Welcome back, my faithful minions! Your Indie Huntress is here to drag you off the street, throw you in the back of a questionable looking van, (with a poor spray painted "FREE COMICS" on the side) and take you off into the land of independent creations. Ah yes....sanctuary. There really isn't anything else like it....Alright, I'll pop out of my personal fantasies for a little while, and tell you more about the latest gem I found: Chris Charlton. He is the owner of Assailant Comics and writer/creator of Binary Gray, Black of Heart, Sleepless and Open Tree: Legends & Tall Tales. He is from Cincinnati, Ohio. Like so many others before him, I met Chris via social media. In fact, myself and two other people reviewed his comic, "Black of Heart," on the Basement Fodder Podcast. It's actually where Michelle and I got our start for our own show: The Mistresses of Mayhem and Chaos. Without further adieu, here is the information you've been salivating for....
What path has led you here, into making comics?
I grew up with comics, but it's really the need/desire to tell stories and to capture someone's imagination. I've been writing stories since I was quite young. I'm not talking about writing assignments in school. I mean, go home and write after school. What started as a massive poetry collection as I developed my love for music, ended up turning into 15 years of singing in bands, touring, recording, etc. I've just always really enjoyed the creative process. I get a lot out of it. Even during the band stuff, I was writing stories, screenplays and comic scripts. I've always been really into film and so I think I took what I learned from music, (rhythm, pacing and working out my creative process), and applied that to the type of visual storytelling I wanted to do from years of movies and comics just to see what would happen. It sort of took on a life of its own from there.
Your personal brand is, 'Assailant Comics'. Tell us how this label came to be, and where you're looking to take it from here.
I tend to write darker stories, so I was looking for a theme that fit within that. I started Assailant as a means to an end. It wasn't just a logo on the book. I wanted it to be something that I could promote as a brand, instead of promoting multiple books individually. It's easy to get swallowed up in the comics industry. There are tons of people out there churning out great work and you have to be competitive to participate in that. Assailant was my way of carving out a little piece of that real-estate. It wasn't enough to just go to shows and be present. I wanted to be associated with something larger. An identity for the brand and a presence online. On the site , you can find out what shows we're doing, read reviews, interviews and buy the books in print or digital. As far as the future, anything I write that's not picked up by another publisher will have that Assailant logo on it. It's something I will always have in my back pocket anytime I want to put out a book where I have "final cut". It's nice to have that option and especially nice to have an audience who is not only familiar with our current work, but anxious to get a look at what's coming next because they know the quality of the work coming out of Assailant.
What is 'Binary Gray', and who is the team of illustrators that made this come to life?
Binary Gray is my take on a really fun, but darker style of super hero story. The main character has a very non-traditional power and it's set in a modern time, but with some very classic elements thrown in. The main character, Alex Gray, is unsure of himself. He's nervous to talk to the pretty girl. He carries a lot of guilt around with him. He makes a lot of mistakes. Naturally, when it comes down to it, he's so focused on finding his father's murderer that he loses sight of everything else and fails to see the big picture. There's really a lot of me in the character. In a way, it's my love letter to 70's Spider-Man, which is what I grew up with and really where I formed a lot of my notions about what a hero should be. It's not always black and white, and a lot of the characters there walk a fine line. However, that's what's interesting about it in my mind. It's fun and there's humor and there's action, but there's also this element of picking up the pieces when things don't go how you planned them. I'm particularly proud to have worked with such a great team on this book. We'll be wrapping up the storyline this year (with Issue 12) and it's been a pleasure to work with these guys. Rowel Roque handles all of the Pencils/Inks, and until recently it's been Thonie Wilson on coloring duties. Unfortunately, Thonie couldn't finish the project, so Vasco Sobral (Freedom Run) will be coloring the last two issues of the series. Of course there are the striking covers by David Hollenbach. He always presents this amazing, abstract rendition of some scene from the books. I love that. By the way, the first few issues of this series are being released for FREE on the Farrago Comics app, so check it out.
Tell us about, "Open Tree" and what we can expect next.
