In the first instalment of ‘Let’s Talk Comics’ we talk with Son and Sam of SCSM Comics who have just finished their Kickstarter campaign for their comic ‘A Vampire in Paris’.
Sam is a queer freelance artist known for her character designs, concept work and witty sense of humour. She has been drawing professionally for over 10 years and dedicates her time to telling new and original stories through her artwork.
Son is a queer Muslim freelance writer who actively works in comics, and is known for her work in ‘TEETHING’. She is an active fan of horror and monsters and often complains about the lack of positive representation of POC mythical creatures.
‘A Vampire in Paris’ is a queer love story that follows two bartenders at the Spade, a bar located in the heart of Paris. Kara Belmont is a working college student, studying Art History by day and spending her nights filling up empty glasses. It’s a weird bar, packed with interesting patrons. But the most interesting person of all seems to be her own coworker. Selma Nazari seems to only work at night and is rather mysterious, not to mention unearthly beautiful. Despite her calm disposition and incessant teasing, Kara is sure that Selma holds a terrible secret.
There’s no doubt about it: She’s a vampire.
Let’s dive straight in!
Sam, how did you get started in illustrating? Was there a moment you can recall where you really fell in love with it?
- I was in 3rd or 4th grade when I stumbled upon a good old show called ‘DragonBall Z’ on Toonami. I thought the style and animations were so cool I just had to recreate them and it kinda kicked off from there. I had always been into drawing and doodling as a kid but I really fell head over heels in love with it after drawing Trunks an absurd amount of times.
Sam- What inspired you to go the comic book route with your artistic skills out of all available mediums?
- Fun fact, initially I didn’t want to do art as a career/profession at all. I kind of fell into the freelance thing out of necessity and realized that it was awesome and I love doing it! As for going the comic book route, that falls on Son actually! I was not confident in my abilities to do full comic page work initially but after freelancing for 2 years and Son shoving me into a locker and demanding I go into comic work I decided to take the plunge! Setting up the kickstarter and producing the sample pages really solidified my confidence and how much I enjoy it!
Sam- What character would you like to give a full makeover to and why?
- If I could give any character in AVIP a makeover it would probably be Levi. And I only say this because she’s the type to change her appearance most often. I also love drawing and coloring hair and she has a lot to work with.
- If I had the choice to give any character a full makeover I would laugh at myself and say “I can give a full makeover to any character I want” because I do. One of the things I love drawing the most is redesigns of characters that I like. Be it “what they look like in 20 years” or just full on AU designs, the possibilities are endless!
Son- Was there a defining piece of work for you growing up that made you realise you wanted to take up the writers mantle?
- As much as I want to say ‘Dragon Ball Z’, I think the most defining pieces of work that convinced me that writing is my passion were R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike novels. I used to read the dime horror novels (the ones on a lonely rack at my library) religiously all throughout elementary school. Was I too young to be reading that? Yes. Did I like them immensely? Hell yes.
Son- What is your favourite scary movie?
- ‘Let the Right One In’. I used to read it once a year in high school because of how much I adored the writing. The Swedish film is amazing and paints my favourite type of horror: slow moving.
Son- Who would you say your biggest inspirations are?
- There’s so many. In literature, I’m just like any other post-college student with a knack for writing. Which means I like a lot of works by dead white male authors. Thankfully, Afrofuturism is saving my life. But no matter how much I read, anime that I grew up with and learned to appreciate as an adult really shaped me. My biggest inspirations are Ghost in the Shell, Cowboy Bebop, Akira, Berserk, and other shows from that era. Also, Hellboy changed my life.
Son- Which famous classic horror creature/ mythical creature would you like to reimagine and why?
- The Bride of Frankenstein because I really want to examine her under the points brought up in the essay A Cyborg Manifesto by Donna Haraway. I also think it would be wild to examine how we do AIs and Cyborgs in science-fiction as a form of Frankenstein and his bride in a setting that leads you to believe that artificial advancements are the future. It’s a cool reversal.
I love these thoughts on The Bride of Frankenstein, AI and Cyborgs, I had not even considered how much those things align! That would make for a fascinating topic especially with AI being the hot topic that it is!
How did you find the process of raising funds on kickstarter?
Sam: It was nerve racking initially. Especially because for me it was my first time running a kickstarter. We both took the time to go over successful and failed kickstarters to get a general picture of what we’d be dealing with on both sides. It was a lot of “what to do and what not to do”s.
Son: It took a bunch of research and trial and error. Sam is excellent at creating a schedule and together, we made airtight plans. In the end, it’s great to have support and to work with someone you trust. It’s hard, but exciting.
What advice would you give someone looking to self-fund on sites like kickstarter?
Sam: PR IS YOUR BEST FRIEND. Seriously. Don’t feel bad about boosting your projects 3-4 times a day and being active with your audience. It’s the best way to show that you’re in it to win it! CONFIDENCE IS EVERYTHING!
Son: It’s okay to be a little shameless. An issue I had to jump over was my inability to promote myself. You need to ignore that little voice and be shameless. Tell all your friends, tweet about it nonstop, bring it up whenever you can. It’s only for a month, you gotta be your own hype man! Learning how to PR is important.
What have you found the biggest challenges for you as women in this industry?
Sam: I like to think that I’m incredibly lucky for choosing to go into the freelance industry over a big name comic book corporation. Crowdfunding is a game changer because it opens up opportunities to female identifying artists to explore stories and styles that suit them and their experiences. Instead of some old fart at the top of the totem pole doling out slices of “The same shit we see all the time”.
