In September during my annual trip down to CincyComiCon wherein I sell my crappy notecard sketches in what amounts to a comic book character rummage sale, I had the pleasure of sitting next to Shawn Pryor. He is an independent comic book writer. He has a kids book called Cash and Carrie that both my kids have devoured. He recently got his book Kentucky Kaiju into production as well. More than that though, he was delightful to sit next to and interact with. From just listening to him pitch to others with his mellifluous voice to chatting about writing comics he was a joy to be around.
That being said, I do not know him well at all, so let's ask him some questions to remedy that.
Onto the Questions.
In a previous career path I made maps for a living, so I have always been interested in the story of place. So I was born in Oklahoma just outside of Oklahoma City, moved to Montgomery, Alabama when I was a wee toddler, and then up to the Birmingham area when I was 3. I lived in a town just to the northeast of Birmingham called Center Point for the next 15 years until I was able to get the hell away from there and go to college. I went to college in northeastern Ohio at Kent State University. Kent Read, Kent Write, Kent State. I met the love of my life there and followed her to Columbus, Ohio so we could get married, and I have been in Columbus since 1997. Question 1: What is your geographic story?
Well, my journey began the day I was born in Valdosta, Georgia, and moved up to Middletown, Ohio at a very young age and I lived there until my early 20s. I went to college at Miami of Ohio and after college had stops in Dayton, Ohio and the Tri-County area in Ohio before moving to Lexington, KY in 2008. I have been in Lexington ever since.
I love a move from the South to the Midwest. That makes for an interesting mindset within the US. Question 2: What would you say is the biggest difference between growing up in Southwestern Ohio and living as an adult in Central Kentucky?
I would say that one of the biggest differences would be the artistic community here in Central Kentucky and how it's grown over the last decade or so. From independent and major comic book creators, live art events, the independent music scene, various forms of theater; there's so much to inspire and motivate individuals to be creative, expressive and influential. Coming up in Southwestern Ohio the artistic community was few and far between unless you made the journey to greater Cincinnati, and back then most of that stuff came at a cost which kept the curious away.
It's nice to hear that the artistic community is growing in Central Kentucky. It is good to hear that the artistic community is growing in general regardless of locale.
Question 3: Cake or pie? Which specific kind and why?
Cake over pie all day, every day. My favorite cake is a double layer yellow cake with all the chocolate icing. There's just something about the texture of the cake and the combined taste of the cake with lots of icing that just makes it special to me. It takes me back to my childhood and the good times I had back then.
Once in a blue moon I can eat pie, but it'll be a derby pie or french silk pie. Not a big fan of the fruit pies.
Cake always takes me back to my childhood since my mom made cakes as a side business. I got pretty good at decorating cakes as a 12 year old kid. I think because I had so much exposure to cakes that I tend to like pies more. It turns out one can be overexposed to cakes.
Question 4: is there a good out there that you just cannot help yourself around? What out there can you just not help but eat?
One of my favorite foods that I cannot help myself around is Spinach & Artichoke dip. But, I'm extremely picky when it comes to who makes the dip at a household or restaurant. The proper tortilla chip is key too. If the chip is this and the dip is too thick, then you're constantly breaking chips and you can't enjoy the dip. If the chip is too thick and the dip is too runny, then there's no joy in that either. It also had to be above warm or hot when served. Cold dip gets the boot. Balance is key when it comes to Spinach & Artichoke dip, and if the balance is there I will eat it until it's gone.
Proper tortilla chips are really important and often overlooked. Random-ass tortillas won't work. Regardless of how nice the dip is, with the wrong delivery system it just won't work. Period. End of Sentence.
So you are a writer of some indy comic books, and if I know anything about writers it is that writers read. Question 5: What comic books are you actively consuming? and do you follow a particular writer regardless of what book they are putting out?
Currently I am reading The Complete Peanuts Collection because I want to re-learn about how to effectively use timing in the short comic format. Plus, it's really cool to see the artistic growth of Charles Schulz from when he first started creating Charlie Brown and the crew to what it became. I'm also reading The Essential Smart Football by Chris Brown, and Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older. And I'll pick up a book written by Walter Mosley no matter the subject.
I was looking through some of the earlier Peanuts strips a few years ago and I was surprised by the difference in the models for the characters. There was significant artistic growth from year to year for Schulz. Another interesting one to look through for sequential 3 to 6 panel story telling is Jim Davis. The artistic jumps by that man are impressive. Garfield was a black and white muddy mess for a few years. If you look at the syndicated cartoonists of yesteryear, some were really allowed to grow and evolve. I do not think that is the case these days. It seems that syndicated cartoons have to be fully formed and fleshed out prior to being syndicated now.
