Having only discovered creator/artist Sam Webster recently through Kickstarter it seemed like the perfect opportunity to find out what made him tick.
What was the first title you worked on?
In terms of self-publishing and going to conventions, Arcadia. It was an 18 page black and white one-shot where an entire town had their video game consoles stolen on the same night, causing three friends to band together and find the culprit. Looking back, there were certainly ways it could have been improved, but for a first outing I’m pretty happy with it!
The print run’s sold out and people are still picking up digital copies every now and then on Comixology. The reception was certainly warm enough for me to keep releasing books.
How has your work changed since then?
For starters, my page count’s now a multiple of four, I learned that lesson the hard way! Secondly, I now work in colour, which means it takes twice as long to make! You’re constantly learning, always trying new things and even in terms of basics like panel layouts, my approach has changed multiple times over the past few years.
One thing I’m very conscious of is that my pacing has gotten significantly faster. This is indie comics, I’m doing it solo, I’m fitting it in between a full-time career, raising two children, life in general, so the books don’t come out very quickly. For that reason, I can’t waste panels, let alone pages. I need to get my story told, but do it economically so there’s a chance of actually finishing it. That’s been a huge challenge, reaching that point without compromising on quality or allowing anything to feel rushed. The main weapon I’m using is to assume intelligence on the reader’s part. A lot of comics waste time spelling everything out for their audience when they don’t need to. People are capable of connecting the dots on their own and that means I can imply events or facts rather than spending extra pages explicitly showing them.
Who are your main influences?
Richard Elson, his work was among the first I was introduced to. I’ve always been a Sonic the Hedgehog fan so when I was about three or four years old my mum started buying me Sonic the Comic, which Elson was one of the big contributors to. That book ran for ten years before being cancelled so his work stayed with me into my teens. I’ve since checked out work he’s done for 2000AD, The Incredible Hulk and The Amazing Spider-Man and I’ve also been lucky enough to meet him. He’s genuinely one of the most friendly and humble people I’ve ever come across!
Akira Toriyama, primarily his work on Dragon Ball. While I was in my teens, anime started to air on Cartoon Network, introducing me to Dragon Ball Z, Yu-Gi-Oh, Ultimate Muscle and lots of other things that, at the time, just looked like Pokémon to me. Then they started a late night channel for more mature anime like Cowboy Bebop, Outlaw Star, Trigun, Tenchi Muyo, Ghost in the Shell and Akira. Eventually, I stumbled into a shop called Star Wars Emporium in Norwich, which sadly isn’t there anymore, and found the Dragon Ball manga. I didn’t know the show had been adapted from a comic, I couldn’t get my head around reading from right to left instead of left to right, but it certainly opened the floodgates! Dragon Ball is a series I still go back and reread now, specifically the larger format “Full Colour” rereleases they’re currently doing. I might have stolen how Toriyama draws his torsos, especially shoulders and biceps!
Marcus To is one I didn’t find until I was in University. I’d recently found a “proper comic shop” in Norwich called Abstract Sprocket and started reading Batman & Robin. This was during the era when Dick Grayson was Batman and Damian Wayne was Robin, with Bruce having supposedly died during Final Crisis. I’d tried British comics, gotten hooked on Japanese manga, seemed only fitting to give the American stuff a go. It was a short leap from there to To’s excellent run on Red Robin. His style evoked alot of the feelings I had when looking at Eastern artwork and there was an elegant simplicity to it that I just wanted more of! More recently, To’s done some fantastic work for Nightwing in DC’s Rebirth line.
Finally, Ed McGuinness. I found a beaten up secondhand copy of Superman-Batman: Public Enemies and his work was so dynamic, clean and in-your-face that I eventually rebought the run in single issues as well! I gave Marvel’s relaunch of Nova a try based solely on the fact McGuinness was doing the artwork for it. There’s just the right level of exaggeration and there’s a confidence that’s evident in everything he does.
What all of my favourites have in common is that their artwork is crisp, clean and uncompromising. Every line is placed with purpose and precision, nothing’s wasted. It also means that, if there’s a mistake, errors will be very easy to spot but they’re so good at their craft it doesn’t worry them! While I have a lot of respect for David Finch, Jim Lee, and many others at DC, their use of hatching and extra lines give them lots of opportunities to cover over any issues. Elson, Toriyama, To and McGuinness don’t have that, it’s makes their artwork braver, bolder, and more impactful in my opinion.
What comics are you reading just now?
