Comic Creator Interview with Kevin LaPorte
City: Mobile, Alabama
Comics: Clown Town, The Blind Eye
QRD – How old were you when you first got into comics & did you always stick with them or did you come back to them?
Kevin – I was around 7 or 8, always bugging my Mom to buy 35 cent Marvel books every time we went to the mobile home/convenience store down the street. I’ve taken brief breaks over the years, most notably during the late 1990s (go figure, eh?).
QRD – What was the first comic book you ever bought?
Kevin – I honestly don’t remember which was actually the first, but the earliest I remember was Incredible Hulk 228, the first appearance of Karla Sofen as Moonstone. Those old Hulk books had such a dark, desperate edge; they warped & hooked me for life.
QRD – How old were you when you put out your first comic?
Kevin – Sadly enough, 39, thanks to years of complacency & procrastination (now just distant memories…). My webcomic, The Blind Eye, began publishing in March of 2010 & my first full print comic, Clown Town, was just recently published in January of 2011.
QRD – What decade do you think produced the best comics?
Kevin – The 1980s, no doubt: Watchmen, Marshal Law, Secret Wars, Claremont/Romita Jr./Silvestri X-Men, Simonson’s Thor, Ostrander’s Suicide Squad, Byrne’s Fantastic Four…I could go on….
QRD – Why comics instead of just writing or drawing?
Kevin – I can’t draw a lick. As for why write comics, they took hold of me as a child & have always been my preferred story medium, whether reading or creating. When I compose a story, I see it in sequential panels in my mind’s eye. It’s just how I’m wired.
QRD – Do you see mini-comics & indie comics as paths to mainstream comics or as their own unique media?
Kevin – They’re unequivocally their own unique media! While many of the modern mainstream masters (alliteration!) rose from the indie scene (see Bendis, Fraction, Rucka, Millar, et al.), for many of them, their indie work, both past & present, is the defining work of their career.
QRD – How many copies of your comic do you print in your first run?
Kevin – For our first & (so far) only print run, we printed about 750 copies, based on pre-orders through the Small Press Idol competition & anticipated convention appearances in 2011.
QRD – How much do you think comics should cost?
Kevin – That depends on a lot of factors, but as little as possible while allowing creators a decent living after paying expenses. Comics have a legacy of low-cost accessibility that I’ve always felt needs to be preserved, whether they’re produced digitally or in print. The low price point lends itself to the mass collector & sampler mentalities that are inherent to comics culture.
QRD – How many books do you produce a year & how many would you like to?
Kevin – For 2011, the goal of my partner, the immensely talented artist Amanda Rachels, & myself is to produce four full issues of our clown slasher epic, Clown Town, along with a few short stories for various other outlets. We both have day jobs, although we’re hoping (naturally) that Amanda will be able to go full-time as an artist in the near future, allowing us vastly improved productivity.
QRD – Do you think stories should be serialized or delivered as complete works?
Kevin – That depends completely on the story & the goals of the creators. I personally prefer serialized works, because I love the pacing of the chapter-structured stories, each leading to its own climax/cliffhanger pulling you into the next chapter. This format also lends itself more to the low-price philosophy I espoused above.
QRD – How are comic strips different than comic books & which medium do you prefer?
Kevin – Comic books are my preference & they differ from comic strips in fairly obvious ways of structure & form. Comic books are longer-form serials with exponentially larger chapters &, thus, more character & story development within each.
QRD – How long is it from when you start a comic until it’s printed?
Kevin – We’re admittedly new at this & our first experience is not really representative, since Clown Town was printed as part of a comic creator competition that took 10 months to complete. Having completed much of the next issue of Clown Town, it’s taken approximately two months to finish & prepare for printing.
QRD – What do you better with your comics now than when you first started?
Kevin – Everything… seriously, from our experiences in Small Press Idol & working with an editor on our short story in Reading With Pictures, I’ve improved the way I compose a script for the artist, the manner in which I structure pages to account better for visual composition & “the flip” & in how I pace scenes to account for story flow & dialogue.
QRD – At what point in the artistic process do you work digitally?
Kevin – We do everything digitally. Amanda’s line art & colors are all completed using Photoshop on a Cintiq & I handle the lettering using Photoshop.
QRD – What do you think of digital comics & webcomics?
Kevin – Love’em! We published our own webcomic, The Blind Eye, & really grew from the experience! The collected print edition will be available at SPACE! Digital comics are obviously a huge part of the future of comics, given the larger platform offered by electronic devices, particularly as the technology continues to evolve. We’re considering a digital publishing aspect for issues of Clown Town.
QRD – Do you prefer working in color or black & white?
Kevin – We’ve worked in both & each has its share of merits. It basically boils down to the project at hand. Either way, Amanda manipulates the contrasts & shading of black & white & masterfully uses the larger palette of colors to maximum effect. However, if we have the option, we’re going to work in color.
QRD – How many different people should work on a comic & what should their jobs be?
Kevin – There’s no hard answer here. Different creators work best in different ways. For Amanda & I, the answer is TWO & it works out perfectly.
QRD – How do you find collaborators?
Kevin – Amanda & I have been close for years - we met card gaming in the 90s. I’ve met other collaborators at conventions & via Facebook (seriously) or industry message boards (the now-defunct Zuda, for example).