Open Tree is a basically a series of short stories, each story being one issue long. It allows me to tell a complete story while playing with a variety of genres and working with a different creative team on each book. It's this very self-indulgent thing, but it's also great to have multiple books on my table at conventions that people can leave with and not have to worry about when they'll see me to pick up the next issue. Not only that, but different genres speak to different people. The first issue is called "Freedom Run" and it's a Western with a bit of Native American/Supernatural folklore intact. It's a beautiful book, but maybe Westerns aren't your thing. You can pick up Issue 2 or Issue 3 without worrying about whether or not you missed anything because each book is it's own separate "branch" of the tree. See what I did there? For example, Issue 2 is a Tall Tale called "Linus & The Fluke of Love". It's a complete departure from the brutality of the Old West. Not only is the book a fantastic love story, but it's done in water colors, and all of the dialogue and narration rhymes. It was a blast to work on. I have the next two issues planned and I'm working on building them now. One is a heist story that I'm absolutely in love with and the other is a very violent "love on the run" type of thing. That's the beauty of this book - I can make it whatever I want, and jump around to a variety of genres.
"Black of heart" floored me. Who did you work with on this? What is the history of this comic and what would you like to see for it's future?
Well, thank you very much! I love hearing that. David Hollenbach (Binary Gray cover artist) is the real magician here. His art has this incredible mixed media style that just grabs you. As a film lover and a comic lover, this is really right in the middle somewhere and I knew he'd be a good fit for the book. It's such a vicious story. It was hard to write at times. I really didn't pull any punches and the response to the book has been overwhelming, so I couldn't be happier with it. I'm a huge fan of film noir and I'd been putting pieces together for my own book, but after I took a terrifying cab ride I knew I had a good hook for the book and for my killer. Everything really fell into place after that. I did a ton of research on New York City in 1949 (which is always one of my favorite parts of starting a new series) and just really got into it. I think some of the classic elements of noir are there, but I really tried to approach this from a way that noir fans would find unique instead of the same-old thing, regurgitated. For example, we went with a more traditional black and white to really encapsulate that familiar feeling from film and comics, but then went with a color scheme that starts with a few primary colors that increases exponentially as the series moves on and the mysteries unfold for the reader. The mixed media style just really makes the whole thing POP. As far as the future, the final issue will be out this summer and I'm compiling the data for a Kickstarter now. I really want to do this right with an amazing hardback edition. It's such a unique book, I don't want it to be just another collected edition, I want it to be its own piece of art. Something you look at and you just have to have it.
As someone that is a self publisher, a heavy hitting creator, and who works full time- how are you balancing this and yet still staying on your creative game?
I think when you have something you love and something that drives you, time becomes less of a factor. Until I have some physical or mental trauma that prevents me from doing all of these things, this is just the way it will be. As a good friend of mine put it - THIS IS MY COLLEGE. This is what I want to do and I'm busting ass to try and make it happen. I don't ever want someone to say that I didn't give it everything I have. 110% The creative part comes easy. The sacrifice is time for other things in my life.
What are you working on currently?
I have two new miniseries starting production this year. I'm extremely excited for both. One is my first foray into Science Fiction, called "Absent Stars". I don't want to spill too much but I can assure you that it's very unique and powerful. Full of great imagery and a lot of social commentary. Basically the Sun has moved into its Red Giant phase about 2 billion years early and is threatening life on Earth. The focus of the story is a crew that sets out to find a new home in our galaxy. As you can probably imagine, it doesn't go smoothly. The second series is a Thriller called "The Weight of Air". Fans of Black of Heart should really dig this. It follows a psychic and a detective as they work together (or struggle to do so) while searching for a serial killer in present day Hollywood. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing the reaction from readers. I didn't want to do another crime/mystery book so soon, but this just really grabbed me and since it's not noir and it's not 1949, it's a very different set of rules to play with. I had a blast writing it. Outside of that, I'll be continuing the Open Tree series and I'm looking to start writing something new after conventions slow down this Fall. I've got it narrowed down to a couple of potential candidates, but whatever it is, I can assure you it will be different.
Where can people find your work at and where can they find you during the summer/fall con season?
As always, Assailant Comics is your one stop shop for finding out what I'm up to. I prefer the Assailant Comics Facebook Page just because I'm a little more active there, but all of the books and info can be found at the main site, so that's a great place to start! I'm cutting back on shows this year to focus more on writing and the production of the new books, so the remainder of my shows in 2015 will be close to home. SPACE and Tri-Con Columbus this Summer and the Cincinnati shows in September.
As always you can find me all over the internet here:
Michelle Gallagher Poetry (My podcast partner)