Category Archives: Interviews

Daniel Kibblesmith Talks the Return of Quantum & Woody

Sometimes… you embrace your destiny. And sometimes… you and your trouble-making adopted brother find yourselves trapped in a scientific lab explosion that grants you $@&%ing awesome super-powers. As a result of their accident, Eric and Woody Henderson – aka Quantum and Woody – must “klang” their wristbands together every 24 hours or both dissipate into nothingness. Which makes superhero-ing pretty awkward when you’re not on speaking terms at the moment. See, Eric has been keeping a pretty big secret: He knows who Woody’s birth father really is… and where he’s been hiding all these years.

Consider yourself warned…

This December the world’s worst superhero team return in the all new Quantum & Woody #1 written by Daniel Kibblesmith with art by Kano.

We got a chance to talk to Daniel about the new series as well as his writing for The Late Show and the difference between digital and print.

GP: How’d you become a writer, especially one focused on comedy?

Daniel Kibblesmith: Well, I always wrote and drew and generally made stuff. I wanted to be a filmmaker from an early age, and taught myself how to make claymation shorts on our family’s VHS camcorder. It wasn’t until I got to film school that I realized how the duties are divided up and that the writing was the part I cared about the most – plus, being on sets stressed me the hell out. When I was making short films, it was at the beginning of YouTube, and I figured out that no one really wanted to watch a three-minute drama, but they would totally check out a comedy sketch. I was naturally inclined toward comedy, so I committed. From there I took Second City classes, tried stand-up, and made friends in the comedy community, which eventually blossomed into this whole career-like object.

GP: You’ve previously written for Valiant, how’d you wind up on Quantum & Woody? How well did you know the characters coming on to the project?

DK: I knew them pretty well. Quantum and Woody was my entry point into Valiant, because I knew James Asmus a little bit from the comedy world, and I was told that you didn’t need to know anything about Valiant to get into Q&W. I loved them right away, especially in The Delinquents team-up series, so I’ve had my eye on Quantum and Woody for a while. They seemed like a good fit for another comedy/comics writer like me.

GP: Was it a bit of an adjustment to go from writing for things like the Late Show to writing for Valiant and comics in general?

DK: Not really, because I still do both every day. I compare it to playing different video games sometimes – both video games could require a lot of overlapping skills, like timing or coordination, but the headspace and rhythm you slide into could be really different between, say Mario Kart and Smash Bros. (Nintendo, I mentioned your intellectual properties, please send me a free Switch).

GP: For those who haven’t been introduced to the characters before, how would you describe Quantum and Woody?

DK: Quantum and Woody are “the world’s worst superheroes” -– two dysfunctional adopted brothers, one straight-laced black guy (Eric) and one reckless white guy (Woody), who become estranged in childhood and reunite to solve their scientist father’s murder. But while investigating his lab, they accidentally blow things up and get superpowers (Quantum makes force fields, Woody shoots explosive blasts), and also get two golden bracelets fused to their wrists that have to be KLANG’D together every 24 hours to re-stabilize their molecules and stop them from turning into energy. So no matter how angry they get at each other, they’re basically stuck with each other.

GP: What’s your process like when you sit down to write?

 

DK: I don’t really have a set process outside of the Late Show office, where everything is driven by the schedule of producing that day’s show. It leaves me nights and weekends to carve out time to get actual pages written, but a lot of the breakthroughs are incidental, which won’t surprise anyone else who writes. I think most of my ideas for Quantum and Woody came to me in the shower at the gym or walking to and from work, when my wind can wander. It’s great for dialogue, because I just kind of let my mind go blank and imagine them bantering on an empty stage back and forth until I’ve got way, way more bickering than I can actually fit in word balloons.

GP: Quantum & Woody has a nice history with Valiant and the last few volumes have built off the madness of the previous. You reference some previous adventures but as a writer how do you balance the history with making the comic easy to pick up for new readers?

DK: Well, for one thing, the hook. You don’t really need to know who Quantum and Woody are to appreciate a buddy-action-comedy-superhero-family-drama. Also, “Quantum and Woody” is one of the most bizarre names you give a comic, which I think it one of the reasons it’s stuck around all these years. It leaps off the shelves at you like, “What the hell kind of name is Quantum and Woody and how are these black and white guys brothers?” And if you’ve heard anything about it, you probably know that it’s funny. So we worked really hard to make this a brand-new jumping on point for readers –  if they’ve heard of Quantum and Woody before but were just waiting for a new #1, or if they know my work from Twitter, or the Late Show, or the dumpster I scream my rejected jokes into at night.

GP: You’ve done all sorts of writing, print, television, comics. How does the fact you have visuals change how you might approach a joke?

DK: Comics and comedy both have something really important in common, which is timing. The most fun for me is using the visuals to tell the story in a way that it feels like it’s playing out before your eyes, and take advantage of those storytelling devices to land different kinds of jokes – like the interminable silence that’s implied by a grid of identical panels with no dialogue, or being able to use flashbacks or little insets to reveal people’s secret motivations and reactions. Now that I think about it, something like Arrested Development, with the narrator and all the jumping around in time and points of view, would’ve made a really funny comic book.

GP: You wrote the Valiant High comiXology Original comic. What’s the impact the digital aspect has on the story? Is the fact that is what you’re writing for impact how you approached the story? How does an ongoing print series differ from a digital one?

