Podcast: Mythoi


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Welcome to Evil Ink’s podcast. I’m your hostess Amber Dalcourt a design consultant for small businesses who want to increase their professional credibility through branding and digital media.

I would like to welcome James Ninness to the show. Welcome!

James: Thanks for having me.

Amber: No problem!  Let’s start by telling our listeners who you are and what Mythoi is about.

James: I write comic books for a company called Keyleaf.  They are an independent publisher at of San Diego County.  One of the books that I write is Mythoi, and it’s been around for a couple years now and the entire premise is kind of based on my love of mythology and the idea that all myths exist in the world at the same time.

It set a modern day; where would we be now if all those myths were true

Amber: How long have you been producing comics?

James: I’ve only been producing for about three of four years.  I started reading them about six years ago when I was first offered a job and wrote a couple of renditions of Mythoi that just didn’t work, so I didn’t get anything published until, God I want to say it’s been about four years now.

Amber: It feels like it hasn’t been that long ago, doesn’t it?

James: No, not at all!  That’s the thing, I think as a writer we’re always learning and tried to be better.  So you look back after four years, and you’re like “I should be producing a lot more now” but it just flies by.

Amber: How many titles you happen to your belt?

James: Right now I’m working on...

Five books are published.  I have five books out through Keyleaf, and I’m currently working on a couple of other books, one with Keyleaf, and I’m working on some pitches with some buddies for some other companies like Image, Oni...

All around and probably juggling about nine.

Amber: What did you to do before you decided to start working on Mythoi?

James: I was actually just going to school and working in retail.

I went to school at Cal State Long Beach for creative writing.  That was kind of weird because I was actually going to school to write short stories.  I obviously didn’t think very far ahead with that one; I don’t know of anyone who makes a living off of writing short stories only, but that is what I wanted to do.  That was my passion.

So I went to school for that and while I was going to school I was working for a couple of retail chains, a really big coffee chain, a very big yogurt chain as a manager and a guy who travelled around opening new stores.  That was it.  Then I got into comics, and for about six months between that and hang out with my daughters that’s all it been doing.

Amber: Would you say that you education in creative writing has helped you to do what it is you do now?

James: Totally!  I mean it sounds like if I say “yes, it’s helped me” then I’ve figured it out, but I’ve definitely not figured it out yet.  Every time I read a comic and somebody does something different I’m learning and adapting in trying to get better.

Without that base coat of education, I’d be just meandering and trying to stay afloat; there’s just too many talented guys out there creating comics without some understanding of the written language.

Amber: How would compare short story writing with writing a script for a comic?

James: It is surprisingly similar.

I think it depends on the run of the comic that you are working on.  The thing we’re short stories is telling a big story in a small amount of time. You don’t necessarily have 400 or 500 pages to build the characters, build situations and build scenarios, and yet the goal is to reach people all the same; I think comics definitely carry that torch. 

You have 22 pages or around there to get somebody interested.  Essentially you have less than that to get them to keep a reading your book.  You’ve got to really got to grab them early on and keep them interested and after that 22 pages you’ve got to have them wanting to come back for more.

So these two are more similar than I thought they would be.

Amber: How did you start working for Keyleaf?

James: I actually got a job offer from Ben.  I’m sure you’ve heard “it’s who you know not what you know” and that was totally true with Ben.  He took a job with Semantink, as they were called at a time, and offered me a comic gig which I turned down because I knew nothing about comics.  I thought he was asking me to write something about superheroes were something to that effect and that is when he gave me some other books like: Preacher, Sandman, Planetary, Y: The Last Man. 

It really opened my eyes that comics were a lot more than superheroes, which is funny because now I’m reading superheroes.

So he offered me a gig and got Mythoi out to start. The company started out at the same time and Mythoi was the first book and it’s been kind of a slow build since then.

Amber: You’re doing the writing full time right now, what is that like?

James: That’s incredibly, have got to be very patient to write comics for a small press independent publisher.  One of the things with a book like Mythoi, or any of the books that I have coming out is that the stuff that’s getting released out right now was written almost two years ago. 
A lot of these artists have fulltime jobs.  These are not guys that can afford to just do art fulltime yet.

