I first came across Gnosis Comics while perusing social media and vigorously liking things that I liked, I thought the art work displayed on the particular post I liked was awesome so I decided to give their page a look. Needless to say I saw some interesting things going on at Gnosis and decided to see if the head of Gnosis, Brian Hawkins, wanted to have a little talk about his company and the exciting things he has lined up for Gnosis.
Ian: As a comic book creator you have some lofty goals but before we get way ahead of ourselves let’s take it one thing at a time, tell us about Gnosis Comics.
Brian: Well, GNOSIS Comics was birthed out of necessity. The comic book industry, as beautiful as it might be, is an inner circle, and it’s hard to get into that inner circle. To be a creator – a writer or artist – with a sustainable career you either have to be in the inner circle or you have to create your own. GNOSIS Comics is me creating my own circle but there’s more to it than that because I’m more ambitious than just sustaining myself as a creator. I want a legacy. I want to not only create my own comics but I want to facilitate the work of other creators as well. There are so many great voices that need to heard, so much great art that needs to be seen. GNOSIS Comics will be the catalyst for not just my stories but countless others.
Ian: Tell us about some of the good and bad experiences you have had trying to set up Gnosis.
Brian: Plenty of ups and downs. Again, I’m ambitious and I tend to just run – not jog or pace myself, just run. That can be dangerous. I believe in myself so much that I just run and sometimes you need to pace. A lot of my downs have been because I’ve be running more so than observing and being more strategic. Presently, I’m in strategic mode now. With running you will have some success, but I want longevity and like I said, legacy, so I’ve begun to be more strategic. As a company we’ve done well at Comic Conventions, the response to our first two titles, America’s Kingdom and Hyper Slum, have been great. We’ve sold a lot of prints but it’s still not enough. We need a larger readership for this to be sustained. So, it’s good but it needs to be better.
Ian: that is certainly a winning attitude!
Ian: Could you compare the comic book industry to anything else you have experienced?
Brian: Absolutely. I definitely don’t want to sound disgruntle because I’m not… I’m a realist and it’s a fraternity/sorority, the inner circle club. I teach English, have for several years, and it reminds me of the club that F. Scott Fitzgerald noticed when he was in college and trying to break into writing (it’s what The Great Gatsby was born from, his examination of THAT club). There’s a rare chance that you will be let into that club – it happens but man, the percentages are really low. However, I get it to a certain extent. Companies want and have to make money. There are certain names out there that will sell books just off of their names… And when those names vouch for an unknown or new creator/writer/ artist then there’s the ethos or credibility and thus you get a new creator or writer or artist in the club. It’s the classic case of wanting to be accepted into the “cool” group.
Ian: What has been biggest thing that has surprised you or caught you off guard about trying to establish Gnosis?
Brian: The thousands, millions even, of comic book enthusiasts that are not willing to try anything new. I know people are thirsty for something new and innovative and honest, but it’s so much easier to stay with what’s traditional. Human beings are creatures of habit but it has truly surprised me, and maybe it shouldn’t have, that people have not clamored and grabbed at these titles and what we are doing.
Ian: I understand what you’re facing, even good friends of mine refuse to look at new stuff. I love Deadpool as much as the next guy but there is a huge world their missing out on.
Ian: Are your goals for Gnosis aligned with any other publisher? Is there another company you model Gnosis by?
Brian: No. There are some avenues that other companies have gone down that I would like to and maybe even focus on more so than another but overall, no. We are a creator-owned company like Image, like Action Lab, like Avatar and Alterna, but I want to be and do something different because I am different and my message which engulfs and envelopes the company itself, is different. GNOSIS, which means, “knowledge” stems from the maxim, “Gnothi Seauton” or “Know Thyself.” This is who I am and I am all about knowledge of self, individuality, oneness, understanding and awareness. I believe that breathes soul and therefore GNOSIS Comics will have a different kind of soul than other companies, and it’s stories, whether mine or another creator’s, will undoubtedly fall in line with that.
Ian: Do you have any plans for Gnosis beyond comic books? Maybe books, TV, or movie production?
