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October 29, 2010

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Ten Questions: Shane and Chris Houghton

Posted by on Oct 29, 2010

Shane Houghton writes words.  Chris Houghton draws pictures.  By their powers combined, it is Reed Gunther, a comic book about a cowboy and his bear.  I’ve been hooked on this great series since I read the first issue, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.  In this installment of Ten Questions, Shane and Chris drop some knowledge on us about the future of Reed Gunther, living in a Technicolor dream world, and the finer points (literally) of brotherly love.

Without further ado, Enter the Houghtons…

1.  What can you tell us about the genesis of Reed Gunther, both as a character and as a comic?  What comics (or other intellectual properties) have been your largest sources of inspiration for Reed and his world?

Chris:  Reed Gunther was at first written and drawn by me for a local indie comics magazine. They were short, 6-page stories, and frankly…not very good. The comics magazine went under and so did Reed Gunther.

Shane:  I really liked that Chris was starting to do some comic work (we both had read tons of comics as kids) and I had recently been learning about writing at film school. For Christmas in 2007, my budget was tight so I decided to write Chris a full comic script as a present using his awesome characters, Reed and Sterling.

Chris:  As for the actual character of Reed Gunther, he really started to show his true colors once Shane started writing him and I started drawing him a lot more.

Shane:  As for intellectual properties that have influenced us, I know I learned a lot of my American History from Don Rosa’s The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck!

Chris:  I always liked stories about “the kid and his dog” like Calvin and Hobbes or Han Solo and Chewbacca.

2.  Although incredibly popular during the Golden Age, Western comics were eclipsed by the capes and cowls genre that now dominates the industry.  To what would you attribute the renewed interest in Westerns like Scalped, Jonah Hex, and Reed Gunther?

Chris:  Renewed interest?! I haven’t been able to get cowboys outta my head since I was a kid! Fads and interests come and go, but I think Americans especially identify with the cowboy.

Shane:  I’m not really sure why people like one thing over the other but I’m pretty sure everything works in cycles. Vampires and zombies have always been popular and are currently in an upswing. I think it’s about time that Westerns came back.

Don't call it a comeback...At least not for this guy.

3.  Why did you decide to self-publish?  And why, when digital distribution would have been an easier method of self-publishing, did you make the effort to see your work in print?

Shane:  Because we didn’t know what we were doing!

Chris:  We choose to self-publish at first because we weren’t really sure where this thing was going to go. Now that the series has picked up a little momentum, we’d love to stop self-publishing, but we can’t get anyone to publish it! (laughs)

Shane:  When we started, we wanted to convince ourselves that we could make a comic, and I guess that means we wanted to see it in the flesh, so to speak. Computers and digital distribution are great but there’s nothing like seeing your work on the printed page. Plus it’s just cool to wave comics around.

To have it printed somehow makes it real. That’s how we always read comics and that’s how we wanted people to read ours. We’re not against digital distribution at all, but printing, although way more expensive, seems like more fun.

4.  You’ve stated that you plan to color Reed Gunther when the first five issues are collected in trade.  Did you originally envision Reed Gunther in color?  What do you think color adds to (or subtracts from) comics in general, and what will it bring to your book?

Shane:  The only reason Reed is currently in black and white is because it’s cheaper to print and coloring it would take more time. So lack of time and money. That’s what stops just about anything.

We’d love to see Reed in color because it helps tell the story. Color can represent mood, tone, and focus the reader’s eye to certain things they may have not picked up earlier. This is probably the worst example but until the first issue was colored, I never noticed a stinky cow pie Chris drew in one of the panels. Color! It’s the future, kid!

Chris:  What he said.

Not everyone gets to see color. Consider yourselves lucky.

5.  We know you’re hard at work on the fifth issue in the Reed Gunther series.  Do you see Reed’s story continuing past that?  Do you have any other major projects in the works that you can tell us about?

Shane:  Oh man, you don’t even know! I’ve got loads of Reed and Sterling adventures I can’t wait to get out! After the fifth issue, we plan to drop the format down from 32 pages to a more standard 22 pages and try to produce our issues faster. We’re shooting to get on a monthly schedule.

Chris:  I’d love to keep drawing Reed and friends for as long as I can. I really enjoy the characters and the stories we’ve been working on. Regardless of what happens with Reed Gunther, you can bet that Shane and I will be working on some new story together.

