Friday, September 8, 2017

Interview with Andy Hisch

This is one of the most overdue interviews I have. I found Andy’s work and Staple! back in Wizard World Austin 2010 and he continues to impress year after year. As a storyteller, Andy is a magician in the tradition that runs from Jack Cole to Jeff Smith. He makes fast-paced motion and action (occasionally even physics-defying action) seem seamless. He tells stories that have strong hooks and distinctive characters. Do yourself a favor and swing by his table at Staple tomorrow.

MH: What are you bringing to Staple, and are you bringing your folio, debuting any new books, and/or prints?

AH: My big debut for this year's show is a new entry in what I've started calling my Constructed Comics series. Previous ones have used side-scrolling frames, transparency effects, and fold-out 3D forms. 4-Way Stop is a road trip story told in conflicting parallels, kind of a "Road Rashomon".  I'll also have a bunch of dog stuff -- pennants! pins! -- in advance of Science Comics: Dogs, my graphic novel out in October.

MH: One the things that stuck me about your work is how well you tackle a page a physical object. How do traditional page layouts influence your Constructed Comics and what things have you taken from Constructed Comics back to traditional page layouts?

AH: None of the Constructed Comics so far have used the typical panel/page format. They're more about exploring ways to physically present a sequence. Like, if I reveal moments in this way, does that change the reader's role? Can it heighten a mood or make a joke land? Making them is my vacation from traditional comics, and I don't know that I've found anything that I can take back and forth between them. There are some things I can do with hand assembly that just aren't feasible at scale. We'll see what #5 brings!

MH: What do you think are strengths of comics as an educational medium?

AH: Their biggest strength is that students want to read them. It sounds too basic to mention, but it's so much easier to teach something if students want to engage with it. Beyond that, they're more visually interesting than a textbook, you can control your own pace unlike a video, and they've got better jokes than your teacher. I think the Science Comics line in particular is great because they're contained, digestible amounts of material of which no two are the same. Have you read Science Comics: Volcanoes? It's a sci-fi dystopia, for crying out loud! Dinosaurs is as much a history of science itself. In Dogs, you come for the adorable host and stay for the surprisingly robust introduction to genetics. To my knowledge, the line is an utterly unique undertaking in educational literature.

MH: As a Dog owner, what was the most useful thing you learned working on the upcoming Science Comics: Dogs?

AH: Body language! Communication is key to any good relationship, right? Learning the meanings behind how dogs hold each part of their body has really helped me understand what my dog is trying to say to me, and I'm a lot more conscious of what I might inadvertently be saying with my own posture and movements. We can communicate on the same level now! Making a play bow at a dog and having it be immediately, enthusiastically answered is just the best.

MH: Baker Street Peculiars, The Royal Historian of Oz, and Varmints all have very large casts of visual distinct and expressive original characters. What are you secrets of character design?

AH: I was taught that the best way to differentiate characters is through silhouette. If their silhouettes are distinct, your characters will read no matter what size they are on a page. I also try to pay extra attention to characters' posture. For example, the Peculiars all hold themselves in different ways, and that tells you a lot about their personalities -- authoritative, shy, laid back, or whatever that may be. Personally, when I start a project I want to get right to drawing pages, but I'm continuing to learn that extra time and effort put in during the design phase really pays off.

MH: What tips do you have for finding and maintaining an all ages audience? 

AH: Get hired to draw Garfield? So much of my work has been on existing properties or, now, as part of a bigger series. It's much, much tougher with an original project. I hope by doing good work when I'm invited to those projects that already have an audience that some of them will follow me when I go off to do my original stuff. Building a relationship with publishers who know how to connect to these audiences helps, of course, but it's no sure thing.

Are there any other Guests or Exhibitors you are looking forward to hanging out with at Staple?

