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!
This interview introduces us all to the work of Louisville, KY cartoonist Daniel Frazier.
1. Could you introduce yourself for the readers, and tell us about your work?
My name is Daniel Frazier and I am the writer, artist and co-creator (whew!) of the comic series The Adventures of Nightclaw & Prowler. Nightclaw & Prowler is an all-ages superhero comic book based on my niece Jessica and nephew Andrew (who are also the co-creators of the series). Nightclaw & Prowler is my sole comic book series that I am currently working on though I have done shorter stories for The Powers That Be! and the Louisville Cartoonist Society.
2. What drew you to creating comics?
I loved reading comics so that probably has much to do with it. When I was in fourth grade a friend and I drew a silly stick-figure comic strip on notebook paper about ninjas and the kids at school thought they were hilarious. It was my first real experience in creating something that others took to and I continued doing it until I graduated high school. I moved on to filmmaking in college and kept with that until I started The Adventures of Nightclaw & Prowler. I found that creating movies and comics shared many same traits but comic creation won over filmmaking due to the fact that it is a much more inexpensive way of creatively expressing yourself.
3. Who or what are your artistic and comic-making influences?
As I have said before I was making movies for much of my creative career so many of my influences are filmmakers such as Sam Raimi, John Carpenter, Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles. I think that many comic artists should look outside of comics for inspiration and instruction because films and comics both must tell their stories visually. By studying movies I have learned valuable lessons in visual storytelling such as pacing and composition. My art style is not very complex so these lessons aided me in telling better stories visually. My greatest strength as a comic creator is my writing so my influences in the comic world are naturally writers such as Alan Moore, Gerry Conway, Brian K. Vaughan, Robert Kirkman and Stan Lee.
4. What were your prior experiences/training that led up to your making a career out of comics?
I have had no formal training in drawing comics (and it shows) but the reason I make comics is the same reason I make movies or eat or breathe. If I don’t I will die. I am one of the fortunate (or unfortunate?) souls on this planet that has a creative hunger and must keep it fed lest it turn on me. While making comics or movies or writing books hasn’t done much to pay the bills, it is an essential part of who I am as a person.
5. Where do you plan to take your series next?
My current plan for the series is actually on the business side of the comic industry. Up until now, I have considered my comic career more of a self-sustaining hobby. Selling the comics always paid for my ability to make more but nothing else. Thanks to a distributor called Graphicly, I am ready to take the next step by offering a collection of Nightclaw & Prowler comics digitally on many different platforms such as Kindle Fire, Nook, Google Books and iBooks for the iPad and iPhone. Graphicly has opened up the door for me to try and make more money from my series than I had been able to in the past and it is now up to me to develop a marketing strategy. It may not sound exciting to some people but I am very anxious to see what I can do on this end of the comic field.
6. What remains as the biggest hurdle to Independent comic creators in the digital age?
The digital age has actually given creators more advantages than hurdles by opening up the marketplace for relatively little cost. It used to be that a creator would spend thousands having a roomful of issues printed and then try and shop them around to comic stores or comic cons. Now, a creator can reach a much wider audience for much less expense. The biggest hurdle this throws up is that now there is an entire ocean of independent comics on the market and getting your series to stand above the others and get noticed by the readers is a challenge.
7. How has the rise of web-based comics impacted the industry?
I don’t know if web-comics have had much of an impact on the financial end of the comic book business but what it has done is opened many readers’ eyes and minds to comics outside the mainstream conventions of superheroes or 22-page stories. When you think about it, webcomics have gone back to the way American newspaper strips were when they were at their peak. They were diverse forms of graphic art and were as highly regarded as the news inside. There is such an open field of webcomics that if you asked 100 comic readers to name their favorite you would likely get 100 different answers.
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?
That really hasn’t happened yet but I would welcome it.
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?
The best compliments I get are from parents who appreciate something on the market geared for all-ages. For far too long the comic industry has been over-saturated with comics for readers between the ages of 16 to 35 years old. When I meet a parent at a convention and I tell them about my series they are most often surprised and delighted to find something they can read with their kids. Now that’s not to say Nightclaw & Prowler is a kiddie comic book like Casper or Little Lulu. My series is a throwback to the comics I read as a child where superheroes had thrilling adventures and battled villains and monsters without containing graphic violence or over-sexualized characters. When I heard from one of the parents that my comic was her daughter’s favorite thing for her to read at bedtime, that made my year.
10. Is there a particular genre you haven't tried before that you think you'd like to get into?
I would love to do a horror book that has been twisting in my brain for a year now. However, my skill level as an artist just wouldn’t do the visuals I have in my head justice so until I can afford to hire an artist it will just have to remain in the files.
11. Could you list down your top 3 favorite webcomics? Tell us briefly why do you recommend them?
I have to start off by mentioning Catacombs from Old World Comics for two reasons: it’s a funny throwback to Universal monster movies which I love and that Old World Comics is the company banner that Nightclaw & Prowler calls home and I don’t want owner Todd Goodman sending me a nasty e-mail. Seriously, it’s a funny strip. I also really enjoy Our Super Mom by Scott Comics. It is another all-ages comic with lots of action, lots of humor and really down-to-earth characters that I enjoy. But my all-time favorite webcomic has to be The Adventures of Wonderella, a decisively adult humorous take on superheroes and culture in general. This strip never fails to make me laugh. I enjoyed it so much that I purchased the printed collection of it!
12. Besides comics, do you have other creative works (written novel/blog/tutorials/etc) published online?
As I said before I also make movies. To date, I have only one feature-length film to my name and that is a horror/action/comedy called Avenging Disco Vampires. After not being able to land a distributor for a long while, I decided to put the entire film online for free on Vimeo. You can find it and all the extra features for the movie at www.vimeo.com/groups/adv. I also wrote a column entitled “Thought Balloons” about comics for the website Comic Hero News. You can visit the site at www.comicheronews.com and find my past entries there. Currently, my wife and I are writing a children’s novel together and we hope to release it to the world by the end of 2012.
13. What is the worst mistake a webcomic author would make? Any inspiring advice to budding artists out there?
The worst mistake is thinking you cannot do it. If you have that creative spark in you, you have an outlet now. No matter how much or how little funds you have, you have many options on getting your work to the public. There is no legitimate excuse to not doing it. Be it comics, writing, music, movies or whatever your means of expressing yourself is you have many ways of showcasing it. Will you get rich? Will the world admire your work? Maybe or maybe not. My best piece of advice is to not get wrapped up in other people’s definition of “success.” Do work that is fulfilling to you and I guarantee you will be happy with it.
14. Is there anything else you want to share with our readers?
I want to thank all the people who have enjoyed The Adventures of Nightclaw & Prowler and I would encourage all the comic readers out there to search out independent comic books. There is a treasure trove of great art and original stories waiting to be read.