So what you end up doing is writing a script, getting an edited, getting really excited about it and then you handed off to an editor or to an artist and you don’t hear anything about it for a long time.

It’s kind of neat because new issues will come out and I forget what I’ve wrote, but it is really just a patient’s game and understanding that things got to take time at this level.  I think it is a little bit different than writing for Image or DC or Marvel or some other company where the turnaround is much faster.

Amber: Oh yeah, they produce a comic about every month (that’s just for each title!)

James: Exactly.  We’re not anywhere near a monthly schedule.  We’re like bimonthly if we’re lucky.

Amber: If I talk to some professional comickers they produce a page a day and this is just for penciling then they pass off to an inker which takes another day.  When I say they I mean 8 hours.  And then they pass it off to a colorist which takes another 8 hours.  So I can imagine with a new company, it probably does take quite some time.

James: With some of these guys, with Mythoi, we’ve got Kevin Warwick on the art.  Kevin does the penciling, the inking, and the colouring and works a fulltime job.  So with the example you just gave you’re looking at a full 24 hour day to produce a single page.

24 hours for a person working 40 to 50 hours a week, that’s like a week.  So these guys being able to produce 24 pages in 60 days, it’s really nothing short of a miracle.  I don’t know how these guys do it.  I’m in awe by the guys I get to work with.  I can draw any way, but is just amazing.

Amber: If you don’t mind my asking, is Keyleaf paying you by the submission or are they paying you based on revenue or royalties?

James: Yeah I get a percentage of the back-end.  My deal is definitely different from the new talent that they are getting.

If you look at the roster for Keyleaf right now, most of the books that they are putting out are mine.  The reason that is isn’t because I’m the best writer that they know but because I am willing to work on the back-end.  I’ve got some other stuff that I’m doing, writing some short stories that are coming out and I am able to do that for Ben.

New orders that are being brought in they have a different deal, it’s more like Image I guess where they still get paid on the back-end but Keyleaf takes that small cut; where I have definitely committed a lot more of the property to building that company.

So it’s a slightly odd deal, and it’s not really something that I would recommend for most people but I’ve known Ben for about a decade before one to business together.  It’s been good so far.

Amber:  What’s the inspiration behind Mythoi?

James: Every time I get asked this I wish I had some grand intellectual story to tell, when the truth is Ben approach me what about comics I kind of laughed them off and that night, I was having some drinks with some friends talking about a particular series of novels that has to do with vampires that I think is kind of funny.

Somebody mentioned the idea vampires vs. werewolves, and then we kept going was that than it was vampires vs. dragons, then Greek gods vs. were wolves...

Something kind of stuck.  I woke up the next morning the little hung over and decided to actually get better shot.  I did some outlining pitch the high concept to Ben, and he liked it which surprised me a lot.  And then the next year was spent doing nothing but research.

So research on a different mythologies, the characters.  There were characters in the original inception of the book that haven’t made it into the book at all and some characters were very last minute.  So it’s kind of been a roller-coaster ever since then and we haven’t looked back.

I think it’s turned into something more.  It has definitely become about acceptance and people who are different and embracing those differences and working together.  But the truth is I’d be lying if I said that was always the plan.

Amber: How did you settle on those five characters?

James: One of the things that they teach you in college is to write what you know.  And most writers will write characters that will have a lot of themselves in it.  So one of the first things I did was think about dominant personality traits in me and things that I could write about with a fair amount of authority in terms of personality.

So what broke down characters based on what they had in common with me and took my favorite mythologies plugged in them in.  So each of those characters represents something that I want in my life and trying to make those work together.

If you really pull the curtain back, I guess it’s for the five aspects of James trying to get along, which makes me sound insane.  But that is really what it is.

Amber: I’m sure you would have heard of Mary Sue type characters were Gary Stu type characters.  Early in writing, young writers tend to fall into that trap quite often.  Would you say that you have evolved pass that?

James: I hope so, God I hope so!  The way that I see the Mary sue characters are the ones that are just too much of what the writer wants and are actually what they are or should be.  I guess the best example that I could give is the opposite of that; where I’d be writing an issue of Mythoi and I really want one thing to happen but I can’t push it so much because it doesn’t seem right for that character.

