Category Archives: Interviews

Colin Lorimer Talks The Hunt

Hunt01_CoverDream or reality? For a long time, teenager Orla Roche couldn’t tell them apart, and now The Hunt is coming with its nightmare world of the restless dead. An intense story of survival, The Hunt is a supernatural horror tale that will give Irish mythology a distinctly modern twist.

The Hunt is a new Image Comics series from writer Colin Lorimer with art by Lorimer and Joana Lafuente. Colin talked to us a bit and was kind enough to answer our questions regarding his new series.

GP: For those who might not know about the series, how would you describe it?

Colin Lorimer: It’s a folkloric, supernatural horror tale set in modern Ireland.

GP: Where’d the concept of The Hunt come from?

CL: I’ve always been fascinated by the European myth of “The Wild Hunt” and the many different variations that every country has on it. The Irish/Scottish one that tells of soul-stealing creatures known as “The Sluagh” was such a horrific concept that I couldn’t resist developing a story around them, and in all honesty, once they were in place the story almost wrote itself.

GP: How long have you been working on the series?

CL: The Hunt is one of my oldest projects and has gone through quite a few different iterations. I’ve been researching and working on it for quite some time. It was just that with being so busy with other projects I could never find the time to complete it–so after I finished my last project I cleared my schedule and made it my mission to get this story out there. I approached Jim Valentino over at Shadowline and he was very receptive to it picking it up almost right away.

GP: As both the writer and artist, how does your creative process differ than if you just did one or the other?

CL: I guess the obvious thing would be that as a writer and artist there’s certainly a lot more work involved. I go through the exact same process on art duties when writing my own stuff, but have the luxury if I’m having a problem with scripting a certain scene in regards to staging to just go in and just start thumbnailing and figuring it out visually, it’s quite an organic process and allows me a lot more freedom.

GP: What got you interested in tackling Irish lore and setting the comic there?

CL: I grew up in Northern Ireland surrounded by tales of Irish folklore so it seemed only natural that I’d set it in there. I remember the first time we visited the Giants Causeway and how that left an indelible impression on my young mind; Giants battling and throwing rocks at each other that ended up forming the landmasses that I was now walking on. I mean, seriously?!  When playing in the forest we would talk about staying away from the Fairy rings as we should not at any cost disturb the Fairies, and at night in bed if we heard strange noises that would probably just be the Banshee wailing. That’s quite the normal childhood. Right?

GP: Were there any challenges in adapting that lore to modern times?

CL: No, not at all.  Our society is built on various types of superstition, and religious beliefs, so it’s not too difficult to bring the idea of “fairytales” into a modern setting.

GP: Joana Lafuente is doing the colors and Jim Campbell is lettering the comic. How’d they come on the book?

CL: I met, Joana, through working on The X-Files with IDW and, Jim, from collaborating on the book Curse together which was published through BOOM! Studios. When I had decided to move forward on The Hunt  I contacted Joana right away as I knew she would  just elevate the work. She is a wonderful artist and I love her approach to coloring. Jim is a maestro of lettering and it’s just a great feeling to be able to sit back know that you don’t have to worry. Add to that their consummate professionalism and I’d be a fool not to have them along for the ride.

GP: How did the character of Orla Roche come about?

CL: Orla was based very loosely on someone I know. That person had suffered at the hands of others in many ways but had the strength of character and deep resolve  to overcome whatever was thrown at her.  The visions, and seeing of monsters part of the character would come from my experiences having dealt with night terrors and sleep paralysis.

GP: The comic is gothic horror and the first issue is quite tense at times. I find horror often succeeds or fails based on timing. How much work goes into that horror setting and getting vibe right?

CL: I couldn’t agree more. It’s finding a way to make the language of comics work in a way that fools the reader and plays with their concept of time. The most obvious would be the use of decompression: the slow build, leading the reader down that dark corridor to whatever lies at the end of it. The choice of camera angles and staging are important. Lighting also plays a huge part, as would Joana’s choice of palette. The page turn before a scene change or a reveal is also massively overlooked as a storytelling device.

GP: What other projects do you have coming up?

CL: I’m focused solely on The Hunt at present.

Garden State Comic Con 2016: Interview with Kevin Eastman

July 10th 2016, while I was attending Garden State Comic Con in Morristown, NJ with Dante Moon Productions who were in the middle of filming a segment for his “Try Harder”  documentary which allowed me the distinct pleasure of interviewing a man that I have wanted to speak with since I was 7 years old. Now many years later, it finally happened.

To give you a backstory, this man was  responsible for giving me my first taste of comic book rebellion in the form of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. At the time I had been collecting comics since I was two years of age. (My dad gave me my first one  which was Amazing Spider-Man #254)

Ever since I could read, I collected comic books. Now I had only been exposed to the big two which were DC and Marvel up to that point. However one summer day in my friends basement in the small town of Rockland, MA I got introduced to something truly special.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #10

I remember picking the book up. It was issue #10.  I looked at the cover and it had such amazingly cool artwork. I loved the foldout. I was enamored by it. When I opened it up I remember the black and white format. It was something so different to me, yet it was completely elegant. To see the pencils stripped of the colors it gave the comic a raw, unhinged quality that I had never at that point seen before. I breezed through the issue and soon begged my dad to take me to comic book and hobby stores everywhere to collect whatever else I could get my little hands on.(I also bought the issue I just read off my friend then and there for ten bucks) The Saturday morning cartoon had already been out a year in my time, but this was my introduction. I remember watching the cartoon wondering why all the Turtles didn’t have red masks? A simple yet obvious question another Turtle creator Steve Lavigne would fully answer for me years later.

I still have the first print copy of this issue  in my possession all these years later. I looked through it yesterday and I can safely say it hasn’t lost its luster. Now I will take the time to give the man behind it to share some insight on his life long journey and how these fictional characters has changed not just so many lives, but his as well.

GP: First off it’s an honor and a pleasure to speak with you. I want to ask what is your advice to young independent creative people out there who are trying to find their voice as an artist?

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Kevin Eastman: Well I think it’s something very interesting. Any time taking your first step creatively, it’s a brave step and a bold step. Sometimes it comes from very young, and you don’t even know why you’re pointed in that direction. It has a lot to do with what you are exposed to as well. I think that is an important factor. If kids are exposed to sports at young age, they might tend to gravitate that way. If they are exposed to art, and I was very lucky in that way as my grandmother was a painter and my dad was a master doodler. Always doodling and drawing. So when I discovered comic books at a young age the family was always very supportive, although they were very scared. I think they feared at the time that I was going to be one of those kids who always lived in a fantasy world and drew comics and wanted to be the late Jack Kirby (The King of all Comics) who would never move out of the basement. (laughs)

I was lucky however in that they encouraged me and exposed me to the things that I liked. So initially it was this inner drive from me to want to become this person I idolized which again was Jack Kirby. For those who don’t know Jack Kirby co – created most of the Marvel Universe with Stan Lee. He was what made me want to draw everyday, even in English class when I should have been reading, or in math class when I should have been solving math problems, I’d be doodling and trying to follow my dream. I was very fortunate that at that time I had the support of my art teacher in not only Jr. High, but High School as well. Those folks were some of the few that when I said I wanted to be a cartoonist and draw comic books, they didn’t laugh at me. I mean with comic books, now I’m 54 and when I was younger it came across to many people as a foolish idea. I’d here ” Oh you’re not going to be able to make a living at that.” or “How are you going to support a family?”  However this one art teacher said, “So you want to draw comic books?” “Well that’s very admirable.”  She stated to me the value of artistic quality in comic books and gave me some advice. She told me that I could draw a great picture of Captain America or Batman or any other character all day long, but if you want to draw a comic book and tell a story you have to be able to draw everything you see in the world around you.

For example let’s say in one of my stories, I’d have to draw you in this room talking to me, I’d have to draw this table and this computer, these lights and all our surroundings, but do it in perspective. So she would give me these extra assignments to improve my skills. I’d get many assignments from her but not allowing me to draw any cartoon characters. I would have to draw cars, buildings, houses, furniture, even trees in my backyard. In the end that really clicked for me. Since I wanted to tell the story I had to be able to enhance everything visually. I wanted to be able to get to the point where I could get people to read the story and act and react as if they were watching some of their favorite movies. In any event that was how and what inspired me.

The advice I’d give to any inspiring creative young persons out there, that if you find something whether it’s a sport, or it’s music or if it’s art, grab and take what you like about it. Use what has inspired you from where it comes from, and don’t be afraid to replicate it because at first doing that, helps you learn the basics and it will eventually develop into something that is your own. Then just work at everyday. Just spend time whether it’s ten minutes, twenty minutes or an hour. The more you do it, you will see noticeable improvements.

*GP: So true. This image here (points to the picture of the Shredder on the desktop screen beside him) of the Shredder, who happens to be my favorite villain of all time ..

KE: (looking at the image) Love it.

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*GP: What does that image mean to you?

KE: Well it means a lot. It brings back a lot for me. Do you know how the Shredder was created?

*GP: Oh you can tell me this story..

KE: You should love this. So,  with the Turtles since they came about because I was a big fan of Bruce Lee, I was sitting around with Pete (Peter Laird – ed.) one night and  we were in our studio called Mirage Studios. Funny thing is, it wasn’t really a studio it was just our living room, and I wanted to make Pete laugh. I thought to myself if Bruce Lee who was a fast moving martial artist was an animal, what would the silliest animal to make him be? So the Turtles were born out of a spoof on that thought. I decided to make a slow moving turtle be a martial artist.

To further the joke I did a sketch of what was then to become Michaelangelo with numchucks strapped to his arm and I plopped it down on his desk and said very sarcastically “This is going to be the next big thing.”  He looked at the sketch and changed somethings. Then we went back and forth in a game of studio one upsmanship and he drew one more so I said to myself why not four? A lot of superheroes are part of groups like Fantastic Four, X-Men, Avengers etc.

