Steve Ekstrom is a writer, editor, letterer, and Indie comic producer. He has successfully Kickstarted projects, worked as a journalist for nerdy news outlets, and started his own indie comics studio, Imminent Press.
NerdBastards.com had a chance to talk with Steve about his career in comics, his love for writing, and his experiences in the indie comic scene, and it is fair to say that we learned a lot. Please enjoy this next installment in our ongoing series of interviews with indie comic creators.
NerdBastards (NB): Hi Steve, thanks for talking with us.
Steve Ekstrom (SE): Thanks for interviewing me. As a former journalist in the industry, I think it is imperative that fan sites and venues provide platforms for indie comic book creators to be seen.
NB: Very true. So, tell us a little about yourself, Steve.
SE: I’m just a 40-something year-old dude who puts his pants on leg at a time—but when I do, it’s so that I can write stuff and make comics.
NB: (Laughs) Our kinda hero. We read the first 2 issues of your “Pulp Anthology Series” Terminal, and we loved it! Can you explain to our readers what this series is about?
SE: The Terminal Pulp Anthology is a collection of interconnected post modern pulp comics. Pulp is a broad genre that was the precursor to the superhero comics that encompass 90% of the comics being produced by major publishers.
So there’s a lot to work with under the genre umbrella of “Pulp”. You have Crime Noir, Romance, Aviation, Mystery, “Weird” (yes, that’s a sub-genre), Hard Boiled, Sports (there used to be a lot of sports comics), Westerns, and Sci Fi (Science Fiction).
We have an array of stories from a huge assemblage of talent. The first two issues have four stories that feature hard boiled romance as well as some superhero mash-ups with noir and Science Fiction with a healthy amount of social commentary about mental health and even online dating.
NB: That’s a lot of genres in one series. So this series is produced under your Imminent Press label, correct? Can you tell us about starting your own imprint?
SE: A long time ago, I read a series of collected essays by Warren Ellis called, “Do Anything.”; and, in these essays, Ellis talks about the process of making comics and compares it to “putting the band together”.
Making comics, to say this bluntly, is f***ing hard… especially if you only provide one aspect of the comic-making process. When I started out, I just wrote but I knew, over time, that I couldn’t afford to pay an artist, an inker, a colorist, and a letterer…so I started teaching myself how to digitally letter.
So, now, I write and I letter and I edit (for other people) but I also have become a better writer because I can now further edit my work to be more concise as I letter the page art.
But I digress.
Ellis basically tells you that you need to put together a team to make comics if you’re going to make them properly when you’re starting out. There are VERY few people who can do it all make their own projects…and hats off to them. If I could draw? I don’t even want to fantasize about that because I’ll just get bummed out. (Laughs)
I basically got the notion that I wanted to publish content with other people like me who struggled to publish full-length content. And as the cliché goes: “A Rising Tide Raises All Ships.”
So, I got together with my good friend, Troy Brownfield, and we started plotting out the structure for what would become Imminent Press.
NB: And the rest was history!
NB: What are some of the benefits and drawbacks to producing indie comics under your own imprint?
SE: It’s a lot of work whether you want to do it or not. It’s a lot of management of your time and the time of others; you have to make sure the people you’re working with have work ethics that match up to yours. Because you can be as hungry and as ambitious as you want to be—but if you work with people who don’t feel the same way about making a project with you…they will drag you down. Production will grind to a halt while you wait for people to get their work done.
I would say that you have to have the patience of a serious super-villain who has a long-game mentality.
Jack Kirby said, “Comics will break your heart.”
He wasn’t wrong; but if you’re resolute and you understand that this endeavor takes copious amounts of time. EVERYTHING YOU DO is beneficial to your matriculation as a creator of comics. Good or bad.
NB: Terminal was a Kickstarter and I remember talking a little with you about the process, can you share with our readers what your Kickstarter experience was like?
SE: Prepare to sit around in front of your laptop or phone in your short pants hitting refresh a lot. Prepare to sit on every social media platform in your short pants talking incessantly about your project. Prepare to fret over whether or not you will fund your project because it is very much a pass/fail sort of endeavor. Prepare to spend a lot of time researching the costs of things from shirts to stickers to prints to shipping to printing estimates for your project.
It’s not for the faint of heart. I will do it again, but I will be ready to have a lot of work on my plate. My two failures left me depressed and listless for months. My successful funding is still an ongoing mess of logistics and packaging.
If you aren’t ready to have a second full-time job that can take 40 to 60 hours of your waking hours during a week, you don’t need to do this.
NB: The sitting around in my short pants part sounds ok though.
