Interview: Tom Hutchison on Big Dog Ink and the Comics Industry

"The biggest challenge is the same as it has always been: bringing in new readers. And not just the folks that come in for the hyped up events who mostly bow out quickly after. The industry needs a very real influx of the general public to our product. Conventions are a big part of that, as are the releases of all these movies, but there is still a huge disconnect between general public audiences and those that frequent comic book shops."

Big Dog InkThe last time I interviewed Tom Hutchison was January 2012. Since then, Big Dog Ink has only grown in popularity. Wanting to follow up on this successful indie creator, Hutchison allowed me to interview him for ScifiPulse.

You can learn more about Tom Hutchison and Big Dog Ink by visiting the company’s facebook page and following them on twitter at @tjhbigdogink.

Nicholas Yanes: Since we’ve last talked, how do you feel that you’ve grown as a creator?

Tom Hutchison: Four years is a long time between talks, and I definitely can say I feel as though my writing has taken large strides forward in that time. Understanding story pacing, becoming a little more visual with my panel descriptions so that my books don’t just have talking heads…well…talking. Even my dialogue has gotten somewhat more fluent, but that is also simply part of getting to know your characters that much better over the years, which I have thoroughly enjoyed.

Yanes: On this note, how do you feel you’ve grown as a businessman in the comics industry?

Hutchison: I have learned a lot. And I mean A LOT in these four years. And from that knowledge and understanding of the industry from every area, it’s allowed me to make far better decisions across the board. From who I hire and why, to what books and stories I want to release, and how I want them released. 2016 is going to see some variation on the normal way of doing business, and I’m very excited about that.

Yanes: With your experience, what do you see as the comics industry’s biggest challenge and biggest growth opportunity?

Tik TokHutchison: The biggest challenge is the same as it has always been: bringing in new readers. And not just the folks that come in for the hyped up events who mostly bow out quickly after. The industry needs a very real influx of the general public to our product. Conventions are a big part of that, as are the releases of all these movies, but there is still a huge disconnect between general public audiences and those that frequent comic book shops.

There’s a lot of reasons for that, too many to go into here, but publishers and creators need to take close notice of what is happening and be ready, willing and able to change and grow with the times to make this product relevant to that general public audience when we get the chance. Therein lies our biggest opportunity.

Yanes: Big Dog Ink merged with Aspen in 2014. What were some of the reasons for this business decision?

Hutchison: BDI as a self-contained entity ran into two basic problems. First, we grew so fast and had so much going on that our infrastructure couldn’t sustain what we were doing. Basically three people ran the company and most of that company was home based. We simply didn’t have the man power to maintain what we were doing with books, shows and just day to day functions.

The second part was the retail end. We simply could not get the retailers to take larger notice of us. Despite having multiple books in the Diamond Top 300, retailers simply would not give us the shelf space we needed to grow in that avenue. Which is partially why we did so many shows. Conventions were super important to our growth and success as a company, but when we sold books to people at shows and then those people went to comic shops only to be told our books were unavailable…we had reached our glass ceiling, essentially. So we needed someone to give our books a sort of thumbs up and Aspen was there for us. Frank and Vince and Peter have always been great with us as we grew on our own, and it’s a real honor to now be able to grow under their umbrella.

Yanes: In regards to your day-to-day work life, how does this deal with Aspen impact you?12527749_10153198701086333_1283462372_n

Hutchison: Basically I just do my thing. Writing, editing, show travel. The primary thing Aspen gave me beyond their name is their infrastructure. They handle so much of the day to day things with Diamond and so on, that I am allowed to concentrate more on the creative side which includes ideas for books, finding artists and developing convention practices as well.

Yanes: Tik-Tok is one of the most obscure but coolest of characters from the Oz books. Why did you pick him to star in a new series?

Hutchison: Well Tik-Tok is a very popular character on his own, but the book was pitched to me by Rob Anderson. This was his idea, and so we talked about it and found a way for him to tell Tik-Tok’s story, but also tie it directly into the overall Legend of Oz story that I was telling too. It’s going to be a really fun little story.

Yanes: Another new title from Big Dog Ink is Joan of Arc. What was the inspiration for this series?

Hutchison: Well Joan was introduced in Penny for Your Soul Vol 2: False Prophet and then got her own miniseries not long after that. The new BDI Super Special: Joan of Arc that comes out in the Spring is a direct sequel to that mini-series and the Penny for Your Soul: Death series. It will be perfectly readable on its own, but will also have ties to what has come before. Joan is an incredible character and as a steampunk style angel with wings powered by Heaven’s light, she’s no push over and will have an incredible adventure through the world of Heaven, Hell and where artifacts like the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail are very real and very important to those above and below.

Yanes: Given that Joan of Arc has inspired so many works of fiction, what is your twist on this character going to be?

Hutchison: Our Joan is a disgruntled soldier of Heaven. Upon reaching Heaven after being burned at the stake, she finds that wings and a halo are not gifts one receives simply by showing up. They are for the angels God created way back in the day. So Joan takes the next 600 or so years and creates her own angel wings and halo and passes her test to be bathed in Heaven’s light and allow her wings to light up with feathers made of pure Holy light. It’s a beautiful design created by Nei Ruffino who is also doing a gorgeous cover for the new Joan book. Joan later finds that those she called her friends had be hiding the Ark of the Covenant and dozens of other artifacts that have very specific purpose in the prophecies of Jesus, etc., and she takes it upon herself to become the guardian of the Ark and keep the pieces safe from prying eyes, hands and claws.

Yanes: When I think of Big Dog Ink, I think of Critter first. What do you currently think of this property and what are some long term plans for the character?

CritterHutchison: Critter is without a doubt my favorite character and book to write. She is everything that comic book superheroes should be. Secret identities, utility belts, guest stars from other creator’s comics and of course the cat ears. Critter is not done by a long shot, and there are constantly new people discovering her at conventions and in stores. It’s simply a matter of getting in front of people’s faces, and nine times out of ten they love her. As for future plans, there are some things potentially on the horizon that I can’t really get into yet, but trust me when I tell you that Critter will be around for a long, long time.

Yanes: With 2016 just starting, what are some resolutions you have for yourself and your work?

Hutchison: Write more. I really have to do this. Not just for the books I am working on, but also the new projects that I have waiting in the wings. I have no less than four new titles all in various stages of production that I want to get out to BDI fans. One of them will be coming to fruition this Fall and it is a book I am co-creating with Jenevieve Broomall. This will be Jen’s first shot at doing full interiors for a book and she is also designing characters based on my notes and is being given the rare opportunity to play around with my script. We call it the Diva Polish, and I have to say, I love everything she’s found to add in. But ultimately, I want to get back to creating new things for BDI fans who have been so patient with us in our transition to Aspen, and I’m here to tell them, they will be rewarded!

Remember, you can learn more about Tom Hutchison and Big Dog Ink by visiting the company’s facebook page and following them on twitter at @tjhbigdogink.

And remember to follow me on twitter @NicholasYanes, and to follow Scifipulse on twitter @SciFiPulse and on facebook.

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