Category Archives: Interviews

We Talk He-Man with Mark Roberts

Mark Roberts is fairly new in the comic book industry but has already worked as a colorist on numerous titles at both Dynamite and Zenescope.  He has recently taken over coloring duties on He-Man with DC Comics, just as the series is launching into Eternity War.  We got  chance to talk with him about 80s cartoons, green skin and alien blood.

Graphic Policy: Were you a fan of the Masters of the Universe when you were younger?

ew003Mark Roberts: Absolutely!  I was a child of the 80’s, that Golden Age of toys and Saturday morning cartoons, and even with so much to choose from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was my favorite.  I had a pretty sizable collection of action figures, the mini-comics, I can even remember having some of the books that came with a record that had voice-over and sound effects on it.  Sadly, all that stuff got tossed in the garbage at some point, but I’ve been slowly rebuilding a collection.

GP: Do you have a favorite character?  And do you have a favorite to color?

MR: As a kid I was all about He-Man.  Now, I still dig He-Man, but I think She-Ra is just as cool.  If I had to pick a favorite I think I’d have to say Sea Hawk.  I just think he’s an interesting character who has a ton of potential for entertaining stories.   I’d love to see him make an appearance in the DC title with an upgraded look.  As for a favorite to color…  it’s gotta be the transformation scenes.  Whether it’s He-Man or She-Ra, I just love trying to capture that same effect and the excitement it made me feel watching it as a kid.

ew004GP: The characters in this series were originally designed as toys and their color schemes are different than what you might necessarily expect in comics.  Is it challenging to incorporate different coloring techniques for the same characters across different mediums?

MR: No, I don’t think so.  The comic is quite different in tone from the cartoons and the toys and while Eternia and the characters who inhabit it can be quite colorful, it’s not really a challenge to make it work in a more serious context.  I actually quite enjoy it.

GP: The colors in the first issue of Eternity War really popped off the page.  How did you achieve this look?

MR: Thanks!  Well, for this new arc of He-Man I really wanted to make things more alive and vivid.  The previous arc, Blood of Grayskull, was a much more somber tale.  We didn’t get to see a lot of characters, we spent a lot of time in barren terrain or dark forests and caves.  Now we have this huge cast of colorful characters fighting massive, epic battles and I’m just trying to do it justice.  Pop is going all out on his pages, the detail he’s putting in is mind blowing, and I want to make sure nothing gets lost in the colors.

ew001GPSome of the coloring is this issue also achieved a lot by omission, notably in the first pages with Hordak and the mostly pale blue background mixed with the red from the blood.  How do you choose when not to add a lot of color, thus setting a different picture?

MR: It’s all about serving the story, creating mood or putting emphasis on a certain character or action.  That’s really a big part of your job as a colorist, making those decisions.  Sometimes the script might contain some color notes or the artist might request something, but for the most part it’s up to you to interpret the script and the line art and make color choices that complement everything and bring it all together.

GP: Teela is shown here with green skin, which is a fairly common skin color to show something being different or alien.  Why do you think that this is so common in pop culture to show aliens in this color?

MR: Oh, jeez, I don’t know…  The color green can have different meanings.  It can represent nature, life and growth but it can also be associated with things like envy or sickness so I guess that makes it fairly versatile.  In this particular case, though, I think the green serves as the opposite to the red of the Horde.  Luke’s green lightsaber versus Vader’s red, if you will.

ew005GP: About half way through this issue there is a beautiful splash page depicting some of the background of the characters.  Does incorporating so many elements into one large panel pose different problems for adding the color?

MR: No, not really.  Those pages were fun to do and not really that complicated.  With all the images coming from a magical conjuring it was fairly simple to unify them through color and then separating the flashbacks from the here and now with color holds on the lines.

GP: What is your favorite part about working on He-Man?

MR:  There’s nothing about it I don’t like.  Just working on He-Man and getting to relive my childhood would be enough, but getting to work with Dan and Pop is awesome.  I’m a big fan of both of these guys.  I get excited every time I get a new script in and can’t wait to see what Pop does with it.  Everyone at DC and Mattel have been amazing to work with and I gotta say, the fan support has been fantastic.  This whole experience has been the highlight of my career so far and I look forward to each new issue!


