Welcome back for another round of Robot Roulette, our new interview feature where creators spin the virtual roulette wheel to find out what questions they’ll answer. We’ve got 36 possible questions, and each week I will select at random which of those questions our guest gets to tackle.
This week we welcome Jeff Parker to the roulette wheel. Jeff is the writer of Red She-Hulk, Dark Avengers, a recent Legends of the Dark Knight digital tale and the webcomic Bucko. You might also know him from Underground, Interman or Agents of Atlas. Parker is in Ireland right now for the Dublin International Comics Expo, so if you are lucky enough to be in Dublin go tell him hi.
My thanks to Jeff for agreeing to be one of our early participants. Now let’s see what questions Lady Luck threw at him …
Welcome to the very first edition of Robot Roulette, a new interview feature where creators spin the virtual roulette wheel to find out what questions they’ll be answering. With a little help from my friends, I’ve come up with 36 possible questions that any creator could answer, on topics ranging from their careers to their personal lives to their tastes in music. Each week I will randomly select which of those questions they get to tackle.
The first pro to step up to the wheel is Joe Keatinge. Formerly Image Comics’ publicity guy and co-editor of the award-winning Popgun anthology, Joe’s now the writer of Glory and Hell Yeah from Image, and the upcoming Morbius ongoing series for Marvel. He talks about all of these things (and more) regularly on his Tumblr, and Comic Book Resources recently posted a lengthy interview with him on Glory, Hell Yeah and lots more. But nowhere did they address his pet peeves or what instrument he wished he could play. But don’t worry; I’ve got your back.
Joe was one of several pros I sent an email about this wacky feature idea before it existed, and I appreciate his willingness to be one of my first
victims guinea pigs. Now on with the show …
In May, Valiant Entertainment announced a new addition to its editorial team, former Marvel editor Jody LeHeup. Probably best known for overseeing the Harvey Award-nominated (and Robot 6 favorite) Strange Tales anthology series, LeHeup also worked on books like Deadpool, X-Factor and Uncanny X-Force before being let go by the company last year in a round of layoffs. Marvel’s loss, though, was Valiant’s gain, as he joined former Marvel office mate Warren Simons at the reborn company.
My thanks to Jody for answering my questions, as well as to Valiant’s Hunter Gorinson for helping to make this interview possible.
JK Parkin: What made you decide to join the Valiant team?
Jody LeHeup: There were a bunch of reasons. The first and biggest reason was that when Valiant approached me for the job, they made it very clear that they were serious about their commitment to quality. As an editor, a storyteller and a writer, that is without question the most important thing to me. After talking at length with the guys, I knew that editorial would have the support it needed in order to put out some of the best comics on the stands, and it was music to my ears. Beyond talking about it, their commitment was evident in the work itself and in the care they were taking with every aspect of the company’s revitalization. It was inspiring, and I really felt like I had found a home.
Passings | Dr. Scott Henson, who retired from a career as a neurosurgeon and became a cartoonist, has died at the age of 52. Henson, who treated Superman actor Christopher Reeve after his fall, took up the pen after his health problems forced him to leave the medical field and created the panel cartoon Natural Selection under the pen name Russ Wallace. The cartoon was picked up by Creators Syndicate and syndicated nationwide. [The Charleston Gazette]
Publishing | Deb Aoki provides a thorough analysis of Tokyopop’s Anime Expo panel, in which the once-shuttered manga publisher announced a new title and hinted at more. [About.com]
Creators | Paul Levitz discusses Worlds’ Finest, his buddy comic featuring Power Girl and Huntress: “There’s always been a certain level of humor and cool confidence in a light way associated with Power Girl that’s been fun, and the Huntress has always been the more determined of the women in the DC Universe — a woman with a sense of mission and a crossbow ready to take your eye out. [USA Today]
Conventions | Creative director Rico Renzi discusses HeroesCon, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this weekend with a three-day event that’s experienced a spike in advance ticket sales: “Stan Lee’s attendance to this year’s show has definitely caused a spike in advance ticket sales from what I can tell. I honestly like the show at just the size it is; it’s just right. I used to hop on a bus from Baltimore to go the NYCC and I loved it for the first couple years. It just got too big for me too enjoy it, you couldn’t walk around without rubbing up against strangers. It’s a great alternative to San Diego now I guess. If you’re looking for a pure comic book show though, HeroesCon is where it’s at.” In addition to Lee, this year’s guests include Neal Adams, Mark Bagley, Cliff Chiang, Frank Cho, Becky Cloonan, Geof Darrow, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Evan Dorkin, Tommy Lee Edwards, Matt Fraction, Francesco Francavilla, Jaime Hernandez, Dave Johnson, Jeff Lemire, Paul Levitz, Mike Mignola, George Perez, Louise Simonson, Walt Simonson, Scott Snyder and Bernie Wrightson. [The Comics Reporter]
“Radar” is an occasional spotlight on interesting and entertaining comics and creators that are fairly new to the business or may have escaped your notice.
