Summer of Indie – Interview with Grant Springford

So with our Summer of Indie in full swing I caught up with Grant Spingford the creator of indie comic ‘The Abnormals’ to get some more info on him,the comic and his thoughts on being an indie creator.

What prompted you to go the route of the independent creator?

Like many people, it’s been my lifelong ambition to create comics. Some time ago it occurred to me that I could sit around waiting for a professional company to come along and knock on my door, or else get my act together and produce and self-publish my own stuff.

The latter gives me a lot more freedom – I’m able to tell the stories I want to tell and not have to worry about rule-bound characters and situations that are owned by other people. For a writer/artist that’s very liberating. It means I can do whatever I want.

How long from conception to launch did it take you to finish issue 1?

Waaaay too long! I can’t remember exactly but it took the best part of a year. I’ve never produced a full colour, digitally lettered 28 page American size comic before and completely underestimated the long involved! It was all very experimental and taught me new-found respect for colourists and letterers – people whose talents I’d never fully appreciated before!

Writing and fleshing out the characters didn’t take very long – they’d been sitting around in notepads and sketchbooks for years waiting to be used. But the production – whoah! Blood sweat and tears went into that (not literally, so don’t pull a face and throw away your copy of The Abs)!

The good news is I learned a lot during that process so the next edition shouldn’t take quite so long to put together!

So you’ve done it and got your work into the world how does it feel?

Good. Really good. I almost gave up on the project on more than one occasion, but my friends and family gave me the encouragement I needed and, hey, I’ve met a lifelong ambition. Whether the titles sinks or swims I’ve produced a comic in ‘American’ format: something I’ve wanted to do since picking up my first Uncanny X-Men back in the early 80’s!

The reviews have been very positive and readers have sent me messages telling me how much they like the title. I’ve even had some brilliant fan art. To a creator, knowing that someone has enjoyed your work to the extent that they’ll take time to contact you, well, it makes all the hard work worthwhile.

You have a very slick website for the abnormals how important a role is marketing the comic to you?

 I can’t take credit for the site! That’s all down to one of my best mates – he’s a very talented guy and I owe him big time! Marketing is very important – even more if you’re a self-publisher. You’ve got to get your title noticed amongst a helluva lot of other titles – not only those put out by the big companies but there’s also a lot of very good quality comics produced by other small-pressers.

So it’s important the comic you produce looks, and feels, slick and that you have the resources available to make it look professional. Having a website also means that readers can actually buy the comic! Without it I’d be relying on appearances at comic marts to get it out there.

Obviously not everyone’s lucky enough to have a website, but there are other routes – a blog, Twitter and a Facebook page are cheap ways you can have a presence on the net.

Name one blessing and one curse of being an indie creator

 Can I have two curses?! I’m greedy with my curses. But they are important curses! The first revolves around money. It costs to get a comic printed and to market it. It’s why I have so much respect for self-publishers. They don’t have the resources of, say, Marvel, but they’ll work tirelessly to get their comic printed.

Secondly there’s the issue of time. I have a full time job so one of the other reasons it took so long to produce The Abnormals special was because I only had weekends to work on it. I gave up pretty much every weekend for months on end to finish the comic. My social life went into such decline I think most of my friends think I died last year!

The blessing – it all goes back to creative freedom. I own my characters. The little universe I created is all mine and I can do whatever I want with it.

For people who have not heard of abnormals can you us a one sentence elevator pitch?

 There’s a dark universe trapped beneath the streets of London and only the weirdest super powered beings in the UK can stop it spilling into the city.

Who would say the comic is aimed at?

 The Abnormals special is aimed at everyone. It’s my homage to the Marvel comics that got me hooked on comics in the first place. I wanted readers of all ages and locations to be able to pick it up and enjoy it.

Grant Morrison and his work on Doom Patrol is also a massive influence and reviewers and readers have picked up on that. When I’m compared to Doom Patrol I take it as a massive compliment.

