Category Archives: Interviews

Hope Nicholson and Bedside Press: A Dream Realized

Bedside Beginnings

Last Saturday, July 15, marked the beginning of another Hope Nicholson Kickstarter, Gothic Tales of Haunted Love–a Kickstarter discussed more throughly here Nicholson has been publishing comics under the Bedside Press imprint and running successful Kickstarter campaigns for years.   
bedside press logo

At first, Nicholson didn’t expect Bedside Press to become as big of a part of her life as it is now.  

In fact, when she started the imprint in 2014, she “just wanted to do this one reprint book because [she] didn’t see it in the market! But what [she] learned about the process is not only did [she] really, really enjoy it but [she] had the seeds to be good at it too. Ever since Nelvana of the Northern Lights [she has] been trying to nurture these seeds and grow as a publisher.”

nelvana of northern lights

Her “first project was a reprint, but after [she] caught the publishing bug from Nelvana [she] knew that [she] wanted to do new content too. Getting the pinups for Nelvana and Brok was [her] first experience with working with artists and it was a rush.”

Working on Brok didn’t only just become a fun experience because of working with the artists. In fact, “Brok Windsor is [her] pride and joy”, the comic she’s proudest of so far.

Nicholson holds this comic in a special place in her heart, because it’s “a beautiful comic, so iconic of Canadian history, and of [her] own city Winnipeg in particular, and completely forgotten.”

brok windsor

As mentioned before, “that project really was [her[ first solo outing, and it was a joy to be able to reach out and see what [she] was capable of in all avenues. Discovering the real Brok Windsor, finding ALL of these lost 1940s comics to reprint, hiring a new artist to reinvision a comic only available as a text script and reaching out to over 30 artists to draw pinups of Brok made [her] really proud of my abilities.”

And it seems like she was onto something–since starting Bedside Press, Nicholson has published 11 books, sometimes graphic novels and sometimes a mix of traditional text and comics. As the Kickstarter shows too, she’s only getting started.

Refreshingly, Nicholson seems to enjoy “the feeling of satisfaction in producing books and working with really talented creators”, and focus on that feeling more than trying to be a publisher only focused on the bottom line.

“Plus,” Nicholson adds “all the readers seem really happy!”

A Diverse Touch

Maybe the reason the readers seem happy stems from that personal touch and from a focus on producing a wide range of texts from a wide range of creators.

Early on, she knew “that [she] wanted to focus on diverse content” although that focus is still on hiring “people who tell good stories”.

However, Nicholson noted that when a publisher focuses on good stories, they’ll find that “people who tell good stories come from everywhere. It’s important to tell their stories”.

And one of those stories is making it’s way into Gothic Tales of Haunted Love:

One [story] really caught [her] eye, so much so that [she] had to hire a restorationist so [she] could reprint it in this collection…[that story] was Sanho Kim’s ‘The Promise’. It’s an exceptional gothic romance, set in Korea, created by a Korean artist, and lettered in both Korean and English. It’s proof that there are always resistance and exceptions to dominant genres and [she’s] really excited to showcase it.”

sanho kims the promise

This is just one of many diverse stories, however, both in Gothic Tales of Haunted Love and in the rest of Bedside’s publishing catalog.

Nicholson attributes her success at attracting diverse voices to a few things:

At first when [she] did open calls, [she] didn’t have as far of a reach, so a lot of creators outside of [her] immediate circle never even heard of [her] projects, let alone could apply for them. But over the years [she has] had more and more standing in the industry and since [she] promote[s] a lot of different creators…people who aren’t white, who aren’t straight, who aren’t binary gender.. [diverse creators] are now within [her] social sphere.”

secret love of geek girls

But she knew she had to do more than just rely on her social sphere:

“[She had] to put the work into research and asking for specific recommendations in order to compensate for [a social sphere’s] limitation. For example when [she] did The Secret Loves of Geeks, it was a bit of an attempt to fix an issue that feminism has with binary gender. [She] didn’t want just stories from men, just stories from women–[she] wanted stories from people where the gender binary just wasn’t accurate for them. So [she] asked specifically for stories from nonbinary creators, and received several!”

 

Bedside Bumps

 

Although Nicholson has been successful in her publishing experience so far, she does admit that there have been a few bumps in the road, mainly stemming from her steadfast commitment to publish stories she loves instead of only pursuing commercially successful stories.

Distribution and finances are the biggest bumps she’s experienced so far:

“In Canada because of our sparse population base most publishers exist on grants, and grant eligibility is restricted to very strict criteria. [Because of this limited funding, she] fund[s] most of [her] projects through Kickstarters, but this only reaches an audience of usually 400-3,000 funders, and is usually only done two-three times a year.“

She adds that “distributors don’t want niche projects for the most part, so it limits [her] reach to what [she] can hand-sell. That’s tough”.

It’s so tough that Nicholson has had to adjust her life a little. “Because [she uses] almost all of [her] freelance income to put into new projects, it also means [she has] had to cut personal costs as much as [she] can” so she lives with her parents.
spectacular sisterhood of superwomen

On the bright side, though, she’s “had better luck licensing the projects to publishers later (like with The Secret Loves of Geek Girls through Dark Horse), and using all [her] freelance payments from other projects (like writing The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen for Quirk Books) to fund additional books.”

For example, “The Spectacular Sisterhood paid for all the production and printing fees for Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time!”
lovebeyond

Kickstarter Boost

Part of her success as a publisher comes from running successful Kickstarters; Nicholson has run six successful Kickstarter campaigns and is looking to add a seventh.  In fact, she’s been so successful in this area that Kickstarter has made her one of their Thought Leaders, an honor only bestowed on seven creators so far.

kickstarter thought leaders hope nicholson

When describing this experience and honor, Nicholson says that “ it’s been nice!”

But she adds that, “not too much has changed for [her], since unofficially [she] was already giving a lot of advice and panels and seminars on how to use Kickstarter and tips on how to succeed. It’s basically just given [her] a degree of legitimacy when [she says she’s] an expert!”

Nicholson was more than happy to share some of those Kickstarter tips in this interview.

One of her biggest pieces of advice is to “keep a lot of spreadsheets of lists! It’s tough to re-do all your research from scratch for each campaign.”

While Nicholson has raised enough funds with all of her Kickstarters, she does offer some light for those who don’t have her track record.  She reminds them that “failure is OK.”

Not only is it OK, it’s so much a part of life that she prepares “as much for the failure of a campaign as [she does] for its success.”

woody allen failure quote

Sometimes this means asking the right questions, such as “at what point would [she] be comfortable making a personal investment in the project if funding doesn’t push [her] over the edge”?

Does she think that she would “try the project again at a later date or through a different method”?

“Would [she] approach a publisher with the project instead, or would [she] let the project die and encourage the creators to apply with their story for other projects?”

