Category Archives: Interviews

We Talk He-Man With Rob David

Rob David is a relative newcomer to comics but not to He-Man.  He has been familiar with the characters since they were a favorite of his as a child, and he has carried that interest over into a full-time job developing He-Man across various mediums.  We got a chance to talk with him about the direction for the series, the Eternity War, and first kisses.

heman05Graphic Policy:  How did you get the chance to work on this title?

Rob David:  I’m Head Writer and Lead Creative on “Masters of the Universe,” for Playground Productions, Mattel’s new Entertainment Studio, led by Dave Voss.  Mattel recruited me to write, develop and supervise new stories for He-Man across the entertainment spectrum — film, television, and in this case, comics!

Working with DC on these books has been extremely rewarding, not just because I’m a big fan of comics, but because the guys at DC Entertainment are incredibly talented, dedicated and great partners.

GP:  Were you a fan of the characters as a child?

RD:  Big fan. For me it started with the original mini-comics that came with the first figures. Just crazy stuff going on in those books. A wild mash-up of sci-fi and fantasy; wizards and robots and skull-faced warlords. And at the center of it all was this relatable barbarian with a magic sword just trying to do right in the world. I got sucked in.

GP:  The last story arc saw the reintroduction of She-Ra.  Are there any more forgotten fan favourites on the way?

heman02RD:  Oh yeah, She-Ra was just the beginning!

GP:  He-Man has traditionally been aimed at a younger readership, but the new series has story arcs that are definitely not just for kids.  How do you find the balance between the history of the characters versus what you want to write?

RD:  I try to remember that He-Man and Skeletor are icons. There’s a reason they’ve been around for thirty years. You have to respect the core concepts no matter what. Otherwise, why not just write something new?

But at the same time, we can’t stay stuck in the past. He-Man has to be able to surprise us. So I’m always looking for ways to recapture that feeling we had as kids, when we first met the characters and didn’t know what to expect. Make the story relevant to kids, adults, everybody, today — and not just nostalgic.

With the new comics, the readership is older, they’re mostly adult fans who grew up with He-Man. So it’s fun to take a more hard-hitting look at the mythos. Push the stakes, drama and characterization. The universe of Masters has always been rich; with these new comics we’ve really been able to dive in deep.

heman03GP:  In the most recent issue, young Prince Adam and Teela are shown sharing their first kiss.  Is the dynamic between these two important to the series?

RD: Yeah, to the series and the whole franchise! Adam and Teela grew up together. They’re not just love interests, they’re best friends, soul mates. Their bond is at the heart of the whole story.

That first kiss is a real marker in time for Adam, too. Soon after, he’d face off against Skeletor and Hordak and endless wars. But that first kiss is a moment of innocence and optimism that he’s really been fighting to protect and preserve all his life.

GP:  He-Man has traditionally fought against a select group of foes who have not changed much in their character’s past, but the most recent issue shows the introduction of a new threat.  Do you think expanding the character’s enemies is important?

RD:  Critically! A hero is only as great as his villain! You have to throw new enemies into the mix all the time and dial up the threat level of the classic foes. When it comes to He-Man, the past is never finished with him, and the future is full of grisly surprises.

heman04GP:  What should we expect to see in store for He-Man and his allies in coming months?

RD:  Coming up this Christmas is the launch of the brand new maxi-series, “He-Man: the Eternity War,” which I developed and Dan Abnett, co-creator of Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” is scripting.

This is the big one. The ultimate battle for the Power of Grayskull. It’s a massive, cross-over event for “Masters of the Universe.” All the different clans and empires face off. The Horde, the evil forces of Skeletor, the Masters of the Universe, the Snake Men and more.

The scale of the “Eternity War” is just massive. You’ll see just how powerful Castle Grayskull is, and why it must be kept out of enemy hands at all costs.

It’s also an emotional journey for Adam, Adora, Teela — and even, in the end, Skeletor himself.

Pop Mhan and Mark Roberts are the artists on the book, penciler and colorist, and they’re giving the series a dynamic IMAX feel.

Everybody at DC Comics and Playground Productions really hope you like “He-Man: the Eternity War.” Let us know what you think!

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Interview: Giuseppe Cafaro Discusses the Kiani Redesign

00b_FAK3-01-CMYKcrop[1]In early November Aspen Comics made the announcement they were changing up the look of their heroine Kiani when Fathom: Kiani Volume 4 #1 arrives February 11th. Alex Konat, Giuseppe Cafaro, and Wes Hatman were tasked with updating Kiani’s look and the title’s overall design.

In the announcement Aspen cited the growing female audience, and the evolution of their fanbase, an honest and frank admission that I wish we saw more of.

Yesterday, we talked with Aspen Editor in Chief and writer of Fathom: Kiani, Vince Hernandez. Today, we bring you part two of the discussion, as we got a chance to send some questions to artist Giuseppe Cafaro about some of what went into the redesign and the latest trend of new costumes for characters.

Graphic Policy: So the big news is you’re redesigning Kiani for her comic’s next volume out in February. When did you find out about the change, and get tasked with the redesign?

Giuseppe Cafaro: So, yes, there’s a great project behind the new Kiani volume that started during the end of this summer. Vince told me about the idea to bring Kiani on a new cinematic view and I loved that new way from the beginning.

00b_FAK4-02-CMYKcrop_1GP: How were Alex Konat and Wes Hartman involved?

GC: The whole “Fathom crew” was involved in this redesign. Alex drew the outfit for the first issue (that you can see also on his covers) and I’m drawing the concept outfit for the other issues. Wes is always one of the most important members of this project – he gives life to our ideas and pencils.

GP: What were the things you thought about when coming up with the new look?

GC: I was excited! Kiani is one of my favorite comic book characters since I started to read Fathom, and I’m so happy to have the possibility to work on these books and work on her redesign.

GP: Did you put thought into the utility and practicality of the outfit when coming up with the new design?

GC: Sure. There’s will be different environments and villains in this new story and her new design will be connected with what she needs to be the “bad-ass heroine” we know.

KIANI-V4-01c-Garbowska-2x3_1GP: What was the approval process like? How many versions were there?

GC: About the first outfit, we started from the design of Kiani: Dawn of War, beautifully drawn by Talent Caldwell. About the second design, I did 3 different versions and Vince approved one of those, but I think I’ll still do some little changes, with his supervision, on that new design.

GP: What are some of the character designs in comics that really stand out to you?

GC: I don’t like the classic “hero-suit” too much. I love a lot of the classic Image characters (Spawn, Witchblade) but I think that my favorite costume design is the Batman from “Batman: Noel” drawn by Lee Bermejo.

GP: With many of this year’s redesigns of characters practicality of the costume seem to be a priority. Why do you think this has become more of a focus of the artists today?

GC: I think that all redesigns actually come from generational change, not only in comics but also in movies and TV series. Sure, there are a lot of people who doesn’t like redesigns, but I think that it’s important to give new looks to our “heroes”.

GP: What comic projects do you have coming up?

GC: I’m working on Kiani interiors right now; I’ll draw all 4 books of this volume, as I did for the last volume. As for the future, I hope to continue to collaborate with Aspen Comics. It’s so fun and intense for me.