Mary Sue characters, that kind of ones that have been overly idealized by the writers or become what the writer wants them to be.

I hope I’ve gotten beyond that, but the truth is I think it always starts there and then the characters take on a life of their own and they end up kind of running with it.  If you not able to let them go then you end up being a little bit too controlling and kind of creating that.

Amber: There’s definitely a hazard in creating and Mary sue character especially when you creating self insert character. You have mentioned you’re writing aspects of yourself for your five main characters, which is great!  I think it’s a great idea in order to avoid the Mary Sue type character.

James: Right, but even then it’s tough because what ends up happening is after I fleshed out these back stories and everything else...

One of the characters, Yuki who is the Japanese Yuri, she’s very strong willed and very kind of arrogant.  And I really don’t like seeing myself that way and it’s kind of hard to admit so I try to make her what I wish I was but I have to step back and not do that.  I have to at a certain point just let her go and they become more than me. All I did was set them on a path and at this point, I’m working on the fourth arc right now so issues 19 – 24, there’s whole lines that are coming out and I’m typing it before even thinking it.  And it’s kinda funny how that all works out.

Amber: Yeah, it’s almost like the writer has become the vessel.

James: 100%!  I’ve heard that a ton and I use thing that was such a cornball line.  But there is a lot of truth in that; especially with characters that you work with over and over again. 

I would imagine that this is very similar out working at DC or Marvel. If you get to write Wolverine there are certain things about Wolverine that are Wolverine, Batman and superman, you don’t get to change those.  For a lot of those writers I feel like the writer is the vessel.

Creating your own is a little different because you get to set them on a path.

Amber: So why these five particular myths?  You have a vampire, a werewolf, the Japanese mythology of the-

James: Yuri.  It was interesting.  Vampires, I’ve always had a thing for vampires.  One of the first, comics that Ben gave me was ‘30 Days of Night’ and I thought what Steve Niles did there was awesome, making them kind of scary again.  One of the things that I wanted to do with vampires is to take it back to the source.

If you read the birth series with Veto, who is the vampire, it picks up where Bram Stoker’s novel leaves off.  So there’s a bit of cross over there.  I wanted to take everything back to its source; Veto is very much in the vein of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

You’ve got the Yuri of the Japanese mythology.  I knew I wanted a ghost, but I do not want to just be a ghost.  There’s actually about 1000 different ghost mythology in Japan.  This particular Yuri was fascinating to me.  The idea that a ghost could possess humans and move in and out of them I thought was pretty interesting.

And then you’ve got Taros, I’ve always loved the Greek gods; that’s totally a weakness on my part.  I grew up watching Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans with my dad and that was definitely a throwback to him.  For that particular character if these gods live forever where would they be now?  Being wealthy kind of made sense, they’ve been around for hundreds of years.

Wiglaf, a big fan of Beowulf and he was my tie to the bible.  I wanted to be able to touch a little bit of Christianity, so bringing Wiglaf in as the son of Able was my link to that god and to that idea.

And last but not least, you have Touch.  Touch is 100% my nod to every futuristic action movie I’ve ever seen.  The cyborg that comes back is very reminiscent of terminator and I totally acknowledge that.  That was me of letting the action junkie out a bit.  Time travel while it hasn’t played a big part yet and on going to try to avoid any headaches with that in the future, there is definitely something that is planned where that plays a pretty huge rule.  So we’ll see that develop as we move forward.

Amber: I’ve read the Birth series, and I have to admit that I enjoyed the Birth series a lot more than the first couple of issues of Mythoi.  I’m hoping that you guys touch a lot more on their backgrounds.  I understand that the Birth series was specifically to reveal those characters, but I felt that was more but pitch and that they’re so much what could be done with these characters.

James: The Birth series was a happy mistake.  We actually put out Mythoi issue one and the feedback we got was incredibly constructive; that’s a really nice way of saying that people really don’t like it that much.

We get a lot of feedback from a lot of people and from some pretty big names too.  We went to a con, and Ben had been reading comics but I had no idea who these people were, so I was going up to Mark Waid, Doug Mahnke, Joel Gomez, and Joe Benitez, and I was showing them the stuff and I did know who these guys were.  I was just like “Hey this is a comic that I did!”

