with Adam Black
Name: Adam Black
City: Boise, ID
Comics: Various. Mostly horror, or at least monsters.
QRD – How old were you when you first got into comics & did you always stick with them or did you come back to them?
Adam – I was about 4 years old the first time I saw a comic book. I believe it was The Hulk.
QRD – What was the first comic book you ever bought?
Adam – G.I. Joe, issue 39. When I got my first regular summer job, G.I. Joe was also my first subscription. I felt like the king of the world having a new comic delivered to my door once a month.
QRD – How old were you when you put out your first comic?
Adam – I was 25... unless you count the single-copy comic we used to draw & pass around in high school. It was a National Lampoon/Heavy Metal style comic. I was about 15 at the time. Got into some trouble from the principal because of that thing, but it was totally worth it.
QRD – What decade do you think produced the best comics?
Adam – I think every decade had some great comics. From Terry & the Pirates to EC comics to Steve Ditko’s Doctor Strange... Buscema’s Conan... Slaine... Sin City... Preacher... oh, man.
QRD – Why comics instead of just writing or drawing?
Adam – I’m not a good enough writer to write novels. It’s much easier to draw a thing than try to put it into words. & I do get in some “just drawing” time now & again, paying bills with freelance illustration.
QRD – Do you see mini-comics & indie comics as paths to mainstream comics or as their own unique media?
Adam – Both. It depends on what the creator of the indy comics wants to do with their life. You can stay with indy comics or use them as a resume or stepping stone to working for a publisher. I love mini-comics & indy comics & wish everyone would make more, regardless.
QRD – How many copies of your comic do you print in your first run?
Adam – I think the first run of my first printed comic was about 120 copies. It was the mid-90s, when everyone & their dog were making indy comics & the place I was drawing for was about as small-press as you could get. Still, though, 120 readers was pretty cool to me when it happened.
QRD – How much do you think comics should cost?
Adam – Less than they do now! But a lot of that is paper costs, I hear. I’m more curious to see how digital comics get priced once tablets & smartphones become more widespread.
QRD – How many books do you produce a year & how many would you like to?
Adam – I’m mainly a webcomic artist, but I organize my stories into issues of 24 pages each. When I was updating M/W/F, that equaled 6 issues a year. I’m doing less than that now with Silk & Honey, which is 52 pages a year because I only update it on Wednesdays. That’s not including the crossover & other comics I’m working on this year, though. I guess the short answer is, “as many as I can.”
QRD – Do you think stories should be serialized or delivered as complete works?
Adam – I’m fond of cliffhangers, both reading & writing them. Serialization is an ingrained part of my personal comic experience. When I get a whole story all at once, it’s interesting, but there’s an extra magic when you gotta wait a little bit for the next issue.
QRD – How are comic strips different than comic books & which medium do you prefer?
Adam – Comic strips, to me, are 3 or 4 panel cartoony gags... which probably just pissed off a lot of comic strip creators. Comic books are more like movies. Or, they can be. I prefer books to strips, but that’s just the way I write. I have a lot of respect for those people who can do the 3-panel gag-a-day comics. My brains don’t work like that.
QRD – How long is it from when you start a comic until it’s printed?
Adam – I’m a one-man comic studio, so it takes a lot longer than it probably should, especially considering all I have to do is upload them to a print-on-demand place. I wear so many hats that the “print stuff” hat gets neglected more than it should.
QRD – What do you do better with your comics now than when you first started?
Adam – Everything, really. As with any activity, comic-makin’ just gets easier the more it’s done. I’ve improved a lot in the coloring department, which makes me happy. People like color comics more than black & white (& there was a time where I refused to admit that!) & now that I’ve hacked out a quick & consistent style, it’s been very helpful.
QRD – Do you do thumbnails?
Adam – I thumbnail every page after the script’s written. It’s a good way to fiddle with layout & camera angles.
QRD – At what size do you draw?
Adam – I draw on the standard 2-ply 11”x17” Bristol board (10”x15” area for art, usually)
QRD – What kind of pens do you use?
Adam – The only pen I use is a Micron 08, to ink panel borders. Everything else is done with a Sable #3 brush & chinese ink. It saves so much time & is so much fun.
