I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Tom Hutchison, creator and writer of Indy comic ďPenny for your SoulĒ. As soon as I read Penny for your Soul I just knew I had to get an interview with Tom, luckily for me he gladly obliged. Hereís what he had to say.
Liam Bradley: First of all, Tom, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Thomas J Hutchinson: I knew Abraham Lincoln
LB: Well thatís not true at all.
TJH: About me...well I love comics. I have since I was like 10. No matter what Iíve done in my life work wise I have always wanted to be in the business of comics, whether it be selling, making...whatever. I grew up with parents that tolerated my hobbies, but I donít think they ever really understood them. I was what you might call the black sheep of the family. I did things my way...whether success of failure...it was on me but thatís the way I wanted it.
LB: What was your first introduction to Comics?
TJH: I stumbled upon them actuallyI went to a flea market when I was a kid. I saw comics on a guys table and I didnít think twice really. I saw one book that connected with me instantly; it was Marvelís Godzilla, #16 to be precise. I was like GODZILLA HAS A COMIC BOOK??? So I dropped my quarter down and took it home and was just enthralled with the idea of a Godzilla comic. So the next week I went looking for more and it just grew from there. Godzilla to shogun warriors, shogun warriors to bionic man and bionic man to whatever came next. Then eventually into the superhero realm
LB: Who is your all time favourite comic character?
TJH: I grew up on star spangled tights and golden lassos...Wonder Woman hands down. She is probably the most influential character in my life and is the reason many of my leading characters are female.
LB: What inspired you to eventually start writing comics?
TJH: Iím not sure there was actual inspiration. I had/have a project that a partner and I have had with us for a very long time and one day I thought to myself...you know...this would make a cool comic. So I sat down and started taking all the little pieces of our stories that were fragmented and scattered and tried to make a cohesive storyline. I fleshed it out a little and sat down to draw it, that was the beginning of it. As I drew it I realized that art was not going to be a part of my comic book career and so I gave that part up and concentrated on the story.
Not long after that I decided that a character I had created as I took college courses could be a comic book as well and thus Critter was born...though she went through a massive metamorphosis over the course of 5 or 6 years to get to where she is now.
LB: If you could write any series of your choosing, what would it be?
TJH: Wonder Woman, in a second. DC...give me a ring!
LB: What makes wonder woman so appealing to you from both a readers perspective and creators perspective?
TJH: OK heres the honesty. As a kid I bought Wonder Woman Ďcause she ran around in her underwear and got tied up a bunch in addition to fighting monsters and such. But also one of the coolest things about Wonder Woman is her connection to Greek mythology. I have always loved that stuff. So When George Perez revamped her after Crisis...it was better than ever...minus the bondage though. Wonder Woman is a tough character to really explain the reasons for enjoying her. So many people have told me...they just donít get her. Sheís a warrior on a mission of peace, so while she CAN kick your but...she would rather not. For me itís interesting to see how a super hero can defeat an opponent with mercy and kindness, because thatís a lot harder than punching them in the face.
Now as a writer I think she would be a challenge. Her highest point both sales wise and recognition wise was during the Loeb Deodato run. They amped her up but in the action and in the sex appeal, so itís clear what a comic reader wants to see out of her. As writer how do you amp her up like they did but also keep her grounded...and not have to wear a thong like Deodato gave her? I think there is an answer to that question and I'd like to show everyone one day.
LB: Who are some of your major influences within the industry?
TJH: This will be an odd answer for a supposed comic book writer. i never paid attention to who was writing comics growing up, even now It only barely registers with me. I enjoyed books that LOOKED great. Art Adams, George Perez, Wendy Pini and yes Todd McFarlane. I donít care what anyone says about that guy...he did it his way and look what happened. If you look back to my earlier answers I think you might notice a connection there.
LB: Youíre currently well under way on production of two projects, one of which is ďPenny for your SoulĒ, which I have read and loved. Could you tell us a bit about that comic and what inspired it?
TJH: Penny...wow. Penny was never supposed to be what it is. But as I started to think about this demon character I wanted to write about it slowly took the form of what it is now. A demon with a chip on her shoulder who wants to get in on the End of Days battle for the fate of mankind and the world. Even at its inception it was not going to be so steeped in religion. I have long had my own thoughts on religion, actually more about how it is used that the actual worship. The book gave me an opportunity to play in a religious sandbox. I coupled that with my favorite place to visit, Las Vegas, and suddenly I had a setting for one of the most interesting interpretations of the End of Days...as well as a nice story twist I hope. People will be uncomfortable with this book in some cases. It portrays many biblical characters including jesus in ways that are OUT of character sometimes. But that's kind of the point. No one stays the same forever. But God has a plan for us all, even if it seems out of character....
LB: Itís definitely a controversial title, albeit a phenomenal concept and premise. You mentioned that Penny is different now from what it was originally intended. How has it evolved, and has it maintained your original visualisation in terms of artwork?
