While I was attending Stonecoast, I needed to come up with a third-semester project. I knew I wanted to involve comic books somehow, but wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do. What I was sure of was that I wanted to take advantage of any connections I had made with people I met at comic book conventions and people I was going to school with. So I came up with eight simple questions and had multiple comic book writers and sometimes artists answer them and collected the interviews into one small book.
So, in the same vein as my new blog feature “Friend Files” – I present to you the interview I had with comic artist and writer Joseph Schmalke.
Joseph Schmalke is a really cool guy I was introduced to at Coast City Comicon by someone we both know at Coast City Comics in Portland, Maine named Ross Kearney. Ross took me aside one day after I was chatting with him at the con and telling him about my project and he walked with me over to Joe’s booth and introduced me to him. I discussed my project with Mr. Schmalke and he was really into it, and even gave me the first issue of his comic Calamitous Black Devils to review for my review blog.
Well, I didn’t (as you know if you’ve been following this feature on my blog) end up using the questions I got from Mr. Schmalke and others until my graduate presentation, but still – the questions were a big help and a cool look into the world of creating comic books.
Joseph Schmalke is a very talented guy who does all his own stuff – writing and art – for his comics. I hope you get as much out of these interviews as I do, because I’ve learned a lot from reading these over and he and the others I’ve interviewed have provided a great resource to use for curious folks like myself.
Note: These are “beginner” questions for folks who are either interested in Joseph’s work, interested in possibly getting into writing comics, curious about the methods comic book writers use, or if you’re just curious in general. These are very simple questions, meant to just get a snapshot of what the comic business is like for these particular writers. Tune in to later editions of this blog feature for more interviews with other comic book creators. Also, this interview is now a year old or more, so some of the publication data might be old as well.
And, now – on to the interview:
- For those people who may be unfamiliar with your work, which comic book company are you working for at the moment (or in the past), and what are your current projects?
My current book the Calamitous Black Devils has been picked up by publisher Broken Icon Comics.
- What got you into writing/drawing comic books or graphic novels?
My father loved Punisher and Sgt. Rock when I was a kid and was always pushing them on me. I was about ten when the Kraven’s Last Hunt story line in Spider-Man came out and that’s when I knew I wanted to do comics. Since then I have made some halfhearted attempts at doing them but it wasn’t until I was in college when I started writing plays and movie scripts that I became interested in doing my own comic book. After doing a lot of minimalistic scripts (because that’s what you have to write when you want to make an independent movie) I realized I liked writing big. I wanted explosions and to have hordes of the undead and huge sweeping battles. In comic books you don’t have to worry about a budget, actors, etc. You can make it as big as you want and you are only limited by your own skill.
- What was the most difficult thing about breaking into the comic book industry?
Fear, laziness, and lack of skill.
- What do you think about indie publishing?
I love it. People are pushing limits in independent comic storytelling. They are not just super heroes anymore and you can get a really sophisticated story with beautiful art. What’s not to love?
- Who was your biggest influence?
I’ve been asked this a lot, so here’s a list.
FOR WRITING: Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, and Warren Ellis.
FOR ART: Frank Miller, Mike Mignola, Barry Windsor-Smith, and Mike Zeck.
I will say, however, that Frank Miller has the full package with his Dark Knight Returns and Sin City stories.
- What is the hardest thing about working for a well-known publisher? If you don’t work for one, what’s the hardest thing about doing things yourself?
When you are doing everything yourself like I am, the hardest thing is saying “yeah that is done”… and then moving on. You can rework a page to the point that it just gets messy.
- How do you make your own work stand out?
First off saying you do it all makes people stop and pay attention to it. As for the art I have been working for years on a style that I don’t think many people are doing. Although it gets compared to other styles I think it keeps developing into something of its own. Making a striking cover doesn’t hurt either.
- What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone trying to create their first comic book or graphic novel?
Do it. Stop talking about it and move forward. If it sucks and no one likes it scrap it and try something else. Keep evolving and listen to your peers they have valuable advice.
If you enjoyed this interview and/or wish to know more about Joseph’s work, visit the site for one of his publishers – BROKEN ICON COMICS – where you can find information on Joseph Schmalke and his comic, Calamitous Black Devils.
Also, check out Joseph’s new endeavor – The Infernal Pact. Here’s a brief synopsis from The Infernal Pact‘s Facebook page:
The Infernal Pact-
Three meth addled friends make some bad choices, very bad choices. While trying to score one day, they sell their souls to a dealer with a sadistic sense of humor. The trio starts waking up in strange places and seeing disturbing things. At first they think it’s a joke, after all, waking up in strange places is nothing new to them, but then the changes start…. They become convinced they have indeed lost their souls and are on a mission to get them back. In their way, is a satanic biker gang, brain-eating zombies and a demon from the depths with its own agenda. Finally, they must make their way to the bowels of Hell to break a deal with the Devil himself…