Then I finished the drawing of all four Turtles and put the Ninja Turtles logo on it and then Pete inked it and added Teenage Mutant to the title. We looked at each other like this is the stupidest drawing ever. However it was fun so we decided not to submit it to anyone and just make a comic book for ourselves.

As we were working through the origin and all the parts, the rat and the turtles, how they get exposed to ooze and many little isms from our favorite comic books, things started to come together. Then one night we were doing dishes, and Pete’s wife was a fantastic cook, so Pete would usually wash and I would dry. As we do the dishes, I spot this long metal cheese grater on the counter. It was the kind that was shaped like a bell with the long handle. I start drying it and I slide my hand up inside it and said out loud “Man could you imagine a bad guy with this as a weapon and he would literally like grate your skin off.” “We could call our bad guy like The Grater or something.” Then Pete looked at me and was like “How about The Shredder?” Both of us thought that was so cool. So the origin of The Shredder came from two guys doing dishes. (laughs)

*GP: That is such a great story. (laughs)

KE: Thank you.

GP: Now I’ve been a die-hard Turtle aficionado since the first Mirage run and I am thoroughly enjoying the current IDW run. I have to ask, with what you are doing, did you always have the reincarnation aspect in the back of your minds or is that something new that you wanted to do?

KE: Actually that is something that is completely new. Tom Waltz who I work with at IDW Publishing is just a genius and he grew up as a big fan of the Turtles and added that. He told me he liked the aspect of the different Turtle universes that have been created across multiple franchises. He loves the original black and white stories as well as parts of the animation and the movies. He came to me with this idea to use bits and pieces of them all to come up with a new foundation which we call the IDW Universe now. In on of our first meetings, one of the things he spun was the concept of reincarnation. I thought that was great and we started revamping many parts of the origins. It led to us taking April’s character back to being a scientist and the Turtles were her pets at the lab. Little things were tweaked like Splinter was a lab rat and April gave the Turtles their names. So many isms where we took a step to the left, a step to the right but still remained reflective and respectful of the original Turtles black and white and previous origins.

I thought that this would either be fantastic because I got so excited about it with all the story possibilities or this would be the end. I figured the fans would either crucify us or jump on board because it will be a great time. The changes let us tell some fantastic all new stories with these characters and man the response has been overwhelmingly positive to the point where we have just finished issue number 62 and we have issues plotted all the way through the big issue 100 right now. Most of it is all Tom Waltz and Bobby Curnow who is an editor at IDW, we sit and have these long “mind melds” and  since it’s (IDW) is now a Turtle universe on it’s own we are able to cherry pick from so many continuities and come up with some really great stuff without being beholden to one particular iteration.

GP: So it becomes a part of a vast Multiverse so to speak?

KE: Yes, exactly. It’s so great to work with all these guys and these artists who are all younger than me and can draw Turtles better than me. It really is energizing to be part of the whole process. I’m still learning through them everyday.

GP: Well I feel the original, the black and white will always be the best version of the Turtles bar none. The new stuff is very cool and enjoyable though.

KE: I greatly appreciate that.

GP: Now I know you are an avid comic book fan and you follow the big two (DC and Marvel) so you see the stuff they are doing right now with diversification and gender changes as well as the revamps with sexuality. To that point does IDW or yourself feel like that is something that you feel pressured to incorporate into your comics or your characters?

KE: You know I say no. At least not right away. It’s very much the same process with the folks at IDW as it was when Pete and I wrote those original stories for ourselves. We have everything approved through Nickelodeon and Viacom who own the Turtles. They are fantastically supportive in that they know the edge of which we story tell and the direction that we want to go. They know that we write the stories for ourselves. Our thinking is rather than just follow each popular trend, lets stick with the basics and do stories that are exciting and organic and are paced thoughtfully across all aspects, i.e. the action, the drama, the character building and interpersonal relationships are the best we can possibly make them. At the end of the day these characters are all part of a misfit family that we tell fun stories with and show appreciation to our audience by giving them a honest portrayal.

Last Boy on EarthGP: One last question. If you could play with any other toy in the “sandbox” meaning any other established character or franchise, who or what would it be and what would a Kevin Eastman run on that look like? 

KE: Oh man, I go immediately to Kamandi.

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GP: Really? The last boy on Earth?

KE: That was to me when I was nine or ten years old and had a paper route I was buying my own comics at the time, Kamandi had just come out and it was by Jack Kirby so of course and Planet of the Apes was one of the first movies I ever saw. I was so taken by it. So if I could do a story with the Turtles and have them go in time and meet Kamandi it would be great because there are so many dynamics and story possibilities for it. That would be first and foremost for me. That’s the dream project for me hands down.

 GP: I absolutely hope you get that dream someday. Thank you for completing a dream for me personally today. It was an absolute pleasure.

KE: Thank you so much.

So there you have it. Just an awesome meeting with a such a nice and supremely creative person. The professional in me was thrilled at the opportunity, but the 7 year old in me was so overjoyed. You know what that old adage says about being one to every rule. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with many folks in this line of business and I can say that Kevin Eastman to me, was the exception.

 

*Graphic Policy would like to take the time to thank Dante Moon Productions as well as their very talented camera crew for their assistance in this interview as well as Garden State Comic Con for their utmost professionalism and help scheduling this event.

Please note that questions marked with an * were asked by Dante Luna of Dante Moon Productions and may be used on his Try Harder documentary. You can check out his page and work at Dante Luna on YouTube for much much more.

Tom King and Mitch Gerads Talk The Sheriff of Babylon, Plus a Preview

SHRFBAB_Cv7Baghdad, 2003. Florida Police officer turned military contractor Chris Henry is tasked with training a new Iraqi police force. When one of his trainees ends up dead, Chris is forced to team up with Nassir, the last remaining cop in Baghdad. Pulling the strings to bring them together is the mysterious Sofia, an American-educated Iraqi who has returned to take control of the city’s criminal underworld.

Written by Tom King with art by Mitch Gerads, The Sheriff of Babylon is a gritty and brutal look at the Iraq Green Zone through the lens of a crime drama.

I got a chance to talk to Tom and Mitch about the series, their collaboration and how accurate the series is.

Graphic Policy: I think it’s best to start at a simple question for those who might not be familiar with the series. Where did the concept of The Sheriff of Babylon come from? I know it’s partially based on your experiences in the CIA Tom, but where did the idea come from to infuse it with a crime drama?

Tom King: I wanted to write about Iraq, but I can’t write about my story in Iraq… because… they wouldn’t let me, and they’d come and arrest me. It didn’t interest me for two reasons. I don’t like writing about myself, and I don’t think my opinions are too interesting. Number two, reliving those years are tough, and doing it more direct wouldn’t help that. So I wanted to write about that experience and that bizarre place that was the Green Zone in 2004 and as a writer, the easiest place to go to is the crime drama, the murder mystery. That’s the basis of Watchmen as an example. We’ve created this strange world, how do I explore it? The first thought a writer has is there’s a murder and someone has to solve it, so your detective goes from place to place to solve it, it’s an easy plot.

I started there and thought it was a cliche, so I thought how can I work with that cliche and went “what if that it’s almost a facade and the murder mystery starts off the book and how people react to the murder mystery is what it’s actually about.”

GP: Mitch, how’d you come on board for the series?

Mitch Gerads: I got a call one day, and had an issue or two left of Punisher and got a call up about being pitched a few books at Vertigo. I was being very selective at the time. I had turned down a few different things because I was waiting for something that excited me. And I got the Sheriff pitch which was described as Justified in Iraq. And I was told Tom was writing and I said stop trying to sell me. I’m in. And I did some character sketches, Tom approved them, and we were off to the races.

SHRFBAB_7_1GP: With the art aspect, you’ve done a lot of military themed comics in the past. How do you go about it as an artist to get all of the details from the uniforms to the weapons to the Green Zone itself down?

MG: Research, especially with this book is really important to me. It’s a real place, full of real people, and real tradition, and we came over there and we’re real people. It’s a very real time and I wanted to get as much perspective as possible. So heavy in the research, every street corner, every nook and cranny, are all real places, and nothing is made up. I spent a half hour researching what kinds of phones they have in Iraq. It turns out, the same phones we have here. But that’s kind of the deep rabbit hole I went down.

I have a lot of friends in the military or were in the military and they always talk to me about how much they love comic books and movies, and how easily it is for them to be taken out of them when things are blatantly wrong. They’re brought up trained with these tools and everything. I take it all seriously. I’ve take classes on how to move with a firearm. I’ve taken classes on culture and stuff like that. It’s all super important to me and I find it important. More than that I find it interesting which is really fun for me. This book is right in my wheelhouse.

GP: How accurate is the comic to life in Iraq and living in the Green Zone?

TK: Yeah, pretty much everything takes place in some place. I don’t any research at all, I lived it, so I do all my research from memory. I try to remember places. I’m also the luckiest writer in comics where I have an artist who can catch me if I’m falling, I don’t have to tell them that type of stuff. To me, it’s scary accurate. In issue six, when they’re in front of those bunkers, trailers, whatever you want to call them. They’re almost perfectly accurate. It feels like a place I’ve been. There’s one location, I won’t say where it is, where I totally made it up. I needed it for plot. Mitch drew it really well, but I’m afraid someone will call me out on it and say that place doesn’t exist, it’s not entirely accurate. But, I’m not going to say which location it is. 98% of locations are true:

SHRFBAB_7_2GP: Do you have to run each issue through the CIA to check off?

TK: I do. I do. Every issue I have to run through the CIA. And they approve it.

