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QRD #48 - Indie/Mini Comic Creator Interview Series
about this issue
Indie/Mini Comic Creators:
Jeremy Johnson - Marked
PB Kain - Mumblypeg
Joe Badon - Behind Yesterday
Andrew White - Sexbuzz
R. J. Paré - Buddha Monkey
Shawn Harbin - The Dungeon
Colin Upton - Big Thing
Kevin LaPorte - Clown Town
Sara Lindo - Carl Finds Love
Joseph Morris - TORC Press
Stephen Hines - Crackerstacker
Steve Seck - Life is Good
Derek R Croston - Method Comix
M. L. Walker - Hero Corp.
Daniel Gracey - G2 Comics
Matthew D. Smith - Liberty City
Brian John Mitchell - Just A Man
Brandon Graham - King City
Gordon McAlpin - Multiplex
Ross Campbell - Hack/Slash
Alex Robinson - BoxOfficePoison
Nik Havert - Pickle Press
Kurt Dinse - One Year in Indiana
Nick Marino - Super Haters
Bob Corby - Oh, Comics! & Vugz
Eric Shonborne - Razorbaby
Melissa Spence Gardner - XO
Dave Sim - Cerebus
Mason Johnson - Zoir
Jason Young - VeggieDog Saturn
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Indie/Mini Comic Creator Interview with Mason Johnson
February 2011
Name: 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. Im, uh, kinda young.

QRD How old were you when you put out your first comic?

Mason Started making minis in high school, but it wasnt 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 werent bad either... outside of mainstream comics at least.

QRD Why comics instead of just writing or drawing?

Mason Funny that you ask that. I cant draw, so, yeah... I actually havent produced a whole lot of comics the last couple years. Ive 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. Theres a lot of readings in Chicago, more than you can count, & its 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 wont 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 Ive only ever printed with print-on-demand services, so Im not really pressured to print a whole lot if I dont need to. Ill 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 Ill usually give it away for free, so Ill print out substantially more of those than the full size comics Ill print through POD services.

QRD How much do you think comics should cost?

Mason Thats not an easy question to answer. A couple bucks for issues, mini or otherwise. It sucks that its 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 havent 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 Ive gotten produced have been some crayon drawing of robots for my web comic & even that Ive stopped doing. Its hard to choose between prose & comix, I tend to bounce back & forth, & unfortunately Im 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. Theres a lot more beats to strips, but theyre easier beats. Or maybe more simple would be a more apt way to say it. This doesnt 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 its printed?

Mason Who knows. Depends. I rely on artists & their times vary. Sometimes Ill easily write twenty-two pages a week, other times itll take months to write ten pages of something. Ive been working on something thats only about thirty pages for a cartoonist buddy of mine for months. It just wont 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 Ill 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 Ive worked on has solely been me & one artist. Im shitty at it, but sometimes Ill 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 cant really tell who Im 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 Theyre real awesome about it!

QRD What do you think of superheroes?

Mason Theyre 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. Im otherwise not big on working with other peoples 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 Ive 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 Id like to see more comics from Marvel & DC that dont have superheroes. Id 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 www.robotsneednot.com. Ill start updating again one day, I swear.