Category Archives: Interviews

Director Glenn Fleming Discusses the upcoming Jack Kirby: My Personal Journey

Glenn Fleming is the director of the upcoming documentary Jack Kirby: My Personal Journey which will be available through his website. I had a chance to talk about the film and legendary creator.

Graphic Policy: Congratulations Glenn, on reaching your goal, so please tell us how you got into filmmaking?

Glenn Fleming: Thanks. As of this writing the Kickstarter project has reached almost £2,000 and 101 backers. This is well over my goal and I’m grateful to everyone who has backed the project. In answer to your question, I suppose i got ‘into’ filmmaking the same day I saw my dad filming us on holiday with his Super 8mm cine camera – when I was about six years old! I dabbled in photography at Art College many years later, movies and still, and I’ve produced many short films which are on You Tube, but I wouldn’t say I was a professional ‘film maker’; I’m really an artist and writer.

GP: Is this your first documentary? If not, where have we seen your work before?

GF: This film is not really a ‘documentary’ of sorts. As it says in the title, the film is about my journey to meet Jack.

GP: So, what inspired you initially to do this film?

GF: In the mid 80s, having not read a comic for 15 years, I found Kirby’s ‘Silver Star’ and ‘Captain Victory’. I also bought ‘The Comics Journal’ and read about Jack’s efforts to get his original art back from Marvel. I was surprised, but glad, he was still alive and thought wouldn’t it be cool to meet him. From there I met some Californians on holiday who lived near Jack. One thing led to another and I ended up knocking on Jack’s door. This is all covered in the film!

GP: Can we expect any interviews with some comic book writers or artists?

GF: Maybe. I would do it, of course, but my passion for the work of others is not the same; Jack was the best of the best, the most innovative comics creator in history. Everyone else just copies his blue print. I have interviewed other creators and published those interviews in my magazines ‘Crikey! The Great British Comics Magazine’, hard copies of which are still available and more recently in my on-line magazine, ‘Comics Unlimited’. Readers can still get all this stuff, should they wish it.

GP: At what point growing up and going to their house, did you realize just how much of a star, Jack Kirby was?

GF: I knew he was a star the first time I read those Marvel comics. They were, and remain, the best. No-one has come forward with Jack’s eye for storytelling, character deigns, layout or just sheer imagination. You can never say never, but I have to doubt there will ever be a force like him again.

GP: Please tell us one of your fondest memories of Jack and Roz Kirby?

GF: I have a lot of memories! I went to his house twice, so I was with him around 12 hours in total. Not long enough! My first memory is of how small he was; such a small frame, but so powerful and upright. His imagination was the size of a planet, but such a small man. My main memory of Roz was how beautiful she was. And such a lovely woman, you couldn’t help but fall in love with her. And strong – she protected her man and family. Roz Kirby is the reason we have Jack Kirby; she stood behind him every step of the way and let him get on with telling his stories. Another memory that brings a smile to my face was his grandson, Jeremy. Jeremy was about 12 at that time and he came around for his lunch when I was there. I remember Roz telling us he liked his pizza ‘napalmed’. Funny things stick in your head!

GP: Were you ever at their house, at the genesis of one of his characters that we all know?

GF: No! I was there in the late 80s and Jack had retired from the mainstream by then. It would have been cool to stand behind him and watch him draw Galactus for the first time – but no, I wasn’t there for any of that.

GP: Do you remember any characters that he created that did not quite work out, but he spent inordinate amount of time working on it?

GF: I think some of his peripheral characters could have been some of his best. This is my opinion and Jack never mentioned any of this: the character ‘Him’ from the FF was going to be better than the Surfer; the guy was incredible, another ‘god’ (and Jack was full of gods!). I don’t imagine Jack spent a lot of time on that character, but his potential, like all of Jack’s creations, was incredible. Sadly, the character didn’t go the way Jack would have taken him, by any means. Another character I always liked who never went as far as he should, was ‘Mantis’ from ‘The New Gods’. I always liked that character. I thought there was a lot of potential in ‘Silver Star’, but that only lasted six issues.

GP: When you were at their house, did you meet any famous writers/artists?

GF: No – it was just another day at the Kirby household! Jack talking about the war, Roz making lunch and me open jawed, in total awe and wanting to stay there for the next ten years.

GP: Do you remember any specific issue of his, you held, that is now considered classic?

GF: Many. I had them all. FF, Spidey, Avenger, X-Men – I had all the first issues. Unfortunately, my mother had me throw them away. Yep – she made me get rid of them when I was sixteen. Six hundred of them. Six hundred. I have a few that I managed to keep hold of, but not the full series that I could have, and should have, saved. Imagine if Jack had signed that FF #1 for me!!

GP: In your interview with Mr. Kirby, what was his favorite book when he worked at Marvel?

GF: I didn’t ask him specific questions. Jack had been ill and I didn’t want to pressure him or upset him. I just let him talk. The results are, I think, better than a set of questions. The best interviewers are the people who let people talk, let them go where they want to go. It’s more revealing that way.

GP: In your interview with Mr. Kirby, what was his favorite book when he worked at DC?

GF: Jack said DC were a fine company to work for, though he didn’t mention specific books or characters. I think he was honoured to draw Superman, but he preferred to write and draw his own characters. If you look at his ‘Jimmy Olsen’, an established DC character, you can see Jack taking that character way and above anything that had gone before. The same with ‘Superman’ – such a famous, iconic and powerful character, with a long and great history, pushed almost into the background, almost a secondary character, when he appeared in ‘Forever People’. That’s how good Jack was; he took established things and did things that pushed it further and further.

GP: In your interview with Mr. Kirby, what was his favorite book when he did not work at DC or Marvel?

GF: I think Jack enjoyed whatever he was working on at the time. I truly believe that.

GP: In your interview with Mr. Kirby, what was his favorite book that he worked on, period?

GF: I don’t know if he had any ‘favourite’ book, but my money would be on ‘Captain America’.

GP: Do you remember where you were, when you heard of his passing?

GF: I do. I was about to go into my office when a colleague of mine blurted out, “Jack Kirby’s dead.” Talk about sensitivity. I didn’t do much work that day.

GP: Before he passed, when was the last time you saw him? And do you remember what was the last thing he told you?

GF: I last saw Jack in October 1991. As I shook his hand, his last words were, “Thanks for coming by.” I wish I’d said what I had said the first time I was leaving. I said, “I hope we meet again.” Jack replied, “We will.” And we did. I wish I’d said that again and maybe it would have happened.

GP: What was your favorite book that he worked on?

GF: ‘The Fantastic Four’ and ‘The Eternals’. Going back to a previous question, ‘The Eternals’ should have been Jack’s second hundred issue series; what a ride that would have been.

GP: What was your favorite character that he created?

GF: Again, too many, but if you held me down… Captain America. The proof is longevity. Cap is as iconic as Superman and Batman. They are the three most enduring characters in comic history. And will continue to be.

GP: What can we expect from this documentary?

GF: Just Jack talking about his life, his service in the Army and general chat. As I said, I didn’t go armed with specific questions. I wanted the talk to be free and easy for Jack. Jack liked to talk and was a funny guy. This is revealed in the film. I often think about him; how such a simple, loving and talented man could pull entire universes from his imagination, draw them out and entertain us all. In realty, Jack was entertaining himself. All we had to do was watch while he had a great time. And, the more people watched, the happier he was and the further into his mind he ventured. Maybe he was trying to get away from us all!

GP: Is there anything in the documentary that the public and even die hard Kirby fans, would be surprised to find out about?

GF: A fifteen-year-old Jacob Kurtzburg flying upside down in a small aircraft over the skyscrapers of Manhattan! That would make anybody’s hair stand on end – guaranteed!

GP: This week, which would be his 100th birthday, what do you think he would say about the state of comics today? The state of his creations?

GF: I haven’t read a ‘new’ comic in thirty years and I know Jack didn’t look at his after they were published. He told me so. As for the ‘state’ comics are in today… well, I see a lot of exaggerated posing, exaggerated chests pushed out and exaggerated bad anatomy and, to top it all, very poor storytelling. Sure, Jack’s anatomy was exaggerated, but he knew the real stuff, so he was able to exaggerate; his woman were beautiful, though not semi pornographic, and his storytelling was… well, second to none. Jack knew how to tell a story. Without good, dynamic and clear storytelling it doesn’t matter how well the figures are drawn, how much ‘shine’ is shown on armour and how great the explosions are rendered. The story is everything. Jack Kirby was the master of that. He was the master at storytelling. And pretty good at drawing, too!

GP: Do you think he would still be making comics?

GF: No. I think he had said all he had to say and left enough for us to mine for the next hundred years. I think any sadness he may have had was that someone else hasn’t come forward to pick up his ‘pencil’ and move the medium on, rather than simply rehash his work. Tall order, though!