DK: It really makes me wish I’d learned where the ads are going to be. Some writers I really admire have a very conscious awareness of “left page, right page, reveal page, opposite facing pages, double-page spread,” and I didn’t teach myself any of that for Valiant High, because I was picturing it as one-page-at-a-time on an iPad with no screen-rotating. That doesn’t mean Quantum and Woody won’t have double page spreads in it, though. In fact, Issue #2 is all double page spreads. Unless Valiant says no.

GP: What’s the biggest difference between writing for comics versus television versus prose?

DK: For me, it’s the voice you’re writing for. At The Late Show, you’re writing for the rhythm and delivery of a late-night talk show host telling the story of today’s events, and what our country is going through, in a kind of shared POV that gets filtered through his own sensibility. In the comics, you’re telling a story through characters who have their own personalities and dialogue ticks, and are at odds with each other by design. It’s sort of like essay versus novel, but way more lowbrow and with more energy drink ads.

GP: Thanks so much for chatting and looking forward to the comic!

Check out a preview for the first issue below.

Kevin Bieber and Victor Reynolds Get UnPresidential

The President has gone missing, and America is holding a special election to replace him! But who has the charisma, sexiness, and compassion to lead the free world? Kim Jong Un, the fascist dictator of North Korea, of course! A hilarious satire of American culture, Un-Presidential focuses on the journey of the Un-likeliest candidate of all in his quest to save democracy!

We’re not even a full year into Trump’s reign and writers Kevin Beiber and Victor Reynolds have spoofed him, Kim Jong Un and our entire political system in UnPresidential. Publishing by Z2 Comics, the graphic novel pulls no punches and takes on… pretty much everything.

I got a chance to talk to Kevin and Victor about the comic and their fear of pissing off a certain dictator.

Graphic Policy: Where did the idea for UnPresidential come from?

Kevin Bieber: We looked at all of the serious issues and problems facing America today, and found the one thing that Americans really need most right now: A comic about Kim Jong Un running for President after Donald Trump has gone missing between tweets, the Republican line of succession is lost on a romantic Russian Cruise, and Hillary Clinton is stuck in Mexico after plastic surgery gone horribly wrong…

So in a nutshell, UnPresidential is our attempt to bring the far-right and far-left together through their mutual hate of our book. It’s the first common ground they’ve had in years, and I’m really proud to have played a part in it. If just one Trumper hugs an SJW tonight because they both hate us, we’ve done our job.

As for the industry itself, like everyone else, we got into independent comic books purely because we wanted to be rich. Is it working? You’ll have to ask my creditors, and my neighbors at the homeless shelter I’m currently breaking into.

GP: You easily could have done a book around President Trump, why go with Kim Jong Un?

Victor Reynolds: The answer is actually in your question: the reason we didn’t center our book around President Trump is because it would have been easy, and easy is never interesting. Simply put, we wanted to tell a no-holds barred story about the current state of American society, politics, and media, but needed a lens to capture that absurdity. After making sure that Disney didn’t own the rights to him, we thought that America’s biggest enemy, Kim Jong Un, was the perfect lens to highlight that absurdity.

GP: The satire of the graphic novel is pretty wide taking on pretty much everything. Was there any joke you felt went too far or something you didn’t think was appropriate to make?

KB: UnPresidential is Schrodinger’s Comic: too far and not far enough at the same time. UnPresidential goes after everyone and every possible agenda because, in our view, sacred cows are the most fun cows to slaughter. But other than Democrats, Republicans, white people, black people, Asians, straight people, gay people, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Bono, the military, men, women, and our elected officials, I can’t really think of anyone we’ve offended.

To answer your question about whether we’re hesitant: Not. At. All. We pride ourselves on satirizing everyone and every belief (including our own), and will not change that for anything (except money). To borrow the philosophy of our comedy idols from South Park: it’s either all okay, or none of it is.

GP: It feels like real world politics have itself turned into satire. Did that make things more difficult to write this?

VR: Absolutely. Like myself, UnPresidential was initially conceived at a KFC years ago before Trump even announced he was running for President (true story–the main reason we greenlit the book was because we loved the title). It’s gone through more re-writes and changes than almost every Kevin Spacey movie currently in production.

The fact that real world politics has itself turned into satire is a double edged sword. On one hand, it makes the satire in UnPresidential that much more on-point and topical. On the other hand, things change so rapidly that you can’t possibly keep up, which forced us to constantly re-write and update the book. On the whole, UnPresidential was by far the most difficult project we’ve encountered, but hopefully the amount of work and thought that went into it shows up to the readers.

GP: It’s believe that Kim Jong Un had Sony hacked because he was made fun of on film. Any fears or suspicious North Korean hacks yet?

KB: Nah, because North Korea doesn’t really attack creators; it only hacks the websites that interview the creators…

Seriously though, if we haven’t been hacked after printing the damn book in Korea, I don’t know what it will take. If this book actually gets on Kim Jong Un’s radar, something has gone horribly wrong… or right.

GP: We’re only about 10 months into President Trump’s reign and this is a sizeable book. How long did it take to work on?

