Louis Southard discusses his career and his latest project, “Comics Are Dying: The Comic”

"...I wanted to write a comic that not only celebrates the highs and horrors of comics but also gives a ton of amazing and diverse artists jobs. We have everyone from all walks of life working on this book unified by their passion for this medium we call a home...."
comic

Louis Southard is a comic book writer and creator who has been working in the industry since 2019. Some of his highlights include Midnight Western Theatre, Villains Seeking Hero, Terrifying Tales, MWT: Witch Trial, and The Blackout Bombshell. His latest project is Comics Are Dying: The Comic, which celebrates the history of comic books and shows that the industry is far from dying. Wanting to learn more about Southard and this project, I was able to interview him for ScifiPulse.

You can learn more about him by visiting his homepage.

 

 

Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, what were some comic books that you loved? Are there any that you still enjoy revisiting?

Louis Southard: Oh, this is always a fun question! So, I got into reading comics when I was twelve and I never stopped. My first ever single issue was The Amazing Spider-Man #698 which was the big reveal of Doctor Octopus pretty much killing Spidey and stealing his body. That led into my first ever comics run that I loved: The Superior Spider-Man. I was a real Wednesday warrior for that book. Other than that, I also remember the first trade paperback I read which was the collected edition of the original Marvel Zombies. Most of my teenage years, I was a heavy Marvel reader.

In terms of revisiting, one series I fell in love with and always look back to is everything Jonathan Hickman did with Avengers, New Avengers, and Secret Wars. That whole Marvel Now wave launched right when I hopped into the fandom and those were *my* books. I probably reread New Avengers and Secret Wars once a year because I love the writing and beats in those books. My favorite ever scene is in New Avengers when Doctor Doom gets annoyed with Mister Fantastic for waking up some Latverian children in the middle of the night, with the good Doctor saying something along the lines of “Doom demands all children to get a good night’s sleep.” Was really well written and funny stuff.

Yanes: When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in the comics industry? Was there a moment this goal crystalized for you?

Southard: When I was seventeen / eighteen, it was my dream to make my own comic. I’d doodle character designs in the margins of school notes. I’d outline entire story arcs and ideas in my journals. It was my happy place. But, it didn’t seem like a realistic option for me. My parents always wanted to be a lawyer or something like that. A *real* job haha. So, it was just a lovely fantasy.

But, when I was eighteen, my father passed away and that put my future in perspective and in review. It took a lot of thought and a lot of pain, but I decided that life is too short to dedicate yourself to half-measures and stuff you don’t believe in. I wanted to pursue my great passions and ambitions. If I failed at it, I could say that I at least tried. Luckily for myself and my adoring public, I succeeded at breaking into the industry and am able to have a steady career in comics. What was once an impossible dream is now everyday life. I’m very thankful for that and consider myself blessed in that regard.

Yanes: You spent some time at the University of Paris. Broadly speaking, what are some key differences you noticed between American and French comics?

Southard: There’s this excellent comics shop in the Latin Quarter of Paris called Album Comics and I would go in there almost everyday when I very briefly lived in France. Recently, my partner and I went on vacation to Paris and I got to return to the shop. Now that I am much older, wiser, and more pretentious (haha), I got really envious and excited by the French editions of a lot of European and American comic books. They have these beautiful, hardcover, oversized books with the finest paper you can imagine. They’re just so gorgeous to look at.

I think it’s sensational that Europeans put so much love and care into the comics over there and I want to see that kind of stuff in the States as well. This is an art form and I want to see it treated with respect! Obviously, there are some improvements like with more recent Artist Editions, but it’s nothing like what they have over there.

 

 

Yanes: You have been writing comics since 2019. Since this time, what have you learned about the comics industry you could have never learned in school?

Southard: Everything. There’s no school on the planet that could’ve taught me what I know now. This kind of thing needs to be birthed from experience. Whether you’re a writer, an artist, or what have you, it is your duty to learn as much as you can about how you can expand your horizons.

If I hadn’t of learnt to get savvy or to think outside the box, I would’ve given up because this is not an industry you can just walk into. I’ve dealt with unprofessional collaborators, shady publishers, gatekeepers, bullies, and real jerks. I also had to reevaluate my own strengths and weaknesses so I could keep getting better.

A school can teach you the fundamentals of a subject. It can also help you build a network. So, an education is very valuable in some ways. But, there is no greater teacher in life than actually doing the thing. You may fail at first (like I did when I started), but you’ll then know what not to do for next time.

