Comic Creator Interview
with J.M. Hunter
Name: J.M. Hunter
City: Thrillinois, but originally from Oceanside & all of SoCal area.
Comics: Note 2 Self, BAM! (Big Ass Mini-Comic!), Angry Citizens.
Websites: www.barbedwaternoodle.com Being updated, but coming soon!
QRD – How old were you when you first got into comics & did you always stick with them or did you come back to them?
J.M. – Wow…I’m a third generation comic book fan. My grandfather had the first Superman comics & he was a big Joe Palooka fan too. As for myself…trying to remember…maybe 3 years old for comic characters like on the TV & toys etc., then actually reading comics? Early 80s those Masters of the Universe He-Man comics that came with the figures & my aunt Remie had this Batman & Robin vinyl album that was laid out like a comic too! Since then some 70s marvel comics & Blue Devil stuff from DC until I became a full-blown fanboy, (actually most fanboys are probably not ever “fully blown”).
QRD – What was the first comic book you ever bought?
J.M. – First comic I ever bought was a handful in Barstow, California where we were stationed in a place called Tony’s Market. He had a bunch on the newsstand & I picked out a Web of Spiderman featuring Carrion/Ned Leeds maybe? Action Comics with The Guardian guest starring. What If? One of the X-men stories & I think after that I was hooked as a regular.
QRD – How old were you when you put out your first comic?
J.M. – I was in my early twenties when I actually had work in someone else’s APA. Beltsander #3 I think. Prior to that, in high school, we drew comics but never really embraced & finished the whole production process. On my own with help from my buddy Erick Cruz I put out my first mini-comic Note 2 Self: Halloween Special in 2005. It’s still sort of one of my favorites in that I was out of my mind for two whole weeks straight trying to finish it on beer & crazy eyes. But the flaws, oh gawd the flaws! I remember proudly giving it to a couple of lesbian friends & they trashed it, hated it! Absolutely! Now that I think about it, dick jokes & yo momma this or that, probably wasn’t their thing.
QRD – What decade do you think produced the best comics?
J.M. – Bronze age & the 80s to the early 90s would probably always be my favorite era. You had a nice range going there. Marvel was doing some awesome stuff with their Epic mature imprint. Some of my favorite series/stories I can rattle off come from that line. Vertigo was doing their thing. Dark Horse Presents & other independent publishers were all still around. I like that grit shit you know?
QRD – Why comics instead of just writing or drawing?
J.M. – I do both. So comics seemed like a natural way of blending the two & being able to have my cake & eat it too. Unfortunately sometimes my cake tastes like shit, ha-ha-ha. No one wants a bite then I bet!
QRD – Do you see mini-comics & indie comics as paths to mainstream comics or as their own unique media?
J.M. – A little bit of A, a little bit of B, & a whole lot of “Well Cee”! I think that people get into mini-comics & indie comics or in-DIY projects as I call them. Ken Eppstein of NIX guy hates when I drop the “y” on indie but I think it fits. But yea getting back on point, mini-comics are done why? Cause you’re too damn broke to do a real comic? Nah. I don’t think so…I think they’re done out of a labor of love. You love the medium, saw a bunch maybe at a small show or a record store, had nothing better to do & picked one up & read it in the bathroom maybe? Thought that sumbiatch was a little charming, funny story, nice slice of life little tale? Maybe some roided out post-apocalyptic Bisely wannabee shoot them up character & you thought you could do one better? So you tried it. It felt good didn’t it? I know it did for me. I got a little tickly feeling in my umm…well you get where when I needed to go buy my first long reach stapler. There was this zen moment when I was aptly trying to fold my first mini nice & tight, edges straight so it’d look perfect for my first show. Then the beer & my ADD kicked in & I was like, “Fuck it, there’s too many, gotta get this done son!” But hey for a moment I was there…in that moment. Just talking about it makes me wanna get back to the drawing table. I don’t even know if I’m answering your question anymore. I think there’s a noticeable trend or law of averages when it comes to the path of an idea or story being just a simple “mini-comic” or blazing an indie trail to becoming a mainstream creator working Wolverine’s latest arm-pit hair. Some do the mini-comics because they have a story to tell & like the do-it-yourself approach & then put it out there & see what others think. Some I think maybe do it for the wrong reasons starting out because they’ve seen what happens with the Robert Kirkmans, Jeff Smiths, Dave Sims, etc, I could go on. The success of those few, FEW!, set a trend for others thinking that they could & should replicate that approach. I’m guilty of this even. Putting the cart before the horse & you damn sure forgot the feed. You gotta have soul, because in those wee hours of the night when no one else gives a damn what you’re working on, you know? The greatest story ever told? What’s gonna push you to the finish line? What’s gonna keep you in the game? The love, not the aspect of a movie deal. You gotta find the soul with each project I’m finally realizing. Otherwise you’re just going through the motions. So I think love what you do first & maybe the rest, like success, will eventually come.
