Category Archives: Interviews

Robert Kirkman Talks Oblivion Song and How He’s a Comic Book Kind of Guy

A decade ago 300,000 citizens of Philadelphia were suddenly lost in Oblivion. The government made every attempt to recover them but after many years they gave up. Nathan Cole… won’t. He makes daily trips, risking his life to try and rescue those lost, alone and afraid, living in the apocalyptic hellscape of Oblivion. But maybe… Nathan is looking for something else? Why can’t he resist the siren call of the Oblivion Song?

Oblivion Song is the new comic series from writer Robert Kirkman, artist Lorenzo De Felici, colorist Annalisa Leoni, and letterer Rus Wooton being published by Skybound Entertainment and Image Comics.

The series follows Nathan Cole as he goes into another dimension, the Oblivion, looking for survivors, a sci-fi story that’s unique in many ways, not just on the page but also the lead up to its release on March 7, 2018.

Kirkman and De Felici have worked on the comic for over a year allowing them to polish the story which included adding pages to earlier issues after reading later ones. The lesson is not to rush to market, it can help make a much better comic. With a sibling Kirkman felt the

The core concept of the series is the guilt the main character feels and his search for his brother. Unlike Kirkman’s Walking Dead and Invincible, this series is about two brothers as opposed to father and son. There’s unique aspects to the relationship and there’s dynamics there that don’t exist elsewhere due to that relationship. It’s an area that yields to a lot of story potential.

Nathan is an aspirational character who see injustice and wants to do something about it. In an interview roundtable, Kirkman said it was fun to write a character who’s willing to make sacrifices. A character, that can be put on a pedestal and be admired.

De Felici has been in comics for a long time, and Kirkman was directed towards him by Cory Walker about three years ago. The style is unique that lends itself well to a monster heavy series. He has a background in science that is being brought to the series. The series needs someone who can do a scene in a cafe over coffee and an entire alien ecosystem. He’s able to juggle both worlds.

We were able to participate in a roundtable discussion of which you can find our questions below.

Graphic Policy: With your success in other media, has it changed your approach to this at all?

Robert Kirkman: It’s something I try to ignore but I can’t but think the kind of things that get translated into other media have universal appeal. The kind of comics that seem to have universal appeal. The kind of comics I like to do have universal appeal.

It’s not like I sit around with artists thinking about things that can easily be translated into a cool movie or television show.

It’s a goal of coming up with something that entertains yourself. That entertains a lot of people. It could lend itself to another medium. As long as you strive for something as interesting as possible or as cool as possible it somehow is tailor made for this kind of thing.

This doesn’t seem like it’d lend itself to another medium, but we’ll see. It’s always in the back of mind just because I’ve had success in the past. But, I’m a comic book writer first and foremost.

When I sit down to come up with an idea for a comic book it’s really about if it’s something that I’d enjoy doing? Does it excite me? Will it make a cool comic book? Any thought about another medium is secondary.

I’m a comics first kind of guy.

GP: The first issue strikes me as something that reflects a lot on the years after the United States and Vietnam? There’s the wall, not leaving someone behind.

RK: That’s all there. That’s a perfect example of a time in our history of these themes. That’s something I drew from because it’s all there. It’s a perfect example of how people reacted so it’d be foolish for me to not acknowledge that.

GP: The first issue touches on PTSD with a few characters. How much is that explored in the series?

RK: That’s a big part of the first year of the book. What they would have gone through. How they would have survived. And that I think is the aspect that most resembles The Walking Dead. This is the type of Walking Dead story where someone could have lived in a zombie apocalypse for ten years and then somehow could have gone home. I think that’s really exciting because it changes the story dynamic up from what I’ve been doing with The Walking Dead. It’s also a great minefield for story development. How does someone survive in another dimension? Scavenge for food? Fighting for survival? And then one day go through a portal and Starbucks is down the street and rent’s due. You have to get back to life. There’s a great bit of potential there.

That’s something we’ll be exploring with Duncan and newer characters that are being rescued that have to acclimate to life on Earth.

GP: You tackled a bunch of different genres and now sci-fi. How’s it feel to you as a writer to go in a whole new direction.

RK: I’ve done a lot of horror and there’s some horror aspects to this but to have new tools in the tool box and to be able to expand what you can do with your storyline is really rewarding. I think the thing that keeps me energized in comics, that gets me to want to write me, is the fact that you can do a wide range of things. I do have freedom to do whatever I want. To be able to bounce between genres and expand what I’m known for is a great opportunity. TO be able to dive into a whole new genre and tell all sorts of different stories is really excited for me. I’m happy to do it and hopefully I’ll be able to do it all kinds of times on all kinds of books going forward.

GP: There’s a memorial scene in the first issue that’s very interesting and there’s a poem on it. Is there any significance to the poem?

RK: Yeah, there’s significance behind everything. I’m not going to get into where that’s going. There’ll definitely be focus put on that in the future. You were meant to notice it.

GP: The series is heavy sci-fi, how much thought towards the tech of the world have you done?

RK: That’s crazy sci-fi fun. There’s not too much basis in reality there. We try to think of pseudo-science things that sound logical to a certain extent. We talk about molecule vibration and tuning into one dimension or another. As far as functionality of things, we wanted to play up the aspect that this is busted beaten up technology that’s been used for ten years. A belts malfunctioning in the first issue. We wanted it to feel like duct tape and ripping wires apart to get it to work. We wanted it to feel real world but taken for granted.

I’ve always loved George Lucas’ concept of “used future” that he did in THX and then Star Wars. That these are lived in and not being used for the first time. This is not clean in a way that some sci-fi things are clean.

We wanted everything to be used, dirty, and functional. You’ll see this is a guy who’s been doing this for ten years and lost his funding and trying to make it work somehow and often times it doesn’t work.

GP: So, you have one series that hasn’t dealt in the “why” of it. Will this one, will we find out the “why” as to all of it has happened.

RK: Yes, absolutely, we’ll find out. We’ll slowly pull back the layers as to what occurred and how it occurred as the series progresses. There’ll be various different stages along the way. We’ll get a piece here and a piece here. This will be a fun mystery as it comes together. This is not a story where I won’t be answering how it has happened. It will be revealed as the series goes on.

Talking Dead Reckoning, Naval Institute Press’ Graphic Novel Line Debuting in 2018

Dead Reckoning LogoNaval Institute Press is setting its sights on the comic industry with their new imprint Dead Reckoning. Announced in October 2017, the new line of comics and graphic novels will launch in the Fall 2018 with full-length original graphic novels and collections of classic comics with a special focus on military and naval history, military and naval biography, general history, and stories of the high seas.

I got to ask Assistant Acquisitions Editor/Graphic Novel Lead Gary Thompson what we can expect from this exciting new comic publisher.

Graphic Policy: Why did the Naval Institute Press decide to create a graphic novel imprint in Dead Reckoning?

Gary Thompson: For us, it just made sense. Comics and graphic novels are big business, and we think we can make a contribution to the field. Publishing graphic novels was something that I wanted and brought up in a discussion with the press director. He was game and we happened to have a pitch for a graphic novel that was sent to us years prior but withered on the vine because no one knew what to do with it. I contacted David Axe, who had submitted that original pitch, and we started talking. The idea at first was we would take on this project and try our hand at publishing a single graphic novel.

Once we opened that door, though, things began to snowball. There were a number of small factors that we discussed that helped point us in the direction of doing something larger, but seeing how it could benefit our mission and objectives really helped to drive the decision home.

GP: What was the process like coming to the decision? What did you all observe about the comics industry that you felt this was a direction to go in?

