Interview with Kevin Freeman and Stan Yan of “SubCulture Omnibus” from Action Lab – Part Two

subculture coverIn Part One of our interview with “SubCulture” creators Kevin Freeman and Stan Yan, we covered a lot of info on the upcoming “SubCulture Omnibus” from Action Lab.  In Part Two, we also learn a bit more about their influences and about upcoming projects from each of them.

TMStash:  Kevin, how did you hook up with Action Lab?

KEVIN: I knew a lot of the guys who founded Action Lab, Shawn Pryor, Dave Dwonch, Chad Cicconi and those guys.  I was thinking about leaving Ape, particularly because I didn’t have the time to dedicate primarily to a lot of the licensed products, the Dreamworks license, “Strawberry Shortcake”, “Richie Rich”, all those.  Plus I have a full time gig. Action Lab asked if I could help out a bit, and I said “Hey, why not.”  Action Lab wasn’t as big as Ape at the time, only putting out 2-3 books a month at the time I joined up.  Over the last six months or so, things have restructured a little bit, and they asked me if I wanted to take over as President.  It’s been a lot of fun so far, and I’m enjoying it a lot! It’s nice to see this company growing from the ground up.  We got a couple of Eisner nominations last year, so it’s certainly helping the cause.  We didn’t get any this year unfortunately, but that’s all right, we’ll try again next year.

TMStash: Stan, what other projects are you working on lately?

STAN: Other than the “SubCulture Omnibus” Kickstarter, I’ve been working on illustrating and coloring a few pages for Mother Mind Studios for “Show Devils” #2, which stars the Enigma, the puzzle tattooed guy, and Serena Rose.  They’re kind of a freak show carnival act.  Dan Crosier writes the story, creating what he calls a “Scooby-Doo meets the devil’s rejects” type of story. (Laughter) Dan illustrated a story that I wrote for “Vincent Price Presents” a while back.  Now he’s writing something and I’m returning the favor.  And, I’m doing some colors for the short stories in “Show Devils” #2 that Jolyon Yates has done. Jolyon is the illustrator for a web comic that I’m currently writing called “Revvvelations” which is an action-adventure comic.  I’ve been coloring the “Revvvelations” strips too, so I feel like I’m pretty good at coloring his stuff.  That’s been a long running project that started a year after I started “SubCulture” and it’s basically a cross between “Death Race” and “Cannonball Run”.  I’ve made it a really character driven thing, even though the idea behind it was that it was going to be everything gratuitous and like a cross country NASCAR race.  There are elements like in “The Amazing Race” where they have to accomplish tasks where the racers need to go assassinate someone or rob a bank or something like that before all the racers can proceed.

TMStash: It sounds perfectly wild!  Will you and Kevin be appearing on behalf of your projects at any cons soon?

KEVIN: We’ll both be in San Diego in July, and I plan on being at NC Comic Con.  Stan does a lot more shows than I do.

STAN: The one I’m planning on traveling to is San Diego.  I’ll also be doing the Denver County Fair, which is a big deal, and a big Anime convention here in town called Nan Desu Con which I’ll be doing in September.  Those are firm, and I might go to ACE (Albuquerque Comic Expo) in June as well.  There’s also a new comic convention that will be in Pueblo Colorado that will be in the beginning of October that may be the same weekend as the Mile High Horror Film Festival which I did last year as well.

TMStash: How did you get involved with Anime Cons?

STAN: I have to be honest, Kevin’s probably a little bit more knowledgeable about Anime and Manga titles.  The reason that I became a part of that convention is because they were looking for someone to run the comic programming track, so for about a half dozen years our Squid Works co-op group was basically running all the comics program in exchange for tables.  The last couple of years we weren’t doing programming anymore but seemed like I was doing really well there because of all the zombie stuff.  Not that any of the stuff I was doing meshed with the crowd there, but the zombie stuff is really prevalent within video games these days and there’s a huge video game community in the anime convention scene. So, needless to say there’s a lot of zombiephiles that are commissioning work from me.

KEVIN: You can do manga style, Stan.  I think you could.

STAN: I think I could if I really dedicated myself to studying it. To be honest, “SubCulture” was really outside my comfort zone when I started doing it.  I gave you (Kevin) a whole range of different character designs for Noel and Jason, and you of course picked the one that I could probably least reproduce, so you forced me to make my art style grow.  (Laughter)

TMStash: What were your favorite comics growing up? What were your influences as you began work in the field?

