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Co-creator and artist of Bloodworks. Studied under Jorge Lucas and Ariel Olivetti ...

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Co-creator of Have a Gothy Day comic ...

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Interview with the Creator of The Flea

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The Flea. Copyright © Chris Heath

Chris Heath is a prolific webcomic writer and artist. Todate, he has worked on several webcomics, notably the Talon and the Immortal. He has collaborated on Heroes United, The Last Cowboy with Kyle Anthony, and at the moment he's drawing Cape Fall (written by Adam Chrimes, Bloodworks) and writing The Sleepers (drawn by Roberto Soares Silva). His most familiar work is The Flea, which enjoys a small following.

[comixkid2099 interviews Chris Heath (Iron Hand). Both gentlemen are from Mickey's Tavern. comixkid2099 is RJD, Chris Heath (Iron Hand) is CH]

Click here for Chris Heath's Flea webcomic

RJD: So, to begin things, you are the creator of the Flea. As such, you do the writing and the art, correct?

CH: Yeah. I will be the writer from beginning to end and will take up the most of the art in the series as well.

The Flea. Copyright © Chris Heath

RJD: If you had to pick between the 2, would you consider yourself an artist or a writer?

CH: That's actually quite a tough one. I suppose I'd have to lean toward the "writer" side of things. These stories had to come from somewhere, right?

RJD: I've always been more of a fan of the writing, so i've often wondered what it was like for someone who did both.

So on the Flea, how long have you been working on the series? Has it been percolating in your mind for a little while before you started working on it?

CH: I've been working on the series for some time now, actually. I would probably put it at around two years before the first issue came out. I always had set ideas planned out and set directions I wanted to take this character. I would say it's always been a comic I've wanted to write from the moment I took a liking to comics. The character being the simple bit, and the story bit coming afterward. So yeah, quite some time.

RJD: For those who are unfamiliar with it, would you give us the quick non-spoilery description of the Flea, comic and character?

CH: Yeah sure.

I'd say it's a comic about a normal, ordinary man who wakes up inside this suit that can shrink at will with no memories of his previous life whatsoever. It'll show us how this man is put in such a different lifestyle of superheroes and super-villains. It'll feature good old fashioned "punching-the-bad-guy" sort of stuff, the type of stuff where you'll have to dig for a bigger picture, the type of stuff where throughout the series you'll be asking questions about certain things, the type of stuff where it's not like a traditional super-hero story but can still be seen as a hero stuff. Hell, I'd say it's the type of the comic that is bound to be quite a fun ride throughout.

Hmm, yeah. I think that would be the entire thing in a nutshell.

The Flea. Copyright © Chris Heath

RJD: You kinda segued into what i was going to ask next. Do you think that brand new characters in the superhero genre have to work harder to be "unique" so that people will buy them? For instance, do you think fans will see a character dressed as a bug, and they might be hesitant to buy it because they think of Spider-Man, but then if it's a series about a guy who is going through a prolonged crisis, which seems to kinda be what the Flea is hitting on, then they might buy that, because it is significantly different from Spider-Man. Do you think this is true?

CH: This is actually one of the things I was thinking about when I first got down to actually begin the story spreading of The Flea. I wasn't sure if this just seemed like to much of Spiderman mixed with Ant-Man or whether this actually did look like brand new stuff. At the time, I can't say I was very sure in what the people would think. Now, my opinions are quite strong on the matter, actually. I feel now that it isn't the character that makes this story so "unique" it's the story that he or she is caught in. Hey, maybe there are people who think there's too many variations of Spider-Man or Iron Man out there, but most of the time they're not following the same storyline. Sure, they might do a bit, but most of the time they don't follow it at all after a good few issues. If I'm a bit suspicious of the book because it looks like a certain character, I tend to look into the story a lot more and probably enjoy it more because it looks like the character we saw before but hey, look, he acts completely different to these situations. I don't know, I personally believe the type of character doesn't affect anything, but I can understand why people think it does.