Interview: Vince Hernandez Discusses Aspen, Kiani, and the Changing Comic Readership

00b_FAK4-02-CMYKcrop_1In early November Aspen Comics made the announcement they were changing up the look of their heroine Kiani when Fathom: Kiani Volume 4 #1 arrives February 11th. Alex Konat, Giuseppe Cafaro, and Wes Hatman were tasked with updating Kiani’s look and the title’s overall design.

What was even more amazing was the honesty and transparency as to why this design change and update was happening:

And as our company and fan base continue to evolve, a new generation of readers will be introduced to this wonderful character, including a much larger female audience. We wanted to honor that spirit of progress by updating the look and feel of the series with an exciting new design.

In a year of major changes in the diversity of comic characters, this was the latest example that 2014 could be called “the year of the woman” in the comic industry.

We got a chance to throw some questions at the writer of Fathom: Kiani, Vince Hernandez, not just about the new direction, but also the changing demographics of comic readers and fans.

We have even more images of Kiani, and tomorrow come back for Part II, where we talk with artist Giuseppe Cafaro about the actual design process.

00b_FAK3-01-CMYKcrop[1]Graphic Policy: So the big news is you’re redesigning Kiani for her comic’s next volume out in February. How did you all come to the decision for the redesign?

Vince Hernandez: That’s correct, we’ll be ushering in a new look for the series both through the narrative and the visual aspect of the title. Like most ideas we have, this was derived from one of our production meetings, while discussing the new direction of Fathom: Kiani, and what we were looking to achieve with the final product. We’ve tried really hard to establish a library of titles that will appeal to the growing number of comic book readers, and that includes a large female audience. With this fourth volume of Fathom: Kiani, we tried to be mindful of this new audience while also staying true to the character and her rich history. This included a natural evolution to the character’s appearance that fits more with where she is in her journey. It’s all very organic to the story when you read it. I hope readers will agree.

GP: How many people were involved in the redesign process?

VH: Everything we do here at Aspen is a collaborative process, so everyone’s opinion matters. Usually, that starts in our production meetings and carries over into the individual discussions I have with the creative team, and all along the way I try to gather everyone’s opinions. For Fathom: Kiani, it’s like clockwork because Giuseppe Cafaro, Wes Hartman and Josh Reed know exactly what to do, since we’ve worked together on this title for quite some time.

GP: Were there any mandates as far as the redesign?

VH: No mandates, just to stay true to the character and the story, and our original discussions about the visual look of the series which includes covers, solicitation ads, and the approach to marketing the book for a wider audience.

KIANI-V4-01c-Garbowska-2x3_1GP: In the release announcing this you mention how the Aspen Comics fan base has evolved, and the much larger female audience. How closely does Aspen follow that? Do you have a good idea of what your readership “looks like”?

VH: I think so, although we’re always pleasantly surprised to meet new readers. The comic industry is growing larger and with that comes new readers and fans looking to enjoy our books. With the advent of more conventions and social networking, it’s a very fun time to be a comic book creator, as we can interact with our fan base directly. We try to stay current with that approach and evolve as our fan base does. One thing many people wrongly perceive about Aspen is that we have a mostly male fan base, because they see our female heroines on the covers and assume we’re something we’re not. We actually have a very strong and loyal female audience that we adore, and we’re very open to hearing our fans’ opinions. We’re here to entertain first and foremost, and with that comes a responsibility to be open to criticism.

GP: How do you feel the comic readership has changed over the years as far as habits and demographics?

VH: I think the comic readership has become much more attuned to challenging the status quo in terms of voting with their wallets, but I definitely wouldn’t mind even more change in that department. Right now there’s such a great influx of female readers and more of a focus on increasing diversity in the industry, but there’s still a large majority of readers that dismiss anything not by the Big Two. Those buying habits are hard to change, but thankfully I think it’s trending in the other direction now.

GP: This year’s big story for comics is diversity with numerous publishers headlining a lot more minorities in comics, and outright changing gender or race of characters. What do you see as the driving force behind that?

VH: I’d love to say that I think it’s all organic to the story and not part of a larger initiative to appeal to a demographic that has been under-served, but I wouldn’t be completely honest. But, then at the end of the day, anything that helps to add more diversity to the industry I can’t see as a bad thing–as long as it’s handled with respect and care for the story and/or characters.

GP: Do you think those changes are editorially driven? Number crunching/marketing driven? A combination?

VH: A combination, and I think it’s foolish to think that marketing doesn’t play a part in these decisions. Oftentimes, we as fans can get so caught up in the comics we love that we forget that publishers have to run as a business, first and foremost. Understanding market trends and areas of growth potential are essential to any good business model in the long term. Finding new readership is the best way to feed that growth, and publishers have to search out those new readers in these ways.

GP: Do you think the rise of self-publishing, Kickstarter, web comics, the explosion of indie books has helped pushed for greater diversity in the rest of the industry?

VH: Absolutely, and the benefit to that added diversity is that it puts the larger publishers in a position to not rest on their heels, which is a win for the overall quality of the work produced in comics. Being a published comic book creator doesn’t have the same value that it did a decade ago, now that anybody can publish their own work with enough determination. It makes for a more competitive playing field, and more options for fans to choose from.

GP: We publish monthly demographic studies of folks who “like” comics on Facebook. Do comic publishers consider that sort of thing when deciding what to publish and who an audience for a comic might be?

VH: You know, at this moment the correlation between a “like” on Facebook and a sale at the retail level to me hasn’t presented itself yet, but I think there are plenty of conclusions you can draw from the statistical data on Facebook. I think this is much more pronounced at the creator level, as I’ve seen some creators really build a solid revenue stream for their work due to their strong social media presence. As a publisher, we usually have to make our decisions much earlier, as we plan our production schedule far in advance. Once it hits social media we already anticipate a certain level of awareness for the property or title.

GP: Can we expect any other shake-ups like this for 2015 for Aspen?

VH: Well, the great thing about Aspen is that we’re free to really shake things up all the time, so I think Aspen fans can expect many more surprises in 2015, as we have some really fun new projects on the horizon!

We Talk DC Comics Deck Building with Matt Hyra

Matt Hyra is a veteran game designer, having worked on a variety of games before moving to Cryptozoic where he was given the challenge of developing a DC Comics deck building game.  The recently released second major expansion is an indication of the success of the series thus far and in Matt’s ability to put together a functional and fun game.  We got the chance to talk with him about his latest release – Forever Evil – where the bad guys finally get their chance to shine.

baneGraphic Policy: Are you a fan of comics?  And if yes, how does that affect how the theme was chosen for this game?

Matt Hyra: Yes! I’m a DC guy and have been since high school. I also enjoy some small press titles as well.

The themes are chosen to explore new cross sections of the DC Universe, game mechanics, and game flow. When we started thinking about playing as the bad guys, the Forever Evil storyline was just starting up. So that was a great moment of synergy.

GP:  What goes into designing a game like this and how long does it take?

MH:  A stand-alone game takes about a year from start to finish. There is a lot of trial and error. We usually decide on the types of characters we want to feature first. Then we come up with game mechanics that fit those characters. Then a lot of playtesting.

GP:  What are some of the challenges in interpreting a comic universe into a deck building game?

 MH:  One challenge is thematics. In order to keep the games infinitely replayable, we can’t just hand a Batman player a 40-card deck full of Batman-themed cards. You have to add a random and wide variety of cards to your deck to keep the game fresh.

GP:  Is it hard to balance what fans expect out of certain characters versus the need of the game dynamics?

