Welcome back to another creator spotlight! If you haven’t read last week’s interview with Mario Candelaria be sure to go check that out, but this week I had the pleasure of chatting with Coleton Mastick. As creator, writer, and artist on StarBurn, Coleton is well acquainted with the comic creation process. We get to discuss some of his ins and outs of the process, what informs his take on sci-fi, and more, check out the full conversation below:
Alex: So my first question is two-fold, how were you first drawn to comics as a reader, and then when did you realize they were something you wanted to pursue as a creator?
Coleton: I didn’t start reading many comics until college. I always had a hard time reading so even comics didn’t appeal to me outside the artwork. As a kid, I’d get stuff like Captain underpants and Batman comics just for the pictures. It wasn’t until I read Head Lopper by Andrew MacLean that I thought I could actually start making my own. His comics looked so different from what I thought they had to be and opened my eyes to so many other indie and self-published comics. That’s really what made me get into reading more and creating my own.
Alex: That’s awesome, so you’ve always been more attracted to the indie side of comics as opposed to Marvel and DC? What’re your favorite genres within that?
Coleton: Yeah I didn’t start really reading anything Marvel or DC until a few years ago. It was Hickman’s X-Men run that got me into reading more superhero stuff. Indie comics always had so much more to offer without worrying about missing like 60 years of stories. Indie had so much slice-of-life stuff and cool original stories everywhere you looked. Also, so many art styles that I never saw in superhero stuff. Eventually, I realized even Marvel and DC had their hidden gems. Stuff that looked so experimental and interesting as well. I think I got caught up too much on surface-level stuff that I didn’t look past it all to find what I wanted in stories and art.
But overall my favorite genres are adventure stuff, coming of age stories, and always love a good mystery. I also tend to like more fantasy and SciFi as well.
Alex: I think a bit of what you’re talking about is sort of the brilliance I’ve seen in the indie comic world. Seeing a book that catches your eye and inspires you, and then realizing there’s an endless amount of stories like that to dive into and find exactly what you like. You can also just get away with more in indie stuff, there are certain punches you can’t throw in DC and Marvel, but indie it’s anything goes.
What about fantasy and sci-fi appeals to you, especially on an artistic level?
Coleton: I think it’s all about escaping the reality we’re stuck in. Sci-if to me is my favorite to work in because I can just do whatever I want and don’t have to explain anything. I can make robots and space ships and know nothing about how it works. The limitless potential is what I always loved about that. Star Wars, Mass Effect, and lots of other shows, movies, and video games gave you that “brand new world to explore” feeling I just love.
Alex: I think sci-fi is one of the best genres for that escapism, considering a lot of the time you are literally getting out of this world.
The general aesthetic of sci-fi is easily one of my favorite things about it. There are so many different design philosophies you can find across the genre, what are some keys to how you approach drawing a new spaceship, robot, or device in a sci-fi world?
Coleton: That part is always tricky because of how many iconic things are already established. Star Wars alone has so many iconic robots and ships that making anything close feels like copying. For me, I always wanna make something that looks cool and feels unique, which is pretty hard in such a large pool of already designed things. Also, complexity is another thing I look at. How hard is it to draw, how much will I be drawing something over and over? I love the old-school Sci-fi aesthetics too. Big clunky technology, wires everywhere, and lots of fun shapes.
Alex: It’s the problem the super suit tailor in Invincible mentions, you always want iconic but figuring out how to land there is the tricky part.
Coloring is of course a huge part of the comic process and can make or break a book. How has your approach to coloring evolved?
Coleton: Exactly, too different and it could end up being too weird so you need some familiarity. When it comes to coloring a huge help to me was my iPad and procreate. I like bright and bold colors and honestly struggled for a long time learning how to make a palette work. I would love to work with a colorist but being independent comes with having to learn and do most of the work yourself unless you can afford it.
Alex: I always love seeing artists post work in progress and behind-the-scenes stuff, especially when it comes to coloring and it’s awesome how many advantages digital has brought to the table.
Speaking of working entirely independently and how that impacts the workflow, how intensely do you write out scripts for yourself, knowing you’ll be the one bringing it to life?
Coleton: It depends. I think I’ve gone about it differently with every comic I make. Sometimes I’d sketch out layouts with dialogue and just clean it up later and for others, I’d write a complete script first. I usually change things as I work through the pages so I know where I’m going but sometimes I change little things along the way.
Alex: That’s cool. I have to imagine there’s a great feeling of freedom in being the only person in the workflow.
You’ve self-published your own work, which is a daunting task, how has that process been for you?
Coleton: The process as you’d expect is a bit overwhelming at times. Not only making an entire comic myself but the promoting, publishing, shipping all the other stuff that goes into it I had to learn on the fly. I use the analogy of having 10 different desks and having to get up and sit at each one because I can only do one task at a time, all of which is done in free time and days off. But I’m the end of the day it’s all worth it. So many of us are doing the exact same thing, grinding on our passions and dreams hoping one day it’ll all pay off.
Alex: That sounds like a perfect analogy, you’re essentially a one-man army of creation getting these books out. It’s super impressive and inspiring.
Where can people find your already published work, what are you currently working on and how can people support it?
Coleton: I have my comics available on my website http://Coletron.com/shop. Currently, I’m wrapping up part three of my robot detective comic StarBurn. I’m also working on some new comic ideas with some other folk buddies to hopefully be started soon that I’m excited about.
About the author: Alex Batts is a writer with a lifelong passion for comics and storytelling. If he’s not writing about comics, he’s likely writing or reading them. You can follow him on Twitter @apbattman.
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