Ty Templeton Interview

Ty Templeton at 2014 Joe Shuster Awards

Ty Templeton at 2014 Joe Shuster Awards

Originally published in November of 2002. At this point I had dropped all monthly comics and was only reading Graphic Novels. When I made that switch I found I didn’t like reading superhero graphic novels all that much, with the exception of Kurt Busiek’s Astro City. Ty’s Bigg Time had recently came out and I enjoyed it and I thought it was neat that he was relatively local to me.

 

Ty Templeton Interview

Ty Templeton has done a mix of big name superhero, independent and licensed cartoon comics during his career. His latest work is something different: it’s an original, black and white graphic novel published by DC/Vertigo. The book is called Bigg Time and is about something Ty is very familiar with, show business and fame. Ty comes from a very famous family. His mother was a singer with a few hits and his father was heavily involved in show business and politics. In this interview, we talk about graphic novels in general, Bigg Time, politics, his future and more.

 

Jamie: How did you like doing an original graphic novel compared to a monthly comic book?

Ty Templeton: First and foremost, it’s wonderful to have the time to stretch out and really TELL a story, rather than racing through everything in twenty two pages. I get to indulge the characters more, and indulge the pace . . .

This particular graphic novel was originally conceived as a six issue mini-series however, so many of the monthly comic book joys and headaches were all packed into the experience anyway. I wrote it in eighteen page chunks, for instance so I could get a paycheck every couple of weeks. The chapters tend to run to the same breaks that were written into the script when it was intended to be a miniseries . . .

 

Jamie: Did you find yourself trying to put in a cliffhanger every 24 pages or so like a normal comic series?

Ty Templeton: WHOOPS! See answer above! Since it was conceived that way, yup, I did . . . But we knew it was a graphic novel before I’d gotten much farther than the first dozen or so pages anyway . . . so I wasn’t a slave to that format in the end. But there are elements of that, that remained in the finished thing, because they’re in the original plot structure.

 

Jamie: I noticed with Bigg Time, you did *everything* on the comic, some things your not known for like lettering, colouring and separations. Why did you take on all aspects of doing the book?

Ty Templeton: Well, I’m not known for them cause I haven’t done them in a while. But I used to letter everything I drew, and when I worked in the independent comics industry in the Eighties, I had no choice but to do everything, including boxing issues up to be shipped. I even drove comics home from a printer once . . . I also used to colour my own covers on Batman, so I’m used to working with a computer to colour things. I’m very big on the idea that comics should be created by as few hands as possible. That’s one of the joys of the medium . . . I can conceive, write, draw, colour and (should I suddenly wish to lose money) print and publish my own comic iffen I want to. Vive la Artiste Solo! You can’t do that in Movies or TV!

 

Jamie: Did you do lettering, colouring and separations by hand or by computer?

Ty Templeton: Most of the word balloon lettering is done on a computer. All my sound effects letters are done as line art on the boards. I always feel sound effects are part of the art, and ALWAYS do those myself when I pencil.

 

Jamie: Do you think graphic novels are the future of the comic industry?

Ty Templeton: Gosh, I hope so and I hope not. I’d like to see more of them, but only good ones, of which there haven’t been that many over the years. Road to Perdition is a wonderful graphic novel, as is Stuck Rubber Baby, and Maus, and everything Will Eisner ever did with the form . . . but some of the best of the “Graphic Novels”, such as Watchmen, or Sandman, were originally serialized stories anyway. They just happen to collect up nicely. GON, and Asterix, arguably my favorite graphic novel characters, are both in ongoing series, ALSO originally printed in a serialized form . . . But, I still get a kick out of reading Batman or Wolverine’s adventures every month. Guilty pleasure, the ongoing series, who’d like to see that go? And I don’t much agree with the graphic novels that are essentially just long, long superhero stories. There’s been a few Batman or Green Lantern stories that came out as hundred page hardcover books that would have worked far better as four issue mini-series, both in terms of pace, and price. From a marketing standpoint, I’m all for my publisher making money, but the stories that make it as graphic novels don’t always deserve the format. More stuff by Eisner and Kyle Baker and folks like that, hell yeah. Superheroes belong in the monthlies, though.

 

Jamie: I’m no longer a huge superhero lover myself but it’s surprising that you would “write off” a whole sub-genre as not being worthy of a different format. How would you react if someone were to say oh.. Westerns should be off limits to a different format like free digest sized weekly books?

Ty Templeton: I don’t think I “wrote off” a whole sub-genre with the phrase “the (superhero) stories that make it as graphic novels don’t always deserve the format”. That’s more of a judgment about what’s BEEN done with the format, rather than a rule of conduct for future projects. An awful lot of the stuff that gets turned directly into a graphic novel, (rather than a series that gets collected up, such as Dark Knight, etc . . . ) just hasn’t met my particular critical standards. In my experience, the Punisher, Spider-Man, JLA, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Avengers, X-Men “direct to graphic novel” format projects that I’ve read haven’t particularly deserved the high price or high page count. I could mention specific titles, but that’s just needlessly mean to the creators involved, most of whom are fine writers and artists, and often friends of mine. Can you name an original superhero graphic novel published in the last ten years that was particularly good?
Examples of Superhero graphic novels that WERE to my liking include The Death of Captain Marvel by Starlin, Batman: Birth of the Demon, by O’Neil and Breyfogle, Superman vs. Mohammad Ali by O’Neil and Adams. Those were all a while ago, I’ll admit . . . but I haven’t found many that blew me away of late. I haven’t read Catwoman’s Big Score, by Cooke, which I’m told is pretty good, so I may change my mind any day now.
But think through your favorite superhero stories or moments over the years . . . I’ll be surprised if many, or if ANY of those moments come in an original graphic novel format. My favorite moments sure don’t. But some of my favorite moments in comics DO come in graphic novels. Cowboy Wally, Maus, The Building . . . all manage sublime moments of wonder, without a cape in sight. I think pop songs, sit-coms, poetry, candy, liquor, comedy sketches, and superheroes all work best is short doses. I’m certainly willing to watch a four hour Fawlty Towers marathon, or read Dante’s epic poems, because no rule of art and creativity is written in stone. But I don’t think a four hour Just Shoot Me marathon would keep my attention, and consider all the SNL sketch characters who get expanded out to star in HORRIFIC two hour films. But I LOVE the idea of free digest sized Westerns. Who can we contact to get started on that?

 

Jamie: Do you want to do more original graphic novels?

Ty Templeton: I might enjoy writing one. I don’t think the art side attracts me quite so much, unless I get around to actually learning to draw. I have no natural talent for art . . . I’m self taught, and hardly taught at that . . . I’m too much the perfectionist, and I sweat out each line sometimes, continuously dissatisfied with what goes onto the paper. I’m getting less angry at my hands, but I still don’t much enjoy the constant fight that illustrating is to me. I’m much better in short bursts, like single issues, or covers. Writing makes me giggle and smile though.

 

Jamie: Are not artists supposed to be this way? Perfectionists, always unsatisfied with their work, etc . . . ?

Ty Templeton: Not for their own sanity, they’re not supposed to be. I’d rather not spend my days frustrated. I get more of a hoot out of laughing and tickling my children than fighting with my lack of ability to draw. I’m a good writer, and a good inker, and I never seem to sweat that stuff, but penciling is something I’m not basically very good at, and I find it frustrating. I’ve read that Jerry Ordway and Al Williamson are like that too, and they are two of my FAVORITE pencilers in the biz . . . so there!

 

Jamie: With a monthly series, you can get some feedback along the way to what readers do and don’t like about your work. Was it any easier or more difficult to do a whole story without audience feedback along the way?

Ty Templeton: I had feedback working on the book. My wife and a number of my friends read the chapters as I was doing them, and of course, both my editors, Joan Hilty and Heidi MacDonald were good to bounce off of. I may not have had much feedback directly from fans for the story, but the story was fairly personal anyway, and wouldn’t have benefited from too many hands on the tiller.

 

Jamie: I can’t but notice that the book takes place in a very similar Toronto town, even a few blocks from here (the Toronto Expo) is the Bay Street Station. “The Bums Rush” has a familiar looking background. Why did you base this Hollywood story so close to home?

Ty Templeton: As I said, it’s a more or less personal story. If you read the “About the Author” in the back of the book, you’ll find out I’ve been in and around show biz and the famousness business my whole life, which I happened to have spent in Toronto. I didn’t see a need to put it in L.A. or New York, since I haven’t really lived in either city. I actually don’t name the city any of this takes place in, but you’re right, it’s Toronto. Besides, more movies are made in Toronto, and more albums recorded up here, than in any city in North America BUT New York and LA. Why NOT put it up here? We’re Hollywood North, ain’t we?

 

Jamie: Yes, but American entertainment companies often like to Americanize things in order to make them more commercial. Did you choose to not name Toronto so the story would be more universal?

Ty Templeton: Well, I more or less did name Toronto, by not particularly hiding that it was Toronto. T.O. Subway stations, street signs, and the Canadian Prime Minister run about the novel unmolested . . . well, the PM gets molested a LITTLE bit. The name of the town simply never came up in the script, but it was a Canadian town, since I’m a Canadian writer.

 

Jamie: How did the idea of you doing Bigg Time come about? Did you have to aggressively pitch that to DC/Vertigo or did they come to you?

Ty Templeton: While at a convention in Chicago, I pitched Joan Hilty about a science fiction project I wanted to do (and still do, btw). She told me she wasn’t buying anything SF at the time, but did I have something with a magical angle to it . . . ? I mentioned an old screenplay idea that I’d started and never finished a year or so before, and she asked to hear about it . . . liked it, and we went from there. It mutated through a mini-series, to a graphic novel, back to a mini and back to a graphic novel along the way, and the plot underwent a couple of major and a few minor changes from the pitch, but that was about it. There wasn’t much aggressive pitching on my part. Right place at the right time. Plus, the pitch made her laugh . . .

 

Jamie: How Americans do you think will get the Canadian Prime Minister Jean Crouton joke?

Ty Templeton: Believe it or not, the name was actually Chrétien RIGHT up until about a week before the whole thing went to the printer. Literally on the last proofread through, the editor called me up and asked me if Chrétien was the P.M’s real name. “Yeah,” I said . . . “Oh we can’t have that,” said the editor . . . “For legal reasons, you can’t use the Prime Minister’s real name.” So we relettered the balloon so it read Crouton . . . but here’s the best part: No one caught the fact that it was the real PM’s name, because both the editor and the proofreader thought I made the name “Chrétien” up. They thought it was a French spoof on the word cretin.

 

Jamie: Of course you noticed he resigns as Prime Minister the day after your book hits the stands. So that’s obviously your fault.

Ty Templeton: All according to plan. Now if only the Bush people get the secret hypnotic message that’s intended for them, then my work here is done.

 

Jamie: And who would you replace Chrétien and Bush with?

Ty Templeton: I have nothing particularly against Chrétien. I’ve voted for him, and might have even done it again. I’m basically a Liberal or NDP kind of vote, pretty well every election. Paul Martin seems like a fine replacement for Jean . . . I’m fairly sure he’s who we’ll get anyway. As for replacing Bush? Pretty well any creature, vertebrate or invertebrate could do a better job than that smirking frat boy clown. Don’t even get me started on the ruinous car wreck that I find his Fraudulent and embarrassing administration to be. Imagine someone actually usurping the position of “Worst American President of my Lifetime” from Nixon . . .

 

Jamie: Was this book a nice change of pace from doing all those cartoon comics for the last few years?

Ty Templeton: My whole career is a change of pace. Cartoon comics (including Ren and Stimpy, Batman Adventures, Bugs Bunny, the Simpsons) have been a mainstay of my work for the last little while, by my own choice, and as a change of pace from the mainstream superhero comics I did for a while, (Superman, Avengers, Justice League) which were a change of pace from the funky independent stuff (Stig’s Inferno, National Lampoon, Mr. X, etc . . . much like this graphic novel, in fact) that I did for most of the Eighties and early Nineties.

 

Jamie: Are there any particular genre’s and/or formats you want to explore in the future?

Ty Templeton: I’m getting a tickle to work on some more Looney Toons stuff in the future. I may or may not get to . . . but I did a little bit for the 100th anniversary issue of Looney Toons from DC, and enjoyed it greatly, and wouldn’t mind doing more. I’ve got a nibble from a friend of mine to help art direct yet another TV pilot, (making it about a dozen I’ve worked on over the years) which I hope I get to do. Beyond that, I’m focusing on Batman, the Simpsons and the other projects I have actually ON my desk. I don’t get too far ahead of the present . . . I’m a live in the moment kind of guy.

 

Jamie: According to ICV2.com Bigg Time placed #18 in the top 50 Graphic Novels, selling approximately 6,400 pre orders through Diamond. Is that better or worse than you expected?

Ty Templeton: We had a re-order a couple of weeks later that took us up to about eight thousand, I believe. That’s about what my editor and I guessed it was going to do . . . about eight thou . . . It would be nice if it could sneak up to ten thousand over the next year . . . it would be nice, but I’m not holding my breath. So it did about what we expected.

 

Jamie: What are you doing in the future?

Ty Templeton: I’m writing a mini series for DC, that’s not yet scheduled, so it’s hush hush time. More or that later. I’m doing a little more Batman work again . . . I just inked an issue, and might be writing and/or drawing a few more. I always loved Batman to work on, so it’s nice to be home with him again. Gotham City is familiar and fun territory. I did a couple of Simpsons/Bongo comics stories . . . a Simpson’s Hallowe’en special that’s just come out, and a Radioactive Man story that’s due out in a few months, I think.
I did a page in the Looney Toons 100th issue special, and had so much fun on it, I promised myself to do more with the Warner Bros characters in the future. Joan Hilty is editing the Warner Bros. comics at DC, and since we worked together on the BIGG TIME novel . . . well, we’re happy to work together again . . . so maybe a Duck Dodgers giant, or something. Who knows?

Max Allen Collins Interview

Originally published in October of 2001. I bought Road to Perdition at a going out of business bookstore sale and really enjoyed the book. I was pleasantly surprised when I heard it was being made into a movie (and became really happy when it was a really good one). Shockingly, DC and parent company Warner Brothers did not realize what they had and let the movie rights slip away. I am really surprised that during this time of ‘republish anything that was good’ era of comics that Ms. Tree remains unpublished, especially with the demographics of today’s comic readers.

 

An Interview With Max Allen Collins

Max Allen Collins is probably the best writer you never heard of. His works stretch from comics to novels to screenplays. He has won a number of awards for his work outside of comics, but inside the industry he’s largely ignored. Among his better remembered works is Ms. Tree done through Eclipse and DC. He recently wrote a graphic novel called Road to Perdition that is extremely good and is going to be coming out in early 2001 as a movie. The movie will star Tom Hanks and be directed by American Beauty’s Sam Mendes and is expected to be a major hit at the box office. In this interview we ask about Road to Perdition, Ms. Tree and numerous other topics regarding his future.

 

Jamie: How long did it take you to research and write Road to Perdition?

Max Allen Collins: The research and writing was spread out over at least a four year period; this was because of the time it took the artist, Richard Piers Rayner, to turn out his precise, detailed artwork (often working from research materials I sent to him) (he’s in England).

 

Jamie: How much of Road to Perdition is true? Which parts did you have to fill in with your own assumptions?

Max Allen Collins: It’s mostly fiction. John and Connor Looney are real, and much of the material involving them has some basis in reality, including the Gabel shooting and Connor’s eventual death…and several lieutenants who felt betrayed by Looney. So the setting and historical underpinnings are fairly real — though Looney’s reign was more in the teens and ’20s — but the story of Michael O’Sullivan and his son is my invention.

 

Jamie: Did you at all contact Michael O’Sullivan while researching his father?

Max Allen Collins: He did not exist; I created him.

 

Jamie: Road to Perdition has a number of nifty lines like “God made Irishmen pale, but not as pale as those priests who came out after papa had unburdened his soul to them.” Where you thinking about a possible movie adaptation when writing?

Max Allen Collins: Thanks — a sort of quiet poetry emerged from the narrator’s distance from the story. As for thinking about the movies, no more than usual — but comics, as a visual medium, has ties to film. As Will Eisner has aptly pointed out, however, there are many differences between them.

 

Jamie: What is the current status of Road to Perdition? Does it have a publisher?

Max Allen Collins: ROAD TO PERDITION will be reprinted by DC in time for the movie’s release. The movie will probably have a limited late ’01 release to qualify for Oscars, then a wide one early in ’02.

 

Jamie: Did DC give you a reason when they didn’t resign the rights to the book back when they had the chance?

Max Allen Collins: They still have reprint rights. It’s just the other rights — movie, sequels, prequels, etc. — that I own. (Actually, Richard and I own the movie rights to ROAD.)

 

Jamie: What was your reaction when you learned that Sam Mendes and Tom Hanks wanted to do Road to Perdition as a movie?

Max Allen Collins: I said I would believe it when I saw it. Having been on the set, and met and talked to both Mendes and Hanks, I believe it now! And I’m thrilled.

 

Jamie: Were you at all involved in the making of the film?

Max Allen Collins: Not really. Visited the set, spoke frequently to Producer Dean Zanuck, and have written a novelization. The script is good — very faithful, though it compresses the material and it’s somewhat less action-driven.

 

Jamie: Does the success of the film concern you at all?

Max Allen Collins: I don’t quite know how to answer that. The bigger it is, the better my future — so, sure, it concerns me! If you mean, artistically, I am convinced this will be a quality picture.

 

Jamie: Do you lie awake at nights thinking about the possibilities of your future if the movie is a smash hit?

Max Allen Collins: Sleep?

 

Jamie: You’ve said in other interviews that you consider Road to Perdition your comic writing swan song. Has that changed?

Max Allen Collins: Possibly. DC has spoken to me about doing a major BATMAN project. I have been working solely on novels and screenplays, however; the moribund status of the industry — and my own disconnection from it, for several years — hasn’t sent me scurrying to comics publishers…or, frankly, vice versa. I thought I would get some calls from comics editors/publishers, after ROAD got this major movie deal…what could be bigger? The only editor who has called is Andy Helfer, who edited ROAD, God bless him.

 

Jamie: There has been a lot of talk lately about how the comic industry should move towards Graphic Novels and movie deals, although not exactly hand in hand. Road to Perdition is a success in both areas but it doesn’t get the praise it should within the comic industry. Does that disappoint you?

Max Allen Collins: That was largely why I walked away from comics. ROAD got almost no reviews, and did not receive an Eisner nomination. If I could do my best work, and get no notice whatsoever…well, it was a bitter pill. Many people followed the lead that Terry Beatty and I took with MS. TREE, and we’ve had zero recognition while lesser, trendier crap gets raves. My attitude was, “Screw them.” To some degree, frankly, it still is.

 

Jamie: Do you think Road to Perdition would have gotten more reviews/praise/nominations if DC promoted it better? I tend to wonder if the lack of response is directly related to the lack of marketing on DC’s part.

Max Allen Collins: DC did some limited promotion, but ROAD was the last of the Paradox Press slate of crime novels, and the others had not done well. So we were lucky to be published at all, and DC can’t be faulted much. Where they can be faulted is that some key high people at DC did not recognize the quality of the work; if they had, they would not only have promoted it, but would have matched the DreamWorks offer for movie rights (which they could have done).

