Tag: Indie comics

With Further Ado #212: Five-and-a-Half Questions with Devin Kraft

With Further Ado #212: Five-and-a-Half Questions with Devin Kraft

As part of our ongoing “Actual Comics at San Diego Comic-Con”, I’d like to you introduce you to Devin Kraft. I met him at a wild party at the Tiki Bar, hosted by publisher Bad Idea. He is the type of guy who is bubbling up with good ideas, and his current series, Neverender from Behemoth Comics is innovative and getting noticed. Enjoy my five-and-a-half questions with Devin:


Ed Catto #1: What’s your origin story, Devin? How did you ever start writing comics?

Devin Kraft: I’ve got a pretty amazing case of ADHD, so as a kid to keep me preoccupied my parents would give me legal pads and a pen. This helped me to both communicate visually and use art as a means of keeping out of people’s hair. I tend to move a bit faster than most people, so drawing in class helped me to slow down and not disrupt class as much.

I grew up on Archie’s Sonic line, and I’d make my own version of Sonic comics from time to time. Eventually I got hooked on Pokémon and Capcom’s various Marvel fighting series, and that led me to falling in love with anime and manga, and in seeking that out at comic shops I became interested in American comics – I’m sort of a student of both visual languages.

In high school, my friend (and incredibly talented artist) Logan Pack and I started to synthesize the Chinese gun-fu films we were enjoying into a neo-noir comic called Jabberwock. I planned on writing initially but started trying to hone my art during college – primarily during classes. Through a study abroad program, I was able to live in Japan for a bit and dive deeper into the wide variety of manga. I actually submitted a few manga to publishers, but my style was a bit more molten and my subject matter probably wasn’t what they were looking for.

I continued to create and self-publish indie comics throughout college, and for a short time I worked in the film industry. After saving a bit of money from a medical job, I went freelance in 2012 and ran Kickstarter campaigns for original comics pretty much yearly since, publishing Dragon Slayer (2012-14), Silence (2015-17) and the first two issues of Neverender (2019-2020).

EC #2: Neverender is such a cool premise. Can you give us the pitch and also let us know some of the main characters? Continue reading “With Further Ado #212: Five-and-a-Half Questions with Devin Kraft”

With Further Ado #210: More Actual Comics at SDCC – Powers Squared

With Further Ado #210: More Actual Comics at SDCC – Powers Squared

One of the most fun panels I participate in at San Diego Comic-Con is called How to Get News Coverage?.  This brainchild of Rik Offenberger (the mastermind behind the First Comics News and G-Man Comics) has become an SDCC tradition, and for good reason. This panel is very focused on giving up-and-coming creators real-world advice about how to build buzz for their properties. Let’s face it, creating a comic is a lot of work ….and then promoting the comic is a lot more hard work too.

During the panel,  I like to make an offer for creators to promote their comics in this column. We’ll feature one this week and another next week.

Let’s start with David Hankins. He  is an engaging, passionate creator who’s found a way to make creating comics a family team effort.  Here’s a look at his Powers Squared:

* * *

The comic book Powers Squared tells the story of identical twins Marty and Eli Powers, who discover on their first day of college that they share superpowers that they had been granted when they were young. These powers originate from an encounter with a Kitsune, a magical fox yokai, whom the boys rescued from under a fallen tree branch. As the boys learn how best to use their powers, they have to deal with the evil Dr. Atlas, who believes they have a special compound in their bloodstream that he wants to synthesize and weaponize to create an army of super soldiers. Continue reading “With Further Ado #210: More Actual Comics at SDCC – Powers Squared”

Kickstarters You Should Be Backing: November 2021

Kickstarters You Should Be Backing: November 2021

It has been a few months since we did one of these columns but it is not for a lack of quality Kickstarter campaigns. In the last couple of years, as the publishing and distribution channels for independent comics have changed, independent creators have been finding their way to Kickstarter.com with some amazing comic book material. We will continue to highlight campaigns that we believe in through spotlight posts like this one and through creator interviews on our site and social media platforms.

