Overcoming Obstacles: An Interview of Indie Creator Lonnie Webb of Thru
Every day, the Indie community there are people that work to achieve something they have been dreaming of. Not for the chance to be rich or famous (although I am sure that wouldn’t hurt), but for the chance to put dreams in the hands of others to experience. I, myself, as inker for upcoming titles like Welcome to the Void and long anticipated Into the Darkness, I know that I have my own set of struggles. I am a father of four, I work full time, and my wife deals with a chronic illness every day. Those are my struggles. With that I find it refreshing to know that I am not alone in my endeavors. I have recently come across another creator that deals with a set of obstacles that he overcomes every day when putting together his comic Thru. This creator is Lonnie Webb. Lonnie and I talked about a lot of things, and he was kind enough to offer me the chance to read Thru. I have to say that I love the storyline, and the direction and depth Lonnie is giving to his world(s) and the characters in it. So much, in fact, that this amazing opportunity to share a little of what Lonnie has been creating, and what he has to share for others out there with similar obstacles that stare them down day-to-day in this interview. Without further ado. I give you Lonnie Webb. Creator of Thru.
OG: Hey Lonnie. Thanks for taking the time to allow me to interview an indie creator like yourself! I really enjoyed reading Chapter 4 of Thru and can’t wait to dive into what really gets ya goin’ on a title like this.
LW: Thanks, Shaun!
We feel a lot of excitement for the storyline ahead and and the characters that are at the center of it all. The challenging settings and situations of this scifi book and the pre-war events give me such a charge to write.
OG: First of all, What was your inspiration behind making Thru?
LW: Thru is my second attempt at self-publishing comics. Darn, Agents of Shield just happened to do the same thing at the same time as my secret agent superhero story. That’s back on the shelf.
For me, I am very motivated to tell stories to be read. My observation is: we are in an age where comics drone on and on with beautiful art and occasional shock shots. Is the dopamine hit worth my 5 bucks? In the eighties and prior, comics told rollicking, fantastic stories. And we are in an age where people don’t actually read or comprehend what they read. “Facebag” and “Instatweet” have dominated the eyes. A certain mental itch has been neglected that I aim to hit. Thru is mostly all-ages for that reason. I want kids to read it. I want to draw and write stories that scratch that mental itch of the rollicking sci-fi fantasy. As always, the characters are the story. Even in my first title I wrote for all-ages and character development plots.
OG: I love the concept you have in the story regarding alternate dimensions and how you’ve handled the mode of transport with the “Doorway Machine”. What would your ideal alternate dimensional Earth be like and why?
LW: The canvas is not the whole universe but all universes! I get to tell any story I want. And I can explore a lot with this handful of characters with different baggage and different alignments.
To live in? I’m happy on Earth. The thing we see in chapter 4 is that people who don’t face enough adversity go berserk and certain ways. We are shaped by our environment but people have a specific bent of their own. I think I will explore that more in five and six.
Starting in seven, well, I don’t want to give away anything but we are going to use the canvas.
OG: Thomas Truman is such a “real” character. I definitely found it easy to identify with his persona and struggles. The levels that exist within your characters is impressive. Do you pull any of the attributes from actual experience or is there something else that has inspired you with regards to how much story exists behind each character?
LW: Wow! Thanks, Shaun.
My favorite poets, musicians, artists all go to a really dark place to pull together a concept. I do that. Dark days lead to storylines with pay-offs. Then the storytelling art takes over.
I spent a lot of time talking to people when I was in school, at work, at church, when I was teaching, but even on the street or at my away from home office (the corner Chick-fil-a has Wi-Fi and old people). Old people tell you things. You find a lot of life experiences to draw on and make characters real with the facets of actual people.
OG: You’ve put a considerable amount of work into creating the univers(es) in Thru. What has been your biggest obstacle in the creation process?
LW: When I have my concept for the story, I think about what changes in history, geology, geography lead to the setting. There’s a lot of richness as you comb our history with those details and I really have to pare that down in the actual dialogue.
The hardest thing was the radio premise. I still feel it’s a McGuffin.
I know I have talked to you a few times and shared some pretty cool stuff. We have also hit upon one especially intriguing aspect of you, personally, as a creator. We talked about you being a creator that deals with a disability. Would you care to share exactly what that disability is and how you work to overcome that obstacle?
LW: Think of driving. You can go anywhere. Suddenly, there are big curbs. And the gas tank only holds a gallon a day. That’s the magnitude.
It’s still hard to explain to people that haven’t experienced it and the research is very new. Over the years I have suffered at least a dozen concussions. One broke my neck, at least a couple were NFL-type concussions from falls. No, I did not play much football. I think the term is Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). In my case it is like a cross-section of Parkinson’s symptoms. There is treatment that helps. The tremors are under control but I can’t drive too far. Mostly, my short term memory loss is an embarrassing feature.