What is truly annoying to me is how DC has ignored Richard and myself, and our work, when this is arguably the biggest comics movie ever…because they are apparently embarrassed to have let ROAD “get away.” If they promoted us, and bragged about a DC project being this big Hollywood deal, the people at Warner above them would ask embarrassing questions…like, why isn’t this a Warner Bros. movie?

 

Jamie: Do you think DC would have promoted it more if they had owned the work, lock, stock, and barrel like they do Batman?

Max Allen Collins: Undoubtedly. But I don’t think they knew what they had — at least one of the top people simply didn’t “get” it. (Let me say that Paul Levitz has been great to me and did in fact publish the book when others in his position might not have.)

 

Jamie: What’s the current situation with the rights to Ms. Tree. I know for a while it was published through DC. Do they still own the character?

Max Allen Collins: Terry Beatty and I own MS. TREE, and we would love to do something with her, after a several year lay-off (preferably a graphic novel). A TV option is about to run out. We’ll see.

 

Jamie: Any chance of putting out a TPB collecting your Ms. Tree work?

Max Allen Collins: Possible. We’re available if anybody’s interested. But I’m not sure where the negatives are. The early stuff we don’t have, and DC controls the rest. I would love to see the DC stuff gathered, as I feel it’s our best work.

 

Jamie: You work in a lot of different storytelling arenas, mainly prose novels, but also in film making and music. What can you do in comics that can’t be done in other forms of storytelling?

Max Allen Collins: That would require a book-length response that neither of us has time for. I would say, however, that one aspect is the manner in which comics fall between film and prose: film is an exterior medium — shows us the story from the outside — and prose is an interior medium — tells us the story from inside. Comics is the only form that can gracefully give us both the interior and exterior of a story (ROAD is a case in point). Words and music, in other words…or rather, music and words. As Eisner has pointed out, the manner in which images can be frozen, in effect…the emphasis and rhythm that is possible, a manipulation of image that is quite beyond film…makes comics a storytelling medium without peer. Unfortunately, for cultural reasons, Americans will never understand that.

We just lost Johnny Craig. Did any newspaper in America cover that?

 

Jamie: You’re best known for writing in the Crime genre, both novels and comics. Do you have any desire to work in other genres?

Max Allen Collins: I have always been attracted to suspense and crime — because of the inherent conflict. (All good stories have a conflict at their heart.) Most genres have these elements — I wrote the novelizations of WATERWORLD, a science-fiction story, and MAVERICK, a western, without even thinking much about the fact that they weren’t “mysteries.” I’ve written quite a bit of horror, for instance, because those same elements are there to attract me: suspense, conflict, crime. There are more mainstream subjects that interest me, too, but I would guess whatever tale I tell, suspenseful conflict…some kind of tension, fear, crime element…is going to be in there.

 

Jamie: Jim Steranko recently called right now the “Kervorkian Age of Comics” saying there is too much violence in comics, linking them to the recent terrorist attacks in NYC. He went as far as to call an upcoming comic called PRO a “Terrorist Comic.” As a writer who writes scenes of violence, what is your response to this?

Max Allen Collins: Well, it’s obviously hyperbole, and Steranko is if anything the master of the grand gesture. My view is a little different. What I don’t like about comics and much of popular culture in recent years is a sort of phony darkness — a juvenile, arch darkness. “Darkness” isn’t tattoos and piercings and discordant music — “darkness” is flying a fucking plane into a building…that’s true darkness, and it’s not terribly entertaining. I feel my work — ANGEL IN BLACK, the latest Heller for example — is more legitimately dark, or anyway noir, than most of this stuff. James Ellroy is the best example, of course…it’s so childishly dark; everybody’s a dog-raping child molester or something. Laughable.
What’s going to be interesting is seeing where popular culture goes. Hollywood is re-releasing fluff like LEGALLY BLONDE and shelving the new Arnold-kicks-terrorist-butt movie…but maybe Americans would like to see Arnold kick some terrorist butt. About now a Mike Hammer novel with a great over-the-top revenge ending might feel pretty good. But I’m relieved to be a historical novelist at the moment — the 20th Century seems like a much safer canvas right now.

 

Jamie: What are you working on now?

Max Allen Collins: I just finished the novelization of ROAD, but I’m having trouble with DreamWorks because the licensing person feels I’ve put in too much material not in the script. The fact that I created this story and these characters does not seem to sway this person. So that’s a small nightmare I’m wrestling with.

And I’m working on THE LUSITANIA MURDERS, another of my “disaster” novels. Then I do the movie tie-in for THE SCORPION KING. Before the end of the year you’ll see two other recent works: WINDTALKERS, a John Woo novelization, and the first CSI novel, DOUBLE DEALER.

Brian Hibbs Interview

Originally published September of 2001. The follow up part was published a month later. What was interesting about this interview is that not too long after it Brian Hibbs would sue Marvel Comics for their refusal to accept returns on late or significantly altered books, as per Marvel’s own legally binding Terms of Service said they would do. Marvel settled the case out of court by giving comic shops credit for those books, which retailers were very thankful of. Shortly after that Brian was one of the founding members of ComicsPro, a trade organization for direct market comic shops.

 

An Interview With Brian Hibbs

Brian Hibbs is a very active comic retailer who owns a comic store called Comix Experience in San Francisco. Lately, he has been responding to public comments by both Editor in Chief Joe Quesada and President of Marvel Publishing Bill Jemas. Recently, Bill Jemas had an interview with GrayHavenMagazine.com in which he gave a number of surprising answers to questions concerning how stores should display comics, the price of Marvel vs. DC books, how quickly Marvel books sell and the very controversial no-overprint policy. In this interview, Brian responds to some of those statements by Bill Jemas and also talks about other topics concerning the industry.

 

Jamie: Tell us about your experience in comics. How long have you been a retailer, what’s your store like and what else you do in the industry?

Brian Hibbs: Comix Experience has been around for 12 years now. Opened April Fools day in 1989, but I’ve worked in comic retail for 16 years, something like that. I worked in another store before I opened my own. I’ve also done a little work in distribution, the only thing I haven’t done is publishing, actually. What’s the store like? We’re primarily a bookstore oriented comic shop. Trade paperbacks and Graphic Novels are our focus. We’ve been nominated and won national and local awards for excellence, that kind of thing.

 

Jamie: What’s different from your store than typical comic stores, I understand you are different in how you rack things?

Brian Hibbs: Yeah, we do genre racking and things like that, but I don’t know what a “typical” comic shop really is. Even among the stores that I would consider my peers and who run excellent comic shops, I don’t think any of us do things the same ways or stock things the same ways. It’s one of the things I like about the comics business, actually.

 

Jamie: Variety eh?

Brian Hibbs: Yeah, exactly. We’re really focused on reading. I guess the biggest difference I can say between us and the “average” store, we simply don’t allow speculation of any kind. You’re not allowed to buy more than two copies of any comic from us unless you tell us in advance that you want it. We’re completely focused on reading. That’s why we’re trade paperback and graphic novel oriented because I tend to think that’s a superior format for the reader, rather than a collector.

 

Jamie: I understand you also have a column?

Brian Hibbs: Yeah I write a… well, it’s not a monthly column anymore. It was monthly for many years there, about 8 years, in Comics and Games Retailer Magazine published by Krause Publications (the people that do Comics Buyers Guide). And yeah, I’ve written a hundred and six of them so far, about a third of them are up on our website if your readers want to check them out.

 

Jamie: That’s at ComixExperience.com right?

Brian Hibbs: Right.

 

Jamie: Are you in touch with a lot of retailers around North America?

Brian Hibbs: Yeah I like to think so, at least (laughter). Most of them are my friends and then there’s also things like some Robert Scott’s Forum on Delphi, which is a message board just for comic retailers, every day. There’s lots of threads going on back and forth there.

 

Jamie: Okay, we’re going to come up to Bill Jemas here. One of the things he mentioned in that Grayhaven interview was that he never read a comic book prior to becoming President of Marvel Publishing. Do you think that is a good or a bad thing?

Brian Hibbs: I tend to think it’s probably a bad thing. Comics is a very idiosyncratic business. We’re not like virtually any other business you can name. The things that work well in the comics field wouldn’t work well in other fields. I talk to a lot of other retailers who aren’t comic retailers and I tell them some of the ways our business works and they go “WhuuuHuh?” (laughter). They don’t get it, you know? But on the other side, I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with having an outsider’s perspective as long as you’re perceptive to the way the business actually works. Jemas, I understand, comes from Sports Cards and my perception has been that he is doing any number of steps that are appropriate for the sports card business but I don’t believe are very appropriate at all for the comic book business.

 

Jamie: One other comment that Jemas made was, “The simple fact is that the vast majority of retailers are doing very well with Marvel and are pleased with our current policies.” Do you agree with this?

Brian Hibbs: I would agree with the former part of the statement, I would very strongly disagree with the latter part. Certainly the retailers I speak to, I’d say only a third or less of them are “pleased” with the policies. Yeah sure, we’re selling more Marvel Comics but that’s a function of the fact that Marvel Comics are good and readable right now, not lack of stock availability. There was a long, long, long period…10 years…when they were just horrible tripe that nobody wanted (laughter). And now they’ve got really good creative teams on them, strong editorial directions. Of course the sales are going to be up in that context, but that doesn’t mean the policies to sell those comics to the retailers are necessarily wise or smart ones.

 

Jamie: Something else Jemas pointed out was that he thought the industry’s problems mainly stemmed from bad books. Do you think it was just bad books that hurt the industry for all those years?

Brian Hibbs: No, not at all. There’s bad books, bad stores, escalating price points, late shipping, inconsistent creators — all of these things play into it equally, I think. I don’t think you really can go, “Oh, it’s just bad comics.” Certainly looking at the sales charts, quality is not always a one-to-one relationship to sales. I’m sure you and I can both name any number of books that are excellent, superb comic books that just don’t sell very well in the average comic shop. I think that a lot of the problem is that most of the retailers do not appear to be stocking the wide range of material that would appeal to a wide range of people. They tend to focus primarily on the collectors and superhero completists. That’s certainly how this business, the direct market, evolved. I would tend to think bad stores are just as equal in the equation as bad content.

The real problem with the comics industry, as it stands at this moment, is there are simply not enough venues for you to buy comics in. There’s what? Three and a half thousand comic shops across this whole country? That’s really not very many at all, and more than that, the majority of them are concentrated in the big cities. There’s whole stretches of the country where you can go a hundred miles and there’s not a comic shop anywhere. Certainly there would be people interested in reading comics in those markets that aren’t being properly served. Even worse though, and this is going to sound a little arrogant and one thing I don’t like about interviews is you can’t see that I’m smiling when I say this, but about a year ago I did a tour of all the stores in San Francisco and went around looking at each one. I was looking for ideas mostly cause good retailers always learn from each other. But I realized that I don’t really have any “competition” in comic shops around San Francisco. Most of the stores here sell DC, Marvel and Image and that’s that, and that’s all they sell. They are much more focused on collectors only, and the stores remain small I believe because of that. Nobody in San Francisco has anywhere near the trade paperback selection that we do, except for Virgin. They’re the only ones that I would call my “competition” and they’re a media store or whatever. You don’t think of them as a place to go buy comic books, necessarily.

So I think the largest part of the problem is that there’s not enough good quality retailers out there. If someone does have an interest in comics that’s spurred by a movie or something else outside of comics, they’re probably not going to find what they want, in an environment that they want to shop in, because the direct market simply doesn’t have enough stores to give that to them. Outside of the direct market, you’re getting more and more venues that are beginning to carry graphic novels and trades, presented in a way that will appeal to people who aren’t interested in walking into a comic book shop every seven days to see what’s new that week. But again, I still think that it’s difficult if you’re a potential new consumer to just find a place to buy comics. When I was a kid growing up in New York, every little corner store had a rack of comics. That’s how I got into comics and everybody I know got into comics. We’ve lost the feeder mechanism to bring people into the marketplace, which is just a terrible shame.

 

Jamie: What sort of feeder mechanism should replace the one that we lost?

Brian Hibbs: Well, I think one of the problems is there is not enough of an incentive for new people to be opening comic shops. We also need the newsstands, there’s no doubt about it. In fact, I would be happy if newsstands went back to being 80-90% of comic sales, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing at all. I don’t know that’s going to happen because the amount of money a non-comics store can make off comics, seems to be generally limited in terms of periodicals. In terms of the perennial, the paperback, I mean obviously every bookstore in America should be carrying comics, some have done very, very well with them. In terms of the direct market, the main thing is to provide more incentives and a better business climate to which to show new entrepreneurs that it is possible to actually make money, to be successful selling comic books. I easily think we could double the number of comic book shops in this country and we wouldn’t even come close to meeting the demand that’s out there. And I think unfortunately, a lot of mechanisms in this business are really not geared towards making retailers any money. I do pretty well running a comic book shop, I’m not rich or anything. I don’t think there is a rich comic book retailer in this country (laughter). But certainly, if people are willing to work hard and really have a passion and desire for the form, it’s a business I would absolutely encourage people to jump into.

 

Jamie: Bill Jemas thinks that the most successful comic shops are the ones that carry the most Marvel Comics. Do you agree?

Brian Hibbs: Well, pretty clearly not (laughter).

 

Jamie: No?

Brian Hibbs: As far as I am aware, as of my last conversation with Diamond on the subject, I am the largest single comic account in San Francisco. San Francisco is one of the largest markets for comics in the country, and Marvel is a fairly low proportion of my business. Marvel is certainly an important publisher, is certainly a publisher that you shouldn’t go, “Agghh… I don’t want this,” but to say that you can not be successful, which is certainly the implication there, without Marvel Comics, is an utter fallacy.

 

Jamie: What do you think the most successful comic shops carry, then?

Brian Hibbs: The most successful comic shops carry a wide and diverse range of material that appeals to both their regular ongoing customers, and to civilians as well. Regardless of who publishes that material.

 

Jamie: Okay. Here is another quote from Bill Jemas from the same interview. It says, “On average, Marvel Comics sell more than twice as fast as a DC book and nearly 3 times as fast as an Image book and – are you ready – Over 10 times faster than the average indy book.” Has this been true in your experience?

Brian Hibbs: No, and I don’t even know where those numbers come from. I saw that and tried to figure out exactly what he was talking about. I think he was talking about average print runs. The problem is, when you’re looking at average print runs in the direct market, what is reported is initial orders only. For example, he said “twice a DC book.” Yeah, that’s probably true if you count all the newsstand-oriented comics DC does. Like the children books, which sell you know, ten thousand or less copies in the direct market because they’re not really geared to the direct market, they’re geared outside the direct market. So you’re really comparing apples and oranges in that case. Certainly in my experience if you believe in a book as a retailer and you are honest and straightforward with your customers, the customers could not care less who publishes that comic book. It makes no difference whatsoever, you know? Do they say, “I want to see a movie tonight and I’m going to see a Warner Brothers movie?” No, they go see a movie they want to see, with stars they want to see in it, by directors they enjoy or possibly even the screen writer that they think is a good one. That… it’s just a silly statement on so many levels I don’t even know exactly how to address it (laughter). I can say that yeah, it doesn’t come out very often, but a book like Eightball we sell probably 2:1, 3:1 on our average Marvel Comic sale. But again, that’s not really comparing apples to apples which is the problem of doing comparative analysis in such a flippant manner.

 

Jamie: Regarding Marvels no-overprinting policy. They say it saves them money and helps the comic industry in a number of ways. I take it you disagree with this?

Brian Hibbs: Well, I don’t know if I disagree with whether it saves them money or not because I don’t have access to their accounting, but I don’t think it serves the comic industry in any particular way at all, no. The direct market was primarily based originally around back issues. The average comic shop had a difficult time getting new comics and it was primarily selling old back issue comics. Most retailers would stock specifically for back issues. In the store I worked at before opening Comix Experience, we would order another case for the warehouse on certain books. Because we knew over time we’d sell them, that just made financial sense. Now of course, comics were only 75 cents then so our unit costs were, oh 35 cents, something like that. So you can stock a whole lot more in that case when the unit costs were so low and the majority of your business is based around the back stock. But that changed. The market completely changed as prices went higher, people stopped buying back issues by-and- large. Or at least they stopped casually buying back issues. It used to be that someone would come into my store with 5 dollars and they spent 3 dollars on new comics, getting a few new comics or whatever, then they’d have 2 bucks left and they’d spend that on back issues, just to fill out a run. As prices escalated, that same 5 dollars only bought you one or two new comic books and people could no longer afford to keep up on all the new books that they wanted, let alone buying any back issues.

So, the tenor of ordering properly meant that the retailer had to become much more conservative in their ordering because there isn’t an automatic pipeline anymore to sell those comics that come off the stands. What I found over the last 6 or 7 years, lets say, if I do not sell the average comic book in the first 30 to 90 days, it does not sell. If I order 20 copies of something and I only sell 18 of them, I will probably not sell the remaining two copies any time in the near future. It may take 3 or 4 or 5 years. So when you look at the business from that point of view, from a historical here-is-where-we-came-from-and-why-are-circulation- numbers-dropping-so-much POV it suddenly doesn’t make any sense for a comic book retailer buying non-returnably to over-stock their store. Certainly an awful lot of stores went out of business in the 90’s because they were drowning in overstock. Some of the best stores in the country nearly went out of the business during the 90’s because their inventory went out of control. Thankfully, these guys figured it out and have reduced their extreme exposure. A no-overprint situation means all the burden is put on ordering and selling that book up-front the first time, even if you don’t have any appropriate information to do so.

I’ll give you an example. Prior to the relaunch with Grant Morrison on X-Men we hadn’t sold, um… lets say 70 copies, max, of any issue of X-Men in like the 5 year period proceeding that. On a Grant Morrison book, I’m pretty sure we never sold more than a 100 copies at any point. Same thing with a Frank Quietly book. So I looked at that, thought, “This book is going to be big and I’m going to order… what the hell, I’m going to order 125 copies, let’s do it.” That, I think, is showing confidence in it. And I sold out of those in two days. Now, I probably could have sold 200, I could have sold 250, I could have sold 300 copies. Who knows? But because there weren’t any re-orders available, I wasn’t able to find out and customers went without that comic book. Now I more than doubled what the previous month of X-Men was and I sold out in two days. I couldn’t get any more. I don’t see how that can be a good policy, by any means.

I suppose Jemas would argue the reason that I sold out so fast was because people thought it would be short printed or something, but I certainly don’t think so. This is certainly not information that we’ve been making a big push of in our store. I think it was just the right book at the right time. But it under-performed to what it could do. You look at something like Green Arrow where we again ordered very strong, we sold out instantly, we called up and DC had some more for us. And when they ran out of those they went and printed up some more…and they printed some more…and they printed some more a fourth time. Green Arrow is my best selling DC comic right now, at least superhero-wise. And that’s precisely because I could keep going back and getting more copies, and more copies, and more copies each time. And of course I learned to increase my order the next time. Going back to X-Men, I saw how fast the first one sold out and I put in an advance re-order for the second one and took it up to 200 copies. The book finally comes in, it’s 5 weeks late, which doesn’t help anything and I sold 125 copies. I got 75 copies sitting there that I’m not going to sell anytime soon. I just took a bath on that book. I just lost money on the second issue of X-Men because I couldn’t get any more of the first one! When you look at it in those terms, I don’t see how I’m not doing everything exactly as I’m supposed to. I’m showing, in fact, statistically more support for a publisher, Marvel Comics, than the average quote, unquote comic shop. The average comic shop went up by about 40% and I went up a 100%. I think that gives me a bit of justification in saying that no, this is not a good policy. You cost yourself sales, you cost me sales, you cost Grant Morrison, you cost the distributors money, I don’t see how anybody is going to be happy with that situation.
The thing is, overprinting isn’t as expensive as Bill would like people to believe.

