Every year, in the countdown to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October, this year running as the virtual LICAF LIVE, we bring you a series of interviews with both guests and participants in the Comics Clock Tower (This year, also virtual).
Today’s chat is with comics writer and independent publisher Tom Ward, co-creator of Merrick: The Sensational Elephantman with Luke Parker, who together with The77 editor and publisher Ben Cullis, is running a free workshop on How to Crowdfund (register here) as part of the LICAF Creative Workshops Programme.
What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?
Tom Ward: As of writing this I’m just going through the final edits of Merrick: The Sensational Elephantman #10 before sending it to print.
Other than that, we’re hoping to release a second paperback collected edition of Merrick later this year, and continue the series with issue #11 and beyond. For 2021, I’ve been working on a new superhero/horror spin-off mini series about a spiritualist medium going on cosmic adventures.
Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?
Tom: That would be my ongoing series Merrick: The Sensational Elephantman with artist Luke Parker. We’ve just finished our tenth issue, but we’ve also published a double length one-shot spin-off, and as far as I’m aware the first ever Kickstarter cross-over issue with our Merrick / Dr Crowe one-shot with Corey Fryia.
Just getting to that many issues is a great achievement for any comic series these days, especially as it’s completely self published. You can buy it at our webstore www.merrickcomic.co.uk where you can also download issue #1 for free.
How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
Tom: My life is almost completely planless chaos. Between an unglamorous day job and completely renovating a house, comic creation, at the moment, comes in all the small inbetween times wherever I can squeeze it in. I do live my entire life by to-do lists though, and set monthly targets.
What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?
Tom: For me, the two biggest highlights have to be having pages of art arrive in my inbox, seeing my script pages come to life. And receiving the finished comics from the printers and it being a tangible thing that we made.
And the worst?
Tom: Making comics takes a lot of time, which means there can be a lot of waiting, which when you’re incredibly inpatient and excited about things can be frustrating. But you’ve just got to learn to stay busy and go with the flow.
What most distracts you from getting your work done?
Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
Tom: I think if you’re an artist it’s probably easier than ever to get your portfolio noticed, you don’t have to be face to face at a convention anymore or whatever. But on the other hand there’s a lot of competition out there. Self publishing is certainly easier and more viable than ever with the internet, digital comics, and crowdfunding.
How has the Pandemic affected you, work wise – good or bad?
Tom: I’ve still been working throughout the pandemic as a key worker, but I’ve found staying in more has freed up some time and I’m trying to be as productive as possible with it. We ran a fairly successful Kickstarter towards the start of the year just as the pandemic hit, and our webstore is currently performing its best year so far.
I think the pandemic has been hard on a great many people but a lot of them have still wanted to read comics as an escape, and with comics stores and the direct market being shut people have been able to turn to things like crowdfunding campaigns and online stores.
What do you think might be its most significant impact on the comics industry in general, long term?
Tom: I couldn’t really say, there does seem to be a lot of big name pros who have turned to crowdfunding during the pandemic, and if they start to see it as an alternative to traditional publishing that could really change things. Hopefully, they’ll bring a big chunk of their fanbases to the platforms that will stick around and check out the comics the rest of us are making too.
Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?
Tom: Brian K Vaughan, is one of my favourite writers. But I’m not just a fan of his writing but his whole approach to things, what he’s doing with his Panel Syndicate website, and it would be interesting to hear more about his transition from working for the “Big Two” US publishers, to pretty much exclusively working on creator owned projects now.
What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
Tom: Haha! I can’t give you any advice for working in the comic industry. But I assure you that if I can make and self publish comics then you absolutely can too.
What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?
Tom: I’m loving Deadly Class at the moment, from Rick Remender and Wes Craig. A gang of outcast misfits find themselves in a school of the deadly arts meant for the kids of organised crime gangs. Underground 1980’s music, a drug fuelled road trip to Las Vegas, relationships, and of course a tonne of action as the main characters do not find themselves fitting in, or welcome at school.
Think a Generation X Harry Potter vs the Hunger Games. It’s from Image Comics so available at any comic store / online etc.
Tom, thank you very much for your time and the very best of luck with your furure projects!
• Sign up here for Ben Cullis and Tom Ward’s How to Crowdfund Workshop. Please note, workshops are free but registration is required and suitable for 15+ | Full details of the LICAF Creative Workshops Programme for the 2020 Festival is here
• The Virtual Comics Clock Tower is online at licafclocktower.com