Justin Aclin is launching his first creator-owned work, S.H.O.O.T. First, from Dark Horse Comics.
How did you get into this work?
Careful, lifelong planning — I’ve wanted to write comics since I was about 10 years old! More recently, though, I spent nine years as an editor for ToyFare Magazine, which also meant I was head writer for Twisted ToyFare Theatre, the parody photo-comic whose creators went on to launch Robot Chicken on Adult Swim.
That was my first real chance to write comics, and led to the opportunity to write an original superhero graphic novel, Hero House, with artist Mike Dimayuga for Arcana Comics.
That then led me to doing a short, prototype version of S.H.O.O.T. First for an online Dark Horse anthology, and everything that’s happened since then has come from that.
I’ve spent the past few years developing S.H.O.O.T. First into a miniseries with my Dark Horse editor, Dave Marshall, and while we were working on that, the opportunities came up to work on Star Wars and Akaneiro. So even though the public got to see those first, it was really S.H.O.O.T. First that opened up all these opportunities for me, and I’m so excited for people to finally get to see what (artist) Nicolas Selma and I have cooked up.
What’s your background?
I’m 32 years old from up in the burbs of Orange County, New York, where I still live. I did leave long enough to get my BA from Boston University, though.
Did your parents encourage you or did you have to set your own path? Is this something you always wanted to do? Do you come from an artistic family?
Comic books and art are in my blood! My dad, Jeff Aclin, isn’t a household name by any chance, but he was an artist for Marvel in the late ’70s and worked on books like Marvel Team-Up.
My brother Jesse Aclin is an incredible artist and just got a job working for the animation house Laika as a character designer. I, on the other hand, draw like a 6-year-old. But I still get to get in on the action as a writer!
My family’s never been anything less than supportive of my writing, but I imagine the fact that I have a day job lets my mom sleep easier at night. Similarly, my wife and kids are endlessly supportive of me now.
What was your greatest creative influence?
You could probably go all the way back to my dad taking me to see “Return of the Jedi” when I was 3 as the first thing that set me on this path, but I’ve had a ton of creative influences over the years.
Probably my greatest influence on my writing right now is Kurt Busiek. His comics always have something profound and relatable to say about the human emotional experience, and they usually say it with supernatural or sci-fi action. That’s what I want to achieve with my comics.
Tell us about being in New York and what that’s meant to your work.
Growing up, New York City was the place we went on field trips and the place I had to explain I’m not from when I told out-of-staters “I’m from New York.” For the past four years I’ve been commuting into the city for work, and its biggest influence on my work is that the commute is where I do most of my writing!
I’ve got about a 90-minute-to-two-hour commute each way, every day, and that’s when I break out my laptop and write comics, almost exclusively. Being in the city has provided me some enormous opportunities … but I really like being able to leave it every night.
What was your first comic?
The first one I can remember buying was Infinity Gauntlet #1, and a couple of months later I started visiting the comic shop weekly. I’ve still got it, and I’m pretty sure that I’ve got it in a couple of other editions as well.
Proudest achievement? Most regretful performance?
My proudest achievement as a comics writer has definitely been producing a creator-owned comic with Dark Horse Comics, which is home to some of the greatest creator-owned books of all time. Most regretful performance? Well, Twisted ToyFare Theatre always pushed the envelope, but there were a couple of jokes I either wrote or allowed through that I felt went too far. I never chose those strips to get reprinted in the Twisted ToyFare collected editions.
S.H.O.O.T. First cover!
A version of this story first ran on the New York Post’s Parallel Worlds blog.