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.
Do you like outlaw comics? Do you like punk rock/metal? Do you like anthologies? And do you like to sometimes hang out in a cloud of ‘smoke’? Well if it’s a yes to any or all of these things, you’re going to love Knife Hits Digest, a self-published gnarly anthology comic by A.R. Paulsen (aka Gloom Wvlf Comix). Knife Hits covers everything from pot-smoking barbarians to ninjas, zombies and punk rock house shows; all of it has a fantastic and irreverent attitude. And so does Paulsen himself, as we at MFR found out when we had the chance to chat with the comix artist.
Monkeys Fighting Robots: First of thanks for taking the time to talk to us at MFR.
Adam Paulsen: Of course! Thanks for the opportunity. And thanks for picking up my comic.
MFR: Yeah man, I was already stoked having read issue one. Anyway for those who may have not yet picked up your comic, why don’t you give them the scoop on Knife Hits Digest?
Paulsen: Sure. It’s my black and white anthology series. Featuring stand-alone (mostly silent) stories. Intend to be read in one sitting. Inspired by a love for B movies and punk and metal music. From an artistic standpoint, each story is also a chance for me to practice a new way to tell a story or focus on a specific troupe. For example, the first story in Knife Hits #2 (zombie story with a punk skateboarding away from a hoard) is basically a chance for me to work out a chase scene.
MFR: That’s great. I love the idea of consuming a story like that, in one sitting. I also love that your book is an anthology. Comics need more anthologies.
Paulsen: I feel ya, when I was a kid some of my favorite stories were ones I could just digest in one sitting. I mean there’s a time and place for epics, but as I got older I had less time to buy five to six issues to complete a story.
MFR: So the stories are consumed in one sitting, but I’m sure it’s a much longer process to put the bad boy together. So what’s your process like for a story? Like where and how do you start?
Paulsen: I start with layouts and thumbnails. Fuck with those for a bit. And then move to pencils on Bristol board. I work most of my motion and dynamics out in pencil ( probably the longest part of the process) and once I’m happy with that, I go over it with blue pencil and erase the OG pencils. Then I add my inks and tighten up a lot of my rendering here. After that, it’s grey tones in photoshop do want to use screen tones at some point, but shits pricey and hard to find.
MFR: What about the printing process? What’s that like?
Paulsen: Oh man, that was an adventure!
MFR (laughing): Okay, tell me about it!
Paulsen: Well, it took me a sec to find a printer to work with. When I started out making my comic I knew I wanted it to be cheap. Cause I can’t stand it when comics are $5 or more. And as a rookie, I really felt my book needed to be super affordable. So that ruled out like all my online printing services. So I started shopping around locally and everyone was charging crazy prices, cause I think they thought I wanted to make a book. Finally, one dude got what I was going for and got me a barebones price. So I got my books down to about 1.67 an issue for #1 of getting the deal was the place printing it was crazy disorganized and they have to be babysat otherwise it doesn’t get printed (I actually went in and helped them print issue 2 (laughs), that’s why it didn’t take a month like last time (laughs). The second issue was a bit easier because it was fully funded by issue one and I knew how to deal with the printer (laughs). Also, hand cutting 500 comics makes your eyes blur (laughs).
MFR: That’s awesome about issue one paying for issue two. That’s not common so quickly. So when did you get into comics? And what led you to self-publishing?
Paulsen: Always had a love for them, but as I got older and life happened comics kinda worked their way out of my life. My artistic outlet for a long time after that was playing in bands and writing music. But about four years ago, after not having been in bands for a good year or two I was really missing a creative outlet. So I started painting and doing pen and ink drawings for friends album covers and flyer art. And then at the beginning of last year (2019), I started rediscovering comics (all my outlaw shit from the 80s and 90s) and around the same time found “Cartoonist Kayfabe” on YouTube. After listening to those dudes for a few months I decided to get up the courage to do my own comic. So almost this same time last year I started the thumbnails for issue #1. And I decided to self publish because the bands I used to be in were all DIY, and had a strong work ethic in regards to self-promotion and not waiting for someone to do something for you.
