Thanks for doing the interview Cam. You and I both started making comics around the same time but have different influences that we pull from. What started your interest in comics?
I guess I have always had an interest in them. There was a book store very close to where my family lived when I was a kid and I would get Fantastic Four or Iron Man frequently. The selection was limited but I always got at least Fantastic Four and then another book or two based on the covers that month.
The turning points were the very few times I was able to get comics from other places. My first trip to an actual comic book shop, when I was around 8 or 9, saw me walking out with a bunch of unusual books. The important one being the first issue of HERO ILLUSTRATED, which only ran for a few years, that included a black/white 16 page GRENDEL/BATMAN preview for the upcoming crossover. I wouldn’t get another comic with Grendel in it for a long time but it left quite an impression on 8 year old me.
There was a similar instance a few years after that. I went with my mother to a local antique/thrift store and rummaged around some boxes of magazines. There was only a single comic in the whole place – Issue #1 of MASTERS OF TERROR, an anthology of black/white horror adaptations. It was originally published in 1975 and there was only one other issue. I love anthologies and certainly have a soft spot for horror themed ones and this is where, I think, that started.
How long have you been self publishing?
Early 2009 I finished the first Scrambled Circuits issue, copied and hand stapled together. Later that year I had it professionally printed and put out a second. So it has been… I guess 7 years about.
What made you decide to start self publishing yourself?
I had always absent mindedly doodled during school. I doodled far more than I took notes. In elementary school I got scolded by one of my teachers because she saw my notebook was full of doodles of zombies, covered in red marker blood. When I wasn’t at school one of the things me and my older brother would do, a million years ago as little kids, was make and draw stuff. Little comics, trading cards, and other things like that. Just for us, really.
December of 2008 I found myself unemployed. It was literally a week or so later in January that I started trying to make some sort of actual comics. I had moved in with my father and had a lot of time on my hands. I would walk down to the public library and try to draw or write while I listened to ART & STORY, an audio podcast where comics creators talked about how to make them. I had actually been listening to that for a while before I ever got started. A few months later I found myself walking 45 minutes home from a Staples with a backpack full of copies and spending all night folding and stapling together a 32 page comic book I titled SCRAMBLED CIRCUITS, that stars a robot named Primus and his family and friends. I went on to Facebook and Twitter and offered them for free to anyone who wanted a copy and somehow ended up sending out around 130 copies. I had to go back and print more and ended up spending a lot more money than I actually had then on postage. Some copies went to England, some to Australia. It was unbelievable.
Who has influenced your style?
I’m not sure, really. I feel like most of the creators or comic series that really resonate with me don’t noticeably manifest in my comics. I can’t imagine anyone going through Scrambled Circuits is going to pin me as a huge Grendel, McKeever, or Hellblazer fan. Of course, though, the year before I started Scrambled Circuits was when I discovered Harvey Pekar’s AMERICAN SPLENDOR. So as far as a starting point for format and content, that is number one, and probably the only influence that might be noticeable.
What tools do you use to make your comics?
Microsoft Word with a custom template for typing up the scripts/notes I give others. That’s how I do most of my work. When I do draw, which I should do more of but prefer to leave it to those with actual talent, I just use pencil and inks that I will scan and clean up in Photoshop. Nothing fancy, in any respect. When I have time away from the day job and the energy to experiment, I’ll mess with paint or charcoal or my drawing tablet or whatever I can find but none of that really ends up in an actual book because I’m just not very good with any of it (Yet?) but I have tons of fun.
You use monsters and robots in your comic as avatars for people in your life. I remember when I did a story in your 4th Scrambled Circuits you were surprised when I included humans. What made you decide to tell your stories with the way you have?
Honestly, part of it was because I couldn’t draw humans the way I wanted the characters to be drawn. I knew I wanted them to be able to be very expressive, both in their faces and body language, and in the beginning I could only accomplish this in a way I liked if they weren’t humans. Also robots, aside from being just plain cool, allow for a lot of really simple but fun visual effects. I wouldn’t quite call them gags but just quirky little things that I can incorporate in subtle ways that don’t really call attention to them. The main character, Primus, for instance has a compartment on his chest. For the most part it is just something that is there. Every once in a while he will very casually open it up and pull some random object out of his chest. I’ve discovered some new reasons I like this world of robots and monsters as I work more on it and people like you add their own touches, of course, but originally it was because of the visual emotions I was personally able to do on robots and monsters that I just couldn’t while drawing humans.
What do you get out of making comics?
I was not exactly made to feel like it was safe to express myself growing up. Comics have allowed me to do that through them and, over time, made it easier to open up with people in general.
Right now I’m working on issue five of Scrambled Circuits and in the middle of compiling the 22+ stories in the first three issues, that I drew all on my own, into a paperback collection. It will feature all of those stories in chronological order from Primus’ point of view, as well as including behind-the-scenes notes and commentary about each story, either from Primus or myself. I’m currently looking to fund a very small print run of paperback book.
All of the relevant information can be found at http://acdpcomics.net/kick
Most of the Scrambled Circuits comics can be read online at http://acdpcomics.net/tapastic
I can be reached on twitter at http://twitter.com/camcallahan