Talking Comics With Tim
Artful Daggers, by writers Adam P. Knave and Sean E. Williams and artist Andrew Losq, is visually one of the most distinctive titles Monkeybrain Comics publishes. The series, which portrays a world 50 years after the end of Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, considers the impact of bringing 19th-century technology into medieval times. Or as the creative team puts it succinctly: “Swords, Spies and Science.”
To mark today’s release of Artful Daggers #6, which CBR previewed Tuesday, I reached out to the writing team of Knave and Williams to discuss their universe, where kingdoms have been replaced by corporations. While the focus of the interview is their writing, Losq’s impact on the series is clear, as his collaborators admits they “end up cutting dialogue more often than not, as Andrew’s able to do more with an expression than we can with dialogue.”
Before closing our interview, Knave was happy to chat briefly about his other Monkeybrain ongoing (with co-writer D.J. Kirkbride and artist Nick Brokenshire), Amelia Cole. It’s an especially current topic of discussion given that on Aug. 14 IDW Publishing will release the digital series’ first print collection, Amelia Cole and the Unknown World.
If you’re a fan of Tim Gibson‘s Moth City, you may have been introduced to the work on Gibson’s own site or through its serialization at Thrillbent. Fans of the digital platform are able to consume larger installments of the series in one sitting with comiXology Submit, where Moth City will wrap up its second season on Wednesday, with the digital release of Issue 4.
Set in 1930s China and featuring an interesting mix of characters, Moth City is what comiXology aptly describes as “a story about control — when we lose it, when we gain it, and when others hold it over us.”
To celebrate the release of Moth City #4, Gibson opened up about his murder-mystery series, and the creative process behind it. His storytelling and bio gave me a lot of ground to develop questions, particularly with great lines like, “When he’s not writing or drawing, he spends his time reading Elmore Leonard, Stephen King and Agatha Christie, and ogling the art of David Mazzucchelli.”
Tim O’Shea: The first issue opens with a quote from Lord Byron’s “On Leaving Newstead Abbey.” What prompted you to open with that?
Tim Gibson: Byron is this great figure of masculinity, a soldier and a poet. A romantic who had a very twisted love life. He’s a great parallel to the story’s self-imposed tyrant, Governor McCaw, a man who sees himself in a very idealised light. Newstead Abbey also touches on the failure and decay of a once-grand estate, which helps set up one of the main conflicts of the story, that of the Governor, and his daughter Glitter who lives a life so sheltered she may as well be a possession.
Plus, you know, if you’re going to do a comic with car chases, bio weapons, shoot outs, hurried romance and underground plots, you may as well put a bow tie on it.
Dark Horse has been making a concerted effort over the past year to develop its superhero line, with titles like Ghost, X and The Victories. On Wednesday, the lineup expands further with the launch of the Captain Midnight ongoing series, written by Joshua Williamson and illustrated by Fernando Dagnino.
I can’t help but be excited by the potential appeal for this new series, which throws the World War II scientist-hero into the present day — particularly after Williamson praised James Robinson’s Starman: ”It’s one of the few books that — it made me cry.” My cautious optimism for the series was cemented in the midst of my interview with the writer, when he said of the Dark Horse superhero approach: “There is a subtle way to handle the superhero universe, and that’s what Dark Horse is doing.”
Once you’ve read the interview, be sure to enjoy the preview the publisher offered for Captain Midnight #1, on sale Wednesday.
Tim O’Shea: You leap right into the action with Issue 0, in which Captain Midnight lands in the present day, after just having been in the midst of World War II. What does it say about the character that he wasn’t thrown by being flung into the future?
Joshua Williamson: We knew that we wanted to separate Captain Midnight from other time-lost characters and set up two aspects: 1) He was disappointed by the future; 2) He was not surprised by time travel. Midnight was a genius first and a superhero second.
Midnight is a very interesting character in that he is no-nonsense and has such a black-and-white outlook on the world — very matter-of-fact. We wanted to get that across to our readers quickly in the zero issue and found that was the best way to do it.
I happen to be a person of faith who also has a sense of humor. As a result, the effort by writer Mark Russell and cartoonist Shannon Wheeler to accurately, yet comically, condense the Bible, God Is Disappointed in You, amused the hell out of me. In Catholic high school, I once offended several people by characterizing a newly unveiled statue of Christ (hands outstretched blessing a crowd) as showing the son of God opting for a “basketball zone defense.”
Fortunately Russell and Wheeler, are far superior at comedy (and religious scholarship) than I have ever been. The book clicked with me from the opening pages. While it will not be released until August, you can preorder it now from Top Shelf.
