A seriously big thanks to all the people and establishments that took the time to answer my questions and help propel, if even only a small amount, the world of indie and self-published comics.

NewKadia.com  |  Atomicbooks.com  |  grahamcrackers.com  |  goldenapplecomics.com expertcomics.com





 

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Podcast Episode #13 – WOO! Todd Matthy Talks Robots vs Princesses

Episode #13 – Adventures in Interviewing with Todd Matthy, creator of Robots v Princesses

On this episode, Chris Hendricks gets the lowdown on how indie comic creator Todd Matthy ran a wildly successful Kickstarter Campaign. They destroyed their goal and are now bringing Robots vs Princesses to the world!
They also have a delightful, impression filled conversation about Pro Wrestling and the lessons Todd gained from being a lifelong fan. Do not miss this fantastic and often nerd-nostalgic episode!
robots vs princesses comixcentral
[podbean resource=”episode=rvhu7-7e9a38″ type=”audio-rectangle” height=”100″ skin=”1″ btn-skin=”108″ share=”1″ fonts=”Helvetica” auto=”0″ download=”0″ rtl=”0″]

Connect with Todd and find out where you can grab a copy of Robots vs Princesses below:

robotsvsprincesses.com  |   Twitter


 

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Eff The Naysayers

sean martin

From an early age, I was exposed to the negative effects of being an artist. I’ll explain.

Most every artist (be it Illustrated, digital, paints, etc.) has been subject to psychological evaluation through their art. This is usually done by anyone who views their art. From the earliest caveman all the way up to present day artists. Art has always been up for interpretation, much that same as the written works of those who contribute to society as civil servants, psychologists, theologians, whathaveyou. There is the problem of judging the artist by his art. The worst culprits of this activity are usually parents, psychologists and art critics. This is to be expected.

My father was my worst critic. Going so far as to admit me to therapy at the age of 13, Puberty-Age, with some of my art as the reason behind the visits. He believed that a few pieces of art, and some erratic behavior of a budding young man, were cause for concern. After several visits for therapy, and a prescription for ADHD meds, I was “better”. The only thing that made it seem as if I were better was the fact that I stopped making art that could be seen as psychotic, or otherwise questionable to the morals of my family’s household. So, a lot of misunderstanding took place between myself and my old man. What were these images that landed me on the therapist’s couch? Mock-up covers for a horror book I was writing, pseudo-posters for “Child’s Play” movies, and a few Beavis and Butthead images with them dressed as Wolverine and Cyclops.

Can I blame him for seeing things that weren’t there? As a 37 year old father myself, probably not. I’m constantly worried about what my son and my twin daughters are posting on Instagram, but tend not to overthink their intentions. My behavior towards my own children was directly influenced by the negativity of my own upbringing. I tend to let them rant and vent and share things, as I see it as important to let them get it out in the open. So, in that respect, I understand what my own father was going through with me. As I said, my father was my worst critic. He was my naysayer. I think he understood that I wanted to be an artist, but misunderstood where I wanted my art to go; Comics. He would constantly tell me that computers were the way to go, as more and more films and other media seemed to migrate with the technology. He hardly understood my intentions, and would become increasingly more vocal about not drawing. I sometimes find myself questioning his motives as a father to not support his son’s wishes and dreams. It seems that I was not allowed to draw anything, as it was a “waste of time” when hand-drawn media seemed to be disappearing. It was like a constant redirect.

My own father would not be alone in trying to dissuade me from chasing my dream of being a comics artist. My first wife was the same way. But from a completely selfish direction. Much as I hate to talk about my ex-wife, I feel it’s relevant. I was a young father, then, and adult responsibilities had to take priority. That’s only natural. But it seemed that she, like my father, saw drawing as a waste of time. Chasing a dream like that will only lead to failure. She and my father would not be the only naysayers in my lifelong dream of pursuing a career in comics. But they are the closest examples of those whom you trust to back you up, fall short and try to shut it down. A dream can fade if the support factor is absent.

Despite my naysayers, close relatives or otherwise, I was determined to make my dreams come true. Eventually, I would distance myself from those naysayers, either through divorce or outright choosing to not be around them. My point is, Fuck those naysayers. DO NOT let someone, who knows nothing of your struggle, try to make your dream seem less important. My own trust in family has been damaged for many years, so this isn’t advice on how to deal with YOUR naysayers. I have since found my family in the friends I keep close to me. Those who support my dream, and try to do anything to help me achieve it.

Surround yourself with supportive people, be it family, friends, your dog, your cat, your pet snake, or even the smelly guy on the bench who drunkily says “Go for it.”Draw

Draw everyday. Practice those challenging areas that give you trouble. Don’t stop drawing, writing, painting, whatever your passion. Don’t give up because it’s a waste of someone ELSE’s time. You have a gift for a reason. A “Super-Power”, and to some, it is a perceived ability that not everyone possesses.

EFF the naysayers. Chase your dream!


