Comic books have always been important to me. As important as fantasy books and D&D. Right up there with Chrono Trigger and Dragon Warrior. I remember mowing lawns with my friend Jeff one summer to make sure I could buy the Death of Superman and then the Reign of the Supermen comics that came out after. Superman, Spider-Man, Green Lantern, Uncanny X-Men. I read them all, devoured comics along with any fantasy books I could get my hands on. Along with video games they were a way for me to connect with my younger brother (who isn’t into fantasy at all).
Now, an old friend of mine is writing comics and he’s given up some time to give a little interview. Everyone, I’d like to introduce Chuck and his book ‘Welcome to the Void’.
James: So, to begin, could you give a little sum up of your work? We’re here to promote ‘Welcome to the Void’, so what’s the 30 second elevator pitch to wet our whistles and get us hooked?
Chuck: Welcome to the Void is about a Tibetan-American, Manny Johannson, who finds himself in a parallel dimension to our own know, known as the Void. The Void is the center of a creation, a world of nothingness where it’s power may be tapped to create anything. With this power one can do almost anything they set their mind to. Can he trust others with this power? Can he trust himself?
What got you into writing and creating comic books? Big or small, what’s your inspiration?
I’ve been writing and creating stories as far back as I can remember. My first major influences when it comes to writing were fantasy novelists like J.R.R. Tolkien and Terry Brooks and comic writer Chris Claremont. In high school and throughout my 20’s Dungeons and Dragons and online roleplaying games were where most of my writing focused, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that my love for comics re-emerged and I decided to take the plunge.
What was the first comic you ever bought? Do you still have it?
The first comic I ever bought was Wolverine 78. He’s always been my favorite character and after working with my aunt one night cleaning a bank I took my pay and bought myself my first comic book. And to this day, I still own it.
Favourite comic book artist? Favourite writer? (Main stream or indie, either or. Or both.)
My favorite mainstream comic artist is Andy Kubert, while my favorite indie comic artist right now would be Dino Agor from the Harland Buck series. My favorite mainstream writer is, and always has been Chris Claremont, especially during his 16 year as the main writer for the X-Men franchise. My favorite Indie writer right now would probably Kenneth Brown for his work on his amazing series Judas Breed.
Who’s your go-to comic character? Hero, villain, big or small. Who’s the character that just does it for you?
Wolverine, every time. He’s always been so fleshed out and real, but what I love most about him is that he’s a hero because he believes in what’s right, but he knows that what’s right isn’t always easy. He makes tough decisions and pain is a constant part of his life. His true super power, though it isn’t actually one, is the fact that he can handle as much pain as he does…his existence is a living sacrifice that few seem to truly understand.
With that in mind, what kind of story or character are you drawn to?
I’m drawn to characters that feel real. I want someone who takes solace in the good things while also feeling the negative beat downs of life. I need my characters to feel real so I can have the connection required to celebrate their victories and properly mourn their losses.
What, if anything, drew you to comics over other sources of storytelling?
The honest truth is it was about realizing my strengths and weaknesses. I hate details. I don’t want to read four paragraphs about what the hero is wearing or the opulence of the palace that they are walking through. I love leaving that up to the artist. I give them what they need to know and I let them enjoy that part. For me, characters, story, twisting plots and sub plots, those are my favorite things, and comics allow me to focus on those things without losing my interest.
So far, how has your indie publishing experience been?
So far it’s been amazing. My first official credit was with Sinsful Comics as an editor. In the last year I’ve edited more than a dozen titles with most of my clients having come back for more. It’s helped me to fund my own projects and meet all kinds of amazing creators from different walks of life, all performing different duties in the field. Honestly, it’s been a dream come true, and with my first big convention coming up in October, I’m super excited to see where things go from here.
Now let’s flip that around… do you think traditional, main-stream comics are still ‘king-of-the-hill’? Can they work together with the rise in indie publishing, will the audience accept both as viable art forms, or are they opposed in some way?
