This week I got to speak with Zach and Jay, the creators of the comic series Abducted. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as we did!
An Interview With Zach And Jay Of Abducted
Aaron Iara: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me this week. Please tell the readers a little bit about yourself.
Zach: So, I’m Zach, the writer, and this is Jay, the artist, for Abducted. We’ve been making comics in our spare time for…decades? Decades seems accurate. I think I drew my first when I was 8 or 9 years old. We’ve been making comics together since we met in college. About 18 months ago, Jay brought up the possibility of doing a long-form comic project, just to take the leap and make something substantial. We’ve been making mini-comics and anthologies together for a decade and a half, I think this jump into a 100 page miniseries is probably overdue in a lot of respects. We took the plunge, thank God, and are over halfway publishing this monster.
Aaron Iara: It is nice to meet you! Can you please give the readers a synopsis of Abducted?
Zach: The elevator pitch I’ve been using is if X-Files and Enemy of the State made a baby, and then that kid grew up reading Philip K. Dick and listening to late-night radio, it’d be Abducted.
Claire is one of our heroes. She’s discovered by this vast government conspiracy based on her social media posts. She’s keeping a blog about her weird recurring dreams to deal and the government, since they collect and analyze all internet content (which is happening in real life and the fictional universe we’re creating), determines she’s been abducted by aliens and so they kidnap her so they can study her. That’s where our comic starts off. Our other hero, Doc Marcee, is a retired radio show host. His show was successful, he had a following, and then he, stalled creativity and lost the plot. He’s in the New Mexico desert when the comic kicks off, trying to get a reboot for his career, but it’s not working and he’s spiraling into a depression. How his story intersects with Claire’s and what happens afterwards is basically what Abducted is about.
Aaron Iara: Abducted is a really awesome story. I also think the artwork in Abducted is fantastic. I specifically enjoy the creative paneling and lettering. How did you land on this style?
Jay: Thanks! I wanted to portray this story in a traditional comic book graphic realism style. Working digitally has allowed me to experiment with different approaches to that aim, which has led to the style evolving over the course of the story.
Zach: It’s especially fun to see how Jay’s style has evolved. We tried to make this comic 11 years ago, and so we have side-by-side comparisons of what he drew way back when and what he does now, and it’s pretty incredible. I got to watch him go from pretty good (I still really like those old pages) to just an utterly, utterly fantastic artist. So much fun to watch.
Jay: We are also working with an amazing colorist, Maja Opacic, who elevates each page with her colors, and her contributions are a huge part in the finished look of the comic.
The paneling starts off in a pretty standard grid format and as the story unfolds and becomes weirder the page layouts change and become more dynamic to reflect that.
Aaron Iara: Making comics takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Do you have any strategies/routines for maintaining productivity?
Jay: Set aside a number of hours each day or each week depending on your schedule to do the work. Don’t just create when the mood hits or when conditions are favorable. I usually thumbnail an entire chapter at once, then go over them with Zach, once all revisions are made I start to rough out a few pages, usually 2-4, and then create the final artwork for them, then I move on to a new batch of pages. It is a huge sacrifice of time to make this kind of art but that is the only way to progress.
Zach: I write throughout the week for Abducted, but every week is very different so I pick up time as I can. That’s why scheduling my weekends is important to me that I have a recurring block of time that I use to work on Abducted, come hell or high water. I pack my bags, bike to a nearby coffee shop, and basically just write until my computer dies. I’ll break up my day with a trip to the comic shop, maybe grab a beer while I finish up a session, but that initial focused block is where I get the majority of the work done.
That’s how I time myself, and put some pressure to stay focused. I also turn Focus on (literally) at my computer, because I’m just jittery and extremely easily distracted. I also try to sketch when I’m watching TV at home, or listening to training or research for work, etc. The more I can be intentional about the time I have, the better for my creative output.
Aaron Iara: I use weekends the best I can as well. I typically try to wake up and write from 5am-8am on Saturday and Sunday.
What are your biggest obstacles when it comes to making art in general? How do you overcome them?
Jay: For me it is time and subject matter. Working with a writer as talented as Zach takes care of the subject matter issue. Finding the time while working a full time job is also important. I will usually spend my weekends working on the book and a few evenings each week as well as some early mornings throughout the week.
