Welcome back to Webcomic Spotlight! Today we are joined by Abby H. Howard! Abby has two webcomics out Junior Scientist Power Hour and (recently launched) The Last Halloween. Both are fun, entertaining comics but today’s interview will focus on The Last Halloween. Abby’s style on the comic alternates between whimsically funny to deeply macabre. It is a joy to jump between styles in the story for quick laughs and frightful chills. I feel Abby is if not at the top of game clearly on her way there. Feel free to pop over to her comic as soon as you finish this interview and prepare to fall in love with her characters, especially Ringley.
Abby Howard: It was definitely newspaper comics that first got me interested in comics. I liked the humor in the three panel strips. But I quickly moved on to dark fantasy and horror comics, but I tended to enjoy the light-hearted books more.
AC: What is the first comic you ever read?
AH: I’d been reading newspaper comics as far back as I can remember, but I think the first long-form comic I really picked up was Johnny The Homicidal Maniac, because I liked Invader Zim so much (as if that wasn’t obvious from looking at The Last Halloween).
AC: What has been the most influential comic or story you ever read?
AH: Watership Down. I’ve read that book so many times, I could probably write out it out word for word. It’s a story about these cute bunnies, but it’s like no other story about cute bunnies– they still act like bunnies, they don’t live in little houses or write books or wear clothes. And, best of all, they fight and bleed and kill, stuff no one associates with gentle little bunny rabbits. For all intents and purposes, it’s a kids’ story, but it is far from childish. I love that!
AC: When did you decide you wanted to make comics?
AH: Probably around 8th grade, so age 13. I’d been convinced that I wanted to write books and be the youngest person to ever release a novel, but my novel was HORRIBLE and Christopher Paolini beat me to it anyway. At this point I’d read a lot of graphic novels and had started to respect comics more as a medium, and I’d always wanted to include illustrations in any book I wrote, so I decided to turn the novel into a graphic novel and it was still horrible. The novel I wrote in middle school will never see the light of day. NEVER.
AH: When I was 10 or 11, I tried writing this terrible comic that was basically a rip off of Sluggy Freelance, but we won’t talk about that one. Forget I mentioned it, it never happened. The first real comic I worked on was a short-lived comic in Dramatics magazine about a Drama Club, written by a family friend. I was 13 and I have no idea why she hired me to draw her comic, I was TERRIBLE at it. We got one piece of fan mail and it basically said “the artist you hired is terrible, what were you thinking.”
AC: How long have you been drawing?
AH: Forever! There’s never really been a time when I wasn’t drawing. Except for a year in University when I tried to “do better in school”, hahaaahahha (it didn’t work)
AC: How long have you been working on your art skills?
AH: Due to my innate desire to be better than other people, I was always driven to be the best artist I could be, so I constantly put effort towards improvement. My high school had a rather developed arts program, so I suppose that was when I actually worked on drawing skills. But then I went into sciences because formal arts education made me angry.
The most formal training I ever really went through was at NC Governor’s School, which was a very strange place that taught me to “do whatever you want. Really. Don’t listen to us, just do what is IN YOUR HEART” which was the best art advice I was ever given.
However, for all you young stubborn artists out there: figure studies, still lifes, and proper anatomy are very important artistic tools and you HAVE to learn those things in order to draw anything (yes, even cartoons.) But after you practice that stuff you can follow your heart and etc.
AC: Have you ever been published before?
AH: Besides the aforementioned Dramatics magazine, I have never been published! Not for lack of trying, of course. I sent submissions to publishers for years, first with my horrible middle school graphic novel, then with the beginnings of what would become The Last Halloween.
Unsurprisingly, I was never picked up, as I was a teenager and my stories and art were just… awful. But I will always remember which publishers actually responded, and will hold a special place in my heart for them.
AH: The Last Halloween is a horror/adventure story about a little girl named Mona, who, along with her unusual ensemble of friends, is tasked with saving humanity from legions of horrible monsters!
AC: What inspired you to create this particular story?