There seems to be a very ‘us vs. them’ feel, especially when you talk to a lot of Independent creators, but I have to say I don’t feel it. I mean, most of us want to get the call into the big leagues anyways, so why create a divide that doesn’t need to be there? For me, there’s a lot that indie can do because we aren’t big, which gives us an advantage. We don’t have a huge fan base that we have to answer to, so we can tell our stories, our way. Personally, though, indie comics have always been bigger than people realize, and have always had great potential. Think about things like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hellboy, and all sorts of others. You never know what’s going to be the big next big thing, but if you’re looking for it, the mainstream is probably not where it’ll come from, if you ask me.
In creating ‘Welcome to the Void’, were there any big inspirations or influences? Any big set backs, or amazing victories?
The big inspirations were all around us as you watch fellow indies moving on to bigger projects and doing work for larger publishing companies. One of the biggest setbacks, and this is said with brutal honesty, was me. Being new to the industry meant that there was a lot that I didn’t know, which made leading a team very difficult. I was lucky, though, to have a team that, for the most part, was very patient and will to help out.
I learned a lot in creating Welcome to the Void and following through the entire process, which will make issue 2 and onward much easier to work on. The amazing victory, hands down, has been the Kickstarter. Funding in less than 48 hours turned a lot of heads and make people take us very seriously as a team, and as a book.
Funny story. Our letterer went out of town to the mountains with his family for the 4th of July, so he was going to miss the beginning of the Kickstarter. He was without technology the whole time he was gone, so when he came back he was blown away. He hadn’t imagined that we would fund in that time…none of us did.
Does the tale focus one just one main character, or is it more of an ensemble/group story?
We start with one character, Manny, as our main, but the real focus will always be the Void. I have the first 6 or so issues planned out, but beyond that I’m very open to anything. I prefer to take an organic approach to writing, so it won’t be about what I want to see in the series and more about where the series takes itself.
Do you have a favourite character to write?
For Welcome to the Void, no, not yet. I’m feeling all of them out and enjoying them. I have a series I have started, though, called Belial, and in it we have an imp made of stone named Linc. He’s based on an old British story about a group of imps that attack a town and are fended off by an angel. One of the imps throws stones at the angel and calls it names. I thought anything with the balls to take on an angel was worth looking into and he’s quickly become my favorite to play with.
Is there a character that you know is going to take some work to get into?
I think the Caretaker will take the most to get into as his story is a very slow burn and we learn very little about him early on. I will say, though, that I believe the wait will be more than worth it.
It seems like you’ve gathered quite a group of talented creators around you. How’d you track down your crew for this project?
Honestly, luck and having a heavy social media presence have been huge factors. I am a part of many groups aimed at Independent comic creators, but one, Indie Comic Conspiracy, has been extremely supportive. I met my inker, Shaun Barbour there. He’s the main administrator of the page and a great dude. He was the first one in the group to check out any of my work and loved it right away. I brought him on to the team as I love his work and what he brings to the team. Since then he and I have become terrific friends and have worked on several projects together. Kitty Pierce and Micheal Waggoner (my colorist and letterer respectively) were introduced to me by a mutual friend and creator. My editor is Ben Cook, an old friend who I have worked with off and on for almost 20 years. He’s been an amazing help during this process, they all have been, actually.
You’ve got some real traction behind you now. The kickstarter has taken off, you’ve got funding and more , so what’s in store for ‘Welcome to the Void’? Do you have a finite story arc in place, or is this something that can continue on? (Spoiler free of course…)
Welcome to the Void has always been planned as an ongoing story. It’s the way I prefer telling stories, so this will definitely highlight that. I have the first arc planned out, with ideas as to where the future might lead, but really, so much of that depends on the readers. If they love what we’re doing, I want to continue with it for as long as I possible can.
And of course, where can people get their hands on your work?
At this point the best place to get the book would be on Kickstarter at www.winks-designs.com/wttv/kickstarter Another great place to keep up with what I’m doing is through my publishing wings Facebook page at www.facebook.com/bonfirepress. We will have a website up soon where we hope to sell our books, and show off all of the cool work we’re doing.
Thanks again for doing this Chuck!
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