Aaron Walther is all about comics. If he’s not writing one of the numerous comics he publishes than he is hosting his Comic DNA podcast. He is big on the local scene and big on helping out his fellow indie creators. Aaron has a brand-new comic out too. Its called The Birdlander and we had a chat with Aaron so that he could tell us about it and all the other stuff he gets up to in his busy life.
What is The Birdlander comic about?
After cataclysmic changes in the distant past, Earth has been repopulated by dinosaurs. Humanity struggles to rebuild it’s once great society, and through the turmoil and chaos, people tell stories of a man known only as The Birdlander. The story follows a young woman named Sumi, who is searching for the eponymous Birdlander for personal reasons. The main theme of the book is “perspective” and how we view ourselves compared to other people. Sumi is attempting to learn everything she can about The Birdlander, and there is no shortage of people who have a story to share about him. The Birdlander, himself, is only shown in flashback stories told by other characters and is depicted differently depending on how the character views him, whether they think he’s a hero, a villain, or just a myth.
What is your role on the book?
I am the writer, letter and co-creator along with my artistic partner, Ed Bickford, who does all of the illustration.
What other stuff have you done?
For the last five years or so, I’ve been publishing comics at newhavencomics.com. The main series I wrote was a superhero comedy called Zero’s Heroes, which ran as a webcomic from 2010-2015. I also did a science-fiction anthology book called Science Hero, which contained different sci-fi themed comics I wrote. All of these have since been put on hold, as I am retooling my website format and also focusing more of my efforts on The Birdlander.
Tell us about your podcast?
I host a podcast called Comic DNA (which can be found at comicdna.podbean.com and is also on iTunes) in which I and a comic creating guest talk about comics that we like. The intent is not to do reviews because I’m not really interested in telling people what they should or shouldn’t read, nor am I interested in giving out bad reviews, but more to just have a conversation about a comic and discuss it. I try to get multiple guests on each episode, both artists and writers, and not just talk about books that we like, but also books that influence us as creators and give a perspective that’s a little bit more than fun gushing, though I’ll admit there is plenty of that. We will talk about any comic, regardless of genre, age, or country of origin. I like to read all different types of comics, whether they be mainstream, superhero, indie self published comix with an “x”, European comics, manga, or New York Times art snob comics, etc. (though a cursory glance at our episodes will reveal my childhood Marvel bias…) I wish I could do the podcast weekly, but right now it’s on an irregular schedule. I have different guests on each episode, and it can be hard juggling everybody’s schedules.
What do comics mean to you?
That’s an interesting question. I’ve been reading comics my whole life, and from an early age they were the fuel for my overly active imagination. I suppose, in a very melodramatic way, comics mean freedom. Comics are a weird little medium that can often times feel overlooked or ignored, and as a result it has a very passionate set of fans and creators. Compared to other visual mediums, such as movies or video games, the production costs are very small and in many cases can be covered by a single person. Comics have always been kind of anti-social (for lots of different reasons) and they can be really subversive. There’s a bit of a punk rock attitude at the very root of comic creation, which I like.
What comics did you like growing up?
The single most important comic I read growing up was Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. I used to cut out all the Sunday strips and hang them on my bedroom walls. I loved that comic because it was very accessible, with a deceptively clever wit. It was visually stimulating on a simple level, but as a kid, I always felt like it was smarter than me (because it was) and it challenged me. Watterson inadvertently introduced me to many philosophical and scientific concepts that I would not have had the patience for had I been learning about them in school. Apart from that, I was a big reader of Spider-man and the X-men. I was a big Marvel Comics fan throughout most of my childhood. When I hit High School I ditched the “kids comics” and started reading lots of manga. Of course, looking back, most manga is just as juvenile as any of the American superhero stuff, but it was different so it grabbed my attention.
How did they influence your work?
As an adult, I enjoy looking at the craft that goes into creating a comic story and analyzing how different cultures or genres approach it. The one thing I try to instil in most the comics I write (not all, but most) is to create a story that can be as entertaining to younger readers as it is intellectually stimulating to adult readers. That is a lot harder than you’d think! I read lots of comics as a kid, and though they didn’t all hold up, the ones that did (such as the aforementioned Calvin and Hobbes or pretty much anything by Barry Winsor-Smith) mean more to me than anything else in the world.
What do you think about the st. louis comic con scene?
The St. Louis con scene has really grown in the last few years. I’m glad that there is a Wizard World for fans that are into that kind of a show, though personally I am not. I think the best thing to happen in recent years is the St. Louis Small Press Expo. It’s a great little show put on by some really passionate people dedicated to highlighting small press and self published material. It’s not strictly a comics show, but there are a lot of comics there. I was very disappointed I had to skip it last year due to a conflicting schedule, but I look forward to the 2016 show.
What can people expect from you in the future?
I am pushing to have the first Birdlander graphic novel finished by the end of the year. We are serializing it as a webcomic at www.thebirdlander.com. I am also writing a Zero’s Heroes spin off with artist, Kevin Bandt, called The Amoral Stingray, which is sort of an inversion of the Peter Parker style superhero comic. The main character is a teenager who gains superpowers, but instead of becoming a superhero, he decides to become a supervillain. You can read a preview at my personal website, www.aaronwalther.com. The first issue will be finished soon, but we haven’t decided how we’re going to put it out, yet. In addition to that, I am also working on finishing a graphic novel called Dogtown, which was started in Science Hero. Then, of course, at some point I’m working on getting another Zero’s Heroes book done and about a million other projects that aren’t worth mentioning because there’s no telling when they’ll see the light of day.
Tell us a little bit about your background?
I probably have the most uninteresting background ever. I grew up in southern Illinois, right outside of St. Louis and I spent all my time reading comics and playing guitar in small time bands (though I definitely did more comics reading than guitar playing). At some point, I thought that writing and creating comics was a worthwhile endeavor and have refused to look back ever since
If you like this profile then read about this review on Supreme Team.