So they were brutally honest and these are guys who’ve been doing it for a long time.  The first thing that we realizes, originally all that Birth content was going to be slowly revealed them story and I was going to be a lot of flash back.

But what we picked up on was that as an independent publisher where the artist and writer were not completely unknown, we had to give people a reason to let us get that far.  So the Birth series came out completely for free and it was “Hey! Here’s where we’re going and here’s where we’re coming from, if you like it enjoy the ride.”

I can tell you especially in the issue 7 - 12 will start to see flashbacks and you do get a lot of character building. For example with issues 7 - 12 will be exploring Abraham Van Helsing and his journey and how he got to be bishop Van Helsing, this very mean person.  But each 12 issue arc will kind of touch on a character and go back a little bit to where we left them and Birth to where we find them in issue one.

Amber: So you have worked on the comics due to elaborate on some of those projects?

James: Yes sure!  I mean they were all the same basic structure as Mythoi.  They were written for Keyleaf which was Semantink at the time, but they were really are written to diversify Keyleaf’s genre. What Ben didn’t want was to be hammered into one particular niche; the only thing that he told me was off limits was superheroes because everyone else is doing them so well.  Last thing we wanted to do is compete with these guys who have mastered that genre.

So we sat down and have a look at the different genres that were out there: the western, the post apocalyptic book, steam punk book, you got your demon horror book, and we looked at what was really successful as a genre and I tried to create stories that were nods to those of the genres while having a little bit of original content. So there’s definitely cross over between things that you like already about that and hopefully a little bit of breath of something new.

But all those books, The Heaven’s is definitely the steam punk kind of dune style book.  You got Drace Grey which is that the horror action demon book. Then Dust which we’re just wrapping up actually, which is the post’s apocalyptic western.

Amber: What are the few lessons that you’ve learned through producing these comics?

James: Get feedback, number one!  That was the biggest thing right off the bat.  Put it out there and see what people say, and use that feedback.  Is really easy as a creator to have really thin skin, especially as somebody who doesn’t know, you know you’re an unfamiliar territory and to get feedback and you think “Oh well, I quit!  This is it I’m and done.”

But I guarantee you, every creator, if you go back far enough to their first couple of books there are things they cringe at; and that’s okay.  So learning, getting feedback, and taking constructive criticism is without a doubt the biggest lesson that I’ve had to learn.

After that it’s just read more comics if you want to write comics, even things that you don’t think will interest you, you might be surprised.

Some last three years the real lessons for me have been dead that feedback and try to make it better; make every issue that to put up next better than the one before it.

Amber: For our beginners out there who have absolutely no idea how to get feedback could you tell them how?

James: Yeah, start with the people you trust.  Don’t do what I didn’t find Mark Waid at a convention because he’ll probably just shrug you off and understandably so.  Start with your friends, and find friends who actually have an opinion that you value.

Showing the script that you just wrote to mom is probably not going to get to the constructive feedback that is going to make the story better.  Show probably just scratching head and tell you how great you are at everything.

Start with friends, writers, there are things like meet ups where you can get writers groups. If you’re able to go to school for it take some classes, learn how to write.  Wanted you work out there to that smaller group doors will start opening up.  Once you’ve produce something that you are proud of then you go to shows and you start talking to writers and artists.  You might make a friend here or there that is willing to take a look at your stuff but be aware that a lot of them aren’t.

There are rules and reasons for why people don’t take unsolicited scripts.

I think building relationships before hoping to get your work a look that is the way to go.  You are more likely to get a friend to look at your work done to get a stranger who has already established himself.  If you can make friends of somebody who has already established himself, then you’re headed in the right direction.

Amber: Off-hand what did you do to market your comic?  Or did you leave that to Keyleaf?

James: You have to push.  I actually didn’t have Facebook or Twitter and tell I signed with Keyleaf.  That was one of the rules that Ben set for me; I have to get on social media.  So far it’s worked.

We’re obviously going to need to expand beyond that and that’s kind of where we are at now with Keyleaf growing, Ben’s hired a full staff now and he’s got things brewing for more.  But for last three years it’s been nothing but Twitter and Facebook and meet-ups and conventions.