RJD: That's an interesting answer, i think, and it definitely applies to some major indie superhero comics out there.

And I do think that when the story is different, the archetypal character changes quite a bit also.

How many pages of the Flea are complete, and how many more do you suspect there will be before the entire story is complete?

The Flea. Copyright © Chris Heath

CH: Well, I've just drawn Issue 17 and stopped art duties for a bit. My good friends Sean Bybee and Robert Evans have decided to take over for 6 issues while I work elsewhere on other things and perhaps back onto The Flea if I'm fast enough. Robert is working on the most issues here but boy is the man fast at it. Hopefully we'll be in the twenties art-wise and not far behind where the lettering is involved also.

As for when this entire series will be complete?? It was planned from the beginning, and it's something I plan on sticking to. The series will end on a massively oversized Issue 50. It seems like quite a distance away, but with the pace we're all currently going out, it shouldn't actually take too long.

RJD: And is each issue the same length as an issue of a comic one might buy from marvel or DC?

CH: Yeah, each issue should mostly be 20-24 pages in length. There will be one or two issues (Issue 12 and 25) that are double sized just because of what happens inside it and how much of an impact it has on the character. But mostly, yeah, usual standard of pages.

RJD: And is this a webcomic, or are you planning on submitting this to a smalltime company such as Oni Press or something even bigger, like Dark Horse?

CH: As it stands, this is a webcomic. When it gets the decent amount of fans and there's enough out to make a couple trades, maybe then will I go on a search. If anything, this comic may become handheld when the stories finished and in its collected trades.

RJD: Many webcomics go online first, and then much later go to physical printings, so that's probably a wise choice.

What would you say some of your influences for this story are?

CH: Hmm, in a way it really depends on which kind of angle your looking at this story from. Some bits are from good old comic books about our heroes in fights and getting into dilemmas where others possibly highlight more on the way have "meanings" and other parts to "fate"--hell, there's lots. The main influence though would be the comics I read growing up and read now. Without them, this story wouldn't be around. As for now and the way I thing about things? Can't say I can answer that one unless you want one huge list.

The Flea. Copyright © Chris Heath

RJD: So this is a response to old comics and newer comics alike? That is definitely interesting. There have been some fantastic stories that incorporate elements from multiple "eras."

As far as your own art style, who do you think has influenced you the most? and the same for your style as a writer? both in comics and out, for both.

CH: For the art department, I don't know. There's the more recent influences such as Mike Deodato Jr. , Pia Guerra, Stuart Immonen. I don't know, I do tend to like a lot of things around at the minute--but I would mainly say these three are always the ones that when I look at it I can work out a particular angle to portray what I want to show and the like.

As a writer, I have no clue. I know there's a good amount of people who don't like the guy, but I absolutely love most everything he has wrote, and that's Bendis himself. That man shows the emotions well, has enough time for characters to build and also has some of the best fight scenes I've ever seen, and he does it to the point that you actually get into his stories so much you feel as if you are the characters, and I am very jealous of his work.

It's the same for both, though, I like everyone's sort of style, it depends what the issue is about and where it's going to go and sorts that makes me want to look to the people I know do that the best. But yeah, I'd say the ones I said above are the main guys.

RJD: I definitely agree on your artistic choices for great artists. Both Immonen and Deodato had turns on a Hulk run I hold very dear to me, so any spiritual disciple of theirs is someone I am going to enjoy keeping an eye on, very much.

Do you have any influences in other media, such as television or movies?

CH: Oh my, quite a lot to say. I'd say 24 is quite a close connection due to the fact it shows some people aren't actually who we originally thought them to be and not to mention it shows some pretty mean fighting styles in there I always love to try and duplicate where I can. I have a soft spot for Fringe and the way it has action and science mixed into one. It has clever parts to it where we have to think and other parts where we can sit back and just watch the fighting go out, so yeah, that's a hit. Recently, The Walking Dead show has helped me feel something. I don't know what it is about it, it just makes me want to right something deep and go further into characters. And I must say, I do have quite a soft spot for the gone show Lost. It was a great show, and the way it  makes you ask questions beginning to end is something I use as an influence most out of everything.