QRD – How many copies of your comic do you print in your first run?
J.M. – Ha-ha-ha, enough to where 7 years later I still have a good stack!
QRD – How much do you think comics should cost?
J.M. – Hmm…with digital these days, knock those fuckers down to 99 cents already! C’mon! “We need new readers, we need new readers!” Bullshit! You need old readers to shell out more money for stuff they’ve already bought in print or trade? Knock them down to 99 cents already. I’m more of a wait for the trade guy these days for stuff coming out of the big four companies. I do like “floppies” & mini-comics when it’s indie titles because the craft/love/soul shows & they don’t have a marketing team, distribution friendlies, or corporation backing them up. I’ll spend 2-3 bucks on stuff like that. Also when there’s a crazy Top Shelf sale? Whoa Nellie! I’m all over that stuff! So yea a comic shouldn’t cost more than a DVD you can get at a Wal-Mart five dollar bin.
QRD – How many books do you produce a year & how many would you like to?
J.M. – Not many at all. Not as many as I’d like. I’d like to do at least 3 small books a year or one good book.
QRD – Do you think stories should be serialized or delivered as complete works?
J.M. – Both. Depends either on the story, the creators intent, or with web comics, serialize it, then collect it & print it up. Add some stuff like supplemental material to make it novelty. I do also think some stories should be done just for one initial format, like say a graphic novel at first. Some of your shit should be like War & Peace. Not War with Pieces.
QRD – How are comic strips different than comic books & which medium do you prefer?
J.M. – Comic strips are a tricky lot. Comics strips are an art unto themselves I think. Trying to get the beats just right & do the punch line or reveal in a smaller series of frames & with less space & good timing to hit that mark? I think they’re harder to do than comic books where you can pad the crap out of 22 pages & not much has happened. You can’t really Bendis a comic strip. You gotta bring your Watterson, you gotta have that Shulz.
QRD – How long is it from when you start a comic until it’s printed?
J.M. – Hah. Decades, years, for some. Minutes to midnite for others. It really depends on real-life factors & how many kids I’m having at that moment.
QRD – What do you do better with your comics now than when you first started?
J.M. – I think I take my time for the initial drawing period. I consider layout & know thy self more so. I’ve figured out to an extent what I’m strong at & what I’m weak at & what kind of prep time I’ll need to confidently do a project. I have to now, especially now that I have a family & other obligations beyond my imagination. It was always crowded in my head before but now there’s an audience for my time, attention, & responsibilities.
QRD – At what point in the artistic process do you work digitally?
J.M. – Other than scanning it in, not much. It’s something I’ve long had a fear of doing…I need to just embrace the Photoshops & Illustrators, whack the Wacom a little. I’ve been traditional for so damn long though, it’s like teaching a dog to go type up an invoice. But every dog has its day….heh.
QRD – What do you think of digital comics & webcomics?
J.M. – They’re here, they’re queer, & they’re here to stay, so embrace it! I think they have their place & have opened up worlds for artists & creators in general. I think it’s a good thing ultimately. I don’t subscribe to the philosophy that they’re meant to replace the physicality of a good comic or mini. That would be like cutting off one of our senses. As artists we have literally six senses. We see/view/feel, absorb the world in an interesting alternative way from say a banker. I see digital & web comics as an extension & another tool on the belt, not the actual belt though.
QRD – Do you prefer working in color or black & white?
J.M. – Black & white for comics & line art. Charcoal, vine, & conte with dry media. Color wise? I’ll mess with color for painting & some pastels.
QRD – How many different people should work on a comic & what should their jobs be?