MFR: I can totally see the punk flyer art in your work. There’s a total ‘zine feel to Knife Hits Digest.
Paulsen: In my mind Knife Hits is like my “demo” (laughs).
MFR: That’s a great analogy.
Paulsen: I looooove zines. When my last band toured we always had a large selection of zines at our merch table.
MFR: Where did the title Knife Hits come from?
Paulsen: So are you familiar with what a knife hit is?
MFR: No. No clue.
Paulsen: It’s one of the worst ways to smoke weed…
MFR (laughing): I’m ashamed I didn’t know that. But that is fantastic.
Paulsen: So it involves heating up two kitchen knives over a stove or toaster. Once they are literally glowing you drop a chunk of resin (gnarly black pipe scrapings of leftover burnt weed and spit) then press the other hot knife on top of the other, stick your face over it and inhale. Hahaha. It is horrible. I named it that because it’s a gnarly intense way to get high, kinda like my comic; a really quick gnarly little dude.
MFR: Now I love the title even more.
Paulsen: I’ve only done it a few times back when I was in my twenties and didn’t care. But now that I have access to good weed, I can wait to get high (laughs).
MFR: Do you have a favorite among the stories in Knife Hits so far or one you would say is the definite one to read?
Paulsen: It’s hard to pick, they all have a special place in my heart. The hessian one from the first issue where he basically goes to Narnia I really enjoyed cause I got a chance to kinda build a mini world (draw a bunch of different environments and stuff). But ‘My War’ also holds a special place in my heart cause the event isn’t real, but the location and all the people in that comic are the homies I used to go to house shows and play in bands with. So that one was fun and nostalgic to draw. Taking the time to put real people in a story was fun.
MFR: Before I forget I gotta say I love how you use corner box art with a price. And also how you have changed the logo too.
Paulsen: Thanks, man! I love corner box art (laughs). The inspiration for that was totally X-Men: Grand Design by Ed Piskor. His corner boxes are dope.
MFR: Oh yeah. I have a nice print I made out of one of his corner boxes up on my wall.
MFR: By the way the design of your cover is great.
Paulsen: Thanks man, an homage to Cap #1 (Nazi punching!). In art and spirit (laughing).
MFR: So will some of the stories and characters be recurring?
Paulsen: Yes, The Bongbarian has a three-part story that I have mapped out. His second story/ origin will be in issue 4. Have rough layouts done for that one. I’m excited to draw him again. And I think the second story will add some depth to his character and show his motivations for his killing spree. The Hessian is also going to be a reoccurring character of sorts, he’ll be in issue 3. And after doing My War I want each issue to have a story based of some real-life band/ tour shenanigans ( cause I have a bunch of great stories from touring days). And with Issue #3, I’m starting a recurring martial arts storyline called ‘Karate Island’.
MFR: Oh, now THAT sounds awesome
Paulsen: It’s based on Mortal Kombat and JCVD movies (laughs).
MFR: Perfect! Or should I say “ Flawless Victory!”. So how long do you plan to keep Knife Hits going?
Paulsen: I have so many stories I could go for a minute. At the moment I have five issues mapped out, and my original goal was to print at least four.
MFR: Are there any other projects you want to do or are working on outside of Knife Hits?
Paulsen: After four issues at least I’m going to re-evaluate things. Consider doing a story in color, possibly raise the price, and start shopping it around to publishers. I’m doing album art still, and I’ve been working on an idea for a children’s picture book too actually. To totally boil down the kids’ book, I’d want it to be about a kid using music to cope with difficult emotions.
MFR: That’s diverse my dude. Awesome!
Paulsen: Thanks, brother!
MFR: Where’s the best place for folks to find your work?
Paulsen: Right now it’s my website gloomwvlfart.bigcartel.com and Empire Comics in Sacramento, Ca. I keep wanting to get them in more shops, but I’ve been selling out before I can distribute any!
MFR: You got a bestseller right there.! Well, thanks for taking the time again. We will eagerly away Knife Hits #3 over here at MFR!
Paulsen: Thanks! Very much appreciate it!
You can follow A.R. Paulsen on his Instagram (@gloom.wvlf.art) and you should.