During our Kickstarter to print Falling: Chapter 5 of Fury's Forge, we ran an AMA page. We gave people a few days to ask us any questions they wanted! Then Tessa (artist of Fury's Forge) and Zack (writer of Fury's Forge) answered them.
How has your practice changed over time?
If by practice you mean our business (Underdog Comics), then here's your answer:
Underdog Comics started as a school project for me (Tessa) when I was in 11th grade. I entered the school business competition, then made it past three levels of competing to nationals where Underdog Comics was in the top 3 in the country (US). After that, we got attached to Underdog Comics. Over the past two years or so, Underdog Comics has grown from a team of 2 to about 7. We have more books, more stories, two and a half Kickstarters under our belt, experience with webcomics, an awesome website and website manager (shoutout to Jalen), we've been to cons, met fans, made friends, and generally haven't stopped growing. If you ask me the same question in a month, we'll have even more new things to share with you.
Where are you from?
We are both from Massachusetts - the Boston area.
Are your comic books in stores in your country?
We have sold in very local bookstores like Bedrock Comics (which is in Eastern Massachusetts). We primarily sell on our website: www.underdogcomics.com/shop
What’s your background?
I have a background in pirate slang.
I have a background in goat herding.
Why are you like this, Zack?
Being like this is my entire brand.
How old were you when you started writing?
My grandma is a published murder mystery novelist and my mom is also a writer, so I like to joke that I’ve always had writing in my veins. Not counting the extremely convoluted, almost soap opera-esque, stories I would play out with my stuffed animals and Thomas the Tank Engine toys, I first started telling stories in a more formal setting when I was four. At my pre-school, I would fill out blank books with pictures and dictate the words to an adult who would write them down on the indicated page. So I’ve been “writing” since I was four. I distinctly remember “writing” a series of these books called The Evil Rock about a rock that’s actually a robot that brainwashes an average man so that he will be her servant. Which, in retrospect, is pretty messed up for a four-year-old, but oh well. I’ve always had stories to tell and I’ve been wanting to tell them ever since I could talk.
What do you think is the key to comic book success?
Keep with your work! Trust yourself and stand by the stories you want to tell. If there’s a story you’re passionate about, then work with it. Perfect it. Share it. Chances are, if you’ve put enough work into it, then other people will like it, too. The projects and stories you decide to pursue are special to you. Don’t forget that. Be bold. Be weird. Be yourself. And then people will care about what you have to say.
I think the key to any story's success is working with another creator. It helps to develop plot by going back and forth with each other about story ideas, it helps the characters become real when you have to practice conveying them to another person, and it keeps you interested and on schedule. A good creative partner and a bit of determination goes a long way.
I have a story written, and pretty well developed. Would you like to collaborated to create a Comic book?
We're always interested to work with other creators! Go to www.underdogcomics.com/contact-us and send us what you have!
What is the best starting point for someone that wants to pursuit a career in comics writing?
Just start generating ideas! Comics, more than almost any other medium, are able to go as weird as you want. So no idea is too wild or too far! My advice is to just start brainstorming like crazy, developing your ideas and characters. And then when you have an outline you like, start writing! Don’t get too in your head. Editing your writing in real time does nothing but slow you down and impede your progress. You can fix things later. To get started, you just need to get words onto the page.
What themes do you pursuit?
I grew up reading Neil Gaiman, Lemony Snicket, and Edgar Allen Poe, so I think that so many of the themes I try to tackle are in those veins of the dark and mysterious. I’m definitely fascinated by the ways children and young people tackle a world that is relentlessly dark and cruel, and how they are still able to find strength and love despite these circumstances. In this same kind of school of thought, I’m a fan of themes of loss, hope (or lack thereof), found-family, and questions of authority.
Who's that awesome guy you guys have doing your website? He's pretty great. BTW this is totally not Jalen.
Oh, yeah, he's not that great. He has a tendency to eat all our chips.
-Tessa ( :D)
What is your all time favorite comic?
Bone by Jeff Smith. It was the first graphic novel series I read, so it always has a really special place in my heart.
My all time favorite comic has to be Rat Queens by Image Comics. Its about four awesome fighter women in this fantasy-kind-of-d&d world. They go on adventures and kick butt and you should definitely check it out.
Are your comics designed for adults and children?
We strive to have comics for all ages! Though we are targeting teenager to young-adult readers, some of our biggest fans are around or under the age of 10. Some of our stories are totally appropriate for kids, and some are enjoyed by kids but may have themes/subtleties that go over kids' heads. We are working on some projects that may be a little bit inappropriate for kids (though we haven't released any of these yet). Fury's Forge is appropriate for kids, and enjoyed by adults.
Hi Underdog Comics! Do you have any social media we can follow, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Linkedin?
We have a lot of social medias!
Facebook: Underdog Comics
How long have you worked with comic books?
Zack and I have worked on Fury's Forge for almost 4 years. It took us about 3 years to complete the whole series (which is approximately 300 pages in all) and now we're working on printing it. During those 4 years of working on Fury's Forge, both of us worked together or separately on other projects that are still being published or haven't been published yet.
How long did it take you to create your comic book Aceblade?
Our comic is Fury's Forge, not Aceblade. Perhaps you got lost on the AMAfeed website, sir?
But it took us about 3 years to create a 300 page comic series.
What inspires you the most when you create comic books?
I think it's super important to have stories that represent underrepresented people such as authentic women, ethnic minorities, the LGBT+ community, etc. But it's also important to have neither these characters nor the stories they're in be defined by any of these things. That's why I created Underdog Comics. We tell stories through comics because they're easier than movies, tv shows, games, etc. We, a small group of creators, can make exactly what we want the way we want. There's no mainstream media requirements or outside influence.
The first comic/graphic novel I ever read was Jeff Smith's Bone series and, to this day, I think it's my biggest inspiration in writing comics. From dialogue to action sequences, Bone definitely has deep roots in my style. For Fury's Forge specifically, I drew a lot of inspiration from The Breakfast Club, believe it or not. It's a great point of reference for how teenagers interact with one another.
Do you think it is easy to create a character people will love?
It definitely is a challenge to get people to connect and empathize with a character. Oftentimes the best way to go about doing this, however, is to give the characters significant flaws. Humans are all flawed and, for the most part, we're all pretty aware that we're flawed. So you never want to make a character who is perfect. They're not relatable and not interesting to follow. The hard part is finding a way to balance a character's flaws with their strengths. It's different for every character, but once you find this balance, you'll get a character who is endearing, not DESPITE their flaws, but BECAUSE of their flaws.
In comics, it's important to work closely with the writer to convey characters in a way the reader will love. Once Zack figures out flaws, quirks, characteristics, etc, it's my job to then bring them to life. Each of the Fury's Forge characters has a certain way they stand, a certain way they smile, a certain way their face shows anger, confusion, sadness. Each of them has a unique physical language that the reader can find relatable and that's what makes them lovable.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself as a part of Underdog Comics. I hope it's still around by then and bigger than it is now. It would be really awesome if we could have an office by then and we could all eat doritos and have bagels on fridays and stuff like that. That's where I hope to be in 10 years.
I am so lucky to have had so many opportunities in my life and so many direction’s my life could go in. So in ten years, I legitimately have no idea where my life might be. If I could decide right now, I would love to still be doing this: writing for Underdog Comics and sharing stories with the world. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.