 

Jamie: Or Joe Quesada?

Brian Hibbs: Well, with him too, I guess.

 

Jamie: I know you had a public back and forth with him on Newsarama about this as well.

Brian Hibbs: Absolutely. The thing is, that when you do an analysis of what it costs you to print a comic book, your initial costs are amortized against your initial print run. So if it costs you X dollars to print, X dollars for talent, and X dollars to ship it out, X dollars for the retailers, then your profit or loss comes out of your initial orders. To flip the switch and have the printers run off another 5,000 copies is costing virtually nothing, it’s costing them 10 or 15 cents a book. You don’t amortize the entire cost back against the increased print run, you see what I’m saying? In other words, instead of costing me $3,000 to print 10,000 copies, if I print 11,000 it’s costing me $3,100. There is a hundred dollar difference there, for the “extra” 1000 copies. It costs you far less to print the “extras” than it does to print the initial run.

So, from any point of view, running an overprint is a very economical and profitable thing. The last statistic I saw from several different publishers was that they only had to sell 1 out of 5 of those overprinted copies to make a profit. As long as you sell 20% of it that’s okay, you can throw the other 80% of it away and you still made more money than you would have made otherwise. So, I definitely don’t think it’s a good plan at all.

 

Jamie: I noticed in the memo that Marvel sent to retailers regarding the no-overprint policy, they mentioned that some of the books found their way into the black market. Did you ever have a problem with that?

Brian Hibbs: No, I haven’t. I seem to think that is much more of an east coast thing because they print them up there, right in Montreal. Right close to the border. And that’s where copies are going through. I know there is… I don’t want to say which retailer it is… but there is one retailer in Montreal who says it was and sometimes continues to be, a massive problem for them. Boxes falling off the truck, or whatever. But I don’t see that as an issue with overprinting per se, certainly the same thing can happen even if you’re not overprinting.

 

Jamie: More of a security issue.

Brian Hibbs: Exactly.

 

Jamie: There are several other things they said in that memo that I know you disagreed with in the past, I guess I’ll get you to comment on them publicly. They say they kept their prices at $2.25 while DC raised them to $2.50.

Brian Hibbs: Well, that’s demonstrably not so. At the time when they made that statement, if you went in and compared Marvel’s list of comics vs. DC’s list of comics, most of DC’s books were still $2.25. DC has any number of $1.99 books to try and act as feeder books. I mean mathematically, at the time, it was not so. But still Marvel prices a lot of books at $2.99 and $2.50 constantly. So I don’t know… I mean… statements like that makes me wonder about the press sometimes, that they just run a statement like that without even going and checking if it was true or not (laughter). When someone makes a statement you should go and fact- check it, before you print it as fact y’know? But that’s just me, I suppose.

 

Jamie: Marvel says as a result of their no overprint policy, they’ve been able to build an inventory of trade paper backs and keep them in print. But I’ve heard Marvel has been having some troubles keeping trade paper backs in print.

Brian Hibbs: Yes, Marvel has been pretty damn bad about keeping trade paperbacks in print. But again, you have to look at the right way of doing the business model on this. You don’t just print for your initial orders and plus an overage to cover for the next couple of months. It doesn’t make any sense to do that. It makes a lot more sense to print a 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 year supply of the books because your unit costs are going to be that much lower. If you go back to press on another 3 to 5 thousand copies or whatever those numbers they are printing on, it costs you so much more than if you increase your print run to 10 to 15 thousand, if you see what I mean. It doesn’t make any mathematical sense. Now, if the argument is by not overprinting single comics then we can afford to print more trade paperbacks, that seems to me to be a fallacious argument on the face of it. Look at the disparity of the cover prices on those. As I say, when it costs oh.. lets say 15 cents to print off an extra copy of a periodical comic book on a 15 dollar paperback you’re looking more at a 2 to 3 dollar cost, lets say. My numbers may be a little off there but you would have to be overprinting by a really, really, really enormous margin to even come close to the math on that working out. Again, the problem is that Marvel has been doing a pretty bad job of keeping trade paperbacks in print, in stock and available. I mean, right now you can’t buy Marvels, the Kurt Busiek-Alex Ross book. That, if anything, is a perfect thing to hand to someone that hasn’t read comics in a long time, and to get them excited about superheroes and Marvel superheroes, in particular. It’s the namesake book of the line and it hasn’t been in print for something like 4 or 5 months! That, to me, is just absurd (laughter).

 

Jamie: A number of people think the no-overprint policy is mainly designed to enhance the collectability of a sold out comic. Does this help you at all?

Brian Hibbs: I don’t think it helps anyone, really. Look, comics are collectible because of supply and demand. Placing an artificial ceiling on the supply is… well, I think it is manipulative to the marketplace. I was always taught that the market itself should decide what is collectible and what is not.

Why would a publisher be in the business of trying to manufacture collectibles? They don’t see any money from that. Marvel doesn’t get a piece of E-Bay action. If the logic is, “This makes the initial orders higher”, well, I really challenge that. Morrison’s first issue of X- Men took a 40% leap (though the numbers went back down by the third one to only 20% above pre-Morrison numbers). I see that more of a function of the talent involved, rather than any false limitation of the print run. Besides, if it really was working then why are the Ultimates all down, across the board, from April to August? Spidey dropped 4%, X- Men 6% and Team-Up a staggering 22%. That wouldn’t be happening if they were truly collectible.

One other thing to take into account, is that Marvel’s plan seems to be to TPB their best-selling books as soon as humanly possible. Often before 30 days has passed since the last single issue. Now historically, TPB release of material deflates and softens the collectible value of the original issues.

 

Jamie: They also mention posting sold out comics on their webpage as a positive thing, do you think that’s good?

Brian Hibbs: Sure, why not? I don’t know that I believe that the experience of reading a comic on the web, especially one with the kind of pop- up pages the Marvels have, is even remotely the same as reading a printed comic, but anything that exposes our material to potential new customers is probably a good thing.

What I’m curious about is whether or not it actually helps drive sales. Like how many hits they get, and if they can point to any information that it is actually moving more units. Reading the sales charts, no, I don’t think it does. At least in no measurable way.

 

Jamie: Marvel has also been focusing on movies, hoping that they’ll increase the sales of their comics. In your experience, does comic movies help the sales of comic books?

Brian Hibbs: Virtually never, outside of a quick aberrational blip. What it can possibly do is translate to a greater awareness of a character or a concept in general… but it doesn’t appear to sell any more comic books. A quick look at the historical sales charts will confirm that.

There are certain exceptions, of course: Ghost World has had a significant impact on sales of that TPB. Our unit sales in that case have increased tenfold over what they were before the film. But that’s a rare exception.

 

Jamie: Bill Jemas seems real big on promoting the Ultimate, especially Ultimate Spider-Man as a good starting on point for new comic readers.

Brian Hibbs: It is a reasonable one. The story is well crafted, clear and easy to follow, and gives a good starting point for someone interested in super-hero comics. The thing is, the average non-comics reader isn’t particularly interested in reading super-hero comics. You’re much better off handing them a Ghost World, or a Maus, something that more accurately speaks to real experiences in their lives. Having said that, sure, I could think of far worse “entry points.”

 

Jamie: Including female readers?

Brian Hibbs: People are people, regardless of their sex. All things considered though, I’d hand a new female reader Ghost World, I think, over Spider-Man. The only real female roles in Spidey are “wife” and “girlfriend.”

 

Jamie: Jemas recommends Marvel-hating indy fans to read Elektra as a date comic. Think that’ll work?

Brian Hibbs: I’m not sure that Elektra is even remotely “indy flavored” (whatever that might mean). It is a decent enough comic, but within the Marvel line, I think I’d give an “indy fan” Morrison’s X-Men, or maybe X-Force by Milligan and Allred. Those seem to me, to be closer to that sensibility.

One thing though, and this is coming from a store where we sell as many “indy” comics as we do “mainstream”… the customers aren’t really that separate. It is very, very, very common for the cat who buys JLA or X-Men to also pick up a copy of Peepshow or Eightball or whatever.

 

Jamie: What books would you recommend as beginner books for males and females?

Brian Hibbs: More things than I could cover in an interview! I’d say it depends on who exactly that customer is. One of the tricks you learn in retail is finding out what a person’s interests are, and then matching a book to that. Comics are wide and diverse enough that I’m pretty confident I have something for anyone who walks in the door. Our massive and continued growth, strikingly above industry norms, should justify that statement.

 

Jamie: Marvel has recently announced an incentive for their TPB line. Saying, if retailers order 14 of their 16 TPB, you’ll get an additional discount going by the amount of books you order. An example being if you order two of each, you get an extra 2% discount. Is this an incentive that most retailers can actually use?

Brian Hibbs: Sure, I think so. The nice thing about this plan is they’ve set their quantities fairly low. That extra 2% comes with only 2 copies bought, and that is, I think, a good tool to use to get the average store to actually stock TPBs in the first place. The only problem with the plan is that they’re mixing in reprints of OP titles into that mix… a few of which had a low enough sales velocity in the first place to go Out of Print.

But anything that encourages more retailers to get into the book side of things is, I think, a very fine idea. TPB sales are the engine that is driving my business, and are a much better business model than non-returnable periodical comics. The reason for this is Just-In- Time ordering. Rather than investing real heavily on untested “floppy” comics, you can stock and restock the periodical. Well, assuming the publisher actually has them available, that is.

When you’re establishing yourself and sell two copies of Watchmen every month, when you sell one of those copies you can order another one. You’re only out of anything for a week, at maximum, at any time and your constantly turning over your cash flow in a real respectful way. This is a good business model.

 

Jamie: Now there were some things that Jemas said that seem to be positive, progressive things like he thinks comics stores should be racking by content rather than alphabetically.

Brian Hibbs: Oh absolutely. We’ve done that for years. Now having said that, some of the smartest retailers in the business vehemently disagree with that. I know Jim Hanley really strongly believes he gets much, much, much more great sales out of racking alphabetically. And I believe that’s true for Jim. As I was saying earlier in the interview, no two stores are really alike. I believe that genre racking is getting me increased sales over what alphabetical racking would. Jim feels differently, more power to him. But yeah, I’m definitely with Jemas on that one. I think that’s a good and smart way to rack material.
[Note: Jim Hanley owns Jim Hanley’s Universe at 4 West 33rd Street, New York, NY]

[Jim Hanley’s store is now called JHU Comic Books and has since moved to 32 East 32nd Street, New York, NY]

Jamie: Bill mentioned Marvel is trying to get new readers by giving away free online comics and giving away free samples. Examples given are the 500,000 Spider-Man comics within a game magazine, free Wolverine and X-Men Comics when the X-Men Movie came out, and in the future the 1 million Spider-Man comics going out through the Buster Brown Shoe Stores.

Brian Hibbs: Well, it’s been in the future for over a year now, so I don’t know (laughter) how much I trust that last one there. I think giving out comics is probably the smartest thing you could possibly do. Having said that, I have never, not once ever, seen anyone come into my store because of the giveaways that Marvel has done. I don’t know if… this is entirely possible that it’s just a regional thing. I do not believe that they gave out any X-Men comics at any San Francisco showing of the X-Men. I mean, I was there opening day and I didn’t see any comics being given away. I’m sure it’s happening somewhere, and I think it’s a great plan, again I think it’s a really intelligent and smart thing to do. The best way is, you know, “The first one’s free, kid,” particularly if the content of what you’re giving away is good quality content. That’s why I think giving away Ultimate Spider-Man would be a really smart thing to do. Giving away some bad X-Men comics could actually hurt you at that point. If someone comes out and says, “That was a great movie, what’s this free comic? Ewww… it’s not very good at all.” I don’t know if you remember the TV Guide X-Men insert?

 

Jamie: Yeah, I don’t think I got it, but I heard about it.

Brian Hibbs: Yeah, it was really, really, really bad. It was everything that was wrong with the Chris Claremont X-Men. Just page after page of people coming in and saying, “My name is this and here is my power!” and you know it wasn’t interesting at all. I’m sure that turned more people off from comics than it could ever have gotten them to come into a store and say, “Hey, this is interesting, lets check this out.” So you have to be very careful when giving stuff away for free (laughter). To make sure it’s good, quality, appropriate material.

Here’s the thing though: if you’re doing these sort of giveaways… shouldn’t you be informing the local retailers so they can capitalize upon it? If they did giveaway X-Men comics at the X-Men movie, I sure didn’t know about it.

 

Jamie: Marvel says their goal over the next 5 years is to double their sales. Do you think they can do that?

Brian Hibbs: Yeah, sure. Sure. I mean, I don’t think they can do it as long as they have a policy in place that’s says once we sell out that’s it, period. You know? (laughter). I don’t think that’s going to happen until they remove the no overprint program. I don’t think it can happen. But otherwise? It’s completely doable, completely doable. It’s just a matter of putting out good comics, supporting the stores, letting people know that the comics exist, getting people excited about the content of the material. Yeah, Marvel’s got no where to go but up right now and I think that’s a good thing. What’s interesting particularly in my exchanges with Joe Quesada, we had a bunch of e-mails back and forth and I was really struck with the impression that they seem to think I’m like anti-Marvel or something. And nothing could be further than the truth, I want Marvel to succeed, you know? I want as many good quality publishers producing good, quality material out there doing as many strong things as they possibly can, in my store. But, I don’t like being called an idiot. I don’t like being told I’m full of self-loathing. I don’t like a policy that is very demonstrably costing me sales. All those things are very negative and horrible things and when I stand up and go, “Hey this is wrong” it’s from that point of view. Not because I hate Marvel or I’m anti-Marvel or something like that. That would be silly, I’m a comic book retailer, it’s my job to sell comic books. When the publisher gets in my way of selling those comic books, then we’re going to have a problem.

 

Jamie: Just out of curiosity, what’s your IQ score?

Brian Hibbs: What’s my IQ score?

 

Jamie: (laughter)

Brian Hibbs: I don’t remember. When I took the IQ test I was like 13, or something like that? But I qualified for Mensa, if that counts? But I don’t know, I don’t care. IQ numbers?

 

Jamie: Sorry, that was just a question I had to ask (laughter).

Brian Hibbs: That was a very ill considered statement on Bill’s part. And I think he made it much worse by issuing the second press release saying, “Yeah, I’m fooling around but oh, by the way, you’re still idiots.” You know, that’s how I read it. I didn’t want to read it that way but that’s… you know, here we are… comic shop retailers work really, really, really, really hard and we don’t make very much money. Not that we’re poor or anything like that, but then to have a some guy go, “Well if you don’t agree with me, than you’re a dope.” You know? Pfft. That doesn’t help anything. That doesn’t help morale. And particularly coming out after getting through the 90’s, morale is an issue that… if I were a publisher, morale would be an issue I would be very, very concerned with. I wouldn’t want you retailers going, “I don’t know if this guy is someone I want to do business with.” It’s just dumb.

 

Jamie: I understand that Marvel recently had another retailer press conference, one that you suggested to Joe Quesada at San Diego. Within this, they openly admitted that they only invited retailers that had the strongest growth of Marvel sales and they left you out of it. How does that color your view of them?

Brian Hibbs: Well, I don’t know the specifics of the statements that Bill or Joe or whoever made at the conference call, so I don’t know what their standard was. I will say though, that their most vocal critics like me, like Joe Field, like Matt Lehman, who were invited to the first retailer conference, were not invited to this one. How does that color my perception? I don’t know, I think it makes them cowardly, is what I think it does. I think that if you can’t have an intelligent conversation about a policy, particularly now that we’ve had some time behind us and we can start to judge if that policy has or has not worked.
I would point out that the SCC filings that Marvel just made as of last Tuesday (from when we are doing this interview) show that from quarter to quarter, from 2000 to 2001 that Marvel Publishing sales have gone down. They haven’t gone up, they’ve gone down.
I would point to the very sales charts from April to August, that every single one of those months, the vast majority of Marvel Comics have dropped in sales from month to month. Nineteen of the twenty-five books that are on all four month’s worth of sales charts have dropped. To me, this says, “Well, this policy isn’t really working is it?” Yeah, absolutely, X-Men has gone up 25%, or whatever and that is a great thing, that is a wonderful thing for them. But Avengers has dropped by 6% and Daredevil dropped by 15% and Tangled Web dropped by 32%. So, I think at this point you should be willing, as a publisher, to look at what the actual impact is. As opposed to what you believe, or what you want to have happen. I think it’s really important to look at those things critically. The smart publishers and the smart distributors (well, which is pretty much Diamond at this point but…) have come to realize that critical thought is a good thing and something that should be embraced. That if we go to them, me and any number of retailers go, “We don’t think it’s a good idea,” they’ll go, “Okay. We’re going to think about it again. We’re going to actually look at this carefully and ask ourselves, “does our plan make sense or does our plan not make sense?” If we still think it makes sense as a publisher than let us go back to the retailers and go “Here’s really why we think it’s making sense and here’s some tangible, provable things that we can point to.” Marvel doesn’t have any of that right now as far as I can tell, besides just blind rah-rah. “No-No, it’s working. Look, X-Mens up!” (laughter)

To me that doesn’t tell the whole story, that tells a very small part of the story. How much would X-Men be up if we could keep going back to the well and keep getting more copies? Frankly, I think X-Men could have done 200,000 copies rather than the 150,000 or so that it did. I really do, I really believe strongly that it could have done 200,000 copies. But we’ll never know now. And if I were a creator, I’d be really upset about that. you know? “Wait a minute, what do you mean? There’s people who want my comic and you won’t sell it to them?” (laughter). That’s silly. So, to sorta back up there, I think it is extremely short sighted to only invite people to a conference call that are there to, let us say, be “positive.” Unflinchingly so. I think it’s always a good thing to have dissenting voices and to listen to them carefully and pay attention to what they have to say. I would love it, I would adore it in fact, if Joe or Bill came into my store, walked around and went “Y’know, we think if you did this, your store would be a better place.” And I would listen to that. I listen every time anybody comes into my store and says, “You know, I don’t think this is right, I think you should do this.” I look at it, I evaluate it, I think about it and most of the time I actually end up trying people’s suggestions. You know, that’s how you get better. You don’t get better by going “Oh, you can’t come because you’re a big meany.”

 

Jamie: At the same conference call with a number of your peers, Bill Jemas referred to you as “Hairy Neck” and kept calling Joe Field’s Flying Colors store “Failing Colors.” How do you respond to something like that?