Selling however you can and being completely shameless about it, that’s okay.  The only way anyone’s going to pay attention to you as if they know that you exist and you got them interested.  Facebook and Twitter two really easy and free ways of doing that.  I highly recommend those two to anybody.

Amber: What’s the current monetization options set up for the comics? You guys sell them at $0.99 an issue?

James: Yeah that’s right!  This is where Ben was smart.  He knew from the get go that there wouldn’t be any way for him to compete with print.  There’s just not.  A lot of small publishers out there, and we’ve seen them at shows, and they’ve ordered 5000 issue number ones and the promise that issue number two was coming out next month, and the problem is by issue three they are completely out of money; the company’s bankrupt and you don’t see them at shows anymore.

So one of the things that Ben said from the get go was “where moving into a digital age”.  This was four years ago.  This was before ComiXology.  Ben really saw the curve and just jumped on it first. $0.99 and you actually get a PDF so it’s not where renting it and looking at it through something, we actually send you the PDF and it’s yours to do with what you want: share with friends, whatever you want to do with that PDF you have purchased it and it is yours.

But you can also get us through things like Drive Thru Comics, I think we’re on Comics Plus, and Graphicly.

Amber: How popular is your comic?

James: I will go into any specific numbers, but suffice to say since April, I’ve been able to just write, which has been nice.  I’m not living rich, I haven’t bought a new car or new house.  There’s food for my kids, food for my wife and sometimes there’s food for me.

It has definitely been the slow build and I can definitely tell you that each issue gets more readers than the one before; and so we’re not declining yet.  I think that’s when books will start getting canceled.  As Ben brings in more he has told me to that once we get to issues 4, 5, and 6 and sales are going down, then you got to have those tough conversations.

But Mythoi, issued 10 is coming out this month and each issue sales is above the one before.  Then we’ve got some books that I’m writing that are performing less well; and they’ve gone up and down. So you never know to going to get.

Amber: It’s good that he has that ‘if they don’t sell this much consistently over X number of months...’ I know that’s how I manage some of my work, this is no longer project worth pursuing because I’m not generating to this amount of traffic, for example.

James: Right and he’s got to make a money back for a lot of his artists; I don’t know the details of their contract but I do know that I am one of the few guys on back-end. So there is actually an overhead for those books.  I imagine that the math is in for not making that overhead, the books have to go away because we’re not making money.  Even though we don’t have any overhead in terms of print, once the book is produced and designed it goes up digitally everything we make of them those towards the trade; because the trades to go out every six issues, we just haven’t had enough six issue arcs completed yet to have a lot of trades.  We’ve only got two or three with two more coming up by the end of the year.

Amber: How much planning was involved in Mythoi before they started producing the comic?

James: You mean in terms of like research? 

Amber: You said that you had spent about a year with research so when he started writing I imagine you had to research how to do the script and so on.

James: Yeah, for Mythoi, I’m kind of an idiot, or was [an idiot]; I pitched Mythoi as a 60 issue book and at the time I thought this will be easy.  I’m thinking “60 issues won’t take very long, I’m writing 100 page papers for school.”  Obviously it’s taken awhile longer because we’re only on 10 now.
The biggest part of the research after the story, after gathering the mythology and the arcs and planning it out; and we planned the entire thing out.  I can tell you right now what happens at the end of issue 60.  It is done.

However, I had learned how to write comics.

One of the things that I picked up real quick on was that there are absolutely no standard scripts for comics at all, anywhere.  I’ve looked and there are some popular ones, but nothing, I found, is something that everybody says “Yes, this is the way to do it, do not deviate write your scripts like this”.

So actually had to adapt between, I had written some short films, and I kind of came up with some hybrid version that would be easy for artists to follow.  Warren Ellis one’s wrote a nice blog how writers are essentially writing love letters to their artists, you’re writing instruction and inspiration and it’s not so much a “this goes here” but more of a trying to describe what you’re going for an hoping that they are on the same page.

So it’s been a continued evolution.  All of that took at least the year, and the writing continues to change.

Amber: How rigid are you with your visual instructions?  I’ve read scripts where as an artist I have absolutely no control over what shows up in what panel or how many panel show up on a page.  How lenient or how free are you with that sort of instruction?

