Filed under: Interviews | Tags: Alan Moore, Amnesia, Arcana Comics, Dwayne Harris, John Henry:The Steam Age, Richard Corben
We’ve been fortunate here at Comics Anonymous to pick up some amazing indy comics outside the regular big name publishers and Dwayne Harris has been impressing us with his take on some popular folklore in John Henry: The Steam Age having had 3 of it’s 4 issues already released through Arcana Comics – all reviewed #1, #2 & #3.
With creator-owned work proving a big source of quality its been interesting to see a classically trained artist like Harris step into comic books in much the same way as a number of artists do – crossing different types of media from books, to comics, gaming and more – take a look at his website and you’ll see some highly detailed work from across those genres.
Time for a spot of Q&A with the writer/artist on all things Steam Age and comic-booky.
Was John Henry: The Steam Age a story you’d wanted to produce for a while?
I first had the idea around two years ago while I was still working on Amnesia for Arcana. After Amnesia I was looking to try something different and a little less “reality-based”, so the idea of creating this steam-powered universe around the legendary figure of John Henry just suited me perfectly. I worked up a proposal and showed it to Sean (O’Reilly), the C.E.O./founder of Arcana, at SDCC last year and we had this totally synchronistic moment. It turns out he had just the day before been discussing starting a line of Steampunk books. It was almost weird. Especially considering the first time I met Sean and pitched him “Amnesia”, he had been looking for more “reality-based” books. It’s like we’d come full-circle!
Did you enjoy having both writing and artist duties on John Henry?
Very much. Even though my career to date has mostly been focused on my art, I’ve always loved writing. As a kid I could never decide whether I wanted to be an artist or a writer. Even in college I couldn’t resolve that dilemma completely – I majored in Art and minored in Creative Writing. A huge part of the appeal of comics for me is that I don’t have to decide – I can do both.
It seems a pretty logical step to have a legend like John Henry linked with a steam punk element – what was the inspiration for that?
Doesn’t it? I was surprised no one had thought of it before. Like I said, I wanted to do something more “comic-booky” after Amnesia, something with a strong heroic character. But creating a superhero book didn’t really inspire me. Then one day it just hit me, isn’t the story of John Henry essentially the very first “Man vs. Machine” story? And since his famous race with the steam drill took place in Victorian times, like you said, it seemed only logical to give it a steampunk twist.
What are you currently working on?
Finishing up John Henry. I’m so close. Sometimes I feel akin to the big guy himself, just swinging away, trying to keep up with it and all the other projects I’ve got in the works.
Do you have any favorite artists/writers in the comic book world?
So many, but my biggest influence in the artist department is definitely Richard Corben. I get compared to him a lot. At Comicon this year, I was showing Brian Pulido the first issue of John Henry and he called me “The son of Richard Corben”! I was deeply flattered. Even though I’ve never made a conscious effort to “ape” Corben, there’s no doubt he has influenced my work. And as far as writers, I barely know where to start! Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison, Daniel Clowes, Peter Bagge, Scott Snyder and more recently Jeff Lemire, just to name a few.
Are there any characters you’d like to write/draw from other comics?
Yeah, several. I love doing my creator-owned books, but you can’t bet the exposure that comes with working on a high profile, licensed title. I did a Warhammer series with Kieron Gillen back in 2008 and that was a great experience. I’ve never done a superhero book, but I’d like to try my hand at one of the “Big Two” characters someday. I also think I could rock Conan, either as a writer or an artist. Actually, I’d be absolutely thrilled to have a go at almost any of the Dark Horse characters. Or the IDW ones, for that matter.
Will there be more of John Henry?
You never know, Gary.
Do you read any particular titles just now?
For sure. I’m on a huge Jeff Lemire kick at the moment. I’ll read anything the guy does, both his creator-owned stuff and all the writing he’s been doing for DC. AND he can draw, as well! I think the Underwater Welder book he just did for Top Shelf is the best comic of the year so far. Otherwise, I follow the Walking Dead, Scalped, All-Star Western, Butcher-Baker, the Righteous Maker, Creator-Owned Heroes, some of the New 52 titles, as well as a dozen others I’m forgetting. I also try to keep up with what my fellow Arcana creators are up to, of course.
Have comic books always been an area you wanted to work in?
Yeah, ever since I was a little kid. When I was ten years old I used to make these comics by folding notebook paper, stapling them together and drawing inside them. I had my own comic universe. Then my teacher caught me drawing one when I should have been working on a math assignment. To my surprise, instead of punishing me, she put them all up on the bulletin board in the back of the room for the other kids to read. Pretty soon, my classmates were hooked on my comics and I would sell them the latest installment of their favorites on the playground for 25¢. They weren’t the only ones that were hooked – since then, I’ve never wanted to do anything else but make comics!
Get hold of the first 3-issues of John Henry and Amnesia over at the Arcana website:
You can catch up with some of Dwayne’s earlier work at his website:
or across on Facebook:
Good to hear more from a writer/artist working on a title I’m currently enjoying and I’m still counting down to the final issue of John Henry and even better with a teaser about the possibility of more….I’m psyched for issue 4 as is. Hoping to get hold of more of his previous comic book work as well and wishing him all the best with this and future titles.
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