Even though she prepares for failure, she hasn’t had to answer those questions outside of the abstract yet.

And she attributes that success to many things:

“[A big part of success is] putting the work in. And that goes from every aspect. It includes having and maintaining a newsletter, having an active social media life (yes, life not just promotion! People want to know who you are before they feel connected), chatting to press and journalists like they are human beings (so many creators treat press like a necessary evil which is ridiculous. We’re all in this equally together!), identifying your weak spots ([hers] is design) and hiring appropriately (S.M. Beiko did all the amazing design for the kickstarter!)”

Despite this success, she made a point to say that she is ”always learning, and anything outside of comics kickstart-ing is still a bit foreign to” her”.

*Note* All quoted material is from Hope Nicholson.

 

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Ezra Claytan Daniels Talks His Influences and winning the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics

I recently got a chance to catch up with the very busy creator Ezra Claytan Daniels, the master mind behind the brilliant and criminally under-read Upgrade Soul (for which he won a Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics at the Long Beach Comic Expo, back in February) and the forthcoming BTTM FDRs with Ben Passmore (Your Black Friend), to have a frank conversation about how he got his start in comics, what is his motivation and why representation matters to him.

Graphic Policy: What were your favorite comics growing up?

Ezra Claytan Daniels: When I was a kid, it was the box of 70’s Marvel comics my uncle Bobby left me he joined the Marines. Old Spiderman and Iron Man, mostly. I don’t remember really getting into the stories, though—I was mostly just interested in the art. Even as a teen, I cherished Wizard Magazine and the Previews Catalog more than I did actual comics, just because there were so many art styles to look at.

GP: I loved reading Wizard Magazine as well, did any artists/creators, that caught your eye in that magazine, which you think has influenced your style?

ECD: I remember really liking Sam Keith, Art Adams, Jim Lee. When I was drawing super heroes in my teens I was influenced by guys like that, but not so much now. I was also SUPER into the Marvel trading cards from the early 90’s which was an amazing reference point for comic art.

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

ECD: By the time I moved away from home, I hadn’t paid attention to comics for a few years. I didn’t really have access to anything but Marvel and DC in my hometown of Sioux City, Iowa, and I’d kind of lost interest in that stuff as I got into more weirder movies and books like Tetsuo the Iron Man and Geek Love. When I arrived in Portland, OR for college, I discovered Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, and Charles Burns. All three were big influences on me in different ways, from Burns’ body horror, to Clowes’ absurdist humor, to Ware’s emphasis on design. A lot of my favorite comics from this period were old Catalan reprints of European books, too. I got a lot of inspiration from those as well, particularly in terms of pacing and narrative tone. Giardino, Bilal, Boucq, Hermann.

GP: You grew up in a time, much like me, when Saturday morning cartoons, were a thing, what influence do they have on your work, if any?

ECD: I remember years ago when there was this big influx of American artists drawing Manga-style comics, and there was a big backlash against it. I wasn’t adamant either way, but I admit I did tend to dislike it. But when I realized a lot of these kids learned how to draw from watching cartoons like Pokemon and Yugi-oh, it dawned on me how much my own figures and faces resembled G.I. Joe, M.A.S.K. and Transformers.

GP: Were there any manga artists/creators, such as Futaro Yamada or CLAMP, that you were a fan of?

ECD: Not really when I was a kid, just cause there wasn’t any access. I got really into anime when I was in high school, but this was before the internet and even DVDs, so the only way to get stuff was for me to beg my mom to drive me to Vermillion, South Dakota, the nearest college town, where they had a record store that sold some anime VHS tapes. But since I didn’t have any way to learn about what was good, I just had to buy stuff without knowing anything about it—just by the cover art alone. And they weren’t cheap! Venus Wars, Lensmen, Windaria, Appleseed, Wings of Honneamise, Harmageddon, Akira, Ghost in the Shell—these things were my world back then. As an adult, I fell in love with Junji Ito, who is a big influence. And of course Otomo’s comics work, especially Domu.

GP: I read in another interview you did, where you talked about collecting all the black action figures, i.e. GI Joe, much like most children of color such as myself (LOL, I did the same with black and Asian GI Joes, even collecting Storm Shadow, just because he was Asian and Spirit, just because he was brown just like me),  can you explain the type of impact, the lack of representation at that macro level had on you, as a child, and how you as a creator now, incorporate those changes  in your work?

ECD: Representation was huge to me as a kid, and in a lot of ways I feel like it’s gotten worse. Look at something like Conan the Destroyer, where you had a really diverse cast and it wasn’t even a thing (granted, it was still rare to see a person of color as the lead), vs. Lord of the Rings, where they say it’s not realistic or whatever to have a diverse cast in this fantasy world. It’s as if directors somehow stopped seeing people of color in the world. People of color exist in every corner of this country, in small towns and in rich suburbs. If you create a story that omits those people, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a statement. You’re telling the world that you don’t acknowledge people of color. So if you’re telling a story that purports to illuminate an aspect of the human experience, but you only see half the population as human, then what value does that illumination have? It’s definitely a challenge to honestly try to put yourself into a perspective that isn’t yours, but if you’re too lazy to do that as a writer, then how good could your stories possibly be?

GP: Definitely, how do you feel about the lack of representation/appropriation in fantasy shows like Game Of Thrones (whose Dorne mythology has Middle Eastern and African influences) and movies/books like Dune (which has major Islamic influences), Starship Troopers (whose main character in the book was Filipino), and Earthsea Trilogy (which Ursula LeGuin spoke out against when Syfy made the TV movie), which all these examples partially or completely derived influences from Middle Eastern/African cultures?

ECD: Well, it’s totally maddening. People say minority leads don’t sell, but that’s been disproved time and time again. How can The Fast and the Furious be one of the longest running and most profitable franchises in history if audiences don’t like diverse casts and lead actors of color? I think comics is even worse. That whole thing with Marvel blaming diversity on their dwindling sales makes no sense when you look at the numbers. For YEARS the highest selling graphic novels have been created by and featuring women and girls. I’d be willing to bet real money that Raina Telgemeier has sold more comics than ANY mainstream comics superstar. And the biggest graphic novel series of our generation is about a black congressman. Like, do they think we can’t look this stuff up? So many people at the helms of the media companies that decide what our pop culture looks like either have blinders on or they’re just straight up racist and sexist. Actually, let me take that back. If you have blinders on that prevent you from acknowledging women and people of color, I think that qualifies you as racist and sexist.

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

ECD: I actually take more of my inspiration from film than comics. Cronenberg and Tarkovsky are two major influences.  I also worked in trial graphics for a few years, creating infographics and medical illustrations for court cases. I think a lot of that rubbed off on me as well, which you can see in the flat, clean, almost instruction manual-like quality of my linework and layouts in Upgrade Soul.

