The following is an interview with comic creator Tony Fabro regarding the Instagram-based webcomic, Three Panel Crimes. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Fabro about the inspiration behind the webcomic, his shared creative process with the various artists with which he collaborates, what he hopes that audiences will take away from Three Panel Crimes, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: At Fanbase Press, we recently came across your ongoing webcomic, Three Panel Crimes, which you release on Instagram. For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the premise and format of the webcomic, and what inspired you to tell stories through this interesting concept?
Tony Fabro: @threepanelcrimes on Instagram is a webcomic. We post at least one crime story per week, told in just three silent panels. What inspired the concept was a YouTube video by a cartoonist named Lars Martinson.
Lars’ advice to new writers and creators was to do as many small projects as possible in order to fail faster and learn from their mistakes – allowing writers/artists to develop their skills, gain experience, and create a body of completed work. Rather than devoting years to a single project that may get stalled and never completed.
At the time, I was also reading a collection of Lynd Ward’s “Wordless Novels” and things just clicked into place.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in crafting three-panel stories, and what have been some of your creative influences?
TF: I like to set up a daily routine of completing at least one three-panel script per day, usually really early in the morning. Sometimes, I’ve got the third panel figured out and work my way backwards. Other times, there’s a crime I read or hear about, and I try to figure out how to portray it visually. Song lyrics are a big inspiration, as well. There are multiple three-panel stories based on J.Cole bars.
Part of the fun is the limitation of three panels and no dialogue. I have to be really focused as to what to leave out. There have been many times I’ve gotten an idea and wished I had an extra panel to make it work.
In terms of creative influences, I’m a huge fan of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. I also really like Jim Thompson, Ross Macdonald, and Darwyn Cooke. Lynd Ward’s silent graphic novels made from woodcuts are something I look at often for inspiration, as well as artists like Robert McGinnis, Coby Whitmore, and Harry Anderson.
BD: Likewise, given that the stories have varied artists, what can you tell us about your work in collaborating with other creators?
TF: It has been a really great experience working with so many talented artists in the last two years. I’ve been privileged to be able to work with a wide range of artists from all over the world. Due to the short turnaround time of the three-panel stories, these artists have generously made time to collaborate with me. I’m extremely grateful to the people I’ve met through @threepanelcrimes, and it has led to me making a few new friends.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Three Panel Crimes will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that these stories were important for you to bring to life?
TF: I’m so glad you guys are doing that initiative. Stories have given me a lot of hope at many challenging times in my life. There are countless films and books that have helped me along the way. The circumstances and settings are infinite in variety, but the feelings are universal to being human. It’s the recognition of the feelings in common with the story that allows me to be open to a new perspective or solution to any problem life may have.
Ed Brubaker’s LOWLIFE inspired me to turn my life around and start making comics in the first place. Lars Martinson’s YouTube video gave me advice about managing expectations and setting small attainable goals.
I hope that anyone who reads @threepanelcrimes and wants to make something of their own can see what worked for me and go out and do their own thing, one day at a time, towards their creative goals.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
TF: I’m currently finishing up two graphic novels; they’re both crime stories. They’ll be 100% completed in March, and I’ll either take them to publishers or Kickstarter.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Three Panel Crimes?
TF: At the moment, we’re solely on Instagram at @threepanelcrimes. Please feel free to shoot us a message and say hi!