Conversing On Comics
He’s one of the most prolific creators in comics, but odds are only a small segment of his audience knows him by name. One of the foremost colorists in the industry, Dave Stewart is in demand as a collaborator for today’s top artists, and one of the most versatile players on the comics scene. He’s also dominated the Eisner Awards’ coloring category, winning seven of the past nine years.
I reached out to Stewart because I’m an admirer of his work and, because frankly, we don’t hear nearly enough from him. We talked about his place in comics, and his role as frequent collaborator with the likes of Mike Mignola and J.H. Williams III. I also asked about his early ambitions to become penciler, and the potential of trying that again some day.
What do you do when you’ve created a comic book series that’s become more successful than you ever imagined? Branch out. It’s what Robert Kirkman did once The Walking Dead established itself as a hit, and in the webcomics world Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade have been doing the very same thing — and their creation keeps getting bigger. And last summer, when their $250,000 Kickstarter campaign generated double its goal, they included some ambition stretch goals — one of which is coming true next month.
In February, Penny Arcade will launch Strip Search, a reality/competition television series in which 12 cartoonists live together in a house and compete to win a $15,000 cash prize and space in Penny Arcade‘s Seattle offices for a year, complete with support from the company with merchandise, marketing and infrastructure.
Described by Krahulik as “Hell’s Kitchen for web cartoonists,” Strip Search isn’t a new idea — CBR did Comic Book Idol for several years — but rather a new format. The show, which is being produced by the comedy troupe/video studio LoadingReadyRun, will feature 12 up-and-coming cartoonists including indie artist Erika Moen. Filmed late last year, Strip Search will debut in February at Penny Arcade’s PATV and will also appear in some unannounced other venues. For more I talked with Penny Arcade‘s Jerry Holkins, along with Robert Khoo, the comic franchise’s president of operations and business development.
Rafael Albuquerque knows his way around comics. Although he’s best known for his years working on titles like Blue Beetle and American Vampire, the Brazilian artist got his start with an Egyptian company, but was quickly recruited by BOOM! Studios and DC Comics. His style is one that people quickly take notice of, for its gleaming individualism but also its sound base in composition and storytelling.
With his long-running series American Vampire (with writer Scott Snyder) going on hiatus this year, Albuquerque is ready to branch out. I talked with him just as the new year began, and he revealed several interesting morsels, including a stint writing and drawing Batman, the first official look at an American edition of his Brazilian comic Tune 8, and he teased a new project he’s doing this year at Vertigo.
One of the strongest voices in comics over the past 20 years has been Warren Ellis, a write whose impressive body of work ranges from Next Wave: Agents of H.A.T.E. and Transmetropolitan to Global Frequency and Planetary to Fell and FreakAngels. In 2012, however, that voice was largely absent from the medium. For the past few years, Ellis has split his time at his time between writing comics and, increasingly, prose novels such as 2008′s Crooked Little Vein and commentating on society and culture for magazines like Wired and Vice. On Tuesday, Ellis’ second prose novel Gun Machine was released by Mulholland Books, combining his fascination with the layered history of cities with crime noir. I reached out to Warren on Tuesday and we corresponded by email to discuss the future of his career, of comics, and his place in it all.
Rough around the edges but as precise as a Swiss clock. It’s an apt description for the Marvel character Hawkeye, and also the work of series artist David Aja.
Born and raised in Valladolid, Spain, the same town Don Quixote author Miguel de Cervantes called home, Aja earned a college degree in illustration as was on his way to a career in magazine illustration before he followed his childhood ambition: comics. After a prosaic debut in the Marvel anthology X-Men Unlimited, Aja grew by leaps and bounds before becoming the signature artist of the cult-hit series The Immortal Iron Fist with writers Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction. After the conclusion of his run, Aja did a series of one-off stories for titles like Secret Avengers, Daredevil and Wolverine: Debt of Death while he and his wife added two children to their home already filled with animals. This year, Aja and Fraction reunited for another series, this time taking on classic Avenger (and newly minted movie star) Hawkeye in a self-titled series that focuses on the archer’s life when he’s not working as one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
After last week’s stupendous one-off story in Hawkeye #6, Aja seems on top of his game. And what better time to get inside his head and find out what he thinks about comics and his place in it. In our conversation, we go over his time on The Immortal Iron Fist and Hawkeye, his views on original art, and also his idea of creative teams and what his formula is for making a great comic.
This has been a year of change in comics — for creators, for individual titles, for companies and for the industry at large. For Brian Wood, it was professionally one of his most volatile years since he quit his day job as a designer to work in comics full-time. It saw Wood end his twin creator-owned titles at Vertigo (DMZ and Northlanders), end his exclusive contract with DC Comics, and begin a new era mixing creator-owned with an unprecedented (for him) number of work-for-hire books
As we stand on the edge of this year and peer into the next, Wood is looking to build on 2012 projects like Conan the Barbarian, The Massive and Ultimate Comics X-Men with a new creator-owned series, Mara, debuting next week from Image Comics, and then on Jan. 9 launching his highest-profile project to date: Star Wars, a highly anticipated Dark Horse monthly set between the events of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back and featuring familiar characters like Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo. Brian Wood Month redux? Perhaps.
