Talking Comics With Tim
Today is one of my favorite days of the year, as most Major League Baseball teams have their opening day. In late February, when writer/artist Matt Kindt tweeted that he was returning from a St. Louis Cardinals spring training trip to Florida, I got him to agree to an interview on the spot.
This exchange took place before Dark Horse’s WonderCon announcement that Kindt’s series, Mind MGMT, would have a finite 36-issue run.
In addition to discussing his Dark Horse series, and our shared appreciation of baseball (despite his Cardinals eliminating my hometown Atlanta Braves from playoff contention last season), we delve into the May 7 release of his First Second book, Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes. There are few storytellers that set a narrative environment as uniquely as Kindt can. This go-around he establishes the city of Red Wheelbarrow to serve a larger homage to classic detective fiction.
For additional insight into Kindt’s work on Mind MGMT, be sure to read Jeffrey Renaud’s CBR interview with the writer/artist from early February.
As a longtime fan of Kindt’s narrative sensibilities, I hope he gets in contact with the right folks with the MLB in order to pursue that baseball project.
It’s been nearly two years since Mark Sable and Paul Azaceta first discussed the Image miniseries Graveyard of Empires with me. This time around we’re looking at the project through the rear-view mirror, given that the 128-page trade collection will be released May 1 (Diamond code MAR130502, ISBN 978-1-60706-739-9), featuring a new short story written and drawn by Azaceta. The collaborators were ambitious with this project, which pits U.S. Marines in present-day Afghanistan against the Taliban … and a sudden influx of the undead. It’s interesting to learn the interaction that the creators had with military veterans in the wake of the miniseries’ release, as well as their decision to dedicate the collection to Tim Hetherington.
If you haven’t read Graveyard of Empires, you’re in luck, as Image Comics and comiXology have made the first issue available for free.
In addition to chatting about the upcoming trade paperback, Sable takes time to chat about his current Kickstarter project with Salgood Sam, Dracula: Son of the Dragon. Azaceta also reveals his plans to write more stories when his schedule allows, as well as his upcoming Conan work with Brian Wood.
Tim O’Shea: We first spoke about Graveyard of Empires back in 2011. Now in 2013, the trade paperback is about to be released. How good does it feel to be at this point with the project?
Mark Sable: It feels great. Graveyard of Empires started out as a three-issue miniseries with 22 pages each, grew into four issues with 124 pages of story. In an age where Big Two issues are now 20 pages and often decompressed, that’s like six issues’ worth of content. We wanted to make the trade worth the wait that expansion caused, so we’re not only including the original story and your usual extras like sketches, but an all new short story written and drawn by Paul. It makes his comics writing debut, and I have to be honest, it scares me that he’s going to put me out of a job.
Italian artist Andrea Sorrentino first garnered major attention for his work in late 2011 on DC Comics’ New 52 title I, Vampire. Beginning with Green Arrow #17, Sorrentino teamed with writer Jeff Lemire to become the series’ new regular creative team. Shortly after that first issue debuted, Sorrentino agreed to an interview regarding his new assignment, and in particular his artistic approach on some of the scenes for that first issue.
In addition to featuring some of the pages (which we discuss) from Green Arrow #17, DC also provided some exclusive black-and-white art for Green Arrow #20 (set for release on May 1). Green Arrow #18 has been on stands since March 6; Green Arrow #19 arrives April 3.
Tim O’Shea: In Ryan Lindsay’s CBR review of Green Arrow #17, he wrote, “Sorrentino uses insert panels to highlight certain dramatic and bombastic moments amidst the kinetic action, such as when Queen is ambushed and gets into an arrow fight. This skill set, used consistently but not overbearingly, allows Sorrentino to slow some pages down, deliver detail on multiple planes of a panel, and also brings movement to a static image.” How much do you and writer Jeff Lemire the design and layout of pages, since he is an artist as well? Or does he leave you alone to design the pages as you want?
Andrea Sorrentino: I’d say it’s a mix of his and my ideas. Jeff is a (very good) artist and has a very personal way of making layouts in his created-owner works, so he did bring some of them in this project, too. In this case there was in the script the idea of some little panels that would focus on some parts of a bigger image or scene to make some details of the action to pop from the page. This would give the idea of how tactical Oliver’s mind can be during a confusing moment like the one in Emerson’s office. I discussed the idea with Jeff and used the same solution in order to set the pace of the scene. The main goal was to use those inset panels to try to give a feeling of “slow-motion” effect by guiding the reader’s eye to focus and zoom a bit on some details of the action slowing the time of reading in contrast with the main scene that is delivered in the bigger panel (and at a faster pace). It’s something we’re used to seeing a lot in some movies (especially in recent years) and I was trying to reach for something similar here.
Apart from this, I’ve to say that working with Jeff has been awesome till now and I’m really improving a lot just by talking and collaborating with him.
