Interview With Alex Macieira of Planet Ruskin Comics

In recent years, zombies have become popular in much of the media MCM fans love. We have seen an increase of them in our video games, TV shows, films and comics. These days, when basing a story on zombies, you need to do something unique and eye catching to be noticed, and Planet Ruskin Comics has attempted to do just that. Alex Macieira, the artist behind The Zombies Ate my Chilean, took the time to talk to me about how to get into writing comics, dealing with flaws in your old art as you improve, and how he tries his best to not let his stories end up like LOST.

Laura: For those who don’t know, could you tell us a little about yourself? How did you get into drawing comics?

Alex: Well firstly hello to the readers! 🙂 My name is Alex Macieira (I’m FULLY aware that most people won’t be able to pronounce that, so to help it’s said as MASS-E-AIR-A).

I’m an animation graduate from Westminster University. I have a long standing passion for comics, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, film, TV, and all things awesome! Despite doing animation which is a huge passion of mine too, I really wanted to make a comic series. I’d tinkered with comic ideas and stories for years, probably since the age of eight or nine. So after I graduated I initially got two friends involved (Rich O’Donnell and Greg Nott), and did a lot of research on how to make a comic as professionally as possible. I wanted it to stand out and really look like nothing else on the shelf. The turning point was when I passed another comic book writer in Bond Street selling his books. To give him a shout out it was David Bircham, the creator of Brodie’s Law. Anyway, I used him as a mini mentor as he rose from nothing too. The best thing he ever did for me was to tell me to book a place for the Bristol Expo in May 2007. It was 2006 October time I believe when he told me. So I booked my place with absolutely no comic ready!! This was awesome because it MADE me draw one! Cutting it REALLY close the comics arrived the DAY BEFORE the Expo. So after a mild heart attack that day and a few years later, here we are with a zombie series – The Zombies Ate my Chilean!

Laura: The Zombies Ate my Chilean is an interesting title for a zombie survival comic. What does it refer to?

Alex: It refers to a friend of mine Victor. He’s born here but is of Chilean decent as his parents moved here years ago. The book actually started off as a video game I’d been working on but due to university and time constraints I never finished it. So after university I vowed no matter how many years it would take, I would turn it into the first comic I drew! It’s essentially a mini dedication to my friends to immortalise them in some cool way. But Victor happens to be the centrepiece because in real life we gave him the nickname Loki (the god of mischief) for being just that! So if anyone on this planet were to raise the dead by accident it would be him!

Laura: Who or what are your inspirations when drawing comics?

Alex: Well, to please the MCM fans, I grew up on Anime. Not like what we have now where I literally can’t keep up with the saturated volume of titles, but simply just the old VHS titles that Manga UK released. So Akira, Fist of the North Star, Vampire Hunter D, Guyver, and a few more. I think the closest thing we got to a TV Anime series as a kid was The Little Prince and The Mysterious Cities of Gold. Cities of Gold is still one of my favourite series’ of all time and I urge people to go and watch it! After that it was a heavy dose of Marvel Comics. The 90s comics had a real cool thing going on with its artwork. It was industrial, but bright and colourful. These two combined as I grew up, bringing a more western approach to my work. My last influence which is worth mentioning is a talented artist called Jack Lawrence. He has worked on a really cool title called Darkham Vale and is now a regular at MCM. So please check out his work if you read this and attend the next Expo. His composition and face expressions are his strong points and he tells his stories really well!

Laura: Do you ever encounter writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?

Alex: I’m encountering it at the moment! I work for Double Negative Visual Effects now and it takes a heavy toll on the comics I do and the speed I release them at. I have a general idea of the entire story in my head so I know its direction, but sometimes to write in the small details or to fill the gaps as you jump from one idea to another can be tricky. Luckily the characters themselves overcome writer’s block a lot for me, as I know them in real life and what they would do in any given situation. So they help pull it along during the hard moments. I’m trying not to string out my story and just keep giving you what’s needed without the book becoming stale like most series’ if you leave them running for too long *cough* LOST

Laura: How do you find being a self published artist? What challenges does that bring? Are there any ways you think it’s better than being published by a larger group?

Alex: Well money can be the biggest problem. I’m currently prepping for the release of our first graphic novel which is a big step. The books these days usually pay for themselves and all the profit goes STRAIGHT back in to the books. I do it as a passion at the moment. But when we invest in new things the money sometimes comes out of my pocket to begin with. Exposure suffers too. But I have more control being self published, so at the moment I’m happy to still be doing it this way.

Laura: What sort of reception do you tend to get at conventions, in particular the MCM Expo?

Alex: We get a great reception! We’ve actually started to make a little rep. We’ve had shout outs in NEO magazine, and get cool tweets on the net from great people. We also try to make time for all the people that come to see us. I don’t mind chit chatting away while we work and I think the MCM goers like that.

Laura: Do you have any future plans to attend any MCM events?

Alex: I’d like to. One stop at a time I think. My time is limited and I don’t drive at the moment, so London is about all I can manage. But as the books expand so will my face around the Expos hopefully 😀

Laura: How far ahead do you have the story for The Zombies Ate my Chilean planned? Do you have a big storyboard of the series planned or do you take the story one issue at a time?

Alex: I put a cap on the book at about 15 issues. It gives time for good character development and story. But it’s been five years now and only five issues, so I need to start thinking about maybe printing issues #6 – #10 as a graphic novel from the get go. It may be easier for me. And then I can go on and do #11 – #15. As I said a few questions back, the story is written in my head with some really cool things yet to come. I enjoy writing this way as I can sink in to each book one at a time.

Laura: You have a graphic novel collection for the series in the works. Having improved in the years since you started, how do you balance changing images you’re not happy with anymore and remaining faithful to your original vision?

Alex: Well in the novel there will be about three images changed I’m not happy with. It’s just as I’ve got older, artwork tends to progress. But I’m no Lucas! The changes will be minor. I like to keep most of my bad artwork on the pages. You see how the story evolves. Mostly all that will be done is I’ll need to heavily saturate the colours I’ve initially coloured with as I don’t think they’ll look great in print. I’m tempted to keep the story black and white because of its noir-ish, gritty look.

Laura: Do you have any final words?

Alex: YES! I’m looking forward to deleting all my dyslexic spelling mistakes from all previous issues that sliped through as I usually print on a tight deadline to get the books out in time to you! Sorry. The novel should hopefully be free of these!!!

But also a big thank you to those who have been enjoying our books. You keep us going and the MCM is our favourite Expo by far! Please always feel free to pop by, say hello, and listen to us talk utter nonsense!

I’ll get issue #6 out asap. The script has been written and it’s our best one yet. But if my career gets busier I’ll release it as a novel with issues #7, #8, #9, and #10 as quickly as my bleeding hands can draw!

Nuff undead love – Alex x

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