Category Archives: Interviews

Paying Tribute To Jack Kirby On His 99th Birthday

Jack-Kirby_art-of-jack-kirby_wyman-skaar
On August 28th, 1917  Jacob Kurtzburg, an American artist of Jewish descent, was brought kicking and screaming into the world  – at least I assume he came in kicking and screaming. Jacob Kurtzburg may not be a name you immediately recognize, but I’m sure you’ve heard of Jack Kirby. There’s been so many great things written about Kirby over the years, so this isn’t going to be another piece focusing on retelling his life story – Wikipedia does a decent job of that already – instead, I wanted to explore what Jack Kirby means to somebody who I know is a big fan of the artist’s work.

So, I sat down with Graphic Policy’s own Elana Levin (aka Elanabrooklyn) and we had a bit of a chat about the man who’d be 99 today.

Have you always been a big fan of Jack Kirby?

Elana: When I was first getting into comics in junior high, I felt the art in a lot of the comics I was reading was a little bit hokey. I didn’t immediately connect with Kirby’s art, actually, it took me a little bit of time to appreciate it.

It’s funny you say that – it took me a long time to fully appreciate his art when I was first getting into comics. I honestly don’t know if I give it the full respect it deserves even now.

elana recommendsElana: In high school I was mostly into the kitsch of Silver Age comics art, and only later I came to really realize Kirby’s artistry and visual innovations as a storyteller. I always knew intellectually that this was the guy who created the greatest number of lasting characters and concepts in comics, who had the greatest influence – I knew that.  But just because somebody’s the biggest innovator it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re the best. When I first got into comics, I knew he was one of the most important comics creators, but I didn’t have an aesthetic attachment to his art until later on. I saw the connections between modern art and pre-Colombian art and his Silver Age work and I made sense of it through those contexts. I realize that sounds a bit backwards. I came late to realizing that it was beautiful. I wish I could pinpoint when that came, to one particular book and say that’s what it was – honestly, I try and rack my brain and narrow it down, but I can’t.

Aye, sometimes you don’t know when you fall in love with something, but one day you wake up and it’s just there.

kirby tatElana: I have a strong connection to some of his classic Fantastic Four art and stories like “This Man, This Monster” (Fantastic Four #51), but I went from someone who really liked his stuff to becoming obsessed when a friend of mine told me I needed to check out The Fourth World – and that continues to be my favorite work by far. I don’t know what took me so long to see it, I think because I didn’t grow up reading DC, but I love psychedelic art. I love anything that visually or auditorily can be described as trippy, so Kirby’s early 70’s output was really made for me – it just took me awhile to find it, but when I did that really led to me becoming a huge Kirby fan.

It has been more than a decade since I last looked at any of Kirby’s early stuff, but when I did I don’t think it would have stuck with me the same way it probably would if I’d read it now.

Elana: I was so impressed that somebody who had been making comics since the dawn of the medium, who was an older man at that point in the 60’s and 70’s had made something that looked so contemporary and hip. You would’ve thought he was a hippy.

Obviously the dialogue didn’t necessarily use the right slang for the time – he often sounded like an older person trying to make it work – but the visual sensibility, the aesthetics of it, both of the characters and their clothes, and the subjects he was talking about… looking at his stuff from the Fourth World it’s hard to believe it was made by a World War Two veteran. That was something I really respected a lot.  His art was always dynamic and unlike a lot of members of “the Greatest Generation” he genuinely loved “kids these days”. He even said so in correspondence. The youth of the 60’s and 70’s gave him hope for the future.
I’ve always loved 60’s and 70’s popular culture and counter culture and this was a man who was really paying attention to what The Kids were into and then blowing it up to epic proportions. Real life hippies have an underground Be In? Hippies in Kirby’s comic Superman’s Pal Jimmie Olsen have a literal underground society throwing Be Ins every day.
1535_kirby_devil_dinosaur_art03_enlarge

From Devil Dinosaur #4 from 1978

 


It’s tough, honestly, to do justice to the man’s legacy. Not only is he responsible for at least co-creating so many great comic book characters, he’s for also partly responsible an entire genre of comics – Romance (Graphic Policy’s chief, Brett, is partial to those comics). But there’s something else the man came up with that you may not immediately think of, but if you’ve been reading comics for any length of time you’ve probably seen.

Elana: He invented a way of displaying cosmic energy. Now you have to invent a visual symbol for cosmic energy because cosmic energy doesn’t exist. It’s a concept that is in a lot of superhero and fantasy stories, and there are all kinds of unseeable rays that exist (ultra violet, gamma rays both exit) but there’s no such thing as “cosmic rays.” But it’s a necessary thing to have in comics, so the the question became how do you visually represent it?

crackling_violence_by_ljamal-d4pedr1

Click the image to be taken to the artists Deviant Art page.

So Kirby invented what’s known as Kirby Krackle, which are black spheres in a field of colors. It looks distinct from fire – you can tell that there’s a sort of unreal energy coming out of it. And how do you invent this visual symbol for something that doesn’t exist in the real world? That, to me, is impressive. And the Kirby Krackle has lasted. It’s still being used today to display characters powers; take Lucas Bishop and Havok, from the X-Men, for example. Those characters didn’t exist until the 80’s – Jack Kirby had nothing to do with them… but their power signatures get their cues from Jack Kirby. He invented this visual short hand, and where does it come from? I don’t know.

The earliest known use of the Krackle is from 1940’s Blue Bolt #5 by Kirby and Joe Simon, but I didn’t even realize that he had created that until a few years ago – I’d just known it was a comics thing for cosmic energy because that’s what it looked like… that’s what I got from the pages as I read them, which I guess is exactly the point.

Elana:  One thing I think people miss when looking at his art is that the Kirby Krackle isn’t the black objects hovering in space. The black spheres are actually voids – they’re negative space. What you’re seeing are colors and energy signs and the black circles ARE where the energy isn’t. That’s the void into nothingness, basically. I’ve seen a lot of artists misinterpret that visual cue – although I suppose I’d be willing to have somebody tell me I’m wrong but I’m 90% sure I’m right.