The Internet is allowing people to grow and evolve on their own. Take Scott Kurtz from the Internet's own PvPOnline. His original strips are quite different than his current ones. So much growth that you can just look through. Same with Christopher Hastings' Dr McNinja (sadly completed now) and Gunnerkrigg Court by Tom Sidell. It is a fascinating exercise to wade through their early work and see how they have grown and changed.
Question 6: Are their any webcomics that you faithfully consume?
Oh yes. Bounce by Chuck Collins, Princess Love Pon by Shauna Grant, Agents of the Realm by Mildred Louis, Alone by @OliveOilCorp, Ménage à 3 by Gisele Lagace (NSFW) to name a few. (not sure what happened with the font size here. Thanks --the Editor)
There are others, and I would like to look more into WebToon and see what's over there because their collection of webcomics is quite massive.
I have heard of a few of those. The others I will need to take a look at. Since there has been more of a democratization of content do to web-based publishing and such, there is an amazing amount of content out there for people to consume. The issue with that content is that most of it is overwhelmingly terrible, only some of it is remotely palatable, and very little of it is actually good. Since there is such an astounding amount of content out there that means that the amount of truly good things is greater than it ever has been. Question 7: How does a consumer really get through to the signal of good content when there is all this noise out there?
It's difficult to navigate your creative ship through the waters of the internet, conventions and other venues.
I continue to grown and culture my follower bases on social media, attend the conventions where I feel my works will have a visible crowd and receptive eye, create crowdfunding projects, tell family members that are interested in what I do about my projects, monthly newsletters, etc, etc. All those things add up and it prevents me from putting all my eggs in one basket, because you know like I know that if you only have one venue and that venue crashes, you're screwed.
So if someone buys a book of mine online or at a convention, supports my crowdfunding project, or tells someone else of my works via social media, between all those options the signal continues to grow. It's a slow burn, but once the fire starts to become steady you have to work to keep the flame going.
It really is a matter of not finding a gigantic audience at first, but cultivating an intimate, engaged, and committed audience. Then it is all about building from there.
Question 8: Where do you find that you have your most fervent content consumers? Which platform do they come from and what property of yours are they associated with?
The most fervent come from Twitter and Kickstarter and are associated with the all-ages mystery comic book series I created with Giulie Speziani called "Cash & Carrie" which is currently on Amazon, or you can request your local library for a copy.
I created a Kickstarter campaign in 2015 for a Cash & Carrie pilot issue and it was a massive success. Some of those who supported the Kickstarter campaign followed me on Twitter and other social media venues later on. A high number of those who pledged to the 2105 Kickstarter campaign came from Twitter. In 2016 we put together a 72-page Cash & Carrie book and I was able to use Twitter to spread the word repeatedly during it's initial pre-order run and after it was officially released. At least once a week I remind people that the book is available for purchase.
That's interesting. I would not have guessed Twitter as the strongest platform.
As far as Cash and Carrie... both my 13 year old boy and 8 year old girl LOVE it. So... Question 9: Will there be more Cash and Carrie? Pleeeeeze!
Well, from what I have been told Cash & Carrie: Book One is doing pretty well with libraries and bookstores, and I'll also be taking it with me during convention season to boost its profile as much as possible to boost sales further.
Because of this, there will be a Book Two. I'm in the process of figuring out how to make that happen. I may do a crowdfunding project for a "special edition" Cash & Carrie comic book while we work out how we're going to make a Book Two. Cash & Carrie changed my life and I've had plenty of kids and adults tell me how much they enjoy the book, the adventures these two characters have and the inclusivity it brings. I love this book. I'll do all I can to make more of it.
We all loved book one and are eagerly awaiting book 2. If there is anything I can do to help, let me know.
Now comes a fill in the blanks question. Question 10: I find that I am mostly _______. Others find that I am mostly _______.
I find that I am mostly introverted. Others find that I am mostly an extrovert, rain or shine.
Both are true. I am more than capable of handling myself in social situations and environments, but I have a tendency to lay low, keep to myself and observe my surroundings. However, as a creative I know that there are moments that you have to be vocal, boisterous and show the passion of your projects to others so they believe in your works so the extrovert in me has no other choice than to come out of its shell and do its thing.
If you are both an introvert and an extrovert Question 11: how do you prefer to recharge? Alone with a good book or in conversation/activities with friends?
I normally recharge with a good book, glass of wine and some music in the background. Granted, it's been awhile since I've been able to do such. Maybe it's time…
Writers always seem to be reading. I would imagine it is both a blessing and a curse.