GP: Which of Cronnenberg’s and Tarkovsky’s films are your favorites and why?

ECD: Cronenberg’s The Fly is a huge influence on Upgrade Soul. Even though I admit he’s a guy who I don’t think has ever cast a person of color in any of his films. Maybe once in M. Butterfly. Tarkovsky’s Stalker and Solaris pretty much defined my ideal of science fiction and the unknown. Not so much in Upgrade Soul, but certainly with some short comics I’ve done recently in Speculative Relationships and Iron Circus’ New Worlds anthologies.

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

ECD: My dad died in 2012, just as we were starting to really reconnect after years of just kind of not being in each-others lives. As I was taking care of his estate, going through all his stuff, I really saw him objectively as he was for the first time. He was just a weird old black nerd who loved Star Trek and B sci-fi. I realized then that my whole life I’ve been making stories for him. Ironically, after I found the unopened package I’d sent him of my first graphic novel, The Changers, I don’t think he ever read anything I made. There’s definitely fodder for an autobio book in there.  My mom, on the other hand, is my biggest champion. I could never do any wrong in my mom’s eyes, and she always encouraged me to do whatever I wanted as a career.

GP: Did your Dad try to put you on to Star Trek or did he watch any of those old B-movies with you and your brother when you guys were growing up? I f so, how do you think that influence the subject matter in your work?

ECD: Yeah, absolutely, that was our bonding with him as kids. Star Trek, Dr. Who, Red Dwarf, Sliders, Ice Pirates, Robocop, the entire Schwarzenegger catalog. And we had no restrictions on content when we were kids, so we’d watch Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Jason, all that stuff. All those influences are very strong in my work.

GP: How did you get started in comics?

ECD: I always drew comics, ever since I was a kid, but I went to college to study filmmaking. I did that for awhile, but eventually went back to comics because it was so much easier for me to tell stories that way. I made a few minicomics and then self published The Changers in 2003.

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

ECD: Well, I don’t know if I’d call it a career because it’s never made me any money. And I wouldn’t even say I’ve committed to it as my preferred medium for telling stories. I’d still love to get back into filmmaking (I made a short sci-fi animation with Adebukola Bodunrin that’s screened all over the world the past few years as part of Black Radical Imagination), and I’m really interested in doing some more interactive stuff.

GP: What was your inspiration behind “The Changers”?

ECD: The Changers started as a screenplay that I had every intention of filming. I even made a teaser for it which I don’t think I ever showed anyone. After kind of half-heartedly starting the process of trying to find people to collaborate with on it, I just said screw it and decided to draw it as a graphic novel. The characters are mostly based on me and my friends from that time of my life. The story is just kind of a narrative take on the things that were on my mind in my early 20’s, like becoming an adult, having responsibilities, navigating a social world, and living up to my own expectations as an artist. Those ideas manifested as a story about two brothers who travel from the distant future to our time to catalyze a leap in human evolution. When they’re confronted with the result of their mission, they have to decide whether their sacrifice was worth it.

GP: What was your inspiration behind “A Circuit Closed”?

ECD: That was my only ever paid comics work, for an anthology Dark Horse did with MySpace. I actually don’t remember where the idea came from, but I’d started working on Upgrade Soul by then, and some of those elements found their way in. The main character is one of the minor characters in Upgrade Soul, and the device at the center of the story is featured as a small aside in Upgrade Soul. It’s basically a story about the idea of a soul mate. What if there was a scientific way to track down your soul mate, and what of that person was someone who revolted you?

GP: Before I forget, congratulations again on the Dwayne McDuffie Award, were you aware of him growing up and if so, what were your favorite comics/cartoon projects he worked on/created?

ECD: Thank you! Like most kids of my generation, my first exposure to Dwayne’s work was the Static Shock cartoon. My brother and I used to watch that show religiously. I didn’t know about Dwayne’s legacy, though, until I was an adult.

GP: Where were you and how did you find out you were nominated for the Dwayne McDuffie Award?

ECD: They emailed me to let me know. A few weeks later there were articles in Variety and the Hollywood Reporter listing the nominees. That was totally crazy. It was definitely the first time my name had ever been in publications of that size. It was super exciting, but I never thought I had a chance of actually winning. I was up against some insanely talented people, including David Walker. David, to his credit, told me right away he knew I was going to win, haha.

GP: Have you and David talked about working together on a project,  as I know he is not only an excellent comic writer like you but he is also an avid filmmaker (he made the brilliant blaxploitation documentary, Macked, Hammered, Slaughtered and Shafted)?

ECD: Yeah, we’ve talked about it, but there’s nothing on the horizon. I would be honored, though. He’s probably one of the only writers I would be interested in drawing for.

GP: What was your initial reaction, once you learned that you won the award? Have you thought about it since?

ECD: I really couldn’t believe it. Ironically, I was the only nominee in attendance at the ceremony, so it would’ve been extra sad if I didn’t win, haha. It’s the only award I’ve ever won, so it holds a prominent place on the bookshelf in my living room. Dwayne McDuffie was a legend and an inspiration to so many people. Being honored with his name is definitely not something I’ll ever forget, or ever stop trying to live up to.

GP: Did you get a chance to hang out with Phil LaMarr, (voice of Static in the cartoon) who emceed the event?

ECD: Yeah! We got to chat for a bit after the ceremony. He was super nice. It was the best celebrity experience I’ve had since moving to LA, for sure.

GP: Let us talk about the project you won the award for, Upgrade Soul,  what was your inspiration behind it?

ECD: If The Changers was about my preoccupations as a 20-something, Upgrade Soul is about my preoccupations as a 30-something: Aging, leaving a legacy, evaluating my identity, grappling with my privileges. Superficially, the challenge I set for myself with Upgrade Soul was to write a soap opera. It’s basically a melodrama built with body-horror and cerebral sci-fi motifs.

GP: The main characters, Hank, and Molly,  did you base those characters on anyone you know of?

ECD: Hank and Molly are based on my grandparents, Leon and Barb—at least as far as the way they interact, and kind of in the way they look. Hank’s look is largely inspired by Samuel Delany. I was actually blessed enough to meet him once and give him a copy of the book. He called me a “very talented artist”! But I don’t think he was particularly flattered by my representation, haha. After I started the book, I discovered the work of Leo and Diane Dillon, illustrators whose work I’d grown up with and loved, but had never put a name to. When I saw photos of them, I thought I MUST have made a subconscious reference to them in my designs for Hank and Molly. The resemblance is truly uncanny.

GP: Samuel Delany, is an excellent writer as well, loved all his work, I know he was a contemporary of Octavia Butler, has either Sam or Octavia’s work influenced your work on Upgrade Soul?

ECD: When I was writing the sub-story for Upgrade Soul, that the main character writes, I realized that the basic premise is really similar to Delany’s Stars in My Pocket like Grains of Sand, which I’d read years prior. I’d only gotten into Butler’s work well after I was into production on Upgrade Soul, but she’ll certainly be an influence on upcoming projects.

GP: There were a lot of science fiction/fantasy/horror aspects throughout the story, were shows like Black Mirror  or Outer Limits, or even Twilight Zone, have any influence over you using these elements?

ECD: I’m definitely a HUGE fan of all three of those shows, and they’ve all influenced me. Black Mirror didn’t exist until after I was well unto production on Upgrade Soul, but it’s now one of my all-time favorite TV series. I also loved Monsters and Tales from the Darkside growing up. Leonard Nimoy’s In Search Of…  was also hugely inspirational to me. I think my really mundane approach to horror owes a lot to that show.

GP: Were there any specific issues, you wrote about in Upgrade Soul, which you had a hard time talking about in the book?

ECD: Absolutely. I’m a much more woke person now than I was when I wrote the first draft of the script in 2008 (as most of us probably are). I’d drawn a good 50% of the book before I got to the parts in the script that really dealt with Lina, the girl who suffered a severe disfigurement as a result of a cranially conjoined twin. When I reread those scenes for the first time in a few years, I cringed. My handling of her disability was pretty problematic. She was really more of a plot device than a character. So I set myself down to fix it. I did a lot of reading, talked to people with disabilities, and took about 4 months off of drawing to totally rewrite the last half of the book to make her a stronger character with actual agency.

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

ECD: I’m in love with Alone, by Fabien Vehlmann and Bruno Gazzotti. I picked it up after reading Vehlmann’s Last Days of an Immortal, which is an astounding work of comics science fiction. I recently tracked down a graphic novel adaptation of Donald Goines’ Daddy Cool, which I cherish. Ben Passmore’s Your Black Friend deserves all the praise it’s been getting. I loved Marietta Ren’s interactive graphic novel, Phallaina.

GP: Did you grow reading Donald Goines and/or Iceberg Slim? If so, do you think, in the future, you will write anything that pays homage to that era?

ECD: No, I didn’t, and I haven’t read a whole lot to this day; just Daddy Cool and some Walter Mosley. The new story I’m working on right now is an homage to George Schuyler’s Black No More, a Harlem Renaissance satire about a procedure that turns black people white. It’s incredible.

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

ECD: Oh, man, so many people. I would love to write something for Ron Wimberly. Natacha Bustos, Maria Nguyen, Meg Gandy, and Marietta Ren  are all on my dream list of illustrators to collaborate with someday. I guess I consider myself a better writer than illustrator, so I don’t keep a list of writers I want to work with.

GP: What lead you to collaborate with Ben Passmore on BTTM FDRs? What was the inspiration behind that? What can you tell our readers about it?

ECD: I met Ben at the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo 3 years ago. He first caught my eye because he literally looks exactly like me, if I’d become more of an anarchist than a hipster. When I saw his work though, I was like, “this can’t be right—this guy should be a household name”. It totally blew me away. We kept in touch; we had a ton in common—both mixed dudes from mostly white towns. Both toiling in obscurity while destined for greater things, haha. I guess about a year later I’d moved to LA and started polishing a script I’d written years before. When I finished the rewrite I posted it to The Black List, which I always do, to get an unbiased professional assessment of a script. It was really well received, which gave me the confidence to invest in it. I asked Ben if I could hire him to draw the story as a graphic novel and he was down. The story is a metaphor for cultural appropriation. Our politics are pretty well aligned and the story was a perfect fit for him—an absurdist mix of gonzo sci-fi/horror and anti-establishment politics.

GP: When can we expect BTTM FDRs?

ECD: It’s SO CLOSE to being done. We’re gonna try to finish it in time to print up a few copies to pass around at Comic-Con next month. Hopefully it’ll find a publisher soon, but it’ll all depend on where it lands. In the meantime, you can read the first 15 pages here. The 3 volumes of Upgrade Soul are currently available in extremely limited quantities trough RadiatorComics.com, but I’m currently pitching the collection to publishers, so keep your eyes peeled for that, too. You can follow me on all the things @ezracdaniels to keep up with news about both these books!

Dennis Hopeless Talks Body Slams, Kayfabe, and WWE

The current run of WWE comics has been great so far, a peek into the in-character lives of wrestlers the meshes far better than other attempts at WWE ongoing series. Graphic Policy got a chance to chat with writer Dennis Hopeless and get a little insight on the series, where it’s headed, and of course pro wrestling.

Graphic Policy: First things first, how did you get pro wrestling to mesh so well with comics this go ‘round? Comics and wrestling seem like an obvious fit, with the larger-than-life personalities, but previous attempts didn’t click as naturally. What sets this ongoing apart and just how did you capture lightning in a bottle?

Dennis Hopeless: To start, artist Serg Acuña is absolutely crushing it every issue. He somehow manages to capture the humanity of the WWE Superstars while also nailing the likenesses and giving us super exciting action sequences. On top of that, our editorial team is fantastic. It was obvious to me from our first conversations about the project that BOOM! and WWE had a very clear vision. They understood that the comics needed to be something different from what fans see on Raw and Smackdown, but the tone and voice also needed to remain consistent.

So, instead of trying to make the Superstars more comic book-y, we’re telling the character-driven stories that take place behind the scenes. Our focus is on character motivation and making the Superstars even more relatable. That exact sort of character work is my bread and butter as a writer. It’s what I love to do and what I’m known for. It’s great to see that fans are responding. I’m just writing what I’d want to read with an incredible team of collaborators who always make us look good.

GP: One thing I really loved from Seth Rollins’ arc was that you didn’t just handwave away his recovery but instead had him cope with and process it. That humanity, for me, makes him more relatable as a character. It’s something that was also shown in his WWE 24 episode. Is that where you got the inspiration?

DH: I didn’t actually watch Seth’s WWE 24 until after I’d written that issue, but yeah, I can definitely see the parallels. Seth’s character arc was so brilliantly paced just as it happened; I didn’t have to do a lot of plotting. Betrayal. Rise. Injury and fall. The road back. And redemption. It was already right there. All we had to do was dramatize the behind-the-scenes beats and tie it all together. It was such a fun arc to write and served as the perfect gateway point for fans. Anyone who had been following Seth’s story on television since the breakup of The Shield now gets to see his journey from the other side of the curtain.

GP: Speaking of Seth’s recovery, making sure that the New Day were pretty consistently there to help Seth when he needed it was pretty brilliant. Any chances we’ll be seeing them around more in Dean and Roman’s stories?

DH: I love the New Day so I certainly wouldn’t put it past us, but Dean’s arc takes place in a wholly different corner of the WWE Universe. Dean spends a lot of time with Sasha Banks and a few other superstars while he’s on the road. It’s a really weird and fun story that couldn’t be much more different from Seth’s arc… but New Day still very much ROCKS so we’ll see.

GP: So the current arc is about Dean Ambrose and seems to be focusing first on his feud with Brock Lesnar. However, it doesn’t look like a lot is going to be in the ring at the moment. Is this going to be Dean and Sasha’s Road Trip Adventure or will they be heading for the next arena for a showdown with Brock?

DH: Almost all of Dean’s story takes place on the road. Both Dean and Sasha have a sort of Road to Money in the Bank thing going on by the end of issue #5, so we decided to lean into that. Superstars spend a lot of time driving from city to city. It’s a fact of their lives that we all sort of know, but rarely gets addressed in the stories. Dean seemed like the perfect character to takes us there… And I’m not sure what possessed me to team him up with Sasha Banks, but that might have been the best decision of my career. Those two together are an absolute blast. The weirdest (plutonic) odd couple ever.

GP: Any chance of the women’s divisions coming more into play? I loved the scene between Sasha and Charlotte as well as other glimpses of them in backstage bits but, as this is about Dean primarily, was this more of a cameo than an ongoing thing?

DH: Sasha plays a huge roll in this arc. It’s more or less a buddy road trip story from the end of #5 on. You’ll also be seeing more of Charlotte as we move forward, as she’s Sasha’s primary rival in this. Now that I think about it, this whole arc might be my backdoor pitch for a Women’s Revolution series.

GP: If you’re still keeping to the plan of three arcs about the Shield, the only one that’s left is Roman Reigns. He’s got a very complicated relationship with the WWE Universe at the moment. Does that play into how you’ve chosen to write him so far at all? Could that change once he’s the focus?

DH: Roman’s will be another very human story. I want to show you what makes the Big Dog tick. We’ll be dealing with his family legacy, rage issues, and unique relationship with fans. I’m not ashamed to admit that Roman Reigns fascinates me. I can’t wait to dig in.

GP: Once the Shield’s stories have been told, who would you like to tell the story of next if you could pick and would it be in the same kayfabe-as-life style? There’s a lot of supernatural stories and weirdness in WWE but there’s also the latest influx of superstars from the indies and Japan, like DIY in NXT, Finn Balor, and Shinsuke Nakamura. Anything particularly stand out?

DH: Like I mentioned before, I’d love to tell a Women’s Revolution story of some kind. Bayley is my favorite wrestler and I think the Women’s Division is just crazy stacked with talent right now. That will be my first pitch for sure. Beyond that, I think there’s a lot of fun stuff to be mined right now. Both Finn and Shinsuke are fascinating characters. I’d tell their stories in a heartbeat.

As for tone, I don’t expect any wild shifts. This slice-of-life thing seems to be working and we love doing it.

GP: One last question: if you could have an on-screen storyline with any one WWE wrestler, team, or stable, who would it be?

DH: All time: Probably Razor Ramon or Early NOW Hall and Nash. I was the perfect age for that stuff and it holds a special place in my heart.

Right Now: The Miz. I just love everything Miz and Maryse have been doing lately. He’s a killer on the mic and isn’t afraid to dig in and be hated. It’s perfect.

GP: Thanks for chatting!

ComiConn 2017: Chatting with Comic Book Man – Ming Chen

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Graphic Policy: I am here with Ming Chen from AMC’s Comic Book Men! I have to say man it’s an honor, I am a big fan of what you folks are doing with that show and I wanted to take the chance and ask you some questions.

Ming Chen: Sure. Fire away.

GP: So you’ve come a long way, from this show that started as a small cult type thing and sort of a rip off Pawn Stars.

Ming: (interjecting) Oh definitely a rip off of Pawn Stars. I mean there’s no doubt about it.

GP: Yeah.

Ming: The show got started because AMC had such a hit with The Walking Dead that first season and so they wanted to do something else comic book based. So they asked “who do we go to for something like this?” So they went to Kevin Smith.

GP: Of course.

Ming: Kevin who is one of the top minds in the comic book world, they asked “Kevin what would you do?” He said well “Why don’t you just rip off Pawn Stars but do it in a comic book store and focus on vintage toys and comics?” AMC thought it was a good idea and could work, however they needed to shoot some kind of pilot and put it on tape and see if it could actually work.Kevin told them he had a comic book store and some guys that worked there AMC could use. He told them flat out, they are not actors and sort of a bunch of knuckleheads but they might not be your guys. In terms of for the purpose of shooting the pilot Kevin thought we’d be fine. So they (AMC) shot it with us and said “That’s it.” “These are our guys.” At that point there was no reason to try and cast anyone else.

GP: Yeah no kidding? Why? You guys fit perfect.

Ming: So AMC was like “Why didn’t you see this and tell us these guys were that good?” To Kevin we were just his friends and co – workers and he didn’t really see it, but it worked out really well. We initially shot 6 episodes to start and to see if it worked. I was like “Who’s going to watch this though?” “Who wants to see four old dudes griping in a comic book store talking about Star Wars and Flux Capacitors and such?” Lo and behold people actually dug it so much that we are about to go into our seventh season. I love it. I want to do it forever.

GP: I mean yeah it’s incredible to have it take off the way it did like that.

Ming: It definitely is.

GP: That was my follow up. For something that you didn’t think would take off, to have it go multiple seasons.

Ming: We thought one, two maybe..

GP: I think the Kevin Smith thing certainly hooks it, but it’s you guys that keep the asses in the seats. It’s really great.

Ming: Thank you so much man. It’s cool to get that response.

GP: Now I’m a huge Batman ’66 fan myself and I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask this. The day you guys shot the show for the Batman ’66 Batboat, did it all really go down like that? Was everyone that disappointed? 

Ming: Yes. So for those who haven’t seen the episode, I meet the guy who I’ve met at several cons and he owns the ’66 Batboat. He had it in Red Bank (NJ) asked if I wanted to come down and go on it. He told me to bring the guys too. So naturally I tell them “Hey guys you want to go down on the Batboat?” They were all for it. I figured we’d go down there and float around for like an hour on it. We brought sun screen and sandwiches. Then we get down there and it’s not even in the water and it’s bolted to a trailer. He tells me it doesn’t go in the water and it’s not sea worthy. So yeah the guys were a little pissed with me for that one. I mean how was I supposed to know? When someone invites you down to their boat it’s usually on the water. I don’t think it was my fault, but they never see it that way. So they are like “You screwed up Ming, You suck.”

GP: That’s the true to life dynamic? They treat you like that?”

Ming: All the time (laughs) I mean if I do something they consider egregious no matter how stupid or small, they will call me out on it. It’s been like that for twenty years.

GP:  I have to ask you, as a fan who like me grew up idolizing these folks and all this stuff, having those same people dropping by or coming up to you like “Hey Ming” is it surreal?

Ming: It is surreal. To have those people come up to me and say they are fans of the show and like I’m doing, it’s very cool. I mean to me it’s just something I do every summer with my friends. It very much feels like summer camp and it just gets put on tape. I love how it comes on after The Walking Dead and Talking Dead because I’m still a huge fanboy. I want to meet these people (Zabka, Pearlman, Jason David Frank) because they were such huge parts of my childhood. I know they are actors and actors are regular people but also they were so awesome that what they did shaped my life. It’s cool to be able to meet them now on this level. I mean we aren’t on even ground but like my badge is the same as theirs so there’s a modicum of respect and it’s all just really cool. So if they want to treat me as if they don’t know me or blow me off I will catch up with them later.

GP: Yeah in some cases you moderate their panels afterward (laughs) 

Ming: Yeah moderating the panels is cool too. I mean I’m so glad it happened this way to me. As a fan first, where as a lot of people here grew up in the acting world and the con thing came later to them. So I’m really lucky in that way. I like that I’m a fan first.

GP: Absolutely. I think it keeps it authentic.

Ming: It’s definitely way more fun.

GP: I’ve noticed that you seem to be spearheading the task of taking on these cons more and more lately. The others (Mike Zapcic and Bryan Johnson) join you time to time but not always. So is that your ambition? Are you going to be a lot more Comic Con oriented or branch off and do your own thing?

Ming: We’ll see. I think Comic Book Men works so well because it’s the four of us. It wouldn’t work with just three of us or one of us. Out of the four of us though, I think Bryan Johnson and I have a great dynamic where I will do something and he just reacts to it honestly.

GP: Mike Zapcic is great too. Don’t forget him. He’s like the straight man to you guys comedy.

Ming: That’s true. So I want to continue to do as much with the show for as long as I can because I love it so much. Mike and I have a couple podcasts together and we work very well on that so we have such a well rounded base. I would love for Comic Book Men to keep on going forever, I know it can’t but I’d really like it to. I’m happy with that right now.

GP: Well seven seasons is nothing to sneeze at.

Ming: I’d like to keep the energy from this going and be somewhere in the Pop Culture world after this, I don’t know where it will be but we will see. I will take an opportunity no matter how weird or how small it may be. You never know where it will take you. It might even be more of the Con world. They don’t seem to be stopping any time soon.

GP: They do not. You know what I think would be ideal though? Is that one day you open your own store across the street from the (Secret) Stash and you become a bigger deal then all of them. That would be great.

Ming: That would be so fun. We could have like a rivalry and all kinds of pranks and hijinx. Maybe we’d even have a gang war with like Molotov cocktails (laughs) not really but you know, just a lot of weird and fun stuff.

GP: Absolutely. I’d watch the hell out of that. Well thank you for your time and so much success to you.

Ming: Thank you man. Absolutely this was great. See you around.


Well that was my chat with Ming “The Mighty” Chen. Such a great guy. He loves what he does and wants to do it always, for the fans. You can’t beat that. Hope you see him at a Con in the near future.

Till next time true readers!

Ben Kreger Talks About The Black Suit Of Death!

While I was on vacation, I saw a tweet from Ben Kreger lamenting how difficult it could be to get some promotion for your comic, so naturally I reached out to him.

Ben has spent the last seven years writing, lettering, and publishing comics under his imprint Warrior Innkeeper Creative (formally Warrior Innkeeper Comics). He has written in many genres and for many age groups, but his two favourite titles are Black Suit Of Death, a mature tour de force and the all-ages The Less Than Historical Adventures Of Li’l Lincoln. The highlight of his career may be when his adopted home town of Independence, Oregon commissioned him for two very cool projects.

I was able to take a few minutes of Ben’s time just before the launch of the Kickstarter for the scond issue of Black Suit Of Death. You can find the Kickstarter for #FundBSD2 here, as well as a review of the first two comics in the Black Suit Of Death series (posting later) – but I’ll save you a bit of time and let you now they’re both fantastic issues. Talking to Ben, and reading the comic he co-wrote has been an absolute joy.


BSOD ides of marchGraphic Policy: What did your home town commission of you, and how did it come about?

Ben Kreger: I have had a somewhat of a nomadic life. When I was young my family moved between Oregon and Washington and back again so I’ve never had roots sorta speak. When I landed in Independence, Oregon, I found the city to be what I was looking for when it came to a place to raise my kids. I never dreamed I would grow roots here.

That all began when I attended an open meeting the city was having to discuss plans to open up tourism in our town to help boost the old downtown. Meeting the people who have influence in the city was the beginning of the network which lead to me eventually meeting the mayor and presenting my comic book publishing as a new local business to other business people in town.

Not long after the Mayor had his people contact me and before I knew it, I was writing and organizing a small anthology of stories based on the otherworldly encounters people are said to have had in the buildings of downtown.

Spirits of Independence: A Ghost Walk Companion, was the first time I was paid as a writer. So it was kind of a big deal. It was sold during the City’s Hops & Heritage festival. I regret not working more comp copies into the agreement because it has been a best seller and I really wish it was I that was selling it ;)

GP: So in a nutshell, how would you describe Black Suit Of Death?

BK: Well, first off, a proper description wouldn’t fit in the space an average nutshell could provide. The Black Suit of Death has taken, Ed and I nearly half a decade or more to figure out how to describe it, as the comic doesn’t quite fit in one genre, but our elevator speech goes like this, “The Black Suit of Death is a satirical, sci-fi, comic with elements of horror. The comic follows the exploits of Edd Grimes, a depressed college student who on the verge of suicide discovered an alien bio-mechanoid suit of armor which happens to be the suit all myth’s and legends of the grim reaper are actually based on. Edd becomes the modern day pilot of this suit, thus becoming today’s grim reaper.”

Honestly, that doesn’t even come close to a real description of what we’ve created but it seems to cause interest enough for readers to pick the book up at conventions.

GP: The idea has been kicking around for quite some time for yourself and co-creator Ed Ellsworth. What’s it like to finally have it out in the world?

BK: Having this bizarre world we’ve created finally out of our heads and in print for the whole world to see is both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. The fact we have fans is somewhat strange. Sure, we work very hard to make sure the stories we tell are the absolute best we can write, and well, we have some of the most amazing artists in the biz working with us, so even if our words suck, the book looks killer! It’s been a treat to not have any real negative reactions, we both feel very lucky about that – though our cynicism expects it to happen any day now, and our depression, reminds us that we could be better. ;)

GP: There’s a distinct shift in style between the prelude and the first issue. Can you talk about that a little?

BK: I could talk a little but what would be the fun in that?

BSOD 1Of course, to answer the question, the shift in style came because of the script for The Black Suit of Death #1. Originally we had hoped Stefano Cardoselli would be the lead artist on the series. In Ides of March, Stef’s sharp angles and exaggerated art, mixed with his detailed settings really helped illustrate the madness boiling inside the inventor of the Black Suit of Death (B.S.D.), Doctor Philo Seitsan, and it worked very well for that story. However, when I’d hired him to draw a 6-page #0 issue – that was meant to introduce the series protagonist, Edd Grimes, I discovered his particular style wasn’t going to meet the needs of the story.

Then of course I ran out of money and wasn’t able to finish the #0 issue, so it sat on a digital shelf for years. After attempting to revive it with another artist, who wasn’t able to deliver, I called it quits. I almost called it quits all together. But Ed really pushed for us to continue work on the series scripts. When the opportunity came around to work with Dexter Wee, I grabbed it! I’d followed Dexter’s work for some time, first discovering the webcomic Cura Te Ipsum after meeting the writer at a convention here in Oregon. And once we had Dex on board we felt we’d really have to deliver the best possible script we could manage. The Black Suit of Death #1 went through almost seven rewrites since it was first written way back in 2011.

GP: How many issues do you have written so far? Do you have an ending in mind for the series?

BK: When we brought Dexter Wee on board Ed and I felt we’d really have to up our game. So while we had nearly six issues completed, going back and looking over them, we weren’t that happy with them. We currently have the next two issues completed (that would be issue #3 and #4) and issues #5-#7 either in progress or needing a second draft+. That said, issue #3 will get at least a once over before it goes to Dexter for illustration. In addition to that we have plotted out twenty-seven stories concluding this series with a 6-part series tentatively titled “Battle for the Planet!” That last story will tie everything together, including things set up in Ides of March.
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GP: The first issue of Black Suit Of Death is a successful Kickstarter story. Did you ever expect to be able to reach three stretch goals?

BK: Short answer, No. We were hopeful but near the end there when we were sure we’d be dead in the water missing our mark once again. The Kickstarter was at around 70% and holding for an entire week! We needed around $2k to hit the goal and it wasn’t looking good. Then out of the blue, two anonymous Backers dropped a brick load of dough our way. I’ll be honest. When those pledges came in and we spilled over our goal, I wept. Full on tears streaming down my face, choked up voice, “Why do they believe in me? What have I done to deserve this kindness?”

My mind was blown! For someone to drop $20 bucks on your project it’s amazing and you ask those same questions because the generosity of Backers is quite overwhelming, then when someone drops $1,000+ …damn if it doesn’t take the rug right under you, but in a very good way.

When we hit $7,000 and almost 200 Backers, I can safely say, no, we didn’t expect that, hoped for it, obviously, but no expectation, and nothing could have prepared us for it.

Ed, who lives in Arizona, found one of the local pizza joints here and surprised me with a pizza delivery in congratulations. I’ll have to think of a way to pay it forward when this one ends on a high note.

bsod page 1GP: Speaking of high notes… Issue one deals with some pretty dark internal stuff with Edd Grimes struggle with depression. That was some starkly brutal writing that couldn’t have been easy to write?

BK: Strangely enough, stuff coming up in Issue #3 was much tougher to write, not that what we created in Issue #1 wasn’t. Ed and I both battle Depression, and I won’t speak for him, but sadly I have made a couple attempts to end my life… that said, writing about it is actually my personal therapy, my comic therapy. So, while, yes it is difficult, it is also helpful, if not necessary in maintaining my sanity. Of course, I like to give credit where credit is due, Ed was the one that wrote most of the captions – that guys a dark, dark dude, man. lol!

GP: I was wondering if there was personal experience there; the writing had a very honest feeling to it. How did you and Ed end up working together?

BK: Well we’ve been friends for 20 years or so now. When we were young and I still had long flowing hair a group of us went to see the hot movie Scream. Sometime later, none of recollect when exactly, but we found ourselves rather bored with access to a camcorder. So what do teenage boys on the cusp of manhood do with a camcorder and too much free time? Make a parody of a popular film of course!
We didn’t have money so we used Ed’s “Apocalypse Cloak” and faceless hooded mask in place of the screaming from the movie, and we didn’t know any girls so we used Ed’s sister’s Barbie doll for Drew Barrymore, and her dollhouse for Drew’s house. Then we “acted” out the first scene from the movie and hilarity ensued! After LOAO, we picked ourselves up and discovered something original in that parody – we called it The Black Suit of Death…

Skip ahead about 15 years and I’m just back from first tour of duty (U.S.Army Corps of Engineers – Idaho National Guard) and I was having a rough time. But after a couple friends got me into making comics with them things began to turn around. It was my buddy over at Darkslinger Comics who had me create my own imprint – then called Warrior Innkeeper Comics, now Warrior Innkeeper Creative.

I had been working on an all-ages book but also wanted to do something a little more mature, something I could swear in. Ed and I had been emailing each other more than usual, he was worried I go shoot up s college campus or something… to this day, I’m not so sure he was joking.

We had gotten to reminiscing about the good ole days, as we often do, and Black Suit of Death had come up. We proposed the idea of turning it into a comic book because we would have to struggle with the costs of making it a movie, as we had done with disastrous results in our youth. We both dug into our notes and shared each others versions of the screenplay we had written. It was Ed who suggested that since we don’t need a budget for sets and costumes, maybe we could take this supernatural comedy and slide it more toward science fiction.

After we invented Doctor Seitsan we knew we were onto something really cool.

GP: What’s next for you and Ed?

BK: Ed’s satirical writing is beginning to get noticed, so I imagine he’ll pursue that more and more in the coming years. We both have a novels based in the universe of Black Suit of Death which explore the origins and history of the Utopian’s from Ides of March that we are seperately working on, though there has been some collaboration. I also have a novel I’m struggling to complete called Little Girl, Dead, and I’ve a Facebook page for it already where I am sharing the journey of writing my first novel with social media. Neither of us have plans to abandon Black Suit of Death anytime soon. There are three spin-offs already in the planning stages and of course after Issue #27 the series will begin anew with the next pilot of the B.S.D.

GP: Anything else you want to promote?

BK: I think I just did ;)

GP: Fair point. Where can folks find you?

I love that you use the word folks. As one who grew up a farm boy, it’s a favorite of mine.

Folks can find me and my work best through social media. I’m a bit of an addict when it comes to Facebook, even though I enjoy Twitter much more. If you do a search in Facebook for Warrior Innkeeper Creative or The Black Suit of Death you’ll find me right away. On Twitter it’s important to remember they have character limits on names so I had to omit the last “e” in @WarriorInnkeepr. We also have a websites for BSD and that’s blacksuitofdeath.com

GP: Thanks for your time!


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Papergirl Press Launches The Pushpin and we talk to Jessica Johnston about It

Toronto’s Papergirl Press has launched The Pushpin, a curated website of collectible, high-quality giclée prints for sale by acclaimed graphic novel artists — including Kate Beaton, Johnnie Christmas, Michael Cho, Valentine De Landro, and Jeff Lemire — and acclaimed editorial illustrators Julia Breckenreid, Dani Crosby, Chloe Cushman, Jay Dart (as his alter-ego Granduncle Jiggs), Sarah Lazarovic, and Christian Northeast. The site will also launch with Pushpin Originals — prints of new and never-before-seen art created specifically for The Pushpin by Kagan McLeod, Ryan North, and Chip Zdarsky. Prints currently available from the Pushpin range in price from $25 to $150.

The Pushpin is a project of Papergirl Press, a small printing company in Toronto committed to working exclusively with independent artists, run by former journalist Jessica Johnston.

At launch, The Pushpin will feature more than 40 prints including:

  • King Baby by Kate Beaton;
  • 2 Pisces prints by Johnnie Christmas;
  • Pee Wee Herman’s loafers, rendered by Sarah Lazarovic
  • A Sweet Tooth and an Essex County print by Jeff Lemire;
  • 3 Kagan McLeod prints including a portrait of Prince and a Pushpin Original History of Hip Hop;
  • 2 Pushpin Original prints by Ryan North;
  • 3 Chip Zdarsky pieces, including a Sex Criminals print and a Pushpin Original print entitled The Solar System: The Graphic Guide to Our Universe.

Artists who will have work on the Pushpin in the coming months include Bryan Lee O’Malley, Marguerite Sauvage, and illustrator Gordon Wiebe.

Photo credit: Steve Murray

We got a chance to ask Johnston about the launch and what we can expect and you can see the art below!

Graphic Policy: So how did the idea of The Pushpin come about?

Jessica Johnston: The idea came about late last year, after I left my job as a newspaper editor. (Print media is a bit of a freaky place to be in 2016.) I planned to freelance and do contract work, which I did, but I also started doing prints for my husband, comic creator Chip Zdarsky. He wanted to start doing regular prints, and the first was called “Bat-Hero,” a kind of meta joke about knock-off action figures of copyrighted characters. I bought a professional printer, and started making Bat-Heroes from our dining room. And I really loved doing it. The prints looked so good, I wanted to keep making more. But of course, there’s only so much one Chip can do. That’s when I decided I wanted to build a website for more artists to make work available for sale. So I guess the whole thing started with a bat-joke!

GP: How long have you been working on this project?

JJ: I began seriously planning The Pushpin at the beginning of this year. I knew a lot of incredible illustrators from my work in journalism, so I approached them first. I found people were pretty enthusiastic about the idea of having a trusted venue for producing high-quality prints of their work.

GP: It’s an impressive list of creators to launch. How’d they come to be involved?

JJ: I already revealed the secret to landing my first creator client, and that’s a decade of common-law marriage. Compared with that, the others were a breeze. All of the artists on board for the launch are from Canada, and most of those are from Toronto, which is where I live. There’s a lot of talent here, and it’s a small enough place that you just get to know people just through moving in media and arts circles. Some of the creators, like Ryan North, were already pals, and others, like Jeff Lemire, I introduced myself to because of this project.

GP: You previously worked in journalism at a newspaper as an editor. What has surprised you the most in working within the comic world?

JJ: Nobody lines up to meet journalists at conventions!

GP: The site includes comic artists and editorial illustrators. Do you notice anything different in what they’ve contributed?

JJ: There’s a surprising amount of overlap between comic work and editorial illustration — many artists do both. I love that we have comic work and illustration side by side, and we are giving both the fine-art treatment. I think there are more commonalities between the two forms than differences. Both tend to be pretty playful, and much of the work on The Pushpin has a good sense of fun. Where else can you find a high-quality giclée print of Pee Wee Herman’s white loafers? Sarah Lazarovic, who did that piece, is a genius of simple, lovable work, with just the right amount quirkiness. Then you have an incredible comics pro like Michael Cho, whose work on the site is mostly personal stuff, which is quiet and beautiful. He does these lovingly rendered portraits of Toronto’s back alleys that I can’t get enough of.

GP: How does the contributions work? Do you suggest ideas or is this all the artists?

JJ: It’s the all the artists. Once I’ve determined that someone is a good fit for The Pushpin, they have creative freedom. I like to think of myself as a kind of artistic matchmaker – connecting artists and the people who respond to their work to each other. And a big part of that is letting the artist be the artist. I trust that whatever they come up with, there are people out there who are going to love it.

GP: Seven decades plus and it feels like comics are still debated as legit art (video games suffer from the same issue). Do you see things like this raising that debate at all?

JJ: I like to think we’re past that, even though I know it’s still a challenge. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be treating comic art and illustration with the respect they deserve. There is so much incredible work happening in both areas, it’s crazy to ignore or dismiss it. Kagan McLeod is a great example of someone who does both illustration and comic work, and his stuff is mind-blowing, it’s so good. He has a piece on The Pushpin called Herc — a portrait of the guy often credited with inventing hip hop, and he’s made up of smaller portraits of famous rappers. You have to see it to believe it — it’s amazing. So ambitious, and perfectly executed. Any of the individual portraits could be in a gallery.

GP: The initial artists are all Canadian and you’ll be expanding from there. Is there any particular reason you started with just Canadians?

JJ: I decided to start near home when approaching artists, and work my way out. I am pretty lucky that felt in no way limiting. Jeff Lemire, Kagan McLeod, Ryan North, Sarah Lazarovic, Julia Breckenreid, Valentine de Landro, Michael Cho… they are all basically neighbours. I do look forward to expanding The Pushpin’s borders, though, because, really, there’s so much great talent everywhere.

GP: Do you know what the release schedule will be like for future releases? Is it a set schedule? And will any of these go out of print?

JJ: I have some artists lined up to come on board in the coming months, Bryan Lee O’Malley and Marguerite Sauvage among them, but I’ll be adding people on a rolling basis. Like the work itself, the number of prints is up to the artist. Some are unlimited, and some are capped. Jeff Lemire, for instance, has two prints on The Pushpin, a Sweet Tooth and an Essex County one. There will only be 100 of each of those, so if that’s what you’re after, you better get one quick!

GP: Thanks so much! And check out some of the art below!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GP: What was your favorite character that he created?

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

GP: What can we expect from this documentary?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Victor LaValle Talks About his New BOOM! Studios series Destroyer

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

AR: What comic books did you read growing up?

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

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

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

AR: How did you get started in comic books?

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

Character designs by Dan Mora

AR: What’s the concept behind Destroyer?

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

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

AR: Where did the idea of Destroyer come from?

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

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

Interior art by Dietrich Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

I mean, wow.

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

Good times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GP: What can you tell us about Alitha?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alitha, the first Green Lantern by Joe Prado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SH: Awesome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GP: Yeah absolutely.

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

GP: So, on to the reveal….

Tune in tomorrow for the big announcement and reveal!

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