E.B. Burgoon on Comics in Education, Killing His Characters and Self-Publishing

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Eben E.B. Burgoon is the co-creator of “Eben07: Covert Custodian,” a Spy vs Spy kindred spirit webcomic about the janitors who clean the wreckage left behind by the Bonds and Archers of the spy world , and now is focused on his new project, B-Squad: Soldiers of Misfortune, which follows a poor man’s A-Team as they attempt to survive ludicrous, suicide missions.

Burgoon’s accolades include being an Editor’s Choice pick for Best of Sacramento for his work in comic books, collaborating with the Crocker Art Museum to start “Crocker-Con”, and was part of the first Sacramento Arts & Business Council’s Flywheel Creative Economy Incubator. Eben also successively knocked out a successful Kickstarter campaign for B-Squad that raised $6000+ in a month.

Eben studied international relations at Chico State and he minored in creative writing. He founded a Chico State improv troupe, has performed long-form improv shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and studied sketch comedy writing with Chicago’s Second City. Burgoon is an avid lover of animation, television, and film.

Eben currently works for 916 Ink, a Sacremento non-profit that transforms everyday kids into authors, developing and teaching their comic book program.

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Eben at 916 Ink, courtesy of 916 Ink

1.) Can you tell us a little about the non-profit that you work with, 916 Ink, and how you got started?

916 Ink is a nonprofit I joined this year. They’ve been doing after-school program outreach and transforming everyday kids into published authors through creative writing workshops. While I had been doing my own little workshops around Sacramento – I’d always wanted to work with kids and through chance and connections met the founder and executive director. I pitched her the idea of doing a comic book program where I taught the kids how to write, and then they pitch their ideas to lots of local artists, and then we match everybody up and publish a book.

I pretty much am doing a lot of program development and implementation there. Thanks to some rad coverage in a weekly newspaper here in Sacramento, I’ve been given the title of Weapon of Mass Instruction – which I quite like.

2.) So you’re mentoring tons of kids of all ages, maybe some of them haven’t even read a comic before – how do you suggest they start?

The first question I ask in every session I have with kids are if comic books count as reading – it always leads to a fantastic discussion and 9/10 of the kids land on it being a yes. We usually just talk about how reading outside of school – you can pick whatever you want to read and comics are reading.

Generally, I just advise the kids on reading something that they have been curious about. If it looks interesting, give it a try. There is a reason it looks interesting to you even if you can’t explain why.

I started with Calvin and Hobbes, Far Side, and Garfield as a kid and in sixth grade Tintin became my jam – my first real comic books. I had every one of those books as a kid and just devoured them.

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Panel from B-Squad

3.) When we met at APE, you mentioned that you had a huge cast of characters for B-Squad, your current project. How does your improvisation background play into your story and character creation?

B-Squad has 42 main characters and that’s mostly because I have to chew through them. One of the story devices is killing off a character every issue. I only really have planned 36 issues & there are 6 squaddies per issue. Also, has that Douglas Adams meaning of life nod, too. They need to be a little flawed, but still capable. Usually a little pop-culture referencey stuff as a seasoning.

Improv comedy does have some influence in there I suppose. When I performed, I really enjoyed putting kooky twists on characters. I recalled once being assigned by the audience to be Harry Potter – and it was just too simple so I evolved it to be sort of old and jaded Harry Potter. Smoking, and drinking. Reflecting on the horribleness and pain of his youth and the undue pressure of being the one.

That’s something I really try to bring to B-Squad – that zanyness and a look from a direction you might not expect. I think it’s a little more crafted ahead of time though. Less flying by the seat of my pants and more hidden structure that looks like I am flying by pants. It certainly helps when you’re writing 6 different characters to be able to snap jump into different roles and minds quickly though.

4.) Do you remember the comic, or comic experience, that triggered the career “This is what I must do!” for you? 

Honestly, it’s probably vain in a way, but it was the first Eben07 book we had printed. We printed this terrible $10 version of a floppy issue with blank pages and act breaks and all sorts of just rookie mistakes in it – but it was unbelievably rad to hold something in your hands that came out of your head – see people interact with it; laugh and enjoy it. Too much fun. We sold probably 10 or 15 books that convention, but the experience of holding your own book… that really sealed the deal that I want to be a creator and make more — like a junkie for sharing my work and seeing the reactions. I love to interact with fans and try to reward those people who come back and let me know the book made them laugh. I am hooked on that.

At the same time both Eben07 and B-Squad are concepts that I want to someday get animated and become shows. I wouldn’t stop making B-Squad as a comic if I got a call from Netflix or Adult Swim though, comics are too much fun to make. I don’t think I could stop doing them.

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Some of B-Squad’s finest… for now.

What are your Top 5 desert island comics, which titles do you make sure to add to your shortbox?

Tough to narrow it down. Honestly, with the golden age of comics we are in right now coming out of Image and Oni and etc… I mean. Yeah, there is just so much good stuff… If I were to shortbox it…

Chew by Rob Guillory and John Layman

Red Son by Mark Millar and David Johnson (shortboxed staff note, this is my one of my favorite graphic novels of all-time! -Ryan)

Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Waterson

Skullkickers by Jim Zub

The Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt (check out our Cullen Bunn interview)

You can find Eben on his website
Twitter
Instagram
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