QRD – What does your workstation look like?
Adam – My studio is a spare bedroom on the second floor of my house. I have a couple art tables there, some bulletin & white boards, a humongous computer desk, a bunch of posters & artwork tacked to the walls, & Christmas lights. There’s a door with a full-length window that leads out to a second-story deck between two huge walnut trees. In the summer, the sun goes down between the trees. It’s the greatest studio ever.
QRD – At what point in the artistic process do you work digitally?
Adam – When it’s time to color & letter. I love the computer for both, especially lettering. 20 years ago, I was dipping a B6 nib into india ink & my hand would cramp up terribly. Now it’s just typing! & best of all: no splatters or runs.
QRD – What do you think of digital comics & webcomics?
Adam – I love ‘em. I make ‘em, too; so I might be biased. I love webcomics for the instant feedback. In the 90s, my little indy comic would get drawn & shipped to the publisher & I might get a letter or two in six months when the comic finally hit the direct market. Nowadays, I can put it online page by page & get comments & feedback immediately. It’s very helpful.
QRD – Do you prefer working in color or black & white?
Adam – I used to prefer black & white before I had coloring figured out. Now I prefer color to the point where I’m forcing myself to do Silk & Honey in black & white just to keep sharp on that sort of thing. & I’m seriously kicking around the idea of coloring it just for the print version.
QRD – How many different people should work on a comic & what should their jobs be?
Adam – That depends on so many things. The fewer the better, as far as deadlines are concerned. But there’s something to be said for collaborative input.
QRD – How do you find collaborators?
Adam – Oddly enough, they usually find me. I’ve got four or five crossover comics on the back burner right now, & I get solicited by comic writers on a regular basis. I would like to point out that I’m currently not looking for collaborators.
QRD – How tight do you think a script should be as far as telling the artist what to draw?
Adam – I believe a writer should describe everything important going on in the panel, as well as the dialogue & sound effects (of course). If there are things that are vital to the story (especially something that comes up in a future issue), let your artist know. & give him spots to do his own thing, too. Stay patient with each other & you’ll get your own groove goin’ on.
QRD – What comic book person would you be most flattered to be compared to?
Adam – If someone said one day, “Man, this Adam Black comic reads like it was written by Warren Ellis or Steven Grant! & this art looks like the demonic love child of Joe Kubert & Tim Vigil!” I’d have to say I’d be pretty happy with that. But, really, I’m flattered when anyone reads my comics, regardless of who it might remind them of.
QRD – What do your friends & family think of your comics?
Adam – Those friends & family who read my comics seem to enjoy them. Not all of my friends & family read my comics, though. Ha-ha.
QRD – What do you think of superheroes?
Adam – I didn’t read many superhero comics as a kid. A little Batman, maybe. That Hulk comic I mentioned earlier. I stopped reading most of that by the time I was 12 or 13, though. I grew up mainly on GI Combat, EC reprints, Heavy Metal Magazine, Jonah Hex, Sgt. Rock, G.I. Joe... I really dig Doctor Strange, but I like the old, crazy Ditko version the best.
QRD – Marvel or DC?
Adam – I think anyone limiting themselves to these two choices is doing themselves a disservice. It would be like choosing McDonalds or Burger King for dinner every night. I dig Mexican & Chinese food more than burgers & fries. Wait... what were we talking about again?
QRD – What comic characters other than your own would you like to work with?
Adam – I’m fortunate in that I actually get to work with a lot of my favorite characters this year! I’ll be working with some friends this year on a three-way crossover we’ve been kicking around for the last 2 years or so. This is James Riot, who does The Path, & Barry Linck, who does Phineus: Magician For Hire. Basically, I’ll be drawing a modern-day sorcerer, his two-gun ass-kickin’ wife, the reincarnation of King Arthur (whose main job is fighting Nyarlathotep & Cthulhu), & my own half-succubus loudmouth girl with her Sword of Death. They’ll be fighting Elder Things in Antarctica. It’s gonna be kinda of like Carpenter’s version of The Thing, but with some Robert Rodriguez & Stuart Gordon thrown in for good measure. & one of these days, B. Alex Thompson said he was gonna write a Campus Chaos comic with Locus in it. CC is all about Sorority Girls vs. Zombies & it’s smart & funny as hell. I can’t wait to get on that. & I’d give my left nut to make a TRON comic. I love those movies.
QRD – Ideally would you self-publish?
Adam – All I do is self-publish. I draw Boobs, Blood, & Bad Language (tm), & ain’t no one gonna touch that! I can’t even join a webcomic collective site... all they do is bury me at the bottom of the heap under the stick figure & WoW-screenshot comics. Ha-ha-ha.
QRD – What conventions do you try to attend & why?
Adam – I like the Wizard World conventions. Not too big; not too small. Lots of cool indy people in the back.
QRD – What do you do to promote your books?
Adam – Not enough, to be honest. I’ve been so busy drawing them that I haven’t had much time to promote them. But now that Locus is done, I’m slowly putting together trade paperbacks & digital collections & all that. I promote what I can through the usual social networks, but censorship’s usually a problem in those places. I’m fortunate in that my readers are pretty good at word-of-mouth. Locus Fans are the Best Fans! The KISS Fans have been super cool, too. I’ve made a lot of lifelong friendships there.
QRD – Do you think your comics are well suited to comic shops or would sell better elsewhere?
Adam – Every comic shop owner I’ve ever spoken to has told me the same story: We’d like to carry everything under the sun, but we’ve got limited shelf space & bills to pay. So we’ve got 90% Marvel & DC, with some Image & Dark Horse for variety. Maybe some HeroClix & White Wolf RPGs in the back or something. I respect anyone who keeps the lights on & the fridge full by doing their own thing. I do that, too. But I have little to offer a comic shop owner other than monsters & tits. & I’ve only met one comic shop owner who wanted that in her store. Thanks, Kathy! You really know how to make a guy feel like Jack Kirby or something.
QRD – What other medium would you like to see some of your comics made into (television, film, games, action figures, etc.)?
Adam – Movies. All my comics are just movies I can’t afford to film.
QRD – Do you consider yourself a comic collector or a comic reader or both?
Adam – I read what I can & collect what I like. I’ve got all the TPBs of Preacher, but I’m still working on finishing my Whisper collection. & there are some old, obscure titles I’m having trouble collecting. Gantar: The Last Nabu, the original Rust... stuff like that.
QRD – What do you see as the most viable mediums for comics distribution 10 years from now?
Adam – I have no idea. I’m still boggled by the fact that I can distribute comics digitally. 20 years ago, the best way to get my comics distributed was to go to a local printer & order a batch of 3000 comics. Not 2000 or 1000. The minimum order at the local printer was 3000 comics. With a cheap & glossy cover & black & white on newsprint inside. Pure low-rent crap. That was gonna cost over a thousand dollars, & I’d have to sell at least half of them just to break even. Or something like that. It was 20 years ago. Ha-ha. Nowadays, I upload them to the print-on-demand people & get a URL to spread around. No minimum print runs. Not limited to black & white. No shipping or storage woes. & I still get more per copy that I would have 20 years ago! Whatever the norm will be 10 years from now, I’m sure it’ll be awesome.
QRD – What would you like to see more people doing with comics?
Adam – Tell good stories. I always wanna read good stories.
QRD – Anything else?
Adam – *Anything* else...? Sure. I’d like to plug my friends. They’re all comic creators & they all make comics I dig the hell out of. If someone reading this interview is one of those people who’s always looking for new comics to read, I have some suggestions:
Raven Perez makes a comic he describes as “Immature Stories for Mature Audiences”, & draws it like Marc Hansen on acid. I usually describe it as: “it’s fucking amazing GO READ IT NOW.” That’s at ravensdojo.com
Victor Couwenbergh does a comic about space exploration called Zik: Gallant Defender of Zoz, which is a fun read & appropriate for all ages, unlike most of my stuff. That’s at defenderzik.com
The guys I mentioned (Barry & Riot) have their comics at olddyingkitty.com
Alex’s Sorority Girls vs. Zombies is at chaoscampus.com
& Rich, an old friend I used to draw weird critters with for the Talislanta RPG, just started his own comic which is (coincidentally) full of weird critters. That’s at richwallaceart.com/ruins
Thanks for the interview! It was lots of fun.