GT: Once we decided to commit to doing a single book, we started looking at publishing graphic novels on a broader scale. We discussed everything from the audience to the market to the method and questioned everything all along the way. Why publish only one book? Why would anyone carry a single book from an outlier publisher? Haven’t there been several publishers who came into the market unprepared and ignorant only to go belly-up after a book or two? What keeps us from the same fate? And so on. The more we questioned what came before and the state of the industry now, the more shape our concept started to take.

We looked at the sustained growth in the comics market and saw that there was an opportunity for mutual benefit. In general, more people are reading, and that’s a good sign. With that growing readership, there is also a broadening landscape of stories people want to read, which is also a good sign. To us, that looks like an opportunity. We work with a specific topic that happens to be underrepresented in comics when you compare it to other media. Several publishers do a military or war book here and there, which is great, but with our entrance into the market it provides a chance for us give a broad swath of good stories a logical home and, hopefully, provide an outlet for other stories who typically get no home at all.

GP: You mention having both fiction and non-fiction comics. Will you also have some focused on philosophy or strategy that aren’t narrative focused like your prose?

GT: It depends. There’s some room out there for books that explore concepts like those in a sequential way, but the marketability of the topic is key. I think it’s important that we be open to possibilities that present the right combination of topic and execution when it comes around. Off the top of my head, I don’t see a book like that happening anytime soon. But if there’s someone out there who could make something interesting, informative, and marketable? That would be a hell of a feat and I would love to see it.

GP: Where are you in the process of production? You mention an initial 5 titles then expanding to 10-12 the next year. Do you have the initial five titles already?

GT: They are all pretty much finished and have moved on to the next stages of production. We are all paying a lot of attention to this initial transition from editorial to production so we can establish and solidify a smooth process. I’m also working through the initial 2019 releases.

GP: Is it only going to be graphic novels or will there be ongoing “floppy” comics too? Will these be single volumes or multi-volume stories?

GT: I love my monthly comics, but we have no plans to enter that arena. I want our books to have a beginning, middle, and end, and I think that’s where the readership is going, too. For now, everything we have in development is single volume, but we are open to the idea of multi-volume stories.

Since we are just getting on our feet we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves and end up biting off more than we can chew. Any multi-volume series would have to be limited to two or three volumes at most.

GP: What will be the process of choosing the comics to produce? Is it open submission? Will you seek out talent?

GT: It’s a bit of everything. We have books in development where I started with an idea and reached out to people to make it happen, others are books I have solicited after talking to creators at conventions, and for the time being we have completely open submissions as well.

We only just announced the imprint in early October, but this is something I have been working on for years. Once we decided to make an imprint, I immediately I started going to conventions with the sole purpose of introducing myself, talking to people about the imprint, and soliciting pitches. That’s hard to do when no one has heard of you and there isn’t a catalog they can easily look at to reference the type of books you are interested in publishing. But the more conventions I have gone to the more the word got out, and I started getting calls from people that I had never met who got my information from someone else who I never met. The first time that happened was wild.

Going forward, I’ll keep pairing talent for certain titles and adaptations we want made, but we will have open submissions and I will encourage anyone who has an idea they think would work for us to submit.

IIlustration by Bill Reinhold from the upcoming graphic novel The Flying Column.

IIlustration by Bill Reinhold from the upcoming graphic novel The Flying Column.

GP: You have an impressive catalog of prose books, will you be adapting any of them into comics?

GT: Yes! That is something we are actively doing now. We hope to have several adaptations of our previously published books out in the future.

When we first started brainstorming what we wanted Dead Reckoning to be, adaptations were high on this list of desires. One of the biggest opportunities we have in launching this imprint is the possibility of introducing some of these stories to a new audience. Military history is rife with great stories that Hollywood has mined for decades, so why not comics? In fact, comics provides a better medium because Hollywood tends to only be interested in telling a simplified subset of military history. When you have to sink hundreds of millions of dollars into a single film, it better have the kind of appeal only a crowd-pleasing blockbuster can provide. Even though comics are expensive to make, the risk isn’t quite that high. We have more latitude to publish a different variety of stories – more honest and more nuanced.

GP: How do you see comics and its visual power adding to your goals of advancing the “professional, literary, and scientific understanding of sea power and other issues of critical global security?” What does the comic medium add that prose might not?

GT: The comics medium is exceptionally powerful for conveying information. While there is certainly nothing wrong with prose, when one of your stated goals as an institution is spreading understanding and encouraging thought, you must concern yourself with accessibility. Prose works are important and indispensable, but at some point general knowledge becomes specialized knowledge. What we typically publish is very specialized in goals and execution, but many of the building blocks of those books are not. They are the same kinds of history and personal stories that millions of people read about or discuss every day. What comics will allow us to do is to take some of those building blocks that are frequently relegated to the realm of specialized knowledge and bring them into that of general knowledge. Comics makes telling complicated and nuances stories easier and more comprehensible, and that speaks to the heart of the Institute’s mission.

GP: In your announcement you mentioned the long history of comics in telling stories about war and the military. Even Captain America’s debut was advocating for the US entry into World War II. Many of the early giants of the industry were in the military and served in some fashion. What are your thoughts on this “graphic journalism” in capturing military history? Do you all plan on spotlighting some of that history of comics through your publishing efforts or other ways?

GT: The Institute has always done what it can to honor veterans and the contributions they have made in and out of uniform. Dead Reckoning will be no different. We are still discussing some of the specifics on how we will do that, but the contributions of men and women who have both served our country and played an important role in comic’s past and present will never be far from our mind.

GP: The Government has created comics in the past for the use by the military. Any chance you might reproduce some of those for a new audience to see and study?

GT: I think there’s a possibility there that we will be keeping an eye on. Most of the comics the military has created have been very instructional, so finding a way to collect them in print isn’t a priority at the moment. But a graphical historical piece that looks at how the military has used comics — Grampaw Pettibone, Willie and Joe, maintenance manuals – could be interesting.

GP: Digital comics have risen over the years and there’s been some impressive ones taking on history like Operation Ajax which mixed real historical documents and video into the comic to teach. How does that fit into this new venture?

GT: More than anything I am most concerned with putting out quality books on paper. That isn’t to say we aren’t interested in the possibilities that new technologies bring to the table, but we have to stand before we can run.

We are at an interesting nexus in publishing right now where we can see so many possibilities, but knowing which ones to invest in will always be a challenge. You don’t have to look back very far to see people declaring the imminent death of print (for the Nth time) because of ebooks. Today it’s easy to see how that shook out. Ebooks are nice, but their sales aren’t going to change the industry. Instead, they are another arrow in the quiver to introduce new content to new audiences. And what we have now with digital comics and VR comics is another new horizon for the industry. Will they flourish? Will they fade? I can’t say. Both formats offer up some compelling opportunities, but I want to watch them for a little while. If they prove a valuable asset to the mission, then there’s no reason they shouldn’t be considered thoughtfully.

GP: With prose there’s a focus on getting facts down but in comics there’s the visual aspect added in. How meticulous will you be to make sure all of the visuals are accurate to reality for what you produce?

GT: That depends on the book. We certainly appreciate accuracy and readers of military history are passionate about it, but demanding a hard and fast line on accuracy is a good way to stifle creativity. So far, as we’ve been putting together our first books, I’ve gauged how accurate something should be on what kind of story it’s trying to tell. If your book is the graphic novel version of a seminal battle in military history, you bet accuracy is important. But if you are looking to tell a personal story about your internal conflicts while deployed I’m not going to be terribly concerned with how accurate your Humvees are.

GP: Do you know if the Navy currently uses comics to teach or train?