Vince Brusio Talks His New Series Pussycats

pussycats #0Shipping in March, Pussycats is the latest comic series from writer Vince Brusio and artist Mats Engesten, also featuring covers by Ray Lago. The comic features actresses Karen Summer, Priya Anjali Rai, and Tanya Tate. A dark sexy action/thriller, Pussycats reveals how adult movie actresses helped the United States government whitewash identities during the Cold War. Karen Summer was such an actress that could arrange for transportation of “human resources” without causing international incidents. But a recent sting operation proves Karen was not decommissioned after the fall of the Soviet Union. And worse, ghoulish face-painted gunmen killing her friends proves her identity has been compromised, and everyone she knows is being targeted for blackmail.

We got a chance to talk with Vince to find out more about the series, how the three actresses became involved, and what we can expect.

Graphic Policy: For folks who don’t know the comic, how would you describe the series Pussycats?

Vince Brusio: It’s Sin City meets Jennifer Blood, caught in the crossfire of Stray Bullets, late for an audition on the set of Charlie’s Angels which, this time, is directed by Quentin Tarantino. Imagine a dark sexy series that shows beautiful women, fearless, armed with guns, that out think guys which imagine themselves as picture perfect alpha males. It’s proof that the most beautiful women can make the deadliest enemies. It’s fast-paced, cinematic,  balls-to-the-wall action and dialogue that’s best summarized as broken glass in a pillow case. It cuts you.

GP: Where did you come up with the idea for the series?

VB: I was sitting in a Bob Evans restaurant when the idea came to me that the most beautiful women would be the best assassins because you’d be too busy gawking at them to notice they’d pulled a knife on you. From there, I linked that to research I’d uncovered from a friend of mine who knew some people in the adult film industry. It turned out that adult films weren’t made legal until 1988. So from the first X-rated film made (I believe it was Mona?) to 1988, these films were made in secret. So here we had content being made that wasn’t supposed to be made yet it was being shipped across the country. Yeah. And all this was happening at the height of the Cold War. So I put two and two together, and came up with the premise for Pussycats: hot women who were in these movies helped the CIA in covert operations that were made possible when the stars “filmed” on location.

GP: How long is the series going to run for?

VB: The #0 issue ships in March, and then a 4-issue mini-series begins in the March issue of PREVIEWS. A TP will collect all 5 issues. After that, it’s hard to tell where the series will go because I’m talking with several interested parties about where the series can go from there.

pussycatsGP: The series features Karen Summer, Priya Anjali Rai, and Tanya Tate. How did those three become involved in the series?

VB: I found Karen on Facebook. And it was the same day that I came up with that idea sitting in the Bob Evans restaurant. A little imaginary spirit bird from some unknown dimension whispered in my ear and told me to see what Karen Summer was doing these days. Turns out she was heading back to California the same time that I contacted her. She took me for my word that I was honest in contacting her as an old fan of her films, and from there we eventually started talking to each other on the phone, and I told her how I was making this comic, and I thought someone like her might be able to fill in some of the blanks as to what went on in her industry back in the 80s. From there, Karen started becoming interested in being a character in the comic, and before I knew it, her role materialized in a late night conversation. It was Karen who brought on Priya, as she and Priya crossed paths at the end of last summer. Priya took one look at the San Diego ashcan and said she wanted “in.”

In regards to Tanya, we first crossed paths because she retweeted an announcement I made for my Autopsy: Feast For A Funeral comic back in 2012. I never would have thought a goddess like Tanya Tate would have been into a band like Autopsy, but…there you go. After that, I noticed her cosplaying when I was filming interviews at San Diego Comic Con. Early last year I reached out to her on Twitter, and because of my day job she took me at face value. She agreed to meet with me and Karen at San Diego Comic Con to hear the pitch for Pussycats. She signed on after seeing the concept drawings and hearing the direction for the book.

GP: The cast is very international with one being born in the US, one in the UK, and the third in India, was that a specific choice?

VB: Nope. Not  a choice at all. It’s luck. Pure luck. What can I say? I guess I’m a lucky guy.

GP: With three women and it being an action thriller, the series has a bit of a Charlie’s Angels vibe about it. What are the series’ influences?

VB: Well, there you go. Charlie’s Angels. A big influence. Beautiful women that kick your ass. I loved it when I was a kid, and  I love it today. Also, a big tip of the hat to Scarlett Johansson for what she did playing the Black Widow in the Avengers movie. I thought she stole the show. After seeing her in action, that’s really when the idea for Pussycats started bouncing around in my brain. I absolutely adore that woman. She’s fantastic. Other influences include Sin City, Jennifer Blood, and Garth Ennis’ run on The Punisher.

GP: It’s interesting to me that all three use stage names, much like a superhero has a secret identity. Did that come into play when creating the series?

VB: No, we’re using all three actresses stage names because it keeps the contracts simple. The #0 issue is a licensed comic. Plus, all three women are very well known, so why would I NOT want to use their names in the book? Basic math.

GP: Tanya Tate has a lot of involvement in the comic community already with her involvement with cosplay, toys, and even comic blogger. She even said she took her name after being inspired by Stan Lee. How has she been involved in the series?

VB: Tanya’s great. She lets me do my thing. She basically trusted me with what I did, and took the attitude of “You’re the comics guy. So make a comic.” And she actively retweets the announcements we make, and plugs the book at conventions. I adore this woman. Very professional. Very sweet. And she has a business sense. Again: I’m a lucky guy.

GP: How did artist Mats Engesten come onto the project?

VB: Mats and I have known each other for at least 10 years. We did underground work in the 90s, and then in 2012 we officially started working together when I formed E-Comix with production head, Matt Barham. Mats just knows what I want. I think its telepathy. Plus, when I’m a real pain when it comes to details, he puts up with me. He’s done a volume of work, and has done both the licensed Dying Fetus: Supreme Violence and Autopsy: Feast for a Funeral books with me since 2012. He’s also the artist on Acme Ink’s Rock and Roll Biographies: Slayer comic. So check him out!

GP: Any other projects on the horizon?

VB: Yeah. Sleep. Otherwise, I’m dead the next year. Seriously, though, Pussycats has a lot of people talking to me now. So we’ll see. Also, Mats and I already have another book finished that I’m sitting on. It’s a gory futuristic zombie book, and it looks freakin’ AMAZING. I just have to figure out how to find time to finish it, and where it can fit into a publishing schedule that balances Pussycats.

I never thought exhaustion could be so much fun.

Interview: Miss Lasko-Gross Discusses Henni

HenniWith Henni, Miss Lasko-Gross has put together a graphic novel that’s both beautiful to read, and timely. In a fantastical world where old traditions and religion dominate every aspect of life, lives a girl named Henni. Unlike most in her village, Henni questions and wonders what the world is like as she comes of age. Striking out on her own, Henni goes out in search of truth, adventure, and more! Henni is a commentary on, religion, coming of age, and being yourself.

The graphic novel struck me as not afraid to dive in to discuss faith and rebellion. Gross has created a thought-provoking graphic novel with a wide appeal acting as a coming of age story, as well as one that’ll challenge your beliefs.

We got a chance to talk to her about the graphic novel, religion, and experiences as a woman in the comic industry.

Graphic Policy: How would you describe Henni?

Miss Laslow-Gross: I would say it’s primarily an adventure story but in a fractured fairy tale like Alice in Wonderland. It’s about a young girl who is too curious for her own good and is cast out of the world in exile. I should have a better elevator pitch.

GP: I have trouble really nailing what type of genre it is. It fits so many.

MLG: Some one described it as Post modern fantasy. I think you invented the genre

GP: What’s the graphic novel’s influences?

MLG: Alice in Wonderland and Maurice Sendak is what I’d compare it to. But the books and movies I read don’t really show in the product I create. Sendak, I read it when I was little, so it had an influence. I like anything that you can come back to, and that’s what I try to create. A graphic novel takes years to create, so I’d liek for that to happen.

For Henni in particular, any kind of adventure story. I grew up on Greek mythology, anything with a person on a journey and how they deal with obstacles. The idea that around a corner could be anything appealed to me. When you have a naive character, the prospect of anything is exciting.

GP: How did the graphic novel come about and get published by Z2?

MLG: It started as a side project. I was working on a dark and serious graphic novel that I was 50 pages in to about a friend that was injured in an explosion. It was heavy. I started doing a story on the side for comixology that was proto-Henni. I was making it up as I went along and amusing myself. I wanted to do something that I’d like to read. Something that wasn’t boring, I wanted ll fun, all adventure. The idea kept expanding until there was enough story for three books. I know the full journey, the full story. Then it became my main project. It became the thing that was enjoyable. Graphic novels take so long to create, so if you’re not enjoying it, it makes no sense to continue

I had been with Fantagraphics, and it was a great relationship, Z2 is a young company and a boutique publisher, and I thought it was a good fit. An exciting new adventure for an exciting new adventure.

