“My name is Zack, but I go by the alias VAMPBYTE for my comics and illustrations. I’m a trans male artist (he/him) who lives in the US and works as a freelance illustrator and character designer. I get to design a ton of D&D player characters and it’s a lot of fun!”
What do you do? (Write, draw, edit, publish, promote etc.) How did you get started doing that?
I’m a freelance illustrator and webcomic creator. I’ve been drawing ever since I was a little kid and spent most of my elementary through high school years learning how to do digital art. When I went to art college for 2 years, I was really conflicted about whether I wanted to go into comics or illustration, and after a lot of back and forth I ended up deciding I love them both too much to pick one!
How did you get your start in comics? What was your first project and how did it come about?
When I was really little, I used to draw little comic strips about my Neopets or Club Penguin characters, and I remember having a blast showing them to my friends during recess. I started doing “serious” webcomics in high school, though due to my poor mental health at the time, I found I had a hard time sticking to a schedule and finding the motivation to get pages finished. My current webcomic project RORY is the first one I can actually call a real project, since it’s the first one I’ve managed to stick to and find success in.
(RORY updates on Fridays—Note: It’s 18+!)
Any current or upcoming projects we can find you on?
Right now I’m working on a weekly LGBT thriller webcomic called RORY, which is available on Tapas and Tumblr. It’s my passion project that I’ve been working on for over half a year now, and I’m hoping to release 2-3 more acts in the next few years and have it printed! I’m also starting to script out my next project, which will be a MUCH bigger undertaking!
Do you work solo or do you collaborate with others? If so, what are some of your favorite types of collaboration? (People you’ve worked with, style of creators you get along with etc.)
I work solo on my current project, but I like doing art collaborations with people who have a similar work ethic to me. I have a LOT of stamina for art, which can be tough for some people to keep up with, but if someone does their best and takes things seriously I’m always happy to team up with them!
(He’s open for commissions–this one is of someone’s D&D party!)
What are your favorite genres/styles of comics to work in? Are there any you definitely will not do?
My favorite genres for comics are horror/thriller and fantasy, preferably with LGBT representation in both. I also enjoy doing NSFW comics from time to time. The only genres I’d be opposed to doing are sports and biographical, mostly because neither one particularly interests me.
Where do you draw your inspiration from? What is it you hope to accomplish with the works you help foster?
I take my inspiration from artists who embrace the thing they love most and dive headfirst into it. There’s always a special quality to an artist’s work when you can tell immediately what they really love. I think someone who becomes a master at drawing what makes them happiest will always create the most exciting content. I hope that my comics and illustrations show people the things I’m passionate about!
(One of his many OCs–read about more of them on his Twitter!)
How has your specific identity shaped how and what you create? (Your gender, sexuality, religion etc.) How do you think your work is uniquely “you”?
As a transgender and pansexual man, I have a big interest in the idea of visual expression and beauty regardless of gender. It’s really interesting for me to observe how society’s interests in appearances have changed over the centuries, and to explore what that might mean about us as a whole. I really enjoy character design because I can take what I find visually exciting and apply it to anyone, without feeling the need to acknowledge traditional gender roles.
(His OC Lotus, who is “my chaotic dumpster fire of an illusionist. He’s half elf and half monster, but uses his magic to keep himself looking cute and nonthreatening. He’s mischievous, lazy, inconsiderate, constantly scheming and extremely gay.”)
How do you feel about the current comics industry’s state? What gives you hope for the future of comics?
I feel extremely hopeful when I see the amount of marginalized creators producing amazing work in comics nowadays. With the ability for anyone to publish their work online and get recognized for their talents, a whole new set of opportunities is available to people that are very talented regardless of their identities. There will always be people trying to push back against this positive change, but on the whole it feels like a shift towards a more inclusive and creative comic industry is on its way!
Who are some of your favorite/most inspirational characters in comics? What about in other media (novels, TV, movies, podcasts, pop culture)? Why?
I’ve always been a big manga/anime fan since I was a kid, so most of my inspirations come from characters with really striking designs that fit their personalities. It’s hard to narrow it down to a few specific characters!
(There are plenty more illustrations on his portfolio!)
Do you have any advice to aspiring creators? What was the best advice you were ever given about comics?
If you have an idea for a comic but feel like you aren’t skilled enough to execute it, just do it anyways! Don’t worry about the pressures of recognition and social media and just tell the story you want to tell because you love it. People will appreciate your love and dedication far more than pure technical skill.
What do comics mean to you?
Comics are a fusion of the things I love most: art, writing, fashion, color, and bad humor.