-The Nyobi Interviews –
with creator Larry P. Higgins
Moncton New Brunswick is a small city with big people and even bigger ideas. I had the chance to sit down with one of my oldest friends to discuss his independently published project, his love of the comic book medium and his take on geek culture in town here.
Larry Higgins has been a veteran member of the comic and role playing scene in the Moncton area for more than 25 years. He ran a 2nd Edition D&D campaign with a continuous story line for over 15 years. He has lent his support to players and gamers and to all varieties of games from board games, miniatures, Magic the Gathering and RPG games of every imaginable variety.
On account of his incredible imagination, Larry can be counted among a small group of long time GM’s locally. He far prefers engaging with players by immersing them in his stories and in his “worlds” rather than being a player himself. Larry is a true leader in this way and can always be relied on to gather experienced role players and challenge them with original concepts, ideas and adventure.
Larry has worked tirelessly in the comics world as a fan who cares about the preservation of the medium. For years, he has volunteered his own time at our local shop – The Comic Hunter in order to catalog, organize and further protect the tens of thousands of back issues that were in desperate need of attention.
As a result of his eye for detail in this thankless task, there are not many in our area that have the knowledge and the experience of so many titles going back over so many years that Larry possesses. Such exposure has given him a wide window of material with which to draw examples from. He therefore has a familiarity with the medium of comics, the artists and writers, the differing styles and fashions when creating his new stories and he prides himself on trying to understand how this all appeal to fans when creating his own stories.
In more recent years, Larry has been at the center of any and all efforts to bring the geek community closer together whether it is cosplayers, gamers, comic enthusiasts and folks interested in such things as well as being a voice for the local scene on his YouTube channel Youtube.com\NyobiComic.
His tireless efforts to encourage and support the local community from the ground up has been a real boon for our city and it’s geek culture and it has been a real pleasure to see him shine in such a role after so many years of struggle to keep the dream alive.
If you are in Moncton New Brunswick and you are in the “geek zone”, chances are Larry Higgins is present and active at some level. Usually we can find him right up front where of course – he loves to be and where he truly belongs. Larry Higgins is one of a kind and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
We thank him for taking the time to speak with Bleeding Fool today.
BF – Hi Larry, it’s been a very long time coming with this venture into self- publishing. We’ve seen Nyobi the idea progress from RPG concept, to artworks and pinups from favorite artists and friends, to story lines, a longtime podcast and finally we are getting into a space where Nyobi is truly coming alive on the page. How does it feel after all this time to have the chance to share this truly unique character with the world?
LP – I could give you the standard answer that I would give to anyone else who was to ask me. You know, I’ve had this idea in my head for a long, long time. We’re at a spot now where the internet age has made it easy, well maybe not easy but more accessible, when trying to get your work out there, to network with people.
You know, back in the day, if you had a comic book idea, you were working in the studio, like in New York you know. Now you can write a comic book if you live in New Brunswick, have some guy in Indonesia draw it, send it to some guy over in Argentina to put the colour to it and put it in a drop box as a PDF. So this growth and access is really great for comic creation.
But to you my friend I could just say “It’s fuckin AWESOME”. But I mean I can sum it up this way:
I’ve already achieved the dream, if it was all to come to a crashing halt right now, as in yeah we’ve got 4 successful Kickstarters and yeah it’s just an indie book, a small indie book. I would still be OK with that and be like “Man, I made a comic book right ?” So, anything that comes beyond this point is just gravy, it’s just like the icing on my cake for me you know ?
But you know there’s always gonna be this level that you want to reach and there’s always going to be that next hurdle that you’re going to jump, always gonna be that challenge around the corner. But like I said – if was to stop now ? I’m fine. I wouldn’t want that of course, but in a sense I am satisfied that I did it you know; I’ve got material to show for it. You remember Georgio? He’s like one of the heads of the ECCE and he came by our little after party there and he’s like, he’s holding the comic in his hand and he’s like: “No one can ever take this away from you.” And of course I agree and I am proud of it in that way.
