talking comics with tim
As part of All-New Marvel NOW!, veteran artist Lee Garbett will team in February with writer Al Ewing for Loki: Agent of Asgard, a series the god of mischief is fully grown and in the service of the All-Mother. More immediately, however, Marvel is setting the stage for the initiative with All-New Marvel NOW! Point One #1, a one-shot that arrives Jan. 8 with a Garbett-drawn Loki serving as the thread that brings together all of the stories.
In my interview with Garbett, the artist clearly relishes the opportunity to draw Asgard’s new “one-man secret service” as well as work with Ewing. ROBOT 6 is also pleased to provide an exclusive page from the upcoming All-New Marvel NOW Point One.
Few have a better perspective on the making of the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark than playwright Glen Berger. He spent six years co-writing the script and has now penned a tell-all memoir about the tumultuous experience, Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History.
As noted on the book’s back cover, one scene — in which “Green Goblin pushes a Steinway off a skyscraper only to be sent to his own death because he didn’t realize he was attached to the piano by Spider-Man’s webbing” — earned him the job, but it also would ultimately lead to the dismissal of director and co-writer Julie Taymor.
We cover a great deal of ground in this interview, including a brief discussion of (as he mentions in the book) his reaction to sharing a co-writer credit for the play with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who worked on the project for just two months. It was interesting to get Berger’s perspective, particularly when comparing what it’s like to develop for theater as opposed to television. I’m also curious to see what musical he’s developing for Warner Bros.
Earlier this month ROBOT 6 noted that Portland, Oregon-based artist Steve Lieber appeared in a Travel Portland ad piece to promote tax-free shopping in the city. Seeing the piece made me want to know more about how Lieber became involved and what was the experience was like. Fortunately, Lieber, who’s now working on The Superior Foes of Spider-Man, was able to answer my questions in a brief interview.
Tim O’Shea: How did you get tapped to do the commercial? Did you have to submit art samples before getting cast?
Steve Lieber: The agency was familiar with my work before contacting me. It was simultaneously flattering and surprising.
You may know Christy Blanch from her recent investment, along with her partner Mark Waid, in Alter Ego Comics in Muncie, Indiana, her comics education work, or her collaboration with Chris Carr, Chee and Troy Peteri on the Thrillbent series The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood.
While the comic about a college professor in a dangerous partnership for the sake of his family is on hiatus, that’s about to end. Blanch and I discussed all three aspects of her busy career in this interview.
Tim O’Shea: Judging from the store’s Facebook page, it’s pursuing a great deal of community outreach. Are you seeing new faces shopping in the store as a result?
Christy Blanch: Mark, Jason [Pierce, the initial owner] and I are all about creating community. We want to give people a reason to come here to shop. We want them to feel like this is their clubhouse to come in and hang out, talk comics, and just be themselves. We are seeing lots of new faces. The old location was a nice store, but we really were hidden. Downtown we are very visible and we see new people every day which is a great feeling. I love it when I sell someone their first comic book especially if it is a series that I love. I always tell them I envy them because I would love to ‘forget’ the book and be able to read it for the first time again.
Long before we worked together, I respected Kevin Melrose’s instincts on picking creators to watch. So when he advised the Robot 6 audience to read Victor Santos‘ webcomic Polar, I was intrigued. That interest only grew when Jim Gibbons (one of the best editors working in comics) told me Dark Horse was collecting Polar’s first season in Polar: Came from the Cold (which ROBOT 6 previewed in late September); I knew I wanted to interview the Bilbao, Spain-based artist.
In addition to discussing the 160-page Polar hardcover, set for release on Dec. 11, we also touched upon the upcoming Furious, a Dark Horse miniseries with his Mice Templar collaborator Bryan J.L. Glass, set to launch on Jan. 29. (For additional Furious information, please read Albert Ching’s September interview with Glass.)
