Interview with Silent Knight of Dream Factory!
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Q. A little background about yourself. Who are you? :)
I'm a mid-20's western canadian multimedia and comic artist, comic book magazine founder, cyberspace junkie and curious wanderer. I'm the type of person who will refuse to do a heck of a lot unless he's enjoying it. I believe that the world would be a better place if everyone thought and acted that way. There would be a lot less unqualified unmotivated and unsatisfied people doing jobs that they didn't like.
I grew up on Vancouver Island in a small town called Port Alberni. There wasn't a lot to do there, so when i wasn't hanging out with friends who were often my next door neighbors, or playing video games, I spent a lot of time learning to draw better - and practicing creating graphic novels.
Since leaving vancouver island I've been trained in the use of multimedia and/or video production, desktop publishing, and computer animation using alias wavefront's power animator.
I have an interest in painting as well, and have some experience in doing that, but until I can afford the luxury of my own studio, I'll be using pixels when I want to expand into color. I currently create using a light table, a pencil, an eraser, a pen, some brushes and a bottle of ink. But I don't consider that a studio as it's really just another part of my bedroom, like my stereo or computer.
Q. What kind of music do you like? Whats the soundtrack to your life?
I like Industrial, Blues and Rock. Some of my favorite bands and musicians are AC DC, White Zombie, KMFDM, Rage Against the Machine, U2, Verruca Salt, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, Ozzy Osborne, ZZ Top, The Beatles, StephenWolf, George Thorogood, B.B. King, Lenny Kravitz, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. I'm also a fan of parody music, including the stuff that Weird Al produces.
Most of those musicians' work and play don't represent my life. But since you asked, I suppose a soundtrack to my life would look like this:
Golgotha Tenement Blues - Machines of Loving Grace.
Black Hole Sun - Sound Garden
Sad but true - Metallica
Jeremy - Pearl Jam
One - U2
With or Without You - U2
Are you ganna go my way - Lenny Kravitz
A Thousand Miles from Nowhere - Dwight Yolkham
Place in this World - Michael W. Smith
The Superman Song - Crash Test Dummies
Time of your Life - Green Day
21st Century Digital Boy - Bad Religion
Indifference - Pearl Jam
Q. What type of movies do you like? Whats your favorite films?
I like comedies (Liar Liar), action films (Face/Off), and politically motivated films (Malcolm X, Bullworth, Primary Colors, Manufacturing Consent). But first and foremost, I'm a fan of science fiction films whether animated or otherwise.
My favorite film, ever since I had first seen it as a kid, is Transformers The Movie. Unlike many films produced today it had a story behind the it's stunning graphics. And it's hard to go wrong with Orson Welles, Leonard Nimoy and Eric Idle in starring roles.
Though none compare to Transformers, a few others include Back to the Future 2, Akira, Armitage the Third, Alita: Battle Angel, The Crow, Hardware, The Star Wars Trilogy, and Virtuosity. And though it doesn't fit in with he rest of list, Forrest Gump is a classic.
Other movies that have no doubt influenced me but aren't my favorites include Dune, Fortress, RoboCop 1 and 2, Predator 1 and 2, Alien 1, 2 and 4, Blade Runner, Terminator 1 and 2, Contact, Star Trek: First Contact, Powder, Johnny Mnemonic, The Fifth Element and La Femme Nikita.
Q. Tell me a little about Dream Factory, Its purpose and what you see as its future.
Dream Factory is a Magazine I founded, and am currently president of. Though it wasn't intended as such in it's implementation, it's a new take on Heavy Metal Magazine. The Difference between the two being that Dream Factory will have recurring graphically told stories that will fall in sequence, as well as one time-only stories. It's similarity is in that the whole of the book is greater than the sum of its parts.
Our purpose is providing a censorship-free outlet for comic artists, and allowing them to profit from and control their own intellectual property. It's an arena where people can profit from goofing off, and playing.
We want comics to be recognized as a true art form, where it can be respected to the same regard that picture-free prose and literature-free pictorials are. We want to create art that will leave you on the edge of your seat as well as make you think. There have been comics that have won a pulitzer and a hugo. Time Magazine had a cover story a few years back about comics having "grown up". But the work that has been giving comics it's bad name is still being continually mass produced.
Why? It's the same reason why most television is terrible - not because we like trash - but because there's little else to choose from in a commercialized environment. And that will change once more creators are given control, as well as having commercial and non-commercial content not just kept separate - but completely segregated.
