Comic Creator Interview
with Eric Grissom
Name: Eric Grissom
City: Red Bank, NJ
Comics: Deadhorse, Planet Gigantic, Tom & Violence, Animals
Websites: ericgrissom.com, deadhorsecomic.com, planetgigantic.com
QRD – How old were you when you first got into comics & did you always stick with them or did you come back to them?
Eric – I was probably around 6 when I started getting into comics. My earliest memories involved getting those old digest-sized collections of reprints from the supermarket. I was a bit obsessed with the Adam West Batman show (I spent a good deal of time running around the house in a little Batman outfit my mom had sewed for me); so making the jump to comics was an easy one. I didn’t seriously start buying & collecting comics until I was around 7 or 8 years old. On the weekends my father had me, he’d take me to a small little luncheonette that had a spinner rack & I’d grab any copies of Spider-Man & Batman they’d have. I stuck with comics up until I was around 25 or so & didn’t return for almost ten years.
QRD – What was the first comic book you ever bought?
Eric – Detective Comics #526 was the issue that really hooked me & the oldest one I remember buying. There were others before it, but that issue stands out. I can still remember seeing the two-page spread in that issue, when we see what Batman is up against. “All My Enemies Against Me!” Up until that point, the only Batman villains I knew was what I saw on the show. So seeing all of the crazy characters like Two-Face, The Scarecrow, Cat-Man, & The Spook was really mind blowing for a little fellow.
QRD – How old were you when you put out your first comic?
Eric – When I was around 24 I had a web comic called, Holmgren. I did it for a year or so & it really wasn’t much more than short single panel gags, mostly bizarre setups without any punchlines. The only thing close to a narrative was a section I called “Dummy”. There I would recount tales of excessive drinking & issues I was having with my ex-girlfriend. My first “real” comic book & the one that I put the most amount of time & work into, was Deadhorse, which I released with artist Phil Sloan in 2010. I was 36 at the time.
QRD – What decade do you think produced the best comics?
Eric – It’s hard to say. I never like to get into a “this is the best because...” argument about things because everything is so subjective to begin with that unless you’re really a serious critic & can back up your argument with something other then your own bullshit, who cares. But hey, you asked so I can tell you the 1990s were the best decade for me personally & this is based solely on how it effected me as a reader & writer. The 90s, particularly the early 90s, is when I discovered comics like Doom Patrol, Sandman, Eightball, & Peepshow.
QRD – Why comics instead of just writing or drawing?
Eric – Comics is a perfect form of storytelling for me. Being able to use words & artwork together allows the story to take on new weight & ironies. Unlike something like film that moves along at a fixed speed, comics can be read at a variable pace. Readers can slow down, stay on one panel for longer times, move quickly past others. I love that about it. There’s something about seeing a moment in time frozen & all the business that happens between the panels.
QRD – Do you see mini-comics & indie comics as paths to mainstream comics or as their own unique media?
Eric – In terms of “mainstream” comics I’m assuming you mean more traditional superhero type books from Marvel of DC right? In that case I would say no. I think it certainly could be if your intention is to write for one of those corporations, but for a lot of people, myself included, creating the story itself is the goal. Everything else is just marketing & distribution.
QRD – How many copies of your comic do you print in your first run?
Eric – The first run of Deadhorse was 100 copies. Print costs are always a huge problem, especially for someone like myself with little or no name recognition, so small print runs I know I can sell are imperative.
QRD – How much do you think comics should cost?
Eric – It depends on the publisher & the type of book. In terms of a typical self-published 24 page color comic, I’d say $4-$5. I know there is a tendency for unknown creators to try & give away their stuff for next to nothing in the hopes of gaining more eyeballs, but for me that’s a losing strategy in the long term. Having slim to nonexistent profit margins means you’ll be lucky to break even unless you start moving a lot of units. I’m never going to win on volume so it’s foolish to try to compete with publishers like Marvel, DC, & Image on price. Every penny counts. I’d much rather have a smaller audience who is willing to pay more for the time & craft that went into the comic than a larger audience who will baulk over the extra dollar. The more money we make as creators, the more money we’ll have to tell the next story. The more comics I can make, the better I get at storytelling while also slowly building a loyal audience. Also, in my opinion, print is special & it should cost more. In regards to digital, I think $1.99 is a fair price to pay for a 24 page story.
QRD – How many books do you produce a year & how many would you like to?
Eric – Last year (2012) I released 7 comics. That’s about as many as I would like to, but it’s probably unrealistic.
QRD – Do you think stories should be serialized or delivered as complete works?
Eric – It depends on the story. I prefer to read stories in one big chunk, but I do still enjoy episodic story telling if it’s done right. Saga is a good example of how to do that well.
QRD – How are comic strips different than comic books & which medium do you prefer?
Eric – In most cases, comic strips are designed to tell a simple joke, a setup & a punchline. Comic books tell longer stories either in a serialized format or in a single chunk. I prefer comic books & longer forms of storytelling.
QRD – How long is it from when you start a comic until it’s printed?
Eric – Depends on the artist. I’m not the fastest writer either. I write & re-write almost obsessively. I can take months to do a script. Once it leaves me & gets to the artist it might take another three months or more before it comes back.
QRD – What do you do better with your comics now than when you first started?
Eric – Everything. Not to say I know what I’m doing at this point, but I’m confident enough to know I was terrible before & in six months I’ll look back & complain what a lousy job I did with this interview. If I had to pick something, I’d say I am much better with structuring a single issue than I was when I first began.