AH: I mean, everyone, right? Staple is home to so many of my favorite people. I'm particularly excited to be tabling back-to-back with the Skweegie Island guys - Austin Bedell, Chris Sweet, and Zach Taylor. Usual neighbor and super crafter Amanda Michael is going to have loads of cute new toys. Also, my good, good pal Kyle Starks is coming to Texas for the very first time, and he's gonna charm the socks off of everyone. He's a real special boy, Kyle.

Find More of Andy's Work Here...

Monday, September 4, 2017

Interview with Kyle Starks

Eisner nominated writer/illustrator Kyle Starks has written and drawn several hilarious graphic novels and a boat load of mini comics in just the last few years.  He has a strong presence on the con scene and is still taking commission. You can (and should) get a great crosses section of his creative output by clicking over to As writer and sometime artist, he is currently helming the ship that is Oni’s monthly Rick and Morty.

MH: How do you manage you process when you are writing and illustrating a book?

KS: When I'm writing for someone else I do a full script with occasional layouts and reference stuff – normal comic writing stuff. 

When I'm doing both the writing and the illustrating I don't do any script. I spend a lot of time before one of my projects thinking about how the story is going to go and what it is, so when it comes time to my story it's just the way I want it. I will do a page by page outline per book but otherwise everything is “written” on the page. This keeps it fresh and fun for me and saves a step that for me as both writer and artist I don't think is really necessary. Which isn't to say I never write anything – rarely, but sometimes I have to work out dialogue exchanges – but I don't have a single scripts for Rock Candy Mountain, Kill Them All or Sexcastle.

MH: What is the editorial process for Rick and Morty?

KS: I'm not super certain on the editorial side, per se, but I can certainly share the gist of how a Rick and Morty book is made. 

Basically, it goes like this: I have a story idea, I tell my editor, she tells Cartoon Network and Justin Roiland, they always approve it, then I write or draw it, then at the end it goes to Cartoon Network and Roiland. Cartoon Network very rarely has any changes – mostly things to keep in line with their all ages intent, Roiland I'm told only just laughs and laughs. Then it goes through the steps of getting a comic made and back to Roiland and Cartoon Network again. Mostly we just make the book within the Oni Team – Cartoon Network and the creators almost never actually say anything, so it's rarely a part of the process. 

MH: Do you have any tips for people tabling at Artist Ally?

KS: This is a tough one. Make sure you have change (I probably jinxed myself by saying that), have more than one item, get a table cloth, be friendly. For me the most important thing not only tabling but day to day is that I want as many people as possible to see me work and very few things sell themselves. Also, try to have enough change.

MH: How did Chris Schweitzer get involved in Rock Candy Mountain?

Chris recently moved within an hour of me - maybe a year or two ago - so as the only professional comic creators in the area we quickly became fast friends. Chris, as you probably know, is an incredible, next level cartoonist and not a colorist but while I was going through test pages with prospective colorists it wasn't quite working like I wanted and I showed them to Chris to get his advice. He decided he loved the book so much he would color it and I'm forever thankful. He really brings life to the book that couldn't exist without him.

MH: What advice would you give someone wanting to launch a comic on Kickstarter?

KS: Start small, be prepared, do you math, don't over do it. And, personally, have the book done before you start. In my opinion, when someone buys something they don't want to wait a year to get it.

MH: Are there other exhibitors you are looking forward to hanging out with a Staple?

KS: I've been wanting to do Staple for awhile specifically because of the number of creators in the area who regularly attend the show that I absolutely adore. Andy Hirsch I consider one of my best friends and in the discussion, in my opinion, for the most underrated cartoonist in America. Robert Wilson IV is someone who's friendship I legitimately prize who I've done a ton of shows with and am always happy to see, Fabian Rangel Jr is the best dude and a real, impressive talent. Alexis Ziritt is as nice as he is talented, Gavin Guidry is a solid dude who's starting to make a name for himself. It's a great show and I'm looking forward to meeting a bunch of new folks and hanging, for sure.

More stuff at ...