We’re back with another edition of Cross Country ComX and episode 7 has three guests today! Our favourite hosts Shane, Dustin, and Leigh are interviewing some of the most action-centric creators from Australia.
Dave Dye is a Ledger Award-nominated Australian indie creator known for his works like Amazing Tales. He will be showing us his talent yet again in the upcoming Kickstarter campaign for ComX Presents:NOIR #1, Impulse.
Edmund Kearsley is a master of action who created Radical Comics, with a character of the same name. Ed will bring in his action expertise and also talk about his character for the upcoming ComX Presents, Final Dragon.
Last but not the least, we’ll have Shannon T. Browning from Shann Studios. Shannon is the creator of RoboToon and the mastermind behind Mythic Man vs Aussie Battler.
We have quite the journey ahead, so let’s go!
CCCX Part 1: Interview With Dave Dye
Shane, Leigh, and Dustin welcome Dave into the interview, with Dustin being particularly excited about the interview. Dustin has created The Listener as a homage to his uncle to served in the military.
As Dave is a vet himself and most of Dustin’s family are also into service. The boys are ready to pick his brains.
Leigh: Tell us about your hand-lettering, because Es Kay was here in CCCX Issue 2 and he did digital lettering. I hope to see contrast between [both styles].
“My first book that I put out after I got out of the Army in 2011, and this is the first thing I did,” answered Dave, showing a copy of a 200-page graphic novel called The Anzac Legend: A Graphic History that he made. He noted that everything is hand-lettered, stunning all three hosts.
“At the beginning, it’s like chicken scratches but towards the end, it got a bit better. In the long run, that’s a lot of practice,” said Dave in reference to his humongous graphic novel.
When asked about his method of drawing speech bubbles, Dave showed one of his many ongoing inks and showed how he will do it.
“If this is something I’d hand letter, you can see there’s space here left,” noted Dave. “I left that for the letterer to put his speech bubble up in there. I will pretty much do the panel, organise the drawing first in pencil and I’ll make sure I’ve left an appropriate room for the lettering. Then, I’ll do the lettering in pencil before I ink and sometimes I might have to just move a figure a little bit to the left; I work it whilst it’s still in pencil.”
Dave also showed off his Ames lettering guide, a specialised ruler that helps with proper spacing and lines. Dustin also underscored Dave’s thumbnailing, which is the pencilling of the art first before creating clearer outlines through inks.
Dave himself uses a non-photo pencil to prevent scans from detecting his thumbnailing. Dustin notes how this blows his mind and how Dave utilises the best level of technology for his work, not going all manual and not going all digital.
Dave touches on technology, his work, and influences
“Technology is great and there’s parts of it that I want to use, I want to utilise,” revealed Dave. “The scanner, the ability to touch up my drawings. Instead of using white-out now, I can scan it and do my adjustments in on the computer instead of when I did that Anzac book and I had to use whiteout.
“I actually had panels I didn’t like so I had to cut out a bit of cardboard, stick it on top, and redraw it or things like that.” Dave further emphasised that he enjoys doing his lettering by hand, something he believes is an art form in of itself.
According to him, his goal is to always make sure that the story is clear to the reader. Dave admits that he rarely uses big splash pages or hero panels due to their propensity to muck up the story and upset the reading pattern.
He notes that, in some cases, it’s best to keep a small panel for a punchline or a page turn. Doing so will prevent the attention of the reader from backreading after they see the big splash panel.
Dustin admits that apart from his creation and Dave’s work, no story from the war comics genre pulls him in, considering Dave’s nomination for the Ledger Awards.
“My influences are the old style,” notes Dave as he’s showered praises for his style and art design. Among his influences include Frank Frazetta and Jack Davis.
He also gets his praises from people within the industry, as Dave notes he received praise from the President of the Australian Comic Museum for Amazing Tales: Code of Honour.
“He said ‘Dave, that book, Code of Honour, is one of the best comic stories I’ve ever read’,” Dave boasted happily, and for a reason. People are complimenting not only how great his stories are but how great the characters are.
Audience Q: Do you ever listen to music when you draw?