GP: Lastly, what do you think is the biggest misconception of Mr. Kirby?

GF: In my opinion, the biggest misconception of Jack Kirby is that people still believe, too many people still believe, that he was ‘just’ a penciler. As he told me, he created them all and he wrote them all. To me, this is plain to see, take a long look at his career time line. Jack Kirby was a genius, and, like all true genius’, he was a simple and honest person, doing his best and, in his words, “Having a great time!”

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Victor LaValle Talks About his New BOOM! Studios series Destroyer

I first met Victor LaValle last fall in his “First Novels” course. When he isn’t spending time with his family in Harlem, or writing the next great American novel, he’s teaching in the MFA program at Columbia University. In just a matter of months, I felt I had learned more from his single class than I had in all of the classes I’d ever taken combined. So naturally, I had to take a second course with him in the spring before I graduated. This is how I know LaValle knows what he’s doing when it comes to crafting a good story. His sixth book. The Changeling, will be coming out this June, but BOOM! StudiosDestroyer will be his first venture into the comic book world. Naturally, given my interest in comics and being a fan of LaValle’s seemingly effortless genius and creativity, I jumped at the chance to interview him about it.

AR: What comic books did you read growing up?

Victor LaValle: The first “big” comic I remember reading was the famous Superman vs. Muhammad Ali comic, written by Dennis O’Neil and illustrated by Neal Adams. It was a gorgeous oversized comic, more like a graphic novel really. It came out in 1978 so I didn’t read it then, I was too young, but it was handed down to me by an older neighbor as if it was holy scripture. And it was.

After that I read the X-Men, of course. God Loves Man Kills was a particular influence on me, really, for the rest of my life as a writer. Even before I wrote a comic that particular storyline played a part in what I did.

In no particular order some of my favorites of the early years were The New Teen Titans (the George Perez/Marv Wolfman years), John Byrne’s Next Men and his Alpha Flight run. Simonson’s Thor, Sandman, Swamp Thing, Morrison’s Animal Man. There’s probably a million more to name, but that’s where I’ll stop for now.

AR: How did you get started in comic books?

VL: I wrote a short piece for Clive Barker’s Hellraiser Bestiary in 2014. It was published by BOOM! Studios. I had a good time working with the editor and he told me to pitch him any ideas if I had them. About two years later I reached out with the idea for my upcoming comic, DESTROYER. I wrote out a pitch that they liked very much. That was the start of the conversation. From there they helped me hash out an outline for the first six issue arc, one that would be satisfying in itself and still leave room for more stories in the future.

Character designs by Dan Mora

AR: What’s the concept behind Destroyer?

VL: At the end of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein the famous monster (or, the Creation, as its called in the book) disappears into the Arctic, saying he’s going to kill himself. I decided that the Monster changed his mind and decided, instead, to live out eternity in the company of the natural world, among the animals since humans had proven so unwelcoming. But in 2017 he’s drawn back into contact with humanity and he’s pretty damn angry about it. In fact he declares war on humanity.

Meanwhile, 9000 miles away, the last living descendant of the Frankenstein line is a scientist, a black woman, who has been doing her own strange experiments. Her 12 year old son was murdered by the Chicago police and she has brought the boy back to life using the most cutting edge modern technology. These three beings–the Monster, the scientist, the android son–will be forced into contact, into combat with one another and with the larger world.

AR: Where did the idea of Destroyer come from?

VL: The murder of black people by the police is hardly a new story in the United States. It was happening long before there were dash cams and cell phones to capture the mayhem. But in 2015 there were scores of these videos, all being shared widely, and I watched them right alongside so many others. I began to wonder what it would be like to bring these people back from the dead, to give them a chance at renewed life. Would they be angry? Would they be damaged? What about their loved ones? Would they want revenge on the ones who murdered their kin?

All this, somehow, led me back to Mary Shelley’s seminal novel. I don’t think enough people have read it–even though it is such a famous book. I thought there were elements in the Frankenstein story that could be repurposed, continued, in a tale told today. I decided to reanimate that old book, and its characters, which seemed fitting. And then I added my own, very current, spin.

Interior art by Dietrich Smith

AR: Comics have a long history of having underlying political messages, and it sounds like yours will, but are there particular messages you’re hoping comes across to readers?

VL: I’m hoping this book gets at some of the biggest questions facing our country, and many countries, right now: who is in charge of this system? What do they really want? Do we matter to them at all?

These are large concerns so I’m embedding them in the very personal story of a woman who lost her son to police violence and the endless number of repercussions that arise from that single, terrible experience. On the individual level I’d hope to make the experience of that mother–the highs and lows, the kind of madness such a thing might cause–into something that almost anyone reading would be able to grasp and, ideally, empathize with.

AR:What’s the idea behind the name “Destroyer”? Is this the name of the young boy? Or are you not allowed to reveal this yet?

VL: The idea of who, exactly, will become the “Destroyer” will morph and change through the issues but I was also making use of a quote from Mary Shelley’s original novel. The Monster (or Creation, as he’s called in the book) eventually loses his shit and stops begging Victor Frankenstein to love him. Victor has rejected him and that’s that. The Monster’s vengeance will be to kill anyone and everyone who Victor ever loved. Which he goes on to do.

He has a quote that always stops me up for the power of its rage and vengeance. It goes like this: “I, like the arch fiend, bore a hell within me; and, finding myself unsympathized with, wished to tear up the trees, spread havoc and destruction around me, and then to have sat down and enjoyed the ruin.”

I mean, wow.

That line summarized the feeling of our central character, Dr. Baker, too. She has the urge to tear down everything, kill everyone, in the wake of her son’s loss. But, since this is a comic, she actually gets to bring her son back. Does that solve everything? No. And then it only gets worse when the original Monster shows up, angry as hell as well.

Good times.

AR: Let’s be honest, do you like Frankenstein so much because it involves a genius named Victor?

VL: I’d lying if I said I didn’t enjoy hearing my name attached to the term “genius.” I would also love it being attached to the term “financially solvent.” The former seems more likely, if I’m honest.

Sam Humphries Talks Alitha, the First Green Lantern. An Exclusive Reveal! (Part 2)

Yesterday I posted the first part of my interview with Green Lanterns writer Sam Humphries which focused on the series up to this point and particularly Valthoom and the introduction of the Phantom Lantern.

Today, we look at the future and the reveal of the first Green Lantern Alitha in tomorrow’s Green Lanterns #23.

We get the scoop on this brand new character and what it means for the history of the Green Lanterns.

Graphic Policy: So yesterday we chatted about the second volume of Green Lanterns, but we get to announce that you’re creating a whole bunch of new Lanterns. As a creator, what does it feel like to create new characters for the series and is it challenging to do so with a comic series that has such a history?

Sam Humphries: Yes, there’s so much that’s already been done, but this is really something we’ve never seen before. Which is, the very first seven Green Lanterns who’ve ever picked up the rings. And that was really a special turning point.

In volume 2 we saw just briefly a bit of Valthoom’s story. We saw in Geoff’s run that 10 billion years ago before the Green Lantern rings that Valthoom showed up on Maltus and he carried with him a Lantern. We didn’t know what that Lantern was for. We saw the Guardians summoning the very first power ring, we didn’t know what it could do, we just saw Valthoom had it. In Green Lanterns #13, we saw Valthoom with the ring and we see he’s gone mad and he’s destructive. The Guardians are panicked and desperate for a solution and Rami steps up and he creates seven new power rings, the first seven Green Lantern rings. He sends them out to the universe in hopes of finding people who will overcome great fear to take the ring and come defeat Valthoom.

Fast forward to Green Lanterns #23 we’re going to see the very first Green Lantern and her name is Alitha.

GP: What can you tell us about Alitha?

SH: Alitha is a warrior from the Third World, the world that pre-dates the Kirby Fourth World with Mister Miracle and Darkseid and Orion. The Third World is at an interesting position. They know they weren’t the first that there was a second world. They know that world was consumed by war. And they know the universe around them is filled with war and they have to make a decision whether or not they’re going to engage with the universe or hide from the universe. Alitha stands out and makes a very courageous decision that not only alters the future of her people but puts her on the path to becoming the first Green Lantern.

So what we see in this interlude in issue 23 really is her origin story.

GP: Since you’re tapping into the Kirby world, how much research did you do into all of that?

SH: I looked at everything in the entire DC Universe for these seven Green Lanterns. Alitha has a couple of influences. One is the Kirby stuff. No spoilers, but each of the original seven Green Lanterns have their own origin story and ties to different areas of the DC Universe. Different ties to different characters and worlds and legacies we know today.

GP: That sounds really cool. There’s the other Green Lantern series going on. Are you working together on all of this history?

