I’ve been interviewing independent comic creators and artists for a few months. It’s been great, I’ve met incredible people that I plan to work with now or in the near future. However, I wanted to step back and get a fans view of this crazy indie comic world (plus a look at the mainstream). I immediately thought of Jeremy Travis, a guy who I met on BlackSuperHero.com. I knew he’d give me an unbiased opinion (as much as that’s even possible…) because he’s a smart, honest dude. Our chat is below.
Who are you and where are you from?
Jeremy Travis: Chicago-born, Chicago-raised.
I wanted to talk to you as a representative Fan although I know that you are a creator too. What was the first comic book that you read?
The first comics that I can remember really getting into were from Impact!, a DC imprint. They had ‘The Shield’, ‘The Fly’, ‘Comet’, ‘Jaguar’, etc. But I THINK The Fly was the first of theirs that I read.
I remember that Impact! line. Were you hooked on the medium immediately?
I was mostly because of the newness of it and the coolness of seeing these books that I really had not had access to previously. But as years passed and I really got into comics I began to have a deeper appreciation and love for the medium.
I assume you knew of Superheroes before you started reading comics. Do you remember what sparked you into expanding out of the Impact! line into other books?
The letter ‘X’.
It was the early 90s and EVERYTHING cool began with ‘X’!
I saw the Jim Lee cover to X-Men and I HAD to have it! I HAD to get into their world. At that point, it was all about splash and fantastic visuals. Literary substance wasn’t a factor at all.
Yeah those were heady days. The “X” also caught me about 15 years earlier in the mid 70′s. You were now caught by the visual aspect, when did you first realize that the writing was important too?
At the time, I was under the impression that Marvel was more mature and realistic and that DC was for kids. But I enjoyed the animated Batman and decided to venture into DC by way of the Dark Knight. The first Batman story that I read was No Man’s Land and I was amazed at the story. It was deeper than what I was used to and I began to care more a bit more about story at that point.
I had a friend that I worked with who was also into comics and I was telling him how deep I thought No Man’s Land was and he said if I REALLY wanted something deep to read ‘Preacher’.
He loaned me his copy and I was FLOORED! It was the wake-up moment that said that comics aren’t only for superheroes but for any story. I stayed with the monthly superhero stuff well after that but the graphic novels began to catch my eye then.
By this point you knew most of the mainstream, when did you first notice independent books?
I have a friend, Joe Currie, who writes his own books. I used to tag along with him to the Chicago Comic Convention just to be in the world of comics but I was amazed that someone was actually making their own book.
And being around him at the Artist’s Alley area of the convention opened my eyes to others who were making their own books. I would try stuff out here and there, either due to the appeal of the art or the spiel that the creator would give. Some were good, other were nice tries.
But I really caught on when I got to the HeroTalk forums on the BlackSuperHero.com website.
And it seemed like everyone there was a creator. And there, one can actually learn a LOT about the characters and the premise before committing to purchasing a book.
I found a lot of good stuff there, so now I kinda keep an eye out for more like that.
Ahhh, yes, that leads to my next question. I first met you on BSH, you bring the right mix of seriousness and levity. Has facebook stolen some of BSH’s thunder?
Facebook has taken some of the load off of BSH. That was own home and we flocked there for refuge from a world that didn’t understand us like we understood each other. But Facebook made it easier to do some of the things we did there but on a more public and grander scale.
But what BSH has that Facebook really can’t compete with are the threads that EVERYONE would jump in on and they would last for WEEKS! That’s kind of unheard of here.
Also, BSH, like I said, was, and is for me at least, home. Facebook will eventually be succeeded by Google+ or some other site, but BSH can’t be replaced. Props to Omar Bilal for creating that place.
Yes, BSH is very comfortable, and you’re right, those threads would be massive. Always enjoyable to read. Let me move on to the state of comics today. As a fan, what is the mainstream doing well and what are they doing wrong?
Let me start with the ‘wrong’ first. I stopped reading mainstream comics a couple of years ago because every year they have another ‘end-all, be-all’, things-will-never-be-the-same-again gimmick stories that would oftentimes be basic, boring and trite. And once they were over, everything would revert back to status quo until the next big event.
I recently read an interview done with Alan Moore and he said that when he did ‘Watchmen’ it was to be a stand-alone story and that’s it. but now DC is doing prequels.
His vision was to tell a great story and let that be it, move on to the next thing. Not perpetually milk a story or a character forever and ever because profits need to be made.
THAT is what independents do. THAT is what many of the lesser-known publishers do.
That is NOT what the mainstream does and THAT, to me, is an insult to the readers, to the respective properties and to the medium as a whole.
What they do right: movies, animation and general cross-merchandising. And I only say that because that’s all else that they do. I am really displeased with the mainstream now.
They’re not comic book makers any longer. Now that the big two are owned by the rodents. So give me a couple independent books that you really like?
To be honest, most of the independent books that I like are ones that I got from BSH creators. Punx of Rage, by Joe Currie; Song of Songs, whose creator’s name escaped me now, Monsters 101, by Muhammad Rasheed; N. Steven Harris‘ Fringe, and, not to embellish for the sake of the interview, but your Francisco, the SuperGreen is a favorite of mine too.
Robert Garrett’s Galtow is nice as well.
There’s also a husband and wife creative team that creates a book called The Uniques that I really like.
I’m blushing. Thanks for the nice words, its appreciated. Lastly, let’s talk a little bit about your creations. I know you had one or two in the BSH Montage. Give me the break down, who are they? What do they do?
They are a seven-member team that I came up with back in high school as kind of my own answer to the X-Men. They are called the ‘Heat Squad’ and essentially their story is about how they learn of and handle their abilities, how they come together as a team and how they go from being street-level, regional heroes to a world-renown force of good.
I actually had no idea about your universe. Do you have plans to join the crazy ranks of independent publishing?
I do, but that’s a bit in the far future. I want to further develop my artistic skills first and THEN I will join you and the rest on the indie comics front. I think that the works of independents are the best in that they are the rawest and freshest creations out there. There is no creation by committee for the most part, the vision is put out there as is without some ‘suit’ sitting in the shadows mucking things up.
The indie creator has free reign to tell the stories as he or she sees fit without compromise and he or she will be the sole beneficiary of all of the rewards that come with that.
Whereas we’ve all had a dream to work on our favorite mainstream character’s books, I think most of us care to tell our stories more than we care to work for someone else.
I know I do. I’m a huge Legion of Super-Heroes fan, and always wanted to write it, but after doing Force Galaxia, all I want to do is play in my own universe. Well, man its been a good interview, where can any fans contact you if thats cool?
Just look me up on Facebook under ‘Jeremy Travis’ or swing by BSH and look out for ‘jeremy611′. I welcome to contact.
Groovy man. Thanks for the chat.
Thanks for the invite to do it. I enjoyed it.
Andre Owens has been hiding in Los Angeles for over 15 years, a former Director of Photography, he now writes and publishes the cosmic comic, Force Galaxia. He is currently writing and plans to produce a webseries, The Psychedelic Detective. In his free time he enjoys long form television, sushi and a celebration of all things 420. His name’s not Supergreen!
By Andre Owens