A Match Made in Los Angeles: An Interview with Michael May of Eros Inc.
Michael May is the creator of Eros Inc., a webcomic about a young woman, Mot Fleishman living a normal life until fate picks her to be Cupid giving her the power of fate of lovers living in Los Angeles. (May first came to my attention with his now on hiatus comic about movies called Stock Footage). Eros Inc. is a very funny comic and young, twenty-something Mot is a great character to follow along with. I would guess fans of Octopus Pie could really like this too. It's very funny but it's not always tightly wound around jokes per se and May handles the story pretty well so far. His art is a bit on the rough side but for me it works very well.
May did our cover art at ComixTalk this month and I interviewed him very recently via email.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Michael May, I'm twenty-three years old, and I write and draw Eros Inc. I went to Syracuse University for Film. I am also Jewish.
What's a typical day for you like recently?
My day begins at 6:30AM (or earlier if my cats wake me up) where I draw and ink my comics before work. At work, I'm usually assembling the comics in photoshop while I wait for job-related assignments, or I do some quick drawing/inking on my lunch break or when I'm the last one in the office. The evenings are spent catching up on television. I live a charmed life.
Where are you located these days?
I'm living in Los Angeles, Silver Lake. I love it there.
Do you have another job besides working on comics?
I currently work at Good Humor TV, a television development company as a production assistant, which involves covering phones, maintaining our office or getting lunch. It's Tom Werner's production company, who would best known as an executive producer of The Cosby Show, Roseanne, 3rd Rock from the Sun, That 70's Show, etc etc. We just recently premiered our new show, The Life and Times of Tim on HBO last month. We have some new shows in development, I'm hoping to jump on them as soon as we get them moving.
First and foremost I'm a writer. I did a little re-write work for an independent sci-fi film "Humanity's End" which was a great learning experience. I have yet to see the final product for that.
I aim to write for television, my wildest fantasy plays me as a showrunner for my own series, which is sort of the reason why I started this comic.
Do you read other comics? What are you reading online or in print?
God yes. Online comics I peruse include Octopus Pie, Abominable Charles Christopher, Kukuburi, Johnny Wander, Scary Go Round, Instant Classic and Genrezvous Point, Anders <3 Maria and a ton of livejournal comics, like Sudden Valley, Kate Beaton's comics and Nedroid Comics, which make me laugh consistently. I spend a fair amount of time reading online.
As for print comics, I just finished reading Lucy Knisley's French Milk, which I loved and I'm working on Mike Dawson's Freddie & Me, which I sincerely dig so far. Alex Robinson's Too Cool to be Forgotten almost made me cry and wins "Best Title for a Graphic Novel" as far as I'm concerned.
Give me the 30 second "convention pitch" for your comic.
Thirty seconds... okay okay. Mot Fleishman, a normal Los Angeles Twenty-Something is hired by Eros Inc. to find love for the loveless as a local Cupid. I think that's thirty seconds if you say it slowly.
How has the strip evolved over time?
The strip is fairly young having only been around for five months, but the art has definitely changed over time. I've just gotten a better handle on how I draw these characters, my style, how I assemble the strip. Getting used to the brushpen has also helped.
Do you have a favorite strip or storyline from the comic? Which ones do fans seem to bring up the most?
Personally, I love the Rosemary McClaire storyline out of all the storylines I've done, which is a whopping "three." Short, sweet, and I love the scene with the band, Flux Capacitor, playing their music while the action takes place. A lot of fun to write and draw.
Are there any of your characters you're really fond of? Any that are particularly difficult to use?
I'm honestly quite fond of all the characters, though Clue has to be my favorite to write and draw. Mot and Tomas are up there too, which is why those three have come forward as major my characters. I actually had a lot of trouble writing for Tomas at first, mainly because he's an immigrant. I had some problems figuring out how he'd speak, deleted a lot of dialogue in the process, but I like how he is now - quiet, contemplative, a foil to Clue.
My biggest problem is that I'm constantly adding characters and I want to include them all, so finding a reason why someone should appear usually ends with them not appearing at all. For instance, I wanted Rosemary to appear in this current chapter but couldn't find a place for her, so she'll appear eventually in a future chapter.
Do you have any long term goals or ambition for the future of the comic?
I do actually. I actually treat this comic less like a graphic novel and more like a television series. I think of arc as an "episode" and I plan on having a complete HBO-style season (ten to twelve episodes). I want to have each season have an overlying arc as well, which I've been quietly referring to occasionally. I have around four to five seasons already in mind, not with every episode planned out, but I do know where I'm taking this. If I keep up with this I should be going for at least four to five years.
In terms of what happens to my characters, I want you to feel like you know the town of Silver Lake after awhile. I want it to feel like a living, breathing neighborhood, everyone knows your name and everyone's glad you came and all that jazz.
Any plans for a print collection?
Yes actually. I want to put out mini-comics of every chapter, I've already started a bit of planning. Eventually I'd love to put out volumes, but I'm not quite there yet. Nothing is set in stone at the moment.
