Interview with Mike Rickaby
November 29, 2017
Name: Michael L. Rickaby
City: Centennial, Colorado
Comics: Comic Enterprise Publishing Group (CEPG)
QRD – How old were you when you first got into comics & did you always stick with them or did you come back to them?
Mike – I can’t seem to think of a time I ever did not have comic books in my life. My brother is 10 years older than me & always had a 12”+ stack of comics that I rummaged through whenever I wanted to. He would collect the bargain “tear off” issues that drug store owners would rip off the top 1/4 of old newsstand covers to get their refunds for unsold books. Then they would turn around & sell the tear offs for a nickel each.
He had a veritable silver age gold mine that I essentially learned to read with. I think without that stack of books I would be illiterate. I still have them...
QRD – What was the first comic book you ever bought?
Mike – Batman’s Detective #474 circa 1977 The first appearance of Deadshot against Batman. My favorite Batman cover.
QRD – How old were you when you put out your first comic?
Mike – As a publisher, I think it was around 2005 All-Smash Funnies #1. So that would have made me around 37.
QRD – What decade do you think produced the best comics?
Mike – Of course the Silver age. The heyday of comics.
QRD – Why comics instead of just writing or drawing?
Mike – I’m a visual reader. In other words, stories to me cannot be told without pictures. At least for me.
QRD – Do you see mini-comics & indie comics as paths to mainstream comics or as their own unique media?
Mike – I definitely see indie comics as their own unique media. Unconstrained by limits of finances, competition, talent, or capability. If you have a story to tell.... Tell it. Who gives a crap if you can’t draw well or string dialogue & captions together properly. You will learn & improve & nobody can prevent you from telling the story bursting out of your consciousness.
The mainstream is all about making $$$ & pumping out more profit out of comic properties. Great stories are bypassed in pursuit of shocking readers into cracking open their wallets. Storylines & characters are constantly destroyed for the sake of shock value & pumping up the prices of first editions. Recreating the norm for profit seems to be the new path forward for the mainstream. Whatever it takes to sell.…
QRD – How many copies of your comic do you print in your first run?
Mike – I believe the first print run was 30 comics each of two books ordered at the same time through the former Comixpress POD service.
QRD – How much do you think comics should cost?
Mike – FREE. Or as close to free as possible.… Better to have as many as possible people reading your books & developing a following than having a dozen readers coughing up a buck or two each.
QRD – How many books do you produce a year & how many would you like to?
Mike – I usually do one MEGABOOK anthology each year along with as many Harrier Revival issues as possible. I think I have done 10 or so. I’d like to get all of our current books into print POD format, but it’s very time consuming to get them pre-pressed properly. Print is very un-forgiving & a bit tedious.
What would I like to produce? As much as possible. I’d like to do 20+ if I can get some focused time to work CEPG projects.
QRD – Do you think stories should be serialized or delivered as complete works?
Mike – Both. We give away serialized works & then combine for large compendium books in POD. This gives readers plenty of opportunity to “try-out” our titles & then make an investment. We have the philosophy that we would rather have people reading our books than NOT reading. The latter is painful to watch.
QRD – How long is it from when you start a comic until it’s printed?
Mike – For a large book publishing prep like our MEGABOOK anthology, it’s a couple months of “after hours” work in front of evening TV watching. I generally work 3-4 hours a day after the 9-5 grind. 20-30 page book formatting takes about a week. When I do all of the artwork it takes much longer. So I generally only do lettering, coloring, & inking. I letter 5-8 comic pages a night, 10-20 manga pages per night, color flat 3-5 pages a night, full color 1-2 pages a night, inking is variable, but usually 2-3 panels per night.
QRD – What do you do better with your comics now than when you first started?
Mike – I’ve drastically reduced my publishing prep time, now that I’ve based all of my templates upon our POD print guidelines. Print setup is critical, digital setup is “meh, whatever.…”
QRD – Do you do thumbnails?
Mike – Nope. I’m not a penciller. But when I do pencil I use Smith Micro Poser for making proper reference images. Seeking to further this process in the future.
QRD – At what size do you draw?
Mike – As big as possible. I hate small panels. I’d rather draw 1,000 nuts & bolts & details of hair/eyelashes, than draw a single “silhouette” of a small figure in the distance. I pretty much suck at keeping it simple.
QRD – What kind of pens do you use?
Mike – Yiynova 19” drawing screen. Wacom screens are a huge waste of good $$$ & hugely over-priced. I love my Yiynova.…
QRD – What does your workstation look like?
Mike – Couch.... Bad posture... Laptop for Lettering. Attach 19” Yiynova drawing screen for inking. That way I can watch TV while I work.
QRD – At what point in the artistic process do you work digitally?
