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.
A few years back, to celebrate the WWE’s annual Wrestlemania event, I reached out to several comic folks who I knew were wrestling fans to get their predictions on how the matches would go. It was a lot of fun; so much fun that apparently I let three years go by before doing it again (in my defense, I had a baby somewhere in those three years, so … yeah).
In any event, this year I got my act together enough to reach out to some of my Robot 6 colleagues, as well as several members of the comics community, to once against ask: Rock or Cena? Brock or Triple H? Undertaker or Punk? Scholars or Funk? Our panel shared their thoughts, opinions, hopes and dreams for tomorrow’s big pay-per-view event.
Thanks to CBR’s enterprising Comics Twitter Directory, we’re able to keep track of the multitude of comics creators and see what they’re talking about. Like comics writer/retailer and friend of the blog Vito Delsante posting the full issue of his book The Mercury Chronicles (with artist Mike Lilly) on his blog. This #0 issue saw the light of day five years ago at SDCC as a giveaway for now-defunct comics publisher Speakeasy, but has been without a home since. Seems like Delsante has dusted it off and wants to see if fans would like to see more.
To find out more, we asked Delsante himself — and here’s what he said:
I just wanted more eyes on it since it’s been written for years and is still not available for purchase or download. Anyone who knows me knows that it’s been a bit of a labor of love, emphasis on labor (as in childbirth with contractions and it takes forever), and that the only speed bump on the road to publishing is that Mike Lilly, the artist, has been offered paying work throughout the life of the comic, which meant putting Mercury on hold until enough of a war chest was saved up. Maybe, if enough people tell Mike that they’d be willing to shell out $3 for each issue (or $20 or so for a graphic novel), maybe we can get this done. I’d contemplate making a Kickstarter project out of it, if I only knew that yes, people do want to see this.
Read the 16-page zero issue over at Vito’s site, and make your voice heard if you’d like to read more on this pulp/hero series.
The 30 Characters Challenge, which asked comic creators to come up with a new character every day last month, ended earlier this week, and if you head over to the site right now, you can see round-up posts by some of the artists who participated of all the characters they came up with in what was surely a very busy November.
One participant was Vito Delsante, writer of FCHS, who I spoke with about another character-in-progress last summer. Delsante created 35 new characters — or in a few cases revised older public domain characters — and now he’s releasing them into the public domain under a Creative Commons license.
Delsante said he was inspired by Mark Waid’s Harvey Awards keynote speech, in particular the part where Waid said “…culture is more important than copyright.”
“Waid argues many points about many different topics, but this…these bolded words above, hit me in a very soft spot (I’ll readily admit that I might be missing the point of his speech). He’s right,” Delsante wrote on his blog. “The idea of public domain adds to comics. But there are very few characters (as compared to copyrighted/franchise/creator owned characters) that are in the public domain. That changes today.”
Delsante isn’t asking for money or even the right to approve their usage; he only asks that he be credited with their creation when they’re used. Waid gives his approval in the comments section to Delsante’s post, while Sage LaTorra has already said he is going to use them in a role-playing game he’s designing. Although as Sean Kleefeld points out, it’s highly unlikely Spider-Man will be facing any of these characters anytime soon for a variety of reasons, it’s still an interesting move and I admire the spirit under which Delsante is doing it. Although I probably would have kept Tuo, the Alligator Man for myself.
Happy Halloween! We round out our series of posts on what comics from the past or present left various creators shivering under the blanket until the sun came up. To see the previous posts, go here and here.
Fred Van Lente
I had the oversized MARVEL TREASURY EDITION of MARVEL TEAM-UP when I was a kid. The panel in the Spider-Man & Ghost Rider story in which the Orb removes his helmet and shows how hideously scarred he is scared me so bad I actually cut out a square of black construction paper big enough to tape over the panel to cover it so I could read the rest of the comic without looking at it. I couldn’t have been much older than seven.
Fred Van Lente is the co-writer of Marvel’s current event series Chaos War. He’s also written Action Philosophers!, Iron Man: Legacy and Shadowland: Power Man, among other titles. If you’re looking for something in the spirit of the season, check out his Marvel Zombies work.
For my final installment in my spotlight of themed sketchbooks, I turn to comics’ most popular sidekick: Robin. Many men (and a couple of women) have stood at Batman’s side as the boy wonder, and since the character’s inception in 1940 he’s carved a mark in fans … especially comics retailer and comics pro Vito Delsante.
“I’m a fan of Robin the Boy Wonder. Any incarnation. So I have folks a million times more talented than I am draw him for me!” says Delsante. He admits to dressing up as the Boy Wonder himself on two occasions for Halloween, for as he puts it “It’s a great character for kids since it’s ultimate wish fulfillment; you can be a kid and still hang out with Batman? Sign me up!”
