Welcome back to another installment of Indie Comics Showcase, the weekly blog where we signal boost a few truly independent comics that are currently crowdfunding their projects, crowdsourcing their funding in some way, or just completely self-publishing on their own. Every little bit of support for these creators matters, from a single dollar pledge to the twenty-five dollar bundle, and of course the higher tiers are usually fun too! Even if you can’t back a campaign or buy a book, you can share or tweet about these projects to your friends and followers.
On Indie Comics Showcase, we interview the creators, show off some art, and tell you how you can check out the product for yourself. Below we have some outstanding crowdfunding campaigns this week for you to learn about, enjoy, and hopefully support by backing one or more of them! Thanks for checking these out and for being the best part of Indie Comics Showcase. Let’s jump in!
by Bronte Erwin
John Lemus: Welcome to Indie Comics Showcase, Bronte. Thanks for taking the time to discuss your latest indie comic project with us!
Bronte Erwin: It’s my pleasure. I’m a big fan of indie showcase and always find great things to read and appreciate you promoting indie creators.
John: Before we get started, tell our readers who you are.
Bronte: Sure. I’m Bronte Erwin a comic writer, editor and publisher of UpChuck Comics.
John: How did you get into comics?
Bronte: Growing up, my friends and I would bike to the local comic book shop. That became our thing, buy comics and sit at the train station eating candy and reading comics.
John: How did you get into work on comics?
Bronte: I interned at Marvel in 1995. It was a really rough time in the industry so I didn’t stay with it. By around 2010 I was reading a lot of indie comics. With creation of digital distribution channels and software design tools I began to think I could publish my own comic.
As a kid, I read everything that had Spider-Man or the New Mutants. I thought the original Secret Wars was so cool when it came out. The Watchman, Blacksad and All-Star Batman and Robin just really blew my mind the first time I read them.
John: Without giving anything away, what can you tell us about BiGS?
Bronte Erwin: BiGS is a sci-fi eco-thriller centered around a new race of giant humans called BiGS who live in a world of climate crisis where volcanoes and tsunamis are daily occurrences.
Instead of being revered for their size, BiGS are marginalized; with most regular people see them as lazy drug addicts dependent on welfare. BiGS medical condition requires them to take daily medication to stay alive. But video of a BiG named Nate Belcher displaying extraordinary abilities during an industrial accident makes people begin to question what it means to be a BiG.
John: How did you come up with story and characters for BiGS?
Bronte: Giants are always portrayed as awkward disproportional graceless hulks. Like Andre the Giant. One day I stood in line behind Tyson Chandler, the NBA 7fter. He was so proportional looking and graceful I thought; what would it be like to be if there were a whole group of people like that walking around?
I love the X-Men but the concept of homo-superior where they all have different abilities never made sense to me. Evolutionary theory suggests a species would mutate with the same abilities over a long period of time. How would we react to witnessing human evolution? Would we recognize it as natural evolution or see it as a disease?
John: Can you tell us about your style and creative process – and how you developed them?
Bronte: I learned the production process working at Marvel. So I start with an outline. Then write a loose script. I write the script to be enjoyable to read for the artists, with insight to the characters so they can get a good feel for the story because I like to give the artist a lot of room to layout the panels how they interpret the script. I don’t do shot charting or camera angles unless I think it is really important. The illustrator and I then review the roughs. I’ll look for continuity errors and go over any changes needed. Once it’s inked, I editing the dialogue to better fit the illustration and take out anything artist was able to convey with the illustration.
My writing process comes from an interview I watched with Ian Fleming who said the most daunting thing is a blank page. So he never wrote linearly. He wrote the parts he knew best first and then back filled the gaps. And keep writing. Don’t stop to edit or agonize over dialogue or to strengthen the weak plot points. I leave myself a lot of notes like, ‘main character makes revelation, character B says something funny, how do they get here.
John: What do you want your readers to take away from (BiGS)?
Bronte: Mostly I hope they think the characters are cool and when they put the book down they want to know what happens next. I also want people to see the story on different levels. I always liked when my English teachers would break down the underlining meaning of books. I know there is a lot of debate in the industry about sacrificing entertainment for political views. But every piece of literature from Greek mythology, Frankenstein, Lord of the Rings to the X-Men the creators are making a statement about their views on the world. What makes a story great is having an interesting story that can be interpreted on many levels.
John: What are your hopes for BiGS going forward?
Bronte: I’d like BiGS to be successful enough to continue to tell the story. One of the difficulties in world-building (especially in comic format) is you have to move the exposition so fast. Now that the world of BiGS is set I want to concentrate on character development, especially the villains. I love writing villains who don’t view themselves as the bad guy. I would really like to explore the story from their point of view.
John: What do you think is most important when working on a comic?
Bronte: People always say write what you know. That advice always sounds boring, but to me it doesn’t mean write a story about what you know, but include details of what you know to provide details and insight that give your story authenticity. BiGS centers a lot around healthcare. I work in a hospital and my job is not very exciting, but I was able to turn very mundane details into stuff I thought was cool behind the scenes stuff most people wouldn’t know.
