Indie Creators: Devin Kraft

Originally from Roswell, New Mexico, Devin Kraft is an indie comics artist and illustrator from Cheshire Cat Studios (http://cheshirecatart.com/index.html). A transplant from the desert, he is currently based out of Dallas, Texas, which is just down the highway from me here in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. I first encountered Devin’s work while trawling the convention floor at Dallas Comic Con in 2012, grabbing a business card and heading home to follow his efforts online, keeping an eye on his projects and illustrations. Devin is currently hard at work on the third volume of his creator-owned comic Dragon Slayer, a dynamic blend of Eastern/Western fables and genre-mashing, resulting in an intriguing hunting epic. I had a chance to talk to Devin about comics, writing, the local indie comics scene, and a whole lot more.

DevinKraft2

Q. Your big project right now is your comic Dragon Slayer. What do you want people to know about it?

A. How much of a labor of love this comic is! It has been one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever done, and not just in terms of writing or illustrating, but promotion and distribution as well.  Minus some much appreciated editorial help from my cousin Brooks and some graphic design help from his brother Matt, I’ve done Dragon Slayer primarily alone, which means I have to field every job at some point or another.

First I have to write, pencil, ink, tone and letter each issue, then I have to design the book, promote it, and distribute it.  I self-publish, so I have to hand mail every copy sold through the Kickstarter, or sell them via comic conventions.  It’s definitely a lot of work, but I love it.

I came up with the concept for the book in 2009, and I started working on the book late 2012.  Usually I just sell comics at conventions, but I wanted to use Kickstarter hoping it would help get people interested in the comic.  Kickstarter has been huge for me, as I have been able to engage my audience as well as get immediate feedback from issue to issue.  Dragon Slayer is definitely a product of that collaboration with fans of the book, and that’s what I’ve always wanted from comicking.

Q. I’ve read a bit of Dragon Slayer so far and I really enjoy visual blend of Eastern fable with Western sci-fi/fantasy. That’s an aesthetic that I often see but isn’t always integrated successfully. What are some of your influences for this comic? Any particular homages?

A. I hope I pull the aesthetic off successfully!  My favorite stories and art styles are hybrids of Eastern and Western culture.  I love Japanese artists who pay attention to anatomy, and American or European artists who know when to let anatomy slide in favor of more expressionistic storytelling.

As far as specific examples go, the three biggest spiritual influences have been Katsuhiro Otomo (primarily in how lavishly he portrays destroyed cities in his work), Matsumoto Taiyou (for pacing, and allowing his stories to breathe), and Terada Katsuya (for his brilliant sense of design).  All three were heavily influenced by Moebius, but I’d be hard pressed to think of any artists who have a more distinctly “Japanese” style.

DevinKraft1As far as storytelling goes, my main influences for Dragon Slayer are Neil Gaiman, Aesop’s Fables, the Coen Brothers, and Quentin Tarantino. I’m hoping the end product will be a viable mix of traditional and contemporary storytelling resulting in something fresh and original.

Q. I know a lot of creators across many fields have mixed feelings about crowdfunding projects. Some love it, some despise it, and it always seem to be a well-debated topic all over the web. Having Kickstarted your comic twice now, how have your experiences with crowdfunding been so far?

A. I personally love crowdfunding, as that is what has allowed me to continue writing/drawing/producing Dragon Slayer. When I first went to the Dallas Comic Con in 2012, I printed up five comics I had drawn thinking I would sell through my stock.  I quickly found out how difficult it is to pitch an original idea to people at a crowded convention, so I was worried about getting the comics I did finish into an audience’s hands.

Kickstarter was a great platform to present the idea to an audience as well as interact with people interested in the concept.  There’s always a point in each issue where I burn out a bit because I’m fielding three people’s jobs or so, and having people who care about the story and are excited for the next issue is what keeps me going sometimes.  I hang on to all the fanart people send me and I decorate my room with it as a reminder that people do actually care about what I’m doing.

Q. How long do you plan for Dragon Slayer to run? Will it just be three volumes, or is there more story to tell?

Dragon Slayer is going to wrap up with the third issue, which will be about the size of the first two issues combined.  I always thought of it as a self-contained story, but the more I played around in that world the more short stories I came up with.  I might base a future comic in the same world as Dragon Slayer, for sure.  If I could pass off the art duties to someone else, I’d love to do write some shorts fleshing out the world a little bit more.

Q. While digging through your older comics, I found myself very much intrigued by the imagery of many of your one-offs, specifically Devil and Dr. John. Do you find yourself drawn to one-offs more than serialized work, or vice versa? Do you prefer one format over another?

A. Being an independent comic artist, I don’t have the infrastructure that the average comic has.  It takes a lot of work just to finish a single issue, and I usually do the short comics for myself keeping in mind they potentially may never reach an audience.  Devil and Dr. John, for example, was written and illustrated while I was an exchange student in Japan when I was 21.  I didn’t print it up until 2012, roughly five years after I had finished it.  I put the pages up for free on Deviantart and Facebook, and I even had it translated into Japanese to submit to some manga contests when I was job hunting in Japan in 2009, but even with all of that I’d be surprised if more than ten people read it before it was physically printed.

In college I would draw comics instead of doodling in class, figuring it would be better (and more focused) practice than aimless scribbles.  By drawing a page or so a day, I ended up completing twenty comics that I had no clue how to get to an audience.  My first comic was a Chinese noir inspired riff on Alice in Wonderland that I finished about five issues of, and towards the end of college I finished five issues of a comic called Paradise about an omniscient horticulturist fighting an omnipresent murderer (trust me, it’s cooler than it sounds, and it had zombies before zombies got played to death).

I think you have so much more room to play with and subvert tropes with serialized storytelling, so as a writer I much prefer that, but it takes a colossal amount of effort to wear both hats, and without any audience backing you up drawing serialized stories can feel like a lot of effort for a potentially empty room, so that’s why I did one-offs back in the day.

I really just want stories to have a solid thesis statement and to stick to that, and sometimes serialized media can lose the plot over time.  Alternatively, sometimes you need more room to properly explore your concept, so it becomes essential to tell it over several episodes.

Q. I noticed on your site you have a nicely cataloged visual resources page, which spares from me having to ask you where you draw inspiration from. I have to ask (as someone who’s far less fastidious in keeping track of her own resources): do you find that it helps to have all of your influential material organized and within reach? And where else do you mine for art-fuel?

A. I once heard that a good way to engage your audience was to create a learning environment, and that was one of the concepts behind my website.  I wanted to educate fans and future artists about artists who they might not hear about anywhere else.  There are widely known artists who work on Marvel and DC’s flagship titles, then there are the artist’s artists who have never gained mainstream attention for whatever reason.  My goal was to at least present people with these artist’s works in hopes they would serve as an inspiration to aspiring artists as well.

Case in point it took me years to find out how awesome Moebius was.  I actually had come across his book DevinKraft340 Days in the Desert in a Japanese bookstore, but I never knew how influential he was to my favorite artists. I also spent the majority of my time in Japan hunting down obscure artbooks, and this exposed me to a lot of alternative Japanese illustrators, and I wanted to pass this knowledge on to any budding artists who were looking for something new.

For art fuel I find myself checking my Tumblr a lot. I’m really picky about who and what I follow on Tumblr, so my feed has become a great mix of comic illustration tips, fashion, high art, and photography that always serves to plow through any artists’ block I may be struggling with.  Beyond that, I love going to Half Price Books or to comic shops and just checking through every single book on the shelf that I haven’t seen before.  I can kill a good hour or two at a decent bookstore.

Q. You’re based out of Dallas, which is just down the highway from me. Most of the American indie creators I keep up with these days are stationed on either coast or in Austin. They all have unique communities that they engage with, unique venues, things like that. (Obviously the internet and social networking opens up the indie community as a whole, so it doesn’t even need mentioning anymore.) But, from one local to another, how would you describe the indie comics world for us here in north-central Texas?

A. I’m from Roswell, New Mexico, originally, and it’s such a small town that it’d be really difficult to live solely off of such a niche form of art (comicking).  Coming to Dallas, I started attending conventions having only read about them in magazines when I was a kid.  It wasn’t long before I decided I was ready to exhibit at some of these conventions, and doing that has allowed me to connect with a bunch of awesome and talented people, both in the form of peers and in the form of fans.

