By: Nicole D’Andria
My Kickstart the Week is a little different this week since I am spotlighting a GoFundMe campaign today. Hooligan Alley Comics is trying to raise money for their first title, Darkest Night. Want to see vampires, mechs and the mob come together in one story? Learn more from the creative team themselves.
Hooligan Alley’s first comic book is Darkest Night. The series consists of vampires, mechs and the mob. JW Sims is responsible for the plot and artwork. Stephen Kelley is the writer.
Funds are needed to get the comic book printed, to help with promotional work such as running ads and to pay for the cost of going to comic cons in order to promote the publisher. The founder of Hooligan Alley Comics, JW Sims, wants to raise at least $1,000. Anyone who purchases the book on GoFundMe will get the standard first issue of the comic. However, you donate $10 or more you will get a second limited blank sketch cover. If requested, the artist will draw a character sketch on the cover.
I spoke with both Stephen Kelley and JW Sims:
Me: You are the artist of the series but you mentioned having the idea to combine the mob, mechs and vampire. How much input did you have on the story?
JW Sims: First let me start by thanking you for requesting this interview. I really enjoy getting to talk about the business that I love.
I originally came up with the idea for Darkest Night around 1995/96 and it was much different then what became the finished product that we have now. I believe I have only kept three of the original characters. But as far as the amount of input I had on the story, I had already been writing it, in fact I had the first six pages drawn before I met Stephen, the writer. I then gave him a rough outline of the story I had in my head and let him flesh it out. When I got his script back I just tweaked it here and there to let it flow a bit more easily. He actually sent me enough script to almost fill all of issue #2. I think Stephen and I worked well in getting out what we both wanted from the story.
Me: You describe a lot of very personal aspects of your life on GoFundMe such as how you began to slip into a depression, battled illness and went through amputation. First, I want to say I really admire how open you are about this and that you not only survived these ordeals but also didn’t let it stop you from pursuing your dreams. Do you feel these events effected your art in any way?
JW Sims: Thank you for that. I don’t see it as something to hide. It is something I had to live through, and am still living through everyday of my life. Now as far as how these events affected my art, I would it has, but not directly. It has one; given me more time to draw thus allowing me to get more practice and get better in that way. And secondly, my art has been almost my only source of income for the past year plus and it finally led me to pursue my dream of having my own comic company and comic book.
Me: You mention how you rediscovered art in 2013. When did you first become interested in art and what was made you fall in love with it all over again?
JW Sims: Wow that is a good question. I can look back to quite a few times in my life where my art was pretty relevant and a big part of my life. My mom used to tell me and everyone else that I was drawing before I was walking, drawing Batman and such. Then in my earliest teens is when I really discovered comic books and along with a friend of mine started drawing our own comics on notebook paper folded in half and stapled. That was something I continued to do all through high school, thou by then I was onto drawing and writing full length X-Men comics. Which eventually led me to do my own.
Once I was married and started having kids my art slowly started going to the back burner, bringing out the pencil and paper every now and again to draw stuff for the kids or something like that until I just stopped doing it all together. But life has a way of turning upside down on you and I found myself all alone again and feeling very much like that 17 year old kid out of high school, living alone with a drawing desk in my kitchen instead of a dinner table and I decided to start drawing again. The very first thing I drew and posted on Facebook blew up. People I didn’t even know were “like”ing it and that gave me motivation to draw more and more and every day since then.
Me: You also talked about drawing one of your favorite characters, Boba Fett, after your 13 year hiatus from drawing. Why is he your favorite?
JW Sims: What makes Boba Fett my favorite? (as I chuckle) That’s like asking a guy why he loves his wife or why chocolate is someone’s favorite ice cream, but I will do my best to put into words why. I have been a HUGE Star Wars fan since I first saw A New Hope, or as us old people call it just Star Wars, at my Grandma’s on HBO the Saturday night it premiered there. Then I remember going to see Empire Strikes Back in the Drive Inn and then Return of the Jedi in the theaters. And I was always drawn to him. He didn’t ever really talk much, neither did I. He wore the helmet and just looked different from the stormtroopers and everyone else and it just appealed to me, maybe because I saw some of me in him.
