Saturday, March 3, 2012

An Interview with Stephen Hines: Author, Artist and Musician

Stephen Hines, tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

I’m a pasty white, aging punk rocker crossed with a metalhead who teaches high school English. On the side, I write strange comic books. I started out as a novelist, but, thanks to an evil agent (who I used to work with) the sequential art virus has overtaken my endeavors.

Based on your experience, how is it different writing a graphic novel or comic book as compared to a ‘regular’ novel or short story? Do you approach the storyline, characters, descriptions, dialogue or anything else differently?

I’m not sure that I approach the storyline, etc. any differently, from a creative standpoint. The beautiful difference, for me, is that the entire process is a collaboration with at least one artist. I write a story, which is then filtered through the lense of an artist who adds his or her touches to it. It’s very similar to songwriting. At times, the direction the collaborating artist takes my story in is frustratingly different from what I envisioned so I have a little mental battle with my inner control freak to see whether that change needs to be kept or overruled. Nine times out of ten I bow to the visual storytelling instincts of the artist. He or she has been trained in the best way to communicate a story with pictures. I haven’t. But there have been a couple instances when I’ve had to politely insist on getting my way.

When I write a comic book story, I use the movie script format so I think in terms of camera angles/shots and their storytelling and/or psychological impact. Fortunately, I teach a cinematic literacy unit on the movie Pleasantville, so I’ve educated myself on some basic techniques of that medium. Along the way some books I’ve read about the art of telling stories through comic books that have influenced my approach to scripting as well.

For some of your works you’ve created your own art, for others you’ve worked with artists. Can you explain a little bit about each experience?

Both situations certainly have their benefits and drawbacks! I do my own art for my mini-comic retail memoir series called Crackerstacker. Since I’m self-published, this series is the least expensive to produce. I can be more prolific (even though I draw at the speed of erosion) because I don’t have to save up to pay someone and there’s no need for a full script. For Crackerstacker I just do stick figure thumbnail sketches to map out a rough draft of panels to draw and scribble the script in speech balloons and narrative boxes. The drawback would be that my art skills aren’t nearly as developed as the amazing people I’ve worked with on my other projects. Still, I have to say that my art has come a long way from issue #1 to #3, which makes me very happy.

For Valedictorian USA, my satirical series about a reality show for teens, I underpay a wonderful artist named Daniel Salcido, but even paying a comic book artist less than he’s worth is expensive. This causes our output to be limited to one issue per year, as opposed to a Marvel or DC title coming out monthly. It’s difficult to keep readers’ attention spans captive when the story’s unfolding that slowly. I’m looking forward to hitting the halfway point of the series so we can publish a collection. Most people are interested in getting the full story these days so I’m sure that’ll sell even better than the single issues.

Who or what has influenced your writing?

Wow. Do you have all day? Haha! My favorite authors, in no particular order, would have to be James Joyce, Chuck Palahniuk, Christopher Moore, Will Christopher Baer, Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Garth Ennis, and Warren Ellis. I tend to gravitate toward dark fiction, so if anyone reading this enjoys edgy stuff there might be a name or two to investigate in that list.

Tell us a little bit about your current project.

I’m currently having my first go at a Kickstarter campaign for a comic book called Icon-O-Plastic. About a year ago, an indie comics writer/artist who I respect immensely (Rafer Roberts) expressed an interest in collaborating. He likes my writing but he only had time for a ten-page story. Luckily I had a story idea scribbled down that was perfect for the project. Rafer ended up inking the art instead of penciling it and his friend, Jacob Warrenfeltz, was recruited to pencil and shade the art, which is drool-inducing, by the way. :)

Anyway, Icon-O-Plastic is a surreal meditation on fame and how it affects everyone involved. I wanted to examine how stardom impacts not only the celebrities and business folk who profit from them but also the fans who worship them. The shocking ending to the story will hopefully make people think.

Oh, and one of the Kickstarter pledge incentives is an EP of music by the fictional band, The Icons, from the comic. I’m incredibly proud of how the CD turned out. All of the songs were written, performed and recorded by me. All of the singing, fortunately, was done by a talented young man named Stephen Strohmenger, a former student of mine.

Is there anything else you’d like to add or say to the readers of Up Around the Corner?

First of all, thanks for reading my babblings. Secondly, even though I’m not a fantasy/sci-fi writer like my esteemed interviewer, I hope y’all will check me out and give my works a shot.


Thanks, Stephen, for taking the time to answering my questions for readers here.

I'd also like to provide relevant links where readers can learn more about Stephen Hines and his Kickstarter campaign for Icon-O-Plastic.

Icon-O-Plastic Kickstarter Campaign

Stephen Hines Website

Note: I believe enough in Stephen's efforts in the comic to have contributed. If Icon-O-Plastic looks up your alley, consider kicking in a bit too. If you're wondering a little about what Kickstarter is and want to know more, here's a link to a youtube explanation: Kickstarter Info.

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