10 Questions: The Gathering Edition – Chris Page

We continue our interview series with members of The Gathering and GrayHaven Comics. We’ve put out the same questions to numerous individuals and can compare their responses. A hopefully intriguing interview series.

Check out our previous interviews.

George Amaru Doug Hahner James O’Callaghan
Elena Andrews Erica J. Heflin Jason Snyder
Arcadio Bolaños Travis M. Holyfield
Marc Deschamps Marc Lombardi
Andrew Goletz Glenn Matchett

Up next is artist Chris Page making it a dozen interviews!

Graphic Policy: How did you get started in the comic book industry?

Chris Page: I first started by self-publishing a comic book back in 2007 called FEUCH! with Adam Witt, who is a frequent collaborator of mine. I co-wrote the book with him, and did the pencils, inks and lettering. After that, it was a matter of getting in touch with the guys from GrayHaven. I pitched my first story to them for the second Horror issue (Volume 6), and things took off from there. I was also able to contribute a second story to that same Horror volume that was my first collaboration with Travis Holyfield, who I hope to work with again in the future.

GP: Were you a fan of comic books before?

CP: Absolutely. I’ve been a huge fan of comics for as long as I’ve been able to read. I have always loved that comics allows freedom of storytelling, where you aren’t constrained by a budget, while allowing the characterization that comes best with long form narratives.  I think the first series I that I collected regularly was Uncanny X-Men around the Fall of the Mutants crossover. Once I figured out, as a kid, that there were ongoing stories in the books, I spent most of my time bugging employees at convenience stores and book stores about when the next issue would be in. Eventually, I found myself a local comic shop that I was able to go to every month. I spent hours there going through back issues to find all the stories that I had missed.

GP: Do you read comics now? If so, what are some of your current picks?

I’ve never stopped reading comics, although there was a stretch in the early 2000s where I had to switch to trades for most of my books due to finances. However, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ work on both Criminal and Fatale is amazing, and both books will get me in the comic shop whenever they come out. The Mice Templar by Bryan Glass, Mike Oeming, and Victor Santos is another favorite book, as is Eric Powell’s The Goon. Brubaker’s run on Captain America is also brilliant, as is Gail Simone’s work on Batgirl  and Secret Six (which is a book I miss dearly).

How did you get involved with The Gathering?

CP: I had been tangentially aware of the the book when it first came out due to time spent on the Brian Michael Bendis forums on the Jinxworld Message Board. There was a point where they opened up submissions, and I remember thinking that it sounded like a really cool idea. I did a story for them called The Knocker that was an adaptation of a short story I’d written earlier. At the same time, Travis Holyfield needed an artist for his story Jack, Unblinking. The script was, in all honesty, one of the best ones I’ve read, and I jumped at the chance to draw it for him. From there, I had more work with The Gathering in the Sci-Fi volume (including another collaboration with Travis), and have several more stories with them in the future.

Each issue of The Gathering has a theme, how did that factor in to the comic creation?

CP: The theme and the page limits both contribute to the challenge of telling the stories, but they also make it more fun to work on the projects. I think it actually contributes to making people excited about the books, because there are such a wide range of stories. Selling copies of all of the books that were available at Emerald City Comicon this past year, I got to see first hand how people reacted to something different from the usual super-hero type stories. It’s given me great hope that there’s room for all kinds of stories in comics.

GP: What advice would you give to independent creators just breaking into the business?

CP: It’s an extremely difficult business to break into. Persistence is key to getting things done. Always keep an open mind, and listen to your editors. They have an extremely difficult job, and they want what is best for your book. Take any and all feedback seriously, and be adaptable. Make sure that you make your deadlines. If you can’t make a deadline, let your editor know as soon as possible, and never put something off to the last minute. I had a bad habit for a long time of pushing things up to the deadline, and I’ve since learned that anything that can go wrong at that point will go wrong. Better to be done with plenty of time to spare, to allow for mistakes, especially on anthology books like The Gathering where you could be holding up production for several people. Also, a sense of humor about things will carry you a long way and make the rejection letters that much easier to take.

GP: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned through your experiences?

CP: Try a little bit of everything. If you can see things from an artist’s perspective, or a letterer’s perspective, it can change how you write a script. Self-publishing FEUCH! taught me so much about how much dialogue will work on a panel, and how to properly letter something. The best writers I’ve worked with are ones that have taken into account the artist’s perspective, and not asked for impossible drawings. (i.e. drawings where the action would not work because of the necessary angles) Also, as a writer, it’s important to be flexible with your scripts. Because the artist may change something later, and improve the story by doing so. It can be as simple as a character’s facial expression that eliminates the need for dialogue, but when it happens it’s magic.

GP: Do you think it’s easier today for creators to get published?

CP: I think in many ways, yes it is easier compared to even five years ago when I started self-publishing. Web comics are even more widely accepted today than they were a short period of time ago. That said, it does still take a lot of commitment and hard work to get published nowadays. Certainly, drawing/writing comics is not for everyone, but the people that keep at it and work to constantly improve their craft are the ones that get noticed.

GP: How do you think technology like social networking or crowdfunding sites like IndieGoGo or Kickstarter are impacting comic book publishing?

CP: I think that social networking is a significant tool in comic book publishing. It allows creators the chance to interact with their fans in real time, and the opportunity to promote their work on a much higher scale than may have been possible before. I do believe that crowdfunding sites, when used properly can be absolutely vital for publishing comic books. Without crowdfunding, I don’t believe that projects like The Gathering would be nearly as successful as they have been. I think, looking at the success that people like Amanda Palmer have had with Kickstarter, crowdfunding has been shown to be a viable alternative to traditional publishing for entertainment.

GP: What can we expect from you next?

CP: I have work in several more volumes of The Gathering coming out in the next year, notably stories in The Dark Anthology and a story I have drawn for Ray Goldfield in the upcoming Horror volume which is a great piece of horror fiction and probably some of the best art I’ve done yet. I will have stories in the upcoming True Ghost, War, and Crime volumes that I am excited for people to see, as well as several more personal projects that will hopefully be out in the next year or so. I will definitely continue to put out work with GrayHaven for as long as they’ll have me.