Tim O’Shea: First question goes to Shannon, thanks to his part of the book dedication. Just to clarify: In the dedication, in which both you and your mom were glad you were not struck by lightning, you also thank Patricia, who survived a lightning hit. I have to hear the story about that.
Shannon Wheeler: My mom manages to be in the middle of all sorts of zeitgeists. Elvis played at her high school. When I was little we went to see Jim Jones preach (before Guyana). She managed to stop by the Koresh compound mid-standoff (she bought me a novelty Frisbee from a roadside vendor). She seems to be at the right place, or wrong place, at the right, or wrong, time. In college she was hit by lightning. It knocked the shoes off her feet and threw her into a ditch. She couldn’t move her legs. A couple of co-eds carried her back to her dorm. The doctor told her to take a warm bath and call back if the feeling didn’t return. Over the next couple hours everything returned to normal. She said it was “tingly” — the same as when your foot falls asleep. She had a circular carbon mark on her side for a bit. Some Native Americans believe that being hit by lightning makes you a shaman. She tells the story like it was no big deal.
If you’re shopping for a gift for that special evil family member or friend, I have the deal for you: The latest and greatest self-help book for supervillains goes on sale today in the form of The Supervillain Field Manual: How to Conquer (Super) Friends and Incinerate People by King Oblivion, who had a little help from ghost writer Matt D. Wilson and illustrator Adam Wallenta.
Because I didn’t trust King enough to give him my my email address, I contacted Wilson to see if he was forced to do the book against his will or simply embarked on the marginally evil project of his own free will. Fortunately, Wilson seemed to have enjoyed himself and was more than willing to share insight on the guidebook to becoming an effective supervillain. He wasn’t all about enabling evil, by the way; toward the end of the interview he shares tips on comics he’s currently enjoying.
Tim O’Shea: Let’s go back to your first self-help supervillain book (2012′s The Supervillain Handbook). How did you come to decide there might be a market for evil-comedy instruction books?
Matt D. Wilson: You’re probably giving me a little too much credit there in terms of business sense. It’s not so much that I thought there was a market; I just kind of felt compelled and figured it’d be a fun thing to do. I actually wrote that first book back in 2009 or so, and it took three-plus years to get it published anywhere.
Jeffrey Brown may have had some fans wondering whether he would be returning to autobiographical comics following his success co-writing the 2012 film Save the Date. But June saw Brown refer to the autobiographical realm with A Matter of Life, a Top Shelf-published examination of three Brown generations: his father, himself and his preschool-age son Oscar. To mark the release of his new book, took some time out to speak with ROBOT 6. Top Shelf is offering a nine-page preview to whet readers’ appetites, so please make sure to check it out after reading the interview.
I particularly enjoyed learning how his autobiographical work is less about catharsis and more about gaining some perspective on the events in his life.
Tim O’Shea: Your wife Jennifer was well aware of the autobiographical nature of much of your work, so she knew going into your marriage that her life would be at least a partially open book that you would share with people. But did she express any concern about featuring your son in your work?
Jeffrey Brown: I think she’s learned to trust my judgement, for the most part. When we first started dating she told me it was on the condition that I didn’t write anything about us. Then she said I could write about us as long as it wasn’t anything personal or about her relationship. Eventually she said I could go ahead and write whatever. With our son she talked to me about being more careful, and I have been, but I think in general I’ve become much more careful about what I’m writing in my autobiographical comics anyway.
Tuesday marks the release of author John David Anderson‘s young-adult novel Sidekicked, which explores the highs and lows of being a middle-schooler who happens to be a superhero sidekick. The lead character Drew has the added challenge that his superhero mentor is “a former legend who now spends more time straddling barstools than fighting crime.” It’s tough enough to be in middle school, but Drew’s abilities (“his hearing, sight, taste, touch, and smell are the most powerful on the planet”) make him the quintessentially oversensitive kid.
Anderson was ready and willing to chat about the challenges of getting inside the head of a middle-school hero.
Tim O’Shea: What’s the key to capturing the tone of middle school in your story, to such a degree it appeals to a middle school audience?
John David Anderson: It’s a balancing act. Middle-school readers struggle with many of the same issues adults do: They have issues with trust, identity, empowerment, relationships. But they have a more limited amount of life experience to draw from so I think the experience is more raw somehow, more intense. Thankfully all of the teens and tweens I know have developed a highly tuned sarcasm that buffers them somewhat from the angst. I try to tap into that humor so that readers can step back and maybe laugh at some of the coming of age junk that they are facing as well. Honestly I’m 38 years old and I’m still coming of age. I’ve just learned to laugh at myself.
