Hey there, Silver Fam! For this week I talked with Dean Zachary and asked him a bunch of questions about his time working in comics and how he creates comics as an artist. I hope you enjoy this conversation and get some insight to help with your comic creation journey.
1. You have a breadth of experience working in comics. If you had to say one invention or development had the biggest impact on how comics are created, what would you say it is and why?
The sophistication of technology has improved to such an extent in the past 30 years that a creator can now, pencil, ink, color, and even letter an independent comic on an iPad Pro. This Incredible advantage allows for an unprecedented amount of creative control. Similarly, the “distribution system” used to be a Political Networking Bottleneck where Editorial Gatekeepers determined who saw your work. Today, you can operate in a worldwide marketplace with limitless possibilities.
2. As an artist, you’ve also worked on comics that are entirely you’re idea, comics that other writers have created, and comics that are licensed properties. Are there any differences in how you approach creating the artwork? Why or Why not?
The advantages of Creator-Owned properties include more control, and if the property is successful, a more substantial reward, especially if the Creator wears multiple hats of Writing/Pencils/Inks and so on. The disadvantage is commercial exposure. “How do you get your Name/Title Out There to the Widest Possible audience?” When starting from scratch, that’s the biggest hurdle. We here at Silverline work on answering that age-old question on a daily basis.
Regarding Licensed Properties, the advantage is that you may already have a built-in fan base, like if you’re drawing/writing an X-Men title for example. The disadvantage is, that the majority of the Creative Control resides with Editors, Writers, and License Owners.
3. How important are references or samples for your art? Are you constantly checking a reference on another screen, are they just nice to have available if needed, or are there some pages or illustrations where you don’t even check a reference?
My attention to reference obviously depends on the subject matter. If, for example, I’m drawing a cover for Wolf Hunter, I would reference any WWII aircraft, military vehicles, weapons, uniforms, and settings comprehensively. This approach adds legitimacy to the comic book in a Real World setting. For a more fantasy-oriented subject, I enjoy exaggerating reality to fit my “vision” which helps to make a more memorable impression on the reader. The “Zachary Realism” then makes my work more unique, making me less of a Human Camera and more of a Visionary, sharing what I see with others in a more unique style or brand.
4. One thing you’ve said a couple of times on the Silverline live shows is, “don’t calculate.” Something that gets brought up is people creating something just because they think it will say, not because they are actually passionate about it. If you could expand on that, what sort of advice would you give new creators as they embark on this journey of creation?
Creativity Beyond Calculation. This concept is one of my favorite subjects in the Comic Creation world. While keeping in mind that at its core, one could argue that Comic Books are a Commercial Art venture, and creators ultimately want to sell their work. We at least want to sell enough copies to do the work full-time. That being said, Calculation to Sell is the Death Knell of creators. In essence, the creator begins second-guessing his own instincts in favor of some incredible sales numbers an Indy Book is doing online, prompting the temptation to “copy that” so I’ll succeed too. This is a huge mistake, in my opinion. Trust your instincts. If you like it, in a Worldwide Marketplace, there are likely enough other people that will like it as well. Your genuine Internal Enthusiasm, Instincts, and Creative Fire will be so evident that the concept will shine much brighter than a calculated copy of someone else’s success. Trust your own creative instincts, regardless of what’s selling. Be True to Yourself when you create. This brings not only freedom but more gratification once you’ve shared the creation with the world.
5. What are some projects that you have coming and where can people see your work? Anything you’d like to shout out?
People can see my work on many Silverline Covers, including Cat & Mouse, Wolf Hunter, BEAH, Beyond the Stars, Obsoletes, the upcoming Capetown, and classics like Krey and Switchblade. I’m also writing and drawing Silverblade, a Victorian Fantasy that explains why Silver affects Monsters featuring Knights fighting supernaturally powered Cultists. For my past work with Malibu, DC Comics, Dark Horse Comics, and others, my work can be found on sites like Comic Art Fans, Comic Vine, and, of course, Silverline Comics. Here’s a link.