Howdy folks, in what I am hoping becomes a regular feature here at The Gravy Age, we are very proud to present our interview with Wes Locher regarding his new project Unit 44, plus more great stuff. Follow me past the jump. Walk this way.
The Gravy Age: One of your many projects is Unit 44, which you are currently running a Kickstarter for, what can you tell us about that?
Wes Locher: Unit 44 is a 4-issue miniseries about what happens when inept Area 51 employees forget to pay the rent of the facility’s off-site storage unit, and the secret contents are sold at public auction. When an alien invasion threatens the safety of planet Earth, the agents will have to recover the items if they hope to save the planet. It’s silly, irreverent and hilarious…my favorite type of comics! Unit 44 is MEN IN BLACK meets STORAGE WARS, and it’s the most fun story I’ve ever written.
We’re currently raising funds on Kickstarter to help us get the book out this fall via Alterna Comics. The funds would allow the artist, Eduardo Jimenez, to focus on this project and finish it quickly and efficiently. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a comic that will make them laugh out loud? It’s worth it. Though, I might be biased.
Once complete, Unit 44 will be published as a digital-first initiative through ComiXology and then collected in a 90-something page trade paperback. It’s going to be awesome. We have a free 7-page preview on the campaign page that will give readers a look into what we’re bringing to the table.
TGA: How did you get together with Alterna Comics?
WL: Ed and I initially planned to self-publish the book. Many publishers who did see it told us that humor books are simply a hard sell, even though they liked the first issue. We were content to put it out ourselves and one day, Peter Simeti, publisher of Alterna Comics (and writer of THE CHAIR) hit me up on Twitter asking if we’d ever found a home for it. After talking a bit more, Ed and I decided that Alterna might just be the perfect home for the book. Their name says it all.
I’m a big fan of their catalog of comics (FUBAR, THE LAST WEST, KILL ALL MONSTERS, etc) and some of their other creators like Chip Reece (Writer of METAPHASE) and Brad Burdick (Writer of BILLY THE PYRO) are good pals of mine. I think we’re in great company and I’ll be super excited to see how Unit 44 does in the marketplace.
TGA: You also have a free webcomic running over at innovationcomic.com, what can you tell us about that?
WL: Oh, man…to me, Innovation is such a cool project. It’s the exact type of thing I would want to read. Again, maybe a little bit biased, but it’s so much fun, but also a ton of work. In short, the ongoing comic focuses on the R.D.S.L. Corporation, a company that’s advancing science and technology into the questionable places. It deals with a lot of moral themes as it explores whether or not technology truly makes our lives better. It’s basically what would happen if Google was run by the most demented geniuses on Earth.
Each short is 4-6 pages long and is drawn by a different artist. Each story stands alone, but as readers go through them, they’ll pick up a much larger knowledge of the world as we see how different characters are affected by the actions of the corporation. We showcase everyone from the people at the top of the corporate food chain, down to the worker bees, and down to the artificial intelligence created in the labs. The actions of the facility affect everyone, and everything is connected.
The story isn’t told in order either, which I think makes for some very dynamic reading. One chapter may be far in the future while another focuses on events that happened a year prior. You really have to keep an open mind while you read, but the biggest thrill I get out of Innovation is watching readers put the puzzle together.
We add new chapters monthly and we’re currently 12 chapters in. Amazing up-and-coming artists like Stan Chou, Ken Perry, Damon Threet and Jay Hernandez (among others) have been kind enough to lend their talents and keep the story going. Any artists interested in participating should visit our website (www.innovationcomic.com) and get in touch! I’d love to meet them.
TGA: Aside from writing I understand you did the letters in the Stan Chou drawn story in The Horror Of Loon Lake, does lettering for someone else, give you any insight for how your own words will look on a page?
WL: At this stage in my career, I letter all of my own comic work. It allows me a final pass on dialogue prior to print, and also helps to save a bit of money. Once in a while I’ll pickup other lettering gigs to tighten my craft and help fellow creators. Lettering SMELL A RAT (which will be included in The Horror of Loon Lake anthology) was exactly that. Thankfully, I have great friends (like Stan) who keep me in mind as these other opportunities pop up. I always learn more about lettering when I work from another writer’s script. Probably more than anything, it shows me what NOT to do in my future books.
Working with Stan and writer Carl Smith on their horror one-shot SMELL A RAT was a real positive experience from beginning to end. They’re great people with bright future ahead of them.
TGA: When you write for an artist, do you have a pretty good idea of the page ahead of time? Do you thumbnail pages as you write?
WL: As a writer, it’s my role to think in terms of story. Beyond ensuring that I’m writing something that can actually be drawn, I leave layouts to the artist. I do write in full script and I suggest how many panels per page, but every script comes with a footnote that encourages the artist to draw whatever they want. I wouldn’t want to be limited as a writer, so I’d hate to put limits on an artist.
It’s been said a thousand times, but the best collaborations are when the artist brings their vision to the piece and steps things up to the next level. This is also one of the benefits of being your own letterer–you can make story changes in the final stage as you review changes the artist might have made to the panels.
I just want artists to have fun when they’re working with me. After all, that’s why we make comics.
TGA: Do you find it helpful to give yourself a finite amount of time to work on something, to say, I’ve got to have this locked down by this time?
WL: I love a good deadline and when it comes to working with publishers, it’s always my goal to meet them. When it comes to my own projects, I don’t want to rush if I don’t have to. It might take me a month to work out a story for a miniseries, or it might take six months. If I put myself on a strict deadline, there’s the potential I will write something that I won’t be fond of later.
Now, I did this for a while with Innovation… because the scripts were only 4-6 pages long and I had a complete outline for the first arc, I “challenged” myself to write a new script each week. I wanted to ensure that when a new artist came on board they had scripts to choose from.
TGA: What made you decide to take the leap into comics?
WL: I’m not skilled at anything else! Comics have always been ever-present in my life and it’s a medium that I adore. I had a different career path before I focused full-time writing, but I’m glad I made the leap. I was a corporate drone for nearly ten years before I woke up. Since quitting that job I’ve worked as a journalist, a copy writer, a humor author and a comics writer. If you ask me to pick my favorite it’s comics, hands down. I’d read so many comics while growing up that when I started to try my hand at scripting, it came really naturally. Four years later, having worked with publishers like Arcana Studio, Alterna Comics, Markosia Enterprises and GrayHaven Comics, it seems like people just keep encouraging me!
TGA: Are there any writers, comics or otherwise, that made you decide that storytelling was what you wanted to do?
WS: My father is a journalist and my mother was an English literature teacher, so stories were always around. I read a lot while I was growing up, so authors like Stephen King and Robert Jordan were huge influences. When I was reading comics, I wasn’t really aware of the writers. Only after I started writing comics did I go back to my childhood longboxes while visiting my parents one Thanksgiving. Most of the stuff I had was written by Peter David, so he’s undoubtedly influenced me on some level. At least I had good taste as a kid!
I’ve always just enjoyed telling my friends and family stories. Usually, I do so just to make them laugh. Everyone loves to laugh and we should all do more of it.
TGA: What other projects would you like people to check out?
WL: My heist graphic novel, THE UNDOUBTABLES, with artist Emre Ozdamarlar, just came out from Markosia Enterprises! It’s available in paperback, Kindle, and will hit ComiXology on Wednesday, July 30. If you’re a fan of movies like Reservoir Dogs, Oceans 11, The Italian Job, or the Parker Books from IDW, you should totally read this.
For anyone who enjoys Brubaker’s Criminal books, I recommend checking out my crime-fiction series CHAMBERS, published last year by Arcana Studio. It’s available in paperback and on ComiXology and tells the tale of Denise Chambers, who comes from a family full of law enforcers. When someone starts taking an axe to her family tree, she has to discover who before it’s too late.
Also, be sure to check out my free webcomic, INNOVATION, mentioned previously. I’ve also done a lot of work with GrayHaven Comics who are just absolutely wonderful people. I can’t say enough kind things Marc Lombardi, Erica Heflin, Andrew Goeletz and even Glenn Matchett. A wonderful editorial staff focused on helping up-and-coming creators get their work into the public eye.
TGA: Any advice to aspiring creators out there?
WL: Don’t wait for permission from a publisher to make comics. Just make them! You won’t ever be able to apply for a job writing or drawing comics, so just get started! You wouldn’t wait to start singing until you got a record deal, would you? Create stuff that you would want to read and the rest will follow.
TGA: What comics should people be reading?
WL: If I had to recommend one comic that you should read before you die, It’s Scud: The Disposable Assassin, which is my favorite comic of all time. Seriously, go buy it. Right now. We’ll wait.
More recent comics that I love/loved that everyone should read:
1. Bravest Warriors by Joey Comeau and Mike Holmes (BOOM!)
2. D4VE by Ryan Ferrier and Valentin Ramon (Monkeybrain)
3. Edison Rex by Chris Roberson and Dennis Culver (Monkeybrain)
4. Knuckleheads by Brian Winkeler and Robert Wilson (Monkeybrain – see a trend developing?)
5. Deadhorse by Eric Grissom and Phil Sloan (Frankenstein’s Daughter Press) – All of those comics will make you laugh. You know…as long as you have a pulse.
Awesome stuff! Wes has a ton of stuff going on, make sure to go check out his Kickstarter out. And I can’t recommend Scud any more than he did, great stuff!