Comic Creator Interview
with Nic J Shaw
Name: Nic J Shaw
City: Sydney, Australia
Comics: Action Johnson
Websites: shawlettering.com, actionjohnson.com, twitter
QRD – How old were you when you first got into comics & did you always stick with them or did you come back to them?
Nic – I was 7 or 8. My folks divorced when I was very young, so I used to spend the weekends with my Dad. On our way back to his place he’d spend some time in the TAB & I remember him always taking me to the news agency next door & letting me pick out some comics. I started with The Simpsons, Mad, & eventually graduated to Spider-Man. Comics took a little bit of a back seat during my teens & I came back to them when I moved away from my high school friends when I was 17 or so.
QRD – What was the first comic book you ever bought?
Nic – I think it would’ve been a Simpsons comic. I want to say one of the Bart Man issues or a Treehouse of Horror Issue.
QRD – How old were you when you put out your first comic?
Nic – My first published comic is dropping this year & I’m 25. My first pitch though was with Luke Parker, we collaborated on a book called Hammer & I would’ve been 23 when I first started the process.
QRD – What decade do you think produced the best comics?
Nic – How can I fault the 90s? They’re the books I grew up on.
QRD – Why comics instead of just writing or drawing?
Nic – Dr Seuss has a quote I absolutely love. “Words & pictures are yin & yang. Married, they produce a progeny more interesting than either parent.” While he’s talking about picture books, I think it perfectly applies to comics. When you combine beautiful art with a great story & some stellar dialogue, it creates this perfect storm of work that just feels right.
QRD – Do you see mini-comics & indie comics as paths to mainstream comics or as their own unique media?
Nic – Both. There are some wonderful minis & indies that would have never been made if the folks that made them worked for Marvel or DC. While mainstream comics & work-for-hire work is what a lot of us are after, there are guys & girls out there who just want to make great comics.
QRD – How many copies of your comic do you print in your first run?
Nic – I printed 50 copies of my portfolio lettering work for editors & artists at New York Comic-Con. I’ll be looking at a run of about 500 for Action Johnson.
QRD – How much do you think comics should cost?
Nic – I’m digging the prices of comics at the moment. $.99 - $3.99 is a great price for a good read. & you can’t beat Image Comics intro prices on trades as well. $9.99 for 5 or 6 issues? Come on, who can fault that?
QRD – How many books do you produce a year & how many would you like to?
Nic – Ideally, I’d like one ongoing series at Marvel, DC, Boom, or IDW. Scatter that with minis from one or two of those companies, & then my own self-published work as well as my lettering… I’d be a happy man.
QRD – Do you think stories should be serialized or delivered as complete works?
Nic – However your story reads better, release it like that. In saying that though, the big companies survive off of singles & I like my weekly trip to my LCS.
QRD – How are comic strips different than comic books & which medium do you prefer?
Nic – Strips are shorter than books. Writing a serial strip like, say, The Phantom would be hard. You need to tell a story in 3 panels, with a reveal that keeps the reader wanting more. Comic books are that too, you just get more pages to tell your story.
QRD – How long is it from when you start a comic until it’s printed?
Nic – Anywhere from a month, to a year; it all depends on the length of your story, how your story is being made, & who it’s being made by.
QRD – What do you do better with your comics now than when you first started?
Nic – Story structure & my script formatting. I have comicsexperience.com to thank for that. I took an intro to comic writing class with Andy Schmidt (former Marvel editor) & he instantly stepped my comic game up a notch.
QRD – Do you do thumbnails?
Nic – I don’t, but my artists will. You can’t work without them.
QRD – What does your workstation look like?
Nic – I’ve got a clear workspace except for a candle, some tea, a signed Stan Lee print, & a few statues. I’m set up with a dual-screen monitor for when I letter on a fairly big desk.
QRD – What do you think of digital comics & webcomics?
