Interview with an Indie comic book creator
Anthony Stokes is a 29 year old indie comic book creator from Manassas, Virginia, this is an exclusive insight into his journey, comic book creations, inspirations, the challenges he’s faced, and what it takes to succeed in the comic book arena as well as his passion for other mediums.
How did you first get into writing?
My father was a huge sports fan and frankly I was not. But we really related to each other through movies and I started to love the medium. After investing so much time into watching movies I wanted to get into it myself and make some of my own.
What mediums do you write in?
Currently I’m really focused on creating comic books. While I can write any genre right now I’m working on Horror. In a visual medium it’s really easy to get scary ideas across and it gives artists a lot to play with. I’d like to do more comedy or thrillers in the future.
I also write screenplays that cover a lot of the same ground as my comics. A lot of horror thrillers and working through trauma. Basically, I want my audience to share the experience of feeling scared and misanthropic like I do.
Difference between a film script & comic book script?
Honestly the only difference for me is working to a panel breakdown and I also have to be mindful of dialogue. Dialogue is often the reason we got into watching movies, if you think Aaron Sorkin or Quentin Tarantino, conversations are snappy and engaging. But it’s often the weakest part of a comic because speech bubbles take up a lot of real estate. So I often keep my dialogue as brief as possible.
Lessons learned in creating your first comic book series…
I’ve learned a lot but two things really stood out. First is to compartmentalize problems and to knock out the easiest ones first. Don’t let small problems balloon by putting them off. Second is to be flexible, I very rarely set hard deadlines and even then I come up with contingency plans incase things don’t go as planned. I’m ready to release or pick up a new project at the drop of a hat so I don’t miss on any great opportunities. It’s served me well so far.
Financially what I’ve learned is how to maximize investments. For instance, I pay guest artists for variant covers. With permission from the artist I print out the variant covers and turn them into art prints. This helps pay for the cover and gives me a bigger inventory.
In terms of marketing what I really learned is, if you’re marketing a comic you will always find people who will not read it due to the genre or subject matter. If you market yourself and are personable, people will support you no matter the medium or genre. Market yourself, not your products.
Stories you're currently working on & putting out there…
I have my series Decay which is a supernatural revenge thriller that has grown a bit of a following which is nice. I’m also working on a new series called Intrusive Thoughts, another horror series about an orphan who is stalked by his sleep paralysis demon during the daytime. I’m really excited for both.
What inspired you to create Decay?
We were in Year 2 of the pandemic and I had recently suffered two deaths in my family. It sounds morbid but that was honestly the mindset I was in. I was in a very angry and traumatic place, and I feel it really reflects well in this piece.
Would you do anything different creating your first comic?
Yes and no. Making those mistakes was important in my development as a creator. It was also the best I could’ve done at the time. If I were to change anything it would be to understand nitty gritty comic book stuff, like margins, to anyone outside of comic creators it won’t mean anything, but in the world of comic book development it’s everything.
Name some of your favourite comic books & why?
I love the Dwellings comic book series by Jay Stephens. It’s got that hand drawn retro style which is a wonderful contrast to some chilling horror. Watchmen is obviously a banger and I really love how the art and writing fit together perfectly. It was two titans of the industry at the height of their game and it shows.
Favourite scene in a comic book?
Favourite scene in a comic book is from my favourite comic series Scott Pilgrim. In Vol. 6 Scott is visiting his ex Kim. Their friendship was always interesting and awkward since it was very clear that Kim resented Scott. After breaking up with his then girlfriend Romona, he goes in for the kiss with Kim. Epic!
I read Scott Pilgrim when I was a Junior in High School so I’ve really grown up with it and have come to love it. Scott is an extremely selfish person and he basically uses one of his oldest friends as a rebound. Kim denies him just to kiss him again later. It’s one of the strangest and most melancholy moments I’ve ever witnessed and it’s always stuck with me! It perfectly sums up what the Scott Pilgrim series is about.
What makes a great comic book, is it narrative? art? or both equally?
You’re trying to get me in trouble here lol. I’m going to cop out and say it’s subjective. There are great comics with a good narrative and mediocre art and visa-versa. Everyone has a certain part of the comic book that appeals to them. Writers love writing, artists love creating art. A letterer’s favourite part of a comic might be the lettering. If you’re asking me though, I would never read a comic book with bad dialogue.
Your advice for new starters creating their first comic...
Be ready to fail. You’re going to make plenty of mistakes that cost you time and money. You’re going to want to rip your hair out. But if you learn from these mistakes, you’ll come out the other side a much better improved creator.
Who are some of your favourite comic book creators?
I’m going to cheat and say myself. And then I’m going to cheat again and pivot to Manga which is my preferred medium. Hajime Isayama is a genius and so is Tatsuki Fujimoto. Two of my biggest idols in writing right now.
Barriers to entry for new comic creators & what needs to change...
At this point the biggest obstacle is initial funds. I wouldn’t even call it a barrier to entry because you can use Kickstarter to get the funds before you start production. Frankly any barrier to entry is self-imposed at this point.
Building an audience for me was a huge priority going into 2022. My goal was to get as many people to read my comic as possible, so I made weekly posts offering to send people my Issue 1 as a PDF. It really established a good relationship with the consumer and increased my reader base exponentially.
How WriteSeen can help you...
I’m a big proponent of putting yourself out there to increase your opportunity to get noticed. With WriteSeen I can get my comics and screenplays out to a wide selection of industry pros instantly and it’s free. I’ve got nothing to lose. A platform like WriteSeen is great for writers and creators of any medium!
Anthony Stokes is a Comic Creator & Screenwriter.
Check Anthony out through his social media below.