AH: It’s a combination of three or four other stories I’d had floating around in my head. Two of the stories were loosely based on dreams, and one of them involves a cast of characters I created for a school project. But most of the story came from me just sitting around thinking nonstop about the world and lore, usually while I was supposed to be studying or doing other important things. That’s always when I come up with the best ideas.
AC: How long does it usually take to go from a script/idea to a finished page of art?
AH: With longer updates, which tend to be 10-12 pages, it can take about 4 days. Usually, though, the updates are only about 5-7 pages with simple backgrounds, which takes me about 2 days.
AC: Are you working digitally or with pen and inks for this project?
AH: I use all traditional pen and ink. Traditional inks have a different quality than digital, and it just makes me so happy to use pen and paper!
AC: You set up a kickstarter to work on The Last Halloween and CRUSHED that goal! Congratulations! How was your kickstarter experience?
AH: I went into the Kickstarter not knowing how to do things like ship or package or even where to get things printed, so it was not going to be easy, especially since I was so vastly over funded. But a year later, shipping is done, The Last Halloween is doing extraordinarily well, and I am a full-time cartoonist. It was difficult and stressful, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything! I finally get to do the thing I have always dreamt of doing. Plus, now I know exactly what to do for the next Kickstarter.
AC: How did it feel to meet the goal and pass it?
AH: The goal was met in about 17 minutes, then it was all uphill from there. It was a little scary, but mostly I was just so glad I finally had something to point to and say “I am successful.” Not only that, but I’d always been poor, so having actual money to buy things was an incredible concept– the day it ended, I bought clothes at a Giant Tiger without feeling bad. It was amazing.
AH: I know there is definitely going to be a Volume I book, and Kickstarter does seem like a good way to fund it, but we’ll see! Maybe I’ll be able to finance the book through some other venue, but Kickstarter is the most likely candidate. Hopefully not in the next 7 months. I need a little time off from fulfillment!
AC: What advice do you have for people who would like to start their own webcomic?
AH: Make comics! Nothing is going to happen to you if you don’t start making comics, and putting them up for people to see. Use Comicpress as a website if you can’t code, and put your comics up! Don’t be discouraged! Do the thing!!
And don’t wait to do it, especially if you think you “aren’t skilled enough” to make it. Sometimes I look at TLH and think of how much prettier it would be if I’d waited for a few years until I was more skilled, but waiting is not the answer. It will never be perfect, so just do it! Launch it! Don’t wait because nothing will happen to you if you wait!
AH: The comics I keep up with the most are Nimona by Noelle Stevenson, Monster Pulse by Magnolia Porter, Cucumber Quest by Gigi DG, and Gunshow by KC Green. I also read all the comics the other Strip Search cast members make, like Clique Refresh by my roommate, Amy T Falcone!
AC: Do you have an all time favorite creator? Be it music, manga, books, comics or movies.
AH: I really enjoy Clive Barker, if only for his sometimes innocent or sympathetic monsters. But my favorite creator has to be Guillermo Del Toro, whose creature designs, use of practical effects, and rich stories always thrill me! He is so distinct and innovative, I want to be like him someday. I secretly hope that he will read my comics and think I’m cool, then of course we’ll get coffee and talk about monsters… sigh.
AC: What’s next for you?
AH: I have many plans after The Last Halloween ends. There are still probably a couple of years of TLH, then I know exactly what I’m going to do, but that’s all a secret!
AC:How can readers best support you and your work?
AH: You can buy things from me in my store, donate through Paypal, or just visit my site to bring me ad revenue! I’ve also been considering a Patreon account… so keep your eyes peeled, kids.
AC: Thanks for your time Abby, I look forward to many more pages of The Last Halloween and what ever else you decide to work on.
Well gang, if Abby’s charming demeanor hasn’t enticed your curiosity please read the following page of The Last Halloween featuring my favorite character Ringley. If you have any praise you’d like to share with Abby she can be reached on Twitter and The Last Halloween is always waiting for you. Thanks for joining us and see you next time!