RJD: Ah, ok, that's a nice eclectic mix of television, I think.

The Flea. Copyright © Chris Heath

Do you try to follow the arc structure of shows like FRINGE? standalone episodes that, when viewed in rapid fire all in one setting, you find that there is an arc?

CH: Most definitely. When reading each issue at the beginning it most likely seemed quite contained whereas now my writing has improved quite a bit I may write a decent story in 5 or so issues depending on what happens. Now those 5 issues make one arc in particular where they fight one villain and see what happens from there and it begins and ends, and maybe that could be seen as an episode or so. But maybe when the entire series is finished, maybe when we've got to Issue 50 and now everyone is reading back from Issue 1 again to see how far we've all gotten, I'm hoping it will be read like it is one big story as a whole and not separate threads of this character. They are in fact all connected if you look that extra bit hard enough.

RJD: Howard Chaykin, a man who has worked in television and comic books, equated a 22 minute episode of a television show to a 22 page comic book. But you say that a 5ish part arc might be equivalent to one episode.

What happens in an episode of a TV series that can be done in just that length of time, or even in twice that length of time (as LOST and FRINGE had hour long episodes, if you counted commercials) and cannot be done in pages of a comic book of 22 pages?

CH: I'd say the thing that makes it different is the fact of the spacing. Where I am now, I like to have one issue be spread apart with enough in it to make it feel like a decent issue, but also have everything in it. Personally, I just think it's the way I write now. I like to get what I'm doing get put across fully, and I'll do that in how many pages it takes. So if you look at Fringe, for instance, before the first commercial break we will most likely see what the problem is, see the team hearing about it and getting into their own personal lives very slightly and introducing the main problem they'll be thinking about throughout the episode and maybe come out with their first name who they think is behind it. I'd say, for just one part, that's equivalent to one of my issues now. We'd find out the villain, go into a bit of Rick's personal life and maybe he'll prepare for something along those lines. For me, it's just a matter of spacing and it seems to work. I don't know, maybe I just now think that my work may look a lot better if it's read in chunks.

The Flea. Copyright © Chris Heath

RJD: And of course, there is no right or wrong way to do it. Bendis tells 1 story in 6 issues. Tom Defalco is much more likely to tell 1 story in 1 or 2 issues. But neither one is more valid than the other.

In any case, concluding things with a question that is completely different, would you prefer to write and create your own comic book characters, or add to and embellish pre existing characters?

CH: The answer for me is actually quite a simple one. As much as I would love to get my hands on some characters well known and write them a story or two, I have to say writing a character who no one has seen before is my preferred way of things. They haven't seen the character, there's a whole new story following him/her and it basically is yours. You don't get a taste of writing this character before having to give it away again, you get to keep it and develop it for however you long and however you want. I've done it for The Flea and I'm already getting plans set out for a few others like it. For me, new and original stuff is always the best. It's your thing to make and create to how you want it to look like. You’re with it from start to finish, and you don't get to do that with an already existing character.

RJD: A very good answer, I think.

Well, thank you for the interview. That is about all we have. Everyone be sure to check out The Flea and the other webcomics that CH is working on at the moment.

CH: Thanks a lot for the time mate, I really do appreciate it. I'm hoping that maybe I could devote what looks like an issue of The Flea into one full of these sort of things to do with issues in particular and the like.

Thanks for the time, I appreciate it.

Check out Chris Heath's Flea here

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 11 June 2011 10:32 )  
Author Profile: RJD

RJD has written fan letters, reviews, and examinations of various qualities, mostly on the Tavern.

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