GT: Not to the best of my knowledge. I believe the Army still puts together instructional comics for things like taking care of your weapon or vehicle maintenance, but that might be it.

GP: What’s the most exciting thing you all are looking forward to with this new venture?

GT: There are so many it’s hard to say! I suppose, in a broad sense, I’m most excited about the possibilities that come with doing something new.

When talking to creators, I’ve told them that in our own small way, I hope we can play our part to make the American comic market look a bit more like the European and Japanese ones. Certainly, we have a niche, and while you will see it executed in more ways than the traditional war comic, it’s a relatively well-defined area where we can play, experiment, and try new things. So fiction, non-fiction, historical fiction, science fiction, espionage, traditional comics creators, independent creators, unpublished talents, and pretty much everything between. I want Dead Reckoning to represent all facets of the comics world and, hopefully, offer up something for every type of reader, both present and future.

We all know this is a nearly limitless medium. The possibilities are staggering. But ultimately, my biggest hopes lie on two sides of the same coin: Introducing our topics to dedicated comic readers, and introducing comics to regular readers of our topics.

GP: Thanks so much for chatting and look forward to seeing what you all release!

2018 Schomburg Black Comic Book Fest: Florence Kasumba Talks Black Panther

Florence Kasumba plays Ayo in this February’s Black Panther and previously in Captain America: Civil War “move or be moved”. She’s a broadway actress and martial artist!

At the 2018 Schomburg Black Comic Book Fest she commented that a challenge in Black Panther was fighting with a Spear when she is used to fighting with a sword (badass!!).

Also apparently when a group of physically fit black women with shaved heads in Lycra show up at the Apple store to buy watches the sales clerks ask in hushed and awed tones “who are you ladies?” I’m presuming they thought they were either super models or super heroes.

She is being interviewed by Kevin Young, the director of the NY Public Libraries Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Ian Flynn Takes Us to the Cosmo(s). Plus Exclusive Look at Cosmo #2!

Get ready for out of this world fun in the ALL-NEW sci-fi adventure series Cosmo! Join Cosmo and his Martian crew as they find adventure and dangers in the deepest corners of space!

Writer Ian Flynn, artists Tracy Yardley, Matt Herms, and Jack Morelli bring back this classic character courtesy of Archie Comics.

We got a chance to talk to Ian about the series and its long history.

Graphic Policy: How did you come on board writing Cosmo?

Ian Flynn: I’ve had a long working relationship with Archie Comics. They know I can do a fun, fast-paced kind of story and could update Cosmo just the way they wanted it.

GP: The character was created in the late 50s. Did you go back to read what came out before? Were you familiar with the property when you came on board?

IF: I read the entire original run of Cosmo for research and loved its quirky, unapologetically insane ideas.

GP: I noticed the original run was rather short, so I’d guess there’s a lot more room to work with than a character with decades of continuity. As a writer, is that easier? More difficult?

IF: For me it’s a fantastic opportunity. There’s just enough material there to serve as an inspiration, but not so much that it has generated a hardcore base that is resistant to change. We can update the characters with modern sensibilities, embrace its themes of wacky adventure, and forge new directions with the narrative.

GP: What are you bringing back from the original run?

IF: They’re Martians for one thing (haha!). Most of the original crew is back with a few tweaks: Astra now serves as the daredevil pilot instead of “the girlfriend,” Jojo has some surprises, and Prof. Thimk has been replaced by Medulla – although the old professor may be showing up again one day. There’s some other classic elements set to return, but I don’t want to spoil them!

GP: You’re working with Tracy Yardley and Matt Herms on the series, both of whom you’ve worked with before. How much easier is it to write for a team you’re familiar with? I’d imagine there’s differences than with a new artist?

IF: It’s always nice to go in with a team that I already know since I can write to their strengths. I can expect them to render scenes a certain way and cater to what they do well and what they’ll enjoy. Plus I know Tracy and Matt are a phenomenal pair of artists, so I’m lucky to have my scripts in their hands.

GP: One of the original reasons for the character’s creation was for a family-appropriate comic for children interested in the space race. With all of the talk of STEM and kids today, is today’s space race something you want to touch upon with your take?

IF: Not so much the modern space race as a general appreciation for astronomy. It’s a hobby of my own, and I hope that by having the crew explore our own Solar System and beyond readers will catch on to my love of space and maybe get into it themselves.

GP: You’ve written a lot of comics whose primary audience is kids. Is that and audience you particularly enjoy writing for?

IF: I primarily write for everybody. They may be marketed to a younger audience, but there’s something in my work for everyone.

GP: Are there challenges in writing for kids that you might not have with adults?

IF: Not especially. I treat them the same as adults. I’ll use different language for a kids’ project, be more mindful of what I put in there overtly, but it’s mostly the same process. Kids are a lot smarter than most give them credit for, and will rise to understand something that challenges them.

GP: You’ve worked on Sonic and other Archie titles with long runs. For you as a writer, what’s some of the differences in writing for that as opposed to a brand new series like Cosmo?

IF: They’re completely different beasts. Cosmo is coming onto the scene with very little outside influence and expectations and has a chance to flourish and grow in so many ways.

GP: What else do you have on tap for 2018?

IF: Along with Cosmo I’m writing Mighty Crusaders for Archie, along with co-writing Archie with Mark Waid. For everything else, folks can check out what I’m up to on my website: www.BumbleKing.com.

GP: Thanks so much for chatting!

Check out the exclusive look at Cosmo #2 below!

COSMO #2

Script: Ian Flynn
Art: Tracy Yardley, Matt Herms, Jack Morelli
Cosmo #2 CVR A Reg: Tracy Yardley
Cosmo #2 CVR B Var: Jamal Peppers
Cosmo #2 CVR C Var: Evan Stanley
On Sale Date: 2/7
32-page, full color comic
$3.99 U.S.

NEW ONGOING SERIES! “Space Aces” – Part Two: When a lunar rescue mission takes a turn for the worse, Cosmo and crew must make a daring escape from a chaotic carnival of creatures! This is one thrill ride you won’t want to miss!

Coyotes Interview: A Chat With Sean Lewis and Caitlin Yarsky

Recently, I wrote a review for the newest Image series Coyotes, a violent tale of girls and women getting revenge on the ravenous beasts that terrorize them. The miniseries is brought to us by Sean Lewis and Caitlin Yarsky, two amazing creators working in perfect sync with each other. They took time from their busy schedules to talk to me about the series, the inspiration for it, themes, art, and a wee bit of nerding over other comics which I’m always down for.

Ben Howard: Let’s start at the beginning. Well, not the beginning beginning because that would take too long. Let’s talk about the beginning of Coyotes. How did this idea develop and when did you guys meet up to execute it?

Caitlin Yarsky: Well, Sean came to me with the idea and script already pretty fleshed out. I had submitted a couple sample pages of my personal comic to a company’s Facebook page, and that’s how Sean found my work. He sent me an email asking if I’d like to collaborate, and I jumped at it because the story was amazing and I was able to imagine the world and characters right away.

