Editor's Note: Today we present a special early weekend edition wherein Caine interviews Greg Smallwood, whose comic Villain, is the best Super Hero story we've ever seen in a Zuda Contest. I strongly encourage everyone who frequents this blog to check out Villain!
Can you introduce yourself to the FBU readers? Have you participated in comics that we may have experienced in the past? Anything on Zuda?
Greg Smallwood: I currently live and work in a little town outside of Kansas City, Kansas. Villain is actually my first comic book work. Prior to this, my only professional illustration work has been done as a freelancer for advertising agencies and various local businesses.
Can you tell us about your comic? How much development went into the concept as a whole? Upon reading the 8 pages on Zuda it looks as if you may have a mini superhero universe of your own supporting Villain. Did you produce all of it: art, writing, colors, etc?
Greg: For the unitiated, Villain is about a smart-assed super villain, Shockwave, who is sent away to a prison planet for all of the crimes he's committed. The planet, Atticus, has no guards, no indigenous life, and is home to hundreds of exiled super villains like Shockwave. The most obvious inspiration is Escape from New York but I was also heavily influenced by other films and books like No Escape and Lord of the Flies. It's familiar ground but I think what will set Villain apart from the rest is the focus I'm putting on the main character itself. At it's core, the story is about a nihilist being forced to confront the black and white world that we live in and make a choice. All he ever sees is the gray and I really want to explore what happens when he is forced to abandon his apathy.
Check out the Villain Promo Video on YouTube!
I've done quite a bit of planning for Villain. Planning is my form of procrastination. And thanks to that procrastination, I've got a story outline that could cover several issues. It'll be great if I get to tell that story.
Part of that story is the mini-universe that Shockwave exists in. I really get a kick out of creating characters so I'll have no shortage of villains for my prisoner population. I felt it was really important to flesh out these characters in the development stage so that when the reader sees them for only a few panels, there's a feeling of authenticity there. I want these characters to look and talk like they have a history and personality and I feel that all of that comes from planning. I remember hearing that Michael Mann (director of Heat and Collateral) will assemble whole books of background information for his actors so that they REALLY know their character and, in turn, feel real to the audience. That always stuck with me and I applied the same approach to Villain.
As for the writing and art, all of it was done by me. It's a pretty even combination of hand-drawn and digital art. I wanted it to look like a mainstream superhero book and sticking to the traditional methods of producing comic art was essential to that.
While some superhero content does appear on Zuda it's definately dwarfed in comparison by other genres. Did this fact play a factor in your decision making process on what to submit?
Greg: If anything, the lack of superheroes on Zuda almost discouraged me from doing Villain. I wasn't sure if it was the Zuda staff itself that didn't like the genre or if the votes just weren't there for superhero stories. But being accepted into the competition and receiving such positive feedback from readers seems to suggest something else. I think the lack of superhero comics on Zuda is more indicative of the comic book industry as a WHOLE rather than just the website. Independent creators and companies seem to shy away from attempting superhero stories and view the genre itself as a "cornered market" for DC and Marvel. But in my opinion, the superhero genre is just as viable, open, and free as any other genre and I feel there's a lot left to explore in it. Hopefully, more future Zuda creators will begin to feel the same way.
Mugshots from Villain
Can you take us through the general process of submitting the comic? How long did it take to complete the pages? What kind of communication do you get back from Zuda once you click "Submit"? How long does it take to find out if your accepted?
Greg: Once you hit that "Submit" button, you can end up waiting anywhere from a week to three months to hear anything. For me, it was just about a week shy of three months. It might seem like a long wait to hear any kind of confirmation but at least everyone who submits gets an answer. It may not be the one they want but it's more than most publishers offer. For untested writers and artists like myself, it's a wonderful platform and opportunity.
Do you have plans for Villain beyond Zuda? Whether you win or loose? Will people be able to stay up to date on your Villain blog?
If winning the competition doesn't happen, I'd still like to continue Villain somewhere else. Whether that be in print or online, I'm just not sure. Whatever the case may be, I'll continue updating the blog to keep everyone posted. I'd love to take my new fans with me wherever Villain ends up.
What your doing, if anything, to attract a fan base and get the word out?
Greg: My marketing campaign so far has consisted of a LOT of e-mailing. I've started the Villain Comic blog as well as a Facebook fan page. I've relied heavily on my friends and family getting the word out (specifically on social networking sites) and their support has been invaluable. My next step will be getting the word out to the local comic shops, specifically, Clint's Comics in Kansas City and Astro Kitty Comics in Lawrence. Only time will tell how well my promotion is working but at this point, I'm just doing what I can.
Greg: If Zuda sent you an email stating that they wouldn't accept Villain but gave you a free pass to submit something else what would that have been?
If an instant win was a guarantee, I probably would have done a steampunk superhero story. Both genres fascinate me and, other than Gotham by Gaslight (which is more Victorian than steampunk), you really don't see them mixed together. I originally thought about going that route but wasn't sure how well it would be received. Maybe I'll make that my next project!
Thank you for the interview Greg and GOOD LUCK!
Have a great weekend,