“Yeah, I listen to music, mate,” answers Dave. “Quite often I don’t hear it. When I’m drawing, the music might be there but I don’t hear it.” Dave also notes he listens to a variety of things, including podcasts, audiobooks, and more.
When asked if he ends up changing his drawing based on what he’s listening to, he notes that he pretty much sticks to script. He works mostly on his scripts, with some exceptions like Ric McClune.
CCCX Part 2 With Edmund “Ed” Kearsley
The boys then shift the discussion to Edmund “Ed” Kearsley, who went on to colour his work for the day before the interview. Ed also now has an original boxed Transformers G1 1984 Optimus Prime on his background, together with his wife’s globe collection.
As they start, Ed is currently finishing Radical #3, where Ed showed a mockup of the cover.
Leigh: Did you say that you started issue two the other day of Final Dragon?
“Yes, I’ve started part two. I’ve got two panels done,” answered Ed. “I do livestreams on Tuesdays and Thursdays on Twitch so just draw for an hour on there and that’s I’ve been getting it done.”
Ed notes that he used to jump around and draws the fun bits for his stories. These include all the fight scenes and cool muscle poses, but he never finished because what remains are boring areas of his story needed to complete his work.
Dustin showed his appreciation for one-man teams like Ed, noting how hard it is to manage deadlines for such work. Ed reveals that in 1993, he picked to become a comic book writer as a career. As he contracted artist friends to draw stories for him and give up midway, he learned everything he needed about the industry.
Ed also notes that he’s been doing comics for as long as he could remember. Even as a child, they have been a part of his hobbies, making comics by hand and selling them at their schoolyard.
Among his most memorable moments was tracing Wildcats #1 as a kid and slightly modifying it to become an original character.
Dustin: What took you in the superhero direction? What pushed you to write about a superhero?
“It’s just because I love superheroes – I love superhero comic books,” says Ed. “My earliest stuff was more like early Image [comics] kind of books. There’s team based stuff, lots of people screaming, and everything but with this one (Radical), I wanted to kind of go back to like a bit earlier than that – like a more ‘80s kind of style of story but with the modern technology. It doesn’t kind of look like an ‘80s book but that it’s just, you know, do what you love – like I do.”
Ed notes that he also makes autobiographical works too. Even then, much of his work always has a hint of himself in each one, including his upcoming title Final Dragon.
“That was amazing,” Ed replied when asked of his feeling when he first got copies of the first issue of Radical. “Getting the box, cutting open the box and then there’s just like tons of them in there; it was a great feeling.”
Ed notes that he charges anywhere between 7 to 8 bucks per issue, depending on the current promotion or if the issue is sold at a shop. He plans on asking every shop in Australia to carry Radical once he finishes issue 3 and see what happens.
Dustin and Ed also discussed the merit of being a solo creator compared to working with a team. Ed notes that, for creators to get better in their craft, it’s best to start early and practice all aspects of comic book creation.
Dustin, on the other hand, believes in knowing how to work with other creators. He notes that he’s trying to pin down consistency to a degree, especially with his work running across three different artist teams.
Leigh weighed in, noting that there’s no right or wrong process when it comes to comics, to which everyone agreed.
Ed also revealed that among his earliest inspirations include Dandy and Beano, together with Buster. He then moved on to Mad Magazine and eventually to American superhero comics that he sourced from market and garage sales.
His favourite superhero was Ben Grimm from Fantastic Four, followed by Ted Kord Blue Beetle.
CCCX Part 3 With Shannon T Browning
Leigh: Tell us about yourself because it’s the first time I’m meeting you.
“I don’t even know where to start all this,” notes Shannon, who itches his head trying to remember his illustrious career. “I’ve been drawing my whole life. As soon as I could pick up a pencil, I started drawing. I got big into comic books when I was going to college. I dropped out of high school and went to graphic design school.
“It was right about then that I think the Death of Superman was happening and that’s what sort of got me interested in comics and started reading. Before then, I honestly didn’t think Superman would work in a comic book. How stupid is that?”