Today brings the release of Dracula World Order, the self-published comic by Ian Brill, Tonci Zonjic, Rahsan Ekedal, Declan Shalvey and Gabriel Hardman. It’s broken into four chapters, each drawn by a different artist, with a cover by Shalvey and colorist Jordie Bellaire. The story revolves around Dracula’s son Alexandru leading a rebellion against his father and the one-percent “vampire elite.”
It’s available on a limited basis from a handful of retailers, as well as online from Things From Another World if you want a physical copy, and comiXology if you want a digital one. I caught up with Brill to talk about the comic, his publishing plan and more.
Marvel’s big Fear Itself crossover event last year introduced readers to Odin’s brother, the Serpent, who along with the Red Skull’s daughter, Sin, used seven divine hammers to turn several Marvel heroes and villains into his agents on Earth. Spoiler’s alert: Marvel’s heroes win, but in the wake of the event came the question of what happened to all those hammers.
Cullen Bunn, Matt Fraction, Chris Yost, Mark Bagley and Paul Pelletier answered that question in the pages of The Fearless, a miniseries that saw Sin and her boyfriend, Crossbones, in an Amazing Race-style adventure to find all the hammers. They were pitted against Valkyrie, a character ripe not only for an Asgardian-laced race against the forces of evil and some character development of her own. Over the course of the series, we learned a lot about the Valkyrie’s history, saw guest stars galore and even got a tease for a potential new series. Now that the miniseries has wrapped up, I chatted with Bunn about the comic, the characters he used and what he did with them. My thanks to him for taking the time to answer my questions.
JK: If I’m not mistaken, this was your first major project for Marvel since going “exclusive” with them. You’d done other stories for them and even other Fear Itself tie-ins, but is it safe to say this probably put you on the main stage of the Marvel Universe in a way you hadn’t experienced yet? Did you feel any pressure going into it because of the scope and the fact that it came out of a big Marvel event?
Cullen: Yeah, this was a big, intimidating undertaking. The Fearless featured most of the major Marvel superheroes in one way or another, and it spanned numerous locales. Luckily, I was working with a very supportive team who made me feel pretty comfortable going into this. They put a lot of trust in me with the series, and I didn’t want to let anyone down. Every time I sent some crazy note or suggestion for plot points, I expected them to yank me off the title, but they were pretty receptive to the idea of exploding sharks, a new team of Valkyrie, and Wolverine gutting Crossbones (among other things).
Publishing | Viz Media announced that Ken Sasaki, formerly the senior vice president and general manager of the manga and anime publisher, will take over from Hidemi Fukuhara as president and CEO. Fukuhara is being promoted to vice chairman, which apparently involves little of the day-to-day management of the company. [Crunchyroll]
Publishing | Johanna Draper Carlson counts the pages in some recent DC and Marvel comics and finds lots of house ads — and very few paying ones. This raises the chicken-and-egg question of whether the comics publishers are losing interest in selling ads or the advertisers are losing interest in buying them. [Comics Worth Reading]
Digital | Nerdist Industries’ CEO Peter Levin has joined comiXology’s advisory board. [comiXology]
Passings | Al Ross, the longtime New Yorker cartoonist who had more than 600 gag cartoons published in the magazine, passed away March 22 in the Bronx. He was 100. Ross had his first cartoon published in The New Yorker in 1937. Tom Spurgeon offers an obituary, while The New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff posts his own tribute. [The New York Times]
Creators | Underground cartoonist S. Clay Wilson underwent surgery last week due to complications from an accumulation of spinal fluid on the brain. According to cartoonist Justin Green, the prognosis is good, “meaning that he can be expected to stay alive without drastic cognitive impairment in the near future.” Green also shares details on a trust fund that’s been set up for Wilson and his wife Lorraine. Wilson fell and suffered a severe head injury in November of 2008. [Justin Green Cartoon Art] Continue Reading »
Conventions | The hotel reservation system for Comic-Con International in San Diego will open Thursday at 9 a.m. PT, as the yearly mad dash for discounted hotel rates begins. CCI has posted a list of hotels, and if you’re willing to stay in Mission Valley, you can book a room early. The process will be the same as last year — select up to 20 hotels where you’d be willing to stay, and you’ll get a confirmation email no later than April 1. You can leave your April Fool’s jokes in the comments below. Also of note this year, shuttles to and from hotels will run 24 hours a day during the show, beginning at 5 a.m. Thursday. [CCI]
Editorial cartoons | Michael Cavna rounds up nine editorial cartoons commenting on the killing of Florida teenager Tryavon Martin. [The Washington Post]
Awards | Chicago’s Columbia College has announced it will bestow the 2012 John Fischetti Lifetime Achievement Award on Jules Feiffer. What is it? “The Fischetti Lifetime Achievement Award honors an outstanding career of editorial cartooning, work skewering cultural mores, misguided public policies and self-important people.” [The Daily Cartoonist]