Son: As someone who’s been working to get into comics, the freelance industry is a great place for women. Or it’s starting to be. As a female identifying writer, I’ve been on the short end of the stick, that I’m not “taken seriously” about certain genres, such as horror and science fiction. Jokes on them because with the growing community of freelance projects and crowdfunding, women and other marginalized groups are finally building their own platforms with their own stories and variations that are creative explosions outside the major publisher comic book industry. ALSO WHY DOES EVERYONE SHY FROM TWO FEMALE LEADS?
What advice would you give to creators just getting started?
Sam: DEADLINES. ARE. YOUR. BEST. FRIEND. I’m a big fan of deadlines, especially because I’m a freelancer and have to make my own schedule. Setting simple deadlines for yourself helps keep you on track and gives you a sense of accomplishment whenever you meet one! Always ALWAYS set deadlines that are simple to achieve so you aren’t just setting yourself up for failure. Having a friend (Like Son) to help keep you on track is super important too. Working with a friend or a small group helps with the workload as well, but always remember that this is work and to succeed you need to put in the work.
Son: DONT. GIVE. UP. As someone who really struggled with making the content I want to be seen, not giving up despite all the times I failed really got me into the position where when working with Sam, I was so prepared. It takes a while, it really does. There’s nothing immediate about comics, no instant success. Kickstarter makes it look like projects happen overnight but it was the cultivation of ALL of my past experiences, my active engagement on social media, my practice in writing that eventually lead me to Sam and the confidence to push this project forward. Don’t crumble after failure because you’ve already learned how to do better the next time.
Which comic book character do you wish you had created and why?
Sam: Jason Todd. Specifically new 52 Jason Todd. New 52 Jason Todd is a trainwreck that totally derailed his entire character from what he was initially. Jason Todd is the physical representation to Bruce that “You can’t win 100% of the time without casualties”. His death was a symbol that sometimes Batman fails, and that being a hero doesn’t mean everything works out in the end. And Jason Todd also countered the norms, he came back ANGRY. In superhero comics, back then being ANGRY wasn’t a hero quality. He defined antihero to me, and I’ve always been more partial to antiheroes because it really drives home the conflict of being a, you guessed it, VIGILANTE. Also I’m a firm believer that if any character in DC was bisexual it’d be him.
Son: Jason Todd. Specifically new 52 Jason Todd. He comes from a place where not a lot of Robins do and it shaped his character, eventually leading him into the path of an antihero rather than the “benevolent” Batman. He’s an outlier in the Batfam, and he holds certain values that I really vibe with, especially due to his upbringing. That you don’t have to be perfect to be good and you don’t have to bend to societal norms to make a difference. The new 52 kind of forgot about all the qualities that made him so special (to me anyway) so I wish I owned him. Plus, he looks cool as heck and if there was one character in all of DC that would have absolutely been bisexual, it’s Jason Todd.
What are the pros/ cons of working in this field?
Pro’s: You work for yourself when you crowdfund. You make all the artistic decisions, the financial decisions, all the deadlines. You don’t have to comply with any decisions from higher ups or deal with “bosses” because you are your own boss.
Cons: It’s all on you. It can be incredibly stressful to successfully fund, manage and complete a large project on your own. There are a lot of different factors to take into account that you need to be ready and/or flexible for. If you’re not good at organization then this field is going to be rough for you.
What advice would you give for women looking to break into this industry?
Sam: Share your work. Apply for those jobs. Take that leap into freelance or crowdfunding. Even if you think you wont make it, or you’re not “good enough”, or you don’t “meet the qualifications” put yourself out there. There is always an audience for every story.
Son: Support each other. Your best support is from people who resonate with your work. And it’s not easy, but nothing worth having really is. Don’t be shy to put yourself in your work. A common misconception is that you have to write like those dead old white guys I mentioned above to be considered publishing worthy or literary and the answer I have to that is: fuck that. There’s a uniqueness that comes from your own self that no one can imitate. So why try to imitate what’s been done when you can show your own spin? And again, don’t give up!
Would you say there is a shift in the diversity within this industry? What in your opinion could readers do to ensure that the industry moves in the right direction?
Sam: I think the industry is slowly making the attempt to move in the right direction. I’m gonna reiterate “Slowly”. In my opinion showing support, both with your words and your wallet is key to moving in a more diverse and inclusive direction. Yeah we’re sick of the same rehashing of the same story, so put your money where your mouth is.
Son: Show your support for the things you want made. Don’t just say you want more queer or female led stories, actively engage and support with creators who are trying to make these stories. The comic book industry’s favorite go-to argument is that there is no active audience for these types of comics. The only way to counter that is to support the people trying to make them. And I do think it’s happening. Image Comics have been pumping out some amazing female identifying artists and writers. The indie scene is RICH with stories by WOC. And I think the industry is beginning to take notice.
What is next for you guys?
Sam- Hopefully, after the completion of AVIP, we plan on making our own webcomic, as a team. We’re lucky to work with each other as we often act as foils and complete what the other person needs. SO MORE DORKY COMICS, I GUESS. We’ve got a dark comedy planned so fingers crossed.
Big thanks to Sam and Son for giving us some insight into their process and their thoughts on the comics industry. The Valkyries chose to back AVIP during it’s Kickstarter campaign and we are thrilled that it smashed it’s target and will be going to print! If you want to keep up to date with Son and Sam you can find them here: