Comic Creator Interview with Shawn Harbin
City: Knoxville, TN
Comics: The Dungeon Comic, Shawn Harbin’s Held Back
QRD – How old were you when you first got into comics & did you always stick with them or did you come back to them?
Shawn – I was 11 years old. My grandfather got me a subscription to Amazing Spider-Man. Right before Kraven’s last hunt to the intro to Venom & Todd McFarlane’s run. In the nineties I got out of it & came back into it about 7 years ago.
QRD – What was the first comic book you ever bought?
Shawn – Superboy Late 70s. Don’t remember the issue just that he was held hostage by sea monkeys.
QRD – How old were you when you put out your first comic?
Shawn – As a child I was in 7th grade as an adult I was 33. Some may say I have not grown into adulthood yet.
QRD – What decade do you think produced the best comics?
Shawn – 70s I found I love the whole package. The style, color, & the ads. It was the last decade to really have style. Gil Kane, Neal Adams, Giordano, & of course the great John Romita, Sr. You cannot get any better than those guys.
QRD – Why comics instead of just writing or drawing?
Shawn – Drawing is writing just not necessarily with words. It is a complete expression. A natural form of storytelling. The art is the acting & mellow drama is what the images give to the words. The medium works for a lot of my stories & pushes my fine art background farther.
QRD – Do you see mini-comics & indie comics as paths to mainstream comics or as their own unique media?
Shawn – To a degree. If they are good enough they definitely could, but the consumer must also feel that the product is professional. You have to really showcase something special to compete with established titles. You have to be special & unique enough to generate word of mouth. & the word is either live or die.
QRD – How many copies of your comic do you print in your first run?
Shawn – First runs usually are about 100 issues. It’s best to see how that goes before you wallpaper your living room with illustrated insulation. You had best believe in your property. Cause if no one else likes it, you could be curating your own museum.
QRD – How much do you think comics should cost?
Shawn – They should be a great deal. If they cost money they better be worth every penny.
QRD – How many books do you produce a year & how many would you like to?
Shawn – I have produced 6 books in the past year & am about to release number 7. Most are 52 pages long.
QRD – Do you think stories should be serialized or delivered as complete works?
Shawn – Stories should be so good you can’t wait to read more. If that means cheap cliffhangers or brand new rolls in the hay, the reader should be left insatiable. Cliffhangers although an easy gimmick to buy the next book, means you have to pay off when you can’t take any more leaps. Without jumping the shark.
QRD – How are comic strips different than comic books & which medium do you prefer?
Shawn – I have done both. The problem with comic strips is that they are very hard to be serialized. You feel that they always need a punch line on every daily, which tends to cheapen the strip & the gags when a really good laugh could be after a weeks worth of buildup. Comic books allow more variety in panel layouts. Comic book arenas are unlimited.
QRD – How long is it from when you start a comic until it’s printed?
Shawn – However long it takes me to make a masterpiece. I do a page a day penciled. I letter 52 pages in 5 days. I digitally ink/color 3 pages a day. I can traditionally ink 2 pages in one day. Writing as god & iTunes feed it to me.
QRD – What do you better with your comics now than when you first started?
Shawn – Everything. I know that’s being egotistical, but it’s true. It has been a huge learning curve, but the best I would say penciling then writing. It’s a matter of drawing everyday. I have become unhealthy obsessed with making the best product I can.
QRD – At what point in the artistic process do you work digitally?
Shawn – Inking, coloring & lettering.
QRD – What do you think of digital comics & webcomics?
Shawn – They can be good, but hard to make money & hard to get people to see it. Dawn Griffin does it extremely well. People are very reluctant to stray from their magazine & look at computer screens more. The question is not how to put your idea out there, it’s how do you get people to know it’s there.
QRD – Do you prefer working in color or black & white?
Shawn – I prefer color, but do to time restrains I work in black & white grey scale with splashes of color.
QRD – How many different people should work on a comic & what should their jobs be?
Shawn – Jack-of-all-trades & master of none. Find some one for each job on the book. Then find someone else to market it & edit it. That formula should produce the best results. It should, but then again some big companies still can’t pull it off.
