Charles Dowd is an independent publisher on top of being writer and illustrator of the all-ages digital graphic novel Lilith Dark (as well as illustrating a lot of other stuff). Don’t let all those modifiers scare you, the comic is fun in a twisted sort of “If Calvin and the Goonies and the Monsters from Labyrinth Had a Baby Girl and That Girl Was Super Cool” way. You’re going to be wanting to give it a shot. Trust me on this one.
Thanks to the wonder of Twitter (where he tweets @CharlesDowd) I was able to connect with this talented fellow and get the lowdown on Lilith Dark, independent publishing, and breakfast preferences.
The Cool Ship: Give us the five-sentence biography of Charles Dowd (please).
Charles Dowd: Hi I’m Charlie. I draw lots of things. Some of the things I draw are monsters, kittens, and monster-kittens. I’m a father of two. I also have a Rottweiler and three cats.
Who is Lilith Dark, and why is she wearing a sweet warrior helmet on the covers of Lilith Dark #1 and #2?
Lilith Dark is an eight-ish year-old little girl who likes to imagine that she’s a medieval beastie slayer, hence the warrior get-up. Her imagination tends to get the best of her, and she ends up in a lot of trouble. She’s a pretty stubborn kid, and she’s a little mean to her big brother Dewey. Your typical bratty little kid! I think Lilith is a lot like all of us. She just wants to have fun and go on adventures.
When we first connected on Twitter, I said that she seemed like a more badass Calvin. There aren’t many female characters you can draw that comparison to. What inspired you to create a character like this?
I love Calvin & Hobbes, so thanks for that! I came up with Lilith after trying to take my daughter, who was seven at the time, to my local comic shop. I quickly realized that there was really nothing for her age group, and certainly nothing that was targeted to little girls. I mean between the over-sexualized female characters and the adult themes, we just kind of left. I mean there was a Strawberry Shortcake book, but that was it. When we got home, I decided that since there weren’t any books for her out there, that I’d just make one myself. And so, Lilith Dark was born!
Lilith seems to exist in a world without parents. Is that a conscious choice? Why?
Yeah, parents are boring. It’s alluded to early on that her parents are away, and Lilith and Dewey are being watched by their big sister, Becky. Adults do exist in Lilith’s world, but the story doesn’t really revolve around them at all. At least not yet. This story is really about the fun of being a kid, learning to overcome adversity, and facing your demons, figuratively and literally!
There are the near-inevitable “Buffy for kids” comparisons. How do you respond to those?
Hey, Buffy was great. I’d consider that a compliment! Lilith Dark is an homage to all the stuff I loved growing up, and I am unabashedly wearing my influences on my sleeve with this project. The story is filled with subtle, and some not so subtle references to classic 80′s horror and fantasy films and cartoons. The very first page is an homage to The Never Ending Story. That’s part of the fun of writing Lilith, I get to share and remember all of those cool things that I grew up with. Don’t get me wrong, Lilith’s quest is her own, but she will encounter a few familiar things here and there. “Lilith” is a love letter to my childhood, so if people want to compare it to other things, that’s fine with me. I just hope that the readers enjoy it.
Much of your portfolio is quite dark. Fantastical, but dark. Why did you pursue an all-ages book, which people don’t normally associate with a creepier perspective?
When I say that Lilith Dark is all-ages, I just mean that it’s safe for kids. I consider Star Wars and Harry Potter all-ages. I’d like to think that the same people who enjoy those stories will enjoy Lilith Dark. And, even though the characters are a little on the cute side, there are some darker elements to the story too. It’s like Calvin & Hobbes meets Goosebumps. I’m writing in the same vein as A Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline. Not emulating either of those, but Lilith is fighting demons and cannibals, so she’s no Dora!
Are Lilith’s antics at all inspired by your own children?
