COMICS CREATOR INTERVIEW: Joe Schmalke and Rich Woodall

We had the wonderful opportunity to do a short interview with the creators of Scout Comics' The Electric Black. In doing so, they helped us get some insight into the minds and stylings of the duo and how they worked together to make their horrific love child: The Electric Black!


Up first is Rich!


Christian Gonzales: Is The Electric Black your first venture into comics as a creator?


Rich Woodall: I've been creating comics and working professionally in one way or another since 1994. I've got several creator owned properties (Johnny Raygun, Sgt. Werewolf, Zombie Bomb, and Kyrra: Alien Jungle Girl) and have done work for IDW, Image, and Dark Horse Comics.


CG: What came first when building the story: The Cast or The Setting? In your story both seem equally important, I love to see the way the world unfurled in its creator's eyes.


RW: Julius and the shop were created at about the same time, he's changed a bit from where we started, but he and the shop went hand in hand. June, Jack, and later Roy came, as Joe and I talked about the story and where we wanted to go with it. By the end of us laying out the first issue we had a pretty good idea of the core group of characters. As we develop the second and third issues we've added a second tier of characters that are going to keep the book interesting.


CG: What's it like to co-write/co-illustrate a comic book? You and Joe wrote a seamless story; how did you guys manage to get in such great sync for this story?


RW: I've worked with several other creators and tried to bring those experiences to the table while working with Joe. The first issue is always the hardest to get past, you're both trying to get comfortable in your roles, and feeling each other out as to how to exactly work together. I think we did a really good job with the first issue. A lot of people don't realize there's an art swap in the main story within the shop itself. Now that we're deep in the second and third issues, we're starting to hit a groove, and have smoothed out most of the rough parts of working together.


CG: As a teacher, I like to find ways to inspire kids to push their talents to the limits, especially in the arts. Who/What helped push you to mature your artistic talents in a way that you could present them in the comic book medium?


RW: Like I said, I've been working in comics since I was 16, I'm pretty much a self motivator, you really have to be because when it comes down to doing the actual work, for most people you're alone. But the things that push me are the couple of close relationships with other artists I have.


We share artwork, ask for suggestions or tips, and just all around support each other and the work that we're doing. As for pushing talents to limits, the best advice I can give is never get to a place where you feel comfortable. If you feel comfortable you're probably not pushing yourself. There are always things you can work on: hands, expressions, body language, backgrounds, etc. If you get to a place where you're satisfied with your work, most likely it's just you stroking your own ego, and you'll never get better. I know a couple guys like that. They're just satisfied drawing the same thing over and over, same old poses, using the same techniques.


I try to go at every new project with the mindset of "how can I make this different than the last project I worked on, how can I make it better?" Because if you're drawing a superhero book, you probably want one look. If you're doing Conan, I'd want to make it more gritty, organic, than if I was doing some sort of Sci-Fi, I'd want something different. The balance though, is never be satisfied with your work, but don't let that cripple you into not being able to produce work. Something I learned early on was this motto "finish the page, the next one will be better." It's super-important to hit deadlines and do whatever it takes to be responsible for what you've taken on. If you screw up on deadlines too many times, you won't get work anymore.



And then we have some words with Joe!


CG: Is The Electric Black your first venture into comics as a creator?


Joe Schmalke: No, back in 2011 I had my first published book The Calamitous Black Devils. It was at first self-published but after issue #2 Broken Icon comics picked it up. It was made into a graphic novel and had worldwide distribution. After that I did The Infernal Pact and then Cherry Blackbird both are self published. I do the writing and artwork for all three of those books.


CG: I've found most people read before they write; what did you read that inspired you to write? Comics? Novels? Something completely different?


JS: I watch a lot of History Channel and true crime shows. Not sure exactly what inspires me other than when I have a good idea for a horror story. I stay in my wheelhouse of horror most of the time. I enjoy other genres but that's not what I want to create.


CG: What's it like to co-write/co-illustrate a comic book? You and Rich wrote a seamless story; how did you guys manage to get in such great sync for this story?


JS: Rich is generally a really nice person so it's easy to toss ideas back and forth. Being able to compromise is always a key here as well. Also, you have to realize when you are world-building with someone else, you are going to fight...and we do. But, you have to remember you are only fighting because you are both convinced you have the solution to a problem that needs to be solved and the other person is not trying to ruin the project, they are trying to make it better.


Me: As a teacher, I like to find ways to inspire kids to push their talents to the limits, especially in the arts. Who/What helped push you to mature your artistic talents in a way that you could present them in the comic book medium?


JS: I'm always trying to make a better product; sometimes I succeed, sometimes I hate what I've made. As a comic book artist, deadlines are as important as the quality of the work. Sometimes you just aren't going to be totally satisfied with what you do and it's important to be able to move on and not get hung up on something that won't let you achieve your ultimate goal, which is finishing a product. I have a few artists I really look up to and hope to achieve their quality of work on a regular basis. I think it's important to always be improving and pushing yourself a little further with each story.


CG: Considering we're only one issue in, I'm sure there's still loads we haven't seen about The Electric Black-- do you have any hints you can drop about what your new readers can expect from The Electric Black and its inhabitants?


JS: I think people are going to be surprised as to where the book takes you in year one. After that, hopefully everyone will realize that the one thing you can expect is that you have no idea what's about to happen next. Rich and I are purposeful about creating that air of suspense and surprise.



I have to close by giving these two thanks for fitting some time for me in their busy schedules!


It's not everyday we get to see some of the inner machinations of comic book creators.


They even drop some potential life lessons for our readers!

  • Keep striving to do greater work than you did before

  • Trust in your partners; build with each other, not against each other

  • Turn the page, the next one can always be better

Be sure to pick up The Electric Black if you haven't already! Both covers are still available at Midtown Comics! Stay Tuned for issue #2, due out July 31!


A quick note: I would have been clueless about the art swap had Rich not mentioned it! Remember when I talked about how seamless their work was in my review of #1?




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