If more people would do this, the advertisers will have to try harder to get your attention, and the creators will be able to hold your attention for greater amounts of time. This is has been done with content in europe, (eg. the bbc) - and commercials and regular programming are both higher quality as a result.
Marvel and DC obviously aren't going to change because they exist to protect their cash cows. The two biggest markets in north american comics have always been Superhero, and Licensed Character (Predator, Terminator etc.) Comics. When ever these companies complain about a slump in the industry, they're talking about people buying more mature reader books, which they don't provide or promote. They don't visit comic shops so they don't realize that the readership is much older than they think it is.
I see Dream Factory's future as a nation-wide magazine showcasing new talent in both colors and black&white. And there will always be a future outside of Dream Factory for the creations viewed within. Overall I would like to see its eclectic exhibitions compared to other mediums in order to gain notoriety.
Q. Where did you get the name Dream Factory? Is there any significance to it or is it just a cool name you found?
I got the name in mid-1995 while I was typing to a former classmate, Onyx, on a music related electronic bulletin board system called The Pelvis Of Elvis about starting a comic book company. For the life of me I couldn't come up with a suitable name for it. So I just started talking about what it was going to be.
I called it "my own private dream factory", and the name has been with me ever since. I use the name now, not just because it's still lodged in my head from a conversation I had two to three years ago, but because it makes sense.
When people have a story published with us, and they own all the rights to it, as well as a share of the profits, they're accomplishing a dream. The flip side of the coin is that in order to make their dreams reality, they must produce regularly - as would a factory. What is implied is that you should do more than dream the dream. You should become the dream.
Q. What comics do you collect?
At present I don't collect comics. I buy collected books.
I don't like what I see on most comic book shelves any more. The sight of spandex florescent suits covering steroidal or augmented bodies bothers me. What I see turns me off not only because it's blatantly and ridiculously market driven, but because aside from the gratuitous t and a shots it's ugly.
The wrong people are controlling the majority of the industry right now. The creators know what people like, and those determining demographic (or psychographic) markets don't. If they knew what people liked, they wouldn't have to depend on statistics.
As I said, I still buy comic books when in graphic novel or collected book form. I recommend Sin City, US, Give Me Liberty, Hard Boiled, Weapon-X, Digital Justice, Judge Dredd books, Scud: the Disposable Assassin (in collected book form), and most mangas.
Q. Who is your favorite Comic Character?
My favorite comic character is Wolverine when not in X-Men Uniform. I love the expressive grooves on his forehead and mid-browe, his piercing snake-like oval eyes, his thick side burns, his fanged grin - the look of the character in general - and his gentlemanly though nonchalant and tough attitude.
Q. If you could be any comic character, who would you be, and why?
I would love to be Pitt. With long black hair and biker clothes he looks like your average rock star. He rides a Harley Davidson as if it were a dirt bike. And he's unrealistically indestructible. I'd like to spend a day as Pitt, playing paint ball - only not following the rules of the game. Or maybe i'd walk down a busy street right in the middle of traffic, or try going against the grain during the running of the bulls in Spain.
I would only want to be a character like that for a day or a week though. I think I would grow tired of that after a while.
Q. What got you into comics?
The story of my involvement with comics starts between the ages of 9 and 10. I was living in sicamouse where my parents ran a houseboat rental business, and being without a lot of commercial goods (though I had a vic 20 computer), I associated comics with HBO; they were something you enjoyed, but were only able to access when visiting someone who had more luxuries than you did. This is one of the reasons why I associate movie making with comic book creation and vice versa.
A few years later, after having moved to Vancouver Island, reading comics became what "cool people" did, along side listening to rock and going to parties or whatever else. I had a subscription for transformers comics, and started sketching the characters I saw in there, as well as the toys I had been collecting for a year previous. I don't have many of those sketches today, because most who saw them wanted a copy, and i just gave them away. Greg Milne, a writer, artist and founding member of Dream Factory, has had the same problem - only his was with giving his work away to pretty women. (Greg - if you're reading this right now, I hope I didn't embarrass you with that little tid bit of information.)
In junior high I had my own comic strip published in that school's newspaper. The strip was offered to me when I was fortunate enough to have been caught doodling in class.
It wasn't until just before starting high school that I became interested in Mirage Studios' TMNT, which inspired me to start creating. My first comics were no great tribute to TMNT as they great in terms of art, but were lacking in plot and story - though I still received glowing reviews.