Comics | As workers begin cleaning up the mess left by a flooded warehouse full of comics, officials at Pittsburgh’s ToonSeum are appealing to the public for donations to help replace the lost works. [Post-Gazette]
Creators | Gerry Alanguilan posts his rejection letters from Marvel and DC Comics from the days when, as a young artist, he sent in samples of his work. He also tells the story of how he blew his first big chance, which should prove inspirational to others in the same boat. [Komikero]
Legal | The trial resumed today, if only briefly, in Tunis for the president of a Tunisian television network accused of “insulting sacred values” when he aired the adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. Tensions were so high in the courtroom that proceedings were postponed until April. The Oct. 7 broadcast resulted in an attempted arson attack on the network’s offices and the arrest of some 50 protesters. Nessma TV President Nebil Karoui, who apologized in October, is charged with “insulting sacred values, offending decent morals and causing public unrest” because of the outrage triggered by a scene in Persepolis showing God, which is prohibited by Islam. [AFP]
Organizations | Stumptown Comics, the organization that puts on the Stumptown Comics Fest every year in Portland, Oregon, has added three new members to its board: Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Charles Brownstein, Boilerplate co-author Anina Bennett and editor Shawna Gore. [Stumptown Comics]
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Image Comics, the company formed by a group of artists who left the security of work-for-hire comics to create and own their own comics. It’s been 20 years of ups and downs, but one thing that has remained consistent is a focus on creator-owned work.
With 2011 in the history books and their big anniversary kicking off with the first Image Expo, a new ad campaign and high-profile series by big-name creators like Brian K. Vaughan, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer and many more, I thought it was a good time to chat with Publisher Eric Stephenson about the state of the company, the year that was, their upcoming plans and anything else he was willing to talk about. My thanks to Eric for taking the time to answer my questions.
JK Parkin: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview, Eric. Incidentally, another feature we’re running as a part of our anniversary bash is one where we asked various comic industry folks about what they’re looking forward to in 2012. I got one back yesterday where the answer was basically “everything from Image Comics.” I find that interesting, because there’s a lot of diversity in Image’s line and although I think you guys probably publish something for every kind of taste, I wouldn’t think that every title would appeal to every comic reader. And yet I also find myself checking out at least the first issue of everything you guys have done lately. So from your perspective, what’s the unifying factor (or factors) right now among your titles, if there is one?
Stephenson: I think the main thing is that we’re moving forward and creating new things. We’re not content to just recycle the same old ideas month in and month out and then market it all as brand new. If this was another publisher, we’d be debuting our latest spin-off of The Walking Dead in March, but instead, we’re launching a new series by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, a new series by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra, a new series by Joe Keatinge and Andre Szymanowicz, and so on. For 20 years, Image has put its faith in creative people, and it’s the power of their imagination that links all our titles together, now more than ever.
“There’s a kind of comic I want to see and it doesn’t exist, so I’m going to make it”: Sammy Harkham on Kramers Ergot 8
“You can tell I’m still making sense of it myself.” So says Sammy Harkham of the eighth volume of his landmark anthology series, Kramers Ergot, at one point during our lengthy conversation about the book. And indeed, Harkham’s side conversation is characterized by strategic pauses, halves of sentences that trail off and are abandoned as Harkham retreats, rethinks, and rearticulates. Despite his ebullient cadence – Harkham’s as great a talker as he is a tweeter – it’s quite clear that the amount of thought he put into this comparatively slim and quiet volume of his once-overflowing and raucous art-comics anthology is nearly overpowering.
So is the collection itself. Despite featuring a much smaller roster than previous volumes in the series, and despite a much less “noisy” visual aesthetic than that which has characterized the series since its phone book-sized fourth volume caused a sensation upon its release at the MoCCA Festival in 2003, Kramers Ergot 8 has an intensity that’s tough to shake. Contributors like C.F. (aka Christopher Forgues) and Chris Cilla craft uncomfortable but undeniably erotic sex scenes, which sit next to grim science-fiction parables from Gary Panter and Kevin Huizenga and gruesome horror tragedies by Johnny Ryan and Harkham himself. Fine artists Robert Beatty and Takeshi Murata contribute pieces as visually vibrant as the stories of crime and desire from Gabrielle Bell and the team of Frank Santoro and Dash Shaw are bleak. A cheekily provocative introductory essay from musician Ian Svenonius and a massive selection of racy reprinted Oh, Wicked Wanda! comics from the pages of Penthouse prove perplexing – but it’s a good perplexing, because it forces the reader to consider just how fingernails-on-a-chalkboard effective the rest of the volume is at discomfiting them.