GP: Has there been an instance yet where they haven’t allowed it? Or asked you to change something?

TK: No. No. I’m very serious about that stuff. I have no desire to talk about what I saw when I was in the CIA. They entrusted me with secrets I should and will keep. So I’m pretty good in knowing what to put in and what not to put in. We haven’t run into any of that stuff. I hope they see the book is respectful and doesn’t try to use hyperbole to make them look like crazy people because they’re not.

GP: The story I think is interesting in that it deals with a real world issue, real world politics, but there doesn’t feel like there’s a political agenda. It doesn’t skew left or right. It’s just “we’re there” and here’s this crime drama. Is that something you’re intentionally doing?

TK: It’s completely intentional. I in no way wanted this to be a screed about politics. I think when you read a comic book and you can immediately translate what that person would say on an issue on Twitter, you’ve failed. A comic book isn’t meant to be a code to my political views. I’m not thinking of an essay in my head and I’m translating it into a comic book and then you read it. Hopefully by writing something that’s true, we can get beyond those words, beyond the essay in my head, the essay of my opinions that aren’t that interesting, but my experiences of every day of it, the experiences of these characters could be interesting. So I try to stay away from that stuff because I don’t think it’s worth anybodies time.

MG: The military guys I know, who have served or are serving over there, we’ve had these conversations. I think one of the greatest things about Sheriff is that it stays away from that political stuff. I talk to these guys, very few of them if any of them, are thinking of the political. They’re there doing their job and they’re there to protect the guy next to them. That’s their day to day. And I think that’s important to show, just the day to day.

SHRFBAB_7_3GP: Going back to the look of the series. The color palette is very limited so far. How’d you decide on that? Was that something you two discussed or did it naturally happen?

MG: My biggest thing, color is my favorite part of the process. It’s where I get to make people feel things, where line art becomes atmosphere. So I wanted it to look hot, dusty, and people to finish an issue and need a glass of water.

And then there’s kind of a cool story too. I met a fan at a convention and we began talking, and we started to talk about color. He was a Marine and he was in Iraq. He battles with PTSD and he remembers those moments in color codes. For example the first time he was shot, the color would be blue. The memory is a blue world. That really struck me. I went home and when I thought about Sheriff that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to give every scene a color code that seemed to be created with a specific tone.

GP: Issue five I think is one of the strongest comics I’ve read this year so far. The images tell the story as much as the words do. A subtle look or movement, or small detail, they all add to the story. How much of that is in the script and how much of that is you Mitch?

MG: I don’t think Tom points it out, but I think it’s in the script. I can see that conversation taking place. So at that point it’s my job to show that to the reader. And take actual weird little shrug. I try to give every character their own little ticks.

TK: I think it’s all Mitch, that issue especially. I remember, I turned in the script and I was so proud of it. Conversation and then more conversation. And I got the art back without the letters, I realized my words aren’t as good as the pictures. I sent an email to my editor that I was going to redo a lot of the dialogue, because he’s so much better than me and I can’t let him show me up. So, that issue in particular, Mitch has nailed the characters moves and everything, I needed to make sure the words were up to par. He killed it with that thing.

MG: Like I do with a lot of method, I just drank throughout the entire issue.

SHRFBAB_7_4GP: Speaking of the storytelling, the series has been expanded. How’d that impact the story?

TK: You can see it in issue five and issue six. In my original outline it was supposed to be one issue. In my head it was always a twelve issue mini. And when I got it green lit they said it’d have to be eight and we’d see with sales, so I shortened it with eight. Then with the DC exclusive, it was timely and came my way. When people were talking about Batman, I went into Dan (DiDio)’s office and said “what do you think about twelve issues?” He said “done.” He was incredibly nice about it, but that came through because of the support of fans.

GP: Once this wraps up, will see more of your experiences in Iraq or your experiences with the CIA in general? Have you said what you want to say with this?

TK: It’s an ongoing series and hate to spoil what issue thirteen will be… This story ends, all the mysteries are solved, there is a resolution, kind of like how Omega Men ended. This is Sheriff of Baghdad, the next will be about the Sheriff of Babylon and the Middle East and War on Terror that I experienced. I wasn’t just in Iraq, I was all over the place. I want to continue with that theme.

GP: I’m wondering about some of those themes and always wonder if we as readers read too much into things. Particularly I’m thinking of who this series’ Sheriff actually is. There was the issue that explores the regional history as far as that title, I think that was issue four. Issue five it references it in another way. Is that something as a writer you think of and you purposely work in this thematic storytelling?

TK: I try to put that stuff in there and point to symbolism. I never get it in my head “this is exactly what it means and I hope they figure it out, and they solve the mystery that is the heart of Sheriff.” I’m just trying to go beyond words with a story and find some truth. I want to try to dig at those things. I don’t want to put a label on them, because when you put a label on it, it becomes totally banal. That stuff is in there. I’m trying to say something with Babylon, the Bible, and the Sheriff. What I’m trying to get across is something the reader has to come to and we have to come to together. And once you do that, you find the truth. It’s interaction.

SHRFBAB_7_5GP: What type of feedback have you two gotten about the series, especially from those that have served or experienced this life?

MG: I have a few people who I know that are in the service and read it. They’ve gotten back to me and they love it. They dig it’s something they remember. They dig that it rings true. They dig that it’s not preachy. That dig that it’s anti-them. The idea of evil Generals, and all that drives them nuts. The response has been great, both military and those involved in that aspect and comic book readers. Comic book readers love that they know this rings true, but they don’t know it themselves. They’re getting a peak at this world that exists that thye don’t anything about. Even for me that’s my favorite thing, learning more, learning about this culture and people that are out there somewhere and we’re getting it through a different lense.

TK: After all that, what’s amazed me on the total nerd level, the Hollywood reaction. The fact we get producers, these writers, they want to do a tv series and all that stuff. That’s entirely new to me and I’m just sort of nerdily excited about that as a guy who watches too much tv.

GP: I want to thank you both for the time.

And for readers that are interested, check out a preview of issue seven below which is out June 8.

Behind the Curtain. Beyond the Mat. A look at Atlantic Pro Wrestling.

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Hello fellow GPer’s and True Readers! We interrupt your regular scheduled reading to bring you some out of the box entertainment!

If you like action, suspense, flashy costumes and crazy catchphrases then this might just be for you.

A short time ago on May 21st, 2016 I had the distinct pleasure of being  guest at a spectacular local show put on by some very talented men and women who enjoy their craft. It just so happens that their craft of choice is Professional Wrestling.

Anyone of you reading this who may already be a fan of Pro Wrestling, well then I don’t need to tell you that it is a form of entertainment like no other. Any of you who aren’t a fan, still read on, we might just hook you yet.

So my adventure with Atlantic Pro Wrestling started at approximately 5:15 in the town of Newbury, Massachusetts outside a local firehouse. As I arrived you could feel the excitement in the air as droves of spectators were eagerly awaiting the 7pm bell time. I filed past the line and opened the doors to go inside. As I ventured on in, I saw a small group of able bodied individuals setting up the ring which would serve as the center for the evening’s showcase.

Like Barnum & Baileys under the Big Top, so much preparation goes into the evening’s festivities. It’s refreshing to see talent and crew unified as they put together their playground. It is an arduous process to make sure every detail is just right and demonstrates the passion they all share for the same thing.

Walking past the ring, I then enter the backstage area where the talent on the roster are preparing for their matches. The first people I see are the APW tag team champions: “The Selfie Made Man” Vern Vicallo & “Perfect” Dan Terry aptly forming the team of “Picture Perfect.”

Then in my best “Mean Gene” style I open with a barrage of questions to delve into what makes the Champs tick.

Graphic Policy: How long have you guys been wrestling fans?

Selfie Made Man: (proudly)  The Selfie Made Man has been a wrestling fan for well over 20 years. The first time I watched it was when Hulk Hogan won the Royal Rumble in 1990 so I’m dating myself.

GP: Nothing wrong with that. Means you can’t break up with yourself right? (Laughs)

SMM: (Laughs) Oh never! What about you Dan?

Dan Terry: Me? I would say I became a fan of wrestling while watching Wrestlemania 14. I had never really watched it before and when it came to Boston, I won’t tell you what grade I was in but it was a huge deal. All the kids in my class just kept talking about it and I wanted to fit in so I had to see it. I remember the whole thing with Mike Tyson and Stone Cold Steve Austin. From that moment on, I was immediately hooked.

GP: Very cool wrestling moments for sure. So let me ask you, how did you get into Independent Wrestling, individually?

SMM: I signed up to the New England Pro Wrestling Academy which is run by Brian Fury, on May 19th 2012. So I thought to myself I’m not getting any younger so I pulled the trigger on this. I did some research and NEPWA was the best for me and I’ve been running ever since.

GP: Any shout outs?

SMM: My trainer Brian Fury and long time trainer and friend Johnny Vegas.

GP: Very nice and yourself?

Dan: I had just graduated college and was working a few jobs and it really wasn’t going anywhere. So I found the Bell Time Club (located in Wakefield, MA) which is run by Beau Douglas. He’s the guy who taught me so much. I think he’s one of the best trainers in New England.

GP: Lastly, what would you like to convey to fans or really anyone who might want to make this a possible career choice?

Dan: Well first off, there is a lot of training that goes into this as well as tremendous body upkeep. Also people have this misconception that you train a little bit and then boom,  you have your first match. It’s not like that at all. Training is continuously happening. It’s multiple times a week and you don’t just go to the show and have a match. No, if bell time is 7pm you are probably there around 1pm helping set everything up and getting prepared. Likewise if the closing time is 10pm well you probably aren’t getting out of there till say 1 or 2am. It really is a lot of dedication in all forms.

GP: Well we can see that the dedication shows through and pays off. Thank you for your time. Good luck with you title match tonight guys.

Dan: Thank you.

Almost bell time and I make my last rounds before the crowd starts filing in. I spot sitting on a chair in deep thought, none other than Mr. John Cena Sr. Now for those of you who don’t know he just so happens to be direct relative of one John Cena. Maybe you’ve heard of the guy. Well tonight he’s not the man behind “The Face who runs the place” or the father of the 15 World Heavyweight Champion. No tonight, he is  “Johnny Fabulous” who is always ready to jaw with the best of them, and he’s got something to say…

GP: Good to see you again sir. It’s always a pleasure.

John Cena Sr: Thank you as well.

GP: So anything new or exciting in store for us that you can share?

John:  Actually yes. There is a show called “Wrestling for Warriors”  on June 4th in FT Wayne, IN. We got some great stars set for there, Tomaso Champa , Mickey James, Rhyno. We just got a loaded card. It is such a fun time and all the proceeds go to young men and women fighting cancer. I want to tell you that J Fab, John Cena Sr. is going to be there and I can’t wait to see and say hi to the fans. Also with the general manager, who knows there might be an FU in the cards.

GP: That sounds very cool. Wish I could take a trip out there.

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John:  Well if you can’t take a trip you can always contribute to the cause online at www.wrestlingforwarriors.com

GP: You know what? Absolutely.  (Contribute I did.  To my readers I urge you as well, it is for a terrific cause)  Before I let you go for the show, is there anything you think wrestling could do differently? Anything you think that is being done currently that is going backwards?

John: Nothing is ever backwards. I think everything is forwards. When you go forwards, you have to make story lines believable. You have to make characters gigantic, bigger than life. I think that is where they are missing the boat on some of these things. I come from back in an era with Bruno Sammartino and Gorilla Monsoon, Mr. Fuji, Chief Jay Strongbow and Walter (Killer) Kowalski. All those greats were believable. I think that’s due to a few things. One, good guys had separate rooms from bad guys and they filmed it when they came out there. It was believable, it was real. We didn’t have the Wizard of Oz where they pulled back the curtain. That’s the big thing. Making story lines more believable is the best place to start.

GP: I just think that the talent coming up is never ending. Every time you see someone reach the top, someone comes up and tops it. There really is no ceiling. That’s why I like the Indy stuff. The people you see here are the stars of tomorrow. It’s quite exciting.

John: The Indies are the future of tomorrow. People come to these shows, and some of them say “You know, I love coming to the Indy shows more than the big shows because, I am closer to the action and I can talk to the wrestlers.” It’s really a different type of experience. People in the Indy’s today are shooting for the moon. Walter Kowalkski, God rest his soul used to say “Shoot for the moon, and maybe you will grab a star on the way up.”

GP: Wow.

John: So work hard, train hard and believe in what you do and you’ll get there. Stop doing some of these crazy moves that will break your body. Sometimes less is more.

GP: I agree. Sometimes the “illusion” of the big spot is better than the big spot itself.

John: Yup. People need to take a look at Professional Wrestling. We have respect for the young men and women who put their lives on the line, and I mean this, they do. They put their lives on the line each time they are in the ring so people can go home happy. Cheer them or boo them, you’ve got to respect that.

GP: I couldn’t agree more. So anything you want to say about tonight?

John: All I can say is that there will be a lot of surprises. You are at the APW Arena. When the lights go down, the action comes up. We got some great matches and if you’re looking for action and family fun then APW is the place to be.

Shortly after, I make my way to my seat to take in the show. The house lights start to go down and the ring lights pop on. I can hear the crowd getting restless as they are feverishly awaiting the action.  If you’ve never been to a Pro Wrestling show live, there is nothing like it. The atmosphere is electric and it’s where people come to let their worries wash away and just cut loose.

So as I sit, hot dog clenched one hand and a bottle of water in the other, we proceed to get started with some exciting tag team action!  The first match on the card is a 4 corners match elimination match, with the team that wins becoming the number one contenders to face the APW Tag Team Champions “Picture Perfect” later in the evening.  Now not being familiar with the roster, I went in dark on this and just tried to soak it all in with no bias.

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The match was a great combination of traditional and entertaining “spot” wrestling. There was hardly a moment where the ropes were still due to all the bodies flying around the ring. Team by team was eliminated until there was only one team that stood tall. That team was the pair of “Gridhouse” Evan Siks &  “The Prince of Pink” Brendan Michael Thomas.  They were to go on to face the champs later on in the evening. We were off to a great start.

I was able to head backstage once again prior to the next match. This time to get some words with the former Women’s Champion Mistress Belmont (as of writing these she no longer has her belt due to some impromptu shenanigans that took place after the match)

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GP: So for those who want to know, how long have you been wrestling?

Belmont: I have been wrestling shows for 11 years but I trained a year ahead of time so I have been doing this for about 12 years.

GP: Have you traveled all over the country, or performed in a different country?

Belmont: I have wrestled in Canada. I’ve done shows in Montreal and Vancouver once. That’s about as far out of the country I’ve gone. I pretty much keep to New England, I do go to New York, New Jersey but mostly New England.

GP: Very cool. What made you decide you wanted to be a pro wrestler?

Belmont: I always wanted to. Growing up my parents took away our television when I was very young. However when we got sent to the babysitter’s on Saturday morning when both my parents were working, we got to watch wrestling. I never saw women’s wrestling, because back then you only saw that on a special occasion like a Pay Per View. I knew that there were two women in wrestling: Sensational Sherri and Miss Elizabeth. I remember thinking as a young girl, that Miss Elizabeth was useless. Sensational Sherri wasn’t afraid to get in there and tear it up with the guys and do whatever she needed to. I knew I wanted to be like her.

GP: Touching on that, the passing of Chyna, what does that mean to you?

Belmont: The passing of Chyna, wow. Honestly when I heard it I broke down and cried. I always say, I have muscles because of Chyna. I wanted to be a real women’s wrestler like her. When she was with (at the time) Hunter Hearst Helmsely I remember saying “Oh my God, no one messes with her.” She could hold her own and I thought her body was fantastic so I wanted to strive to be like that. To this day, it’s one of the coolest moments and anyone who has been a wrestling fan can identify, about a year ago I found Chyna on Twitter and I tweeted her and said “I have muscles because of you and I love you.” So she re tweeted me and in wrestling terms I “marked out.” 

GP: Oh I have no doubt. How great!

Belmont: It happens very rarely. I even took a screenshot of it. So when I found out she passed away, it was devastating. She had worked so hard and did so much for women’s wrestling. She turned it up a notch and kicked doors in.

GP: She absolutely did. No question about that. She was so different.  What I appreciate more is that you use the term “wrestling” and not sports entertainment. You’re a wrestler, not a diva.

Belmont: Oh God no!

GP: Funny thing is right now the women’s wrestling is more entertaining than the men. The level of talent that is out there now is astounding, and they all want to just wrestle.

Belmont: When Chyna started wrestling, women’s wrestling went soft. We had Sable and the bar was lowered. Chyna picked that bar up and now it’s continuing. It comes with time. You don’t always come out the gate being able to perform at top level. It takes a lot of time to hone your craft.

GP: Would you mind me asking, were you trained by a woman or a man?

Belmont: Sure. I actually was trained by a man. I had another girl at the school and more often than not, we would wrestle the guys. I was always taught if you can throw the guys around then you can throw the girls around.

With that statement being said, I excused myself and let her prep herself for her impending showdown which was moments away.

Now I don’t want you to get the impression that only the guys had the duty of thrilling the crowd, oh no as APW has a Women’s Champion (Mistress Belmont) who had some business that evening. Business in the form of defending her Women’s championship against Davienne w/ Uncle Eddie. Not unlike the Tag Team match which proceeded it, this contest was action packed from the bell. The action took these two ladies all over the arena. They were throwing each other into tables and chairs in what seemed like a very personal grudge match. Once the match spilled into the ring it didn’t get any less personal, champion and challenger alike fought vigorously until only one woman stood tall. Mistress Belmont was able to vanquish her foe and in the end was able to keep the gold. For but a moment. It was an unexpected end but a cool surprise.

Lastly I had the chance to candidly speak with the holder of the APW New England Championship: “Champagne” Joe Moakley. The champ was pulling double duty this evening as he was both promoter and champion. I was lucky enough to get a few moments pick the brain of the man who made this night possibly.

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GP: Tell me sir, for those of us who may not know, how did APW come about?

Joe: Well the big backstory is, myself and Big Woody used to train in Salisbury back in 1999 under Knuckles Nelson. We always envisioned us having a match with one another. Well the school closed down and we took probably about 7 or 8 years off and then eventually we ran into a friend of ours named Derek who owned the ring. So I thought why don’t we run a couple shows. It all started just so we could have that match and the fans loved it, so why not keep going?

GP: Is there anything that you personally or your company is looking to introduce to the Indy Scene?

Joe: Well not really. We have a very good mix of the old school style wrestling and of course the new drama style wrestling with story lines. That sort of movie style atmosphere. You know I have an acting background.

GP: Oh really?

Joe: Yes I actually went to acting school in the city of Boston, so I have that background.

GP: So then, this is pretty natural for you?

Joe: Oh yes being in front of a camera is very natural for me.

GP: Hence, “Champagne” Joe Moakley. I love it.

Joe: Yup.

GP: When people come to an APW show. What do you want them to take home, what is the thing you want them to remember most?

Joe: I want them to have the best night of their life every time they are out here. I like the fact that we are so family friendly. You can bring your ten year old here and not have to worry about swearing and getting hit with chairs. It’s like their best tv show only in live action.

GP: Absolutely. Well I wish you a lot of luck sir. I will be around and look forward to working with you in the future. Thank you for the opportunity to do so this evening.