BF – Tell us about this character. What makes her standout? What are her powers? Of all the characters I know you have created, what made you think this one in particular was the one that needed a shot at some exposure through comics ?
LP –Well this character was made when I was 16 years old – 1990. She was created for the Heroes Unlimited RPG. Went through a bunch of different versions, even different names…um…but it was always been the same “her”.
She manipulates light to the point where she can create these kinds of portals, pass through time and space at the speed of light sort of thing but she can also generate light for an energy blast for a concussive, like if she wanted to concentrate and blast it, but she has to concentrate on it, it’s not just a latent power with a trigger.
She’s already displayed some of these things but her powers are growing, evolving and I haven’t fully explored it all. I mean, I could tell you …you know everything that she would have on her character sheet but…that’s for the readers to kind of explore along with me.
And as far as what made her the “chosen” one for a book? Well, I would have to say that she was the character I enjoyed playing the most. And you know, she was hot, she was sexy, maybe she was kind of like an ideal or something. She stems from a couple of different influences in comics but also 1990’s anime you know, with the pigtails and the short skirt. She was a female lead, a little bit of schoolgirl but crossed with a punk look. That was the basic design, that’s the sort of base that I settled on.
For me, it’s not the powers that make the character, it’s the vulnerability. So every character, every hero, even Supermans’ got what, he’s got a weakness right? So Nyobis’ weakness is her own power, so the more she uses it the more it wreaks havoc on her body, you know – jumps through time and space – the body isn’t meant for that and it’s affecting her at the cellular level. She’ll do a teleport say and she’ll feel a fatigue or a drain.
In the comic, she visits with an expert on genetics right, and they tell her basically – this is going to be a compound problem the more you do it, the worse it’s going to get you know. It could lead to seizures, maybe it will paralyze her, maybe it will put her in a coma and maybe one day it’s going to kill her. So I think she’s different in this way and the possibility that her time may be short is a special part of her character and her story for me.
BF – When approaching the writing for this toon, what sort of perspective are you trying to drive home with Nyobi and what do you hope is picked up by your readers?
LP – Well I just like playing female characters and as far as what I want readers to grasp is her struggle with her disease I guess you might call it but really it’s her struggle to try to find out how to do the right thing. You know the question we have to ask ourselves everyday when we wake up and have to make a decision you know? And I hope that my readers pick up a couple of things here.
Story-line wise? Yeah, I hope they find a hero that’s cool, that’s her own individual. We’re not trying to cater to any sort of demographic here or a group of people like I see the way some characters are put out there. I just wanna make a cool chick doing her own thing . I hope that my readers like that.
BF–Can you please tell us what were some obstacles in getting started with publishing Nyobi? What are some challenges that have come about since you began? What do you recommend to those who would like to emulate your model and try self publishing for themselves? What should they try to focus on in your opinion to avoid these hurdles if possible?
LP – Ha Ha. Big fucking question right there. That’s probably a whole other discussion haha well…
Money. It’s going to be the biggest obstacle right? Let’s just call it the way it is. It takes money to make money and the people you’re going to want to work with…I mean if you can write it and draw it and ink it and letter it and do all that yourself? Fantastic, you’ve got the battle already halfway done my friend.
But if you are just a writer like me and you need an artist – guess what? They don’t work for free. And you see, you’ve got to believe enough in your project that you are willing to invest your own money in it. I see a lot of creators that don’t. A lot of them try to rely solely on the Kickstarter to kind of pay for these other people and that’s great, but on it’s own, it’s just not going to be enough for the indie thing. I put a lot of money up front, money out of my own pocket. You’ve got to be willing to invest in yourself.
And there are other obstacles, I mean if you are green, right out of the water, you gotta know how to format a script, you gotta know how to write a script you know, the basics of storytelling. It would seem like such simple logic but you would be surprised to know how many don’t get it.