Brian: I would love to see some of these comic books on TV or even as movies. I mean, it would just be cool and would open up a larger community of readers and fans. However, I have no plans of turning GNOSIS Comics into a TV or movie studio. If there’s a company that would like to produce some of our stuff, then we can talk, but I’m not interested in personally developing TV shows or movies full time. I want to Stephen King this, maybe even J.K. Rowling it – create and write, if someone wants it for a TV and movie, cool, I will guide and “produce” for story-sake but I am not going to leave comics to do TV or movies. However, I love playwriting, so I could see myself writing, directing, and producing plays but that would be something separate from GNOSIS Comics. At the end of the day, I want to make comics and sometimes write plays. That’s it.
Ian: I’m very familiar with crowd funding like Kickstarter or Indiegogo but your campaign with Patreon is the first I have seen. Can you tell us a little bit about Patreon and what your goals for the Gnosis Patreon are?
Brian: Well, Patreon is fairly new. It’s very much like Kickstarter but it’s set up to where patrons support you as a creator and your work monthly. It initially started for music but creativity knows no limits, so other kinds of artists have begun to use it. As far as comics go, a lot of web comic creators use it and some have been very successful. I was curious about Patreon, so I began doing some research and the more I read, the more interested I became. Again, it’s about being able to sustain yourself and your company. I don’t have any web comics, but I do have a few titles. I thought about Loot Crate, Comic Bento, and the possibility of patrons who ultimately would be my readers… It hadn’t been done yet, using a crowdfunding platform to generate consumerism and I was like “Yeah, that’s my niche!” I am really big on originality and not duplicating something else. I want GNOSIS to stand out and Patreon has a very unique platform that allows me to do just that – create direct shipping for our comic book titles with exclusive memorabilia and mystery gifts that arrive at the door of every patron/subscriber/reader of GNOSIS Comics every month.
Ian: Makes sense, seems like a good way to get patrons! haha
Ian: Can you explain the rewards involved with Patreon and what a backer can expect to receive if they back Gnosis?
Brian: The rewards are simple. I wanted to keep it simple so that it could be sustainable. However, simplicity doesn’t mean not important or exclusive. It will be art from the comics, T-Shirts with art from the comics, trade paper backs that are done exclusively for our patrons, things like that. We are going to give our patrons those items that years from now will be worth thousands of dollars. No one else will have them. So, in a sense, as a patron you’re making an investment when you start reading GNOSIS Comics monthly. Now, the mystery gifts… Well, if I tell you that I’m gonna have to kill you – haha!
Ian: How many artists and writers are you attempting to employ through this endeavor?
Brian: Presently, I’m working with three different artists for my titles – America’s Kingdom, I Am Michael Watcher, and The RE-Creation Project (TRP), that doesn’t include an inker, colorist, and letterer. We also have a creator-owned project, Hyper Slum, that’s being done by Morgan Sawyer, who’s my artist for TRP, and Julian May as writer. Those are our four titles. As of right now, the three titles I have are all I’m personally going to be working on as a creator and writer until one of the stories end. However, I am looking for more creator-owned titles. I want to add at least two more by January 2016.
Ian: What has been some of your good and bad experiences working with a team of creators?
Brian: The good is the passion of producing and creating. There’s nothing like seeing your words, those vast ideas in your mind, take form. I love the collaboration. The bad is time management sometimes and just bumping heads on certain ideas – but the latter is rare so far.
Ian: Is it different being a publisher vs a creator? Do you struggle with creating while trying to run Gnosis?
Brian: There is a difference and absolutely there’s a struggle. I haven’t written anything in a while. I want to but I’m too preoccupied. I know that GNOSIS needs me handling the business stuff right now, to get it off the ground and sustainable. I want to write and create but time is too limited and I don’t want to force material out just to write; it’s there, I’m always working on the stories in my mind and sometimes I’ll jot down notes but the business side, being a publisher, is more so needed right now. The good thing is that I am ahead in my writing by several issues so I am hoping that I will have GNOSIS is in a good place soon to where I can turn over the reins to a couple of other people that’s working with me on the business side of things. It’s about balance and once GNOSIS is sustainable, the balance between publisher and creator will be easier – just have to pace myself, haha!