Joe: Thank you and any time.

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The evening for me rounded out with watching the APW Tag Team Champs (my new favorites) retain their titles in an almost “Picture Perfect” defense against their newly christened number one contenders. It was fast paced, exciting and most important of all, the better men won. That’s the great thing about this form of entertainment. Everyone wants to go out and steal the show, everyone wants that big “pop” from the crowd. The thing is, to everyone in attendance, it means something a little different. Be it a “heel” or “Babyface”. Be it good guys or bad guys. In the end they all putt butts in the seats. Each one of the people on that roster give you a reason to be there. Like many other live events the crowd can influence what transpires. Fortunately on this night, the crowd in attendance knew there roles, but most certainly did not shut their mouths. Which made it all the more fun.

So for one who was not familiar with the APW arena or the roster, but knows Pro Wrestling, I found this was extremely accessible. The talent made it so easy to get sucked right into the action. That is a testament to the men and women who gathered this night. Any group of people can get together and put up a ring of plywood and elevator cables and attempt to call it a wrestling show. However only the worthy ones can make it an experience and one you want to relive over and over.

Do yourselves a favor and check out www.atlanticprowrestling.com and see for yourselves.

Interview with ‘The Fix’ Artist Steve Lieber

lieber1Steve Lieber has been involved with multiple projects alongside a wide array of high quality creators. From Whiteout with Greg Rucka to his other collaboration with The Fix co-creator and writer Nick Spencer in Superior Foes of Spider-Man, Lieber’s expressive, sharp art style stands out and is intrinsic to the variety of comics he has been a part of. His newest title The Fix, with writer Nick Spencer, colourist Ryan Hill, and letterer/designer Nic J. Shaw, is a hilarious and depraved story of two desperate corrupt police officers. Lieber was able to answer some questions via email regarding the multiple ideas around the comic.

Graphic Policy: Though it is still relatively fresh to the comic stands, The Fix has a similar tone to Superior Foes: fun, fast paced, with anti-hero characters but with a darker sense of humour. Was this a direction that you both envisioned early on in the stages to developing The Fix?

Steve Lieber: Absolutely. I think Nick and I knew something really good was happening in our collaboration on Superior Foes. I came into it looking forward to doing all the exciting, inventive things we did at Marvel, while taking advantage of the remarkable creative freedom that we have at Image. We can go a lot darker than we ever could on a corporate-owned franchise. This is a crime story as well as a comedy, and there’s a lot of stuff in our story that isn’t appropriate for kids.

We also have a level of control that Marvel and DC will never give a storyteller. No one is telling us we have to ship twice in the same month, or tie into a cross over, or work around a house-ad stuck in the middle of a story with no regard for narrative flow. We get to make choices that serve the story and the characters, not the marketing department.

fix1As for why anti-heroes, for me it comes down to learning that Nick and I have a knack for them. Some of the funniest people I’ve ever met are irredeemable narcissists. You wouldn’t want to depend on them in a crisis, but they tell great stories, and their lack of any sort of moral compass tends to lead them in interesting directions.

GP: There is definitely something about a well put together anti-hero story that I really love, especially with the kind of buddy-cop vibe that is going on in The Fix as well. There is something political being said here by having main characters Roy and Mac as police officers. Without digging into your intentions, how important is it to you to mirror the current hot societal topics through the comics medium?

SL: Police issues are certainly in the news right now, but I don’t really approach this as topical. The systems that make it easier for a cop to break the law have been with us for as long as we’ve had law enforcement. If we wanted to so archers and men on horseback, we could do a knucklehead criminal-cop comedy about the sheriff of Nottingham.

GP: The keen sense of comedic timing with the panel layouts is really well done. The whole sequence with Donovan in Issue #1 as well as the death by banjo string in Issue #2 come to mind. Steve, are there are any key aspects to your approach to visual storytelling to maintain the energy through the heavy dialogue?

SL: It’s figuring out what’s funny about a scene. Where are the laughs? Where’s the pain? With Donovan’s burger story, the dialogue Nick wrote was so great, so over-the-top, that I could underplay Roy’s reactions. It was fun taking a guy who has been just monstrously cocky throughout the comic and turning him into a Bob Newhart character, barely coping with an awful social situation he can’t escape.

If I have a key approach to making the humor work visually, it’s that I try to never, ever let a flashy or impressive drawing upstage the joke. This was hard. In superhero comics, the prevailing aesthetic is creating big, exciting images. Flipping through the comic is like watching the trailer for a Hollywood blockbuster. Artists are rewarded for creating eye-catching, show-stopper pages. If I did that on The Fix, the pacing would be ruined, the jokes would fall flat, and our readers would be thinking “Wow, Steve can really draw.” rather than “Wow, Roy is complete moral garbage.”

lieber2GP: Can you talk a bit on working alongside colourist Ryan Hill? His colours provide a very warm, atmospheric touch.

SL: I love working with Ryan. His color choices are gorgeous, and he’s 100% focused on telling the story. Every choice he makes is about evoking the appropriate mood, getting the minutiae right, and creating a hierarchy of focus that guides the reader’s eye correctly. It’s a tough to strike the balance between aesthetic and practical considerations, but Ryan nails it every time.

Color has changed significantly in comics in the 25 years since I got out of comic-book art school. My teachers taught me that drawing for color meant drawing so that poorly-chosen color couldn’t screw things up too badly. Things have gotten a lot better since then. Working with someone as good as Ryan, my job is to leave him plenty of room to make his own choices, and let his color take its place as an integral part of our storytelling.

GP: I am a bit leery with all of the comic books being adapted to film nowadays. Some are rather well done and stay true to the characters. The Fix to me has a very Shane Black vibe. How do you feel about the influx of these adaptations and would you be open to having some of your respective work make this transition?

SL: The Fix could be a great movie or tv series, but I honestly try not to think about that stuff at all. My entire focus is on making the best comic book I can, and I’m already doing that right now, with a supportive publisher and three wildly talented collaborators.

GP: What are your thoughts on Battlebots?

SL: Jizzmotron’s unstoppable this year.

The first two issues of The Fix are available now from Image Comics, with the first issue going into a third printing and the second going into a second printing. The third issue is out June 8th.

Tidewater Comicon 2016: Interview with Artist/Writer Ian McGinty

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On Sunday, at the 2016 Tidewater Comicon, I had the opportunity to chat with artist and writer Ian McGinty about the end (for now) of his creator owned all ages series Welcome to Showside, his current work on Adventure Time, video games, and gingers while cosplayers screamed in the background. Welcome to Showside is about a demon named Kit, who just wants to eat food, play video games, and hang out with his friends Moon, Belle, and Boo. However, he’s the son of the evil Shadow King, who has other plans for him. Also, various monsters travel through eight bit portals into Showside creating most of the issue to issue conflict.

Before being the main artist on Adventure Time and creating both the Welcome to Showside comic and animated pilot, McGinty has worked on a variety of licensed comics, including a long run on Bravest Warriors with writer Kate Leth, Adventure Time: Candy Capers featuring the Peppermint Butler, and Munchkin.

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Graphic Policy: What can Welcome to Showside readers expect from the end of the first arc?

Ian McGinty: We had to cram a huge amount of story into a single issue because we wanted to make sure the comic was out for everybody. You’re going to see Kit, the main character, confronting his father, who comes to Showside. The Shadow King actually does show up, and you actually see him instead of just hearing about him.

Along with that conflict, the kids have to take down Frank, who’s turned Belle’s mansion into a fortress. They also have to figure out how to turn Boo into his normal self because he’s all jacked up and super creepy. In the concluding arc, we’ll see Kit face his father and deal with the questions of who he is, why he’s in Showside, and how he got there

GP: Is it going to be a double sized issue?

IM: It’s 32 pages instead of the usual 22. The trade will have bonus comics that we didn’t get done in time to put in Welcome to Showside #5. That’s a nice incentive to pick up the collection. There’s a comic by Patabot, and Jen Bartel (Jem and the Holograms) did a two pager. Jen doesn’t normally do cartoon-y stuff, and it came out really nice.

GP: There are a lot of video games in Welcome to Showside. Why did you decide to include so many elements from them in the comic?

IM: I love video games, but I’m not good at them. I wanted to draw someone who was actually good at video games and things like that. It became a weird recurring theme along with the eating. I’m really interested in food and video games, and the world of Showside itself became like a video game. There’s a big boss battle at the end, like in the old turn based RPGs I enjoy. (Like old Final Fantasy.) Then, there’s the eight bit pixel portals that the characters go through, and we even had an eight bit Kit story in one of the backups.

GP: Yeah, that was a fun backup. It really made me wish there was a Welcome to Showside mobile game, like the  Catbug one.

IM: The Catbug game was fun. And we got the animation made so who knows at this point.

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GP: Especially in the last issue with Frank’s henchman Climp, I got a Southern vibe from Showside. What influence does Southern culture have on the comic.

IM: Showside is basically Savannah, Georgia, where I live. The environments are real landmarks in Savannah. In issue 4, Frank and Climp teleport, and they land in a famous alleyway in Savannah. They’re in the squares and places like that. That’s because it was super easy to find photos and draw from that instead of coming up with a big new thing.

And Climp looks like a hillbilly. He’s a Squidbillies type guy. He talks like a King of the Hill character in my head, and I think he’s really funny. He came about randomly. I drew him on the cover before I knew who he really was. And when I did the actual story, I decided to make him a smartass Southern dude.

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GP: Another supporting character that I ended up loving in Welcome to Showside was Teenomicon. Could you maybe go a little bit into the design and creation process for him?

IM: Teenomicon was actually designed by Fred Stresing, who is Welcome to Showside‘s colorist and letterer. When we were first pitching the series, we were talking about funny things to have in the series and thought it would be cool to have a sassy Necronomicon guy. Then, Fred wanted to make him a whiny teenager, drew him up the next day, and said I could use it in the series.

Teenomicon is funny because he’s a teenager, but he actually knows everything because he’s a magic book. It would suck if you knew everything. Teenomicon is a “how-to” book for this universe and is my excuse for characters to get out of any situation immediately. He’s a knowledgeable, living book so it works.

GP: But he has a personality so he’s not like a boring exposition guy.

IM: Exactly. He’s really into old school screamo bands, like My Breadical Romance, Taking Back Sunday Brunch, and the Novemberists. There’s a backup later where we find out he’s into watching really cheesy soap operas that will be in the trade. Kara Love wrote that one for us.

GP: In Welcome to Showside #4, you started co-writing the series with Samantha Knapp. Why do you guys decide to start doing that, and what does she add to the comic?

IM: Samantha had a lot of knowledge of the universe, and we had first talked about Welcome to Showside while I was pitching ideas. I started getting more in demand as an artist so I didn’t have as much time to work on it. I was writing and drawing the comic as well as doing covers and picking up backup creators so she came onboard for issue 4. With her, I tell her what’s going to happen in the story, and she makes sense of it in the different story beats.

GP: So, she wrote all the dialogue?

IM: I actually write all the dialogue, but she paces the story out and chooses what’s going to happen in each panel. It’s a nice back and forth and makes the script writing process easier too. Her background is in horror, anime, and manga. These are things I like, but I don’t know super extensively.

Samantha made it so the comic wasn’t just a monster battle each issue. Issues 4 and the super sized issue 5 are one arc, and she brought in cool horror elements while making it more serious. Whereas for me, I was going through a rough time so all my comics I was writing were super bubbly and happy. But she said that there had to be some conflict beyond fighting and beating monsters. Samantha took her knowledge of horror and manga and made everything a little darker. It really helped because you feel that there is more on the line.

GP: So, what is the future of Welcome to Showside after issue 5?welcomeshowsideVol1

IM: Issue 5 comes out pretty soon, and then the trade, and that’s the end of it for now. The animated pilot is still being looked at, and there are still negotiations about an animated series. We’re taking a little hiatus until we see what happens with that, and depending on the animated show, Showside the comic could start up again.

We’ve talked about rebooting it, and right now, if the trade goes well, we might do a spinoff miniseries of just Moon and Belle. It would be an all-female led team. I wouldn’t even be involved in that and would let them use my characters and properties. Samantha would write it, and we have some artists lined up to crank it out if the series happens.

I do Adventure Time full time so I needed the little break. I hope we can do the spinoff though.

GP: I would totally pick up. I actually do have a general question about Adventure Time. Which characters are you interested in exploring in that crazy, big universe?

IM: I usually say Peppermint Butler, but they’ve already gone into his backstory. I’m working on a story about BMO’s dark side right now. I’m interested in BMO being the only genderless character in that universe and being an actual robot. There’s weird stuff around to be explored, like the scene in the show where he has to change his batteries, and he has to time it properly so he can jump into the batteries. He basically dies and falls on the batteries. And I thought that was so creepy. I’m always into Lumpy Space Princess stories because she’s awesome.

GP: One thing I liked about Welcome to Showside is that I wanted to hang out with the characters, and they seemed like my friends. What Welcome to Showside character would you want spend the day with?

IM: Definitely not Frank because he’s so irritating. Definitely not Cool Ghost because he’s the worst character ever made in a comic. I would have to say Belle because she would have the most fun and “doesn’t take no guff”. Moon and Belle would be my picks. Moon seems a little too neurotic and uptight, but Belle is pretty fun.

GP: My last question just for fun, and why did you decide make Kit a ginger?

IM: If anyone knows me, and that my girlfriend has red hair, they know that I have something for redheads. More so, it’s because Kit has green skin, and the colors work together. He started out with blue hair, and one day we switched it to red. I liked how the big red mohawk looks.

Adventure Time #53, which is written by Christopher Hastings (Gwenpool) and drawn by Ian McGinty is set to come out on June 8 and is published by BOOM! Studios.

Welcome to Showside #5 is written by Ian McGinty and Samantha “Glow” Knapp and drawn by McGinty is set to be released later this summer along with a trade paperback collecting Welcome to Showside #1-5 and bonus material. It is published by Z2 Comics.

Find Ian on Twitter.

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Tidewater Comicon 2016: Interview with Writer Tini Howard

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On Saturday, at Tidewater Comicon, I had the opportunity to do the first interview with writer Tini Howard about her upcoming espionage, sci-fi thriller Skeptics for Black Mask Studios. The comic is set to come out later this year and features art from Devaki Neogi (Curb Stomp). We also talked about how she broke into comics, her upcoming work on the Barbie: Starlight, and there’s even a surprise cameo from a Marvel character near and dear to both our hearts.

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Graphic Policy: I know you broke into comics through the 2013 Top Cow Talent Hunt. How did that come about?

Tini Howard: I was a finalist in the contest in 2013, and my Magdalena: Seventh Sacrament comic debuted in December 2014 on the same day as Secret Six and Bitch Planet. I was in the company of my heroes. Magdalena was my first work for them, and I was pitching various things for Top Cow. As everyone in the industry knows, we kiss a lot of frogs. Then, I got to do Poseidon IX in September 2015. In the meantime, I’ve been doing anthologies like Secret Loves of Geek Girls.

A friend of mine, Chris Sebela, once said, “Your first in year in comics you do one book; the second year, you do three; and in year three, you do ten.” And my third year is crazy because I’ve got a lot of comics coming out. It’s a been a slow ride. Your first book hits Previews, and you think, “Oh, I’ll be doing Batman tomorrow.”, and that’s not how it works.

TheSkeptics_Cover_1_200pxGP: So, you have The Skeptics coming out from Black Mask later this year. What can Black Mask or general comics readers expect from the series?

TH: I’ve been pitching The Skeptics as X-Men: First Class meets Project Alpha and James Randi in An Honest Liar meets Grant Morrison’s Kill Your Boyfriend. I’m a huge Grant Morrison fan and love the energy in things like Kill Your Boyfriend Sex Criminals, and Saga, and the idea that this girl and this guy are on the run together. It’s a dynamic that I love.

Skeptics focuses on that and features two teenagers in Washington DC in the 1960s. There are Russian reports of superpowered individuals, and two teenagers are selected to appear as an American superpowered equivalent in order to prove that the Russian threat is also false. It doesn’t go that way, and hijinks ensue.

Our two main characters are named Max and Mary, and they’re from very different worlds. Mary is a hardworking academic and an American girl while Max is a British criminal. He’s very skilled with sleight of hand and fast talking, and Mary is incredibly intelligent and often underestimated because she’s an African American student in the 1960s. She uses that to her advantage. But it’s cool because she’s very much a good girl. It’s like Kill Your Boyfriend where she’s learning how to be bad and be unafraid to get one up on people. This is while Max is learning to be a better person. They work with a professor of theirs to hopefully disprove the Russian threat.

GP: Your lead character is an African American female scientist in the 1960s. Did you have any real life scientists you were inspired by when creating Mary?

TH: There are actually two female scientists in the series. There is Dr. Santaclara, who is South American, and she is inspired by a family member of mine and also Sophia Loren. We end up with a lot of sexy scientists, like Tony Stark, but there aren’t a lot of women like that in comics, and that’s what we have with Dr. Santaclara, their professor.

And then we have Mary, who is a psych student, and I did a lot of research into academia in the 1960s. You watch a lot of things like Mad Men, and there’s an assumption that a lot of non-white people were relegated to background roles or tragedy stories. In my research, I found out Harvard had its first African American female graduate in the 19th century. It’s stuff you don’t know. I come from a super white background, and my history books didn’t teach me that. The research taught me about women in academia, who were working hard (And I don’t want to say were included in academia because they were pushed out a lot.) back then, and you don’t see them in these kind of stories.

I didn’t want to tell this super aggressive Civil Rights story because I don’t feel like it’s my place. I feel that there are people, who are way more suited to tell that story than me, but, at the same time, I wanted to tell a story about someone who was doing her best, was an intellectual, and was a real person.

NeogiCurbStompGP: I’m a big fan of Devaki Neogi and really enjoyed her work on Curb Stomp. Why was she the perfect artist for this project?

TH: She was my first and only pick, and I got her. I had been friends with her on social media for a while and saw she had some availability. I loved her work on Curb Stomp, and her beautiful covers for another Black Mask book, Kim and Kim that I can’t wait for Mags [Visaggio] to share. Devaki also has a background in fashion illustration, and The Skeptics is a book that isn’t high action. It’s not a superhero book. There’s a lot of quiet tension and not a lot of punching and flying.

I wanted an artist, who was really good at depicting tension, expression, and fashion. Because I love the period, and the mod and preppy styles of the time. Mary is gorgeous with A-line skirts and big curls. Max has all these mod suits, and Dr. Santaclara is this Sophia Loren fabulous woman. Devaki and I have a Pinterest where I pin all these Sixties fashion photos. We get really excited about it.

Devaki was the only artist I had in mind while developing the series, and Matt [Pizzolo] got her because he knew her from some work she had done at Black Mask before. I am excited to work with her. Her style can be this classic comics illustrative style, and it looks just like I dreamed it would.

GP: About Black Mask, why were they the perfect publisher for The Skeptics?

TH: So, I developed The Skeptics not knowing where I wanted it to go. I instantly realized that it didn’t have what a lot of publishers wanted because it’s weird, tense, and historical instead of being a high action, sci-fi book that they’re interested in.

