Friday, August 8, 2014

95% Bliss: An Interview w/ Class Comics Owners (& Partners) Patrick Fillion and Robert Fraser

For those unfamiliar, Class Comics is the ultimate independent publisher of gay erotic comics. Their titles include Naked Justice, Manson, Beautiful Dead, Space Cadet, Ghostboy & Diablo, Machos, Tug Harder, Camili-Cat, Guardians of the Cube, Ani-Males, Deimos, Rapture, just to name a few. They work with a veritable who's who of erotic artists including frequent collaborator David Cantero, Jacob Mott, Benoît Prévot, Logan, Zan Christensen, Mark Brill, Max’, HvH, François Peneaud, Carlos García, Ismael Alvarez and Butch McLogic and a cadre of single name pseudonym illustrators like Rubo, Enzo, Max, and Alexander.

Class Comics never would have survived in the marketplace if the quality of the comics did not rival the best that Marvel and DC have to offer. Yes they are XXX in nature, but their comics focus on story, characters, cutting edge art and quality production. The adult nature of the comics allows them the freedom to give hilarious and unique takes on standard comic fare such as superheroes, demons, and zombies. Plus, having 100% gay protagonists doesn't hurt either.

Also impressive is Class Comics fan friendly business model. They are not trying to merely sap every last dollar out of their reader's pocket. Rather, they do tons of freebees like their monthly free gay erotic comic "Stripshow." Then there's the Fapperhood, an interactive, fan-centric section of the webiste full of Class Comics cos-play photos, fan art, dudes showing off their Class Comics tattoos, and "Challenges" where you can free comics and merch simply by showing Class Comics exactly how much you love them. Be warned...if you venture into this section, you might see a few things you can never un-see!

Class Comics is owned by artist/writer Patrick Fillion and writer Robert Fraser. Both contribute to the creative side of Class Comics. Robert Fraser seems to have a knack for the business side of things, and Fillion is more than happy to let him do it. The couple have managed to create a burgeoning publishing empire together while maintaining their relationship - a feat that is pretty hard to accomplish.

We caught up with Patrick and Robert via the interwebs and they kindly agreed to answer questions about their careers, personal lives, and  more. If you would like to explore more about Class Comics, we suggest their Website, Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter!

Patrick and Robert

Q: First things first…Class Comics heroes are known for their prodigious manhood. How big is too big?
Patrick: You'd have to ask Bob that question. He's the ruler of Hell in the Class Comics Universe, and generally the one who makes Deimos' life a living... well... Hell. His appendage is the size of a Buick! That is definitely too big!
Fraser: Considering Bob and the Size King… then there is no too big! The best size is that which is most comfortable in your ass, hands and mouth! But in comics things just seem to fit in places that you wouldn’t think they would.

Q: Everybody’s favorite sexy, hulking Taro demon Deimos recently celebrated a 10th Anniversary. What was the very first erotic character you created and did you ever bring them into the Class family?
Patrick: I think Camili-Cat was probably the very first erotic character I created. He didn't start out “erotic”, but he got that way pretty fast. I was only 12 at the time, and I guess you could say that I “explored” my own sexuality through him. I grew up in a small, conservative community, so having an outlet for my sexual curiosity was crucial. In that sense, Cam saved me.
There might not be a Class Comics family without Cam. Because of the fun I had creating him, writing and drawing his exploits, I felt inspired to create even more hunky characters.
Fraser: As you know, I’m not an artist, but rather more the “business guy” for Class Comics and I didn’t write my first comic (The Initiation) until around five years after working with Patrick on Class Comics. So instead I’ll tell you about my first “CREATION” for Class Comics… the BIG LOAD! I got so tired of arduously picking through long orders of mixed up comics only to realize that the order was for everything that we had printed! So I made up a one click item for every printed comic that we had in stock. Who doesn’t love a face full of… comics?

Q: Are there any characters/books you started working on and then for one reason or another just decided to scrap?
Fraser: The truth is that I have a list of about six different comics that I have yet to write and find an artist for! Are they scrapped or just waiting to be born because an even better idea surfaces? I hope some day to unscrap them.
Patrick: There probably are a few over the years, but it's more that the work created for an “abandoned” project ends up being spun into something else. I don't like wasting good work, but sometimes it's important to step back and realize when something's not really working. Maybe you can salvage and use it elsewhere, or maybe it's destined for the art vault.

Some stories that have appeared in our “Rapture” anthology series are like that. In fact recently in Rapture #5, the Zahn story called “Blood Oath” was originally meant as part of the up-coming Zahn #3. But the more I tried, the less it fit into that issue. I liked the Blood Oath stuff enough to wrap it up into it's own short story though, and putting it in Rapture made perfect sense. I'm really glad I did that. It would have been really “out of place” in Zahn #3 and it would have hurt the overall narrative, but in Rapture, it works really well.

In the last couple of years, I've scrapped projects that I've written and other artists have started drawing... and the only real reason those projects got scrapped is because the artists were unable to conclude them. That can be really frustrating, but it's also understandable sometimes. Life if life and it sometimes gets in the way of the best intentions. But I always try to revive these projects if the opportunity presents itself. Sometimes that means finding a new artist to draw them, or being patient. Sometimes the original artist actually returns and completes the work.

