Wes Locher: Wacky, Irreverent, and Offbeat Sensibilities

Wes Locher (pronounced “Low-Curr” by non-telemarketers) has written comic books and videogames for myriad publishers and developers across the world. His past clients include Alterna Comics, Titan Comics, Markosia Enterprises, Arcana Studios, FableLabs, Pocket Gems Games, Based on the Play, PulseTense Games, and Nanobit Software. He’ll sleep eventually.

Wes was interviewed by editor Thomas Logan for Sliver of Stone.

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Thomas Logan: You’ve written several fan comic shorts, from TMNT, to Bucky O’Hare, to Battletoads. Why this affinity for the short form?

Wes Locher: In addition to the original comic book miniseries and graphic novels I’ve released with various publishers, I’ve found that short comics are a great way to get your work in front of an audience for free. In a perfect world, readers will check out a free comic, enjoy it, and seek out your other work. For established readers, I think these free comics are a nice way of saying “thank you” for the support.

When releasing fan comics, I tend to zero in on properties that influenced me in some way to be a storyteller. A property like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is well-known and beloved to many people, so the comic, drawn by Ed Jimenez, provided me a way to play with those characters in my own voice—characters I may never get the chance to write in an official capacity. Bucky O’Hare, while sort of obscure, let me put my spin on a television series I really enjoyed when I was younger with the help of artist Loch Ness, and the Battletoads short allowed me a window to vent some frustrations I had with the 1991 Nintendo videogame of the same name.

Short comics are a great way to get in and get out of a story while still leaving the reader wanting more. In a perfect world, they’d be intrigued by how I might approach the characters if I had a full issue or miniseries to work with. It’s a good teaser.

TL: Tell us about the comic books that inspired you as a child. What made you want to become a writer?

WL: As the son of an English teacher mother and a journalist father, writing wasn’t something I could escape. Growing up, the house was full of Shakespeare plays and my father was regularly writing nonfiction books on local history. I gravitated toward comics because the visual element was just as interesting to me as what the characters were saying. After 20-plus years of reading a specific medium, I naturally started to take it apart in my head and understand how the rhythm and pacing worked, and five years ago when I went to try my hand at scripting my own comic, it came naturally.

As far as the comics that inspired me, it was a heavy diet of Marvel characters like Spider-Man and Daredevil that pulled me in, but the owners of the comic shop I frequented growing up also turned me onto lots of obscure, black and white indie comics like Ben Edlund’s The Tick, and Rob Shraab’s Scud: The Disposable Assassin.

When I look at my current body of work, I see less of the Marvel/DC flavor and more of that independent spirit coming through the comics I published. I don’t want to just regurgitate what I’ve seen other comics writers do, but instead, I make it a point to write something only I could produce. The readers who can respond to those wacky, irreverent, and offbeat sensibilities are the ones I want in my corner.

TL: Is there a particular comic franchise you would love to write for? Have you submitted anything to Marvel or DC comics?

WL: Honestly, I’d love to take a swing at The Tick, especially now that new writers and voices have been brought into that universe over the past few years. I think that’s a character that fits right into my zany wheelhouse. That might sound like I’m setting the bar low for myself, but here’s how I see it: even though I adore Peter Parker and Spider-Man as a character, I don’t have a Spider-Man story I’m itching to tell. It’s possible I just enjoy being a reader. If someone let me write the character, I’d probably just mess him up and get lots of hate mail. It sounds like a lot of pressure to me.

Since Marvel and DC don’t accept unsolicited submissions, I haven’t sent anything to them. The path to get recognized by those editors is to put out consistent, quality work, and by building enough buzz, they find you. Maybe they’ll find me one day. Maybe not. It doesn’t keep me up at night.

TL: You’ve published a novel and several comics, but you’ve also written for mobile games. What was the first video game you worked on? How did you come to follow this path? Was it all you thought it would be? What game series would you like to write for and why?

WL: When I was embarking on my writing career, I was laser-focused on writing comics and maybe the occasional novel. I sort of had blinders on when it came to anything else. But then, two things happened… I was successful in forming relationships with a few editors at bigger publishing houses, but they were never able to offer me any paying work. While they were kind enough to take time out of their day to read the comics I was sending them, and occasionally offer feedback, I could just never get my foot in the door.

