If you find yourself ambling through eastern Maine this summer, be sure to drop by Bangor for the Downeast Fantasy Con. There, you’ll find Jack Holder. He’ll be doing the wonderful (and terrifying) work of indie comicbook publishing. Except, that is, when he isn’t out sneaking a peak at the latest Hickman comic or thinking big thoughts about the beauty of the world and the imagination. But don’t worry, he’ll be back. Because, most of all, he’s there to remind us all why indie comics matter so much. Holder founded Arcane Inkdustries to ask the thoughtful, difficult questions that corporate comics tend to shy away from: Why do we believe what we believe? What role is there for technology in a secular world? Can comics help to make the world a better place to live in?
He first sought answers to these questions in an unlikely place for a comicbook writer: a Master’s program in Theology at Boston University. And, while religious studies soon gave way to a career in comics, if you look carefully, I bet you’ll find a touch of C.S. Lewis and Jonathan Edwards in his work. Whether it’s an existential detective satire about a god that rises from social media in The Following Casework, or a multi-author inquiry into the character of religious belief in Why Faith?, Holder wants comics to be fun and thought-provoking at the same time. But don’t take my word for it. Ask him yourself. He’ll be at the Plastic City Comic Con in Fitchburg, MA, on July 13 and in Bangor, ME, on July 20.
Holder took the time to write down answers to nine of our questions. Here are his thoughts on the collaborative process, the entrepreneurial nature of the indie space, the life lesson that is self-publishing, and his abiding love for manga.
Tell us the story behind your most recent project. How did it come about?
So what is going on right now is the project Why Faith? It’s a collection of 30 stories that ask why or why not people have faith, what form that faith takes, and how it affects their lives. It started in the last year of my Master’s Degree in Theology at Boston University. I wanted to bring the arts closer to my own work with theology, which I was able to turn into reality with the help of an amazing professor, Alexandra Herzog. We’re working on this project with dozens of creators. Why Faith? includes comicbook debuts from two New York Times bestselling authors. And, we have stories from an Eisner winner and a USA Today Bestselling author.
What mark does Arcane Inkdustries hope to make on the comicbook industry?
The tagline of Arcane Inkdustries is “Magical Musings in a Mundane World,” which we hope to embody every day. There will almost always be an underlying message or topic that we are trying to reckon with while working to make some of the best comics we possibly can. We hope to bring to the comicbook industry work that makes us think, helps the world at-large, and debuts new creators and their amazing stories.
What are some of the highs and lows of self-publishing?
The greatest gift and curse of working in indie comics is the fact that you are out there with no constraints. You have to be marketer, promoter, agent, editor, talent scout, and you need to be an artist, too. But thanks to this challenge, I’ve been able to bring stories that I don’t think would be published without me. It is a wonder and a terror.
What comics are you reading right now?
Oberon from Aftershock. Killtopia from Dave Cook, Atomic Robo, and Copperhead. Most anything I can get from Jonathan Hickman. If it challenges my own understanding of art or thinking, I love it.
Who are the biggest influences in your career in indie comics?
Russell Nohelty and Tyler James Vogel from Wannabe Press and Comixtribe, respectively, have been a big help to me. Both have been instrumental in helping me to figure out not just the creative process, but the business of art. Then there are the Barn Stormers, Johnny C, Josh Dahl, and Bob Salley. They have opened their doors and con tables to me. I’ve been able to get started in comics because of them.
Religion is a theme in your writing. What about the subject interests you?
My Master’s Degree was in Church and the Arts. My faith in Christianity has been both a comfort and a wondrous challenge that I try to bring to bear in my work. Religion is so fascinating for me in both the natural and supernatural world. I’m interested in the question, what do we believe in, and, how we are able to affect the world with such beliefs, both positively and negatively?
What literary or artistic influences have shaped your comicbook work?
The works of C.S. Lewis and Patrick Lewis have had an influence on me. Also, the writings of John Knox and Jonathan Edwards, and the performances of Neil McGarry. And, so much manga, especially Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist, which stands paramount in my mind. In all of these examples, the artistry and literary quality of the message is never sacrificed. It’s what I strive for constantly.
What have comics taught you?
Ha! Do you have three years to talk about this? Comics, and making comics, have helped me in just about every aspect of life. I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty of the world and the imagination. I know more about how to tell a story in a minimalist fashion while making sure to let the artist express his/her own vision. Unlike prose writing, comics are collaborative. Working with Lucas Santos on The Following Casework taught me to trust the artist to convey both my vision and his.
What advice/tools can you offer someone interested in jumping into comics?
What no one wants to talk about is money. Comics are one of the most expensive businesses, but it has a very small return on investment. If you are a writer, start small and build your contacts. The most important thing for comics is the collaborative aspect. Try to work with humor and compassion. It will help establish your reputation as someone that others need to work with. Let the artists do the art. Be patient. Every day, a little bit further down the road, you will make progress. It should be a constant battle and a struggle that seems to get harder the higher you climb. But it’s so worth it. Oh, and laugh often.
Nine Questions is a regular feature at Rogues Portal that spotlights a self-published comicbook creator. If you are an indie writer or artist who would like to be interviewed for this column, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.