SH: Yeah, absolutely. Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps is my second favorite DC Rebirth series. Green Lanterns is the first of course. But, Rob (Venditti) is a fantastic writer and knows his way around the Green Lantern universe. I really look to him and his book a lot to make sure I’m on the right path with my book.

GP: With these seven new characters, are we getting one reveal an issue? How’s that playing out?

SH: We’re going to have one new Green Lantern per issue except for issue #25 which is our one year anniversary issue. In that issue we’re going to have two new Green Lanterns revealed in that back. Once you get to #25, you’re really going to understand the importance of these original seven Green Lanterns. We’ll start to get an idea of these original seven Green Lanterns importance to the DC Universe, DC history, and importance to Simon and Jessica.

Green Lanterns #25 is a really great point for new readers and kicks off our next big epic.

GP: We’ve kind of talked about it a little bit of legacy and history. For you as a creator, how does it feel to create so much new stuff and adding such new layers to Green Lantern history?

SH: What we’re doing is illuminating Green Lantern history that we’ve never seen before. We originally were told the Green Lantern Corps began after the Manhunters and that’s still true. But, were the first Green Lanterns after the Manhunters? No, they were 10 billion years ago. I don’t know about anybody else, but to me, the fact I’m writing a book with such history that stretches across 10 billion years is not intimidating to me. It might be for some people. To me, all I see is a gigantic opportunity. Or I should say gigantic opportunity after opportunity after opportunity. There really is such rich Green Lantern history out there but there’s such a great big field to play in. There’s such undiscovered Green Lantern history to reveal and to enjoy and be thrilled be. And there will be long after I’m done writing this book. To me, that is a great responsibility and a great privilege and a great pleasure. The Green Lanterns is one of the greatest legacies in all of comic books. To be able to bring what I can to its history really is a blast.

GP: As a long time Green Lantern fan, I can’t wait to read this. Thanks so much for chatting!

Alitha, the first Green Lantern by Joe Prado

Sam Humphries Talks Green Lanterns, the Phantom Lantern, and Valthoom (Part 1)

Sam Humphries has been delivering a fun spin on the Green Lantern mythos with Green Lanterns starring Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz, two characters who while not new, haven’t had a lot of the spotlight.

The second volume of the series introduces a new spin on the infamous ring with the introduction of the Phantom Ring and the Phantom Lantern along with a familiar foe who’s pulling the strings from behind the scenes.

I got a chance to talk to Sam about the series and what’s to come. In this first part, we discuss the series and the second part tomorrow, we’ve got a big reveal!

Graphic Policy: Green Lanterns is interesting in that it’s a buddy cop story at its core and Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz are both finding their strength through their weaknesses. For you, who are Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz and why do they stand out from the Green Lantern Crops.?

Sam Humphries: It’s interesting because these aren’t brand new characters but they’re essentially new in the long timeline of the Green Lantern legacy. That was something that was extremely attractive to me as a writer. The more I thought about Simon and Jessica, the more I was really and truly interested on them as characters and focusing this book on them. To me, Simon and Jessica certainly have a lot of differences and we mine those differences for a lot of character interaction in the book, but one of the biggest things that they have in common is that these are two characters who never give up. They both have had some pretty formidable obstacles in their lives. Things they couldn’t avoid. Things that they didn’t bring on themselves. Life in different ways threw them in different pits and both of them climbed their way out and I think they’ve displayed not just what a Green Lantern is, but what a hero is.

GP: The second volume introduces the Phantom Lantern and Phantom Ring who’s being manipulated by Valthoom. Instead of just using Valthoom, where’d the idea of using the Phantom Lantern and Phantom Ring come from?

SH: Geoff Johns run on Green Lantern is legendary. It’s something I read at the time and I reread before starting to write this book. One of the great things about his run is the way he took the concept of Green Lantern and expanded it to Green and Yellow Lantern and then all the colors of the spectrum. And then the Black and the White. But, it’s all still the Green Lantern mythos. I didn’t want to just add another color to the rings because that’s something Geoff did and did well. I wanted to take the Green Lantern mythos and extend it in another direction. I wanted to go a different direction and rotate the concept a little bit and look at it from a different angle. And the way I wanted to do that was with a new ring and new character. Frank Laminski is someone who has a lot in common with Simon and Jessica but he goes about his life and what he wants in a very different way. It was very attractive to me to give a character like that an unlimited access to the spectrum. Kind of somebody who didn’t earn it or you might say didn’t deserve it. Then you have people like Simon and Jessica who earned the ring and fought for it only having a sliver of the spectrum. It felt like a great character dynamic and a great drama dynamic.

GP: The volume starts off at Simon’s home with Jessica hanging out. The volume starts exploring Simon’s history and how it impacts his family life. Then you pivot to this new character and his history and legacy. It felt like a natural flow from one to the other.

SH: One of the great traditions of superhero storytelling is the supporting cast and bringing in the supporting cast showing them with the main characters and helping illuminate something with the main characters. Bringing something forward the readers might not have seen before or the characters may not have seen themselves. Everybody also loves an origin story so being able to go right in what’s almost a stand alone issue with Frank Laminski becoming the Phantom Lantern was a lot of fun for us to do.

GP: With the addition of the Phantom Lantern and this Guardian… as a comic series with so much history to it, do you find it difficult as a creator to add new layers to it as you go along?

SH: I don’t know. To me, it’s not just part of the job, but part of the tradition. The tradition is not just the continuity but expanding on the continuity. The tradition is to not write like Geoff, but do what Geoff did which is find new territory in the same legacy. So, to me it’s a lot of fun to look back at these stories, Geoff’s stuff or the old Polaris storyline, a very old villain we found a new take on him. That’s part of the fun for me and I know if I can find something in these old characters or legacies like Valthoom. If I can get excited about that, then the readers can get excited about that.

GP: I loved the Polaris story, it was fantastic.

SH: Awesome.

GP: We’ll do an interview for volume three I guess.

SH: Yeah exactly, we’ll table that for now.

GP: Another thing that has stood out to me about this volume is that you have this interesting discussion as to what it means to be a hero. You have Frank go and save a girl and her dog. Then Jessica and Simon still have to confront him and even they debate it a bit. That discussion of what’s a hero, was that something you set out to do?

SH: For me it came out of Frank the character. He desperately wants to be a Green Lantern. He sees characters we regard as heroes and says he wants to be like that. But, because of his own personal demons he doesn’t deal with, his own execution is flawed and faulty and downright dangerous. In day to day life when dealing with people like that it’s not always apparent, they don’t wear signs around their necks. I thought it would be natural for Frank to copy the surface aspect of being a hero without having the deep down understanding of what it means to be a hero. So he might do what appears to be a hero, but long term it was all going to fall apart.

GP: You’re reintroducing Valthoom who’s been on the sideline for a bit. Where did you wanting that character come from?

SH: Valthoom’s going to be around for a long time. We see some of that in volume one. We start to see him more in volume two with his appearance. We talked about this earlier, but part of the tradition of this job is being able to look back at the story before you and see a character like Valthoom and see something no one has seen before or see something that hasn’t been on the page before. With Valthoom I saw somebody who had the makings of a great tragic character. Somebody who has undoubtedly become a villain but didn’t start out to become a villain. The more I thought about it, there was a lot of glimpses of history but not really a definitive history. I started to connect the dots of him being here at this point and there at another point. This guy is all powerful and he’s tragic and the story, not just his origin story, but the story we’re telling got bigger and bigger and bigger. It started in volume one and really starts coming to ahead in volume two and then in volume three and four get really big. Volume two is about the Phantom Lantern but it really kicks off what happens in the next couple of volumes.

GP: For this iteration of Green Lantern, what are some of the things you really enjoy about writing about Simon and Jessica?

SH: I don’t know if any of this is visible on the page. I love writing Jessica when she has anxiety or is feeling anxiety and is covering it up. Does that make sense?

GP: Yeah absolutely.

SH: She’s making an effort and I think that comes from myself and my own experiences with anxiety. With Simon, I really enjoy writing him when he’s with his family but also when his family is on his mind. When he’s trying to balance his family with being a superhero. He’s trying to balance these relationships he has that are sometimes are rewarding and sometimes they’re trying and balancing them in his new role that sometimes is rewarding and sometimes is trying.

GP: So, on to the reveal….

Tune in tomorrow for the big announcement and reveal!

C2E2 2017: Writer Cameron DeOrdio Talks Rocking Out to Josie and the Pussycats

Although his day job is a PR associate, Cameron DeOrdio is currently the co-writer of Archie Comics’ Josie and the PussycatsHe was handpicked by Marguerite Bennett to work on the comic with her, which is a modern reimagining of the all-female band complete with a fourth wall that is constantly getting broken, a heavy dose of pop culture and genre savviness, and some fabulous fashion and costume work from artist Audrey Mok.

