Nix Comics mogul Ken Eppstein is back on Kickstarter for the eighth issue of the amazing Nix Comics Quarterly, and despite his better judgement, he joined The Outhouse to help get the word out. Comics may be somewhat "mainstream" today, but if you're looking for a comic that's actually "cool," NCQ is where it's at! You can trust me - I'm a 36 year old Dad who knows what "cool" is all about!
Check out our interview below with Ken, a veteran comics creator and publisher, music buff, and former Outhouse contributor, and then head over to Kickstarter to get your greasy mitts all over a copy of Nix Comics Quarterly #8!
Cover by John Jennings
To start things off, tell us all about the superpowers that your awesome superheroes have.
Aw man... NCQ is a garage rock horror comic. Imagine Tales from the Crypt filtered through Creem magazine.... so no real superheroes.
I guess the Vicar character that recurs is kind of a superhero.
Ooh, we're really unprepared for this, aren't we? I'll be right back.
*tosses boilerplate questions aside and goes to read the Kickstarter page*
*twenty minutes later*
Ok. Not a superhero comic. You say that NCQ is partially inspired by record store culture. What exactly is "record store culture," and how does it translate to a comic book?
Well, just like the folks at comic shops have a similar pop culture background, so do the folks who hang out at record shops. I use the touchstones that are common place among record store people to inspire the stories in Nix Comics Quarterly. So everything from B-Movie sound tracks to the twisted little fables that you find in the grooves of a good punk record.
Fortunately, there are enough similarities between comics culture and record shop culture to make it an easy translation.
You mention horror comics as well. What is it about horror and rock n' roll that makes such a great combination?
Oh man... The settings and themes match up really well. A good horror story usually involves themes of isolation and helplessness in the face of some inexplicable and irresistible force, not unlike a misfit rocker struggling with the aspects of society he or she has been marginalized to.
A scummy dark night club is as scary as a haunted house already. Half the folks in a bar on a Tuesday night look dead already!
Art from NCQ#8 by Tillie Walden
That's... sort of depressing. But true. Do you think it takes a special sort of reader to appreciate that perspective?
I suppose. The kind of reader who has a gallows sense of humor like I do. If you're the kind of person who cracks goofy jokes and makes horrible puns about serious subjects, you'll get where I'm coming from I think.
You know... I'm not a fan of the super serious modern horror. Its completely humorless and flat.
I'm a firm believer that if you stare long enough into the abyss, it'll ask you to take a picture because it lasts longer.
Is a dark sense of humor enough, or do readers need to have a working knowledge of underground music and B-movies to appreciate NCQ?
I think the sense of humor enough.. You don't need to know who Cyril Jordan or whatever to enjoy the stories. Any direct references I make more as easter eggs as a gift for people who are already in the know.
Ha ha! People who don't know who Cyril Jordan is. What a bunch of rubes!
Who's Cyril Jordan?
A guy who was in a band named the Flamin' Groovies in the 60s and 70s. They were influential on what became punk rock in that same way that Iggy Pop and the Velvet Underground were.
But you've enjoyed my other comics without knowing that, right?
Oh yes, they're fantastic. But of course, I really did know that. I was... er... just testing you. Ahem. Let's change the subject.
Sure. Before I start throwing in made up names to fuck you up.
Art from NCQ#8 by Michael Neno
This is the eighth issue of Nix Comics Quarterly, and you're on Kickstarter, which means you aren't filthy rich yet. What's gone wrong?
I've made the mistake of paying my contributors.
Why is that important to do? Shouldn't people be happy to work for "exposure?"
Well, its hard work making comics. I think that as a publisher its on me to have faith that I'll eventually turn this thing around to the point that I'm making money. Its not fair to ask artists to make the same risk. I have a decent day job, so I can afford to take the hit for my dream.
It's funny though, I'm actually not all torches and pitchforks over people working for exposure or on spec... As long as they are getting other value out of it. (Helping a friend, learning on the job, etc.) and aren't being snowed by someone promising unlikely amounts of distribution.
Let's watch your Kickstarter video together, okay?
*Three minutes and twenty-four seconds later*
You're not taking the most important aspect of any Kickstarter project very seriously, are you?
Nope. I hate kickstarter videos... especially when it comes to selling comics. I'm shooting for a literate audience, not one that needs to have someone tell them about what they are about to read.
Well, I thought it was pretty funny. I encourage our readers to go and give it a watch while visiting the page to back the project. On that subject, there's quite a few reward levels for backing. You can just buy some comics, which is pretty straightforward, but there's also original art and signed copies, and even a collection bound with... duct tape.
Sorry, that was a question. A collection bound with... duct tape?
Yeah. It'll be all eight issues of the quarterly stitched into a book board and duct tape binding. I learned how to do that in the most punk rock way of all... I took a class with my mom at the local Cultural Arts Center.
When I finished the first one, the teacher told me it was "very Street."
I used to know a guy that did that to his trousers. So what's happening inside Nix Comics Quarterly #8?
The issue will have four feature stories and four shorts. There some recurring features like the Vicar (a vampire slaying priest who leads a garage gospel band), Bus stop Ned (whose dialog is all stuff actually overheard by the author on mass transit) and also a couple of new stand alone stories... Like one where I give tips of succeeding in indie comics through sacrifice... Human sacrifice.
The Vicar has appeared in every issue of Nix Comics Quarterly, right? Tell us about him.
Yeah! I co-created him with Michael Neno for the first issue. (Michael is my favorite local artist!)
Like I said above... The Vicar is a monster/vampire hunter who tours the country playing sleazy music venues and slaying the creatures of the night in the audience. He dresses as a priest with visual cues from Joey Ramone, Guitar Wolf and other leather clad long hairs. His back up band.