Ian: Gnosis has four titles that are in the fold, can you tell us their names and a little bit about them?
Indeed. I’m going to do like a list and overview kind of thing:
What if America had never been a democracy but instead a monarchy? It’s modern day America but under the reign and rule of a descendant of George Washington, Prince Geoffrey, who is the sole heir and soon to be king of the United Kingdom of America. It’s twenty-first century America, but in this alternate history things are subtly different; Knights instead of the Secret Service, swords have replaced guns, and there’s a rebel group bent on usurping the monarchy of the United Kingdom of America to turn it into a democracy.
Welcome to the Hyper Slum. An alien planet used by an ancient race as the core and anchor for the galaxy’s largest spaceport. Completely encased inside the titanic structure, and all but forgotten by those that live above it, the planet below has become an enormous garbage dump for the refuse of a thousand races all making their stop at this crossroads. On the surface of this planet life is abundant and their technological age is in a constant flux, heavily influenced by the items that rain from the steel sky above, alien waste referred to as ‘God’s Gifts.’ Our brave young hero was born into this world and can not begin to comprehend the explanations of her circumstance. Her father tirelessly seeks to win a better life for her, a plan that hinges on knowledge no one raised on this planet should have…
I Am Michael Watcher
Luqas Cohen wakes up with three days of his life missing and with no recollection of what happened or where’s been. In addition to the missing time, he discovers that he now has a grisly tattoo on his chest that reads, “I Am Michael Watcher.” What Luqas does not know, but will soon find out, is that the tattoo is the calling card of a killer that has just murdered two students from the same academy that he attends and during the same time he went missing. The mystery begins as the promiscuous youth at Osiris Prep try to survive a killer and find out WHO IS MICHAEL WATCHER?
The RE-Creation Project
Inter-dimensional beings called Greys, Snake-Wolverine humanoids, invade earth and humanity’s only hope is a former rapper who comes into the knowledge of self that he is God.
Ian: I would like to switch gears a little bit and talk about your writing, can you tell us a little bit about your comic and the inspiration behind it?
Brian: My writing is about the human condition – the thoughts, actions, feelings, experiences, ideals, and beliefs of humanity. I’ve always loved story-telling. I suspect it comes from my mom and how as a child I watched Soap Operas with her (I still watch Soap Operas to this day – love them!) So, all of the comics that I write, come from a place of wanting to tell a story, a good story. It was one of thing that really got me about Shakespeare – how he was able to capture the human condition so well, if not perfectly and poetically, in his plays. That’s what I want to with comics and what I am attempting to do every time I write.
Ian: The idea behind American Kingdom is very interesting, how did you come up with the premise?
Brian: America’s Kingdom is one of my oldest stories. I first thought of the idea in 2001. I was in college, VCU in Richmond, and I was driving down Broad Street and suddenly the thought of what if America was in a civil war right now – in modern times? What would that look like? I think it was just how picturesque and modern everything was to me that day – I don’t know, and I wondered how [we] as a people would deal with war on our own soil with all the modernity and comfort that surrounded [us]. From there, my mind just began to build the story and my next thought was about something I had learned in high school about George Washington having a choice of being president or king. So, my what ifs continued and I built the story of America’s Kingdom off the idea of a modern civil war and a country that was ruled by a descendant of George Washington.
Ian: Are any of your characters based off real life people, if so who?
Brian: Well… Kind of. Prince Geoffrey, who’s the main character, is a descendant of George Washington. He’s the eleventh heir – all males – and he’s facing quite the conundrum as he comes into power. What you will notice in America’s Kingdom is there are several names and sur names that are familiar from history. For example, Sir Lafayette and Sir Bacon. These characters are not the historical figures but the names lead you to think they have some ancestral connection to those figures. There are other character that you are told are directly related to the historical figure, like Petrark Henry is a descendant of Patrick Henry. It’s an alternate reality so I get to play around with time some and one of the things that I’ve done is I’ve brought the idea of some of the historical figures and their names to the present – like, Benedict Arnold has a modern parallel in this reality named Benedictine Arnold and then there’s James Monroe and John Adams. I must admit, doing this kind of alternate reality story has been a blast because it’s allowed me to kind of recreate and reshape history some – and I really love history.
