Shane and Chris Houghton, of Image Comic's Reed Gunther, strap on their two-toned bowling shoes, talk Reed Gunther origins and enjoy some "Spare Time With Dom."
"Spare Time With Dom" pits comic book creators against the extremely talented bowler, Dom, to talk comics, life and whatever else strikes-up in conversation.
The first thing everyone needs to know about the brothers Houghton is that they were destroyed, by myself, in a game of bowling. Chris was beaten badly before the game even began. It was done subtly via tricks and manipulation. Our group ordered drinks and snacks and somehow it was Dominatrix's (my bowling name) turn to bowl when the bill came around. I made sure to bowl a spare instead of a strike that time so as to leave Chris with the bill longer. When I came back from a sacrificed spare frame I pulled the old, "Whoa, Chris...did you pay for the drinks? This was supposed to be my treat." That stuff works on nice guys all of the time. I said "thanks" and sent Chris to start his epic run of bowling something like a 78. Thank god he's an awesome artist because those child-like looks and nice guy lifestyle will take a man nowhere if he can only bowl a 78. Also, it helps to have a great brother.
Shane is a roller. The wild-haired glasses-guy of the Houghton duo knows how to put a pin down. Admittedly, as I was toying with the brothers on the lane of life (as I and most men call it), I started thinking I should start bowling with my non-prosthetic hand. That idea was soon nixed after I looked at the monitor and called the front desk over to ask for a print out of the pirate map which began appearing next to my name. What looked like the closest buried treasures ever was apparently just an indicator that I was amazing.
Shane ended-up only losing to me by one pin and representing the brother Houghton quite well. Our ladies also bowled with us, but they did not factor into the race to be the first loser. Shane stood alone in that position.
When bowling with a big group of people one finds that there is a lot of time to just relax in those sweet plastic chairs and just talk and joke about with your friends. While enjoying our drinks Shane told my girlfriend and I the origin of Reed Gunther.
Before Reed Gunther was published by Image Comics (releasing issue #1 on June 1st!) and even before Reed Gunther was being printed independently in black and white, Reed Gunther was a very different character than the one he is now. Reed used to be a woman! Okay, that part is not true, but as Shane explained: Chris had created Reed Gunther and his bear sidekick, Sterling, as squinty-eyed Clint Eastwood types who would swindle towns out of money in a fun way which the reader would accept as charming. It was like Maverick (Mel Gibson) meets Trapped in Paradise (Cage, Carvey and Lovitz).
After Chris started to lose interest on his Reed-related stories his big brother Shane stepped-in with some praise and ideas. Shane thought Chris was onto something, but understood his brother's talent lied in illustrations and visual storytelling, not in story development or dialog. Shane helped clean-up the world of Reed Gunther, and started plotting out stories which had interesting plots and fun relationship development between Reed and his bear Sterling, which Shane also helped transform into all-around god guys. Shane's energetic stories and slick dialog transformed the once rough comic strip into a polished comic book.
Chris was at art school at the time and needed to continue to hone his illustration skills, so Shane would send Chris stories for Chris to panel out. Chris could practice while putting together a comic book with his brother, Shane. How cool is that?
After doing the black and white independent comic book thing (very original guys) for a while, Image Comics was convinced their all-ages adventures of a bear-riding cowboy comic was ready for stores across the country. The only thing Reed Gunther was missing...was color. Chris handled colorist duties on the first 2 issues, but soon found that the coloring process was taking too long for them to handle. Shane explained the tediousness of doing the coloring flats (separating all of the sections that need to be specifically colored...like a bus-monitor from the 40's and 50's, in the South...freak'n racist flats) for an entire comic book, especially a comic book which includes plaid shirts. At first the guys were hesitant to have another person shape the imagery of a comic book they worked on for so long, but after handling coloring duties on just 2 issues for Image Comics, the Houghton brothers added a colorist to Reed Gunther.
After the six of us turned in our bowling shoes, we sat down for another drink and a few desserts. As I started to nerd-out on comic book talk, the guys totally killed my buzz by saying they were currently reading more Image, Dark Horse and other small press indie titles than other larger press books. I'm a big Marvel nerd so I decided to switch the subject from Spidey's recent loss of spider-sense to something most guys can relate to: video games of our youth. Sadly, they seemed to be late to the party in the video game field. Their first system was a Nintendo 64...and like 3 years after it came out! Being from Ohio, I understand that people from Michigan are slow and out of touch, so I don't blame them...I blame their parents.
Now that both brothers are out of school they have taken-up residency in southern California. Besides illustrating Reed Gunther, Chris also works on the Nickelodeon TV show "Fanboy and Chum Chum." Shane is an entertainment "Jack of all trades." He not only writes Reed Gunther, but he also does freelance writing to go along with his filmmaking. He actually stars in one of the best Doritos commercials I've seen in some time.
The brownie sundaes were eaten, the beers were resting in our bellies and the weekday night was late. The first "Spare Time With Dom" was coming to end and I accomplished everything I had set-out to accomplish: knock-down more pins than anyone else, have a couple of beers and hang-out with a fun group of people. As anyone who as ever met Chris and Shane will attest, they are two of the nicest guys, who happen to be brothers, ever. I actually invited them to "Spare Time With Dom" just because I wanted to hang-out with them. At one point they asked if I wanted to ask some formal questions and I felt bad because I didn't want to. I ended-up asking some since it was accompanied by beer and ice-cream. Honestly, they said a bunch of stuff that I don't even remember because I was enjoying my treat: Spare Time With Chris and Shane Houghton.
Go out and buy a couple of Reed Gunther #1's this Wednesday, June 1st! Get a copy for yourself and buy a couple for your nephew, niece and friends. I've read the issues and can honestly say... Reed Gunther is a blast for any age! Reed Gunther makes me wish I was young again so that I could wish to grow-up to be a cowboy...or a bear...whichever wish is more practical.
If you live in the Manhattan Beach, CA area come on out to The Comic Bug to meet Shane and Chris Houghton as they sign new copies of Reed Gunther! They will be signing from 5-8pm, this Wednesday, June 1st! The brothers Houghton will also be at Golden Apple Comics on Friday June 3rd from 7-9pm with a live giant snake!
For more comic related posts and reviews by Dom, head on over to 365DaysofComics.com!
Written or Contributed by: Dom G