Comic Creator Interview with Mason Johnson
City: Chicago, IL
Comics: Robots Need Not, Zoir
Websites: www.robotsneednot.com, www.pissfanatics.net
QRD – How old were you when you first got into comics & did you always stick with them or did you come back to them?
Mason – Probably about five. I had an older brother so I was always getting into cool things far earlier than most kids, so that was nice. I could read Batman comics that by no means a five year old should read because I had my brother as a source.
QRD – What was the first comic book you ever bought?
Mason – I remember having issues of Batman Knightfall & also the X-Men issue where Scott & Jean got married. I’m, uh, kinda young.
QRD – How old were you when you put out your first comic?
Mason – Started making minis in high school, but it wasn’t until I was eighteen or nineteen that I actually had something printed up.
QRD – What decade do you think produced the best comics?
Mason – Oh who knows? I like the 70s a lot. There was this odd mix of hilarity & camp with real world issues like Speedy shooting up. 2000s weren’t bad either... outside of mainstream comics at least.
QRD – Why comics instead of just writing or drawing?
Mason – Funny that you ask that. I can’t draw, so, yeah... I actually haven’t produced a whole lot of comics the last couple years. I’ve been concentrating on my prose. I write a lot of longer, novel-length material, but also a lot of short stories to perform at readings here in Chicago. There’s a lot of readings in Chicago, more than you can count, & it’s fun to be a part of that community.
QRD – Do you see mini-comics & indie comics as paths to mainstream comics or as their own unique media?
Mason – Both? Most people won’t make it to mainstream through their mini or indie comics - but is that there goal? Though, when you look at a lot of the guys writing for Marvel & DC, you see they made it there through their indie comics. So all of the above?
QRD – How many copies of your comic do you print in your first run?
Mason – I’ve only ever printed with print-on-demand services, so I’m not really pressured to print a whole lot if I don’t need to. I’ll start with 100 & go from there. Though, when I first started doing mini comix, I bought a fairly nice B&W Brother laser printer. If I print it myself I’ll usually give it away for free, so I’ll print out substantially more of those than the full size comics I’ll print through POD services.
QRD – How much do you think comics should cost?
Mason – That’s not an easy question to answer. A couple bucks for issues, mini or otherwise. It sucks that it’s so hard for someone self-publishing themselves to be able to make a profit off of charging the same price per issue as a big publisher, often at less physical quality.
QRD – How many books do you produce a year & how many would you like to?
Mason – As I said, I haven’t been making a whole lot of comics lately. There was a year somewhere between 2006 & 2007 where I made about 200 pages of comics with various artists, both minis & full size, which is a lot for me. Monstrous. All I did that year was work a crap retail job & make comics. The past couple years all I’ve gotten produced have been some crayon drawing of robots for my web comic & even that I’ve stopped doing. It’s hard to choose between prose & comix, I tend to bounce back & forth, & unfortunately I’m going with prose at the moment.
QRD – Do you think stories should be serialized or delivered as complete works?
Mason – Both! Depends on the story. I like the tradition of genre being serialized, but love a good complete graphic novel too.
QRD – How are comic strips different than comic books & which medium do you prefer?
Mason – Form, mostly, though both can resemble each other quite a bit. Open a newspaper & most strips will just be a setup for a joke & a punch line, or maybe a little bit of story with a cliffhanger. There’s a lot more beats to strips, but they’re easier beats. Or maybe more simple would be a more apt way to say it. This doesn’t always apply though, something like www.octopuspie.com, a strip, can sustain a lot of narrative from strip to strip. Then again, online strips allow a lot more freedom. I like comic books. I like story. Comic books afford more room for story.
QRD – How long is it from when you start a comic until it’s printed?
Mason – Who knows. Depends. I rely on artists & their times vary. Sometimes I’ll easily write twenty-two pages a week, other times it’ll take months to write ten pages of something. I’ve been working on something that’s only about thirty pages for a cartoonist buddy of mine for months. It just won’t get done.
QRD – What do you better with your comics now than when you first started?
Mason – All the boring stuff. The planning, taking my time on things to get them right.
QRD – At what point in the artistic process do you work digitally?
Mason – Depends on the artist. Sometimes from the get go. Sometimes I’ll write everything in a notebook; sometimes everything will have been done on the computer.
QRD – What do you think of digital comics & webcomics?
Mason – Awesome! Why not? It can exist alongside print. They can intermingle too.
QRD – Do you prefer working in color or black & white?
Mason – Nothing is a bigger turn off than bad coloring over otherwise good pencils & inks. I like black & white a lot, but appreciate a good colorist.
QRD – How many different people should work on a comic & what should their jobs be?
Mason – As many as there need to be. It depends on the project. A lot of stuff I’ve worked on has solely been me & one artist. I’m shitty at it, but sometimes I’ll do a bit of graphic design with their art & even letter. This is mostly out of necessity though.
QRD – How do you find collaborators?
Mason – The internet, conventions, friends, schmoozing. “Networking” is one term people like to use. Personally, I just interact with the community, have a good time, & find that things work out.
QRD – How tight do you think a script should be as far as telling the artist what to draw?
Mason – Depends on the project & your relationship with the artist. I work in full script & write very tight, but tell the artist to have as much freedom as they want. They change things for the better quite often.
QRD – What comic book person would you be most flattered to be compared to?
Mason – Oh. Wow. I have no idea. I can’t really tell who I’m even comparable to. The guy who writes the Bazooka Joe strips, I wanna be compared to him. I wanna be him.
QRD – What do your friends & family think of your comics?
Mason – They’re real awesome about it!
QRD – What do you think of superheroes?
Mason – They’re pretty cool, too many superhero comics though.
QRD – Marvel or DC?
Mason – DC.
QRD – What comic characters other than your own would you like to work with?
Mason – Green Arrow. I’m otherwise not big on working with other people’s characters. Maybe Jonah Hex.
QRD – Ideally would you self-publish?
Mason – Yeah!
QRD – What conventions do you try to attend & why?
Mason – Most Chicago conventions just because of the fact that I live in Chicago. I go to SPACE quite often too since I tend to know a lot of folks there.
QRD – What do you do to promote your books?
Mason – Lately... nothing. Been too busy with my writing. The internet is a wonderful thing, but you already know this.
QRD – Do you think your comics are well suited to comic shops or would sell better elsewhere?
Mason – Dark alleyways are ideal.
QRD – What other medium would you like to see some of your comics made into (television, film, games, action figures, etc.)?
Mason – I’ve got some fun animation ideas for some of my books.
QRD – Do you consider yourself a comic collector or a comic reader or both?
Mason – A comic reader, I keep very few of the comics I buy.
QRD – What do you see as the most viable mediums for comics distribution 10 years from now?
Mason – The internet? Am I supposed to say the internet?
QRD – What would you like to see more people doing with comics?
Mason – I’d like to see more comics from Marvel & DC that don’t have superheroes. I’d like to see more readers, especially older readers (curmudgeons), reading online.
QRD – Anything else?
Mason – Feel free to check out readings
& happenings in Chicago at my blog, www.pissfanatics.net.
&, for those of you into crayola drawn robots, check out my web comic
start updating again one day, I swear.