Comic Creator Interview
with Joe Simmons
Name: Joe Simmons
City: Lusby, MD
Comics: Milt, Stupendo-Dog
Websites: www.stupendoddog.blogspot.com, www.newhavencomics.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?
Joe – I’ve been reading & drawing & writing comics as long as I can remember. I did stop reading in college after the Clone Saga (I was happy with a Ben Reilly Spider-Man & was pissed they killed him off) & started back up again when Dark Knight Strikes Again came out. I was burned out on comics & the 90s & it really worked out to have more money for beer.
QRD – What was the first comic book you ever bought?
Joe – No idea. I had a beat up Jack Kirby comic in my top drawer & a comic from the old TV show Emergency! that I always kept. No idea where they are now. & my mom got me a subscription to GI Joe that started around issue 10. Super hero comics started for me with Web of Spider-Man Annual #2, I think. It was an Art Adams Spidey/Warlock/New Mutants story & was the most amazing artwork I had ever seen.
QRD – How old were you when you put out your first comic?
Joe – I have no idea. The first serious one had to be in my mid 30s.
QRD – What decade do you think produced the best comics?
Joe – The 60s. Great newspaper strip-inspired artists were taking over comic books. Stan Lee & the Marvel Method were the best things to happen to comics.
QRD – Why comics instead of just writing or drawing?
Joe – I’d rather just write, but it’s hard to find an artist. & I can draw, so for now I’m doing it all.
QRD – Do you see mini-comics & indie comics as paths to mainstream comics or as their own unique media?
Joe – Totally mainstream. It is all mainstream, right? Nobody likes all the same stuff. One man’s Batman is another man’s Ninja Turtles is another man’s Flaming Carrot.
QRD – How many copies of your comic do you print in your first run?
Joe – It was a web comic, so nothing. My first print comic was done with Ka-Blam, so it was all “on demand” printing.
QRD – How much do you think comics should cost?
Joe – I don’t have a practical, market research answer for this. I say a buck or two, depending on the content. A 20-page book should not cost four dollars.
QRD – How many books do you produce a year & how many would you like to?
Joe – Not as much as I should. I’m on a roll this year; I have three web comics that will start this spring & summer. In February I drew over 30 pages & could have done more.
QRD – Do you think stories should be serialized or delivered as complete works?
Joe – It depends on the authors. If they can pound it out & give it all at once, I say do it. At the same time, I feel that serial comics are better because it should help build fans with constant work. Get back to me after I start my comic The Golden Bone Gambit. It’s going to run 3 days a week. I’ll let you know.
QRD – How are comic strips different than comic books & which medium do you prefer?
Joe – I’m a big huge fan of old daily comic strips. I wish that world still existed, I’d be doing everything I could to be right in the middle of it.
QRD – How long is it from when you start a comic until it’s printed?
Joe – That just depends on how fast I can write & draw it. I wish I had a better answer.
QRD – What do you do better with your comics now than when you first started?
Joe – Everything.
QRD – Do you do thumbnails?
Joe – For my own stuff, for The Golden Bone Gambit, & the first Milt story, no. I wrote & drew it as I did each page. Real seat-of-the-pants stuff. If I’m working with & for people, I will but only for me. I don’t do much prep work, I like to get right in there & get the pages rolling.
QRD – At what size do you draw?
Joe – Right now I’m drawing for books that are 6x9 to self-publish & I’ve been drawing at nearly actual size. It feels more like newspaper strip-style storytelling & I’m really happy with the results.
QRD – What kind of pens do you use?
Joe – I use a Pentel Pocket Brush, Prismacolor markers, & a non-photo blue pencil.
QRD – What does your workstation look like?
Joe – It looks a lot like my kitchen table.
QRD – At what point in the artistic process do you work digitally?
Joe – Right now, coloring & lettering. I’m trying to do as much as possible with ink on paper, but that could change at any minute. I love digital inking but that’s not the mood I’ve been in lately.
QRD – What do you think of digital comics & webcomics?
Joe – I think they’re a great & wonderful thing, even the stuff that’s terrible.
QRD – Do you prefer working in color or black & white?
