I’m sure it’s not unusual, but Winnipeg has a vast wealth of comic creators. Over the last few years I’ve been crawling out of my reclusive shell to meet and befriend a number of these artists and writers (and colourists). Greg Waller is one of my earliest comic friends. We met in the School of Fine Arts (University of Manitoba), where there were only a handful of like minded artists passionate about making comics. Not many made it through Fine Arts making comics–many dropped out of the program, or occasionally didn’t make comics in the end. I loved my time in Fine Arts, I met some amazing professors and fellow artists, but it wasn’t always supportive of the comics field, or at least the kinds of comics we wanted to make (at that time). Greg and I reconnected years later when he was in need of help colouring comics for publishers like Avatar Press. Greg had learned from the likes of Lovern Kindzierski and Chris Chuckry at Digital Chameleon, and I learned from Greg. While grinding away in the comic industry, we helped fuel each others own creative distractions. We collaborated, we bounced ideas off each other, we waffled on projects, and built each other up. Hence, Greg was one of the first people I asked if he wanted to do a variant cover for my second book in The Chronicles of Era. I’m not surprised he said yes, but I appreciate his support as though there was a possibility he would have said no.
Here today is Greg talking about comics.
-What inspired you to make comics?
When I was little, I discovered some old silver age superhero & war comics at my family’s cabin and was instantly hooked. We’re on an island and have no power – so that meant no TV or any other distractions and you made your own fun. I remember making a comic in Grade 3 on coloured newsprint about a guy who storms a tropical island and fights an army with his bare hands for 30 pages or so – so I guess action/adventure was always my thing. I was always working on some kind of story – I’d just never show anyone! I was also (and still am) a big-time G.I Joe & Star Wars fan. Doing comics for fun lasted until I started working on them professionally in the late 90’s as a colourist. Once I started to do it for a living, the inspiration & fun quickly evaporated and it became a balancing act between having to pay the bills, hustling for more work, beating myself up that I was never good enough, and hardly ever sleeping or leaving my apartment. I was so unhealthy! Ironic that when I started to actually do them for ‘real’, is when I felt the least inspired by them.
-What did you learn from making comics?
At this point, it’s to never do anything out of ego and to never sell out your integrity either by what you choose to work on or how you treat your relationships – whether they’re working ones, business ones or personal ones. I really let the business side of comics get the better of me. I feel like I’m finally at an age & maturity/experience level where I do things for the right reasons. Be honest with yourself and the people you work with. It’s not always easy. Keep your circle small. Wish other people well and be happy for their success – don’t be a hater! Artistically speaking, I’m just way less self-conscious about my writing & art and don’t take myself (or it) so seriously. That alone has finally given me the confidence to attempt putting my own thing out there again.
-What/who inspires you in your life and/or your work?
In my life, it’s my friends & my family. My daughter is 7 and she is just so awesome – I could go on & on about how she just makes life great & fun. My wife and I joke that we won the ‘kid lottery’ with her. She’s growing up into this sweet, funny, intelligent amazing little person, it just kicks me in the butt every day to try and do things that she’ll look back on one day and be proud of. Anyone who knows me also knows that I am a massive Chris Cornell & Soundgarden fan. Nothing in my life happens without their music being a huge part of it. My day job doing vehicle wrap & design work has also taught me to take a greater sense of pride & accomplishment in what I do. The people I work with and that I’ve become friends with in that business are the best. I only regret it took me as long as it did to get into it! In terms of comics… so many! Perhaps it sounds self-serving right now, but my friendship with you (Scott) kind of kept me connected to comics after I got out of them, so I might not have come back if we hadn’t stayed connected. I feel you’ve blazed a trail that I want to go down! Aside from those personal inspirations, I’m a huge nerd for the artwork of Joe Kubert, John Romita Jr., and Carlos Pacheco – I think those would be my top 3 comic guys these days. So many things inspire my work these days – music, films, concept artists – I think variety is the key to staying inspired!
-What can comics do that other mediums can’t do?
If you like to tell stories, comics are IT. You can be an illustrator, film director, cinematographer, painter, writer – whatever – all in one shot. All it takes is a pencil, some paper, and an idea. You can create a huge, massive spectacle or a small intimate personal story and there is no limit, it’s all up to you, and you can do it right there on your kitchen table, or in a Starbucks, or on an island in the middle of the Winnipeg River. If I could make a film, it would probably cost about half a billion dollars… my comic costs as much as the paper & supplies it takes to write and draw it.
-What are you working on now (next)?
Well I am (slowly) working on my creator-owned OGN, “Guerrilla,” under my own imprint called Bug Out. I’ve had this story in my head forever. I want it to be out in time for C4 & the Christmas season this year. It really is my “life’s work”, and I’m very proud of the story – and it’s all me. I have kept it almost completely under wraps until now but I will start rolling it out in the coming months – I need to just get the work done then I can start focusing on marketing. The story is really brutal & violent with lots of action – but at it’s core it’s very personal. It’s about friendship & not giving up when things suck, whether you’ve put the situation on yourself or it’s been put on you. I think it has a lot of heart and I hope people agree if they check it out. I want the reader to get to the end and get teary-eyed. Aside from that, I have the seed planted to bring “Magnitude” back and get it finished. Magnitude was my creator-owned superhero book that first came out in 2006, but it went off the rails and never got completed. It shocked me that people still remembered it and were asking about it at C4 this year, and I’ll still get the occasional email from somebody about it. I just realized that I guess 2016 is it’s 10-year anniversary. I have an idea of how to finish it an reboot it all at once so as I get more of Guerrilla off my plate, I can start getting the wheels in motion with that. So much went wrong with it and I want to get it right. Other than all of that, if you live in Winnipeg keep your eyes open when you’re out on the street – my vehicle wrap work is always somewhere!
Greg’s variant cover (still in production) is available as a reward at the Chronicles of Era Indiegogo campaign. Whatever the image ends up being I trust it will look awesome, and you can pre-order it and many other perks. Follow Greg and stay tuned for his own OGN Guerrilla.
Thank you for supporting new and independent comics!