An Interview with Isle Squared Comics Chuck Amadori
During my time lurking around social media and writing reviews for people cool enough to send me their books I have met some truly amazing and talented people, Chuck being one of them. Chuck was one of the people that offered me his catalog and told me to have at it which I feel is a bold move for an indie creator and really gets to the heart of his intentions as a creator. Chuck knows that deep down I’m a fan boy and I truly enjoy the books I review so he not only gave up the entirety of his catalog he sent me signed copies of Tether and Snake just to be cool. Needless to say I more than appreciated the gesture and decided I needed to know more about Chuck Amadori and Isle Squared Comics.
You happen to be a man of many talents and have your hand in a lot of different aspects of comic creation so I will have to take this one thing at a time; let’s start with your label Isle Squared. I, like many fanboys, don’t really understand the business side of comics; can you tell us a little bit about what it took for you to get Isle Squared off the ground?
That is a good question. Isle Squared is the studio I started for my creator owned comic series’ Pale Dark and Tether. Isle Squared also co-produces Empress with Brian Barr’s Cruel Productions, Bang Bang Lucita and Snake with Nimesh Morarji’s Nimprod Comics and Protector Vixi with Pencil Blue Studio’s Marcelo Salaza.
People often confuse studio with publisher. A studio would be Kirkman’s Skybound, which produces all of his creator owned titles. Those titles (ie. Invincible, Walking Dead etc) are then published/distributed through Image. All the Isle Squared titles are still available for the right publisher of creator owned titles (wink-wink). In the meantime, I have made them available for readers on various online retailers. The business end of self publishing creator owned comics and running a studio is basically spending as much time promoting and working on the comics as you can. It is not a get rich scheme by any means.
What are some of the good and bad experiences you have had getting Isle Squared going?
If you stick with it long enough, you’ll surely have your share of good and bad experiences. Some of my best experiences have involved working together with my creative teams. The artists and colorists I work with are all so talented and they consistently surprise me with the quality of their work. I enjoy working with artists from all over the world. I’ve enjoyed chatting with fans on social media and at Comic-Cons a lot too. It is nice to know people are getting what I’m trying to do with the books. Another really cool part of making comics is the great online creator community. Facebook groups like the Independent Creators Connection (ICC) and forums like Zwol and Digital Webbing, are all bookmarks I visit regularly. I also enjoy buying and reading other self-pub creator’s books. Creators like Dani Smith, Winston Jordan, Isaac Quattlebaum, Brian Barr, and more continue to impress me with their dedication to the craft and willingness to help out other creators. I’ve only met one or two creators whose motivations were not altruistic. If I were to label one significant disappoint; I’d say the biggest one happened to me when I tried to get involved in my local comic creator community. They had meetings and talked a lot about making comics. It was exciting. The projects and plans discussed would have had us putting together several anthologies. In the end, it turned out they weren’t really that serious about making comics. Nor were they interested in new blood or new ideas.
I have visit ICC frequently myself and see guys like Winston Jordan doing their thing, and Brian Barr was who contacted me about reviewing Empress which in turn lead me to you and Isle Squared.
Can you compare the comic industry to any other experience you have had?
My experience creating comics has been the one of the most fulfilling endeavors I’ve ever undertaken. I’ve never felt this way with any other line of work. Not even when I was making short films. Like film though, there is a tremendous mountain to climb to get your foot in the door. When I first started working on Pale Dark, I met Marc Silvestri at the Niagara Falls Comic-Con. We discussed “breaking-in” and his advice was simply to start making comics and get them out there for the world to see. He said, if I made good comics, publishers would find me. I followed his advice and now I’m making good comics haha.
What has been the biggest obstacle with setting up Isle Squared?
Aside from all the out of pocket expenses, having to work a full time day job and two babies under 2 years old remain the largest obstacles.
Are your goals for Isle Squared aligned with any other publisher?
Isle Squared does work in collaboration with a couple other studios on the titles, Empress – Cruel Productions, Bang Bang Lucita and Snake – Nimprod Comics, Protector Vixi – Pencil Blue Studio. We all have the same goal… make great comics. The type we’d want to read and were more than just style without substance.
Do you have any plans for Isle Squared beyond comic books? Maybe books, TV, or movie production?
I would love to bring Isle Squared titles to other mediums, such as film and cable TV. I don’t have plans at the moment… more so dreams.
Dreams are what drive us and what have gotten you hear, never stop dreaming!
I would like to switch gears a bit and get into the creation side of the process. You are a writer as well as a publisher so are there any obstacles you face trying to do both things?
Well, aside from money… I’d say the toughest part of the process is the promotion/social media side of the biz. It is very time consuming. I recently dialed back on my social presence, due to familial commitments, and to focus my energy on creation and freelance work. So it may seem like things are quieter with Isle Squared lately… but there are several more issues coming from Isle Squared in the near future.
As a creator it’s very important to find a team of like-minded people to compliment your style, how did go about finding the other creators that work with you?
When I first set out, I posted the completed script and an old short film for Pale Dark (which is basically the first couple pages of issue 1) on creator forums, in an effort to find an artist. Ruvel Abril loved the film and the script, so he sent me some character sketches. He nailed it, exactly how I imagined they’d look. For Tether, I tried out a couple of artists before I found the right team. First it was Alex Reis (also Snake) on lines, and Nimesh on colors. Issue 2 had Ruvel and Marcelo filling in while I found the permanent team of Edson Alves and Matheus Bronca. Marcelo Salaza posted on DeviantArt that he wanted to collaborate with a writer to make a cartoony styled comic series. I responded… we created Protector Vixi together. We both wanted a comic that our kids could read and enjoy. Nimesh first worked with me when he colored some of those Vixi pages. We began talking about the Western genre and decided to create Snake, Bang Bang Lucita, (Viperous Vixens and Xibalba too-future titles already written) together. I met Brian Barr through Facebook, when he was going by his pen name, Aghori Shaivite. We chatted and learned we had similar interests. Brian asked me to collaborate on a project together. We decided to use an “untouched” character from his vast world of awesome villainous characters, called the Aghoriverse. The collaboration with Brian is unique from the others because we split writing duties. I wrote the first four issues and he wrote the second four issues. I suggested Marcelo for the project. Marcelo then brought Matheus onto the team.