VR: The final iteration of the book came together in about eight months. However, the actual concept of UnPresidential came about two years ago before Trump even ran for office–we wanted to create the most absurd election possible with the dumbest, least likely candidate ever and use that as a vehicle to poke fun at American society and the sad state it has become. We settled on Kim Jong Un in part because we LOVED the title UN-Presidential. But the project had no momentum after a year, until Trump was elected, which breathed new life into the project and its possibilities. Luckily, we found a great artist in Jeremy Labib (with amazing contributions by Jared Lamp, Aladdin Collar, and Matt and John Yuan), and a great distributor in Z2 Comics, which will allow UnPresidential to hopefully be taught in preschools someday.

GP: We’re at a point where reality is difficult to suss out from what’s fake. Is it more difficult to create in that environment?

KB: Yeah, and if there is a villain in this book (besides Kim Jong Un), it’s social media. I believe that Thomas Jefferson once said: “the world will end not with a bang, but with a tweet,” and I find that becoming more true by the day.

For all the substantial good that it’s capable of, I think the last few years have shown that social media is, in reality, Prometheus’s fire–it has basically created a cottage industry of abusive click-baiters whose only incentive is to spread misinformation and mobilize an angry society against itself. It’s no coincidence that Russia used targeted Facebook ads hoping to create dissension among Americans (maybe that’s #Fakenews though, who knows anymore?)

GP: The story takes place over a campaign. Have you ever been involved in one yourself? Volunteer at all?

KB: Oh geez, I worked on what was probably the most disorganized local election of all time. It was the Democratic candidate for County Judge, an administrative position despite its title (full disclosure: we consider ourselves neither Republicans or Democrats–we’re just a couple of far-center, radical moderates that have voted for candidates on both sides). I was a wide-eyed college kid hoping to do my civic duty and participate in democracy in action… and all I ended up doing was calling rich people and asking them for their money. Of course, we lost, and my desire to ever participate in another campaign was forever extinguished.

GP: What do you currently see as the silliest aspect of our current political reality?

VR: Two things: There is no longer any such thing as news–it’s all about hot takes, even with respect to issues that should not be partisan in the slightest. It’s Skip Bayless’s world, we’re just living in it.

Also, the influence of special interests keeps growing unchecked. In UnPresidential, we mock this when Kim Jong Un goes to “BribeCon 2017” and raises money by promising lobbyists that under his Presidency, corporations will no longer be people… they will be GODS!

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

KB: My wallet thanks you for that question. We have quite a few books out, including a book about a geologist that fights inanimate rocks (called Man vs. Rock), a book about a woman who unknowingly starts the biggest cult in the world (called Cult Leaders Anonymous), and, believe it or not, an all-ages book about a space adventurer and her canine co-pilot (called You Can Sell Out, Too by Kevin Bieber and Victor Reynolds … or its other title, Furry Co-Pilots). Of course, if you’re interested in UnPresidential, you can order it now.

GP: Thanks for chatting!

Antony Johnston and Sam Hart Talk Atomic Blonde and The Coldest City

Out this week on blu-ray is Atomic Blonde, the big screen adaptation of the graphic novel by writer Antony Johnston and artist Sam Hart. The graphic novel was originally published by Oni Press under the title of The Coldest City.

We got a chance to talk to Antony and Sam about the movie, comic series, what it’s like to see your creation on the big screen, and if we’ll see a sequel.

Graphic Policy: How does it feel to see a comic you created on the big screen?

Antony Johnston: It feels amazing. It’s very exciting and surreal at the same time. Mainly exciting to see something I came up with at my desk 10 years ago out of my head and Sam brought to life at his drawing table, is up on the silver screen and millions of people have watched it. It’s extraordinary.

Sam Hart: Yup, same here.

GP: What were your involvement with the creation of the actual film? Were you hands on at all?

AJ: I was a Co-Producer of the movie so I had a little involvement. Most of the actual business of selling the rights was handled by Oni Press who shopped it around. Charlize’s (Theron) production company was interested. The production company was looking for something like this book at the time for herself to star in. Talks began. When things actually got moving, and it was apparent the movie was really going to happen, then I was sent the screenplay and then I was consulted on casting and when we were shooting I visited the set. I gave my notes on the screenplay and saw a rough cut of the movie.

I wasn’t there day to day but I gave notes and my thoughts and feedback on the movie as it was going. That was gracious of them because they didn’t have to have me involved in that way but they wanted me involved. I was grateful to be involved.

It was a great experience to see if all from the inside and the care of putting the movie together.

GP: Sam were you involved at all? The visuals of the film are amazing.

SH: They’re amazing. I wasn’t involved at all. But I was very happy with what they did.

GP: The soundtrack of the film really stands out. A lot of creators have said they listen to music when creating comics. When you were originally making it, were you listening to music at the time?

AJ: Amazingly no. I listen to music all the time when I’m working. I’m usually working to classical or ambient. I’m not one of those people who make playlists for a book. I never have though I know some do. The soundtrack was as much a surprise and delight to me as everyone else. It’s a fantastic soundtrack. I loved it.

SH: Same here. It didn’t occur to me to create a playlist at the time I was working on the artwork. It was a brilliant idea for the film people.

GP: Though the comic came out 10 years ago it feels like we’re back in a Cold War sensibility. You told a story about the Cold War and 30 years later and the story is still relevant.

AJ: That just goes to show you things move in cycles doesn’t it? You’re right, when I was writing the story the Cold War was seen as retro and quite unfashionable and the question was whether anyone would be interested in this story of Cold War spies? The answer is yes, nine years later it’s on everyone’s lips. History itself moves in cycles and creators should make in something they’re pasionate about because trying to predict what’s going to be in fashion is a fool’s game.