GP: How long were you working on the graphic novel?

MLG: Because I started, and it was a different project, I had to redraw earlier parts of the book. I started it about 4 years ago, but in that 4 years, I’m done with nearly two books. So I guess a couple for the first book, and a couple for the second book.

GP: The graphic novel talks about religion and a patriarchal society, what drove you to take on those two subjects?

MLG: I think it wasn’t a conscious choice. I think it’s just, when you’re talking about the world, and making a commentary on reality, that was a natural topic of discussion. When you look at fundamentalist society, Henni is a collection of fundamentalist villages in a religion that’s unforgiving and unreasonable, you think of what that’d be like, to keep control over a group, the laws and rules would be restrictive and that usually affects women. The last thing I want this to be seen as is a didactic work, I’m not trying to teach a lesson.

GP: It also doesn’t have some simple solution or ending, and is pretty open. Was it a Sorpanos ending in you wanted the reader to interpret what happened?

MLG: I didn’t see that, I didn’t want to screw the audience, but I heard. If there is ambiguity and openness about the end, I’m not playing with anyone. She makes her choice, without spoilers, she makes a choice which isn’t the only logical choice. The reader has information she doesn’t. She makes the only correct choice for her, what will keep her alive, though she doesn’t know that. You can interpret if its right or wrong or foolhardy endeavor. I don’t think it’s so open to be aggravating, if you read the first book you won’t be cheated.

There’ll be a second volume, but it’ll be a while, and a third that’s long stretch in the future.

GP: You started making zines as a teenager, what got you into creating comics?

MLG: I think I loved to read them so much, I was always an artist, it was the next step. I wanted to create things, like the things I love. The first works I did were derivative, rip offs of things I loved, but that was part of the process. I started doing strips in elementary school. 1992-93 is when I consider I was doing professional work. I was creating comics in high school and distributing it locally and to zines, and putting work out there that I enjoyed.

GP: Where you a comics fan before hand?

MLG: I think so. I didn’t have a way of getting them regularly. I would get them from an older cousin, so I got old Fantastic Four. I’d get them on my own if I was in a shop with comics. I’d load up with a big stack that’d last a long time, and read them to they were shreds.

My local shop became Comicopia, and I’d put everything on hold when it came out, and then save up the allowance and birthday money. I always loved them. But, I don’t remember reading them in Kindergarten or first grade.

GP: What did you read?

MLG: Of superheroes, Fantastic Four, I liked the characters. Most superheroes didn’t speak to me. I had an affinity for Ben Grimm. When I got older, anything counter-culture, subversive. I read a lot of English comics, Tank Girl. There was a British humor magazine called Viz. Anything I felt I wasn’t supposed to have. Akira was a big early book. And then it was over after I read Love & Rockets. That series is perfection, still. That’s what comics are supposed to be like.

GP: When I think of comics in the 90s, I don’t really remember it being the most welcoming to women. How has that changed over the years?

MLG: Well… anecdotally… I’ve never gone into a shop and made to feel like I don’t know what I’m talking about. I found people supportive of what I was doing. I wasn’t doing samples for Marvel or DC, because I had a realistic sense of that not being an outlet, and instead focused on where I’d be receptive.

I personally don’t feel that way, but I’ve heard enough stories, to realize it’s an issue. I was lucky and always found a place that was always accepting to me. I felt very welcomed by the comic world.

Of the shows I went to, I went to SDCC in ’96 and felt it was too commercial, I started going to SPX in the 90s and always found it welcoming. SPX is about the art, not the corporate tie-in. It’s very independent level.

GP: Henni has a female lead, and there seems to be more comics with female leads hitting shelves now. What do you think is driving that?

MLG: I think it depends on the company and the publisher. If you’re talking about corporate comics, they might have just realized half the readership is female and they’re tired about the testosterone tropes. For indie, they’ve been telling the stories they have been, and it’s finally being noticed.

GP: What else do you have on tap that folks can check out?

MLG: I’d recommend folks can go to comiXology with two graphic novels and compilation book. My first two books, Fantagraphics offers digitally. Through Dyclops I put out a collection of short stories from the past 20 years. From 1994-2014. It’s not for kids though, it’s the raw, raunchy, stuff I did earlier. Definitely not all ages.


