Interview - Tyler James

Omnicomic was at Boston Comic Con, the rapidly growing event making a name for itself in Boston. I had the opportunity to speak with Tyler James, creator of Comix Tribe and general, all around purveyor of comics. He was awesome enough to do an interview about his site and other fine comic stuffs. Enjoy.

Omnicomic: What is ComixTribe?

Tyler James: There are two sides to the ComixTribe coin. First, ComixTribe is a new online community and resource for serious comic book creators. ComixTribe’s mission is simple: Creators helping creators make better comics. To that end, we've assembled a number of resources for both artists and writers. I write a weekly column called Comix Counsel that offers advice from the perspective of a self-publisher trying to figure this comic business thing out. We have Draw OVER! an artist portfolio review column, and The Proving Grounds, a weekly script editing feature. And we also review interesting independent comics in the Creator Owned Zone. ComixTribe is entering its fifth month, and we're excited about its growth. The reaction from creators has been extremely positive.

While we love talking about comics, we enjoy making them even more. To that end, ComixTribe is also a new publishing imprint. Tears of the Dragon, EPIC and my romantic comedy graphic novel OVER are all currently being published under the ComixTribe banner. Next week, The Standard #1 by John Lees and Jonathan Rector comes out, and this fall we'll be launching a number of other titles, some of which were previewed in the Free Comic Book Day comic you were nice enough to share here on Omnicomic.

Omnicomic: Where would you like to take your Comix Counsel?

James: Comix Counsel is my soapbox. I enjoy writing about all the facets of creating comics. There's just so much to talk about, from the minutia of craft, to actually making a buck from of this thing. About half of my columns now are generated from questions or feedback from readers, so that keeps it fresh. And since many young creators have a lot of the same questions, it's nice to be able to point them to articles I've already written...saves me from carpal tunnel!

Omnicomic: Do you feel that digital comics are making it easier for writers and artists to break in?

James: Yes and no. Depends on what you mean by breaking in. For some, "breaking in" means getting hired to draw Spider-man. For others, it's getting their creator-owned book published through Image or Dark Horse. I'm not sure digital comics really has much impact there. In a lot of ways, there are still plenty of gate-keepers in the way of breaking in in the traditional sense.

However, what digital does is enable anyone with a good idea to get it out there. Anyone can make a webcomic and share a link to it. Anyone can build a platform and a readership. That's not to say that doing so is easy. In the end, quality still reigns supreme. But it's no longer necessary to get permission (from an editor, publisher, or distributor) to start a comics career, get readers, or build a platform.

Omnicomic: Is that a good thing?

James: I think it's a great thing. There are no excuses anymore. If you want to make comics, MAKE COMICS. The only think holding you back is you.

Omnicomic: Epic was presented last August but the first issue won't be available until July 15. What can you tell us about the comic?

James: EPIC is the story of Eric Ardor, your average teenager who, in a Stan Lee-esque twist of fate, gains incredible super powers. He soon realizes, however, that he has one killer weakness- girls he's attracted to! Whenever he's around them, he loses his powers. Essentially hot chicks are his Kryptonite. Which is tough, because he lives in Miami, home to the zaniest supervillians and a whole lot of bikinis.

The funny thing about comics...a single issue that takes maybe 20 minutes to read can take literally hundreds of hours to produce. Last August, we released EPIC #0, a 16-page short story plus back matter that served as a great primer to the series. We also just released another EPIC short, this one crossing over with Cary Kelley & Harold Edge's Dynagirl as a Free Comic Book Day digital download. What these shorts have allowed us to do is get on the same page as a creative team. So much goes into crafting a new series. By doing a couple of EPIC shorts, before launching into the ongoing series, we were able to establish a look and tone for the series. With the kinks worked out on the shorts, we were able to turn our attention to EPIC #1 with a lot of confidence.

Now, part of the reason #1 is taking so long is that I went and had to make it 32 pages long. I also had to include EVERY villain Epic will face in his first year as a superhero in the first eight pages of the story. (Would you expect anything less from a title called EPIC?) It's a story that opens near the climax of the first major story arc, and then flashes back to the beginning, for sort of a classic origin story. There's an 8 page inked preview also found in that Free Comic Book Day issue, so definitely check it out.

Omnicomic: Who do you have on art?

James: EPIC is penciled and co-created by the talented Matt Zolman. Additionally, we've assembled a team of pros supporting the book, including Vic Moya on inks, and Arsia Rozegar on colors. ComixTribe E-I-C Steven Forbes is editing the book as well.

Omnicomic: Will it be an ongoing series?

James: We have the first maxi-series (~13 issues) plotted. Honestly, I'll write this book as long as Matt wants to draw it.

Omnicomic: Tears of the Dragon Vol. 1 is debuting this weekend I believe. Is this a collection of the webcomic of the same name?

Jaems: Yes, Tears of the Dragon - Volume 1 is the first collected edition of my swords and sorcery fantasy tale. I've been running TOTD as a webcomic for almost two years now. This volume collects the first two chapters of the story, and just went on sale on Amazon.

Omnicomic: Your next project is The Red Ten. What can you tell us about that?

James: The Red Ten is a super hero murder mystery. Essentially, it's Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" meets The Justice League of America. It's a ten issue series I'm co-creating with artist Cesar Feliciano. It's probably the most ambitious thing I've tried, and we're hoping to have something out in time for ComiCONN in August.

Omnicomic: Where did the idea for The Red Ten come from?

James: Well, I've always loved a solid whodunnit, and Agatha Christie was the master.

Omnicomic: Epic and The Red Ten seem to have a superhero feel to them while Tears of the Dragon is more sword and sorcery. Do you prefer one genre over the other?

James: I have genre ADD, I think. Also, I like collaborating with artists, and trying to find a the right story for the right artist. Koko Amboro is an awesome fantasy artist. As soon as I saw his work, I went into the cupboard and dusted off a decade old outline for Tears of the Dragon. I came up with the pitch for EPIC specifically to pitch Matt Zolman. Matt likes drawing guys and gals in tights punching each other, and his clean line-work demanded a clever concept.

Omnicomic: Are there any other projects you're working on?

James: I've got another project in the gestation stage, which will likely be the next thing I tackle as a solo (art and writing) project. Given how busy I am keeping these other three projects going, plus ComixTribe, I simply haven't allowed myself to work on it yet. But the itch is there, for sure.

Omnicomic: What's your convention schedule like for the rest of the year?

James: It's a big year for the cons. On the schedule:

May 7, 2010
FREE Comic Book Day @ Comically Speaking, Reading, MA
August 20-21, 2011
Baltimore Comic Con, Baltimore, MD
August 27, 2011
ComiCONN, New Stamford, CT
September 10, 2011
"Faster than a Speeding Bullet: An Exploration of Funnies, Superheroes and Comic Book Art", Stamford, CT
September 17-18, 2011
New England Comic Con, Boston, MA
October 14-16, 2011
New York Comic Con, New York, NY

Omnicomic: Anything you want to plug while you have the floor?

James: I'd just like to double down on my recommendation for your readers to check out ComixTribe. Whether you're a writer, artist, or simply a comics fan, I'm sure you'll find something worth checking out over there.