QRD – What does your workstation look like?
Eric – My desk is always piled with stuff. Comics, notebooks, photos of my kids. A lot of the stuff are just things that are being moved from one place to another. It’s a stop for junk in my house that’s on a journey somewhere else. Also there’s a TARDIS.
QRD – What do you think of digital comics & webcomics?
Eric – As far as comics that are released either as web comics or PDFs or whatever, digital is just another form of distribution. If you mean in terms of new ways of storytelling with sound, motion, etc., it doesn’t really interest me. At least not at this point.
QRD – Do you prefer working in color or black & white?
Eric – I prefer color, but it really depends on the story I suppose.
QRD – How many different people should work on a comic & what should their jobs be?
Eric – This would completely depend on scope. If it’s a project for a large publisher, you do need marketing & sales people, etc. In terms of the creative team, again it all depends. I am used to working with an artist & a colorist. I do all of my lettering, but that’s only because I love being able to rewrite up until the bitter end. I also really like playing with that last level of detail when the words & art intersect. Some comics benefit greatly when it’s a single cartoonist providing the story, art, & letters. Hmmm, I guess what I’m saying is I don’t have an answer.
QRD – How do you find collaborators?
Eric – I was lucky to be friends with Phil. Other artists I’ve worked with I did so by admiring their work & asking them.
QRD – How tight do you think a script should be as far as telling the artist what to draw?
Eric – I think it’s important to include as many details as you want to see. So in other words, it’s important that you write “elm tree” if you want to see an elm tree. Don’t write “tree” & then complain that the artist drew a spruce. If you don’t write it, you won’t see it. That said, don’t dictate how they should show it to you. I try to write my actions in terms of subtext & emotions rather then in terms of shot composition. If there’s something I feel that’s important in that regard I’ll do it, but I try to give artists as much room to work as possible. I want them to change up panels as they see fit. You picked the artist for a reason, let them do what they do best.
QRD – What comic book person would you be most flattered to be compared to?
Eric – Oh man. I got nothing.
QRD – What do your friends & family think of your comics?
Eric – Outside of my wife & mother, my family hasn’t read any of my comics to be honest. I tried to get my daughters to read Planet Gigantic, but they weren’t having it. My wife, who is not a comics person, has always been supportive. The best thing about her is she doesn’t pull any punches. So if she reads something & likes it, I know it’s for real. A few of my good friends have been really supportive about them as well. It’s always hard with that sort of thing though, because you never know how much is genuine & how much is because they’re just good people who want to make you feel good & not say, “Holy crap dude, you spent three years on this?!?”
QRD – What do you think of superheroes?
Eric – I like them well enough, but generally they’re not my first choice when looking for new books. That said, right now I’ve been reading the John Byrne Fantastic Four Omnibus & have a great time doing so.
QRD – Marvel or DC?
Eric – When I was younger, I read more Marvel than DC (with the exception of Batman). That changed after I discovered Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol, which lead to Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, & everything with early Vertigo. Now though, if I had to choose one, I would probably still lean more Marvel. I just like the characters more.
QRD – What comic characters other than your own would you like to work with?
Eric – Not a typical comic book character, but since IDW publishes the license, I would love to write a Doctor Who comic. Or a backup story. Anything.
QRD – Ideally would you self-publish?
Eric – I do self-publish already so... yes?
QRD – What conventions do you try to attend & why?
Eric – I attend New York Comic Con & Asbury Comic Con because they are close to home. I don’t like to be away from my family & I really don’t like to fly.
QRD – What do you do to promote your books?
Eric – I really dislike self-promotion. But it’s sort of a necessity. I use Twitter & Facebook mostly. We also try to do signings at comic stores.
QRD – Do you think your comics are well suited to comic shops or would sell better elsewhere?
Eric – I would love to see my books in more comic shops. Especially with a staff that is able to direct readers to it. Very little people know who I am at this point, so having a great staff that can appreciate the work goes a long way. I’d be happy to see the book in more books stores too.
QRD – What other medium would you like to see some of your comics made into (television, film, games, action figures, etc.)?
Eric – Any & all. Anything that would mean I can make more money to make more comics. Planet Gigantic would make a great kids toy line so if you know someone...
QRD – Do you consider yourself a comic collector or a comic reader or both?
Eric – I consider myself a reader mostly, but I do have that collector bug. Not so much with single issues, but I do like to buy collected editions of stories I like.
QRD – What do you see as the most viable mediums for comics distribution 10 years from now?
Eric – As we are seeing now, I think digital downloads for single issues makes a lot of sense. I am not a fan of digital purchases being nothing more then a “license” to view that book behind some company’s login. I am hopeful there will be a move to DRM free downloads of digital files that a user can view on the reader of her or his choice. I have a sneaking suspicion that will not be the case however & all of our culture will be behind a license agreement. As far as print goes, I don’t see trades or collected editions going away anytime soon if ever. Good stores will adapt. Bad stores are not long for this world anyway. Ten years is a long time though, so I imagine by 2023 we’ll all be getting our comics while we sleep thanks to the “Disney Marvel Dream Channel brought to you by Taco Bell Bacon Sacks” implant.
QRD – What would you like to see more people doing with comics?
Eric – Reading them.
QRD – Anything else?
Eric – Thanks for talking to me.