Brian Hibbs: I’m not sure, honestly. I think it is incredibly juvenile to resort to name-calling, particularly in front of a group of peers. Several of the people involved as participants called me to tell me how ashamed they felt hearing that. I don’t think it is good business to insult your customers.

 

Jamie: Switching topics a bit here, I understand there is a weekly War Machine Comic that’s coming out, part of the experimentation that Marvel is doing. And because of it being weekly it’s very hard for retailers to order it in proper numbers. Can you explain to the readers why that is?

Brian Hibbs: Okay, because we’re basically ordering sight unseen and we’ll probably end up ordering all 12 issues before the first issue even ships. Now this is assuming it ships on time. I’d like to believe that if they’re doing weekly comics they can do them on time. But Marvel has been very, very, very bad on timely shipping recently. When you order a comic you’re… if you’re a good retailer, you keep up to date on what you sell of your comics. So, let’s say for War Machine, I’m going to look at it and go this is going to sell relatively in some sort of proportion, be it up or down or in the middle of, lets say, Iron Man. That gives me a good benchmark to work from. But War Machine is black and white. But it’s weekly, it doesn’t have any of the same creators that Iron Man has, it is a character that has failed in his own series in the past and that people didn’t appear to like very much. So, you look at that and you’re going, “Well, do I order 50% of Iron Man? Do I order 70%? or do I order 110%?” There is no way to know. We’re guessing. Every time a comic book retailer places an order they are basically guessing. They’re educated guesses to be sure, we have data we can look back at. I can show you in cycle sheets where books just take sudden shifts whether it’s up or whether it’s down for no reason. It’s the exact same creator team from month to month, there is nothing that changed about the book, not a character has changed or anything like that, and all of a sudden a third of the customers go, “I don’t want this anymore,” all at once (laughter). And there is just no way to predict these things. Ordering comics is not a science, it’s an art. It’s like trying to see the future. What are my customers going to want 3 months from now? And it’s much, much worse in the case of a weekly book because there are so many issues you have to order in advance. Now, a normal comic book, if we’re lucky, we only have to order maybe two, maybe three issues in advance before the first one comes and we can actually see whether it sold or not. In this case, we’re basically going to have to order all of them. If not, it’s all but 3 and even then you can’t really tell from issue #1 what a series is going to sell for issue #12. You can sorta tell, but not really. I don’t know, is that making sense? I never know how to answer these questions, because for me, comics retailing is so ingrained that do it without thinking.

 

Jamie: I think you explained it as best you could, I understand it.

Brian Hibbs: Okay. Well, if you understand it, hopefully your readers will.

 

Jamie: I know some retailers have been little squeamish on selling some of Marvels non-code approved books to kids. An example being the eyeless Wolverine issue. What are your feelings on that?

Brian Hibbs: I think in an awful lot of communities, retailers really, really, really, really need to be squeamish about doing those kinds of things. Because community standards are the important issue when it comes to the acceptability of selling a book. I am blessed, well not blessed because I’ve very specifically opened my store here, but I’m blessed by being in San Francisco. Not only in San Francisco, but in an extremely liberal part of San Francisco. So those are not particular concerns that I have. But yeah, I would be very concerned if I was in a more conservative area with having that comic or any number of things that have been announced or have come out. Because if just one wrong person sees it, you can lose your store. It’s entirely possible. Just look at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and look at all the retailers that have gone to jail, or who have lost their store or lost thousands of dollars fighting conservative forces. In something that is especially perceived as children’s entertainment by the vast majority of America, IE. Superhero comics, I think that becomes an even bigger issue to be aware of. I would not consciously sell that issue of X-Force or that issue of Wolverine with the eyeball to a child. I wouldn’t do it and I’m in San Francisco. How much worse it must be if your in, I don’t know, Iowa or something like that? Something else of note is that I used to be on the board of directors for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. And at no point was Marvel ever interested in supporting the CBLDF or what it stood for. At the time their reasoning was something very close to, “Well you know, we just don’t produce comics like that.” And now they are producing comics like that and I will be very curious to see if a store does get arrested for selling some of this material, what Marvel will do. I’ll be very curious indeed.

 

Jamie: I wonder if some of this comes from our own ideas of what kids should and shouldn’t be seeing vs. what Network TV keeps showing. Some think we should just follow their lead and just think if they’re doing it, we can do it too.

Brian Hibbs: Well, yeah, maybe. I don’t know I really want to wade into the censorship issue or the appropriateness issue because frankly, I think that’s a decision the parents have to make. The parents need to decide what they are comfortable with their children viewing. In something like that first issue of X-Force, which was an excellent comic by the way, I really liked that comic a lot… but you know, it’s got a character that’s ripped apart by a machine gun and his guts are leaking out of his body. I mean, it’s shown and it’s very visual and I don’t think you’d even see that on Network Television. I think it was really irresponsible, particularly in a comic which had been completely and utterly safe for children for 115, or whatever, previous issues, to sudden have massive eviscerations (laughter). But I really think it’s… I don’t really have a problem with Marvel having their own rating system as long as it’s consistently and consciously applied. I don’t know that it is and that’s my big concern. As far as I understand from reading their press release on it, if I recall correctly the Ultimate Marvel line was supposed to be G rated comics, as it were. And I think there are things in there that are probably not G rated and aren’t being thought about. Things like the Kingpin crushing some guy’s head. Yeah okay, it happens off panel but if I recall correctly there’s a spurt of blood. You know, you feel it and I personally wouldn’t go, “Well, that’s a G rated thing”. Again I’m in liberal San Francisco, so I don’t have to worry about these kinds of things, thank God (laughter).

Hibbs Interview Responses:
Last months interview with Brian Hibbs got a lot of traffic and reactions around the web. We decided to follow up on it by asking for responses by those involved. First we made the offer to Bill Jemas as he was the most talked about person in the interview.

Bill Jemas responded with:
By the way Brian Hibbs is just Paul Levitz spokesmodel – so you could go ahead and attribute his opinions directly to the Sultan.

We talked to Paul Levitz and he replied with No Comment.

Brian Hibbs replied with:
Why do I have this horrible thought of me wearing pearls and high heels, and doing that Vanna White hand-gesture thing?
Geez, I could have lived without that image in my brain!
‘Spokesmodel’? Can’t the man even insult correctly? First ‘hairy neck’ (huh?), now this!
Anyway I have to assume that it is only since Mr Jemas took over Marvel Comics, that he started reading Comics and Games Retailer, where my opinion column Tilting at Windmills runs.

If he had read the column prior to that, he would see that I have strongly criticized the policies of all and any companies (including, yah, DC Comics) that work against the best interest of comic book retailers. And, of course, when DC does dumb things in the future (and they will, such is the nature of things), I’ll be there to discuss their mistakes with my readers.

And, of course, as the older columns continue to go up on www.comixexperience.com your readers (and Mr. Jemas!) will be able to see that for yourself.
I’d like to think better of my fellow man, but it seems to me the reason that Mr. Jemas dismisses cogent and specific criticism with random insults is that he can’t defend his own position in any other manner.

It frustrates me as a comics retailer that the COO of Marvel Comics is determined to follow policies that are pretty demonstrably costing both them, and myself, sales.
It frustrates me as a person that he has to resort to name-calling when faced with rational debate on the subject.

 

Scott McCloud Interview

Scott McCloud at TCAF 2015

Scott McCloud at TCAF 2015

Originally published August of 2001. I think this might have been the first interview I did over the phone. I did attempt to do this interview by e-mail but Scott wasn’t fast at typing, which was funny as he was really championing the internet and digital comics as the way of the future. Doing it over the phone did make for a better (and longer) interview. I probably should have done more interviews that way, but I really dislike transcribing.

 

An Interview With Scott McCloud

Over the last few months, Scott McCloud’s name has been all over the place. Mainly because of his book Reinventing Comics and the criticism that it has drawn. Within The Comics Journal issues #232 and #234 Gary Groth wrote a scathing editorial against McCloud and his views. Scott gave a reply in issue #235, but did not address all of the criticisms. In this interview he replies to those criticisms still remaining from Gary Groth editorials and to others in the industry.

 

Jamie: Over the weekend I read your response to TCJ’s Cuckoo-Land thing, so this interview will be a little bit shorter since you already discussed that.

Scott McCloud: (laughter) Right, yeah.

 

Jamie: I’ll start off with Understand Comics, one of the things you mentioned was Sequential Art. Obviously we know what that is, one after the other. But you didn’t talk too much about political cartoons or single panel cartoons, as if they are not comics. Any comment on that?

Scott McCloud: I think it’s misunderstood that I don’t see them as comics doesn’t mean that they’re some lesser form of art. I think cartooning has every bit as rich a history as comics does: I just see one of them as being a way of drawing and a way of seeing and the other a way of arranging what we create. So they are two different things. Now they intersect all the time, of course. There is a rich joint tradition of cartooning in comics. I just don’t think it’s the same thing. So Keith Haring was a cartoonist for example, but he wasn’t making comics. He did his cartoons on walls and whatnot. If he was doing, you know, the comics in the newspaper then it would be easier to think of him as a cartoonist but he still wouldn’t be a comic book artist. Or excuse me, he would be a *comics* artist. Of course, comic *books* that is a whole nother can of worms. So by making that separation, making a very small subtraction, from my general lumpy conception of what comics are, I was able to draw that boundary much, much larger for many other things, many historical precedence’s and many potential future forms. So even though I cut loose that one single panel exception, I was able to draw my map larger and able to include a whole lot of other things. Seemed worth it. But I think many people misunderstood that exception is somehow a demotion of single panel cartoons like The Far Side or political cartoons or caricature. And it’s not. Some of my favorite artists are single panel cartoonists. People like Steinberg or some of the great political cartoonists, they’re terrific. It’s just not comics, that’s all.

 

Jamie: Moving on to Reinventing Comics. There is a DC Disclaimer that you mentioned before about particular ideas giving some people problems. What particular ideas do you know that set some people off?

Scott McCloud: I think it was pretty clear. Towards the discussion at the end of the product of the book, was the chapter that was most objectionable to some people at DC was the business chapter. The 2nd Chapter of the book, I think, that some people up at DC and Time Warner found my projections for the future of comics distasteful on some levels. But it was really my view of the history of the business of comics that upset some people. To DC’s credit, they honoured the contract that I had with them and did not enforce any corrections for editorial reasons. And I appreciate that, I think they behaved honourably, but it’s not the history of comics as DC would necessarily like to see it.

 

Jamie: There are two versions of Reinventing Comics, one Perennial/Harper Collins and one that DC was publishing.

Scott McCloud: That was true for Understanding as well.

 

Jamie: Understanding, as well?

Scott McCloud: Yeah. It’s a bit of a long history, but in brief Understanding Comics was first published by Tundra. By the time it hit the stands Tundra no longer existed and had been swallowed up by Kitchen Sink Press. Kitchen Sink Press was the company that I first signed up with to produce Reinventing Comics. In fact. I did most of the work on that book while still at Kitchen Sink Press. And when Kitchen Sink Press underwent a great deal of turmoil and it floundered, Dennis Kitchen was forced out. I needed to find an escape route quickly. I didn’t trust the people that were running the company. I didn’t want anything to do with it. DC looked like the safest port in the storm and we needed to make a decision extremely fast. And DC was that decision (laughter). And when we did it, Understanding Comics came with us. As far as the book market, Dennis Kitchen had tried to market Understanding Comics in the book trade and in other comics, obviously. We found it was just not practical so we had partnered with Harper Collins and since 1994 both Understanding Comics and later Reinventing Comics appeared in bookstores under the Harper Collins imprint, specifically Harper/Perennial. So it’s a bit complicated, but basically one company handles it for comic book stores, another company handles it for the general market, the book stores and airports and everything else. And that’s worked out all right. Harper also licenses it to other countries and Understanding Comics is in about 14 languages.

 

Jamie: Wow!

Scott McCloud: I like what Harpers is doing.

 

Jamie: Still, with Reinventing Comics, you mentioned one of the drawbacks to self publishing, specifically mentioning Dave Sim, is doing all the business related stuff. Is that not similar to publishing your own web comics because you have to learn HTML and make sure everything works in both browsers and all the server-related stuff and so forth?

Scott McCloud: Those certainly are challenges for publishing on line but they are radically different in one respect, which is those are creative challenges; challenges in producing the work. The challenge of making that work available to the public is trivial in comparison to making it available in print. It takes enormous, constant, backbreaking work and a huge amount of money to get your work printed, or to print it yourself, to get it shipped, to deal with the distribution system, the retail system, and to get your work hauled all over the country just to make it available to what may potentially be a very small number of customers. If you have 3 people nationwide who want to buy your book, you’re going to have to ship 100,000 copies to make it available to those 3 people because you don’t know where they are. So self publishing is constant, extremely hard and expensive work; whereas the work of publishing on the net is primarily the work of learning how to produce the work. Once you have the business of uploading it to the website, it’s trivial. It’s one of the easiest parts of making a web comic. It’s simply uploading it. And at that point, your work is available to anyone who wants to see it… if they can find you, which is whole nother whole can of worms. Then the expense is 70 dollars to register a website domain for 2 years and on average, probably somewhere between 20 to 40 dollars to have that domain hosted somewhere, a month. And while I don’t want to downgrade the importance of that, obviously for some people that can be a hardship, but compared to self publishing (mutual laugher) those that can’t afford that I don’t see self publishing as viable alternative, either.

 

Jamie: Just out of curiosity, I know you were interviewed in the same Internet comic that Groth did . . . his first Cuckoo-Land piece. I was wondering when that happened, the interview?

Scott McCloud: Are you referring to the Internet issue of Comics Journal?

 

Jamie: Yes.

Scott McCloud: And the question was?

 

Jamie: How long prior to the issue did that interview take place?

Scott McCloud: That was done for that issue. Charles Hatfield and I had been kicking around the idea of an interview for a while. That one was set up with the implication that it would run in the same issue. As to Groth’s review, I should say to Gary’s credit he gave me fair warning that the review was coming and we had a perfectly polite exchange prior to it and although I haven’t spoken to him since, I expect to have a perfectly polite exchange after the fact. We live in a civil society (laughter), Gary’s opinions are as strong as anything you can find in the comics press. I consider him the loyal opposition and it’s all part of the debate and thanks to Gary that debate has become much more pronounced, much more public, and frankly much more interesting. Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t consider some of what he wrote to be unfair, but I was given ample opportunity to call him on it and I did.

 

Jamie: My next question was: What was your general reaction to it when you finally read it?

Scott McCloud: It was a Gary Groth Review (laughter). I began reading the comics press about 25 years ago. The Comics Journal was on the scene about that time, maybe a little before. And every time Gary writes just about anything, he just about excoriates it (laughter).

 

Jamie: Scorched Earth is the term I hear (laughter).

Scott McCloud: Yeah a scorched earth review, and even jokingly said in the subject line of his original e-mail that there was a hatchet job on the way. Which ironically, he considered a serious review, but yeah, he’s always been like this. We would expect no less of him (laughter). I think maybe some younger fans that don’t know the history, might be a little appalled at it because Gary has been fairly quiet lately. He hasn’t really been on the rampage much but there is ample history of that sort of thing.

 

Jamie: Okay, I’m going to go through the nuts and bolts of stuff that I didn’t think you address very well or address very much.

Scott McCloud: Go for it.

 

Jamie: I know you went back and forth with Gary over this, but do you think you have been hyping the Internet and web comics a bit too much?

Scott McCloud: Hmm.. It’s problematic, because I think Gary is right, that I haven’t spent enough time addressing the potential for corporate abuse and some of the darker aspects of the Internet. So I think it’s correct that I haven’t done enough on the negative. I don’t think that necessarily means that I’ve done too much hyping of the positive. Because I think the potential of positive change is enormous. In our community, there are still a great number of people who dismiss the Internet out of hand. There are still many that think the Internet is about to destroy everything they love about comics and I can raise my voice to a thousand decibels and could barely rise above the barrier of cynicism or even of apathy. So I keep my voice raised to a high pitch on the issue, because I still think there is a great deal of work to be done on the issue. I still think that to this day, that I’m not done yet. The hyping is one of the unfortunate little coincidences of comics history, in that, since I became obsessed with the potential of comics on the Internet, at the same time, popular culture became obsessed. Well, actually a few years before that, there was a real frenzy of popular culture for all things with a dot in the name . . . probably began in 97 or 98. And it was pretty thoroughly entranced before that. But I would like to believe that my enthusiasm for the potential for the web has very little in common with what was actually being hyped on billboards and TV commercials and talk shows. I wasn’t telling anybody to invest in the stock market and I wasn’t telling anybody that AOL and Microsoft were going to save the world. I wasn’t telling anybody that if they just get a website, they would become a millionaire overnight. The message that I was trying to express and still am, is that there is enormous potential for direct communication between artist and the readers online and there still is enormous potential for creative exploration of comics out of boundaries online. I was writing about the future and I still am. I never promoted the idea that the future is now, the revolution has come, that this is the web today. What I’m promoting in fact, I am very explicit in Reinventing Comics, is that we can be misled by some of the drawbacks in the technology that exists today. I don’t have a product basically. The future I’m talking about is not shrink wrapped, you can’t go and buy it today. That’s not what I’m trying to say at all. One of the statements that I make in Reinventing Comics that Gary misunderstand is this idea: ‘If it’s about the present it’d probably hype, if it’s about the future, no amount of hype can do it justice’. Anyone who has something to sell you now, it’s probably hype (laughter) but the magnitude of the excitement is about the potential of the Internet itself. I don’t think it is at all misplaced and I still think the web is in it’s infancy and we have only seen the tiniest hint of it’s potential. So I’m still as excited as I was in the beginning. It just had nothing to do with the stock market, IPO’s or this week’s product.

 

Jamie: Moving on, Groth thinks you hate beautiful print drawing. True or False?

Scott McCloud: (laughter) False. Okay, one of the interesting fallouts of web comics and digital distribution is the fact that print is becoming visible for the first time. People are able to choose print in a way that my generation wasn’t. We inherited print. If we loved comics, print was the only way to express that. We now have to consciously choose print or the web and in either case, choose it for the properties that plays to their strengths. Now print has enormous strengths . . . it’s just that now we can appreciate it for what it is. It’s no longer invisible because it’s no longer ubiquitous.

 

Jamie: Your Adventures of Abraham Lincoln, you and Groth both admit that it wasn’t very good.

Scott McCloud: (laughter) Yeah. I believe Groth called it a widely derided train wreck.

 

Jamie: Did that give you a pause in using computer technology and comics?

Scott McCloud: No it didn’t, not in the least. How do I explain Lincoln? The best explanation I came up with for that at the time, when people said they didn’t like it: If you can guarantee the results in advance, it’s not an experiment. The notion that I should put it all on the shelf and forget about computers because I have this one disastrous failure in using computers, the only translation I can come up with for that is: if you first don’t succeed, then quit. And that’s not my philosophy. I assume when I fail at something that the failure is mine. That I failed to use those tools to their best advantage. You have to remember that Lincoln really began almost as soon as I had tools in hand and it’s the very first ever thing I did, using just computers to generate. And I choked (laughter).

 

Jamie: Some people think that Reinventing Comics was done just to capitalize on Understanding Comics and that it should have been told in an essay form.

Scott McCloud: That would be Gary.

