10 Questions for B. Alex Thompson

B. Alex Thompson is the writer, publisher, and driving force behind Approbation Comics. Often credited as Bart A. Thompson, his work includes Chaos Campus: Sorority Girls vs. Zombies, Vampires Unlimited, The Lazarus Factor, ChiSai, The Metamutoids, The Evil Inside #1-6, Armour #1-6, Myriad #1-6 (all Approbation Comics), Lethal Instinct #1-6 (Alias Comics), Dark Horrors 2 (Arcana Comics), and Bram Stoker’s Mummy (Graphic Planet).

Watch for his current and upcoming work in the Chaos Campus — Hell Week graphic novel (Approbation) and Blood, Shells, & Roses (Arcana).

He currently lives in Louisville, Kentucky, but will be headed back to Los Angeles, California in about 6 months. Wherever he’s at, learn more about him at www.approbationcomics.com.

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

Originally I planned to write, direct, and produce television and movies. I officially turned to the comic side of things around 1995 or 1996. I did these horrible self-written and drawn Vampires Unlimited and The New York Creatures — now The Metamutoids — mini-comics. I’d take them to Kinkos or work and mass print copies. I’d staple them and send them to my meager mailing list of about regular 30-ish readers. Thanks to the pen pals sections of Wizard and The Maxx.

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

So many people, but I’m drawing a blank. I’d say therapists who helped guide me channel my rage, frustration, depression, etc. into creative endeavors. I’d also say my ex-fiancée Venessa who let me know she’d rather have me safe behind paper, pens, and pencils than behind a badge and gun on the streets as a police officer.

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

Again, so many people I’m drawing a blank. I’ll attribute it to Sam Kieth and William Messner-Loebs on The Maxx. I’ve never been too much for caped superheroes and The Maxx showed me that you didn’t have to go that route in comics. You could write any type of story you wanted.

Question 4: What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

That changes so often. Music. Movies. Sex. Walking. Running. Driving. Nightclubs. I guess, in general, life.

Question 5: Describe your typical work routine.

I work a day job three days out of the week and I usually try to put a few hours in after that. On days off if I’m in the creative zone I’ll work until I can’t keep my eyes open any longer — usually around 6:00 to 9:00 AM.

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

Lots of ink pens with black, blue, and red ink, regular typing paper, lined index cards, lined notebooks, my PC, the internet, Microsoft Word, Final Draft, Adobe Acrobat, Photoshop, highlighters, and tons of print outs. Tons of other stuff, but those are the most essential.

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

That changes often. Sometimes it’s coming up with a new idea and realizing it can go places. Sometimes it’s discovering a new turn in the idea you didn’t realize before. There’s finishing the writing on the project. There’s getting art back on a project. Sending to the printer. I guess the part that gives me the most personal satisfaction is holding the finished comics in my hands.

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

Right now it’s The Evil Inside and Amour mini-series. They’ve been the closest to my vision so far. I can’t wait to put the TPBs out. Soon, it’ll be the first Chaos Campus official graphic novel.

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?

I noticed you put “promising” in front of “new creator.” That means they have talent, dedication, drive, and a touch of insanity already. I’d say be prepared to do a lot of pro bono work. Go to conventions and get to know people in the industry. Be prepared to eat Ramen noodles for five years if an artist and ten or more if a writer. Don’t expect to make money out of comics; do this only if you have a burning desire that can’t be extinguished. You will need a day job to live.

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?

It’s better to try for the brass ring and fall short than to have never tried at all? My philosophical moments are all accidental.