Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Voices from Artists Alley: TYLER JAMES part 1

Our final interview from last Sunday's New England Comic Con was so sprawling and epic that I had to split it into two parts. Our subject? None other than writer and artist Tyler James, who has been featured in the Zuda webcomic competition twice. This first half -- the Fellowship of the Ring of Tyler James interviews, if you will -- discusses Tyler's various projects, including those Zuda series as well as many other comics. Here we go!

Scott Harris: Hi Tyler. Would you mind introducing yourself to those few readers out there who aren't already following your work?

Tyler: Hey, I’m Tyler James, I’m the creator-slash-writer-slash-artist of a number of comic titles. Most recently I’ve been working on Over, which is an online graphic novel, it’s a romantic comedy, sort of a cross between Chasing Amy and Forgetting Sarah Marshall and it updates Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I’m also the writer on a fantasy comic called Tears of the Dragon, which updates Tuesdays. And I’m probably most known for my series Super Seed, which is about the world’s first superpower fertility clinic. So, that’s kind of the stuff I do.

So the material debuts on your website and then you collect it into printed form?

I’ve kind of in the past six months really been getting into web comics. Prior to that I had been posting my stuff online just, you know, finish something, put it online and get some feedback. With Over, it’s my first foray into actual being on a regular, scheduled delivery of content and it’s actually a great experience just in terms of putting out work on a regular basis, seeing readership build, getting feedback. So I’m definitely a convert, as opposed to just when you finish a page or finish something you put it online, to actually delivering it as if you were a content provider. People get on your schedule and know, hey, it’s Monday, new page is up.

Over is just the latest in a long line of projects you've put out in the past couple years. Can you give us an overview of the various titles you've worked on?

Well, Over is a story about an indie comic book creator – he writes a fantasy comic that’s pretty popular – it’s been months since he’s written that comic because for the last six months he’s been working on a graphic novel that he thinks is going to be this great, romantic piece and it’s all about his failed relationship with his last girlfriend.

When he finally delivers it to the publisher, his publisher tells him it’s absolute crap and it’s unpublishable and he doesn’t understand how that’s possible. But what he ends up finding out is that there were about five good scenes and in those five scenes, it kind of explains what went wrong with his relationship. And at the same time, he kind of deals with a number of hijinx with all the stupid, crazy things people try to do to get over bad breakups. That’s kind of what Over is all about.

It’s in the vein of some of the more recent comedies like 40 Year Old Virgin or Knocked Up, something like that. It’s my attempt at doing something a little different. But it’s got a lot of inside baseball because the protagonist is a comic creator, a lot of self-referential comic book stuff, so comic creators really dig it but I think comic fans will enjoy it. There’s a lot on inside jokes to enjoy.

Tears of the Dragon is sort of my attempt to do an epic fantasy piece, you know, Lord of the Rings, Willow, Princess Bride are all kind of inspiration for it. It’s a story that starts out with two dragons in love and at the same time, there’s a king who is dying without an heir. And there’s two rivals for the throne, and one of the rivals is a war leader, the other is more of a man of the people. And the man of the people ends up, to try to become king, he goes back to an old custom where before you become king you have to slay a dragon. Now dragons are very rare, but he tracks down a dragon and kills a dragon and he end up killing a dragon that’s the great love of the other dragon and that basically sets off his slow demise. Just in that initial act.

That’s what kicks it off. It’s a fun story. I’m working with a talented artist from Indonseia who’s just knocking it out of the park.

And then there’s Super Seed, it’s about the world’s first superpower fertility clinic and abhout kind of the pros and cons of a world with superheroes. And the idea behind that is, if you look around the world now, people pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to have kids the way they want – sperm donors from Olympic athletes and Harvard PHDs go for top dollar and the idea is, just how much would people pay for Superman to be a donor?

So there’s just a lot of different story ideas to play with there.

And I also have a book that’s a collection of [some] of my different stories. CounterTERROR is kind of an action-slash-horror mashup. I. C. E. is a comic that competed on Zuda in July and it’s sort of a political thriller that deals with the war on terror and the torture debate.

Tomorrow: Part two of our interview with Tyler James focuses on the business side of things. Just how do you go about assembling a creative team and setting up a successful self-published comic? Tyler tells us his secrets!

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