So from time to time, as an artist I see some work by someone that is so incredibly sublime that it makes me want to throw all my art supplies out and burn my house down to rid the world of the filth I have drawn over the years. Question 12: Is there a writer out there that makes you want to stop smashing keys on a keyboard and just give up writing all together?
In comic books, it's Christopher Priest. He's written some fantastic books and no one has a better grasp of dialogue than he does. No one. In prose, I would say Walter Mosley and the late Octavia Butler because the words they type show no fear. It's inspiring to me and I get mad that I can't get to their level yet. I will. One day.
I believe you definitely will. I really like your work.
Question 13: do you have any superstitions or rituals in your life?
Every time that I table at a convention, I take with me a small toy version of Franklin from Peanuts and Cyborg and place them in a hidden spot on the table for good luck.
I have a lot of rituals, but one that I try my best to do every morning when I wake up is to get up out of bed, take a deep breath, look at the world outside my window, ask myself what mood I'm in and take a step forward to handle my day. I also try to give at least one to two compliments a day because you never know how a compliment can change someone's day or life.
These are great. Many people do not think they have rituals and superstitions, I think they are fooling themselves are have been doing these things so unconsciously, that they did not realize it actually was a ritual/superstition.
I got this questions when I asked Patrick Beja 20 questions a while ago. I enjoy this question because it is deceptively simple, but harbors a wealth of complexity in its answer. Question 14: Are you happy?
As I type this response, I am happy that I am surrounded with wonderful family and friends who are sincere, loving and kind. Internally, I am happy. Creatively, I am happy when I can bring a project to life with fantastic, energized people. Externally, I have dealt with racism and micro-agressions for so long in my life that it's hard to happy externally. It's difficult to be externally happy when some people refuse to see you as equals or human beings. Some days are better than others from an external standpoint.
I am happy for the internal happiness that you are experiencing in your life right now. You seem to be a bit of a creative juggernaut at the moment and I love seeing creators creating. Internal happiness is sometimes very difficult to achieve. I am more than unhappy for you for your external happiness levels. This aspect of our "modern" society infuriates me. It truly does infuriate me on a level that is incredibly deep. I got your back, because it is incumbent upon CIS middle-aged white dudes to step the fuck up. I am doing everything in my power right now to not have this become a political rant, but on today of all days (editor's note: This portion of the post is taking place on January 20th, 2017 as Donald Trump becomes the President) your comment is very poignant, and we the moderate and liberal whites need to be better. We just have to be better at doing. We cannot idly sit on the sidelines.
Let's go to something lighter... Question 15: Is there a mainstream comic title that you would love to write for? If so, which one? If not, why?
Right now, there's only one mainstream comic title that I would like to write: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. It's been on my wish list to write Power Rangers for over 20 years, and for the first time in its history it has a publisher that really behind it wanting to get it out to the masses. Me and a couple of close friends have a tome of stories we can tell that's steeped in the lore of the television series and all of its incarnations. The Power Rangers are the biggest superheroes of the 1990s. I've always enjoyed Super Sentai (the material that Power Rangers originally comes from) and the camaraderie that's shared through the team through thick and thin. Plus the uniform designs, color schemes, mecha and their super-villains bring me joy.
For now, writing Power Rangers is a pipe-dream. I may just do my own Rangers book one day and give it away for free.
Very interesting. I think I was 3 years off from really enjoying the power-rangers as a kid. I was unhappy at the inclusion of live action Saturday morning fair removing my beloved cartoons form the airwaves. Power Rangers has quite the history though, it has been through at least 20 iterations just in it's English incarnation. One could easily see many potential stories out there. So that leads me to ask... Question 16: What are your hopes and fears for the upcoming (now in theaters: Thanks, --The editor) Power Rangers movie?
My hopes are that the film is fun and at least has a decent third act. Seeing how the Power Rangers are super heroes and those types of movies have been massively popular at the box office, the problem I find is that some of the super hero films have a tendency to lack a strong third act and in turn use that act to either kick-the-can to the sequel, which then leads to incomplete cinematic story-telling or the third act is anti-climactic because the antagonist (who looks like a fantastic villain, visually) may be poorly built as a character which leads me as a viewer seeing no real threat for the protagonist.
My fear is that in trying to re-imagine the property, the film will be gritty, possibly dark, and have no soul. We'll see.
I do believe it is setting itself up to be visually stunning with little substance to back it up. My bet is the first act is good, the second is passable and the third is solely there to set up a sequel. I think you might be on the money with this one.
Question 17: Was there a question you were expecting from me that I did not ask?
Hmm...I was kind of expecting a question about first impressions at conventions, when you meet the person tabling to the right or left of you, and how long before you know if you can socialize with that person?
