Thomas Behe Talks ‘Contraband’ and Making Comics

This week I got to chat with comic creator Thomas Behe about their new indie comic Contraband.

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Thomas Behe Contraband Indie Comic

An Interview With Thomas Behe

Thank you for taking the time to chat with me this week. Please tell the readers a bit about yourself and the work you do.

Thomas Behe: It’s very nice to meet you! So, the day job? It’s in identity privacy – in that our solution is built to protect your privacy whilst sharing your private personal information. The product lets you give your data – then revoke in such a way that the other person, company, or organization doesn’t have it after the transaction.

It goes without saying I believe strongly in personal privacy – which has in many respects completely been abandoned during this COVID-19 pandemic. Most of my focus and ideas for stories are based on this basic human right being violated.

Contraband is an awesome concept for a comic. How did the comic book come about?

Thomas Behe: I appreciate your kind words! Yeah, years ago I worked at a mobile telecoms company. I was responsible for managing and moderating community-generated videos posted on our premium paid-for platform.

I spent 95% of my time moderating the content as we got everything coming in. Upskirting. Death clips. Animal cruelty. Basically, all the stuff people now report immediately on today’s social channels. And this was without paying out a revenue share.

So I thought what if someone got a hold of this content value chain and paid out 50% to incentivize people to send even more in. This is the idea around Contraband. I think that’s why I wanted to focus more on the business side of such an app in the graphic novel. You get a fairly detailed idea of why such apps can grow exponentially, how people can harness value out of them and where the money is being made.

I started seeing how some people were getting jaded with social media – getting sick of the content censorship, sponsored spam, cancel culture and inciter-banning, and going for off-grid apps. Fringe communities growing in influence. Snuff and sex video content exchanged openly, and the effects of individuals seeking to elicit sensational clips begin to affect our everyday lives.

Then the idea came around having activists hacking Contraband giving 100% control to any influencer with the most followers. Given the celebrity z-lister culture of today, things become complete chaos as everybody starts chasing the money and fame of being number one.

I guess I could also put it this way: imagine activists hacked Facebook, stripped ownership from Mark Zuckerberg and their computer virus gave the app’s control to Kim Kardashian, Ronaldo, Justin Bieber, or whoever else is the most-followed person – in real-time. Then imagine it all happened on the dark web – but the financial and power rewards were just as high. So just how far would people go to reach this so-called digital summit?

RELATED: 29 Social Media DOs and DON’Ts From Creators

Contraband Comic Preview

Making comics takes a lot of time and energy, what do you do to stay productive?

Thomas Behe: I visit the gym regularly – that’s probably been key to keeping the brain clear and thankfully it’s next door to escape to. Plus I do manage my workload well enough to free up energy for a creative time afterward. And I use my phone always to drop down little ideas and concepts – gives you a buzz to re-read a clever little thought especially when the mind wanders during the day-to-day stuff. And my family are really supportive – they let me got on with it.

Comic creation is often a collaborative process between writers, artists, letterers, inkers, and publishers. How do you approach the collaborative process for creative projects?

Thomas Behe: Great question. I’m quite structured with the process, I even have a Trello board with “page cards” to control everything going on. It helps me visualize the entire project, see who’s doing what, and make little tweaks on fly. That last bit is crucial – we’ve all come up with cool little gems and then want to thread them in somehow. And you need to work around your fellow artists’ lives – even the top collaborators who can live solely on comics income have to juggle big family commitments and they often pick up the admin stuff in their lives.

Outside of making comics, what do you do for fun?

Thomas Behe: At a different (younger) age I used to backpack everywhere – so I sometimes (pretend to) live that life with my family – well, whenever I can. We live in London UK and we’ve done a fairly good job evading UK lockdown by escaping to other warmer places.

Covid virtual working is rubbish – but I guess with everything done via Zoom we can actually do it from anywhere. That lets us check out new places around Europe for a bit as everything is less than 2 hours away. And they’re all still game so I will keep playing that out for as long as I can.

Stress and burnout happen to the best of us. What strategies do you employ to stay motivated?

Thomas Behe: Just get your comic out. Finish it. There will always be a niche of people who find your work interesting – and will hopefully pay for it. If you like it, go back to it. And go back to marketing it. Think about how creative you need to be to make a cool illustrated story: everything else really is easier and based more around process.

As for avoiding stress, having a calm, amicable friendship with any boss is critical. Authority really stresses people out and shaves (minimum) ten years off your life – just like doing night shifts, having bad teeth, smoking…

RELATED: 6 Artist Inspiration Tips From Creatives

Branding and online presence are important when establishing yourself and your work on the internet. Can you share any of your thoughts on being an online creator?

Thomas Behe: I think everyone knows the big investment needed for both the comic and the artist branding goes hand in hand. It’s not “if” but “what” you need to do to find your target market – as I said, it does exist. I strongly believe the benefit of paying someone just to open your eyes as to how you should promote yourself is probably worth the $ you’d spend on a big night out with friends.

Contraband Comic Preview Page

What is your best tip for people who want to start making their own comic books?

Thomas Behe: Again, keep at it. Pick up solid freelance stuff to get better if you have the capacity. Then make a choice to be a professional or keep it on the side during the day job. But don’t stop, you know it’s fun – and you burn for it.

Think of this growing comics market. I love watching the Kickstarters finally making nice money, webcomics communities building, and this recent increase in print sales of graphic novels – this is all a very good thing. And indie comics creators will come to love that past superhero decade – these readers will grow up, want more, and hunt down the innovative unique stuff they’re doing.

Do you have any upcoming releases, gigs, or events you would like to promote?

Thomas Behe: There are a couple of follow-up issues in the pipeline. One centers on an individual being victimized by another’s desire to top the dark web Contraband application. The other is based on a (rather strong) character’s struggle to police those powerful individuals abusing others to stay number one. I think there are a few interesting directions we can go with Contraband.

Thank you for chatting with me this week! Where can the readers find you and your work?

Thomas Behe: My thanks to you! A first-chapter preview is available in 14 different languages (!?) including French, Russian, Chinese, and of course English through our official website.

You might want to check out a few reviews have there (e.g. Wired, The FT, GeekNation, 3MillionYears), and pre-orders for the May 10 launch of Contraband are available on Amazon, Comixology, and a dozen other online comics/book shops at Markosia.

Contraband Comic Preview Panels

Check Out Contraband

A huge thank you to Thomas Behe for taking the time to chat with me this week. You can find Contraband at the following locations:

Contraband’s Official Website

Contraband On Markosia

Purchase Contraband On Comixology

Purchase Contraband On Amazon

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