Speaking of social media platforms reminds me to let everyone know that if you are looking for good Kickstarter campaign recommendations, besides following Pop Culture Squad, the @KickstarterReads twitter account is a great vehicle to get a heads up for worthy campaigns.

This month we have seven campaigns that we want to highlight for you. I did say there is a lot of quality content out there. Some are ending really soon and you definitely want to check them out and put your support behind these independent creators. We listed the campaigns below in order of the ending of the Kickstarter with the soonest coming first.


Outrage Volume 1

The print edition of the hit webcomic from Fabian Nicieza and Reilly Brown!

From <https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/rocketship/outrage-volume-1>

This campaign ends today, so make sure you jump on it. It is the printed volume of the hit comic Outrage that first premiered on webtoon.com. It is written by Fabian Nicieza with art by Reilly Brown, Jay Leisten, Matt Herms, and lettered by Pat Brousseau. It is a modern day exploration of internet behavior and consequences. We were big fans of the series when it was released on webtoon but this campaign is allowing fans and new readers to put the book in their hands and on their shelf.

We also want to spotlight that Rocketship Entertainment, recently selected favorite Publisher at the 2021 Ringo Awards, is printing and fulfilling this project. Backers should find that to be a major positive aspect to this campaign.

There are some pretty cool physical book and art rewards available for this project. I will leave you with this teaser that gives you an idea of where this story will take you.

How many times have you wanted to reach through the Internet and strangle someone? Or, at the least, give `em a swift kick in the nuts? Yeah, everyone feels the same way. But… what if you could? Anonymously. Quickly. Violently. Would you…?

Campaign Ends: Friday, November 12, 2021 3:00 PM EST.

Click Here for More


Spider-Squirrel #2 — A Buddy-Hero Multiversal Adventure

In this penultimate issue, we wrap up the indiechronomultiversal crossovers, meet the bad guy, and set things up for the finale!!

From <https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/watchguard/spider-squirrel-2-the-next-chapter-is-here?ref=profile_saved_projects_live>

This Kickstarter project is for issue #2 of this series and this is an example of creative teams using Kickstarter to fund books for the fans who want them. Spider-Squirrel is a superhero adventure story with plenty of humor from writer Charlie McElvy and artist DC Stuelpner. John Rauch does the colors, and HdE lettered the book.

There are plenty of interesting and affordable options for backer rewards on this project, both physical and digital. The synopsis that the creators provided plus the preview art has us looking forward to this campaign’s completion:

The main characters Spider-Squirrel and Trash Panda get into all sorts of seemingly random hijinks right out the gate. Well, right after dealing with some dating issues and checking out a local night club, then having Spider-Squirrel bounce around time and the indie comics multiverse while Trash Panda is stuck at home in Richmond (VA) fighting Ultra-Urbanite and then meeting the girl of his dreams…

Campaign Ends: Monday, November 15, 2021 9:30 PM EST.

Click Here for More



NARCO (original graphic novel) + PLASTIC: DELUXE EDITION

NARCO, a 136-page original graphic novel by Doug Wagner, Daniel Hillyard, and Dave Stewart + PLASTIC: DELUXE EDITION Hardcover

From <https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/12gauge/narco-original-graphic-novel-plastic-deluxe-edition?ref=profile_saved_projects_live>

This is an interesting Kickstarter campaign from 12-Gauge comics. It is campaign to fund two projects at once. They are calling it a “Graphic Novel Double Feature”. The purpose of the Kickstarter is to fund a new graphic novel called Narco and the deluxe edition of Plastic, which was originally published in 2017. This special edition includes a new cover and an exclusive six-page bonus story.

According to the creators, the primary focus is to get Narco made. It is created by Doug Wagner and Daniel Hillyard, the same creators of Plastic and also Vinyl, with colors from Dave Stewart and letters by Ed Dukeshire. It has a pretty intriguing concept:

MARCUS WESPHAL suffers from severe narcolepsy. His condition is peculiar—if he gets overly excited or stressed, he passes out.