Another huge challenge is finding that perfect person who can match your vision with artwork. That involves a lot of crawling through DeviantArt, a lot of crawling through Facebook groups. It’s about revealing a lot of the work that people may send to you. I got people that will message me all time and be like : “Do you need an artist?” and you know “Do you need a colourist for your book?”. I mean I’m not always seeking these things, sometimes it’s just people hunting for work, for exposure. So they know you got a book, they know you might need someone and so they are throwing their hand out before they’re asked.
But it is cool, I take note of some of these folks and they go on a little list and you know if I need something down the road, then I know who to contact you know ?
And, you’ve got to network and know that you are running a business and treat it like a business. So nowadays that’s going to involve Instagram, Kickstarter, Twitter you know Facebook, maybe make your own blog, whatever it is…one of those or all of those – you gotta do it.
You also gotta know how to manage people and you have to know that your free time? Well that’s going to be swallowed up by this…well… if you are serious you know ?
You’ve got to interact with your fans. This is more important when you’re just little and just starting out. These people who support you at the beginning, they aren’t just going to read your book. They support you and talk about your work and help you get momentum. If you do some live chat and you are doing an interview and you ignore the chat – why should they care ? When they leave your “brand” they don’t tell you about it, they just leave. You’re watching television and something isn’t your thing? You change the channel. Do you put any other thought into it ?
No. You just move on to the next thing.
Most importantly, you’ve got to make something original and it’s so hard to do something original now because there’s so much out there right ? But you have to make it different somehow. You know how many fuckin’ Deadpool clones I see ? I mean you know.
And if you wanna emulate my model? Don’t. hahaha.
I mean to self publish, yeah go for it. Don’t dream about it, that’s a big thing for a lot of folks. Just do it. Lots of folks are like – “I got a great idea for a comic book!” OK, where’s the script? And they say – “well, I haven’t written it yet”. Well…it’s cool to hear from people and their ideas but people dream big and work little. This is the problem for a lot of folks. Just do it.
And so don’t try to emulate me. I mean, my way isn’t going to be your way. There’s no one stop shop where you can learn it all. I had to research writing methods and styles, the scripts – they are all different. The way it’s formatted , the way it’s constructed. Everyone wants an easy answer to – “I want to get into comics…I want to go somewhere that’s going to tell me what I should do”… and there’s no such thing.
If I had to say what the biggest hurdle to avoid, is to understand ‘Life Happens’. You know an example would be like an artist working on Nyobi #4 had a parent pass away right? And that’s obviously going to bring things to a halt you know ?
You have to understand that those things are going to happen. And it’s good to have a time frame but you have to put in some room for error, for life. So if I want my project to launch in 3 months, I’m going to give it five you know? And that’s a really big hurdle…patience…even for me. I’m waiting for these two pages you know and I needed them yesterday…what the fuck is going on you know? I mean shit, the guy might be sick? Maybe there’s an emergency, maybe the guy is working overtime at his job.We have to understand these things and have patience.
One thing I will tell you is that after while and starting to work with actual professionals and such, these people don’t message you unless they have something. People are busy. And if you are working with someone as an artist, I would say communicate, and just give a heads up to what’s going on. Honesty and communication with your artists and team is a big thing to shoot for. It’s very important.
BF – Where do you see Nyobi in five years? In ten years?
LP – Realistically or fantastically? Well let’s do realistically first.
At the very least I see it where it is right now. We’re still independent, we’re still pumpin’ out Kickstarters, we’re still trying to make the best book we can on the budgets that we have.
One level up from that, then…you know…where I hope to be in five years anyway is that we’re a published book that you pick up at your local comic book store. And I hope of course that it would do well and so the saga continues right?
But the fantasy would be you know, who wouldn’t love to see their creation appear on the big screen or the small screen ? To be like an icon for a generation like a Spiderman or an Xmen or a Superman or a Batman to go into the DC side of things say. I mean who wouldn’t want that ? The big dream right ? I’m not in it for the big dream but I’m certainly not going to say no to it.