SH: Yeah, a bit on life going in cycles. When I was drawing the book, my first daughter had just been born and my second daughter is to be born in a week or two. It’s a different cycle but similar feeling for my life.

GP: Congrats!

AJ: One comic child and one movie child.

GP: That’s actually an interesting thing. Atomic Blonde is part of that beginning of seeing multiple kick-ass women on the big screen, Wonder Woman being another example this year. As a father of two daughters, how do you reflect on that?

SH: It feels amazing and two really good examples to show my daughters in what they can do with their lives. It’s an amazing feeling and two good examples.

AJ: I think it’s always interesting where one of the things where it’d be nice to reach as a society is where not every female character on the screen has to be a role model. So we can have enough of them where it’s ok for them to be a bit broken and not very nice. Unfortunately, we’re not quite there, but wouldn’t it be nice?

GP: It’d be nice if I didn’t have to ask that question at all and it was an afterthought.

With the film, the ending is differnet than the graphic novel. What are your general thoughts?

AJ: It wasn’t run by me. I did read the screenplay and I gave feedback. I didn’t want to have people feeling like I was standing over the shoulder because that’s no way to make an adaptation. I make adaptations myself for YA books and other short stories so I’ve seen the process from the other side of the fence. It’s no fun if you feel that the original creator is watching over your shoulder. So I was deliberately hands off. I said to the film makers that we made the best graphic novel we can and now it’s your job to make the best movie you can.

The ending was part of that and you can see why they did it. They’re hoping to make this a franchise and without spoiling the original for anyone that hasn’t read it, the original doesn’t leave a lot of room for sequels and a franchise. It’s totally understandable. The way they handled it was really well fashioned.

SH: The way they did it, I thought it was really well made and it plays with people’s expectations with people who have read the graphic novel.

GP: Sam, how does it feel as an artist to see real live people as your creations?

SH: It’s pretty amazing. It’s also amazing to see what changes they did for example with Percival. They kept the character personality but visually very different. Totally respectful of the character. Both versions make sense. For Lorraine it was interesting to me because I based the visual on my grandmother so watching the movie I’m imagining it’s my grandmother on screen.

GP: With the film out, is it possible we’ll get a sequel since there’s a second book? And how about a third book in the series?

AJ: There is a second book, I have nothing to announce at the time as to whether that’ll be adapted. I am working on a third book and the third book will focus once again on Lorraine. But that’s all I can say at the moment. There will be a third book at some point. Who knows, but keep an eye out.

GP: Is there a moment for each of you that really stands out from the film?

AJ: Apart from when our names are on screen?

GP: That could be the answer.

AJ: It’s hard to pick out a moment because the whole thing, because it’s the first work of mine that made it through the process. The whole thing blows me away. I do have favorite moments but they’re little touches of acting. There’s a look Møller gives Lorraine at one point a raised eyebrow without a word expresses so much. Little touches like that for me make the movie. I’m so familiar the big stuff is spectacular but the little moments of acting craft that you only spot after watching three or four times are what makes it for me.

SH:The same. At the end when you see “The Coldest City” on the credits was nice. The last time I saw the movie I noticed at Percival’s death scene they let the cigarette fall to the floor which is a call back to the beginning.

GP: Thanks so much for chatting and your time!

Baltimore Comic Con 2017: Sean Rubin Discusses Bolivar

Sybil knows that there is something off about her next door neighbor, but she can’t seem to get anyone to believe her. Everyone is so busy going about their days in the busy streets of New York City that they don’t notice Bolivar. They don’t notice his odd height, his tiny arms, or his long tail. No one but Sybil sees that Bolivar is a dinosaur.

At Baltimore Comic Con 2017, I got a chance to talk to writer and artist Sean Rubin about his new graphic novel Bolivar being published by BOOM! Studios and Archaia.

The graphic novel is available digitally and in comic stores November 15 and in book stores November 28.

You can order it now!

 

 

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Walker Stalker Con Boston 2017: Talking walkers, faith and everyday life with Seth Gilliam

Back in the Summer I was able to navigate the herd of lumbering craze filled zombie fanatics that occupied the famous Westin Hotel in Boston and get a few moments with man behind the apocalyptic collar for The Walking Dead: Seth Gilliam.

Graphic Policy: I am here for Graphic Policy to interview the talented Seth Gilliam who currently plays Father Gabriel on AMC’s The Walking Dead and I thank for you time today, first off how was the flight into Boston?

Seth Gilliam: Well actually it was delayed but I’m hoping things roll on more positive as we go.

GP: I hope that for you as well. So for those who are unfamiliar with your work, you play Father Gabriel on the hit show The Walking Dead. 

SG: Yes I do.

GP: You play a very interesting character who has gone through a tremendous arc since he was introduced. That is the fascinating thing about The Walking Dead is not necessarily the Zombies themselves or walkers, but rather the people and what they go through. You actually play a priest. So I wanted to know, Are you a man of faith yourself?

SG: Yes. I do believe in God. I don’t know if my faith is called into question to the level that Father Gabriel’s has been though.

GP: Interesting. Would you say there is anything so far on your time filming this show that has helped you or you now apply to your every day life?

SG: Hmmm. Not really. It’s not like my every day life is chock full of dead people or anything. So in that respect there is not too much from the show you can apply to everyday life. It’s not like MacGuyver where I would learn how to make a bomb out of a toothbrush or shoe laces with a spoon or nothing like that. (chuckles) I don’t really know if daily affirmations apply in the role I play.

GP: Were you a fan of this genre before you got assigned to play this character? Was it something you sought out and wanted to be a part of?

SG: Actually I’m not really a big horror fan. Or a big gore fan. I’m pretty squeamish actually. I guess I would prefer Sci-Fi. I really like kitchen sink dramas above and beyond. The Walking Dead though is really like a kitchen sink drama once you remove the walkers. It’s about a bunch of people and where they go from where they start off. I mean it is not like a soap opera and where events get sped up to the extreme. However The Walking Dead does sort of fast track people because of the walkers and their situations it does speed it up a little more than normal.

GP: What does being in Fan Fest and not necessarily you being a fan of the genre but rather the people and the atmosphere. What does it mean to you?

SG: This is actually pretty cool. It feels like before I’d be invited to a party and they’d be like hey “Who is that guy?”  Now it’s like I am me and me is my costume and to see people react to it the way they do and the level of excitement that they have for the genre, it’s like anything else. I mean looking at these lines and how it makes people feel reacting to the films they’ve seen or the tv shows they’ve seen the energy is so fantastic. It’s been really upbeat and really positive and everyone seems happy to be here, and I kind ride off their energy especially if you been working long or your flight’s been delayed.  (laughs) You just got to settle into town and wait to see the energy of the people that they bring to you, you know it is pretty cool.

GP: In other words, it’s special.

SG: Yeah it really is.

*Greg Molina: I have just one question,  from a youth empowerment perspective what can you speak to about people facing their fears and anxieties?

SG: You know it’s a horribly confusing experience growing up. I know it was for me. I tried and took solace in acting. It was something I could focus on. It was something I could I do and build my sense of self worth and self esteem. I think it is important for kids to try and find one thing, just one thing they can relate to, that you can make your own and throw yourself into when things get overwhelming or chaotic it certainly is helpful. If there is anything, dance, writing, drawing, acting anything that is a creative outlet. Especially if it is something you can call your very own that you can withdraw yourself into to fortify yourself as you step outside and deal with crazy world around you.

GP: This was great sir and thank you for your time.

SG: Thank you very much as well.

Question with * was asked by Greg Molina of YCE Young Culture Entertainment @youngcultureent

Baltimore Comic Con 2017: Greg Pak Talks Mech Cadet Yu

Once a year, giant robots from outer space come to Earth and bond with young cadets from the elite Sky Corps Academy to defend the world from the terrifying aliens known as the Sharg. It’s a great honor to be chosen, but this year…well, the wrong kid was picked.

Written by Geg Pak with art by Takeshi Miyazawa, Mech Cadet Yu is one of our favorite comic series of the years and has been picked up by BOOM! Studios as an ongoing series.

We talked to Pak at Baltimore Comic Con 2017 about the comic and attempted to not gush too much about it.

Joe Illidge Talks Lion Forge Comics’ Astonisher

The most dangerous corners of the universe live inside the nightmares of super-powered people.

Magnus Atitarn, heir to the Atitarn Satellite Corp., tried to save the world with his experimental one-man spaceship — and ended up a broken man. Now a celebrity joke suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Magnus has the power to travel inside the mind of super-powered people, where he discovers nightmares which threaten the entire human race.

Astonisher is the latest series to debut as part of Lion Forge Comics’ Catalyst Prime universe. Written by Alex De Campi with art by Pop Mhan the series is an intriguing entry to the comic line.

We got a chance to talk to Senior Editor Joe Illidge about the series.

Graphic Policy: Where did the concept for Astonisher come from? It’s interesting in how it fits in with the other series that have come out so far.

Joe Illidge: The CEO, David Steward II, came up with a basic premise for the title and certain ideas he wanted to explore in the Catalyst Prime universe. When I thought about it, it seemed like the kind of book that traditionally in superhero comics you would expect a man to write with a white American male lead character. I thought “ok, I’m tired of seeing a male perspective on men, I want to see a woman’s perspective.” When I thought about who was one of the most unique and talented female writers out there, Alex De Campi was on the short list. I went to her and told her to take this nugget and expand upon that.

She’s the one that took it to the next level in terms of making it what she called the more “Steve Ditko/Grant Morrison” corner of the Catalyst Prime universe.

GP: The vibe I got from the comic is that it shares a lot with some of the other rich male characters out there. It’s the brash, full of ego, into technology. Is that the right take on it?

JI: Absolutely. When Dave Steward II conceived it, he really thought about the convergence between Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Richard Branson in the Catalyst Prime world and where those paths meet in terms of bravura, youth, Silicon Valley, wealth culture. That’s the nucleus of where Astonisher came from.

What Alex did was expand it in terms of the family dynamic that would surround a person like that and how people treat each other in social circles. The main character Magnus became a character that we could use to examine wealth culture through his entire family.

GP: After reading the first issue, this feels like the first comic you’ve put out where I’m struggling to find a character I really like. They’re assholes each in their own special way. It’s interesting that there’s not the sympathetic character at all. Still, I found myself wanting to go along with the ride to see where it goes.