In overcoming it, I accept my limitations. I wake up and try to remember where I am, what day it is. I’m pretty good on the year. I can count on an hour a day where I used to run around the clock. If I need a nap, I take a nap. I keep lists, notes, and Siri is my nagging, spare wife. When I hit a limit, I deal with it and come back to my notes.
For art, I gave up on paper because I still have tremor when I draw. I need instant undo. Procreate on iPad Pro is exactly what works. And it feels like paper. So I get around my eyesight and tremor. I do everything but letter on the iPad now.
OG: Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone else with a disability that may be interested in either starting to work in comics, or furthering their comic endeavors?
LW: Here’s my recipe that applies to any disabled.
1) Yes, you are disabled. Accept it. Every day. Now forget it because it doesn’t matter.
2) Build a routine that works. I get up, do my voice work, rest, do my social media for thrucomic.com and iHateBroccolli.com with Jean (my publicist), rest, draw and then ink.
3) Another way to say it: accept you work differently and adapt. Never stop.
4) Be sensitive to your care-giver. There are people around us that do things we can’t. My wife drives a lot. She handles important chats on the phone and paperwork. I just can’t remember the things that matter. Jean deals with social media. Mary Lou tells me when I miss something.
For the caregivers:
1) We put on an act for others. We ARE faking it when we seem better in front of others.
Occasionally, our caregivers are worn thin and wonder why we can’t do that for them. The draw-back of knowing us so well.
2) We love our caregivers more than we can express sometimes. There are days that we’re just off. Nothing we can do. 3) But don’t let us walk all over you.
For everyone else:
1) We won’t break(ok, some cancer patients definitely will—don’t be stupid). Just don’t pull any wires or hoses out of a disabled person. Toss a Nerf ball. No one else has the balls to do it.
2) Small talk is okay! Hard questions—just ask. Talk like humans. Kids are great because they are honest. “You look funny when your eyes roll up like that!” Well, yeah.
3) “Is that a colostomy bag?” What? You want to hold it? No! it’s my regular old backpack.
4) Don’t say “differently abled” because it makes us feel bad while you award yourself moral self license.
OG: Do you have any other titles that you have had a part in making or is this your first?
LW: I might have ghost written or designed something here and there in the previous century. The Mr. Tatters graphic novel is in production. In the eighties it would be a horror comic like Vertigo titles like Sandman or the old Moon Night. It leans into the all-ages limits a little hard. I don’t want children reading it. At least without parents.
OG: Are there any resources for anyone with disabilities, that you know of, that someone like yourself can turn to in order to help with the processes involved in making your own comic?
LW: With regard to my process, I haven’t found them but that’s a specific niche. So send them to me! I would love to chat with anyone that faces difficulty or disabilities that is carrying a story idea in their heads. Email us at the thrucomic.com comic page. It’ll get to me. The comics crits subreddit on reddit is a great place for creators looking for advice. I am often there using Jean’s account.
For my specific obstacles, I use an editor. She tells me when I forget to draw a page. Things like that. She is available to all creators. Employ her starting with your script. She will tell you what you need to hear. (email@example.com is Mary Lou’s email. We are not related). Short version: I’ll share my process with and give good words to anybody.
OG: Lastly, can you share with the readers where they can pick up Thru, or any other titles you may be involved with. Also, do you have anything else you would like to say to anyone reading this interview that you would really like to throw out there?
LW: We are hoping that you will find us in 3 of the 6 famous stores in NYC in 2018. Others in Texas and Arizona, also. Tell your shop about me! Thru #5 will drop in February. Mr.Tatters is a special one shot that will drop soon. Thru is always available as a free download in PDF and CBZ. The model we use is value for-value. If you get a dollar or six of entertainment value from an issue, good! Hit the donate or paid link button. Please spread it around! And tell us about your experience. We can be found on ComiXology (HERE) and I need some reviews out there. My files are better, but they have the audience. Buy on ComiXology, review me and get the free file at thrucomic.com! Mr Tatters is for-pay only. I think we are asking $6.00 for a download. The print copies will be comparable to other trade-format books. People that buy Thru get the Mr. Tatters download for free. You can hear me be funny six minutes every weekday at ihatebroccolli.com and the very juvenile (as in, you need to be an adult) nicktherat.com weekly show. These are other people’s podcasts where I play the same voice character when I record.
LW: Thanks for giving me an opportunity to to chat with you and your crew, Shaun. Can I come back after you read Mr. Tatters?
OG: Absolutely! I love where Thru is headed. Besides, you’re a good guy to have around! And thank you for being an awesome creator and an inspiring person in general!
Alright, so there you go. Just a peek behind the curtain of an Indie Creator that faces obstacles every day, but doesn’t give up on his dreams! Inspiring to myself, I hope this finds an ear (or 3) for anyone with their own struggles. Definitely check out Thru at the above links mentioned and tell Lonnie that Shaun from Outright Geekery sent ya!