Creator Journal: The Stewart Bros. Studio

This piece is the first of a monthly series giving nascent creators a chance to share and document part of their artistic journeys on our site. We’ll be following four individualswriters, artists, writers/artistsfeaturing each on a rotating basis throughout 2019. Future installments will take more of a traditional journal format, giving creators a space to share thoughts and comics. For the intro, however, we’ll get to know each better with a question and answer.

With all that in mind, we’ll cede the space now to our first creators, Bo and Harrison Stewart, brothers from North Carolina who make up Stewart Bros. Studios. Regular contributors to our website, The Stewart Bros. are hard-working comic book writers. Check back the last Friday of next month for a look at our next participant!

From left to right, Bo Stewart, Mitch Gerads, and Harrison Stewart at Hampton CC.

From left to right, Bo Stewart, Mitch Gerads, and Harrison Stewart at Hampton CC.

Q: So let’s start with what are your aspirations for making comics and what is your biggest motivation to get there?

A: Being partners came as a natural extension of being brothers. We’ve always told each other stories. It’s how we communicate and make ourselves understood. It’s as central to our relationship as anything. Over time, we realized that some of these stories (read: the ones that weren’t Star Wars fan-fic) weren’t half bad. And with the right artist, the worlds that had only existed in our minds could be made real and true for others, as real as they’ve always been for us.    

Our motivation is simple: we write comics we want to read. And, perhaps more importantly, we want to make comics we think will resonate with people, but that aren’t currently available in the wider industry.    

Q: Where do you see yourselves at in your career trajectory?

A: We’re focused on building a resume. Anytime you tell someone you’re a writer, you get the same response: “What’ve you written?” You’ll note the question isn’t about being published, but the only way to convey serious intent is with a body of work—proof of concept. This is the part of our career where rubber meets the road.

Networking is also a huge priority. But the fun thing about comics is that networking doesn’t have to be as cold and calculating as in other industries. It’s more like making friends. If you like someone’s work, say so! Being honest and polite takes you much farther than treating people as a means to an end. And eventually, you’ll find yourself with a solid group of peers and collaborators that will give you that extra push on the days you need it (thank goodness for Dave LeNoir).

From  Witch Hunt  by The Stewart Bros. and Caroline Autopsy.

From Witch Hunt by The Stewart Bros. and Caroline Autopsy.

>>CLICK HERE to read The Stewart Bros. comic, The Witch Hunt!<<

Q: What are some of your short term goals and what are some of your longer term goals for 2019?

A: Short term goal would be putting out our first full-length comic, i.e. 20+ pages. We’ve mostly dabbled in shorter comics, so graduating to a complete OGN would be a huge step forward. The project in question focuses on King Tut. We’re collaborating with artist J Paul Schiek, who nails the vibe we are looking for. We’re really excited to get it in people’s hands.  

Long term, we’re aiming to have a table this year at one of our local cons. Eastin DeVerna, a fellow creator and friend, was kind enough to let us help man his table so we could get a feel for it—an experience we highly recommend to anyone looking to break in. We also have a few additional mini-series we’re looking to get off the ground (possibly through Kickstarter), so stay tuned for updates on those!

Also, “Straw Man.”

From  Witch Hunt  by The Stewart Bros. and Caroline Autopsy.

From Witch Hunt by The Stewart Bros. and Caroline Autopsy.

Q: One of the most valuable pieces of advice I've ever gotten is there's no harm in not knowing things, as long you know what you don't know. With that in mind, what are some areas of improvement you're currently targeting within comics?

A: Unlike other media like TV or movies, which require large production teams, sequential art is inherently intimate. The only required positions are writer, penciler, inker, colorist and letterer, oftentimes casting creators in multiple roles. The small team mentality is wonderfully liberating, as it leaves only a few degrees of separation between you and a finished product. But as a writer (particularly one who doesn’t double as artist), you can sometimes forget this isn’t a solo act.

Using the art as a genuine means of storytelling and not just pictures to go along with your words can be challenging. Most creative writing classes focus entirely on words. Instruction about how to write for pictures isn’t that common place. So, reintroducing that extra element can feel jarring, as if you’re now supposed to ignore what you’ve been taught. But there is hope: listen to your artist. Trust that when they tell you your words aren’t needed in a given panel, they do so to improve the finished piece, not to take away from your work. We have by no means mastered the art of listening, but it’s an area where we are actively seeking to grow.

From  Witch Hunt  by The Stewart Bros. and Caroline Autopsy.

From Witch Hunt by The Stewart Bros. and Caroline Autopsy.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about your time management process in terms of working on comics?

A: Um… pass?

No, but time management is probably the hardest part. There’s no perfect solution for how to best use time, which is your most precious asset. But one thing we always try to keep in mind is this: does your action get you closer to your end goal in some way? That doesn’t mean you always have to be working. Even reading a bad comic can be productive if you’re taking time to notice the pitfalls you should avoid. It’s simply a matter of framing your leisure time within the larger structure of where you want to be.

Q: Finally, tell us about the piece you've shared here today…

A: First thing’s first: the fabulous art you see is by Caroline Autopsy. You’ll want to keep an eye on her. We met at a convention and swapped social media after discussing how much we liked her style. And when we saw that she was open for commissions, we started a script. This was our first time writing with a specific artist in mind, and, trust us, it makes a world of difference. It’s much easier to graft words to images when you have a solid idea of what they might look like.

>>CLICK HERE to read The Stewart Bros. comic, The Witch Hunt!<<

As for the piece itself, this was a blast to make. We wanted a simple message that could be slipped into a comedic frame.The news itself (which is rife with comedy these days) provided our answer, or at least the question: does a witch hunt necessarily preclude the existence of witches? With that, we were off to the races.

We’ve been asked how political the piece was intended to be. But in our view, that depends entirely on the reader. The term “witch hunt” existed long before current events and will probably be here long after. The underlying theme we wished to convey was simply a warning against allowing good intentions to blind oneself to clear and present danger. With that in mind, we hope you enjoy this little ditty from us, Caroline and our excellent letterer, Matthew Gallman!     

You can find more of The Stewart Bros. work here! And you can follow them on Twitter at @stewart_bros.

Check back next month to meet the second of four creators participating in this series!