Towards the end of Sunday at C2E2, I had the chance to talk with Cameron about how he broke into comics, his work on Josie and the Pussycats, the collaborative process with Marguerite Bennett, and why every other line in the comic is a pop culture or literary reference.

Graphic Policy: What’s your backstory with Archie Comics? Did you grow up reading them?

Cameron DeOrdio: I grew up reading some of the digests growing up in supermarkets. I loved the 2001 Josie and the Pussycats movie with Tara Reid and Rosario Dawson. Also, more recently, I started reading Chilling Adventures of Sabrina when it came out [in 2014]. It’s probably one of my favorite current comic books. I loved the Archie comics growing up, kind of fell out of it in my teens, but really got excited with the “new Riverdale” launch.

GP: How did you become the co-writer of Josie and the Pussycats?

CD: [laughs] Dumb luck. I was getting my MFA in Creative Writing at Sarah Lawrence, and I was in Scott Snyder’s comic book writing class alongside Marguerite Bennett. When we moved to Yonkers to go to Sarah Lawrence together, we independently were renting rooms in the same house without having any idea. She, I, and Christina Trujillo were the three genre writers in the program, formed a core unit, and stuck together.When Marguerite got called up on the Batman Annual, she took us aside and said, “Listen, I’m going to do everything I can to get you guys up here with me.”

She’s great. When Archie offered her Josie and the Pussycats, she said, “I really don’t have enough time to write it on my own. I know exactly the person for it.” I guess she thought that person was me.

GP: That’s an amazing story. Going off that, what’s the division of labor in scripting Josie between you and Marguerite?

CD: It recently shifted. For the first five issues, we would get on Skype, have a Google Doc open, and bounce ideas off each other. A lot of the time, she would block and I would throw in dialogue. Of course, it would go back and forth differently. Starting with issue six [which came out on April 19], I took the lead. She and I would talk out a general summary, then I would write it up, and she would look at it, and then we would wrap [the script] up.

GP: So, she was kind of a plotter. Who came up with the amazing Golden Compass polar bear joke in Josie #6?

CD: I’ll admit it. That was me.

GP: The payoff of that joke in the end was amazing. I know it had nothing to do with the plot, but it was my favorite part of the issue.

CD: I love it when comics have those jokes that aren’t exactly part of the plot, but you can see them there. I was glad I could slip one in.

GP: It makes you feel clever.

CD: I love to feel clever.

GP: [laughs] Why did you and Marguerite decide to make the cast of Josie and the Pussycats young adults instead of the “cool teens” like the other new Riverdale books?

CD: Part of it was that there were stories about love and relationships that we wanted to take a more mature angle with. Not to say that there’s not maturity going on in the other Riverdale books. There’s something totally different about relationships in your twenties than in your teens.

You can see that a lot in issue four where Alan and Josie get together briefly. That would have played very differently if they were both in their teens. We wanted to play with that and look at maturity in relationships and kind of figuring things out in your twenties.

GP: How do you go about making Josie the “villain of her own story” while still making her likable, and a character that readers still want to follow.

CD: I think it helps that all of us working on these comics are freelancers. You have to have that ambition and drive and recognize that sometimes you get in your own way. We kind of tweaked and adapted that to a character that sometimes loses the forest for the trees. She loses sight of what’s truly important: her friends and that relationship dynamic.

I think a lot of times we’re the villains of our own stories so [I like] the idea of a character who gets her own way, but has her friends there to back her up. Because female friendship is so important to this book. Marguerite said that we have to hone in on that, and I couldn’t agree more.

GP: Yeah, having Valerie as a friend helps Josie out.

CD: Valerie is a treat.

GP: I also love Melody. She comes off as kind of dumb, but knows all these obscure references. How did you come up with that personality for her character?

CD: Marguerite once spoke to it as Melody is dumb like a court jester is dumb. She’s allowed to say things that other people aren’t allowed to say because she says it in such a cute, charming way. Melody’s not so much dumb as she sees things so differently from everyone else. Hence, having the fourth wall breaks with her.

Melody thinks so differently, and so many things go over her head, but she sees so many things that others don’t.

GP: She’s such a unique character. Josie and the Pussycats has so many pop culture references and jokes. What have been some of your favorite ones to use in the series so far?

CD: That’s a hard question. This reminds me of when [Marguerite and I] were in workshop. We were in separate workshops at the time and pressed for a deadline to turn something in for a professor. She basically turned in a transcript of me, her, and our other roommate Christina talking. The professor said, “This is far too quippy. There is no way that real people talk like this”But we do. We’re just dumb like that.

I did love slipping in the Golden Compass reference that you mentioned earlier. My favorite joke was Alexandra coming in issue one and saying, “I thought I heard something dying, but it was just Josie’s dreams.” I love to write Alexandra so much.

GP: Is she your favorite character to write in the series?

CD: Definitely. I love them all so much, but Alexandra is my favorite because deep down I could be a very good mean person. But I don’t wanna be. I’ve got that little mean, clever person inside of me ready to come forth.

GP: She’s such a fun villain. And at the end of each issue, I always think that maybe she’s a little bit right about things.

CD: You hear from writers all the time that your villains have to be real people and have motivations. Alexandra rightfully feels wronged, and that’s why she’s in Josie’s way.

GP: So, your day job is a PR associate/content developer. How did your career in this field influence your comic book writing?

CD: Good question. I guess that always having to think of not only what a character is trying to say, but how they think it would be perceived. Obviously, we’re doing PR for ourselves constantly whenever we’re talking to people. But the idea of thinking how that might be interpreted helps with Josie more than anyone else because she’s always thinking of branding. She’s always thinking of image and how to stay ahead.

GP: What’s your go-to song from the Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack?

CD: I’m gonna say “Three Small Words”. I love the entire soundtrack and have it on CD.

GP: It’s so hard to find.

CD: I couldn’t find any place to download it so I’m like, “Hey, Mom. Can you send me the CD that I had back in the day.”

GP: Do you listen to the soundtrack while you script?

CD: Sometimes. When Marguerite and I were scripting, she doesn’t love listening to songs with words in them so we would listen to a wide range of things. At one point, we were listening to the It Follows soundtrack because it’s so good. Although, it is kind of funny to be listening to a horror soundtrack.

I listen to a wide range of music when I’m scripting. Occasionally, I will slide in a Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack song in there.

GP: What do you have coming up in the next arc of Josie and the Pussycats?

CD: We have Josie continuing to mature like in the first arc. But we show how other people mature, how their lives change, and how this changes the dynamic they have with other people. Because the Pussycats are now international superstars. That inherently changes a lot of the ways they interact with each other and with other people who aren’t superstars. And it’s going to change the level of their adventures.

I think a lot of the second arc is going to be about changing relationships, growing, and the sense of alienation you get when you change from the person you were. And you can still be friends with people who are changing from who they were.

GP: Any plans to use any Riverdale characters, or are the Pussycats gonna stay in their own world?

CD: Without showing my hand too much, there will be more Riverdale characters.

GP: My final question is that almost every issue of Josie and the Pussycats has done a spoof on different genres for part of the story. Do you have any genres you want to explore in future issues?

CD: I was a horror and sci-fi kid growing up and still write them on the side. So, maybe work one of those in there. We haven’t done a spy thriller yet. It’s so much fun to play with genre because Marguerite and I were the genre writers [at Sarah Lawrence] when we first met. So, it’s the idea of taking that to its logical conclusion.

GP: It’s so cool that you guys have that connection.

CD: I remember once that we threw a party with only a couple weeks’ notice, and she was hesitant about it because she wanted to give more notice. But, then, a bunch of people came, and she said, “I think we’re the cool kids now.”

We have that rapport for knowing each other so long, and it helps the co-writing process, I think.


Cameron DeOrdio is the co-writer on Josie and the Pussycats from Archie Comics.

You can find his Twitter here.

C2E2 2017: Interview with Marvel and Black Mask Star Matt Rosenberg

Matt Rosenberg is one of several comic book writers who has conquered both the world of creator owned and corporate comics. He broke into comics as one of the co-writers on 12 Reasons to Die, a comic released in conjunction with Ghostface Killah’s 2013 album of the same name from Black Mask Studios. From there, he has dabbled in a variety of genres, including superhero road trip (We Can Never Go Home), espionage (a Quake one-shot for Marvel), crime (Kingpin, 4 Kids Walk into a Bank), and even comedy (Rocket Raccoon.) Rosenberg’s work has clever plots and a sly sense of humor, but there is also a spirit of social consciousness that imbues both his comics for Marvel and Black Mask

I had the privilege of chatting with Matt at C2E2 about many of his current and former comics, including Rocket Raccoon, the upcoming Secret Warriors series, Kingpin, and the long anticipated sequel to We Can Never Go Home.

