Interview with Ray Fawkes


This month we are pleased to share an interview with Ray Fawkes, the critically-acclaimed author of Underwinter, Intersect, One Soul, The People Inside, The Spectral Engine, Possessions, and Junction True, as well as Batman: Eternal, Constantine, Justice League Dark, and Gotham by Midnight (DC), Wolverines (Marvel), Black Hammer '45 (Dark Horse), Jackpot! (AfterShock) and more. He is an Eisner award nominee and a YALSA and Shuster award winner.

Ray, you’re an author, artist, poet,—a storyteller—and you seem to have chosen comics as your medium of choice. How did you get her and when did it all begin? 

I’ve always had a love for comics as a unique medium - there are so many things you can do with comics that are difficult or impossible in any other media, and the fact that it’s something you can do on your own, put together and bring out to the public all by yourself for relatively little cost - are both factors that drew me to it initially. 

It began for me with that impulse - to just make my stories and put them out there. I used to make little photocopied comics and take them to ‘zine fairs here in Toronto, selling them for one or two dollars a pop. They were pretty awful, but they brought me into this world that I loved - of creativity and storytelling - and I was hooked! Now I pretty much do the same thing, left to my own devices, but I’m lucky enough that there is an audience out there that enjoys and supports my work, and publishers who are willing to carry it further than I can on my own.

You’ve done some work for DC Comics but much of your work is creator-owned. Do you prefer to create your own characters and worlds?

I do, absolutely. In fact, I don’t really understand someone who wouldn’t . However, I should say that working with established characters really runs a close second place for me - it’s not like I don’t like doing it. I love it almost as much… it’s just that given the choice, I will always lean towards creating my own work out of whole cloth. There’s just more of a blank slate there, so my voice stands on its own, for better or worse. 

While not all of your work is horror, there is an inherently dark quality to it—and often a contrast of beauty/horror. From your paintings to the mainstream characters like Batman and Constantine you write. Why are you drawn to the shadows?

That’s a deep question - something that I’m not sure I fully know the answer to. I’m simply drawn to darker, more difficult characters and themes - maybe it’s because I think of them as part of our world of life and beauty, not separate from it - and that’s something I don’t see a lot of people doing. For me, beauty and horror intertwine on a daily basis, when I think of the world around me.

What does a typical day in the life of Ray Fawkes look like? Where and when do you do your best work?

I work to a pretty regimented schedule - every week I break down three tasks in order of priority - an A, B, and C - and I have set hours that I’ll work on each. My schedule lists when I answer emails, when I stop to update my online store or do self-promotion work, and when I assemble pitches or do concept work. From week to week I may shuffle the priority of three projects, or pull in new ones and push current ones down or out of the schedule. It all sounds pretty complicated, but what it amounts to is a method to keep myself on track all the time, despite distractions. Deadlines can mess with everything, of course, but that happens less often than you’d think.

So typically I head down to the studio first thing in the morning, turn on some music, set down my coffee, and hit project A, B, or C as the schedule dictates. I continue, hour-by-hour on the scheduled tasks, until it’s time to pick the kids up from school or otherwise close out the day. 

In the evening, if I need to, I’ll do more work on one of the tasks at hand. It’s… not a very relaxed life.

On some of your creator-owned titles, Intersect comes to mind, you’ve lettered your own books. Was this born of necessity, or was it a part of the comic process you actively wanted to do?

At first it was born of necessity, though I have come to enjoy lettering. I’m aware that I’m barely competent at it, though, and I feel that my lettering carries a story but doesn’t improve it. I prefer a professional letterer - like yourself - with greater skill when I can afford it.

Your latest book, Underwinter: Queen of Spirits, hit stores this month. (Full disclosure, I lettered it.) It’s the third volume, but each volume is it’s own unique story, are you thinking about a fourth installment? 

The fourth volume is already plotted! I’m writing it now, and will likely be illustrating it later this year. I have a lot of plans for the world of Underwinter, and I hope readers are enjoying it.


I ask everyone I interview…If you could only give one piece of advice, be it for lettering, or life, what would it be?    

I think the only piece of advice I ever give anyone that does any good - for any kind of art - is to do the work and don’t wait for someone to tell you it’s good enough. If you want to be a storyteller, a letterer, an artist, anything - do the work, finish the work, and then do another piece and another and another. Present your work to people - they’ll be drawn to your craft and your dedication as you keep going, and you will constantly improve as you finish one piece after another. Don’t worry about how much money you are or aren’t making. Don’t worry about praise or criticism. Just worry about how good the work is and how faithful it is to your own voice. Do the work.

