Bill Nichols; Prescription: Comics 10ccs of Dee Fish
What inspires you to create and keeps you going?
I don’t know if “obsession” is a good answer, but it seems to be the one that’s the most relevant. I don’t have much in the way of tangible successes that keep me going. I make a very modest amount off of my Patreon, and my online book sales are, at best, Pizza money level. I do fairly well at shows where I can talk up my books to folks, but by and large, what keeps me going really kind of IS obsession. I NEED to create and tell stories. I don’t know how to NOT do that.
Honestly, I feel empty if I’m not working on SOMETHING creative, be it writing or drawing. Sometimes it’s hard when there’s not good feedback, but there’s a strong need I have to keep at it and tell that next story.
Do you have a set routine?
I should, but I don’t. The thing is that, like a lot of us, I still have a day job. I’m a graphic designer 8 hours a day and that leaves the nights and weekends to create, and I tend to also like to DO other things. I love karaoke and road trips and getting out of the house and not working. I’m 45 and don’t have the same boundless energy to work an 8 hour day, come home and draw for another 10 hours on my own projects every day like I did at 25. So I’m more selective with my time and I work on my projects now when I feel like it. Not as professional, but more comfortable.
What kind of output do you try to achieve?
With my webcomic, Finding Dee, which is a weekly slice of life, semi-autobiographical look at my daily dramas, I publish it every Friday. I’m usually only a few weeks ahead at any given time, so as long as I have about three in the can ahead of schedule, I feel comfortable.
With the new issues of “The Wellkeeper: The Hollow Realm”, I’m still experimenting and worrying less about the schedule of release as it’s more of a backburner project right now. In a perfect world, I’d like to get two new issues of each series in print every year. I’m achieving that with Finding Dee easily enough but not so much with the Wellkeeper.
What inspires you WHEN you create? Music? Noise? Silence?
Background noise is usually TV shows I’ve seen a zillion time like Star Trek or PSYCH. Or my favorite scores, as lyrics are distracting if I’m writing. Anything by Vince Guaraldi, who wrote all the classic PEANUTS music, inspires me while working on comic strips. Star Wars or Star Trek scores keep me jazzed when drawing high adventure. Stuff like that.
Who was the first comic book creator that influenced you to pursue this?
It’s near impossible to say, really. Creatively, there were a few names that I made the earliest associations with “PEOPLE make comics and cartoons” that stick out in my memory. In the early eighties, I loved Star Wars and Spider-Man comics, and after a while, I noticed that Spidey looked BETTER to me when I saw the name John Romita Jr. and for Star Wars, when I saw the name “Walter Simonson”, the books looked more exciting. In cartoons, that same connection came when I saw the name “Chuck Jones”, and that idea took root that PEOPLE made these things. And since I was a “people”, I could make comics and cartoons too.
When I started to realize I wanted to make my OWN comics and chart my own path, there were a handful of books that inspired me. The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird were big influences. As was an obscure indie comic called “The Dark” created by writer Joseph Naftali with art by M.D. Bright inspired me a lot when I discovered it a small con in Manhattan as a teenager.
When did you realize you could follow this path yourself?
I was making my own comic STRIPS as early as 1982, when I did the first Dandy comic, a character I was still drawing regularly until last December. That was heavily inspired by my love of Jim Davis’ GARFIELD and Charles Schulz’ PEANUTS as a kid. I still adore all things PEANUTS.
What do you find to be a challenge in creating?
Something people really CARE about. Finding that IDEA that people really connect to is the challenge. Something that inspires passion beyond just people liking my linework or art, where they connect with the characters as real people. That’s the ever-present brass ring.
What else do you have to learn?
Everything. I need to keep getting better. I need to get faster and smoother. I need to get more consistent in my linework and more patient with my lines. I need to improve my spotty anatomy and get my expressions more fluid. I’d like to get better at realistic faces and not always rely on cartoony exaggeration. But I also want to get BETTER at cartoony exaggeration.
What keeps you motivated to get better?
I’m never satisfied. It’s never good enough, and that’s not a bad thing. That lack of satisfaction keeps me coming back to make each issue better. Each strip funnier. Each expression more defined. I re-read my older work to see what I got RIGHT and what I need to improve all the time. And I try and keep up with what others are up to to see where I need to measure up better.
Can you turn your brain (creativity) off (and on)?
Sometimes, I wish I could. I think I’d be HAPPIER, sometimes. It’s kind of exhausting to always have new ideas vying for attention.
What advice do you have for aspiring creators?
Love it. If you don’t love it, it will always be a job. One of the reasons I SELF publish is that when I was trying to break in in my early twenties, the act of trying to push past the editors and change to be what they wanted to get a gig was making me hate drawing.
I had drawn my own comics since as long as I could remember, and I’ve always loved it. So I started looking into ways to do my OWN thing so that I could keep loving it. I’ve sacrificed a lot as a result of that choice, but I don’t regret it… most days.
Other days, I wish I would have pressed harder to “break-in” and be the next Spidey artist or the like. But more often than not, I’m happy to be that unknown person making her little stories her way. Keep loving it, however you can do that.
Do you ever worry about running out of ideas?
Not really. I more worry about people not caring about my ideas.
How do you handle the slow times?
Honestly, they are ALL slow times, and it’s exhausting. I have never not needed a day job as a comics creator. And I wish my work was successful enough on its own to be my ONLY job, but that hasn’t happened yet and it may never happen. There are things I need to be better at as a BUSINESS person that I’ve chosen not to devote myself to that have hurt me, but I also want to keep enjoying doing what I do. It’s a double-edged sword sometimes.
But I still love getting a new book back from the printer. I still love posting a new strip. Once those things stop thrilling me, I’m done. But it hasn’t happened yet.
How do you feel about the industry?
I think the industry is in a state of flux. It’s resisting change and trying to hold on to past glories and it’s damaging. The business models are changing and the kinds of careers that were possible twenty years ago are fewer and more far between. It’s not dying, it’s changing. And what it’s changing into might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is also allowing some AMAZING stories to be told.
Website you would like to promote?
I have two main sites. My weekly webcomic is at www.findingdee.com and my patreon is at https://www.patreon.com/bigpondcomics. If you like my work and want me to make more comics more regularly, that’s where to help make that happen. Thanks. 🙂
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Author, Artist, Editor for ShoutFyre.com
Bill is the creator of Arteest & Ursula comics, writer for Ringtail Cafe, co-creator of Savage Family, writer and inker of HellGirl: Demonseed. Editor for ShoutFyre and Sketch Magazine. Co-author of Camelot Forever novel series.