[Interview] (Also Known As) Steven Walters
A couple weeks ago I sat down with a comic called A.K.A., fully intending to just read the first issue in the collection. Before I knew it, an hour had passed and final panels of the book were quickly transforming from mysteries into memories. What was it that inspired me to keep readin’, ignorin’ the ringin’ phone and the frantic cries of the mailman outside my window to save him from the vocal veteran’s rabid mailman?
Pure comics bad-assery.
A.K.A. is a perfect throwback to those golden years when mawkish snooze fests hopin’ to snag Oscars weren’t the only films considered high-quality. No, this comic summons the spirits of the 1970s exploitation flicks that taught moviegoers the value of flawed heroes, babes with dangerous measurements, and gratuitous violence. As the (anti)hero of A.K.A., Guy Doyle navigates his way through these elements, in the process teaching the reader how to revel in the chaos of a mob war.
So won over was my heart that I decided to reach out to Steven Walters, the man responsible for penning this tasteful tale of tawdry turmoil. Walters proved to be incredibly gracious, answering each of my questions with vigor and poise. Which was reassuring, as many of his characters are less gracious and more bloodthirsty.
Hit the jump to check out what Walters’ thoughts on the comics medium, exploitation films, and the quest of artistic expression.
– For those who’ve never come across the name Steven Walters, how would you describe your current relationship with the space-time continuum? What’re you up to and how did you get to this point?
I’m the writer of A.K.A. with the awesome Rob Reilly doing the art. I’m also the artist on Black Sheep/White Wolf, one of the fake trailers in A.K.A. written by the always awesome Joe Kelly. I’m also the creator of Suburban Folklore.
– Between the brutal action, quip-witted dialogue, and crime-soaked blot, it’s clear that A.K.A. is an homage to the exploitation flicks of the 1970s. Were you influenced by any particular movies? What about this subgenre speaks to you?
Well A.K.A. is loosely based on the Sam Peckinpah movie Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia but the grindhouse genre is just filled with desperate and shady characters. The thing I enjoy the most are that people are willing to go to the extreme in grindhouse films and that always makes for an interesting film and hopefully in the case of A.K.A. an interesting comic.
– What do you think of the Rodriguez/Tarantino GRINDHOUSE double-feature? Did they recreate the guns-n-boobs magic of those films of yesteryear, or is it impossible to re-conjure that particular zeitgeist?
That movie was one of the better times at the movies. Going to see Grindhouse was an event. I lean towards Death Proof than Planet Terror but they did an amazing job re-creating the feel of that era, and I think A.K.A. does something similar but in comic book form
– Although A.K.A. comes to a definite conclusion, the reader’s left with the impression that only a tiny sliver of the Guy Doyle and Adrian Truelove pie has been served. Any chance of revisiting this world to spin some more blood-soaked yarns?
As a matter of fact, I just wrote an 8-page prequel to get readers who are on the fence with A.K.A. to try the book out. Once people read the book, they love it, but getting them to blindly pick it up is a little difficult and Rob and I understand that. Hopefully this short prequel will give them a taste of the carnage of A.K.A and they won’t hesitate to pick it up.
– What was it like to work with Rob Reilly? I remember meeting Rob at a convention back in 2008, and even then he seemed like a workingman’s comic creator. Any chance you two’ll team-up again?
Rob and I have been friends for about 10 years now so it’s really much less about professionalism than it is about loving comics and finding the time and money to do them. That being said, I got to see the professional side of Rob during this whole project and he was totally on point with the production of this book. I was truly envious.
– It seems that more and more creators are funding their projects via KICKSTARTER. After having used this platform for A.K.A., what are your thoughts? Is this a viable way for writers and illustrators to distribute their work without risking bankruptcy? Could the power of KICKSTARTER dissuade artists from signing away ownership of their creations?
Kickstarter was definitely a plus in getting this comic made. It was really the only option in the end. It’s weird to see people getting 50 grand on comic projects these days which is amazing, but I’d love to see the comics community try to bring up comics by people who don’t have stronger names, and publishers investing on projects they believe in. Kickstarter gives creators a chance to branch out from the publishers but I do think publishers still have a function to expose these comics to different avenues.
– Why comic books? What makes you want to create paneled pages?
Without being too romantic over the craft, I truly believe comics are the best medium to communicate your ideas. In any other format I feel like you have to describe everything to a “T” so that the reader understands what’s going on or if you’re in TV/ film / animation you have a budget that limits what you can do. Give Rob or myself money, and you’ll see worlds and possibilities. Every format has its limitations but I think comics are right in the middle of what you can do. It’s kind of a shame that it’s not as celebrated as it should be.
– It didn’t too much exploration of your website for me to realize that you’re a gifted graphic designer/illustrator as well. Given your knack for visual art, why not write/draw your comics yourself? Is there something to be said for creative collaboration?
I’m currently the artist on Gary Phillips’ new crime graphic novel The Catfish Tango which is coming soon and I’m also writing and drawing my own web-comic The Sweet Souvenir which you can read by clicking here . A.K.A. is the prime mover right now so I guess I don’t talk about those other projects until A.K.A. is in more people’s hands and when I’m further along on The Catfish Tango.
– Which comics are you currently enjoying? Any particular titles blowing your mind? Any creators ascending to deity-status in your eyes?
I kind of stopped hardcore collecting the second 100 Bullets ended, but I pick up and read from my friend’s collection every so often. The only guy who comes to mind is Remender. The X-Men is my favorite team, so what he did with X-Force was nutty and really made me feel like I was reading something special. Also anything Stuart Immonen or Brian K. Vaughan I’m on board.
– Outside of the comicsphere, what inspires you creatively? Literature? Music? Television? The wolfman that wanders your neighborhood once a month, serenadin’ babes by slingin’ a seven-string guitar?
I hate to be that person who says “everything” but I try to be as versatile in my content watching as possible. If you watch The Wire, Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Six Feet Under, Code Geass, sprinkle some Mass Effect or Shadow of the Colossus, and add a dash of 1984 and some Tracy Chapman and let your sub-conscious eat that up you’ll come up with some crazy stuff.
I think it’s important for every creator to not marginalize himself or herself with all of the stuff that’s in the world. That’s the stuff when you write and draw that’s going to ebb out and make your voice unique.
– What do you say to those artists who’re hopin’ to make some of their own funnybooks? How does one balance artistic aspirations and pragmatic realities?
The only advice I can give is to know yourself. Know what you can and cannot do and work at it. When I wrote and drew Suburban Folklore it looked like shit, and to this day I’m weary of people seeing it, but time and work and love of the craft helps considerably. The other is always having something to fall back on that you enjoy doing…just in case.
– Anything else you’d like to share? Upcoming conventions? New project on the horizon? An emphatic rant about the secret second moon that NASA doesn’t want us to know about? This is your space to use!
– You can pick up A.K.A right now at our store by clicking here.
– Also check out the ultra talented Rob Reilly via his website.
– And, check out my new web-comic The Sweet Souvenir by clicking here.