BF – Can you give us your thoughts on how you have seen comics change over 25 years? How has the culture of comics changed? How have fans changed over the years?Are there any aspects that seem to last? Is there any part of the culture that you think could do with some changes or is there anything that has been lost that you miss ?
LP – It’s bigger. It’s A LOT bigger. Let’s take it back 25 years. I was 18 and we didn’t have smartphones we didn’t have the internet, opinions weren’t thrown around so freely and so quickly and so liberally as they are now but also comic books then was a niche, in the sense that it wasn’t popular.
I remember being made fun of for wearing my Batman shirt to school you know, “OMG you read comic books?” You know that whole stigma, there’s always been that comic book stigma even for the professionals back then. They didn’t even want to tell people they worked in comic books because they would be judged.
There were conventions right, but they weren’t the way they are today. Spring and summer time right now there’s a big convention going on every weekend if not five of them everywhere. Back in the day we were lucky if we got a convention once, maybe once in a year, maybe in our region just once…ever…that was it.
The other big difference is that back then, we were just coming into the 90’s and it was huge for comics, bigger for comics then than it is now.
In the sense of…well, look at the Image group… so guys like Todd MacFarlane and Paul Liefeld, Jim Lee and the crew, Larsen, you know the founders. These guys all worked for Marvel, they all put comics back on the map. They weren’t getting the money that they thought they deserved for their creations and for their work you know, they were basically…I don’t want to say slave labor… but they hadn’t really asked for much if you look at sales then…a fair bonus on their paychecks every now and then and all of them probably would have stayed you know ?
That was the biggest change in comics when these guys left, and they started their own company. There were independent comics before this of course, but these guys made the point: “We don’t need you” and “We’re going to go out and put our own stuff out there and all the benefits will be ours” you see. “We get the money and the rewards that we think we deserve for the efforts and the work that we put in”. That gave incentive to a lot of folks, that opened the door for a lot of independent creators to want to take a shot at doing this.
But then of course a few years later…you also have what we call ‘the Big Crash’ and you know they are printing comics by the millions at this point and Jim Lees comics are doing eight million copies sold, you know, still the highest selling comic book ever. But the problem is – that comic is in the dollar bins now. They just printed way too much and this is where “speculation” in comic books comes out, where all these books are being printed and sold and I’m going to buy 20 copies of ‘Young Blood #1’ and they are going to be worth money. Nah, it doesn’t work that way at all of course.
We come to find out, the reason comic books are worth money is because in the Golden and Silver Age and even to a degree in the Bronze age where we both began; no one took care of their books and they became rare. And something is valuable because of its rarity. Eight million copies ? That’s not rare, that’s complete saturation and people were still thinking, you know – you slap a #1 on something and it’s instant money right? No, that’ the opposite of what should have happened.
So comics has changed for the better and the worse in twenty five years. Right now a comic is doing well if it’s selling you know fifty or sixty thousand copies you know…really well if they are doing a hundred right ?
Readership in a way has declined as well but because of television and movies it’s actually cool to be in comics now and you’ve got the conventions all over the place and girls that used to make fun of you and mock you for your nerdery? Now, all the ‘cool girls’ are all into cosplay and the cool girls like geeky things right and now it’s cool to be geeky. Back in the day we wore it like a badge of honour that we had to fight for. And all of this is fine, it’s great. But what really matters is that they are helping to put things back on the map. They are helping things grow and expand and this is great for the medium.
And as far a comic changes in the books themselves, the 60’s stuff was cheesy. But we made our heroes human you know, they have personal lives now. Something more relate-able and instead of our heroes being gods we made them much more interesting, we see them interacting with the real world with other real world people and that aspect has always been growing since then and of course that aspect is still with us and still growing. And I think that people are interested in that. The more character driven you can make a story the better it is I think.