JI: It’s interesting when you say that. I was a big fan of the show Six Feet Under, created by Alan Ball. I remember that’s what someone said to me about Six Feet Under. The core of Astonisher is Magnus, who has a good core to him, but that good core has been warped by his social status, fame, vanity, but even the kind of ego it took for him to take his ship and go out into space and think he would as one man save the world. But suffering and coming back from that with PTSD, losing his level of celebrity, and how that keys into his sense of self, I found all the characters interesting. While they may not be immediately likeable, they are all characters that are human and believable. I think that is at the core of the Catalyst Prime universe, stories about characters.

You can see in various ways how this family represents the influential architecture of the Catalyst Prime Universe. When you think about it Magnus is the center of that, that opens up a lot of dramatic possibilities. We’re so used to getting superhero stories where we first meet them and they’re people that we like. They’re people to whom we’d already apply the term “heroic.” What we’re doing here is a story of a character’s journey towards heroism. That’s why we’re starting where Magnus is now because we’re going to take you on that journey. What we pride ourselves on in the Catalyst Prime Universe is that the readers will be able to go on the narrative journey with the characters at the same time.

GP: What’s interesting and stood out is that even though he’s unlikeable, it’s not a negative thing. It’s rather interesting because he’s not coming from an altruistic starter. Let’s be realistic: Tony Stark wouldn’t be altruistic. He’d be driven by ego and profit and because he thinks he knows best from a privileged place. That’s where this seems to be coming from, in a good way.

When Magnus created an app, it wasn’t what it did, it was how much he made. Now he has these powers, it’s about how he can make money off of them. This isn’t something you usually see in a superhero comic.

JI: Absolutely, the thing of it is, when you look at someone like Magnus, he comes from a position of entitlement right off the bat. His perspective on life, his perspective on doing good is going to be warped and in an interesting way parallels some of the things we see in real life. Part of what it does, it speaks to the true variety of the Catalyst Prime line, when we talk about inclusivity, when we talk about diversity, we’re showing people from different backgrounds and walks of life. The character of Magnus and his family in Astonisher speaks to a specific corner and perspective of the Catalyst Prime Universe. The name Astonisher is going to be apropos. We’re going to surprise you in different ways with this character as the story goes forward.

GP: Something that sticks out to me, through the various series that have come out, you have the Foresight Corporation, which is playing a huge role. Here you have Magnus and another corporation. My gut says that we’re going to see two corporations clash at some point.

JI: Basically, the same way you can look at our world and see titans like Google, Microsoft, Apple, you can look at the Catalyst Prime Universe and over time we’ll reveal the superstructure. The social, the financial. So, the company Magnus is the heir to which was founded by his mother and known as the Attarian Satellite Corporation, otherwise known as ATISAT. ATISAT is a major player in what’s going on in the world. The relationship between ATISAT and the Foresight Corporation is something that will slowly be revealed and in terms of a conflict of companies…when we get there it’ll be natural and make sense. It won’t be forced. It’ll be closer to a true world dynamic. What companies of wealth consider combat is different than what we consider combat. What they consider as competition, at that level, it’s a different point of view. That’s you at the top of the mountain look down, whereas most people are not coming from a position from wealth so they’re only looking up and their perspective is skewed as a result. It’ll be interesting over time the perspective that these families have of each other.

GP: Magnus’ powers are very different than others. They’re psionic or telepathic. When it comes to powers people can get, is there a guide as to what we’ll see in the Catalyst Prime world?

JI: We try to keep it science based and we want all the characters to have limitations. With this one, even though we’re entering a psychic landscape, that landscape and the discoveries of Magnus’ power, which connect to pieces of meteor in his body and one close to his brain, how that works with the Astonisher technology is quite science based. In terms of the logic of the powers, we wanted to take a different approach which is usually superpowers as an extension of personality. You’ve seen that successfully done in the past, but there’s something that’s more interesting if it’s random.

GP: With the meteor still embedded in Magnus’ head, I immediately think of people with bullets still in them and how that changes their life and PTSD. Is that going to be explored?

JI: It’s definitely going to be explored. Magnus is suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury. What we’re going to see is how people treat him differently. There’s your own trauma and then there’s the trauma that’s inflicted on you by other people’s perceptions of you. That’s something that Alex De Campi keys into with this character.

GP: I can see that in the first issue, definitely. How did Pop Mhan come on to the series?

JI: I’ve been a fan of Pop’s for years I loved his recent work for DC Comics on Masters of the Universe and when I thought about this comic and how it takes certain expectations and subverts them I thought Pop would be a perfect artist that would be able to give us the twisting actions and adventures as we go into the psyches of those infected by meteor exposure. And to give us personal drama which is just as dramatic and just as revealing of character, if not more so, as the battles. I really wanted to find someone that could get the balance. Someone that really could do the human expressiveness in body language, facial expressions, and Pop is one of the best out there. I was thrilled when he decided to come on board for the title. Jessica Kholinne as colorist is really doing an amazing job. She’s a true godsend to the book and her palette and approach to color and lighting is showing a level of thought and understanding that’s at the top of coloring in this business.

GP: With the series, it’s interesting that everything from Catalyst Prime fits in a silo. You have the team book, the teenager, the speedster, the loner character, and this with the arrogant tech and family dynamic. Astonisher could just be the “tech book” but that family dynamic makes it something else. When coming up with the various stories, how much of that is on your minds?