Dallas has some phenomenal local talent that would be snatched up by the bigger companies immediately if they had headquarters here.  The artists I know here all employ vastly different styles from each other based on vastly different influences, so there’s a lot of diversity. It’s always a lot of fun at the big conventions to browse the booths, as every booth has such a totally different style from the next.

I’m guaranteed to forget someone in this list, but a few of my local favorites are: The Space Gun Studios guys, Robert Wilson IV, Chad Thomas, Evan Bryce Cranston, the Ghostwerks comics crew, Sho-Nuff Studios, Jose Ramirez, Jose Esquivel, and Kristian Donaldson, among others.

Q. Outside of comics, you do a lot of illustrations and commission work. I know you’ve had some success with your Studio Ghibli series in particular. Are there any favorites or highlights you’d like to share?

A. When I need to take a break from creator owned stuff, I do fanart, and I always try to have fun with it.  Until recently, I never really designed posters for conventions specifically-I’d draw them more for myself than anything.  It’s always fun to see which prints con goers gravitate towards at a convention, and at Sci-Fi Expo people really seemed to love my recent Sherlock print.  My Tardis design usually sells out pretty quickly, so I suspect people just love the BBC (as they should).

When I’m not working on sequentials, I’ll usually have one or two new poster concepts to post on my Etsy store (https://www.etsy.com/shop/cheshirecatart) each week.  I’ve been focusing on finishing off Dragon Slayer, but once that’s finished I’ll probably relax with some fanart for a few weeks.

Q. Your work draws from and incorporates a lot of different genres, which makes for some fun comics. Is there a particular genre you love more than the others? Is there a genre you’d like to tackle but haven’t yet?

A. It’s really tough for me because I love slice of life alternative comics as well as deep philosophical comics, but my art style is kinetic and lends itself to action, so I always feel like there’s a gulf between the stories I would like to write and the stories I would like to draw.  I’d love to write personal pensive stories like Craig Thompson, Daniel Clowes, or Adrian Tomine, but I would go nuts drawing talking heads all the time.  Maybe when I’m older and more comfortable with my style as well as more versatile I’ll grow up into the storyteller I want to be.

I’d love to dabble in each genre.  I think horror would be a blast to do. Junji Ito’s Uzumaki got me really inspired to do something in that vein.  I’d also love to write stories about relationships, but again, I’d hate drawing them.  I could probably have a field day with the action genre since I grew up on Chinese noir films when I was a kid.

Q. Before we wrap this up, are there any other projects coming up that you’d like to plug? Any upcoming convention appearances you want to highlight?

A. The collected edition of Dragon Slayer will be available on Kickstarter either April or May, depending on when I get all the pages wrapped up and the book designed.  The Space Gun Studios team is coloring the book, so it’s going to look amazing once all is said and done.  I’m already working on the comic after Dragon Slayer mentally, so that’s going to be fun to dive into.

As far as conventions, I’ll be doing Staple! March 1st-2nd in Austin, and then I’ll be doing The Heart of Texas Comicon in Waco March 7th-8th. I’ll definitely be at Dallas Comicon in May as well, hopefully with finished copies of Dragon Slayer!

As far as social media goes, I’m on just about everything. I kind of have to be, but I’m pretty active on each platform, so if anyone messages I’ll catch it pretty fast.

Thanks so much to Devin for talking the time to talk to me. Be sure to follow his work at Cheshire Cat Studios (http://cheshirecatart.com/index.html) and stop by his Etsy store for more (https://www.etsy.com/shop/cheshirecatart). I look forward to seeing more from him in the future.

Magen Cubed  –  http://www.eonism.net

Indie Creators: Jon Towers

In my quest to find independent comic book creators for this segment, I was introduced to Jon Towers. A friend of a friend, of a lot of friends, we both have ties to the indie horror and comics community, me as a writer and him an artist. In certain corners of the internet, Jon is known as a jack-of-all-trades: A comic artist, a wrestler, and the host of his own podcast, Red Horse Radio (http://redhorseradio.com/). With his larger-than-life characters and genre-bending storylines, originally based on his own experiences during his time in the army, Jon is known for his distinctive series of self-published and indie press comics. It’s safe to say that not many out there know of his work, but it’s definitely hard to forget once you do.

Currently working on his latest graphic novel, coming from Post Mortem Press (http://www.postmortem-press.com/) in 2015, I recently got the chance to catch up with Jon about his projects.

WZWAS04.pdfQ. Your comics feature a pretty unique mix of genres and themes, from horror and action to sci-fi and fantasy. I’ve not really seen books quite like this in a while, since my days roaming for indie/self-pub comics in the late 90s. Can you tell us a bit about your world and your characters?

A: I can see how it might appear a little schizophrenic. Every story or chunk of narrative is all stomping towards the story of the end of the world. There is this unseen tyrannical God who acts by using these Old Testament Archangels. There are these different secret societies of zealots and magic users, and in the middle is this group of quirky heroes called The Nonstandard Assembly. You know, one guy is a World War II era war-bot, there is a Kabbalistically-animated stone golem, a serial killer, a bad-ass female detective, and the list sort of goes on.

Q. What are some of your influences when it comes to comics? Do your stories come from outside sources, or do you draw a lot of inspiration from personal experience?

A: Well, My big art influences are Edward Gory, Walt Simpson, Kevin Eastman, and Kevin O’Neill. As far as the stories, there are some personal experience in there. I feel like the things that are intrinsic to my stories are; myth, religion, history and as much action I can pack in there. The older stories were very personal, then as the universe opened up it got a little less personal I guess.

Q. When did you first decide to get into comics? Was that the first logical step for storytelling, or did you have other ideas for how to get your work out there?

A: I have always done comics. Last year I found a comic adaptation of Melville’s Moby Dick I drew when I was 7. In 2003 I started posting work as a web comic. My big plan was then to get everything together and self-publish a graphic novel. Which I did! My big print debut was like this 300 page graphic novel! I then shifted to self-publishing more standard sized issues. And I trudged along that way for a long time. Today I am happy to be working with Post Mortem Press who is going to publish my graphic novel, The Djinn Jihad, in 2015. There are so many great new media options and way to combine media to tell these stories. I have tinkered around with writing pros and even screenplays. It is all fair game, but comics seem to be for me.

(This is my Moby Dick comic for your viewing pleasure: http://stigmataverse.blogspot.com/2012/03/moby-dick-comic-adaptation.html)

Q. Did you ever want to get into mainstream comics, or do your allegiances lie squarely with indie comics?JONTOWERS2

A: When I was young ALL I wanted was to work in mainstream comics, not saying that if I had the opportunity to I wouldn’t do it today. However I feel like the stories I am telling today and the style I am using to tell them are totally 100% indie. My final answer is; I ride or die Indie.

Q. Besides your comics, you’re a wrestler, an illustrator, a designer, and you have your own podcast. It’s fair to say you’ve got a lot going on. How do you balance all of your pursuits?

A: It’s all time and asset management! Ha-ha-ha! No seriously something had to give so I recently gave up Indie Pro-Wrestling. My last event was pretty cool one of the promotions I worked for Mega Championship Wrestling inducted me into their hall of fame. Luckily Red Horse Radio doesn’t take up too much of my time. I am pretty focused on the comics right now.

Q. You’re a pretty busy guy. Do you have any projects on the back-burner? Any new stuff in the works?

A: The Djnnn Jihad graphic novel from Post Mortem Press, I have really been spending all my time on it. The idea is, if a group of terrorists sneak in a magic lamp instead of a suit case nuke and let a genie loose in a city. So here there is plenty of myth, religion, a little history, some current-ish events, and lots of action.  And there is going to be tons of web based exclusive content to expand the story as wide as any normal person can take. I am really excited about the project all together. I also have a full-page comic in every issue of the magazine Jamais Vu – Journal of Strange among the Familiar. My comic is called The Whiskey Rebellion and it has been a lot of fun to do.

Thanks to Jon for taking the time to talk about his work. If you’re looking for more on Jon, you can find his earlier comics here at his website jonnyaxx.com.

