Local Comics Creator Wants to Show You How to Do It
Greensboro’s Barrett Stanley has created a very impressive indy comic book. Now he wants to show other would-be creators how. Come to Scuppernong Books at 7pm on Tuesday, Feb. 28, and he will.
“I’m not sure if I should call this event a proper workshop,” he says. “I think it will be more of an introduction to the process of making a comic. I’m testing the waters here and want to gauge the interest level. It’s something I’ll bring up in the talk and see if there are people who’d be interested. People don’t really need to bring anything in particular unless they want to jot down some notes.”
Barrett’s Heartbreak Quadrant, currently on sale at Scuppernong Books and Acme Comics, is a quirky character-oriented sci-fi adventure that somewhat resembles a more intimate and feminist version of Joss Whedon’s cult TV series Firefly crossed with the work of the great European Heavy Metal comics artists Jean “Moebius” Giraud and Enki Bilal.
It’s about the raffish exploits of Ida and Kumi, two young women who make their living buying, selling, and trading artifacts from planet Earth, which was destroyed 20 years earlier. They travel the galaxy in the Red Grapefruit, a salvaged alien ship, always seeking the big score that would let them settle down and live comfortably in the Charm Quadrant. Unfortunately, their days are filled with double-crossing clients, technological disasters, and sub-standard replicated nachos. In their first adventure, they run afoul of a former business associate and his mysterious enforcer, who are determined to take Kumi and melt her down for her unusual DNA.
“The first issue is a sort of ‘pilot episode’ and is about 60 pages – it gives you a pretty good introduction to the characters and plot, With this workshop, I plan to give the attendees a first-hand look at how I went about creating Heartbreak Quadrant, from the initial concept and preliminary sketches to the finished product.”
Barrett is the first to admit that creating it wasn’t easy, especially as he did it without a traditional publisher, financing it through a modest but successful Kickstarter campaign. “I’m the writer, artist, and letterer, so it’s kind of a one-man show. The first issue took about three years, all told, which sounds ridiculous, but working full time and having a family didn’t leave me with very much time to work on it on any given day. I would generally spend a few hours on it each night, but there were definitely days when I just couldn’t get to it. It was a painfully slow process, but I tried to focus on my short-term goals and deadlines. During the drawing and inking process, I was trying to get one page done each week. Sometimes I missed the deadline, but not often.”
I ask him if he wrote a complete script before he started to draw it. “In the beginning, I was scripting pretty thoroughly, but not very far in advance. I knew the outline of the plot, but I didn’t sit down and script the whole issue at the outset. By the halfway point, I’d stopped scripting the dialogue completely and was just laying out the pages with thumbnails and a basic idea of what was being said in each panel in mind. It actually worked really well for me and in following that plan with the second issue.”
I ask how much he had completed when his Kickstarter began. “The issue was 95% finished before I started the campaign. I was paranoid about completing it on time, plus I wanted to post a large portion of the issue for potential backers to see. At that point I felt confident I could finish it quickly if the Kickstarter was funded.”
That campaign took place in the Fall of 2016. “It ran for a month and I had a very positive experience working with Kickstarter. They selected Heartbreak Quadrant as a staff pick and even chose it as the ‘Project of the Day’ across the entire site one day. Their support really helped boost my fundraising, and the project passed its funding goal by almost a thousand dollars. I’m planning to launch another campaign for the second issue this year.”
Barrett is 40 and lives in Greensboro with his wife of 17 years and their 8-year-old daughter. A graduate of Grimsley High School, he studied art at Appalachian State University and has dabbled in a number of media, including fine art, graphic design and sculpture.
“I’ve worked in a lot of different media, from painting to printmaking to pottery to tattoo to illustration. I grew up reading comic books, spending Saturday mornings at Acme Comics back when it was a dark, cigarette-smoke-filled little shop downtown. Back then, it was mostly superhero titles. By the early 90s, I was starting to lose my taste for comics, and to be honest, mainstream comics were going through a pretty bad patch during that time. I was away from comics for a good long while, but then a few years ago a couple of friends started introducing me to some current comics and creators, and my interest came back pretty quickly. The Prophet series by Brandon Graham, Old City Blues by Giannis Milonogiannis, Copra by Michel Fiffe, plus artists like Ashley Wood and Frank Quietly were all inspiring, plus I discovered European comic artists like Moebius, Enki Bilal, and François Schuiten. I started buying old copies of Heavy Metal from the 70s and 80s and found a lot of amazing gems in there. My work draws influence from those old-school visuals, but with a more modern sensibility behind it.”
While he was putting the first issue together, Barrett was a Department Head at a local grocery store, but since then has begun working for himself. “Nowadays I’m basically doing comics and art full time, along with taking care of my awesome daughter. People in Greensboro have been really supportive. If I were to point to one person who’s thrown a ton of support my way (aside from my wife, that is), it would probably be Jermaine from Acme Comics. He has promoted the book pretty relentlessly and has given me opportunities to participate in events at the shop, and has just been a great resource as I try to get myself out there. That said, I truly appreciate everyone who’s helped me along on this journey.”
Wanna go? You can check out more pages from his story at heartbreakquadrant.tumblr.com. His “Pre-Workshop” at Scuppernong Books at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 28 is free and open to the public.