Mike – The beginning. I work 100% digitally. I may get pencils from another artist done manually, but I work with Manga Studio/Clip Studio exclusively. I still use InDesign begrudgingly but will happily abandon it once I find a better solution. I work on CS5 because I refuse to buy into the monthly software subscription model. I know guys still working on CS & CS2 that think the same. Looking for a Corel solution, just haven’t invested in it yet. Unfortunately all of my lettering work for Seven Seas has to be in Indesign which drives me batty, but that’s OK as long as everything is compatible with my CS5.
QRD – What do you think of digital comics & webcomics?
Mike – They are leveling the playing field of comic publishing with the big publishers. What used to take 5-8 people to do manually can now be done by a single person all the way to the comic book stand.
QRD – Do you prefer working in color or black & white? B/W allows me to produce more work. Color hinders the process I believe & masks over bad artwork. A strong foundation of B/W makes everything much better.
QRD – How many different people should work on a comic & what should their jobs be?
Mike – One to three. The fewer egos & procrastinators to deal with the better. Find a great penciller that doesn’t have an attitude like a singer in a band & you’re golden.
QRD – How do you find collaborators?
Mike – I try to avoid them. Unless we share a common vision. The more people involved the bigger the headache. Most people are procrastinators by nature, especially when it is unpaid work.
QRD – How tight do you think a script should be as far as telling the artist what to draw?
Mike – As tight as your vision wants to be. The artist holds the key though & overly oppressive scripts can hinder the creation process. Let people do what they do best & you’ll always be surprised.
QRD – Do you think it’s important to have a full story arc completely written before starting to draw?
Mike – It helps to have a destination. Meandering kind of produces “dead space” in a storyline.
QRD – What comic book person would you be most flattered to be compared to?
Mike – I think I would prefer to be compared to the “pariah’s” of the industry like Vince Colletta or Israel Walden.…
Pretty much all the debutantes of the comic world hate what they feel Vinny had done to Kirby’s artwork. But look at the situation the guy was in. He was the hatchetman that always delivered 100% of the time when the job couldn’t be done by anyone else. Taking on whole stories & finishing them in a weekend or less if needed. Yeah sacrifices were made, but who really made them? The writer/penciller/letterer/editor who sat on the project till it was beyond late? He was only the caboose on the train of misdeeds picking up the pieces. Vince Colletta was a saint in my humble opinion.
& not a lot is known about Israel Walden (IW Publishing), I wish I could find out more, but the guy was obviously a resourceful sod who took advantage of what opportunities were in front of him. Re-packaging artwork to make something new or different. Which now seems criminal by today’s standards, but you have to remember... comics were a “disposable media” like daily newspapers. Not “collectible” & just something to read & throw away. So copyright privileges were the furthest thing from anyone’s mind. So Israel just saw some scraps around him & cobbled them together into a publication. Quite an accomplishment for the printing procedures of the time.
I wouldn’t want to be compared to these pariahs’ bad attributes, but their good ones of “getting the job done no matter what” & “being resourceful with what you have to create new opportunities”.... that kind of thing.
QRD – What do your friends & family think of your comics?
Mike – They think it’s cool & I’m crazy.
QRD – What do you think of superheroes?
Mike – The Best!
QRD – Marvel or DC?
Mike – Charlton... Anything post 1990s Marvel or DC is dead to me.
QRD – What comic characters other than your own would you like to work with?
Mike – It would be cool to do anything mainstream from any of the big 4. But I won’t get my hopes up. I work for Seven Seas & DMI manga lettering which is really amazing. Can’t get much better than getting a page rate.…
QRD – How do you feel about doing work for anthologies?
Mike – MEGABOOK! It’s huge, free (& print cheap) & awesome!
QRD – What do you do to promote your books?
Mike – Word of mouth is best. Website, FB & Twitter. Project Wonderful is a great resource for super cheap advertising.
QRD – Do you think your comics are well suited to comic shops or would sell better elsewhere?
Mike – Would love to sell in shops, just haven’t gotten around to asking. Once we get a full set of MEGABOOK put together I may approach shops. & once we make print editions for some of our revival titles it will definitely be a priority. Right now we give away lots of free digital books.
QRD – What other medium would you like to see some of your comics made into (television, film, games, action figures, etc.)?
Mike – Any B grade movie would be Stellar! For any of our artists’ titles. Would be amazing to see any of our creators hit the screen.
QRD – Do you consider yourself a comic collector or a comic reader or both?
Mike – Both. But I have about 10 more boxes to read through.
QRD – What do you see as the most viable mediums for comics distribution 10 years from now?
Mike – Print will go on forever. But Digital will dominate eventually.
QRD – What would you like to see more people doing with comics?
Mike – Reading them...
QRD – Anything else?
Mike – Thanks so much for the interview! We really appreciate your efforts to provide exposure of indy creators to your readers. Get some FREE CEPG comics at DriveThru!