Q:  How difficult is it for you and Fraz to separate the business side of Class Comics from your home life? Was there a learning curve?
Fraser: For some, working with a life partner is a disaster. For us, it’s BLISS ninety five percent of the time. We have our moments, but because what we each do overlaps so little, we don’t really butt heads very often. The learning curve was learning that we can’t have offices side by side, or only one floor apart. We need a good fifteen feet of vertical space between us.
Patrick: Sure, there was a learning curve, but we've been doing this together for more than 13 years now... we've learned a few tricks over the years. We work from home and we've learned that our respective offices/creative spaces can't be anywhere near each other. So Fraz is on the top floor and my studio is in the basement. We have very different ways of working, and we know that we work best in our separate spaces.

But we both love what we do very much, and we both compliment one another work-wise. Fraz is very creative, but also great at the business side of things. I can do business if I have to, but I hate it. I prefer to focus on the creative. We have a good system that hasn't failed us yet, and we both help each other out all the time. I'm proud to say that we have some of the best team-work I've ever seen.

Q: Erotic content aside, what is the strangest complaint you have received?
Fraser: Oh so many! Probably the funniest was when a package of comics was returned where a concerned Mother let us know that her son had ordered Neil Gaiman’s Sandman… not “these comics” that we sent him! RIGHT… I guess she got a surprise when she opened his mail.
Patrick: I got a lot – and I mean A LOT – of complaints and hate mail for circumcising Cam in Rapture
#4. Obviously at the time, readers couldn't have known that it was intended as a temporary thing that I fully planned to undo in the follow up Camili-Cat story “Love Lost”, but yeah people were SERIOUSLY PISSED. I think the fact that I was making an observation about circumcision in general was lost on some people, and they called me a lot of very bad names!

But you know what, I loved it! I love how passionate people can be about our comics. And I got a response out of people. As a writer or an artist, the worst thing is feeling like you're not reaching anybody with your work. And when you don't get any reaction to what you've created from the people who read it, that can leave you wondering. But when you do get responses to your work, even if those responses are negative, that's a great thing. I embrace and accept the criticism along with the compliments... you're sort of a hypocrite if you don't do both.

There have been other strange complaints over the years... stuff I'd never in a million years expect to receive. But the internet gives people the ability to voice their opinions, and you just sort of have to take some of that with a grain of salt. Not every opinion is valid and should have a significant impact.

Q: You do a great job of bringing freshness and originality into comic book art as well as gay erotica while throwing a loving wink and nod to the works that came before. How important is it to know the history of a particular genre?
Fraser: I’ll leave that question to Patrick, who is always schooling me on the things that I should know about.
Patrick: Thanks so much. For me, it's very important. I have a great respect for all the gay erotica that was created before I came around. It's important history to be cherished and respected. It's all part of this movement. It led us to where we are today, and for that I'm very grateful.

Likewise, I have a lot of respect for mainstream comics. I grew up reading comics. I'm Francophone and learned my English from reading Uncanny X-Men and other Marvel titles as a kid.

I think it's always good to know the history of the genre of art you're interested in, but you should never let it confine you. I love giving nods and winks, but at the end of the day, I do my best to put an original spin on the work.

Q: When is there going to be a Beautiful Dead #2!?
Patrick: That's a great question, and it's definitely a question for Fraz. I ask him that everyday!
Fraser: NEXT YEAR! And you probably won’t have to wait until Halloween!  We’re earmaking the other holiday featuring the dead rising... Easter. (Did I just say that?!?)

I am working on a new comic, since you asked! Two of them actually! The first is called "The Pack" and it’s an urban werewolf tale filled with naughty fun and plenty of inner angst, but no vamps! I’m working with a fabulous artist who is currently revising his pen name! The other is is called "The Bromance" and features the work of Patrick Fillion, Richie, Leon de Leon, HvH, Richie, Jacob Mott and one more creator who I have yet to find!

Q: What comics/graphic novels stick with you from when you were a teen?
Fraser: I wasn’t allowed to read any.
Patrick: I mentioned earlier that I learned to speak Englsih by reading Marvel Comics. The very first issue that I ever bought was Uncanny X-Men #160. I saw Storm and Nightcrawler on the cover for the first time and I HAD to know what they were saying! That was the beginning of my love for comics... It's been strong with me ever since.

But there are several comics that stick with me from my childhood, and I re-read them regularly... The Vision and the Scarlet Witch's second mini series; Alpha Flight #1 - #28 (the AWESOME John Byrne years); The Defenders, The Avengers, Legion of Super Heroes, and then in the 90's, titles like Alan Davis' Clandestine. I've always been a Marvel kid, with an appreciation for a few DC titles thrown in for good measure.

Q: What graphic novels or artists are you currently following?
Fraser: Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez's "Locke & Key," "Clone" by David Schulner, Aaron Ginsburg and Wade McIntyre, "Afterlife with Archie" by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla, "Artifice and The Young Protectors" by Alex Woolfson et al.
Patrick: Oh man, right now I'm totally loving Image Comics' “Revival” and “Saga”, DC's new 52 “Swamp Thing” and of course Marvel's new “Storm” solo series – may I say it's about freakin' time.

On the gay side of comics, I'm loving Jon Macy's “Fearful Hunter” and Sean Z's “Myth” series – I'm DYING to read issue #3. But there's so much really cool stuff coming out these days, I'm always keeping my eyes wide open. I don't wanna miss a thing! That goes for mainstream and gay comics alike.

Q: Would you indulge us and please draw Naked Justice with your eyes closed?
Fraser: Ok.
Patrick: And here you go! HA! HA! HA! Clearly Naked Justice looks better when my eyes are OPEN!  

 **Click any pic to enlarge!

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much Lee for taking the time to interview Fraser and I. We both appreciate it a whole big bunch and had a really fun time answering your questions. The interview LOOKS great too, and I love the images you chose to go with it. YOU ROCK!!! :D Thanks again so much!!