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Matt Harding and Indie Comics
Last week I caught up with Comic Book Artist Matt Harding. We talked about his background in Punk Bands, rising to becoming an Animator for Madefire Motion Comics and his reverence for Indie Comic Book Creators.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with me this week. Please tell the readers a bit about yourself and the work you do.
Matt Harding: I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area with three brothers and two amazing parents who inspire me to do what I do. My brothers are also artists and content creators, and we’re in a constant battle for artistic supremacy haha. I have an amazing wife, Sara, who is a brilliant writer and editor and is way too smart and talented to be stuck with a bum like me.
I’ve played in punk bands, refuse to let my parents throw away my ninja turtle collection, own two cats that my apartment landlord cannot and will not ever find out about, am fueled by a constant stream of coffee, and I love making comics! Really, I love making comics. I illustrate, write, letter, color, and read comics every single day of my life. I even animate them as an employee at Madefire Motion Comics.
Tell me a bit about the inspiration behind Bazu-Ka Nightmare.
Matt Harding: I’ve always been a fan of crazy, fun sci-fi stories and old school monster stuff and I wanted to combine the two with my love for music and 80-90s retro aesthetic. I wanted to make a story that had my own versions of classic monsters like werewolves and vampires but in a crazy alien environment- something so badass, you’d want to own a toy of every character.
In all honesty, that’s what I grew up loving- these crazy bombastic stories that were created solely to sell huge toy lines. The characters were always trippy and loud and I loved it. Beyond that surface level stuff, Bazuka is a story about brothers trying to cope with being stuck as far away from home as possible, with only each other to count on despite their differences.
I grew up with a little bro who was very much into the same stuff that I was but engaged with life in a very different way, so it’s a “write what you know” situation. There are tough times, and great times. There are times where you can’t stand each other and rage against the other’s viewpoint but there are also times where you’re each other’s best friends.
Where did drawing and creating art start for you and what is your origin story?
Matt Harding: My dad introduced me to comics and he loved to bring me to conventions like Wondercon to meet the artists and browse artist alley. He never really got into Marvel or DC Comics all that much but he loved buying independent books from the artist themselves and having conversations with them about their personal projects.
There are a lot of books that I have in storage that were independently created and I regard them as if they’re Action Comics #1. My little brother and I would spend the summers at home while our parents worked and we’d spend all day creating our own comics. In a lot of ways those were some of the best times of my life because I was able to sit around with my best friend in the world and make comics for the first time of my life.
It was funny because we’d always do a crossover where we’d draw each other’s character in our comic and every single time I would kill his characters off in some horrible way because I’m a jerk older brother. Just wait… it will happen in Bazuka too.
Bazu-Ka seems to be influenced by Synthwave. In terms of the genre, look and feel – but where do Comic Books sit for you. What are your go to’s?
Matt Harding: The thing that I love about comics is that I truly feel that they are the closest thing you can read to experience a story straight from a creators brain. It’s this perfect marriage between prose and art and it’s given to you in a way where you can experience it at your own speed. You can spend ten minutes looking at a page and then going back and reading it again and again. Your brain can fill in the sounds and the smells you see in the page.
One of the greatest editors I’ve ever worked with told me that every panel is the capturing of the perfect millisecond of time and your brain fills in everything in between, and that’s one of the greatest explanations of what comics can offer you that nothing else can. The truth is that everyone loves comics, even if they don’t realize it. Every person you meet will have something in their life that was inspired by a story read in a comic, and it’s because it’s a cinematic experience into someone’s imagination without filter and without being processed through a huge group of people and it engages your own creativity as an active participant.
That being said, comics can be anything for me and I often times will really like comics that I have absolutely no connection to but transport me into a world and make me really feel like I could understand what it’d be like to be there. I’m from California, but Southern Bastards is one of the best comics ever made. I can love comics that are inspired by punk rock, and comics that are inspired by Mozart- and that’s what’s great about a good comic to me.
What are your biggest obstacles when it comes to your work? How do you overcome them?
Matt Harding: The two biggest obstacles I run into, as a lot of artists do, is self doubt and laziness. When I say self doubt, I don’t mean that it’s bad to be critical of what you do because having a critical eye towards your own work is really important- I mean that having so much of it that it prevents you from putting the proper amount of energy into your art and as a result having it come out looking forced or labored.
I find that having the ability to put your self doubt aside, and then calling on it when it’s needed is a very hard thing to do, but you gotta do it. With laziness, I find that instead of looking up references for a figure pose, or what something looks like, I’ll waste a bunch of time trying to draw it from my imagination and getting wrong over and over again. I have to force myself to do the boring work of taking photos or searching the internet so I can draw something correctly the first time.
Many of us creators work on projects outside of our 9-5 jobs. Do you have any advice for balancing careers with passion projects/side hustles?
Matt Harding: Absolutely, seeing as how this is the story of my life haha. The average amount of time it takes someone to break into the industry is something like 5-8 years of actively making content and putting yourself out there and networking in person and online. It’s impossible, or at least very rare, for someone to be able to do that without having some type of paying job throughout it.
My word of advice is to realize that it’s a marathon and not a race- a cliched saying, but completely true. Make a few goals and stick to them, chipping away at them a couple of hours a day. My day job is in the comics industry and a lot of it is animating motion books, editing, and occasionally writing something. Bazuka Nightmare was a webcomic goal that I set for myself to complete a page a week because I felt the need to do something for myself and not for the purposes of pitching or anthology work.
So far, I’ve found that it’s been really rewarding and I’ve made a steady increase in skill and process through practice. Don’t overload yourself or you’ll burn out- which I’ve seen a million times. Keep at it a little every day, and you’ll get there!
Do you have any upcoming events/projects/releases you would like to discuss?
Matt Harding: For the most part I’ve been working really hard on things that I can’t really talk about yet. Bazuka was something I created so that I could connect with people on a weekly basis. That being said, keep your eyes on Scout, Madefire, and Kickstarter for some future news. Follow me on twitter and check on my website for fun stuff I’m doing just for a good time. I’m starting a blog where I cook through the entire Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pizza cookbook, so that should be fun.
Thank you for taking the time to do this! Where can readers find you and your work?
Matt Harding: The best place to find my work would be on my personal website – www.matthardingart.com. I really appreciate you taking the time to interview me and for anyone that is interested in my work! It’s crazy to think that I’m able to actually make comics like this and do it for a living and it’s a dream come true!
Want more Soda and Telepaths?
1. Alex Schumacher on Comic Writing, Cancel Culture & Mr Butterchips
2. Chris Mole Talks Writing and Medieval History
3. Jordan Thomas On Horror and Working On Multiple Projects
4. Madeleine Holly-Rosing on Creating Steampunk Comics