Bill Nichols’ Prescription:
Comics 10ccs Pam Harrison
What inspires you to create and keeps you going?
The more I think on that, the deeper it gets. I believe I’ve been a storyteller for my entire existence. I had early influences from my grandfather, who introduced me at the age of 6 to comic books. He had been a huge fan of the WWII era Wonder Woman comics…and even though he couldn’t read or write, he could follow the stories and action. He loved ‘em and wanted to share that with me. I may have disappointed him that day in 1970 when I chose Adventure Comics #400 featuring Supergirl (I have a framed copy of that issue hanging in my studio), but he was good with it. As time went on we had a weekly routine of going out to get an ice cream cone and a comic book.
There have been other people in my life that influenced me to keep creating stories, but those early influences stick with you.
Many, many years later…I’m kind of on a mission. I am free to tell the kinds of stories I want to tell. I have thrilled readers, made them laugh, made them cry, made them scream. Some storylines have inspired readers to stick it out through a tough phase in their life, just because of how their favorite character handled adversity. It’s my readers who truly inspire me to create and keep me spinning out story after story. I was surprised back in the beginning when so many readers wrote in to tell me what an impact those stories were on them, the characters they had grown so fond of, connected to, celebrated. I’m now free to create more stories, and it’s an open road to adventure. I can’t wait to see where we go from here.
Do you have a set routine?
I do, but between work and outside obligations and a bunch of needy pets, I don’t always get to follow it. I take full advantage of Microsoft notifications and Calendar, setting up several years ago (tinkering as projects are completed) daily calendar reminders and agendas and so forth to keep me on task…and when that’s not possible, I take notes in my handy little notebook.
What kind of output do you try to achieve?
Since I finally completed my award-winning historical fiction series House of the Muses back in September 29, 2019—from July 2007 to 2012 (and an unexpected 7-year hiatus to 2019) the final date that amounted to 10 52 page comics, also available now in TWO 300-page graphic novel compilations, plus extra content from the early days of the series—I am now down to a quarterly magazine (ICC Magazine, which showcases Indie comic artists) and my sci-fi comic series A Deviant Mind, which publishes 6 bi-monthly comics per year (barring real-life interruptions). A Deviant Mind the webcomic typically publishes a new page every Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. All 71 books I’ve published are available on IndyPlanet.com. So yeah, when life doesn’t get in the way I put out a lot of creative stuff.
What inspires you WHEN you create? Music? Noise? Silence?
That depends on my mood. I usually have the TV going while I’m working, and during that time, for hours at a time, it’s no more than background noise. Working on a fast-paced story, it’s WQXE 98.3 playing in the background. On a serious deadline….dead silence. Total focus.
Who was the first comic book creator that influenced you to pursue this?
Dick Giordano, of DC Comics showed up in my local comic shop in Bowling Green back in 1987. I’d heard he was going to be in town and had brought several penciled comic pages (from Wonder Woman #1, by Potter, Perez and Patterson) to show him, and my penciled pages were illustrated in George Perez’ style. I was shocked to hear him say “You are REALLY GOOD. Send a submission over to Sal Amendola, and we’ll get you started.” I got letter from DC Comics, a letter of encouragement, a pamphlet of artist’s information with perspective drawing and anatomy lessons and was urged to complete a story and send it in to Sal. I never did.
I was stuck in a violent, abusive relationship at the time. I got several pages into my DC Comics portfolio submission, and the ex, in a fit of whatever, snatched those pages away from me, ripping them to pieces. It broke my spirit almost beyond repair and quite definitely changed the entire course of my life.
Long after I left him, it would take me years to get that back.
There was a stunning scene in House of the Muses #9 where I addressed that incident very graphically, and it shocked my readers, especially those who were also comic creators. It was very therapeutic and was the beginning of a long healing process. Art as therapy really is a powerful thing.
When did you realize you could follow this path yourself?
That would have been around the year 2005-2006. Having made the solid decision to finish my Bachelor’s degree, I studied at Sullivan University, then known as Louisville College of Technical and Graphic Design. House of the Muses, which I had also begun in 1987, was still in prose form. In the course of my graphic design studies and curriculum I discovered 3D Studio Max and DAZ 3D Studio. I still had that traumatic penciling block, but realized I could use these programs to take the stories in my head and render scenes, and tell stories. Something clicked, and I said, “Hmmm.”