Magen Cubed –  http://www.eonism.net

Brandon Seifert: Hellraiser, Seekers of the Weird, and Beyond

First introduced to comic book readers in 2007 for his work on The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe and World War Hulk: Gamma Files from Marvel Comics, writer Brandon Seifert has made a name for himself in recent years. Brought to my attention for his issues of IDW’s Doctor Who and co-writing Boom! Studios’ Hellraiser: The Dark Watch with Clive Barker, Seifert has also garnered a dedicated following for Witch Doctor. A kind of House, M.D. meets H.P. Lovecraft, this original medical/horror series from Image Comics is illustrated by Lukas Ketner and employs an interesting blend of horror, fantasy and comedy. Known for his due diligence as a researcher, his use of fascinating imagery, and his keen attention to detail, Seifert has amassed a unique body of work, receiving its rightful share of critical praise.

With the recent announcement of his upcoming title from Marvel Comics, Disney Kingdoms: Seekers of the Weird, there’s a lot of buzz surrounding this high profile book. Created in partnership with Walt Disney Imagineering, Seekers of the Weird will serve as the launch for a series of books under the Disney Kingdoms brand, exploring the characters, worlds and attractions of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. What else is coming from this Marvel-Imagineer partnership is still unknown at the moment, but the topic is certainly stirring a lot of interest from eager fans. All of that said, I recently got a chance to catch up with Seifert, to talk about his new project, horror comics, and his plans for future books.

SeifertInterview1Q. At New York Comic Con, Marvel announced the release of your upcoming five-part series, Disney Kingdoms: Seekers of the Weird. How did you get involved in this project, and can you tell us a little bit about it?

A. I got involved in Disney Kingdoms: Seekers of the Weird because Marvel editor Bill Rosemann hit me up and asked if I wanted to be involved!

Seekers of the Weird is about two teenagers named Maxwell and Melody Keep. Their parents get kidnapped by a dark supernatural force — which leads the kids to discover that their family’s involved with something call the Museum of the Weird, a repository for the world’s most dangerous magical artifacts. The kids have seven days to find one artifact in particular in the Museum… or they’ll never see their parents again! Seekers has a bit of an Indiana Jones vibe, but also a pretty strong Harry Potter influence too. The whole project is based on the actual Museum of the Weird, which was originally going to be part of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland but got shelved when Walt Disney passed away.

Q. What has been your favorite part of working on this title so far?

A. The series artist is Karl Moline. I’ve been a fan of Karl’s work since he did Fray with Joss Whedon at Dark Horse, so I was super excited to work with him. But as good as I expected Karl’s work to be — it’s turned out to be way better! His stuff is so good that I’ve been working on “leveling up” the ideas I bring to the table, because I know if I bring an amazing idea for something like a monster or weapon to Karl, he’ll make it even more amazing when he draws it!

Q. Will this title be family-friendly, as the Disney association might imply, or did you write with a more mature audience in mind? Does this title appeal to Marvel’s action-oriented readers and Disney fans alike?

A. It’s designed to be “all-ages” in the same way as something like Doctor Who, Star Wars or the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Fun for kids — but fun for adults, too!

It’s definitely going to have a broad appeal. The project started with the Disney Imagineers. They’re very involved, and very interested in making sure we live up to the history that the project is based on. But Marvel’s also making sure it’s very much got a Marvel kind of vibe to it. I don’t know what people are expecting from this series — but I think they’re going to be really blown away when it comes out!

Q. You’re known to many readers for your issues of Doctor Who and Hellraiser: The Dark Watch, as well as your own original project Witch Doctor. As a writer, is it difficult to switch gears from genre to genre, or is Seekers of the Weird in the same thematic wheelhouse as some of your other work?

A. I dunno, I sort of think the idea of “genre” lumps together a bunch of things that don’t really go together. Some genres are all about the kinds of tropes you use — science fiction needs some kind of fictional science thing in it, whereas, like, “urban fantasy” needs magic in a city setting — a kind of trope in a specific setting. Then on the other hand, you have genres like “comedy” or “horror.” And those aren’t about the setting you use or the trappings you play with as much as they are about evoking a specific emotional response from an audience. In comedy, you’re trying to make the audience laugh. In horror, you’re trying to scare them, or disturb them. So, when you have “science fiction” — stories about fictional science — and “comedy” — stories that make you laugh — and you call them both “genres”… I dunno. That doesn’t make a huge amount of sense to me.

So if you’re doing a “genre” like “science fiction,” it’s easy to mix other genres in. Most of my favorite fiction is stuff that mixes different genres. Doctor Who is science fiction, but also action, adventure, horror, mystery, comedy, drama… it varies from episode to episode. With Witch Doctor we were doing horror and medical drama… but also comedy, action, drama, urban fantasy, lots of stuff. So doing a series like Seekers of the Weird, which also has a bunch of genres mixed into it, is a pretty easy transition. I find it a lot harder to do a book like Hellraiser, which is supposed to be pretty straight-up supernatural horror with some urban fantasy/dark fantasy stuff mixed in. I can’t do a lot of comedy in that book, or even a lot of “action genre” stuff, because it’s antithetical to what the series is supposed to be about. And since I’m someone who doesn’t like sticking to one tone in a story, that’s much harder for me.

Q. As mentioned above, you’ve had success both with franchise titles as well as your own original series. Do you find yourself looking to create more original works in the future?

A. Oh, yeah! Doing franchise work definitely has a lot of benefits you don’t get when originating a new project. For one thing, franchises like Doctor Who and Hellraiser have been big, important parts of my life, so working on them is much more of a “dream come true” thing than working on something like Witch Doctor, which I originated myself. But working on franchises has pointed out to me that I’m definitely happiest and most creatively fulfilled when I’m working on projects I made up myself. And I really do my best work on projects that I came up with. So going forward with my career, original projects are going to be more and more my focus.

Q. You’re known for your distinctive way of approaching the horror genre in your work. Do you find yourself drawn to horror in particular? If so, is that an aesthetic choice, as vehicle for other narratives, or do you feel that horror comics can be elevated?

A. Honestly, I think part of what people are finding distinctive about my work in horror is that most of my influences SeiferInterview2come from outside horror. Look at Witch Doctor, #1, that’s a good example. WD #1 is an exorcism/demonic possession story. But it’s not inspired by stuff like The Exorcist, let alone other exorcism movies. It’s inspired, on the one hand, by a whole bunch of research I did into actual exorcism and possession beliefs, especially stuff in the Vatican. I read several books about Vatican exorcists, the things they believe and the training they go through to become exorcists. So that was one side of it. The other side was, it was inspired by the whole biology metaphor we use in Witch Doctor, where we cross classic monsters with really disturbing stuff from medicine and biology. So in Witch Doctor, “demonic possession” is actually infection by the parasitic larval stage of the demon life cycle. So I did a whole bunch of research into parasitic insects, especially stuff like botflies and applied that to demons.

Really, I think horror can be “elevated” by bringing in influences from outside of horror. But that’s the same thing that’s true of every genre. Star Wars elevated science fiction at the time because it pulled in all this stuff that wasn’t being used in science fiction. Action/adventure tropes, World War 2 dogfighting movies, samurai movies, metaphysics, Joseph Campbell, Kurosawa. I’d never say I’m trying to “elevate” horror, because that implies that I think horror needs to be “elevated,” like there’s something wrong with that. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the horror genre. But I do think my approach to horror interests people because I’m not looking at horror for my inspiration — I’m looking at all kinds of other stuff.

Q. Are there any other franchises/genres you’d like to tackle someday, if given the chance?

A. Oh, lots of them! I haven’t gotten to do much science fiction, and that’s always been my big love. I also want to be doing superhero comics. They’re what got me into the medium in the first place. Besides those, there’s a bunch of other genres I’d like to do. Westerns are one. And Wuxia is another — the whole Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon strain of martial arts movies from China.

As for other franchise I’d like to do… I’m a huge fan of Marvel Comics, so there’s lots more stuff I’d like to do there. I’m also a big fan of Ghostbusters, and Aliens, and Buffy. All those are things I’d love to try writing someday.

Thanks so much to Brandon for taking the time to talk. Be on the lookout for Disney Kingdoms: Seekers of the Weird coming out in January. We hope to hear from him again soon.

Magen Cubed

http://www.eonism.net/

Artist and Photographer Wendy Monahan …shoots us.

We start a series of photography posts on eCharta Blog. It is a great honor for us to start with this great photographer Wendy Monahan. 