Shane:  As for future projects, Chris and I have come up with some really fun ideas for series and mini-series, but we’re currently keeping them in our back pocket and focusing on Reed. They’re kind of our backups in case no one ever reads Reed Gunther and that series somehow crashes and burns. Reed is still very new and not many people have read our books, but the response we get from the people who do read is fantastic! We’re hoping Reed takes off though.

Besides that, Chris and I have been pitching ideas to various publishing companies but we don’t have anything solid to announce just yet.

6.  You’re brothers, so we know there’s an answer to this one.  Which one of you would win in a fight?

Shane:  Chris is pretty nimble for having such a dumb-looking face, but he did wrestle in middle school while I only ever played tennis (for one year then quit cause I sucked). But I am taller and learned how to shoot a variety of guns while in film school.

Chris:  This is going to sound like I’m exaggerating or I’m trying to show off, but seriously… I. WOULD. WIN. In fact, I’ve won in the past and am currently beating Shane up right now.

Shane:  He’s all talk. His punches are like sweet kisses. Are there any weapons in this fight? What about the arena? These are some very important factors that we would need to weigh in on to accurately determine a winner.

Although what would probably happen is that Chris and I would team up to punch a hole in the head of whoever is making us fight. CAUSE WE’RE A TEAM!

Chris:  And after we take out that guy, I would totally take out Shane.

Choose wisely...

7.  You’ve had the opportunity to create together all of your lives.  Is Reed Gunther your first foray into joint production, or was his coming presaged by the refrigerator-worthy comics you’ve been making at home for years?

Shane:  Chris and I have always jammed out in our parent’s garage when growing up. We had a drum set, bass, and guitars. We were never in an official band with each other (way too cool for that). Chris has acted in some of my short films and videos. Our first comic foray was when Chris illustrated a three page comic for the DVD insert of a superhero short film I made. That was pretty cool.

Chris:  We’ve always worked on stuff together whether that be music, movies, animations, or comics. Reed Gunther is probably the only thing thus far that we’d be willing to present to the public!

8. You recently released the digital comic Moon Gloom on your website as a $0.99 download.  What did the incredibly quick production of this story teach you about making comics?  And can we expect any more “14 hour comics” in the future?

Chris:  I’ve done other intense drawing exercises like that in the past, but I’m always surprised by what I learn about drawing and the choices I make in a short amount of time.

Shane:  Since we were on such a tight time schedule, I ended up helping Chris with a lot of the art work, mostly filling in the blacks and outlining the panels. It was loads of fun but I did discover that it’s tough to draw for hours on end. I don’t know how Chris does it.

9.  When you’re not writing your own comics, what other kinds of media are you reading, watching, or playing?  Are there any artists (in any medium) to whom you pay particularly close attention?

Shane:  B.P.R.D. by the unstoppable team of Arcurdi, Davis and Mignola is always an incredible and insanely epic read. I’m also loving CHEW and just finished reading Y The Last Man. I’m a little late to the Y The Last Man party, but man that is a great series. I have been reading American Vampire and The 6th Gun which are both really awesome Westerns with lots of supernatural goodness as well. I also listen to a lot of movie scores when I write. I particularly like How to Train Your Dragon and any score by Michael Giacchino. Director’s Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Clone High, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs) are a favorite of mine and I’m looking forward to what they do next. I’ll always catch a Coen Brother’s movie as well.

The Coen Brothers jump on the Houghton Brothers' Cowboy Bandwagon.

Chris:  I read anything Guy Davis works on, but mostly follow cartoonists like Pascal Campion, Sergio Aragones (of course), Robb Mommaerts, Ben Balistreri, Pierre Alary, and so many more. I especially love the Blacksad series and read every single “Now It Can Be Told” comic by Scott Shaw. I’m constantly inspired by my fellow artists of Heeby Jeeby Comix, Bob Flynn, David DeGrand, and Dan Moynihan. I’ve also been listening to a lot of old time radio while I work. Mostly shows like “Inner Sanctum” or “Hopalong Cassidy.”

10. What is your quest?

Chris:  I would love to see Reed Gunther become a monthly series. As of right now, I can’t think of a better job.

Shane:  What he said.

All of us at NNAR would like to thank Shane and Chris for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer our Ten Questions, despite the Surgeon General’s warning against doing so.  And, as they both survived the ordeal, you can catch them this weekend at the Long Beach Comic Con and all the time on their website reedgunther.com or on Twitter @shanehoughton and @choughtonart.  And, in the shameful case that you haven’t already, go read their book!