Mike Schneider: Interview with the man behind The Steampunk Anthologies
Interview by Diogo Carvalho
Thank you very much, Mike, for letting us know a little bit more about you and your work and also to let us spread the word about this great opportunity for authors around the world – The Steampunk Series project. Hope you all enjoy this small chat with the man behind the Steampunk Anthologies.Mike Schneider guest-speaking at the Lewis Carroll Society of North America’s 2014 Spring Conference at NYIT ( Photo by: Christina Cole )
Who is Mike Schneider, the man and the artist?
I am an experimental artist in the truest sense: testing hypotheses with clearly defined controls and variables. My work falls under the umbrella of ‘anti-art’. Anti-art inverts priorities of traditional art by putting concepts, logistics, and context over techniques, aesthetics, and content– then courts chaos rather than relying on convention to fill in the gaps. It’s all a question of which aspects of production define a creator’s art as their own. Since my work focuses on different details, collaboration is symbiotic. Between gallery shows, animation, comic anthologies, and various other art productions, I get to work hands on with a few hundred to a few thousand international creators each year.
..and what´s your relation with comics?
I learned to read from comics and subtitles. Living in the states, I grew up on mostly DC and Marvel ( favorite superhero: ‘The Awesome Slapstick’. ) The 1990’s saw a major drift from issue-length stories to maxi-length events which drove me from most of my pull list. New publishers and titles started gaining shelf space but so many of those series were canceled before they paid-off the setup that I became cautious about getting invested in any new series. I turned to one-shots, self-contained mini-series, anthologies, non-canonical stories, strips, etc. As quickly as those maxi-lengths drove me off most on-going series, these books made me fall in love with the short-form.
How did you come to be part of the comics industry, especially at Arcana comics?
I started in fine arts– working in series. When you want multiple pieces to be viewed as part of a larger whole, you need to think about presentation and consider the space between them as part of the artwork. I learned to shoot and edit video to document these presentations but it dawned on me – if most people were going to see these works through video then I should make those videos my art. My work shifted from painting and sculpture to animation and media art.
Technology rapidly changes what’s possible in the fields of animation and media art. Rather than following the trail of obsolescence, I focused on concepts and logistics. Collaboration started as a litmus test to see if my ideas were too esoteric ( if people couldn’t get excited about taking part then the idea wasn’t ready for an audience ) but I quickly realized that allowing other creators to take a piece of my projects and make it their own, didn’t make the sum of those parts feel any less mine.
My first large scale project was Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated. International artists and animators explored the cult classic through their own styles/ media then I arranged their responsive works in sync with the film’s audio to create a kaleidoscopic video track. Files would take hours to render and so a number of us began producing short comics in the downtime. The first comics I had published were in exchange for promotional space for NOTLD:R– but it wasn’t long before I had dozens of shorts in varied periodicals and anthologies.
I am not on Arcana’s staff. I work with different publishers on different projects. Sean ( CEO of Arcana ) messaged me one night on facebook asking if I would like a page and pass the link along. We got to talking, I showed him some of my work, he told me about what they had coming up, and within a couple of hours, we launched the first call for Steampunk Originals. Our collaboration is amicable but not exclusive.
What is the Steampunk Originals series?
Art of all styles, stories of all genres, and creators from around the world: this open-call, comic anthology presents a kaleidoscopic look at the steampunk theme.
Arcana is launching an imprint of steampunk themed comics, also called Steampunk Originals. They are scouting the resulting volumes for talent and properties that connect with the audience and they feel could carry their own book/ series. As terms are non-exclusive and all comics/ properties remain creator-owned, anything beyond the anthology is negotiated directly between the publisher and creators.
Anthologies can be a tough sell but they are a fantastic platform for growth and development. It’s easy for modern fans/ creators to forget that even DC and Marvel grew from anthologies. A publisher can get a sense of what it’s like to work with someone, if they can deliver on a deadline, how well they read guidelines and take criticism, if they promote the release, which stories and styles connect with the audience, etc. This allows them to take more chances and then make smarter choices. [ If you’re a publisher looking for something specific to round out your catalog, email me at email@example.com and we can discuss if a similar anthology would be a good fit for you.
For those who want to be part of the Steampunk Originals Series, what should they do?
Join the Volume 8 group ( www.fb.com/groups/SteampunkVol8 ). Full details are posted to docs under the files tab. The deadline for this 8th and final volume is December 15th.
The anthology has already 7 volumes, and is scheduled to end at volume 8. There´s artists of the entire world including Portuguese. Are you satisfied with the results so far?
Am I satisfied? No. I’m an artist and we can always do better. Easy to learn but impossible to master– the romance of art is asymptotic. Am I proud of what we’ve already accomplished? Absolutely.. but never satisfied.
What advice would you give to anyone, writer, penciler, inker, colorist or letterer, trying to submit to the anthology?
Read and communicate. The docs are quite comprehensive ( including the very rubric which is used to evaluate submissions and make selections ). More submissions which don’t make the cut can be traced back to someone not reading those docs rather than any sort of error in execution. Most of the stories which fail to launch and never make it to submissions are the result of poor communication. Life happens.. plans change… communicate so the people you’re working with can adjust accordingly. If communication is good, you can be critical with one another and catch each others mistakes early.
You also write short stories for the anthology. Is there any desire of your own creator owned comic project?
Yes and no. Most of the comics I’ve written for this and other anthologies are creator-owned. Some short stories are with repeat collaborators and feature reoccurring characters. It’s certainly possible that some of them may be collected into their own books.. but I love the short-form so I’ll continue to write short comics.
Even his comic characters read comics.
Do you follow any comics series? Which ones?
“Walking Dead” and “Injustice: Gods Among Us” are currently my only exceptions in terms of on-going series. I make an exception for them because they are on-going series with consequences.. though Walking Dead has been on the bubble since the end of ‘All Out War’.
I read the newspaper strips almost every day.. some of my favorite strips are ( current ) Brewster Rocket, ( modern classic ) Calvin and Hobbes, and ( classic ) The Nut Bros: Ches and Wal. I also read a fair amount of one-and-done web comics on comic-rocket.com and PD Golden Age comics on digitalcomicmuseum.com.
Chris Duffy’s Bizarro Comics!, Paul Pope’s Strange Tales.. Elseworlds, Marvel Zombies/ Noir/ 1602/ etc ( Marvel needs an umbrella term it’s Alt-Universe stuff ).. Thor: The Mighty Avenger and other non-canonicals. I’m still a DC/ Marvel fan but they don’t make it easy for fans who love the mythology but don’t care for overcomplicated canon and issues with more loose threads than woven stories.
I’ve shelves full of one-shots, collected trades, anthologies, early works/ collected works, and archives. All together, I read a lot of comics but most of the comics I’m reading don’t require you follow them with the promise of future entertainment.
What are the main sites where fans can follow Steampunk anthologies?
If we’re talking about steampunk anthologies in broader strokes sites like airshipambassador.com are a great resource. The “Steampunk Originals” fan page is tinyurl.com/SPOFan.
Teacher and Comics Author
note: originally published at Universo BD, September 17th 2014.