Oh yeah. Both visually and personality-wise. Lilith and Dewey are my daughter and son. They fight, and hit each other, and are mean to one another. But, at the end of the day, they really love each other and look out for one another. Lilith’s personality is sort of a mix between my daughter’s and my own. It’s fun because I actually base a lot of elements of the story on things that actually happen between the kids, and the way they interact, but then I also pull from my own experience and memories of some of the goofy stuff I did as a kid. It’s crazy because I got away with murder, and was allowed to run around the neighborhood completely unsupervised from like the age of four or five, but my own kids are pretty sheltered. It’s a different world, for sure.
You’re posting Lilith Dark as a webcomic and selling issues online. Why did you choose this format?
Like I mentioned, I did a few very limited underground comics back in the day, but never really considered the internet as a way to distribute my work. I know that sounds crazy now, but five years ago the internet was still revving up. When I was putting out indie comics in the 90′s the internet wasn’t even a thing. Not in my world anyway. So when I got the itch to back to comicking, I started using the web for research, and I found this incredible community of other creators on Twitter, just giving away their comics for the love of it. I thought that was awesome, and it felt indie, and underground, and punk rock, so I was on board with it right away.
On the other hand, I spend a lot of time making these stories, so I offer print and digital comic issues for a small fee. Making a little extra gas money sometimes is nice. It gives me something to take to conventions, too. I don’t really see “Lilith Dark” as a webcomic per se, it’s really a comic book on the web. Semantics, I know, but I think there’s a difference. Either way, I’m happy to be part of the webcomic community because those people are awesome and supportive and I wouldn’t be doing this without them blazing the trail for me. I mean that sincerely.
You recently started Zazz Comics. Why? Can you tell me a little about your partners in Zazz?
Zazz is great! I met Joel Poirier, who created Stripped Comics, and John Macleod, who created Space Kid!, on Google Plus. I noticed Joel was posting a lot of his illustration work, and I liked it, and then it turned out that he had a comic, so we got to talking and got along right away. After a while, we decided to start a collective of sorts. We were both fans of John, who has a lot of underground-indie cred of his own from his days of drawing Dish Man comics. The three of us just all hit it off and started Zazz Comics as a way to promote one another, and to put out books.
What kinds of books will Zazz be putting out?
Our first release was a Free Comic Book Day digital sampler featuring Lilith Dark, Space Kid!, and Joel’s character Pigeon King, and is still available at ZazzComics.com. It got a lot of attention, and we hopefully got to cross-pollinate each of our individual readers. I hope that we can get something in print sometime next year, and continue to expand. We have a lot of ideas and plans, but they all take time. If only, there were 32 hours in a day, right?
Who is your dream character to illustrate?
You know, this might be cheesy, but I think Lilith is the best character for me. She’s 100 percent my own creation, and it’s really fun. I mean, if Marvel called tomorrow and wanted me to draw Spider-Man, sure I’d do it, but I’d also know that at some point I’d be done, and then someone else would take over because it’s not my character. Some people dream of drawing Batman, and that’s great, I’ve drawn a lot of Batman pics myself, but there’s something about working on your own thing that’s really satisfying. And I can do anything I want with the story. Everything about it is awesome.
What other projects do you have on the horizon?
I have a short story coming out as part of a horror anthology called Winter’s Eye in the fall. That’s me getting back to my roots! It’s this creepy little story written by Martin Brandt, who I met on the convention circuit here, on the East Coast. Great guy, easy to work with, and he knows how to put up with us temperamental artist types!
I’m also in the development stage of a new fantasy graphic novel series. It’ll be great and will be filled with all sorts of classic fantasy characters like trolls and dragons, but will also feature a lot of my own original characters and species. This story will be a little more mature than Lilith Dark. I want to create a large fantasy world full of beautiful scenic landscapes, and epic battles. I’m really excited about it, but that one’s still quite a ways off.
Finally, the most important of all – What’s your favorite breakfast food?
Pancakes and sausage. Patties, not links.