Interview with Eric Adams creator of comic mini-series, Lackluster
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You have a background fine art, web design and animation but
with Lackluster World, you work exclusively towards a print
end. With the means to expand the depth, look and feel of
Lackluster World via the web or other multimedia formats,
why did you choose to deliver Lackluster World in print?
ADAMS: The impulse to create Lackluster World struck
me while employed as the art director of an ad agency. I had
been there for several years and although the job gave me
a great deal of skill and experience, it also drained me creatively.
The types of projects I designed/directed could never satisfy
my thirst for accomplishment. As they are obviously intended
to do, they instead satisfied the marketing needs of businesses.
The theme behind every project always came from an outside
source and always ultimately equated to, "Sell more things.
Make more money."
Those years were spent pushing pixels and rarely was I given
the opportunity to do anything tangible. It is a bit ironic,
and I suppose rebellious too... I was and am highly skilled
at web design and animation yet I hardly considered expanding
LW to any multimedia or animated format until recently. The
reasoning behind that is something I still have not quite
figured out for myself. Perhaps, the dissatisfaction brought
on by all of that non-tangible design work combined with the
withdrawal of actually drawing made me believe LW might be
tainted if it were to be anything but a hands-on experience.
That fear has somewhat guided me on different levels and has
resulted in a more visceral product both for myself during
the creative process and for readers whom enjoy it.
All of that aside, I have embraced the digital age and LW
does have a strong web presence, albeit promotional. There
are many sample pages online, but they act as a tease and
do not have the same impact as the printed book.
In your biography found at lacklusterworld.com you say:
"Before he made it to kindergarten, Eric Adams knew
that art was what he wanted to do with his life. For the following
twelve years, that desire was his only available solace as
he became the target of a constant yet subliminal array of
religious propaganda in the disguise of education. Fortunately,
he survived the ordeal. He went on to college to enhance his
creative skills and continued drawing. Lots of drawing. Drawing.
Most art drawing curriculums are centered on drawing in black
and white---or "grayscale" which is the style you
deliver Lackluster World in. Obviously, it is cheaper to print
black and white, but your publishing house is called "GenEric".
Fahrenheit Monahan, the protagonist of Lackluster World, is
an albino aiming to escape his "mono"-chromatic
malaise. Discuss the literal and figurative themes of "black
and white" in the development and creation of Lackluster
World. Should we look for color issues later on?
ADAMS: One underlying theme of LW is that everything
is the generic and eventually repeats itself. It is integral
to the story and the characters. This theme, however, is not
specific to LW and is something I hope to continue in other
projects – hence the name "Gen: Eric Publishing."
The idea of standards and all things being generic is something
I have always seen buried within the reality of my experiences.
The repetition of school, the routines of previous jobs, past
relationships, the predictable small-talk and body language
that comes with meeting new people. Everything either has
a pattern or a large number of people are trying to fit it
into one so that they may achieve a particular goal. That
goal might be classify you into a certain target audience
to better market products to you... or it might be to designate
you as either for or against "the terrorists"...
or to convince you that 1. there is only one, true God and
if you do not worship him, you will 2. burn in Hell.
Fahrenheit Monahan is an ironic antihero. He is an albino,
yet he is the most colorful person in the grayscale landscape
that is The City. Jaded from a lifetime of being ridiculed
because of his condition, he has forced himself to see beyond
people's actions and routines and into their true motives.
Regarding printing in grayscale: LW is a great example of
using a cost limitation to an artistic advantage. Printing
in sepia tones or maybe in spot color was a consideration
for a short period of time, but it became apparent that this
is a "lackluster" piece of work and the lacklusterness
would be better translated in standard black & white.
I doubt there will ever be a full color issue of LW, although
the covers have touches of color.
The character Kelvin Monahan, Fahrenheit's obnoxious brother,
is described as going from neighborhood bully to becoming
a born again "fundie" (fundamentalist Christian).
It seems in your portrayal, little has changed. Kelvin has
traded one kind of antagonism for another. Discuss the inspiration
for Kelvin's character, what things we should expect as Kelvin
unfolds in the storyline being Fahrenheit's nemesis?
ADAMS: Kelvin is a culmination of emotional and social
torture I experienced during my education. To my dismay, thirteen
years of my life were spent in a Catholic school and I am,
in fact, an Atheist. A very open one, too. To me, Kelvin represents
all the attempted forcefulness and conversion that I had to
deal with. Obviously, it scarred me.
I see organized religion as another attempt to control people
– similar to commercialism / consumerism. They both
tell people that they should be this certain type of person,
when the truth is that they can be anything they like and
still be just as happy.
Kelvin is Fahrenheit's older brother and is in a very large
part responsible for Fahrenheit's bitter personality. He has
always tormented him and when the day came that he "found
Jesus," Kelvin's forceful, violent attitude simply transformed
into forced attempts at religious conversion.
