An Interview with Comics Creator Tom Swift Bird

A panel from “Anthropocene Twilight” by Tom Swift Bird.

Tom Swift Bird is the creator of “Anthropocene Twilight,” a gorgeous, contemplative, and abstract short comic that appeared in Oneshi Press’s first comics anthology. He’s also a writer, musician, photographer, craftsman, and a generally prolific creator of gorgeous, thought-provoking art. We spoke to Tom about his work, his inspirations, and more.

Tell us a bit about yourself, Tom! What’s your background, and how did you end up creating “Anthropocene Twilight” for Oneshi Press?

I’m a writer, musician, student, photographer, technologist, and most recently illustrator. I never thought I could draw until about a year ago. A friend said something simple, that probably a lot of people could have told me. But he was the only one who said it up until that point in my life. It was something about when drawing a scene, how I should break every element down into individual shapes. Just follow the lines and geometry, building the background first. And that advice unlocked drawing for me. Somehow I just didn’t see that before then.

I created “Anthropocene Twilight” basically to see if I could. I know I’m not the most technically gifted illustrator; I’m still learning. Yet I have a good feel for atmosphere, and some things to say.

Photo courtesy of Tom Swift Bird.

Who are your comics heroes? Who inspires you?

My comic heroes growing up were Spawn, Jesse Custer from Preacher, Spiderman, The Hulk, V. Though eventually I got into comics that weren’t necessarily centered around hero archetypes. Comics like Blankets by Craig Thompson, and 500 Years of Resistance by Gord Hill are the sorts of things I draw most inspiration from these days.

What are you currently reading, listening to, and watching?

I’m currently reading the Earthseed books by Octavia Butler far as fiction goes, and an anthology by Charles Eastman far as non-fiction goes.

I’ve been listening to mostly friends’ bands and record labels. Potion Cellar’s “The Abyssian from Nauseating Whiff Records is some good doom/sludge. Green Altar/Articles split is some nice doom metal from Exalted Woe Records. I find black metal and doom metal good for setting the atmosphere to a lot of the things I draw.

I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries on the American justice system, all its botches and inequities. Supposed to rewatch Suspiria with a good friend I collaborate on some music projects with this weekend, so looking forward to that.

Who’s your favorite comic book hero/heroine? Villain? Morally ambiguous anti-hero?

Favorite comic book hero has to be Spawn. I like him cause he’s a character from the very beginning there’s just no good ending possible. He’s very Faustian. Any way he goes, there’s damnation.

Shredder is maybe my favorite villain, I’m not sure for any reason other than childhood nostalgia.

My favorite anti-hero is probably Venom, or maybe Dr. Manhattan.

Have you made any comics, aside from “Anthropocene Twilight”?

Just one, called “Perpetual Outside.” Currently have two others in the works.

What are some other projects you’re working on?

I’m constantly chipping away on a collection of short stories. I have a number of musical projects going, an ethereal post-rock band called Ghostsong Elegy being the most active currently. We just released an album over the summer.

How do you make your work immersive and progressive?

A panel from “Anthropocene Twilight” by Tom Swift Bird.

For me, immersive is the atmosphere of a work. It is a big picture that isn’t explicitly spelled out, but shows up in everything down to the smallest detail.

I don’t know that I explicitly try to guide my work in a progressive direction. Though often stories I tell focus on themes of the destructiveness of ignorance, the stagnation of old norms, egalitarianism, anti-capitalism, and indigenous philosophy and resistance, just because those are central threads of my worldview.

What does the world need that comics, or art more generally, can provide?

Some soul in an often soulless world. It’s a lifeline out of the monotony of the struggle for money and things. It’s a gathering space for ideas and vitality.

Who are you dying to collaborate with?

No one.  I work alone. I always have. Which isn’t to say I’m against collaboration. But whether it’s been music, or art, or anything, working solitary is my norm. Though when I find those rare individuals I do collaborate with well, it’s nice.

Where can our readers find you online?

Much as I’ve somewhat grown to loathe Facebook, its the easiest communication tool at the moment. Just look me up.

Check out Tom’s short comic, “Anthropocene Twilight,” at the Oneshi Press bookshop!

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