 

Jamie: Yeah, Gary. So why did you think that Reinventing Comics needed to be told in a comic book form?

Scott McCloud: Well, just about everything I wanted to say could best be said visually, especially when it’s about a visual medium. I’m a comics loyalist. I’m interested in the things can be expressed through comics. I think Gary is right in that there are parts of the book that don’t use comics particularly well. Maybe the parts should have been told in prose. But it’s not a comic because I wanted to capitalize on anything, it’s a comic because . . . because I’m me (laughter). Because I love comics. Because it’s the whole point for me, seeing what comics can do. In Understanding Comics it’s clear that it was the right medium for the book.

 

Jamie: For sure.

Scott McCloud: In Reinventing, it sometimes is and sometimes it isn’t. But I’m exploring the boundaries of non-fiction comics and the only way to find those boundaries is to stretch it. And some cases, to stretch it to the breaking point. I think in some places it broke and in some places it’s solid. But anyone that knows me know why I made Reinventing Comics as a comic (laughter). Because that’s what I’m about. That’s everything that I am, as a comic book artist, seeing where comics can go. I said at the end of Understanding Comics that I wouldn’t do a sequel right away. Understanding Comics was about 7 years of thinking about comics and 7 years worth of ideas. And so it just collected to a point where I needed to put them somewhere, so I put them into a book (laughter). I predicted that it would be another 7 years of ideas before I would want to write another, and that’s what happened. I think it’s clear that starting in ’94, I was heavily obsessed with computers. Anyone on the convention circuit knew that. Well, I had another books worth of ideas so I had to put them somewhere.

 

Jamie: You mentioned that the line work in Reinventing Comics wasn’t quite up to your own standards. Why was that? Was it because of the technology or . . . ?

Scott McCloud: It was my use the technology. It still not quite organic enough. I still think I have a ways to go. I’m still learning how to use a sable brush, too. I think it looks better than Lincoln (laughter). But again, are we going to project the message that I should just quit? Because it’s not up to standards? Because others are using digital technology in a very organic and convincing way? Between Kyle Baker, Demian 5 from Switzerland, all those people have used it to great effect. In fact, I think my work has a warmer organic quality compared to some of the online work that I did, which was done after Reinventing Comics. I never claimed to be a particularly exciting draftsman (laughter) and I really don’t know that anyone else has, either. That was never my strength to begin with, but I want to continue exploring and this is where my passions take me right now. I’d be an idiot just to stop right now just because of a few failures.

 

Jamie: Groth notes your bibliography didn’t include books that criticize the Internet and the possible future it brings. Why didn’t you?

Scott McCloud: Well, what can I say? Groth’s general criticism that I don’t spend enough time discussing potential for corporate abuse is valid. I think, well you know pretty much what I think (laughter). I think some of the objections to the bibliography are a bit silly, especially when he lectures me for not responding to books that were written 9 months after Reinventing Comics.

 

Jamie: Yeah, IBM and the Holocaust.

Scott McCloud: Yeah, IBM and the Holocaust. What can I say? I think he could have made a valid point about that, but he stretches it to ridiculous extremes. Whatever.

 

Jamie: Do you think computer created artwork will one day aesthetically surpass traditionally made artwork?

Scott McCloud: No, I don’t think so. I don’t see a world that would exclude one or the other. I don’t see aesthetics as some demolition derby where there is only one car left at the end (laughter). I would hope that there would be artists making significant and exciting work in all these mediums. I don’t see it as one or the other. For me personally, digital is the most exciting. But that’s just me, this is what I want to work on right now and I assume others will make that choice also. You know, I assume others will make that choice for now.

 

Jamie: One of the problems with your theories is that people will do what you want them to, in terms of either going out and looking for great non-corporate entertainment on the web and by paying micro payments instead of pirating entertainment. Why do you have such high amounts of faith in the masses?

Scott McCloud: I would turn that question around and I don’t know why Gary and some other people have such of an incredibly bleak view of people. In my experience, most people like to think of themselves as being reasonably honest people, reasonably honourable . . . when they’re faced with a very easy way to get something for free, that would cost them hundreds or even thousands of dollars, otherwise . . . That temptation is pretty strong, they usually go for it. I don’t see any system eliminating piracy entirely. One of the reasons I advocate micro payments should it ever become practical, is that I think that if the price is sufficiently low and it’s very easy to get something legitimately for that low a price, I think most people will go for it. Because, well, for a few different reasons. This is such a huge issue. Sorry. I’ve written whole essays about this and it’s hard for me to condense it down to one or two sentences. There are a couple of factors: one of them is the fact that if it’s just a little bit more convenient to get it legitimately, if it’s a little more difficult to steal it, and if it’s just a few cents more, it’s just simpler, it’s just easier and also because piracy to some extent, has a philanthropic character online. People that are uploading songs and making their computers available for others to get those songs, they’re devoting a certain amount of time and resources and they’re not getting rich off it, either. This isn’t like selling pirated CD’s in Times Square. This is something where you’re not making a cent, you’re actually devoting your time and computational resources to giving away this work. Well, if it’s work just available for a few cents and that few cents is actually going to the musician or cartoonist or writer you’re stealing from, then that whole enterprise just seems a little less interesting, a little less worth it for the pirate. Again, nothing will eliminate piracy completely but I think that there are some systems that could make the influences of piracy lower and allow people to look at themselves in the mirror and feel good about themselves and not go bankrupt illegally.

 

Jamie: Your history of the Internet stops just at the time it gets privatized. Why did you stop it there?

Scott McCloud: For one thing, it was pretty recent history when I began writing the book (laughter). It got privatized in ’93, late ’93, and the world wide web hit the mainstream, which would have been ’94, and I started writing the book in ’97. I was talking about the origin of the Internet, I hadn’t expanded from that since the last really big event. Now Gary is right that the Telecommunications Act of ’96 should have been mentioned at that point. I think it was ’96, pretty sure.

 

Jamie: Yes it was ’96.

Scott McCloud: I think he’s right. I think he’s right. That should have been included and I should have gone into a discussion of that. But . . . I think he’s right. Perhaps I should go into a discussion of that now? Maybe I’m a little tired (laughter) of talking about . . . I’d rather make comics for a change. You know, I never see myself as the only voice in this debate. That is one objection that’s subjected repeatedly, by Gary in particular. There is this notion that it is my responsibility to cover *everything*, I mean even Understanding Comics was criticized because it refused to indulge in value judgments.

 

Jamie: You mentioned specifically about not including a chapter on bad drivers.
[Note: This refers to Scott’s reply to Greg Cwiklik and Gary Groth TCJ #211. Saying “If I wrote a book about how cars work would I be criticized for not including a chapter on bad drivers?”]

Scott McCloud: Yeah, (laughter) and I think this is silly because I’m not the only voice and I never claimed to be the only voice and talking about the inner workings of comics is a voice all unto itself. Now, if you want a broad balanced education, you also seek out writers who are discussing aesthetic values of comics or discussing the political context of comics or the cultural context of comics. In the comics industry, all those things are important too. But I don’t think it’s my responsibility to put everything and the kitchen sink in that one book. In fact, I actually visited many of the issues that he felt were missing in Understanding Comics and of course he hated that even more, because they weren’t his (laughter). It’s little hard to win with that standard being applied.

 

Jamie: You also mention the limitations of print comics by having to turn the page and the square size. But how much is that because the industry tends to stick to the same format? Could the limitations be not be so limiting if they played around with different formats?

Scott McCloud: I think they are beginning to do that now, they are beginning to experiment with shapes but they tend to be low run, you know silk screen, fort thunder, things like that. The industry makes it very difficult to experiment with different sizes. I did a large comic called Destroy back in ’85 . . . ’86, excuse me, and most retailers just didn’t know where to put it. It wasn’t even that dramatic of a difference, it might have been 80% larger than your average comic, but this was deeply aggravating to the average retailer because they didn’t have a shelf that size. So it’s systemic, it’s not just a lack of imagination. If you’re a retailer, you’re going to have to build shelves that you can fit your product on . . . (laughter) and I think that’s reasonable and it’s a problem when somebody comes up with one that simply doesn’t fit on the shelves. Of course, that’s not an issue online.

 

Jamie: You also mentioned the infinite canvas and doing web comics, a crazy example given, a comic the size of Europe.

Scott McCloud: That was just a . . .

 

Jamie: Yeah, that’s why I called it a crazy example (laughter). But if you did do a really large web comic, there is a good chance both IE and Netscape would crash, you know. I wonder how infinite is the canvas if you’re stuck to the limitations of the browser?

Scott McCloud: Well no, I talk about that in the book. What I’m proposing is not something that we can accommodate with today’s technology, with today’s browsers. Even with HTML itself, it has all sorts of limitations. I talk about a comic which you can zoom through, where each panel is embedded within the previous panel, you couldn’t do that in straight HTML either, you’d need something like Flash to pull it off. But we have an enormous canvas, so to speak, just as in the average computer game. If you have a comic the size of the landscape you roam through in Tomb Raider (laughter), you’d have a pretty enormous comic. So there might be other programming environments that are more appropriate for comics in the long run. The book about the future. I never claimed for an instant that you can do all these things in IE 5, in the year 2001. That would be absurd. Now there are some people working along those lines, who are doing beautiful concepts, shorter works that still point to the potential of that expanding canvas. And I think it’s on the strengths of those works, those creative explorations going on in even this limited environment, that speaks of potential of that expanded craft. The book is about the future, if it wasn’t about the future, it wouldn’t have been in the book.

 

Jamie: Do you think in the future Microsoft or someone will create a browser that can handle such a large webcomic?

Scott McCloud: I doubt it.

 

Jamie: You doubt it?

Scott McCloud: I doubt that Microsoft will (laughter). I don’t see them charging up the hill in particular. It could be some third party creation. It’s hard to predict. Some very important software has come out of just college kids. Or just working out of the garage, you never know.

 

Jamie: I know you discussed about bandwidth increasing and how that would help with the comics in terms of loading time and so forth. But won’t it eventually get to the point where it’s too powerful, where comics will be not so great in compared to how quickly movies and animation can load?

Scott McCloud: I don’t think I understand, if movies and animation are loading quickly then comics will load instantaneously.

 

Jamie: Yeah, but what happens when movies and animation load instantaneously as well? Won’t most people pass over the comics and go straight to those?

Scott McCloud: No, well I think that’s the great challenge isn’t it? It will take more convincing, personally compelling, especially unique to comics, so that there won’t be a reason to not read comics. And if we have all these movies and videos and animation, not to mention game and virtual reality environments. But that’s what all this is about, that’s what the entire book is about. I see comics as having unique aesthetic ideas to plant and if you allow that idea to grow in a digital environment, you can see something that’s uniquely comics: that is very exciting, something very new that’s very deeply tied to comics, to the original idea and not like movies, not like prose, not like any other visual art. Something that is completely new. I don’t know how to describe it exactly. It’s hard, words fail. It’s an idea comics that can scale. If you see comics as this temporal map, as this idea in equal, equal in time. It’s an idea of scale. The more bandwidth you throw on it, the more wonderful the new forms that can grow out of that idea. They don’t look anything like any other medium. When we begin to mix motion and sound with comics, I think we begin to hit that slippery slope and when we get enough bandwidth where it can all becomes a movie war. I hope it doesn’t turn into that.

 

Jamie: I read your Cuckoo Reply that is coming out in issue #235 of the Comics Journal. Is there anything in there that you now wish you said differently?

Scott McCloud: No, I’m pretty happy with it.

 

Jamie: Pretty happy with that?

Scott McCloud: Yeah.

 

Jamie: Your reply seemed like giving him a taste of his own medicine.

Scott McCloud: Although, well now, I hope it didn’t come across as giving him a taste of his own medicine because . . . I don’t . . . use the same medicine (laughter). I’ve tried to respond on point. I try not to make any ad hominem attacks. I’ve tried to be polite and reasonable and . . . y’know, I hope it doesn’t come across as just more of the same, but that’s up to the readers to decide.

 

Jamie: As of late you have been battling a lot of backlash, not just from the Journal but from Penny Arcade, Bill Griffith and more. Did you think your ideas would cause this much of a reaction?

Scott McCloud: There were some surprises. I didn’t think certain ideas would get people as angry as they did. I misjudged which ones were the hot spots (laughter). Who knew that my little essay about micro payments would set off this scorching brush fire in the online comic strip community? Although really, there was a lot of different issues under the surface, that one wasn’t just about micro payments. That whole period was just over a one week period, most notably by Tycho at Penny Arcade and which was pretty personal and nasty. But I talked to Tycho, I talked to John Rosenberg who does Goats. I talked to Glitch who had written something on her strip, no stereotypes. And in all cases, we had a polite reasonable conversation. Tycho posted his thoughts on the conversation that he thought he misjudged me and it’s done. We’re done now, the flame war is out. Basically, there are no parts of the landscape still on fire, as far as I know. I think it ended pretty amicably. There were a lot of misunderstandings that went into that one, and we dealt with them as well as we could.

 

Jamie: Are you sick of defending micro payments yet?

Scott McCloud: No.

 

Jamie: No?

Scott McCloud: I will continue, but I am tired. I’m a little tired because the debate has strayed a lot from the central issues and much of the time I spend defending it, it is not really so much defending my ideas as it is trying to explain what people think I was saying and it is not what I was saying at all.

 

Jamie: Yeah.

Scott McCloud: That can get a little tiring because that is wasted time. If I have to defend against things like ‘Well, McCloud thinks we should pay 25 cents every time we visit a webpage’ that’s . . . that’s . . . I never said that (laughter). And yet I’ve heard that parroted back to me a dozen times. So that part of it is tiring. But the actual discussion is worth it because there are people out there trying to make it happen, and keeping the public debate alive is one of the ways which that process can be facilitated.

 

Jamie: Yeah one of the people trying to make it happen is Javien?

Scott McCloud: Javien is a Canadian company that’s one of many that is trying to put together a workable micro payments system. I mentioned them recently because they had one or two good ideas that I liked. I can’t predict whether or not they’re the ones who are going to pull it off. I’ve always been careful not to back any one company because I have yet to see any one company that has all the answers. Believe me, I would (laughter,) I would if I thought one company had figured out all of the answers and I was very confident in them. I would back them and I would use their service.

 

Jamie: One of the practical problems I have today is whenever I go to the bank machine, I get dinged with a one dollar service charge. I’m thinking how anyone would make money charging 25 cents, even in the future, when the services charges are so high among the banking industry?

Scott McCloud: Well Amazon and Paypal charge a service fee in that realm and that’s why they are not micro payments (laughter). You can’t charge somebody 2 pennies if it’s going to cost you 25 cents for the privilege. But all along, that’s been the challenge of micro payments. If those transaction fees weren’t so high there wouldn’t have been a problem to begin with. That’s what the whole discussion is about.

 

Jamie: Do you think some company will come in and save the day for you? You know, making micro payments available for a very low amount of money?

Scott McCloud: I don’t know when it will happen and I don’t know who will pull it off. I think the ability to charge small amounts of money directly over the Internet is not an unsolvable problem. I think there are those who believe it will never happen. I think, having just finished the century which we landed on the moon, cured polio and sent our voices and ideas around the earth at the speed of thought, I think this idea that we will *never* solve the technical problems of charging small amounts of money over the Internet is just absurd. It’s not that hard, it’s not rocket science. We’ve done harder things than this. It just may take a little more time and I’ve never been good with deadlines, so (laughter) things never happen as fast as I want them too, but they happen.

 

Jamie: So when micro payments do happen, do you see yourself using them?

Scott McCloud: Sure, sure. Yeah, absolutely. But again, I want to make sure I don’t inadvertently wind up endorsing some particular company that doesn’t get it all right. I’m very cautious about that, because at this point who ever. I even mentioned Javien to Tycho in a phone conversation and now everyone thinks I’m endorsing them. You know (laughter) and that’s a good example of why I’m so cautious.

 

Jamie: In your second episode of ‘I Can’t Stop Thinking’ you mentioned a wide variety of things you can do on the Internet because shelf space is not as limited as it is in the normal store. At the same time, the Internet lets us go directly to what we want and we don’t get exposed quite so often to different things that we are not interested in. Is this a good thing?

Scott McCloud: No, I think we do get exposed, we get exposed by others letting us know about things. We want to dwell on one particular area of interest, we can. But the Internet is such a riot of other options of links, to links, to links, to links. And the opportunity for dozens or even hundreds of acquaintances over time to send you links to interesting works, that I think there is a counter-active trend to that tunnel vision tendency. That doesn’t mean there won’t be a certain vulcanization on the web, I think there will be, but I think within any given community, let’s say the comics community, I think that diversity has the upper hand in the long run. I think that right now, diversity is so thoroughly discouraged by economic systems that we have and by the dynamics of shelf space, that the web has already shown it’s ability to show its direction. The best web comics today are remarkably diverse, compared to what’s on the average comic store shelf.

 

Jamie: In Reinventing Comics, you use that one symbol, the eye open and the eye shut a lot. It’s even on your main webpage. Why are you so fond of that symbol?

Scott McCloud: I just had to pick something (laughter.) Having finished Understanding Comics, I realized I didn’t really have a symbol for comics itself and the little guy with the hat, you know that fellow raising his hat seemed a little bit overly specific. In the end, I decided that, to me, would be the essences of comics; two images of comics first of all, any two images in sequence but in particular the eye open, eye closed because I thought the balance between the visible and the invisible and I don’t know, it just seemed like the best single image I could pick to represent the form because I was going to be using it. I had to use something (laughter) when I was putting together all those diagrams there . . . there needed to be a symbol for comics itself and the tubed hat seemed a little specific to Understanding Comics.

 

Jamie: Are you planning on doing a 3rd ‘Something’ Comics book?

Scott McCloud: Yeah, not right away.

 

Jamie: Not right away?

Scott McCloud: Probably in another 7 to 10 years.

 

Jamie: Do you know what that will be about?

Scott McCloud: Yeah, I pretty much do, but I’m not telling anyone. Or at least not right now (laughter). Because the 3rd book is different from the first two just as the 2nd one was different from the first.

 

Jamie: Is that going to be done through print or is that going to be on-line?

Scott McCloud: I don’t know.

 

Jamie: Have to see what it’s like 7 to 10 years from now.

Scott McCloud: Yeah exactly. I don’t want to predict.

 

Jamie: Are you still open to doing any print comics in the future?

Scott McCloud: Sure, I think there are all sorts of things that are interesting to do in print. But generally speaking, I like to do it for one or the other. If I’m working for the web I want to do something that’s designed for the web. Perhaps I could only work on the web, but I don’t like this idea of repurposing, I don’t like this idea of holding yourself back because you might reuse it in some other form. Only working in black and white, for example on the web because you’re hoping that King Features will pick up your strip. That’s just sad. You’re on the web, use the web. Or if your in print, use print (laughter) to speak to those aspects of print that are most exciting, use that dative quality. You know, use that high resolution and the ability to produce fine line work, use it. Do something that print can do best. I just hate repurposing, I hate castrating your work so that it would be suitable for a variety of platforms.

 

Jamie: Do you have any print projects in the near future?