Sean Lewis: I had written the first issue sometime around the run of Saints. It was before I had written The Few. Most of the time if an idea starts in my head as an image I 69c63825861183.5634be1816125know it is a comic book, if it starts as dialogue I usually turn it into a play. I just had an image of Red, this teen girl with a Katana blade. I had done some research for a play commission about women going missing in different parts of the world and the way the information was formulating itself in my head was very metaphorical. The big one was looking at Mexico and “Coyotes” who smuggle people across borders (and who often times can be menacing and predatory). I started to think what if the Coyotes in this book were coyotes. Werewolves. But with a Southwestern spin. I did research on werewolves after that and realized that men had been tried in the past for being werewolves and hunting women and other victims. They often claimed to be werewolves. Typically, a pelt is what transformed them. Once all that info got in my head I was off and running. I wrote the first issue and then needed an artist who could bring a story book quality to the book. Who would be able to really deconstruct some of the form of a comic book and could offer a feminine perspective, counterpoint and eye to the proceedings. I spend a lot of time going through Behance and Facebook and Twitter looking for undiscovered artists or artists interested in comics but from other fields. Caitlin was from video game design but I found some sequential art samples on a Facebook page and then wrote the entirely awkward “I found your art online and this is for real” email. This all happened about two years ago. We immediately started talking design and world and building the book from there. It’s actually been very cool and organic and we both have seen each others’ abilities grow so much since we first started the day dream part of this book.

BH: Nice! It’s interesting to me how both of you came from non-comics fields. Sean, you’re originally a playwright. And, Caitlin, you came from illustration and game design. What is it about comics that attracts you both?

CY: I think illustration inherently works so well with storytelling and can bleed into a lot of other fields, like animation, film, game design, comics, etc. I’ve made comics on my own since I was a kid but never did anything with them, and never knew it could a viable career path. But once it clicked a few years ago that it was possible, I focused all my energy into that field. I’ve always loved imagining what characters and worlds from my favorite books would look like, and often imagine “shots” or “panels” when reading a fantasy or sci-fi book. It’s just a really thrilling challenge to try and create a visual world for a story that resonates with me.

SL: I’ve always just loved comics. I mean, I never knew how you actually got a job writing them. I remember writing the obligatory letter to Marvel in my early twenties while living on my uncle’s couch. You know, the one that says “I’ve been a life long fan, I’d love to write/how do I write comics?” Needless to say I still haven’t heard back. I wouldn’t have been ready at that point, anyway. I think comics are really important. I really love them as a form and I am really curious how the form can be pushed and what new things can happen. I mean, they’re still this tactile entertainment. You hold it in your hands (unless it’s digital, I know, I know) and there is this fascinating magic that happens as you turn each page. It really still does hold that sense of joy that flip books did when I was a kid. And you can literally create myth and metaphor. In theater you can really create reflections– all you have is dialogue to create a context and a world– so the default is realism. Because we live in realism we can accept it in the theater more easily. Comic books, man, you can go anywhere. You can make a story that is truly larger than life in the hopes that the story will help you understand the world a little more. You can say, “I feel so isolated and alone. I want to talk about depression but in a universal way. So… what if a boy lived on the moon?” And suddenly people understand you and others better. The metaphor brings us in. I mean, for me, all my writing comes from me trying to understand what I believe in. What I feel?  I have a lot of surface opinions–if you ask me a social or political question I’ll give you an answer from my gut. But there are times where I sit back and I say “what do I actually believe or think about this?” Stories let me discover that. And I think we need myth now. Because there is a lot of noise. So much noise. So much anger and rage. So many people digging in their heels and yelling, refusing to interact, listen, progress. But we all like myth. We all like zombies and werewolves and space stations and human beings trying to survive and trying to be better. I feel really lucky to be doing comics. It’s really connected me with the kid who devoured Preacher and Sandman in 8th grade. It’s reminded me how much I needed those books. I think I need these books again.

BH: What about Image– especially you Sean since this is your third project with them– made them the ideal publisher of the book?

SL: Well, Image is the only place I’ve worked at this point. They’ve just always shown such faith in what I was doing. I think Eric Stephenson and his staff really love comics in general but they also really believe in taking risks, in trying to push the form forward and seeing what a comic and a creator can do. I’m obsessed with slow burn novels, old horror movies, surreal foreign films… I mean Coyotes itself has influences as wide ranging as Kurosawa and Tarantino to the Brothers Grimm and Susan Sontag. Image is the kind of place you can say all of that and then add: “there are werewolves!” And they get excited. I think that trust also works well for me because I’m really focused on the arc of a book– the full journey and not the month by month sales. They get that and support that. The freedom they offer is just unbelievable.

BH: Let’s get into the actual story. I remember in reading previous interviews you did Sean is that a lot of what inspired Coyotes are women that have disappeared, either never being found or later found and meeting devastating fates. It feels like this story is coming from a place of anger, of a need for cathartic relief and rebellious hope. I know that you said the coyotes are inspired by human traffickers, but for me while reading they represented violence against women as a whole, particularly patriarchal violence. But that’s just me. What do you think you and Caitlin are saying with Coyotes and contextualizing it through both story and art?

SL: I think that’s incredibly astute. The intellectual start was research I had done for a play and stories my wife had told me. But the emotional drive of the book has been angry. And I don’t know why. I mean, recently Weinstein and other current news make it seem obvious, but Caitlin and I started this book two years ago. I think I’ve felt anger around me in general. Anger about gender. Anger about guns. Anger about race. About poverty. About beliefs. The Few started from an intellectual look at that anger but it became about belief. This twisted in a different way. Once I had the primal image of the Coyotes-1_preview.jpgcoyotes/werewolves, I think that did something. It made me think of the minor ways that boys are taught to be aggressive– How many movies tell boys if a girl says no to a date they should keep trying until the girl realizes how special he is? It’s a lesson in self value but can go awry and become all about getting what you want, not giving up. I fell in love with Red while writing it because she’s like a new day. Post-post-everything in a world where political correctness and the illusion of safety are eroded. How does she make her world? The wolves are angry at a world they lost, the women at one they’ve had to endure. Something new has to come out of it and sadly rarely does anyone get what they want.

CY: I definitely tried to convey Sean’s idea that these coyotes represent violence against women, often drawing the coyotes as a sort of wave when they come into the story. It is meant to feel like a flood of unstoppable aggression coming from all sides, an inescapable force of nature. I also tried to push the characters’ feelings of helplessness, shame and anger after the attacks, which I think is something that will resonate with readers.

BH: That part about them coming in waves is a great artistic quality I didn’t even think about. It also reminds me how much I love the narrative style of Coyotes. Visually, it reminds me of a fairy tale but mixed with horror and hardcore action films like Kill Bill. It’s interesting how much these real world issues are being filtered through genre. They’re disturbing, yes, but somehow makes it easier to swallow. Do you think that fantasy and fiction was the best way to face these issues head on? Perhaps something with a much more satisfying outcome than realism could provide?

SL: Oh, absolutely. And all of the things you mentioned are direct influences on the comic. As a writer, genre for me is kind of like a dress. The theme, the philosophy, the politics, the relationships: those are the body of the story. They are the arms, the legs, the beating heart. In the end, they will be what grabs you, what makes the story run, what lets the audience care. Genre is what I dress it in. The Few was about belief, how and why human beings believe in what they do but that was dressed in sci-fi. Coyotes is about how we define and degrade human beings- how we demand value in the face of that- dressed in horror. Genre, it kind of gives the audience a loophole. I mean, we see it. It’s hard to talk about anything of actual social importance anymore. We are angry. We are divided. Saying this is a meditation on politics of any sort gives no entry way to the reader, right now. They say: “I know what I believe and fuck you.” Genre, diffuses it. “I love horror but I hate politics, so maybe I’ll try it.” And then when you read it (hopefully) you get interested in the people. Politics are just people. We forget that. We’ve let politicians and mouth pieces and networks turn it into some larger than life abstraction, a catch all– politics as a villainous other.  The Latin of ‘politics’ basically means “as relating to the citizens.” Or, as  I like to think it, “how does this effect the people?” I love people even though they scare me. And most political issues confuse me. They are very complicated. Each book for me is an exploration of what I believe. And hopefully for the readers too. And even for myself, I need it dressed up.  I need a werewolf to let me engage with it in an honest way, right now.