Nic – I’m currently working on Action Johnson which will be a web series that I give out for free. That will then be collected in print as well as digitally on comixology. I think both print & digital have their place. While digital is great for a quick read or for some of those awesome exclusives (Batman ‘66, The Bunker, Injustice), you can’t beat print for that new print smell & paper texture in your hands. There’s nothing like cracking the spine on a new book.
QRD – Do you prefer working in color or black & white?
Nic – It all depends on the project. Whatever works for the tone you’re going for.
QRD – How many different people should work on a comic & what should their jobs be?
Nic – Again it all depends on the project & what you need done. I’ve been lucky enough to work with artists that can pencil, ink, & colour. I letter & write, grab yourself an editor & boom, done. Even if you pencil, ink, colour, letter, write, do cover art, etc. always look for an editor. Someone objective, not your mum or a friend…
QRD – How do you find collaborators?
Nic – digitalwebbing.com, penciljack.com, deviantart.com, comicsexperience.com, & Facebook groups like Small Press Commandos.
QRD – How tight do you think a script should be as far as telling the artist what to draw?
Nic – It’s all dependent on your artist, editor, & project. I try to never be too tight with my artists. I don’t call camera angles, or panel layout. They get what I want in the panel; which I describe in a somewhat dramatic way so they’re feeling the book & the emotions I’m going for.
QRD – What comic book person would you be most flattered to be compared to?
Nic – I’ve never been compared to anyone, but I recently got a lettering job after Jim Campbell had to turn it down, & I’ve been offered work after Ed Brisson & Ryan Ferrier had to turn it down. To be someone’s fourth choice behind those guys so early in my career, that’s pretty amazing.
QRD – What do your friends & family think of your comics?
Nic – They’re excited that I’m doing something that I’m excited about. While my mum is all praise, my mates definitely keep me grounded.
QRD – What do you think of superheroes?
Nic – They’re super. We owe a lot to superhero comics. While some of them are so hackneyed & just a re-hash of whatever came out the year before, there are books that really standout. Fraction & Aja on Hawkeye, Kelly Sue DeConnick on Captain Marvel, Dan Slott’s Spider-Man, Snyder & Capullo’s Batman; all brilliant books.
QRD – Marvel or DC?
Nic – A comic reader should love both. If you can’t branch out to read books from as many possible sources as possible, you’re doing comics wrong.
QRD – What comic characters other than your own would you like to work with?
Nic – Daredevil. If Marvel editors are reading this: GIVE ME DAREDEVIL.
Alternatively I’d love to do what Geoff Johns & Grant Morrison did. Re-brand old characters that people have forgotten about, or don’t care about anymore. I’d love to bring back Devil Dinosaur, Son of Satan, Ka-Zar, Captain Britain, Dr Strange, Phantom Eagle, or ROM Space Knight.
QRD – Ideally would you self-publish?
Nic – If it was cost effective ALL the time of course, but you gotta pay the bills first.
QRD – What conventions do you try to attend & why?
Nic – Sydney Supanova as it’s the biggest in Australia. 2015 will be my big year of Cons though, Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast, Chicago, New York & Seattle.
QRD – What do you do to promote your books?
Nic – Online marketing, twitter, facebook, tumblr, etc. I don’t have enough out yet to warrant face time at cons. Soon though, soon.
QRD – Do you consider yourself a comic collector or a comic reader or both?
Nic – Both, while I’m not buying as many singles as I used to, my trade collection is getting quite large. It’s hard to work in a medium & not view the work others are putting out.
QRD – What do you see as the most viable mediums for comics distribution 10 years from now?
Nic – As digital becomes more accessible it will grow, but it will be a steady growth. Print won’t die, there are too many collectors & regular readers that want their print books.
QRD – What would you like to see more people doing with comics?
Nic – Making them! Stop talking about it & do it. Obviously I’d like to see more people reading comics too… specifically mine.
QRD – Anything else?
Nic – Make sure you check out actionjohnson.com for a free series that will probably blow your mind. Probably. Also follow me on twitter @ShawLettering & come by my booth if you ever see me at a con! Finally, buy more comics. Support the industry you love.