Ian: Historical fiction is one of my weaknesses, along with religion and the big one Sci Fi.
Ian: Does your writing have a message or are you more interested in just telling the story?
Brian: You know, the funny thing is I feel that those two things – message and story-telling are synonymous. I don’t see how story telling could not have a message. But if I was to digress, then I would say good story-telling must have a message.
Ian: Have you had any training or schooling as a writer or are you just naturally creative?
Brian: I think a lot of it is natural. Maybe a past life, a spiritual gift, maybe it’s just my purpose – who knows – but it’s something that is there inside my mind and soul – I can feel it and I know it. But’s it’s been cultivated. I took a playwriting course at VCU and it was funny because each week we had to write a play and then we would do a round table read through and discuss the story and how it was written. The first week we bring in our plays and I immediately notice that everyone else’s play when stacked looked real thin… Mine was think like a binder; my first play was 64 pages and course mates were around five to ten. It became a thing and every week they were just waiting for me to bring in the next play. It was a good time. But from there, I kind of trained myself on scripting. I read books on screenplays and stage plays and comic scripts, then I looked at sample scripts and how they were constructed. I knew I wanted to be a writer after seeing Love and Basketball. It was just one of those movies that really touched on the human condition and I felt the writing was so poignant. I will never forget walking out of that movie theater. I made a B-Line to the bookstore and bought my first how to write a screenplay book. I spent that night in my college dorm reading and writing.
Ian: I know the feeling, I have been in love with Movies, TV, and comics pretty much my entire life and it only took two semesters in film school to solidify my love of writing.
Ian: Who are some of your biggest influences in the world of comic book creators?
Brian: Warren Ellis, Rick Remeder, John Layman. Those are my big three.
Ian: What are some of the more interesting lesson you have learned setting up Gnosis, creating comics, and doing the Patreon?
Brian: Well, in setting up GNOSIS, I’ve learned that simplicity is best. Focus on one title first. That’s what I would do if I could change anything. One of your own titles plus creator own titles. I have more to juggle with three titles and one creator-owned title. I would prefer for it to be the other way around. I would bring in my other titles later if I had done it that way. Again, I like to run and I’m very ambitious. As far as creating comics, I would have to double-up and say again, focus on one. For the same reasons. Your other titles will come, don’t try to do too much at once. I’m going to make it work because I just believe in myself so much, but I see that it would have been more beneficial for me to really just get that one flourishing first. And the Patreon, well I’m still learning there… The Patreon is part of my simplifying method and me slowing down to a nice pace. I want to create a space for GNOSIS Comics, a place where it will be noticed and etched into the minds of people by creating a niche that really loves what we are doing.
Ian: Do you have an advice for someone wanting to create comics?
Brian: Love story-telling. Understand the human condition. Learn how to write. Read a lot and watch a lot of Soap Operas – seriously. The writers on those shows are some of the best scribes out there. They have to craft a non-stop story, every day. To be able to do that, you must be a prolific story-teller. Also, understand that whether you are the writer or the artist or both, you must understand how to tell a story, the pacing and execution. Dialogue is good but sometimes, you have to just the visuals to tell the story too. That’s an art.
Ian: What are some comics you like to read?
Brian: Chew is my favorite comic – maybe of all time! Deadly Class. Invincible. Kill Shakespeare.
Ian: What are your thoughts on print vs digital?
Brian: There must be balance to the Force. I think there’s room for both. I buy both but right now, I buy more print… However, I’m not for or against either one.
Ian: How do you feel about sites like Comixology?
Brian: They’ve really cornered the market on the digital front. As far as going digital goes, they are the most reputable because they are the most popular and there really isn’t a game like there’s in town. They’ve marketed very well and have created a brand very similar to Diamond. Comixology is becoming a club too that’s hard to break into. However, they haven’t closed the doors just yet which is good and they even highlight self-publishers each month. So, again, there must be balance to the Force.
Ian: Where can fans find you?
Ian: Thank you Brian! Thank you for taking the time, I know you’re a busy man and this has been a great interview. You have some great books and I admire your ambition, I wish you luck, and I urge any of our readers to support Gnosis.