One great thing I love about being personally involved in the comics industry is that I know of so many extremely talented artists. Factoid: Marvel and DC Comics are the leading comic book publishers, followed by Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics, and IDW Publishing, founded in the 1980s and 1990s. Entrance into the inner cabal of these companies can be difficult, as even the best of the best can confirm. The comics industry has its own challenges, as does any other, but the rise of technology and the internet has made it possible for many artists to forge their own destinies.
Stephen Doty is a Louisville, KY based artist and writer involved with a number of local projects, which you'll read about in this article. Stephen was very honest with me about the hard work involved in the struggles of a working stiff doing their very best to live the dream. If you've been keeping up with this month's spotlight series of independent comic artists, you have already seen that even though I kept to a strict interview question format, no two answers are ever alike. It's not enough to mull over the details of the latest comics. This series gives us an insight of what it's like to climb the ladder in the industry, and doubtless many, if not all, of the artists I'm interviewing will eventually make it to the top.
1. Could you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us about your work?: Sure, I am Steven Doty, a freelance artist, and sometimes writer for comics, graphic novels, illustrator for regular novels, and basicly any hand rendered art one needs. I do not have a lot of computer graphics skills but I am learning, but must admit, slowly.
I also am the founder, former chairman and former member of the PANTHEON. As well as senior artist for STREETLIGHT GRAPHICS and member of DREAM IN COLOR ENTERTAINMENT comics team.
Having only been involved in this game since 2002, I have been pretty lucky and I must say honored to have been chosen to work on many projects for various self-publishers (indie) and creators. To date these include: CHAOS CAMPUS SPECIAL EDITION , EVIL INSIDE( 1000 DEATHS), DEMONS REDEMPTION, MYRIAD 1-6 ( discount stories ), and META-MUTOIDS for APPROBATION COMICS. AMI’S KISS, Z REACTION, M.A.P.P.C.A.R.R., THE CURE, THE SITTER, CONFLUENCE, and ARMORED WARRIOR (still in progress) for STREETLIGHT GRAPHICS. EXPIDITIONARIES for AVANT-GUARDE ENTERTAINMENT. HATFIELD AND MC’COY for BETTER THAN YOUR COMICS. THE SITTER for PANTHOLOGY1 and NIGHT OF THE COMET for PANTHOLOGY2. As well as dialog assist on BLOOD SHELLS AND ROSES released recently by ARCANA COMICS, and a piece for MAD MAGAZINE hopefully soon to be published, among other non-comic work such as novel illustration, cover work, portraits, and such.
Other than that, well I am just a regular working stiff at a factory trying to earn a living and taking care of my wife of 30 yrs and the kids( pets).
2. What drew you into creating comics?: Well I started late in life in this venture, the idea really never entered my mind, till one day a man knocked on my door and said he was told I could draw and if I would be interested in drawing some comics for his start up company? So I gave it a shot! Needless to say, like many, a lot of promise but no follow through! It collapsed without a single book done.
Then entered BART THOMPSON of APPROBATION COMICS! A supervisor where I work saw an article where Bart and the APPRO. Team were doing a signing at a local comic shop and urged me to take my work there to show. Well I did not have a single piece of sequentials to show and the signing was in 4 days. So I quickly did a 5 page short, with no words, to give as an example and went to meet them. The rest is history and I’ve been hooked ever since. I plain love this art form! Nothing has challenged my art as much as comics!
Always a fan, I never ever thought about doing them myself! I thought you had to live in N.Y. to ever even have a chance to work in the craft. Boy am I glad I was wrong!
3. Who are your artistic and comic-making influences?: Hmn? That’s a tough one! There are so many! Art wise, I have to say FRANK FRAZETTA! I freak over his work! Comics? Hands down it’s WIL EISNER! There are many others, too many actually, that I am sure influence my work to some extent, BERNIE WRIGHTSON is one for sure. But actually I try to have my own unique look, too many “clones” out there already. I mean it’s perfectly fine to be influenced by some other persons work, but really, just be yourself.
4. What are your prior experiences/training that led up to your career in comics? I wish it was a career(laughter), then I could quit the day job! Let’s call it a pursuit!
I have been drawing since I could hold a pencil, always loved art, but as far as formal training goes, I had a short but concise course in the military through the U.S.A.F. graphics training branch when I was in the army. Other than that, I am totally self taught. Of course I did study the requisite books for such. As in DRAWING COMICS THE MARVEL WAY, and what I call the comics bible, WIL EISNERS COMICS AND SEQUENTIAL ART.
5. Where o you plan on taking your series next?: As I am just now getting some of my own personal stories down to paper, well…. The future will tell!
6. What remains the biggest hurdle to comic creators in the digital age?: Good question and one I am not sure I can answer as I have yet to explore that medium beyond cursory examination. But from what I hear its mainly formats, as I hear they do not translate well yet to devices such as KINDLE. That said, I really do not know much to really comment. Yeah, I’m a dinosaur!
7.: How has the rise of web-based comics impacted the industry?: Well on that, personally, I feel it has been both good and bad. Good in that it assures the continuation of the craft an brings in new readers that may have never tried a comic before. Bad in that it drops the market for traditional format comics. Too many skills have went the way of the dodo well beyond comics. Personally I regret the loss of time honored skills. Look at how long it took to re-discover concrete!
8. Has your comic ever been compared to existing movies/books/comics/fiction by your audience? If yes, could you tell us a bit about it?: hahahahaha! No, not yet!
9.: When it comes to your own strips, which have gotten the most comments from your readers? What is special about the comic or strip?: A THOUSAND DEATHS( evil inside) got good props for the battle scenes, they liked the realism of the layout and pacing of this Viet Nam era scenes. Other than that, I have gotten good reviews from most of my work. I really work behind the curtain so to speak, I do not always get feedback on my work. Usually I just hear from the writer if it is well received or not. Now my work in MYRIAD did make WIZARD MAGAZINES top 49 indies of 2005, with specific mention of the story I worked on. So that was cool!
10: Is there a particular genre that you haven’t tried before that you think you would lie to try?: The only one I really want to do is fantasy! I love it but have yet to get to work on a book of such. I also like period pieces.
11.: Could you list your top 3 web-comics? Tell us briefly why you recommend them?: The only one I follow is SCOTT STORIES - JOHNNY SATURN. It is well written and drawn and it is many, many issues in length, also a good fan base to boot! Check it out!
12. : Besides comics, do you have other creative works( written novel, blogs/tutorials/etc.) published on-line?: not on-line, but I do have art on novels that are out there both in regular format and digital.
13.: What is the worst mistake a web comic author would make? Any inspiring advice to budding artists out there?: the worst mistake for anyone, artist or writer, is to expect instant success! The odds are just against you! Be patient, work consistently, improve and grow in your craft, and never ever quit! If you truly want it, you gotta work your butt off and sacrifice a lot of hours to the altar of your chosen craft! Take criticism as it is meant, to help you improve on your short comings and expand on the work you THINK you’ve perfected. Remember to stay humble, never let your ego over rule your reality. The next best thing was hired yesterday!
14.: Is there anything else you wish to share with our readers?: Yes, be careful who you trust and choose to work with! Always be sure to get everything in writing and know what is expected up front! I hate to say it but there are many out there who will use you if they can.
Other than that? Have fun, enjoy what you do, and always seek to improve! Oh, and be serious about choosing this field and its pursuit, or get out of the way so those who are, are not crowded out by the pretenders.