THE CONVENTION COLLECTIVE: Thank you for joining us in the Spotlight, Doug! How did you get into writing and why did you want to become a writer?
Doug Wagner: You know, this is always an interesting question for me. I didn’t realize I wanted to write until I was 17, but in hindsight, I realize I was always a writer. I was, and still am, a very odd child. I didn’t fit in pretty much anywhere, mostly because I was always deep inside some imaginary world I had created. It’s kinda tough for other people to relate to a kid that isn’t living in their reality… literally.
I got into writing all because of two high school friends – Cully Hamner and Paul Touchton. Cully and I became friends after learning we both loved comics. He was already well on his way to becoming a legendary comic book artist, and apparently, he saw something in me and we started making up our own comics. Yep, just for our own amusement. After several months of doing this, it finally dawned on me I was writing comics and was obsessed with it. I’ve never wanted to do much else ever since. Paul was instrumental in all of that because the poor guy would sit and listen to me talk incessantly about the story I was working on at the time.
The why? I love telling stories. I mean, I get to play in these imaginary worlds all day long that inspire me, make me laugh, and bring tears to my eyes. I want to try my best to have everyone else get the chance to experience those worlds as well. Yes, I’m hoping I can help them escape the real world and come play in mine for even just a few minutes.
TCC: What was the first work you completed, where you stepped back and thought, “Yes, y’know what, I can do this for a living!”?
Doug: I’d written many stories beforehand, but the one story I remember to this day that made me sit back and think I might be able to pull this dream off was an Aliens vs Predator short story I wrote. I’m not going to say it was good, but it was the first time I loved something I’d written. I sent that story to Dark Horse over and over until I received a letter telling me to stop sending the same story to them over and over and over. Remember that part about me being a very odd child? Did I mention stubbornness was a part of that.
TCC: Which writers inspire you? And they don’t have to be in the medium you work in, either…
Doug: Oh, man. That list is longer than you have space for, so I’ll go with the ones that most influenced me. Hands down, Chris Claremont was the driving force in me wanting to be a comic book writer. That guy had me obsessed with the X-Men for at least two decades. Other writers that played a big part are Alan Dean Foster, Anne McCaffery, Tom Clancy, and Robert Heinlein.
TCC: Can you tell us your greatest fan moment, interacting with a personal hero of yours where you may have gone a little weak at the knees?
Doug: Again, that’s a long list. I’ve been blessed to meet a lot of my personal heroes over the years (all of them were awkward. Ever. Single. One.) I’m so very much a fan boy. Probably my favorite fan moment was when I met Mick Foley. Incredibly great guy. I didn’t know what to say to this man that I’d be in awe of for much of my life. I fumbled over my words and can’t honestly remember what I said for the first 5 minutes. You know, one of those anxiety blackouts where you don’t really remember what happened? However, I do remember when it went sideways. I was sitting at a table next to Mick during a signing. He was texting on his phone and didn’t notice a fan standing in front of him. I joked with the fan that I’d bet he didn’t think he’d ever see Mankind texting on his phone. Mick gave me this dirty look and I knew I’d screwed up. Being the awkward guy that I am, I shrugged and told him I knew there was nothing Doug Wagner could physically do to hurt a man like Mick Foley. No punch, no kick, no headbutt that would even make a man like him even flinch. BUT… I’d seen him walk to the ring and knew without a doubt that I could outrun him, and I wasn’t too proud to do so. He chuckled and went on about signing his wares. We never spoke again.
TCC: What is your favorite fandom? Who is your favorite comic book character/movie/tv character?
Doug: Oh LORD!! My favorite?!? I love my comic books, so that’s always my go to. BUT, if you wanna see Doug get all giddy, I will 100% lose it over anything Alien and/or Aliens. I’m giddy right now thinking about it. No, I’m being serious. And yes, my favorite character is the original Xenomorph.
TCC: What’s your working routine? Do you work regular set hours and days, keeping certain days free for personal time, or do you find you create any time the muse takes you?
Doug: I work pretty much 7 days a week and my hourly schedule is an ADHD train wreck. I do love what I do, but I’ve yet learned to be efficient at it. I find myself working in every free moment I can find. That said, I do attempt to stay within a fixed schedule, but it’s more of a loose guideline. I tend to start my day at 11 am and work until the muses stop whispering. That can be 3 hours of creative work or 10 hours. Who knows? I know I do need to start scheduling at least one day off a week, but I’ve been either too lazy or too overwhelmed with work to do make it happen.
