Now Reading: Q&A with Amy Fights Monsters comic creator Rich Johnson

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Q&A with Amy Fights Monsters comic creator Rich Johnson

svgFebruary 29, 2024ReviewsBoom Town Press

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[Rich Johnson is a Rochester-based web comic creator of Amy Fights Monsters. From the description on Webtoon: Amy Yamano was perfectly content to be a geologist. Then things got weird. Now, with the help of an alien suit of armor and a holographic mentor, AMY FIGHTS MONSTERS! This series blends Kaiju movie thrills, fascinating science fiction, superhero action, and quirky humor. New episodes are posted the first of every month.]

Boom Town Press: So your web comic Amy Fights Monsters started a year ago?

Rich Johnson: It started in December of 2022. The initial work started a little bit earlier. You need three months ready to go to put it on webtoons.

BTP: Okay, so how does it work? Do you have an idea in mind where this is going? Or do you kind of improvise as you go along?

RJ: I do. I learned from a previous project years ago, that you really need to have some kind of plan. You have to think ahead because otherwise you write yourself into a corner. And it’s hard to keep going.

BTP: So you are 12 to 15 episodes in so far.

RJ: So far.

BTP: Do you picture it going for another year? Or what’s the future for this?

RJ: At least a year or two. Yeah, I sat down I wrote out just a brief outline of where everything is going, and I have plans for stories for quite a while.

BTP: What drove you to start writing comics?

RJ: Well, writing is the hard part for me. Drawing kind of comes naturally I’ve been doing it all my life, but I haven’t really concentrated on writing until about the past 10 years or so. And it’s really been a struggle to get the skills and know what I’m doing basically. So, I consider myself a better artist than a writer but I think my writing is coming along

BTP: Okay, I got a follow up, how’d you get into drawing? Did you go to school for this?

RJ: Well, I just remember always doing it. When I was in grade school, you know, when I was in preschool, it dawned on me that other people don’t draw. And that was weird. So it’s just something that comes naturally. But I, obviously I went to school, I went to the Joe Kubert School in Dover, New Jersey for a year. It’s a three-year program, but my son was born, my wife and I had to move back to Rochester. And I finished up my degree at Nazareth College, I got a degree in art there. But really, it comes naturally for me.

BTP: Can you tell us a little bit about Joe Kubert School and what that experience was like?

RJ: It’s really interesting, because Joe Kubert himself is an old school, comic book artist. He worked for DC, he did a bunch of war stories and jungle stories and things like that. And the teachers there were mostly retired cartoonists, and all the students there wanted to do comics. So it was really exciting to be in that atmosphere. There’s a lot of energy there, mostly young people. I was a couple years older at the time, because I took a couple years off before going to college. It was just a great, great atmosphere. Lots of creativity everywhere.

BTP: Wait, so you went there before you went to college?

RJ: Yeah, I had a job waiting for me when I got out of high school. So I went to that, that didn’t pan out, so in the meantime, I had married my first wife. And she said, well if you really want to go to this art school, why don’t you go. So we did that. But then my son was born, we had a lot of bills to pay, so we came back to Rochester because we had a support network here. I decided to go to Nazareth instead and I got a degree in art from there. My life is a complicated story.

BTP: I wonder, what drove you to start writing?

RJ: Mainly because I couldn’t really find anyone to collaborate with. If I could find a really good writer, who would work with me, that would be great. But here in Rochester, I found a few people who were kind of interested, but they weren’t serious about it. They didn’t want to keep up with a deadline. So mainly it was necessity. I thought, if I’m ever going to get any comics done, I need to write them myself.

BTP: Have you ever wanted to give up?

RJ: Well, yeah, there have been times, especially before I really got serious about writing. I did a webcomic a few years ago, it was called Interstellar Overdrive. And it’s not on the web anymore. But at the time, I really didn’t consider myself a very good writer. And that’s the one I said, I kind of wrote myself into a corner. I didn’t know how to finish the story. So that one, I decided to go back to the drawing board and start over again. And I read a couple books about writing. I really sat down and I made an outline of all the stories I wanted to tell and in what order and I made sure that I worked things out in my head before I started doing anything on paper. And that changed everything.

BTP: That’s awesome. It’s amazing to learn a different skill completely at like, you know, when you get older, right?

RJ: Exactly, exactly. And believe me, I’m getting older. I’m getting older. I have two kids who are actually grown up now and makes me feel old.

BTP: What is your favorite genre?

RJ: Oh boy. Um, I would have to say science fiction. You know, I grew up when Star Wars came out. I have always been into, big, colorful, epic stories. And I’ve got a real soft spot for Japanese monster movies as you can probably tell. I’ll freely admit that there’s a lot of Godzilla and a lot of Ultraman and stuff like that in Amy Fights Monsters. Ah, have you ever been into edits?

BTP: Have you ever been into a movie called Death Note?