 MH:  Some comic characters have powers that are difficult to translate into the game. Other times we are forced to just focus on one aspect of a character.

 GP:  It seems to be popular recently to want to play as the “bad guy”.  What do you think about this phenomenon?

 pandMH:  We like it! Mechanically, it’s no different than playing as a Super Hero. But with Forever Evil, which just released last week, we could have a lot of fun with it. And the players are liking the new play patterns.

GP:  What can we expect to see in future expansions?  Tie-ins to the movies maybe?  And any characters that you would like to see in the future?

MH: You can expect to see Crossover Packs. These small “booster” packs allow you to sub in a new set of Super Heroes and Super-Villains, plus a few new main deck cards… and that changes up the game about 50% with minimal effort. The first Crossover comes out in early 2015 and features the Justice Society of America.

Crisis Pack 2 will also be out very soon!

As for movies, that is a separate license that we don’t have.

As for characters I would like to see… probably Mr. Mxyzptlk. Just because he would allow us to do something really crazy.

Interview: Pat Broderick on Comic Cons, Cosplay, and all that Controversy

2014-12-07_2344If you regularly pay attention to comic and cosplay blogs, you’ll no doubt have noticed a new “controversy” surrounding comments concerning the role of cosplay, and direction of “comic” conventions has cropped up over the past week. The story has been covered by numerous sites, and even some mainstream press like The Atlantic.

This latest round was spurred by the comments by comic artist Pat Broderick (known for his work on The Fury of Firestorm, Swamp Thing, Micronauts, Batman: Year Three, Doom 2099, among others) made through his Facebook account. The comments, which you can read to the left, concerns friend invites on the site from “cosplay personalities” and also invitations from “comic” convention promoters, where the convention is more focused on cosplay events and television and movie stars, instead of comic writers, artists, and the comics themselves.

This debate has cropped up numerous times in recent years as the focus on “comic” conventions have shifted from comics to more broad entertainment and fandoms. While some comic conventions still exist, (Baltimore, SPX, Heroes Con, are examples), conventions with “comic con” still in their names, like Comic-Con International (aka San Diego Comic Con) and New York Comic Con, have moved on to wider audiences. Other conventions have ditched the “comic con” label such as Wizard World who has found success in their dozens of shows a year that appeal to a wide fandom. Cosplay is an absolute draw, becoming more mainstream over the years, as evidenced by numerous televisions series involving it, some even being picked up for multiple seasons.

Like a bad game of telephone, Broderick’s post was interpreted and reinterpreted in numerous posts that twist and ignore what he was getting at. A lot of “comic cons” aren’t that. They’re entertainment or fandom shows. Also, with the shifting demographics in fandoms and focus, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for comic creators to make money at shows, and support themselves. This is an issue that’s been echoed by numerous creators, for some time now. They’re not just competing with each other, but also with that person that appeared on that one show in that one episode that one time.

Some have pointed out studies and surveys, like the one by Eventbrite, that dispel the notion these attendees aren’t spending money. While that particular survey doesn’t break out the cosplaying attendees, it also doesn’t say what they’re spending money on. The fact is, both sides can be right in this. Cosplayers are spending money, just not necessarily on comics or from the comic creators displaying at the show.

There’s also the issue of the “celebrity.” Lets face it, the comic creator has never been the real focus of comic publishers, the comics and the characters are. The creators rotate (sometimes pretty regularly) so to invest lots of money promoting non-exclusive writers or artists isn’t the most sound strategy. This is unlike movies where the actors are the promotion, there to talk up the movie, and make the rounds. Think about the last time you’ve seen a comic creator on a talk show to promote a comic release.

There’s also the different goals of convention promoter, and the creator. The promoter’s job is to get people in the door, and clearly cosplay and celebrities help make that happen. The creator’s job is to sell themselves and their products to those attendees, and at times it might not be the right audience at all.

2014-12-07_2342What’s most egregious about all of this, is the fact no site reached out to Broderick to ask for clarification. Instead of treating it like a story, commentary and opinions (some times heated and pointed) were thrown out without talking to the source first.

I decided to do exactly that. I reached out, and asked him about his comments, the controversy, and conventions, and through email, Pat agreed to partake. Check out below for further details on what he has to say, and meant, and see why you shouldn’t always jump to conclusions without talking to someone first.

Graphic Policy: It seems like we should just dive right into it. What prompted your post about conventions and cosplay? How long had you been thinking about it all?

Pat Broderick: Well Brett, I had just finished about six conventions and all along I had seen where what should had been a great con based on attendance turned out to be shows plagued with problems. A general sense of aggravation underlining conversations with vendors and professionals. For the first show I wrote this off to inexperience, but by the third show I had to change my conclusion. So I was still scheduled for a show in south Florida this upcoming weekend. A small show trying to establish a presence. I had seen that this show seemed to be building itself on cosplay attractions and cosplay personalities. After many times inquiring why the artist seemed to be getting the back seat at the show and getting reassurances that it wasn’t the way it looked I decided to cut my losses. After all I do have pending work which is time sensitive. Now the very next morning when I got online and opened my friend requests I had noticed quite a few cosplay inquiries. I went to their pages and was faced with the same photos. Wonderful kids having a great time at shows. But nothing strangely enough was there about comics. Just them posing for the shots, rarely any of them with shots of them with different creators holding art. Or purchased comics. Or anything. I rarely accept cosplay friends at all. But that being said I do have cosplay friends. These are people who have photos of them with comics, and family, you know, the regular photo page items. So I decided that I should just go ahead and make a statement. It came off rather harsh, and was directed at the show promoters building large cosplay based shows combined with multiple media guest to just please don’t invite me as I probably will pass. That cosplay based shows really add no value to the industry. It took about an hour for this statement on my home page to get picked up and go viral…

GP: How many conventions have you been to in your career? What have you generally seen over that time?

PB: I’ve been going to conventions since 1974… I cut back on them back in ’96 and started again in ’99. I witnessed the change in the industry from video gaming to media guest and along the way from a few people in costume to what we call cosplay today

GP: So the big thing about your original post was this part, “You bring nothing of value to the shows, and if you’re a promoter pushing cosplay as your main attraction you’re not helping the industry or comics market..” Who was the “you” in “you bring” aimed towards?

PB: It was aimed at cosplay Facebook requests, and convention promoters who are developing their shows in the described direction.

GP: Did you expect your post to get picked up by sites like it did?

PB: Well obviously no, I woke up the next morning to quite the storm. But really when I reviewed the different blog sites I realized what was going on and how to handle it…. which is stay in front.

2014-12-07_2353GP: Did any sites or press (other than us) reach out to you at all?

PB: No one has asked for any clarification of my comments. So I posted a second statement giving more detail and apologized to any cosplayer who my comments might have offended. It saw some pick up, but not to the degree of the first. I guess that one wasn’t “News worthy.”

(We’ve included that second statement to the right for you to read – The Management)

GP: What’s the reaction and feedback been like?

PB: Well how could I put this compared to how should I put this… I’ve had a huge turn out of negative response from cosplayers, loads of threats, and conventions uninviting me to their shows… I’ve also had an even larger turnout of support from fans and pros backing my position, and I’ve gotten convention invitations. So I guess that my original comment worked. But even more than that since I’m not the first comics pro to make such statements about these problems perhaps this attention will make some of these show promoters realize that there IS a problem out there which CAN be addressed in a positive way.