Future editions of the comic, though, will be aimed at older readers. While I wouldn’t say it’s going to become ‘for mature readers only’ it’s going to be a lot darker and explore some themes that may not be appropriate for younger readers. It’s also going to get a lot more violent – not for the sake of it, simply because that’s the kind of place my characters inhabit. It goes with the territory.

What inspired the idea behind the abnormals?

So many elements that if I listed them all this interview would have more pages than an Argos catalogue and I’m not going to subject you and your readers to that. Like many creators, my stories come from ‘what ifs’. I remember being on a platform in the London underground and looking into one of those big, dark tunnels and wondering what could be lurking in the darkness – and that’s what the Abnormals is about: what lives in the places just out of sight?

Do you have a fave abnormal?

Now that’s a tricky one! I like them all for different reasons. I like drawing, and colouring, The Bouncer best simply because he’s big and bold and colourful. He’s my personal tribute to Jack Kirby.

My favourite character, though, is Meena. It’s very early days but I have massive, shocking plans in store and they all revolve around Meena and the reasons why a seemingly ‘normal’ woman was asked to lead a team of super-heroes. It was also important to me to break away from the traditional type of character you’d find taking Meena’s role in a comic. You don’t really find that many asian females leading super-teams into the unknown. I’ve had a lot of emails from people who’ve said Meena’s their favourite. Which surprises me as she’s not exactly the most dynamic or eye-catching character and – at this point – we know next to nothing about her. Maybe that’s what people like – the mystery.

You have chosen to center the world and mthylogy of the abnormals around the London Underground what was about that concept that intrigued you?

I’ve always been interested in mythology and urban myths. And there are so many stories about the things people have allegedly seem or experienced on the underground. There have been reports of everything from ghosts to lost communities to wild boars and the like for years. I read a book on the subject a few years back that mentioned how someone once reported seeing an Egyptian mummy stumbling around the tube beneath the British museum!

I love all that stuff – it’s fascinating. And it made me start wondering that all these beings and entities had to come from somewhere, so what if they’re just the tip of the iceburg? What else could be living even deeper underground?

All these ‘what ifs’ shaped The Abnormals. If there are other-dimensional beings and ghosts and monsters and the like, you need equally bizarre ‘heroes’ to counter them.

You have a few viral mentions in the comic do you have a lot of contact with them?

 I do – there’s a close circle of small-pressers I have very close contact with. In fact one of my best friends, Martin Eden – who now produces ‘Spandex’ – was one of the reasons I started to self-publish. I read his old title ‘The O Men’ and it inspired me to start creating myself.

There are some incredibly talented people out there. I’m not going to give too much away at this point because it’s early days, but I’m developing a project with that ‘close circle’ (that makes us sound like a cult or something) that should be very interesting. I’ll give you guys the scoop when I’m ready to say more!

If you could offer only one piece of advice to an indie creator what would it be?

 Persevere. It’s not easy and it’s hard work but if you have a story to tell stick with it and share it.

What’s next for Abnormals?

I have so much in store I don’t know where to start. I need to win the lottery so I can employ a production team and get a monthly title out there because I have so much planned and just want to give it all to my readers as soon as possible!

can tell you a bit about the next edition, though. We’ll be delving deeper into Subterranea and visiting one of the communities that exists down there – and the Abnormals make contact with one of the strangest looking baddies I’ve ever created. As a consequence we’ll learn more about each character’s history. It bothered me that the ‘special’ is really an introduction issue. This issue will beef them out a lot more.

Oh, and I introduce a couple of major new characters that will have a big impact in the future. One of them is a villain I dreamed up about a decade ago and have been waiting for the opportunity to use – and now I’ve found it! He’s big and bad and his beliefs are more horrific than any monster lurking beneath London.

Thanks for your time Grant!

You can find out more about The Abnormals over on Grant’s website and have a read of our review on the first issue here.

GS Reporter: Nuge

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