CY: It’s a little ironic, but wrapping up real world issues in fantastic settings helps people see those issues more clearly and objectively. We carry around so much baggage and bias when faced with social and political rhetoric that looking through another lens can cause you to empathize and think differently. That’s one of my favorite things about sci-fi and fantasy.

BH: It’s a good thing that you talk about how people are politics. I certainly see this in the cast. Red, Eyepatch, Duchess, all these women are uniquely designed and detailed, each with their own unique voice and style. And I find it funny how women like Duchess and the Victorians dress so proper yet curse like sailors. What was the creative process for you and Caitlin in bringing these women to life?

SL: Hahaha. It was pretty great. Caitlin and I are close in age and we have a lot of the same touchstones: Sandman and Tank Girl are two of the biggest ones. Is it weird to say we just wanted to go “a little bananas”? I had this idea that the women in the train station dressed in Victorian garb. That was in the initial document. Most of my first drafts are very gut. I usually have no idea what’s going on, but it’s all images and characters and chaos that I’m excited by. And then as I get into plotting the rest of the arc/story, I use those initial reactions to dictate what threads I need to follow. Caitlin is amazing. I mean, at this point people have seen her art, but as a collaborator too, I knew from her work that if I gave her space with these gut ideas I had that she would turn them into something really amazing. The Duchess was the first Victoria I saw. I had wanted a parasol, that’s all I remember. And when I saw her in this full garb I was in love. There was something weirdly punk rock in my mind about this stark violent world and a group of warrior women dressed so proper, so covered, so formal. I always loved that juxtaposition. Collaboration wise, we talk a lot. We’ve been working on the book for awhile now. Lots of emails, lots of Skype, lots of messenger. But we really are on the same page and trust each other. We show each other the early work in our discipline and we listen to each other. I think that’s been my experience on creator-owned books. It’s like raising a child. You both are invested and so you have to both be on the same page, trust and get excited by what the other is doing.

CY: I think Sean’s description of the Victorias actually informed the design aesthetic ofVictorians.jpg the rest of the world, which seems backwards but worked well for us. It freed us to design everything in a surreal and anachronistic way, not totally tied to reality. We went back and forth discussing comics, films and books that inspire us until we landed on this steampunk/vintage feel for the characters that became ubiquitous throughout the world.

BH: Red is our protagonist yet also the most elusive person. She sometimes seems to be plotting her own course, other times just a shell to act out the Victorians commands. Why did you decide to choose a child as a protagonist and how would you define her?

SL: I think her being a child is part of her contradictions. I wanted someone who is at the beginning of their individual thought. As the book unfolds, characters will be revealed as different arms of feminist and capitalistic thought. And they will all want to influence Red. The Victoria’s are one militant wave of thought. They’ve been hunted enough and want retribution now. They will force change. They will not be victims. We will meet characters in conflict with this and then we will have Red. Red is discovering– in a fucked up and violent world that has taken so much from her– who she really is. I think that’s what I want from comics though it might make me an outlier. I don’t believe in fully formed heroes. I want to see people become the best version of themselves. I want to see that struggle because I live that struggle.

Red

BH: I definitely agree with you on preferring half-formed characters that evolve, Sean. Protagonists that already have everything just seem boring to me. And the greatest impediment on Red, on all the girls and women in this story, are the coyotes. Fairy tales and horror stories (both similar types of stories if you really think about it) often feature beastly antagonists, often male-coded, which can offer great commentary on gender such as you’re doing right now. My personal theory is that they’re a commentary on toxic masculinity. What is your thought on the type of commentary the coyotes represent?

SL: I think toxic masculinity for sure. Predatory behavior. I had a weird moment a few months ago. I was in a hotel and I was flipping through channels looking for something mindless and fun and I saw Wedding Crashers was on TBS. And I was like well this should do it…and it kind of hit me just how toxic that movie is. Guys go to weddings and prey on the emotions of women there, they lie to them and then have sex. One of them eventually feels bad about it. It made me think about other films I grew up with. I love 80s movies. Like old school B-movies but also lots of John Hughes. And so many of those movies are about guys who have crushes on girls who aren’t interested in them. And the people around them keep saying: “Don’t worry about her saying no. Don’t stop at that. Try again. Win her.” And we root for that. We have been taught that. It’s complicated because it’s a cultural thing– and if it’s cultural it means everyone is either to blame or there is something innate in us and how we live that demands it. I’d hope it was more choice than nature. But I also think there is a lot of inward looking. There was a time in my life where I loved Wedding Crashers and howled and laughed mindlessly at its premise. Now I don’t at all. So what does that mean? These men in Coyotes putting on the pelts– is it solely that they want power or is there something deep within them it brings out that they know is there? To me, that is the real horror in the book.

CY: Toxic masculinity is a spot-on description. The coyotes evoke a sense of dread that makes the characters afraid to go out at night, to go anywhere alone. They are that ever present threat of violence women face around the world. And the Victorias are a visceral reaction to this threat; they offer a simple solution to a complex problem (the one that exists in the real world I mean), and hopefully that brings some catharsis to readers.

Coyotes

BH: Let’s talk about the setting. In your previous books, Sean, you captured the American landscape through two separate but equally relevant lenses. With Saints, it was religion. With The Few, it felt like modern political tensions. But here we have a setting that’s south of the border. Aside from the ties to coyotes, what else about the setting did you feel fit the story?

SL: I was really interested in places where we allow bad things to happen. Where we know that violence, murder, and chaos happens but we willingly turn a blind eye. It could be Central and South America or any third world country on the planet. I did a theater project in Rwanda. And I was amazed at all the international businesses there. My friend, who was Rwandan, said “they came after the genocide. They can do whatever they want here and they can do it cheap.” That idea stayed with me. We accept some places are dangerous. We accept that people disappear in some places. I obviously wanted to explore gender and I wanted it to be in a desert. An empty canvas. A place that can be bought and sold. A place abandoned by law and decency. A place where we are left to our own devices to become as good or as bad as we are.

BH: I haven’t even mentioned Detective Coffey yet, and he was the character that took me most by surprise. At first, I thought he would be just another obstacle for Red, another patriarchal unit of control. However, the backstory you guys wrote about him after the main story revealed more about him. How do you see him fitting into this narrative about women fighting monstrous men?

SL: I wanted a Frank Miller character who would be utterly useless in this world. I grew up reading hard-nosed detectives who were uber-masculine and took control of a room, broke some rules and everything would be solved by them. I liked a character like that, who we would assume we knew what to expect from, who is then thrown out of joint by the world he finds himself in. I think he is my dad and my uncles and sometimes even me in our current landscape. He is an idea of manliness in a world that rejects their need for him. I thought that would be interesting. What do you do when everything you grew up with– all the reinforcement, all the lessons, all the things that have told you how you are supposed to behave– suddenly disappears from underneath you. It’s a necessity but it’s jarring.

Coffee.jpg

BH: Excellent. I can’t wait to see how this series unfolds. Let’s wrap things up with two final questions. What do you hope for in the future for the series?

SL: I hope we can do it for some extended period. Indie comics are hard. Books about the world are hard. A book about women hunting male werewolves with samurai swords is also hard. The people who found Saints are amazing. The people who found The Few are amazing. I feel really beholden to them. And to this form. I think comic books can really do some amazing things. They can let us deal with real world issues in metaphor– so we might actually deal with things we feel uncomfortable with. Clearly, I am proud of Coyotes. Caitlin’s work is amazing. We have a lot planned but like all indie books you cross your fingers that you’ll get the chance to play them out.

