Updated: Nov 22, 2022
You know the stereotype… Comic Book nerds and creators are all meant to be cellar-dwelling mouth breathers. They frequently rest their cans of mountain dew on their protruding bellies while watching their favourite Sci-Fi show for the Nth time and dreaming of what it would be like to get it on with the three-breasted chick from Total Recall (the original, not the remake).
But believe it or not, this is far from the truth… We’re thinking about getting it on with the hot chick from Blake’s 7… But I digress!
It’s reasonable to believe that comic book creators, regardless of if they’re the writer, artist, inker, colourist, letterer and so on, are anti-social. I mean, we spend the majority of our time working on books, and when we’re working, it usually involves being stuck in a room with no one but ourselves for company… I don’t know about you, but that sounds like Heaven to me!
In reality, comic book creators are actually very social people who like a good chin wag. That’s why so many of them enjoy appearing on podcasts and live streams… That and they have a book they really want you to know exists!
So, I made the executive decision not too long ago to start getting in touch with some of my friends and colleagues who work in the comic book industry and asking them if they wouldn’t mind participating in an interview for this little blog of mine. And they all said the same thing… 'How did you get this number? I don’t want to buy any double glazing! I’m happy with the windows I have! Stop Calling Me'!
I joke, of course.
I wanted to start my series of ‘Creator Interviews’ for my blog by interviewing someone who I know and get on with very well. Someone who I greatly respect and who knows how to make me (and several others) laugh… And I knew instantly that the right man for that position was none other than the legendary Don Chin.
A BIT ABOUT DON
For those who don’t know, Don Chin is the founder of Parody Press and Entity Comics and has worked on a long list of comic book titles, including ''X-Farce', 'Beardzzerker' and the infamous 'Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters'.
And if that wasn’t enough for you, he’s a bloody nice bloke who is always sporting an award-winning smile!
So, I got in touch with Don and asked him if he would like to be the first creator I interviewed for my blog, and his response was, ‘Feed your damn goat, Lucifer’!...Then Don agreed to the interview.
And Here is what he had to say:
LUCIFER: Don, let me start by thanking you for agreeing to do this interview. My first question is: Does your work in comics energize or exhaust you?
DON: To be honest, I think it does both. I think the creative part of it, the writing and getting to see how artists interpret your script or concept from your words to their pencils to a completed inked page is very exciting and energizing. The exhausting part is the planning, marketing and promotion of the comic book, and hoping readers will respond favorably to what you are creating.
LUCIFER: What is the most difficult part of your creative process?
DON: I would say the most difficult part is waiting for the inspiration for a concept with characters that you are passionate about creating. Then once that muse appears, building that world around the concept in a way that makes sense and doesn't seem one-dimensional but rather layered like a delicious meal that will leave the reader satisfied and yearning for more.
LUCIFER: If you weren’t working in comics, what field would you like to work in?
DON: Earlier in my life, I always wanted to be a film director. I loved sci-fi and fantasy growing up, especially George Lucas' STAR WARS movies and Ridley Scott's "Alien". They left a huge impression on me and I was making Super 8mm movies with sound as young as 13 years old. But then I got to college in the early 1980's and started working with actual actors that weren't just my neighborhood pals, and decided actors are a pretty strange lot. I switched my film degree to a journalism degree with an emphasis on cartooning and comics after self publishing the Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters in 1986.
My wife Laura and I made a decent living publishing comics under Parody Press and Entity Comics in the 1990's, but then the market got glutted, so I went into residential real estate sales in 1998, which has been a very good career for me.
LUCIFER: What is your Kryptonite when working on a comic?
DON: People who can't meet deadlines, or even worse, when I miss a deadline is like Kryptonite. It takes the wind out of your sails, and what should be fun becomes frustrating. My last project, Beardzzerker, was a few months late getting delivered, and I was not happy with that, as I think customer service is priority #1. I told myself with the next project I do, it needs to be completely done for the most part before I launch the campaign.
LUCIFER: What is the one thing you would happily give up in order to become better at your craft?
DON: Good question. Gotta soul search, but if I'm honest, probably letting go of my ego and pride. I think it's easy to get caught up in other people's success and not be envious. If I can remember that the end goal of comics is to have fun creating them and entertaining readers, that should be enough. If you can make a living or a profit from that creation, that's amazing--but having realistic expectations is a must. It's very hard to make a living self-publishing comics. Every successful pro will tell you they probably have a stack of rejection letters from publishers when they tried to get into the business. Everyone starts somewhere, and growth and maturity takes patience...often years.