QRD – How tight do you think a script should be as far as telling the artist what to draw?
Kevin – One of my critical flaws when I began writing scripts was hyper-detailing everything in every panel, right down to positioning of fingers & legs. Ugh, it was AWFUL. After a few projects working directly with actual artists, I quickly realized they seriously couldn’t follow what I was trying to convey because it was so ridiculously convoluted. Thanks to feedback from those artists & Josh Elder with Reading With Pictures, I learned to pare the descriptions down to general - but entertaining - depictions of the events in the panels along with the emotional states of the characters. It’s those synergistic contributions of both writer & artist that make comics the unique medium that they are. Two voices are greater than the sum of their origins.
QRD – What comic book person would you be most flattered to be compared to?
Kevin – Do you mean comic creator or comic character? I’ll answer both, just to be sure! As for comic creators, I’d be most flattered if compared to Mark Millar - he lays down huge blockbuster comics or thought-provoking independent works (&, yes, that includes the brilliant Kick-Ass & Wanted). As for comic characters, I’ll go with Martian Manhunter, because Superman once said he was the only creature on Earth of whom he was afraid… THAT’S awesome.
QRD – What do your friends & family think of your comics?
Kevin – Well, they’re incredibly supportive, but most of them don’t really “get” it. The vast majority of them would never touch a comic if it wasn’t introduced to them - or created - by me.
QRD – What do you think of superheroes?
Kevin – I’m still in love with superheroes & always will be. I have several Marvel & DC titles I buy monthly (Fraction’s Iron Man & Simone’s Secret Six, anyone?). I honestly don’t get the anti-superhero snobbery that goes on in some corners of the industry… many fun - & some meaningful - stories involving superheroes are produced every month.
QRD – Marvel or DC?
Kevin – Both? Yeah, it’s a cop-out, but it’s true. I was strictly a Marvel guy as a kid & teenager, but Morrison’s Doom Patrol pulled me into DC & indoctrinated me. I’ve been there ever since. Today, I buy about equal numbers of titles from both companies, just depending on what they’re putting out at a given time.
QRD – What comic characters other than your own would you like to work with?
Kevin – Martian Manhunter. Seriously, DC, I have a master plan for J’onn… call me! Nightcrawler. His dad was a demon - he CAN be resurrected… & nobody ELSE has been able to write him worth a damn solo!
QRD – Ideally would you self-publish?
Kevin – Ideally, yes, & it’s likely the route that we’ll ultimately go with Clown Town.
QRD – What conventions do you try to attend & why?
Kevin – We choose our convention schedule based on geography (we try to hit different areas of the country throughout the year) & timing in relation to when we will have a new product available (and when we can get off work!). After SPACE, we’ll be at MegaCon in Orlando the following week & then at New Orleans Comic Con in mid-May, Florida SuperCon on the 4th of July weekend, Chicago Comic Con in August, & the Small Press Expo in Maryland in September!
QRD – What do you do to promote your books?
Kevin – What DON’T we do? Social networking, Facebook ads, industry message boards, convention appearances, our own website/blog, cross-promotion with other creators, flyers, t-shirts, postcards, email marketing to comic shops.
QRD – Do you think your comics are well suited to comic shops or would sell better elsewhere?
Kevin – We think they would sell in comic shops. Clown Town is a clown slasher book with a horror edge & The Blind Eye is a masked vigilante story with a horror bent. The horror genre has an established history of retail success dating back decades.
QRD – What other medium would you like to see some of your comics made into (television, film, games, action figures, etc.)?
Kevin – Um, all of the above? Seriously, the opportunity to convert our properties into ANY of these other media would constitute an unanticipated level of success with which we’d be ecstatic! We’d love to see our colorful, horrible clowns from Clown Town in three dimensions as toys or chasing real people across a screen in a live action production. Yeah, we’ll take any ONE of these & be happy with it.
QRD – Do you consider yourself a comic collector or a comic reader or both?
Kevin – Once a collector, now a reader. I made a conscious decision to stop collecting ANYthing more than ten years ago, after watching Fight Club (Tyler Durden says, “The things you own end up owning you.”). So, these days, I’m strictly a reader - & have a better overall comic experience each month (plus some extra pennies) to show for it.
QRD – What do you see as the most viable mediums for comics distribution 10 years from now?
Kevin – Whatever it is, it will be digital in nature & will exclude some of the cost-adding distribution “middle men” present now. It’s inevitable, people, & the groundwork is being laid down now.
QRD – What would you like to see more people doing with comics?
Kevin – Collaborating on cross-promotion of indie works as much as collaborating on creating individual works. We need to share our indie audiences with each other just like we would share tools & resources if working on the same comic.
QRD – Anything else?
Kevin – Yeah, a shameless plug! Amanda
& I will be premiering Clown Town #0 at SPACE, so come by, pick up
a discounted copy & get it signed! Amanda will be sketching all
weekend & we’ll have our other work there, too, including The Blind
Eye collected edition & anthologies featuring our work, including The
Gathering Vol. 2 & Reading With Pictures Vol. 1, plus The Blind Eye
trading cards & stickers!