Today marks the the release of the Witch Doctor: Mal Practice trade paperback, which collects Witch Doctor: The Resuscitation one-shot and Witch Doctor: Mal Practice #1-6. Written by Brandon Seifert and illustrated by Lukas Ketner, the medical-horror series from Skybound/Image Comics follows Dr. Vincent Morrow, who specializes in supernatural diseases, frequently bringing him in contact with vampires, demons, changelings and the like.
In anticipation of the release, I contacted Seifert for a consult on the series (as well as to get his take on cursing in comics). If you want to read Witch Doctor #0, comiXology is offering the issue for free. Also, Seifert and Ketner will be at Portland Things From Another World (2916 NE Broadway St., Portland, Oregon) tonight for a Witch Doctor: Mal Practice release party.
Tim O’Shea: In this trade paperback-hungry market, how good does it feel to be at the TPB stage with Witch Doctor?
Brandon Seifert: Really good! Witch Doctor Vol. 2 has been in the works for a long, long time. Lukas started drawing the first issue in the trade in, I believe, October 2011, and I wrote it a month or two before that. So this TPB has been in progress for like a year and a half, year and three quarters! It’s great to finally have it done and on sale. And the edition itself turned out great!
When artist Gabriel Hardman isn’t drawing comics, he’s drawing for movies. His affinity for films manifests itself in several ways, including his willingness to share his film knowledge via Twitter. Beginning May 15, that love of movies will be partially reflected in his new Monkeybrain Comics project Kinski (available for preorder).
It’s the story of a fellow who finds a dog, and the events that unfold from there. This project is a departure for Hardman, who acknowledges Kinski has “much more of a quirky, indie vibe than any of the other comics I’ve done prior. Coen Brothers-esque.” Hardman with a Coen Brothers bent served as great fuel for my questions (and while he initially referenced the Coen Borthers, in our discussion he’s quick to also cite Martin Scorsese’s After Hours and the Terrence Malick-written Pocket Money as influencing elements).
Tim O’Shea: In tackling a story that is a quirky departure from your normal fare, how did you settle upon making a dog the main catalyst of your story?
Gabriel Hardman: I like the idea of using a dog to spark the story because animals are chaotic. They don’t have the same set of social rules to adhere to as we do. Dogs don’t care about our problems! They can send the story off into unexpected directions. But even though Joe, the lead character, finding the dog starts the story, he’s using the dog as an excuse to ignore other things in his life he’s having problems with. Mainly his unfulfilling job as a bird feed rep. He decides he’s going to save this dog, no matter the cost. It’s a crusade! But crusades usually don’t turn out so well.
Earlier this month, writer Vito Delsante and artist David Bednarski launched their new webcomic Prisoner of None. I was intrigued by a project that is partially inspired by the true story of Shoichi Yokoi, a sergeant in the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II who was found in 1972, hiding in the jungles of Guam, more than a quarter century after the United States had retaken the territory. In their fictionalized reinterpretation, Delsante and Bednarski set out to portray “a Japanese hero, Fantomudoragon (the “Phantom Dragon”), and his struggle to adjust to the changes in his country and the world after a 70-year absence.” In addition to Fantomudoragon, it also details several other characters with superpowers.
Tim O’Shea: How long had you known about Shoichi Yokoi‘s unique post-World War II life up to 1972 before realizing it was inspiration for a story?
Vito Delsante: It was roughly (and I say this after looking up the first email I sent to David) around Feb. 26, 2012. It was literally a few days after David replied to an email I sent “soliciting” him to do a comic. That’s the best way to put it, right? My wife, Michelle … she was obsessed with this site, OMG Facts, and … she knows I’m a World War II nut, and she read this article out loud and I said to myself, “THIS is a comic!” David emailed me back, and on the 27th, I sent him that article and Yokoi’s Wikipedia page. So, it was literally within 72 hours or so.
David Bednarski: I remember Vito saying that he had a vague idea for a story based on Shoichi Yokoi and the next thing I know we were firing ideas back an forth.
OK, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Kill All Monsters co-creator/writer Michael May is a friend of mine and a fellow contributor to ROBOT 6. Conflict of interest disclosed. Still, I interviewed him about collaboration with artist Jason Copland, which is set to be released in a collected edition (Kill All Monsters: Ruins of Paris) in June from Alterna Comics. He and Copland are in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign (ending May 10), which has already achieved more than 230 percent of its goal $2,500 goal.
In this interview, we discuss the collaborative process on the webcomic/upcoming collection as well as the Kickstarter. My hat is off to May and Copland for writing a great Kickstarter FYI blurb that efficiently describes the project: “Kill All Monsters: Ruins of Paris is the printed first volume of the hit webcomic about monsters and the giant robots that kill them.”