House of the Muses debuted at drunkduck.com in 2007 as a CGI-illustrated webcomic back in the day when most “Poser” artists were churning out porn. I was in it for the stories. Some critics mocked my early work and said a lesbian-based historical series needed more porn scenes, but I learned quickly who to ignore and how to use those comments to improve my output. Favorable story reviews flooded in from around the world. Brian Cronin of Comic Book Resources and Sergio Aragonés would later thrill me with comments like, “BEST CGI comic artist EVER.” Now in 2019 I can see how very far I’ve come.
On a curious note, something just occurred to me. I’ve used CGI art as a prosthetic all these years. 😀
Critics used to say “Poser” artists use 3D because they CAN’T draw. I CAN… yet was forced to use it to push farther.
What do you find to be a challenge in creating?
Time. Work. Schedules. A scene that takes hours to tinker, renders slowly, and just doesn’t look right…I never seemed to have issues with writing. That’s all brainstorming, writing and rewriting.
What else do you have to learn?
I need to learn how to use this big Wacom tablet that a fan gifted me with a couple years ago……
I guess that means I’m ready to pull out the pencils again. 😀 I have all those stories from the 80s from the beginnings of A Deviant Mind that I’ve wanted to do in the old format forever now.
What keeps you motivated to get better?
The fans. Comic sales. Hey, I’m honest. Without an audience, there is no reason to improve.
Can you turn your brain (creativity) off (and on)?
I wish. Sometimes you hit that malaise period and stare endlessly at Facebook all day. I had to put a Mind the Time app on my Firefox browser. Best cure for malaise is to get out and take a walk with a notebook if you’re that burned out or stuck.
What advice do you have for aspiring creators?
In my short two years as Chief Editor of ICC Magazine, I’ve asked that same question of dozens of creators, from beginners to legends. Their answers are as diverse as the artists themselves, but they all have one common thread: Don’t give up. Don’t stop learning. Don’t stop looking everywhere for new ideas. Network and spread your stories around, and never do anything for free. Ignore the trolls, they don’t matter–! If you’re getting bullied you’re on the right track. Keep creating.
A little while back I was cleaning out my filing cabinet and throwing out some old resumes from like 20 years ago, when I came across some character references from different people. One of those caught my eye stunningly, and it’s given me wings ever since: “I admire Pam’s resilience.”
Do you ever worry about running out of ideas?
I rarely worry about running out of ideas. I have decades of stories muddling around in my head. My challenge is getting all of this down. Now, on the other hand, there is another artist who is my favorite to rely on when I get stuck. Jim Dyar and I have also collaborated as co-writers on two or three episodes of A Deviant Mind. Whenever I get stuck and nudge him for advice, the result is always random and freaking hilarious. His latest suggestion will pop up and surprise my readers in A Deviant Mind #44.
How do you handle the slow times?
Nap time, baby. 😀 Nap time is essential. Tough times come and go. You just gotta roll with it.
How do you feel about the industry?
This is the most loaded question in the stack. Both Mainstream comics and Independent comics are undergoing a revolution in this phase of comics history. From the #Comicsgate controversy where the Alt-Right (and some fence-straddlers) are fighting to keep diversity, race, LGBT, female heroines and other inclusivity out of “their” comics, embattling the more liberal creators with epithets of “SJW” or “Social Justice Warrior” to insult those who push for inclusion; to the Independent comics industry where all those artists they are trying to push out are churning representation and inclusivity at a breathtaking rate. Whenever I get “Social Justice Warrior” spat at me I envision Lex Luthor, The Joker and Baroness von Gunther shaking their fists and mocking Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Isn’t it the same thing?
One thing is clear. Change isn’t coming. It’s happening all around us. No, we don’t need any Zorro reboots with female heroines…that’s just an attempt to capitalize on a classic character. We need original stories. Original characters. And we need diversity, equality and heroes. Attempts to keep mainstream comics as an escapist artform because they can’t—or won’t—address social issues won’t cut it in the long run. Times they are a’changing.
And the world of storytelling is going to be all the better for it.
If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we’re all ok
And not to worry because worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I will not be made useless
I won’t be idled with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear
My hands are small, I know,
But they’re not yours they are my own
But they’re not yours they are my own
And I am never broken
Jewel – Hands, 1998 https://youtu.be/AfsS3pIDBfw
And do you have a website you would want to direct folks to?
Pam Harrison’s work can be found at IndyPlanet: http://indyplanet.com/sword-and-labrys-productions?orderby=date
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Author, Artist, Editor for ShoutFyre.com
Bill is the creator of Arteest & Ursula comics, writer for Ringtail Cafe, co-creator of Savage Family, writer and inker of HellGirl: Demonseed. Editor for ShoutFyre and Sketch Magazine. Co-author of Camelot Forever novel series.