Born into a 1960ʼs rural existence, Wendy was raised in a continuously moving matriarchal household of a riding-instructor mother and piano-teacher grandmother. As a child she raised domestic animals, caught wild ones, collected stuff and made bug houses. While living in a rural solitary existence she dreamed of being a scientist and spent days reading science fiction novels. At some point she began to worry about the passage of time and became fascinated with the process of photography. Armed with a Kodak Brownie and a Polaroid Instamatic, she documented all of the family pets, livestock, and anything or anyone else that would sit still for her. Somehow she survived teen angst and went to college, forgetting photography and choosing to study anthropology at UNLV. After completing the degree, her intention was to continue an academic education. She began to work on a Masterʼs Degree in Public History while at the same time taking a beginning photography course at the community college. She knew about halfway through a semester of medieval history, that she was on the wrong path. She had a great interest in history and art, but also needed some sort of scientific grounding. She studied commercial photography instead and has spent the last ten years as a photographer in Las Vegas. While she enjoys the work, digital capture and computer editing do not satisfy her need to make tangible things. So, she is happily back in the darkroom. She has an obsession with photographic contraptions and employs all formats of vintage camera and darkroom equipment. Her goal for 2013 is to learn to make photographic emulsions and coat her own papers.

So we took some time with Wendy to talk about her passion for photography.

Q: Hello Wendy! You didn’t become a riding-instructor as your mom or a piano- teacher as your grandmother. You got involved with photography. How did you get introduced to photography and to your first Kodak Brownie? 

A: Oh, that was so long ago now. I must have been 7 or 8 years old when I started using the Brownie and I do not know where it came from. What I remember most about the camera was the sound of the shutter going off. Something about looking into that box and the sound it made hooked me. I was a shy child and found my rural existence incredibly boring. I read a lot of different things, but sci-fi was the most prevalent genre. As a kid, I would see moments that seemed to have some kind of interest or promise of something less than mundane. I was desperate to capture that.

Dune Enigma c2012 selenium toned silver gelatin print. Mesquite Flat Dunes at Stovepipe wells, Death Valley, CA

Dune Enigma c2012 selenium toned silver gelatin print. Mesquite Flat Dunes at Stovepipe wells, Death Valley, CA

Q: Did your early photographic goals include earning a living from photography, or did it start as a way to express yourself creatively? I’m talking of course after the College years.

A: When I started taking photography classes, I just wanted to be able to understand photography, learn how to operate the camera, and print in a darkroom. It was all very mysterious to me. I was considering grad school and what my major should be and was unhappy with how things were progressing. I began to realize the potential of photography as a way to earn a living and as a way to realize my artistic nature. Everything just started to come together.

Q: When did you know you finally “made it” as a professional and when did you make your first photography sale? Do you remember it?

A: Photography is such a huge field of study. I am constantly studying new techniques. There was a point in my career that I was doing a lot of  portraiture. I was setting up my studio one day and I didn’t look at any lighting diagrams or wonder what would happen if I set the light this way or that. I just knew. When I was editing after the session my exposures and light ratios were right on, my model looked at ease, and we made some great images. I thought, ah, this is what being a professional photographer feels like. It is funny, but I do not remember my first sale as a commercial photographer, but I distinctly remember my first sale at an art show. I had just joined a local art guild and was participating in my first show. My patient and wonderful husband had spent weeks with me matting, framing, making signs and such. A young woman came by, browsed through my photos, left, and came back later to buy one. It seems silly but that small sale was very exciting to me.

Electricity Series: Hoover Dam III c2011 digital image. Hoover Dam photographed from the Mike OʼCallaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

Electricity Series: Hoover Dam III c2011 digital image. Hoover Dam photographed from the Mike OʼCallaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

Q: What do you like MOST and LEAST about running your professional photography life?

A: What I like most about being a professional photographer is connecting with a portrait client. There is something intimate about photographing someone. They show themselves to you. When you make a great portrait together it is very rewarding. What I like least about being a professional photographer is the amount of time I spend running the business and not taking photographs.

Q: I’m sure that you have at least one turning point in your career. What was it?

A:  Absolutely the decision to go back to traditional photographic methods for my art work has been the turning point in my career. It was a costly and time consuming decision.  When I first decided to do it I did not quite realize what I was getting myself into. I forgot how difficult and time consuming traditional photography is.  I have learned much more than I expected to, both from a technical standpoint and also from a personal growth standpoint. When I get a good image that I exposed, processed, and printed myself, it is so rewarding.On a side note, I also really love the smell of the emulsion on the paper.I had never really done much landscape work previous to my re-emergence in traditional methods. I started going out alone to different locations carrying all of my equipment and a tripod with me. I found myself searching for the  unusual and surreal in whatever landscape I had put myself in. I was particularly drawn to places with strange sounds. One day I was driving over some mountainous terrain between two valleys and I came across some burned out yucca trees lit by the late afternoon sun. The wind was blowing hard and there were some telephone lines strung up through the area. The sounds were  so loud and creepy. I forced myself to get out of the car and immerse myself in that environment. I ended up with images I was not completely satisfied with technically, but I will never forget that experience. It was so exhilarating. It is the search for something, that drives me to keep doing it.

Sand Enigma c2012 selenium toned silver gelatin print. Mesquite Flat Dunes at Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley, CA

Sand Enigma c2012 selenium toned silver gelatin print. Mesquite Flat Dunes at Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley, CA

Q: Best piece of advice you ever received about photography?

A: My firsts photography instructor was an artist. His advice was to be patient. Do not take photos, make photos. I did not completely comprehend his advice at the time, but it has proven to be true.

Q: Many people ask about profound features and explicit details about your job. I want to hear from you some quick advice for someone who simply wants to improve their photography skills.

A: Photograph everything at different focal lengths and use manual settings. Study your exposures and learn from them. Study exposure and exposure value. Learn to edit your work. The technical stuff may seem boring, but do it anyway.

Q: You say that you prefer the “dark room” instead of digital photography. Actually I do too. Why? Do you think there is room for the “traditional” film shooting in our days?

A: I absolutely believe there is room for “traditional” film shooting! Let’s keep doing it and keep this great tradition alive! Right now, I use digital for commercial work and only traditional photography for my fine art work. I made this rule for myself almost two years ago. I was finding digital photography uninspiring and unchallenging. The amount of digital imagery, good and bad, being made was lowering the value and expectation of digital imaging in general. It was (and is), getting more difficult to get good prints made from a lab. I do not like the look of inkjet prints for my photographs, nor do I enjoy the digital printing process. I believe there is much more value in a handmade photograph on traditional paper made by an artist. I want to remain a viable photographer and artist, and I see traditional photography as the truest way for me to do it.

Phantom Limbs c2012 selenium toned silver gelatin print. Hwy 158 near Toiyabe National Forest, Mount Charleston, NV.

Phantom Limbs c2012 selenium toned silver gelatin print. Hwy 158 near Toiyabe National Forest, Mount Charleston, NV.

Q: Many pro photographers aren’t sharing their secrets. Are you currently serving in some sort of mentor capacity to younger aspiring photographers?

A: I have done so a few times without success. My mentees have not wanted to learn the technical aspects of photography or make the financial commitment to equipment. I start them off with the classic notion of compromise between ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. I have yet to get a mentee off of program mode with a digital camera. There are a lot of variables that need to be tended to and it is easy to overlook or forget something important. Eventually it all becomes second nature, but at first it can seem overwhelming. Most recently I was approached by a young woman who wanted to learn from me, but she did not want to actually buy a camera until she knew how to use it. I tried to explain to her that photography does not work like that. Digital technology has changed photography to a much greater extent than I had anticipated, and it is not stopping. If I choose to have a mentee again, it will be to show them traditional processes and not digital imaging. I do hope for that at some future date.

Q: What’s not fun about your job? We know that even great jobs have aspects that aren’t wonderful.

A: Sometimes the schedule can be grueling and there is a lot of equipment to lug around. If a client is not organized or does not know what they want, there tends to be a lot of “hurry up and wait”.

Torso IX c2011 digital image. Image IX in the torso nude series

Torso IX c2011 digital image. Image IX in the torso nude series

Q: Could you describe your most challenging and your favorite shoots you’ve been on?

A: The most challenging project for me was photographing nudes. I was a fairly reserved person. I was very uncomfortable with nudity. I am not necessarily uncomfortable with nudity in print or film, but that is a different matter than being alone with a naked stranger or mild acquaintance. I wanted to do a  series of images that involved shape and form, with my female subjects wearing masks. I still distinctly remember my first session. My subject was a model and makeup artist whom I had worked with on a few occasions. I think it scared both of us, but we had a mutual trust. We got through that first session together; grinning and baring it. Pardon the pun. After that, each session became a little easier. I ended up working with five different women. I finished my photographic work and was unhappy with the initial results. I started working with the images and discovered that the masks completely conflicted with my initial idea. Once I changed my perspective and got rid of the conflicting elements, it started to work. I am really proud of this series, which evolved into “Torso, The Human Landscape”. It was a great learning experiment for me, both as a human, and an artist.

Q: What is your process for gaining people’s trust? How do you get to the core of what you’re going after?

A: When I photograph people, I check my ego at the door. I try to spend some time talking with them before I start to photograph them. Most people do not know what to do in front of a camera and do not feel comfortable. It is my job to gain their trust and make them feel at ease. I do not force them into uncomfortable positions. I just wait until they show me. It is really amazing to look at the evolution of a photo session with someone who is shy or reluctant to be photographed. You can see their confidence come forward. I love that.

Q: You say that you want to learn to make photographic emulsions and coat your own papers. But what’s really next for you?

A: Yes, I really do want to start making emulsions. I have given myself a deadline of December 31, 2013 to successfully coat paper and film. Part of the enjoyment of traditional photography for me is its hands on nature. It really is a great meshing of science and art. What’s next for me? I plan on expanding my creative body of work and continuing my search for unusual experiences that I can create images from.

Q: What do you think of eCharta as a design, as user interface functionality, and as an online auction/exchanging PAPER ONLY platform?

A: I really love paper and different printing processes. I make photographs, but I also collect old photographs and all kinds of vintage prints. I was really excited when I discovered eCharta. I had been wanting to connect with other paper collectors, but did not see a viable platform to do it. I like hunting for things at antique stores, but not on the internet. Large auction sites can be difficult to navigate and I do not have the time to do that. eCharta is simple to navigate and use for both the buyer and seller, and it exists for the niche market of paper lovers, collectors, and makers. Many uses for paper have become obsolete and as paper is used less and less I believe that its intrinsic value will increase. I am really thrilled to be involved with eCharta and I think it can grow into a really great place to connect and collect all things paper!

Wendy already has listed some of her beautiful photos on eCharta for sale.

We also hope that we’re going to convince her to write for our blog photography tips and tricks quite often.

Daron Kappauff and Chris Delloiacono creators of the new graphic novel “Horizon’s End”

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CHRIS DELLOIACONO is an elementary school teacher in New Jersey.

Daron Kappauff and Chris Delloiacono are the writing team and creators of the new graphic novel “Horizon’s End” that is featured on the Kickstarter! Both have a great love for comics and are finally being given a chance to show their love with this new project! This isn’t the first attempt to be a part of the comic industry, as both of them have been writers and editors for 411Mania and ComicsNexus, also Daron wrote a 4-issue back-up story in Image Comics’ Small Gods (though the book was cancelled before his issues saw print). Writing is something they love to do, Daron has published short stories in a number of literary journals, and his first novel was a finalist in Blank Slate Press’ 2012 New Novelist Talent Hunt. Similarly, Chris had a short story published in the collection Contagion: War Stories, and Triptych is his first novel is currently serialized on Pulpline Magazine. Although both have a day job,

DARON KAPPAUFF is an English professor and proposal writer in St. Louis Missouri. Here with Ron Marz.

DARON KAPPAUFF is an English professor and proposal writer in St. Louis Missouri. Here with Ron Marz.

Daron as an English professor and Chris as an elementary school teacher, their love for comics as a medium and as a way of expressing the imagination has lead them to team up and give us a comic which looks to be fantastic. And although they have busy schedules, they gave some of their time to answer several of our questions

Question: Both of you have careers and jobs out of the comic book industry so what made you want to be a part of it?

Daron: I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, and as you know I dabble in just about everything: fiction, poetry, screenplays, etc. Through it all, though, comics have called to me. There’s something about the medium that entices me, a freedom you don’t get with most others. If you can imagine it, you can do it in comics, and I think that’s really appealing for a writer. I also really like the serialization aspect of comics. As a writer there’s so much more you can do with a character when you get to continually write them. In a novel, even a series, you only get to spend so much time with a character or group of characters. Eventually the book or series has to end. Not so with comics.

As for writing comics versus my career, I’m not looking to quit my day job. Hell I’m not even looking to make money on our current project (though I wouldn’t complain if we did). For me, telling the story, and finding people who like the stories I have to tell are the most important aspects of being writer. A lot of people try to break into comics thinking they’re going to be rich and famous. That’s not me. I want to entertain people and tell fun and engaging stories. If someday that means I could write full time, great. But as of now, I’m planning on keeping my day job, and I’m just going to pour all my creative energy into telling the best stories I can and not worry about how many books I have to produce to keep food on the table. Plus I’m pretty sure my wife would kill me or divorce me or worse if I quit my job to pursue a freelance gig in comics.

922882_285005121635560_1742778729_nChris: Like Daron said, I’m not looking to quit my day job. I’ve been a teacher for close to a decade and it’s such a fulfilling career. I couldn’t imagine giving up that aspect of my life. Storytelling and expressing my feelings in writing are one of my passions in my time away from the classroom. I can’t sit on the couch and relax for long, so letting my imagination run wild is a fabulous outlet.

About 35 years ago I bought my first comic, Marvel’s Star Wars #18, and my love of the medium has been there ever since. I’ve also written lots of different types of work over the years but comics have a special place in my heart. I don’t think there’s a more beautiful form of storytelling than the fusion of words and images that sequential comic panels offer. I’ve been going to comic shops on a weekly basis for since the ‘80s, and I’d love for others to read Horizon’s End with the same anticipation I’ve felt for countless comics.

Question: Obviously you read comics from when you were kids and you are comic book fans so the step to become comic book writers was it a long time plan or an unexpected decision you took at some point?

Daron: Adding on to what I said above, I think I’ve wanted to write comics as long as I’ve been writing and reading comics. However, it’s not the only thing I enjoy writing, so I haven’t pursued it with the same vigor as others might. I’ve dipped my toes in a bunch of fields, and while I’m still actively working in other forms of writing, I’ve decided now is the time to really make a go for the comic field.

Question: In the past you both have reviewed comics so how is it different for you from comic book fans 51ec8c6d527065ba7339f886e5d00e07_largeand reviewers to become comic book writers?

Daron: Writing about comics and writing comics are about as fundamentally different as writing poetry and writing fiction. With that said, one isn’t necessarily more difficult than the other; they’re just two different types of writing, requiring different skill sets. And this is the case in all forms of writing. There are always different rules to follow and different skills used in every field and discipline.

For me, switching from one to the other isn’t all that difficult. I’ve studied writing, both academically and personally, for years, and I’m constantly working on improving my skills in various fields. So it’s mainly just switching gears. I’ll say this, though, it’s definitely a lot more fun to actually write comics, but I think it’s due to the inherent joy that’s affiliated with “creating” something.

Question: Horizon’s End is the graphic novel you are working on so how did you two end up collaborating?

Chris: Back when Daron was the EIC of the comic department at 411Mania, he posted on the old DC Message Board that they were looking for writers to join the site. I answered the ad and that one small missive led to us becoming so close we’re essentially brothers. We live 1,000 miles apart but we get together as often as possible, talk all the time on the phone, and each of us have been part of the other’s wedding party.  That friendship and the love we both have for writing led us to this momentous point.

Question: Whose idea was Horizon’s End and how much input did the other have in forming the graphic novels final story?

Daron: The initial idea for Horizon’s End was mine, based on a loose concept I had rattling around my head for years. I pitched the idea to Chris, and the two of us set about fleshing out the idea and populating the world with interesting characters.

Past the initial spark, it’s been an entirely collaborative project. We’ve both brought ideas to the table, and we always confer before we move forward with changing or adding anything. To me, this is the whole point of doing a co-written project. If we didn’t want each other’s input, we wouldn’t be working on this together. We’ve both written plenty of things separately, but we really enjoy working together, bouncing ideas around, and creating a world that is very much a part of both of us.

efff8ebf42655407b14e992b311eafbf_largeHow did each of you approach the writing of Horizon’s End, what I mean is did you divide on who will be doing the script or the dialogues or did you work the whole scenario together?