GP: What’s your thoughts on cosplay in general beyond the personalities/celebrities?

PB: I think they’re great. I also think that they have a responsibility to uphold a PG rating with their outfits. These are family shows and not nightclubs. Take some consideration for the family’s who attend. And also when someone asks if they can take your picture just ask the interested party to step with you to an area outside of the isles. You’re there for fun and to show off your costumes, artist and dealers are there to earn some rent.

GP: There’s comic conventions and then there’s general entertainment conventions. What do you see as defining the two?

PB: The direction it’s going will divide it itself. Its happening even now. There will eventually be a clear “comics” show controlled, and there will be media shows.

GP: What conventions today would you consider “comic” conventions?

PB: Right off of the top of my head is HeroesCon.

GP: You announced also on Facebook that you’ll be developing your own four show convention circuit. What can you tell us about that? What prompted it? Where are you looking to have them? How will your shows stand out?

PB: I started down this road about three months ago. These shows will first be in Florida, North, Central and South. These will be shows for the vendors and the public. I’m also an old adman so I know the power of not only promotion, but linked promotional events. We already have some exciting ideas which will bring in the public but also bring in people looking to discover a great find. pick up sketches, meet the creators. We will be bringing in media guest. but controlled and very limited in number. we will also be involving cosplay into our shows but in such a way as to satisfy both their needs and the shows direction. But first and fore most these will be shows for the industry. for the vendors and for the creators…

Interview: Scott Allie Discusses the Mignolaverse, Hellboy, Abe Sapien, and more!

HBYBPRD #1 CVRSince first appearing in San Diego Comic-Con Comics #2 in 1993 and his own series in 1994, Mike Mignola‘s Hellboy has entertained weaving a comic universe unlike any other. It blends the best of constantly being accessible for new readers, it also has layered on a mythos that’s clear, fun, and entertaining. The Mignolaverse (as its been dubbed) has impressively done all of this through different series, with different creators, presenting a unified universe, look, and very clear voice.

With today’s launch of the latest entry to the Mignolaverse, Hellboy and the B.P.R.D., we got to talk to Scott Allie, Dark Horse Editor in Chief (and Mignolaverse editor) who also has the distinction of writing Abe Sapien, one of the many entertaining comics that makes up Mignola’s world.

We talk to him about his job and what it entails, writing Abe Sapien, and how they’re able to create such a connected universe. Find out all of that and more below!

Graphic Policy: As the Mignolaverse editor and Dark Horse Editor in Chief, what are your day to day tasks for those not familiar with that type of job.

Scott Allie: As Editor in Chief, I attend a lot of meetings, big and small, where we make plans, make decisions about what the company is doing. I work closely with marketing. Any given day, I’m in a couple meetings with a room full of people, I’m in a couple informal meetings with Mike Richardson, Randy Stradley, and/or our VP of Marketing Matt Parkinson. A closed door meeting with Sierra Hahn, another of our editors, is pretty much a daily thing. I’ll also have one-on-ones with individual editors talking about their books—either what they need to do, or what they need help on from other departments, usually marketing or production.

As an editor with my own books, I spend some time hiding in a nearby coffee shop reading and writing. I spend an hour a day on the phone with Mignola, maybe a couple other phone calls with John Arcudi, colorist Dave Stewart, or one of the artists. And because Portland is so flush with comics creators, I have a lot of breakfast or lunch meetings. The other day I had a breakfast with one writer scheduled too closely to a lunch with a writer/artist, and I wound up like Greg Brady in that one episode where he was juggling dates.

This is what I get paid to do …

GP: How did you come into that job?

SA: Right out of college, a hundred years ago, I moved out to Portland looking to do anything in publishing. I tried the want ads, and the one call that yielded an interview was with Dark Horse, but I didn’t get it. I went door to door to every publisher in downtown Portland looking for work. I finally got something with Glimmer Train Press, a local literary magazine. I worked there for a while, honing my skills, and saving up. After I left there I started self-publishing comics, pushing them at regional conventions, and thereby getting to know the staff at Dark Horse. Before long they needed a new assistant editor, and I got the job—the most entry-level position they had. That was twenty years and a couple months ago. I very gradually made my way up the food chain to the EiC position—although I got to edit the Mignola books almost right away.

GP: A thing that’s stood out is that the Mignolaverse has been one expansive universe with each series, volume, and story adding to the mythology. How much of the universe is actually planned out?

SA: It’s a very complex mix … there are things you see us doing that look like we must’ve planned, but which weren’t, and there’s things we planned out fifteen years ago that are still not apparent to readers yet. And sometimes plans change. The other day Mike and I were talking about this one character that we’ve done a little bit with, not a tremendous amount, and Mike started talking about how he could have a book of his own. The more we talked about it, the more excited I found myself getting. The whole time I’m thinking, Who could write it? Mike’s too busy with Hellboy in Hell, he’s not gonna want to write it himself. But this is something only he could write, and it’s too good an idea not to do. Finally we came around to the question, and he said, Oh yeah, I have to write this myself. Unplanned, but it will pay off things that have been set up in a couple different books. It’ll look, I think, like something we’d always meant to do.

The beauty of it is that it all stems from Mike—the big plans—and he has an incredible memory. He doesn’t write much down. I’ve started writing it down, but he has the most encyclopedic knowledge of our world, and it’s all just in his head. Things change a little over time, through the process of figuring it out and refining it. I think the special thing here, about these books, is that there has always been a bigger picture we were working toward, and I think that’s been evident in the stories all along. I think what’s unique in Mike’s comics is that we’ve expanded this creator owned world into something fairly vast, but it’s remained one story the whole time. There’s no richer world in all of comics that’s maintained this focus, this singular vision.

GP: There also seems to be an emphasis to allow folks to pick up any series, volume, or story arc, and be able to understand it as a self-contained story, and it also adds a lot for long time fans. What are the challenges to make that happen?

SA: We aim for that, although it’s a tough balance. The interconnectedness is deep. We want it to be accessible. We work to make sure someone won’t pick up a book and be totally confused. Like the new volume of Witchfinder coming out soon. Written by Kim Newman, that book stands to reach a lot of people who should read Mike’s work, but never have. So I think the book works really well on its own, though someone just reading that one won’t realize the deep connections the main character, Ed Grey, has to Hellboy, and they might be confused by the cameo in the epilogue. But if they like it enough, hopefully they’ll read the other Witchfinders, and that will lead them to know more about Hellboy and Abe Sapien, etc. Kim’s book does tell a complete story, though, as much as any Bond movie does, and that’s what we strive for.

GP: You also write Abe Sapien. Do you have an editor that edits that for you? Or do you edit it yourself?

SA: I edit myself. Shantel, who does all the Mignola books with me, goes over my scripts and outlines. All the outlines and some of the scripts have input from Mignola, so the general direction is always part of the bigger Hellboy plan. But some of my bigger heroes are Archie Goodwin, Harvey Kurtzman, and Al Feldstein—so I think there’s a good tradition of writers helming their own books. One of the cool things with Abe Sapien, which I’ve never had before, is how much the artists and I bounce things back and forth. A lot of the ideas in the books come from them, and a lot of times I’ll rewrite stuff because of how they want to do it. Working with the Fiumara twins is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me, so I do everything I can to keep them motivated, to give them a sense of ownership over the story.

GP: As a writer, what does being an editor help you with?

SA: An editor has to think about the big picture, the whole book. It’s something I love about working with Mike, something I appreciated working with Kurt Busiek. They think about the whole thing, the schedule, the way it will be collected, the color, the letters, how it will be promoted—less of that latter part with Mike. But an editor has to think about all of that, from the moment he’s hiring people through editing the scripts; so having a writer think about those things is positive. Thinking about the books in those terms is good in a writer, and good in an editor.

GP: Do you enjoy one role more than the other?

SA: Well, that’s the thing … When people ask me what the difference between editor and writer is, for me personally, I always say I don’t think of them as separate jobs, but as different points on a spectrum. You’re engaged in the story to varying degrees, but you’re thinking about the same sort of things. If I’m editing a Sergio Aragones book, I have almost no involvement in the creative end of the book. Or Eric Powell’s The Goon. On a Mignola book, even one Mike writes, I’m much more dialed in to the creative heart of the book, and steering that. Mike’s the boss, but I’m there with him. For me, most books fall somewhere between that Powell involvement or that Mignola involvement. Criminal Macabre is closer to The Goon. Oeming’s The Victories is closer to Hellboy, and Abe is on the other side of Hellboy, because there isn’t another writer. But it’s not an entirely different thing—it’s not apples and oranges.

GP: There’s numerous series, with a new one starting taking on Hellboy’s early years. Do the various writers work together to tie things together and know what each other are doing with their own series?

SA: Mike and John and I work very closely together. We’re very looped into what each other is doing. Less so, say Kim Newman and Maura McHugh on Witchfinder, or Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon on Vampire. What we do there is we identify a safe corner for them to work in where they can kind of do their thing. They don’t want to move into the clubhouse with Mike and John and I, they have other stuff to worry about in their lives. Not that they’re not welcome, just that I don’t think they’d want the burden of membership, the tattoos and such. So we identify places where they can go, do their thing, and we can convey to them the things they do need to worry about. Like in Vampire, the thing Ba and Moon did, it ties into the overall vampire mythology of Mike’s world, which we had to talk about a lot. But they could do whatever they wanted with their characters, who only tie in a little to the bigger world. With Kim and Maura, it was pretty easy for them to become experts on Ed Grey, the main character; beyond that, they were making up their own thing. But then when the thing they made up started showing some similarities to certain key parts of Mike’s mythology, we all had to compare notes and decide, Do we lean into the similarity, or steer clear. They were onboard to lean in, so we talked real specifically about how it would and wouldn’t tie in, and it worked out pretty painlessly. They didn’t have to get the tattoos.

GP: What input does Mike Mignola have with all of this?

SA: As much as possible, much as he wants. With the Witchfinder thing in particular, Mike read the outline but wasn’t reading the individual scripts. In the outline, the similarities weren’t apparent; when the later scripts came in, I noted the similarity, talked to Mike, we agreed we should figure out how to work it out, and then he was on all the emails with Kim and Maura where we figured out how to handle it.

Mike is always involved in deciding where the story is going. He’s most involved when we’re talking about anything that brushes up against Hellboy, anything that has to do with the bigger mythology—the Hell stuff or the Lovecraftian stuff—and the bigger arcs of the central characters. John and I have a lot of leeway on other things, but Mike’s most deeply involved when that stuff comes up. There are some stories that start as his idea, like B.P.R.D. #124, or the first three issues of Abe Sapien, that Mike spells out and one of us writes. Hellboy & the B.P.R.D. is a rare case where Mike came up with the story, wrote the scripts that Alex drew from, but then John came in and added the dialogue, Marvel style. I say Marvel style on the dialogue, in that John added it after it was drawn—but the scripts we gave Alex were hardly plot-style scripts. Those usually have a paragraph—or a sentence—per page of the comic. Mike’s “plot-style” scripts usually have pretty long paragraphs for every panel. That’s what Alex worked from on Hellboy & the B.P.R.D.

Then there’s monster designs—even if Mike is somewhat removed from a given arc, once it’s time to design a monster, he’s right there. Generally we’ll get the interior artist on the book to do some sketches. John and I might give notes, but often Mike will come back and redraw the sketch. There’s certain things about how Mike designs monsters that are really all him. So usually the interior guy throws an idea on the table, Mike revises it, but it almost never ends there. We always want the interior guy to do one more drawing, to put his spin on it, so he’s not just aping Mike.

GP: What else do you have coming up as editor or writer?

SA: Abe Sapien is the only thing I’m writing until it’s done. The Goon is a big push for us right now—Occasion of Revenge is just wrapping up and it’s back for four issues with Once Upon A Hard Time in February. I’m working with a group of editors and writers on Fire and Stone, a big series that ties Prometheus to Aliens and Predator. Kelly Sue DeConnick wrote the comic that wraps that whole thing up, also in February. I’m doing deluxe editions of all David Mack’s Kabuki series. I usually wouldn’t handle a reprint program, but it’s Kabuki, so it’s an honor to do it. One of the biggest things I have going on in 2015 is Fight Club 2—I’m working with Chuck Palahniuk on the sequel to his novel, which he chose to do as a comic. I’ve been at this twenty years, and I’m fairly confident, shall we say, in my work and my accomplishments. But once in a while a project comes along that it is truly humbling to be a part of. Being able to have that experience really keeps the job fun and fresh. Like the new book Mignola cooked up the other day while we were on the phone—not every idea we kick around gets me that excited, but the fact that I can still get this pumped tells me I’m a long way from being jaded.


We Talk Supergirl with Ema Lupacchino

Ema Lupacchino is a relative newcomer to the comic book industry, but she has already made her mark.  With over 100 issue credits to her name, she has already worked on a lot of iconic comic characters including Thor, Vampirella and Lois Lane.  Since issue #30 of Supergirl she has been the series’ regular illustrator.  We got a chance to talk with her about her work on the title, designing battle armours, and choosing the right colour of nail polish.

Graphic Policy: How did you get the chance to draw this iconic character?

karaEma Lupacchino: From what I remember, It happened in just three seconds – Eddie Berganza asked me if I’d  have liked to work on Supergirl and I said “YES”. I was really happy when he named “Supergirl” as the title I could have been working on, I love this character.

GP:  Supergirl is fairly iconic in terms of her costume and her design,  What do you do to put your own personal touch on this character?

EL: What I think is that the costume is not really important in order to define a character – the key is the attitude I give to her. I feel this responsibility every time I have to feature a specific character with the acting, the gesture, the expressions – it’s what describes him or her the most, the costume is just an outfit. This is what I try to give to her, a very specific temper and attitude. It can be a look, a way to move, a feeling. I want her to be as “real” as possible.

GP:  Along with Wonder Woman,  Supergirl is one of  two major DC Comics heroes who are both very strong and very feminine.  How do you find the balance between the two?

EL: Easily – she’s very feminine outside, in her movements, her make up, the way she smiles, these kind of  things. And she’s strong in both her head and heart. Of course she’s Kryptonian and she’s got some extraordinary superpowers, she’s almost invincible, but the real force is in her will. The hardest part of my  work is to communicate all this with drawings … I hope I’m doing it well :)

supergirl - blue nailsGP:  In the most recent issue (#36), Kara is wearing Supergirl-blue nail polish, which is a nice touch for the character.  Did you have any input into that?  