TCC: When you’re writing, what do you use for background noise? Some writers use music or podcasts, some use a TV show that they just can listen to in the background. What do you use?
Doug: If I’m in the plotting or story development phase, I listen to music that shares the feeling and vibe of what I’m trying to accomplish. It helps my mind stay in tune with what I’m attempting to create. For instance with Plastic, I would listen to a mix of horror music and pop love songs while I was working on the plot. I was hoping to channel a mix of those two emotions into a single story. However, if I’m scripting, I can’t listen to anything. I have to be surrounded by as close to absolute silence as I can get. I’ve heard some creatives can listen to movies or TV shows while they work, but I’ve never been able to pull that off. Yes, I resent all those that can with every fiber of my soul.
TCC: What was the first comic con that you remember attending? And, indeed, what was the last?
Doug: My first comic con was Atlanta Fantasy Fair probably around 1990. Oh, man. Nothing but great memories from that one. Walking into a convention center filled with like-minded, comic obsessed fans was like nothing I’d ever experienced. The last one was FanX 2021 in Salt Lake City just a few weeks ago. It was weird to return to a big event since the Pandemic started, but I loved every second of it. I still adore going to cons to this day. They’re still magical to me.
TCC: What’s your favourite element of a comic convention? And which bits could you easily leave behind?
Doug: Inspiration. I can’t tell you how many stories have been inspired by walking around a comic convention and perusing through all the amazing art there. It’s also so inspiring to see all these creatives trying their best to create the best work they can and having the courage to show it to the world. Didn’t I say cons were magical to me?
It’s tough for me to think of something I don’t like about cons. I mean, I do genuinely love going to them. I guess I’m not a fan of lines and some of the hours have gotten to be way too long, but I’m just nitpicking there.
TCC: At a convention, when you’re not behind your table or doing the things you have to do at a con, which corner of the show would we find you in?
Doug: Artist alley. Without a doubt. I feed off all that creative energy and leave every show more motivated and more inspired to keep doing what I’m doing.
TCC: A lot of creatives are also took to crowdfunding – such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo – to generate income from their work. What’re your thoughts on that avenue?
Doug: Well, I’ve already done a couple Kickstarters, so I’m obviously a fan. In my opinion, crowdfunding is just a different distribution method for my work. From time to time, I create projects that I don’t believe are well-suited for the traditional comic book distribution model. They just won’t stand out on the shelves enough for them to be successful. So, I’ve found I can still publish them and get everyone involved paid via crowdfunding.
TCC: The conventions are slowly but surely coming back, thank goodness! Have you attended one yet, do you intend to get back out behind a table soon? What’s your next convention or, if you’re holding off for a while longer, what’s your thoughts on cons right now?
Doug: I’m ecstatic that they’re coming back… and also terrified. I have no idea how this pandemic is going to work out and how safe attendees are going to be. I’ve been doing cons for decades now and without fail I usually get the “con crud” at at least one of them a year. Toss in the possibility that the con crud could now be COVID and it’s scary. I don’t want to bring that home with me and pass it on to my family.
Personally, I’m only attending cons with a mask mandate for the foreseeable future. I’ve attended Wasatch Comic Con and FanX already this year and plan on tabling at ECCC in December.
TCC: But let’s get back to the important stuff: your work! What projects have you recently finished, what are you working on at the moment, what projects are coming up that you can talk about?
Doug: I’m currently working on VINYL, a six-issue mini-series published by Image Comics. I’m working on a few more books, but unfortunately, I’m not allowed to talk about any of them. All I can say at this time is that one of them is the third installment in what Daniel Hillyard and I call our “Material Trilogy” with Image Comics. The first one was Plastic, the current one is Vinyl, and hopefully next year, there will be…
TCC: How do you stay connected with fans? Do you use a mailing list or newsletters, are you active on social media?
Doug: I typically use social media, but I’ve recently been building a mailing list. Social media is great for the day-to-day stuff, but I’m thinking I need something that can spread the word about new projects and what I’m working on at the moment in a more focused kinda way.
TCC: Where can people find out more about you and your projects?
Doug: On the socials, you can find me on Twitter (@Doug_Wagner), on Instagram (Doug.Wagner13), and on Facebook (Doug.Wagner13). You can check out my projects at the Image Comics and 12-Gauge Comics websites.
TCC: Thanks, for your time Doug!
Doug: It was truly my pleasure!
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