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August 28th, 2012

LF meets... Chris Lewis

Interview by Gavin O’Reilly.

Ever hot on the trail of new and exciting comic book talent, LF catches up with writer and creator of hot new indie Drones on life, comics and that business of self-publishing.

LF: Drones has a very interesting, contemporary concept to it- how did you first hear about the actual drones being used in the US Airforce, and how long did it take you to decide there was a story in there?

CL: I've been following all "terror-related" news stories for the last ten years (who hasn't?) but I guess I started obsessing about drone warfare sometime in 2010. One pilot described the drone as supplying him with a "God's Eye View" and that just summed up everything so nicely. The story grew out of me thinking about how this God's Eye View would affect people. It's all about surveillance, detailing the day-to-day habits of the people you follow, seeing them from above, making decisions on whether they live or die, etc. The fact that these Air Force pilots must confront these issues while flying missions over Afghanistan from air conditioned trailers outside of Las Vegas continues to amaze me, and the disconnect a lot of them feel is something I wanted to explore.

When you think about such a surreal job next to the most surreal city in the world...well, there is a story just begging to be told. Plus, it's all so entertaining! Almost pornographic in the way we sexualize war and consume grainy footage of the latest drone strikes. And the Predator drone looks just like a large vibrator, so there you go.

LF: Drones is your first full work your putting out there; did you have any other concepts/stories you wanted to tell first? If so, can you give us some clues?

CL: Like most writers I know, I have a pretty big "to write next" list. I had been working on a couple other projects before Drones but just didn't feel like I was ready to tackle the subject matter yet, so I decided to do something easy...which turned out to be the most complex thing I'd ever attempted. I will get back to that previous project, however. The uncomfortable life of the buddhist assassin must be explored!

LF: Drones is planned as a 5 issue mini- is the total finite story, or is there more in store there?

CL: I have some ideas for digital extras, teasers, etc. but the story will be over after issue five.

LF: Epigamics is your own self publishing imprint- how have you found setting that up? Do you plan to eventually house other writers and artists and projects, or will this strictly be an outlet for your own visions?

CL: Epigamics is strictly for my own work. This self-publishing thing is difficult enough already without involving more ego-centric writerly types or insanely talented artists who don't make enough money. I would, however, love to band together with other creators to overpower the powers-that-be.

LF: How does a west coast american wind up in Frankfurt making his own comics?

CL: I followed the very traditional (and very lovely) path of "boy meets girl, boy moves overseas and marries girl." I've always been a huge fan of comics but never thought about writing them until I got to Germany and stopped having (wonderful) distractions such as friends and family. At some point I realized I should be doing more than just sitting on the balcony in my underwear while my wife goes off to work. She still goes off to work, and I'm still in my underwear, but at least now I'm making comics.

LF: How are you finding the german comic scene compared to that of America/Oregon?

CL: That's a tough question. I mean, Portland is the place to be for comics and I wish I had taken advantage of that when I lived there. I'm not too familiar with the German scene because I still read the traditional Marvel/DC/Image books.  The last time I went to a comic convention here my German wasn't that great and I ended up sulking around the floor with a beer in hand wishing I could talk to these guys and gals. There are some amazing creators here, and I'm hoping to meet some of them now that I have a book of my own, and now that I can actually, you know, communicate with them.

LF: The art in Drones #1 is rather lovely- how did you bag artist Bruno Oliveira?

CL: There is a scene in Drones #1 where one of the main characters gets a bag thrown over her head and is kidnapped. I wish I would have bagged him like that, but the truth is a bit more conventional. I posted a job ad on some artist forums and got hundreds of responses within days. At first I wrote to Bruno and told him that I liked his stuff but that he wasn't what I was looking for, and we decided to work together on a future project. Well, two days later and that "future project" became the current project. I had spent hours looking at his stuff and realized that he was, in fact, the perfect guy to tell this story. He is so talented and such a wonderful guy to work with. Bruno Oliveira, people. Remember that name! The guy is destined for big things.

LF: Aside from Drones, what else are you planning to write/put out through Epigamics? What is next?

CL: Well, apart from the buddhist assassin thing, I've got a sci-fi story in the works that features a lot of mold and alternate reality. Whether or not any of this stuff sees the light of day really depends on how well Drones does. The biggest thing on my "to do" list right now is getting the various submission packages ready to send out. I self-published the first issue through the Epigamics imprint, but I'll be looking to get a bit more exposure through one of the established publishers. Oh yeah, I really need to spruce up my website a bit.

LF: Do you have set deadlines for when you want to get the next issue and issues following out? Are you aiming for monthly regularity?

CL: Bruno is working hard on issue two as we speak. We are hoping to have issues two and three done in time for the Baltimore Comic Con in September, and then the final two issues before the end of the year.

LF: What would you say are your big comic influences? What else influences your work?

CL: My biggest influence at the moment is the Comics Experience Creators Workshop. There are so many talented writers and artists there and everybody is working hard to help their fellow creators. By the time Drones is finished, all the scripts will have been posted and critiqued there, and the advice I've received regarding every single aspect of the business has made me a much stronger writer. Check it out! My other big influence would have to be Joe Casey. The guy is a maniac and I love his work.

LF: What comics are you reading right now?

CL: The pile that has built up next to the couch would happily tell you that I'm reading nothing at the moment. But it's wrong. There is just so much good stuff out there that I'm having trouble catching up. Uncanny X-Force, Scalped, Snarked, Daredevil, Chew, Saga, Casanova...anything by Jonathan Hickman.

LF: And, finally- who would win, Galactus or Cthulhu?

CL: I have a Galactus toy that would devour whatever this Cthulhu thing is you speak of.

Chris Lewis is the writer and creator of Drones, published through his own independent imprint Epigamics, which lives online at Epigamics.com. He will be attending the Baltimore Comic Con Sept 8th-9th, but if you can’t make it you can purchase issue one of Drones through iTunes and Graphicly- just in time for the soon to be released issue 2- sweet!