I’ve known Chris Warner a long time, about 30 years. Just as I was getting into Apa-5, he was on his way out along with several other members who formed the nucleus of Dark Horse Comics. I met him in person at my first Chicago Comicon that year and he’s always been great to me which I’ve always appreciated.
What inspires you to create and keeps you going?
You never know where inspiration will come from, you just have to stay open and informed and relentlessly curious. I can tell you one thing: you don’t want too much of your inspiration to come from comics. That’s nothing against comics, but if you want your work to grow and become more genuine and unique, you need to draw inspiration from a wider array of sources. This is true of any artform—the more you focus on works from your own discipline, the more likely your inspiration will become imitation. Read a damn book!
Do you have a set routine?
Not really, though were I freelancing instead of editing these days, I likely would have. Having a full time editorial gig at Dark Horse, doing other work is a matter of energy. Editorial is mentally taxing, and doing additional work depends on having a clear head and the energy to do the work.
What kind of output do you try to achieve? I never focused on output, just on trying to do my best. I think focusing on output limits your growth–concentrate instead on doing your best work on every single project. If you do, you’ll get better and better. Goals focused on output are not oriented toward quality and growth. Obviously, a certain amount of output is required if you need to make a living, but we’re not grinding sausage or stuffing envelopes. Focus on the work, not on the amount of it. Just don’t bullshit yourself by turning actual laziness into some Bizarro-world sense of creative integrity. Work hard, do your best work. Let the sausage grinders grind the sausage.
What inspires you WHEN you create? Music? Noise? Silence?
I’m not particularly inspired by outside stimulus—I keep TV, radio, or music running to keep from going stir crazy. When I do listen to music while working, I try to stick to instrumental music, since I find the lack of words less distracting. Listening to music is more likely to inspire me to play guitar. Badly.
Who was the first comic book creator that influenced you to pursue this?
Kinda doesn’t apply to me. I sort of stumbled into comics after exhausting other career paths. I realized one day, later in life than most, that comics were maybe the only thing I was well suited to do. Luckily for me, this was true.
When did you realize you could follow this path yourself?
When people started hiring me. When aspiring artists ask me how they’ll know when they’re good enough, my answer is “people will hire you.” It ain’t rocket science.
What do you find to be a challenge in creating?
Every goddamn thing. If it comes easy, you aren’t doing it right. Of course, that doesn’t mean that if it comes hard you’re necessarily doing it right either!
What else do you have to learn?
Every goddamn thing. One of the most liberating things you will hopefully realize as you get older is that you known nothing. The sooner you can scrape off those barnacles of arrogance and narcissism, the better.
What keeps you motivated to get better?
The fear of getting worse. If you aren’t focused on getting better, you are sentencing yourself to getting worse.
Can you turn your brain (creativity) off (and on)?
Don’t I wish!
What advice do you have for aspiring creators?
Be about the work. If you focus on the work and get good, the career stuff takes care of itself. If you’re focused too much on career, you run the risk of your work going to shit, which won’t help your career. Go for work that gets you fired up, even if another project looks like a better career move. That said, never do work-for-hire on spec. If you’re going to work for free, do your own stuff or participate in a collaboration where ownership is shared. Don’t lie down for someone who just wants to walk on your back. Unless you’re into it, of course.
Do you ever worry about running out of ideas?
No, because ideas are a dime a dozen. Good ideas are hard as hell to come across. Don’t delude yourself by thinking all your ideas are golden. Most of them stink. Be tough on yourself. Does your idea resemble other ideas? Do you really think that your school for monsters/mermaids/ghosts/angels is a good idea? You’re wrong. It sucks. Strive for originality.
How do you handle the slow times?
I’ve been lucky in that I’ve pretty much always had work, knock on wood. Regardless, the most important thing is to keep working, work on something, work on anything.
How do you feel about the industry?
Not enough people on the publishing side have actually done the work—written or drawn comics—and that’s a shame. When I broke into comics, my editors were Carl Potts, Denny O’Neil, and Archie Goodwin, and the publishing industry was filled with comics creators. You could really learn your craft from mentors who really knew. Those days, sadly, appear to be long gone.
What would you say is your crowning achievement thus far?
I don’t think about that stuff. Live in the past, die in the past.
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