CY: Working with Sean has been incredible– his writing fires up my imagination so easily. I feel kind of spoiled by working with him because our process is so collaborative and open, and I have a lot more control over the direction of the art than I ever have in the past. The fans have also been really amazing and seem excited about what we’re doing, which makes me more excited to keep going. I hope we get the chance to take this story as far as possible.

BH: Final question, what comics do you two recommend, both for pleasure reading and for aspiring creators to learn from?

SL: Oh, man. It’s such a well spring right now. I’m in love with Black Hammer by Jeff Lemire. I am also digging Kyle Starks’ work (Kill Them All). Rosenberg’s 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank. For aspiring creators, I’ve learned a lot looking at how Brian Vaughan lays out Saga. Just his page counts and the general rhythm of each issue. Y: The Last Man has really nice structure to it as well. Lemire I think is as good as anyone if not better at showing just how far a comic can go. He breaks a lot of so called rules in paneling and layout (I do too) but his books really are imaginative in new ways. He has found a way to really bring existentialism and loneliness into comic books in a way I love. Hence, I like the straight up humor employed by Starks as a counter balance. Also, read some damn books and some plays. Comics kind of marry every writing genre into one. So don’t read just comics. Check out Junot Diaz for character. David Mitchell for world building. August Wilson, Caryl Churchill, and Tony Kushner for dialogue.

CY: Most of my recommendations are established staples in the genre, but they definitely had the most influence for me and taught me a lot. The Sandman got me into comics when I was in college. His (Neil Gaiman’s) storytelling was so different than anything I’d seen before, and he builds worlds like nobody else. Hewlett’s Tank Girl is amazing, he knows exactly how and when to break rules and go more stylized with his characters. Mignola’s Hellboy is brilliant, and his use of negative space to create a mood is unparalleled. He lays out the art not panel-by-panel, but designs with the whole page in mind. And like Sean, I’m a fan of Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples’ Saga, as well as Paper Girls and Y: the Last Man.

Coyotes is available at Image Comics.

Follow Sean Lewis on Twitter.

Follow Caitlin Yarsky on Twitter and check out her blog.

InHiatus Studios’ Mathew Ng Shows Us Some Strays

A few months ago, I got  a chance to do a review of  the first collection, from the up and coming comics publisher, InHiatus Studios,  which has well of talent from the Bay Area in California, I got a chance to talk to each of the creators. This interview was with Mathew Ng, who works on the books, Strays. Below is a brief back ground on the book and my interview with Mathew, about the book, his start in comics and what drives him.

Strays begins with a runaway princess, who drags her unlikely companions into the adventure of a lifetime. Iroha, the first princess of Izumo, is caught in a massive conspiracy threatening to disrupt the delicate balance of power sustaining the trade route, the Silk Road. Bound together for their own reasons, the group makes their way across the world and back, with trouble never far behind.

 

Graphic Policy: What were your favorite comics growing up?

Mathew Ng: I didn’t have too many comics growing up. Among the InHiatus Studios, I’m probably the least familiar with American comics haha. There was a run on Batman known as KnightFall where Jean Paul Valley takes over for Bruce Wayne. My cousin was reading Batman at the time, and I went to his house to read, so I got really into that arc of Batman all the way till Azrael.

If you want to talk about manga, that’s a whole other story though!

GP: Is there a specific comics creator that influenced you?

MN: Chuck Dixon and Jo Duffy come to mind… yeah it’s the two main writers for Knightfall.

Are there any influences outside of comics which you draw upon in your art?

Personally I hold the opinion that 90% of your influences should come from outside the medium you’re working in. Film and photography is definitely a big one, but that probably comes from my preference for manga.

For Strays, my interest in history and mythologies definitely come into play a lot. My snootiness about food makes me pay attention to what my characters would be eating. I also am using techniques found in the Horse Bench form from Choy Li Fut, in a bar fight scene I’m planning for volume 2.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is, the more information you can personally draw from, the better your stories will be.

GP: What influence do your parents have on your work? What was their reaction, when you told what you wanted to do for a living?

MN: My parents do have a big influence on my work. Strays is literally an adventure story that travels between the east and west.

We don’t really talk about what I want to do. My parents are “talk is cheap” people. You can talk about doing something all day and it’s not worth a damn. Go do it, and if it makes money, keep doing it.

GP: How did you get started in comics?

MN: Like so many others, by writing a failed screen play!

GP: When did you know working on comics would be your career?

MN: I still don’t honestly haha. I think it’s cartoonishly simple to think of your current work as a permanent fixture that will never change. Flexibility is really the hallmark of successful creatives. The idea is that the medium isn’t as important as finding a place to be successful using your own skill set. For In Hiatus Studios, comics happened to fit crossroads between our skillset, budget, and potential to grow.

GP: What lead you to form InHiatus Studios?

MN: I was looking for a way to improve my storytelling. My demo reel was just torn apart at a portfolio review at Disney, but the main thing was to take away was that I was technically proficient, but lacked story telling. At the same time Don, Pip, and I were just let off a project that fell apart, and Don contacted both of us after a month to see if we were interested in working together since we had a lot of momentum together at the time.

At that time, we thought about working on a collaborative art book, where we could pull our resources together to make something a little higher quality than what we could afford to do so individually. After some discussion, we came to the conclusion that perhaps comics would be the way to go, and here we are.

It may have sounded like I was disparaging comics in my previous answer, but I have nothing but gratitude for the medium and its fans. Writing a story, then drawing it all out has really shown how much we stepped up to finish Shards vol.1. Being at InHiatus studios has really pushed everyone here to grow as artist, and has given us more insight on where we might want to expand beyond comics.

GP: What was your inspiration behind Strays?

MN: A lot of Strays comes from the time I spent playing MMOs.  I never was in a big clan, but the ones I joined were always tightknit wonderful groups. We almost never did meta builds, or fought for high level bosses the “right way” but we all knew how to play what we had, and PK/PvP was always fun. We could conquer castles and steal bosses from larger clans by causing a little PvP chaos, although we’d have to run pretty quickly once that happened.

Even now, I enjoy adventure stories about a group of general screw-ups. Dogs: Bullets & Carnage, Black Lagoon, and Konosuba are all stories I really enjoy.

GP: What can you tell me about the world and characters of Strays?

MN: Strays takes places at the height of silk-road trade. I took a page from Togashi Yoshihiro’s Hunter x Hunter, and built the world to support multiple kinds of stories. The first arc of Strays is the coming of age story for Iroha. The next arc, I wanted them to engage in a Wolf of Wall Street style campaign resulting in complete disaster. And that would lead to another arc with Ashe as the Prodigal Son.

And for each arc, I want each of my characters to grow. Either in a way that makes them more loved or more hated, I want them to be human in that their experience will change them.  Individually… in MMO terms, Iroha is the buff support that constantly pulls agro, Fatima pays more attention to discord than healing, Ashe is the attack built knight the party forces to play as tank, Lili is the smith that never makes money cause the party needs the extra DD, and Kanade is the DD that the moment she loses a single Hitpoint emergency teleports back to town.

GP: Do you have any favorite comics you are reading right now?

MN: I mentioned Dogs: Bullets & Carnage, Black Lagoon, and Konosuba already. I read a stupid amounts of manga, but if I were to go back to the one that started it all it would be I”s by Katsura Masakazu.

Seriously if it’s a manga, I’ve probably read at least one tankoban to see if I like it.

GP: What do you think is most important when capturing a moment in time to render in a panel for the reader to take in?

MN: Coming from animation, I treat my panels as story boards. Murata Yuusuke is a master of this. If you line up his panels back to back and play them, it plays out like an animatic for preproduction. And just like illustration you must have the panels with the story beats be the focus of the overall composition. The story is everything, so make sure the readers know what’s happening.