Black Mask is different. I’m a huge fan of a lot of their books, like We Can Never Go Home, which has a lot of quiet moments. I submitted via the open submissions policy and was very lucky. Matt was able to look at my pitch from the slush pile and got back to me very quickly about publishing it. It was a slush pile success story.

GP: What elements of the 1960s are you going to focus on in the themes, designs etc of The Skeptics?

TH: Well, it’s a Cold War story, for one. I’m very interested in academia. I’m originally from DC so that setting is important to me, and the first issue features certain DC landmarks like Ben’s Chili Bowl. It’s big for DC people, but a lot of people might not know it. There’s some influence from Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys with the mystery solving. Our main characters are always creeping around solving mysteries. The Skeptics has that 1960s pulp paperback feel.

I teasingly have called the year in press materials “1960X” because it is an alternate history book. The president is Nelson Rockefeller. I did an alternate history for a lot of reasons. I didn’t want people to say, “That couldn’t have happened, but still wanted it rooted in reality so I went that route. It’s definitely set in the early 60s; more early seasons of Mad Men than the later seasons.

GP: You’re also working on Barbie comics. How did you get to work on Barbie: Starlight for Papercutz?barbiestarlight

TH: I got that job the way lots of things happen in comics. You have a friend, and they’re looking for someone to fill a spot. The editor, Beth Bryan, was putting together a team to do Barbie, and three people had suggested me. I was really honored because I told my first stories with Barbie. My favorite drag queen is Trixie Mattel. Barbie has also had this great reinvention lately where she’s focused being for all girls and removing a lot negativity people have towards the brand.

Barbie Starlight is great. I can’t talk too much about the plot because it ties into the upcoming Barbie Starlight movie, but it’s fun, and there are spaceships. We get to do Barbie in space. And while doing research for it, I found out some of the first Barbie comics were done by Amanda Conner. What great footsteps to be in!

GP: Amanda Conner on Barbie? I gotta track those down!

TH: I know! I saw some of the art, and it’s gorgeous. I love Barbie, and what I’m able to do with her. It’s been a lot of fun, and I watch a lot of Life in the Dreamhouse. I definitely would like to work on some of the other toylines too.

GP: What is the difference in your creative process when working on something licensed or work for hire , like Barbie or Top Cow, than on your own creator owned work?

TH: With license work, there is a licenser that licenses the comics rights to a publisher. And with work for hire, if I pitch to Top Cow, and they love it, they don’t have to get an okay from anyone else. If I write a pitch, and they accept it, I can work on it immediately.

If I write a pitch for Barbie, and my editor at Papercutz loves it, she still has to go to Mattel and see if they like it. That’s one difference in the creative process. You’re not just trying to impress an editor because I’ve had projects where the editor enjoys it, and the licenser doesn’t it. It’s a case of who you’re trying to please thematically. Often, work for hire is a little more flexible because it’s their character, and even if you give them an off the wall idea, it’s theirs to do what they wish. They’re not beholden to a licenser. So, I could do a story about cyborg mermen fighting a sea monster.

GP: I’ve seen some of your critical work for Teen Vogue and Paste. How does writing about comics help with your comics writing?

TH: One thing I’m careful to do because the line between comics journalist and comics creator is very fuzzy is that I don’t write reviews. I just vomit some of my relentless positivity about certain books. For Paste, I write about comics that look good to me, or I got to interview David Baillie from Red Thorn. 

GP: That is one sexy book. I’ve got to catch up on it.

TH: Red Thorn is fire. Half the questions I asked were about were about why everyone is so hot. Is it Meghan Hetrick’s fault, or is it yours? I get to talk about creators of the books I like. I get to make lists around theme, like my favorite Robins, or my favorite books about sex or religion.

But I’m careful not to promote work about companies that I write for. That’s something some people choose to do. It’s self-imposed and imposed by the higher-ups. It’s a conflict of interest. It’s not a fair to promote a company’s work on a website when I’m getting paid by the publisher.

My work isn’t “critical”. I’m just sharing the love. Good comics criticism is so valuable, and what you, Emma, Matt, Ashley, and the people at Comicosity do is so valid. If I were being critical of a creator owned work while I’ve got my creator owned book coming out, I think that looks shady, like, “Don’t buy theirs, buy mine.”

Occasionally, I’ll do observational pieces, like about female writers writing male characters, that got a lot of traction, such as Becky Cloonan on Punisher for Marvel. It’s something I am passionate about and want to see more of.

The only critical work I’ve done is the “boring” kind. I wrote an essay on Dick Grayson for an academic book about Robins. It’s critical work in an academic sense. But I don’t know do reviews or “comics criticism”

GP: I have one last for fun question. I’m a huge Jessica Jones fan and know you are too. For some reason, if Marvel gave you the opportunity to write Jessica Jones, what kind of story would you tell about her?

TH: I have a serious Jessica Jones pitch in my head at all times. It would be great if there was this story where Luke was feeling insecure because Jessica seems like she’s on the phone all the time, or doing something she doesn’t want him to know about. But she’s actually secretly reopening Alias Investigations. I have a dream team of who she hires, like the X-Factor Investigations crew, because that’s one of my favorite Marvel runs.

My dream book is Jessica Jones working with Monet, Rictor, and Shatterstar. And they would call Layla Miller to help because she’s in college, or maybe she’s an adult now. Either this book, or a Daughters of the Dragon comic where Dani and Danny and Misty’s daughters are all grown up. Heroes for Hire is my everything.

Find Tini on Twitter.

Fear And Loathing in Eastern Canada: Tea With Troy Little Part One

Fear-and-Loathing-in-Las-Vegas-Troy-Little-coverBack in 1971, Hunter S. Thompson was hired by a sports magazine to report on the famous Mint 400, a wild 
off-road race through the desert outside Las Vegas. When the draft he 
submitted — ten times the requested length — was “aggressively rejected” by 
the magazine, Thompson re-fashioned it into Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. This “Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream,” serialized across multiple issues of Rolling Stone, became an instant landmark of counterculture literature, gonzo journalism, and American 
insight.

Last year, IDW Publishing released Hunter S.Thompson’s Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas a graphic novel adaptation by the three-time Eisner award nominee Troy Little . The graphic novel is being re-released as four 48 page comic books, with multiple variant covers. Entitled The Great White Whale edition, the four issues will be packed with a ton of bonus features, and should be available in comic shops soon.

I was fortunate to get a chance to sit down with Troy a little while ago, and had a chance to talk about his adaptation, Star Wars, and Las Vegas. This interview took place prior to the 2016 Eisner awards, where Little was given a nod for Best Lettering.

Graphic Policy: With the serialized graphic novel coming out in May, I wanted to ask
you a bit about that before we got to chat …

Troy Little: That whole serialization thing came out of nowhere. I’m still half in the dark much as anyone. I just found out recently that Ben Templesmith is doing a cover for it and I didn’t ever see the Jim Mahfood cover until it was like in previews, so I’m like that’s awesome because I always felt Jim Mahfood should do this book, y’know, he would be ideal to do Fear and Loathing. And they pitched him but he just didn’t answer the email. I mean here are just certain things you don’t do, but I’m the guy who didn’t say that.

GP: Where you nervous when you were asked about it?

TL: Oh god yeah. Yeah I was working on Power Puff Girls, but the big thing for me is that I’m a huge fan, so I’m the kinda guy that if I heard someone was doing a graphic novel of Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas I’d be very skeptical. But then I’d having to be the guy who’s doing it, so my expectations were way up here, right, so don’t screw it up. And when I sent in my pitch, I thought I’d screwed it up, I thought I’d blew it. I was sitting there, like beating my head after I’d hit send almost like [garbled cursing noise].f&l scan3

GP: I’m gonna be honest; I’ve never read the book nor seen the movie, and so I have no basis for comparison, but the graphic novel is fantastic.

TL: Oh, I’m glad you liked it, that’s awesome.

GP: Oh absolutely.

TL: It’s nice to know too in the sense that without seeing the movie, which is what most people’s first exposure to it (F&L) is that that this stands without that influence.

GP: It really does!

TL: That’s reassuring, (laughs)!

Alex. (laughs) Brett, our chief, he’d said that if you’re a fan of Hunter S. Thompson that you have to get this graphic novel.

TL: I’m really pleased. I had some people ask me just the other day “where can I buy your book?” and so I sent them the amazon link because they’re from the US, and the reviews are there… but they’re all really good, and I’m like “oh… relief.”

GP: It’s… I mean obviously adapting it you’re gonna be more critical of yourself, but it’s really good.

TL: Yeah very much so, I still see the problems. But like any artist they see the problems generally more than the successes.

GP: You lettered the book too, eh?

TL: Yeah, I did everything. Basically they gave me the novel, well they didn’t give me the book, I had the novel, but they just said here’s the novel don’t fuck it up. More or less give us a graphic novel. I coloured it, lettered it, I did all that. Start to finish basically, yeah, it’s all mine, which is amazing to me that they let me do that. That they trusted me to do that, you know? That blows my mind.f&l scan2.png

GP: That was actually something I wanted to ask you about; one of my favourite things about the layouts is how you’ve got the typed text here that looks like prim and proper almost, and the lettering, I felt really goes along with the craziness of how their adventures are going, I really enjoyed…

TL: Thanks.

GP: …the way you laid that out, was it intentional, or a happy coincidence?

TL: Well I like hand lettering, I’m really drawn to that just because you can do more with it, right, that just a static little text, so for me particularly in this story it just added to the manic-ness of it all and you can really just punctuate what they’re saying or emphasize something and just play with it. And then the font on there it’s actually based on the font of a typewriter that Hunter would use. The electric typewriter he was partial too, I found the font base on that.

GP: That’s really cool. It’s a neat touch.

