TAEM Interview with Comic Book Publisher Jason B. Crawley

Bloke profile picTAEM- The Arts and Entertainment Magazine & THE EERIE DIGEST recently attended the Baltimore Comic-Con and discovered a number of creative writers and artists to introduce to all our readers. One such memorable meeting was with Jason B. Crawley, of the Bloke’s Terrible Tomb of Terror.

Jason, you originally hailed from England then moved to the United States . Please tell us about this aspect of your life and the reason for moving ‘across the pond’.

JBC- I was born and raised in England and lived there for 33 years. I met Mary (my now wife) online in a chat room at the end of 2000 and after travelling to see each other for a couple of years, we got engaged and in April 2003 I made the permanent move over to the US. We were married June 20th 2003 and earlier this year, celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary.

TOMBTAEM- Tell us about your initial interest in the art of comic books and how you got started.

JBC- I’ve had an interest in comics ever since I was a little kid. Back then, myself and my best mate at the time would get our pocket money and walk twenty minutes to the nearest shop that sold Marvel comics. Being back in England these were imported from the States and once a month we would make the journey to the shop to pick up all the latest issues that they had on the shelves. As I got older my interest started to move away from the superhero side of comics, although I remained a Spider Man fan and still am, although I no longer buy the comics. As far as actually producing comics, that didn’t start until I was here in the States and that happened after I met friend Ju Gomez on MySpace back when that was the main social network. At the time we met, he was looking for someone to help him produce a comic that he wanted to do.    He did the artwork but wasn’t familiar with any of the other production, so I took it on myself to learn how to do the various things needed like lettering etc.. All of this was trial and error on my part after watching tutorial videos on Youtube, but after a while I got the hang of it and off we went and started producing comics. It wasn’t long before I wanted to try and do my own comic and so I started writing various short stories and started the horror anthology comic, Bloke’s Tomb Of Horror. I hadn’t written a story since I was in school so it was a learning experience just like it was with the actual production and it’s still something that I am learning to this day.  This was a series that produced seven issues and two Halloween Annual trade paperbacks, both of which were voted Best Anthology Of The Year in the Comic Monsters Awards for 2010 and 2011. These were all self published comics and books and that is how I got involved in producing them.   Monster-Collection-CoverTowards the end of 2010 I had contacted artist, Mike Hoffman, who is well known for the work he has produced in comics over the years, both for big name companies and more recently his own self published material. After that I had been sent a story for inclusion in the comic by an Italian writer who had got Mike to illustrate the story. I asked Mike if it was ok to publish his artwork here in the States and he said “sure” and wished me luck with the book. Once the issue was released I had sent him a copy and also a copy of the Bloke’s Tomb Of Horror 2010 Halloween Annual.  He emailed me saying he had enjoyed the Annual a great deal and picked out a certain story that he really liked which had a retro style of artwork. I wrote him back, explaining how I had written that story specifically for the artist, knowing he could help pull it off with his retro style. Upon realizing that I had written all of the stories in the Annual, Mike said for me to send him over a script and he would draw the story for me for inclusion in the next book (2011 Halloween Annual). This was how we got to know each other and then in early 2011 he was making a road trip down to South Carolina and he suggested stopping by my house on the way down to meet. So we met at my house and had a great evening talking about comics and other things. I have to admit it was a bit surreal to have him sitting in my living room as I was a big fan of his work and it wasn’t the sort of thing you’d expect to be happening! It was the following morning that this surreal feeling turned to one of amazement and happiness as Mike then asked me if I would be interested in working with him to produce a horror anthology, but unlike every other anthology that was being made, we would do it in the magazine format and retro looking just like the magazines we used to love reading from the 1970’s. This was the start of Bloke’s Terrible Tomb Of Terror and the first issue came out in July 2011.

issue-7-contents-pageTAEM- For the production of your work you wear many hats. Please tell our readers what you do in your pursuit of your magazine.

JBC- When we started the magazine, it was decided that  I would also be the host character, The Bloke, a Victorian undertaker and now, when I do conventions to promote the magazine, I dress up as the character as well as being drawn in the magazine. Part of that costume is the black top hat that is a well known part of the outfit at the time that the character is associated with. I also wear a Union Jack vest under my black jacket, another nod towards the characters British roots.

TAEM- Tell us about the artwork, and those that work on it.

