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Sandbox Spotlight: MICHAEL TANNER, Comic Writer

The Convention Collective: How did you get into writing and why did you want to become an writer?

Michael Tanner: I have always wanted to tell stories and really also have always wanted to make comics. I had binders full of characters and stories from the time I was eight years old. In high school, I wrote sketch comedy and plays and in college I studied tv writing. That last one is what brought me to LA in my 20s. TV didn’t work out, but luckily I had an interesting hobby (roller derby) and from there I got my first comic work writing for a derby themed anthology. Also from derby I befriended someone who was going to work in the office side of the comic industry and was open to hear my pitches. That led to Junior Braves of the Apocalypse which led to Orcs in Space which led to our projects. I feel incredibly lucky to have done what I’ve been able to do.

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!”?

MT: Honestly, probably just recently. There’s a project not yet announced with a pretty big publisher that I think it wasn’t until they accepted the final draft of the script that I thought “There might be a career here.” But then of course they just came back to us with some notes that we have to entirely address in dialogue because the art was basically done for the parts that need addressing.

TCC: Which writers inspire you? And they don’t have to be in the medium you work in, either…

MT: Harlan Ellison has always been a huge influence on my writing. Spalding Gray’s monologues also taught me a great deal about storytelling. 

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?

MT: Meeting George Romero at an SDCC years ago… and being so young and dumb as to hand him a short pitch for a zombie western screenplay I wrote (that HAD been a runner up in horror screenplay competition…just saying). Super embarrassed now that I did that rather than just…you know, try to talk to him. 

TCC: What is your favorite fandom? Who is your favorite comic book character/movie/tv character?

MT: All fandoms can get a little weird. I honestly think toy collecting might be the safest? Rarely are you going to run into overtly problematic people–not because there aren’t problematic people in the fandom, but rather their problematic aspects aren’t necessarily going to manifest while talking about paint applications and articulation. I’m a part of a lot of fandoms that can just be minefields (Tiki or Mid-Century Modern Design or comics can have some just atrociously awful people in it), but rarely do I encounter issues with the toy crowd. My favorite super hero has always been Quicksilver for some really odd reason. Can’t explain WHY, but ever since I was a little kid and saw him in an issue of Fantastic Four, he’s been my favorite. 

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?

MT: I tend to work in the evenings when I have something to work on…but also don’t like to work on writing projects after 9pm. So there’s this sweet spot of like 6 to 9pm where I want to work on writing. If I have a deadline or if the inspiration strikes, I’ll work on writing on the weekends.

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?

MT: I used to be able to do music, but lately, I need quiet or noise that I don’t need to pay attention to. For example, I can work while my wife watches The Office, because I don’t need to pay attention. But if she’s watching something I don’t know and it’s new… that’s distracting.  

TCC: What was the first comic con that you remember attending? And, indeed, what was the last?

MT: I attended a very old school “long boxes on tables” convention in Spokane, Washington about 1994 or 95? That was my first. My last was Rose City Comic Con 2021 where I was a guest and did several panels. That’s always one of the best shows.

TCC: What’s your favourite element of a comic convention? And which bits could you easily leave behind?

MT: Interacting with fans–hands down my favorite. And I mean my “fans”–people who have bought a book from me and come back the next year (or the next day) to see what new stuff I have or just to say hi. Direct feedback from people. One of my favorite con moments of all time was selling a copy of Junior Braves vol 1 to a teacher who thought her students might like it and then later that day she came back to say that she had just sat down and read it and she was VERY impressed and I should be proud (you know that way that teachers give praise), it was so nice. As far as what I could leave behind…conventions building their budgets seemingly on the backs of AA creators? Table fees are outrageous at this point at way too many cons.

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?

MT: Toy vendors….I’m always looking for good deals on little plastic dudes to sit on my shelf. 

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?

MT: I think crowdfunding has been a real godsend to the comics industry. Happy to see data that proves that wrong though. I’ve done one crowdfunded book and am planning another in early 2022. I remember as a teenager reading a booklet on self-publishing comics because my friends and I wanted to do it. A local comic shop self-published a little anthology comic and that made us think we could do it too. It was daunting back pre-ubiquitous internet. You’d be doing it all out of pocket, all cold calling vendors and stores, etc. Now there’s a platform to reach a potential audience right there. I do think there’s a “money pie” with the available audience and I can see how some indie creators resent “Name” creators and sizable publishers dipping into that crowdfunding deliciousness. The pie might not be infinite so….for example Keanu Reeves taking a 100k slice out of the pie, might mean there’s only smaller slices of pie available for everyone else for a little while. 

TCCThe 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?

MT: Rose City this year was really great. The convention emphasized safety and was enforcing mask mandates which made me better. It still was a little nerve-wracking, though. Unlike some of the other bigger cons that have happened in this later part of 2021, there appears to have been no significant outbreaks tied to it, so clearly they (con organizers and the city of Portland) did something right. I don’t have any more planned right now, but can see coming back in spring 2022.   

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? 

MT: Orcs in Space in my big one right now since that’s ongoing and the first TPB came out this month. I have a new project hitting Kickstarter, hopefully in February, called “Battle Grapple: Rebel” which, even though it is sci-fi, is a very grounded story about politics and pro-wrestling. 

TCC: How do you stay connected with fans? Do you use a mailing list or newsletters, are you active on social media?

MT: Try to stay very active on socials… mailing lists just never clicked for me, although for a while I tried to build one.

TCC: Where can people find out more about you and your projects? 

MT: My website, ByMichaelTanner.com

TCC: Thanks, for your time Michael! 

MT: Thank you!

We at The Convention Collective want to showcase the very best in creative talent. Are you a creator who would like to be featured in our weekly Sandbox Spotlight? Leave a comment here, or reach out to us at admin@TheConventionCollective.com

Dan Berry
Dan Berry
Dan Berry is a man of mystery, an enigma that flits from convention to convention like a spectre, like a spirit. His interests range far and wide: he cannot be determined, he cannot be defined, he cannot be contained. He's like the wind. He also is a Sagittarius and enjoys a nice Italian.

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