 


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CXC PodCast Episode #6 – Marketing Your Comics Series – Part #1

Part 1 of Our Ongoing Series – Marketing Your Comics / Simple, Straightforward Advice for Self Promoting Your Comics & Art.

Today Leigh Jeffery is joined by expert Marketers Kirsten Nelson and Jamie Moran to discuss how to start marketing your comics in a noisy and uninterested world. We also poke fun at how Kristen pronounces Origin 😛 Sorry Kirsten! We love you! <3

[podbean resource=”episode=2m3e5-7e9a40″ type=”audio-rectangle” height=”100″ skin=”1″ btn-skin=”108″ share=”1″ fonts=”Helvetica” auto=”0″ download=”0″ rtl=”0″]




 

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Just DO the work.

comic book motivation

A friend of mine had once told me the secret to breaking into the comics biz was to “Just DO the work.”

Without name dropping, this friend, who made quite a name for himself in the indie comics world and was becoming a success in his own right. When he gave me this seed of wisdom, it took some time for the idea to grow. Once I realized what he meant, I was at the drawing table as often as I had the time. Just creating.

I had had brushes with my dream job, make it into the comics biz as a full-time storyteller, a few times in the past. My relationships with other creators always seem to steer me further into the right direction. But somehow, fall short of the intended destination.

I pushed my submissions to many publishers over the years, nearly coming close to drawing my hero for a fledgling company. No matter how close I came to my dream, it seemed not to be. I was chasing the damned Roadrunner. It was exhausting. Coyote or not, I could not continue wasting my time and energy chasing something, seemingly, unattainable. So, what was there to do?



“Just DO the work.” His words kept pinging off the inside of my brain. What had it meant?

To me, four words never held such mysticism and mystery. Doing the work surely had meant keep submitting your work to companies. Over time, that didn’t prove true. So, there had to be another meaning. One I had to discover on my own. Just DO the work. Just create. Just write. Just draw. Just DO it. It began to sound convincing. What had I to lose?

Over the years, technology progressed, social media pages began exploding with all kinds of new apps. I began to think, Fine, If I can’t sell my art, I’ll showcase it. Somebody is bound to take notice. I took my art to Instagram and to Facebook. I stopped trying to sell myself to a faceless company whose only concerns were their bottom line and not the reader’s interest. I want to tell stories and draw them for you as I see in my head. 

Just DO the work. Let THEM decide if they like it. Get your stuff out there. Don’t be afraid of negative feedback.


 

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Get New Customers and Reward Loyal Fans by Using our Coupon Feature

Here at ComixCentral, we don’t have favourites, But it doesn’t mean that you can’t!

Make your fans feel special by giving them discounts with the Coupons section in your ComixShop.



Perhaps you want to say a little thank you to your buyers or to those that helped you get up and running?

Say, you post something online using our social media links and would like give a small reward to those that help promote you by sharing?



You could even create a key for your friends and family which offers a 100% discount, such that you can gift your comics to those close to you!

 

So whatever you decide to do with your coupons, let your fans know that they are appreciated and grab some new readers too!

Best of luck!
Sincerely,

Your friendly neighbourhood Crystal & the ComixCentral team


 

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How to add a video to your ComixShop



Welcome to our new series “How to: in 100 words or fewer”.

Here we’ll be helping Vendors and Consumers know what they need to know, fast.


Our first post for vendors: “Add a video to your vendor store”, here we go: 

Step 1: Go to “settings” on your store and switch to text view (top right-hand side of the editor).

Step 2: Go to the video on your YouTube channel and click the “Share” button.

Step 3: Click “Embed”

Step 4: Copy and paste this code into your description.

 

That’s it!  Save and your video will appear on your vendor page!

Bonus Step: Add Auto play

Just add ?autoplay=1 at the end of the link.

Like so:
`<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/8GPo-6RQiN0?autoplay=1″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>`


 

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Starving for Affection: The Nasty Business of Art

starving artist business

Welcome again, my friends, to another dashing dive into the depths of deplorable life choices.

I’m your host, CXC staff writer Chris Hendricks, and today we’ll be talking about everyone’s favorite Green Goblin (and no, I’m not talking about James Franco), talking about money. Either way, money and art don’t always mix for reasons unbeknownst to some but knownst to every brave person who finds themselves saying, “Pay me for stuff you’ve never seen before.” I thought this might be a good opportunity to do some exploring in the realm of real-life monopoly.

As an artist myself who has picked joyful starvation over responsible monotony, I thought I might be able to provide some insight into the herculean maze that is the artistic hustle. Let’s role the dice together, shall we? I’m not an expert, but I haven’t been to jail yet.

First, lets everyone take care of something. If you have the space, and your alone (or at least completely lacking in shame), then rise with me and yell that thing you’ve wanted to yell for years now. Ready? We’ll do it together. 3… 2…. 1… go. “Why the hell doesn’t anyone buy our s***?!”



Feel better? Now let’s get down to business.

