We are really spoilt for choice this week. Mike Barry, the creator of “Action Tank” – a 100 page graphic novel, gets interviewed by MCA Studios – the third comic creator we have interviewed this week!
Mike is a local Sydney creator, and has been doing comic art for quite a number of years. He has worked with other creators over those years, and it’s now time to get ready for “Action Tank”. You can support his Kickstarter here.
Click the image to
check out other projects by Mike Barry
- Who are you and what do you do?
My name’s Mike Barry and I’m a writer, artist and designer from Sydney. I love making comics, and juggle that with my full time role as a Creative Director at one of Sydney’s larger digital design and advertising agencies.
- How long have you been creating for? How long have you been doing comics and comic-art?
When I was a kid I wrote and drew all the time, but it was only when I turned 30 that I seriously decided to start making comics properly. That was 9 years ago. As I’ve progressed, making my own webcomics and contributing to anthologies, I’ve also been intensely mentored by the comic industry’s finest writers, artists, editors and publishers, devouring their generous and seemingly infinite wisdom through my iPhone’s podcast app.
- What would you consider your must-have supplies?
Black felt-tip pens and tiny, comic-book-shaped notebooks. I thumbnail out each story as I write it, and the little notebooks really help me get a sense of layout and story pacing. I recently got some Thumb Books which I can’t wait to try out. After I’ve thumbnailed a whole story I scan it in and get to work making finished art on my laptop. So I guess I also need a laptop. And photoshop.
- You’ve done a lot of features for other projects, what has been the one that has stood out from the rest and what are the reasons it’s stood out so much?
A few years ago I collaborated with writer Karen Beilharz to create a story for Kinds of Blue, a comics anthology about depression. I did the art for a chapter called Feeling. It really meant a lot to me as I was doing it and it was amazing to see how much my chapter, and the whole collection, resonated with the public. Mental illness is way more common than a lot of people realise, so I was really grateful that Karen asked me to be part of a project designed to help bring some of the realities and experiences of having depression to life.
I think I also want to mention Spider-man on Mars, which could not be more different to Kinds of Blue and which I should also stress is complete fan fiction and in no way sanctioned by Marvel, but all the same it was an important project for me. For that one, I experimented with a few visual and narrative techniques that (I feel) helped me ‘level up’ my whole approach to making comics.
You can see both projects at my website – mikebarrywashere.com
- How did you come up with the idea for “Action Tank”?
It’s a story born out of a lot of things I love: sci-fi, adventure, humour, and how smart and capable kids can be.
As a father myself, I know how challenging it can be to find comic book content that is not only age appropriate, but also, you know, good. So while I made Action Tank with a younger audience in mind (7 – 12 years), my priority was to always respect their intelligence and never “write down” to them.
What that means is Action Tank is a book I hope can serve as a gateway to comic book storytelling. It starts out fairly straightforward, but soon introduces some of the cooler narrative techniques you can only use in comics. I’ve tested it with younger readers and it’s very fulfilling to see their response, but I have to admit it’s been just as good testing it with grown ups – especially those who have never read comics before – and watching them discover how awesome comics can be.
- How long did it take you, (and 2nd part if you wish to answer – “Did you do all the art and colours yourself?”)
I made the entire book myself. That means I conceived the idea, then wrote and thumbnailed it, then drew all the black and white line art, then lettered it, and finally, coloured it. All up it was almost two years in the making but keep in mind I have a fairly demanding day job, and I was doing a lot of it at night after my family were tucked into bed, so it was pretty slow going. My agency job was very supportive of the project and even let me go part time for the final six months of 2016 so I could get the book finished.
- Who is your biggest inspiration for doing what you do?
My wife. She works hard to create an environment in which I can explore and develop my creative passions. I think my kids, and their love for stories, also reignite my enthusiasm when the road ahead on a project seems long.
Honorable mentions go to Mackenzie Thorpe, Brandon Graham, Jonathan Hickman, David Aja, Oliver Jeffers and Dr Suess.
- If you could give some advice to comic creators that are just starting out and only have 2 or 3 indie comics under their belt, what would you say?
Starting is easy, finishing is hard. As soon as you finish just one thing you are a million miles ahead of most people, so just keep going and make another one, and now you’re two million miles ahead. It may not feel like you have momentum, but you do.
Your point of difference is your creative voice. Editors, friends, family, randoms will all have opinions on your work. Listen to them, but make your own creative decisions.
- And where can we get a copy of your graphic novel?
I’m running a Kickstarter campaign RIGHT NOW to get the book printed and into the hands of as many readers as possible. It’s already over 100% funded, so as long as you visit http://actiontankcomic.com before the end of Feb 2017, you can lock in a copy of your very own!
For more about me or my work, check out mikebarrywashere.com or find me on twitter @Mike_Barry
Mike has shared some progress shots of his work
Be a super-awesome backer for this
Variant cover – only 10 in existence – ever!