Graphic Policy: What did you enjoy most about writing Rocket Raccoon in the streets of New York versus his usual space adventures?

Matt Rosenberg: Rocket is a character that a lot of people have done really well in his space adventures. I don’t think I would do that well with that. It’s not my strong suit. But I’m from New York and grew up there.

Rocket’s great because no matter where you put him, he’s a fish out of water. He’s the only one of his kind and is sort of lost. There’s no difference for him between a space cantina and the D-Train. I wanted to give him an Earth experience where it’s not social satire, but it’s pointing out a lot of things that are weird about American culture.

And he’s just super fun to write. He’s a jerk, but a really good-intentioned jerk.

GP: He’s cute.

MR: Yeah, he’s cute. He may be gruff, but you can’t hold it against him. I love him. I’m really happy that I did my run on him. But I am very excited for Al Ewing and Adam Gorham to send him back to space.

GP: Al is one of my favorite Marvel writers. So, why did you decide to make Kraven the Hunter the Big Bad of your Rocket Raccoon run?

MR: First of all, I love Kraven. “Kraven’s Last Hunt” is one of the best Marvel books and one of the best comics period. Rocket is on Earth, and no one really respects him because he’s an animal, he’s different, and he’s an outsider. The book has a lot to do with xenophobia, and people not respecting each other.

Kraven is someone who hunts people and things, but only the things he respects. I thought it was an interesting dichotomy because the character that is trying to kill him is the only one on Earth that shows him proper deference. Kraven has a lot of respect and admiration for Rocket, and that’s why he wants him.

Everyone else doesn’t care that someone is trying to kill him because he’s basically a raccoon to him. I thought Kraven presented an interesting opportunity. And I got to put the “Kra-Van” in there, which I love. He’s a madman so it’s fun.

GP: Moving onto your new series Secret Warriors, which of the members of the team was most difficult for you to write, and why?

MR: Devil Dinosaur’s really difficult because he’s a dinosaur. It’s hard because you have to put him places. Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare, who write Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, are really good friends of mine, and I bug them a lot like “What do you do with him when people have to go into a building?”

And they’re like, “He goes into large buildings.” Yeah, I guess.

For me, [the hardest to write] in a lot ways is Ms. Marvel because that is a book I love so much. What Adrian [Alphona] and [G] Willow [Wilson] do on that book is so important to me. I think in twenty years she’s gonna be considered one of the great characters in superhero comics standing on her own.

I love Quake, and she’s one of my favorite superheroes. But Ms. Marvel is such a specific, singular voice. A lot of people have written Quake. I think of her as a [Brian Michael] Bendis character, but Jonathan Hickman’s run on her is really good. A lot of people have contributed. Ms. Marvel feels like just a few people’s visions, like Sana [Amanat] who edits it. That’s really intimidating, and her fans expect her to be certain things, which I want her to be.

But we’re also challenging the team in different ways. She’s gonna be challenged. I love her so much. In the book, we put [the Secret Warriors] through the wringer, and they don’t all get along. I don’t like writing her and Quake fighting. I kind of want those characters to be friends, and they’re not. They wouldn’t be in a lot of ways if you think about it. They have differing beliefs, ways of acting, and end goals. Quake is a spy, and Ms. Marvel is a superhero.

So, Ms. Marvel was a challenge for me because we want people who like the Ms. Marvel book to pick up Secret Warriors and feel like it’s their character, but it’s a very different setting for her. She’s out of her element a little bit, and that was hard.

GP: At the Secret Empire panel, they talked a little bit about Secret Warriors, and that the Inhumans are getting rounded up into camps. What are the implications of that plot point in light of the camps in Chechnya where gay men are being rounded up, tortured, and killed?

MR: It’s hard because everyone wants different things from comics. Some people really want escapism. Some people really want social commentary. Some people want things to be uplifting. You can’t do all of those things in a story.

What I like about Secret Empire is that there are facets to everyone. It’s a dark story, and it’s a story that’s controversial because it’s about the rise of facism and why a hero would become a villain. It’s a time when that stresses out a lot of people understandably, and there’s a lot of real world stuff that you can see on the pages.

What’s going on in Chechnya and the rise of white supremacy with more nationalism and more jingoism is obviously a problem. I’m a leftist. But we’re not the escapist book. If you want to see a happy, uplifting book, we’re not necessarily that book. We are about watching the people, who get stepped on, and the people, who are a little bit underappreciated, fight back and kick the bad guys in the face.

It’s hard to make the correlation with the real world because real people are dying and having their rights trampled on. I don’t think a comic can address that in a way that does what is happening in Chechnya justice. It’s a human rights violation, an upcoming holocaust, and a nightmare. And we’re dealing with a cartoon dinosaur. We don’t have the language emotionally to handle that in a way that is deserving of the magnitude of the event.

But if you wanna see the downtrodden fight back, that’s what Secret Warriors is. Everyone’s book has a different purpose, and that’s what our book has always been. They’re young. They’re kids with very diverse backgrounds and methodologies. They’re people coming together to fight back. That’s something I really believe in. People need to look out for each other and support each other as much as they can, which is why I wanted to write this book for that event.

GP: That team lineup is seriously stacked.

MR: I’m excited for it. I hope that some people read the book, and it’s inspiring. That’s sort of what we wanted to do. It gets dark, but there’s light at the end of it.

GP: Moving onto Kingpin, why did you decide to make the journalist character, Sarah Dewey, the POV character instead of Wilson Fisk?

MR: Wilson Fisk is my favorite Marvel villain by far. He’s a character who is always two steps ahead of everyone else. He’s controlling the chessboard, and if it’s his POV, there’s not going to be as much mystery. Knowing what the Kingpin is going to do takes away so much from him.

We talked about doing it from a superhero’s perspective or another gangster’s perspective, but I really love the idea of books like Marvels or characters, like Ben Urich. You can follow a character into this world and see [the Marvel Universe] from their perspective.

Sarah is a journalist, who’s not a perfect person. She’s had some problems in her life and has fallen on some bad times. She’s coming out of an awful, failed marriage. The idea of Kingpin to Sarah is that she knows he’s a bad guy, but he’s good to her. Not everyone is a hero, but is the Kingpin going to be a hero to her?

I want the reader to wonder if he’s going to be a good guy in the end. I think the Kingpin definitely has the capacity to be a good guy. You can’t forgive past deeds, but he has all the trappings of a classic hero.

GP: You really believe in him.

MR: In a lot of ways, yes. I said to someone once, “He’s almost a superhero.”

And they said, “No, he’s a monster.” Daredevil and Spider-Man want to save New York City by fighting in alleys. Kingpin wants to clean up New York City and make it a better place, but he’s in the whole city. He’s not in alleys, but he’s trying to make sure there aren’t warring crime factions in the streets. He’s trying to make it so the regular person doesn’t have this rough, violent city. He’s bringing a classier element of crime. Kingpin wants New York to be a nicer and safer city for the average person.

Well, [some might say], “He kills people.” But the Punisher kills people. Is the Punisher a superhero? No, but he’s on the other side of the line from the Kingpin. [Others say], “He’s trying to make a profit.” Tony Stark is trying to make a profit. He’s making technology that he uses as a superhero and vice versa.

I don’t think Kingpin’s a good guy, but he’s passionate toward a good thing. His methodology is wrong, and his moral compass is wrong. But that’s what’s fascinating. Can he fix it? Can he end up being a hero at the end of his story? I don’t know if he’s worth redemption, but I would like to see him try.

GP: You’ve written a lot of event tie-ins for Marvel, like the upcoming Edge of Venomverse and Civil War II: Kingpin. How do you balance serving the ongoing plot of the event with telling your own story?

MR: The short answer is that it’s the job. I grew up reading Marvel and liking them as a company. I love what superhero comics do. It’s really a tapestry and a huge picture that everyone is working in tiny portions on. It’s a challenge to be relevant to someone else’s story while telling your own satisfying story. That’s the challenge that I grew up loving, like “How do the X-Men deal with Civil War?”

GP: It’s like a puzzle.

MR: Exactly. When it works well, stories complement each other. When it doesn’t, things feel crazy and schizophrenic. I did the Civil War II: Kingpin book [with the idea that] the heroes are fighting so what does Kingpin do? How is he going to rise to power? Everyone is afraid to operate, and the Kingpin finds a way to operate. That’s what the book is about.

Do you need to read it to read Civil War II? No. Do you need to read Civil War Ii to read it? No. But I think if you understand both, there’s a nice complement. I think that’s the balance you should have. Don’t make anyone read anything else that they wouldn’t normally read, but complement each other if you can.

GP: That makes sense. You’re doing The Archies one-shot with Alex Segura and Joe Eisma. How are you bringing the world’s first “cartoon band” into 2017?