GP: When was the first time, you identified with a character on TV/in the movies/ or between the pages of a comic book?

MN: Never. I really don’t get this idea that I would see myself as one of the characters. I can empathize with the characters as if they were a friend. But a good story should have multiple characters with something you can relate to, but they aren’t you.

If it were character I empathize with the most with, it would be Seto Ichitaka from I”s. When I”s was being written it was 1999, so I was the same age as Ichitaka. The story is a very simple boy crushing on a girl, but it’s written completely from the view of Ichitaka, so a lot of the story is just his mistakes because he’s just a really awkward dumb teenager.

GP: How important is representation in comics to you as a creator and to your target audience?

MN: Zero. Haha seriously it’s zero. I relate to characters through their character, for who they are as individuals… not as a set traits. I can safely say this is true for my audience as well.

GP: Are there any current artists/writers out there you admire and would like to work with?

MN: I mean there’s so many… but I don’t know about letting any of them work on Strays.  It’s currently a one man show, and if I decide to stop working on Strays, I’d rather end the series rather than pass it on to anyone else.

If Studio Trigger’s Nakashima Kazuki, or Ufotable’s Sadou Tomonori wanted to buy the rights to Strays and make an animated series, I’d be so down for that haha. But I’d just be handing them the production notes and leaving it at that.

GP: What kind of reception have you had with Shards Volume 1?

MN: Sold Out! ‘nuff said.

GP: What do you want our readers to know/or expect from Strays?

MN: I don’t know how to really respond to this… personally I don’t like dictating expectations to the audience. It’s like the comedian who preps the audience that he’s “funny and get ready to laugh.” You know that guy is going bomb on stage. But definitely stick around if you enjoy car chases, kung-fu action, and bar fights!

GP: When can we expect Strays?

MN: I’m working on it okay?! I hope to have the first chapter out Q1 2018. Yeah I know it’s delayed, but finding that balance between speed and quality is most definitely a struggle.

InHiatus Studios’ Raf Salazar Talks PuG

A few months ago, I got a chance to do a review of  the first collection, from the up and coming Comics publisher, InHiatus Studios, which has well of talent from the Bay Area in California, I got a chance to talk to each of the creators. This interview was with Raf Salazar who works on the book PuG. Check out a brief description of the series below and my interview with Raf, about the book, his start in comics and what drives him:

Three traveling adventurers, a scared sorcerer, a cursed warrior, and a mysterious swordsman, seek the power of a magical relic, the PangenStone. This epic quest follows the haphazard journey of these bumbling heroes as their destinies become entangled in their quest to wield the fabled stone.

Graphic Policy: What were your favorite comics growing up?

Raf Salazar: My top titles growing up were X-Force, X-Men and Spider-Man. X-Force was my introduction to comics. I remember peering over my dad’s shoulder as he flipped through X-Force volume 1 and thinking wow so cool.

GP: Is there a specific comics creator that influenced you?

RS: I hate to admit this, but Rob Liefeld was a huge influence growing up. After reading his comics I started drawing his characters. I was a huge fan of Shatter Star, those double bladed swords didn’t make much sense but it did look awesome. Liefeld’s line work was different and it very kinetic. I loved it so much I started applying his designs sense and techniques into my own drawings. All my characters were decked out in dynamic lines, giving them muscles they didn’t even know they had, and pouches and pockets galore.

GP: Are there any influences outside of comics that you draw upon in your art?

RS: That would be video games and animation. My favorite part of both those things is the stories they tell and the characters that fill the world.

GP: What influence do your parents have on your work? What was their reaction, when you told what you wanted to do for a living?

RS: My parents grew up in the Philippines and at the time pursuing a career into a creative field like art was just not very practical. However, when they moved to the states they allowed my brothers and I to have the opportunity to explore creative fields.  With their support I found myself drawing and painting every day. So it wasn’t a surprise for them to hear I wanted to pursue visual arts. Of course there was the natural parental hesitation of “can this career support you?” I took that as a challenge and here we are today. As long as I can prove to them I’m eating regularly, they seem fine with how things turned out.

GP: How did you get started in comics?

RS: My brother and I had been reading comics for several years and spent our afternoons just drawing superheroes. It was only natural for us to finally want to see our drawings come to life. Our immediate hope was to animate them, but we obviously didn’t have the resources to animate them, we were like ten. However, what we did have was How To Draw Comics the Marvel Way. We studied that book from beginning to end. Read and reread it, and within a couple of weeks we did it. We made a mediocrely drawn, poorly paneled, shallowly written Spider-Man and Venom comic.

GP: When did you know working on comics would be your career?

RS: I don’t think I ever knew, it kind of just happened. I think most artists, or creative types, find themselves doing work they love for other people and forgetting to take a break and do it for themselves. Ya know, how it started in the first place. It’s a funny concept, a creative outlet from being creative. It’s what we do to keep sane. My brother and I made a silly comic in high school so I thought it’d be fun to bring it back during my college days. I ended up drawing short comics to amuse myself. Then I started sharing it with my friend Ed and my brother. Then we came together and got a little more serious about these comics. Next thing you know we put out a web comic ReGrBl for all of the internet to enjoy.

GP: What lead you to form In Hiatus Studios?

RS: I was brought into the team as the fourth member. They pitched to me that they wanted create something that could utilize our artistic talents. Then we came to the conclusion of a comic book anthology. And then I said Hell yes.

GP: What was your inspiration behind PuG?

RS: They say write what you know. What I knew was I liked hanging out with my friends playing games. The games I really enjoy playing with them are rpg’s, digital and analog. So I just mashed those two up and came up with PuG. It’s an adventure-fantasy comic about strangers helping each other navigate their own misadventures. I feel like most people could relate to that, well unless you never had friends to play with.

GP: What can you tell me about the world and characters of PuG?

RS: The world of PuG is a world with a dark past, steeped in myth and legend; with cute and monstrous creatures roaming it’s land. Within the lush forests, beyond the ancient city ruins, we follow three unlikely travelers seeking the fabled PangenStone. A stone said to grant unfathomable power.

Mal is a sorcerer with a unique scar on half his face. He hopes to obtain the PangenStone and learns to harness the mysterious power it holds.

Azuron is a warrior who has befallen a bizarre curse. He too seeks the stone to dispel his ailment.

Cassia is a swordsman whose intentions are as mysterious as the PangenStone itself.

GP: Do you have any favorite comics you are reading right now?

RS: Saga. The artwork by Fiona Staples rocks my socks. If I want to really bum myself out I read Berserk. The dark fantasy by Kentaro Miura is skillfully drawn and wonderfully depressing.

GP: What do you think is most important when capturing a moment in time to render in a panel for the reader to take in?

RS: Color and Composition. Those two things make or break a panel.

GP: When was the first time, you identified with a character on TV/in the movies/ or between the pages of a comic book?

RS: 1991 watching Hook and seeing this brown kid with red in his hair come crashing on screen. They chanted his name, Rufio. Growing up in Virginia as Filipino, this blew my mind.

GP: How important is representation in comics to you as a creator and to your target audience?

RS: It’s 2017. Everyone wants to be represented and that’s fine. I think it’s very important to have representation in comics, but I don’t think it should be done arbitrarily.

GP: Are there any current artists/writers out there you admire and would like to work with?

RS: I would love to collaborate with Haruki Murakami. The surrealistic imagery that’s found in his writing would be a challenge, but also very fun to illustrate on a page.

GP: What kind of reception have you had with Shards Volume 1?