Assuming you’ve chosen to cross the business bridge, don’t mistake a stroll over the abyss for a quick trip. Regardless of how long it takes, the steps are as sturdy as the emotions we carry with us. Turning something you love into something that covers the wage gap left behind when sanity quits working, is your classic “genie in a bottle” story. You’d be amazed how our emotional state can influence whether that genie is Robin Williams or Jafar on his final power trip.

Sorry for all the metaphors. Sometimes I get paid to put them on paper, and money is confusing sometimes, so they help. My point is there’s no need to be careful what you wish for unless you’re truly afraid to begin with. Either you believe your art is undeniably worth dollars, or you don’t.

If you can’t embrace the worth of your own stuff, you can’t expect the world to embrace it either.

Start thinking “This is going to work” somewhere in your head, or guess what? It won’t. Once you believe your art is really worth something, proving it is where the fun really begins. An easy place to start is taking some of your savings and putting your own money where your mouth is. If you believe your masterpiece is worth someone else’s paycheck, then you won’t have a hard time giving it your own. Take a class, hire a coach, or trade in your old Crayola collection for some serious art supplies. It’s a quick-action step that tells this universe of ours that you mean well…and you mean business.

So you’ve got an honest desire, and now you’ve got the tools.

Congratulations kings and queens of creation! One more step and you’ve reached Mediterranean Avenue, but you still can’t afford it (and it’s the cheapest property). Screw you, Monopoly guy. Nothing says I’m going to be poor forever like the phrase “waiting for inspiration.” Waiting belongs to Greek statues and the restaurant industry. You, my friends, are seekers.

In the beginning good art is like bad tequila. She’s desperate for a good chaser.

I’ve also found that it’s a good idea to define oneself with the skill that drives one’s passion. For example, if you love to draw and you want to make money, then you should call yourself an illustrator. If you love to write, call yourself a writer. Take that definition and put yourself in any position possible to use it. I, for one, will write anything I can, including but not limited to songs, stories, blogs, poems, musicals, and even the occasional instruction manual on how to make money from art while living in a van down by the river. Art is the original pimp of the world and I will happily whore myself out for the sake of freedom.

Now we’re getting somewhere, hopefully.

So what if, in spite of all your hard work, people keep saying no? Well now, welcome to the dirty underworld of this sometimes-pretentious paradise. Welcome to the realm of the critic. These are defining moments for artists and creators that happen time and time again. In my view, what happens in these moments determines whether you really have what it takes to make money with your craft, but not necessarily the way you might think. The truth is, being told “no” is a luxury.

As artists it’s our responsibility to determine the difference between haters and heralds of wisdom.

There are absolutely people out there who don’t want you to succeed. There are people who just don’t understand you. Sometimes though, the truth really does hurt. You can swallow your pride and be flexible, ignore it and keep going, or quit. Luckily, only one of those three options means game over. If you’re stubborn enough to keep playing, you can’t lose.

Here’s the harsh reality. Most of the world wants you to lose, especially when it comes to giving away money if you win. We live in a consumer-driven Internet age where people are bombarded with attention-hungry mayhem during most seconds of their day if they own a smart phone. I know it sucks to not be supported as a new artist, but it’s a simple case of hating a game you chose to play in the first place. It’s going to be harder for people to gravitate toward something new because people like routine. It’s one less thing for people to worry about.

Artists need to stay in the arena long enough for the audience to trust them. You have to be the hero of your own creation.

Fighting for your brand of awesome is like wrestling waves over and over again. The only way to win is to keep coming up for air. Hating on the average consumer is not going to help you breathe any easier, and at least you’re close to the boardwalk at this point. Soon enough you’ll run the place. In all honesty, you don’t have to prove anything to anyone. My apologies for sounding like an afterschool special, but as always these are suggestions. The proof isn’t necessarily in the art itself, but the joy you generate when you make it. It’s funny how energy works sometimes. Often times, joy has it’s own gravitational pull and you’d be amazed who shows up in your orbit when you realize you’ve been worth it all along.

What we do have is each other, and that’s a force to be reckoned with.

We have a duty to be good Samaritans, especially in the Indie realm. New art will rise much faster as a community. The days of the Hemingway loner vibe are few in the new world. I realize it’s weird to view this new monopoly as more of a D&D team experience—complete with Funyuns and Mountain Dew—but that’s where we are now. The business world you live in is one big dungeon master. Lucky for you, we’re the “all here” and “all creative.” Together we have the tools we need to win the game.

Ultimately, art as a business is hard because the prize means getting paid for being you. Next to love, I don’t know anything more worth the fight.





 

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CXC Conversations with Creators: Featuring Michael Lent

michael lent

We are over the moon today, having scored an interview with professional Comicbook creator Michael Lent.

Most of you will know him as the writer behind the Marvel series “Prey”, and more recently, “i, HOLMES”, but his experience stretches across many entertainment genres from non-fiction literature to film and TV.

Michael shares with us a wellspring of information, advice and even imparts a few star studded stories to brighten your day. Whether you’re a Comicbook creator looking for insight or a big ol’ Lent fan, curious about this hugely talented guy, we’ve got the goods – so get comfy.