MR: Archie is sort of having a renaissance now and modernizing. The Archies and the Archie universe is really classic Americana. I grew up in New York City, and Archie didn’t feel like my childhood, it felt like Happy Days. That idealized sort of thing.

That evolves and changes, and what Americana is in the greater pop culture sense  is updated and changing. Hopefully, it’s more inclusive to people who aren’t white suburban kids. It’s nice to watch that. The Archies is about kids in a band, and it’s not perfectly idyllic. They struggle to put it together, and there’s conflict. It’s about Archie’s aspirations to make something of his talent. I think that’s something people can identify with.

You don’t want to make something that’s so current that it’s alien to classic Archie fans. But you don’t want to pick it up and feel like it’s anachronistic. A lot of it is the language and the visuals, and the way people interact. Not so much that they’re on Twitter.

GP: The main Archie does love using hashtags as plot points.

MR: But it doesn’t rely on those hashtags. The main book doesn’t, and we don’t. We want it to feel like a modern and to give it to people who haven’t read Archie in years to jump right in.

GP: I have one last question about the We Can Never Go Home sequel. What can fans of the original miniseries expect from the sequel, and because you had those playlists in the back of We Can Never Go Home, what music are you listening to while scripting the new series?

MR: A lot of people when they were done reading We Can Never Go Home thought it was truncated and cut short. That’s definitely not true. We didn’t want do more; that was the story we wanted to tell from day one. Josh [Hood], Patrick [Kindlon], Tyler [Boss], Jim [Campbell], and I wanted to do a book that was essentially about growing up.

There’s no finality to growing up. I feel like it’s an ongoing process. It can be a frustrating and heartbreaking one. An important thing for me going back to those characters’ world is not to end it or say what we didn’t say before, but to say something different.

I don’t want to talk about it too much, but the sequel is going to focus on some different characters. Madison and Duncan will be in it, but it’s a journey from a different perspective that relates to them. It takes place a year later in 1990.

As far as the music, I haven’t started working on [a playlist]. I’m a little nervous about it. I put a lot of my favorites in the first volume so there are gonna be some deeper cuts in this one. It’s all punk rock stuff from 1976, 1977 to 1990. We have some new characters so I’m hoping to throw in some different genres. I hope people are into it.

It’s coming out either the end of this year, or the beginning of next year. We want to make sure there are no delays, and that it’s the best book it can be. We don’t wanted it to be rushed. Josh is such a brilliant artist, and I want him to have time to do his absolute best. People are impatient, but we hope the book pays off in the end.

Matt Rosenberg is currently writing Kingpin for Marvel Comics and 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank for Black Mask Studios. He is also writing the upcoming Secret Warriors series for Marvel along with a story in Edge of VenomverseThe Archies for Archie Comics, and another volume of We Can Never Go Home for Black Mask Studios.

You can find Matt’s website here, and his Twitter here.

C2E2 2017: Dan Parent Talks Sharknado, Kevin Keller, and Your Pal Archie

After graduating from the Joe Kubert School, writer/artist Dan Parent got his first Archie Comics creator credits in 1988 and has been one of the company’s shining stars ever since. He has continued the tradition of the Archie “house” style” into the 21st century and worked a variety of classic storylines, including 1994’s “Love Showdown” that posited an end to the Betty/Veronica/Archie love triangle. and co-writing and drawing the crazy 2015 Archie vs. Sharknado crossover.

Possibly, best of all, Dan Parent created the first gay Archie character, Kevin Keller, who may or may not be my boyfriend. Kevin first appeared in 2010’s Veronica before getting his own solo title in 2012. He has played an important role in other Archie related material, like Afterlife with Archie and the Riverdale TV show. The adult Kevin Keller currently stars in the digital-exclusive Life with Kevin miniseries that Parent writes and pencils and will be wrapped up soon.

At C2E2, I had the opportunity to chat with Dan about the timelessness of the Archie characters in pop culture, the creation of Kevin Keller and his relationships as well as his upcoming comic Your Pal Archie that is coming out later in 2017 and will be written by Ty Templeton.

Graphic Policy: I’m proud to be a third-generation Archie fan. I was wondering why you think the Archie characters have endured in pop culture when its imitators, like Millie the Model, have gone into obscurity.

Dan Parent: Well, Archie was first so it was engrained in people’s heads early on. Archie is a part of Americana at this point, like Superman and Batman. He’s been around 75 years and is part of the culture. And the characters stand on their own. They’re unique characters.

GP: I like your Life with Kevin series. Why did you decide to have Kevin move to New York, and have it be the setting of the series?

DP: We wanted to do something different with Kevin, and since they were doing the other reboots with the other characters, we decided to do a soft reboot. We didn’t reinvent the style. We just tweaked it a little bit. You can do so much with Kevin as a character when he’s 20-22 years old because he’s in the real world, he’s dating, and jaunting up his career path. There’s so much more you can do storywise.

We took him out of the Riverdale background and also pushed the Veronica/Kevin friendship because they were a great pair in the original series.

GP: This actually leads into my next question. Why did you continue to make Kevin and Veronica BFFs in Life with Kevin?

DP: Who knows why it works, it just does. When Kevin first came to Riverdale, Veronica had a crush on him, and she wasn’t smart enough to realize he was gay when everyone else knew. And they have this unique friendship, which started out with her crushing on him, and then evolved into a really strong friendship.

They have this yin and yang kind of thing going back and forth that works.

GP: They definitely have chemistry. You’ve been working at Archie for 30 years, do you have any classic Archie artists you might want to recommend to fans who have only watched Riverdale or read the more recent Mark Waid Archie run.

DP: Absolutely. Dan DeCarlo to start with. I worked with Dan in his last decade and learned a lot from him myself. He’s the master of Archie as far as setting the modern style.

You can go back to other great artists, like Bob Montana, who was [Archie’s] creator and set the style. Dan DeCarlo kind of tweaked it and made it the house style. Harry Lucey was another inspirational artist and did a lot of great slapstick. Samm Schwartz was *the* Jughead artist for decades. His style is different than the other Archie artists. You can always tell his art right away. He’s good at Jughead because Jughead is different, and it suited his style.

Bob Montana, Dan DeCarlo, and Harry Lucey are the main go-to’s in my head. Especially Dan DeCarlo. As a kid, I was very inspired by him

GP: What was it like working with DeCarlo in his last decade?

DP: It was great. I probably learned more from him than from art school. Even though I learned a lot in art school. I’m not dissing my art school. Just the hand-on experience. He would lay out stories, and I would finish his stories for a while. So, I got to see how he would draw. And he was just a really sweet guy. I was very lucky to work with a master like him.

GP: What do you personally love about the Archie “house style”?

DP: I like it because I love simple art. It’s deceiving because it’s more difficult to pull off a simple style than a rendered style. People don’t see that. Growing up, I always loved the art that was simple. I grew up loving Harvey and Archie comics because there was a simple line to them.

Even with superhero stuff, I loved Bruce Timm and Darwyn Cooke’s art. I’m even wearing a Darwyn Cooke shirt right now. These guys had a clean, slick style that looked a little cartoon-y.

GP: You have great taste. So, there have been a lot of crazy Archie crossovers. I know you did Archie vs. Sharknado so what about Archie lends itself to being thrown into the world of Predator or the Punisher in these crossovers?

DP: Archie is such a part of pop culture any way. You’ll read old Archie stories and see him with whatever the latest fad or rock star is. I worked on Archie Meets KISS [in 2011], which gets the most fan response still. Something just works. Archie vs. Sharknado is the weirdest one.

But the personalities in Archie adapt to any situation. Jughead is always Jughead, Betty and Veronica are always the same, but they can adapt to these crazy situations. Even the Predator. They’re still the Archie gang, but they’re getting ripped apart.

GP: That’s probably my favorite one of the crossovers. You have Your Pal Archie coming up in July with writer Ty Templeton. Why should fans the of the all-new Archie and Riverdale check that out?

DP: Your Pal Archie is great because it fills the need for people who want classic Archie because the stories are very fun, simple, and old style. The style is still my style (Which is classic), but I just tweaked it a little bit. I was inspired by the fashions on the [Riverdale] show. I changed Archie’s hair and added a little detail to their faces. The changes are minimal when you look at the book, but it’s sort of a makeover.

I did Betty and Veronica Spectacular 10-15 years ago and changed the style of the book a little bit. It’s just keeping it fresh, but not straying too far from the classics.

GP: What can we expect from the first story arc?

DP: The first issue is about Jughead learning how to drive and Archie trying to teach him. I was thinking, “Of all the stories that were ever drawn, you rarely see Jughead driving.” You don’t see him driving that much. So, Ty Templeton latched onto a good story about Jughead driving. The story’s really funny. It’s like an old style slapstick story.

GP: What was has collaborating with Ty been like? I know you’re a big fan of Batman: The Animated Series, and he worked on the Batman Adventures comic back in 1990s.