J.M. – It varies. I’ve had some success with the right group of people knocking out the Burning Disco 1-pager. Then I’ve also experience some situations where there were too many hands in the pot. I think there’s some comfort working in solace on a comic. Then there are some projects where you mos def wouldn’t mind having a few friends collaborate.
QRD – How do you find collaborators?
J.M. – For me, it was mostly message boards that I’ve been a part of for long periods of time. Specifically www.comicon.com Steve Conley & Rich Veitch’s board. Other boards like The Bullpen Comic Message board, which is now defunct unfortunately. We worked with Ego Comics (www.egocomics.com), on four anthologies through that board. BAM! (Big Ass Mini-Comic) found its roots over at the TCJ.com boards too.
QRD – How tight do you think a script should be as far as telling the artist what to draw?
J.M. – I think it depends on the team in question. I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I write looser when it’s for my own art, knowing I’m able to fill in the blanks & I’m going to reference stuff anyways. I’ll sometimes write loose, dialogue first even if I know the artist. Most of the time though, I think the tighter the script with allowing for exceptions if the artist has something that would work even better is the right way to go. Give the artist as much info as you can, so they can narrow down their research & prep time.
QRD – What comic book person would you be most flattered to be compared to?
J.M. – I’ve heard Spain before. R.Crumb, & Richard Corben would be an honor to aspire to. But ultimately I’m not sure. I was hoping I’d be the best version of “me”.
QRD – What do your friends & family think of your comics?
J.M. – Hah, I don’t usually let my mom read them as they’re not her cup of tea & I don’t like lectures. My grandfather who unfortunately passed away was always supportive. The only thing he told me not to try or go into was boxing. I think he’d seen too many people get ripped off for some blunt face trauma. Friends? Most of my friends are also comic creators themselves. What do they think of them? Not sure.
QRD – What do you think of superheroes?
J.M. – I think they’re awesome! Always have but I enjoy certain renditions of them or creating my own more so now.
QRD – Marvel or DC?
J.M. – Have to say that I am a Marvel Zombie!
QRD – What comic characters other than your own would you like to work with?
J.M. – You know? Even though Wolverine is my all time favorite character, I’m not sure I’d want to work on his book. It’s like, what else can you say about Logan that hasn’t been said already before? I’d prefer to work on some of my fellow indie creators’ books & characters. Those are fun sandboxes! I like the small list that Ken Eppstein has with his Nix Comics Quarterly. Love anything Les McClaine does. He’s in good company with his fellow SCAD alumnus who all have awesome creations.
QRD – Ideally would you self-publish?
J.M. – Yes…or someone with a lot of money would just tell me, “Go…go create…I got this….”
QRD – What conventions do you try to attend & why?
J.M. – Being from SoCal I used to hit up the big one S.D.C.C. & the Long Beach/L.A. con. But since I moved, I haven’t been to any shows. Now that I’m in Illinois, I hope to start going again specifically to Chicago & Ohio shows. SPACE in particular.
QRD – What do you do to promote your books?
J.M. – Throw shit on the wall & hope it sticks. I’m better at hyping other people’s stuff than my own.
QRD – Do you think your comics are well suited to comic shops or would sell better elsewhere?
J.M. – I think they’re better suited in novelty/variety stores. More counter-culture. I’d love to see them at bookstores eventually like Barnes & Noble/Books-A-Million. I’d be afraid at a comic book shop they’d just get put high up on a shelf or stuffed in a corner somewhere & no one would be able to see them because there’s too many Big Two event comics in my way, ha-ha.
QRD – What other medium would you like to see some of your comics made into (television, film, games, action figures, etc.)?
J.M. – Sure I’d love to see my stuff become a franchise player. I’m sure the wife would love to see paychecks from some of these “crazy ideas” I’m always having. But recently I’ve found that I have fun with super Sculpey & crafting up some of my own stuff. Action figures would be sweet.
QRD – Do you consider yourself a comic collector or a comic reader or both?
J.M. – I’m both.
QRD – What do you see as the most viable mediums for comics distribution 10 years from now?
J.M. – It’ll probably be digital, but again I hope to never see print go away. I hope to see more anthologies as well too.
QRD – What would you like to see more people doing with comics?
J.M. – Different formats. The awesome thing about Top Shelf is that their books come in different sizes & formats. All shapes & sizes.
QRD – Anything else?
J.M. – Yeah. Root for me, don’t ever count me out. Root for all of us in fact.