Monster Mutiny: Interview with Steam Crow
Monsters make a business out of scaring people but what if their job was really just another daily grind. Monster Commute is a webcomic masterminded by the Steam Crow design duo, Daniel and Dawna Davis. Monster Commute features a cast of monsters that gridlock the industrial interstates in Mad Max machines under the Orwellian loom of the Authority group. Steam Crow is also a powerhouse creator of eye candy confections ranging from iconic buttons (such as the “Zombie Love” and “Clown Bite” logos) to colorful, furry MNSTR bags. The monster madness continues with Steam Crow’s own creature feature books; After Halloween, Klawberry: Good Girl, Bad World and Caught Creatures. Steam Crow and their fiends make frequent appearances at conventions around the country and at this rate, may give World War Z a run for its mark on history with their cutely contagious monster domination.
1) How did Steam Crow first begin?
Steam Crow began when we attended the 2004 San Diego Comic-Con. We’d recently moved to Phoenix, and I was looking for a new creative challenge. We met a bunch of indie creators at the con and I realized that they were not magic wizard people. They were actually human. Dawna leaned over and suggested that maybe I could do my own book. So, we went home, and I wrote and illustrated Caught Creatures over the course of 2 months. I worked every spare moment until it was done. The next year, we had our very own small press table at the con, with our new book. From there it’s just grown and grown, and we’ve done conventions all over the West Coast.
2) How do you and your wife work together on projects?
We collaborate on the business more than on individual projects. Dawna helps me pack orders. She reviews most everything that I draw. We plan. We share ideas. We talk about the kind of life that we’re trying to build with Steam Crow. Our lives are our collaboration. Project wise, Dawna and I worked on our new booth design. She made a hand-made Steam Crow and STEAMCROWEEN pennant. We co-designed her MNSTR Bags, so that they look like they came from Steam Crow. She’s colorblind, so I picked the fabric colors. She made all of the decisions how each one looks, so I certainly don’t micromanage her or anything like that.
3) What inspired your book, Caught Creatures and how did you go about self-publishing it?
It’ll sound sappy, but I did it for my son. I wanted him to have undeniable proof that he was loved by me and Dawna, when we’re dust. I don’t have that from my own father (now dust), so it is very important to me. I was inspired by cartoons, old monster movies, art nouveau color design, dungeons and dragons, Japanese movie monsters and candy package design. Inspiration is everywhere. Self-publishing it was the easy part. Basically, you hire a printer, and give them the files to print it. Toughest part about all of that was figuring out how to do a proper ISBN bar code. The real challenge was finishing the project, not printing it.
4) What is one of your favorite monster stories?
I like a lot of folklore. I love legendary figures like Baba Yaga or monsters like the Kelpie or the Minotaur. If I had to chose just one, I’d say that I love the story of the Golem. A giant made from clay that destroys a city is pretty interesting and shocking.
6) Tell us a bit about your webcomic, Monster Commute.
Monster Commute is a little like Terry Gilliam’s film Brazil meets the Wonderful Wizard of OZ on a monster highway. There are Orwellian themes, working-class monsters, steampunk autos, and an authoritarian government with 7 ton iron soldiers. Deep down, it’s about survival and friendship. The worst that brings out the best in folks; beast or man.
5) How did you support your art when you first started Steam Crow?
The battle for any unknown indie artist is the war against obscurity. I’m still fighting it. However, you just need to bless each person one at a time, who discovers your work. We do a lot of conventions, which is a terrific way to meet and make new supporters (our Steam Crew). Also, just doing art makes stuff happen. Being very productive really helps. I try to be as prolific as I can be.
7) You are a master of promotion! What are some self-promotion tips for artists?
Really? You think so? Why thank you. Here’s the deal: you have to believe in what you do. You don’t have time for self-doubt or self-loathing or insecurity. I’ve been doing that for decades, and it really doesn’t boost the career very much. It hurts it. Do a lot of good, original art, and show it off. Put it online, and be consistent. You’re not going to get anyone’s attention with 2 pieces. Create 200 and maybe someone will notice. Know that it takes time and effort. It won’t happen overnight. But keep going, and don’t rip other artists. Make your own original work. You can also check out some of my tips on http://www.webcomicmarketing.com where I address some of these things.
8 ) What projects are you currently working on and what type of projects would like to do?
Well, Monster Commute takes a ton of time. I’m always trying to work on that, and make it better. I just finished strip #300 this morning. I’m putting together our first Monster Commute collection for early 2010. I’ve been writing and planning the Monster Commute roleplaying game (RPG). Old school pen and paper. Why? I just want to play in the world of MONSTRU. I’d really like to do a Steam Crow show on a regular basis. Just a quirky MST3K kind of vibe. Talking about the Monster world. Life. Traffic. Artist interviews. And some crazy puppets. Who knows, I don’t have a lot of time to make that happen, but it’s been in the back of my mind for a couple of years now. I have a second comic project that I’m hoping to launch when the Monster Commute book is done. It’s started, but I don’t have the time just yet.
Thank you again for taking the time to do the interview.
Thanks for talking to us, Meghan.
It’s great to not only see talented people but also people who help other artists.
Well, we’ve been there. Other people helped us out and gave us some advice and kindness. There are too many haters out there. All I know is that I still remember the people who gave me a hand when I needed one.