Before being printed, purchased by fans and read, comics and graphic novels start off as ideas that eventually become pitches that creators try and sell to publishers. Or, as Vito Delsante, writer of FCHS, puts it, “That’s the hard part.”
Delsante and artist Andrés Vera Martínez are currently collaborating on one such pitch, for a book called Fist of Dracula that shows us what the famed vampire was up to in the 1930s. Although the book doesn’t have a home yet, they agreed to talk to me about the creative and pitching processes, as well as share some pages from the books.
JK: How did the two of you meet?
Vito: Purely by chance. I had written a kids graphic novel for Simon and Schuster (Before They Were Famous: Babe Ruth) and the artist couldn’t come through, so they (S&S) hunted down a new artist, and that artist was Andrés.
Andrés: That’s about right.
Vito: Even after that, we didn’t actually meet until Andrés was done with the book. I like to work with people I know, if only so I can see the art process, but I had to let this one go until the end. I think we kept missing each other, too…like, we’d try to meet each other at Jim Hanley’s or elsewhere, and we’d be off by a few minutes.
Welcome once again to What Are You Reading? Today’s special guest is writer and artist Dean Trippe, creator of Butterfly and co-founder of the Project: Rooftop blog, among other credits. He posts regularly on his Tumblr site Bearsharktopus-Man, where he is currently selling this nifty Doctor Who/Batman crossover print. He also has some art in the Webcomics Auction for the Gulf.
To see what Dean and the rest of the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …
Welcome to a special holiday weekend edition of What Are You Reading?, as we take a break from hot dogs and street festivals to take a look at what comics we’ve been reading this week. Our special guest this week is Vito Delsante, writer of FCHS and the upcoming Stray. When he isn’t making comics, he’s selling them at Jim Hanley’s Universe, located in New York near the Empire State Building.
To see what Vito and the rest of the Robot 6 crew are reading, click below …
And here we are with our final round of responses from comic industry folks, after I asked them what they were looking forward to in 2010. You can find part one here and part two here. My thanks to everyone who took the time to respond to Tim O’Shea or myself.
A couple of quick thoughts from the old year and the new one:
1. I’m delighted a new YA novel in Gerald Morris ‘The Squire’s Tales’ series came out in September. ‘The Squire’s Quest’ is his first new novel in the series about Camelot and the Arthurian legends in several years. I’ve enjoyed the books immensely. I know. I know. It came out this year. Tough. I still couldn’t be more pleased.
2. I’ve been working on a long graphic novel for DC for awhile now (96 pages), should wrap it up in 2010 and really, I can’t wait! Catch me again in April or May and I’ll fill you in with some detail.
Walt Simonson’s work spans decades; he’s worked on comics like Thor, Fantastic Four, Avengers, X-Factor, Orion, Manhunter, Hawkgirl, World of Warcraft and his own Star Slammers, just to name a few. Earlier this year he donated this really awesome piece of original artwork for the auctions we did for our own Carla Hoffman, for which we will always be grateful.
1. Excited for a few things. The new Doctor (Who), Iron Man 2, and really excited for Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. I’m not sure if Darwyn Cooke’s next Parker GN is going to be out next year, but I will be all over that the second it’s announced.
2. Excited for a few things of my own: Popgun 4, a secret project that I can’t announce at all, my new comic, STRAY, and getting FCHS Volume 1 out there in print.
This November, writer Vito Delsante‘s collaboration with artist Rachel Freire, FCHS: Volume 1, will be released by AdHouse (Diamond Order Code: SEP09 0568). As described at the AdHouse site: “Do you remember high school? All the fun and trouble you used to get into? All of the sex, sports and alcohol that was your Senior year? It’s time to go back! Join Hector, Kennedy, Jules and the whole gang at FCHS as they begin their last year of high school. Will they be ready for ‘the real world’ when it’s all over? Will they all make it? Archie meets 90210.” Delsante, who has written for a number of publishers (including DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, and Simon & Schuster), was kind enough to do an email interview with me. In addition to discussing FCHS, we discuss his experience working at Jim Hanley’s Universe, as well as some of his other upcoming projects.
Tim O’Shea: FCHS got its start at the Chemistry Set, how did the publishing arrangement with AdHouse come about?
Vito Delsante: A mini comic. Seriously! Rachel and I attended MoCCA two years ago and at that point, we had about 21 strips on the site that we turned into seven 3-tier pages. We were handing them out to just about anyone who was interested, with the thought that we’d bring some traffic back to Chem Set. Chris [Pitzer, AdHouse Books publisher] got one and a few weeks later, right before Comic Con Intl., he e-mailed us and asked if we were interested in doing a book. I think, in the back of my head, I was hoping to get a few publishers interested in FCHS, but when Chris offered, we jumped at it. Rachel and I are big fans of AdHouse, and to be a member of that family is a very good feeling.