QRD – How do you find collaborators?
Shawn – The question is how to find real collaborators. Everyone is making a comic. The moment you ask someone if you can see his or her work, you get, “Well, I haven’t started it yet, but I have been thinking about it the past 5 years.” Go to conventions. Go to online fan boards. Find people hungry & looking to devour the buffet of heartache & hard work.
QRD – How tight do you think a script should be as far as telling the artist what to draw?
Shawn – Tight as a tourniquet ready for an amputee victim. Artist can’t read writers minds. So the less detail you include, the farther the artist will stray away from your plan. Hippies love it & control freaks have strokes. Have good communication with your artist & understand how many panels fit on a page. Draw your own book & see how hard it is to make sense of your psychosis.
QRD – What comic book person would you be most flattered to be compared to?
Shawn – I have been compared to lots of artist from Neal Adams to Todd McFarlane; not saying they are not great company, but John Romita, Sr. is the greatest of all to me.
QRD – What do your friends & family think of your comics?
Shawn – Friends think they are awesome, my parents are appalled.
QRD – What do you think of superheroes?
Shawn – Superheroes are awesome, but we don’t need any more of them. There are hundreds of D-list heroes just waiting to be made cool, but every superhero is some take off of Superman or Batman. Maybe with just one of their powers or aspects. I like how Mark Millar decided to make superheroes real in Kick Ass, which was done like Wanted, which was already done in Alan Moore’s Watchman, & so on & so on. There are only so many stories to be told. So you need to be really creative to be able to stand out & reinvent the mag-wheel.
QRD – Marvel or DC?
Shawn – I think currently DC has it going on, but I grew up a Marvel boy!
QRD – What comic characters other than your own would you like to work with?
Shawn – I would think Amazing Spider-Man would be Awesome & Batman.
QRD – Ideally would you self-publish?
Shawn – Keep up with the world tour. We visited that city already.
QRD – What conventions do you try to attend & why?
Shawn – Mega Con, Philly Wizard, Heroes, New York Comic Con. All those cities are great with great cons & great learning experiences. I shake, wake, date, learn, meet, greet, & plaster smiles on them all.
QRD – What do you do to promote your books?
Shawn – Conventions number one. Hand out flyers. Build a website. Do interviews. Give it to editors. Meet other artists, Share banners. Network like a cable service.
QRD – Do you think your comics are well suited to comic shops or would sell better elsewhere?
Shawn – My comics sell great in comic shops, but of course some places better than others. Getting in Diamond distributing makes you the new bell of the ball. Without it you don’t have an invite to the party & you are making out with the drunken former prom queen in the back alley. It’s a monopoly game & your racecar has no alternator. Sad clown in a broken spotlight. You can’t be seen in the dark & Diamond is the bat signal of buy me.
QRD – What other medium would you like to see some of your comics made into (television, film, games, action figures, etc.)?
Shawn – It has always been the goal for it to be made into a film. If that happened, I don’t know where to go from there. Maybe die & then wish I lived to see it go platinum.
QRD – Do you consider yourself a comic collector or a comic reader or both?
Shawn – A collector. I truly love collecting them as art.
QRD – What do you see as the most viable mediums for comics distribution 10 years from now?
Shawn – I think digital downloads are the future. I really don’t want it to be, but I feel it inevitable & possibly a killer for many businesses. Especially the comic shops. How do you sell a download? It would be like blowing up the information super highway. It is simply not a tangible strip of road.
QRD – What would you like to see more people doing with comics?
Shawn – Variety. Being new & different & not being superheroes. When I was a kid there was Spider-Man, Batman, He-Man, G.I. Joe, Transformers, Thundercats, then it just kind of stalled. Now all the movies are all these old properties, which is cool, but how about a new wave of that ilk but not anything like it.
QRD – Anything else?
Shawn – What I do is not easy. It is highly
stressful & filled with misery. But to look back after days of work,
it is worth the labor of love it took to construct it. If you don’t love
the worth of this pain, don’t bother.