The other thing is finish. If you wait till you think it is perfect you’ll never get it out there.
John: Once again, Bronte – thank you for being a part of indie comics showcase. We wish you the best of luck with BiGS and all future projects. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers before we sign off?
Bronte: Thank you. This has been fun for me. I am grateful to be included with the other amazing creators you have spoken with. If you pick up any of my books and like it or even if you don’t drop me a line. Hearing what people think of your work is such a joy. You can also get all of my books at UpChuckcomics.com
Grab a copy of BiGS here!
by Mike Virgilio and Adam Gagnon
Check out their campaign here!
John Lemus: Hey guys! Welcome to Indie Comics Showcase! Thanks for chatting with me to discuss Social Studies.
Mike Virgilio: Thanks for having us!!
Adam Gagnon: Thanks so much for this opportunity! We’re having a ton of fun making the comic, but marketing it is a whole different animal. Outlets like yours are huge to helping us find more readers.
John: Hopefully this will be a good signal boost. Before we get started, briefly introduce yourself to our readers!
Mike: I’m Mike Virgilio, born and mostly raised in New York and currently living in Washington State.
Adam: I’m Adam, actually born in Chateauguay, Canada, but I’ve been living in upstate NY since I was 5.
John: How did you guys first get into comics, and then how did you first get into working in comics?
Mike: I think I’ve always loved comics, especially Calvin and Hobbes growing up. Bill Waterson has always been an inspiration for me! But one of the funnier reasons I got into comics was, when I was younger, when we would visit my grandma in New York City, My uncle would take us to the park nearby. On the way we would stop at his friend Sal’s building. Sal would greet us from the third story window, and he would lower bags of comics he was done reading, down to us! This was great because it gave me a chance to read a whole variety of comics ranging from DC, to Marvel, to Dark Horse
Adam: I’ve loved comics for as long as I can remember. As a kid I didn’t know the concept of a comic book store so my collection was basically what I could find riding my bike to garage sales on the weekends. Growing up in the 90’s I was all about The Uncanny X-Men, Spider-Man, Calvin and Hobbes, of course, and a lot of comic fans seem to hate this one… but Archie.
Mike: I liked to come up with characters and illustrate them my whole life. As I grew up, I started giving the characters voices and personalities. Some of these characters you’ll see and meet in our episodes have been around since I was in elementary school! Until recently though, I had never really done anything with the intent to publish them.
Adam: A few years ago I had a painfully boring, soul crushing, dead end office job. I was taking a ton of writing courses, something I was always interested in and I had the time. I knew there was no Social Studies without Mike so I put everything I could into a single script. I sent it to Mike and asked if he wanted to take a real shot at it. That script ended up being our first issue, some modifications of course.
John: What can you tell us about Social Studies – without sharing any spoilers?
Mike: Social Studies is a comedy taking place in your run of the mill upstate New York town. Its got drama, action, LOTS of movie references, and a great cast of goofy characters!
Adam: Social Studies is also our semi-autobiographical take on High School. We use our own lives as a jumping off point and heighten a lot of things. We’ll leave it up to the reader to decide how much is true and how much isn’t. While the stories start with us we capture the universal aspects of High School life, awkward teen years, and finding where you belong/who you are.
John: Is that where the story and characters for Social Studies came from, your own experiences?
Mike: The story is loosely based on our lives and the characters are essentially an amalgamation of our personalities. We didn’t assign one character as ADAM and one as MIKE, rather, we took parts of our personalities, and our friends and families personalities, and created characters out of them!
Some of the events ACTUALLY happened, some didn’t! We kind of wanted the readers to be left wondering… hmmm was THAT a real one?? You might be surprised!
Adam: As Mike said, he’s been drawing most of these characters for years before I met him. When we started hanging out he brought them into a comic we used to draw for our group of friends. It wasn’t a fully thought out planned endeavor at the time. A lot of unfinished storylines, drawn with Bic pens in Composition notebooks. We refined the comic into what the released version is, building on the foundation we spent 20+ years laying.
The personality amalgamation thing is a lot of fun to explore. Just a few examples, Len is the unsure, insecure, always self doubting aspect of us. Turner is the smart and witty guy we wanted to be.
Mike: In terms of the character designs, well that was trial and error over the span of 25 years! One of our characters, Lenny, can be traced back to middle school for me!
Roy is the angry tough side of our teenage selves. Making the characters personality types allows us to explore those aspects of High School life a lot deeper.
John: Can you tell us about your Style, your Creative Process and how you developed them?
Mike: I draw a lot of inspiration from the 90’s era cartoons I grew up on. Doug, Rugrats, Dexter’s Laboratory, ect. My art style has also evolved over the years to include a more defined line work for depth and to make the characters really pop out on the page against the background.
Adam: The writing I try to make my own while taking inspiration from writer’s I look up to. I’m a big Kevin Smith fan and like his idea of your unique voice is what sets you apart. Marc Bernardin is amazing at breaking down characters. Neil Gaiman and Stephen King are both huge inspirations though their usual stories may not seem like they have anything to do with Social Studies. The way King makes his characters so real and you’re so in for the human story by the time the supernatural insanity starts you’re already fully invested. Gaiman writes fantastical things but the human exploration is always so real.