EL:  YES! It was me, I confess! I love blue nails, and since it’s more modern that the classic red one I thought it could be a smart way to show she’s living our timeline.

GP:  Also in the most recent issue Kara is thrown into some Kryptonian battle armor, which looked pretty amazing.  What were your inspirations for the design?

supergirl armourEL:  I was inspired by some pretty amazing concepts, mostly by Japanese illustrators I really love, like Terada for example. Japanese are the best at conceiving sci-fi technologies and I wanted to give a sense of futuristic tech on her armor, in order to help her feel light and comfortable at the same time.

GP:  The series has generally been a mix between Earth based stories and outer-space cosmic stories.  Is there a setting between the two that you prefer?

EL:  Space, of course! On Earth, as our real world, nothing extraordinary really happens – but out there in the space, extraordinary things can be discovered: futuristic technologies, new worlds and races that are very exciting to draw.

GP:  Speaking of outer space based stories, the world which you designed for the Crucible is pretty complex and amazing, between the different environments and an awesome looking space station.  How much input did you get into the design of the planet?

supergirl crucibleEL:  The idea of the Crucible as a bracelet orbiting on two twin stars was written in the script, and I think it’s a very cool idea. I spent a lot thinking about how to design it. You know, there were many factors to consider out there – the balance it should have with the stars’ orbit, the dimension, the details, the dimension of the ships outside. At the beginning I was working on some preliminary studies that didn’t really give the sense of its size, so I asked my friend Emiliano Santalucia to help me in figuring out what wasn’t really working with it. So he suggested to me to draw a huge diameter bracelet in which we can barely see where it ends over the stars. That worked perfectly, thanks Emil!

GP:  Are there any superhero characters that you would like to get a chance to draw that you haven’t already?

EL:  Good questions, I have TONS! :D I really wouldn’t mind to draw Catwoman or Wonder Woman one day.

Michael Moreci, Tim Daniel, and Colin Lorimer Discuss their new BOOM! series Burning Fields

burning fields #1 coverOut in January 2015 from the team of Michael Moreci, Tim Daniel, and Colin Lorimer, Burning Fields mixes the horror genre with the very real horror that is parts of the Middle East.

Dana Atkinson, a dishonorably discharged army investigator, is pulled back to the Middle East when a group of American oil technicians disappear under bizarre circumstances. With the help of an Iraqi investigator, what Dana discovers is unimaginable: A series of unusual incidents at the drill site lead her and her unlikely ally to discover a mythic evil that has been released, one that threatens both the lives of the entire region and the fragile peace that exists.

The combination of a horror story set in the Middle East sounded fascinating to me. I wanted to find out more, and got a chance to pick the brains of the creative team. Find out more below about what you can expect, and why this is a series that should be on your radar, and you should be pre-ordering to make sure you don’t miss out!

Graphic Policy: For those that don’t know, how would you describe Burning Fields?

Tim Daniel: BOOM! editorial came up with the excellent shorthand of “war horror” and that’s a great place to start. Under that umbrella, we have a pair of detectives, Dana Atkinson and Aban Fasad, each with a history of being severely hamstrung in their respective careers. Their dogged pursuit of the truth and their ability to enact justice has been met with resistance. Now, paired together against their will, they must track down whoever or whatever is responsible for a series of ritualistic murders in the Kirkuk, Iraq oilfields. Standing in their way is Verge – a Private Military Company headed up by a highly dedicated security officer, Decker Marce.

GP: Where did the idea come from?

TD: This sandwich is all Mike’s doing…I just put the mayo on the bread.

Michael Moreci: I’ve had a bone to pick with private military companies (PMCs) for a long time—they epitomize the hideous idea of war for profit, which is an unforgivable political execution. That said, I wanted to do a story that dug into the heart of PMCs and show how terrifying the truly are. It took me awhile to develop, because I couldn’t have a story that functioned purely as soapbox pontificating. There has to be some entertainment value, without question. After Curse wrapped, Tim and I started talking about next projects, and I had this one burning my mind. I had the nucleus and the central character/location locked down, but that was it. That’s when Tim and I started working on it—really intensely digging in—and things really took off from that point on. He added so much that enriched my thinking and adding something totally new—yet fitting—to the story.

GP: Michael and Tim, you’ve both done the monster/horror genre before, what do you enjoy about that type of story that has you coming back to it?

TD: Is there any other kind worth telling? Aside from the flippancy– I just write what interests me and when we collaborate the same applies, only the ideas and concepts we share have to meet our mutual interests. If it happened to be sci-fi or crime or a western – all of which we’ve knocked around – then we’d tell that story. Thus far, we’ve just picked the one idea each time that seems to click and take shape almost on its own. We’ve got another concept developing which would fit the horror genre and potentially complete our unintentional trilogy.

MM: Yeah, for me, it has to be about something. The story, dare I say, has to speak to me in some way. Whether it’s exposing PMCs, exploring the relationship between a father and his dying son (Curse), or ruminating about the course of humanity (Roche Limit), I need some gravitation force that keeps me grounded and interested. But, at the same time, this thematic core has be balanced with something, and that something is its entertainment value. You can have the best theme in the world, but if it goes down with your audience like a shot of cough medicine, you’re in trouble. Luckily, Tim and I share a commonality of growing up with the same tastes in genre, movies, books, etc. Because of that, it’s easy for us to really hone in on the genre we’re working in and add that layer of deconstruction to our projects.

GP: The cast is very diverse, and all of your two books have had that in the past. What does the diverse group of characters bring to this story? Is that something you consciously do?

TD: The composition of our casts is unconscious. The story arrives and the characters present themselves within the context of that framework. Because we’re not trying to shoehorn anything into our tale it makes for a very organic form of storytelling. We’re not crippling the story by trying to tick boxes in deference to current trends. We’ve got a smart readership I think, and they’d recognize pandering – what we try to deliver and what they deserve is authenticity and multi-dimensional characters that reflect our world not just a narrow band of experience.

GP: The story takes place in the Middle East. Why did you set the story there, as opposed to the oil fields of Alaska as an example?

TD: Mike is responsible for the setting. His original note to me was “Middle East.” I liked that, found it alien and challenging. His next series of notes designated the specific location of Kirkuk, Iraq. We dug in and did some research…and despite the almost “throw-a-dart” nature of his choice, we discovered that the city has been fraught with endless conflict primarily spurred by competing factions and their interest in the oil of the surrounding region. The choice of Kirkuk proved to be very serendipitous.

GP: Horror stories are often allegories or reflections of our own insecurities of our times. Clearly the Middle East has some real world horrors going on currently. How are the real world events impacting your telling of the story?

TD: We’re not culling headlines by any means but we certainly seem to be focusing upon topical events or items of interest which serve as a springboard for our stories. With Burning Fields set in Iraq there is a wealth of material to drawn from. Anytime you have as many competing interests as you do there, especially Kirkuk, someone is going to pay the price. Corporations routinely forsake human beings for profit. That does not just apply to the oil companies or private military outfits depicted in Burning Fields, that also applies to the health care system touched on in Curse. With little other recourse, the disenfranchised end up taking radical measures to ensure their survival. That’s a smashing of the lamp and letting the genie run amok scenario. That’s scary as shit, when our actions contribute to the creation of something far more powerful and destructive than avarice or immorality. You could liken it to climate change – it’s our collective creation and it’s wholly indifferent to our politics or profit motives…

MM: Like Tim touches on, I’m always fascinated with the monsters that we, as people, create, more than most horror. Because, ultimately, those monsters are reflections—and extensions—of us, and thus give rife opportunity to explore, as they say, the mores of our time. And Burning Fields is definitely rife with this—monsters that are created and threaten to consume us. In a larger sense, that’s a big story of Iraq, in that we created a monster there (and other Middle Eastern countries), it’s not unrealistic to think we won’t suffer consequences for that someday.