As the story opens in LW#1, Fahrenheit has been pushed past
the brink and has decided to take action against the world
that will not accept him for who he is. Kelvin only sees this
as increased stubbornness and, in turn, becomes more aggressive
in his tactics. At one point, he actually drugs, kidnaps and
attempts to brainwash Fahrenheit. After several failed attempts,
Kelvin makes it his life obsession to convert Fahrenheit so
that together with their sister, Celsius, they can convert
In the latter half of the storyarc, readers can expect to
learn a lot about the childhood of Fahrenheit, Kelvin, Celsius
and learn about the events that shaped them into the adults
they are today.
Here is an interesting tidbit of information: "Monahan"
means "Man of God."
SEMANTIKON: There is an ongoing debate about the quality,
the literary merit of delivering stories in the comic style.
What do you see as being at the heart of the discussion about
the comic medium as a literary vehicle?
ADAMS: That all depends on the definition of "literature."
A written book is of course considered literature. Is the
script of a play considered literature? It was in all of my
classes. And if a script for a play is considered literature,
what about a script for a movie? Or a script for a comic book?
When you blend illustration with a script, it becomes a comic.
This both adds and detracts something. You gain the added
visuals that help you see what the creator wants you to see,
but then you lose the chance to develop your own mental picture
Back to the question... What is the heart of the discussion
about the comic medium as a literary vehicle? Hell, if I know.
It all relies on personal preference and type of story being
SEMANTIKON: In the synopsis for Lackluster World, you describe
Fahrenheit's plans to shake loose from his mundane existence
by working to:
"Create random publicity stunts and use his journalism
position at "The Paper" to report on them, creating
a media spin that will help sway public opinion."
This aspect of the lackluster storyline parallels art and
political movements past---the situationist, dadaism, anarchism,
populist politics. Discuss your selection of the theme of
change for lackluster storyline---bringing about change by
whatever means available.
ADAMS: LW is a story about change and finding your
place in the world... if you have one.
This idea of "finding your place" is challenged
by all the forces that try to "find your place"
for you. The natural way to fight such a power is with "change,"
whether it be changing yourself or changing your environment.
Kelvin is trying to change his brother, Fahrenheit. Fahrenheit's
fellow journalist, Herman "Cog" Cogswell, is trying
to change who he is. And Fahrenheit, himself, is trying to
change his environment before it changes him.
Thus far in the series, Fahrenheit has been painted as the
good guy and Kelvin as the bad. As more events unfold in later
issues, we will start to see that none of them are truly "good"
or "bad". All of the characters in LW are just people
caught up in certain situations. They are just trying to get
what they want and they are only being themselves in doing
SEMANTIKON: Detail the process of developing an issue of
Lackluster World. In terms of storyline, art work, pagination,
ADAMS: Before starting on any individual issue, I spent
months outlining the overall storyarc. I did NOT write out
the script for each issue at this time. Instead, I only outlined
where each story needs to begin, end, and the checklist of
things that need to happen in-between. It is more exhilarating
for me to write the script for each when the time comes. Sometimes
an issue goes in a direction that I never could have predicted.
Having just finished the not-so-final draft of LW#3, it has
become clear to me that LW is starting to write itself. I
Besides, if I spent two years illustrating a story that was
written word for word two years prior, I would go fucking
Anyway, the process begins when I write the script. Once it
is finalized, or if I'm stuck, I dive right into the illustration
and those visuals fuel the script. I do a lot of jumping back
and forth and the illustration actually becomes writing at
some point. As for the final illustration... that's the easy
part. It's just pencil, ink, marker, repeat. A lot of my readers
ask me about the shading, sometimes mistaking it for Photoshop.
This is not at all the case. 95% of the art in LW is done
by hand and the shading is rendered with my Tria® Cool
Grey Markers. Again, I try to avoid using my computer for
LW wherever possible.
Once the illustrations are complete, I start to rewrite all
the dialogue. This is definitely NOT the way I plan for it
to work out, yet it always will be the case. I'm a perfectionist
about my work and will spend hours and hours and hours making
it just right. This has led to me recreating entire pages
and nearly entire scenes in the past.
Once the text is in place and the layout is complete, I temporarily
fall out of the loop on the process. The finished art goes
to a printer who then ships the requested amount of copies
directly to my distributor. I, of course, have a stockpile
of extra copies sent to myself for online orders and conventions
The final step, is a big push in promotion. It is the most
time-consuming, most important and sometimes most overlooked
part of the entire process.
When all is finished, I start the entire process over again
for the next issue.
SEMANTIKON: Ohio native, Harvey Pekar, developed American
Splendor (illustrated by R.Crumb) getting copies of the series
out one person at a time, via mail, established distribution
systems. How have you been able to use lacklusterworld.com
to reach your audience, interact with them? Have you enjoyed
what you would consider an advantage over the more traditional
comic book marketing/distribution systems as a result of utilizing
the web medium to connect with audiences, tell the Lackluster
story, sell Lackluster?