However, he’s adapted well. He has all his groceries delivered; he’s got good friends, he’s developed quite a following as an online sleuth, and he admires the girl of his dreams, JESSICA WRIGHT, through his front door peephole (he’s working up the courage to ask her out, OK?!). Marcus has crafted the perfect bubble for himself. But when he watches Jessica get murdered right before his eyes, helpless to do anything about it before passing out, that bubble bursts.

Marcus is now the prime suspect in Jessica’s murder. If he’s going to prove his innocence, he will have to leave the safety of his apartment and track down the real killer. Or, could he possibly be the killer and not even know it?

The new collection of the widely acclaimed Plastic series is just one of the multiple levels of backer reward options on this innovative campaign. There is a bunch of preview art on the project site that you can check out.

Campaign Ends: Wednesday, November 18, 2021 4:12 PM EST.

Click Here for More Continue reading “Kickstarters You Should Be Backing: November 2021”

Spotlight Interview with Love and Capes Creator, Thom Zahler

Spotlight Interview with Love and Capes Creator, Thom Zahler

What happens with super heroes when they are not fighting crime. Do they date? What are their private live like? Who are the people they interact with out of uniform? This are the questions that writer/artist Thom Zahler wanted to explore and decided to make a story about the personal lives of superheroes.

The first volume of Love and Capes was published by IDW in 2008. Three subsequent trade paperback volumes were published culminating in Volume 4 “What to Expect” which was published in 2013.  Since then, Zahler has worked on a bunch of excellent different creator owned properties and licensed material. All the while, he has been peppered with questions of when the will be more Love and Capes.

Recently, he has returned to Chronopolis and the world of the Crusader. Volume 5 of Love and Capes, titled “The Family Way”, will be published by IDW in February 2020, just in time for Valentine’s Day. We sat down and talked with Thom about what it was like to come back to the story after so much time and what has changed.

Check out our SquadCast interview on this page and a part of the interview that we transcribed below: Continue reading “Spotlight Interview with Love and Capes Creator, Thom Zahler”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #034: End Game

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #034: End Game

Sup, nerds. I know I’ve been away for a tic, but you’ll forgive me right? I changed day jobs — and I’m sure you’d love to know all about that — and it put me in Austin last week. But I’m back in the saddle here in my newly upgraded Man-Cave/Actual-Adult-Office and ready to populate your brainstems with pop-culture thoughts and prayers.

I could wax poetic on Wrestlemania and the subsequent superstar shake-ups, but I’m saving that until next week. You’ve been warned. I could compare and contrast Captain Marvel to Shazam, but frankly it’d wind up being very mean to Shazam — because comparing the two flicks would be akin to comparing a fine meal at an upscale farm-to-table fast-casual restaurant… and Arby’s. I could detail my recent love affair with the binge-worthy Santa Clarita Diet but I just started season 3, and I don’t want 100 people to spoil things for me.

So, what does that leave me? Oh, how about the whole reason I have a column here in the first place? Independent comic bookery!

At the tail end of March, Unshaven Comics (my lil studio, don’t cha know) had a decent showing at the annual C2E2 comic con in our “home” city of Chicago. The con itself was plenty enjoyable. Our neighbors on both sides were fun, genial, and downright friendly. Our friends and fans came out in droves to give us well wishes and high fives. I personally minted a minor fortune (see also: gas and food money for a whopping 2 weeks, baby!) selling my PokeVengers cards. Please don’t alert The Pokemon Authority I’m making parody art. The best thing to come out our con experience though, was a sobering declaration. Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #034: End Game”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #014: Shameless Self-Promotion, Part 2!

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #014: Shameless Self-Promotion, Part 2!

Back in August, I lamented about the giant gamble of crowd-funding your way into comics. But as of late — with a deluge of projects bombarding my social media feeds these days — I’ve felt the urge to revisit the topic and dive a bit deeper into the nooks and crannies of shameless self-promotion. Get your pat of butter and jam ready, kiddos. Let’s make breakfast.