RS: It’s been great. It’s always so scary to put something like this out there for public viewing. Even though it’s a work of fiction, it’s still apart of me. The fear and vulnerability though has been dispelled with the positive reaction we’ve received.

GP: What do you want our readers to know/or expect from PuG?

RS: Expect an action and comedic epic that is filled with twists and turns. The mystery of the magical PangenStone will be explored as well as the pasts of these three travelers, especially Azuron. We’ll explore the nature of his curse and the reason behind it. Along the way the three will encounter other devious characters also seeking the PangenStone.

GP: When can we expect PuG?

RS: The adventure began in Shards volume 1, which we’ve recently sold out. Fear not, a new soft cover run will be available early 2018. Also to be available early 2018, the next issue of PuG! If you want PuG now, the PuG primer is available for your viewing pleasure on our website inhiatusstudios.com.

InHiatus Studios’ Pip Reyes Takes Us on a Longshot

A few months ago, I got  a chance to do a review of  the first collection, from the up and coming Comics publisher, InHiatus Studios, which has well of talent from the Bay Area in California, I got a chance to talk to each of the creators,, this interview was with Pip Reyes, who works on the books, Longshot , below is a brief back ground on the book and my interview with Pip, about the book, his start in comics and what drives him:

LONGSHOT follows an aspiring hero, Wardell, as he fights to make a name for himself in the pro-hero sports league: The Pantheon. Wardell was once a top young prospect for the Pantheon, until he lost his arm in a horrific accident during a match. Now, he is fighting hard to get his shot at fulfilling this lifelong dream, and getting out of his own way to do so. This story is about the pursuit of greatness as he tries to make his mark in the League, where heroes battle each other in the world’s most popular sport. Legacies are on the line as he navigates the pressures of being in the spotlight, all the while a dark force challenges the very definition of being a hero.

Graphic Policy: What were your favorite comics growing up?

Pip Reyes: I grew up reading a lot of Justice League and X-Men trades. Whatever my older brother had at the time. Eventually as I got more into anime, I started dabbling in manga for shows like Yu Yu Hakusho and Dragonball Z. As I reached my teenage/college years I got more into ‘indies’ like Scott Pilgrim, Blankets, and Fables. So I like a little bit of everything, but superhero stuff was my first love.

GP: Is there a specific comics creator that influenced you?

PR: I find that there are a number of specific works from Brian K. Vaughn that inspired me over the years. I loved BK Vaughn’s The Runaways for Marvel. I thought it was really cool that he could do something new and fun within the wider, established world of Marvel. I also really liked Pride of Baghdad, an amazing one-shot about lions in Iraq. I read it during a time when I was becoming more aware of the controversies surrounding the war in Iraq and just politics in general, so I found that book very enlightening at the time.

GP: Are there any influences outside of comics which you draw upon in your art?

PR: I come from an animation background so that definitely influences my work a lot. When I say ‘animation’ I mean pre-production and design. So a lot of my work is inspired my production work and visual development for animation/film and my goal is to bring those film-like, cinematic sensibilities to my work in comics.

GP: What influence do your parents have on your work? What was their reaction, when you told what you wanted to do for a living?

PR: My mom was very supportive, for which I am very lucky. I know that’s not usually the case when one wants to pursue art as a career. However, she does often suggest that I try and get a ‘normal’ desk job while I’m still figuring out my art career.

GP: How did you get started in comics?

PR: Working with InHiatus was my first real foray into doing comics. It’s something I’d never done before and was hesitant to do. But it was an opportunity of a lifetime being able to put out my own original story, so I jumped right in.

GP: When did you know working on comics would be your career?

PR: I think working in comics is a big part of my career, but one piece in a larger puzzle. My goal is to get my work and my stories out there, and comics is a wonderful way to do just that.

GP: What lead you to form InHiatus Studios?

PR: The dream of putting work out into the world. I had the fortune of working with some talented artists on a previous project and we all had the same hunger to just that. When you find kindred spirits like that who have the same mission, forming a team was the obvious thing to do. Now, we’re living our dream and we want to provide the same opportunity to fledgling creators as well.

GP: What was your inspiration behind “Longshot”?

PR: Longshot is the crossover between the things I’m the most geeky about: superheroes and pro sports. It all started years ago when I was trying to come up with a game concept that took Fantasy Basketball, and used actual fantasy-style art assets. So I started doing concepts for my real life NBA heroes and turned them into D&D-style fantasy archetypes. When presented the opportunity to tell my own story, I took that idea and built a whole new universe out of it, but went in the superhero direction instead. I have always drawn parallels between my sports idols and my favorite superheroes so this was the natural amalgamation of that.

GP: What can you tell me about the world and characters of Longshot?

PR: Longshot is about a guy named Wardell whose lifelong dream is to go ‘pro’. This is a world where superpowers are commonplace, and only the most exceptionally powerful get to become ‘pro’ superheroes. He dreams of making it into the Pantheon: the worldwide superhero organization/sports league. The Pantheon League routinely holds ‘training exercises’, which basically pits city-based teams against each other in battle simulations. These battles are televised and have become the world’s most popular professional sport. Wardell doesn’t have the size, strength, or speed that most heroes have, but will fight for a chance to make the league regardless of whether he fits the profile or not.

GP: Do you have any favorite comics you are reading right now?

PR: I’m currently reading Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Seconds, which I’m really enjoying. I started Deadly Class and have been meaning to catch up on it because I really like the world. Same with Paper Girls. I’m also a HUGE Avatar/Korra fan so I want to read their continuing stories.

GP: What do you think is most important when capturing a moment in time to render in a panel for the reader to take in?

PR: Emotion. Always. If I can somehow relay the emotion of a scene/panel, then I think I’d have done my job. It’s what connects people to stories the most, whether they know it or not. If they feel what the characters are feeling at any given time then I know a connection has been established and hopefully they’ll be invested for the long run.

GP: When was the first time, you identified with a character on TV/in the movies/ or between the pages of a comic book?

PR: That one’s tough because I can’t remember that far back. But I will say reading Harry Potter was one of the first times I felt like I was really IN the story. I was starting high school at the time and everything was so new and overwhelming. To read what Harry was going through while I was going through a crazy, confusing time was extremely cathartic and I felt like I was in that world. By the time the last book came out, I was graduating college. So, in a way, I felt like we grew up together.

GP: How important is representation in comics to you as a creator and to your target audience?

PR: I find it very important and it’s something I pay close attention to when creating my characters. One of my goals is to have a diverse lineup of heroes so that my readers can find one (or more) that they can relate to. Also, I’m hoping they’ll be inspired to cosplay as these characters. That would be really cool.

GP: Are there any current artists/writers out there you admire and would like to work with?

PR: There are a number of artists from the entertainment industry whose work I ADORE. Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi. Ryan Lang and Helen Chen. Lois Van Baarle. I’m a big Overwatch fan and they have a comic artist working on their stuff who goes by Nesskain. I think his work is really cool.

GP: What kind of reception have you had with Shards Volume 1?

PR: I’ve had some very kind interactions regarding Volume 1 and feel extremely grateful and motivated. Thanks to everyone who bought and helped us sell out! People have had nothing but kind words and are generally excited to see what happens next, which is great. For ‘Longshot’ I get the occasional person who recognizes the sports references and that gets me all giddy.

GP: What do you want our readers to know/or expect from Longshot?

PR: I’m hard at work further building out this universe, so readers can expect a broader, expansive view of this world. I’m talking about hero teams and their cities, their star ‘players’, and hopefully an inspiring story about fighting for your dream.

GP: When can we expect Longshot?

PR: I’m hoping Longshot returns Spring 2018.

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