We resume our series of local comics talent this week with a name that should be familiar to regular readers of BuyIndieComics.com: our very own perpetrator of Cosmic Mutiny, Andre Q. Owens (I have no idea if “Q.” is his middle initial or not, but I added it for emphasis years ago during a rare quiet stretch at SDCC; Andre didn’t seem to mind at the time). On top of his regular column here at BIC, Andre is also the writer/creator/publisher/impresario behind the wonderful capes in space saga, Force Galaxia. I would also like to point out that, when I abbreviate his name to only his initials in the interview below, it says “AO,” which I read as a sort of exclamation: Ayyyy-Ohhhh!
Anyway, our esteemed Editor-In-Chief, Dale Wilson, first suggested that we conduct a mutual interview a few weeks ago and, since Andre and I go way back to the early days of The Antidote Trust (the balmy summer of ’06, by my recollection), we opted for a Truffaut/Hitchcock model. Basically, we asked each other questions in a stream-of-consciousness fashion and let the answers dictate the course of our conversation. I’m running Part One of our talk in this column; Andre will run Part Two is Cosmic Mutiny next week.
So, join us, won’t you, as we discuss everything from Race in comics, overlooked local talent, and self-help books. Now, onto the indulgent questions, rampant name-dropping, and mutual back-slapping!
FAT: Okay, first question, Andre: who the hell do you think you are? What makes you think you have anything to offer anyone else? I’m trying to go for the “Truffaut” effect here…
AO: In the macro sense, I’m a human being that has many opinions that I want to convey to better the world. In micro sense, I’m a loud mouth who likes to write fiction. I’d like to think I’m an artist.
I think one is obligated to express themselves if they have the wherewithal.
FAT: What you’re saying reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s recent commencement address. Did you happen to see it or read the transcript? He talks about creating art as an obligation, but also as a form of therapy. First of all, I just linked you to Neil Gaiman (you’re welcome). Secondly, I often find that writing comics helps me work out some conflicts I may be having or not even consciously know I’m having (even if nobody reads them). Do you ever feel the same way? Is the process of creating comics cathartic to you as an artist?
AO: Yeah, I saw the Neil Gaiman address and thought he was right on, I wish I would’ve heard similar advice when I graduated. And thanks for the tangential link to Neil Gaiman, because I write so much like him (this is dripping with sarcasm…). Creating anything artistically tends to be a cathartic experience for me. I’m not a naturally gifted writer, I’m more visual, hence my former life as a Director of Photography, however, I find writing to be so fulfilling on many levels. After my divorce, I was seeing a therapist who actually told me to stop seeing him and continue to write as that seemed to be more therapeutic for me.
FAT: Well, I’d dispute that point about you not being a naturally gifted writer. And that’s pretty amazing advice from your therapist. My first reaction to hearing that is, wow, at least you didn’t have to pay for any more therapy sessions. But my second thought is, oh, right, self-publishing comic books. So much for saving on money…
Speaking of self-publishing, when does Force Galaxia #3 debut in our solar system?
AO: Self-publishing has been the most fun yet frustrating thing I’ve ever done in my life. I know you understand that with your adventures with Dial “C” For Comics. As for Force Galaxia #3, it is about 80% complete: Supergreen14 is ready, Omegan Chronicles needs to be colored, and The Sisters of Power is done. The entire book needs to be lettered and that should about do it. I then need to money to print as I dont like the cost ratio of POD. So I will be joining the ranks of a myriad of artists and will be conducting a Kickstarter campaign to raise the final funds. I’ll be putting that together over the next couple of weeks and will be soliciting soon. So expect an email or social media bombardment for Force Galaxia.
FAT: I look forward to it. Can you chart your secret origin for me? How did you get to be a kid from… Baltimore, right? How did you get from there to Director of Photography to publishing the cosmic adventures of Super Green 14, et al? I know Legion of Superheroes factors in there somewhere…
AO: Ahh, the ol’ history. I did grow up in Maryland but didn’t live in Baltimore until college. I actually grew up in Western Maryland in the outskirts of a small Mennonite heavy town called Maugansville. In the early 70′s my uncle and I integrated our elementary school so I learned early to appreciate being an outsider. Although I dealt with me share of bigotry, from being called the worst of names to being ostracized within my cub scout troop, it was a good time and place to be a kid. I could hop on my bike on a Saturday morning and not come home until dinner time. Gone all day. I used to write stories about me and my friends and that lead directly into creating my first comics. After getting hooked on the Legion and the Avengers, I created The Afenders in middle school starring the same cast of characters who later became Force Galaxia. I used to pass the comics around to kids for their reaction. I was known as the comic guy. I actually wrote and drew a story for the school paper called Super Cowboy. I still drew all the time in High School, but girls took the place of comics and I drifted away from creating the books. I still wanted to be an artist, yet upon graduating and visiting several art schools including Joe Kubert’s, I realized I can draw okay but I’m not an illustrator by any means. So I decide to go to Film School instead, which led to me to become a D.P. It was after moving to L.A. and feeling restless that I was introduced to a book called Creating a Life Worth Living, which helps artist focus on their passion. That got me back to creating comics and Force Galaxia was born. It took a few years and hard work and a ton of money but my childhood obsessions were finally fulfilled.