After reading endless swathes of the original TMNT series and getting a subscription to Wolverine, I knew that this was what I wanted to do. But after watching tv and seeing thousands of people line up at the san diego comic convention to get approvals from big publishers, and hearing of the thousands of submissions that they receive daily, I was giving serious thought to other avenues of employment. I shose those that are often influenced by comics - computer graphics, and multimedia. I soon realized after my training that if I wanted to work in those fields that I would have to start my own company. This made the idea of forsaking my first love very futile.
Q. Do you have any Idols in the comic business that you look up to?
He, Peter Laird and others at Mirage Studios created the TMNT series which inspired me to become more serious about what I wanted to do in comics. He's now the editor-in-chief of Heavy Metal Magazine, and has erected a museum called words and pictures exclusively for comic book art.
Q. Why did you decide to start up your own Comic Book Company?
Because I remember wishing one existed that was approachable. Getting into Image, Marvel, DC or even published by Dark Horse seemed about as possible as becoming a member of the NBA. You had a better chance of getting hit by lightning than being one of the chosen elite who gets noticed.
I know there have been many people with plenty of talent in my local area and abroad who have been limited to the underground, or worse, giving up, because they're not drawing stories in the style that the czar-like editors want. These companies don't trust their writers and artists as much as they should.
And it seems that there's only one way to beat the system :circumvent it.
Q. What is your all time favorite comic book?
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mirage Studios) Issues 19 though 21. Those three appear in one collected book, and though it's in my personal library I'm not sure of the name of it. Weapon-X makes a close second.
Q. Tell us about some of the cool projects going on at Dream Factory.
The art for the first issue is complete, and the 5-6 continuations of those stories are in production for the second issue. People can view previews of those at http://dfact.ml.org/. There are also a few new stories that will appear in issue 2.
D-FACT: Dream Factory Anti Comics Team.
An elite army of assassins made of comic creators are on a mission - To assassinate all obnoxious comic characters. First on the list: Superman.
A mild mannered accountant by the name of Randy Smith attracts trouble like a magnet. After years and years of strife, Randy handles his problems in much the same way that a gangster would in pulp fiction.
There are other new stories in the works as well, but they're still in pre-production. After issue 1has been released, we're thinking about selling t-shirts to members or who ever wants them.
Q. Do you have any tips for beginning artists/writers? Tips for someone wanting to start their own company?
For artists/writers/creators I'm going to tell you what seems inherently obvious; be original; be different. If you want to draw a picture of a rose, don't get another picture of a rose to draw from - find an actual rose. If you want a realistic conversation, don't steal from television or the movies - listen to the way people actually talk.
I'm not saying that you shouldn't copy, as that's the best way to learn, but I am saying that when it comes time to do your own thing, that you truly do just that. And keep in mind that you should listen to your subconscious - every idea that assaults your imagination is valid.
If you believe in yourself enough to starting your own company - don't let anyone stop you from accomplishing your objectives. You are what you do, so don't let anyone force you to be anything that you don't want to be. In short - never say die. Because in the end, this isn't just a hobby, it's who you are.
And please, always keep in mind that you're offering something for other people, and not the other way around. That includes both your customers, and your artists/writers/creators.
Q. Where do you see Dream Factory in the next five years?
As I've said, I expect it to be a nation-wide magazine, capable of color reproduction. After that? Well expect that between year four and year six most of us will be making independent films of our creations.
As we're a mature reader book, I sincerely hope that there aren't action figures in the works by that time, but that's really out of my jurisdiction.
Could you imagine a Johnny the Homicidal Maniac child's toy?
Q. What would you say the single biggest challenge has been getting Dream Factory started?
There were two large challenges. The first was finding talent. Several years ago, I was too aggressive in promoting my project, and had one very large door closed on me. Since then, my challenge has been networking to find people who were willing to work and play for free with the promise of later payment, and still meet deadlines. I believe we've finally conquered that demon.
The second challenge is one that we are still grappling with: finances. Without a lot of investment capital, we have to start very small. While I was receiving training as a young entrepreneur, I was lucky enough to find a printer that will work on credit given that half the money is down.
Q. Of all the comics made into movies, which one do you feel was done the best?
I believe it's an even draw between Akira and The Crow.
Akira is the best it could have been considering how huge the series was. It filled the space of 2-3 phone books or more in manga form.
The crow was watered down a little from it's original form, but it's bar-none the best north american attempt I've seen. The first Batman movie makes a close second.
Thank you for granting me with this interview. I hope to do this again sometime.
No no, Thank you! It was my pleasure and I'm sure all of our readers enjoyed it. I look forward to doing more projects with you in the future
Chrispian H. Burks
Lit.Org Owner / Founder
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