And with that, ComixCentral proudly presents… “An Evening with Michael Lent!” (Well, an interview. You’ll need to supply your own wine and easy listening tunes).


Hi Michael! Thank you so much for taking the time to share some of your amazing experiences in making Comics and other media with us! Could you tell our readers a little about your comics.

ML: Anyone who admits to knowing me might refer to me as that @!*% writer of the Prey series (Marvel), co-writer of Brimstone (Zenescope), writer of The Machine Stops (Alterna) and most recently the i, HOLMES, also for Alterna. I co-wrote four graphic bios of Keith Richards, JRR Tolkien, Stephen King, Stephen Hawking (this was during my “bios of guys named Stephen who don’t like to be called ‘Steve’” period). Incidentally, the Stephen King bio was cool because I actually got to interview him and was able to confirm some things that had only been rumors before then. The project also led to me adapting one of King’s short stories, The Reaper’s Image.

Presently, we’re wrapping i, HOLMES a gritty urban detective drama set in 2009. The story is about a brilliant loner, a streetwise 17-year old girl fresh out of juvie who knows very little about her past except that someone wants to kill her and is willing to take out most of New York. Who she is, in fact, is pretty special, as is the identity of her would-be killer. Art is by Marc Rene, who I most recently worked with on The Machine Stops series. Publisher is Peter Simeti at Alterna, which also published The Machine Stops.

Recently, television producer David Rambo picked up i, HOLMES to develop as a television series and has been instrumental in helping to shape the story. David has worked on EMPIRE, REVOLUTION and CSI, as well as the upcoming series on TNT, WILL. He’s one of the most creative people I know, so we are pretty excited and hopeful.

Outside of comics, I write and produce independent movies in Los Angeles. I was executive producer on IF YOU’RE SERIOUS, shot in China in 2012. The film won several awards and was nominated for a sound design award by the National Academy of Sound Editors in 2014 and I was able to meet presenter George Lucas.

In 2009/2010, I followed the Arctic ice road truckers made famous on the History Channel in order to write the non-fiction book On Thin Ice for Disney Hyperion. The main staging area was out of Yellowknife, Canada and I experienced temperatures as cold as 45 below zero (F). It was awesome.

Wow. Just wow! So what kind of comics would you say you like to create?

ML: Well, first and foremost, what I do is write sort of architectural blueprints, and any ”creating” doesn’t happen until I team up with an artist who knows how to turn my brain scribble blueprints into a house. Without an artist like Marc Rene who I’ve worked with on three, soon to be four series, I would be reduced to stick figures.

As far as subjects, I’ve only done one super-hero book on assignment that has yet to be released. Mainly, I do sci-fi, horror, action-suspense crime dramas, and non-fiction bios. I can do comedy, too.

When did you get your start?

ML: I’m a trained screenwriter and had come to Hollywood to work on the Hellraiser series for Dimension, the film production company that made Scream, the Halloween movies, From Dusk ‘til Dawn and many more, including The Road, which is one of my favorite books and films.

Coming from the world of movies gives me a certain recognizable style and pacing. I’d like to think that my stories are well-structured. These days, I create some stories that are best served as comics or vice versa.

What made you decide to start making comics and get into that side of the entertainment industry?

ML: In 2006, I wrote a screenplay called Prey, a sort of Jaws/Aliens story that was set off the coast of Southern California. My agent at the time thought it was some of my best writing to-date but as a live-action film, the budget was something like $120 million and there are a finite number of companies able to make a film of that scale. However, films that come from comics can have a stylized look that’s a lot cheaper to shoot. Films like Sin City and 300 had come out and my agent encouraged me to think about my story in that context. As a kid, I had been into the X-Men and Marvel universe so I went back to those roots.

The result attracted interest from Dabel Brothers Publishing in Atlanta. They wanted to publish Prey as a six or seven book arc. At the time, the Dabels were working with George R.R. Martin, Orson Scott Card and Laurel K. Hamilton among many others, so it was a pretty exciting time to be there. My first signing at Comic-Con San Diego was with George R.R. Martin just as Game of Thrones was about to happen. We actually had downtime between signings and chance to talk about craft and business. It’s nice to meet some like Mr. Martin as a fan, but even better as a fellow creator.

By the time we finished creating Prey, Dabel Brothers had become a [short-lived] imprint of the Marvel Universe. My mentor in comic script writing was Mike Raicht who was an editor at Marvel, and is a very good writer in his own right. Mike worked on a lot of series including X-Men, Spider-man and the Hulk, and he taught me a variation of the full script method. Lance Laspina was my first art director. Through him, I came to understand how an artist sees a project, as well as how writers and artists should communicate.

Everyone has moments that they’d like to throw in the towel, how do you get and then keep momentum on your projects during those times?

ML: I know, it’s tough. The whole time we have been making i, HOLMES, artist Marc Rene and I have lived this question in the most gut-personal way possible. Just as I started to write out the initial story, my sister Shelly passed away unexpectedly. It was a difficult period. I thought I was handling it okay but the morning of the funeral my hair was coming out in my hands from all the stress. Luckily, I had my family and friends who supported me.