Joe – Black & white with gray tones, even though putting in the tones slows me down a little.
QRD – How many different people should work on a comic & what should their jobs be?
Joe – At least one person. After that bring people in, but make sure they contribute to the finished product. If you bring in a colorist or a letterer or an inker, make sure they compliment the work & don’t suck. I like to find people way better than me to work with to make my scribbles shine.
QRD – How do you find collaborators?
Joe – So far every collaboration has been found through DigitalWebbing.com.
QRD – How tight do you think a script should be as far as telling the artist what to draw?
Joe – I’m a fan of the Marvel Method. I’m working on two web comics now & both writers are plotting in the Mighty Marvel Method & it’s awesome. One I’m working on, I’m on page five of the plot, but have nine pages drawn. It really opens up the storytelling.
QRD – What comic book person would you be most flattered to be compared to?
Joe – Compare my writing to Frank Miller, even if you’re lying. Come on, do it.
QRD – What do your friends & family think of your comics?
Joe – Friends love ‘em & some even buy them.
QRD – What do you think of superheroes?
Joe – I’m a fan, but I think they might need an overhaul. I don’t know what kind of overhaul, but something. Maybe they need to disappear for a while. I thought Grant Morrison’s t-shirt & jeans Superman was the best super hero I’d ever seen or read. I’m not a big Superman fan, but I could have read that forever.
QRD – Marvel or DC?
Joe – Marvel.
QRD – What comic characters other than your own would you like to work with?
Joe – I have a Fantastic Four story in my head that I’d like to write. 12 issues that would leave the reader with an adrenaline rush & hopefully make their eyes pop out of their head.
QRD – Ideally would you self-publish?
Joe – I love self-publishing, even if it’s just for myself & for fun. A major publisher is just a name & a trusted brand, it doesn’t mean everything they put out is great. I have my own name & stand behind it, as do my self-publishing friends.
QRD – What conventions do you try to attend & why?
Joe – I hate crowds. I’m in Maryland, so every few years I try to go to the Baltimore convention, but only to walk around & get pissed off at the people who bring in strollers for their kids.
QRD – How do you feel about doing work for anthologies?
Joe – I’m all for them. Put out a book & bring a lot of names & characters & stories together, get more fans. It’s the dream.
QRD – What do you do to promote your books?
Joe – So far just word of mouth. I have social anxiety that bleeds into the internet, so I really am the worst self-promoter in the universe.
QRD – Do you think your comics are well suited to comic shops or would sell better elsewhere?
Joe – I think comics should be sold everywhere, anywhere you can buy a magazine you should be able to buy a comic. Big companies like Marvel should package six months of books & put them out as magazines in grocery stores. Big magazine collections that anyone can buy & for magazine prices. 100+ pages for 3 or 4 bucks would be fantastic.
QRD – What other medium would you like to see some of your comics made into (television, film, games, action figures, etc.)?
Joe – I’d like to see a cartoon made of some of my stuff, but I’d rather people just read the books.
QRD – Do you consider yourself a comic collector or a comic reader or both?
Joe – I’m just a reader now. I do almost all of my buying on Comixology & some trades here & there.
QRD – What do you see as the most viable mediums for comics distribution 10 years from now?
Joe – I think it will be exactly the same with more digital exclusive comics. People hate change, no matter how good it could be. I’d like to see more free digital comics that lead into trades for sale, but people are going to defend the comic store to the death. I still want to go into a 7-Eleven & buy comics, I really miss that. Maybe it would be awesome if you got a new comic & it came with a digital code to get free back issues. Nothing is going to change, at least not very much. Look at cars, when it was invented it was a motor, steering wheel, seats & wheels. Except for luxuries & some innovations, the car is exactly the same. There hasn’t been any huge revolution, everyone on the planet isn’t driving a hybrid or an electric car.
QRD – What would you like to see more people doing with comics?
Joe – Just putting them out there. I wish there were better hubs to put web comics to discover great stories.
QRD – Anything else?
Joe – My web comic, The Golden Bone Gambit is starting soon at www.newhavencomics.com. There are great comics there that are worth checking out.