Comic Creator Interview
with Lorenzo Ross
Name: Lorenzo Ross
Comics: Alternative City, Complicated Hair
QRD – How old were you when you first got into comics & did you always stick with them or did you come back to them?
Lorenzo – I bought my first book at age seven. There were times I stopped reading comics, but I always came back to them.
QRD – What was the first comic book you ever bought?
Lorenzo – Fantastic Four #40. I remember reading stuff like Sad Sack before that, but FF #40 was the first book I remember buying from a newsstand.
QRD – How old were you when you put out your first comic?
Lorenzo – 39. I was late to the party.
QRD – What decade do you think produced the best comics?
Lorenzo – For me it was the 60s. That was the golden age of Marvel. They made superhero comics relevant again. It was also the birth of the underground comix movement that is very dear to my heart.
QRD – Why comics instead of just writing or drawing?
Lorenzo – Comics combine the two perfectly in my opinion. It’s a medium that has limitless possibilities.
QRD – Do you see mini-comics & indie comics as paths to mainstream comics or as their own unique media?
Lorenzo – If all I ever do is mini or indie comics, I’d be happy. I mean if a mainstream publisher came to me with an offer of course I would listen, but that’s not the end game. Along with increased exposure & perhaps more money, there would be more restrictions with dealing with a mainstream publisher. The beauty of going indie is that you can pretty much do what you want.
QRD – How many copies of your comic do you print in your first run?
Lorenzo – I’ve been doing small runs of 200 or less, just to have physical copies for cons & my website & such. As demand increases I can always do more, but this way you cut down on dead stock.
QRD – How much do you think comics should cost?
Lorenzo – In an ideal world about $2. The reality is printing costs are off the chain. I have to charge $4 just to be able to break even.
QRD – How many books do you produce a year & how many would you like to?
Lorenzo – Right now about four. I’d like to do at least ten.
QRD – Do you think stories should be serialized or delivered as complete works?
Lorenzo – I like doing continued serials but I think every story should be finite. Most comics & TV shows get stale after about 5 years.
QRD – How are comic strips different than comic books & which medium do you prefer?
Lorenzo – My first published work was a newspaper strip, but I prefer the book format. Now that web comics are big, they’re like the newspaper strip was years ago. Keeping up with your schedule is the hard part of web comics. You don’t want to lose your readers.
QRD – How long is it from when you start a comic until it’s printed?
Lorenzo – Wow. That can be a long process if you’re a one-man operation (writer, penciler, inker, colorist, etc.) it can take a while! Then when it’s finished the printer I use takes a month to print the book. Long story short, anywhere from 3 to 5 months from concept to book in hand.
QRD – What do you do better with your comics now than when you first started?
Lorenzo – I like to think I’ve improved in every way since the first published strip; but thanks to graphics software, doing lettering & word balloons are a lot easier. Also I think my inking has improved even though this is a process of constantly learning as you go.
QRD – Do you do thumbnails?
Lorenzo – It depends. If I’m trying to work out the pacing of the book sometimes making thumbnails helps. I’ll usually skip the roughs & go straight to the final pencil stage.
QRD – At what size do you draw?
Lorenzo – 11 x 17 blue line comic pages.
QRD – What kind of pens do you use?
Lorenzo – Several sizes of microns.
QRD – What does your workstation look like?
Lorenzo – An organized mess. I know where everything is; but to an outsider, they’d be like, “What’s all this crap?”
QRD – At what point in the artistic process do you work digitally?
Lorenzo – Ah! Until recently I would not go digital until the boards were inked & scanned into Photoshop for coloring & lettering. Lately I’ve been experimenting with Manga Studio. Instead of starting with thumbnails I’ll do really tight roughs, scan them into Manga Studio & ink & letter the page in the application. It’s virtually impossible to tell the difference in the finished page because the inking brush can be adjusted to hard or soft. I use a Wacom tablet, so you don’t need a Cintiq although that would make it even more awesome. On top of that, the option to undo lets you correct mistakes a lot easier than pen or brush.
QRD – What do you think of digital comics & webcomics?
