Welcome to Self-Published Spotlight, a regular interview column where I will be highlighting self-published comics and the creators and small print publishers who make them.
It’s the last week of 2020, and I’m talking to Sam Locke Ward, creator of one of my favorite discoveries of 2020, the ’90s zine/mini-comic celebration that is ’93 GRIND OUT. The book is the ultimate ’90s comic (in the best way!) spiked with a punk rock attitude and D.I.Y. production. Sam’s passion for the medium is infectious, something that comes across both in his work and in this interview. So check it out and then check out Sam’s comics!
Monkeys Fighting Robots: Sam, first of all, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. I follow your social media enough to know you’re a busy guy! So for our readers that don’t know anything about your comics and yourself, why don’t you give us a rundown?
Sam Locke Ward:Hi Manny! I suck at interviews but here goes nothing…I’m a DIY comic maker and musician from Iowa. I write and draw my own comics and self publish them as zines. I am currently working on a few projects; an obscene faux ’90’s comic called ’93 Grind Out, a funny crime & horror serial called Voyage Into Misery with my collaborator Josh Mead and a bi-weekly strip called Futile Wrath for my local arts paper Little Village Magazine (side note: Futile Wrath won the Association Of Alternative News Media Award for the cartoon of the year, which was pretty wild.)
MFR: How did you great into comics? And How did you get into making comics?
SLW: I’ve loved reading comics my whole life and I’ve always dabbled in drawing from a very young age. I had low self-esteem about my visual art for a long time and making a full-blown comic always seemed insurmountable. In 2016 I had this epiphany that if I really wanted to make a comic the best way to do it was to just force myself to make one. I decided the best way to get better was to make A BUNCH of comics. So I took on this project to write and draw a monthly comic for a year. It was called Beasts Of Heaven. I made 12 issues of it (one every month!). It was an attempt to quiet my self-editor. Having a self-editor is good but it’s pretty easy to self edit yourself into complete nonproductivity. What I learned was it’s best to just make mistakes and take note of them instead of letting your mistakes completely rule your output. It’s better to make something that’s flawed than to make nothing that is perfect.
MFR: And what led you to self-publishing?
SLW:For me, I see self-publishing comics as an extension of the same philosophy as self-releasing music records. It’s really the same aesthetic. I came out of the indie-punk/ home taper music scene. I started putting out tapes, records and CDs in the late ’90s. Over the last 20 years, I’ve self-released well over 50 records at this point. I always just saw it as the obvious thing to do. You record your own records, you make copies yourself, you throw your own indie shows with your friends and you sell records at the shows. I just transposed that whole philosophy into making comics.
MFR: This year has changed the comics industry so much. We’ve seen a huge explosion in self-published work. As a self-publisher, why do you think indie books did so well this year?
SLW: Well, I’m as much a reader and fan as I am a “publisher” but I for one know I was reading a lot more this year! As a fan I’m a follower of artists. If a musician or artist makes a fan of me I’m gonna seek out everything they’ve done and follow their stuff going forward.
MFR: Where do you think comics are going in 2021?
SLW: I really don’t know where anything is going but I’m here for it. I’m personally planning on doing my best to keep making zines and comics at a solid clip for the foreseeable future.
MFR: Your books specifically are mini-comics. Why did you choose to put the books out like that?
SLW: I love zines! I think it’s a great format to self-release comics in. Earnestly full-size comics cost a fortune to print and ship. Zines are blue-collar comics, you can literally ship them in an envelope. Everyone can make zines and everyone should make zines. That’s one of the great things about comics. Literally, anyone could make the biggest blockbuster they can imagine. All they need is a writing utensil and paper. Comics is all-inclusive.
MFR: My personal favorite of yours is ’93 Grind Out, which you both write and draw. What inspired this incredible ode to ’90s comics?
SLW: At the beginning of the pandemic I felt completely stifled. I had one of the worst bouts of writer’s block I’ve ever had in my life. I couldn’t play music, I couldn’t write and I had no desire to draw. All I could do was stare at various screens and worry. A few months into it I started really thinking about and revisiting the comics that excited me when I was a kid (I was obsessed). And not just thinking about the comics I had read but I started thinking specifically about the unmade comic I wanted to create when I was a kid. Which was a multigenerational team book where people perished and others would come into the fold in this giant endless soap opera. Of course, I never did that! ha. But anyway I had this idea about wouldn’t it be funny or cool if I took that idea and crammed it into a 4 issue miniseries. Just let it be a bloodbath. Unlike 90’s books, there is no plan to try to use the characters ever again after this series. So I’m free to crash the car because I’m never gonna drive it again. That’s how I see Grind Out, I’m crashing an old car.
MFR: What a great way to put it! So, Voyage Into Misery, another one of your titles, is drawn by Meatbag. Who is Meatbag and how do you guys work together?
SLW: Meatbag is the great Josh Mead, an artist from Minneapolis, MN. He’s a long time collaborator with me on music and comics. He’s a respected noise musician and artist in his own right doing poster work for many Minneapolis and Iowa City bands over the last 3 decades. He draws The Human Coil stories in the Voyage Into Misery comic that I write. We’ve been working on it for a few years now. Human Coil is this paranormal gumshoe vigilante for hire. He’s the antithesis of the classic Ditko detective characters. Basically, we come up with ideas together over these long phone conversations, then I send Josh scripts and he turns them into beautiful comics. He’s an amazing artist and friend.
MFR: What’s your process like? Like what’s a usual timeline from concept to publishing? Do you assemble the books yourself?
SLW: Unless I’m writing for someone else I do everything on the page and I try all kinds of different experiments. I really don’t have a set process. I’ve never put together anything bigger than a zine together and yes I put them all together myself. If anyone has a zine I made I guarantee that I stapled it. Sometimes I work fast sometimes I work slow. Once I finish drawing it’s only a matter of days until I print it. I consider Ed Wood to be my patron saint. “Print!”
MFR: So how often would you say you make comics?
SLW: I work pretty manically, like either not at all or I can’t stop. I’m all over the place.
MFR: What are you working on now?
SLW: I just finished a short story for the “Jaws! Through The Multiverse” anthology comic. Now I’m juggling simultaneously doing ’93 Grind Out #3, the next Voyage Into Misery and the next Futile Wrath strip. I hope to have all 3 done by the end of December.
MFR: And where can readers find and get some of your stuff?
Assistant Comic Book Editor. Manny has been obsessed with comics since childhood. He reads some kind of comic every single day. He especially loves self-published books and dollar bin finds. 'Nuff said!