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Sandbox Spotlight: TONY FLEECS, Comic Creator / Artist / Writer

THE CONVENTION COLLECTIVE: Thank you for joining us in the Spotlight, Tony! How did you get into writing and art and why did you want to become a writer and artist?

Tony Fleecs: I initially just wrote so that I’d have something to draw. I’ve always drawn— I was always going to be an artist. But outside of school, I didn’t ever write anything until I decided that I was going to for sure make comics. At that point, I figured, if I couldn’t find somebody to work with who was writing the specific kind of comics I wanted to make— then I was just gonna figure out how to do it myself.

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!”?

Tony: I decided that WAY too early. The first book I ever did was a black and white autobio book from a tiny publisher. It sold 750 copies through Previews. I found out recently that 300+ of those were all to my local shop… So call it 400 copies. Made no money on it. But I was like, “You know what? Enough of this day job. I quit.” I’m not sure why I had that confidence then but somehow it all worked out.

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

Tony: There are a million of them. Mainly I’m inspired when somebody does a thing that’s recognizable but feels completely unique. I’ve been on a big Tarantino kick lately because he’s been on a bunch of podcasts. Paul Thomas Anderson. I feel like Skottie Young and Jeff Smith are like a 2 headed Mount Rushmore for guys who draw cartoony and don’t like to be told what to do. Kanye. David Lapham.  My friends. My studio mates. A million of them.

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?

Tony: Too many! I get fanboy butterflies every time I have any kind of interaction with one of these people I’m inspired by. I’m pretty good at playing it cool though. Most recently, I guess, Brian Michael Bendis gave us a super nice quote for STRAY DOGS and we don’t really know each other at all. I just emailed the address from the Powers letters page. That was a wild one for me. I’ve loved his stuff for 20+ years.

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

Tony: Favorite Fandom— like which fans do I like the best? Bronies.
Favorite Character: Han Solo?

TCC: Outside of the ones you create for a living, what characters/stories do you like drawing the most in your spare time?

Tony: What is spare time?

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?

Tony: I work every day. I work on keeping days free for personal time but I’m not great at it. I like making comics more than I like pretty much anything else. I start about an hour after I wake up and just go until I can’t go anymore. Then I watch a show and kick it with my dog for a while. That’s every day, pretty much.

TCC: When you’re creating, what do you use for background noise? Some creators use music or podcasts, some use a TV show that they just can listen to in the background. What do you use?

Tony: When I’m drawing it’s a lot of podcasts/YouTube shows— If I really need to knuckle down and get something done, I put on music very loud in headphones. When I write I like to listen to soundtracks on record— getting up and flipping them over gives me a minute to look away from a script and clear my head.

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

Tony: First one I remember was in like 1992 at Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs— I just remember my mom dropped me off there. I didn’t bring any money but I flipped through long boxes all day long. Stan Lee was there. I had him sign 90s Marvel books that he had nothing to do with.

Last one was Lodi Comic Con in Northern California. And I’m on my way to one in Dallas right now. Cowtown Comic Con. I’m feeling smaller shows these days.

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

Tony: Mixing it up. I love talking to fans and other pros. Meeting new people. I love talking about comics but my favorite thing is finding somebody who’s got some wild story that has nothing to do with comics. Least favorite part— Commissions. I used to love them. Now I feel just, immense pressure to kill it on them and I’m not at home— I don’t have all my tools and stuff… I’m always so relieved when somebody just gets an original page or cover from me— I already did that stuff. I stand by its quality for the most part… That’s a crazy thing to say, right? Maybe I just need to limit how many commissions I take? Please still buy commissions, folks.

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?

Tony: DITC. Digging in the crates. I love a dollar books or half priced trades booth. Or shopping for original art.

TCC: With the lack of conventions, a lot of artists are taking commissions online and mailing them out to people – is this something you’re doing?

Tony: No. I’ve just had my head down all quarantine— Did a lot of working. Made a bunch of comics.

TCC: A lot of creatives are also taking to crowdfunding – such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo – to generate income from their work. What’re your thoughts on that?

Tony: I like it. I like the idea of getting a cool, personal thing from a creator I dig. We’re about to kickstart a book and it’s been fun to try and figure out unique add on stuff that fits with the book.

TCC: What projects have you recently finished? What are you working on at the moment, what projects are coming up that you can talk about?

Tony: Just finished Stray Dogs from Image Comics with my partner, Trish Forstner. TPB comes out in September (editor’s note, it came out this past week). We’re working on a 2 part Stray Dogs special called Dog Days. That’ll come out at the end of the year.

I wrote and drew a story in My Little Pony/Transformers II. That just came out a couple weeks ago.

Like I said in the last question, we’re about to Kickstart another book— This book me and my friend Christian Meesey made a year or 2 ago that was supposed to come out in January of 2020 but it got sort of sidelined by Covid. It’s called Time Shopper. It’s a sci-fi comedy about a guy who travels in time and buys stuff. It’s great. I can’t wait to finally get it out into the world.

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

Tony: Yeah, all of those. I have a mailing list that you can join at tonyfleecs.com or Straydogscomic.com. I’m on Twitter and Instagram. There’s a Stray Dogs group on Facebook that has a TON of people in it. That’s a really cool community. It’s all people who dig my comic and also post pictures of their dogs. It’s perfect.

TCC: Where can people see an example of your art online and find out about your rates?

Tony: TonyFleecs.com, StrayDogsComic.com, TimeShopperComic.com.

TCC: Thanks, Tony, for your time!

Tony: Thanks for having me!

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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