I’ve really cut my pull list down lately as a lot of comics just aren’t speaking to me, however there are a few that survived the culling:
Nightwing from DC Comics. I briefly mentioned this earlier, To’s involvement was an instant selling point. The writing’s been great too, Nightwing’s such a fun character to watch in motion, thanks to his background as an acrobat, and his quick wit and one-liners make him feel quite jovial, almost Spider-Man like in some ways. I can sit down with Nightwing and know I’m going to have a great time.
Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers by Boom Studios. I’ll admit, I was initially sold on the nostalgia factor, having grown up during the height of Ranger fever, but what kept me around was strong writing, a serious take on the formula that’s respectful of the franchise’s roots, some very clean artwork and beautiful colouring.
Street Fighter Unlimited by Udon. Kind of cheating here as this one’s now ended it’s run but Udon always come back with more Street Fighter and it’s always amazing! Alvin Lee is an artist who, by all rights, should have been mentioned during the influences section. His work conveys such unbounded energy, there’s nothing quite like it!
Sonic the Hedgehog by Archie. Having grown up on the now cancelled British comics, I started reading the American ones, which have different creative teams, continuities, etc, from issue 150. For context, the series is up to issue 291 as I type this but also in trouble as January’s issue was pushed back to April and still isn’t out yet despite us being in May! Rumours are that a combination of legal proceedings from former contributors who claim to own the rights to certain characters and renegotiations with Sega over extending the licensing agreement are to blame. It would be a sham if it disappeared so close to issue 300, especially as the comic is mid-arc at the moment!
Last but not least, Dragon Ball Super, being released here by Viz Media. After twenty years, Dragon Ball got a continuation in the form of Super. It’s being drawn by Toyotaro, an artist who many claim was handpicked by the original authour, Toriyama. Toyotaro is putting out some stunning pages, with Viz releasing digital chapters for free online. As I type this, the first printed collection comes out in just a few days and I’ll be rushing to buy it at the first opportunity!
What’s the best thing about creating comics?
It’s a clichéd answer, but honestly, the people you meet. I’m not much for socialising and I don’t make friends easily but the indie comics community is so welcoming, friendly, and inclusive that you soon find several pals. Everyone’s connected through social media, mobile phones, that it doesn;t matter whether we’re spread across the country! I feel I can trust other creators enough to send them print resolution pages and ask their honest opinion, then work that feedback into book to make my comics better. You just don’t do that in other fields, for example, when I studied my degree in Games Art & Design you never ever gave source code, raw models, animation rigs, etc out to other people in case they took it and ran off with it but that’s just not an issue with comics, no one would screw you over.
There’s nothing quite like going for a beer with other creators after a long day at a convention. Sat around a table with food and drink, throwing crazy ideas and hilarious anecdotes around a table of like-minded people is simply amazing! That you can then have interactions and meet up with these people casually and socially outside the convention scene as friends is even better! Just take a look at the Facebook group, Awesome Comics Talk, for evidence of how supportive that community is as a whole!
What are you working on just now?
Unfamiliar Skies, issue 2. Unfamiliar Skies focuses on Claris Muston, she’d been born on a colony ship exploring space and didn’t take kindly to her destiny having been decided by her great-great-great-ancestors who signed up for the expedition knowing it’d be their descendents who reach their destination as the trip would take several lifetimes, even at lightspeed. In an act of rebellion, Claris steals a scout ship from the colony and blasts off to forge her own path. The only problem is, she has no idea what future she wants for herself.
Essentially, you have a very young adult, practically still a teenager, trying to find her place, purpose, and passion in life while being confronted by the enormity of the Universe. When you scope things out, you can feel utterly insignificant in the grand scheme of things and she’s learning that the hard way. It’s going to be interesting for readers to see how she matures and learns to deal with that. Right now, she’s like a mule, instinctively bucking and kicking out without thought or hesitation and it’s landing her in trouble. Over the course of the series, she’ll change from that whirlwind of emotion and rage and grow up a lot. I suppose, in that sense, it’s an intergalactic coming of age story with laser guns!
Where can we see you next?
I will be at Nottingham Comic Con on October 14th, most likely Weston Super Sonic in late October (awaiting confirmation of dates, table prices, etc), and True Believers Comic Festival in February 2018. This is a quiet year for conventions, I just had 11 months off the circuit to help out at home while our son’s been going through the Terrible Twos. Understandably, my other half wasn’t keen on me going away for four day weekends while she stayed home with the little terror! We love him, but he’s hard work. Fingers crossed, his behaviour improves as he gets past that phase and I can start going to more shows again.