James: It totally depends on the artist.  I’ve worked with artists where I give them a script and they come back and they produce exactly what I wrote, because that’s all they want.  And this is surprisingly a high-end and guys. Some guys that I’m working on pitches right now who worked at DC, they do not want a lot of room to breathe.  They aren’t used to that.

So I write scripts for them, and they’re like “if you want specific tell me, you have to write it specifically.  Don’t give me any room.”

But then there are other artists, no matter what I write, the page looks different because they need to be creative.  What tends to happen is, after the first draft of the script is done, send it to the artists, get their layouts back, and then we have a conversation about those layouts.

And once I’m able to hopefully learn about their style and the methods that they use, I try to remember that going forward with more scripts.  Dust for example have to be very loose; John and does not like walls.  He likes be able to get the gist of the story and do his own thing.

The opposite side of that is Kevin on Mythoi.  He likes to be told exactly what needs to be in every panel.  Sometimes he likes to be told how big the panel should be on the page.

So it really does differ with the artists that you’re working with.  But as a writer you need to be sensitive about that; you can’t be so rigid in your style that you say:  “I write this way and that’s it and people need to get used to it or move on.” Especially at my level, I do not have the luxury of telling people to piss off.  I have to be able to work with others.

Amber: I can imagine that would be difficult to work with someone, as an artist, that says “This is MY vision! This is MY story! This is MY comic! This is the way it goes.” But then again, because I’ve done graphic design work, that’s also what I enjoy that means if I screw up it’s all your fault because I did exactly what you wanted it.

James: That’s exactly what a buddy said.  It’s funny though, with all the artists for all of the books but I’ve done with Keyleaf so far, I got picked the artist but I do not get to supervise the art; Ben has editors to do that.

What ends up happening is a kind of put out feelers when I have a new book, and I still do this and I’ll have conversations with artists.  The first thing that I’m looking for obviously is art; can make draw in a tone for the story that I’m trying to tell?  The second thing is: do they like the story?  Are they passionate about the story I’m telling?  Do they get excited as explained once going to happen?  Once that happens and I know that they get it, or hope that they get, I really don’t have a lot of say.

It’s all about finding that kind of friendship, that chemistry was an artist, where both excited to tell the same story because then even if the panels are different or the action is different, the tone is there and the message is there and the story is told the way I wanted it to be told.

Amber: Walk us through the process of writing your first issue.

James: Sure.  The first thing that I do is outlines and typically I will outline an arc; at Keyleaf we do write for the trade.  So what I’ll do is figure out what is the story, how many issues do I need to tell that story and then I tried to break up the action per issue.  Set of mines for the over arcing story are first, then I get into the issues particular.  Once I know what beats I want to hit in every issue, I’ll go by page; this is all done with the yellow sticky patch and a pen.  I’ll sit down and go through 1 - 22, or 1 - 24 or whenever the page count is and I try to get the pacing right.  “OK this needs to happen here, here, and here” and I kind of fill in the gaps in the story.

From there once I’ve got 6 or 5, or however many issues completely outlined and I’m happy with it I get to writing and back and take about a month of just outlining and going back and forth and getting feedback on just outlines.

Next the script writing and that’s a lot more work. Figuring out exactly what words are going on the page and the dialogue.  Writing usually takes, for me, about two weeks per issue and that’s for the first draft.  Then edits, then you get more feedback and you have to make more changes.

At this point, I’ve kind of got an idea of what Ben wants but as I try to work for other publishers, it feels like you’re taking a step back because more and more edits need to be made.

After the script is completely done it can take several months to get done, then you hand it to your artist, and they send layouts and if I’m lucky I get to give feedback.  Then they send pencils, hopefully I get to give feedback.  Then it’s inks, colours, and letters.

Each of those processes can take two months for the whole thing to be done.

That’s typically my process and that’s fairly standard for all of the books up until this point.

Amber: Your comic lends itself to religious themes, particularly with regards to the supernatural and mythology. What were your influences in this area?