I soon realized that the only thing I could do to honor my sister’s memory was to finish what I’d started.

Then, early on in production, artist Marc Rene’s father was hospitalized with an invasive cancer. Every other week since August, 2016, he made a 450-mile drive each way from San Jose to Burbank to see his father. In early December, he lost his battle for life. In the aftermath, we continued to lay everything on the line to create this book and keep our dream alive.

In a more general sense, self-doubt is the biggest dragon we have to slay. It helps to realize, that the self-doubt goes hand-in-hand with creative expression. I’ve been on projects that appeared on the cusp of changing my stars but then they didn’t happen for some reason usually beyond my control. It can fill you with doubt and anger. To counter this, I focus on how much I enjoy creating and the community I’ve built. Usually, that causes me to reach out to friends, again for support, and then get back to work writing. Those are things that I enjoy and have some control over.

Also, I try to look at bad news dispassionately. Often, that leads me to ask “Why?” I’ll reach out to, say, a publisher and ask, “Can you tell me a little more about why you passed on the project?” Sometimes they tell you things that you can do something about. In one case, a publisher didn’t like the lettering style, which is an easy fix. I wouldn’t have found out if I didn’t probe for info. But lots of times you’ll find out it had something to do with elements outside of your control. You can’t beat yourself up about those kinds of things.

It helps a lot to have more than one project going at once.

When I’m stumped on one, I just roll over to the next. I also don’t pressure on any single project to be the ONE.

You’ve given some incredible advice here, is there any advice you wish someone had given you when you were first starting out?

ML: If you write, it has to be every day and not when the mood or lightning bolt of inspiration strikes. Same applies if you’re an artist. In school, my writing teacher used to say,

“Good days can come after good OR bad days but they can’t follow no days [days when you don’t write].”

One of the most important lessons Mike Raicht from Marvel imparted was a deferential respect for the medium and the stories. The business side of comics can be and often is brutal but Mike never, ever allowed these challenges to bleed into the creative side. He always made schedules and stuck to deadlines even when it was something just for himself. Especially in the case when you’re making something that doesn’t have a publisher waiting for it or a ready audience. If you don’t start with respect for the process when it’s just you by yourself, no one else will later on. I see creative types who are always chasing the next project as the be-all, end-all. When you do that, you’re less willing to make a project that’s right in front of you all that it can be.

A dozen years later, I still believe cynicism is a currency of dubious worth. I just don’t see much value in thinking success is all about “validation from strangers” or “who you know” and that kind of stuff.

If you’re meant to create, then that’s what you’re going to do.

I’d rather just get to it.

As someone who has worked with big publishers, studios and independently, I believe in DIY because I’ve learned the hard way that if you wait for someone else to pick up your project, you may be sitting around for a long time. Sometimes I’ll run into would-be creators at a con and they show me some great concept work or an ashcan, then a year later, I run into them again and see the same samples. That inertia comes from a lack confidence in either themselves, or the overall concept. You have to believe that what you’re doing matters.

Don’t let your story only exist inside your head.

Really crucial to partner with people with a strong work ethic who you respect and vice versa, too.

Again, what incredible advice! What would you say is one thing that you absolutely could not live without during the creative process?

ML: It would be hard for me to exist as a writer without my MacBook Pro and access to Google. I like to research and photo-reference things as I go so it would be tough to work off of a cave wall.

Here’s a weird question. If you could body snatch someone and take over their life for one day, who would that person be? And why?

ML: Real life person Barack Obama, especially if it was circa 2016.

Fictional person? Hmm. Gandalf… Harry Potter… Sherlock Holmes. Any of these people would be COOL and the bonus would be that I would get some residual value when I returned to my own form. I think it would be depressing to be Superman for one day, see through walls and fly around, etc. and then go back to being a mere mortal who rides the bus and looks bad in tights.

Your writing is so creative. Where do you get your inspiration and ideas from?

ML: I read a lot. 30-40 books/year. Comics, too. A lot of my ideas come from asking “What if…?” Also, I try to live with my writing so that when I’m walking around, everything I see, hear or do seems to pertain to the story I’m writing. Like I’ll see a billboard or my wife or kids will say something and I’ll think, “Wow! That’s exactly what I was trying to figure out!”

For the noisier fans out there, (uh-hum… you know who you are;) What does your workspace look like?

ML: I used to have a great office in our house with a couch and everything, but then our first child, my son was born, and I moved everything into a little bedroom that was barely big enough for my desk and an extra folding chair. The couch, the collectables and all the memorabilia went into the garage. Then our daughter came along and that little room went back to being a bedroom. I started working out of coffee houses around the Valley in Los Angeles. But then our second son arrived and there went the budget for bagels and Sumatra roast. So now most days I’m in a cubicle at one of two public libraries in Burbank, wondering what the hell happened. Seriously, it’s a great resource where I can go Old School and grab real books for reference. And the librarians are nice.

