David F. Walker has made his name with a slew of comics projects, including the excellent Bitter Root and Naomi. Now, though, he’s taken to Zoop (a comics-centric crowdfunding site) to launch perhaps his most personal (or most personally-oriented) project to date.
Launched just days ago, David F. Walker’s Imposter Syndrome is described as the “next best thing to hanging out with” Walker, and sees the “neurotic” scribe tell stories that run from comedy and urban act to tales of zombies and sci-fi epics. (Walker is joined by artists Steve Willhite and DJ Parnell, among others). There’s also some tips and tricks and behind-the-scenes stuff, and all of that together creates a project that feels like a profound conversation with one of the industry’s most entertaining and thoughtful minds.
Ahead of the campaign’s launch, we spoke with Walker via email, where we discussed the book, the power of personal storytelling, his favorite moments and story tidbits, and much more. And if you’d like to contribute, the campaign runs through May 6.
AIPT: What’s the elevator pitch for Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter Syndrome is collection of short comics, all written by me in an effort to prove to myself that I’m not a total loser, drawn by various different artists.
If there is any sort of connective theme, aside from the fact that I wrote all of the stories, it would probably be “mental health.” But it’s not heavy-handed or preachy. In fact, depression has never been more hilarious than it is in “Attack of the Depression Monster.”
AIPT: What was the genesis of the project? Is there something to a kind of cross-media gathering of goodness?
DFW: It all actually started two different ways, both during the start of the pandemic. First, I was asked to contribute to three different anthologies, and I had a great time. In each case I got to work with artists that I’d always wanted to collaborate with, and I also wrote stories that I really felt good about. That process got me to thinking about the opportunities provided by doing shorter stories—specifically, the opportunities to work with great artists like Michael Lark, Gustavo Duarte, and M.D. Bright, and to simply have fun making comics. I had a few ideas for other shorts kicking around in my brain, so I decided to find some artists to collaborate with.
My original plan was to publish each of these shorts as mini-comics and take them with me to conventions, but as the pandemic dragged on into 2021, it became clear that I wouldn’t be attending that many conventions. At the same time, the cost of paper and printing began to skyrocket, and eventually it got to a point where it simply made more sense to publish a single book than four or five mini-comics. Honestly, if there had been more of an actual convention season in 2021, and if the cost of paper and printing had gone off the charts, this collection may have never come together. But now that it has, it feels pretty good.
AIPT: What’s it like working with several different artists at once? Does that add a bit of chaos that then makes things more fun/exciting?
DFW: Working with the different artists that appear in Imposter Syndrome was incredibly fun. Since most of the stories were done in 2020 or 2021 it never got too chaotic, and since the longest story is only sixteen pages, everything was pretty manageable. If this goes well, which is to say if people like it enough, I want to do another collection, but this time work with more of a mix of established artists and newcomers. If I could write a short and hire someone like Howard Chaykin or Walt Simonson to draw it, it would be amazing. I did an anthology for Humanoids – First Degree – and Michael Lark was the artist. Under normal circumstances, I might never get the opportunity to work with someone like Michael, but it was a short, and Humanoids was covering the cost, so it worked out. I can’t afford to hire someone like Howard Chaykin to draw a 200-page graphic novel for me, and he’s probably too busy. But a six pager seems reasonable.
AIPT: Press describes this as “the next best thing to hanging out with David F. Walker.” Is it the most personal thing you’ve done? What do we actually learn about you?
DFW: Honestly, these really are some of the most personal stories I’ve ever done in comics. “Attack of the Depression Monster” was written during a really dark time in my life, and it was me trying to find humor in a really bad situation. “Bully” is the first chapter in what will eventually be a graphic novel memoir about my experiences growing up and dealing with bullies. Even “Crash Landing,” which is a sci-fi story with no dialog is a very personal story about isolation, loneliness, and finding the strength to endure under the most difficult of circumstances.
But there’s actually more to Imposter Syndrome than the stories. At conventions I get a lot of people asking for advice on being a writer and making comics. If you catch me at a convention, I’m often sharing my insights about the creative process, which I really enjoy doing. I also get people asking me for samples of my scripts, or asking how I approach aspects of writing. I’ve tried to put a fair amount of that stuff in this collection. There are script samples and process pages, and bits of commentary for several of the stories. Before I decided to collect these stories into a single book, they were going to be a series of mini-comics, each with a certain amount of back matter that explores the creative process. It was funny, because one of the stories is only six pages, but at one point the supplementary back matter was more than double that length, in part because the script was unusually long. I managed to cut it down, but there’s some valuable information to be found. In fact, I’ve been teach a writing for comics course at Portland State University, and I’ve used some of these shorts as examples for my students to study.
AIPT: Do you have a favorite story or moment in this collection?
DFW: The final pages just came in for “Crash Landing,” a story drawn by an incredible artist named Steve Willhite, and that was a great moment. There are two stories by Steve in Imposter Syndrome , and he’s hands down one of my all time favorite cartoonists. We’ve known each other for a million years, but only recently worked together. When I came up with the idea for “Crash Landing,” I wanted to do a story with no words – the entire story is told visually. That can place a lot of burden on the artist, but it also can make it seem like the writer didn’t do much. And as I was looking at the art for “Crash Landing,” I thought to myself, “Well, s--t, people aren’t going to know I wrote this, because there are no words here, which is what I wanted, but now it feels weird.”
AIPT: There’s some great tips and behind-the-scenes stuff here. Do you have any advice (or things to avoid) for would-be creators?
DFW: It’s better to have a really solid eight-page short comic that is completed than it is to have an epic, two hundred page graphic novel that is still being “developed.” You learn so much about the creative process by just finishing something, and it is much easier to finish something short and manageable. No one ever told me this, and the first part of my career is a path littered with the bodies of projects that were never completed—and all of them were long and complicated projects. Every single unfinished project felt like a failure, and ultimately I wasn’t learning a valuable part of the process, which is how to finish what you start.
But I’ll take it one step further—look at the stuff created by EC Comics back in the 1950s. When it comes to the craft of comic storytelling, it doesn’t get any better than what guys like Harvey Kurtzman and Jack Davis and Al Feldstein and Bernie Krigstein were doing in Weird Fantasy or Impact, and none of those stories were longer than ten pages pages.
AIPT: Should more creators put out stuff like this — to “dump” on their fans, as it were?
DFW: Most definitely. I’m fortunate in that I have the opportunity to work with different publishers, and I get paid to write comics. But sometimes I have stories that I want to create that don’t have a specific home, and I’ll hesitate to do them, and that’s ridiculous. Whether or not I’m getting paid, or whether or not I have a publisher lined up, shouldn’t get in the way of expressing myself, nor should it for anyone else. And this is not to say that everyone should put together a collection of shorts and self-publish them, because that kind of insanity ain’t for everyone. But I don’t care if you’re an established creator or someone looking to breaking into comics – if you want to make comics, then make the damn comics.
AIPT: Why should anyone pick this up?
DFW: For every three copies of Imposter Syndrome that are sold, an angel gets their wings.
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