Ann Nocenti is a creator who caught my attention in different ways over the years. As a news and documentary junkie myself, her career path (which ventured into journalism and making documentaries at various times) fascinates me. Once she agreed to a interview about her new DC Comics series Katana, I filled her in-box with my questions. Wednesday marks the release of Katana #2, in which the lead character has become a member of the Sword Clan in her quest for vengeance. Nocenti’s discussion of her current work becomes even more interesting to read when juxtaposed the recent Comic Book Resources interview with Louise Simonson and Nocenti regarding their journeys into writing comics.
Tim O’Shea: I love your ability to offer conflicting imagery in the first issue of Katana. For instance, you stage a fight with Katana in a garden sculpture park/kawaii park (including teddy bear topiary). Was that your idea or did artist Alex Sanchez suggest it?
Ann Nocenti: I do a lot of research before writing a comic, then try to forget it all before actually writing the scripts in order to allow something new to seep in. When I was first offered Katana, Jim Lee said something about how it would be great to have the fight scenes in spectacular visual settings, rather than alleyways and streets, and his comment stuck with me. So when researching Japan, I was enchanted by kawaii art, how it is both soothing and endearing, and yet it reminded me of my childhood filled with Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty tales — the myths that are hoisted on little girls. So I set the battle in a kawaii park, but it was Alex’s idea to turn that into a topiary. I was surprised and delighted when the art came in. I also wanted to play with visual riffs on feminist themes — to contrast what is expected of women, both here and in Japan, when one is raised in a traditional fashion and yet struggles to be progressive. I was raised Catholic, so I can understand that. Visually, I want to continue the idea of strong settings for the fight scenes: In Katana #2 there is a battle in a zoo and at a double-ended sword show. In Katana #3 the battle is in a boat graveyard.
Last week was a banner one for Monkeybrain Comics, as plans were revealed to “bring its digital titles to print beginning in June in collected editions released through IDW Publishing and Shadowline/Image.” But before this deal was announced I caught up with Chris Roberson, the writer of Edison Rex and co-publisher of Monkeybrain.
This interview was conducted before the IDW and Shadowline/Image agreements were announced, which is why they’re not discussed. Edison Rex #6 will be released March 13. Roberson is great to chat with about the creative process, as he relishes revealing how the narrative hot dogs are made almost as much as creating the stories themselves. The world that Roberson and co-creator/artist Dennis Culver had built for the series fascinates me, and it was a pleasure to chat with the writer about it.
Tim O’Shea: As much as this series is about a villain becoming a hero, there’s a great undercurrent of humor. Is that the core appeal of the series from a creative standpoint?
Chris Roberson: I always like a little levity in the stories I read or the shows I watch. When stories maintain a consistently grim tone, it can be a little wearying. Adding in a joke here and there not only serves to lighten the mood from time to time, but also makes the more serious moments stand out by contrast.
Coming up this weekend at Emerald City Comicon, writer Paul Allor (Table G-01) will have advance copies of the first issue of Strange Nation, his new Action Lab Comics miniseries with artist Juan Romera. The book’s premise is straightforward: Norma Park is a journalist who finds herself out of work after claiming to uncover a story involving Sasquatch, aliens and mad scientists. Her insistence at delving deeper into this story is when the real fun begins. In addition to offering an advance copy of the first issue this weekend, Allor will also make it available for Fabletown and Beyond (March 22-24, 2013, in Rochester, Minnesota). The full miniseries will hit stands in late 2013 in comic stores and through digital distribution outlets. In anticipation of ECCC, Allor joined me for a brief interview, and provided ROBOT 6 with a five-page previews.
Tim O’Shea: How long has Strange Nation been in development, and what prompted you to tap Juan Romera as the artist?
Paul Allor: I probably started working on the pitch for Strange Nation a little more than a year ago. Juan was the first person I had in mind for the art, having worked with him previously on “Reach the Sun.” one of the stories in my Clockwork comics anthology (which Robot 6 interviewed Allor about in 2011). Juan is awesome at both the wacky, out-there aspects of the book, and also at nailing the small emotional moments. I thought this book would be a great place to showcase both sides of that.
To think there are people in the present-day comic book industry that fail to respect colorists is hard to believe. Yet, as we noted late last month, colorist Jordie Bellaire wrote about her work being minimalized when an unnamed convention refused to name colorists as guests. The post resulted in an impromptu #ColoristAppreciationDay on Twitter as well as a larger conversation about the important value of colorists.
In the wake of that discussion, I chatted with Bellaire about the post, as well as her work as a whole. The timing turned out well, as despite her busy schedule, she was able to do an interview. It seems as if every week there’s a new comic released that features her as colorist. This week it’s Captain Marvel #10, while next it’s the debut of The Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror miniseries written by Roger Langridge with Bellaire coloring artist J. Bone. Bellaire saves the best for last in our Q&A, revealing that she hopes to get back to illustrating — and that she has dabbled in writing.