Scott McCloud: A couple of magazine pieces. I’m doing a 6 page original comic in Wired Magazine, for example. But they’re piecemeal, I don’t have a graphic novel in the works at the moment but I may at some point. If I could just work online for the next two years I would. But I can’t. I have many things I’d like to do online but not because I hate print or anything, but because I’ve been working in print for how long is it now? 17 years? And I’m ready to do some . . . well I have a long list of online projects. I could easily go two years with it, but unfortunately I don’t have that option because the economy that works online is just not mature yet. Maybe someday.

 

Jamie: Do you think because of Reinventing you’re constantly talking about online comics, this hurts your ability to get print books?

Scott McCloud: Mmmmm… No, I don’t think other things have to do with it (laughter). I never really tested the waters that way, couldn’t say. But no, I don’t think a publisher would particularly care one way or another. I mean, if I expressed an interest in doing a book in print then I obviously have nothing against print as far as that book goes. I’ve never told people to stop making printed books. That’s just another weird, distorted version of me that people are trying to sell.

You can get more news and updates on Scott McCloud at ScottMcCloud.com

Steven Grant Interview

Steven Grant at San Diego Comic Con 2013

Steven Grant at San Diego Comic Con 2013

Originally published in June of 2001. I read some of Steven Grant’s comics when I was young but not very many. In particular I enjoyed his run on the Punisher. I became more familiar with him through his Master of the Obvious column on ComicBookResources website. I discovered he was a very intelligent man and we had some of the same interests. Grant had just started getting work at Marvel again and I asked him for an interview to talk about that, his non-Marvel work, his columns and other ventures.

 

An Interview With Steven Grant

Steven Grant is today best known for his Master of the Obvious (MOTO) column on ComicbookResources.com and his recent run on Marvel’s X- MAN. His past comic book credits include Punisher, The Pope John Paul XXIII biography and Whisper. In this interview he reveals some info about his MOTO column, his thoughts on writing comics and more.

 

Jamie: For a while you seemed to have disappeared from the comic industry’s radar. Then one day you’re on CBR and then X-Men, thanks in part to Warren Ellis. How important has Warren been to your recent career?

Steven Grant: Oh, projects come and go. I’ll go for blocks of time without seeing print but I’m generally working. I’m friends with Warren and he puts in the good word for me now and then, but in terms of my recent work… Warren was completely responsible for my association with X-MAN. He asked me to do it. I was more than happy to and I liked his concept a lot. I could have gone another two or three years on it easily. But Warren had nothing at all to do with MASTER OF THE OBVIOUS. That was Gail Simone who put me forward for that. As a matter of fact, I put Warren together with CBR for his column. He’d been talking with someone else about doing one and that fell through due to the insanely stupid terms he was being offered. I mentioned it to Jonah (who runs CBR) and he asked me to put him in touch with Warren.

 

Jamie: You’ve done a large amount of work outside the comic industry. How has that helped you as a fiction writer?

Steven Grant: I don’t know that it’s helped me at all. Everything’s its own discipline. If nothing else, it has given me points of comparison that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I’m maybe more familiar with non-comics structures and dialogue constructions, but you could say that about any number of comics writers.

 

Jamie: Do you get more satisfaction writing comics than your work outside the industry?

Steven Grant: It depends on the particular project. You get your satisfaction where you find it. It can be money, it can be one little character bit or dialogue exchange you get in there, or the pleasure of developing a particular storyline a particular way. But you should only look for enough satisfaction to keep you going. I don’t think writers should ever be very satisfied. Satisfied writers don’t write. It’s really the flaws in work that keep writers writing, that mar they see they didn’t see while they were doing it, and the desire to try it one more time to get it right. People who are satisfied with their work don’t try to do better work.

 

Jamie: Are there jobs you take strictly for money satisfaction?

Steven Grant: The money’s never the satisfying part. Staying alive another week, that’s the satisfying part.

 

Jamie: Reading through your bibliography, I noticed you worked for a wide variety of publishers. If you had the money, would you self publish comics?

Steven Grant: Absolutely, though I’d probably mask it so it wouldn’t look that way to booksellers. And I’d find a partner who knew something about business and marketing. But it would be lovely to have a situation where I didn’t have to flog ideas to death before I could produce them, just up and go and get the material out while it was still fresh to me. That’s a big drawback with comics these days, it takes way too long to get anything in the pipeline. There are moments of inspiration, but that burns out fairly quickly, and there you are, two years down the line finally pumping out material you thought of two years earlier instead of what’s burning you up inside at the time. There’s really no reason it should take more than three months from conception to presentation. A self-publishing gig would give me the ability to do that.

 

Jamie: I know you’re doing something through Platinum Studios. What is it and how does that work? I know Platinum isn’t a ‘normal’ publisher.

Steven Grant: I’m not entirely sure, actually. You should really talk to Lee Nordling or Scott Mitchell Rosenberg about it. Basically, Platinum is a “broker.” They put projects together, largely to secure film rights to them so they have material to pitch around Hollywood, then find publishers for it. But until they actually start publication somewhere, it’s still just speculation. Things could change as they adapt to conditions. We’ll see.

 

Jamie: I noticed you’re doing a crime comic called CHARLOTTE SOMETIMES for Fantagraphics/Eros, which is different as Eros is known mainly for porn. I’m assuming there will be some sex in it or it wouldn’t be published there. Still many established comic writers don’t go near porn comics. Why are you doing it and why do you think other writers don’t?

Steven Grant: I’m doing it for fun, because Gary asked me to, and because a lot of other writers won’t. There’s still a lot of stigma attached to porn in our society, so that doesn’t surprise me. I don’t have any particular affection for porn, but I’d never done porn so I was curious to see what I could do, and it’s as much a crime comic as a porn comic and I want to do crime comics. Gary’s giving me the chance to do a crime comic. I actually go way past most porn in CHARLOTTE SOMETIMES because, unlike most porn, sex and violence are intimately connected in it; virtually synonymous, and they’re both way over the top. I don’t think porn fans are going to be very comfortable with the sexual content in the book. Men don’t fare very well in it.

 

Jamie: What can you tell us about your new Whisper: Day X Graphic Novel?

Steven Grant: The last WHISPER story came out in 1991. This story takes place in 2000, and concerns her being leveraged out of retirement by an FBI agent who wants her to help him investigate a terrorist movement. It re-immerses her in the “shadow politics” milieu she spent most of her series in, as she unravels a plot tracing back half a century. All the supporting characters are there in very changed situations, but no one will have to be familiar with WHISPER to get it. I don’t think she’ll appear in costume in the novel.

 

Jamie: Do you think you’ll be able to get your old Whisper work back in print?

Steven Grant: Not likely. I have no idea where the film is. Ideally, I’d hire one artist to redraw all the scripts, but I don’t see that happening either. I don’t have the money and I don’t know a publisher who has the interest.

 

Jamie: You are one of the few writers that goes into politics with your writing. Why do you think creators and the industry stay away from political stories?

Steven Grant: I’m not sure many of them have any real interest in politics, but you’d have to ask them. I’m fascinated by politics, but my background’s very political. Campus radicals and all that.

 

Jamie: Okay this interests me. How did you become a radical, what were you protesting?

Steven Grant: I grew up in Madison WI, the Berkeley of the Midwest, in the late 60s and early 70s. Trying to stop the Vietnam War and social injustice, know what I mean? It wasn’t something you became, it was just in the air then. Antiwar marches, underground newspapers, that sort of thing. Never bombed anything.

 

Jamie: In doing WWF Wrestling Comics for Chaos, the stories seem to go into fantasy. You ever wonder how a comic about behind the scenes involving Wrestlers would do?

Steven Grant: Knowing quite a bit about wrestling behind the scenes, I think it’d be pretty much like doing a comic about plumbing behind the scenes. There are occasionally scenarios such as those documented in films like BEYOND THE MAT and WRESTLING WITH SHADOWS, but for the most part wrestlers lead fairly ordinary lives. They have wives and kids, they have mortgages, etc. But the WWF Comics I wrote for Chaos were fiction but pretty much steered clear of what most people consider fantasy. But those were based on the ring personae of wrestlers, not on their real selves.

 

Jamie: I know it’s cliche, but do you want to create the great American novel?

Steven Grant: Oh, sure. But there are so many great American novels out there it makes my eyes bleed, and there’s no money in it. If I could go a year or two without having to worry about money, I’d be happy to write a Great American Novel, but I make my living at this, so I can’t afford to take a year or two off. Novels are a lot of work, particularly if they’re done well.

 

Jamie: You created @venture as an outlet for prose writing for comic writers. Are you at all worried about getting stories and ideas stolen by giving your work away for free online?

Steven Grant: No. Once they’re published, regardless of venue, they’re published and entitled to the protections accorded any form of publication. There’s no more concern about theft and plagiarism than if they’re published in PLAYBOY. Web publication doesn’t warranty anyone against getting sued for plagiarism, either way.

 

Jamie: @venture now has a number of stories by a variety of comic writers. Do you consider this a success or do you still have a bigger vision of what the site should be doing?

Steven Grant: Unfortunately, @VENTURE’s been in limbo for the past several months as my time has been completely eaten up by personal things. I’ve never been able to promote the site to my satisfaction, and I want to promote not to make money off the site but so the writers can benefit from publication of their work.

 

Jamie: You’ve written/writing two stories for @venture, do you want them both turned into comics?

Steven Grant: No. If I’d wanted to do them as comics, I’d have done them as comics.

 

Jamie: You’ve mentioned on @venture that you have a fetish for the name Elvis. Why?

Steven Grant: No, no, I said I DON’T have a fetish for the name Elvis. It just works well with other words, and, due to Presley, has cultural connotations that work as jokes. So I use the name periodically.

 

Jamie: Were you surprised by some submissions to @venture?

Steven Grant: Not really. Most writers have something unexpected percolating in them that they have no venue for.

 

Jamie: You’ve been doing Master of the Obvious since August 1999, which is a pretty good run. Do you see yourself stopping anytime soon?

Steven Grant: I know when it’s stopping, if that’s what you mean. I’ve had it planned from the start. But I’m not saying when.

 

Jamie: Do you think MOTO helped or hurt you in getting you work in the industry?

Steven Grant: I don’t think it’s had any effect on that one way or the other. I know quite a few highly placed people read it regularly.

 

Jamie: What MOTO columns did you get the biggest backlash from?

Steven Grant: Probably the column where I compared the Bush Presidency to the Luthor Presidency. A lot of conservatives got very upset with that one, pretty much doubling my hit rate. I wish I had a column like that in me every week. There have been some columns specifically to do with comics that raised a ruckus, but I don’t recall which ones they were offhand.

 

Jamie: I can’t believe you devoted a whole MOTO column to something as fanboyish as Thor vs. Hulk. Why on earth did you do it?!?

Steven Grant: Fanboys read the column too! The reason you can’t believe I did it is because I didn’t. Maybe a quarter of the column involved whether Thor or The Hulk was stronger, and I used it for an anchor for other points. Besides, there’s nothing that isn’t worth talking about, if you’ve got an angle on it.

 

Jamie: Recently in MOTO you’ve been trying to get people to accept Zines as a replacement term for indy & progressive comics. Why use the word Zines?

Steven Grant: It sounds vaguely familiar to most people, yet vaguely unfamiliar at the same time. It’s a word whose meaning can be easily molded to our purposes, it’s simple to say and remember (which is important to redefining associations) and it doesn’t sound like comics or comic book or graphic entertainment or any number of other terms. And it does have some connection to us.

 

Jamie: This was tried before using Comix, do you think you’ll be more successful than they were?

Steven Grant: Oh, I don’t expect to be successful with it. But anything’s worth a try; what do we have to lose? Actually, “comix” as a term for undergrounds was pretty successful, it only faded because Supreme Court rulings on obscenity put underground comix out of business. “Comix” referred to a specific type of product and it didn’t take long for the association to form. Some of them, like FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS, were outselling Marvels at the time. It was attempts to apply “comix” to things like AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and BATMAN that didn’t catch on.

 

Jamie: Do you think zine should replace the term Graphic Novel?

Steven Grant: No, graphic novel sums itself up pretty well. But you can’t call periodical publications graphic novels.

 

Jamie: Warren Ellis is putting his Come in Alone in print, do you see that happening with MOTO?

Steven Grant: Larry Young and I are sorting that out right now. There will probably be two MOTO collections.

 

Jamie: What is Paper Movies website going to be about?

Steven Grant: It’s going to launch a reinterpretation of the comics medium.

 

Jamie: Where did you come up with the name Paper Movies?

Steven Grant: I thought about how most people would best respond to comic books and decided the best way to pitch them was to tie them into something people were already familiar with and understood: movies. Everyone watches movies. It’s my guess that designing comics that approximate that experience is the best way to draw a new audience to the medium. Hence Paper Movies: movies you can read anywhere.

 

Jamie: Isn’t Paper Movies as a term for comics an oxymoron? Movies are called that because they are moving pictures. Comic pictures don’t actually move.

Steven Grant: Neither do movies. Movement in movies is an illusion, a trick of perception. Comics require a more conscious conspiracy between creator and reader to generate an illusion of movement, but the basic principle isn’t all that different. It’s the story that moves the movie and the comic book along, not the mechanicals.

 

Jamie: How will your Delphi forum called Graphic Violence be different than Warren Ellis’s forum?

Steven Grant: That’s something only time will tell. Our focus will be a little different, though.

 

Fabian Nicieza Interview

Fabian Nicieza at NYCC 2013

Originally published in May of 2001. Ouch, I was hard on Fabian here. In short Thunderbolts went from one of my favorite titles to one I dropped during his run as writer. I had a few friends that felt the same way and we’d gather in chat rooms and complain about the book getting worse. Neither of these were Jason Borgeois or Sheryl Roberts who helped provide questions for the interview. Jason was a fellow writer (and sometimes interviewer) for CollectorTimes and Sheryl was our editor. Jason likely provided the Gambit, Cable and Sinister related questions and I’m not sure which questions are Sheryl’s or mine. Fabian was a champ though, answering a lot of questions and being professional about it.

An Interview With Fabian Nicieza

Fabian Nicieza is a name many of you are familiar with, especially if you’ve been reading Marvel Comics over the last 10 years. He has written many different comics and even worked as an EIC of Acclaim Comics at one point. Currently he is working on Thunderbolts and with this interview I ask him all about that, about some previous X-men related work and where the comic industry is going.
* Special Thanks to Jason Bourgeois and Sheryl Roberts for providing some questions *

 

Jamie: I can’t help but notice a few people on usenet keep calling Thunderbolts #50 a ‘good jumping off point’. Does that worry you at all?

Fabian Nicieza: If 5 people say they’re leaving, I shrug my shoulders. If 5,000 people say they’re leaving, THEN I’m worried! So no, I’m not surprised if a reader chose Mark’s leaving the title and a temporary status quo shake-up as a reason for stopping. Just like I wouldn’t be surprised if an equal number use it as an opportunity to jump ON the book. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the vast majority of people who might not buy the book anymore don’t peek at the coming issues and – based on all the fun stuff we have planned — slowly start to come back into the fold.

 

Jamie: Between your start on T-Bolts and issue #50 there have been a whole lot of changes to several characters. Jolt died and came back with different powers, Atlas has died after his powers went into overdrive, Techno died but but the Fixer is back, The Beatle (Abe Jenkins) became black. What is it with you and making major changes to characters?

Fabian Nicieza: A better question to ask is why WOULDN’T I do these things? The lifeblood of monthly superhero comics are good characters and good soap opera. In TBOLTS, I feel we have both.

 

Jamie: Do you feel there is an area where too much change can be a bad thing?

Fabian Nicieza: Sure, but the writer is usually the last to know! Hopefully, you have an editor who can see the bump in the road before the readers do!

 

Jamie: With Thunderbolts #51 you added a number of members and the remaining (alive) original criminal members are out of costume. You also replaced Hawkeye with Captain America as the teams trainer. What made you believe the title needed this much of a drastic change?

Fabian Nicieza: If you read the issue, you’ll know it’s not a drastic change at all. The core characters needed a chance to breathe and reflect on having attained a pardon for their crimes without the need for involving them in superhero action. I felt the best way to do that was to smack them in the face with unexpected freedom and the illusion of redemption and let them all start seeing if the grass is really greener on the other side. Between subplots in the monthly title and the LIFE SENTENCES TBOLTS special, I feel we get a look into their minds in ways that we haven’t had a chance to do since I took over the book. The book still remains about THEM, not about the Redeemers. But it’s a superhero comic, so we still need some slapping and kicking, and we can show that for a few months through the Redeemers. And, with Cap leading them, through those characters, we can also show other sides of the thematic coin in regards to what the book is all about.
Of course the TBOLTS will be back together again and back in action. The question is not if, but WHEN, WHY and HOW?

 

Jamie: I assume your writing the LIFE SENTENCES TBOLTS special, who is doing the art and when will it come out?

Fabian Nicieza: I have written it. Charlie Adlard is doing the art. I have no clue when it comes out. I think between issues #52 and #53.

 

Jamie: Why are Meteorite, Mach-1 and Songbird out of costume? I think most fans know it’s only a matter of time they’ll be back in them.

Fabian Nicieza: Asked and answered. We can learn just as much if not more about them by seeing them trying to maintain 9-5 jobs as we can watching them fight bad-guy of the month.

 

Jamie: Do you think the new Thunderbolts characters will be published after their time in Thunderbolts is done?

Fabian Nicieza: I don’t understand the question. The Thunderbolts characters ARE the Thunderbolts comic. 😉
If you mean the Redeemer characters, I can unequivocably say NO, they will not be published after their appearance in TBOLTS is over.

 

Jamie: Do you know how Patrick Zircher got the job to take over T-Bolts after Mark Bagley left? I know he took over the art cores on New Warriors when you left that title.

Fabian Nicieza: We ran through a list of potential artists and Pat was at the top of that list. Being able to get him is a privilege. His art gets better on the book each and every month!

 

Jamie: Have you had to change your writing any to compensate for Zircher’s strengths and weaknesses? If so, how?

Fabian Nicieza: In very little ways. No more or less so than with any creative team change. You feel your way out slowly over the course of a few issues and develop a rapport where you know each others’ strengths and weaknesses. Pat is an excellent storyteller and draws elegant figure work, so I have to do more character interaction. He hasn’t worked on a group book in a long time, so he needs to get the hang of choreographing multiple characters in movement through a scene, so I have to pay attention that my plots are clear in regards to action. But like I said, Pat’s doing great work. I’m sitting here scripting #54 and I think it looks like dynamite!

 

Jamie: How do you feel about the event like “Silent” month on all Marvel Books and do you have any ideas on how your going to do your silent TBolts issue?

Fabian Nicieza: Well, part of me thinks it’s a bit forced, like any editorially enforced crossover tends to be, but the other part of me likes the creative challenge. I am more than half way through plotting and doing rough 8-1/2 x 11 breakdowns for the pages and it has been fun.
It helps that the timing fit perfectly for a Songbird story I had intended to do all along, so the “stunt” fits in smoothly to the normal flow of the TBOLTS storyline. In fact, the silent pages make the surprise ending work even better!

 

Jamie: I noticed in both Gambit and in Thunderbolts you played around with character power levels. Why?

Fabian Nicieza: I find it to be an entertaining way of putting a character through a physical and emotional ringer.

