I had an opportunity to talk to Skuds Mckinley, the artist behind the book I’ll Take You To The Moon and Leave You There. Here’s our conversation about his art process, his artistic influences, and his thoughts on creator owned comics.
What got you into drawing and writing comics, and what attracts you to the medium?
When I first started reading comics I was eighteen, and I was kind of under this thing where I thought that all comic books were superheroes. So I walked into a comic shop and I saw this comic called Teenagers From Mars, by Rob G and Rick Spears, and I liked it because it was like punk rock, it was named after a misfits song, and I was like…what the f—, I didn’t know there was stuff out there like that, just totally weird type of comic books. I later found out it was alternative. So basically ever since reading that I’ve always wanted to draw one or write one. I just never thought I actually could until about two years ago. I just said f— it one day and just started practicing. Ever since then I’ve just been drawing them.
The reason why I do it is because I feel like it’s the closest way to get out an idea that’s in your head. I feel like when you’re trying to film a movie, you can come up with all these character designs and the way you want a shot to look, but it will never look exactly how it looks in your mind. In a comic book, you can get that shot. You can add as many spaceships as you want in a scene, as much gore as you want coming out of some dude’s face. It’s very freeing to do a comic book.
Oh man. Jason, the Norweigan comic book artist, is like my Herge, my Charles Schultz, my Jack Kirby, that dude is to me, amazing. I think his stuff is so…I mean it’s not underappreciated, everybody likes Jason, but he should be way bigger than he is. Everything from storytelling to style with that dude is just so sick. That’s another reason why I wanted to start drawing books too, after reading Werewolves In Montepellier, this book he put out about two years ago. Other than that, Paul Pope, that’s my dude, Geoff Darrow, Moebius, Adrian Tomine, those are what I look at when I’m trying to draw.
How did you get started as an artist? Did you have any sort of formal training or are you completely self taught?
I took one class in middle school, no, in high school that I actually failed, and that’s pretty much been my only formal art training. Everything I just learned on my own. The library has a lot of how to draw books, and YouTube tutorials on how to ink, no joke, that’s how I learned everything, it’s just either in a how to draw, or I’ll go on someone’s YouTube page and watch how they pencil, watch how they ink. You read other artists blogs for tips, really just trial and error man.
If you just type in “inking tutorial” in YouTube, you’ll find so much stuff. You can just watch guys ink something while they talk about how they’re doing it, not to move your fingers, you gotta move your arm. Just reading interviews with Paul Pope about how he uses his whole body to ink, stuff like that is really the only training I’ve had. I have like a mentor that teaches me how to do stuff. He’s cool too.
The only digital stuff I’ll do really is for fonts and half tone effects, and if I have to color like a commission piece or something I’ll do it in Photoshop. I really don’t like to…I mainly do my pencils and inks on paper, I’ll never switch from that. The tablet stuff is weird. I can’t deal with it.
What comics are you into right now?
I’ve been reading the Prophet series, that’s awesome. Brandon Graham can do no wrong. I just got done reading Corto Maltese: The Ballad of the Salt Sea, I just read the first three volumes of Naruto, I just read Paul Pope’s Escapo, I just read Mark Millar’s Old Man Logan. I don’t read too many superhero books but my friend dumped a ton on me, and that stuff is awesome. Mark Millar is pretty dope. I’m reading an OMAC book by Jack Kirby, it’s sick so far.
It seems like there’s been a surge in popularity for creator owned comics recently. How do you feel about creator owned versus companies like Marvel and DC which have a pretty big majority of the market?
This is my whole take on it…I’m all down for doing creator owned stuff, I’m a very DIY, kinda hands on person, but I’m not against DC or Marvel at all. If they hit me up to do a Spider-Man issue I’d do it. There are some people that are really bitter against Marvel and DC, but I think that all comes back to how you shouldn’t go to them if you’re gonna try and be like “I want to bring in a new cast of heroes” or something, they’re gonna take it, because they own it. You’re working for hire. Whereas you could take those same characters, twist the story around, and just do it on your own, and it may take longer to build up a fan base, but at the end of the day, it’s yours. I mean, I’m more for creator owned because like I said, that’s how I work, but I mean I think it’s great. I think it’s great that there’s two sides of the comic book industry finally. There’s so many people that are self publishing, there are so many people out there just doing it, you don’t have to have a publisher now. It’s almost like the music industry, you can just do music now, you dont need a record label to put stuff out. All you need’s a website. You really have a choice in the matter of where you want to go with comics now, whereas like twenty years ago, you kinda had to do something DC or Marvel or just put out underground comics. I think it’s great that theres creator owned or you can work for the big two.
You successfully funded your book I’ll Take You To The Moon and Leave You There on Kickstarter. What do you think about Kickstarter as a way for indie creators to get their work out there, and how has the experience been for you so far?
Kickstarter is cool…it’s hard, it’s something you really, legitimately have to work on every day. You have to have a plan. Luckily for us, we waited a really long time, there’s so many times I just wanted to do it but my girlfriend was like, “No, you need to think about the outlets you’re gonna hit up, all the press you need to get.” Just tons of stuff that goes into making a Kickstarter super good for you. The experience is cool, I actually got to see that I actually had fans, because none of my actual friends gave me any money. I didn’t hit up my family, it was all just random people that had been reading my comics. That was cool, to actually know you have fans out there.
The only issues I have about it is that, like I said, it’s an everyday thing. There’s no way I’d do more than one a year. You know, you have to post about it on your Facebook everyday, I couldn’t imagine doing that all the time. I know a couple kids that just are constantly doing Kickstarters, and they’re always getting funding, but it kinda loses that “oh my god somebody’s coming out with a new book” if they have four Kickstarers going at once. So I’d say use it wisely. It’s great, just know you might want to factor in shipping prices, we didn’t do that at all, and I’ve had to pay for a lot of stuff to get shipped out, you know, out of pocket. Which is still cool, it’s whatever, but I’d say really think about your budget. Don’t set it too high, don’t set it too low. Just look up forums, I went on so many forums and I read other people’s successful Kickstarters, You really have to do your research when you do a Kickstarter.
You can find out more about Skuds Mckinley and his work at Batshitart.com, and check out his Kickstarter for I’ll Take You To The Moon And Leave You There, as well as my review of the book.