RJ: Oh, yeah, yeah, the anime. I actually have the first two sets of the manga and I have to buy and read the rest. But I love Death Note.

BTP: I am watching it right now.

RJ: Oh, great. One of the reasons I made Amy a Japanese American is I wanted to do little tributes here and there to manga artists and anime directors and things like that. So have you ever watched Dragon Ball Z?

BTP: I tried it, couldn’t really get into it.

RJ: Oh, okay. Well, Amy’s father is based on Akira Toriyama, who created that manga. So I just I love working in little things like that in that people may or may not notice, but it just makes me really happy to do these little tributes to people that I admire.

BTP: So what was what would you say was the first book you ever wrote?

RJ: Well, I did a lot of short stories. One of the ways I grew as a writer is I gave myself real small goals to try to meet. I do these one- or two-page comics and that gave me confidence to go on and try doing bigger things. I did a one-page comic called Roadkill that was really silly, but it was the first thing I was the writer and artist on. It is on Deviant Art at: https://www.deviantart.com/richjohnson

BTP: What do you do digital or analog?

RJ: A combination of both right now. I really enjoy using ink on paper. So usually the line work is analog. But then all the color and the lettering is digital.

BTP: What What software do you use?

RJ: I use it’s called GIMP Gimp. It’s a free alternative to Photoshop. It does about 95% of everything Photoshop does, but it’s absolutely free. I want to try CLIP STUDIO because I’ve been seeing a lot of people do nice work with that.

BTP: You use a PC/computer to color this stuff?

RJ: Yeah, I have a Dell laptop. I’ve got a just typical home scanner. Usually I’ll use somebody else’s scanner to do the work because I work on an 11 by 17 paper. And it’s a little big for the scanner bed that I’ve got so I’ll use I’ll use a professional scanner for that and then bring it home and colorize it.

BTP: What’s your like day job? I guess? I mean, if that’s not too personal.

RJ: Oh, no, not at all. I am working at a group home for people with developmental disabilities.

BTP: Related to that, how much money have you made with the web comic?

RJ: Not a whole lot. I’m still trying to promote it. I’ve done postcards that I’ve sent out to comic shops to try to get the word out and get people interested. I think I’ve got about 1000 people who have read it right now.

BTP: What’s the hardest thing to draw?

RJ: For me it’s city scenes. I’ve done some things. You know, I had one episode. In Mexico City. I had one that was set in New York, some that were set in Seattle. And because I’m a control freak, I want it to be as believable and realistic as possible. So a lot of times, I’ll google different neighborhoods, look at pictures, and I will try to make it as real as possible. Even though it’s a goofy story about monsters, I still want the backgrounds to be believable.

BTP: What were you thinking about when you drew the character Amy?

RJ: Amy herself, is based on a real Japanese actress from the 60s and 70s. Like I said, I’m a big fan of the old Godzilla movies. There is an actress named Kumi Mizuno. She was in Invasion of Astro Monster, which is one of my favorites. She plays an alien and she’s just got a really interesting look to her. She’s also in really cool movie called Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People, it’s hilarious.

(include poster of Matango and picture of Kumi Mizuno)

BTP: We have to track these down. Where do you even find these movies? Like, are they online?

RJ: Yeah, a lot of stuff is streaming on Max or Amazon Prime and some are even on YouTube for free. I’m a big fan of what they call the Shōwa era, which was the Godzilla movies of the 60s and 70s.

BTP: What is what is your opinion on AI as the theme of Amy Fights Monsters relates to Artificial Intelligence, and its heavy influence on society. Do you have an opinion on where this is going?

RJ: I think it’s, it’s so primitive right now, it’s in such an early stage, that I’ve seen some AI art that’s pretty good. But for some reason, it cannot draw hands. It really messes up fingers on people all the time and it cracks me up. I think it’s just another tool in the end, you know, they said photography was going to kill painting. That didn’t really happen. I don’t think AI is going to destroy art as we know it but it’s gonna be interesting the next few years.

BTP: Final question, what are these pocket sketches you are doing lately?

RJ: The pocket sketchbook is a book about the size of the “little black books” men used to carry around. It’s 3.75 x 5.75 inches; it fits in my jacket’s inside pocket. I bought it a few weeks ago, hoping to capture any good ideas I had at work or doing laundry, etc. So far, it’s mostly been silliness. But that’s okay. So far I’ve filled about 12 pages with little drawings. It forces me to draw on a small scale, so I don’t get bogged down in details.

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What do you think?

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4 Comments:

  • Judith Clay

    March 4, 2024 / at 6:48 pmsvgReply

    Refreshing. A talented artist making a female the main protagonist. In gaming and in any kind of comic, females are viewed as a helper, a worrier. It has gotten way better over the years because of Johnson and gaming developers. I’m anxious and delighted following Amy. Can’t wait to see what’s next from this talented individual. Thank you.

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    Q&A with Amy Fights Monsters comic creator Rich Johnson