Me: Why did you decide to mix the mob, vampires and mechs together?
JW Sims: I can’t pinpoint one reason, but I do know in 1995/96 when I first developed this world now known Hooligan Alley Comics vampires were NOT as big as they have been the past few years. But I knew I always wanted to base the story in and around Pittsburgh, because that was the area I grew up in and it would take place in the future but not too far away from modern times. And I knew I wanted to do a police drama story of the good cop trying to take down the evil mob boss. I think the vampire part came from me seeing the mob and Vampire families very similar, as you had the one main guy and then it trickles down to your street level criminals. So it just seemed a natural fit.
The MECH aspect was added as I wrote the story as a way for the everyday human police officers to battle the immortal creatures of the night. I have always been a big fan of Robotech and Transformers and others and wanted to work my love for MECHs into the story any way I could.
Me: Who would win in a fight?
JW Sims: Who would win? I can’t tell you that. That’s why you have to read Darkest Night to find out.
Me: You created Hooligan Alley Comics. What is your mission statement?
JW Sims: Our mission statement at Hooligan Alley Comics would have to be…We strive to deliver a unique comic book experience from our unique stories to our varying art styles. We hope it will bring you into our world for a short while and leave with the desire to return.
Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book artists?
I would tell aspiring comic book artists to never get up. Draw all that you can. Do it for the love not the money, because if you put your love and your passion into every page, every panel it will show. And if you are good enough they will find you and then the money will come. A simple saying that I have been trying to live every day since I embarked on this mission of creating my own comics is this…OUR ONLY STUMBLING BLOCK TO SUCCESS IS OURSELVES.
I would like to give a “Shout Out” to some people whom without them this would all still be a dream. First and foremost is Stephen Kelley. Not only has Stephen written Darkest Night he has also written a few short stories for an upcoming title called Tales of Grace. Stephen also has become somewhat of our PR man and for that I cannot thank him enough. Secondly Daniel Hamm and Roy Stewart. These two guys took a crazy story idea I had and turned it into an amazing book that I cannot wait to publish. I think I am more excited for that book than my own. Also Gregory Lietsch, without him Darkest Night #1 would not have that awesome cover. And last but certainly not last, my GARRISON CARIDIA and 501st LEGION family. Without all of your support and there are too many of you to name individually but if you are reading this you are probably one of them. You all have lead me through my dark times and laughed with me in bright times and I cannot thank any of you enough.
And I also want to thank you Nicole and everyone there at Comic Frontline for thinking enough of our little venture to take your time to spend with me and asking about the art that I not only love but has saved my life. So I thank you again and I hope you all keep reading our great stories coming from Hooligan Alley Comics.
Me: How did you connect with JW Sims and become the writer of Darkest Night?
Stephen Kelley: Would you like the long five hour version, or the short 30 minute one (laughs)?
Well how myself and JW Sims connected to collaborate on Darkest Nights first issue, was due to me both studying and researching how to break into the industry after I had attended Baltimore comic con last year.
While sadly I’m someone who doesn’t have the best short-term memory, I still dedicated a lot of my time and heart and soul into WANTING to try to learn the business as much inside and out as I could.
When I finally felt confident enough that I was ready to take the next step, I had resigned/wrapped up a lot of my fanfiction projects (as I had spent two or three years possibly slightly more doing fan fiction on the side to get use to writing and sitting in front of my computer).
Once I had effectively taken off my “training wheels”, a started joining various groups on Facebook till one called connecting comic book writers and artists had a posting made by JW. He was asking people to send the three-page pitch to show off their writing (as apparently many had asked and either failed to produce what he wanted script-wise or backed out as fast as they applied).
I applied thinking that “hey this’ll be good experience applying for writing gig”, next thing you know I’m told I get the gig and my jaw falls to the floor like a cartoon character and I almost fall out my computer chair (laughs).