Tim O’Shea: In all of the reactions from your initial Tumblr post in praise of colorists, what pleased or surprised you the most?
Jordie Bellaire: The response itself was extremely surprising! I didn’t expect anything to really come of my angry little blog post. I try to keep my “internet persona” pretty humorous and silly. I don’t really get “for realsies” worked up over anything online (unless it’s something Star Wars-related). When I posted this at 7 a.m. on hardly any sleep (I was in a tough deadline week, of course), I expected maybe three people to see it and those would have been just friends. Somehow, though, the letter spread fast. I was just thrilled. Given, keeping up with the response during the day totally killed my productivity, I was too busy watching the internet explode in the name of colorists.
Thanks to my interview with writer Jason Latour (regarding Loose Ends in mid-2011), my attention was piqued when Marvel tapped him to succeed Ed Brubaker on Winter Soldier. Latour’s run begins Wednesday with Winter Soldier #15. In anticipation of that, Latour agreed to an interview in which I interrogated him about the collaborative dynamics with artist Nic Klein, Bucky Barnes coming to terms with his past, guiding a supporting cast that includes the legendary Nick Fury, and the introduction, and naming, of new characters. Also be sure to check out CBR’s preview of Winter Soldier #15.
Tim O’Shea: When scripting an issue, given that you are also an artist, do you sketch out thumbnails for artist Nic Klein to consider?
Jason Latour: Not really, no. I did do one unused thumbnail, and only because Nic asked. When you’ve survived German art Thunderdome like he has, you need no man’s help. He’s like Art Beast Omega.
Yeah, being able to draw is definitely a great tool to have in a pinch. But in general I try not to do layouts because that part of drawing is largely the artist’s contribution to the story. I don’t want to encroach too heavily on that. Even if they do something I don’t agree with here or there, we’ll all be much better off with an invested collaborator. I am open to thumbnailing a book for someone else to finish, but it would have to be the understanding beforehand. I’m much more likely to do design work, because sometimes it just dramatically improves communication.
To best understand a creator’s project, I typically like to learn how the storyteller views her main character. In this week’s interview, artist Ming Doyle immediately provided that insight into the star of Mara, her six-issue Image Comics collaboration with writer Brian Wood.
As she explained to me, while Mara is a volleyball player, it’s the character’s celebrity that “is the core of her being.” Doyle clearly relishes the chance to draw “futurecity gridlock,” and she does a good job conveying such scenes. In discussing her craft, it struck me that while respect for her work has been growing steadily, it appears she’s just beginning to get comfortable with her storytelling talents (while continually striving to improve upon them).
Comic Book Resources recently ran a preview of Mara #2, which goes on sale Wednesday. Wood and Doyle together tell an engaging tale. If you missed the first issue, this week would be a good time to pick up two issues and see what you’re missing.
When I got my hands on Lilli Carré‘s newest collection of short stories Heads or Tails, what immediately caught my eye was the variety of styles the writer/artist attempted in her tales. During our recent interview about the collection, I focused some of my questions on the choices she made in terms of the colors, lettering and other story elements. I also learned about Carré’s thought process when approaching a comic tale versus one of her animation projects. The roots to these stories run deep in Carré’s life, and as she notes, the book has an overall theme of ”ambivalence, chance, and flip-sides.”
Once you’ve read this conversation, be sure to learn more about Carré’s animation projects via Alex Dueben’s recent CBR interview. Fantagraphics also offers a 23-page excerpt from the 200-page collection, which was released last fall.
Tim O’Shea: How did you go about picking which stories to include in this collection?
Lilli Carré: I wanted to include the majority of the short stories I’ve produced over the past five years, and so I went through all my stuff and arranged them not chronologically, but by how they each fed into each other. The book contains stories collected from anthologies, some new work, and a few pieces that I reformatted from small run mini-comics, artists books, and drawings that I’ve made over the years. My style changes quite a bit from project to project, so the book has a kind of patchwork quilt feel to it, but I wanted to make sure there was a solid thread between how one story feeds into the next. I also wanted to create some new stories for the book, so Rainbow Moment and Wishy Washy were created specifically for Heads or Tails.
It’s the story of six kids (Ben and his sister, Alyssa; Smack, the hustler; twins Cody and Trin; and Daniella, who was orphaned by a space pirate assault) in search of their missing parents. To tell the story of these adventure-seeking children (known collectively as the Mercury Six) properly, Miller wants to team with artist Marcio Takara, who has worked on BOOM! Studios’ The Incredibles and DC Comics’ Blue Beetle. That’s where the Kickstarter drive comes into play … but more about that in the interview.
