Comic Book Curious

Creator Spotlight: Interview with Issac Willbanks & Devin Arscott

September 1, 2022

Welcome back to another creator spotlight! If you haven’t read the previous entry, an interview with Marcus Jimenez, be sure to go check that out. This week we have a first for the creator spotlight series as I sat down to chat with not one, but two (!) ultra-talented creators to talk about their work in comics and their currently active Kickstarter for The Sentinel! Check out the full conversation below:

Alex: So to start, how were you first drawn to comics as something you liked reading, and then how did that evolve into wanting to create them?

Devin: For me, I was drawn to comics due to my father being a collector and he taught me how to read at the age of 4 with them. Over time I’d read many, many comics; eventually setting out to write them from a young age as I had a passion for writing in general. After leaving college, as it wasn’t for me, I decided to try my hand at creating them starting in 2019 with the full-on support and encouragement of my wife. I took many pitfalls to get where I am, but so far it’s worked out after all the hard work I’ve done in such a short time.

Issac: When I was like 10, or 11 my dad gave me a long box of foil covers and Image Number 1's that he collected from the 90s, and My third eye was open then. I spent years reading those old floppies and sharing them with my friends. I spent some years away from reading, only to rediscover my love for the books again in like 2012/2013 when I picked up a collection of Snyder's New 52 Batman.

Alex: I love opening with that question because everyone's story is slightly different, but seeing common throughlines is always fun.

What is each of your favorite parts of creating comics that makes it stand apart from other storytelling mediums?

Devin: For me, I absolutely love when the art comes back. Seeing the gorgeous line work of an artist makes working in comics worthwhile. Not only did they take something that was written to be shown visually, but they help to enhance all the world-building that was done in the previous stage (scripting) to truly create a work of art. Comics stand apart from other mediums as the combination of collaboration helps to create one awesome finalized work, which many people can come to appreciate.

Issac: I come from short film work, and while I will always love TV and movies, there is a certain level of "We can do anything on this page" that really secures me as a writer. The medium is kind of dumb, and very elastic, so there is room to go all out and ask yourself as a writer, "Why not?" Movies, as amazing as they are, still bend to the will of our three dimensions in a way that comics don’t have to.

Page 1 from The Sentinel

Credit: Epic Fantasy

Alex: The collaboration process in comics and the sheer freedom really is unlike anything else.

On that note, you’re both currently collaborating on a Kickstarter, can you tell me about that project?

Devin: Currently, Isaac and I are collaborating on his comic, The Sentinel. The comic follows an amnesiac and otherwise powerful individual who must rediscover himself all the while forming into his own kind of hero. For months, I’d talked to Isaac on the premise of bringing his comic under my brand, Epic Fantasy; not only to continue this great new hero story for the modern age but to really give my friend a chance to make it in this industry as others have given me the same opportunities in the recent past.

Once we make our goal funding, then that’s where all the magic can begin as Isaac really pours his soul into The Sentinel for issue 2 and beyond. I wish I could say more, but you’ll just have to see!

Issac: This book is my Savage Dragon, it is my Invincible, it is my baby. I am putting all of my love for superhero comics into this story and hoping that I really create a fun canon that people get invested in. Issue 1 is the first in a three-part opening arc that will follow our hero as he deals with the first speed bumps one comes into contact with as a superhero on earth. Devin has managed to give me a very open place to take this story seriously, and I hope that the time and love we have put into this really shows.

Alex: That type of support is something I keep seeing in the comic community and it’s just the best.

The premise alone for The Sentinel has me hooked and is filled with such opportunity. Running with that premise and tackling a superhero comic, what would you say is your own personal flavor that you bring to the superhero story in the modern age?

Issac: I am really trying to do the Isaac Willbanks version of "Stan Lee's Just Imagine.." where I am taking these loose arch-type heroes and pushing them to the absolute silver age weird and wild limit. I have big, sprawling space epics planned, and smaller, intimate stories that will build this very comic book-y world up in interesting ways. Underneath that is my goal to create realistic characters that better reflect the very diverse alternative lifestyles of people today; in a way that I hope is a little more earnest than the Big 2 are allowing themselves to be. One of my biggest goals as a writer is to be constantly improving the way I represent my opposites on the page, and I want to express some of my own queerness when it comes to the romance dramas I have planned for the book. Really, I am looking at every situation and asking myself how I can make it more diverse, less straight, and as anti-capitalist as it can be.

And I am going to fail at that, but I am doing what I can to surround myself with people like Devin who not only want to see me succeed but will help me better myself along the way.

Another comic page from The Sentinel.

Credit: Epic Fantasy

Alex: “More diverse, less straight, and as anti-capitalist as it can be” is a tagline if I’ve ever heard one, put that on a poster.

Those goals sound phenomenal, though. Leaning into the weirdness of the silver age while injecting it with relevancy for today’s climate is a great approach.

This question is for both of you, what has been the biggest challenge of running a Kickstarter, and on the flip side of that what has been the most fun element?

Devin: The absolute hardest part of running a Kickstarter project is the marketing. Every single time a creator runs one of these things, you have to market yourself and the work in order to get backers, unless you’ve got a lot of committed followers of your work that are willing to just give you their money —which isn’t necessarily always indicative of success. Without the constant posts, tweets, and ads, we can’t hope to get a project funded unless we put our all into it.

Now on the flip side, I really enjoy the process of creating the Kickstarter itself and hitting launch. This allows me to see all the great support for the work we have, and really makes me hopeful as the hype for the book helps to fund it.

Issac: I'll side with Devin on the marketing side of things. There is some real pressure in the early years to be everything: writer, marketing team, social media guru, Kickstarter wizard. It is madness, and the first thing I will be passing off as a pro is everything outside of the art of making comics. The best thing has been seeing all of the support we have been getting. It is insane that my little superhero comic has made as much money as it has already, and it gives me hope that maybe there is a place for me in this industry.

A third page from the comic The Sentinel

Credit: Epic Fantasy

Alex: As a final question, what advice would you give to fellow creators about pursuing their work professionally?

And as a last addendum where can people find you online, where can they support your work, and if there’s anything else you want to plug the floor is yours!

Devin: My advice to my fellow creators and anyone who looks to take their work to the next level is this: Never give up. Comics will bring you joy, and break your heart, but at the end of the day, it’s your passion for the medium that keeps you going and looking forward to finishing projects and releasing them for all to see. Have faith in yourself and don’t allow the grind of being a creative knock you down if you aren’t releasing something as quickly as others, comics take time to create and it’s not a race.

As for plugging work, my first ongoing comic series, Magni the Mighty launches on Kickstarter on September 26th! On top of that, 2023 is a big year for Epic Fantasy as a brand and we hope to do many big things regardless of the stakes, so keep an eye on things. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram at the username @CBDev95, so I hope you consider checking out all the sweet work showcased on my socials.

Issac: I want to see more young creatives working harder on better stories that they release less often. There is a grind culture in comics and the up-and-comers think we must be a cog in the machine to make it, and you do. And that leads to, in my experience, a desire to become relevant in the community by having a super interested Twitter, with quippy hot takes, and super based comic book opinions, and overall just a lack of indie books but that isn't what I want from the other artists I interact with online. I want your blood and your sweat and your tears and I want to read something you clawed and scrapped to make that sucks, and I want you to use that project to help inform your next. Be authentic and take your time.

Like Devin, you can find me on my Twitter @iwillb13 and in my bio there is a linktree to all kinds of things, mainly the link to Issue 1 of The Sentinel, which everyone can read for free at Global Comix!

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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