DP: I’ve known him for a while and have always admired his art and writing. I was trying to come up with people to write [Your Pal Archie]. It’s good I didn’t write them because he brings a fresh outlook to the stories. Ty fills the bill because he’s flat out funny. He’s inking it too and has that nice line style that I like that adds to my artwork.

GP: This is kind of a weird fan fiction-y question. If every male character in the Archie universe was gay, bi, pan, or queer, who would Kevin Keller date?

DP: Maybe, he’d like Jughead. They have a similar taste in food. Kevin likes to eat, but not as much as Jughead. That was kind of their bonding experience in the first issue where Kevin appeared. So that might work.

GP: For my last question, I’m a big fan of the Shade the Changing Girl series from DC Comics and saw you got to draw the “Life with Honey” backup in issue 7. How did that happen?

DP: I know Jamie Rich, had done some DC covers in the fall, and reached out for work. And he had that in mind because I have a retro style like the Life with Honey show. It was fun, and I hope to do another one.


Dan Parent is currently writing and penciling Life with Kevin, writing and drawing numerous stories in the Archie Double Digests, and is the penciler on the upcoming Your Pal Archie series. He is also the co-writer and one of the artists on Chapterhouse Comics’ Die Kitty Die.

You can find him on Twitter or on his website.

Talking The Loud House with Chris Savino

This Free Comic Book Day, Papercutz releases The Loud House, based on the popular Nickelodeon cartoon series by Chris Savino. From there, we’ll get more of our favorite animated family in comic form in even more releases!

I got a chance to talk to Savino about the series, its influences, and it being made into a comic series.

Graphic Policy: So The Loud House is based on your family. But when did you decide to actually create the series and how long was it in the works?

Chris Savino: I am from a family of 10. I have five sisters and four brothers. I’m number nine. The Loud House is based on my family as far as the idea of what it’s like to grow up in such a crowded household. The original concept for The Loud House was about a boy rabbit with 25 sisters. (Because I am used to being from a big family, 10 didn’t seem crazy enough so I pushed it to extreme numbers.) The initial idea had been floating around in my head for years, but it wasn’t until 2013, when I came to Nickelodeon, that I started trying to figure out what that idea would be. From the time it was a short for the Nickelodeon Animated Shorts Program in early 2013, to the time it was greenlit to series it took about a year. Which in standard terms of development, was very fast.

GP: You’ve said that Peanuts, Dennis the Menace, Garfield, and Calvin and Hobbes were all influences on the series. How does it feel to come full circle to be inspired by comics and see your animated series as a comic?

CS: Oh yes. All of those are major influences, including Krazy Kat (George Herriman), Polly and Her Pals (Cliff Sterrett) and Pogo (Walt Kelly). I used to think the dream would be having a comic strip that was so popular that it would some day be turned into an animated series. Now I dream that the opposite might come true. Having a series that is so popular that it would one day live on as a comic strip. I hope the comic strip aesthetic comes through when watching The Loud House – I’ve said it before and it will always be the same: The Loud House is my love letter to the art of comic strips.

GP: How’d the comic series come to happen and how involved are you?

CS: When Papercutz came to us with the desire to publish a Loud House graphic novel series I jumped at the chance. Again, with its comic aesthetic, it felt that it could be a totally natural transition into comic form. I was very involved in volume one, I wanted to make sure it was a solid template for subsequent volumes, so I asked the artists and writers of The Loud House if they would all participate in making it and they were all too happy to help out! I have very specific ideas about layout and timing in comics, especially funny comics, and wanted to convey those to the team. Now that we have one volume done, I feel it was a pretty solid foundation for the others that follow. Volume two and onward are using new writers and new artists outside of the Loud House crew and it will be exciting to see how they interpret the show.

GP: What does the comic form allow you to do that an animated series might not?

CS: We sometimes come up with ideas for the show that just aren’t big enough to fill an 11-minute episode, so instead of throwing them away we used them as ideas for the comic. We also get a chance to tell stories from other characters’ points of view that we may or may not be able to do on the show as well.

GP: My family too has the thing with the first letter of our names (all B) and me and my brothers are all “Br” to boot. From someone who remembers this fondly growing up myself I have to ask. How often were names messed up by your parents?

CS: Haha. Oh man, so you know the struggle is real. My parents said the wrong name all the time. Sometimes they would go through every name in the household before hitting on the correct name. My sisters are all L names and all four letters and their middle name is all Marie. Sadly, the boys didn’t get that treatment. But if you got called out with the middle name Marie, you knew you were in trouble! “Christopher Marie, get down here right now!!!” Hahaha.

GP: Yeah, I do. Makes me feel so much better that my experience wasn’t unique! Thanks for chatting and look forward to picking up the comic this Free Comic Book Day!

Asaf Hanuka talks Israel, Technology’s Invasion, and How He’s The Realist

The Realist: Plug and Play continues the journey of Eisner-Award winning, husband, father, and ordinary Israeli citizen Asaf Hanuka as he plumbs the depths of human existence with humor and melancholy, imagination, and quiet desperation. This new volume of the series brings the mix of pathos and politics that makes Hanuka a modern master of cartooning.

A fascinating read for so many reasons with art that’ll leave you lingering on the page, both volumes of The Realist are must gets for fans of cartooning and comics.

I got a chance to talk to Hanuka about the series, going from webcomic to print, and the presenting a non-Western perspective in comics.

Graphic Policy: So, let’s go back to the beginning. The Realist began as a webcomic. Where did the idea for it come from and how’d you decide on it being a webcomic?

Asaf Hanuka: The Realist started because I needed a job. I was asked by an editor of a weekly newspaper, Calcalist, to do a comic strip in the last page of the paper. I always liked autobiographical comics because it creates instant intimacy with the reader, so I decided to try it out. Comics is really just doodles on paper, and if it is done well, the personality of the author is felt in every line of every character and object presented. It’s easy to draw what you know best but sometimes it can get confusing to constantly look at your life from the outside.

After a few months, I started posting the pages online in a blog and then on Facebook. I think that anyone who creates art is hoping to reach the largest audience possible. The internet allowed The Realist to reach readers outside of Israel and that was the major motivation for me in posting it online.

GP: When creating it as a webcomic, did you ever think it’d be in print? If so, did that impact what you created at all?

AH: I never imagined the strip would be followed by so many people and that in seven years, it will be collected into a series of books, translated into 11 languages, and win an Eisner Award [in 2016]. The stories are very personal and a big part of it deals with local life in Israel. I’m still amazed when someone from Korea sends me a message saying he felt his own life reflected in the stories.

I can’t deny that posting my comics on social media doesn’t change the way I work. The “like” system is very addictive. It pushes for a simplified message, which in my case isn’t what I do best. I don’t have classic “punch lines.” There was a point in time where it started getting to me—I wondered why a specific work was popular while another work wasn’t—but eventually I realized it’s not something that contributes to my creative process. That was part of my decision to lower my posting rate dramatically.

GP: There’s lots about your everyday life and it involves your family. Do you ever worry about how they might react to what you’ve created?

AH: Of course. My family is more important than my comics. I will never put anything in one of my comics that might offend anyone. I typically ask my wife to approve her dialogue. The work is collaborative in the sense that we as a family usually discuss ideas during dinner and everyone participates in the brainstorming.

GP: Being Israeli and of an interesting background, how important to you as a creator to get your experiences out there?

AH: Israel is usually discussed in international media in the context of war/conflict zone/terrorism. I feel my contribution is to show that there is normality behind the headlines. People are just trying to live an average life and raise kids, but some are struggling to make a living. It’s exhausting to pretend your life is normal when there is only an illusion of safety. This disaster waiting to happen is an endless supplier of creativity. To simplify, if it all ends tomorrow, I should try my best today.

GP: I noticed when you do touch upon Israeli politics and what it’s like to live there, you don’t take much of a stance, it’s just your experience. Is that on purpose?

AH: I’m not interested in political messages because I don’t have any. In the political discussion in Israel, people are either on the left or on the right, they are against the occupation or they are for the settlers, and there is no real discussion since each side is sure of their opinion. If my work is just a front window for a political agenda, it will instantly get tagged as propaganda. I try to create work that is relatable even for people who don’t agree with me. I try to tell a small personal story that offers a reflection on the larger problems. It’s a way of saying something under the radar, because people usually just want to read a joke. They want to get to the punch line, and they can’t stop looking until they reach the bottom of the page. Under that little visual slide, I will suggest a bigger story or a metaphor that will be visible in a second reading.

GP: As an Israeli creator do you feel any pressure on presenting something from a non-Western viewpoint?