 

Jamie: You seem to have a penchant for using past works of your own in your latest projects, like Nomad in Thunderbolts recently. Why?

Fabian Nicieza: It’s easy to use what I know and apply it in the right ways. The two main reasons for using NOMAD supporting characters was to A) point out obviously the clues needed to guess Scourge was Jack Monroe and B) to get Andie Sterman into the V-Battalion because I wanted her POV in that organization. Why create a new superhuman psychotherapist, reporter, FBI agent. etc. when there are pre-existing characters that are begging to be used? And why not use characters I’m comfortable and familiar with since it makes their application into a crowded story easier?

 

Jamie: What are your feelings on leaving Gambit and then having the book promptly canceled so soon after?

Fabian Nicieza: Better to have been canned and then see the book canceled than to have it canceled while I was writing it! For those who liked my work on the Gambit character, there may be an interesting non-comic Gambit announcement soon.

 

Jamie: Can you give us any hints?

Fabian Nicieza: Not yet. It’s not real until it’s real.

 

Jamie: Did you accomplish everything you wanted to do with Cable and if you were offered the chance, would you go back to writing him?

Fabian Nicieza: No and No.

 

Jamie: What didn’t you accomplish with Cable that your really wanted to?

Fabian Nicieza: Pass. Not worth getting into.

 

Jamie: Is there any chance the Sinister miniseries, which was cancelled/put on hold may still have a chance of seeing the light of day?

Fabian Nicieza: Highly doubtful.

 

Jamie: Why was it stopped?

Fabian Nicieza: I think the core editor and core writer simply preferred I not play in that particular sandbox.

 

Jamie: Can you give us a hint of the premise?

Fabian Nicieza: 4 self-contained stories set in different time periods all linked together by an underlying story thread, all pretty harrowing stories of Sinister’s emotional devolution. And all a moot point.

 

Jamie: Acclaim Comics is dead, they just recently removed all mention of comics from their website. Was your book Troublemakers owned completely by Acclaim or was there any creator owned deal like Priest had with Quantum and Woody?

Fabian Nicieza: I had the same deal as Priest, but having been a co-author of that deal, I know how the lawyers got involved in it to the point where it is too much of a hassle for me to bother with.

 

Jamie: Are Acclaim lawyers fighting the contracts on creative owned deals?

Fabian Nicieza: In order for lawyers to fight, someone usually has to throw the first punch. I am not aware of that having been done by anyone.

 

Jamie: After your experience being EIC of Acclaim Comics, would you be up for another EIC job at another publisher?

Fabian Nicieza: Sure, but it would depend on the circumstance and the place. I loved my time with Acclaim – the EiC job moreso than the President/Publisher job, which was too much responsibility regarding details I lacked experience, or interest, in attending to.
I am a social creature, but I’m also very happy working out of home and trying my hand at a variety of different things. If a company were to call with an interesting 9-5 opportunity – and not just a comic company – I would certainly listen.

 

Jamie: Over the last few years you have been bouncing between Marvel, Acclaim and DC. Have you ever thought of self publishing?

Fabian Nicieza: I’ve thought about it. Then I look at the finances involved and realize it would be just as easy to throw my money off a bridge.

 

Jamie: So the success of Dave Sim, Jeff Smith, Terry Moore & others doesn’t convince you to take a gamble?

Fabian Nicieza: Define success? Creative fulfillment? Financial fulfillment? If the gentlemen above have been successful enough that they can pay the mortgage and their kid’s college educations without concern, then more power to them. I would prefer not to jeopardize my family’s financial comfort for the sake of my own ego. There are plenty of other, more enriching ways, for me to flex my creative muscles than self-publishing comics.

 

Jamie: It seems the comic book industry is moving away from monthly titles and into TPB’s or Original Graphic Novels. Do you see this as a good or bad thing for comics?

Fabian Nicieza: I see that as good if it expands the horizons for distribution and content. I think it’s bad if it forces the continued whittling away of the comic book specialty shops and the regular weekly customer visits.

 

Jamie: Some think the market is moving towards comic specialty shops that rack only or mainly TPB’s and customers come in and buy on an somewhat infrequent basis, very much like the typical bookstore. Is that good for the industry?

Fabian Nicieza: I don’t particularly think that would be a successful financial business model, but I’m not informed enough to be certain. Whatever floats their boat.

 

Jamie: Marvel’s no reprints policy have caused a stir among retailers. Do you think this will be to Marvels benefit?

Fabian Nicieza: As I’m not privy to enough information from either side of the issue, I have no comment.

 

Jamie: Speaking of reprints, I tried to buy your new Citizen V mini at my comic shop today so I could ask you about it. But it was sold out and they can’t get anymore. So tell me about it, what are you trying to do with the Citizen V character?

Fabian Nicieza: CVB is about old soldiers facing the end of their fight and new soldiers who don’t think they want to ever become old ones! It is about a sleek paramilitary organization that has been “fighting the good fight” for so long, that they might be willing to compromise their methods and ethics in order to finally win that never-ending battle. Citizen V is their point man, a covert op. He’s the kind of character you hate to love and love to hate. He has style, panache, wit and intelligence, but he is also very arrogant, very selfish and very indifferent to the obstacles he has to walk over on his way to accomplishing a given assignment.
It’s a fun adventure book that explores aspects of the Marvel Universe rarely visited — namely older characters and the mantle of responsibility borne on the generations that followed the soldiers of WWII.

 

Jamie: Do you have any other work coming out soon?

Fabian Nicieza: None that I know of. That could always change tomorrow.

Stuart Immonen Interview

Kathryn and Stuart Immonen at TCAF 2009

Kathryn and Stuart Immonen at TCAF 2009

Originally published in April of 2001. Sometimes when I got somebody to agree to an interview I’d ask the staff and maybe some friends if they had questions they’d like answered. If I they came up with questions I liked, I’d use them and normally share the credit with them for the interview. Sidra Roberts also did interviews at Collector Times  often filling in for me when I wanted a break. Lonni Holland is a long time friend. I’ve since met Stuart and his wife Kathryn and usually have a short (but delightful) chat with them when I see them at conventions. They are wonderful people.

 

An Interview With Stuart Immonen

This interview was conducted by three people: Sidra Roberts, Lonni Holland and Jamie Coville. Stuart Immonen has been a sought after penciler for many years now doing work on Superman, Legion of Superheroes, ShockRockets and more. This combined interview goes down history lane from his beginnings to what he’s doing today.

 

Jamie: How did you become interested in art?

Stuart Immonen: I’ve always had an interest in drawing, literally as far back as I remember. I’ve also been reading comics for most of my life. I suppose it’s natural that the two would eventually come together in some form, although I did nothing to pursue a career in the industry until I was nearly in my twenties.

 

Jamie: This is your thirteenth year in the business. Congratulations. Where did you get your formal training?

Stuart Immonen: I have no formal training. I pursued a degree in Fine Arts at York University in Toronto, Ontario for one year following high school, but the curriculum and I didn’t see eye to eye, so I left. In hindsight, I probably would have been happier in a vocational environment, with lots of applied studio time. I’ve learned as I’ve gone along, and, I think, am still learning.

 

Jamie: What made you want to draw comicbooks?

Stuart Immonen: It seemed to be the thing to do in the summer of 1988. There was a wealth of independent black and white material on the stands. Writer Kathryn Kuder and I thought we had something of value to contribute. We formed One Horse Leadworks and self-published two titles; Playground, a punk murder-mystery of sorts, and Headcheese, and anthology showcasing local Toronto creators. After three issues, Playground was picked up by Caliber Press, who published an epilogue.

 

Jamie: How did you get the job of drawing Legion of Superheroes for DC?

Stuart Immonen: This is detailed on my website. I submitted samples of my work for a number of years to DC. In early ’93 Neal Pozner saw Ron Boyd and I in his office and liked our samples. I got a 10 page Martian Manhunter story out of him for Showcase, which landed me a fill-in on Legion. Regular artist Jason Pearson was leaving Legion,and incoming editor KC Carlson asked me to come on board.

 

Jamie: Had you ever read Legion of Superheroes before drawing it?

Stuart Immonen: Never. I had no idea who anyone was.

 

Jamie: Did you get tired of drawing all those various characters for Legion of Superheroes?

Stuart Immonen: No, the variety kept it interesting. We ran into trouble when we tried to ease out of the post-hero Giffen material into more action-oriented stories. We tried to do things only half-way, and fumbled a bit. Legionnaires was far more successful. Similarly, Legion Lost has been the shot in the arm that the titles badly needed.

 

Jamie: Everyone has his or her favorite Legion character. Who was your favorite Legionnaire?

Stuart Immonen: I suppose Ultra Boy.

 

Jamie: What led to your Superman assignment?

Stuart Immonen: This is also mentioned on my site. I did a two issue fill-in for Superman, which went over well. When my contract was up on Legion, I wanted to do something different, and Barry Kitson just happened to be leaving Adventures of Superman. I got the offer and accepted.

 

Jamie: How did you like working on Superman?

Stuart Immonen: Very well. I did it for nearly four years. I enjoyed the expanded collaborative process that the closely-knit titles provided. I enjoyed working with the four editors I had. I enjoyed writing. I enjoyed drawing.

 

Jamie: There are a lot of very successful Canadian artists in the industry but many of them move to the states to be close to the big companies. Has staying in Ontario made things harder for you and how?

Stuart Immonen: I don’t know of very many who have moved since the use of couriers became prevalent. Now with fax and internet added, I don’t think physical distance is any kind of barrier.

 

Jamie: So here you are in southern Ontario and there Kurt is in the Pacific north-west. I know you meet at cons but how does the physical separation affect your work? Or are your phone bills just outrageous :)?

Stuart Immonen: The phone bills are, on occasion, enormous. But we communicate frequently by email, which is less expensive. In all the time I’ve been drawing professionally, I have yet to meet a client before working for them. That is to say, I’ve never know it to be any other way, so I find it difficult to tell whether it affects my work or not. Kurt has many other collaborators, and is no closer to any of them than he is to me. I’m sure he feels the same way. It’s just the way it is, and I expect the way it will continue to be.

 

Jamie: There was a double page spread in Shockrockets 2 which was computer produced. How much computer generated stuff do you use and what software are you using for it?

Stuart Immonen: There was a short sequence in ShockRockets 2 which I produced entirely on computer, but the only reason we chose to include it in the story is because we came up with a reason to include it first. This was not an attempt at escaping the drudgery of background drawing, nor was it a control issue. We had an experimental idea, and figured out a way to integrate it. That being said, you can’t escape the influence of computers in mainstream comics– they’re virtually all coloured, separated, or lettered using computers. I would think that, perhaps apart from Alan Moore, they are all written on computers. It’s inescapable. Most of the time the confluence works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

 

Jamie: Speaking of computers… that’s quite a nice website you have. Did you do all of the design work yourself? And if you did have you considered doing any of your animation using Flash?

Stuart Immonen: Thank you. Yes, I designed, coded and uploaded the whole thing. I have a passing interest in Flash, and to my mind, it’s a useful tool for things like animations, but Flash navigation is problematic and more often than not, distracting. I’m working on a few other sites now, including Cryptic Press’ realmsend.com.

 

Jamie: Immonen Illustrations, Inc. has a nice ring to it. Is it all just you so far, and are you planning to add others like Deodato Studios did?

Stuart Immonen: I have had a few interns, but I’ve found that I dislike the company, and am unsatisfied with their work. Clearly, it’s all my fault. I have had a writing partner in Kathryn since the One Horse days and have a studio assistant who has nothing to do with drawing. I don’t think it’ll every grow beyond that. The company was formed for purely legal reasons.

 

Jamie: According to your bio you live in Obscurity, Ontario with your 2 footed and 4 footed friends. Four footed?? Dogs? Cats? Horses? Fellow apes?

Stuart Immonen: Ha ha ha. Two cats, Emmett and Ernest, and a rat named Sweetie are the four-foot types. The two’s are my family.

 

Jamie: Rumor has it that Blockbuster’s computer just can’t seem to get your name right. Exactly how do you pronounce your name?

Stuart Immonen: ???? It’s pronounced EE-moe-nen

 

Jamie: I must say that you and the other apes are looking pretty healthy for a bunch of dead guys. Care to make any comment on Wizards rather premature report of the death of Gorilla?

Stuart Immonen: mmmm. no. There’s still Gorilla material coming out, but the company is basically a non-entity at this point. Tellos will continue to be published by Image, and there may be more from Kurt and myself after Superstar, and Section Zero may yet proceed, but that’s it. For the most part, we made good on the promises we made, even after it became clear that we would all have to do other work to support Gorilla projects, and then that we would eventually have to abandon the idea of Gorilla altogether. I’m pleased with the comics we did. There may yet be more.

 

Jamie: Shockrockets is finished and Superstar is on the way. When can we expect the first issue?

Stuart Immonen: It’s out! Superstar is a self-contained 48 page one-shot. Kurt and I have plans for more but nothing concrete at the moment.

 

Jamie: Is this another miniseries and would you like to tell us a bit about it?

Stuart Immonen: It’s really Kurt’s pet project; one he’s been trying to get off the ground for a long time,and one that’s been percolating for decades. I’m just the latest in a series of artists that have been associated with Superstar, but I’m the lucky one that helped finally get it in print.

 

Jamie: George Perez had a model of the Scarlett Witch’s MG, you had computer models of the Shockrockets ships. Any handy visual aids for Superstar?

Stuart Immonen: Just the usual morgue of photo reference. I have a resin model of Mark Hammill’s head which I use frequently, but I don’t think there’s much resemblance.

 

Jamie: Has Mark Waid’s contract with CrossGen had any affect on the running on Gorilla or is business in the jungle continuing as usual?

Stuart Immonen: see above.

 

Jamie: It’s just been announced that your doing a few issues of Thor. But you are careful to tell people your only doing 3 or maybe 6 issues. Do you have something specific planned after your work on Thor?

Stuart Immonen: I’ve just finished an issue of Rising Stars and one of Fantastic Four. Now I’m doing at least three issues of Thor, and as many as six as far as I know. Kurt and I have another project lined up for Marvel. A big one, but not one I’m prepared to talk about….
Immonen Illustrations, Inc.
http://www.interlog.com/~immonen [that link is now dead. Go here instead.]

Joe Quesada Interview

Joe Quesada at Toronto Fan Expo 2009

Joe Quesada at Toronto Fan Expo 2009

This was originally published in March of 2001. Joe Quesada gave me a great interview. He answered all my questions and then some. I’m glad that he’s had a long run at Marvel Comics as EIC and then got promoted instead of replaced. Despite his position and multiple demands on his time I’ve seen him at conventions drop everything and fully focus on 1 fan who simply wanted to talk to him and not do so in a rushed manor. What I find interesting is all the things that he wanted to do and what did and didn’t happen.

 

An Interview With Joe Quesada

Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave for the last 6 months, you know that Joe Quesada is Marvel’s Editor in Chief. Joe has made much ado about his big plans for Marvel Comics. In this interview he talks about them and a whole lot of subjects within the comic industry.

 

Jamie: Now that you’ve been EIC for about 6 months, how has it been? Do you miss being a penciler?

Joe Quesada: That’s really my only regret since taking the job is how little time I get to sit behind the drawing board to draw.

 

Jamie: It’s been said that you write some ‘interesting’ fanfic and e-mail them out to several comic pro’s. Any chance fans will be able to read your writings?

Joe Quesada: Huh? I’ve never written fanfic in my life. I do send out interesting e-mail’s with bizarre sites and such. Nothing i could distribute amongst strangers 😉

 

Jamie: There has been a long history of Marvel ‘Suits’ and freelancers getting into conflicts here and there. How have you been handling those?

Joe Quesada: Just by dealing with everyone honestly and attacking every problem head on rather than waiting a week to make a call and letting things fester. Usually when a decision comes down regarding how we do our books or business it’s not done with reckless abandon, there is usually a very good, sound reason. I just tell the people that work for me the truth and for the most part they understand. Marvel has been pretty quiet with respect to crises in the last 6 months that I’ve been there and I believe that’s the reason.

 

Jamie: Traditionally when a conflict between Marvel and freelancers happened, Marvel kept quiet. You’ve been active in telling Marvel’s side of the story in the press. Why?

Joe Quesada: Because, like I said, there is always another side to every argument. Marvel in its fear or in its arrogant silence has taken way too many a black eye in the public forum. Quite frankly. I believe that no one wanted to speak up on Marvel’s behalf. Maybe in the past we felt it didn’t matter since we were the top dog and we could do whatever the hell we wanted. Well, guess what? It hurt us, it hurt us to the point where freelancers (myself included) were in fear of coming and working here. Marvel did itself a grave disservice by turning its back on its freelance community and its fans. And also keep this in mind, if ever a time comes when I feel that we’re in the wrong, I’ll be the first to admit that we screwed up.

 

Jamie: As of late A lot of people have been speculating what would happen to the Direct Market if Marvel were to stop publishing. Responses range from all out catastrophe to wounded but surviving. What do you think?

Joe Quesada: I think everyone could pretty much pack it up and call it a day, the direct market would most likely die. Bill Jemas and myself have gone out there on a daily basis to squelch these fears. We heard rumors that said that Marvel didn’t intend on publishing in the near future which really freaked us out, especially when we felt like for the first time we’re really starting to behave like a “real” publishing company.

 

Jamie: Any chance Marvel will break it’s exclusive distribution deal with Diamond when the contract runs out?

Joe Quesada: Oh, man, jeese I don’t know. This is something that would be completely out of my jurisdiction.

 

Jamie: Will Marvel try different formats other than the 9 1/2 by 6 /14, 32 page comics?

Joe Quesada: If you mean original graphic novels, not right now. It doesn’t make fiscal sense.

 

Jamie: I was thinking more along the lines of Marvel Backpacks or the Monster Sized and as a regular ongoing title instead of a one shot try out.

Joe Quesada: Yes, we’ll be experimenting in the future but there is no guarantee with ongoing. If the market accepts it then fine, if not we have to move on.

 

Jamie: Do you see Marvel publishing black and white comics?

Joe Quesada: Quite possibly. I received a concept by Chuck Austen who is drawing Elektra Assassin with Brian Bendis. It has an amazing Manga feel and I would really love to see it in black and white and at a low price point.

 

Jamie: So is that still up in the air or has it been determined if Electra Assassin will come out in B&W or Color?

Joe Quesada: No, Elektra is a color book. The project I’m referring to hasn’t been publicly discussed.

 

Jamie: I know you’ve talked about Marvel publishing some non-superhero comics. Do you have any further information, like a date for when that will happen?

Joe Quesada: It all starts in the fall and rolls out during the remainder of the year. Our adult imprint will begin with some super hero related stuff and will branch out into more.

 

Jamie: Will the new Mature Readers line get a strong TPB priority like DC’s Vertigo Line?

Joe Quesada: Exactly the same priority that our entire line is getting.

 

Jamie: Will Marvel be overprinting and warehousing these books like DC does?

Joe Quesada: Yes, depending on the project we will be warehousing quite a bit of our TPB overprint.

 

Jamie: Marvel has announced a number of new TPB’s coming out this year. Will Marvel also be putting sold out TPB’s back into print?