JI: Part of that comes from the different writers. Astonisher would have been a different kind of book with a different writer handling it. Because it’s Alex, her thinking is so brilliant and varied, she brought her sensibilities and self to the title and made it distinctive. Part of it, I think readers want to deal with familiar archetypes but want to deal with them in different ways. In one way Astonisher is where Batman, Iron Man, and Doctor Strange meet. In another way but he’s not like any of those characters. I feel like the readers are sophisticated and they should get stories that challenge them. Astonisher is the type of comic that can challenge expectations.

GP: Thanks for chatting!

Baltimore Comic Con 2017: Eryk Donovan Talks Eugenic

When a plague ravages the world, one scientist discovers the cure and becomes the savior of mankind. Hope is restored, and the world rebuilds. But then people who took the cure begin having children who are… unnatural, and the definition of “normal” is forever altered.

At Baltimore Comic Con we got a chance to talk to artist Eryk Donovan about his new comic series Eugenic with writer James Tynion IV.

New York Comic Con 2017: Jeremy Holt and Tim Daniel Get Skinned at Insight Comics

Iris is the perfect marriage of artificial intelligence and virtual reality, serving as the backbone for enhanced reality contact lenses that provide users with the perfect antidote to reality’s many maladies. From pop-culture inspired fantasies to manifestations of their personal imagining, they see the world precisely as they wish. To ensure societal tranquility, citizens of cView City are fitted with a pair of lenses at birth, but when Aldair–a teenage programming heiress–gets a glimpse of life with her own eyes, the world she once knew irrevocably changes forever.

Originally published by MonkeyBrain Comics, creators Jeremy Holt and Tim Daniel‘s Skinned has found a new home at Insight Comics and makes its debut with a New York Comic Con exclusive cover of just 100 copies.

We got a chance to talk to Jeremy and Tim about the series, it’s trippy visuals, digital vs print, and finding it a new home.

Graphic Policy: Where did the concept for Skinned come from?

Jeremy Holt: The initial concept was developed by Tim. Several years ago, he approached me about joining him to co-write the series. I saw a lot of potential in his idea, and he let me mix in some additional ideas, which became an extremely collaborative process. Together we fleshed it out into its current form.

Tim Daniel:  It was inspired in part by Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, which relied on the characters visiting a virtual universe populated with all kinds of pop-culture. We freed the virtual from the machine and made it a veneer that our characters experience via the Occupeye contact lens. Our character’s reality is  augmented or “skinned” in the manner they wish to see it. Toss in Scanner Darkly (Philip K. Dick) and Sleeping Beauty and you’ve got the sci-fi, Disney Princess, action-romance everyone has been clamoring for!

GP: There’s some very interesting themes explored including technology warping our reality, castes and class, and choice. Where these types of things on your mind while you wrote the series?

JH: I know that Tim was very interested in exploring fiction vs reality with this story. There was definitely a tech component, what with this story’s advent of contact lenses that allow you to choose your reality, so I decided to push that angle a bit more by equipping Buoy as a skilled hacker.

Tim had already established a clear class divide from page one, so we developed a slums-like area to the fictional cView City. I think I had just seen Slumdog Millionaire at the time, and was definitely influenced by it.

TD: We have reality television celebrity president. That clearly suggests that eventually, if we’re not vigilant, we’ll live in a world where reality and fiction are indistinguishable.

Certainly, we’re in the midst of a class war in this country and Buoy’s role of “life extra” examines how the caste system in any society really denigrates the human experience and relegates vital people to roles that eschew their humanity in favor of service. People themselves become nothing more than set dressing or props for the privileged.

GP: Was there any particular theme you really enjoyed focusing on while writing?

JH: What immediately grabbed me about this story was the concept of fiction vs. reality. I’m in my mid-thirties, so I distinctly remember a time before the internet. The way in which I viewed the world around me; hell, the way in which the world viewed itself was done very differently. Now, the superhighways of communication have warped our perspective. To me, it feels like the veil between fiction and reality is deteriorating to the point that in the not too distant future, I believe a whole new generation won’t be able to differentiate between the two. It was a lot of fun to keep these thoughts in the back of my head as I wrote the story with Tim.

TD: The fluidity of identity—whether it be gender, sexual, political, ideological, socio-economical. If we had technology such as the OccupEye system, and all indications point to the fact that we certainly will at some point in the near future, I think we would all enjoy taking extreme liberties with our identities. We’ve been doing it online now for some time…and at one point we strongly considered flipping Aldair and Buoy’s identity so frequently that it would be impossible to truly determine their genders.

GP: As co-writers, how did it work coming up with the series together?

JH: Considering Tim is connected to a plethora of mega-talented writers, I’ll let him answer this one.

TD: Once the idea germinated (clear back in 2011), I shared it with Jeremy whose work I loved, having discovered it through his pitches for Cobble Hill and Southern Dog. From there, we worked up a general series outline. Once we knew this was to be for Monkeybrain’s digital platform we wrestled the outline into a series of chapters and tailored the page count to match. In the meantime, I had discovered artist Joshua Gowdy’s work online. He was posting these fantastic X-Men redesigns and I was enthralled by his line. It echoed Mike Allred’s work a bit, yet was very distinct. It had a funky edge despite its cleanliness.  Thankfully, he accepted our invitation and started concepting our protagonists, Aldair and Buoy. Jeremy and I were off and running, trading scripts back and forth.