Miller’s partial aim with Earthward is to tell a tale that appeals to both kids and adults, without pandering to either demographic — a lofty goal. Miller and Takara are aiming for a September 2013 delivery date.
Tim O’Shea: How early in the development process of Earthward did you know you want it to be all-ages? How long has this story been in development?
Bryan Q. Miller: Earthward has been with me as completed story that I would tweak every now and then, for a bit. I could never quite put my finger on the best avenue to pursue with it. Should it be an animated movie? A video game? A live-action movie? A Cartoon Network pilot? From inception, it was always intended to be all-ages, in a sense that I wanted it to live in a space where 7-year-olds could enjoy it, as well as 35-year-olds. Often, all-ages winds up meaning “watered down for child consumption.” That isn’t the case with Earthward.
Late last month, writer Paul Jenkins launched his new ongoing collaboration with artist Carlos Magno, BOOM! Studios’ Deathmatch. In Comic Book Resources’ review of the specially priced $1 first issue, Kelly Thompson rated it four out of five stars and wrote: “A Battle Royale concept of heroes pitted against each other to the death in an arena has the potential to be pretty tired at this point, what with the proliferation of these types of stories including some comics already out there … However, in the deft hands of Paul Jenkins and Carlos Magno, ‘Deathmatch’ is not only good, but far better than I ever expected given the concept and title … Jenkins and Magno have set up a very cool and smart story that, although it could easily fall into seen it all before cliché, is so far expertly avoiding all those traps and delivering a great reading experience.”
Jenkins recently took time to talk with me about the new series, as well as the Kickstarter success of his and Humberto Ramos’ Fairy Quest. Deathmatch #2 will be in stores Jan. 30.
Ever since the initial success of Jim McCann and Janet Lee‘s 2010 original graphic novel Return of the Dapper Men, fans have been eager to see the next project from the two collaborators. That wait ends this March with the debut of Lost Vegas, a four-issue miniseries from Image Comics.
The tale centers on “one gambler-turned-slave [who] has 24 hours to go all in and pull off the greatest heist the universe has seen.” In addition to discussing this new miniseries, McCann briefly acknowledges the self-described “limbo” that has delayed any follow-up to Dapper Men. I never tire of the opportunity to get the perspective of two storytellers at the same time. Enjoy.
My brain always shifts toward musical thoughts whenever possible. So when I learned Curt Pires was writing a story called Theremin, I assumed he meant the musical instrument. As I found out quite quickly in this interview, Pires’ new collaboration with artist Dalton Rose is focused on the inventor of the instrument, Léon Theremin. The series is slated to launch digitally from Monkeybrain Comics in March.
Robot 6: When we last spoke in September, you said your game plan for Theremin was that you intended to self-distribute it. How did it land at Monkeybrain?
Curt Pires: Initially my game plan was to self-distribute Theremin, correct. Well, It really developed out of talking with Dalton, discussing our plans for the book. We decided that we should sample the book to potential publishers, at least put feelers out there – see what the interest was in the book. We sent the first six pages and plot info over to Chris Roberson and Allison Baker at Monkeybrain, and they liked what they saw enough to invite us aboard to tell our story there. We could not be happier to be telling this story with them.
Earlier today, SCAD Atlanta Professor and Crogan Adventures creator Chris Schweizer announced the 2012-2013 academic year will be his final one teaching at Savannah College of Art and Design Atlanta. As the scholar/writer/artist noted at his own blog, “I love being a teacher, and I love being a cartoonist, and in many ways each helps me be better at the other. But I’ve come to find that I can do neither to the best of my ability without infringing on the time necessary to see the other done to the degree of quality I’d expect of myself.”
The move is not just a decision to stop teaching: Schweizer has also agreed to form a new studio with Chad Thomas (Mega Man) and Jason Horn (Ninjasaur). In conjunction with announcing the decision, Schweizer fielded a few questions from me. As a fellow resident of Atlanta, I have to add, as pleased as I am to know Schweizer will have more time to devote to his craft, I am equally sad to know he will be leaving Atlanta to do it.
Tim O’Shea: Knowing how much you love teaching, how many times did you talk yourself into staying at SCAD?
Chris Schweizer: I know it sounds cavalier, but never. Once I realized that there was a real problem with the regularity of my output, a problem that was only growing as I moved the Crogan projects to color, I had to look for a solution. I often have trouble finding my way through a problem that I’m in, both in writing and in real life, and I find that the best way puzzle out a solution is to not think of it from the standpoint of what to do next, but to decide on the ideal outcome. Once that outcome is in place, it’s much easier for me to determine the path by which to arrive at it. I was surprised that my ideal outcome didn’t leave time for teaching, or have us staying in Atlanta. Once I realized that, there was no real debating, there was only trying to figure out how best to undertake the change. Originally we thought I’d teach for an additional year after this one, to give us plenty of time to sell the house.