The truth of the matter is that being an indie publisher/creator/distributor of original content means having to navigate the choppy waters of branding, marketing, and relating to your public… all in order to keep your doors open and the money flowing to keep the drawings a’comin’. Simply put: you’re not going to be able to draw without also becoming a draw to would-be patrons. Especially if you opt to crowdfund your way into building the capital necessary to produce a product. Because of the nature of the beast, that often necessitates having to promote yourself early and often to the masses.

The how, of course, is the hard part. Because of the advent of social media, it’s easy (to a point) to build up a solid network of friends, fans, and family. But once you’ve amassed your following… stoking the fire becomes a balancing act between pride in your work, and desperation to see it pay off.

Shameless Self-Promotion to me is that balancing act of shilling for your passion projects without fear of sounding desperate. And there’s no greater time to act shameless, when you’re crowdfunding. Why? Because Kickstarters are built on the principle of all or nothing. With that in mind, setting the bar high and then needing to clear it or else will mean having to ask every family member, friend, and fan to support you. A lot. Repeatedly. And in doing it, maintaining a tone that comes with the confidence that your product is high quality, while you’re literally begging them to back you for a few dollars… comes with its own set of problems.

And the million dollar question is… When do you cross the line from acceptable hustle to annoying shill?

Truth be told: I don’t believe there’s an easy answer here. Every independent promoter I know is inherently tied to their brand. As such, one fella’s hourly update of his funding numbers may incite a truly positive groundswell as his fans rally to his aid… and another’s once a week crying vlog of happiness may get the job done just as well. So, what follows here is wholly my personal opinion, and nothing more.

As a friend/fan/contributor to a project, I don’t want more than a single touch a day from a given campaign (and to be clear: if a campaign is broadcast to multiple pages I’m receiving? No biggie!). The fact is, any more than that — save wholly for significant milestones or other worthy interruptions — triggers my “I’m caring less and less about your success” feelings. Having been on the other side of the equation, the data supports my leanings. No spikes in backer-dollars-in came due to incessant needling by way of over-posting.

More often than not, backers come in very few flavors. Those who know you and know they will back you — where their decision really relies on “how much can I afford to help you this time” really is the deciding factor. Those who stumble upon you by way of someone specifically sharing the project with them, or searching for something in the space your product is sitting. They are sold perhaps by your video, write up, rewards, or most likely some combination of all of the above. And the only elusive group we’re talking about here… those who know you but have no need to support you.

My last Kickstarter saw about 150 people back the project. I have 1,100 friends on Facebook. Unshaven Comics is liked by about 3,000. So, you can tell a considerable chuck of either subset represents that untapped potential customer group.

And I certainly tried every guerrilla marketing technique in the book to sell to them (such as it was, in the long-long-ago). Posting morning, noon, and night (being sure to self-deprecate about my frequency of shilling whilst still being positive and excited about the project). Making up daily contests. Begging people to share the project even if they couldn’t afford to assist. Posting to groups. Posting literally in any corner of the internet where people might stumble upon us. Asking all backers to “just increase your bid by X and we’ll make it!”

And in the end, we succeeded, but in the wake of the campaign, I personally felt hollowed by the experience. While the goal was met, and my little studio’s graphic novel dreams would now come true… It was hard to step back and feel if the support was earned or pitied. On some days, I feel bulletproof, and proudly declare that a win is a win. But more often, I’m left questioning if the naked neediness of shameless self-promotion hasn’t cheapened my brand. And at the end of the day… isn’t the value of your brand the most important of all? In the wide breadth of those I know in the indie market, it’s hard for me to separate the shill from the salesman at times. We’re all hustling — and next week, I’ll explore our specific brand of shameless salesmanship at Unshaven Comics — but again: there’s a line between over-confidence and wild desperation. To know where it is, is to live in that lucrative sweet spot.

I don’t have the answers as to where it is, of course. But when I figure it out, I’ll be the first one to sell it to you.

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #014:  Con-Job!

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #014: Con-Job!

