Written by Neil Greenaway
At Phoenix Comic Con 2016 I had the chance to sit down and talk with Raven Gregory of the Widow's Web comic series about his take on publishing indie comics. This interview originally ran on Bleeding Cool on 6/10/2016, and you can read their version of it here.
Raven Gregory’s table was one of the popular places to be at Phoenix Comicon last weekend. It was not hard to see why. He had Nei Ruffino drawing right next to him, visitors like Eric Basaldua dropping by, and a bevy of cosplay beauties just waiting for a glimpse at his newest books. And everybody was buying his books. I stopped in for a quick chat, just to see how the Phoenix heat had been treating him.
Neil Greenaway: We are sitting here at Phoenix Comicon talking to Raven Gregory. How was the show for you today?
Raven Gregory: Wonderful show, probably the best show that Phoenix has put on since they first started putting on shows. Better and better every year. That’s a really political answer. Let me rephrase that answer because that’s the answer that everybody gives. I love Phoenix Con, this show is amazing. It is so f-cking hot. It’s a testament to how amazing this show is just because people will come out in this weather and nobody in their right mind would want to come out in this weather, and they still do so somebody must be doing something right. That’s the right answer.
NG: I’ve been coming here for a couple years myself and it seemed like this year it was busier than I have ever seen it, almost shoulder to shoulder on Saturday. Have you ever seen it that crammed in here?
RG: Oh yeah, it’s been doing that the last two years. It’s getting, not the Hollywood vibe of San Diego, but definitely that packed aspect of, there’s just that many people in here. Especially on the weekend days.
NG: Let’s talk a little bit about Widow’s Web. Can you give me just a basic synopsis, for people who might not be introduced to the series?
RG: Well it’s a cool little horror story that me and my co-creator, Autumn Ivy, came up with the basic premise of the classic boy meets girl story. Except in our story, the girl may very well end up eating the boy. So it’s true love and some cannibalism, good times.
NG: And boobs.
RG: And boobs. Got to have the boobs.
NG: How many issues have you guys put out so far?
RG: Well we’ve done 2 Kickstarters for the series. We’ve put out about three issues now. We were blessed in the fact the both of our Kickstarters were both successfully funded. So the entire series is now paid for. We finished penciling the last issue about 3 months ago, and it’s currently being lettered, and we should have the whole entire six issues done in less than 2 months.
NG: If the first arc is done- well I guess that is the question. Is it an arc, is the story done? Or is there more to say after issue six?
RG: You know, you never want to say never. If a story idea did come up that just screamed to be told, I would definitely consider revisiting it with Autumn and seeing what we could do with it. But as it stands we initially set it up to be a self contained mini-series. I’m a big fan of, you tell your story, you get in and get out. Don’t overstay your welcome, because it’s very easy to, if you’re not firing on all cylinders, to take an ongoing series and keep it up to par, keep it where it was, it’s not the easiest thing. I have written over 250 comic stories in my career and those are always just the hardest.
NG: If I could just touch on the other book that you guys have got out, The Secret Life of Crows. I actually own the first 3 issues. Are there more than 3?
RG: There is going to be – every time we do a Secret Life of Crows we are always like, we’re done. It’s the best we’ve ever done, it’s a personal story that I’m personally very proud of. It’s unlike anything that I have ever written and I can’t even remember writing it, it was one of those kind of stories. But Nei and I have recently been talking and it’s her book and we came up with an idea that we think will really set off the story in that prequel fashion, yet stand on its own as it’s own unique thing and really add to the essence of the story. So that’s something that will be done, I have no idea when.
NG: Is that something that you guys will look to Kickstarter to do?
RG: Oh no, she just publishes it puts it out on her own and everyone seems to just love it.
NG: The sell through on it does seem to be amazing. I have seen it jut sell out in seconds when she puts it online.
RG: Which, it stands as a testament to how talented an artist and creator she is. In that the last couple shows we’ve done together, sitting there trying to pitch the story of that book, it’s f-cking impossible. It’s like, well you know, there’s a girl and she turns into a bird. And the bird turns back into a girl and then she falls in love with the sun. And then the sun destroys the Earth. Like wow, that’s trippy, those guys must have been on some crazy drugs. But she recently pitched it to me, just last night, and the pitch she told is “It’s the story of the sun falling in love with the moon. And then darkness falls.” I was like, that’s really good, that’s basically the whole story. Like there’s all this other crazy acid induced moments, but at the essence that’s really what it is. I thought that was very cool.