The breadth of your experience is so inspiring. Are there any funny or interesting stories you wouldn’t mind sharing with our readers might enjoy and maybe even learn a little from?

ML:  I don’t know if it’s funny or interesting but one story that jumps out is the time I was asked to be on a panel about writing in Hollywood. I arrived about 10 minutes early and the organizer took me aside and said, “Good, good, good, you made it. So, here’s the thing: we had a change of plans.” “Oh?” says me. “Yes, instead of a panel it’s going to be you and a surprise guest, so just go with it. It’ll be fun!” I immediately felt a tiny, tiny bit of sweat beading up on the back of my neck as I looked over at the stage that was empty except for a mic and two chairs. About thirty seconds later, the door opened and in walks the special guest, actor Michael Madsen, star of The Hateful Eight, Kill Bill, Reservoir Dogs and dozens of other movies. Now, normally, this would be real cool and a thrill but all I can do is look over at the two chairs, then over to Michael Madsen, then at the sweat pooling in my palms, as I realize that I am supposed to conduct a sit-down discussion with Mr. Madsen for which I had done ZERO prep.

Actually, Michael Madsen is a pretty cool guy and he usually pauses to size up and search for just the right words before he answers a question, which kind of gave me time to think of what to talk about next.

Truthfully, he didn’t really need my help, so it all worked out fine. Some audience members even thought me and “Mike” were friends who went way back. Might have worked out better that I didn’t know anything beforehand because I could have over-prepared and would have been more nervous. Afterwards, Michael Madsen and I bro-hugged like we had survived a plane crash.

You’ve already accomplished so much, but as a creator we know you can’t stop now! What would you say is your ultimate goal in making comics?

ML: I’d like to create and work on as many stories as possible. Right now, I have a number of projects stacked up waiting for artists. I’d like to get them moving forward.

It would be nice if some of those projects could stand the test of time, but at the end of the day, it’s a privilege to write anything that finds an audience. A few years ago, I had a signing in Santa Monica late one Saturday morning. It was raining which is a little rare for Los Angeles, so I wasn’t expecting much of a turnout. Still, I brought enough bottled water and candy for a few dozen people just in case. As soon as I set up the little table they gave me, crickets ensued. Some people actually avoided the area so that they wouldn’t have to say “hi.” Then, all of the sudden, this tour van pulled up and all these college-age Japanese cosplay girls got out. Most didn’t speak English, but they had flyers written in Kanji advertising my signing. Turns out I was part of their tour and someone was recording everything for a local broadcast. We took lots of pictures, I signed a couple dozen books and gave away the water and candy. It was surreal and wonderful.

Having had experience in the professional comics industry, do you think there is anything the big publishers can learn from the Indie scene or vise versa?

ML: Big publishers can become risk-adverse. You see the same story arcs over and over barely dressed up. Some of the freshest stories come from the edges and take the biggest chances. Indie books should take chances. Otherwise, they will never stand out from all the white noise. Not long ago, I was searching ComixCentral for something different and discovered the Lance Lucero series Bob: Non-Union Psychic. Such a fun story! Meanwhile, indies can emulate the fit & polish of mainstream pubs.

Editing and logic matters, as does making deadlines. A book riddled with typos undercuts the storytelling. One time I was reading a cool indie book where, on the climactic page, the main character takes a big wind-up swing with a sword but in the next panel, the follow-through was with an ax. I stopped reading and went back through the book looking for clues as to whether there was some sort of sorcery present and if so, to what end. I emailed the creator who responded with an “Argh.” There had been production issues and no one noticed the gaff that couldn’t be corrected now that book was in print.

Super important to fully vet your project before it goes out into the market.

Are you currently involved in any projects our readers might be interested in hearing about? Anything your fans can get excited about?

ML: People might be interested in Malevolent (https://malevolentmovie.com/), an animated horror film currently in post-production slated for completion by the end of this year. Basically, the story is Saw meets Groundhog Day. Cast includes Morena Baccarin, William Shatner, Ray Wise, Bill Moseley. Producers Jim Cirile and Tanya Klein who both love comics asked me to join their team about a year and a half ago. So many talented people are working on the project, I’m excited for the result.

This has been just amazing Michael, we at ComixCentral are so honored and thrilled you’ve taken an interest in what we’re doing here and can’t thank you enough for taking the time to answer our questions. You’ve been so candid with us and given indie creators a peek into your world and an enlightening taste for “how this is done!”.

Before we go, how can people find you and what you’re up to?

ML: Besides Facebook and Twitter, I’m on Quora.com (https://www.quora.com/profile/Michael-Lent), a global community of over 100 million people and a great place to share stories and ideas.