We Talk Face Off with Laura Tyler

Laura Tyler is best known for her work on the Sy Fy television series Face Off, having competed twice as a contestant and having won once.  In the coming season (airing Tuesdays on Sy Fy) she returns once again, but this time as a mentor for the new contestants.  We got a chance to talk to her about the new season, some Renaissance artwork and sci-fi classics.

laura tyler001Graphic Policy:  This season some of the past winners are returning as mentors for the new contestants.  How does this change the overall dynamic of the series?
Laura Tyler:  It changes the dynamic quite a lot…. and at the same time, not at all. The contestants will still be competing with each other individually, but Anthony, Rayce, and myself will be coaching them, which in and of itself may make for some very fun and interesting television. On a personal level, I enjoyed the opportunity to really pass on information about this art form/ competition while at the same time drawing attention to the joys and difficulties of teachers in general.
GP:  Are there one or more sculptures that you would use as inspiration for those that you are mentoring?
LT:  This doesn’t give anything away, but some of my personal favorite sculptures come from the artist/sculptor Bernini. They were always very lifelike and realistic while at the same time conveying a certain weight of motion and emotion. I would have loved to show examples of his work, however in a competition that is not allowed.
Face Off - Season 5GP:  Does being a mentor bring back memories of competing?  And does it seem strange to be going back to the same studio but in a different role?
LT:  It does bring back a lot of memories of competing. Part of me wanted to get right back into thick of it and start sculpting and applying make up again, while another part of me just wanted to sit back and relax because I could…. Yet I have to admit there was quite a inner struggle going on most the time, fighting my natural instinct to dive right in and help as much as I could, as I’m so used to doing on set. I guess you’ll have to wait and see what I do and how all that plays out. ;)
GP:  Last season former contestants came back for one episode to help the judges compete against each other. Are we going to see the same with the three mentors?
LT:  Given the opportunity to do any kind of volunteer/charity work where Rayce, Anthony and I could all have fun and be artistic against each other, (or maybe work with each other on the same project?) I would jump at the opportunity. Nothing planned yet, but who knows. Maybe if enough fans want it…..?
GP:  What can the fans look forward to seeing this season?  Anything particularly crazy planned?
LT:  Some of my favorite challenges of any season are definitely on this one. Some of the makeups are going to absolutely be the definition of ‘creative’ and I can’t wait for the fans to see all the cool new ideas and guests.
Face Off - Season 5GP:  How have things changed for you since you won Face Off?
LT:  I try to do as much work on film and television sets as I can, as had been my goal all along. I was a makeup artist for 3 films in 2014, plus I joined the union after my 5th season win, which is a huge stepping stone to more professional work in big budget stuff- which is my passion. I’m always working on something or another.
GP:  What inspires you?
LT:  Like anyone else I’m inspired by all kinds of movies, television, and like minded art stemming from fantasy and sci fi genres. If you haven’t checked it out, look up the annual art book Spectrum. Amazing work by other artists is always a motivator to want to be my best and produce my own art.
GP:  If you could work on any modern movie on the special effects makeup, which one would you choose?
LT:  As a disclaimer, first I have to say that there is a real art to makeups on screen you would never know was there unless someone told you. Invisible old age makeups that absolutely make the character, I truly appreciate. Subtlety is difficult to accomplish sometimes with these makeups, and there is a real skill to doing it right. That said, I loved The Guardians of the Galaxy’s makeups. A beautiful job on a fantastic new kind of space opera… But the nostalgic in me will always go back to answers like Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars for this question. Lots of creatures and aliens, which to me have always held my obsessive like interest since I was a child.

We Talk Suicide Risk with Elena Casagrande

While still a relative newcomer to the comics industry, Elena Casagrande has already made some impressive contributions to the medium.  She has worked on Spider-Man and the Hulk for the Marvel, but has also gotten her hands on some impressive properties from the independents such as Cassie Hack, Doctor Who and Angel.  She is also the main contributing artist for Suicide Risk, having drawn 13 out of the 20 issues thus far.

We got a chance to talk to her about her work on Suicide Risk, about designing heroes and their unknown alter egos and ancient goddesses.

sr002Graphic Policy: You have been involved throughout without the series Suicide Risk, which tells a story of superheroes but in an uncommon setting.  What are some of the challenges when coming up with a world full of new characters?

