The purpose of You’ve Never Heard Of… is to shine a spotlight on self-published creators who release their work in print or digital and creators who work for publishers that don’t rank in the top 10.
We’re in a golden age of comics right now and in an age of geek none of us could have ever imagined, but with the good comes the bad. As our geek news sites become more corporate they tend to focus less on comics and in some cases, less on independent creators. Which is why this series was created. As you all know Bleeding Cool is a popular site and has never shied away from giving a soap box to those starting out and trying to carve a niche for themselves.
So, with that having been said let’s get this show on the road. Today I’m gonna be interviewing Scott Weldon. The writer, letterer, and editor behind the comic book Harland Buck Freesword.
But before you start reading that how about a little summary?
Harland Buck is a tough, cynical mercenary swordsman burdened with a conscience he sometimes wishes he didn’t have. Join him as he plies his trade in a world of hard men, tough women, frontier wilderness, myth, magic, and adventure.
Now onto the interview.
Marco: I’ve asked this question a lot and I’ll keep asking it every time I interview someone. Because I think it’s a good introduction. So, here’s the question. What made you fall in love with comics (as a fan) and what made you want to get into the business of making comics?
Scott: Technically, that’s two questions, hahaha.
First off, I’ve been reading comics pretty much my whole life. My mom was an avid reader and started me young with Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and GI Joe comics. But I didn’t fall in love with comics until I was 11 and introduced to the Uncanny X-Men with issue #207. That’s the issue that had a John Romita JR drawn Wolverine cutting through the cover page. That single issue introduced me to the Marvel Universe and I was hooked. I went from reader to collector to lover of comics. Before I was out of 5th grade I was sure I wanted to draw comics when I grew up. That dream would hold until my senior year of High School when I finally realized my drawing was not strong enough to pursue art as a career. I spontaneously decided I would write instead, since I was always making up my own characters anyway, and that started a long and arduous 25-year journey.
That journey included giving up on writing comics, deciding I should do prose, (since I could do that on my own), and then eventually giving up on writing altogether around 2007. Then one day in late 2014 I begrudgingly established a Facebook account to organize a Warhammer 40K event but bumbled across a friend’s post about an acquaintance who was making his own indie-comics. Suddenly, everything changed. That acquaintance was Shane Will, and those comics were his Tomorrowverse line of superheroes from CK Comics. I was blown away that someone I knew was self-publishing their own comics. I wanted to know how he did it, and how *I* could do it.
I started talking with Shane, asking a million questions, and it all came back. Every childhood hope, every daydream, every abandoned story, every ounce of love for comics returned. Shane was kind enough to let me play in his CK Comics sandbox for a while and I learned the indie ropes by making comics with him. That let me get my head in the game, and now I am all-in with my own Weldon Studio, my own title, and my own team. So I guess I decided to get into the “business” of comics when I realized I could do it as an indie publisher and make them myself.
Marco: Look I never said I could count. HA HA HA Anyway, from my reading of the first issue of Harland Buck I’m seeing some Lord of the Rings and D&D there mixed with a very blunt, no-nonsense, almost Jeremiah Johnson type lead in Harland. Seeing as I’ve pointed out the obvious inspirations (and I could be wrong) what are the other inspirations for this comic and maybe the not so obvious ones?
Scott: You are close. Harland Buck is first and foremost a pulp hero. The influences on him and his world are many, and some are stronger than others. He is, essentially, a western hero archetype in a “fantasy” medieval world, you have that much correct. But until you mentioned it, I hadn’t thought of Jeremiah Johnson. And I always use the term “fantasy” lightly, as it evokes too many stereotypes and clichés that don’t belong. There are no elves, no dwarves and no dragons in Harland Buck’s world… but there is some myth, magic, and adventure.
The biggest influences on Harland Buck the character are the classic John Wayne and Clint Eastern western heroes, as well as Bud from L.A. Confidential, Wolverine from the 80s era X-Men comics, a little Savage Sword of Conan and, in a more subtle way, Manji from the Blade of the Immortal manga. He is a hard, no-nonsense man who lives in a hard, no nonsense world. As a freesword mercenary, he is a man of violence, but he has a conscience and his own sense of honor to keep him from being a villain. Harland without that conscience would be a scary, scary man.
The world Harland inhabits is a frontier colony, designed in many ways to resemble colonial America and the Wild West. The original world sprang up as a D&D inspired setting, based largely on the concepts from Greenwood’s Waterdeep and the North region of the Forgotten Realms. However, in its 20+ years of evolution, it has grown further and further away from the classic fantasy tropes, to become harder, pulpier and more realistic.
By the time I joined the Army in 2003 the world was what it is now, which is a play on the idea of Americanizing a fantasy setting. Most classic “fantasy” worlds are based on medieval Europe, but I wanted a place with an early American feel, where people are conquering the frontier, and rugged individualism is eroding traditional power structures and social standards. In the end, though, it is basically a pulp fiction setting inspired by classic comics, dime novels, old movies, T.V. shows and everything that I liked growing up as a kid.