 

GP: The visuals of the series are pretty key. How did that work with the artist? Did you as writers come up with that? Some scenes where the visuals are referenced would make me think so.

JH: Very early on, Tim and I agreed to stay flexible on the visual queues in the script. We didn’t want Josh to feel pinned in. Fortunately Josh can draw just about anything, so there was nothing he was opposed to, and often times went above and beyond with his art.

For all that don’t know, Tim is a book design wizard. Knowing this, I often left him to decide on which “skins” to have Josh draw for a particular scene.

TD: At first, the idea was to have the “skin” match a character’s mood or emotion, accentuating their particular POV, which proved to be a little too ambitious, so we expanded that to include setting or action. Mainly this was done for subtext, some not very subtle and rather obvious, and others to make the reader think a bit. If you get the reference made through the particular “skin” and puzzle it out a bit, you might find some extra depth to the scene. Josh was definitely up for every challenge and in some instances he would divert from the script and give us something surprising. Buoy shows up in a Playboy Bunny costume at one point, sharing the scene with Jonesei, his devoted sidekick—that was Josh’s choice if I recall and that tells us a little bit of how Jonesei might “see” his dear friend. The reader can extrapolate what that might signify.

GP: Was there anything you couldn’t reference or weren’t able to fit in?

JH: Not that I can recall. We were both influenced by Ready Player One, as far as the infusion of pop culture references were concerned. It wasn’t so much that we couldn’t fit certain references in, as much as it was trying to pick the appropriate reference for the scene.

TD: The book was really kitchen sink in terms of pop-culture. At one point we listed all the references: Ready Player One, Scanner Darkly, One Who Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Logan’s Run, Blade Runner, Game Of Thrones, Tron, Maltese Falcon, The Warriors, Alien: Prometheus, Breaking Bad, Arabian Nights, Sleeping Beauty, Star Wars, The Escapist, Lost, Putting On The Ritz, Pretty In Pink, Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Playboy, Road Warrior, Hell’s Angels, Beast Wares Clothing, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Cleopatra, Non-Player, The Hidden Fortress, The Walking Dead, Harry Potter, James Bond, Watchmen, Star Trek, Westworld, and even more references that we hope readers will discover themselves.

GP: The series was originally written digitally. How does that differ than writing something that’s just print?

JH: The late (great) MonkeyBrain comics didn’t specific page lengths, but did recommend that we stay between 12-20 pages. We outlined the issues to be at least 16 pages. When it came to print, fortunately there was nothing totally funky about formatting, so the transition was fairly smooth. I know for other digital publishers like Stēla, their scroll-based format would have drastically altered how we produced this story.

I do want to give a shout out to our original publishers Chris Roberson and Allison Baker, for their support of the original series. Without them, I don’t think we would have finished the series.

TD: As Jeremy noted, we came in at 16-20 pages per issue through Monkeybrain’s digital platform. We bulked up each issue with strong recap and preview pages. Subbing out those pages for chapter breaks and cover art for each issue fleshed out the print version seamlessly. Readers will also get to see some of Josh’s design work in the extras gallery.

GP: Originally released digitally by Monkeybrain, you’re now part of the Insight Comics family. How’d the comic come to them? How’s it been working with them?

JH: It was a bit of serendipitous timing. I’ve been developing two new books with Insight since fall of 2015. When Tim and I decided to try to pitch Skinned to print publishers, I thought Insight would be a great fit based on their books’ high production value. Josh’s art deserved that kind of treatment.

It’s been really great to work with a publisher that has the infrastructure to produce beautiful looking books. The cherry on top of this sundae is their distribution deal with Simon & Schuster. All their books won’t only be hitting comic book shops, but also all stores where books are sold. It’s exciting to know that Skinned will be much more accessible to potential readers.

TD: This was all Jeremy’s doing and what a tremendous turn of events it has been for this material. I’m very grateful to him—to have a collaborator who is willing to push hard to further the success of the material and benefit the entire creative team is something remarkable.

GP: With the series being in print, as writers would there things you’d have changed for that?

JH: Honestly, I don’t think so. We weren’t focusing too hard on the delivery system. We were more interested in telling the best story we could. We’re just thrilled that it’ll be reaching a much wider audience courtesy of the fine folks at Insight Editions.

TD: Insight Edition put a real nice polish on the material. Their production and editorial team handled this process and artist Joshua Gowdy gave us this incredible new cover art. This entire process was beautifully orchestrated by Mark Irwin, and as Jeremy stated, we’re truly thrilled to see Skinned reach a broad readership. Josh’s incredible work is certainly deserving of this format!

GP: What else do you have coming up that folks can check out?

JH: As mentioned earlier, I have two new series slated at Insight, but can only talk about one for now. My historical-fiction series After Houdini (with John Lucas and Chris Chuckry) will be debuting in April as a two-book graphic novel series. The other is TBA, but is tentatively slated for July.

TD: At the moment, I have three series with Vault Comics currently in stores—Atoll (w/ Ricardo Drummond, Joanna Lafuente, Adam Wollet), Fissure (w/ Pato Delpeche, Deron Bennett) and Spiritus (Michael Kennedy, Lauren Norby).  The fourth, Morning Star (Marco Finnegan, Joanna Lafuente), will start sometime in 2018. In the meantime, I’ve focused solely on growing Vault Comics as a partner in the company performing my production and design responsibilities across our growing line of titles.

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