Joe Quesada: Yup!

 

Jamie: Which TPB’s will you be putting back in print?

Joe Quesada: I don’t have the list in front of me but it’s extensive.

 

Jamie: Will Marvel gamble on Original Graphic Novels instead of just putting out TPB collections?

Joe Quesada: Probably not right now. As I said, it doesn’t make fiscal sense to us. They make more sense if you can afford a vanity project or two or if you’re interested in winning Eisners, but the reality of life at Marvel right now is that we have to keep growing our profit base in order to get to the vanity stage. One step at a time.

 

Jamie: As of late some small press/independent books like Safe Area Gorazde, From Hell and Pedro and Me have been getting some mainstream press. Do you think Marvel will ever publish comics with similar critical acclaim?

Joe Quesada: That is the hope. You can’t plan for that, it just has to happen. I will say this, we do have the talent pool to do it now.

 

Jamie: How well did Ultimate Marvel Magazine #1 and #2 do on the newsstands?

Joe Quesada: Phenomenally well and our exposure base is growing as we gain more accounts! So far the experiment is going well.

 

Jamie: Do you think they would have sold that well on the newsstands if they were available to comic stores through Diamond?

Joe Quesada: Sure, the fact that we didn’t solicit it through Diamond was a grievous oversight.

 

Jamie: I noticed in the upcoming Previews Marvel is selling Ultimate Spider-Man #1 that are CGC rated and slabbed. Do you think this is the path Marvel should be following?

Joe Quesada: No absolutely not, and I’m not aware of us doing this. Are you sure this isn’t one of our licensees?

 

Jamie: It comes from Dynamic Forces, they’re selling “300 Re-Marked Editions” for $69.99.

Joe Quesada: Dynamic Forces is a license, outside of that they have nothing to do with Marvel. I can’t stop them from buying copies of our books and CGC grading the stuff. Part of their license agreement is that they get a page in our section of the catalog.

 

Jamie: Marvel did reach out during the X-men movie giving away free comics at the theater. What will Marvel be doing when the Spider-Man movie comes out?

Joe Quesada: Hopefully twice as much and hopefully the core books and not just the movie adaptation books will be coherent when the movie comes out.

 

Jamie: Do you think licensing Marvel characters will increase comic readership?

Joe Quesada: Man, I sure hope so! I’m really hoping that the right promotional push will enable these movies to do something for us!

 

Jamie: Are you afraid of turning off female readers with a new line of ‘Bad Girls for Fanboys’ comics?

Joe Quesada: Wait and read the books, that was just Bill J’s way of getting everyone’s attention. It worked.

 

Jamie: Some people have noticed Marvel being more ‘mature’ with their covers and language used inside the books. This despite a CCA stamp being on the cover. Doesn’t this devalue the CCA Stamp?

Joe Quesada: Not really. It’s time for the CCA to grow up with the rest of the real world. They generally bounce words that are perfectly acceptable for Saturday morning cartoons. We may have gone a bit overboard, especially with the Ultimates, but we’re fixing that. With the rest of the line you have to understand that we’re trying to walk a thin line and compete with the rest of the youth entertainment biz. You realize we’re dealing with a 400 million dollar grossing movie and DVD in which every child and adults favorite line is “You’re a dick!”

 

Jamie: Marvel recently changed the way comics were made by making colorists bid for work. Do you see this expanding to other areas of freelance work?

Joe Quesada: No, the coloring situation was an isolated one. We had one of the best coloring studios come in with a very aggressive bid. It changed the landscape and we had to pursue the possibilities. It also came at the same time that our nearly exclusive contract with a large color vendor came to a close so bids were just flying in and around. The final outcome was that we’re saving money and incrementally the quality of the color will be improving starting in May. It was strictly a business decision, I didn’t feel great doing it but it had to be done and the books will improve because of it. I would have had a larger problem with it had it been a decision made regardless of quality.

 

Jamie: A while back, someone asked at a Press Conference about the possibility of Marvel including Credits for Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko co/created characters. Has anything come from that?

Joe Quesada: I look into it. It’s a bit more difficult than it appears. I really can’t get into the legal mumbo jumbo of it and it’s really silly but it’s not all on our end. I would love to see it happen someday but the stars would all have to line up appropriately.

Michael Brennan Interview

Michael Brennan was a sad example of how you can do everything right in comics and still not see success. Michael created a great comic that was well drawn, had likable characters and heart. He marketed it well, published it in affordable collections, created merchandise etc.. Eventually a Graphic Novel publisher AiT/PlanetLar took a crack at selling it and I don’t believe they did any better.

Unfortunately there wasn’t much of a market for comics aimed at young female readers at the time. I think if Electric Girl came out today though an established bookstore publisher it would do very well. There are 3 volumes out there that you can buy for cheap on Amazon now. I think Michael does a mix of fine art and design work now.

 

An Interview With Michael Brennan

If you have been visiting Comiccon.com or Sequential Tarts website you might have noticed an Electric Girl banner. I recently got an Electric Girl TPB collecting the first 4 issues of the series plus some new stories. I loved it and decided to interview the creator Michael Brennan about Electric Girl and self publishing in general.

 

Jamie: I understand you tried to become a comic strip cartoonist before turning to comic books. Can you tell us about your strip attempts?

Michael Brennan: It was back in 1990. I had just reached that point where I realized that if I wanted to be a cartoonist, I’d actually have to do something about it.

I had read Marvel & DC comic books since I was a kid, but had fallen away from them after college. I had decided that the only alternative was to do a comic strip. Bill Watterson’s work in “Calvin and Hobbes” was a big influence on me to try this. I felt that he pushed the comic strip back to a higher ground in terms of art and writing that hadn’t been around for some time. That was my inspiration to try and do a strip.

The strip contained the main characters of the Electric Girl book, Virginia, Oogleeoog the gremlin and Blammo the dog. The main difference was that Virginia didn’t have any of the electricity that she has in the book. The premise was based on Oogleeoog coming in and making trouble in her family’s life.

I did about one month’s worth of strips. But, I didn’t like them when I sat down and reviewed them, so I redid them. I then sent them out to the syndicates. Months later, I received rejection letters from all of them!

 

Jamie: Ever think about following Chris Eliopoulos (Desperate Times) and doing a comic strip but in a comic book format?

Michael Brennan: No. I was never happy about my ability to do the “gag a day” that humor-based comic strips require. And trying to lay a continuing story line over that seemed even harder.

When I decided to do a comic book, I wanted to have the freedom of using the full page to tell the story and not be limited to the strip format. Not that I’m big into experimental page layouts, but since I wasn’t satisfied with my strip attempt I wanted to try something different.

My decision was also based on new influences at that time. I was reading a lot of alternative comic books and European comic books. I was attracted to how these cartoonists created their own distinct worlds for their characters to live in and interact. These worlds might have been very different from the real world or just slightly askew, but the individual nature of their work just stood out to me like nothing I’d ever considered before.

 

Jamie: Which titles were you reading? And how would you say they influenced Electric Girl?

Michael Brennan: I had started reading the Drawn & Quarterly anthology books, as well as Palookaville by Seth. What captured my eye was the distinct visual styles that these works were done in. It was the idea that you could actually draw a book in a manner that was so different from the standard stuff that really got me thinking. Because of the D&Q books I began to look for stuff by cartoonists like Maurice Vellekoop and Dupuy & Berberian.

I find that works done by cartoonists like these have been thought out in a way that mainstream stuff isn’t. Their individual style plays so much into the stories that you wouldn’t expect anyone else to be drawing the characters that they’ve created.

 

Jamie: Electric Girl doesn’t look like the normal superhero comic, I have a hard time saying it is one. But your stories seem to veer off towards the supernatural. Are you trying to get superhero fans to read it by doing this?

Michael Brennan: Personally, I consider Electric Girl to be a humor based book. When I decided to add the “Electric Girl” aspect over my original concept, it was to include something that I could play with beyond the “gremlin” angle. In hindsight, I think that part of my attraction to the idea was that it wasn’t too far from what I had read for many years – superhero comics. It was a sort of a case of doing what you know… or at least using it as a starting point.

Most people who have read the book get that Virginia isn’t a superhero, but I did create a bit of a paradox with the book’s name. I guess that I saw myself creating a style to the book that would be visually self-explanatory to anyone who picked it up. But I can understand how anyone who’s never picked the book up might be confused at first!

 

Jamie: You write the main character Virginia very well. Is she inspired by a real life person?

Michael Brennan: Virginia is an amalgam of aspects of myself and several women I know. I’ve built all my main characters this way.

 

Jamie: I wonder, are Gremlins responsible for all the bad things that happen in the whole world in Electric Girl Comics?

Michael Brennan: No, but gremlins are more than happy to take credit for problems that humans create entirely on their own.

 

Jamie: You do *everything* in Electric Girl even lettering and making your commercial, javascript filled webpage. Are there any areas you had a hard time mastering and how did you overcome them?

Michael Brennan: I do most everything in the book. I’ve gotten help designing things like the inside cover in some issues because of time constraints. I do everything within the stories myself because I don’t break the different tasks up in a neat order. For example, while I might write a complete script before I start drawing, the odds are that I will change the story halfway through the pencils. I’ll also finesse the dialogue as I’m lettering the book.

I gave up on the web site and had a programmer execute my page designs. As much as I wanted to dive into full web page programming, it wasn’t an efficient use of my time. I can manipulate things enough to do some of the updates to the site, but I let the programmer handle the major things. It keeps things running smoothly.

 

Jamie: How long do you plan on keeping Electric Girl running?

Michael Brennan: As you might be able to tell from my previous answers, as long as I can afford the time to do it. This year, I want to get two issues out, at least. That will put me in line to do a second trade paperback (encompassing EG #5 – #8) early next year.

 

Jamie: How has Electric Girl done for you sale wise?

Michael Brennan: Considering that I was a non-entity within this industry when I started publishing, sales have been good. My biggest problem is finding the time to MARKET the book. It’s amazing what can happen when you’re out there selling the thing.

 

Jamie: If you could afford to do Electric Girl in color would you?

Michael Brennan: Yes, but not all the time. I would want to color the book myself and that would take up a lot of time. I’m hoping to include at least several color pages in a future issue of the book.

 

Jamie: You have also been advertising with a banner on at least a couple of comic book websites. Has Internet advertising brought in enough customers to justify it?

Michael Brennan: It has increased the site’s visibility and brought in additional sales, which is the immediate goal. So in that sense, it has justified itself. Ultimately, I need to produce new books and sustain a consistent marketing plan in order for any advertising to truly pay off. That’s quite a trick to do when you’re also publishing your own book.

 

Jamie: I noticed Electric Girl was in the Expo 2000 anthology. How did that all happen and did anything come from it?

Michael Brennan: I emailed the coordinators of the book a request to include a story in their anthology and they accepted. I believe that I’ve picked up a few readers as a result of being in the 2000 book.

 

Jamie: I notice your selling Electric Girl Merchandise on your website, how does that help with the publishing?

Michael Brennan: It helps by raising money to help pay for the publishing operations. Some people who’ve worn Blammo t-shirts have told me that they get a lot of favorable comments about them, even from strangers on the street. It also helps to fill out a table at a convention.

 

Jamie: How important are conventions to a self publisher?

Michael Brennan: Very important. I still sell as many of the first issue of EG as anything else. There are a lot of people who’ve never seen the book and there are others who can’t find the book except at conventions that I attend. I’m trying to do at least one convention in a different part of the country each year to expose more people to my work.

 

Jamie: Have you sold any of your original art?

Michael Brennan: No. I’ve got it all stuffed away in boxes in my studio. No one’s approached me about buying it and I’ve never gotten around trying to sell it.

 

Jamie: Was there anyone in particular that inspired or helped you out when you began self publishing?

Michael Brennan: I read through Dave Sim’s “Guide to Self Publishing”. It answered a lot of the questions that I couldn’t find answers for elsewhere. That reinforced the idea, in my mind, that this could be done by a one person shop. I had also recently discovered Jeff Smith’s “Bone” comic book and was amazed at the great looking art in the book, as well as the tight storytelling that was running over multiple issues and not losing its pacing.

 

Jamie: Did self publishing go the way Dave Sim’s book said it would?

Michael Brennan: Not completely. And that is primarily because I chose not to do a book with a continuing storyline. That was a point that Dave had hammered home in the book – if you’re going to do a multi-part story, be ready to make it happen in a timely manner. What reading that book made me do is really think if I want to get involved with self-publishing and was if I was willing to stick around for a while and see it through.

 

Jamie: What kind of conflicts do you come up against because of self publishing?

Michael Brennan: Schedule conflicts. Big time. That’s the number one problem I’m always facing. Because I can’t afford to do it full time, so I’m constantly juggling projects to make time for the book.

 

Jamie: Some small publishers complain about Diamond Distribution when it comes to giving their book some promotion. How have your dealings with Diamond gone?

Michael Brennan: I’ve had a good relationship with Diamond. They’ve been supportive of my book and I’ve done everything within my means to promote the book when it’s in the Previews catalog. With all of the books that get listed every month, it’s important to try to stand out as much as possible.

 

Jamie: Has it been difficult to get comic retailers to gamble on your book and give it some shelf space?

Michael Brennan: The shops that carry my books tend to be the ones that make an effort to carry independent comics, as far as I can tell. It’s a tough challenge to get a shop that doesn’t cater to tastes beyond the mainstream to take a chance on an independent book.

 

Jamie: Have you branched outside of the comics industry to find readers?

Michael Brennan: I’m just starting to experiment with that now that I’ve published a trade paperback. I’ve signed up with a book promotion firm to generate sales of the TPB in bookstore chains. I’m hoping that this will lead to significant results.

 

Jamie: If Marvel or DC offered you one of their superhero books to draw would you take it?

Michael Brennan: The only character that I’d have any interest in drawing, or could imagine myself drawing, is the original Captain Marvel (Shazam). Mainly because I started enjoying comics when I was reading the DC reprints of the old CC Beck stories when I was a kid. I thought those were the greatest things on earth.
Readers can find out more about Electric Girl at:
http://www.ElectricGirl.com [this is now a dead link]

2nd Jim Valentino Interview

This was originally published January of 2001. I had done an interview with Jim previously and thought it went well. Now he had recently been named Publisher of Image comics and was working with ACTOR (now called Hero Initiative). I thought I’d interview him again about his new roles. This was sadly a short interview. I had sent Jim a batch of 13 questions and he only answered a half of them. I then sent him another batch of 12 questions and again only answered half of those too. I was pretty frustrated and decided to just go with what I got instead of continuing with the teeth pulling exercise.

 

An Interview With Jim Valentino

When I first interviewed Jim Valentino in June of 1998, he was working on the Altered Image mini-series and had just announced he was doing some work with Archie’s Sonic the Hedgehog and Knuckles titles. Since then, he has become the Publisher of Image Comics and a board member of ACTOR (A Commitment To Our Roots). In this interview, we talk about new books and talents at Image, Jim’s background and his work in ACTOR, a charity group that helps out retired creators in their time of need.

 

Jamie: What are your goals for Image? How do you want it to improve?

Jim Valentino: I want Image to improve in every way conceivable. Better stories, better art, better on-time shipping. I want fans and retailers to trust that Image is a company they can depend on for quality, diversity and professionalism.

 

Jamie: Were you surprised when Tom DeFalco wanted to do a creator owned book through Image? Since he was the Editor In Chief of Marvel way back when the founders broke away and formed Image?

Jim Valentino: I was delighted. Tom brought me into Marvel, we have always had a very warm and friendly relationship. This is pure joy for me. I’ve read the first issue of Randy O’Donnell is The M@n, Tom’s first book for us–and it’s a sheer delight! It’s the best stuff Tom and Ron Lim have ever done, I could not be happier.

 

Jamie: Image has gotten some big name creators and titles as of late with Battle Chasers and now Kevin Smith books. Just to clear something up, will Image be reprinting books that were done at Oni?

Jim Valentino: This was covered in the press release. Chasing Dogma and Clerks will both be re-issued with photo covers, the former in color.

 

Jamie: Do you plan on doing any creative work soon?

Jim Valentino: The work I’m doing every day to make Image a better company is both creative and rewarding enough for me at the present time.

 

Jamie: How is working on the business end of comics different than working on the creative end?

Jim Valentino: It’s different on nearly every level. The job descriptions are different. As a creator, one must create–something new where it did not previously exist.
On the business level, one must wear many hats. Find solutions to problems that come up on a daily basis. The two could not be any more dissimilar.

 

Jamie: Does being a former creator give you an insight or advantage that others in the business side of comics don’t have?

Jim Valentino: Certainly it gives me insight and experience. Having worked at all levels in this business from retail to distribution, creator to editor to publisher, I’ve learned one or two things along the way. How that compares, favorably or in any other way to anyone else I cannot say.

 

Jamie: I wasn’t aware you had experience in retail and distribution, can you tell more about your time in these areas? (Who did you work for, when & how long, what did you did there, etc…)

Jim Valentino: I worked for several retail stores in the 70’s–Colorado Comics and Jack Dickenson’s Comic Kingdom in San Diego, among others. Also in the late 70’s, I helped Ken Krueger open the first distribution center in LA for Pacific Comics (so Diamond big-wig, Bill Shanes, was my boss!). I also worked with Pacific in San Diego.

 

Jamie: TPB backlists have become a topic in the industry with DC benefiting greatly from one and Marvel admitting they need one. Any chance that Image will create a backlist program for all of it’s creators instead of having them do it all on their own?

Jim Valentino: Image already has a large and growing backlist of titles. And since all Image comics are creator owned, I’m uncertain what the last sentence means.

 

Jamie: DC has a staffed warehouse full of TPB’s and keeps them all in print. Do you see Image doing that as a service in the future?

Jim Valentino: All of Image’s trades are in Diamond’s Star System (as are DC’s). They are warehoused. As books go out of print, we gauge whether or not there is sufficient demand for the title. We discuss reprinting with the creator/owner (DC’s owning their Marks and Image publishing creator owned properties is not merely a difference in semantics, but a difference in the entire way we operate), if there is sufficient interest in the title and if the creator is willing, we go back to press. Again, we are not DC. Comparing us, one to the other, is an apples/oranges argument.

 

Jamie: Who came up with the idea of ACTOR and how did it form?

Jim Valentino: Jim McLaughlin came up with it. I do not know how it was formed, I suggest you ask Jim.

 

Jamie: Do you know who ACTOR will help out first and when and how it will do that?

Jim Valentino: No. It’s set up so there are two separate committees. The one I’m on will get the word out (promotion, propaganda, whatever) and help to raise the funds. Then there is another committee that will nominate recipients and disperse the funds.

 

Jamie: Can you tell us who is on which committee?

Jim Valentino: The Board of Directors (fund-raising committee) are: Jim McLaughlin, Mark Alessi, Brian Pulido, Patrick McCallum, Joe Quesada, Diana Schutz and Jim Valentino. The disbursement committee are: Roy Thomas, George Perez, Joe Kubert, Denny O’Neil, John Romita, Sr. and Dick Giordano.

 

Jamie: How can fans help out with ACTOR?

Jim Valentino: They can donate money–they can buy the stuff going up for auction. They can look for more auctions.

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