Comic Book Resources has interviewed Wood about each of his upcoming projects, so in this conversation I’m able to focus on the big picture, addressing his career and the context of his projects. Wood and I discuss changes at DC that led to his departure, what could have been had he stayed, and his plans both inside and outside of comics.
In any entertainment field, the only thing more difficult than breaking through and scoring that first hit is doing it again and again. And in comics, one of the people I’ve marveled at for his ability to top his previous hit and reinvent himself, all while staying true to himself and his style, is writer Andy Diggle.
He’s done a lot during his 15 years in comics: He helped to turn around then-flagging 2000AD with a back-to-basics approach. He dusted off a forgotten set of DC Comics characters and re-made them into a popular Vertigo series with The Losers. He gave readers a modern vantage point for DC’s archer Green Arrow. He took Marvel’s Daredevil to the darkest point. And at this year’s New York Comic Con, he was the belle of the ball in terms of announcements with four new titles, and several more already in the works.
Writer Gail Simone calls Ben Abernathy “one of the best editors/idea men in the business,” and over the past 15 years — through his time at Dark Horse, Marvel, WildStorm, DC Comics and now digital publisher Madefire — he’s pushed the boundaries of what can be done in the medium. He was part of Marvel’s move into trade paperbacks and graphic novels, and shepherded WildStorm’s hard sci-fi and superhero work. WildStorm gave way to DC Digital, where Abernathy helped to break the mold of how comics are read, and that continues at Madefire, which publishes serialized creator-owned comics online and via mobile devices.
In addition to discussing Abernathy’s work at Madefire, I asked the longtime editor about his time at WildStorm, where he took over for Scott Dunbier, and his thoughts on the imprint’s collapse in 2010.
For the past 18 years, Ron Perazza has worked in and around the comics industry in virtually every facet of the medium. He’s best known for spearheading DC Comics’ first major foray into original webcomics content with the celebrated but sadly defunct Zuda initiative, but now he’s in a different place — but still doing what he’s always done: pushing to get comics in front of as many people as possible.
After working for 12 years at DC and briefly at digital-comics platform comiXology, Perazza is pushing innovation in comics formats and delivery systems as a consultant for others and with his own initiatives. One of those is Comic Book Think Tank, an idea incubator of sorts for Perazza and collaborator Daniel Govar to examine and execute comics in a digital world. Their first release was the comic Relaunch, with more planned. I talked with Perazza about the future, and what led him down the path to where he is today.
It seems the next class of hot Marvel creators is rising faster than the publisher can slap on a moniker like “Young Guns,” “Terrific Tens” or “Architects.” Part of that group is Portland, Oregon-based writer Kelly Sue DeConnick. She recently launched the longtime Marvel heroine Carol Danvers, aka Ms. Marvel, in Captain Marvel, and she recently took over Avengers Assemble from Marvel’s de facto chief writer Brian Michael Bendis. In addition, Dark Horse recently enlisted DeConnick to revive and revitalize its superhero pulp series Ghost, and she has her first creator-owned series in the works: Pretty Deadly, with her Osborn collaborator Emma Rios.
I’ve known about DeConnick peripherally for almost a decade now, reading her posts on the classic Warren Ellis Forum in the early ’00s, years before she got into comics. She’s shown herself to to have a remarkable wit in her comics and in interviews, and a real sense for action without losing heart in works like Captain Marvel and the short Black Widow story she created with Jamie McKelvie inside Enter The Heroic Age. Although 2012 seems like her biggest year yet, it feels as if she’s on the precipice of something larger still. In my conversation with DeConnick, she was refreshingly upfront and revealing about riding the waves of life as a comics writer, and showed off a rarely seen side of what its like to be a comics creator.
Writer Jamie S. Rich has been a staple of the independent comics scene for more than 20 years, first as a frequent writer to letters columns (sometimes called a letter hack), and then as an editor at Dark Horse and Oni Press. Since 2004 he’s made his living as a freelancer, creating comics like It Girl & The Atomics and You Have Killed Me, and writing about film for several Portland, Oregon, newspapers.
But that’s not why I reached out to interview him. Yes, we talked about his comics work, but what I was most interested in is his recent prose novella Bobby Pins & Mary Janes, a story about a young woman trying to carve out a life while working as a comics editor. Although far from a comic industry tell-all, it’s unique for providing an honest perspective on the editorial role in comics while also serving as a convincing slice-of-life story.
