“Inheritance comes directly from my relationship with my mother both as a child and as an adult during her final days alive. My mother and I were especially close, we were both writers and spent a good amount of my childhood together writing. Best friends.” – James D. Schumacher III
1. First, tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? (Feel free to fill this up with likes/dislikes. What sparked your interest in the arts etc.)
I’m James D. Schumacher III and I am a comic book creator and filmmaker as well as collector of tattoos. Love tattoos, much to the chagrin of my father, who in turn has grown to love them and now wants one. I got involved with storytelling at a young age; both of my parents encouraged not only myself, but also the rest of my sisters. I grew up on movies, books, video games and comic books. Never was into sports.
2. What originally got you to read comics? Is there a particularly storyline or series that immediately drew you in? Do you have a favorite writer/artist whose works you HAVE to read?
When I was around 11-12 years old, my world came crumbling down. I learned at a young age about the frailty of life. My mother was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. I can remember the smells, the sounds and the look of defiance mixed with worry on my mother’s face. My parents went from being super heroes that were invulnerable to everything to being human and capable of dying. I went to thinking of would I wake up to my mother being alive.
This event, this pain sent me to the worlds contained in movies, comics, and video games. Escapism works so perfectly at helping relieve the pain. As a child watching my mother’s health drastically decline affected me in ways that I never quite understood until I was an adult, but this sent me to wanting to create stories. I would watch my mother watch the Twilight Zone after her treatments and laughing at scenes or being consumed with the story that she forgot the immense pain she was going through.
I knew then the power of storytelling in all forms.
The one main writer whose work inspired me the most would have to be Rod Serling, the genius behind The Twilight Zone. His work is indicative of blending escapism visuals with heart wrenching storytelling and as a child, I would spend a majority of my time watching The Twilight Zone with my mother and his work proved that his form of storytelling is viable. Other writers like Andrew Niccol, James Cameron, Ray Bradbury, Phillip K. Dick among many others.
3. What made you want to be a writer and what are the most challenging things about being a writer in the comic industry today?
My first desire to be a writer came from that moment when I realized the power of storytelling and how it can affect someone. Movies helped my mother escape cancer. As a child I would write more than I would play outside, and I would write stories for my mother to make her laugh, to see her reaction and to help her escape. That was the earliest memory I had when I learned what I wanted to do with my life.
Most challenging thing about being a writer in the comic industry is finding the right comic artist to help bring your story to life.
4. Is it more difficult to be a creator or a writer? What kinds of things inspire you to want to write MORE?
I am a creator and that involves cultivating the story from inception to the writing process all the way through the artwork and finishing stages. It’s always difficult to will something into existence, but it’s the most rewarding experience. Inheritance’s reach is what inspires me. The comic has sold out comic con after comic con, and while that is awesome, it’s the people who stand at the table and tell me their story and experiences with cancer and how Inheritance has given them the want and desire to open up about their story. That is the best moment.
5. Is there anything you dislike about the comic industry and wish the mainstream publishers would change?
Two things drive me nuts about the comic industry. 1. The lack of innovation and the that’ll-do-attitude a lot of creators, writers and artists have, it’s lead the industry into a point where the creative are content with creating the same thing over and over again. I’ve grown tired of someone being bitten by a radioactive creator, or superheroes uniting to stop a super villain; there’s only so many times you can go back to the well before it dries up. This problem even plagues the indie scene.
2. I encountered this while searching for an artist to come into Inheritance, artists asking for exorbitant page rates and asking to be reimbursed for supplies all the while having no resume, no fan base established, no published work. All of those plus artistic skills gives value to the page rate. I feel these days a lot of artists want to skip paying their dues and building a resume of published work, just so they can get to the $150-300 page rates. I’m a believer that you earn your rate; you don’t demand your rate. Call me old school.
6. I gotta ask—who’s your favorite character in comics and why?
Hands down. Judge Dredd. As a young man both of my parents always taught me to question authority and instilled that power corrupts absolutely. Wagner created a character and story that would face head on the growing threat of authoritarianism and fascism. I love comics where I can instantly feel like I’m apart of the story.
7. Let’s talk about Inheritance for a second, this is a horror story that deals with a mother losing the fight to cancer. This is a very personal tale for you so please tell us what inspired the story?
June 2nd my mother had just gotten out of the hospital after having died while in the hospital, she was given a clean bill of health by the doctors. Upon getting out of the hospital she began to call people and tell people she was dying and that she didn’t have much time left. I remember the day clearly where she told me she was dying and how I refused to listen and told her “You’re not dying.”
June 6th 2009, my mother called me over to her house during a coughing fit, and upon arriving I found my mother sitting up on her bed watching TV. She then broke down and told me how sad she was and that she would not live to see me become successful. She then asked me what she did with her life and I told her of all of her greatest accomplishments and her memoir. Our roles have reversed and I was helping her.
She cried and told me that she loves me, and that she wants to see my success. My father had just arrived from work, and as I was leaving the room, she stopped me and told me “Promise me, no matter how hard it gets, don’t quit writing, don’t quit film. If you only knew what was coming.” I promised her and left. This was the last time I would speak with my mother.
2 days later true to her word, she passed away, exactly as she said she would. It’s a moment that haunts me to this day, she was telling us she was dying, but I wouldn’t listen to her. This skepticism brought the story of Inheritance to life and became my way of processing the loss of my mother.
Inheritance is my mother and I on every single page; this is her story, her life, her essence. As deeply personal as the story is, it is my way of exorcising the demons from my life, my way of confronting the pain and helping my mother live on long after her death.
8. Tell us something about Inheritance that most people don’t know.
Inheritance is secretly a government funded mind control project! Watch out. #GovernmentConspiracy
9. What was the hardest thing about making Inheritance? And how do you (as a horror writer) come up with different scenarios to scare people?
The hardest thing about creating Inheritance was confronting all of the personal pain in the wake of losing my mother. For the longest time after losing her, the mere mention of my mother would bring me to tears. So when I committed to utilizing that pain in the creation of Inheritance it was daunting. I felt guilty at the beginning, because my mother’s biggest dream was to have a book released worldwide, and in doing Inheritance I knew it would become popular, and that my mother would never be able to physically be here to see it.
This may seem cliché, but the ideas tend to just come out of thin air and without forcing it. I find that if I am forcing an idea, a story arc or a panel set up, the idea begins to fight me tooth and nail. That’s when I know I’m going the wrong direction. In terms of how to scare people, if it doesn’t scare me, then I won’t write it and put it into the book.
10. Artist Marco Roblin recently signed on to pencil Inheritance. How did you guys meet up? What is it about his style that enhances the story?
Marco is doing all the artwork. Which means pencils, shades and inks. After the first artist quit Inheritance, I took a couple months to figure everything out and then after I put out an ad on several industry sites. Marco was one of the responding artists. So we scheduled a skype session and then talked for hours about our combined love of all things cinema. Inheritance was designed as a cinematic comic/graphic novel. So it was like finding a kindred spirit and amazing artist.
Marco has this innate ability to convey emotions, a clear and concise understanding of framing and composition and his visual storytelling palette is incredible. All of this combined into the artwork for Inheritance creates this effortless and terrifying artwork. My background started in filmmaking as a writer and director, so to be working with an artist like Marco who understands cinema makes me absolutely excited. This is something I have always wanted for Inheritance and now I finally get to bring Inheritance to the level it was always meant to be at.
11. Do you have any future works that readers can look forward to?
I’m working alongside artist Ken Knudtsen on the creation of my horror western, Of Devils and Men. Ken is another amazing artist, so I am excited to see that story come to life.
12. Tell us about your love of film. What movies truly inspired you? And what are your goals as a writer/filmmaker?
Film has been apart of my life since I was a child in two ways, as a medium I loved and as a form of my storytelling. Ghostbusters and Forrest Gump were the first movies that inspired me directly to want to tell visual stories. Both of those films put me right into their worlds effortlessly, and Forrest Gump gave me the insight into the power of emotions. Still has the greatest piece of acting in a film, when Forrest found out he was a father, beautiful and heart wrenching.
My goals have always been the same; create stories that allow people to escape the pain in their lives.
13. Can we expect an Inheritance film from you?
Ideally that would be awesome.
14. What’s the BEST piece of advice you have for aspiring writers today?
Innovate and ignore the naysayers, the ones that tell you something cannot be done, or that you shouldn’t do it because no one has done it before, they are the ones who are not capable of painting outside of the box. Art pushes the limits of both the creators and the readers. Don’t quit no matter how hard it gets.
Photo by Martin Aguirre. www.orangedogphotos.com