10 Questions for Gary Reed

Gary ReedGary Reed has been writing and publishing comics since the late 1980’s. As publisher of Caliber, he published hundreds of comics titles and helped launch the careers of many of today’s top creators.

As a creator, he has written a wide variety of comics, including the long-running Deadworld, Dracula and Frankenstein (Penguin Books), Saint Germaine, Raven Chronicles, Seeker, Jack the Ripper, Renfield, Spirit of the Samurai (a young adult novel) and many others.

The Canton, Michigan, resident current projects include A Murder of Scarecrows and Deadworld: Slaughterhouse, both in early 2009. Watch for a book called Subversives in mid-2009. You can find out more about him at www.garyreed.net.

Question 1: When did you first decide that you wanted to create your own comics for a living?

It wasn’t so much a decision but rather circumstances. After opening a book store and deciding to carry comics to appeal to younger readers, the comics took over and via that decision, I got into publishing and then creating comics. It was all incremental rather than a momentous and conscious decision.

Question 2: Who has had the biggest influence on you outside the comics industry, and how did they affect your life?

I would have to say my wife, Jennifer. I never had much expectation expected from me or anyone else when growing up as we were poor, having lived awhile in the projects, so adulthood was something that was successful if you managed to have any kind of job at all. It was more surviving than anything else. She led more by example and got me thinking of going to college and I took control of my future rather than just slogging along. I guess I have to say she exposed me to a whole new way of thinking.

Question 3: Who has had the biggest influence on your comics career, and how has that person changed your work?

I can’t really say that anyone has influenced my comics career although I’m certain that there are snippets of inspiration from a number of different people. Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman showed that there can be a variety of sophisticated material produced, but outside of that, I can’t think of anyone that motivated me.

A Murder of Scarecrows cover - smallQuestion 4: What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

I think creative people don’t necessarily need overall recharging but sometimes do in regards to certain projects. So, to recharge on one project, move onto something else and then approach the previous one with a bit of distance and perhaps a different look.

Question 5: Describe your typical work routine.

No such thing. Every day is different. Some days I can spend 8-10 hours on writing, others I’m lucky if I can squeeze in one. Since I teach college biology, during school I don’t get as much of a chance to write as I would like. But I take the summers off and then I usually have my coffee and answer my emails before talking a walk and then start writing. I’ll go as long as I feel it’s productive, and that can vary from one hour to ten hours. Just gotta go with the flow.

Question 6: What writing, drawing, or other tools do you use?

I do everything on my PC, but I was one of those who protested computers for writing when they first hit the scene. I could not envision not using a typewriter. I used to go through stacks of legal pads to write notes and snippets and then type but now with the computer, I do everything there. I can’t even write longhand any more; my hand cramps up after one paragraph. Besides, I find I can’t read my own writing sometimes.

Question 7: What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?

When I finish. I know that seems obvious, but when I get whatever project I’m doing finished, it’s a sense of relief. When I check over the lettering or even the final printed version of the book, it’s usually anti-climatic. Sort of like actors when they finish their roles in a film, they’re done and the released version that comes out much later is something different and a bit remote.

Question 8: What has been the most rewarding project in your professional career – in or out of comics – and why?

Since I do many shorter works that only run a few issues for the most part, each one has its own reward. I don’t get that from Deadworld, which is what I have worked the longest on, because it’s always just a part of a bigger project and there isn’t a sense of resolution. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that Deadworld is not rewarding, but I never get the sense of completion with it. If I had to pick one project that was most rewarding, it would have to be the anthology, Of Scenes and Stories, as that collected many of my short stories and had scenes from some of the longer works. I felt that represented me as a writer more than any other project.

Question 9: We’ve all met very talented newcomers who are trying to get their first professional projects. What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard given to a promising new creator?

Advice varies so much and its application varies so much as well. I think the general idea that most new creators should grasp is that if they embark in comics, they should be true to whatever they want to do and don’t compromise themselves. Sure, you can do projects that you may not relish if they’re important for your career and spotlight your talent, but don’t try to become something you’re not or don’t want to be. Success, especially for the young, is often gauged by others but as you get older, you realize that only you can determine what your success really is.

Question 10: Time to get philosophical: What’s the most important “big idea” that you’ve learned in life – in or out of comics – and why is it important?

There is no Plan B in life. This is it. Whenever you make a choice in life, you automatically eliminate other choices so as you go down whatever path you’ve chosen. No sense turning around to look back; just keep going as there’s going to be a lot more choices ahead of you.

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