Regine L Sawyer is the Owner/Writer at Lockett Down Productions; a small press comic book company that publishes cutting edge Sci-Fi and Horror Comics such as The Rippers, Ice Witch, and Eating Vampires. She is also the Coordinator and Founder of the Women in Comics Collective International; an organization that focuses on the merit and craft work of Women and Non-binary people working in the comic book industry. They host events across the country such as Art Shows, Workshops, Panel Discussions and their own convention, Women in Comics Con. In addition, she has written several articles on Race and Gender in Comics for Graphic Policy, The Freelancer's Union, Comic Book Resources, and Time Magazine. Currently, Regine is a Creator-in-Residence at Kickstarter, working on campaigns that will be coming out later this year.
Black Girls Create: What do you create?
I create comic books, safe spaces for women and marginalized people in the comic book industry. I started out creating comics 13 years ago. I created a couple of different series, first was The Rippers, then came Ice Witch and Eating Vampires, and I've been working on those books ever since.
Seven years ago, I started the Women in Comics Collective International. We started as eight people who were on a panel for Women in Comics. I was asked to moderate. Not only were we really engaging as panelists, but the audience also found it intriguing that we were all women of color. Some of us hadn’t met too many women in the industry. Not because there aren't any, but because we artists sometimes live in a bubble. You're just writing and shit and not really thinking about connecting with anybody. Especially as women, particularly women of color, you kinda want to just keep your head down and get a check. And you sometimes don't realize you need community because of all the crazy nonsense happens in this industry. So after that, we were asked to do more events. We did panel discussions at first. Then I was asked to do art shows. I'd never curated an art show and I just said yes. I really want people to know, it's so important to say yes. A year or two later, someone asked if I did workshops. I just said yes. Never taught a workshop, but I said I'd figure it out. That all culminated in Women in Comics Con. We still do workshops across the country. It began with eight members and now we have over 150 members across the world. It's still evolving and changing, as am I, as is Lockett Down Productions.
BGC: Tell me about Lockett Down Productions. Where did the name come from?
Lockett is my middle name, my grandmother’s maiden name. I didn't think of it as a cute locket, but like "lock the door." I wanted to change my name for a while, but eventually I said, I ain't changing shit! So when the time came for me to put a company together, I said I have to call it Lockett Down.
I started working with an independent company as a managing editor. This was after deciding I wanted to pursue comics on a regular basis. I always collected comics, since I was 8 or 9 years old. It was always my jam. I lived, breathed, rolled around in X-Men. I collected all the books, all the comic book cards. I was all in. But I got to a certain age and I didn't know what any of this was going to do, so I said let me get a real job. I had written all my life. In high school, I wrote stories to get into college. I got scholarships through my writing. I was also selected for the National Book Foundation residency for their grant writing camp right here in NY. But I got a degree in hospitality to be a chef. I worked for a corporate food manager for about 13 years. But two years in, I was like you only live once, I have to do more than this. I always wanted to publish comics, I'm going to do it. I was telling a friend in a local comic book shop and someone overheard me. He said show me what you have and I did and he offered to publish my work.
I ended up learning all the things not to do in comics, which was a good lesson. I taught myself how to edit comic books, how to reviews submissions, what to ask for, how to put together ads, and how to find artists for work. After about a year, I said I can do this for myself. In 2007, I created Lockett Down Productions. I haven't looked back since.
BGC: Did you quit your hospitality job at the time?
Absolutely not. I wasn't crazy! Are you kidding me?
When I created Lockett Down, I had been laid off from my job. While I was in transition of getting a new job, I was trying to get my druthers together, like I'm going to do this comic book shit, I’m going to figure it. This was before Kickstarter. I am the one who paid for all of those books, out of pocket. I was determined to have something. I started with a lot of preview books. I did them by hand; I had a book stapler. I taught myself how to make an ashcan and made mini-books. I was selling for a good two years, then I started getting them professionally published. In 2009, I published the first Rippers book. Within two and a half years of initially meeting that gentleman, I had my first full book. I wasn't going to end my dream. The stories are in me, let’s make this happen.
BGC: Why do you create?
I can’t not create. Whatever it is. If you see any of my social media pages, I'm making something. I’m making a hat, I'm putting some kind of event together. Or learning how to create — I’m a Kickstarter resident right now. When I'm binge-watching stuff, I'm crocheting or I might be typing up a little story or something. I can’t not create something, that’s just who I am. I'm laying in my bed half the time doing it. It’s up to you to figure out what you want to do and what you want to put out there and how you want to do it. So I choose to do it from my bed. With one little thumb.
BGC: Who is your audience?
My audience is Black women and women of color. And people who identify with being women. It’s about us. I want people to enjoy my work. I want them to get lost in the work because you just need that escapism. I think that’s highly important. In this day and age, you need some realism and some escapism and you need something in the center. Women in Comics was initially for women of color. Yeah, I want everyone to read my stories, but I did have our community in mind. You can do this, too. This is not out of your touch or the realm of possibility. I want it to be accessible to everyone who wants to be part of a comic book community. My people come first and anyone who wants to come through can come through, too. I like to be specific in how things are for everyone. If you want to learn, be embraced, embrace others, if you wanted to give up yourself, this is for you.
