Comic Creator Interview with M. L. Walker
City: Pittsburgh, PA
Comics: currently HERO CORP., INTERNATIONAL; previously SMOKING GUNS
QRD – How old were you when you first got into comics & did you always stick with them or did you come back to them?
ML – My father first bought me comic books when I was four or five years old & I was hooked instantly. I always knew I wanted to create them, even when I wasn’t actively collecting. (Although I rarely stopped collecting SUPERMAN titles.)
QRD – What was the first comic book you ever bought?
ML – That’s lost to the mists of time. I can however clearly recall the covers of many of the first year’s worth of titles I owned. (Especially the ones that scared me... like the cover of DETECTIVE COMICS #467!)
QRD – How old were you when you put out your first comic?
ML – If you mean for purchase by others, I mark that with the self-publication of M.L.Walker’s SMOKING GUNS in 1997.
QRD – What decade do you think produced the best comics?
ML – “Best” is subjective... however, I think the 1980s were an unprecedented time in the history of American comic books, in terms of vitality, creativity, creator freedom, new opportunities, expanding audiences, & more. If I had to pick a single year that encapsulated everything good about that time, it would be 1986.
QRD – Why comics instead of just writing or drawing?
ML – Why limit myself to one or the other? Comics are the best marriage of both worlds.
QRD – Do you see mini-comics & indie comics as paths to mainstream comics or as their own unique media?
ML – They can be either or both, all depending on what path the creator wants to go & how much drive they possess.
QRD – How many copies of your comic do you print in your first run?
ML – In this day & age of print-on-demand options, this is something of a dated question. I just print what I need. (& I have an unfair advantage, considering I typically print my own book, not counting online options.)
QRD – How much do you think comics should cost?
ML – What they’re worth.
QRD – How many books do you produce a year & how many would you like to?
ML – To be truthful, I’ve let WAY too much time pass between comics (as in YEARS). I’m trying to get better though. If I can do one or two a year, I’ll be satisfied for now. But I do have professional aspirations & want to maintain a monthly schedule eventually.
QRD – Do you think stories should be serialized or delivered as complete works?
ML – Whatever. Doesn’t matter. It’s great if serialized works can be delivered in a regular manner, though.
QRD – How are comic strips different than comic books & which medium do you prefer?
ML – Books are longer, independent narratives, bound when printed; strips are typically much smaller narratives, published as a part of a larger publication. I prefer comic books.
QRD – How long is it from when you start a comic until it’s printed?
ML – My stories can percolate in my brain literally for years before I start committing ideas to paper. I’m trying to not be such a picky-pants about it now though.
QRD – What do you do better with your comics now than when you first started?
ML – Everything.
QRD – At what point in the artistic process do you work digitally?
ML – I like to compose a script on computer following my traditional pencil thumbnail draft. Visually, I “go digital” when cleaning up the scanned inked artwork, prior to lettering.
QRD – What do you think of digital comics & webcomics?
ML – Just like their printed counterparts, some are great, & others not so much. It’s all the same medium, just differing methods of production & delivery.
QRD –Do you prefer working in color or black & white?
ML – I’m partially color-blind; so I’d say B&W, but I just work through my limitations.
QRD – How many different people should work on a comic & what should their jobs be?
ML – As many or as few as are needed to get the job done. There is no one answer to this question.
QRD – How do you find collaborators?
ML – I mostly work alone. You know, like Superman. Who needs sidekicks? ;^)
QRD – How tight do you think a script should be as far as telling the artist what to draw?
ML – It truly depends on the writer/artist relationship. I tend to produce pretty detailed scripts, just BECAUSE; but not every artist needs that kind of direction. I think a good, basic script should have it all spelled out, but still have latitude for a talented artist to improve things as they see fit. That’s the artist’s province, to tell the story better.
QRD – What comic book person would you be most flattered to be compared to?
ML – Frank Miller & Howard Chaykin are two of my personal heroes in this medium. Strong-willed creators with distinctive viewpoints, writing, & art styles. Gotta love that.
QRD – What do your friends & family think of your comics?
ML – My friends love my latest book... because most of them are in it! 8^) In all sincerity, I’ve gotten nothing but enormous support from my friends & family. That’s what keeps me going!
QRD – What do you think of superheroes?
ML – I think they’re great, but especially when used as metaphor. Superhero stories can & should be instructional to our day-to-day lives, if they are to have lasting worth.
QRD – Marvel or DC?
ML – I’m a DC kid... but that doesn’t matter like it used to. Regardless, back in the day, Marvel & DC kids played in one-another’s back yards anyway!
QRD – What comic characters other than your own would you like to work with?
ML – If time permitted, I would LOVE to do a series of one-shots featuring my friends’ characters. J.R. Bender’s THE SCARF, Barry Linck’s PHINEUS, MAGICIAN FOR HIRE, Mav’s & Max’s COSMIC HELLCATS, Shawn Atkins’ THUNDERGIRL!... one day, fellas!
QRD – Ideally would you self-publish?
ML – I already do. Self-publishing takes place as soon as you sell your own work. It’s not particularly difficult.
QRD – What conventions do you try to attend & why?
ML – I always try to attend the Pittsburgh Comicon, ‘cause that’s in my hometown. I attended the San Diego Comic Con for the first time in ‘09 & it was fanTAStic! That’s Mecca for comic-book creators!
QRD – What do you do to promote your books?
ML – Word of mouth, increasing online presence, & general hustling.
QRD – Do you think your comics are well suited to comic shops or would sell better elsewhere?
ML – Can I tell you something? I think HERO CORP. will be the NEXT BIG THING, regardless of where it pops up. Seriously, I love the premise, & also love watching the light go on in people’s eyes when they also get it. I had one person tell me that even though they don’t read comics, this is one they would make an effort to buy... & that’s EXACTLY the response I want!
QRD – What other medium would you like to see some of your comics made into (television, film, games, action figures, etc.)?
ML – Everything, as long as the comic book itself maintains its soul & the associated media remains true to the source material.
QRD – Do you consider yourself a comic collector or a comic reader or both?
ML – Both, but my collecting is usually toward the agenda of reading & creating better stories.
QRD – What do you see as the most viable mediums for comics distribution 10 years from now?
ML – Frankly, I’d love to see more word-of-mouth marketing for all graphic prose, from dedicated consumers to potential readers. I think there will always be a market for traditional serialized comics; but if it gets augmented via digital distribution, that can enlarge our audience immeasurably.
QRD – What would you like to see more people doing with comics?
ML – Buying & reading, especially non-mainstream books. But whatever gets new readers into stores is a good thing.
QRD –Anything else?
ML – Can’t wait to launch HERO CORP., INTERNATIONAL