JBC- The artwork in Bloke’s Terrible Tomb Of Terror for the most part, follows the retro roots that it pays homage to, from the painted cover art by Mike Hoffman and also the interiors, a lot of which Mike does as well. We do have some more modern looking styles present as well to mix things up a bit and try to appeal to everyone, rather than just keep things set for one certain area. There are a number of regular artists who have worked on the magazine over the first seven issues like Mike of course, Jason Paulos, Rock Baker and Scott Shriver, Juan Carlos Albraldes Rendo. Others who have so far appeared once or twice are Nik Poliwko, Rob Moran, Maurizio Ercole and Jeff Austin. I’ve been fortunate to have met all of these artists via Facebook and I am in contact with other new possible contributors all the time who have heard about the magazine, either from seeing my work online or just good old word of mouth. The great thing about anthologies is that you will see a great variation on the art styles and techniques, but they all click together to produce a great looking publication from grey washed panels through to fine detailed black inks.

first-Bloke-introTAEM- We also understand that you write many of the storylines. Where do you come up with them and is there a real-life inspiration for them?

JBC- Yes, I write most of the stories that appear in TOMB, but we also have other writers from time to time as well. As far as where I come up with them, it can be literally anywhere! I work full time at a grocery store where I am in charge of the Dairy department and it’s not unusual for me to be stocking shelves when suddenly an idea pops into my head and I find myself reaching for a piece of cardboard from a packing box to quickly write it down and then later when I’m home, flesh it out more into a usable script.

TAEM- Tell us about your nickname and how you received it.

JBC-When I moved to the US and started working I had many people who have gone on to be good friends, come and ask me what certain British words and phrases mean after they had heard them on TV or in a movie they had watched. One of these words was Bloke, which simply means man and is a term you hear a lot both on the TV and in real life back in England. Soon after I had explained what it meant, my friends started calling me it like a nickname. So when the time came later, when I started writing and self publishing comics, I used that nickname as my host character as it was myself anyway and it had a kind of good hook to it.

blokeadTAEM- How has your work been received by the public, and where can our readers purchase them ?

JBC- The magazine has been very well received especially with its format and its retro style. Also, interest increased once I started to attend conventions in costume at my table as people had a character they could interact with as well as read about in the magazine. Interest is increasing all the time which is something I’m really happy with and I greatly appreciate the support that people have shown me during the time that TOMB has been produced, after all, it’s their support and them purchasing the magazine that allows me to do it as TOMB is a publication that relies on being purchased in order to carry it on. The magazines are all available print on demand from www.indyplanet.com and also directly from me at my online shop on the Etsy website at www.etsy.com/shop/blokestomb We have also recently released a “Best Of” book called the Monster-Sized Collection which is now available on Amazon for $19.95 http://www.amazon.com/Blokes-Terrible-Tomb-Terror-Monster-Sized/dp/1492756903  .

It is 200 pages and features 22 stories, ad pages and pin ups from the first seven issues. It’s a great way to get into the series at a great price and can actually be purchased for less than cover price at times on Amazon. Recently it has been listed for just $17.96 so even more reason for people to go and buy a copy! 😉  People can also keep up to date on what is going on in the magazine by ‘liking’ the Facebook page for Bloke’s Terrible Tomb Of Terror  where I am always posting previews of upcoming stories, cover art and also upcoming conventions along with photos from the shows I have been at so far promoting the series. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Blokes-Terrible-Tomb-Of-Terror/17760535895483

TAEM- Please tell us about the current issues, and is there future issues to be published ? 

JBC- Currently there are seven issues of the magazine available and I  am now putting together issue 8 which will see released very soon. I have stories being worked on now too for the next two issues so there’s no plans to stop and if people keep on buying and supporting it, Bloke’s Terrible Tomb Of Terror  will be able to continue for many years to come.

paintingTAEM- Is there other scripts, or genres, that you would like to publish  in the future ?

JBC- I have many scripts still that have not yet been drawn and these will see production as we move forward with new issues. As well as straight up horror, I also write the occasional horror/sci-fi tale as well as I am a big fan of all those crazy old B-Movies from the 1950’s. So from time to time you will see various cross genres appear in the magazine

TAEM- Jason, It has been a pleasure to have met you, and I am sure that our readers will love to learn all about you. We want to thank you for your time with our interview and ask you to please keep us updated about any future work that you release.

   TAEM/TED