NG: Awesome. Aside from those 2 books, are you working on anything else at the moment?
RG: Still trying to get Something Like Magic. That was going to be my next creator owned series. That I was planning on working next, but Widow’s Web just has taken up a lot of my time. It’s taking a while to get it launched properly. I had an exceptional artist I had worked with in the past on it who was just killing it. But he had some personal issues come up and the thing with doing – after having worked with a publisher for so many years, and having to cut corners and make compromises, and you’re putting your heart & soul into the story you are telling in this collaboration with this artist you’re working with, and all of a sudden an editor or a deadline comes in and you have to change things to suit getting the book out on time. And with my particular stories I wanted to make sure there was no compromise. I wanted it to be the best book it could possibly be. I didn’t want it ever to be late. So whereas most people put out a comic book, and they are working on it each month, I had all six issues done. Which is a huge risk and financial investment. But I feel the readers deserve only the best. I don’t want to put out a mediocre comic book. I am pretty sure I have. But when it comes to my new brand of comics, everything has to be right. It has to be the perfect artist. You can’t just throw any artist on it, it has to be somebody who really fits the story and finding that person can be difficult.
NG: If I could touch on it for just a second, you and Nei Ruffino seem to have a really awesome working relationship, and you guys seem to work together quite a bit. What’s the history in your relationship? How did you guys become friends?
RG: We initially started working together on the Return to Wonderland series. The first big book I did for Zenescope had an artist that I had worked with in the past named Richard Bonk. He had worked on a couple issues of The Gift for me. And when he was working on the series, he suggested her as a colorist. He didn’t get to stay on for the series, Dan Leister actually came aboard but we were both, all three of us were such huge fans of Wonderland that we would spend just hours on the phone talking about what different things we could do, how we could make this creepy, is this twisted, what’s the subliminal? It’s something that now, at my age, after having written all these books… I can’t possibly spend that much time on the phone with somebody. But back then it was just par for the course. It seemed like a regular thing and we just became incredibly close and she’s literally my best friend.
NG: That’s awesome. Also if we could touch on it, how did you meet Autumn Ivy?
RG: Autumn was cosplayer that I had known for quite a few years. By chance I happened across some, she would write some dark poetry or dark short stories on Facebook, like a blog. And I read a few of them, and I was just blown away by how rich and vivid and emotive the quality of her story telling was in such a short space and time. Because with short stories you really have to get them right from the hook or everybody has ADHD. No attention span whatsoever and it was from reading this that I reached out to her and said, hey I have this story idea, I’d like you to be involved in it. We collaborated and created this whole universe from it.
NG: And just to roll with the theme, how is it you guys got Ian Snyder?
RG: Ian Snyder worked on a book called Tales From Wonderland and I always loved his work and I was searching for an artist for Widow’s Web. The first artist who I really wanted for Widow’s Web was an artist named Sheldon Goh. I’m a huge fan of his, he’s amazing. Sheldon couldn’t commit to the project and I was at a show and Ian had just finished his gigs and was looking for a gig and Nei actually referred me to him and said hey take a look at some of his new work. And he was just light years away from when he did the Alice book with me. He was just so much better, and he was amazing back then. So everything was coming together and he very easily gets what I’m going for. And like all the best artists in the world, he makes me look so much better than I am. Sometimes I’ll sit there and re-read a script and say, “Wait a minute, did I write that? No I didn’t. Damn, that’s good. I’m going to take all the f-cking credit for that shit. Writer!” (laughs). And he’s just fun to work with, he’s a fun guy.
NG: Are there any other team members on that book that we should give a shout out to?
RG: Our colorist is Liezl Buenaventura, she is a colorist who used to work over at Zenescope. A lot of the people who I work with on my books are just people I have met over the years, a lot from my days at Zenescope. As well people I’ve met from running the con circuit for 13 odd years and what not. Mike DeBalfo, who does a slew of covers for Zenescope, today and back in the day. He did a bunch of covers for me. Eric Basaldua, Nei Ruffino, Ale Garza. Basically all my friends.
NG: We will try to cram as many of their names in as we can. If people wanted to see more from you guys where would they go?
RG: They can pick up the books or get any news and updates on my Facebook, which is just Raven Gregory or at the website, www.theravengregory.com.