Zach: Biggest obstacle for me is just the massive amount of content available on a day-to-day basis. For starters, it’s very seductive– consuming feels better than creating, for me at least. Especially when it’s artists at the height of their craft, y’know? I can either choose to make something in the cracks of my day-to-day life, trying to be a good husband and friend, etc., or I can enjoy this comic that artists and writers spent literally thousands of hours to create. That’s incredibly seductive. And then that leads to the second biggest obstacle for me, which is just staying motivated.
You look at what you do, you compare it to what other people have done, and it’s difficult, right? To put yourself out there, to push it out into the ether and believe that people will care. That’s a leap of faith! Artists and writers and musicians who create are people jumping off of a building and expecting there to be a trampoline of people who care beneath them. That’s a little crazy, in a good way. You have to be a little crazy to do something memorable sometimes.
My strategy is just to ignore 90% of what’s out there, honestly, and focus on what inspires me to create. Be extremely deliberate about the content I consume and when I consume it. I don’t want to read too many comics (or watch too many movies, etc.), or I’ll never get around to actually making something.
Aaron Iara: Do you feel that creativity is a skill that can be learned, or is it natural for some people? Do you find yourself being creative on command or do you wait for inspiration to strike?
Jay: I believe most anything can be learned with enough dedication and practice, including creativity. I try not to wait for inspiration to come because then nothing would get done. For me, inspiration usually comes while in the middle of doing the work.
Zach: Yeah, if you wait for inspiration to strike you’ll waste a lot of time that you could spend making things.
Aaron Iara: I am big on learning myself. I have this obsession with learning new skills. My friends jokingly say “give Aaron two weeks and he will be an expert on it”, haha.
Who are some of your favorite indie creators, comics or otherwise?
Zach: Comics I’ve loved lately have been Michele Fiffe’s Copra. I just reread that series and it’s brilliant, the energy and style he brings to a monthly comic, writing, drawing, coloring, lettering…it’s just staggering. I’m also re-reading Farel Dalrymple’s The Wrenchies which is beautiful and weird. I’ve really been digging Ben Passmore’s stuff lately; Dayglowayhole is this great, funny dystopian sci-fi series that doubles as satire and social commentary.
For learning about making and marketing comics, I always recommend Spike Trotman Twitter feed. If you want a front row seat on what running an indie comics publisher looks like these days, she’s someone to watch. Huge fan of her perspective on the industry.
Aaron Iara: I am a huge Ben Passmore fan myself! Do you have any advice for those who want to start making their own comics?
Jay: Find some awesome collaborators and work at it each day, even when you are not happy with your results. Everything improves with practice and mileage.
Zach: Start now! “Now” is the second best time to start making comics (the first best time to start making comics is a decade ago). I mean, our first comics are online. They’re rough. And we got better. I’m hoping that 10 projects from now, Abducted is going to look rough too, comparatively. The miles are what separate the pretty good work from the stuff we all love to read.
Aaron Iara: Do you have any upcoming events/projects/releases you would like to talk about?
Zach: Issue 4 is about to drop, so sign up for our mailing list to be notified of that. Each issue gets progressively more gonzo, I’m seeing Jay’s art for Issue 4 and the pages are just bananas. And we just keep ramping into an insane climax. If issues 1 through 5 were about carefully constructing the beautiful house you’d want to live in forever, issue 6 throws a Molotov cocktail through the kitchen window and just burns the entire thing to the ground. I love it.
As we’re getting close to putting the project to bed, we’re thinking about our next projects. We’ll break off for a bit and work on some smaller pieces separately a bit, just so Jay gets a break from me. He has some things percolating that I cannot wait to read, and I’ve been sketching some character designs for a smaller project I’m calling Kung Fu in Space as a working title. You can sign up on the mailing list or follow us on insta for updates on those too.
Aaron Iara: Thank you again for talking to me! Tell the readers where they can find you and your work.
Zach: Thanks so much of having us! We’re all over the internet. Read Abducted at Abductedthecomic.com. Follow our process on Instagram.com, at the Abducted account, mine and Jay’s respectively. Obviously if people have questions or asks, please reach out! email@example.com.
Check out Abducted Comic!
A huge thank you to Zach and Jay for taking the time to speak with me this week! Make sure to check out their awesome comic, Abducted.