Dustin agreed, noting how Clark Kent doesn’t fit in the mythos until Injustice came and he killed Joker. Shannon then notes that Clark is “one of the most f*cked up human beings” out there, even if he is his most favourite character of all time.
Dustin: What you’ve got going on right now?
“Just continuing the story, way back in 1999, I got big into two properties. I got big into RoboCop and I got big into Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” reveals Shannon. “When you’re 14 or 15 years old, your imagination is just weird and so I thought ‘alright, what if you took RoboCop’s armour and you put it on a character like Roger Rabbit?’
“Born from that is the character that’s been haunting me for the last 25 years, which is RoboToon. As I like to call him, the world’s greatest comic about a talking robotic rabbit superhero. I dare you to prove me wrong.”
Shannon admitted that he scrapped two other versions of RoboToon before he released issue 1. He notes that 10 years passed without putting anything out there because, in his mind, it wasn’t good enough.
Before he even printed RoboToon, he created another story called Welcome to Woodville which, in his words, was “a parody of ‘50s sci-fi movies which started as a 24-hour comic.’”
Shannon notes that Welcome to Woodville sold like hotcakes at Supanova, with a full 25 issues sold at his friend’s table. Even then, his long-time character RoboToon did not sell a single issue, which he says is “heartbreaking.”
“It was this character I was working on for years. I finally get it out there and just no one was interested,” added Shannon. “But that’s par for the course – that’s what you gotta deal with. Sometimes it takes a while to find your audience. I know they’re out there somewhere – I’m still looking for them but still.”
Shannon discusses being a solo creator
Shannon notes that being a solo creator is a must as an Australian creator due to the lack of a real industry. With that said, he notes that this is why most Australian creators try to become DIY on every aspect of their comics.
RoboToon currently has three issues, with the first and the second going up in ComiXology and three undergoing cleanup. Issue four was on hiatus due to life-related activities until digital technology caught up.
“The distribution system of my comics ended at the length of my arm,” Shannon lamented. “If I couldn’t personally hand it to you, there was no way to get the comic to you.”
Shannon is looking to get the character out there and unleash it to an audience who can appreciate the character. RoboToon has been with him since 1989 and he even has a 1/7 scale figma of his OC.
Dustin: Do you treat him as a serious character or do you treat him as a Roger Rabbit-esque character?
“Yes,” Shannon said in a cheeky manner. “There’s an element of the Mask in it. The storyline features a guy that’s an out of work actor. He wants to make it as a comedian and a performer but he just doesn’t have the confidence. He keeps on blowing interviews and auditions and stuff.
“To make ends meet, he works at his girlfriend’s family pizza restaurant and dances around in a giant rabbit suit. One night, he’s taking the garbage out, he still got the rabbit suit on and he gets hit by this thing from outer space that I refer to as the ill-reality matrix, which is a very complicated way of saying ‘the McGuffin’.”
Shannon reveals that he’s looking to create a Bugs Bunny-esque character, with much of the personality revolving around fourth wall breaks and his character bumbling around.
At the moment, Shannon is developing a story titled Mythic Man vs the Aussie Battler, which is basically Mythic Man, a Superman expy, fighting Craig McGuinness’ Aussie Battler, a Captain America expy.
Shannon notes that he enjoys working in full-digital, giving him the flexibility to delete and edit as he needs to.
Leigh: How did you come across Shane and CCCX?
“I’m on a few pages on Facebook of comic creators and stuff and while I was waiting for RoboToon 2 to come out, I got the sales report for my books for May,” starts Shannon. “Put it this way, I’m not retiring any time soon but it’s just frustrating – not so much from the making money side of things, I’m not trying to make a living out of my comics but as I said earlier, I did this stuff for an audience.
“I did this stuff – it makes me laugh and I enjoy it when I come up with this stuff and if you enjoy it, someone else will enjoy it and I really wanted to get it in front of more eyes. I wanted more people to be seeing this stuff and reading this stuff and hopefully enjoy this stuff.
So I just put a plug out on a few of these pages just saying ‘hey, my book’s coming out. The second issue is coming out soon. I would love to get it infront of more eyes. Can anybody help me out? And Shane very kindly got in contact with me.”