Interview with Greg Lockard


Greg is a freelance editor who just completed work on 3 Floyds: Alpha King for Image Comics with Brian Azzarello, Nick Floyd, Simon Bisley, Ryan Brown, Jared K. Fletcher, and Rob Syers. He’s currently working on a new volume with a new artist and a few other pitches for independent publishing. Before life as a freelancer Greg was part of the editorial staff of DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint.

Greg, can you explain what the role of an editor is?

An editor is a project manager, a proofreader, a brainstormer, an art director, a therapist, and (hopefully) a well-informed and supportive reader.

The daily tasks vary greatly but the main goals are to keep the book on schedule, keep all members of the creative team working and help them all do their best work to create the best comic book possible.

Other than being a freelance editor, you’re also a writer, and in general, a creative type. Do you ever find yourself wanting to add your voice as a writer/creative into the work you are editing?

Wow, this is a great question. I never want to add my voice but the goal is to contribute my viewpoint and allow the creative team to make their own decisions. So, there’s a level of influence, but hopefully done in a way that empowers the creative team and pushes them to do their own best work. I’m sure at times I’ve made mistakes in my opinions but they are always offered in the hope of helping the creative team, the audience, the entire experience. I try to keep my voice completely separate from things I’m not writing. 

Part of your job as an editor at Vertigo was to bring in writers to pitch and produce new series’ for the imprint. Can you explain and de-mystify this process? At what point do you start thinking of the rest of creative team, and MOST importantly, the letterer?

This process might have modified or changed in the years since I left Vertigo but while I was there I was constantly looking for new ideas, new talent, new pitches. The process is itself an entire newsletter!

The lettering (and title design) is one of my favorite parts of the process, so even though it was generally later after the pitch was approved and on the publishing schedule, I would try and ensure a good creative fit between the letterer and the rest of the art team— matching or complementing styles is a high priority. Also, giving the letterer enough space to be inspired and do their best work is the ideal, too.

I could easily ask you all day about how you seek out new ideas, talent, and pitches, but I won’t. However, how do you know when you’ve found something that not only resonates with you and your voice as an editor, but that might work for a publisher, and have the potential to earn a readership?

This is another great question! For me, finding something that resonates with you similar to when you hear your favorite song/finish a great book/the credits roll on your new favorite film. But—this is the tricky part—the times I have felt that greatest connection have been on projects that were ultimately rejected by Vertigo (or DC Comics in general), so it’s important to be able to be objective as well. Like you mention, there is so much that goes into a pitch’s approval or rejection: is it something that will work for the publisher, for the readership, can it sell? You ultimately have to take all that into consideration as part of the pitch process.

Pitches I loved got rejected. Pitches I didn’t completely understand went on to be big hits. When you’re pitching you’re in subjective hands of all involved parties… it’s intense but when it works, there are very few greater excitements for me.

What are some of the things you consider when finding a letterer to round out the creative team?


So much information and emotion are conveyed by the lettering, it’s important to find someone whose style can complement the art but still express the mood and ideas of all the dialogue and narration. Different styles are a match for different situations. The letterers themselves are always bringing new design ideas to each assignment, too. So working with someone open to collaboration is necessary for every member of the team.

I consider portfolios, previous work and the letterer’s interests and preferences, too… do they like a certain genre of storytelling? Do they like a certain writer or artist?

In your opinion/experience, what is the best way a letterer can get on an editor’s radar? And on the flip side, what is the best way to get on an editor’s nerves?

The best way is politely asking to send a portfolio or samples. I prefer via email but direct messages are fine (for me) as well. The worst ways are the passive route— tagging me in a post I’m not involved with or @-ing me on twitter.

Since going freelance, you also started Poison Press. What’s that all about? Any titles on the horizon?


Yes! Tim and I have a short story we’re hoping to release as mini-comics late this summer. The story is titled “Lieberstrasse” and it is a romance that takes place in the end of the Weimar Era in Berlin. It was definitely a challenging story to write but Tim’s art is just gorgeous and I’m very excited to get it out into the world.

Poison Press is actually Tim Fish’s own self-publishing imprint that he has published with for decades! Right?! It’s amazing. After I went freelance, we formed a comic making collective with Monica Gallagher to apply for conventions and festivals (and for me to gain experience self-publishing with Tim and Monica’s expert guidance). We’re constantly evolving the partnership but I just have to give credit to the true owner— I don’t want to take credit for Tim’s hard work, I just want him to collaborate with me until the end of the universe and beyond.


Something I ask everyone I interview…If you could only give one piece of advice, be it for lettering, editing, or life, what would it be?


Wear sunscreen.

It’s a dated joke but it relates to my real advice: be present in the moment and do your best (whether its your art or your life) when you are given opportunities.

In my personal experience, this is easier to say than do but it’s the advice I try to follow myself.


You can find out more about Greg at his website.