NB: Would you recommend using Kickstarter to launch indie comics?
SE: Absolutely, it’s the best venue. I wouldn’t do it on any other venue, honestly.
NB: Any advice for indie comic creators that want to Kickstart their book?
SE: Do your homework. Know your audience. Have a body of people to market to. Prepare to market for a month before you actually launch. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.
Understand HOW to market to people. You’re not just selling a comic book, you’re selling yourself; You’re selling your desire to create; You’re selling an experience; Don’t just try to half-ass float a book out to people. They need to be razzle-dazzled.
NB: Some solid advice.
NB: Terminal is not your only comic, correct? What else have you written?
SE: I have been published in a number of anthologies like Negative Burn, the Sequential Suicide Anthology series from the 803 Studios; I was a contestant in DC Comics’ ZUDA web imprint; I have also been published by Top Shelf Publications.
NB: Do you have a favorite genre to write?
SE: Honestly? No. I love them all. I want to bend genres. We’re hurtling towards “post-post modernism” so I feel like we’re already starting to feel the ramifications of this in our ad media with all the surreal ads for deodorant with crazy names with morphing bodies and talking animal heads.
I see the craft of fiction writing like a sculptor or blacksmith might see forging and bending metal. I want to bend and blend genres into something unique so that you won’t forget the story I told you.
NB: You’re not just an indie comic writer. Tell us about some of the nerd culture websites you’ve written for.
SE: I wrote for Newsarama and Shotgun Reviews for a number of years. I briefly wrote for MTV Geek and Fangoria. I was a founding member of the crew that launched FreakSugar.com from the ashes of MTV Geek. My work has been syndicated by the LA Times and by Yahoo News… I’ve been around a while.
NB: You also write other things, like screenplays and such, want to tell us a little about that? Any projects got you excited?
SE: I am working on a project that I hope will wind up in Heavy Metal Magazine. I letter Troy Brownfield’s Sparkshooter web comic with art by rising star, Kate Frizzell. I am looking to turn my project from Terminal, GRRzly + K!nX, into a television pilot script. I also have about 50,000 words written for a YA Fantasy novel that I need to pour myself back into. I have a lot of irons in the fire… I need more time for all of them.
NB: Wow! Busy, busy (laughs). Where does your passion for writing come from? What or who inspired you to start writing?
SE: I’ve been a natural storyteller my entire life. It started with being a little boy and recounting the original Star Wars and Superman films to my grandparents. I have been blessed with an immense imagination and I simply refuse to let go of my child-like ability to suspend my disbelief.
I’ve been reading comics my entire life so Chris Claremont, Bill Mantlo, Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, Mark Millar, and Grant Morrison immediately pop in my head when I think of creators who have influenced my desire to make these pamphlets.
I was also lucky to have parents who encouraged me to be creative and pursue my dreams. I started out writing poetry for girlfriends in college… to some degree of success. (Laughs)
I like to say that “Writing found me.”
NB: Any advice or words of wisdom for other writers out there? Maybe some pitfalls to watch out for?
SE: Write every single day. If you’re not writing, you should be reading. I think Anton Chekov said, “You must read ONE HUNDRED stories in order to write ONE good story.”
That’s a lot. But you can also watch movies and television programs. Absorb life.
Stay away from having an ego. There are always going to be people who are better than you think you are. Listen to objective criticism and apply it to your work and improve.
The biggest failures are the people who think they have no room for improvement. The next biggest are the people who don’t heed experience speaking to them.
NB: So, what does the future look like for Steve Ekstrom? Any up coming projects that you can share with us?
SE: I have a couple of small projects I am putting together that I can’t really speak on at the moment. I have been in contact with a hot up-and-coming publisher full of industry veterans where I might have a role in the development of their print and digital projects (still too soon to really speak more).
There’s more coming from Imminent Online. It just takes time… and, when you’re being pulled in four or five directions, priorities change. Keep your eyes peeled, though.
I produce lettered pages of Sparkshooter every Wednesday. Troy’s comic is great. Kate’s art has taken it to a new level of awesome.
NB: We want to thank you for talking with us, Steve. Where can our readers find you on social media?
SE: I am on Facebook—I have 30 spaces left before I cap at 5000 followers. I rarely use Twitter. My Instagram is more than just comics stuff but you can find me there a lot more lately. Just mostly look for “steve[dot]Ekstrom” on platforms.
NB: Thank you so much for talking with us Steve. Follow Steve on his social media platforms and keep reading NerdBastards.com as we continue our on-going series of interviews with Indie comic creators.