TJH: Penny evolved from a simple character that would be able to be put in any situation or setting so I could just have some fun writing crazy stories to what I describe as a "religious/gangster" story. Artistically, this book has taken on a life I didnít realize it could have. Wonderful art by JB Neto and colors that I couldn't have begun to think about from Oren Kramek. I thought it would be fun, sexy, little edgy certainly, but it's given me a real opportunity to kind of reconnect with religion as I study characters and prophecy to get the most fun out of this book as possible. Itís a combination of biblical prophecy and pop culture in the modern day. I think it's working so far.
LB:. Going back to the visual side of things. How did you go around recruiting you art crew? What was the deciding factor when finally choosing a Kramek and Neto? Iíve said it before and Iíll say it again, itís one of the most professional looking comics Iíve seen come from the indy community.
TJH: For Penny For Your Soul I placed ads on Digital Webbing. I took plenty of responses, and I even got 3 samples from a single studio which is where JB works. All three had their plusses, but JB's work...it just was a notch above. And I think readers will agree that he has gotten better with every page that he has done. It's like Christmas every time I get pages in my email. Iím looking at layouts for issue 3 and even those are great because I can imagine how they will turn out in penciled form.
As for Oren, same thing, Digital Webbing ad He was the absolute last guy I took samples from after having the ad up for about...3 weeks or so. He boggled my mind. You have to be prepared to wait for the guy you want or you end up with half assed comics in most cases. Don't be afraid to wait and find the right guy or gal. When you hit the right combination of talent, man it is amazing and feels great when you see it on the printed page.
LB: Could you tell us a little about Critter and what inspired you to create her?
TJH: Critter was inspired by my boredom in business class. I was out of my mind bored taking classes again after being out of school for like a year. I could NOT get back into the swing of it. So I was so into comics and so were my friends at the time. I sat in the back of class and created her as a way to teach myself how to draw, she hung around with me though. I drew her a lot. Costume changes, I love new costumes...so now Iíve got my own character and I can put her in anything. Cool! But she evolved. Suddenly had a...bad...story. the story evolved, she changed costumes.
Unfortunately she was a product of the 90's bad girl genre. So it took about 3 years of work to build her up to where she is now in story and in design. Originally she had real...like...big ears. But those gave way to the tech style ears, same with the tail. Lots of changes for her and I am having a blast now. I have a ton of stories for her, all with a back-story that will build up as we go. Fun stuff! All her issues are going to have cool guest artists on the covers. Todd Nauck is on her origin issue and Ryan Ottley has done his cover for issue #1 of the regular series.
LB: I know you currently donít have a publisher for either project, what would be the dream here? Which publisher do you really want to see your babies in?
TJH: Well Penny is basically a world unto itself. It doesn't have to really fit in to any particular universe. Somewhere like Avatar would maybe work. Critter honestly was designed with Image in mind. She fits the superhero universe they have there very well so I am really hoping this works out and she gets in there. But either way I am prepared to publish on my own with my company Big Dog Ink
LB: Well youíre doing something right because as soon as I saw Critter I immediately thought of Image. You briefly mentioned you company Big Dog Ink. What exactly is Big Dog Ink?
TJH: Big Dog Ink is a collaborative between myself and Stephen Smirl to promote our books. It will also be a masthead for our publishing venture if we are not picked up by other publishers. For the time being people can go to bigdogink.com and see what we have coming. We will be making our first appearance at a comic convention October 2-4 at the Long Beach Comic Con. Critter, and Penny for Your Soul should be all set for the public and we may have some other cool stuff ready too. So please drop by and say hi and see what's going on with Big Dog Ink
LB: This is probably a stupid question, but do you have any more stories in you? More importantly, do you have any thatíll be coming in to fruition any time soon?
TJH: I actually have multiple stories floating in my head constantly. I have a giant monster story, a western and a couple that fall into the horror category. I may just bite the bullet and do an anthology for all this stuff and get some feedback on my ideas before jumping headlong into all of them, but my next book will probably be Ursa Minor which is a sort of horror/fantasy type of thing. Vampires, black magic and carnival freak shows...what more can you ask for?
LB: Before we close up, I can't let you go without you giving us information on how to purchase Penny for Your Soul and any of your other projects when they are eventually ready?
TJH: For those of you that are familiar with Indy Planet, Penny is there now but we will also have it for sale on bigdogink.com in a couple weeks and us starving artists/writers would appreciate a direct sale...just saying. We are also going to be available through haven Distributors. So if you guys want to get Penny or Critter into your local shops have them call Haven and order some copies! We will be making our attempt to invade the Diamond catalog in the next couple months as well, so watch for us! But above all else, we have a plan to be making a large convention circuit tour next year starting in January with some local shows and then up to Emerald City and such in the early part of the year.
Check out my review of Tom's creator owned comic "Penny for your Soul" here