Welcome back, my faithful minions!!! Your Indie Huntress is here to save you once again from the constant bitching of mainstream comics! Today I present to you, Dan Nokes. A diamond in the rough. Dan and I met via Facebook (where I troll every independent creator I can find.... invasive to the point where I'm surprised I haven't received a stack of restraining orders.) I've been following him for some time now, and have collected nearly all of his works. His stories are captivating, with a dirty art style that stands out amongst the overly digitized world we live in. I'm a stickler for anything hand drawn. I feel that it provides a sense of wonder and that one can truly feel the passions for the work that the creator has provided. The blood, sweat and tears are more prominent with this method. Dan is a one man band: writing, lettering, illustrating and publishing all of his own material. Additionally, he he takes on commissions and keeps a healthy stock of his art at all times. A rare breed as he has chosen to go after this dream full-time. Without further delay, may you thirst no longer, as I dive into the mind of a madman.....
Why have you chosen to make independent comics?
I had submitted a bunch of material to: Marvel, CrossGen, Image, DarkHorse and other companies. Either I didn't receive a response or got a generic rejection notice. (The one from Marvel I am pretty proud of actually.) I had a ton of ideas. It occurred to me that the only way I was ever going to get published, was that I was going to have to do it myself. It's a matter of both personal preference, lack of opportunity from the big name companies, and compulsive need to tell stories and get them out to the general public...no matter what reality at large tells me in opposition.
Being a one man band in comics, how has this affected your creative process? Your ideas are unconventional and charming- how do you stay on your game?
I've done collaborative projects on a work for hire basis. However, with most of my creator owned projects: it's been me and me alone. On the good side, there is not an editorial filter telling me I cannot do. On the flipside, that same lack of editorial oversight makes it difficult to catch a slip up, in terms of story pacing or continuity errors. You have to wear all hats on that level. There is always the fear that one will suffer in quality because of the other.
You are also a main organizer for the VA Comic Con. Tell us more about it's history and some of it's previous guests.
Sure! The VA Comicon was started in 1986 by Guy Rose. I started going as an exhibitor in 2006. Around September of 2011, I lost my day job and was trying to make a go of being an indie creator full time. One of the two people who were a big help during this formative period was, Brett Carreras. He is one of the owners of the VA show. He was putting together a 2 day show on Halloween of that year. He asked me to assemble the small press roster for that show. Apparently I made a decent impression, and went on to do all the future 1 and 2 day shows. First as Small Press Liason and then in charge of Vendors and Booth Sales. In that time, we've had guys like: Chris Claremont, Larry Hama, Bob Camp, Herb Trimpe, Bill McKay, Chris Flick, Chris Otto, James O' Barr, and quite a few others!
What's the story behind the big stuffed chicken?
Basically my Dad worked at a waste disposal area at the county. He came home one day with Chicken and asked if I wanted it. It sat in my room for about a year until about 2010. I started bringing him to shows; dressed in cosplay and a sign that said OFFICIAL SPOKESCHICKEN OF 21ST CENTURY SANDSHARK STUDIOS.
"Pistoleers", is a surprisingly interesting tale in the Western genre. What drove you to dive into this subject?
I had finished The Paranormals in 2008. I was really tired of the conventions and tropes of Sci-Fi and Fantasy that were prevalent amongst the more popular comics at the time. I was also on a western kick at the moment. Inspired by films like Silverado, Young Guns II, and the westerns of John Ford. I wanted to explore that genre, while at the same time bringing my own voice to the vehicle. I had a sketch I did of the characters in 1995. I dug it out of my bin and started tinkering with designs, biographies, and a general plot. I like the idea of confinement being a motivator of creativity. This was a western without aliens, magic, or super heroes in the mix. I was confined by the rules of reality. I tend to think those limitations allowed me to find new ways to write and explore characterization a lot more in depth that I did before.
I understand that, "Adam and Eve: bizarre love triangle in the zombie apocalypse" has an intriguing history. Will you elaborate on this?
It was born out of the commercial failure of The Pistoleers. Critics loved the book for the most part. I put out the title and....NO ONE BOUGHT IT...Seriously, I had single issues I printed in 2008 that took me over two years to sell every last copy. It was a hard lesson in the nature of the fandom. In that frustration one day; I had decided as a joke to make up story names that would sell themselves on the title alone. I cannot remember any of the others. However, the one that stood out- made me laugh and raise an eyebrow; was ADAM AND EVE: BIZARRE LOVE TRIANGLE IN THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE. At first I dismissed it. Shortly afterwards I realized I could make something out of it. It was an opportunity to set the book where I lived and that was kind of fun as well.
Can you tell me more about, "The Impossible Space Tales of the Last Pit Stop" and what is next for this Web comic?
In short is basically about: WHAT IF AREA 51 WERE IN FACT...A CONVENIENCE STORE FOR ALIENS? Again, this is me picking a genre and writing a love letter/critique of that genre. With Space Tales, it's cience fiction. I've always liked Sci Fi since I was a kid. One of my hangups is that most of the stories are always from the vantage of The Jedi Knight, Ace Starfighter Pilot, Soldier Princess, or Daring Rogue. Well what about the rest of the universe with daily grinds and crappy dayjobs? Space Tales is born out of "dirty" or "blue collar" science fiction like Alien, Red Dwarf, and Futurama. It's taking science fiction and adding elements of "slice of life" comics. My way of putting it is taking the Cantina Scene from Star Wars and have it be from the vantage point of the bartender, owner and wait staff. Suddenly its about a couple of dicks that come in, get into a brawl, leave a couple of corpses in their wake and the cops come in and shut the place down. Space Tales pretty much hangs off that angle. Up next for the comic is finishing off a two part story arc featuring the assistant manager Margaret. Then moving on to finish out the series.
Are you at liberty to discuss, 'super secret project: echo 59' aka the Star Wars sketch cards for Topps?
Yeah! That was very...time consuming....Its my first time working for a major company in any capacity. Not particularly limiting creative wise. Just a lot of work, in a little allowed time. I'm proud of the work and all. Not to mention it puffs up my resume and makes me look all shiny and important like!
As a person that is a self publisher, will you touch on the mechanics of this and how it has been a beneficial decision for you?
Self Publishing is basically taking all the work of post production art, lettering, formatting, sending work off to printers, paying for the printing work, coordination, trying to get fans to buy your finished work and getting store fronts to pick up your book and slapping that down on top of your creative duties. All means of production (More or less) are on you to get done. It throws people into the business end of the pool. For many artists and creators, its a very non-glamorous unappealing aspect that inspires fear and angst about pursuing their passion. It's the deep end of the pond withouy a safety net. In the end, I would say it's beneficial. Maybe not always financially. However, it has allowed me to put out my stories on my terms.
As we see the comic industry being reshaped over the years, a major argument lately has been that women in comic books are often portrayed as overly sexualized and/or being used in violent ways. This argument also includes that there aren't enough female characters. That being said, I have noted that your work not only contains a healthy balance of women, but they are used in a respectful and intelligent fashion. Tell me your thoughts on these arguments, and why you choose to use your female characters in a way that isn't perceived as the norm in mainstream.
I honestly do not think that up until recently that it has been a conscious decision per se. I just create interesting characters. I was never thinking HEY I NEED A STRONG WOMAN CHARACTER. I do think there is a lack of WELL WRITTEN FEMALE CHARACTERS in comics. So many fall under the tropes of INNOCENT TEENAGE GIRL DISCOVERING POWERS, or UBER HYPER SEXUALIZED VAMP, or STRONG SILENT WARRIOR PRINCESS IN SKIMPY ARMOR. or three or four other overused stereotypes. I think the need for me to be different and apart from the crowd, drives me to make characters that don't make you cringe and say UGH! THAT'S BEEN DONE A MILLION TIMES! A side effect of that is that when I create a female character- I make it a point to make them special and interesting and not copied from mainstream. I also don't like the idea of the woman as the OBJECT OF DESIRE on a pedestal: without characteristics of her own outside of how the male protagonist sees her. I see it a lot and see it as pretty myopic and one dimensional.
What are your thoughts on the market of independent creators? Do you believe that it is becoming flooded? How does one keep their work fresh and standout above the others?
With Indie comic creators....No. There are a lot of fan artists, geek crafters, and others in the field that maybe combined with comic creators makes some shows difficult to sell my wares out at. But that is one aspect of a bigger field. Now maybe from the perspective of that the internet has highly democratized and made an open range for anyone to put out a comic. This has allowed way more people than ever before to put a comic out for public consumption. Now for every genius groundbreaking graphic storytelling masterpiece. There is a MOUNTAIN of crap that simply isnt very good. The market and fandom usually finishes out what doesn't work.
Finally what is next for you? What can we look for in the future?
For the most part, finishing Space Tales. That and getting the rest of the Virginia Comicons out there for the fans to go to! After that....I think I would like to take a break finally. Been doing one comic project or another for almost 13 years straight. I like the idea of not being involved in a project for a couple of months. Knowing my luck however, Im sure something will ignite my imagination which will plunge me head deep into the next book long before that opportunity presents itself!
If you'd like to hear more; check out the podcast from my partner Michelle and I: MofMandC Podcast with Dan Nokes NSFW
You can find more from Dan at: 21 Sandshark Studios
Follow him on Facebook at: Dan Nokes
As Always, you can find me here: The Indie Huntress