This was originally posted on Halloween day of last year, but since has been removed for personal reasons. Nevertheless, it remains a highlight, as Tom is both a good friend and a highly gifted creator. Enjoy the interview, and for the sake of Pete, go and enjoy the comics.
Toy Boy: Strangers With Candy is now available for order via Haven Distributors! Your local comic shop can use the TOYBSPI002 book code to order.
Toy Boy is back just in time to celebrate Halloween! But what’s this? Toy Boy hates Halloween! Find out why as our hero battles the forces of the evil confectioner Sugar Daddy in this fun filled all ages treat! Includes an Honor Brigade back up story and a special Halloween pin up by Paris Cullins.
Professional Fanboy: First of all, let me say thanks for taking some time away from making awesome comics to answer some questions for the fans. The number one thing I’m wondering is what you’re going as for Halloween. But, I’ll let that stay a secret, and we’ll go ahead and dive straight into the questions.
Tell us a little bit about your bad self, Tom.
Tom Stillwell: Howdy. I’m Tom Stillwell. I live in the great city of Chicago with my wonderful wife and amazing daughter Miranda. I like long walks on the beach and the smell of napalm in the morning.
PF: What’s Tom Stillwell’s pull list look like?
TS: Well, my pull list is getting shorter these days as I read more books digitally on my iPad. I’m pretty varied in my reading…everything from DC’s recent World War II books to Walking Dead to Stuff of Legend. Avengers Academy has been good. I’ve also been digging Magnus, Robot Fighter from Dark Horse a lot. Gotta throw some love at Gail Simone for Birds of Prey and Secret Six.
PF: If I were to lift the lid on your long boxes, what books would I find? Which ones are a little more loved than others?
TS: I don’t actually have a whole lot of long boxes anymore. I’ve never really collected comics as most people do. The story is why I collect comics. The physical books don’t hold much value to me once I’ve read the story. Recently I purged and gave away or sold most of my books. I’m glad that those books are now available to other people to read and hopefully pass on as well.
But I did keep some of special value. The entire run of Planetary has a fond place in my heart as does Astro City. I still have many of the Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans books.
PF: What’s your biggest fanboy moment?
TS: I spoke with Kurt Busiek on the phone once. Kurt called me at work to discuss a story he was writing for a charity anthology I am editing. I am a huge Astro City fan. It was my lunch hour but I was way too nervous to eat that day.
PF: Spinner Rack only releases All Ages titles? What was your reasoning behind this?
TS: Yep, all ages comics. Not kiddie books but book everyone can enjoy.
My reason is simple: Kids love comics and mainstream comic book publishers don’t consider young readers an important demographic. I do.
More importantly, comics are an important tool in getting kids to read. My wife teaches second grade and the kids are just devouring the spinner rack of books she keeps in her classroom. She has kids that are weak readers and don’t like to read grabbing for books of that rack.
Kids want comics, kids need comics. I’m going to make sure they have good ones.
PF: In Spinner Rack’s short existence, you’ve already published . . . 8 comics and a trade, right? They’ve all featured Honor Brigade or Toy Boy. These are really fun, over-the-top characters. Before we get to Toy Boy and his adventures, what can you tell Professional Fanboy’s readers about his cohorts?
TS: Yes, eight books and a trade.
The Honor Brigade is an interesting bunch.
The de facto leader, Lightning Rod while very powerful and confident on the surface, is wracked with insecurity. Lightning Rod likes to help people but he’s worried he won’t measure up to the world’s expectations.
Slam, invulnerable and super strong Slam, Slam is afraid. Slam’s body is literally becoming too strong and tough. He can’t control his strength or feel anything. That’s great when fighting bad guys. Not so great when you’re a single father with a young son.
Mystery Girl is a mystery even to herself. She has no memory of her past and no idea how her powers work. Mystery Girl can mimic the powers of anyone she comes in contact with but she has no control of them. She might be super fast one minute and then reading minds the next.
Deadeye is a composite being created by fusing the spirit of a dead cop with that of a young reporter. This new being was created to do Heaven’s bidding on Earth. Holy justice courtesy of ghostly guns.
SUIT was a scientist that left the Earth behind because he wanted nothing to do with humanity but now would do anything to reclaim his own. He has become one with the power armor he created, now not either fully man or machine.
PF: Your comics are all 32 pages without any ads, yet the cover price is still $2.99. Do you look for this to stay in place for the long haul? Could you, maybe, mention this philosophy to the rest of the comic book industry?