Lorenzo – Love ‘em! I have a lot of friends that own comic shops & really hope they are able to survive because there’s nothing like holding an actual book in your hands. That being said, the web is the future. As I mentioned earlier, printing costs are out of hand & still rising so publishing on the web is a logical alternative. Ipads & other tablet computers are the perfect size for viewing web comics or digital editions of print comics, even DC & Marvel know that. The ideal way to go is publish on the web, then collect your digital strips into a TPB.
QRD – Do you prefer working in color or black & white?
Lorenzo – If money is no object, color; although some books like Complicated Hair & Alternative City have a feel to them that is expressed better in grayscale.
QRD – How many different people should work on a comic & what should their jobs be?
Lorenzo – As many as you need to get that baby out on time. After doing it solo for so long, 3-4 people would help production move a lot faster. Writer, penciler/inker, colorist & letterer. You could even combine a couple of those jobs.
QRD – How do you find collaborators?
Lorenzo – If someone knows please tell me! I’m always looking for other creators to work with. Usually people are doing their own thing & aren’t interested in working with others. Creative teams that work together are rare IMHO. Creative people are like rock musicians, everybody wants to express themselves & sometimes you can’t do that within the confines of the band.
QRD – How tight do you think a script should be as far as telling the artist what to draw?
Lorenzo – If you want the artist to convey your vision accurately, then it should be as tight as possible.
QRD – What comic book person would you be most flattered to be compared to?
Lorenzo – Dan Clowes, Derf, Kate Beaton, Jhonen Vasquez. It would be an honor to be compared to any of these guys.
QRD – What do you think of superheroes?
Lorenzo – I’m a guy. I grew up with superheroes so I get why they’re still top of the food chain in the comics world. They represent the battle of good against evil, something many fans value above all else. But I’m an older guy & almost every storyline the big publishers come up with, I can honestly say that I’ve seen it before. If I’m going to read or do a capes book it’s gonna have to have a twist of some sort. Like Watchmen for instance. That story showed the masked heroes more human side. Some of the most honorable characters have feet of clay. I do Awesome 5! which is meant as a good-natured jab at everything that’s cliché in superhero comics. That’s probably going to be my only superhero book. I’m more interested in the human animal & the things that make us awesome as well as the things that make us flawed.
QRD – Marvel or DC?
Lorenzo – Make Marvel mine baby! The only DC character that really moves me is Batman.
QRD – What comic characters other than your own would you like to work with?
Lorenzo – I could do a Batman story. I love the black & white mini-series done by several creative teams.
QRD – Ideally would you self-publish?
Lorenzo – Absolutely. That’s the route I’ve gone so far & all things being equal that’s the way I’d keep it.
QRD – What conventions do you try to attend & why?
Lorenzo – SPACE is at the top of my list because it’s always about the indie creator, which as far as I’m concerned is where the fresh ideas come from. People actually go there looking for indie comics. This year I’m doing SPACE, Motor City & Wizard’s Chicago show. I would like to do APE & SPX next year for the reasons mentioned, but air & hotel fare is always a factor.
QRD – What do you do to promote your books?
Lorenzo – Comic cons, etsy, my website www.alternativecitycomics.com.
QRD – Do you think your comics are well suited to comic shops or would sell better elsewhere?
Lorenzo – I love the idea of comic shops, but realistically they don’t work for me right now. I sell more books online & at shows.
QRD – What other medium would you like to see some of your comics made into (television, film, games, action figures, etc.)?
Lorenzo – Don’t know about video games, but I could see a Complicated Hair sitcom or Awesome 5! action figures, sure!
QRD – Do you consider yourself a comic collector or a comic reader or both?
Lorenzo – Not much of a collector these days. I only collect things that I really like. Not trying to find some book, get it graded, & buy a house with the money. My books are meant to be read & that’s what I look for, good reading material.
QRD – What do you see as the most viable mediums for comics distribution 10 years from now?
Lorenzo – The internet. That’s the most logical option. It sure beats that monopoly called Diamond.
QRD – What would you like to see more people doing with comics?
Lorenzo – I would just like to see more plot or character driven stories. This is a wonderful medium we have here, so let’s push the boundaries & not just go for what is familiar or safe.
QRD – Anything else?
Lorenzo – Nope. Thanks for having me!