I hope people will check out i, HOLMES, as well as our previous series The Machine Stops, also from Alterna and in collaboration with artist Marc Rene. This series is adapted from early-20th century British novelist E.M. Forster who wrote only one sci-fi story in his entire career. Forster wrote The Machine Stops in 1909 but he was something of a Nostradamus. His 12,000-word story foretells our modern way of information gathering and social interaction through cyberspace, while expressing concern for our dependence on technology at the expense of personal experience and all that makes us human. Instantly, many of the best predictions about the future rely not on an understanding of technology and future industrial trends so much as an understanding of human nature, language and culture. That was Forster. It was a great journey for Marc Rene and the rest of our team to bring this amazing story to a whole new generation of readers.

Thanks, Leigh and everyone at ComixCentral for this wonderful chance to chat. It was big fun.

No thank you Michael! This has been such a pleasure! We look forward to all your future endeavours and can’t wait to see what you create next!

If you’d like to connect with Michael, buy some of his work or even just friend him, you can find those links below.

Now go make some Comics!


Twitter:  @michaellent2

Facebook:  MichaelLent

Quora.com (https://www.quora.com/profile/Michael-Lent)

ComixCentral: @michael_lent





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Motivation

comic book motivation

My mother was born in a small village in Guanajuato Mexico.

Her mother was dirt poor even by 1930’s Mexico standards, which is really saying something. Her father had died before she was born. He was trying to catch a ride on a bus. It was one of those old-fashioned buses with the standing platforms on the corners and handlebars to pull yourself up in case you were running to catch the bus before it drove away. At least that’s the vision of it in my mind. The good news was he caught the bus. The bad news was he couldn’t hold on to his grip on the handlebar. So he was buried a couple of months before he got to meet my mother.

My grandmother already had an older daughter and had no way to support them both. So she immigrated to the United States. But she couldn’t take the girls with her. It was going to be all she could do just to keep herself alive. So my mom and aunt went to live in an orphanage. Grandmother told them she’d be back to get them when she could afford to provide for them. And then she left.

I’ve heard a lot of stories about that orphanage over the years.

About how mean the nuns were. How’d they dispense beatings for trivial slights. About how hard the children had to work every day. About how they barely had anything to eat.  About how my mom had to sneak into the pantry in the middle of the night and eat raw oats because she was so hungry she couldn’t even sleep. It was many, many, many years after she left the orphanage before she could bring herself to eat a bowl of oatmeal again.

But leave she did, along with her sister. Grandmother came back. She had found a job and a home. She could provide for them again, but only in Texas. The problem was getting them across the border. So late one night she took the girls for a ride on a small handmade raft across the Rio Grande. And before she knew it, my mom was in McAllen Texas, living in the first real home she had ever had.

Over the years she watched her sister have two girls of her own and then waste away due to unchecked cancer. My aunt died a couple of years after I was born. My mother managed to have a lot more kids, though. 8 in all (I’m the youngest). She met my father in McAllen. He was a native of Illinois, having come down to Texas to start his career as a journalist. He was working at the McAllen Monitor as a cub reporter. Mom says she knew immediately that he was the one. He took a couple more jobs over the years before settling us all down in Houston, where he got a position as a reporter for the Houston Post, since closed.

We visited grandmother several times over the years in her little house in far south Texas.

She never did learn to speak  English. But she had worked her ass off for decades and paid off that house. She had her daughter, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She always seemed happy to me, even though I couldn’t communicate with her. She passed away while I was serving in the Army in  Germany. I think if I could have asked her, she would have told me she had a good life.

It’s probable that all my memories from those years played a role in my dreams one night. I woke that night to a vision of a young Hispanic woman beating the ever loving hell out of another woman. Why, I thought, am I having THIS dream? The setting of the dream looked exactly like the small towns of south Texas near the Mexico border that I had visited as a youth back in the 70’s and 80’s. But I couldn’t shake the dream. It returned several times over the years. With more characters and developing storylines. I’d be at work, completely unable to focus because I had suddenly thought of a new plot twist to the story. I’d spend all of my time on the treadmill at the gym thinking about ways to advance the story to its next logical step.

So I finally decided I had to write this book.

I thought I could be like my dad and brother. They’re natural born writers. Stories flow from their fingertips. Meanwhile, I stared blankly at the computer screen. Unable to fill a single page much less an entire chapter. The characters didn’t seem real to me if I couldn’t see them. I realized if I was ever going to make this book I was going to have to draw it out. And why not? Illustration was always my greatest talent as a child. Just because I had abandoned it as an adult didn’t mean I no longer had it. But where was I to find the time? I had a full-time job plus a family to support.

That’s when Saudi Arabia stepped in. They decided to kneecap the US oil industry by no longer artificially supporting the high cost of oil. So the oil industry crashed and my job went bye-bye. Hello free time! I spent the last 8 months of 2016 reacquainting myself with how to draw the human form and how to make comics. After a few tries, I finally finished chapter 1 and built a website to host the book online. I had finally, after 45 years, found my true calling in life.

Unfortunately, I had to go back to a regular job.

The money was drying up fast and I knew I was a long way off from making any money as a graphic novelist. So I’m back to working in the oil patch. But now, instead of spending my free time watching Houston teams lose on television, or working on odd jobs around the house, I work on my book. I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to finish these books (oh, did I mention this has turned into a trilogy?), but I know that I will do this. Like my grandmother paying off her house, it may take decades of hard work. But I think about how hard she worked over her life. And my mother too, raising so many kids mostly by herself. In three generations this family has gone from living in absolute poverty in Mexico to living a comfortable middle-class life in the suburbs of America. If I don’t finish these books, what would my grandmother and mother think of me?





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Word Vomit: How I Got Out of My Head and Onto the Page  

word vomit

Hi, I’m Chris Hendricks, and I’ve never written a comic before. ( At the time this was written)

Now that you’re aware of my expertise, we can move forward together.  Up, up and away.

I’ve always had a passion for writing, and heroes, not necessarily in that order.  I never got into comics as a medium, because I was too busy reading the Star Wars canon.  For that I will never apologize.

I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy as a kid.  Basically, god the universe or fate (whatever you decide) didn’t want me running into burning buildings, so I decided my best course of action was to save the world via storytelling.  It’s truly a wonder what wonder can do.


Every story, in my opinion, starts with a question.

A question the writer has almost an excruciating desire to answer.  I say this only because, as many of you may already know, writing is torture.  So the question better be worth the pain.  The question is the catalyst for any creative outlet, but how you choose to answer is the fun part.  My question was, “How do I tell my story to my fellow fractured brothers and sisters, while at the same time connecting to a wider generic audience without coming across as an afterschool special rip off of Forrest Gump?”  My answer was a comic book called vs K.  It’s not finished, but it’s alive.

Like most ideas that survive the ever-bullying ego, mine was and is very flexible.  It started out as a manifesto to people with disabilities.  A rulebook of sorts for how we should carry ourselves as a minority in order to be seen and respected the way we desire to.  The idea later turned into a graphic novel as a result of collaboration.

The idea started off fine until I ran into my first problem.  It wound up sounding like a mixture between a set of standards and personal experiences.  The audience didn’t know whether I was talking about myself or giving them directives as to how to live their lives.  I have no interest in dictating the lives of others.  Politics isn’t my game.

A friend of mine suggested that, rather than write a memoir or manifesto, I create a character.

The character could go through experiences, and learn the lessons I did in various ways.  This gave me a tremendous sense of relief and freedom.  I could stay true to my own experience, but be truly creative with the environment around those experiences.

As a result of this limiting moment I’ve learned this: if you know how your main character feels, a world is easier to come by.

With this revelation, an idea much bigger than the original began to take shape, starting with the title character. Kevin. Other than having CP we don’t have too much in common (except being a social oddity of course).

After having a main character and a general idea, I needed a premise and a villain.  I wanted to craft both at the same time, because I love stories where the antagonist and protagonist are chasing the same goal. It seemed that with the premise, came the goal, and with the goal came the villain.  One building block made the other easier to find.  Once these things came together, the world around the characters began to reveal itself naturally.  There’s a lot more architectural work to be done, but the outline came out unscathed.  Imagine that.   

Some ideas decided to crawl out of my head in the shower. 

Others came in the form of suggestions from fellow creators.  Ultimately, I think the most important lesson I learned is that creative inspiration comes to those who wait in want for it to arrive.  I don’t know if the story will do anything, but the process of its creation is always the best part. As a person obsessed with heroes and wonder, I don’t really see myself as a creator but rather a vessel for ideas to use as they see fit.

Elizabeth Gilbert says,

” Ideas come to us when we’re ready, but if we don’t act on them they will become the ideas of someone else.”

The reason this comic is rising to the surface at all is totally because I’m a selfish vessel for ideas.  I can’t stand the idea of not acting on their genius.

I am no genius, but I’m determined to a fault.  The trouble is my lovely, self-sabotaging ego is just as determined to ensure this comic never sees the light of day.  I find the defence against the ego is collaboration. If you have other creative people that depend on you, you’re much more likely to follow through.  At least that’s been the case for me thus far.  Being around people who are particularly encouraging is key.

The other thing that’s helped is sitting on the premise behind the story. What it means to me. Why I have to share it. What the story itself specifically lifts off my chest.

Don’t get me wrong; storytelling is eye opening, mind twisting, heavy-handed and sometimes lonely.  But, it’s also generated a sense of both relief and purpose for me.  It’s almost as much a natural medication as it is a time consuming battle with the ghost inside your head.  Silly ego.  Tricks are for kids.

The last thing to remember is that I don’t know anything. This is a great place to start from, because any other desire beyond learning to be a better storyteller seems to get in the way.  It seems the only way to crack the code is by putting pen to paper, or forcing the sound of a key strike to drown out the other oddball in your head that says you’re not worthy of the stories you hold onto.

Humanity needs stories.

All the heroes and villains we love are strong for different reasons.  Maybe each of them represents apiece within us.  Either way, they’re not strong enough to exist on their own.  The only thing stronger than the hero of a story is the story itself.  If you have the courage to write the story, I guess that makes you the hero after all.