Bill Nichols’ Prescription:
Comics 10ccs of Scott Story
What inspires you to create and keeps you going?
This question implies that choice is involved. There is no choice, really. I have to be creative, and often, or I would go nuts. Being creative is life. I don’t do much work for clients anymore, because I would rather do my own projects, but I have to be doing something, be it writing or art. The alternative is too grim to contemplate.
Do you have a set routine?
Yes and no. Life going on around me dictates where much of time is allocated, but I try to be creative every day. I can say that I do my artwork in the mornings, and I write in the evenings. I’m not sure why this is, but morning is a time of energy and enthusiasm, thus art, and evening is a time of reflection, so writing.
What kind of output do you try to achieve?
I use all my free time to create. Having said that, I am trying to slow things down as an artist, to enjoy the process more, to give each piece the attention it deserves. I used to burn through work, but the results where becoming more and more disappointing to me. I have really recommitted to analog (ie. “traditional”) art, and that is a little slower on its own. As a writer, I don’t set a word count goal–it happens as it happens. Quality over quantity.
What inspires you WHEN you create? Music? Noise? Silence?
When I write, I need silence. I cannot have interruptions. That’s another reason why writing at night works well for me. When I draw, I often work in silence, but sometimes some good music is inspirational, and sometimes podcasts. I believe this is because art works a different part of my brain, and sometimes it’s good to have something going on to distract that part of my attention. Having said this, I never did master the skill of tuning everything out and drawing for people at conventions. That results in crap.
Who was the first comic book creator that influenced you to pursue this?
That is really hard to put a finger on. When I was a kid I was into Marvel Comics more than DC. Let me put it this way: as a writer, I’m always jazzed up by Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Alan More, and at one time I also really dug Stan Lee, Frank Miller, and Roy Thomas. As an artist, my seminal influences were John Buscema, Jack Kirby, and Gil Kane, but these day it’s usually Jim Lee, Mike Mignola, Arthur Adams, Adam Hughes, John Romita Jr., and Al Rio. I am influenced by almost everything I see, read, watch, and hear.
When did you realize you could follow this path yourself?
It all happened in a pretty decisive moment. I had reached absolute frustration trying to find a publisher and/or an agent for writing, so when I hit 30 I made the decision to switch gears and become a comic penciler. I had recently lost my father and my grandfather-in-law, and I had also recently picked up a bargain bin copy of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (which blew my mind!), so everything in my life converged to make this change happen. It’s worth noting, despite the high opinions I had of my own abilities at the time, that I pretty much sucked as an artist. I hadn’t drawn for over ten years, so I had to start over from scratch. Honestly, I sucked, and all I had going for me was super enthusiasm and monomaniacal dedication. I lived and breathed comic art, and I slowly got better. I got a lot of freelance work early on, and that further encouraged me.
What do you find to be a challenge in creating?
Two things. One, I have to slow down and make better art. It’s so easy to burn through an assignment or commission in the white heat of creativity. Second, I like working on my own material these days, and doing work for other people is just harder. Being a freelance illustrator remains tough, because you are always trying to deliver what the client sees in their mind but doesn’t have the words or vocabulary to explain to you.
What else do you have to learn?
Everything. I didn’t set out to be a generalist writer/artist. That’s like having two wives, or two opposing religions. Everytime I feel I’ve leveled-up in either field, I encounter some artist or writer who works at a higher level than me. Believe me, I’m not saying that I suck, or that I hate what I produce–on the contrary, I dig it, love it, and I hope others will too. I’m just saying that I could always be better, that I could dig deeper and create more meaningful work, that my stuff would have a lasting impact on readers and viewers.
What keeps you motivated to get better?
The easy answer would be low self-esteem and the desire not to embarass myself. But, that’s not the answer, not fully. There’s a level of greatness that always dangles in front of me like a carrot before the horse. I want to be brilliant. I want my work to be loved. I want to be collectable. I want my name to fill people with appreciation and admiration. But, is that the answer? Again, not fully. Maybe it’s just a drive for self-actualization. Maybe its the personal demand to never bore myself with my creative output. I don’t know.
Can you turn your brain (creativity) off (and on)?
For years, when I was sick and was not-yet diagnosed as having sleep apnea, life was a struggle to stay alert and make it through the day. It sucked. I learned how to stifle creative ideas, because there just was not enough of me to go around and finish what I’d already begun. It was a miserable time. Now, I make no attempt to shut down the creativity. In some ways a day without a good, actionable idea feels like a day wasted.
What advice do you have for aspiring creators?
My honest answer would be to get training for a job or trade that will support you and your family and don’t consider a fulltime art career. It is said “do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life,” or some such, and I say bullshit. Total bullshit. The real saying should be “do what you love, and eventually you won’t love it anymore, and it will result in burnout and heartache.” Now, that’s not what I tell to aspiring creators. Let’s face it, if they want to be creators, they will do it no matter what you say. Those creators may as well love you for being cheerfully supportive and full of good advice and encouragement than hate you for being the miserable SOB who cut them down and disappointed them. As an example, when I took my portfolio to my first big convention, Jim Shooter was a consummate gentleman, and he took the time to look over my portfolio, gave me constructive advice, and I went away a life-long Shooter fan. (Unnamed creator), on the other hand, was notably negative, and I went away and never bought anything he’s ever produced. I’m sure he’s a good guy, but I’ll never know because of one bad encounter 18 years ago. Finally, watch what you say and how you say it to would-be creators–on bad word at the wrong time can kill someone’s dreams and crush all the potential they had. Don’t be a dream-killer.
Do you ever worry about running out of ideas?
No. Sometimes I cannot find the specific idea I need at the time, but I always have a font of ideas to pull from.
How do you handle the slow times?
What are “slow times?” I’ve never encountered these. That’s a mystery to me.
How do you feel about the industry?
I almost got work from the big two several times, but it didn’t happen. Consequently, I feel pretty disconnected from the “industry,” as you put it. Indie comics and indie publishing are a whole other subject, however, and I feel terrific about it. So, I don’t do fan art, and I don’t accept commissions of the big, corporate owned characters. If the publisher wanted me to draw those characters they could have hired me, but they didn’t, so there. I’m not putting down the big two, because they still make some damn fine comics. Plus, I dig the movies. My heart is an indie heart, and that’s where I channel my love.
And do you have a website you would want to direct folks to?
To comment on this interview, you can head to the ShoutFyre forum: http://sketchmagazine.net/community/billsnicholsprescription/scott-story/#post-11
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.