Chris: We first broke the story down into the broad strokes we were looking to tell. Horizon’s End was initially planned out as a five-issue miniseries, but Kickstarter is such a special distribution channel, we decided it was best to tell the story as a graphic novel. We’re essentially releasing the graphic novel in lieu of five individual issues. It just didn’t make sense to do it any other way, since our backers are helping us fund the complete story.

As for the actual writing process, once we had the major story, we broke each of the issues (or chapters) down into more detailed segments. Each of us worked on a specific chunk of the story then passed the section back and forth. It’s amazing, but the work has been so refined at this point that it’s hard to remember who originally wrote what. We each have strengths and weaknesses as storytellers, so I think Horizon’s End has become a true synthesis that accentuates our strengths.

Question: Darryl Banks is a well-known creator and a fan favorite for those who followed his Green Lantern run; he will be doing the art on Horizon’s End so how did this collaboration come about?

Daron: Chris and I have been acquainted with Darryl for many years now. We first met at the Pittsburgh 936426_302418929894179_180782900_nComicon, which was the first show we covered together as reporters. Both of us were fans of his work, so he was one of the primary creators we sought out. Since then Darryl and I have stayed in contact, discussing his career, my writing, and any and everything else.

As Chris and I progressed on Horizon’s End, we’d often talk about how great a fit Darryl would be for the project. We’d even conceive characters based on how we thought Darryl might design them. Then after many failed attempts to get an amateur artist to commit to the project, we decided to pitch it to him. Luckily for us, the timing was right and Darryl liked what he heard.

Question: How is it to work both as fans and as professional writers with Darryl Banks?

Daron: I’m not going to lie; it’s nothing short of amazing. Darryl is on the short list of artists I’ve always said I’d want to work with if I ever broke into comics. So getting to work with him as I’m breaking in is a dream come true (cliché as that sounds).

Similarly, Chris and I are both extremely excited about helping Darryl break back into comics. Comic fans have been deprived of Darryl’s fantastic work for far too many years now. To say that we’re proud and ecstatic to have a hand in redirecting the spotlight in his direction is an understatement.

Professionally speaking, Darryl has been great to work with. From character design to page layout, he’s impressed us with his dedication to the project and his willingness to do whatever it takes to make the project look incredible. We honestly couldn’t have asked for a better experience or collaborator.

21605e410671dc323dab7ec2be283e57_largeQuestion: Who else is on the creative team or is contributing to helping bring Horizon’s End to its final form?

Chris: We’ve been blessed to work with some of the finest talents in the comic industry. Our colorist, Moose Baumann, has worked on hundreds of comics for Marvel, DC, Valiant, Dark Horse, and just about every other publisher over the past twenty years. Troy Peteri is going to do the lettering, and he may be the busiest man in the comics. Currently, he’s working with Mark Waid’s Thrillbent imprint, Top Cow, and many other areas as both letterer and writer. And let’s not forget our eye catching logo, which was designed by the incomparable Dave Lanphear. Then of course that’s all capped off with the fantastic cover Stephane Roux did for us!

Going past the people actively involved in the graphic novel, numerous pros are contributing artwork. These one-of-a-kind pieces will be available as Kickstarter rewards. World famous talents like Mike Grell, Mikel Janin, Barry Kitson, Todd Nauck, Jim Calafiore, and Ryan Benjamin will offer sketches of our cast, and many of them will be printed in the book. I think it’s fair to say that Horizon’s End is packed front to back with some amazing creators!

Question: Based on pictures you have posted on Horizon’s End Facebook page we can assume it’s a scifi graphic novel, would you like to tell us of when and where the story is taking place?

Chris: Talking real life for a minute, let me say, I’m a firm believer that the universe is inhabited by beings outside of our solar system. Horizon’s End could be going on somewhere out there in the midnight sea of space. Imagine a galaxy where a malevolent force, The Black Dominion, is running roughshod from planet to planet taking anything they want. This particular adventure occurs on the planet Usyel as its pre-industrial civilization is terrorized by the superior might of the Dominion. Hope seems lost and a miserable life strip-mining their own planet is the only option for most residents of Usyel.

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Question: Does the story concern a protagonist and its supporting cast, a team of powered individuals or something completely different?

Chris: Andara is the key protagonist, and her arrival on Usyel sets our story in motion. She has tremendous strength, endurance, and amplified fighting abilities. She’s bent on revenge, but how will that help an enslaved world? The will of the people of the planet have been so thoroughly subjugated Andara must find a way to fashion a resistance to the oppressors. In short, it’s revenge and revolution.

Question: What makes it different from the mainstream comics that are being published at the moment? Is it the story, the art, the characters or something else?

Daron: You mean besides the fact that it’s being written and drawn by people who aren’t currently doing any mainstream comics?

Chris: Daron and I aren’t trying to reinvent the comic book. Horizon’s End can almost be considered our love letter to the comics, novels, movies, and television shows that were a seminal part of our coming of age. We may not be creators in the mainstream of today’s comic market, but I feel that Horizon’s End would fit in on the shelf of any comic shop in the world. It’s a fantasy, space opera with grand battles and a coming of age quest. We hope it’s a blast for everyone to read!

Question: Being a graphic novel will it appeal only to comic book fans or will it have a broader range of readers who will find interest in it?

Daron: Our goal is for the book to appeal to science fiction fans as much as comic book fans. The project is very much influenced by our mutual love for science fiction and super heroes, and we’ve tried to find the right balance between the two.

Chris and I are both unabashed classic Sci-Fi fans, and we haven’t in anyway tried to hide our influences. We proudly wear our inspiration on our sleeves, and readers should easily be able to see them in our work. We’re hoping this honest admiration for what came before inspires our readers and help them appreciate what we’re trying to do with this story.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2020859758/horizons-end

Question: Is there any possibility to see a Horizon’s End sequel exploring and expanding its story or is it a one shot?

Daron: If we have anything to say about it there will most definitely be more Horizon’s End *ahem* on the horizon. We have the story planned as a series of graphic novels that tell Andara’s ongoing story as she ages and finds her place in the universe. The creation of those further adventures will be entirely dependent on how the first book is received and if there’s a demand for more.

With all that said, what’s presented in this first book is a complete story. We’ve come up with an ending that we feel is satisfying, while at the same time points to further adventures to come. Think Star Wars: A New Hope or The Matrix. Either franchise could have ended with the first film and viewers could have been satisfied, but they also nicely paved the way for future movies.

Chris: Sometimes storytellers take for granted how invested a reader will be in their world. We don’t assume there will be more Horizon’s End stories, so we’re not holding anything back. We want to give every reader their money’s worth with a beginning, middle, and end. Our hope is that you’ll ask for more!

Question: Last question in summary what is Horizon’s End about and why will people have a blast reading it?

Daron: Simply put, Horizon’s End is a high-energy Sci-Fi romp focused on character driven stories that touch on engaging themes everyone can relate to. It’s a story about self-discovery and accountability set against the backdrop of alien worlds. Plus, are you seeing this art? Darryl Banks and Moose Baumann: what else needs to be said?

Thank you both for the time for this interview! I hope the best for “Horizon’s End” which I’m more than sure it will be a big success! There are more than enough pages to read created by several of the most talented people! “Horizon’s End” for me seems to be an ultimate sc-fi graphic novel for every comic fan that will enjoy reading!

Con Barbatsis for eCharta

Like it on Facebook  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Horizons-End/281816161954456?fref=ts

Mike Heimos the writer and creator of Fever Ridge

Mike Heimos is the writer and creator of “Fever Ridge: A Tale of MacArthur’s Jungle War” a very unique comic that is published by IDW. This might be his first published work in the comic book industry but definitely not the first time he puts a pen to paper to write, he’s been doing it for years! So we are glad that he has given as the chance and time to answer several of our questions so we can know more about him as a writer with a unique technique, about his comic book and possible future plans.

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Q: First of all I would like to ask when did you start writing and when did you finally decide to pursue a career in creating comic books.

Well I’ve been writing for a long time, doing prose and poetry really just for myself, and writing articles and books in tax law which grow out of my career as a tax attorney, but I’ve not endeavored to have my fiction published until relatively recently. The story on when I decided to create some graphic novels:

Sometime in 2009, I decided to write the fiction that was swimming in my head all the years prior, including the 10+ years filled with practicing tax law. But without the technical structure one has in writing legal articles and such, at first the fiction writing was adrift. Then on a nice Friday afternoon, threw some cold water on my face and decided to devote the weekend solely to drinking some beer, making a couple of groovy dinners, and just thinking, writing down story ideas…

In those days I lived in Denver and was a huge, devoted Battlestar Galactica fan. During that beer-and-brainstorm weekend, in Sunday’s newspaper there was an advert indicating that the Starfest con in Denver was welcoming Katee Sackhoff as one of the celebrity guests. She was (and is) one of my favorite TV actresses, and I bought the con badge.

On arrival I learned that the comic book folks had a con in tandem with Starfest, so I popped over to see what the comic-con was all about. I had not been a devotee of comics, but I’m a curious guy, love learning new things, and at the con there were seminars about comics creation, writing, and other stuff that tickled my fancy.

Frankly, I had thought these things were only on the order of, “hey look at this extreme bodybuilder/superhero…” etc. But no, there were interesting people giving seminars, having stimulating discussions about art and story telling, technology and marketing and so on. Intrigued, I went home and had a few more of those beers (one toasted to Katee of course) and thought rather simply “…a couple of my stories would be awesome to see as well as read. Now I want to see them, or at least parts of them.”

pmdMy first level was to think about illustrated novels and novellas, sort of like a Mark Twain or Arthur Conan Doyle things, and the concept just grew that some of my ideas would be very slick as full on graphic novels, in the right hands of course. And one of those ideas was the WWII story that was inspired by my grandfather’s service in New Guinea and the Philippines.

And now, I’m quite devoted to building a career as a writer, both in comics and graphic novels, and in ‘traditional’ writing. 

Q: Would you like to tell us a few things about your site Kingfishergraphicarts.com on why did you start it, what are its purpose and its aim?

I created the website back in 2010/11 (quoting myself!), “[as] primarily a foray in laying out a bunch of creative ideas for you, hopefully you enjoy! We’ll surely be submitting some works to appropriate publishers such as Image and Dark Horse, but whatever is not “picked up” (and it is assumed here that all will not…) will be self-published here and will be free-to-view [frankly, not sure if I’d stick to this part in the future 😉 ]. Some fun merchandise will evolve, there is a forum/blog for daily or other periodic observations, space dedicated to other creators as well, and other things will be added as they are dreamt up.”

I did a good few months of blogging on it, but thing is, the first idea I submitted, Fever Ridge, was picked up by IDW in 2012 and since, I’ve had my sights trained mainly on that project. But it is possible that the website will evolve more once we finish up Fever Ridge, though again, I will soon be pitching Red Forest and Penis My Dragon, the other two creations I’ve put up on the website to-date

I have loads more writing in my computer, waiting to be liberated! Most are not, but several other concepts would be slick as comics – other historical fiction, a huge space opera, a dystopian-future tale of a USA with a Stasi-like agency, a few comedies, etc.

Q: Fiver Ridge: A tale of MacArthur’s Jungle War is you first published work, was it also you first choice to pitch to a publisher?

It was not necessarily the first choice in my mind and heart back in 2011/12, but it just sort of happened that way. Right when Nick was finishing up Fever Ridge pitch pages, Tom Waltz at IDW saw his portfolio at San Diego Comic Con and he expressed serious interest in getting a pitch, so we did it.

Since Fever Ridge connects inter-textually with two other work I will create – Red Forest, which I mentioned earlier, and Gilded Steppe – but it actually comes last in historical chronology (Red Forest is set in the 13th Century, Gilded Steppe in Classical times), you might expect that I’d have started say with Gilded Steppe. But again, opportunity knocked as it did.

Q: How did the collaboration with the rest of the creative team on Fever Ridge come into existence?

At the Denver comic con mentioned above, I attended a great seminar with Nick on the dais. I approached him afterward about availability and whether he would consider collaborating on one of my ideas. He asked for summaries and in a few days he indicated being most attracted to the WWII story. And wow, am I glad he was!

Then Nick found Brandon DeStefano, who expressed keen interest in lettering; and Brandon got hold of Jordie Bellaire, who wanted to color. Then Jordie was wooed by Darkhorse and had to jump on an opportunity there, so she secured Nolan Woodard for us. 

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Q: You have mentioned in the comic book that a big influence for Fever Ridge is a story said by your grandfather based on real life facts, so are there any other influences both from real life and fiction that you brought into the story which played a major role in forming it?

There are lots, lots of influences from reality and fiction going into the creation of Fever Ridge. One of my secondary historical sources is a nice piece called “Silent Warriors” by Lance Q. Zedric, a history of the Alamo Scouts (see issues 2 and 3 of Fever Ridge); another is a cool history/self-propaganda, Four Years Among Cannibals by the enigmatic Hermann Detzner, an explorer of New Guinea prior to and during World War I.

As for fictional influences, well I am with Umberto Eco in arguing that basically all the literature one experiences in their past reading goes into the literature one creates. But I can tell you that some things that specifically influence me in making Fever Ridge are going to appear in Fever Ridge Issue 4, literally for you to see, and other influences include stories such as Saul Bellow’s works Ravelstein and Henderson The Rain King, and… others!

I think in the final trade paperback I’m going to provide both a complete bibliography and an exegesis essay that will sort of “line by line” reveal all the little elementals for the story and the ideas presented, because Fever Ridge is pretty complex and layered. Let me say that, for example, what many people seem to be thinking is the strictly history lesson of Issue 2 is BOTH that and fully part of the fictional story. So do NOT dismiss that chapter as “yawn, a history lesson,” if you care about fully understanding what happens with the characters. You will want to pay attention to Issue 2.

Q: In the first three issues of Fever Ridge anyone can see you have made tremendous research to the point it’s like reading a comic book documentary of that era both in history and environment. So how much of your time did this research consume and are you still researching for the following issues?

Indeed the research is constant; it really never ends until the book is off to the printers. I’m always re-thinking and re-reading and re-considering, and the underlying aim being not necessarily exact accuracy but plausibility, at least to the elements that call for historicity. But as I’ve said in other interviews, there too are magical realism aspects in Fever Ridge and thus, that stuff will be plausible assuming the existence of a little magic in the universe. 

Q: Both story and art wise Fever Ridge is being told in a unique way! In many ways the story seems like it’s more like a statement of events, is this your usual writing style or is it “designed” this way specifically for this comic?

My “usual writing style” is fairly versatile, ambidextrous. But yes, we are aiming to be pretty unique in Fever Ridge. The art style, the color choices, messing with the time/space continuum, here and there breaking the “180 degree rule” to intentionally create surreality/disorientation (Nick and I are huge admirers of Stanley Kubrick, who did this a fair bit, e.g. famously in The Shining in the bathroom scene), not pulling punches on the gore, etc.

It’s all about showing war and ‘the War’ as the nigh insane thing that it is/was. Societies periodically ask – no, tell – young men to do things that otherwise would call for their being judged sociopaths, and within the context of ‘war,’ if they do it nasty and big enough, they get ribbons and medals and lauds. That’s a messed up thing…

And yes, Fever Ridge is being told as a historical fiction, and indeed will internally evolve to be…

Well, you’ll need to wait until Issue 8.

Q: How much input did you have in Nick Runge’s, Jordie Bellaire’s and Nolan Woodard’s art?

Essentially, I write a play and therein give Nick stage directions (I explain this in some detail in Issue 3’s essay), and he gives some directions on colors to Jordie and Nolan.

Some details that I need, I am VERY specific about. For example, in Issue 3 you will notice that the severed Japanese hand, found by Erik while he and Blackie are on their ‘final exam’ exercise in the bush, is a left hand. It’s a wee bit important that the hand be a left hand…you’ll see why later in the series. So, I wrote in the script, “Nick, it’s gotta be a left hand!”

Q: Are you satisfied of the final outcome in each issue’s form up to now and if you had a second chance would you change anything?

Great question.

I think it’s no slight at all, to any of the visual artists, to say that the issues, the covers, etc., never exactly match what I had in my own mind. I think it’s a fool’s errand to expect that the writer/creator’s idea will fully, exactly become reality on the page (this is of course when, as here, the visual artists and the writer/creator are not the same person! but even then?).

Yet this does not mean that one cannot achieve satisfaction. Indeed, to date I’m quite satisfied because the essence of my scripts have been made real. Sure, there are aspects of the art, and my own writing, and the lettering that I would change or have changed if given the opportunity. But that’s the way of things!