What are some good and bad experiences you have had working with other artists?
Of course one of the best experiences is receiving art that looks better than I imagined when I wrote it. And with the art teams assembled now, that happens often. Creatively, I haven’t had any bad experiences working with artists. The worst part is waiting for that next page. It can become addictive– getting new art. I still get excited for every new page, cover, inks, colors, etc, like I did when I first started making comics.
There are a few things I always wonder about writers; as a writer do you have any training or are you just naturally creative?
I went to school for Film and Video Production, so I have a lot experience writing screenplays… but I would say that I’ve always had a creative imagination.
Do you have a deeper meaning to your work or you more are you more interested in entertaining?
I always feel that the best comics, movies, TV or whatever, have something to say about something. The easiest way to alienate a reader is to preach or teach to them. A reader should be entertained or moved in some way personal to them. Keeping a balance between deeper meaning and entertainment is really important and will add to the long term relevance of a comic. I love doing sci-fi so much because you can examine the human condition and society more directly. Rod Serling took great advantage of this on the original Twilight Zone.
I have noticed that a lot of your books have a strong female lead, is there a deeper reason for that or do you just find that female leads service the story better?
Haha. Well, there’s not really a deeper reason for that. The Westerns have female leads because Nimesh and I felt leads who could be strong, smart and sexy would be fun to read. We also envisioned the Viperous Vixens crossover team up series. I like the idea of the ladies for the Westerns because there aren’t enough strong female characters who can be strong, smart and sexy and not an action heroine cliche (it is slowly improving, but at glacial speed). But there’s a lot of people who still enjoy their heroes and heroines to be strong and sexy… and come on, it’s okay for a character in a comic book to be unrealistically sexy (just as males can be unrealistically muscular), this is art/fiction not reality… One thing is for sure, if you’re going to have characters looking like that, they better be three dimensional characters. It’s not exploitation unless they’re there just to be exploited. In Empress, I set it up that Zia more so is a driving force for the story unfolding around her. The first arc has Niles and his investigation, arc two has the Vikings etc. Tether… that’s my little jab at the politically correct. Though I will say, that I do not plan on keeping Alina in such skimpy rags. I actually wanted them in the rag slave outfits for a narrative reason. It shows how little regard the Genetaclones have for humans. Kind of like how Nova and Taylor were put in rags by the apes (in the 68 Planet of the Apes)… because the apes didn’t care about their humanity or dignity. They were “animals” to them.
Who are some of your biggest influences in the world of comic book creators?
Kirkman. Love everything that guy writes, especially Invincible. I do follow writers more than particular titles though. Writers such as, Brian K. Vaughn, Garth Ennis, Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Justin Jordan, Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Marc Silvestri (thanks for the advice!).
What are some of the more interesting lesson you have learned setting up Isle Squared, creating, and working as part of a creative team?
I’ve learned that if you find artists who are “on the same page” as you in terms of style, it is better to give them some space to bring their own creativity to the table. I love to see an artist challenge my writing. When I say that, I mean that they recognize the emotion and mood of a scene and can improve upon the page layout I wrote in the script.
I realize that as a publisher you have to make hard choices on decisions that seem easy to fans, printing vs. digital has become a taxing question.
What are your thoughts on print vs digital?
To quote Stan Lee, “Comics are like boobs… They look great on a computer, but I’d rather hold one in my hand…” That being said, as a creator, self financing all my projects, digital is really the best way to go. Personally, I prefer reading in collected trades in print.
Stan the man, I completely agree, digital is serviceable but there is nothing like a print copy of a great book.
How do you feel about sites like Comixology?
I love ComiXology, Submit, and DriveThruComics. I only wish they’d help in the promotion end of things a little more. Indy Planet is great, because readers can get the books in print on demand format.
When marketing your books do you take print copy requests from local book stores? If so how do selling print copies vary from digital?
I have tried local comic shops… but found that the owners didn’t want to even pay how much it cost to print each issue for the books.
Do you have any advice for someone wanting to create comics?
Don’t just talk about making comics. Make comics. Put them out there for the world to see and (hopefully) enjoy. That reminds me… if you get a less than favorable review, don’t let it discourage you. You’ll find reviewers have personal tastes like anyone else does. Another thing, if you’re a writer, I recommend paying your artists instead of doing backend deals. No one is fooled anymore, backend deals are the same as buying a Power Ball ticket for artists. Artists and colorists work very hard and spend a lot of time on the art. If you can’t afford to pay, then collaborate. Find an artist who also needs a writer for their book, trade services. But please don’t expect artists to do anything, even tests for free.
Now that is some great advice, especially about paying artists, I have heard this complaint a million times and artists are right to complain about it.
What are some comics you like to read?
Man, I am sooo behind on my reading. I do love Invincible and the Walking Dead. Scalped, Saga, Fatale, Y: The Last Man, Preacher, Punisher: Max, All-Star Superman, Fables, Unwritten, The Sword, Farscape, Powers, iZombie, and more. Most of what I read is from Image, Dark Horse, Dynamite, Avatar. Vertigo seems as close as I get to the big two nowadays.
Thank you Chuck for taking the time to talk, where can fans find you?