Zack Soto: 3D Comics, 3D Life

A comics interview article by: Jason Sacks

Zack Soto is cartoonist who never seems to stop doing stuff. He created Linework NW, a new indie comics convention in Portland; he's the head of Study Group Comics, a collective of extremely talented cartoonists who are creating innovative comics, he has his own wonderful comic series called The Secret Voice that's thrilling; he's assembling an intriguing new anthology edition of Study Group Comics. Oh yeah, and as if that's not enough, he has also a baby on the way. I chatted with Zack at Emerald City Comicon and thought this interview makes for great reading. 

Zack SotoZack Soto: Linework NW is a small show. I'm really excited about it, but I don't want people to be surprised when they walk in and it's like “Oh this is intimate.” Because that was how we designed it, and then all of a sudden we're the only game in town for indie comics shows or whatever.

Jason Sacks for Comics Bulletin: Which for Portland is weird.

Soto: Which is weird. Portland should have like five more cool indie comic shows and I think it would be okay with it – well not five, maybe. Another one or two.

CB: There was Stumptown, but there was only Stumptown once a year. It seems like it should be more. I guess between Portland and Seattle there should be more.

: Well if there is Short Run in November in this area, and then we are doing ours in April this year - and I think we'll probably continue in the Spring/cusp of Summer or something like that next year. In between the two shows, you have pretty good coverage of the year for regional arts comics. You know what I wish?  That the Portland Comics Show, like the dealer shows that used to happen? I wish those would come back. Because now I think that people would actually appreciate those because otherwise they're paying forty dollars to go to Wizard Con, and do the same thing.  

CB: We had the same thing. We had our little crappy shows in the Seattle Center that were five bucks.

: Do they still exist?

CB: No. They stopped it. So you're busy now. You've got your baby, and your comics, and your show.

: Right? Well the last month or so has actually been very humbling in that I tend to overbook myself and take on a lot of projects. Because I feel more alive when I have more shit going on or whatever – or at least I think so. But I'm also realizing my limits, and my energy level..  and that I'm older now.

 I'm starting to be like “Well what matters more?” In the last few months I have bitten off more than I can chew. I'm really excited for a couple of months from now for a lot of reasons, because in a couple months Krista is going to have our baby. I'm already working on getting other people come in and help me with Study Group, so none of that will be interrupted, and Linework NW will be over, and the three books that I foolishly scheduled to publish all at once will be out. I can just have my child, focus on my home life, and try to get as many comics drawn as possible. That's really all I want to do for a little while. Or that's my preferred mode.

CB: I would print Secret Voice #2, yeah.

: Yeah, and I'm running the Kickstarter, and it's going well so hopefully I have Secret Voice 2 and some other things that I know I'm going to do later  in the year. If we get overfunded then I will just put that aside right away. That would be one of the stretch goals. So I'm hopeful for that, but I'm really excited to be back working on Secret Voice. I want to have that out for SPX in September. 

CB: That's the whole thing about being super productive, is that it keeps the demons away.

: Yeah well, I'm happy that it looks like everything is going to work out with all my trains arriving at the station more or less on time.

CB: Yeah so what are the three comics that you have coming out?

: Well, I'm going to be putting out It Will All Hurt #2, which is a follow up to Farel Dalrymple's awesome sci-fi epic, psychedelic, kids with knives comic. I'm going to be doing the Haunter book that we talked about, by Sam Alden. That's our first real “book with a spine.” Then Study Group Magazine #3D is going to be the third volume of our ongoing attempt at melding comics and comics criticism. It's bigger than any of the other ones that we released so far. It's eighty (update: now 96) pages. It's printed in a couple different ways, but the bulk of it is going to be printed in full color on the same press that prints It Will All Hurt and Secret Voice. Then there is going to be a 3D section. I co-edit SGM with Milo George who used to edit The Comics Journal. So he does all the articles, and I do all the art curation.  

This issue has amazing artists like Connor Willumsen, who you may have seen when he did a couple issues of Wolverine Max – he did the flashbacks for it. He did a Punisher Max one shot. He is amazing. Trevor Alixopulos, David King, Julia Gfrorer, and more. A bunch of great people. Then the articles include a history of 3D comics. We'll have a remembrance of Ray Zone. I don't know if you know that guy, but he did all of the processing of 3D comics for a long time. Real proponent of the process in general. Mary Fleener, Alan Moore, Kim Deitch, some other people have remembrances of him in talking about that stuff. I think we are reprinting Kim Deitch's 3D comic from an old issue of Nickelodeon magazine, as well as a newly converted comic of his.

Then along came Jason Little, who - I don't know if you know him, from Jack's Luck Runs Out? He did a book for Dark Horse just recently called Motel Art Improvement Service. I like that book, but I didn't realize that he is a 3D maniac. He loves 3D comics. So we were already far enough into production on the thing that we were sort of muddling around, trying to figure out the best way to do the 3D. He came on and we found out that he was sort of a 3D freak.  So since then, Jason has written the central article about the process and basically done most of the actual 3D conversions of the comics in the issue, and it's pretty cool. He's the unsung hero of the new issue.

CB: I'd love to read that! I'm really looking forward to that.

: Yeah. Hopefully if all of the printing works in the way that it's supposed to it will all be good.

CB: Like you need something else to be nervous about.

; Yeah exactly, well it's a lot of moving parts, you know? Becasue I'm printing the 3D section somewhere else, and then I'm going to have them bound in with the thing. So it's a big deal. It's a big thing.

CB: It's going to be so cool though!

: Yeah! I'm pretty excited about it.
CB: I love that stuff!

: Yeah people love these sort of novelty additive things. You go in, pull your glasses out of the back cover. I love it! So I hope other people do. 

CB: Coming from someone like you that's just such a different kind of thing.

: Well you know, I have a lot of big dreams. I don't always have the energy or the wherewithal to make them happen, but if I've got Milo and our crew of amazing artists working on this book,  we can make some cool 3D art. I've always wanted to do that. I don't know. I always loved the 3D comics when I was a kid. They don't always work quite right, but hopefully they do and when they do they're pretty amazing.  

CB: I've got a stack of them that I just love.

: Yeah. 

CB: Aardvark-Vanaheim 3D.

: OH YEAH, that's one of those dream space comics (“Cerebus Dreams II“) or whatever it is that he calls them?  Yeah I love those. Did you ever read Scout?

CB: Yeah!

: Do you remember the 3D issue of Scout?  Where he fights Monday and they all break out of the insane asylum or whatever, but in 3D?

CB: That's one of my favorite issues.

: So great. I'm a huge Tim Truman fan, and actually I think that Rick Veitch was on that too at that point. I think they were both working on it at the same time for some reason. I love Scout. If you take one thing away from this interview it's that “I love Scout by Tim Truman.”  

CB: You got me going in the other room now.

: Yeah, gotta look for some quarter books.

CB: So StudyGroup 3...

: StudyGroup Magazine #3, Haunter, It Will All Hurt #2, and most importantly a baby. They are all things that I'm looking forward to completing the gestation of soon. And Linework NW, of course!

For information on the Study Group Kickstarter, visit their Kickstarter page.

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