How do you go about promoting your work? What seems to be most effective at pulling in new readers?
I mostly use Project Wonderful and post on comics that I like to read. I've mostly been putting up small ads on Octopus Pie and Anders <3 Maria, along with other similar comics. I spend most of my time trying to figure out what kind of audience I want to build and attempt to share my comic with that group. It's worked alright so far.
What conventions are your favorites to exhibit at? What advice do you have for others just starting to show their work at conventions?
I have yet to exhibit Eros Inc. at any cons, but I used to live in West Hartford when Connecticon started up and I would often show whatever comic I was doing at the time. I had a blast, I wish I could go over there next year HINT HINT INVITE ME.
Do you have a favorite convention story?
A few years ago, Brian Carroll, Tim Buckley and I had tables in the same corner at Connecticon. We had picked up a bunch of foam dart guns at some grocery store the morning before and we started a small war in that corner. My favorite part of that was Tim attempting a Max Payne which ended with him sprawled out, on the floor. Well played sir.
When you create a comic, how do you appproach it? Do you start with the words and then think about the scene that should go with it or do you start with more of purely visual approach or none of the above?
What I do first is figure out what I want to happen with the arc, since I work episode by episode. What's gonna happen? Where do I want it to go? Who changes? I used to just write out a basic simple summary of the arc and go from there, letting the actions play out, but after awhile I would get frustrated. I wanted every beat written out in some form.
What I do know is a complete breakdown of what I want to happen in the arc, comic by comic, beat by beat, which lets me time it the way I want. For instance, with the current arc (Victor Pridge) I have twenty four bullet points telling me what happens in each comic, complete with possible dialogue and actions.
Then I write the comic. I don't even begin to draw it until I'm happy with the words, or mostly happy with what I get down. I tend to write a batch of comics together to give myself a buffer of scripts so when I want to draw, I always have a script to work with.
Then I split up the dialogue into panels, usually with small notes reminding me of a funny pose or facial expression. Then I start to draw.
What tools do you use to make comics? Can you give us a brief walkthrough of your process?
I write the comic using Final Draft 6 on my computer, then I split up the dialogue into panels. I don't have a set number of panels or set comic size, which would make the half-pixel guys cringe. Because I'm working more with an overarching plot rather than just setup-punchline, I feel guilty if I only give my readers six panels every other day. It makes the comic move slower. So when I write, I write the dialogue until the scene is done. Some are four panels, others go as long as fifteen to twenty.
Then I start to draw. I pencil using a mechanical pencil with .05 lead and I draw straight into my sketchbook on 8x10 paper. I ink using a Pentel Brushpen with refillable ink. I erase the pencil, and scan the comic into photoshop, where I assemble, clean up and add the panels/dialogue/bubbles. Resize and it's on the web!
Did you do your own website? What software are you using on it?
I did do the website myself and I made it with Wordpress and Comicpress. PHP makes the rotating banner work. Not very interesting.
How would you describe your relationship with your fans? Do you engage in a lot of online interaction with your readers?
Anyone that posts anything on the site is awesome, polite and complimentary. I love getting feedback on what they like or don't like and I appreciate it every time they take the time to do it. I try to respond on every comment I get.
Did you read comics as a kid? Which ones? What are your influences from comics today? Other non-comic influences on your art and/or writing?
Bone is and was my biggest influence. The way it was just so pure and got darker with every chapter was incredible and I actually grew up with the transition. I lent out my One Volume edition awhile back and I think I may need to repurchase it. His new comic RASL is fantastic so far, by the way.
Comics today don't influence me as much directly, though I think having Anders <3 Maria and Octopus Pie allows for a comic like mine to exist. The only way for Eros Inc. to survive is for people to actually keep up with it, and I like to think that the aforementioned comics have paved the way for that sort of audience. They are both extremely gracious artists too, friendly and courteous every time I've spoken to them, however brief our interactions were.
In terms of writing, I do have very specific influences: Woody Allen, Preston Sturges and Wes Anderson. I adore their films; Sullivan's Travels, Stardust Memories and Rushmore are my three favorite movies of all time and I think you can see that in the way I write and construct characters. I appreciate how funny their films can be and suddenly switch gears to tragedy, especially Sullivan's Travels.
What is it about comics that leads you to pour your creative impulses into that form as opposed to writing or some other art form?
The reason I decided to make Eros Inc. a comic instead of something like a film or web series is creative control. With a film, you have a ton of variables standing in your way - a crew, a cast, a budget, locations and a million other little problems that rest upon the shoulders of others. With a comic like this, the only one stopping me is myself. I have complete control over who plays what character, what story lines get posted, where the events take place, etc. It's like I'm creating my own series.
Any other creative endeavors you're working on?
I write on and off for Brian Carroll's Instant Classic, which is a lot of fun since Brian is one of my closest friends. I'm working on an animated short series with some friends of mine that I think will be a lot of fun. But mainly my attention is going to Eros Inc.