10 Questions: The Gathering Edition – John M. Coker

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 AmaruAndrew GoletzGlenn MatchettSam Tung
Elena AndrewsDoug HahnerJames O’Callaghan
Arcadio BolañosErica J. HeflinChris Page
Marc DeschampsTravis M. HolyfieldAmanda Rachels
Nick FrancisMarc LombardiJason Snyder

Up next is penciler John M. Coker, cartoonist, writer, artist, creator of the webcomic Decompressionism, and former Art Director of GrayHaven Comics. Contributor to The Gathering volumes 1, 2, 3, 5, and 8, cover artist for volumes 5: Love Letters, and 8: The Fifth Dimension.

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

John M. Coker: Andrew Goletz, publisher of GrayHaven Comics, asked me very early on to contribute to a comic anthology he was going to publish. And I was just making comics for myself, so I figured, hey, this dude is super cool and giving me an avenue to let other people other than my girlfriend and my dog see my work… so why the eff not.

GP: Were you a fan of comic books before?

JC: The darn things pretty much taught me how to read. Basically grew up on old hand-me-downs from my older cousins, 70’s stuff mostly, things like Avengers, Spider-Woman, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel. In the 80s I fell in love with the X-Men. Completely got out of comics in the 90’s. Starting getting back into them in the early 2000s, mostly independent stuff, and most OGNs.

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

JC: I do, but right now, not very many at all. I’m mostly only reading OGNs, pretty much anything put out by Fantagraphics, Drawn and Quarterly, Top Shelf. Work by guys like Daniel Clowes, Craig Thompson, Adrian Tomine. As far as single issue monthly comics go, right now I’m only reading everything AvX related, Fantastic Four, FF, Invincible Iron Man, The Defenders, and all the Ultimate books.

GP: How did you get involved with The Gathering?

JC: Andrew Goletz, publisher of GrayHaven Comics, asked me very early on to contrib- oh wait– I already said that :) Andrew asked if I could contribute something to an upcoming anthology comic that he would be publishing, asked me if I would like to either draw a story for a writer, or draw and write my own. I ended up doing both. I wrote and drew two one page comics which booked-ended the first volume, and drew and lettered a two page story with writer Ignacio Segura. Also ended up lettering two other stories in that volume.

GP: Each issue of The Gathering has a theme, how did that factor into the comic creation?

JC: For me it was a starting point, or a mood setter to jump off from. What was great, is that Andrew wanted all the stories to fall under the umbrella of said theme, yet he gave all of the creators room to let that be, and mean, whatever the story called for. It was a vague theme, and vague in a good way. Each creator was encouraged to interpret that theme however they chose. So that there’s always a theme, but the books are never “theme-y” (if that makes any sense). Which makes for very diverse stories in each volume, even though they are all evoking one specific theme. And that’s what’s coolest (to me) about The Gathering, and what Andrew, and all of these creators have put together.

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

JC: I’m not really the right guy to ask that question of. As I don’t really know the answer, I don’t really feel that I have, nor was that ever a goal of mine. I just wanted to make comics, and if other people want to read them, that’s pretty cool, and I appreciate any and all opportunities that I’ve had for that to happen. But it’s weird to me to think of it in terms of “breaking into the industry” because I don’t feel that I have. I’m just a dude that sometimes likes to write words and make doodles, and hopefully sometimes, some people like to read those words and look at those pictures. So, I guess my advice is this- if you like making comics… make them, just make comics, and make comics that you would like to read, and get ’em out there, any way you have to.

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

JC: Trust collaborators. Everyone brings something to the table, and there’s always more ways to skin a cat. Be flexible, and I’m not saying to bend more than you’re comfortable with, I’m just saying, whether you’re a writer, artist, or both, when you’re working with other creative people, while you’re trusting your gut, trust theirs as well. Look at the creative process though all the angles, through other peoples eyes, and the finished product, will be stronger because of it.

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

JC: Definitely. There are simply a lot more avenues these days. More publishers, more formats, and more diversity.

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

JC: It’s definitely easier to get the word out there now, and easier to get funding.

GP: What can we expect from you next?

JC: Nothing I can tell you about today… but maybe tomorrow…