LUCIFER: If you could spend a day with another popular writer/artist/colourist etc., Who would it be and Why?
DON: Oh man. So many talented people out there that I have admired and would love to hang out with. I would probably choose spending a day with Charles Schulz, who I did have the pleasure of meeting briefly at his office in Northern California. He was very down-to-earth and gentle. His work was often funny, but also relatable as we have all felt like Charlie Brown going through life's ups and downs.
LUCIFER: What are the three songs you would like to listen to before the end of the world?
DON: "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" by Tears For Fears, "Deeper" by Delirious?, and "You Only Get What You Give" by The New Radicals.
LUCIFER: Are you someone who believes that the best work comes from tortured artists?
DON: I'm honestly having a hard time imagining how an artist stretched out on a medieval torture rack could get anything done!
Seriously, I'm sure there are some cartoonists who draw from personal pain to inspire their work, and hopefully that is cathartic to them. Personally, I haven't done anything that is particularly moody, dark and serious. I often choose humor, but I've been told some of my puns are particularly torturous.
LUCIFER: What do you need/have in your workspace that keeps you focused/inspired?
DON: I'm blessed to live in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, which is very green and known for its giant redwood trees. The view out of my home office where I do my writing is very peaceful with towering majestic redwoods. I'll often see wildlife such as deer, birds, squirrels, hummingbirds and occasionally a fox outside. (I remember you like foxes, right, Lucifer?). While I was answering your questions, a little bushy-tailed squirrel grabbed an acorn and scurried up a tree. So adorable!
LUCIFER: What has helped or hindered you most when working on a book?
DON: I think getting other people's encouragement is a big help. When creators get in sync and have fun creating something together, there is an emotional spark that is infectious and energizes everyone. You can see it in the final product--it's fun to read and you can feel the love they poured into it.
LUCIFER: What advice would you give to a writer/artist/inker etc., who was working on their first book?
DON: Learn self discipline and don't be afraid to politely ask other people who have experience for help/suggestions. Work with an editor if you can afford it or know someone who can give you honest and objective constructive criticism. I think it's tempting to want to control everything, but another set of eyes and ears can give you a perspective you may not be aware of that can lead to a better finished project.
LUCIFER: What is your schedule like when you’re working on a book?
DON: I would say I spend at least a couple hours a day on a project, sometimes more, sometimes less. Most of the time working is dedicated to communicating ideas with the various artists and writers and providing editorial input on what they submit.
LUCIFER: Do you participate in any writing/art/inking challenges on Social Media? If so, do you recommend any?
DON: I haven't done any writing or artistic challenges on social media, but I can see how they would be fun to participate in if I was trying to establish myself.
Artistically, I do enjoy participating in creator art auctions from time to time and have been on Red Valkyrie's art auctions with my drawings, and Parody Press will have artist auctions a couple times a year that I might create something for.
If you're not in the position to self-publish but have a short story idea that you've completed, I think a good showcase to get recognized is Alterna Comics "It Came Out On A Wednesday" sci-fi/fantasy anthology. I have some work coming out in that title later this year, and the submission process is fairly simple. You can go to Alternacomics.com and find out how to submit.
LUCIFER: What books did you grow up reading?
DON: In elementary school, I enjoyed CRACKED & MAD magazine, PEANUTS collections by Charles Schulz, and a lot of Harvey Comics like Richie Rich and Sad Sack. As I got older, I was into underground comix like The Freak Brothers, Fat Freddy's Cat, Robert Crumb, Slow Death, CREEPY and HEAVY METAL magaziine. Plus anything I could find by Jack Kirby, Jim Starlin, John Byrne, Berni Wrightson, Michael Golden, Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. Probably some of my favorite mainstream titles would be X-Men, Daredevil, Batman, Firestorm and Swamp Thing.
LUCIFER: Last but not least: If you could be a character in one of your favourite books, who would you be?
DON: That's a good question. I enjoy a lot of characters from all sorts of genres. I know it might be a strange choice, but CHUCK from the Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters is a character I created that is very special to me. He is spiritually and emotionally grounded and often the voice of reason in the midst of chaos. All of the Hamsters have a bit of my personality in each of them, but I think Chuck is the one that makes me happiest, so I would want to be like him.
LUCIFER: Don, it’s been a pleasure and let me thank you once again for allowing me to conduct this interview with you. All the best.