TL: But it’s subtle, (laughs)

GP: But it does look like a typewriter font, which really gives a nice touch to the pages. So you were down in Vegas for the Mint 400. How was that?

TL: Probably a lot different than it was in the 70’s, but I mean everything in Vegas from my experience now having been there twice is way different than in the 70’s. An when I read this book years ago, it left an impression of my head of what Vegas is like and it’s very commercialized since then. A lot of that is gone or buried so you have to really look for it, y’know? And you see like the Vegas Vick sign on Freemont, the cowboy? Like he’s just out front of a 99 cent souvenir store now, it just feels kinda depressing.

GP: It doesn’t have the same… sense of danger about it, eh?

TL: Yeah, I don’t wanna say it’s been cleaned up, but its cleaned up. It’s very touristy, an souvenir… everything’s a souvenir. Nice pen, by the way.

GP: Oh, thank you. Not sure where I got it from, but I think someone gave it to me, honestly. I wasn’t going to reuse a Star Wars pen. Did you see The Force Awakens?

TL: A few times…

GP: Yeah, me too… Going back to the serialization, do you know what extras will be included within the issues?

TL: Uh… I can show you, in fact. I was doing a comic journal of the trip that I was on, like the Vegas trips. I’m not sure if they’re going to include any of the preliminary sketches or any of that stuff, the thumbnails, like that show the process – they might, I don’t know – I don’t even know who’s doing the covers, right, so it’s going to be a surprise to me as much as anyone else. But while I was on tour I was keeping a comic journal. So the first one I did, [show the pages] all that stuff, and right now I working on what just happened at the Mint. So there’s gonna be that, and probably a lot of photos too. So, because we tried to recreate a bit of the Gonzo road trip, so we rented a red convertible and we started off at the polo lounge at the Beverly Hills, and I’ve got the Hunter Thompson get up going.

troy-little hunterGP: Right, yeah I wanted to ask you about that. One of the contributors at Graphic Policy had seen the press release picture of you in the Hunter S. Thompson get up and had wondered if it was an intentional cosplay, and I suppose that it was if you were in the get-up for the road trip?

TL: Yeah it was a little, I mean, it started out when I got this project it was really about getting into character much like an actor would in a sense, I really tried to get into the head of Hunter S. Thompson and read his books again and again, and I was watching the movies… no, I wasn’t watching Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, but I was watching the documentaries, an listening to him talk, listening to audio recordings of him when he did his journalism stuff, so I was really getting into his head space and even went so far as to build the Red Shark as a model kit, which I thought would be good for reference since I suck at drawing cars so I can use that as a quick reference. While I was at it I had this urge to get the patchwork jacket, so I found a guy in New Zealand who I commissioned to make me the jacket, and I ended up taking it to SDCC (2015) that year, with just the preview books, so we had a bunch of preview books and so I went over to the IDW booth in full get up to do the signing, and they said that was awesome.

I was kinda sketchy because I didn’t want to be a parody of Hunter S. Thompson, I didn’t want to make fun of him at all because I have a huge respect for him, so it was sort of a tongue in cheek homage to him. It is eye catchy and things like that so it sort of put the bug in their head, and I said you know what we should do, we should rent a convertible and drive across the desert, and so it sorta came to pass, you know?

GP: How was that, repeating the same road trip as Hunter after adapting the book?

TL: After drawing it, well, it was kinda like… we were on a different mission, for ure, we were doing book promotion so we were hitting book stores and we had that all organised, so we had a trunk full of books an art upplies as opposed to mescaline and ether, but again, so much has change [in Vegas] that’s it’s hard to make that same connection. It’s interesting for sure sitting in the Polo Lounge drinking for hours, and that’s where it all started, right? Although it’s hard to say with Fear and Loathing where the reality of it is and isn’t.

But it’s interesting for sure to put yourself in that place knowing that this is where it happened.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas #1GP: The comic journal you have there, you said you’ll be including that in the serialized four issues?

TL: Yeah, what we did what we call the Great White Whale edition, it’s a little bit bigger than this and we stripped out the colour to make it just black and white line art for one, adding in the comic journal, and photos and I don’t know what else. We’re breaking it all out over four issues so they’re gonna be big thick comics books.

GP: 48 pages, I think.

TL: Yeah, so they’re gonna be packed full of stuff. I know that in book stores it’s done really really well, but it’s not something people in comic stores would pick up on right away, so it was their idea to serialize it and say “hey comic book people, check this out!”

GP: Yeah, when I read that it was being serialized I remember thinking that at the time usually when a comic book/graphic novel combination are released it’s usually the comic book first.

TL: Yeah, this whole project came about because Ted Adams, who’s the publisher at IDW is a massive life-long HST fanatic, and this was his dream project, so what’s really fascinating to me, or blows my mind I should say, is that they went after the license for this for a long, long time to convince the estate that we can do this and we can do this right and we won’t mess it up, you know? When they finally got the rights they spent a year scouring everyone to write it and draw it. Jim Mahfood, Grant Morrison, all kinds of people had this pitched to them and not one hit the mark. And somehow, with everything they saw that just wasn’t right, I was told they had a meeting and [someone] said “look if we can’t do this right, we’ll just let our license slide – I’d rather not put out the book if we can’t do it right.”

Now I’m not on their radar, right, I’m doing Powerpuff Girls, but I have published with them before and someone there Denton Tipton who became the editor on this book he suggested what about Troy Little, and people said, I guess from what I’m told, “oh that could work. Ask him.” So it was literally out of the blue I was sending in Powerpuff Girls pages, and in an email that said “oh these pages look great. How would you feel about pitching Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas?”

It was diametrically opposed to what I was doing, so I spent a lot of time not doing it, but they finally gave me a hard deadline so I sent off a page and then thought I’d blown it.

Two days later I find out I got the job.

They told me that I was the first one out of probably hundreds of people in the comic industry – probably far more qualified than me in some ways – to nail the tone of the story with one page which floors me, you know? There’s a guy on the east coast of Canada doing the definitive book about the death of the American Dream. There’s something kinda poetic about that.f&l scan.png


Look for Part Two of this interview coming next month.

Valiant Summit Reveals More Diversity and Divinity

FUTURE-OF-VALIANT_001_FAITHFollowing the Valiant Summit presentation, I got to talk with Tom Brennan, one of Valiant’s associate editors, about the newly announced titles. Our conversation focused on diversity and representation. Valiant’s new line-up features female characters more prominently than ever before, and the summit also drew attention to several characters of color, a same-sex romance that serves as an emotional linchpin, and of course the body positivity for which Faith has been widely praised.

Brennan is particularly proud of Generation Zero, one of Valiant’s first team-driven titles, because it centers around female characters. In general, the ensemble-oriented titles that Valiant announced seem aware of avoiding the Smurfette Principle, making sure there are multiple distinct women whose emotions and growth are important in their own right. He pointed out that several female characters are responses to character types that we normally associate with male heroes. For example, he sees Faith as a Peter Parker figure – witty and upbeat, taking her powers as a blessing and trying to make the most of them.

FUTURE-OF-VALIANT_002_GEN-ZEROI also chatted with Matt Kindt, the writer of the Divinity series, whose Divinity III will premiere this fall as part of Valiant’s new slate. The premise of Divinity III builds on the previous installments, which center around Soviet cosmonauts who return from a secret deep-space mission with godlike powers. Divinity III will be set in a reality constructed by one of those cosmonauts, in which an oppressive Russian regime reigns supreme over the world. During the panel presentation, Kindt stressed that this “Stalinverse” was not an alternate universe or an illusion, but a real episode within Valiant continuity.

In our conversation, Kindt gave me more insight about how that will work. The Stalinverse will, of course, not be permanent. Ninjak, one of the core Valiant superheroes, will remember what the world is supposed to be like and will lead an effort to restore life as he knows it. But Ninjak and the other characters will remember the Stalinverse, and Kindt hopes that it will have repercussions on the greater continuity for a long time to come.

We don’t see a lot of comics influenced by Russian culture, so I asked Kindt how he’d become so captivated with it. He said he was inspired by the looming threat of the Cold War when he was growing up in the 1980s, going through nuclear bomb drills and being urged by adults to fear Russia as a looming enemy. Thirty years later, that threat has looped around, and people now ask him whether Putin is a real-life supervillain. He says he avoids direct comparisons like that one, or specific statements about Russian politics, but it’s always present in Divinity.

FUTURE-OF-VALIANT_007_DIVINITY-III-STALINVERSEOne of the strengths of Divinity is Kindt’s research into Russian culture and his avoidance of romanticized or exoticized representations. It sounds like this refreshing approach will continue in Divinity III, although with more opportunities for sci-fi in-jokes and playfulness as Kindt reinvents places and characters for the series.

Another element present in this chapter of Divinity is the influence of Philip K. Dick. Kindt says that Dick’s genes contribute not only to the political alternate reality of Divinity III but also to the pattern of altered minds and wills. He says Ninjak’s role in Divinity III will be reminiscent of many of Dick’s heroes, who have to prove they aren’t crazy in order to restore reality.

Talking with Kindt made me eager to dive into Divinity III, and not just because it’s easy to lure me in with a high-concept alternate universe. It sounds like this is a low-key way to develop an event that resonates across Valiant’s entire superhero universe without demanding lots of crossover reading. Throughout the Valiant Summit presentation, the editors and creators described the new titles as “entry points” for new readers to get excited about Valiant’s characters and mythos. While I’m uncertain of how effective some of the new titles will be in that respect, I’m optimistic that Divinity III will have enough standalone potential to attract new fans, not only to the Divinity series but to Valiant’s approach to superhero comics in general.

Dr. Chris Interviews Comic Book Writer Marv Wolfman

Radio of Horror‘s Dr. Chris sits down to talk with legendary comic book writer Marv Wolfman.

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