GP: You’ve all worked together on Curse, which was also published by BOOM!. Is there anything that you learned after coming off of that book as a team that you’re using here?

TD: Our collaborative process was established on Curse and now it’s all about refinement. Yet, Burning Fields is more complex — there are a lot more moving parts which required more research. The series is also twice as long as Curse so the structure of the eight issues required a lot of advance planning. You’d think we’d have it all down pat but every story should be it’s own, with it’s own set of rules and conditions. That’s welcomed since I really feel it keeps everything about the creative process and resulting story very fresh.

GP: Colin, As far as the art, how much real world reference did you?

Colin Lorimer: I do a lot of research with every project I ‘m involved with and this one was no different. Tim also supplies some photo-ref for certain scenes and characters to help get the ball rolling. I do try to get a good sense of place with the visuals to keep it grounded in reality but have to take a certain amount of artistic liberty with some of the scenes as I may not have the appropriate reference available to me. The choice of palette by the excellent, Joana Lafuente plays a big part in helping to convey the setting, imbuing the scenes with the appropriate mood and atmosphere.

GP: There’s pretty graphic imagery coming out of that area with certain terrorist attacks and statements. Was there visuals you all wanted to stay away from due to that?

TD: Indeed. I’ve seen enough carnage already. We did not shy away from anything in particular. One thing we can’t do is appropriate imagery or certain regional factions in an exploitive manner. Everything we do has to be responsible and by that I mean respectful. We’ve infused the story with quite a bit of our own imagery and symbolism which is both liberating and creatively fulfilling – we as much basing this in reality and regional mythology as we are augmenting and bringing our own visual elements to the story.

CL: Yeah, that was a concern for me. The last thing you ever want to do is be is in any way exploitative in nature. I think concentrating on the working, every day people of Iraq and attempting to put a more human face to the country is the proper approach; in effect another perspective on a country that gets some very poor, and at times, very biased and less than accurate media coverage.

GP: What else can we expect from all of you?

TD: Hopefully more new, more fresh, more original stories spanning different genres geared towards readers that are willing to be as adventurous in their reading choices as we strive to be in our storytelling.

MM: I just want to do stories that I’m passionate about and give me opportunity to say something, hopefully, worthwhile. My work, in some ways, is difficult and challenging—but I think the rewards in books like Curse and Roche Limit have proven to be worth the journey. If I can continue to do that, I’ll be a happy man.

As for concrete plans, I have Roche Limit ending in February, then starting volume two of the trilogy in May. Hoax Hunters, now with Heavy Metal, is back in March, and my Black Mask book, Transference, drops in June. Busy first half of 2015!

CL: Embarrassing photos surfacing on the internet and a short stint in rehab. I’ll also be part of the team bringing back Frank Black with the IDW series Millennium in January and will be writing another series that should be hitting sometime in 2016.

We Talk Brainstorm with Jeffrey Morris and Ira Livingston IV

Though it is a bit below the radar, there is an intriguing series from Future Dude called Brainstorm, telling the story of an out-of-control storm and the people that are both responsible for it and the ones that are trying to stop it.  We had the chance to talk with writers Jeffrey Morris and Ira Livingston IV from Future Dude about the series.  They talked with us for a bit about their Star Trek inspiration, hurricanes and aliens in Wyoming.

Graphic Policy:  This is still obviously a science fiction story, but most people think of science fiction as being either in the future or in outer space.  Can you touch on some of the differences in writing sci-fi in an uncommon setting?

Jeffrey Morris: We live in a world that is science fiction to someone in the past. From automobiles and airplanes to lightbulbs and calculators, these things began in the imaginations of people with inventive minds. Imagine seeing an iPad 20 years ago! Pure science fiction. I think the idea is that science and technology are forever connected to and incepted via dreams. The same holds true for weather manipulation and geo-engineering. At FutureDude, we are writing fiction about the potential of science and technology. Most of all we are looking at how these thing will impact humanity.

Ira Livingston IV: Working with Jeffrey, we’ve always tried to base our stories on strong characters with science and technology as a backdrop. In Brainstorm the setting is in the very near future. Everything as close to our own everyday lives as possible. Writing this way makes  it more personal, while tapping into your imagination for the background elements. It seemed like we kept pulling back to the reality and potential of the action happening in the story instead of creating something totally fantastic and impossible.

 bs003GP:  On the subject of science fiction, the story is full of what is known as hard science fiction, that is science fiction based on real science.  Did you have to do a lot of research into weather phenomena?

 IL: Yes, if you look in the credits we had the pleasure to work with Paul Douglas, AMS-Certified Meteorologist.  The other research we did, was digging into interesting facts and theories, like the ‘real’ perpetual storm in Venezuela on Lake Maracaibo.

JM: It was a real honor to have a a science advisor who worked on Twister and Jurassic Park. I have also had a personal interest in weather and severe storms since I was a child. I also studied a bit of meteorology in college. We aren’t experts, but we tried to make sure that most everything that happens in the story is reasonably plausible. The idea of dropping nukes in a hurricane really jazzed Mr. Douglas and he told us exactly what would happen—which directly influenced the story from a scientific standpoint.

GP:  So far the action is all in the United States.  Is the story going to move elsewhere and are there other weather events from other parts of the world that would be interesting to incorporate in?

 JM: To be honest, this is a story about issues from an American perspective—like gay rights and interminable American arrogance from a political and military perspective. While we hope fans around the world will enjoy the story, we also felt it was important to speak to things happening here in this horribly divided county of ours. Great near-future science fiction is often a metaphor for real human issues that we face today.

IL: We also wanted to focus on Dr. Cale Isaacs (our main character). If we had enlarged the storm worldwide, I think we would have lost the detail of his personal journey.

 GP:  Cale is the story’s protagonist, but an aspect of his consciousness is controlling the storm, and so in a way he is also kind of the story’s antagonist.  Does this provide a bit of a challenge to the story to have two sides of one person fighting against each other?

MerrittButrickIL: A little, but logically I think it was the only way to make the storm intelligent. If we had gone a different way, I think people wouldn’t buy into the story as much as they have.

JM: I agree with Ira. It’s really interesting to see Cale in a fight with his hidden demons blown up to a global scale. Additionally, I really wanted to pay homage to the character of Dr. David Marcus from Star Trek II and III. He was arrogant and self-assured to the degree that it blinded him to the potential impact of his actions. In the end, many people died (including him!). Hopefully, things will turn out better for Cale. It’s about unravelling the mystery as to why the storm is acting the way it is and then how to stop it. For that to happen, Cale must face the truth about himself.

GP:  Cale is an intriguing character, and although only four issues in, is pretty well established.  One thing which struck me was that his homosexuality is a defining aspect of his character, but that he is not a gay character just for the sake of being gay.  Can you describe how you chose to represent this character?

bs001JM: I am really glad we finally have the chance to answer this question.  As I said in the previous answer, we were influenced by the character of David Marcus. He was portrayed by a young and talented actor named Meritt Buttrick.  He was gay and lived his life in the closet. Tragically, he was one of the first people in Hollywood to die from AIDS. I wanted to use his likeness for the character (which has been well-realized by our artist Dennis Calero) and we were going to write him as straight. Then I started thinking about it… Why, would we not have him be gay like the man we used for his image?  I am really proud we made the decision. We knew it might be controversial, but we also felt it was real.  We also were aware of the story of Matthew Shepard, a Wyoming youth who was beaten to death for being openly homosexual. That, coupled with our goal to tie up the story at Devils Tower (a Wyoming landmark made famous in the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind), allowed it all to fall into place. We felt living life in the closet as the source of his anger that ultimately fueled the storm, would be extremely interesting—and perhaps even open a few minds as to how difficult it would be to live that way, regardless of the reader’s sexual orientation.

IL: Exactly! Jeffrey and I really wanted to make him real.  That being said, I personally believe we’re all the same. We are all real and deserve to have our stories told.

GP:  Is there any specific inspiration for the ‘Nado Ninjas?

IL: it’s a combination of reality television storm chasers and some of the local storm spotters we have around the upper Midwest.

JM: Exactly. A lot of those guys are nuts, but they are also courageous and a lot of fun. They are going to be integral to the story. You’ll see!

bs002GP: A female president that people vote for because she is hot?  Are you guys sure about that one?

IL: (laughing) As a country, you always hear crazy stuff around election time.  Such as, “I’d drink a beer with that guy”, or I just don’t like that individual, because he’s divorced. It amazes me how many people base such an important decision on such trivial matters.

JM: Yeah. I hate to say it, but we based that dialogue on real experience in the 2008 election. The number of people we knew, both republican and Democrat who considered voting for John McCain because they thought his running mate Sarah Palin was “hot’ was astounding. I mean it. I really heard that on the street many times. I was like holy crap, are you serious?!  So fast forward to the near future, it seemed totally possible. Just look at the anchors on Fox News. What if one of them ran for president‚ and won!


We Talk Deep State with Ariela Kristantina

We had the opportunity to have a chat with the talented artist Ariela Kristantina from Boom! Studios about her new project Deep State.  Although fairly new on the comic scene (having previously worked on some Marvel titles) she has already developed her own distinctive style.  We talked conspiracy theories with her and got to find out what she knows about JFK.

Graphic Policy:  This is an all-new series with brand-new characters.  What choices did you make when designing them?

ari003Ariela Kristantina:  For any all-new series, I try to stick to the writer’s descriptions about the characters,environment and mood. If I have any suggestion, I will share it with the writer, and on this case, with the editors as well. The first time I read the script, I am very leery because I’m afraid I can’t stay away from Mulder and Scully designs. Thankfully, Eric Harburn and Justin were very helpful and gave me the right direction.

I personally want the female character to look and “spark” sassiness to support her dialogues. Moreover, I know John Harrow is the main character but Branch needs to come out, at the very least, almost as strong. For John Harrow, because I usually draw male characters one third of his age, if not younger, it’s kinda new for me. I reckon that he should be a tad “forgettable”, in a good way, because you don’t want an agent whose main job is to cover things up, leaves such a deep impression. However, at the same time, John Harrow needs to be memorable enough to the readers. It’s more complicated than I thought when I first doing some sketches of him.

As the series go on, artists get steadier and more comfortable with the characters. That’s what I feel now after I wrapped up issue #2 and now I am half way through issue #3.

ari001GP:  The series has a lot of different elements coming together from different conspiracy theories. Is it hard to switch between normal Earth scenes into scenes with a strong science-fiction influence?

AK:  Not really. I am trying to do it as seamlessly as possible and since I ink my own pencils, it’s easier to push, create, or explore new way of inking for specific scenes. Ben Wilsonham, the colorist, helps a lot to fill in the mood.

GP:  The design of the aliens in this series fit in perfectly with the story.  Did you have to research a lot about aliens, or did you come up with a new design?

AK:  Haha, to be honest, I didn’t really do a lot of research because of two reasons.  First, Justin has a gift for describing something really well without being too restrictive. I can fill in the “gaps” easily and more often than not, I get what he wants. Second, the other reason is because I enjoy watching most horror and sci-fi alien-infested-related movies. However, I AM trying my best to come up with a new design that FITS the story which is the most important of all.

GP:  The artwork has an organic feel to it, and by the end of the first issue, it seemed to be a perfect fit for the story.  How involved were you with Justin in the storytelling?

ari002AK:  This is actually the funny, or fun, part of the whole deal. This is our first time working together but I feel like the chemistry in this team is very strong. When I first heard from Eric, the editor, that Justin might have a story for me, I almost flipped out because I am a big fan. I did the sample pages BOOM! asked me to do and both Eric and Justin liked how I handled the art.

For each script, after the editors greenlight the initial layout, I will move onto the outlines. Justin will see my outlines –more like the pencils stage. From there, if he or the editors have more revisions and or changes, I will adjust the inks accordingly. Like I mentioned earlier, Justin isn’t very restrictive and he’s very open to my suggestions if I come up with different, sometimes, weird layout. However, I try to stick with the script most of the time mostly because everytime I read Justin’s scripts, I can easily “picture” an episode from a TV series playing in my head. Why change something that is appealing to you to begin with? Unless the storytelling is really impossible to follow which very rarely happens, I want the readers to see how epic the storytelling is that Justin builds.

GP:  The series looks like it is going to be focusing a lot on science fiction.  Is this a genre that you feel comfortable in?  And are there other genres that you would like to have a chance at drawing?

AK:  When I first started years ago in my country, I drew in “Japanese comic style” in various genre: romantic comedy, surreal, adventure, and action. Then I shifted to superhero for the last 3 years but I never really want to draw only ONE thing. This is actually the first time I am involved with a sci-fi series. It turns out, I quite enjoy it. The genre is never a bother to me as long as I enjoy the story and the working environment.

Other genres I would like to explore more is maybe slice-of-life with a touch of surrealistic mood to it; something like “The Grand Budapest Hotel” –not really comedic but it’s clearly a fun movie.

GP:  What goes through your mind when the writer tells you that you have to draw a sex scene as happens at the end of the first issue?

AK:  Hahaha, I honestly didn’t see it as a sex scene –at least, it’s not blatant intercourse. The “note” regarding that page is a pretty clear one: no naked body part should be seen on the page. I second that anytime of the day because none is needed, not for that page at least. Don’t get me wrong, I am comfortable with drawing naked body parts (go see my Instagram feeds) as long as the story needs it to motivate the characters involved to take further actions. If I see a sex scene can be taken out or can be drawn more subtly or elegantly without harming the story, I would mostly ask the writer/editor about the why we need to show breasts and or ass in the first place.

GP:  Are there any conspiracy theories that you find particularly intriguing?

AK:  Another fun fact is that I am a foreigner –I am not from the United States. Any conspiracy theories I have ever heard or known are theories being mentioned in American TV shows, novels, or Hollywood movies. I watched the JFK movie when I was way too young to understand but now I think The JFK Assassination is one of conspiracy theories I find intriguing. Others are The Knight Templars and, of course, the moon landing haha. Glad Justin cleared the latter for me.

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