Comics as we know it is wide and fractured. There’s Direct Market comics, bookstore comics, webcomics, indie comics, manga, Eurocomics, and several more subcultures. I’m curious about what working under the broad umbrella of “comics” is like for creators, publishers, critics, academics, and more. Over the course of this month, I’m going to interview several people whose work, position, or goals I find interesting and attempt to paint a picture of what “comics” means today.
For the month of February, I’m taking over the Inkstuds podcast in order to introduce Inkstuds Spotlight, a focused look at what it means to be in comics. A comprehensive look isn’t my goal. My goal is to show you several different slices of life in comics, as the people I’m interviewing this month play a wide variety of roles in comics. Today, I’m speaking to Jay Potts, a cartoonist working on his new series and navigating how to respect his inspirations while still making his work his own.
A bit of context before we begin: Inkstuds is a comics podcast founded and hosted by Robin McConnell. It’s focused largely on indie and underground cartoonists, and now that it’s 500 episodes deep, exists as a great resource for finding out not just more about comics, but about the lives of cartoonists. ComicsAlliance is one of the most important news outlets in comics. I’m biased, having written for CA for a few years, but the staff has a voice and variety of interests that still can’t be matched. With both sites broadcasting Inkstuds Spotlight, I’m hoping we can reach a wide slice of the comics readership.
Today I’m talking to Jay Potts, creator of the blaxploitation-themed webcomic World of Hurt and the upcoming tokusatsu-inspired series Atomech. Potts works largely in an adventure comics mode, creating stories where men and women go out and dispense justice or make things happen, and without a publisher. His tales avoid ironic takes on familiar ideas in favor of simply telling a good story that obeys the rules of whichever genre he has chosen to work in. That’s an interesting approach to me, considering how much of the comics industry leans on nostalgia, irony, and deconstruction nowadays, so I spoke with Potts about his influences, consciously processing those influences, and respecting the idiom.
0:00: Potts discusses his entrance to reading comics thanks to seeing his older brother draw comics, the influence on his art styles from artists like John Buscema and José Luis García-López, enjoying Gene Colan’s work on Howard the Duck and Tomb of Dracula, following artists instead of specific comics titles, George Perez, García-Lopez’s short runs on various titles including Cinder & Ashe and Twilight with Howard Chaykin, the iconic nature of García-López’s work, and striving for believability in his own work.
10:00: The importance of consistency in making a believable comic, his new project Atomech, the inspirations for Atomech, designing mecha, being exposed to tokusatsu in the late ’70s, the earnestness of Japanese superheroes, the tone he’s aiming for with Atomech, the format of Atomech, and focusing on the book until it’s done.
20:00: Getting the first adventure out there, having material for a second story, his creative process, hating drawing panel borders, using SketchUp to maintain consistency, being mostly self-taught until he went to Savannah College of Art & Design, being exposed to new influences and meeting good friends, his local community of artists, ColaCon, the internet as game-changer, finding communities of like-minded individuals, and the changes in comics since 2009.
30:00: Falling gatekeepers in comics, earnestness in his own work, the natural inclination to want to justify what you’re doing, finding a lot to offer in blaxploitation deeper than its surface elements, doing a straightforward story as an answer to the mockery of blaxploitation, and respecting the genre he works in. You can find him on @World_of_Hurt, a Facebook fan page he rarely uses, and @Atomech. He discusses hearing “world of hurt” in the wild, the Charlotte Mini-con, and HeroesCon. Atomech launches later this year, but other good tokusatsu/superhero-related comics are Wook Jin Clark’s Megagogo and James Biggie/Josh Van Reyk/Frankie B. Washington’s Robot God Akamatsu.