Yanes: Your latest project is Comics Are Dying: The Comic. What was the inspiration for this project?

Southard: Anger, mostly haha. Basically, I got pretty fed up by a lot of negative people online saying that the comics industry is falling. That was annoying, but then I saw some big shot comic creator who I will not name really fanning the flames of the whole thing and acting like they had all the answers while saying nothing at all.

Upon witnessing this impotent display of snake oil salesmanship, I decided that I wanted to be the comic creator who actually put his money where his mouth is. To get down to brass tacks, I wanted to write a comic that not only celebrates the highs and horrors of comics but also gives a ton of amazing and diverse artists jobs. We have everyone from all walks of life working on this book unified by their passion for this medium we call a home.

So, this is a love letter to comics and a love letter to the people who make them. I figured it best to make a book that supports and highlights fellow creatives while also being optimistic. I think we could use some positivity these days.

Yanes: While doing research for Comics Are Dying: The Comic, what was a fact you learned about the industry that took you by surprise?

Southard: Believe it or not, I knew quite a bit going into this project as I’m a big comics history fan. However, I was surprised with how much I learned about the Platinum Age (late 1800s to early 1900s) and the Underground Comix Movement (1960s to 70s). Particularly the works of Winsor McCay and Robert Crumb. That was very interesting for me to discover!

 

 

Yanes: For Comics Are Dying: The Comic you were able to assemble a great collection of artists. How did you get them to agree to be part of this project?

Southard: Obviously, I opened my window, stuck my head out, and shouted into the world that there were art jobs. After the first thousand people showed up, I figured that’d be a good slush pile to go through. Haha.

But, seriously, it was a lot easier than people have expected. So, I started by contacting everyone I’d worked with on previous projects to see if they’d like to chip in. That got the ball rolling. After that, they passed it along to peers and colleagues until I started to put open calls online. Once we reached the first 50 people, I shotgunned a press release to hype up the project and put out the listing for the latter 50 artists wanted. That sure enough helped us round out the team!

I must also thank the Joe Kubert School and the Savannah College of Art and Design because their respective staffs and student bodies were tremendous supports during the making of this project!

Yanes: Starting a project is always stressful because we are aware it can fail at any moment. However, was there a moment for Comics Are Dying: The Comic in which you realized that this project was going to work and be completed?

Southard: Honestly, I had full faith in myself to make this project as well as complete trust in my team. I don’t work with people I can’t depend on and I made it clear to artists early on that you’re either in or out. So, actually making the book was never the issue.

The biggest scare was popping onto Zoop and doing a crowdfunding campaign. I’d never done anything like that before and I was fearful that nobody would turn out to support the book. I figured it’d been a while since my last public embarrassment so I’m due for another one haha.

However, I’m proud to say that we fully funded in about a single day. At the time of me writing this, we’re well over our intended goal and hope to reach new heights so we can expand the book for all supporters and fans. Pulling this off would not be possible though without all of the enthusiastic readers, my amazing creative team, and the great people at Zoop. I’ll even shout out myself because I did a damn great job haha.

Yanes: Reflecting on the time spent making Comics Are Dying: The Comic how do you think you’ve improved as a writer and leader?

Southard: With the format of this book being 100 one-page comics, I needed to adapt my writing style to best represent different eras and genres. Some people have found it difficult to believe someone my age would be ambitious enough to try that, but also pull it off. So, I’ve learned how to write unlike myself while still desperately trying to infuse that Louis flavor. I also felt that mastering one page comics was a lot like comic strip writing in a lot of ways, so creating effective and encapsulated tales has definitely taught me how much or how little you may need to get something across which is useful.

As a leader? I feel like this is really my first instance as a full-on editorial director with the managing of all 100 people. So, knowing I can handle that, makes me eager for more projects and opportunities in the future. But, I’ve always been the leader of my creator-owned titles. This was basically the same, just the scale of was much, MUCH larger. At the end of all this, I’m more than happy to return to my small teams haha.

 

 

Yanes: Finally, what else are you working on that people can look forward to?

Southard: I’m finding myself busier and busier lately, but I am happy to share that I’ve been working on some licensed IP projects recently. I can’t share much, but I’m very excited for that to come out. Other than that, I’m still ecstatically working on my creator-owned projects. I’m working on a sci-fi / noir comic with artist Jeferson Sadzinski and a high fantasy comic with artist Puré. We’re having a lot of fun and we should be finding a home for those books really soon! So, don’t worry everyone! You’ll see me again!

Remember, you can learn more about him by visiting his homepage.

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