Creating A Life Worth Living cover illustration by David Lloyd
FAT: Could you go into Creating a Life Worth Living a little more? In general, do you think more aspiring artists/creators should check out self-help books as a means to motivate them? Do you think there are a lot of unknown talents out there, just because they don’t put in the time and effort to create their own product?
AO: The book Creating a Life Worth Living by Carol Lloyd is an excellent book that helps creative people find what they are actually good at that may be profitable (we all know the indie comic world isn’t that). I don’t know if all self-help books motivate everyone, but a book targeted directly to creative people is definitely something that I think all aspiring artists should be willing to read. Yes, I think that there are tons of super talented people who have no idea how to get there creative endeavors out there, I was one of them until I got frustrated and decided to do something about it.
FAT: I also have a follow-up about where you talked about being ostracized due to bigotry. I know that we joke about this at cons, but where do you think we are racially in the comics biz? I sure feel it is, based on my Super Pimps experience…
AO: As far as race and bigotry go in the indie comics world, I think it’s a matter of perspective. We all can be a bit prejudicial in our lives, it’s not allowing those prejudices to manifest themselves that keeps one from becoming a racist. Meaning, don’t let your internal bigotries affect the way you treat people. For example, I first heard of The Super Pimps during Force Galaxia’s debut at the now defunct Wizard World LA. A Black friend was walking around and came back to my table and said “There’s some white guys selling Black Super Pimps.” I shrugged and said “Whatever.” He, on the other hand, was outraged. So I went over and checked it out myself. Now upon viewing I had no problem with the book as it was well produced and didn’t have any outright racially offensive elements to it. Thus, I think that at Cons we can all be a bit myopic and only look for things that reinforce our worldview. So I may not get that white kids money because he doesn’t see someone that looks like him on my covers, conversely Super Pimps may not sell to a person of color due to their own preconceived bias.
FAT: Yeah, my standard line at cons now is: “Check out the first issue before judging it. If you read it and are offended, I will buy it back. But if you are offended without actually reading the comic, then you are literally judging a book by its cover, which is prejudice in its most basic form.” I’m happy to say that I still haven’t had to buy back a single issue of Super Pimps.
AO: Yeah, I caught flack for having a team of mixed raced women called, “MG and the Sisters of Power.” Black folks say if they’re called “Sisters”, why aren’t they all Black? And my retort is that Black people don’t own a monopoly on the term “Sisters.”
FAT: Can’t please everyone, right? I used to correct people and tell them that I’m actually half-Cuban, but now I just let them think whatever they want. All I can do is stand behind my work.
Staying in the multi-cultural vein, what’s your take on the DC New 52 mandate to diversify their cast? I’d rather just see them create all new characters rather than retro-fit old ones, but what do I know?
AO: In an ideal world, I’d prefer new characters of color in DC (sorta like I’d like new characters of color in Washington D.C.) but, given the state of the industry, I understand trying to retro-fit old characters as they already have an established fan base. Both of the Rodent parent companies of Marvel and DC need to diversify, not just the characters, but the creators, too. There is no reason that a talent like Mshindo isn’t doing covers for the big two.
That does it for Part One, gang. My thanks again go to my friend and colleague Andre Owens. Do yourselves a favor and check out his Force Galaxia books, if you haven’t already. Each one is filled sixty-four full-color pages containing several terrific stories that are well worth the cover price.
And please be sure to check out Andre’s Cosmic Mutiny column next week for Part Two, where we cover L.A. as a comic book town, the 90s implosion, and comic convention horror stories…
Richard A. Hamilton is a Los Angeles resident for 12 years running and the writer/publisher of Return of the Super Pimps and Miserable Dastards. On his free time, he seeks out new Indie comics, local beers, and –on good days — both.