Tim O’Shea: You are very clear at your website in terms of the influences that inform Polar: Came from the Cold. “The story uses a minimalistic and direct style inspired by movies like Le Samurai (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967), Tokyo Drifter (Seijun Suzuki, 1965) or Point Blank (John Boorman, 1967) and novels like The Killer Inside Me (Jim Thompson, 1952) or The Eiger Sanction (Trevanian, 1979). Polar is also a tribute to artists like Jim Steranko, Jose Muñoz, Alberto Breccia, Alex Toth and Frank Miller.” I would love to discuss each and every element of those sentences, but I will just focus on two elements. How did you first find out about films like Le Samurai? When did you read your first Steranko story, and what was it?
Victor Santos: The first Steranko book I read was the Outland adaptation. I was studying fine arts, and I hadn’t really had a great deal of exposure to U.S. comics. I’d read a lot of superheroes books in my childhood, but the manga explosion of the ’80 and ’90s caught me just in my teenage years. Actually, it was during my university years when I discovered the great U.S. artists like Eisner, Ditko, Crumb, Toth, Caniff and dozens more (thanks to friends I met there, never the professors). I discovered an old Spanish edition of Outland in a street market. Wow, that stuff blew me away! The big panels contrasting the little panels, as well as that “heavy black lighting” … This edition was a big, European album size, so the double-page spreads are gigantic. I began to research. These were very intense years for me; I was absorbing all the American history of comics at the same time.
Dec. 11 will see the release of the latest collaboration between artist Natalie Nourigat and writer Jamie S. Rich, A Boy & a Girl, a 160-page sci-fi romance. Published by Oni Press (Diamond Order Code: JUL131213), the graphic novel is a futuristic story that considers an Earth where life-like androids are becoming just as common as real humans, and where a guy named Travis decides he just has to get a date with a girl named Charley. That spark of interest leads to a whole slew of quirky turns and revelations. I recently caught up with Nourigat, who’s normally based out of Portland, Oregon’s Periscope Studio but is spending a year in France, to discuss her latest work. To get a slice of the story, be sure to check out Oni’s 10-page preview.
Tim O’Shea: Was there any specific element in particular about Jamie S. Rich’s script that persuaded you to want to draw the story?
Natalie Nourigat: I wanted to draw the story before I even knew what the story was, because I wanted to work with Jamie again. He was really open to collaboration, and from the beginning he invited me to suggest elements that interested me to steer us into something that would be fun for both of us. I wanted a time-travel story, and then a futuristic sci-fi setting, and then the split-perspective angle as things progressed.
Of the myriad artists working at Marvel in recent years, Valerio Schiti, who kicks off a two-issue stint this week on Avengers A.I., stands out as one of those deserving a great deal more attention. I’m hard pressed to define what most appeals to me in terms of his work, but Schiti’s knack for distinctive facial reactions ranks high on the list. It’s also an element he and I discuss in this interview (be sure to also peruse the preview of Avengers A.I. #5 on Comic Book Resources). I hope Schiti’s boundless enthusiasm for his craft, which is reflected in his work, comes across in this interview.
Tim O’Shea: The first issue of your two-issue stint (Avengers A.I. #5-6) leaps right into the deep end, as detailed in the solicitations, as Issue 5 tackles the “mind-bending origin of Alexis.” How excited were you when you learned you got to tackle that in your first issue?
Valerio Schiti: It’s great to have the chance to work on such a defining moment for a new character. We don’t know anything about Alexis yet, even if Sam [Humphries] and André [Araùjo] introduced her. We already know what she looks like, some of her abilities but we still don’t know who she really is, what’s her purpose. Usually a normal writer would use a flashback sequence to answer such questions, but Sam is not a “normal” writer. He decided to take advantage of the artificial nature of Alexis to reveal something new about her in an original way, which means that is also a visually original way! I had a great fun drawing this scene and Frank [D’Armata], with his amazing talent for colors, made it spectacular.
Once in a while, when I go into the comics shop to snag my weekly pile, there will be something on the shelf that catches totally unaware. On Oct. 2, I was delighted to discover the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s Liberty Annual 2013 (published by Image Comics). Given that all the proceeds from the book (previewed here at CBR) benefit the CBLDF, I wanted to interview Dark Horse Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie, who directed the project. While I had his attention, I couldn’t pass up the chance to discuss some of the Dark Horse line as well.