AH: My mother emigrated from Iraq to Israel in the ’50s as part of a large movement of Iraqi Jews who came to Israel at the time. My grandmother never spoke Hebrew, so in the house, I would often hear them speaking Arabic. The culture, the food, and the music was Arabic. At the same time, my brother Tomer [illustrator Tomer Hanuka] and I loved superheroes and obsessed over American comic books. The dominant culture in Israel was Ashkenazi, meaning it was dominated by the Jews who came from a European background. I felt alienated in that culture because it dismissed my Arabic roots. Reading Spider-Man and hearing mom speaking Arabic in the background sums up my childhood and explains my fascination with superheroes: They have a secret identity, making them different than everyone else. That’s how I felt.

I think The Realist allows me to create this mix between Western idols and Middle-Eastern reality.

GP: You’ve done longer narrative and then these shorter comics, do you approach them differently? Is there one you enjoy more so than others?

AH: The one-pagers are weekly. I’ve done and continue to do a page every week for the last seven years. It’s a moment amplified by narrative flow or illustrative approach. I basically choose a doodle from my sketchbook and throw it on the page, hoping something good will happen. The longer stories are more like films I will never make. I have an idea for a few scenes, maybe a bit of dialogue and I try to put that in order. I feel at this point in my professional life that I’m ready to produce longer narratives and hopefully I will be able to.

GP: Have you gone back at all to some of your earlier webcomics and come off as surprised as what you created?

AH: Yes! I’m always surprised at how my drawing style changes without me noticing. It evolved and got simpler yet more controlled over time. There is a lot of theory about the “how to” in comics but the truth is that you just have to do it every day and then you “get it.”

Sometimes I read an old strip and I’m embarrassed, like watching myself naked. It’s a form of mental and emotional strip-tease. It can only work if there is a huge amount of honesty. I try not to fake it, even when the deadline is near.

GP: I notice there’s a theme throughout a lot of the comics that mix flesh and technology. Where’d that focus come from?

AH: From me and my old age: I’m 43. We got our first color TV when I was in high school. I used Photoshop for the first time when I was 24. I remember how it was before smartphones, and maybe that’s why I’m so aware of how technology has invaded our personal space and made us addicted to a never-ending flow of photos and information. In my work, I just push it a little bit forward into surrealism but I’m really aiming at realism.

GP: What else do you have on tap for the year that you can tell us about?

AH: I’m working on a graphic novel with Italian writer Roberto Saviano (writer of Gomorrah, which was made into a film and was recently a Netflix series). It’s called Still Alive and it’s a reflection on the paradoxes of the life of a writer living under constant police protection. It will be released by Bao Publishing in Italy. It’s one of the most interesting and ambitious projects I’ve ever worked on. I hope it will be published in the beginning of 2018.

GP: Sounds really interesting. Can’t wait to read that! Thanks so much for chatting.

C2E2 2017: Joëlle Jones Talks About Her Creative Process, Housewife Assassins, & That Moment from Supergirl: Being Super

Joellejones

My first interview at the 2017 edition of C2E2 was with the talented writer/artist Joëlle Jones. I first fell in love with her gorgeous lines, macabre sense of humor, and impeccable style in the 2015-2016 Dark Horse Comics miniseries Lady Killer that she co-wrote with current Vertigo editor Jamie S. Rich and illustrated herself. Lady Killer is about a seemingly stereotypical 1960s housewife named Josie Schuller, who raises her two kids and makes dinner for her husband, but is secretly an assassin. She was also the artist on the lovely slice of life graphic novel 12 Reasons Why I Love Her from Oni Press and a Mockingbird one-shot from Marvel Comics.

I got to chat with Jones about her work on Lady Killer and its sequel as well as her heartbreaking work on the DC Comics series Supergirl: Being Super, a modern retelling of Supergirl’s origin story, while she worked on a beautiful Catwoman commission. Read until the end for a cameo from another famous pop culture assassin.

LadyKillerInterior

Graphic Policy: One of the first things that attracted me to Lady Killer were the styles that the characters were wearing, especially Josie. I was wondering what some of your style inspirations were for the series.

Joëlle Jones: I always try to look at the old Sears catalogues. There’s a lot of people who can them in, but mostly, I use the old sewing patterns.

GP: I think I remember seeing some of those at my grandma’s house. I really like the way you draw Josie’s kids in Lady Killer? Did you have any particular influences, like newspaper comics etc.

JJ: It was old Valentine’s Day cards from the 1950s that Pete Hawley did. They’re so cartoon-y, and they make me giggle. I just wanted to do an homage to him.

LadyKillerCoverGP: In Lady Killer 2, Josie is doing some sketchy things, like killing everyone and even teaming up with Nazis. Was there any particular things you added to your writing and art to keep her sympathetic in spite of doing all these deplorable things?

JJ: I wasn’t consciously trying to make people sympathetic to her. Hopefully, part of it is that I love [Josie], and I hope that’s enough to get across. Lady Killer is a kind of book that I would do no matter if people read it or not. I try to entertain myself and get me laughing or interested, and luckily it’s worked out that it’s successful.

GP: I was so glad when Lady Killer got a sequel. What were some of your favorite assassination scenes to draw in the either the first Lady Killer or the sequel?

JJ: I always like what I most recently did, but some of the scenes stand out over time. Like when she killed the stripper and strangles her. I wanted to draw that scene just so I could do the nipple tassels twirling around. The only purpose for that [splash page] was me wanting to draw that.

GP: The old school pasties. Very nice. So, in Lady Killer 2, the Schuller family moves from the Pacific Northwest to Florida so how did the shift in setting influence your work on the series?

JJ: I wanted to put them in a whole new place and shake everything up. I wanted to make them uncomfortable. The first series I kind of wrote with training wheels because Jamie [Rich] was there to help me. For the second series, I really wanted to do it on my own. I wanted to break away from what I did in the first series and put myself in that uncomfortable position. I did the same thing with the [Schuller] family to cover up the jitters.

GP: What have been some of the challenges of working with a co-writer to doing everything but the colors by yourself?

JJ: It’s actually been really freeing. I don’t like to sit down and write scripts. I start in with the art, and my scripts look like a mix between doodles and words. It was so much easier to not have to explain to anybody what I wanted to do. I just wanted to jump write in and do it.

GP: So when do you add the dialogue?

JJ: I add the dialogue at the very last minute when the art’s all finished.

GP: What can readers expect from the big finale in the upcoming Lady Killer 2 #5?

JJ: I don’t know. I haven’t written it yet. I do know where I wanna go and hopefully everyone will like it. Obviously, there’s gonna be a lot of blood. You can expect gore.

GP: That’s one of thing I love about the series: the over the top violence and black comedy. Like 60s housewife sitcom with a little Tarantino on top.

One of my favorite moments in Lady Killer was when you added a little flashback with Josie’s mother-in-law and set her up as a “lady killer” of the past. If you theoretically could do a spinoff of Lady Killer, what era would you set it in and why?

JJ: That’s my favorite too! Maybe it’s because of all the movies I’ve been watched, but I would really like to do a Great Depression/Dust Bowl one. That’s what I’m into now, but it could change tomorrow and be the disco 1970s.

BeingSuper

GP: That would be so awesome with the big afros and everything. Another series of yours that I’m a big fan of is Supergirl: Being Super. In issue 2, Supergirl’s best friend dies. It made me cry on my lunch break at work. How did you get in an emotional state to draw something so powerful?

JJ: Yeah, it’s heartbreaking. It’s all down to the way that Mariko [Tamaki] wrote it. The script is powerful on its own. It didn’t take much to get me there. She sent me the script, and I opened it up and started crying alone in my studio. It was so sad.

GP: It’s so unexpected because it was previously such a lighthearted book.

JJ: I had no idea that was going to happen.

GP: What is the difference in your creative process between Lady Killer and doing everything versus Supergirl: Being Super where you worked with inker, Sandu Florea? Do you draw differently?

JJ: I do a little bit. Sandu inked the first issue, and I took over on the inks for issues two through 4. It’s work as usual, I guess. I’ve been working off other people’s scripts for ten years so it’s back to the normal collaboration with someone else. It’s nice to get my foot off the gas for a while.

GP: My favorite character in Supergirl: Being Super is definitely Dolly. I love that girl. How did you come up with the design for her?

JJ: Mariko had an idea going in, and then we collaborated after a few sketches. I love drawing her clothes the best. She wears basically what I wanna wear all the time. She’s so fun to draw.

GP: She’s so comfortable in her own skin and is definitely style goals.

I have one last “just for fun” question. Who would win in a fight between John Wick and Josie, and why?

JJ: That’s tricky because Josie won’t use guns. Let’s say it’s hand to hand fighting. Josie’s got it. If he sneaks up on her, she’ll probably go down.


Joelle Jones is currently the artist on Supergirl: Being Super from DC Comics and the writer and artist on Lady Killer 2 from Dark Horse Comics.

You can find her on Twitter and on her website.

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