FF49I’m sure that as an early comics’ artist he invented visual short hand for lots of other things we don’t really think about. I don’t know who invented motion lines and movement blurs, for example, but there’s really basic visual grammar that he developed that we take for granted today.

Despite Kirby being hailed as one of the greatest comics creators,  I feel that he’s still very underappreciated. I don’t think he gets half the credit he deserves. 

Elana: Yeah, you name a character, Kirby at a minimum, MINIMUM co-created it. Of the things that were actually created by Stan Lee… I think that the line “with great power there must also come great responsibility” is one of the greatest things ever written in popular culture – and that’s all Stan Lee. But Stan Lee writes dialogue, and Kirby writes the story stories, and the big images and the concepts, y’know?

Like with the introduction of Galactus, and the phrase that essentially created him…

galactus kirbyElana: I love this story, and I really think it shows the kind of thinking he brought to comics, but the whole thing with “have them fight god,” which readers of Graphic Policy will also know is also the name of Richard Jones’ ongoing series of columns about the Fantastic Four. He’s doing this incredibly ambitious series where he writes four things about every comic appearance of the Fantastic Four. Anyway, “have them fight god,” that story was after the success of Dr. Doom,  Kirby and Lee were talking about what they could have the Fantastic Four face next as Doom was such an awesome villain – what could possibly top that?  I believe it was Lee who said “well, have them fight God,” and that’s where Galactus comes in –  and that totally raises the stakes of what characters can face in comics.

According to John Byrne’s introduction in The Fantastic Four: The Trial Of Galactus, that supposedly Stan Lee sent Kirby a plot which consisted of those four words, which implies – to me at least – that Kirby  came up with the rest of the issue minus the dialogue. Take that however you will, readers.

Elana: Right, because Kirby is the one who decided that the god they fight should look like a combination of Samoan and Mesoamerican sculptures of gods except in screaming purple and blue.


Jack Kirby remains one of the best story tellers in comics, but there’s something about Kirby’s early stories you may not be away of. You actually showed me a couple of blogs that have some fantastic insights into the differences between the work of Kirby before and after Stan Lee added on his dialogue. Do you want to talk about those?

Elana: If there’s one thing people take from this, it’s that if they go should go to a blog called Kirby Without Words. It’s run by a really talented graphic designer, and she has gone through some classic Kirby pages and removed the writing so you can just look at the image the story is telling; you’ll be amazed at how often the story Jack is telling is superior to what Stan Lee wrote on the page.

Such as the pages from 1964’s X-Men #3, which readers can see the before and after dialogue as well, as an analysis from the Kirby Without Words blog, here.

Elana: Now I’m not someone who is a Stan Lee basher on principal (“with great power there must also come–great responsibility” is one of the best lines in anything), but looking at just Kirby’s art made it so clear to me that the way Kirby drew the story it’s clearly Jean rescuing the X-Men from this death trap. When you add the writing over the art, you can see that the words attribute Professor X as telling Jean what to do – but there’s nothing in the art at all to imply that Professor X is directing her actions.Jean 1.PNG

Yeah, after reading the full page I noticed there’s a bit of a difference in how the story works with and without the words, there’s a different story there, eh?

Elana: Now, I’m not saying that Kirby is Mr. Perfect feminist… but for his time he kind of was. When you look at the art, the art is clearly telling the story of Jean Grey rescuing the X-Men, and Stan Lee wrote over it – and awkwardly so  – to have it be the Professor telling Jean how to save the X-Men; Stan Lee had to stretch believability in the sequence in order for it to be Professor X who’s the hero in this situation, and it made me think about all the panels over the years where the narrative just didn’t quite feel right to me, where it seemed overly convoluted, and I’m wondering how much of those were cases of Kirby telling one story with pictures and Lee writing over it and telling another story. And the thing that Lee is writing over Kirby’s story is turning Kirby’s story sexist. Kirby drew a story of a woman rescuing men. Lee wrote over it to make it a sexist story of a man rescuing a woman because she’s too dumb or weak to do it herself. Lee is bringing the narrative backwards. jean 2There’s another great example of Sue Storm breaking out of a bad guy’s hold with judo – and that’s clearly what’s happening – but when you look at the text over the art she says “I only know how to do judo because Reed Richards told me how and he’s an international judo master.” Now if she was talking about a character that actually was  judo master, I can imagine the writer saying that in order to keep things in character we need to explain how she knows how to do throw a guy.

 

Kirby Jones

You can find scans of the judo scene here.

But Reed Richards is never mentioned as a judo master in any other text during the Fantastic Four, so what we can clearly see here is that Sue Storm is shown to be competent, which Lord knows she’d have to be, and meanwhile in the actual writing it’s explained that she’s actually not. That’s insane.

I’d have believed it more if she said that Ben Grimm had taught her judo, because even if Ben didn’t know Judo he’d probably know how to through a guy around But Reed?

Elana:  Yeah, exactly, but by using Reed’s name there clearly Stan was stretching. And that’s unfortunate – so we’ll never really know. We can look to the art and see the story the art tells us, but all of our impressions are pretty much contaminated by what the writing says on the page, and that contradicts the art. I’ve got to thank Richard Jones for helping me put words to this dynamic. Like I said, his comics analysis is completely illuminating.

As an artist, Jack Kirby was far more progressive than he gets credit for.

Elana:  Kirby definitely embodied his comics with progressive ideas for his time; black publishers had created black superheroes but Kirby was the first to introduce one in a story for a white publisher. There’s a lot of moments where he’s racially tone deaf, where he needed to do a better job of talking to people of color, but his intent is so clear.

 


 

Jack Kirby, for all that he has given to the world of comics with his amazing characters and artwork, is often over looked when it comes to his attempt to buck the stereotypes of his time – remember this was the 60’s and 70’s – and his willingness to give characters voices that they hadn’t had before. Something we probably don’t notice as much today because it’s far more commonplace (though arguably not as frequent as it should be).

Elana: Big Barda is a great character, I love her because she’s such a good example of Kirby saying here’s a female character and her personality isn’t just “she’s the girl” – which is still often the case in team stories written by men. Big Barda is allowed to be angry – she has an anger problem but she’s not uncontrollable. She’s super strong and is unapologetic and she loves who she is. There’s a great panel of her carrying a tank over her shoulder talking to her more agile partner which is a great subversion of what the stereotypes were at the time.

His political leanings certainly seem to be far more progressive for his time than you’d probably expect if you haven’t read much of his stuff.

Elana:  I love Kirby’s politics! They’re so important to making comics where no matter how badly current creators fuck things up there’s something just and beautiful in the core of the art that speaks to us no matter how ham-fisted the dialogue can be. It’s telling stories about people who are unique and strange coming together, fighting against bullies and standing up for the little guy. Kirby’s political values are a real thing that are important to his art that I love.


 

That Jack Kirby was, and remains, a great artist in undeniable; his hand can be seen in almost every Marvel character that originated in the 60’s. Do you have a favourite Kirby story, readers? Share your stories, or memories, in the comments below.

SDCC 2016: Robert Venditti Discusses Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps

The Green Lantern Corps has fallen apart and in its place stands Sinestro and the Sinestro Corp. Hal Jordan is all that stands in the way.

This is the beginning of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, the series written by Robert Venditti.

I got a chance to speak to Venditti at San Diego Comic-Con 2016 about the series and what we might expect.

Talking Comics Herstory with Isabella F. McFarlin, Daughter of Barbara Hall

black_cat_-1During Women’s History Month we ran numerous articles highlighting many female creators who have made an impact on the comics industry that we dubbed Comics Herstory.

One of those creators was Barbara Hall, who became a prominent cartoonist during World War II and eventually went on to co-found a “hippie communue.” Hall drew the comic series Black Cat, the strip Girl Commandos, and created the Blonde Bomber.

Well, the internet is a cool tool because that article caught the attention of Isabella F. McFarlin, Hall’s daughter. Isabella was kind enough to answer my questions about her mother, what she remembers about her career in comics, and what exactly is the commune.

Graphic Policy: Your mother was Barbara Hall who either worked on or created some classic character. Growing up, how aware were you of her work?

Isabella F. McFarlin: When young, perhaps not that aware. She did read us Krazy Kat (she was from the same area in Arizona) and entertained  us with her swift, comic-like drawings of all kinds of things. Later on, I learned that she had been a cartoonist for Harvey, and said she had drawn The Black Cat. (This was brief, but she invented Honey Blake, I believe, and worked quite a while on Girl Commandoes).  The story was that she had drawn several pages of work– I think she penciled but did not ink– and showed them to my father. He said an artist as great as she ought to become a painter and not waste her ability on tawdry comics. Immediately she tore up the pages (worth about $300, a fortune in 1940s New York) and tossed them. Irving was horrified! He said “I didn’t mean right NOW!”  They were barely getting enough money to eat.  To the later irritation of my friends in comics, especially Trina Robbins, she gave up her cartooning to become a fine arts painter. As Jackson Pollock was the star of the day and my mother drew in Rennaisance-like figurative beauty, her art never got the attention her comics did.

GP: What are your thoughts of her place in comic history, especially being one of the early female pioneers in the industry?

IFM: I’m proud that she was involved in it and wish she’d had a chance, or given herself a chance, to do more of it. Of course, I am from the group of people who made comics a real art form (I think the way Art S., Robert Crumb and others think. I see comics as a true art, when well done. I know of no one who did a better job in her time than she!

GP: Looking at your Twitter account, it’s clear you’re politically active. Was that something instill in you by your mother? With the characters she created like the Blonde Bomber, I’d think she was a feminist based on who they are.

IFM: My mother believed women had a lot of energy and power, but she was a traditionalist in that she thought that my father, a writer and playwright whose work was admired by Shaw, Orson Welles and others, was even a greater artist than she. (I just published a chapter of my memoir on this subject at Blogcritics.org under the name Ladybelle Fiske, “The Battle of the Fountainhead.” It’s the story of a day in our lives when that topic came up, re Ayn Rand.)

My father, though, thought that “all the great artists of the future will be women.”  Yes, we were  very passionate about radical politics, but we had to hide out for a long time so my brother and I woulde not be sent to school. My parents believed, with William Blake, that schools were “dark Satanic mills that grind men’s souls to dust” and that kids should not be forced to go to any school they didn’t want to attend. So we were rather quiet till I was older. The 60s came along, with “a generation that was enlightened,” and many of them wanted to come to Vermont to learn art from my mother and philosophy, writing and psychology from my father.

GP: Were there comic creators you remember meeting growing up?

IFM: No– my mother had left that scene behind her when she became a painter in tempera and pastel, but she was pleased when the underground comics artists discovered her all over again.

GP: She went on to found the Quarry Hill Creative Center. Can you tell us what an “alternative living community” is?

IFM: No one has ever been able to nail down exactly what QH is. In the late 40s and 50s it was meant to be “a paradise for Souls,” as my parents called the relatively few unconventional people they met then.

GP: Sounds really interesting! Thanks so much for answering my question.

Terrificon 2016: Wade Wilson, Crafting Jokes, and Life After Comics with Fabian Nicieza

fabianWhilst covering Terrificon at Mohegan Sun this past weekend I had the total joy to speak with the original voice behind the masked man who is never afraid to use it, the Co-Creator of the Merc with a Mouth himself: Fabian Nicieza.

He was nice enough to take the time to talk to me about the property right now that is hotter than a super spicy chimichanga: Mr Wade Wilson, the one the only and sometimes lonely Deadpool.

Graphic Policy: First off thank you for taking the time out to speak with me today.

Fabian Nicieza: Oh my pleasure.

GP: So, Deadpool. What do you think of that guy?

FN: I think he’s a boon to civilization and mankind as we know it. (laughs) I think that in an age where the two presidential candidates have about 80 percent disapproval ratings, we need more people like Deadpool in charge.

GP: (jokingly) Oh absolutely I’d put him on my cabinet for sure.

FN: A cabinet? I think he should be Lord Emperor of the World.

GP: Wow. Ambitious there.

FN: Just think of the things that could happen if that were the case.

GP: When you do write Deadpool, where does your inspiration come from? Where do you get Wade’s humor? 

FN: I’ve got to be honest it comes as a stream of conscious release of anything that is built up inside me. It certainly varies. It could be my thoughts on cultural events or societal events throughout the day. It could be pulling a kernel out of my butt from something that happened 35 years ago. I mean it’s interesting that the older I get, the harder some of those references become. To me it doesn’t make sense for Deadpool to be pulling out a reference from a 1975 TV show unless you’re around the age of 55. Wade isn’t 55 he’s let’s say in his late thirties. So you have to frame it in that context. Then again the freeing part is it’s Deadpool. So as a character chances are pretty good that on a lonely binge for several months he’d watch every episode of the 1950’s ever, so you know and take that with a grain of salt.

GP: As a creator the cool thing is this character allows you to poke fun at all the tropes out there whether it’s a positive or a negative. I have to ask though as wacky and out there as Wade Wilson is, has there ever been a scene or a joke that you tried to pass by your editor that just wasn’t going to fly, for any reason?

FN: No not from a story stand point, since I’m not a current Deadpool writer. A current Deadpool writer tries to create a comedic story that he fits into. An older writer of Deadpool, who Co-Created the character like myself, tries to get the comedy out of comedy out the story that he’s already in. Okay, so I wrote a very straightforward Marvel Universe character, who happened to be insane and who happened to interpret everything through his own personal filter. So with that in mind, I don’t think to put Wade Wilson in a classic illustrated parody. I don’t think to have him fight the ghosts of dead presidents and it’s not a knock or taking away from how the guys handle him today. It’s just how the book editorially has decided that is stronger. Which is fine, they have the complete right to do that. It’s just not how I do it. For me my problems wasn’t with editors, it was usually with legal because you run off so many jokes and so many things he (Wade) says and you know that five of them, someone is going to have a problem with. Often I would have an issue with an editor that they didn’t get a joke. It could be that it’s their own particular knowledge of history or references. In one particular situation it was her age, since she was 20 years younger than me so she’s not going to get certain things. My outlook was always though, if you get every single joke I wrote in a Deadpool comic, then I did not do a good job. You’re not supposed to get every thing he says because as the reader you should not have the same exact thought wavelength as him y’know?

GP: Right because he’s so out there, and we shouldn’t share the same mind of things..

FN: Right, exactly. If you get even half of them, I’m fine with that. When you’re telling 35 jokes in a 22 page comic, we shouldn’t expect the reader to get every single reference.

GP: Did you think there was anything they could have done different for their handling of Wade for the movie?

tumblr_obg04sqZeQ1rov369o1_540.jpg

FN: Yes, they could have cast me as Ryan Reynold’s stunt double in any scene he was in with Morena Baccarin. That they could have done differently. Other than that, I think the movie’s success both critically and commercially is a testament to how well of a job they did handling the character.

GP: Any hope we’ll get you as a cameo in Deadpool 2?  

FN: No I think that putting me on screen is detrimental to the film. I think they studios would automatically give it an NC-17 rating if this face were on screen or anything like that.

GP: At this point do you have a dream project that you would like to work on, non-Deadpool related?

FN: No not particularly. To tell you the truth I’ve done this for 30 years, so I am slowly phasing myself out of comic books in general. As a writer I do other stuff. So as far as comics is concerned I don’t have a dream project. I mean I’ve written almost everything. If you asked me at 9 years old that would I like the chance to write almost every single character for Marvel or DC, I’d say oh yeah, I’d like to take that career. I’ve done it and that’s exactly where I stand.

GP: Absolutely. A sterling career has been made. I appreciate the chat. Much continued success.

FN: Certainly and you too.

 

A fun brisk chat with the original voice inside Wade Wilson’s head. I definitely see where he gets the “mouth” part from, not sure about the “merc” part though. I guess that’s a story for another time. One thing is for sure their will always be plenty of Deadpool stories. I liked Mr. Nicieza’s recommendation of the Lord Emperor title. Wade for sure is on his way to becoming the Supreme Being of the Marvel Universe. He still has the rest of the Universes to go.

logan.jpg

* Wolverine even paid homage to Deadpool’s daddy during this interview. Logan knew it was the right thing to do. Plus Wade probably owes him gas money.

Boston Comic Con 2016: Talking Harley Quinn with Amanda Conner

harley

For every action, there is a reaction. Well, one might ask why in a star-studded convention that featured William Shatner, John Barrowman and numerous television and film alumni, that why was the longest line of each day for writer/artist: Amanda Conner? That’s simple right now she is at the helm of the hottest property in the comic book world.

Add that to the fact that Amanda Conner just so happens to be one of the nicest people across this or any Multiverse and the picture becomes as clear as Susan Storm’s wardrobe. I was thankful enough that she took time out of her very busy schedule, and I mean that as a gross understatement (seriously I’ve seen amusement parks with shorter lines) to talk about everyone’s favorite maniacal she-devil turned anti-hero phenomenon: Harley Quinn.

Graphic Policy: So hello, it’s very nice to talk to you today. As you probably guessed I’d like to talk to you about what brought you here today, Harley Quinn.

Amanda Conner: Yes. (laughs)

GP: Did you ever think that a character who started off so simple, was going to bring all this about?

Amanda Conner: No, we had no idea. When Jimmy (Palmiotti) and I said yes to writing and for me, writing and drawing the covers to Harley Quinn just thought “Oh this is going to be a lot of fun” but we never thought it was going to explode the way it did. So we are pleasantly surprised, to say the least.

HarleyQuinn-social_1

GP: I’d say we are all pleasantly surprised. Who were your artistic influences when you guys decided to hop on Harley Quinn? Because she had been done before. What style held inspiration over you?

Amanda Conner: That’s right. Well, definitely Bruce Timm! We were trying to have somewhat of the look Bruce, gave her and at the same time modernize her a bit. It was important that we bring her back to her original personality and love of life and of course death (laughs). As far as other artistic influences for her, I’d have to say it was more movies than anything else. I drew from movies like Fight Club and stuff like that. I guess it’s a cross between Bruce Timm, Fight Club, and Tank Girl maybe.

GP: That’s a pretty interesting inspiration mix right there.

Amanda Conner: Ha ha, yeah we think so.

OTCBatman01-630x420

GP: Do you have a favorite Harley story yourself?

Amanda Conner: Oh geez there are a lot of them. A lot are my favorites. Y’ know one of my favorites, I’m going to actually go with one that isn’t my own. I can’t remember the name of it but it was one of the Christmas specials, where Harley and Poison Ivy kidnap Bruce Wayne and Ivy uses her lipstick to put Bruce under a spell to take them shopping. That was so fun!

GP: That was a great one. It was actually the Batman Adventures Holiday Special and Bruce Timm did that one. It’s classic. It’s fantastic.

Amanda Conner: Yes that’s definitely one of my favorites.

GP: As a matter of fact, Paul Dini did that one too.

Amanda Conner: Yup.

GP: Speaking of Paul Dini, that’s someone who gives you guys great praise for how you handle Harley and the character. Coming from that source what does that mean to you?

Amanda Conner: Oh we are so flattered by that. It’s so nice to have a nod of approval from the guys who are her (Harley) “dads”. They are the ones who created her.

GP: Pretty much. Absolutely. It’s amazing the level of success that you’ve added to her already booming popularity. It’s also very cool that the Harley Quinn fans see brought to life in the movie Suicide Squad, is essentially your interpretation of Harley. 

Amanda Conner: Yeah well we are hoping so. We thought she (Margot Robbie) did a fantastic job. We were lucky enough to meet her last week and she asked us “Am I doing a good job?” We were like “Yeah you’re doing a good job! You’re doing a great job!”  (laughs) 

CjKYoTyWgAEBsKc

GP: Oh she certainly is. I would think that everyone in this line would agree.

Amanda Conner: I’d say so too.

GP: Last thing. I would just like to let you know, I have done a lot of these before and from a personal standpoint, I just have to say I have spoken to a lot of people today and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s because of people like you, that you have ensured that this will continue to grow and go on.

Amanda Conner: Oh wow. Thank you so much. That is so wonderful to hear.

GP: Well I thank you for your time and see you in the funny pages.

Amanda Conner: Thank you!

 

There it is. If the golden rule has taught us anything, it’s treat people the way you’d want them to treat you. With that being said, with weekends like these, I think it’s safe to say Amanda Conner has earned herself a lot of warm receptions for many years to come. A creator who has a love for the property that she is a part of and even more respect for the fans she does it for. Class act all the way and certainly one of Comicdom’s finest acts. Where does she take Harley and company next? Stay tuned…

AC

*Graphic Policy would like to take the time to thank Amanda for signing the Harley Quinn action figure we donated to the patient folks in line. We have no doubt it found a nice and appreciative home.

Kyle Higgins Talks Hadrian’s Wall

HadriansWall-01_cvrThe man who shot Simon Moore four times and married his ex-wife has been found dead aboard the spacecraft Hadrian’s Wall. But Simon isn’t a suspect, he’s the private investigator hired to explain the death, and it’s his ex-wife who emerges as one of the suspects. This fall, writers Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel, reunite with artist Rod Reis for Hadrian’s Wall, an intergalactic noir with drugs and divorce, crime and conspiracy, and a last chance for redemption in the far reaches of space.

The eight issue series kicks off September 14th and the final order deadline is August 22nd.

I got a chance to talk to Higgins about the series and why he loves creating politically tinged entertainment so much.

Graphic Policy: First, thanks for chatting. The question I always like to start with is where did the concept for Hadrian’s Wall come from?

Kyle Higgins: It’s an idea at its most basic level is a murder mystery on a space ship and I’ve had it for a long time. It’s very in line with some of the isolated sci-fi films of the 70s and 80s that I really like. From that standpoint, I always thought it was a premise that was interesting, but didn’t have a story for. And then, it just clicked at one point where I found this character Simon and the idea of his ex-wife being someone he has to investigate and that’s where everything really plots together. And from there the concept of the backdrop, a new interstellar Cold War between Earth and its biggest colony started to frame things for me. It became a book and story about broken relationships and… it was an organic process from there. That tends to be how I work. It may start with a kernel of something or a premise, but it takes getting into it and finding an interesting way to explore that premise that I actually start to get to the meat as to what makes it interesting.

HW_001001_finalGP: I’ve read the first four issues and the issues build to a twist. You could have easily been a murder mystery but you’ve layered the series with so much more. What go you to want it to be more than a murder mystery in space?

KH: Yeah, it could have been really easy to just do a murder mystery in space but I think that, especially in comics, it’s hard enough to tell a story with characters who resenate when you’re doing a lot of character work. It’s drawings and printed text. That’s what you have as your medium to build characters. A murder mystery in live action, a lot of times the character work is secondary to the case. In comics, I don’t feel like that works really well. At least in live action there’s an actor and performance that gives something to resonate for audiences. It gives you something to connect to. In comics you don’t have that to fall back on. As we started plotting it I didn’t think it was sustainable to do eight issues of “who killed Edward?”. I knew early on I like it when stories take unexpected turns. You start a story you think will go one way, but it becomes something else. Especially in 2016 when the market is so saturated, you better be doing something interesting and different. There’s too many really good stories that are competing for readers attentions.

GP: You’ve had a career of writing comics that have political themes. With this series it looks like you’re diving into that too. What interests you in weaving that in your stories?

HW_001002_finalKH: It’s funny because I’m the least political guy you’ll meet too. I think what fascinates me is political structures and man made structures. I’m intrigued by systems and institutions. C.O.W.L. was as much about the corruption and downfall of an American institution as it was superheroes. We were using superheroes to explore that concept.

Hadrian’s Wall is similar. There’s this dynamic between the colony Theta and Earth and this cycle of paranoia and distrust. The opening to issue number one, the precursor text paints the situation. In 1985 nuclear bombs dropped in New York City and Moscow. After that, they found peace by the decision to jointly colonize space. 100 years later there’s a new Cold War between Earth and its biggest colony. There’s this idea of history repeating itself and once we get into it and readers see the dynamic between Theta and Earth, and the companies on Earth that shift to Theta, and how Hadrian’s Wall factors into that… those dynamics intrigue me. They create a lot of gray area. I really like stories that aren’t black and white and super cut and dry. I think a lot of those political and corporate structures and instituions in our lives provide for ample opportunity for a little more ambigious exploration.

GP: With the opening, it’s 1985… is there a reason you chose that year?

KH: I was born in 85. A couple of reasons. The mid to late 80s were interesting as far as a Cold War standpoint. There was a situation in 83 where nukes came close to being launched. But, the other part of that, from a visual aethestic, Rod, Alec and I were all interesting in building this alt-future world as if it was designed in 1980s. Everything we’re doing is inspired by the sci-fi films of the 70s and 80s we grew up on. So we decided it’d be fun to design our world with this retro future aethestic. It was kind of nice tie-in to this split in history happening in 1985. It felt thematically connected.

HW_001003_finalGP: The beginning of the comic has this map of space and all these worlds. Are we going to see some of these world come into play in the series?

KH: That’s a great question. I don’t want to tip my hand too much. Alec and I love maps. We love visual world building and even though our story is very contained, mostly taking place on board Hadrian’s Wall, the idea of the larger world outside and how Hadrian’s Wall factors into that larger world, us kind of a key part of the story.

GP: When it comes to the world building, how much detail have you done? Have you figured out what all those planets are like?

KH: No. No. We tend to world build what we need to. For example, if there was an issue down the line where we explore a specific planet. We’d build that planet out as necessary. The stuff with Theta. The stuff with Earth. That’s what we built out. As far as other colonies, we have an idea about them, but nothing we could publish tomorrow.

GP: I’ve always been fascinated about how much details creators get into when they tell this type of story. Clearly this map has been thought out.

KH: I want to give a shout out for that for Rick Bloom our designer who designed the book as well. He did a killer job for that. He painted the background and built out the coordinates. He did the big map in C.O.W.L. as well.

GP: How did the rest of the team come on the series?

HW_001009_finalKH: We were wrapping up C.O.W.L. and I called Eric Stephenson who’s the publisher of Image and I said our numbers aren’t great for C.O.W.L. but we’ve been working on this other book for a long time. Alec and I have lived in this world for one form or another for ten years keeping it in our mind. Based on our sales numbers it made sense to wrap things up. If there was an opportunity down the line to come back to it, we’d be open to it. We wanted to keep working together, we built this tight three man team between Alec, Rod, and myself. Eric totally agreed and thought there was something we had together that resonated for readers. He said we should stick together and asked if we had anything else. I said we had been toying around with this idea of doing something with an intergalactic noir, a murder mystery on a spaceship and we wanted to roll into it after C.O.W.L. Eric said great.

Rod did some content paintings and things like that. I asked Rod if he’d be interested. And he asked if that meant drawing something other than 60s superheroes and if he could start tomorrow. You do one thing long enough, you want change, that’s normal.

It came from there. It came from us wanting to do something very different than C.O.W.L. but we wanted to do something thematically similar, or similar enough. We didn’t want to go off and do a big slapstick comedy book. At this point we all working together. We talk about the relationships in comics that have lasted. Brubaker and Philips is the gold standard to me, people will reader anything they do together. That only comes with doing a bunch of stuff together. We just want to keep working together and find new stories to tell. Hadrian’s Wall is the second of what’s hopefully a long line of stories to come.

HW_001010_finalGP: How much of the science of the series is right? Do you research it all?

KH: It’s pretty accurate. Alec is a big space guy. He’s our bullshit detector on a lot of that stuff. There’s different things that pop up in the series that we have fun with. For instance the syringe we came up with, it has no needle so there’s no mark which is a plot point. Stuff like that we get to play around with. It’s also retro futuristic. I wouldn’t look too deeply into the science, but we try to make it plausable.

GP: Speaking of that retro futuristic, why’d you go that route? The style of it reminds me a lot of Alien and Aliens. There’s paper with tracks on the side like dot matrix printers. There’s keyboards that look like typewriters. It’s a cool style.

KH: For what you said. Alien, those films, were insperational to me. But also there’s a lot of sci-fi books out there. We wanted to do something unique. I’m proud of where it landed. I think it feels very specific. It was what appealed to us. Those 70s and 80s sci-fi films are very inspirational to us for a story like this. We wanted to do something in that veign.

GP: The final question is, where did the name for Hadrian’s Wall come from?

KH: Hadrian’s Wall is the name of the further outpost of the Roman Empire. We wanted to name the ship something that invoked the isolation of loneliness of it. The idea is that someone named it that because it’s a survey ship that goes far out in space and it’s a shitty outpost, it’s a shitty assignment.

GP: Learn something new every day! Thanks so much.

SDCC 2016: Gary Phillips Talks The Vigilante: Southland

In July, DC Comics announced The Vigilante: Southland, a new miniseries updating the classic character! The series will be written by Gary Phillips with pencils and inks by Elena Casagrande, colors by Giulia Brusco and covers by Mitch Gerads. The series will be hitting comic retailers October 5.

We got a chance to talk to Gary about the series at San Diego Comic-Con 2016 about the series and what we can expect.

Vixen Season 2 Gets The Atom & Firestorm

If you’ve been roaring for more Vixen, you’re in luck. In this new #DCTV clip, DC All Access talks to Megalyn E.K. about the return of Vixen’s hit digital animated series, coming soon to CW Seed. Now that Mari McCabe’s fully embraced her abilities, what threats await Detroit’s wild new super hero?

Deathstroke Battles Batman, Robin & Superman

Rebirth is about to take a deadly new turn with the debut of Deathstroke: Rebirth #1, the twice monthly new series featuring everyone’s favorite one-eyed assassin. In this DC All Access comics clip, they talk to writer Christopher Priest about what fans can expect from Deathstroke’s new series, which heroes he’ll be going up against and how even in a world full of super humans, Slade Wilson always manages to stay out of prison.

Talking with Scott Snyder About All-Star Batman

ASBM_Cv1_dsThis week sees the release of All-Star Batman #1 which has Scott Snyder returning to write the Dark Knight. The first issue is split into two with the first story featuring art by John Romita Jr. and the second featuring art by Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire.

I got a chance to talk to Scott about the new series and more!

Graphic Policy: Where did the concept of All-Star Batman come from? You’ve obviously written Batman for a while and wrapped up that recently, but what got you to want to do the new series?

Scott Snyder: Honestly, I did some soul searching when I realized that Greg and my run was coming to an end. We had been talking about it for a while, and when we got into it super heavy I knew he had been looking to try and take a break from superhero comics. I knew we could keep going. I really felt like I had more stories. But, I also felt it was better to end on a high and then come back and do something different.

So, for me it became a what do I do? Maybe I go to Marvel? Maybe take some time away from comics and do prose again? Maybe I do creator-owned work, and focus on that? What I realized was that I had a couple stories left weren’t particularly for Greg. They were more of a desire to investigate the villains I hadn’t used yet and a desire to make them personally scary for me and modern. Not that they’re not modern, but more to keep them in communication and in touch with what’s scary now. The way we tried to do the Joker and Riddler.

In that way it felt like this project would take shape and it would involve different artists and would be something that would allow me to create a prismatic series where I could take each villain, do something fun and bombastic, something personal, but something that’d fit the artist for whatever villain they’d want to do. It became something more currated, and more intimate and crazier. So I started to fall in love with the idea so I approached DC and they were great and wanted me to do it.

To be totally honest I’ve become really good friends with Tom King and was pushing for him to take Batman. James stepping up. He’s been a brother to me. What’s being done on Birds of Prey and Batgirl. There’s no weak link in the Bat line. I thought do I continue to keep doing this, what’s the point?

When I was working on After Death with Lemire, which is mostly prose, I realized there is a way to do it. The joy of doing your creator owned stuff is that you’re writing for yourself, it’s a place you can explore the things that keep you up at night without restrictions and I’ve tried to do Batman that way… some of the pressures… I feel proud of what we were able to do in that regard. Talking about personal demons, the way things are right now. Ultimately there are certain restrictions with working on something line driven like Batman. So it occured to me this series could be a place I can write for myself and throw caution to the wind with risk taking.

All of this blended together into a formula that I couldn’t be more excited that I was thinking about artists. Paul Pope, Tula Lotay, Francesco, Jock, Shawn, John Romita, who I’ve been dying to work with forever. All of these people who are friends of mine and people who I’ve been inspired by and not conventional Bat artists. It became the perfect challenge. Each of these stories will be different than the last. Each of these will take place outside of Gotham. Each will be a different villain. We’ll finish up the year with a mystery villain with this line of investigation, this line of thinking of who is Batman’s greatest villain. So, in that way its become this incredible clubhouse. It’s in continuity so I’m in concert with Tom and the rest of the crew and got involved with them and involved with me. Capullo is coming back in the summer of 2017. It looks like, we’re almost through, getting approval of the big project we’re doing together. Once that’s solidified, a lot of my friends, Tom, Steve Orlando, James, they’re all going to tale into a story that comes together at the end of the double ship year at the beginning of summer 2017.

It gave me a place to go where I could really own my own version of Batman creatively with people that inspire me creatively. I never expected the book to be competitive in sales. The line is strong. Rebirth is strong. I’m ok with that. This is for me. The fact that it’s competitive sales wise, we got the initial numbers and they’re higher than I ever expected, means the world because I feel like it proves what I hope is true about comics in that readers reward risk taking. They reward you when you try something that you show your passionate about and might take them off roading with the character a bit. If you try to make it personal, try to make it about the moment or readership in some ways, they’re willing to give it a shot. To me, that’s the validation, the sales, all it does is create a sense of gratitude on behalf of the team about how the readers are willing to follow us to crazy places. It means a lot.

ASBM_1_1GP: You touched on it a little bit in the answer. One of the things that really stands out in your career is the villains. Skinner Sweet, Court of Owls, Mr. Bloom, the creepy guy from Severed. This is a series that focuses on villains. What is it about the bad guys that appeals to you so much?

SS: Yeah I do. I feel bad. I look at all my kids stuff thinking about all the bad things bad guys do. I’ll be at a hockey game and be like “and then he cuts off his face” and then become aware, “good goal son.” It makes me feel awful. That said

That said, my best guess, even as a kid I loved horror. The first movie that ever caught me and scared me was Night of the Living Dead. It was the old black and white. I had seen all of these slasher movies. I must have been about ten and I rented these horror movies from a place nearby that’d rent to kids… what was totally shady. So was the 80s. One day I got it and I was dissapointed it was black and white. Ultimately what caught me and kept me up for days with anxiety about this was what if this happened? What if zombies attacked the world? It was a good villain. There’s no singular villain. This threat of a march death of zombies winded up this intense pressure box where people revealed their true colors. The real scariness of that movies, and horror movies in general, isn’t just the scary monster or villain, or even the psychology, but the ways in which they reflect the worst impulses of ourselves or the worst fears of the world around us. I love bad guys for that.