ADAMS: The web site has been extremely helpful with
promotion. It allows me to put a preview of each book online
for readers and potential readers to preview before they buy.
Without the Internet, that would be next to impossible.
I don't know that I am really straying far from the traditional
means of marketing comics. True, it is easier to communicate
with my audience now than it would have been 10 or 20 years
ago, but I feel that all comic creators are doing the same
type of online promotion today. The good news is that it is
not a very competitive industry. If a reader likes LW and
some other book, they aren't going to choose one and pass
on the other – they will buy both.
The biggest advantage has been the efficiency of the web.
The majority of my promotion is online and it has little to
no cost. Additionally, it allows readers to contact me directly
and quickly, and it almost guarantees they will get a response
SEMANTIKON: Over the course of the past decade, we have
seen the development of Marvel Films, which worked to release
such blockbusters as Spider Man. We have also seen the release
of films based on such indi-comic favorites as Hellboy and
The Crow. What do you see underlying this trend to bring the
comic book form to the cinematic medium?
ADAMS: It is my view that the film industry ran out
of ideas for "good" films decades ago. The majority
of films released today are either adaptations from old TV
shows, recreations of movies once made, or they follow generic
story formats. Comics are definitely helping to breathe new
life into the medium.
I have mixed feelings about studios looking to comics for
fresh ideas. It is great that comics are getting recognition
for being the creative, original pieces of literature/art
that they are, but I fear that the film industry will suck
comics dry, damage their reputation as literature/art and
just move onto the next best creative resource. Those fears
are unlikely to come fruition, but it is still a concern.
Surprisingly, the large increase of comics to film recently
has done very little for the sales of comics. Sales of comics
nationally have virtually remained flat if not decreased a
little and I have a hard time wondering how that is possible.
SEMANTIKON: Working in the print medium, independent comic
creators rely essentially on one major distributor to get
work to audiences, Diamond. What has been your experience
with Diamond and with getting Lackluster World distributed?
ADAMS:My dealings with Diamond have been good and I
had no trouble being accepted as a supplier. I just sent them
a proposal and I was in. My one and only complaint is the
same complaint most comic creators have – Diamond has
a monopoly on the industry.
It works like this... a comic retailer wants to order all
its merchandise from one source. Working with multiple distributors
complicates their ordering procedures, so they choose one
and stick with them. Diamond makes that possible for comic
retailers by having the largest selection available and my
hat is off to them for being so successful with their business
plan that they have been able to corner the market.
Before I go any further, I should say that there are alternatives
to Diamond. The first, FM International, is essentially Diamond-Lite.
I kind of see them as the distributor for the retailers that
have developed personal issues with Diamond. The second is
Cold Cut Distribution. I have distribution setup with them
as well and they are fantastic. They operate very differently
than any other comic distributor and are extremely indy-friendly.
Unfortunately, they only have a single-digit percentage of
the comic market even though they are third largest comic
distributor in the country.
Back to the point... Diamond has a monopoly. So, how does
that affect comic creators? Because of their enormous foothold
on the market, Diamond is able to dictate the discount they
receive off the retail price of comis. I cannot disclose any
numbers, but I can say that the discount is large enough to
make it very difficult for me to turn a profit unless I sell
an enormous number of books.
Please do not misunderstand... I am very happy to have LW
distributed through Diamond because it increases exposure.
However, the ultra-high industry-standard discount they expect
causes me to push online and convention sales more often so
I can try to turn a profit.
SEMANTIKON: You have planned seven issues to develop the
storyline you've developed for Lackluster World. Should lackluster
become a phenomenon, might we expect the story line find extended
life, perhaps in animated features or another medium?
ADAMS: I have a love for closure. It is a 99% certainty
that LW will not have a sequel and will not be extended past
seven issues. Future projects may come from the same universe
of LW and it is possible that there may be a crossover or
spin-off, but this too is unlikely. Neverending storylines
really grate on me and I actually believe that is one of the
things that repel potential newcomers from embracing comics.
Readers want the whole story right there in one place. Waiting
for individual chapters to be released once a month is a deterrent
because the people of today do not have the patience.
LW has taught me that most readers want the collected novel,
so that they can buy it and read it all in one shot, instead
of collecting each issue. Because of this, any future comics
I create will be done in this format. And with enough success
LW will be collected in one large novel too.
An LW film or mini-series would be a thrill. If approached,
I would consider a multi-season TV series too, although that
would be my last choice. Animated, live-action or a hybrid
of both – I think it could work anyway, but I would
prefer animated. It would translate more literally from the
page to the screen in an animated version. It would also allow
me to have greater creative control.
In the end, my goal is just to get the LW story on paper.
It has never been a goal to expand it further from there,
but if it could, it would certainly be one hell of a great