TS: I will do everything I can to make my books affordable for the readers. I want to give the most bang for the buck.
I’m not really sure why mainstream comics cost as much as they do. Printing costs next to nothing for them. Yes, they have to pay creative talent and cover production. Shouldn’t ad revenue cover that? Comics are filled with ads! Between trade and now digital revenue publishers should be able to decrease prices even further.
But what do I know? I don’t have a giant corporation pulling my strings.
PF: I was checking out the What Happens In Vegas YouTube video, and there’s a couple of high praises from two of my all-time favorite comic creators, Gail Simone and Mark Waid. Do you just sit and re-read those quotes over and over, or is it enough to know that you’ve struck the right chord with Spinner Rack’s core character?
TS: It makes me very happy to know that people I respect a great deal like my work. I know that there is room for me to grow as a writer but with their approval I feel like I’m on the right track.
PF: Marvel has What If? DC has Elseworlds. If you could put Toy Boy into one of these imaginary tales, who would he interact with from the “Big Two” and how would that go down?
TS: I’d really like to do a story with Toy Boy facing off against the Joker, maybe over the affections of a Ms. Harley Quinn. Throw in some Batman and Plastic Man. I think that would be a pretty fun book.
Over at Marvel I’d like to do a Toy Boy/Ant-Man tale. Not Henry Pym…Eric O’Grady. Both O’Grady and Toy Boy are similar characters. Both are morally flexible but still trying to make good as heroes despite their pasts. Pit them against Arcade perhaps?
PF: I’d love to see Toy Boy with Plastic Man, but I’m more interested to see Toy Boy’s attempt at replacing Harley’s Puddin’.
Ok, Future projects? Can you talk about any upcoming HB or TB books you might have planned? Anything non-HB or non-TB to be on the lookout for?
TS: I’m working on a new Honor Brigade mini-series now for next year that will essentially features every character in the Spinner Rack Universe. As a reader I love to discover new characters and if that floats your boat too, this is the book for you.
Aliens invade Earth and every hero on the planet answers the call, routing the invaders. Unfortunately for the Honor Brigade things are not what they seem.
I’m working on some non Spinner Rack stuff that I’ll be pitching to other publishers soon so keep your fingers crossed.
PF: I’ve read all of your books, and I just have to say that the art blows me away. What’s it like getting the next Jethro Morales or Bradley Bowers art page in your inbox?
TS: Getting new pages from an artist is always a big thrill for me. As a writer it is pretty cool to see your words become a page of sequential art. Working with Brad and Jethro has been a great pleasure.
PF: What about those Tim Seeley covers? Out of this world.
TS: Tim is a good friend and great artist. The cover for Strangers With Candy was actually Tim’s birthday present to me.
PF: Oh, how cool.
TS: I’ve seen advance pages from Tim’s new Ant-Man/Giant Man mini-series coming from Marvel soon and they are amazing! Go get it!
PF: One of the things I’ve put forth in an earlier column was I believe every fan has at one time or another picked up a comic, and thought, “Wow. I’d love to do something like this.” Can you speak realistically about the ups and downs to pulling something like this together?
TS: Downs first. Self publishing comics is a massive resource sink. Making comics for me is a second job.
I script and edit. I handle marketing, sales and all the accounting. I do all the promotion. I have to pay a team of freelancers out of pocket. There is a lot involved.
Hopefully one day I can just write comics full time without having to do the publishing part of it.
Now the ups. I’ve developed some great friendships over the years with other pros and with readers. There’s nothing I love more than a good convention.
People pay me to use my imagination. That’s the greatest job ever.
PF: Thanks for the candor, Tom. Now, Final Question Time: Candy Corn – love it, or reeaaaallllllyyyy love it?
TS: Love it. Now gimme a popcorn ball…lurve it. Really lurve it!!!
Thanks-a-million, Tom for the great interview and sharing a little about your Toy Boy Halloween special. Hopefully, I can hit you up later on for an update. Take care!
If you’d like to follow the further adventures of Tom Stillwell and his gang of miscreants, you can check out the following links:
http://www.spinnerrackcomics.com/ (Learn more about the Spinnerverse, including where to purchase your soon-to-be favorite comics.)
http://www.toyboyonline.com/index.php (Here, you can even join the Toy Boy fan club.)
See you all next week where I’ll discuss . . . well, more fanboy stuff!