Today Black Ship continues the MEGABOOK 4 interview series and we got to interview comic and short fiction writer, James Andrew Clark! James is an accomplished musician, writer, IT director and family guy, who was also the co-creator of the Harvey and Eisner Award-nominated The Guns of Shadow Valley.
Black Ship Books: What brought you to MEGABOOK 4 and how do you know Mike Rickaby?
James Andrew Clark: I responded to Mike’s call for submissions for MEGABOOK #1 back in 2012. I had just finished a 16-page short story about medieval knights vs. zombies that was intended for a different anthology, but the book never went to print for some reason, so I was looking for a home for it. MEGABOOK seemed like a good fit. Earlier this year, I was poking around my computer and discovered a 6-page story from 9 years ago that I’d forgotten about, and I wanted to do something with it. Once again MEGABOOK was a good fit.
BSB: Tell us about your story An Eye for an Eye.
JAC: It’s about a bounty hunter dealing with illegal bionic implant smuggling on a remote planet. It was written in the Stan Lee style of “plot first”. I wrote a plot outline and gave it to animator Jim Byrt to illustrate, allowing him to drive the rest of the story through the illustrations. Then, instead of going back and adding the dialog myself, I asked Thomas Mauer to write the dialog based on the outline and artwork. So it turned out to be an interesting and somewhat organic way of creating the story as a group effort.
BSB: Are the characters of this story from a larger story or universe?
JAC: I had a larger arc in mind for the lead character when I wrote it almost a decade ago, but I don’t remember much about it, and my notes are sparse. I have a few ideas, but it may be a while before I revisit her story.
BSB: I am especially interested in your comic The Guns of Shadow Valley. Could you tell us about the webcomic and how it got nominated for the Eisner and Harvey awards?
JAC: Dave Wachter and I started working on The Guns of Shadow Valley right after we’d finished our run on the five-issue series Scar Tissue. It’s about a posse of gunfighters with special abilities, sort of like the X-Men in the old west. We had initially wanted to do it as a printed comic, and we shopped it around to a few publishers, but ultimately we felt it would be more rewarding as a webcomic. It started getting a lot of attention right away and sort of took off from there.
BSB: You’re also a passionate musician with some folk-rock and children’s music already produced. Did writing and playing music come more naturally than writing comics and prose for you? And what would you say is your greatest passion?
JAC: I’d say that writing comics and writing music are both equally rewarding, but I suppose there’s more of an instant gratification with music because I can write a song and start playing it immediately. With comics, I need to enlist the help of an artist in order to see my scripts come to life. But there’s something very satisfying about walking into a book store and seeing one of my books on the shelf. I guess I like making music and comics about the same. Both allow me to stay creative.
BSB: Do you play other instruments or have any other talents the world doesn’t know about yet?
JAC: Ukulele, tenor guitar, and harmonica are my instruments of choice. I can juggle, too.
BSB: For music, you go by “Ukulele Jim”, but do you kind of take on a new character or personality to get yourself in the mindset for whatever project you might be working on—whether it be a new comic book, your next musical single, a family picnic, assignment at the day job?
JAC: Not really. I adopted the Ukulele Jim stage name to stand out and sort of differentiate my music from all the other things I was doing. But it all comes from the same guy, just from different parts of me, I guess.
BSB: Being so multi-talented, what or whom would you say is your greatest muse?
JAC: Nowadays it’s my kids. They make me laugh and inspire me to try being better at everything I do.
BSB: What words of wisdom would you like to offer fans and other aspiring creators?
JAC: If you feel the urge to create neat things, go create them. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t, because you can and you should. The world needs you.
BSB: Thank you, James! You can see James’ story An Eye for an Eye in MEGABOOK 4 and also check out the webcomic The Guns of Shadow Valley here at http://www.gunsofshadowvalley.com/. And be sure to check out the next featured creator on next week.