Comic Creator Series: Todd Black
In our Comic Creator Interview Series, Outright Geekery’s spotlighting independent comic book creators. Today, we’d like for you to meet Todd Black. Todd has a new Kickstarter campaign for the third issue of his series, Home. Check it out, and show Todd some support.
Outright Geekery: For our readers and other unfamiliar with your work, please introduce yourself.
Hello! My name is Todd Black, and I am a writer of comics, among other things. I am the writer and creator of both Guardians, my superhero ongoing, and Home, my fantasy comic miniseries.
OG: How did you get into comics? Who were some of your influences?
TB: I grew up on superhero stories, mainly through the cartoons. Then when I turned 18, I saw a Marvel comic even that looked intriguing and I asked myself “is there a comic book store nearby?” Sure enough, there was! And I started reading comics.
I was in Chicago a few years later and attended an event called C2E2. Went to a Marvel Comics panel and asked about making my own comic. Then Marvel Writer Matt Fraction said to me, “If you want to make a comic, find an artist, and make a comic”. Though it took a few years, I did, and I made Guardians #0. The rest, more or less, is history.
As for influences, it’s basically any comic I’ve read or TV show that I really enjoyed. I just love good stories. I could name a few, but I feel that would be insulting to the others I really like.
OG: Tell us about your series, Home? What were some inspirations behind the series? (After reading the first two issues, there seems to be some influences from Image’s Birthright and anime series like Grimgar and Gate.)
TB: Home came about via the Oni Press open submissions that happened around this time last year. I knew I wanted to put in a pitch…but I didn’t know what at the time cause I had only thought of Guardians. So I came up with this grand comic called “Shift”, it would be a large story, wheels within wheels kind of thing, and as I re-read the rules it said, “must be a miniseries first, six issues max”. And I was like, “Crap.” lol
So I downsized it, and started putting in some fantasy elements that I thought would be cool. I took things from Tron, Lord of the Rings, added in some characters and stories that I had wanted to do, and it just clicked together.
Home itself is about a young woman named Elysia, who was born with natural blue hair, something that obviously doesn’t happen on our Earth. Because of this, she is ridiculed for it. Basically made an outcast. Soon though, her life changes when she starts seeing living computer code. One that she can interact with. As a programmer herself, she recognizes that the “Code” is “broken” and thus needs to be fixed. She does so, and things get fixed in the real world.
So she goes around and fixes The Code where she can. Eventually though, she accidentally opens up a portal to another world via The Code, and gets pulled in. Elysia finds herself in the world of Altaria, a place of Knights and monsters and the origin of The Code.
Now, she has to save the kingdom in order to get home…if she can get home…if she wants to go home.
OG: In the past, you’ve used Kickstarter to help bring Home to life, and you’re planning to do the same with issue #3 as well. Tell us about some of the lessons you’ve learned using Kickstarter and how have you improved on the series through the KS campaign?
TB: Ironically, I had tried to use Kickstarter to fund my other series Guardians, but it didn’t work out. So with Home, I really buckled down and did everything I could to promote, advertise, get interviews, anything I thought would help get backers, and it worked. Home #1 got funded, Home #2 was different in that certain people who helped with #1 didn’t come back, while others popped up out of nowhere to help support in a big way.
What I learned for sure was that nothing is a guarantee. So you need to prepare for as much as you can. Also, bringing in guests and helpers makes things go a little smoother, if you get the right people.
Finally, I recognize that not everyone will see the Kickstarter. So I made a reward tier in #2 to allow new people to get Home #1, so that they weren’t lost. That was my most popular reward. So for #3, I’m going to have multiple options that will allow people to catch up.
As for how the KS improves my comics, it gives me time. For Home #2, I wrote the script, and did the 5-page preview that we had done before for the KS. But, I wasn’t happy with the script itself, something just felt off. So using the time I had, I gave it to a friend, who gave me fair and honest critiques, and because of the time the KS took, by the time we were funded, the new script was written, I felt better about it, my friend agreed it was better, and I was ready to make a more epic comic.
OG: As an independent comic creator, what challenges do you face in getting your work to as wide an audience as possible?
TB: First is exposure. You’d think that with social media that’d be easy, but it’s not the case. You can post your stuff, and it’ll get “likes” and comments, but that doesn’t mean they’ll buy it. That’s part of the reason I do Kickstarters for Home, is that I KNOW that whoever pledges will be reading the comic.
Also though, it’s the fact that you’re not in DC Comics, or Marvel, or Dark Horse, or Image, or the other publishers, you yourself are the brand, and you have to show why people should buy your comic when there are hundreds and thousands written by “established” creators and individuals with sometimes years of experience or legendary characters.
It’s rough for sure, but you can’t give up, else you’re killing your dreams. I won’t stop making comics if I have the power to make them. And as of this interview, I have 18 comics published under my name, and no one can take that from me.
OG: What advice do you have for anyone looking to get into creating independent comics?
TB: For writers, never be afraid to tell different stories. While Guardians is a superhero tale, and Home is a fantasy story, that doesn’t mean they’re the same stories other publishers are telling. I always try to put my own twist on things to make them special.
Also, never forget to put focus on characters. Yes, action is great, but it’s not the only thing. If the characters are afterthoughts, why are we reading the comics?
For artists, just because your style isn’t “on par” with the main comics industry, doesn’t mean you can’t make comics. Draw what you are good at, then put it out there, there will be someone who will want it for their story.
Home and Guardians have two different art styles, and that’s intentional. My next possible series will have a drastically different one from them. I want my stories to look unique from one another, and that means different artists every time.
OG: What projects are you currently working on? Anything that you’d like to recommend to our readers to check out?
TB: Mainly Guardians, my superhero ongoing. People can read them at Guardians-Comic.com. Our first issue is actually free, you can read it in browser. This was my dream comic for many years, and I’m so happy to see it alive and well.
OG: Where can people find your work or learn more about you?
TB: Well, the website above has all my comics, but you can also check out our Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/HomeMiniSeries, and https://www.facebook.com/GuardiansComic, as well as follow on Twitter at @Guardians_Comic.