As for the coloring, looking at Mike’s art I knew what I WANTED it to look like, even before it was decided I’d be the one coloring the book. I’m still trying to improve but I feel (hope) my style adds even more life to his amazing line work.
We initially work together on story ideas and outlines. We come up with an ‘A’ and ‘B’ story and hit the big moments we know we need. I go off and put it in TV script format, filling in the blanks. We revise the scripts like crazy before Mike takes it and brings it to life. He does all the layouts and adds in amazing physical comedy that doesn’t exist when it’s just words on a screen.
John: What do you want your readers to take away from Social Studies?
Mike: First, I want them to laugh. I think humor can bring so much joy to someone’s life and we all know, nowadays we need humor, laughter, and joy more than ever! Second, I want people our age to be drawn back to a sense of nostalgia. I want them to remember the cartoons of their youth and maybe find themselves walking the halls of EMPIRE HIGH SCHOOL with the cast! Third, for younger readers, I want them to enjoy it, but also to remember: Things may seem bleak when we are kids. They may seem overly dramatic. But, find yourself that friend, or group of friends who are just as weird, awkward and unusual as you are and stick with them! Have fun and do what makes you happy regardless of what other clicks may think.
Adam: I’m not sure I can improve on Mike’s breakdown. We are 100% on the same page with so much of this project… bad pun not intended.
John: What are your hopes for Social Studies for the future?
Mike: Just having people read it and love it is enough for me, but honestly, I would LOVE to see the comic come to life as an animated show someday!
Adam: Again, Mike nailed it. Animation is our dream and definitely one goal. More immediately we want to get the stories into as many hands as we can. We feel it has something to offer and, a bit selfishly, it’s so satisfying and fulfilling when a specific story element reaches a new person and we get to hear about it. Especially because everyone seems to be relating to the universal aspect of high school as much as we hoped they would; just in their own way.
John: What are some of the first comics you remember reading, and which comics have made the biggest impact on you.
Mike: Like I said, Calvin and Hobbes were some of my first comics, however, I grew up mostly reading ALIENS and PREDATOR comics from Dark Horse! I was, well, still am a huge fan of the series (The Predator EXCLUDED… I don’t want to talk about it). I remember aliens action figures used to come with a small comic as well so I loved getting those and drawing scenes from them!
Adam: Calvin and Hobbes was a big one for me as well. Both for early reading and a big influence. I really liked Dilbert a lot for a long time and I think the idea of making fun of the mundane stuck with me. The innocence and fun of Archie comics is still back there somewhere. A lot of my younger comic reading was super heroes. X-Men, Spider-Man, a bit of Captain America lead to Batman and some of the darker stuff as I aged. Then I fell into the realm of Sandman, Watchmen, and those huge comic novels that are staples for a lot of people.
John: What do you think is most important when working on a comic?
Mike: Don’t give up! If you love doing it, stick with it no matter how frustrating it gets at times! Take inspiration from everything around you and keep practicing!
Adam: Don’t get into making comics for the wrong reason. If you just try to do something you think will sell and want a quick buck, keep thinking. Comics is a passion project across the board. It takes time, effort, and dedication. THEN the marketing and distribution starts. If you think you don’t have anything to say, you do. The worst thing you can do is procrastinate. Get writing, get drawing, get collaborating. There’s infinite information on the internet and infinite ways to reach an audience. If your first shot isn’t what you wanted it to be you can always improve so don’t quit.
John: Are there any comic creators who have inspired or influenced you, if so, how?
Mike: Bill Waterson and Doug TenNepal were two of my biggest style inspirations.
Adam: I take most of my inspiration from writers, but there’s a lot of crossover. Smith and Gaiman both wrote great comics. Bernardin did more recently as well. A writer I love and who has a deep love for the medium is Grant Morrison. I should have mentioned him in the writer’s inspiration question but he fits here as well.
John: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers before we sign off?
Mike: I really hope you love the books, the characters, and the stories! Adam and I both agreed that even if it were only the two of us who ever read them, we are still going to see it through to the end! I hope that won’t be the case, but that is just how much I enjoy this!
Adam: Thanks for supporting indie comics. If you want to check us out we have an indiegogo for our whole first chapter. Great way to jump on before chapter two. There’s a banner for the campaign on the bottom of our website. If you want to try us for free we have the first issue as ‘name your own price’ you can type in zero and give us a shot! Once again, on our website.
John: Thanks Adam and Mike, and I thank you for being a part of indie comics showcase. We wish you the best of luck with Social Studies and all future projects.
Mike: Thank you so much for the opportunity and making the time to discuss our comic!! We really hope you and everyone else who reads it gets a good laugh and enjoys it!!
Adam: Yes, thank you so much for having us! Our website is socialstudiescomic.com.
Check out their campaign here!
That’s it for this installment! Support indie comics!!!
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