Tim O’Shea: While seemingly an obvious question, I still think it worth asking: Why is it so important to you to volunteer your time for a project like the CBLDF Liberty Annual?
Scott Allie: Free speech is a near and dear cause, for me and for Dark Horse, and it’s still an uphill battle for comics. There are preconceptions about this art form that invite attacks, and we need to work to defend against that. I want creators and publishers to be free to put out what they want to put out, and for retailers to sell it without fear of prosecution, for readers to travel with their books without fear of incarceration. The CBLDF isn’t just about raising money in court cases. They’re about educating the population about the art form we love, and I want to be a part of that.
Current Aquaman artist Paul Pelletier has a long and varied history in comics, dating back to the late 1980s. When I learned Jeff Parker would replace Geoff Johns as the series’ writer (beginning with Aquaman #26), I was pleased that DC Comics chose to leave Pelletier on the title (as opposed to switching to a new art team, as frequently happens). I enjoy Pelletier’s take on Aquaman, and I was surprised to learn he’s not well-versed in some of the character’s earlier runs (so readers, please be sure to share your favorite runs in the comments section, since the artist asked “which runs would the Aqua-fans recommend?”). It was a unique opportunity, prior to the October 23 release of Aquaman #24, to chat with the veteran artist as he transitions from collaborating with one veteran writer to another. Plus, I enjoyed hearing about Pelletier’s appreciation of basketball legend Larry Bird.
Tim O’Shea: Once you realized Arthur would be sporting a beard again, did you draw a couple of versions of beards (goatee versus full beard) or did you and Geoff always have one look in mind when it came to Aquaman’s facial hair?
Paul Pelletier: When Geoff wrote Aquaman with the beard, it was a result of Arthur being unconscious for six months, so I figured it wouldn’t be too stylized. A full beard that wasn’t too manicured made sense to me. Now if the beard was to remain, then we might have to think about something a bit more tailored to Arthur.
I first became aware of colorist Steve Downer due to his work on MonkeyBrain Comics’ Edison Rex. But as I quickly learned, he serves as colorist on a variety of projects, as well as artist on Dracula the Unconquered. Given the variety of Downer’s projects, I thought it would be insightful to discuss his craft with him.
Tim O’Shea: How long have you been a colorist?
Steve Downer: I’ve been working full-time as a colorist since 2009, though I started coloring as a side job much earlier, in 2007, while I worked as a T-shirt graphic designer.
I missed out on Pat Grant‘s debut graphic novel Blue when it was initially released in 2012. But now that Top Shelf has the book back in print, I got in touch with the Australian writer/artist to learn more about the 96-page book, described as “a fascinating blend of autobiography and fiction with a sci-fi twist.” The story has an interesting mix of several elements, including teenagers surfing, aliens with tentacles, conflict, bigotry and a quest for a dead body — all of which just scratches the surface of this ambitious work.
In 1987, writer Christopher Hinz released Liege-Killer, the first novel in his “Paratwa Trilogy,” although longtime comics readers may remember him for his work on the mid-’90s DC Comics/Helix series Gemini Blood. Now, more than 25 years later, Hinz has adapted Liege-Killer for comics, collaborating with artist Jon Proctor on the new graphic novel Binary, published by Ilfeld Comics.
To learn more about the project, I asked Proctor a handful of questions about Binary and working with Hinz.
Tim O’Shea: What was it about Christopher Hinz’s script that attracted you to Binary?