Hopefully that came out the right way.
I've tabled at some shows surrounded by sincere and wonderful people on either side of me where fun stories and tips were shared, and other times i've tabled next to people that were rude and put up barriers on their side of the table that blocked me from people's line of sight while walking down convention aisles. Interesting times.
I think tables at conventions are often just reflections of the world writ large. There are good people and bad people. It is sad that CincyComicCon has rolled up their carpet and called it a day, because it seemed more good than bad. I met many great a person at those cons. I definitely count you in that cadre of great people.
So, now is the time that I turn the tables. Question 18: Are there any questions you need to ask me?
As a matter of fact, I do:
- What is the first thing you ever remember drawing?
- When is the last time that you had a meal that you can't forget about?
- What kind of markers do you use for your sketches?
- What do you like to draw the most?
Alrighty. Here we go.
First thing I remember drawing, that I can actually remember the drawing of and what it looked like afterwards was of a military jet with a pilot in it. I remember being really proud of the fact that I fit the pilot's head in the cockpit.
The last meal that I cannot forget about is, at the moment, from a few days ago when I made some fajita chicken tenders for the fam. It is memorable because both kids enjoyed it, which is rare.
I use Copics for my sketches. I have not been drawing with them nearly as much as I should be though at the moment.
I like drawing fantasy stuff, but I find myself drawing super hero stuff more. When I draw fantasy stuff there is a better chance of me actually drawing a "complete" drawing with back grounds and context and story embedded within the pic, but I find myself drawing little super hero pin-ups more.
And here we go with the penultimate question. Question 19: What are you taking from these 20 Questions that you did not bring in with you?
That for me, there is more to life than just creating comics. I need to fully express my creative abilities in other fields as well and I feel that will help me grow as a creative. Sometimes, we limit ourselves without knowing as to why. At times we limit ourselves due to fear or what others may say, but the truth of the matter is that we will never reach our true potential unless we tap into the areas we fear most and open those doors.
And at times, we just need to go outside, get a breath of fresh air and enjoy life.
That is a good thing to take from these 20 Questions. I am not sure how I helped you to get to that understanding, but I will take it and run with it, and take credit for it even though I am not sure how the 20 questions might have led you to that conclusion. I never know what question 19 will get me, and this answer really has me happy. You do me a great service by saying that this interaction led to anything useful.
Question 20: What's next? Be as vague or as specific, as concrete or philosophical, and as near term or long term as you would like.
Well, I have a number of conventions and mini-conventions that I'll be tabling at this year, including C2e2, Ohio Comic & Toy Con, Derby City, LibraryCon and other places. Creatively, I am working on a plan for Cash & Carrie: Book Two with co-creator Giulie Speziani, as well as a couple of other original graphic novels. If things fall into place, I hope to write a short film this year and possibly shoot it this summer.
I also want to again make sure that I take time off/away from the creative and work world. Sometimes we need to have our own moments of solace and peace, and there's nothing wrong with that. Fresh air. Enjoy life.
Thank you for letting me be a part of this, Scott. I've really enjoyed this. Continued best to you, and blessings to you and your family. Peace.
I too have enjoyed this. I am subscribed to your newsletter and have been digging your tweeting. Cannot wait to see you again at one of these upcoming conventions.
Everyone should follow Shawn on the twitters and sign up for his newsletter. Get his books, goddamnit. Cash and Carrie, Kentucky Kaiju, and FORCE. I don’t often seriously advocate for people to consume others’ content, but seriously, Shawn’s work is amazing and should be consumed by every living being. And even some dead ones, I’m looking your way Dead Grandma Savory.
Shawn is really great and I count myself lucky to have met him and interacted with him on this level
Would I want to hang out with him and become his friend?
Umm… I mean, uh, that would be cool and stuff, but you know, if that happened and all that..
I have been away from the blog for a while
I feel badly about that
But, I need interviewees and questioners to keep this moving
Few people are willing to ask me questions for non-interview 20 Q’s
And it is difficult to get people to answer 20 Q’s
Rock | me | Hard Place
Which would be some kind of hard rock lyric from an Scottish band
Rock me hard place, lak it huin’t baen rock’d b’ford
We are Highland Met’l! Thank You, Glisgooooo! Goonit!
On another note, April Fool’s day went off without a hitch
And March Madness finished in April
I am trying to get caffeine out of my system
So I have a nasty headache right now as I type this
This past CincyComiCon was the last, so I will need to find another con to see Shawn at
49 years ago today MLK was assassinated
Looking at the landscape, it looks like it was only 30 years ago
Let’s make it look like it was 100 years ago
Have a great week everyone