With the book on its way to stores from PictureBox Inc. in a couple of weeks, Harkham took an hour before picking his two older kids up at school to talk about this very personal project. We started off talking about our respective babies; fitting, then, that by the end of the interview a fascinating picture emerged of what Harkham wanted Kramers 8 to be that proved every pause along the way was a pregnant one.
Sean T. Collins: Kramers Ergot 8 debuted at the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival in December, but your third baby debuted not long before that. That had to be a challenge.
Sammy Harkham: Knowing the baby’s coming, you work knowing that when that baby comes, things are gonna shut down. The book only got finished mid-September, and then the baby came. It was funny, because I drew my comic [for the anthology] when the book was done, basically. I thought, “I’ll do a simple issue of Kramers, I’ll do a story for it, and then I’ll get back to Crickets.” But editing, for me, is like working on my own book, as if it’s fully just me. I’m thinking about it day and night, and it’s hard for me to then think of a story within that if I don’t already have one that I’m working on. So at a certain point I decided I’m not going to be in the book. Then it was clear I needed to be in the book, because I wanted a very particular kind of story in it [laughs]. “I guess I’m gonna have to do it.” It was a flurry of activity August into September, then it was done, then the book was done, and then I was just…breathing, you know? But I felt like, “Oh man, I really should be working right now before the baby comes.” But since the baby came I’ve still been doing stuff. You know what it’s like: a lot of tricky hours, and getting used to weird working habits. You work for five minutes, but you try to make it a good five minutes. You try to break it up. And I try not to lose my temper. I get resentful of the people around me when they’re asking for my help and I’m in the middle of something. [Laughs] If I’m in the middle of writing or drawing something, I wanna finish the thought. So I’ve got to think of those Dalai Lama tweets I read earlier in the day. [Laughs] You’ve got to get into the headspace where you’re malleable in that way, you’re flexible.
But Kramers was late this year. Nadel wanted it in July, but I’ve never been able to deliver that book on time, never. This one was particularly hard because there were so few contributors, so I couldn’t lose anybody without it affecting the whole thing. Whereas in previous issues there are so many people that unless it’s a really big strip – it’s a shame to lose anything, you don’t want to lose anything, but you can. You can lose a one- or two-pager. But with this, if CF is running late, there’s nothing we can do. I told [PictureBox Publisher Dan] Nadel that up front: “I hope to get the book done on time, but if Panter’s not ready, if Christopher’s not ready, if any of these people aren’t ready, we can’t do anything.” [Laughs] We’re at the mercy of them, really.
Adding the RSS feed for Michael DeForge’s blog to your Google Reader this year was a bit like wrapping your mouth around the business end of a firehose. Barely a day went by without DeForge posting some beautifully strange, strangely beautiful new illustration or comics page. And at the rate he was producing work, there was no telling where it would be from — his two minicomics series, the art-world satire/science fiction Open Country and the kids’-comics oddity Kid Mafia; his ongoing bug’s-life black-comedy webcomic Ant Comic; “College Girl by Night,” his gender-bending contribution to the erotic comics anthology he co-edits with Ryan Sands, Thickness; the third issue of his flagship solo anthology series, Lose, from Koyama Press; various previously published works now archived at Jordan Crane’s webcomics portal What Things Do; comic strips and illustrations for magazines like Vice, Maisonneuve, The Comics Journal and The Believer; contributions to anthologies including kus, Smoke Signal, Gang Bang Bong, Root Rot, Sundays, and probably more that I’m forgetting.
But even more astonishing than the sheer volume of his output was its quality. As I wrote in CBR’s Top 100 Comics of 2011 countdown, DeForge published his four best comics last year, and many more thrilling works besides. I focused on that killer quartet of Lose, Open Country, Ant Comic, and “College Girl by Night” for this interview with DeForge, looking back on amazing year and teasing what’s to come in 2012.
Sean T. Collins: Sexy stuff first. I have a few questions about “College Girl by Night,” the story you contributed toThickness. Since you co-created and co-edit the series with Ryan Sands, I’m wondering which came first, the idea for the story, or the idea for the anthology it eventually appeared in? Did wanting to make smut also make you want to create a publication to house it for yourself and others, or vice versa?
Michael DeForge: My idea for the story came way, way later. I think that’s why I wanted to be slotted in the second issue instead of the first – when we decided to do the anthology, I had no idea what I wanted to draw yet. “College Girl By Night” was actually my second story idea, too. My original comic was going to be a homoerotic riff on the movie Class, starring Rob Lowe and Andrew McCarthy. I did all these character designs and had all these plans on how I’d draw their outfits and the prep school the comic would take place in, but everything fell apart when I actually started to plot it out.