Jon Proctor: Binary is a graphic novel adaptation of Christopher’s novel Liege-Killer, which was first published in 1987. It went on to win the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel and earned a nomination for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. It had a cult following for years, and even though I was unaware of the original novel I was familiar with a nine-issue miniseries Christopher did for DC comics short-lived, science fiction and science fantasy imprint called Helix. The comic, titled Gemini Blood, had similar themes to the Binary/Liege-Killer universe. Incidentally, it was also drawn by Tommy Lee Edwards, and I’ve always been a huge fan of his artwork. Stuart Moore edited the Helix mini, and he and I have been partners in crime for years. He thought I might be a good fit so he approached me with the idea for Binary. Committing to a 125-page full-color book where the entire production sits squarely on my shoulders was a little nerve-wracking, but the script hooked me on the first page. In other words, Christopher is a really talented writer! The science fiction aspect was one thing that attracted me to it but within the layering of the characters was something different and fascinating. For one thing, the idea that the main villain in the book consists of two assassins that share a soul was really something I thought would be great fun as well as a visual challenge to pull off, and it was! The script was just really fresh and the world it portrayed was enormous. I did a few pages as a try out for Christopher and our producer Etan Ilfeld, and thankfully they chose me to do the book.
I had just learned about the hate crime-related murder of Dwayne Jones in Jamaica when writer Steve Orlando contacted me about his Kickstarter campaign for Virgil, a crime graphic novel partially aimed at shining a light on anti-gay violence in that country. So his request for an interview was an easy one to grant. Orlando’s Kickstarter, with a goal of $15,000 and an end date of Sept. 11, aims to tell the story of Virgil, an outed cop fighting “his way across Jamaica to save his man and get revenge.” Orlando has also posted a preview of the book.
Tim O’Shea: I know Archie’s Kevin Keller partially inspired Virgil. But I am curious, how did you first learn about anti-gay violence in Jamaica?
Steve Orlando: If you’re going to fight back against the man, you’ve got to go where he lives!
But seriously, research! Once I decided to do a book with a gay couple fighting back against heterosexists and violent homophobes, I consulted Human Rights Watch reports. Originally I planned on setting the book in Africa, also the home of numerous anti-gay atrocities, but the dichotomy of Jamaica was much stronger to me. Jamaica is often seen as a vacation paradise, but for so many residents there that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Have you ever received an unexpected gift that made you instantly happy? That’s how I felt in late April when Dark Horse announced Itty Bitty Hellboy, a five-issue all-ages miniseries by Art Baltazar and Franco (known for their Eisner Award-winning run on DC’s Tiny Titans and, more recently, Superman Family Adventures). Ahead of the comic’s debut on Wednesday, I spoke with Art and Franco about their fun-loving Aw Yeah-ification of the Mike Mignola/Hellboy universe.
Tim O’Shea: How hard was it to settle on the Itty Bitty Hellboy title?
Franco: That was pretty easy. Artie takes all the credit for that one. What title would best encapsulate what we wanted to do with the character than make him itty bitty!
Art Baltazar: Yes! We went through a few different adjectives before “Itty Bitty” won our hearts.
In interviews I typically stay away from the “how did you get started in comics” question, but periodically I’ll delve into a question about a book dedication, hopeful for an interesting answer. I was hopeful with good reason with this week’s interview with writer Sam Humphries about the new Dark Horse hardcover collection of Sacrifice, by Humphries and artist Dalton Rose. To learn the death of his father was the push Humphries needed to pursue writing comics was a moment that gave me pause.
In fact, the book itself — about Hector, who through an epileptic seizure departs from modern time and space, back to when the Aztec civilization was in its prime — stopped me in my tracks. Storytelling that maps a psychedelic journey in a coherent and fascinating manner is no easy feat, but Humphries and Rose have accomplished it. Dark Horse’s collection of the self-published series will be released Wednesday.
Tim O’Shea: On a most rudimentary level, let’s talk about the logo design for Sacrifice. Who designed it, [comics designer] Dylan Todd or Dalton Rose?
Sam Humphries: Dylan Todd. Sacrifice largely takes place in the past, but it’s not a stodgy period piece. I wanted the design to reflect a modern sensibility without ignoring the core of the story, which is the Aztec Empire. It was a difficult balance but Dylan killed it. He gave Sacrifice a “face” to people who had never seen the story.