David F. Walker is a true icon in the comic book industry. He wrote the critically acclaimed Nighthawk for Marvel Comics, as well as Power Man and Iron Fist and Luke Cage. He is currently writing Superb for Lion Forge Comics, Bitter Root for Image Comics, and the outstanding Naomi in collaboration with the legendary Brian Michael Bendis under the DC Comics label Wonder Comics. I was excited to talk to him about his latest venture: a new, independent comic book company.
DYECB: Word is you’re starting your own comic book company. What can you tell us about it?
David: Solid Comix is a new project I’ve undertaken. It’s essentially a little publishing company I decided to start in order to put out projects of mine that I feel very strongly about. Looking at the current state of the industry – from various publishers to distribution to the retail side of things – it makes sense to do certain projects on my own. And this gives me an opportunity to get back into self-publishing, which is where my career as a writer started nearly twenty-five years ago.
DYCEB: You’ve been on a roll writing Naomi (DC/Wonder Comics) with Brian Michael Bendis, Bitter Root (Image Comics) and Superb (Lion Forge). What is it that prompted you to start your own company?
I want to be clear that I’m happy with my current status at all the publishers I’m working for, and the formation of Solid Comix has nothing to do with being unhappy. I just see the realities of the comic industry, and it makes more sense to do certain projects on my own. The moment you work for another publisher, there are factors they take into consideration when deciding what they will publish. All of these companies have their financial overhead, and they must deal with distribution, and everyone is fighting for precious shelf space at retailers. Meanwhile, the retailers are buying what they know will sell, or what they hope will sell. All of these factors can make it difficult to get a project going, and to keep it going. At the same time, there are other ways to create comics and connect with readers. You just need to be willing to think and operate outside the box in one capacity or another.
To break it down more clearly…Several years ago I did a comic called THE ARMY OF DR. MOREAU. Originally, it was published digitally through Comixology. Once the story was done, it was collected into a physical trade paperback collection. Unfortunately, the physical book never found its audience – most retailers didn’t carry it, and as a result it died on the vine. Meanwhile, I had considerable luck selling THE ARMY OF DR. MOREAU at conventions and in-store signings. But the problem was that each copy of the book cost me close to $12 after shipping and handling. So, I was spending $12 to buy a book that I was selling for $20 at conventions. That’s not a very good business model for me, and it got me to thinking that I would have been better off putting the book out myself. And to be clear, this is not a knock on the publisher, or the distributor, or retailers, or fans. It’s just the system as it exists did not serve THE ARMY OF DR. MOREAU, while at the same time that book did well in another environment – especially in the world of conventions and face-to-face interactions with fans.
DYECB: What would you say your brand will be?
David: The brand is David F. Walker and my collaborators. This is a small and very personal endeavor that was started in part to pursue creative opportunities near and dear to my heart. Every project that I’ll be publishing through Solid Comix is something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while. The first two projects are ONE FALL, a wrestling comic co-created with artist Brett Weldele. ONE FALL will be five issues, with each issue partially funded through Kickstarter. The first issue of ONE FALL will drop in May or June. The second project will be a western called THE HATED, drawn by Sean Damien Hill. THE HATED will be an original graphic novel, also partially funded through Kickstarter, and hopefully out by late summer. There are two other projects in development.
DYECB: Will your company be providing opportunities for new writers and artists?
Not for the foreseeable future. Solid Comix is a self-publishing venture. I started in self-publishing back in the 1990s. On a few occasions I published stuff with or for other folks, and it never worked out well. At this point in my life, I don’t have the time or resources to publish the work of other people. Twenty-five years ago, publishing something yourself was more difficult than it is now. Back then, most places required a minimum print run of 1,000 units. Now, you can print up a single copy of a comic or a book.
DYECB: What advice would you like to give to those who would like to start their own comic book companies?
Not to steal Nike’s catch phrase…but just do it. There’s nothing stopping comic creators from putting out their own projects. No money to print books? Start out by publishing online. Publishing on the web is great for building a fan base. Have a fan base, but no money to print? Run a crowd funding campaign.
The one thing I would encourage people to do is to start off with a project that is manageable. If you don’t have the money to pay an artist to draw all one hundred issues of your epic series, start by finding someone to draw a one-shot or a short story.
DYECB: What are some comics that you don’t write that are your favorites?
This is terrible, but I’ve read maybe ten comics in the last six months. I’ve been so slammed with deadlines and teaching that I haven’t had a chance to read much. I’ve been enjoying Skottie Young’s MIDDLEWEST, and DJ Kirkbride’s ERRAND BOYS has been fun. I enjoyed SKYWARD, but I think I’m way behind on that one. I just bought THE 7 DEADLY SINS from TKO Presents, and haven’t had a chance to read it. The best thing I’ve read in the last few years is FOUR KIDS WALK INTO A BANK – Matt Rosenberg’s writing is genius, and the art is amazing. One thing that happens when you work in comics…you don’t have time to read comics.
DYECB: What comic writers or writers in general would you say influenced you?
The comic writers who have influenced me the most also happen to be dear friends – Brian Michael Bendis, Greg Rucka, Jen Van Meter, Matt Fraction, Kelly Sue DeConnick. I’m sure I am forgetting some folks and will get an earful later. However, my biggest influences are all writers outside of comics. Billy Wilder is my probably biggest influence – he’s one of the best screenwriters of all time. I can never express what an impact the films of George A. Romero had on me. James Baldwin is my favorite writer. I’m also a big fan of Walter Mosely, Tananerive Due, Steven Barnes, Daniel Jose Older, Victor LaVelle – the list goes on and on.
DYECB: What has been your favorite comic book project to date?
My favorite comic projects are the ones I haven’t finished writing yet. I had a ton of fun writing all the SHAFT stuff, and PLANET OF THE APES: URSUS was a childhood dream come true. But I don’t really look back at the stuff I’ve written too often. When I do, I just see things that I could improve on.
Martin Reese is a writer and creator of innovative, dynamic sci-fi and fantasy projects for transmedia platforms. He is the author of the blog Martin’s Theory of Relativity where he discusses topics relevant to People of Color in sci-fi, fantasy, horror and comics. He is also the author of the story book Mulogo and His Quintuple of Trouble.