For me this series a celebration of that where Two-Face is making the case. He’s saying I am an extension of the worst fear you have of human nature. Before this he was sort of the Joker announcing the coming of a crazy world. A world without meaning. A world where you could be killed by a gunman on a Tuesday or a terrorist act. People are used to that now. Now we’re facing all these problems and we’re deep down afraid to face these creatures. Deep down he gets the people to look at who they really are. Batman is the opposite. He challenges people to greatness and heroism. And so the villain here with Two-Face is an extension of my fears about myself. Of whether or not my worst impulses get the best of me as a dad, husband, or person in general that I want to be. And also the world my kids are looking at. Whether

Batman is the opposite. He challenges people to greatness and heroism. And so the villain here with Two-Face is an extension of my fears about myself. Of whether or not my worst impulses get the best of me as a dad, husband, or person in general that I want to be. And also the world my kids are looking at. Whether it’s going to be a world where we’re going to be shrinking away from problems, retreating from things, and acting selfishly. Or trying to be brave and working together to work on taking on things that seem to be insurmountable.

ASBM_1_2-3GP: A thing that stands out and is topical about the issue is the use of data and information by Two-Face. With the recent DNC hack and Wikileaks, it’s just really good timing. How long have you been thinking about using that in the story? You have to have a smile on your face it’s in the news as the comic comes out.

SS: Yeah, it’s weird. This is an idea I’ve had ever since I’ve thought about using him. He’s a sense the side of you that you don’t want to show the world. He knows everything that’s happening behind close doors in Gotham. He has this information. He’s not like a tech genius. He’s a lone wolf and a scary guy. He’s an incredible study of human character from when he was Harvey and now. He has all of these mechanisms in place and knows what people do behind closed doors, he has this incredible intuitive sense as to what people are going to do. So he sees himself as a mirror.

One of the reasons the issue is set up the way it is as far as structure and breaks conventions with flashback upon flashback, is to try to give it a sense of a mirror where you’re looking back. And what he’s saying is “You don’t want to look at who you are. I’m in the mirror and love who you are. It’s ok. Go out and be that person. Be that villain. Be Two-Face. Go out into the world and be presentable, be the one that you really are behind closed doors. Revel in the fact you’re a monster because we all are.”

ASBM_1_4GP: In the comic there’s two stories. The second one really focuses on Duke. We haven’t seen him in action, we haven’t seen him in his suit. There’s also a hint that there’s a sidekick we might not know about in Batman’s history. I was thinking that there’s 75 years of Batman history. How does it feel for you as a creator and writer to add to it and have to navigate it?

SS: It’s challenging. I have to remind myself I’ve done this before. I’ve gone to the Batcave. You’ve worked the console. You’ve driven the Batmobile. Relax.

It never stops being scary on some levels. Some of my favorite literature involves this character. Not just comics, but books. In that way you look at it as how can I add to this? How can I explore something?

On the other hand, you put your horse blinders on and say I made that up, I made these things up, and you write it like your own book. Where you understand that your love of the character is baked into the DNA and the elements are true enough in the core where even if you’re trying something far fetched that you love a character enough that you’re not going to go so far out of range fans will hate it. You just try.

That’s the way I deal with it. You block it all out and say you’re writing fan fiction, what would you like to see in the end? I have a lot of trouble writing Damian because he’s close to my son’s age

I have a lot of trouble writing Damian because he’s close to my son’s age. It’s a personal thing and hard for me because having a boy that young that’s next to me fighting crime and getting punched… I can’t get my head around it. Even though I adore reading about the character in other places and I want him to remain Robin and be Robin. With that said they don’t want a Batman and Robin right now, because they want to establish him over in Teen Titans and give him an identity outside of Gotham.

That presents an opportunity. I’ve loved Batman with an ally, a Robin, Spoiler, Cassandra Cain whoever he’s next to. Duke is a character we’ve talked about for a long time and I love what was done with him in We Are Robin. I talked to Geoff Johns about different possibilities about where he can land, what his personality was, and what he could offer. We came up with something that I’m really excited about.

My hope is he’s not just some hero that we can create and leave, but one we can create a series for. A main series where we can bring in new talent, maybe from my class. I have high hopes. We’ll see. I’m excited about it. I might fall on my face, you never know.

My only thing with Duke is to justice to the character. I love that character. I just really want him to be someone that’s integral with the DC Universe and be special.

ASBM_1_5GP: It really stood out to me in this issue of how much of an inverse he is to Batman. Where there’s black on Batman there’s yellow on Duke. Where there’s yellow on Batman, there’s black on Duke. And there’s background, skin color… they’re very much opposites in many ways an inverse.

SS: Very much. Some of that is built in as to where Duke might land. His mission. He’s going to fill a role Bruce really needs. I’m excited for that. I think he has a lot to teach Bruce honestly and they fit well together too. There’s the story that’s going to be the back-up in the first five issues it’s Declan and Jordie and Zsasz. The next one is Mr. Freeze and Francesco. Each has a color correspondent which is meant to have a corollary in human psychology. So black is the first one has to do with the past and the darkness towards motivation. White, the second one is about endurance and the evil we do to each other. Green is Poison Ivy and red and so on.

GP: The two stories are interesting in how you tell the narrative. They both jump back and forth with time and use flashbacks within flashbacks. Why’d you go that route instead of a straight narrative?

SS: Honestly, with flashbacks and the structure of time, it’s just one more tool I feel like you think about what the story is about and you decide if that tool is enhancing or applicable or not. It even comes down to captions. You figure what the story is about and you make these decisions.

For me, this story is largely where I wanted it to feel head spinning where Batman is alone and alienated. So I don’t want narration in that stuff. At the same time he’s largely haunted about things in the past and driven by them. I wanted you to feel like you’re on the road. You’re in the middle of nowhere and alone. So the structure of it allows you to go back further and further in an unconventional way in almost a v shape, a mirror. Two-Face says “I’m the mirror you look you and the man on the other side.” And the v shape to me speaks as to what the story is about.

And in the background it’s much more about Duke wrestling dealing with his new life and his own life. Just a few months ago he was with this group of Robins. His story isn’t straight forward as far as structure. It’s a struggle as to who he was and who he’s going to be.

GP: Very nice. Thanks so much for chatting.

« Older Entries