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.
In these next few interviews, I will be showcasing some independent comic artists, many of them local to the Louisville, KY/Kentuckiana area!
The first interview in our Independent Comic Artist Series is Cary Baker, of Pantheon Comics.
1. Could you introduce yourself for the readers, and tell us about your work?
I’m Cary Lee Baker and I’m a comic book artist/writer and also art director for Pantheon Comics. I and my fellow Pantheon artists and writers publish an anthology titled Panthology, we have been on the small press scene since 2009. I also scout for new artists, local and abroad.
2. What drew you to creating comics?
I fell in love with comic books when I was eight years old, never suspecting that it would be my chosen profession one day. The imagination of comics caught my attention and as a young kid I would copy (not trace) the artwork I saw and I was very good at it. Later on in high school my art teacher saw how serious I was about comic books, so he helped me get a partial scholarship to the Columbus College of Art and Design.
3. Who or what are your artistic and comic-making influences?
I was a Marvel “zombie” growing up so I was heavily influenced by the stories of Stan Lee and the fantastic artwork of Jack Kirby, John Buscema, Gil Kane, and the rest of the Marvel bullpen. Later on as I grew up, I became a big fan of Howard Chaykin’s stories and art.
4. What were your prior experiences/training that led up to your making a career out of comics?
Although I did go to art school, they did not look favorably on comics so I washed out and basically taught myself how to draw comics, with a lot of help from How to Draw Comics The Marvel Way.
5. Where do you plan to take your series next?
Pantheon Inc, is a group effort and we plan to branch off into other forms of visual media, and maybe even get into independent film making. Personally, for myself: my wife and I plan to start our own comics line later on this year or early 2013.
6. What remains as the biggest hurdle to Independent comic creators in the digital age?
Well it’s a hurdle if most creators are not “tech savvy” but lucky for Pantheon Inc, we have a great web designer and a fantastic artist named Willie Peppers who knows all about the digital world of comics. I’m not that up to date on all the digital stuff so it helps having a friend who knows about it. From what I’ve seen this new age of writers and artists know what they’re doing when it comes to web comics.
7. How has the rise of web-based comics impacted the industry?
Oh I think web-based comics have impacted the industry tremendously. I don’t collect monthly comics like I used to, I’ll wait for the collected stories in trade paperback form or download from the internet. The only comic I do keep up with (in its collected format) is The Walking Dead.
8. Has your comic ever been compared with existing movie/books/comic/fictions by your audience? If yes, could you tell us a bit about it?
Our first issue of Panthology was reviewed in Louisville Arts Review and we were compared to the pulp comics of yesteryear which is the vibe we were going for. Allen Freeman a long time publisher of Slam Bang comics compared one of our artist’s (Matt Edmondson) work as Heavy Metal-ish. With praise like that we knew we were on the right track.
9. When it comes to your own strips, which of them have gotten the most comments from your readers? What is special about the strip or comic?
For Panthology #2 I received high praise for my weird western story titled “Six.” It was a very simple ghost story but I guess I told it well. I also did a zombie story for Panthology #1 titled “Wounded Ghosts.” I was told the characters were great and fans wanted to see more of them. Mr. Freeman said it reminded him of a movie trailer and he wanted to see more. It was a five page story and it did need more depth. It’s in the back of my brain so one day I’ll get back to them.
10. Is there a particular genre you haven't tried before that you think you'd like to get into?
When my wife (her name is Laurel) and I start our comic line it’ll be a mix of Steam punk and post-apocalyptic sci-fi and whatever else we can come up with to set us apart from other Steam punk comics that have come before.
11. Could you list down your top 3 favorite webcomics? Tell us briefly why do you recommend them?
Well to be honest I don’t have time to read Webcomics because of my duties to Pantheon Inc, and family, but there is one young lady’s webcomic that amazes me, her name is Yoko Molotov. She does these weird anime characters and if I didn’t know her, I’d swear she was Japanese. Her story and art will appear in our 3rd issue of Panthology. We (Pantheon) plan on doing web comics, it’s just a matter of coming up with a good storyline and time to do it.
12. Besides comics, do you have other creative works (written novel/blog/tutorials/etc) published online?
Once again no, but in the near future I hope to have an online presence.
13. What is the worst mistake a webcomic author would make? Any inspiring advice to budding artists out there?
My pet peeve with writers period is don’t “over write,” let the artwork do the talking. My advice to budding artists is to never give up, and to keep an open mind. Be willing to show your artwork to professional artists and fans alike. Be able to take criticism and learn from it and not take it personally if you get a bad review, I have seen this happen to an artist I used to know and he had a nervous breakdown. This is not the business to be in if you can’t take criticism.
14. Is there anything else you want to share with our readers?
I love comics and I am very happy to be doing something that I have had a passion for since I was a kid. It can be a lonely profession but I’m grateful that I have a wife that understands me and my craft and good friends that I work with. Special thanks to; Bart Alex Thompson, Willie Peppers, Jesse D. Wright, Bill Engebretson, and Laurel Baker.
Check them out at http://pantheoncomics.org/