We also discuss his recently announced webcomic at OniPress.com called A Boy And A Girl, his penchant for collaborating with artists in person, living in the comics hub of Portland, and his recent endeavor to do a writer’s version of off-hand sketches for fans.
It seems every time Superman, Spider-Man or any comics character steps near a political issue it becomes front-page news, not just on Comic Book Resources but in mainstream publications like USA Today. But politics and comics aren’t that unfamiliar to each other — in fact, they cross paths every day in editorial cartoons and comic strips. And one of the strongest and most popular voices in modern editorial cartooning is Portland, Oregon-based cartoonist Matt Bors. A 2012 Pulitzer Prize finalist, Bors can be read regularly nationwide in independent papers, as well as on Daily Kos and, of course, his own website.
It’s a busy time of year for Bors, as he just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the first collection of his editorial cartoons and essays under the banner Life Begins At Incorporation: Cartoons & Essays By Matt Bors. He’s taking time away from his post as comics journalism editor at Cartoon Movement and moving forward with more projects of his own. I talked to him about his career, his thoughts on the industry, and the perceived divide between comic books and editorial cartoons.
Think of the shelves of your local comics store as a crowded room where everybody is shouting for your attention. It’s difficult to rise above that din, and that’s why being unique — in tone and in presentation — makes you stand out quickly in the market. Writer Sam Humphries got his start in comics in summer 2010 with shorts for anthologies like CBGB: The Comic Book, and then self-published his first book Our Love Is Real the following year. Fast forward 14 months, and he’s writing two of Marvel’s top titles in Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates and Uncanny X-Force. How does that happen?
As I learned in my interview with Humphries, a lot of it has to do with his background but also his drive and know-how to tell stories. Humphries initially crossed paths with the industry when he oversaw marketing for MySpace’s comic book portal, which lasted for several years. From that, he began participating in the comics community on podcasts and through contributions to anthologies. After being turned down by more than a dozen publishers, Humphries decided to self-publish Our Love Is Real with artist Steve Sanders and found a way to cut through the noise to become a prominent new voice in comics. He followed that with the first issue of Sacrifice, and then was quickly pulled into other publishers like Marvel and BOOM! Studios to tell stories on a larger platform.
The newly announced writer of Uncanny X-Force, Humphries is also at the center of the buzz surrounding the development in Ultimate Comics: The Ultimate‘s making Captain America president of the United States (Comic Book Resources has a preview of Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates #17). CBR spoke with him in-depth about those issues, allowing us to talk about Humphries’ career and his whirlwind of success.
What do you do when you combine a love for ’70s American comics, training at the Joe Kubert School and a passion for manga? Adam Warren (@EmpoweredComic), that’s what you get. And since graduation from Kubert in 1988, the New England artist has forged his own path in comics that’s classic and exotic, and all-around fun.
For the past five years, Warren has spent the majority of his working (and waking) hours on his creator-owned series Empowered, published by Dark Horse. Described as an “episodic sexy superhero comedy,” it follows the titular superheroine who wears a skintight costume that strengthens and weakens based on her relative self-esteem. With body issues, personal issues and the whole crime-fighting thing, her esteem is far from invincible. Emp, her boyfriend Thugboy and BFF Ninjette fight crime and spend their down time together in various states of anger, happiness and undress.
Empowered is de facto second act for Warren, who rose to fame importing and re-writing and drawing the manga/anime series Dirty Pair. Since then, he’s branched out to work as a writer and an artist for DC Comics and Marvel, but he continues to find the greatest success on his own on series like Empowered. I spoke with Warren this month about the longevity of Empowered, the new one-shot with guest artist Ryan Kinnaird, and Warren’s own issues of being a writer/artist, an artist and sometimes just a writer.
Most any professional comic artist is able to produce work that looks like comic art; that’s their job. But there’s a select few who can produce work that looks like fine art. Artist Eric Canete has been doing it for almost two decades now, from his start at the racy publisher Verotik owned by Glenn Danzig and on to work at Wildstorm, Marvel and the independent arena. While Canete has made a significant name in comics with his work on Iron Man: Enter The Mandarin and The End League, comics isn’t his only career; he balances it with a thriving career as a storyboard artist for animation, sometimes working exclusively in animation for a period of months (or even years), and then sometimes returning to comics for a time like he never left.
I reached out to Canete for this interview because, frankly, I missed seeing new comics from him. I was aware he had a career in animation, but after being spoiled with the caliber of his work and successfully tracking down most of his early, hard-to-find comics, I wanted more. I’d interviewed Eric on previous occasions, and he exceeded my expectations about how upfront he would be about the waxing and waning of his comics work. He’s now involved with the upcoming DC animated series Beware the Batman after finishing up TRON Uprising, and I discovered Canete had a graphic novel released this year. And if that wasn’t enough, Canete considers it the apex of his career so far. Unfortunately, however, it’s not available in America — or even in English.