The second thing that happened, just in the past five years or so, is that video games have evolved to become more cinematic and story-focused. I started to see writing jobs pop up online with game developers seeking writers who had a background in episodic content such as comic books or television. I sent in my stuff and was quickly hired for several freelance gigs.

So on one hand, I had all these comic book editors telling me “No,” on a bi-weekly basis, but then I had these game companies who were saying, “Come over here and party with us! We’d love to have you!” Okay, those weren’t their exact words, but you get the gist. If people are passionate about working with you, why in the world would you say no?

The first game I worked on was called “Future: Uncertain,” which was an interactive “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure” style game for San Francisco developer Pocket Gems Games. The game, released on the company’s iOS/Android app, called “Episode,” featured basic animated graphics and allowed players to make choices that would ultimately affect the outcome of the entire story. I wrote 25 chapters, each serialized weekly, so it was a bit like writing a TV show. It was read more than 700,000 times by users and from there I was given additional projects, each a bit bigger in scope. I ended up working with Pocket Gems for three years before venturing out to write games for similar upstart apps as well as games for the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

If I had to pick a videogame series to write, it’d probably be Gearbox’s Borderlands series. Like the comics I find myself drawn to, the Borderlands series is humorous, over-the-top, and completely irreverent. Perfect.

TL: When writing a comic book and a mobile game, what are some surprising differences and/or similarities between the two processes?

WL: The unifying characteristic between the mediums of comics and games is that they both share a strong visual element. If you’ve done your job as a writer, the visuals should be able to convey a large chunk of the story without needing a single line of dialogue.

When I first started working in the games industry, I naively thought the words that appeared on the screen were what made me the “writer.” Now, several years later, my approach is to have as little dialogue as possible, letting the tone of the game, its setting, and look of the characters say as much as possible.

Where comics and games have a stark difference is that games are, more often than not, full motion, whereas comics are static images strung together sequentially. Comic readers fill in the gaps between panels with their imagination, creating their own moving pictures in their minds, whereas in games, you’re showing almost everything to the player and leaving less to the imagination.

TL: What is your dream project? Are there any plans you have in the works that you would like to let us know about?

WL: So far in my career, I’ve been fortunate to accomplish most of my dream projects. If there’s a comic I want to write, I write it and if there’s a story idea I have for a game, I pitch it to the company that may want to produce it, and if the story idea isn’t suited for comics or games, I can write it as a novel.

I don’t wait for someone to give me “permission” to work on a story. If an idea keeps me up at night putting the pieces into the puzzle, and breaking the story, I know I have the tools to bring it life one way or another. Now, there are a lot of comic artists I’d love to work with—some of them completely out of my league, while others are my peers—so sometimes I look at the art they post on social media and try to come up with an idea that really plays to their strengths that I believe only they could draw. Perhaps that’s the long-term goal right now.

I have a ton of cool stuff on the horizon right now… my sci-fi/comedy graphic novel Unit 44—about inept Area 51 employees who forget to pay the rent of the facility’s off-site storage unit, leaving the secret contents to be sold at public auction—is still available for sale at comic shops and online. It was published at the end of 2017 by Alterna Comics and drawn by the amazing Ed Jimenez. People should totally buy it and laugh until their faces hurt.

The action/RPG video game, Re*Sequenced, which I wrote for developer Based on the Play, will hit the PC, PS4, and Xbox in a few months, and I have two comic book miniseries poised to hit shelves in late 2018/early 2019. The first is called Bug Slugger, with artist Loch Ness, and the second is titled Awry, drawn by Graeham Jarvis. They’re both ridiculous and guaranteed to be a ton of fun.

For the latest and greatest on those projects, visit www.weslocher.com.

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Thomas Logan is an Irish-American hardcore gamer and professional artist who lives in Miami. His artwork has been widely displayed in South Florida. His hobbies include watching WWE and TNA wrestling, playing Magic: The Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh, and getting new tattoos. He’s a comic book collector with a degree in Computer Art and Animation. He was the co-founder and creative director of the now defunct PaperVoxels.com, a gaming website and podcast. “We were big in Russia,” he says.

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