The following is an interview with Gabe Smith, creator and writer of the indie graphic novel series Human Comics. In this interview, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor Barbra Dillon chats with Smith about his vision for the sci-fi story and its lead female character, the challenges of being an indie comic book creator, and the ultimate goal for Human Comics.
This interview was conducted on December 25, 2012.
Barbra Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: Human Comics is the first installment of your self-published graphic novel saga. What inspired you to write this cyberpunk sci-fi story?
Gabe Smith: I get this question a lot and never quite know how to answer it. Where does a thought come from? I had this story in my head for years and spent years writing this and subsequent episodes before any real production began. I began writing this story six or seven years ago, and it was only just recently that anybody has read it. For the longest time, Human was only a screenplay that nobody would bother or take the time to read.
BD: More and more comic books, movies, and other modes of storytelling are featuring strong, female protagonists. What can you tell us about Cezra, the lead of Human Comics?
GS: I think you see female protagonists more and more in the comic book and video gaming industry simply because it is profitable to use such a character. Teenage boys are always going to gravitate towards big boobs, and a growing female consumer base also calls for more female characters. I think this is fine as long as the character itself is well created; meaning the writer really has a grasp upon who this fictional being is, and why it is important for others to learn about her. Whenever that isn’t done, the result is a hollow being that seems contrived only for sex or cultural appeal . . . but then the project still does seemingly well, because let’s face it, t— and a– will always sell.
I didn’t want Cezra to be that, though. I spent the most time working on her character, as she was the most difficult to write and create. I wanted her to be somewhat attractive, but not drop-dead gorgeous. Ya know? I wanted her to be blonde, but not a buxom-blonde. I wanted her to look streamlined, more like an athlete, and not so curvy. With Cezra, I wanted a kick-a–, battle-hardened, dominant, bounty huntress . . . not a prostitute running around in lingerie with a sword and guns. I wanted her and the rest of the story to feel like this could possibly be real one day.
Cezra is a simple, yet confused, woman. After I had written this, I realized her similarities to Wolverine . . . a mysterious past with healing abilities. In the story, Cezra doesn’t even really know who she is herself, and her character arc will reflect self-discovery, the way a “coming-of-age” or “growing up” piece would be, I suppose. Cezra is an emotionally damaged being who has been galvanized by hardship. I will explain more of the details surrounding Cezra’s past in future episodes, but, for now, I will just say that it is very dark.
BD: As the creator and writer of the story, did you find that one aspect of the creative process was more challenging (or more natural) for you?
GS: Taking the time to think of this entire world before writing it. Thinking of the story before writing a word. It took a lot of patience, and for me, that was the hardest part.
I usually just sit down and write, but this time I had to think and wait for years. It was hard. Once I finished the pilot episode, everything else just came quickly and naturally.
BD: In addition to your work on the series, Ryan Merrill rounded out the creative team as the artist. Can you tell us about the process of working with Merrill?
GS: Actually, there wasn’t a team. Ryan and I did everything ourselves.
I put up a post on Craigslist to commission an artist for the pilot episode, spoke with many, and selected Ryan Merrill. Probably the best artistic decision I had ever made.
We signed contracts and began the artwork near July 1st, then finished close to November 1st. We did everything over the phone and internet, and never actually met in person until we first showed Human at Long Beach Comic-Con this year.
We are both very thrilled with our debut work. This is Ryan’s first time being published, and mine as well.
BD: Many independent creators have viewed web comics and digital comics as the next best way to make their leap into the comic book industry. As an independent creator, what are your thoughts on digital comics and their presence in the industry?
GS: It’s definitely helping me to get my story and project out there and read by people . . . so that’s good. I’m all about it, really.
BD: As you have already released Issue #1 of the series, are you already at work on the next issue, and how many total issues do you foresee for the series?
GS: The ultimate goal for this project is to do an animated television series for Adult Swim; that’s the dream, at least. I would want this to go 3 or 4 seasons before the finale, so 30-40 one-hour episodes.
BD: Being that we focus on all things “geek” at Fanboy Comics, would you care to geek out with us about your favorite comic books and graphic novels?
GS: I’d love to! I’m currently reading: Fatale, The Walking Dead, Sweet Tooth, Monocyte, and Planetoid.
I don’t read the mainstream stories anymore . . . Superman, Batman, Spiderman, X-Men . . . I just don’t really care what they do anymore. It’s no longer exciting. I kinda feel like I’m over it now, like it’s become stale. Maybe, I’ve been hit with too many commercials and advertisements over the years for it to be exciting anymore? I dunno. I just don’t care anymore.
Actually, that’s a lie. I am excited to see the upcoming Superman movie. I’ll still see that.
BD: What is the most important piece of advice that you can offer to comic book fans of all ages who aspire to work in the comic book industry?
GS: Have fun. In anything you do in life. If you aren’t presently enjoying yourself, then you’re probably wasting your time, which is the most valuable thing you own.
BD: On that same note, which creators have inspired your work?
GS: Ridley Scott, William Gibson, Philip K. Dick, Larry Madill, and Frank Miller.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Human Comics?
GS: Ummmm, nothing really comes to mind. Read my story, I guess? Issue #1 can be read for free at the official website, www.humancomics.com. Not a strong way to end an interview, but oh well.