Elena Casagrande: Well, I had several challenges so far on my way during Suicide Risk… the first was to create supervillains who had costumes not so eccentric but like they’re made in a real world by normal people, so I focused on a simple but cool design, using here and there nice textures, sport tracksuits or uniforms, peculiar accessories. Then I had to create a parallel universe where our world had a more futurist aspect, but at the same time was different from our own first idea of the future. I took inspiration from Final Fantasy’s world and the 18Days artbook, where fantasy lives alongside high technology or there are very iconic, ultra-detailed, mystic figures and costumes, so on Ultramar the “bad guys” have a more linear and technological style, while the supers are more elaborated, fantasy in a classic way.

The opportunity to create so many characters, so different and so interesting, (and sometimes in two versions) was the most fun part of the work, but I really liked (and found strangely easier) to realize the way they use their powers: how they fly, or destroy, or move, or blast, or fight just came in my mind while I read Mike’s script… I really enjoyed having the “freedom” to move people with superpowers right from my mind…!

I think the hardest challenge was to let them be “real” or at least plausible, both in their marvelousness and for sure to ensure that the fight scenes were very very spectacular.

sr 001GP: How does it work for the character design?  Does Mike just say “there is a telepath named Dr. Maybe” and then you come up with the design, or are you involved with the backgrounds and names of the characters as well?

EC:  Usually I received a short description of the power of the character and sometimes a few notes about his/her aspect (beautiful, age, big, thin, race, etc.); the coolest thing was that reading the description I had in a short time an idea of the character, of his/her face, and the step after was to create the clothes, where I tried to include some features to suggest the nature, the power or the attitude. Diva, for example, in her white and sexy dress is a sort of ice queen for her indifferent disposition and total opposite to her sister Aisa, in the colors and in the lines of their Ultramar dress; Cage has a very painful attitude, hunchbacked, often sweaty, weary and with the hood and the esoteric symbols to emphasize the idea of his power.

GP: The action in the series has been a little bit all over the place, between a fair bit of action on our own world, the other world and inside the minds of all the characters.  Is it challenging jumping between different settings, sometimes numerous times in one issue?

EC:  Actually no, as I said before the main thing was and is to be as spectacular as possible, readable and flowing in the fighting… it was interesting to change the setting and jump from one world to another. I think that it’s something really TV-style; just one time I had some difficulty distinguishing a real world from a mental one from the script but I asked Mike and he helped me out.

sr 003GP: Just as in the story, Leo and Requiem are one and the same, but also not.  How did you go about depicting the same character but in different contexts?

EC:  I always loved in some way characters with a kind of dual personality, good or bad; it always fascinated me to see how they change depending on the situation they finds, so work on Leo was very intriguing. I didn’t know before issue #9 that Requiem would be predominant and how much (I don’t want spoilers from one issue to the next, I read the series month by month like normal readers), so from issue #10 I had to study how to let him move and act; he’s totally different from Leo, so first of all I made him more rigid and grave, haughty and self assured. His eyes are often faint with eyebrows a bit wrinkled, his mouth opens thinly, his posture straight back and often with clenched fists. On the contrary Leo has a different attitude and also in his stern moments I tried to make him a little more gentle, so his eyes are a bit more open, his expressions more emphasized and natural, his movements more open, he feels panic and pain… he’s human like us, not a superpowered leader. It’s just during the moments where both of them stay with their family (Leo with all of them and Requiem above all with his daughter) that they become more similar.

Only in the last issues Requiem and Leo have equally the same time, and this is more difficult to represent, because I have to be sure not to let one personality predominate than the other.

sr 004GP:  Who are the standout characters so far in the series for you?

EC: I think Tracey/Terza is the most surprising, in every sense. I think Gride could tell us more than we have seen yet and Minu-i is very terrifying; Leo/Requiem is absolutely the one to whom I am most attached, but strikingly Dr. Maybe became one of my favorites, I like his character development a lot.

GP:  The wide variety of characters are of your design.  Is there one that you enjoy drawing that isn’t in the stories as much?

EC:  Yes: Sockpuppet. Damn! XD

GP: Can you describe your inspiration for the Goddess?

EC:  From Sumerian and Egyptian art, like Mike suggested on the script… the main thing had to be the duality. The two faces were in the script, too, I just added the gestures of the hands; I didn’t want it to be too complicated, so I tried to do something linear but majestic.

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!

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…

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