Unshaven Comics — the studio that houses myself and my brothers-from-other-mothers — participated in our final conventions for 2018. While other comic cons are going to be running through the end of the year… for us, the year is over. And what an interesting experience we as a company had in our final pair of shows. It seemed we forgot how calendars operate, and wound up double-booking ourselves. The newly minted Ace Universe show in Chicago welcomed us (and our money) the very same weekend we’d committed (as always) to the Kokomo Comic Con, in Kokomo, Indiana. Luckily for us, there are 3 Unshaven Lads, and Kokomo was only a one-day shindig — allowing us to divide and conquer. With that being said… there is a lot to unpack regarding the size, scope, and relative success my motley crew saw across the pair of shows.

Ace Universe is a hot new contender in the pop culture convention space. As brought to the geek kingdom by way of the Shamus empire — formerly of Wizard World fame. Ace’s calling card is top tier talent specifically in the autograph / photo-op space. Specific to the Ace Universe Chicago show we tabled at? Chris Evans, Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, Karen Gillan, Zazie Beetz, Matt Smith, and a litany of WWE Stars all took center stage. The show itself was held at Chicago’s Navy Pier — which by most fans we spoke to, was not the easiest or accommodating commute to take. The convention hall was a single large open room, with the autograph/photo-op area dead center, artists and vendors around its periphery, with a “main stage” set in the tail-end of the space.

As an artist tabling at the show, we found almost immediately that our success would be wholly achieved through the grind; as most of the attendees came strictly to collect their photos and signatures. These “celebrity experiences” were costly endeavors — with VIP packages starting in the mid $200 range. Keeping that in mind? It became apparent that we lowly vendors and artists were there strictly to act as window dressing and distractions for the already wallet-light fans milling about. Friday itself was the most-rough day of the weekend, with the after-work crowds all dawdling in with little desire to buy. Saturday and Sunday saw larger and more amicable fans pursuing the aisles (all 4 of them) with only slightly more desire to hear about new and wonderful independent publications (such as “The Samurnauts” or “Toolbox”). Given a relatively tame tabling fee, Unshaven Comics left Navy Pier on Sunday night a little above break-even; once the $30 per-car per-day parking snapped the top off our coffers.

In contrast, the Kokomo Comic Con was a single day, single community affair in the wonderfully proud 13th largest city in Indiana. Here in its 9th year, Kokomo Con is a show Unshaven makes the trek out for regardless of specific sales goals. As denoted this year even more than the last, with little new to showcase at our table, most of my interactions throughout the day really were with well-wishers who already owned all that I came to promote. Anchored by stalwart Indiana-based comic bookers like guest-of-honor Stuart Sayger, always amicable Gavin Smith, and a handful of other fantastic independent artists and vendors… the show seats itself in the wide-eyed, big-smiled hearts of those who know what comic conventions of yesteryear looked like. With costume contests, light-hearted announcements over the PA, and a little over 1000 fans from around the city and beyond milling about, it was as far removed from Ace as one might get.  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #014: Con-Job!”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #013: Sell Out!

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #013: Sell Out!

It’s been rattling around my brain for too long; this endless debate that begs a simple question: What makes one a sellout?

The term itself is often overused. It’s shorthand for labeling creators as lesser for any number of reasons — typically revolving around the notion that a creator acquiesces to changes in their work as demanded by a corporate entity to ultimately shave the edges from their output so-as to allow the end product be more appealing to a broader audience.  We also label those artists who choose to license their original work for use in commercials and other sundry productions with the same term… but in the specific case of my thoughts this week, we’re focusing on the former, not the latter.

When I’d heard the term bandied about through my youth, I immediately jump to a pair of performers in the music space; Jason Newsted of Metallica (at the time), and the entirety of 3rd wave ska band, Reel Big Fish. When asked if Metallica sold out, Newsted slyly smiled as he stared down the lens of the camera. “Of course we sell out — (he waits a solid and bitterly pregnant pause) — every seat in every arena we play!” And of course, Aaron Barret and his motley crew of California skankers received their first taste of widespread radio play with their hit Sell Out, wherein they joke about how “the record company’s gonna give me lots of money and everything’s gonna be alright.”

Upon hearing declarations like this, I’d felt an immediate kinship with those that ironically scoffed at the notion. That reaching a wider audience to seek better fiscal gains by way of a reduction of harder-to-understand nuances wasn’t inherently sinful. It was merely means to an end. And as an adolescent, my heroes all seemed to live and thrive living right in that sweet spot. Their work somehow seemed above completely shameless schlock, where the slick shine of heavily edited production and marketing did its job to make Enter Sandman or The Mask palatable to both me (suburban metal-tyke / comic-book-smart fan) and someone ten to twenty years my senior. And why would that be so bad, damnit?  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #013: Sell Out!”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #012: 24 Hour Comic Book Day… the Pre-Production

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #012: 24 Hour Comic Book Day… the Pre-Production

On Saturday, October 6th, some brave (or insomniac) comic book creators across the nation will take part in a little fun activity called “24-Hour Comics Day”. Started in part as a challenge, and furthered by the indie industry to include charitable drives and other sundry sub-events… 24-Hour Comics Day sets forth the task to complete a 24 page comic in 24 hours, soup to nuts. This year? I’m going to take part in the challenge — albeit with some modifications to suit my personal needs.

First off? My goal isn’t to complete a 24 page book. I don’t publish books that short (the economics of that can be saved for a later article, mmm k?). Secondly? I know I’m not that fast an artist or writer. At all. So, instead my goal is thus:

To draw and be immersed in my latest comic book for 24 hours straight with a desire to complete as much of it as I possibly can.

I’ll be sitting in at my local comic book shoppe, The Zone, of Homewood, IL. I’ll do my darndest to capture my work — whether I stream the whole 24 hour experiment, or just make a big-ole-honkin’ article here on Pop Culture Squad and update it on the hour. And per this article, well, I’ll be pre-gaming just a wee bit to set myself up for success.

For those more familiar with my creative process? Feel free to stop here. Give me a like on social media, and be on your way. For the rest of you wanting a bit of insider baseball and see how the comic sausage is actually made? Strap in.  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #012: 24 Hour Comic Book Day… the Pre-Production”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #010: Indie Comic Book Publishing 101 Part 10

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #010: Indie Comic Book Publishing 101 Part 10

The first comic book I ever bought was in fourth grade. It was an X-Men Adventures comic cribbed from the animated series, which itself cribbed heavily from a combination of Len Wein and Chris Claremont stories, published almost 2 decades prior. I bought it because I loved the “X-Men” animated adventures on Fox Kids, and figured the comic would further flesh out what I’d seen in the episode. It didn’t. But I still loved it none-the-less. After that purchase, I dove head-first into all manners of X-books. But I didn’t know the Brood from Bushmaster and called it quits nearly as quickly as I’d began my new hobby. It would take more than a few years after that to really be interested in comic books again.

My newly-minted best friend, Matt Wright, bicycled to my house in the freezing Chicago winter to deliver a hastily wrapped box with my birthday present tucked inside. A pair of #1 issues of my new found love of Malibu Comics’ Ultraforce and The Strangers — loved, again, because of my viewing of the soon-then-to-be-canceled animated series.

And from the moment I cracked open those books — sitting somewhere between homage and pastiche — I was adamant that I wanted to be in comics too.

With that in mind, after 9 weeks of helpful hints, tricks, tips, and too-green-to-be-called-sage advice? My last lesson is the only one that I can give you with trepidation:

Why do I make comic books? Because I have to.

Personal history aside, the fact of the matter is at my very core, I’m a communicator. Be it in print, in pictures, in song, or in actions… I strive constantly to be a vehicle of entertainment. Over the course of my life — however short or long you personally perceive 36 years on said planet to be — I have been a columnist, an artist, a singer, a stand-up comedian, a marketer, and a generally OK human being. The through-line to literally all of those mediums? That I’ve been entertaining in each; some funny, some heartfelt, some serious, and all existing likely somewhere in-between.

Of all those medium, the one I am proudest of? One guess.

No, it wasn’t stand-up.  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #010: Indie Comic Book Publishing 101 Part 10”