But while sadly it’s only one issue ( I’m not discounting in the future coming back and possibly writing some more issues), it was a great learning experience about just how hard the creative process of doing comics really is.
As a result of putting in the work and really trying, I was offered a spot for Hooligan Alley Comics JW’s indie, company that we are currently trying to fund and get off the ground.
Me: Can you describe some of the characters in the series?
|Darkest Night #1 Page 1|
Kelley: There’s our main protagonist Alric Stormborne, a cop who suffers short-term amnesia (he can’t remember the last couple of years of his life or even who he is other than that he’s a cop and as tough as nails).
Then there’s the mysterious cyber-enhanced Miko who knows Alric from his past ( is she an old flame, not even Alric knows).
And my personal favorite that I had the most fun writing Marcos Prometheus our main antagonist of the series, when I saw JW’s art work of what Marcos look like and a description he gave of how he wanted me to write Marcos as a character.
I strangely thought of Liam Neeson in Batman Begins as Raz Al Ghul (laughs), just a cold, calculating, vicious man who even while calm still gives you the impression that he is not someone you really want to mess with or cross.
Me: What other comic book related projects have you worked on?
Kelley: Currently (sense as of the time of this reply which to be specific is 11:22 PM Wednesday night going into Thursday morning ((4/29 to 4/30)), I am working on a pitch for Oni Presses open submissions as well as a secret group project between various aspiring indie creators that we’re keeping under wraps for now.) as well as doing promotion for Darkest Night still (such as interviews like this one, live podcast interviews, etc. and so forth), as well as prepping for Hooligan Alley Comics second title that we’re releasing soon called Fall from Grace.
Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book writers?
Kelley: Be prepared to curl up in the fetal position and rock yourself back and forth in the corner crying (laughs), but seriously though it’s important to know yourself and know what you’re getting into (as I’ve seen a lot of people in my position or even more experience than me still be crushed under the weight of mediocrity, and not being noticed or still not getting anything published and giving up).
But to be honest I’m only a guy whose wrote one comic issue so instead of trying to play the wise sage role, I’ll give you an amalgamation of various bits of advice that I was given/seen and heard from the creators that I admire or respect both pro and indie.
When I admitted that I tend to be easily distracted or lazy and procrastinate Gail Simone emphasized very strongly that meeting deadlines and sifting through the “hard stuff” was a necessary evil of wanting to seriously consider doing this, artist Chris Campana brutally but realistically told me “you gotta think of this as a full-time job, if you don’t take it seriously and treat it like a real job then it’s just simply a hobby”.
I’ve watched YouTube videos of Mark Waid and Rick Remender respectfully stating this (and to clarify I’m not accurately quoting either one of them, in fact most of it is my own interpretation of how they phrased their advice).
|Dark Knight #1 Pages 2 and 3|
Starting with Rick “it’s a tough tough gig, I’m being called an overnight sensation because people are just now discovering stuff I did 10-12 years ago. This is a brutal gig and if anybody doesn’t treat it as such well then I don’t want to be around them, you’re either busting your ass to get in or you take a cheap way in and if you took the cheap way in, than I have zero respect for you and I want you to get the f out cause there a lot of people that would want your spot”.
Mark Waid: “the best advice that I give to anybody who wants to break into the industry or just write in general, is trust your process and trust how creative you can be with that process. Some people work well under pressure some don’t, I’m one of those people that the more pressure’s on me the better I work creatively.
When I don’t have much going on and don’t have many projects I tend to get bored, but if somebody prefers to not take on a whole lot of projects and take their time and go within the said schedule of their deadline then that’s okay too, but just have faith and trust in your creative process that’s my best advice to anyone who wants to write.”
Me: Thank you for your time JW and Stephen! Best of luck with Darkest Knight and Hooligan Alley Comics!
Do you have a Kickstarter? Want to be interviewed about it and have it showcased on “Kickstart the Week?” Let me know in the comments below or message me on my personal website www.comicmaven.com.
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