Michael and I have been hinting through the first eight issues that the Vicar is himself somehow not human... That at the very least he is ageless. The story this issue takes place on the road in between gigs and sheds a little more light on his history by giving the reader a peek at his dreams.
Art from NCQ#8 by Darren Merinuk
Some of the other creators have been working with you on Nix for a while too. Like Darren Merinuk and Rich Trask.
Those two guys have been with me since issue #1 This Alesiter Crowe story is the first time that they've worked together.
Basically... Aleister Crowe is my version of a horror host... Like Uncle Creepy or the Old witch, but with a little more story to him. (I always wanted more stories around those hosts. One of the great things that Gaiman did in Sandman was breather some life into Cain and Abel!)
Crowe originally appeared in issue #2 in a feature story that introduces him as an Alice Cooper style musician who murders a younger Marilyn Manson type singer. Since that issue I've been using stories about Crowe in prison to bookend other stories... Basically as if Crowe is singing horror ballads to his fellow inmates.
Not all of the stories are written by you. The Music of Eric Slowhand by our former Editor in Chief Christian Hoffer and Derek Stewart is another returning feature that kicked off last issue. If I remember, you paired them up for the book, right?
Sort of. Christian approached me with a story for NCQ #7, but he didn't have an artist. (A post-apocalytpic deal where the last record store owner on earth struggled against lovecraftian horrors released by a critical mass of digital music formats)
I usually leave a few pages in each issue open for submissions and list periodic calls to fill them on my website and social media accounts.
Christian came to me with a script, but no artist. I suggested Derek who I had worked with before. (Usually I ask submissions to come with a complete creative team, but made an exception since I knew both of the guys involved.)
The Slowhand story is a follow up, so Christian brought Derek back.
What are the chances you can order Christian to do another interview with us to promote the book? We miss him dearly over here.
Chances of ordering him? Nil. I can ask though!
Art from NCQ#8 by Derek Stewart
Nix is never going to become the next DC Comics if you keep treating your contributors with this kind of respect.
I dunno. A "Did Nix Comics Do Anything Stupid Today?" website would have a lot of material.
The last feature in this issue is the biographical piece that gives helpful tips to aspiring indie creators based on your real, non-embellished experiences with Nix Comics. The artist on that story is Tillie Walden, an up and coming cartoonist. Tell us how she got involved, and what we can expect from that feature.
Oh man. Tillie's great and I think that she's really going somewhere. I'd like to say that working with her has been the result of me combing through the ranks of the up and comers, but the truth is I got lucky... Tillie's my cousin! (My mom's cousin's daughter to be specific. I don't know what level of 2nd versus 3rd that is.)
The story she's working on is a Mad Magazine style collection of tips on succeeding in indie comics through sacrifice. (Well Human sacrifice to be more specific.)
It's... um... a gag. So not so real life.
Don't worry, nepotism is how we get all of our writers at The Outhouse too. I'm related to everyone through marriage. Sure, that's because they're forced to join a polygamous cult when they sign up, but who's keeping track of the details, amirite? (note to Outhouse writers who are reading this: it's true! you should have read the fine print!)
Wow, things really HAVE changed since I worked at The Outhouse.
Anyway, in addition to the features, there's some short stories as well. Want to give us the rundown on those and the creative teams involved?
Mark Rudolph is returning to do a "Did It Really happen?" story about the Cramps. (With that feature we try to make light of old music urban legends or rumors, placing the onus on the reader to decide is there is any truth to the story.)
As I mentioned above, there will be two Bus Stop Ned Stories. One is written by me and illustrated by Rafael Rosado (of Giants Beware fame) The other is written by Matt Miner (Toe Tag Riot and Critical hit on Black Mask Studios) and illustrated by Gideon Kendall, who I met at the Small Press and Alternative Comics expo (SPACE) just a few months ago!
The last short is by Rob Jefferson from Cincinnati. We met on-line at the garagepunk.com forum/bulletin board. Its another gag strip about supposedly rejected Nix Comics stories.
Art from NCQ #8 by Rich Trask
So obviously the best way to support this issue is to preorder it on Kickstarter, and maybe some back issues as well, or some signed Matt Miner comics. But are there other ways people can help spread the word? Tell their local shop to stock some Nix Comics?
Yeah man, all of that! Its hard getting word out about a unique pub like NCQ... And my punk rock target audience is notoriously advertising resistant. Word of mouth is about the only way I have to grow!
Maybe you could get a popular band to paint the company logo on their leather jackets, or print the website address on the inside a of a glue huffing bag. Something to think about.
Aw man. Where were you in the planning stages. Nix comics glue huffing bags would've made a great reward level.
Probably for the best. We don't want to be liable in the lawsuit after someone reads the human sacrifice story while all huffed out. So what's next after this, besides the following issue of the anthology? Any other projects or events?
Next year there will be more NCQ and at least one more issue of the Western. Other than that, nothing that is fully formed enough to talk about yet.
I'll be one of the exhibitors at the CXC expo in Downtown Columbus this coming Saturday! That's pretty exciting.
One last question. The Kickstarter is already funded with two weeks to go, so would you like to announce an outlandish, unrealistic stretch goal right here in this interview?
Well, that would certainly instill some fake drama into an otherwise happy situation... Which is a staple of modern comics promotion... But, no. I'll pass.
Thanks Ken. A pleasure as always.
So what are you waiting for?! Head over to Kickstarter and get your copy of Nix Comics Quarterly #8 today, and pick up some back issues if you need to catch up! You can also find out more about Nix Comics at their website, or, in a novel twist, by reading their artistic statement in comic form: