LUKE HERR, Pharaoh & Ibis - Author Interview

It’s Webcomics Wednesday, featuring the return of Luke Herr! Yaaaaayyyyy! (In my best “Hi Ho, Kermit The Frog here” Muppet Show introductory voice).

Muppet Luke as envisioned by Daniel Butler

Muppet Luke as envisioned by Daniel Butler

Luke Herr is “a Bachelor of Web Design-holding person who isn’t as thrilled about doing web work as he used to be. Former comic shop jockey and comic reviewer. He now does work on various nonpaying projects while looking for work that can pay the bills while living in Ohio. Favorite Comic Character: Moon Knight (the idea more the character)/ Jack Knight

ANTHONY: Welcome back to Rambling On, Luke. What have you been up to since the last time we chatted?

LUKE: Hey Anthony. Thanks for having me back on! Since we last talked a few months back life has changed a pretty good deal. I’ve graduated college and entered the job market since then. Of course I’ve yet to find a job that actually pays but I am still keeping myself busy by doing a bunch of side projects and comics.

I ended up starting a new project called Prison Spaceship which is an action pixel comic set in space. It is like Star Wars meets Con Air. A bunch of aliens in a spaceship who’ve been in prison and suddenly chaos breaks loose and it is up to Kat, the main character, to try and get off the ship and back to Earth.

Additionally I am working on a space series for an anthology with Allan Wood called The Future Universe and I have a story in that called The Last Confessions of a Living Bomb which is a diplomacy/religious/political piece with aliens. Two races are fighting over an asteroid and one of them leaves one person with a bomb capable of destroying the asteroid and the surrounding ships if they don’t get their way. It is up to a reporter to get the last thoughts of this living bomb. It is a lot more serious in tone but with some cool ideas.

ANTHONY: What’s the publication status of your webcomics SOCIALFIST and CHANGELING?

LUKE: Socialfist has entered a sort of publication limbo. Remus, the artist, ended up getting a deal to draw a book for James Asmus called The Life And End Times of Bram And Ben and since James is a professional comic writer who can pay money, Remus is working on that and some other jobs that can pay much better.

On the other hand though, I am working on getting the word about Socialfist out there so for a few weeks, I’ll be distributing a free CBZ file of the current Socialfist pages. After the free period though, I’ll be selling that for $2 and I’ll also be premiering the Special $5 edition. It comes with all of the pages of the series – including the two 9 page predecessor series back when it was still SFCRTSN (Super Feudal Communist Russia Team Squad Now). The money will be going to support the artist on those books and with some hopefully going towards the next version of the series.

I’ll be working with Max Y of Cracked on a new version. The plan is to do a series of shorter pieces before compiling them into a larger trade – that way if we lose an artist, the tonal shift will not be as intense. As to when that will begin, it will all be posted on the Socialfist blog and twitter.

As for Changeling we are working on finishing up Chapter 3, the Case of the Sound Demons which is our Doctor Who homage chapter. After that, if things work out, we will be having a fill in artist for a sort of crazy out there action chapter but I still need to nail down those details. Additionally we will be releasing the Changeling Volume 2 book soon in both print and digital formats which will include Chapter 2 and 3 along with a special book-only chapter and that should premiere at Heroes Con in June.



ANTHONY: Sounds like a lot on your plate! You’re also publishing a book online. What’s it about?

LUKE: I wrote and am currently reediting a book called Pharaoh and Ibis which is an all-ages adventure novel that takes a lot from mythology and comics and turns them into something fresh and fun.

The story is about Chris Cushing, an archaeologist, and Kevin Canyon, a young kid, getting thrown into this massive battle between the gods as they try to find an escaped deity who is out for revenge. There’s a lot of twists and turns and some really fun stuff.

That is located over at the Pharaoh and Ibis tumblr. I’ll be starting the second round of edits soon and additionally, if all goes well, I’ll be having an artist provide illustrations for it.

ANTHONY: Where did you draw your inspiration from for this particular story?

LUKE: I’ve always been a big fan of mythology and heroes and this was my chance to combine those two things together. I think we miss out on a lot of Egyptian mythology compared to Graeco-Roman partially due to the art and vandalism of the tombs but also the difficulty of translations but there are some interesting characters there and I do my best to round them out.

I’ve also been a big fan of pulpy superhero characters. When DC recently did their relaunch they did a lot of stuff that I didn’t care for. They turned Shazam into a gritty hero – and this is a book about a kid with superpowers. It shouldn’t be dark and gritty – if I were a kid like that I’d go into R rated movies and drive cars. I’d have fun. It wouldn’t necessarily be smart fun but there is no reason that a kid with all of that power should be so moody. That weird darkening was part of the impetus and the story partially stemmed from the stories I’d like to tell with these archetypal characters.

ANTHONY: I haven’t seen the new Shazam revamp but it sounds like I wouldn’t really like it at all. How does your creative process for your novel differ from your process for the webcomics?

LUKE: I’ve recently been changing how I write webcomics, especially after learning how to not tell shorter stories and luckily my brother had given me some books on novel writing. I ended up using those to go about the story more intelligently. The pacing is a lot better because I thought of the story as a trip with stops along the way instead of being a straight shot, so to speak. I like to think it shows up and I’m using that line of thinking to make even better comics now.

ANTHONY: What challenges have you noticed while writing the novel that you weren’t expecting to encounter?

LUKE: The biggest challenge is creating the world. One of the weaknesses I am still working with is understanding how to describe the world that the characters are in and figuring out how long to keep things going. Comics are a very visual medium and I’ll admit that most of the time I write the comics, unless I am telling something very actiony I think more about the dialogue than the setting. To sort of counteract this I’ve been reading more narrative fiction which after my kick of fake information books and histories of comics and galactic comic writing saviors, it is a valuable thing to do.

ANTHONY: Many writers have a group of first readers, or “beta readers,” to help vet the story, notice plot holes, catch typos, etc. I think this is especially important for self-published authors who don’t have an editor assigned to us by a publishing house. Have you worked with anyone before posting? If so, what has that process been like?

LUKE: I’ve had a few friends look at the book and part of my reason for posting the book to tumblr is to help people get a first crack at it. Most of the people like what I’ve written but my grammar can be a little funky at parts and because I normally worked on the book before going to bed, I commonly got sidetracked and delirious while writing.

I am also going back through the book myself though part of my reason for bringing on an artist is to reward myself for getting editing done – if I finish editing a chapter, I get to share some awesome art.

ANTHONY: Where do you going with the novel when it’s done? Any plans to publish in e-book format or seek other avenues to share the story?

LUKE: I really don’t know what my plan for the book is. I have the sequel planned out and the basic ideas for a third but I think it will all come down to whatever happens. I mean, I am not entirely sure about hunting for a publisher but I am happy sharing the book for free now. If a publisher were to come by offering me money or if someone wanted to do an e-book version, I’d not be opposed.

ANTHONY: You’ve already answered my usual closing question about favorite books. So: favorite comics, and what would you say to convince someone to read it who hasn’t already?

LUKE: Actually speaking of books I recently finished Mogworld by Yahtzee Croshaw and that was a fantastic read. It is a sort of Douglas Adams take on conscious non-player characters in an MMO and it deals with a lot of big ideas while also being incredibly funny and well written.

For comics I haven’t been read too many recently but I’ll give my big throw of support to Thor: The Mighty Avenger by Roger Langridge with Chris Samnee doing the art. The book is a fantastic re-imagining of the origin of Thor in a more all ages setting but it is more than that. The series redefines a lot of the characters and makes them actually live and makes them human, so to speak. It’s not as much of an action piece and instead focuses on relationships and characters. Unfortunately the book sold poorly so it was cancelled quickly but it is collected in two trade paperbacks that are well worth buying or most of it is on the Marvel Digital Comics.

ANTHONY: Thanks again, Luke!

Luke can be found all over the internet. His novel PHARAOH AND IBIS is on Tumblr. He is the chief editor and blogger on Nerdcenaries. His webcomics are Socialfist and Changeling. And of course he’s on Twitter as @koltreg.