James: I grew up Christian.  I grew up in a Christian household with Christian parents who took me to church every day and it was awesome.  I got to be honest, I hear a lot of horror stories about people who were raised in Christian homes and the kind of end up resenting organized religion or Christianity.  But I had some great parents and some great influences.  The overriding theme in my life was always to love everybody and that was it; that’s a big part where my mess that comes from.

My religious influence definitely lends itself to what I write now in that growing up thinking that it was alright that people were Christian which probably sounds weird for Christian person to say.  I think that when I started creating these characters of Mythoi, you know I said earlier that there were some characters that were not in it and some that were added last minute, and Wiglaf was actually added last minute.  The idea that I could put a Christian character in a book based on mythology...

I’ve actually gotten hate mail from Christians who think that I’m calling Christianity a myth.  It’s just funny the way people perceive as their religion or of their way of life the One.  The truth of the matter is there is just too many different worldviews to live such a close minded lifestyle.

That’s kind of been my influence.  Thankfully my Christian upbringing was awesome and I’m very thankful for that.  There was no hate there, which was great.

Amber: Where would you like to see your writing career in the future?

James: I never want to stop the creator-owned but I wanted to try my hand that these more established groups and characters.  I want to keep doing Keyleaf because I’ll never be able to thank Ben enough for what he’s done for me.  But expanding outward and writing for new creators, new artists and different companies would be the ideal dream.

Amber: In retrospect now that you have been doing the comic writing for a while now is there anything that you would do differently?  Say that you have the experience that you have now but you’re going back five years, what would you tell your younger self?

James: Worry more about the fact that comics is a collaboration and less about what people will think of you as a writer.  I’ll unpack pack that a little bit.  What I mean by that is, when I first started, I came from a genre of short story and novel writing, or at least that’s what I was trained for, where my voice was the end all be all.  One people read my work there was no one to blame but me.

Comics, I started with that same mentality.  I started thinking “Okay, this is how it is going to be written.  This is how it must be drawn and that’s it.  And people love it because it’s awesome.”

Of the truth of the matter is with comics it’s not all the writer who makes people pick up the book, it’s the art.

The me now and the things that I am writing now definitely gives artists more room to shine than the old me.  I think that kind of speaks to your do I write in rigid way, and I think I definitely did in all rigid way.  I was so concerned with pacing and things that ended up backfiring because I was so insistent on certain artistic decisions that ended up hurting the book more than helping it.  Really what I should have been concerned with was the end result and the artist enjoying themselves telling that story. Doing the best that they can to tell a story, not doing the best that they can to follow my script.

I know that sounds a little contradictory but it’s kind of true.  The truth as if writers were all good artists we would need artists.  There’s a reason why we hire these guys and work with these guys to tell our stories, it’s because we can’t.  I think I have a lot more trust and faith as I’ve matured in comics that I can let go.

Amber: That concludes our interview thank you so much for joining me.

James: Thanks for having me appreciate it.

Take away:

We talked a lot about character development with regards to avoiding the Mary-Sue character type and a lot about the writing process. I think if bares an important reminder that writing projects can take a great deal of time to finish and it can be hard to keep motivated throughout.

It really does help to have a group of people that you are writing for, whose opinions and feedback matter to you.

For example: I have three beta readers to test my fiction writing before I do anything with it. I will ask them for their thoughts, if there were any parts that we confusing or unclear, and if there was a part in the story that I felt was weak or that I was unsure about, I ask about that too. With these three people I can get wildly different opinions, sometimes they clash with one another.

Keeping their feedback in mind, I revise the trouble spots of the story, then send it to my editor before publication. I might not incorporate all feedback (I do incorporate most of it though), but it’s good to know what I should be watching for and to be mindful of it in the future.

Next, submit works to writing communities online for reader feedback. Also check out your local community for local writer’s groups or form your own just to share ideas, struggles, and progress to help keep you motivated with your project.

That concludes today’s episode. Thank you so much for joining us. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to leave them on the podcast interview page and one of us will get back to you.

All links mentioned in this interview will be listed on the aired podcast page at: www.evilink.ca

Evil Ink is always interested in interviewing freelancers and creative individuals. If you want your project or comic featured with us, drop us a line at info@evilink.ca or fill out our contact form.


Keyleaf Comics


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