Tim O’Shea: I went into this work assuming it was going to be all giant robots and monsters, but it contains a great deal of human interaction/drama. How early in the development of the project did you realize the story needed that balance?
Michael May: Right away. I’ve never been interested in slugfests for the sake of slugfests. A story has to give readers a reason to care about the people in the fights. If anything, I needed encouragement to make the fights a bigger part of the comic so it wouldn’t just be people talking about fighting monsters. No one — including me — would want to read that, but characters and drama is where my interest always goes first. It’s a tough balance though and one we worked hard at, so hopefully we got close to achieving it.
Several weeks ago when I interviewed Edison Rex co-creator Chris Roberson, we had hoped to include co-creator Dennis Culver in the discussion. Schedules didn’t work out at the time, but happily, on the eve of the deadline to pre-order the Edison Rex trade paperback (Diamond Code APR130377), Culver’s schedule freed up for an interview about his co-creation.
As if collecting the Edison Rex issues 1-6 isn’t enough to interest you in this IDW Publishing release, Roberson and Culver have scored an introduction by the great Kurt Busiek. The collection will hit shelves June 12.
Tim O’Shea: How did the IDW publishing deal come together?
Dennis Culver: That was all [Monkeybrain Comics co-publishers] Chris [Roberson] and Allison [Baker]. From what I understand, IDW had expressed an interest in print collections fairly early in the Monkeybrain launch, and I was on board as soon as I heard. They gave us a fair deal and they put out great looking books. I’m very happy to publish Rex through them!
Frequent readers of ROBOT 6 know I’m a big supporter of Francesco Francavilla, and particularly his Black Beetle character. Wednesday marks the release of The Black Beetle: No Way Out #3, the penultimate issue in the first of a series of miniseries for Dark Horse. As much as I was eager to learn about the pulp-fueled noir comic, I was equally keen to chat with Francavilla about his approach toward layout and storytelling in general.
As part of the interview, Francavilla shared some preview pages for the latest issue.
Tim O’Shea: Comparing the early adventures of the Black Beetle, as shown in Night Shift versus No Way Out issues 1 and 2, how liberating did it feel to be increasingly ambitious with your layouts on the pages?
Francesco Francavilla: Very liberating. One of the tricky parts of doing Night Shift was to have three small installments (chapters) of eight pages. I wanted each single chapter to be meaty enough to be entertaining on its own, but I also wanted each chapter to end with a cliffhanger. Going from that to a full 22 pages a month with No Way Out, I have much more room now to have fun with different layouts and give extra room for some big reveal sequences.
It seems to me a Kickstarter for an Elaine Lee/Michael Kaluta project should be a no-brainer. And considering that in the first 24 hours of the Harry Palmer: Starstruck Kickstarter, close to half of the $44,000 goal was raised, I was not alone in thinking that way. At present, the Kickstarter, which started on April 2 (and ends May 2), has reached more than $35,000.
Kaluta agreed to an interview about the 176-page sci-fi noir graphic novell, which has been years in the making, and it proved fun to chat with the legendary artist on how he intends to marry 80 new pages with 60-some pages of existing material.
Tim O’Shea: This Kickstarter came within hundreds of dollars of making half of its goal within that first 24 hours. What was your reaction to see the project make such progress, so quickly?
Michael Kaluta: I was definitely gratified, and tried to be sanguine (I read books … sanguine … heh!), but, of course, the specter of getting almost to the goal and then having the Kickstarter stall looms large in my dreams… as it must for everyone hoping to go forward with their dream-project thanks to the Kickstarter approach. I’ll soldier on, clearing the drawing board for not only the new Harry Palmer pages, but for the Kickstarter reward drawings I’ll be doing when and if everything comes up roses.
Hard to believe, but this month marks four years since I first interviewed artist Peter Krause about his return to comics. More immediately, today marks the return of Mark Waid and Peter Krause’s Insufferable at Thrillbent 2.0 with a new arc, “On the Road.” Through Thrillbent 2.0, Insuffereable: On The Road is free to view and download or embed — there are plenty of ways to enjoy the somewhat reconciled father-son team of Nocturnus and Galahad (seemingly led by the smarter than both of them, Meg). In addition, there are bundled editions of the first Insufferable arc (with extras) for sale at comiXology.com.
Tim O’Shea: How did Mark Waid convince you to try working in a then-relatively new medium like digital comics on Insufferable?
Peter Krause: The main attraction was that I’d get to keep working with Mark. I really valued the time we’d spent on Irredeemable for BOOM! I stepped away from that book because of time constraints — I was doing non-comics work that was making it harder to bring an “A” game to Irredeemable.