You have to understand, that Perfection as a goal and a process, but something that can never really be achieved. As a fan of jazz, “the imperfect art,” I know that imperfections add depth and it seems to me that actually achieving perfection would be a bit of a tragedy.

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Author Mike Heimos with friend, Lucia Notte.

Q: Is Fever Ridge a onetime story or is there a possibility of seeing the main cast of characters in a future limited series?

As to the main cast, it is intended to have finality at the end of issue 8. But, as the saying goes, I will “never, say ‘never’.” Never is a long time! It’s quite possible that a true “spinoff” can spring from Fever Ridge, quite a few angles come to mind.

By the way, I’m already on record – in Issue 2’s supplemental materials – disclosing that Franz will die in the War. Indeed, he will. As for the other main casts’ survival, you will have to see.

I’ll repeat here another disclosure that I’ve given in other interviews, that one of the characters is the vehicle for intertextuality that connects Fever Ridge to Red Forest and Gilded Steppe. Perceptive readers should be able to glean who it is, pretty soon.

So this is it thank you Mike for taking time from your schedule for this interview! Thanks!

Con Barbatsis for eCharta

Links: Kingfisher Graphic Arts Mike Heimos site, you can also follow updates on

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Mike-Heimos-Kingfisher-Graphic-Arts

Twitter: twitter.com/kgacomics

JOE RUBINSTEIN – the Inker – the Artist

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Joe Rubinstein was born in Israel. He emigrated to the U.S. at the age of 5 years old. His cousin had a bunch of comic books and Joe naturally was fascinated by them. Joe wasn’t speaking the language at the beginning and he was fascinated by the pictures. Like all kids, he drew his own comics. That was the start! Eventually he wanted to be an artist. At age 11 he attended classes at the Arts Students League of New York. His art teacher Arthur J. Foster, son of the great Hal Foster (creator/artist of “Prince Valiant,” one of the most highly regarded comic strips in history) was his first mentor.

Finally Joe Rubinstein became one of the greatest inkers in comic industry and he appears in 1029 comic issues! Joe is also an award-winning portrait artist and illustrator. his drawing ability is extraordinary and we see that in all of his work!

Joe Rubinstein took some time from his busy schedule to answer some questions giving us some insight about life, drawing, people …inking.

Here it is:

Q: Hey Joe! How are you? We know that your comic story is pretty …long! So, let’s go back in time! Do you remember you first professional work? Do you actually remember the first piece you did as a pro and when did you do it? Could you tell us the history behind it?

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Joe’s first solo job:
Tales of The Great Disaster in the back of Kamandi

Joe: My first solo job was appropriately enough called Tales of The Great Disaster in the back of Kamandi. Mike Netzer / Nasser had drawn some samples and I asked him if I could practice on copies of them and he said to go ahead and ink the real thing, so he got this 6 pager to draw and then I was assigned the inking. I was 17 and I think Mike was 20 years old.

Q: You said from time to time that your idol in the past was Neal Adams. Then you met in your inking career many artists. Who is the person that had the biggest influence on you and your comic work? Did this person change your work or the way you draw?

Joe: Working at Continuity studios when I was 13 (running errands) the guy who paid attention to my needs and taught me was the great Dick Giordano Adams couldn’t be bothered with teaching except for the occasional turse word or two but I did look through the files that he studied from and I learned from those people. That’s why my work looks like his. We learned from the same artists. To whatever degree I actually know how to draw that came from life drawing classes and studying with many artists.

Q: We see that you have a unique style of inking – at least many people state it. We bet that your style became unique while you have inked more pencillers than any other inker!

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Joe was doing on and off for 20 years
The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.
Here you see the Deluxe Edition #1 Cover

Joe: Sorry to disagree with you but I think my stuff is very much into the Stan Drake / Holdiway / Drucker illustrative school of inking, unless I make a decision to ink differently. I am a little different from most inkers because I change my approach and my tools depending upon the style I’m inking. I don’t want to “take over”.

When I’m done I wanted the work to look like the penciler’s work I respect, just a better version of that art work or at the very least do no harm to it .I learned this philosophy from Dick Giordano. I think I was given The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe to do on and off for 20 years because I could accommodate everyone’s style but at the same time give it a certain amount of cohesion in style.

Q: Do you really hold the Guinness record for it! How did that happen? Do you believe that attending the Arts Students League have a main role for inking so many pencilers?

Joe: The Guinness record if it existed which it doesn’t. I made a joke about that one day and it stuck. Going to the Art Students League of NY was very important for me to start learning to draw from life but I’ve also studied with a lot of very great prominent mostly East Coast artists privately and in other schools. I am currently attending 3 classes a week.

Q: Which artists or creators do you return to for a quick boost of inspiration while you have some numb periods? Who do you think that are the masters of ink?

Joe: Stan Drake, Kubert / Drucker / Janson / Williamson and many others I’m sure I’ve forgetting. Ink Masters would be Gibson, Goodwin, Flag, ER Kinstler Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Heinrick Klee. I don’t know any of their work shows up in mine but they certainly are inspirations.

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When Joe is bored with inking he paints
watercolors or pastels. Lola’s portrait!
Collection of Mr & Mrs Chris Stamp (manager of The Who)

 Q: What do you do to recharge your batteries and reach a state of mind in order to place your hands back on the paper?

Joe: Don’t forget I don’t do much penciling  but when I’m really just bored with inking and B&W I paint a watercolor or  pastel  or something in color just to challenge me and wake me up.

Q: What tools do you use to create your work and what makes them the “right tools” for you? Let us know if you have a favorite brand of ink or type of paper or a particular material.

Joe: I have 3-4-5 different kind of pens I use and 2-3 different kind of brushes in different sizes depending upon the style that I’m trying to achieve. I use flexible pens for one style and a stiff pen for another. I use thin ink for pen work and thicker ink for brushwork never mixing the two. Something a little unusual I do is shave/whittle the back of the brush and attach the pinpoint to that end of the brush to give me a really firm natural grip.

I use comic book paper for watercolors because it’s tough and I happen to have it around.

Q: What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?

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He’s painting and drawing portraits and figures
trying to get some sort of emotional communication. Stan Lee’s portrait.

Joe: I still get satisfaction from collaborating on a good job with a penciler but I get satisfaction from doing my own work. I’m painting and drawing usually portraits and figures trying to get  some sort of emotional communication about the person whether it’s how I feel about them or possibly how I hope the viewer might have room to feel about them.

Q: What has been the most rewarding project in your career so far and why?

Joe: I guess that would be The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe because I got to work with so many great pencilers and people who never pencil for anybody else (Kubert, Bolland / Severin, Drake, Palmer etc.). I also did a Bible story with Rick Leonardi I was very proud of and three-part Tangled Web of Spider-Man with Lee Weeks. I’m also very happy with the BRILLIANT issues with Bagley. Currently I’m inking a series called One Minute Later for a private collector. I’ve done something between 20 and 30 of them and have gotten to ink a lot wonderful artists and a lot of wonderful interesting pieces.

Q: Let us know about any current or any upcoming projects.

Joe: I just finished inking half an issue of the Fantastic Four with Mark Bagley and also with Mark a series for Marvel/Icon written by Brian Bendis called BRILLIANT. I’m doing a graphic novel about children with cancer called Nistar as well as an 8 part indy series called Murder Mysteries. I’m also doing a Superman movie related project at this time.

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Nistar is a graphic novel about a superhero for children with cancer written by
Shira Frimer and illustrated by Josef Rubinstein and other comic book artists!
The first creator-owned book by ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN co-creators Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley,
BRILLIANT tells the story of a handful of college-age geniuses who challenge each other to solve the mystery of superpowers.
Inking by Joe Rubinstein.

Q: We’ve all met very talented newcomers –or not – who are working their asses off but still need and want to break through to the next level. What would you suggest to them? What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard given to a promising new creator?

Joe_Head_shot_1Joe: Find a mentor, become an apprentice, learn your craft, study what’s been done before, look at what they are buying now, look at other sources of art, don’t limit yourself to comic books. Stay current with technology.

This is it Joe! Thank you for your time!

Comic people keep in mind: work, work, work – draw, draw, draw –  don’t limit yourself to comic books – Stay current with technology! Mr. Josef Rubinstein said it all!

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Some links to find Joe Rubinstein work:

ComicVine – Comics inker.portrait painter.Illustrator.Teacher.Murals

His Facebook profile