BF – Aside from Nyobi are there any titles or perhaps some other creators work that you enjoy that you’d recommend to someone who is looking for something unique? Any comics that perhaps have less exposure than they deserve? What should we be looking out for that’s hot in your opinion ?Any unsung heroes here we should know about?
LP – Well I’m sure there are thousands. There’s tons of great stuff on the shelves but my personal recommendation is – go indie.
But of course it all comes down to personal taste in what you are looking for in a comic right? And I think there’s probably a hundred books on Kickstarter that are being overlooked. There’s really great talent out there and the comic industry is such a hard thing to get a shot at.
There’s really great people and great work out there and so I’ll just throw out some names that your readers might know right? Why is Drew Moss not doing covers for Marvel? Why is Colette Turner not doing covers for DC? Why is Paul Green not working for the big two? Why is CBZane not getting a shot there too? Where is Don Matigue and why is he not prominent? Why is Sabine Rich not…I mean why aren’t we seeing these names all over DC and Marvel comics? We’re talking people like a Mike Crone. How come we don’t see more stuff from them?
You know where these names are at? They are doing Lady Death, they’re doing work for Big Dog Inc., they are on these indie titles that are doing so well. And the biggest example is Lady Death and Brian Pulido has the best team in art period in my opinion right now.
Why aren’t they more visible? It’s because their art style is too sexy right? And Marvel is not going to put up a sexy cover like that, it’s just the way they are, they are cautious in the market right now, with everything going on we seem to have a very divided fandom. They are playing the safe card.
So take the situation with J. Scott Campbell. He did a cover, a variant cover for ‘The Invincible Iron Man’. It wasn’t even one you had to buy, it was an optional thing, you spend the extra money you can get it. But this got a lot of backlash by folks who thought he was sexualizing a teenager and so he had to redo the variant. This is what I call companies wanting to play it safe.
And this is just my personal opinion here, but I think that cover should never have been changed. Writers and artists should have the creative freedom to do their craft without fear of internet backlash and without having to back-peddle and apologize for something that they’re not even supposed to feel sorry for.
I’ve had to self censor probably a hundred times and it has a really negative effect on creativity, but that’s unfortunately where we are right now.
BF –Is there any upcoming news regarding Nyobi that we should be keeping an eye out for ?
LP – Well I’m comfortable saying that there “MAY” be a publishing deal going on that could be very promising right now and if this works out then I would like to relaunch Nyobi.
Making independent comics has it’s successes and it’s failures and one of the things we learned with Nyobi after the first four issues and after a series of submissions is that we needed to change up the interior art style to match up with the theme of the book a little better.
This is no slight against the artists that I was with, these are great fellows and these four issues are special and they are the reason we got ourselves to the dance.
It’s just part of the industry and so we’re looking at other artists and we’re intending a relaunch of Nyobi, because we feel we can do a better job and maybe reach more people you know?
I feel we may be at the perfect stage to do this sort of thing, this has been like an experimental stage and you know we’re at ground level here right? So if you’re going to do something like this, now is the time to do it and so that’s where we heading.
We’re working with a few people that are more deeply involved in the industry now. R.B. White is going to continue doing covers. Paul Green who I spoke of earlier may be doing some variant covers and these guys are busy. Paul is working on Lady Death of course and doing some things for Grimms Fairy Tales and other indies. Justin Birch who’s been doing stuff for Action Labs off and on, he may be doing the lettering for the book and there’s others that have expressed some interest in helping us along with the book.
I can’t really say anything set in stone but we’re looking at a new launch, new look and direction in art you know. But we’re still going to crowd fund, we’re still shopping around you know?
BF – Thank you again Larry for taking the time to give us your thoughts on this marvelous medium and your ongoing contributions to it. Thank you for everything you do for the community everyday and we hope to continue seeing great things from you and Nyobi very soon.
LP – Oh it’s no problem it’s always great when we both get to sit down together and talk about the biz you know? Thanks to all of you guys for having me on. We’ll be in touch with updates soon.