BGC: Who or what inspired you to do what you do? Who or what continues to inspire you?
To start, my family. My brother. He's ridden through all this with me. Just as someone who bought my first comic books. We would go into the shops and he'd buy me stacks. I used to compete in video games, when I was like 11, in Street Fighter and Donkey Kong. My brother enrolled me in Blockbuster — I'm dating myself, I don't give a shit — they had an annual competition and they would scout who the biggest winners were. That year was Donkey Kong. My brother would drill me. He was so encouraging. I remember, this boy made his sister cheat by jumping in front of my screen while I was doing it — I did not miss a beat! And my brother was like if that girl would have messed up your game he would have gone to the manager, like 'you reset the game!' He’ll support me on Twitter, he'll tag celebs. He’s always my cheerleader. I give him a lot of that credit.
The Women in Comics members are also my inspiration. They are caring and loving and strong and they’re steadfast and tenacious and they roll with whatever is coming into my head. We are a family. Sometimes, I throw them into the water. And other times, they will step up for me, time and time again. At conventions, there are not a lot of us in the mainstream spaces. But we roll together like a clique. "We got you because you got us."
And my friend Robert Garrett, of XMoor Studios, who just passed away. He's my inspiration. I met him when I started in the industry. He was one of the few men who wasn’t looking for nothin’. He just wanted to be friends. He liked people who were on their grind and about something. From that first moment, we were the best of friends. He was always dedicated to his work and promotion and putting together good solid ideas. He was very prolific, he wrote every day, even while he was sick. He was sick for the past year, but was always writing and creating. It was something he couldn't help, it was just in him. That's also my inspiration, that you gotta keep going and pushing. Time really waits for no man.
BGC: Why is it important as a black person to create?
We create the best stuff! We can’t help it. We are such a creative people. We make something out of nothing. And that’s a lot of marginalized people of color in general. We figure it out. We’ll make something with bottle caps and string. (And the mainstream will steal it and it'll be on some shelf at Target.)
We are a people that are constantly creating and bringing things to the mainstream (to either steal or buy). Also, it’s important so that our community knows that we're capable of creating different things. Because even though we are such creative people, we downplay it. It’s a protective measure, it’s generational. Our parents were like will this kid be able to pay for anything? You don’t want to be a doctor or lawyer? That stays in our psyche, like can this be monetized? It’s important because 1. we’re creative people, and 2. it’s important that as we’re creating that somebody cares about it. When that happens, our families finally pay attention. Sometimes they didn’t realize until the person was gone. That’s why we have to create and be encouraging to each other. We create so much, it should be out to the masses. People should see us in different capacities. So our communities know we are capable of all the things, not just 1, 2, or 3. We can do it all.
BGC: How do you balance creating with the rest of your life?
I have to do more for myself. My mother would always say, "treat yourself good, honey." I need to treat myself better. But what I have been doing is going on Groupon and getting me a spa day. I love Groupon and Living Social. I try to go to a spa once a month on Groupon. Do something affordable, but I also need to do more. Just to have some self-care happening. I meditate, pray. My fitness class. There’s more to do, I do too much. I'm trying to figure it out because I need a big ass break. But at least trying to get the spa visits in, that’s helped.
BGC: Any advice for young creators/ones just starting?
Do research about your craft. Write every day if you can. If you draw, draw every day. Keep yourself in practice. Meet other people. It's easy to sit in a corner and draw or write. But it’s important to meet people who do what you do. It's validating. You can get advice and referrals. Go to conventions. Nothing that costs a bunch of money, maybe get a portfolio review. Talk to people, talk to vendors — don't just talk to the vendors, buy their stuff, especially the indie vendors — but talk to the professionals to find out what they do on a paid basis. Collect phone numbers and email addresses. Keep in contact with people. Broaden your horizons and your mind. And expand your circle. Especially if you want to be and this industry like this.
BGC: Any future projects?
Women in Comics Con is June 30th at the Queens Museum in New York City. I did a short story for The Dead Beats Anthology from a Wave Blue World. The crypt keeper is a cute, brown, delicious girl — she got dreadlocs and shit — and she’s in a music store and has haunted items. So it's stories based on these haunted items. I'm launching a Kickstarter possibly in July. I also have events coming up: Drink, Draw Pole. On June 30th, some WINC members are participating in an event called She Did Comic Books. It's a series where every other month this organization has people talk about different things women have done that people don't really know about. Two of our members, Shameka Mitchell and Tara Nakashima-Donahue will be speaking. I'll be at the ALA Conference in DC in the 3rd week of June. Schaumburg Library is having a Literary Festival on the 29th of June. I may be at BrooklynComicCon, on the 15th and 16th of June, I'll be on a panel and tabling. Then SDCC and BlerdCity in July.