Marco: It’s funny that you bring up Eastwood’s western heroes and Conan. I was gonna bring up the Man with No Name trilogy as a possible influence and Robert E. Howards favorite son. Glad to know I was right. Now from our conversations we’ve had on Facebook, I know you’re a big proponent of creator owned and independent comics. Just like I am. Is that your goal in the industry? To create only creator-owned work? A catalog of series that people will enjoy and hopefully support you and your loved ones. Or do you have an itch to ever work for the big two or other publishers?
Scott: A lot of indie creators will tell you their dream is to write “insert favorite comic here” and I can’t fault them for that, but for me, it’s all about creator owned. My hope is to build an audience for my own stories and have people fall in love with my characters. That is my real dream, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t write in someone else’s sandbox like I did with CK Comics, it just means that would be a fun aside. The actual goal is to succeed on my own merit, and with my own comics.
As insane as this sounds, I have zero interest in writing for the Big Two. I used to daydream of writing the X-Men when I was younger, but their continuity is so convoluted that I could never do them the way I wanted, with the characters that I wanted. And that is pretty much true of everything those companies control. I don’t feel a connection to them, save nostalgia for the 80s era comics I grew up on, and I don’t feel like I have anything to bring to the table.
Truth is, I’ve been making up my own characters from day one. Even when I was drawing, and not even thinking about writing, I spent 99% of my time making up my own characters and stories. Only about 1 in a 100 drawings were of my favorite merry mutants or Spider-Man. Hell, I still have tons of those crude drawings in a box and you never know what may come of that, hahaha. So, I’ve always leaned toward creating my own worlds, my own heroes, and my own stories. Now we call that creator-owned when I was a kid I just wanted to be the next Ed Greenwood or George Lucas.
Marco: Something else I wanna talk about is the friend Harland Buck meets in issue one, the Realmguard, Kendall Obassa. Kendall is a black knight. In traditional fantasy and sword and sorcery stories, you generally don’t see ethnic characters. Especially not good ones. Was this done on purpose? And was it important to you and to the story and world that he be ethnic?
Scott: This goes back to my concept of Americanizing fantasy. I want to have a diverse range of characters that represent the world we live in, and the people I am surrounded by in my life. That means diversity is inherent in the world I am creating, just as it is in modern America. Kendall is a black man because that is how I envisioned him, and that’s it. I wasn’t making a statement. Was it fun to break stereotypes? Of course, but I’m not creating characters for the sake of doing that. Mostly, I think it’s important that any person who reads my comic is able to see themselves in my world, to know this world is home to people who look like them, not just people who look like me.
You will see other characters that aren’t typical European fantasy characters as well, but they won’t be direct analogs to cultures in our own history. For example, when you meet our first Asian character he will not be a “samurai guy”. People are what they are in my setting, I’m not trying to recreate real-world cultures despite any obvious influences. I’m making all that up. That’s what is great about a “fantasy” world, it’s an imaginary place and I get to do whatever I want with it.
Marco: This is the portion that I like to call “pimp yourself”. Basically, tell the audience reading this article why they should check out Harland Buck Freesword and what they can expect down the line in future issues.
Scott: This should be the easy part, but actually I find this the hardest. In the heat of conversation, when I can talk in person, you can easily see the passion I have, the love I have for what I’m doing, and all the influences that are poured into it. But trying to briefly sum that all up here, with the written word, can be hard… even for a writer. I’ll do my best.
Harland Buck – Freesword is, as I mentioned before, very much a pulp hero. This comic is my homage to classic westerns and old school sword & sorcery style fantasy, with straight forward, character driven stories. His adventures are as gritty and tough as he is, but with heart. Because, despite the gruff exterior, there is more to Harland Buck than resting bitch face, bulging biceps and a bad-ass sword.
Harland Buck will likely never save the world as he chases bounties, tracks monsters in the woods, fights other men’s battles and acts as a champion for trial-by-combat to earn his coin, but he’s the guy you want at your back in a scrap. If you like tough guy heroes, in a tough frontier world, with a nod to some clichés and tropes, while turning others on their head, then I think you just might like what we have to offer.
The series will be ongoing, for as long as I am able to produce it. I have a lot of stories to tell for Harland, and some exciting places to take him and the characters who surround him. I have a great team, with Dino Agor doing beautiful pencils and inks, Fredrick Allison Jr. laying down awesome colors, and my wife working behind the scenes to help me chase the dream. This is your chance to join us, and Harland Buck, from the beginning. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you do.
Well, that’s all she wrote. I hope you all enjoyed this article. Let us know how you feel below. And don’t forget to check us out in two weeks when I interview Enzo Garza about his comic book Gutt Ghost. But before you go if you like what you read and have seen of Scott’s comic then purchase Harland Buck Freesword via his website www.weldonstudio.com and follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/weldonstudiocomics.
Marco Lopez is the co-owner of the website Atomic Rex Entertainment. Where you can find the ongoing weekly webcomic Massively Effective, that Marco describes as Abbott and Costello in tights. Also hosted on the site is Marco’s web strip series Orion’s Belt that follows an Afro-Latino family of adventurers in space and his anthology series A Shot of Whiskey. Marco has also written for Zenescope Entertainment and Lion Forge Comics.