STAN: The funny thing is I didn’t grow up being very influenced by comic books.  The few comic books that I owned were things my parents purchased for me at the grocery store in the spinner rack to keep me quiet.  But, they weren’t really structured in a format that really hooked me. It wasn’t like “oh I’ve really gotta follow this because of that 22 page story that I read” or go and figure out how to get the back issues, because I was inevitably reading issue number 8 of something.  But, comic strips were what really influenced me.  If I could envision myself doing anything it was comic strips. Some of my early influences included “Garfield” when I was young.  I didn’t realize how horrible the strip was written, but I was inspired by the line work.  Jim Davis, while he was still drawing “Garfield” probably used brush or nib pens to give that expressive line, thick-to-thin, thin-to-thick, that just really inspired me.  As I got a little bit older I started appreciating Bill Watterson and things like that.  But, the guy that founded the Squid Works group was teaching a class through this community school, Colorado Free University, about how to do comics.  I was really interested, I was about 17 years old at the time, and I wanted to go ahead and take that class just assuming that it was about comic strips.  But, it was about comic books, and so this was the first time I really seriously thought about doing a comic book story.  I took one of my creative writing stories that I did in high school and retrofitted it to be my assignment in the class and just fell in love with the long form medium.  That’s been kind of my muse ever since.

KEVIN: For me, I’m a child of the 70’s and 80’s.  I definitely have memories of going to the Stars and Stripes Bookstore on Army bases and Air Force bases.  I’m an Air Force brat, and if you gave me a dollar I could get four comic books for 25 cents each since they don’t have tax there.  When I was old enough to realize what I was reading and was interested in the continuation of the stories, the first story that really hooked me was John Romita Jr., Bob Layton and David Michelinie’s run on “Iron Man” starting in the late 1970’s and into the early 80’s.  And then, my formative years in comics were in what I think is the best period in comics, before, since or ever. You had John Byrne on “Fantastic Four”, you had Miller on “Daredevil”, you had Simonson doing “Thor”, you had the Michelinie/Romita/Layton team on “Iron Man”, classic work, classic runs on those books and I was hooked forever after that. Of course, Perez started working with Wolfman on “Titans” and that was the book that contributed to my insanity as well.  And, the rest is history as they say.

TMStash: What else do you want people to know about “SubCulture”?

KEVIN: The people who ordered it on the Kickstarter, I’ve already got all of the goodies, the buttons and the stickers and the dice that we’re going to send out to the donors, I’m putting those into packets as we speak. Stan is handling the printing side of things because the printer that we’re using is actually local to him in Denver. The “Omnibus” is actually in this month’s “Previews” for the regular comic market if they want to order it.  It should be out in stores around mid-June, so people can order it now if they want.   It’s coming out with a soft cover edition that’s $24.99, and there’s a hard cover edition that’s $34.99.  It’s 344 pages, so it’s a pretty meaty book. Stan has seen the proofs so he actually has a copy in his hands.

STAN: Just to let you guys know, the hard cover edition is in full color, whereas the soft cover is gray tones.

KEVIN: The original strip was in black and white.  This will be the first time that we’ve ever reprinted the strips in color so I’m excited about that.

TMStash: I think we are all looking forward to more from both of you.  Is there anything more you’d like to add?

KEVIN: I just want to encourage all the readers to take a chance. Don’t settle.  I would much rather you try something new than settle to read a mediocre book month after month.  I don’t want to get on my soap box here, but find good books.  There are still a lot of them out there, and most of them are hidden treasures.  I would encourage your readers to pick something up on the shelf before that you haven’t read before, thumb through it, you just might like it.  Whether it’s our work or someone else’s, trust me there will be an independent creator who will thank you for it.

TMStash: I’ll just close by repeating your tag line from “SubCulture”…I’ll admit it, I’m one of them!

KEVIN: We win!

TMStash: Thanks to Kevin Freeman and Stan Yan for their time – check out the “SubCulture Omnibus” up for pre-orders at your LCS soon from Action Lab!

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Ed is a long-time comics collector, going back to the days when comics were only 12 cents. He reviews DC titles and a variety of Indie publishers here at TMStash.

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