This is one of my earliest interviews and it’s with Chris Eliopoulos. It was published in April of 1998. This interview focuses on a comic strip / comic book that Chris was working on called Desperate Times which I really enjoyed at the time, but it gets a bit into lettering as well.
Jamie: Why did you start Desperate Times?
Chris Eliopoulos: I’ve always wanted to do a comic strip. I was telling Erik that one day and he suggested I do one in the back of Savage Dragon.
Jamie: What is it about?
Chris Eliopoulos: Basically, it’s about two guys recently out of college, living in an apartment. One guy is cynical and the other a nice guy who is too shy. Marty(the cynic) looks down on everything while Toad is just trying to meet a nice girl. There are other characters as well as time goes on.
Jamie: Will it be a running story strip like Doonsbury or just one strip gags like Garfield?
Chris Eliopoulos: I like to do a running storyline with humorous endings. So, each strip can be self-contained but can be read on the whole and still, hopefully, get a laugh.
Jamie: Be honest, are you the main character?
Chris Eliopoulos: Marty is definitely me. I’ve gotten quite cynical. Toad is based on a friend of mine from college–he looks like him, but he is the more thoughtful me from years ago. I always read interviews with creators saying their characters are other people, but also themselves and now I see what they mean.
Jamie: Are all the gags completely made up or did they happen in real life?
Chris Eliopoulos: Most of the storylines are based on things that have happened to me or things I’ve experienced, but it usually just gets my mind working and I play with the ideas until I get something funny.
Jamie: Have you ever tried to do comic strips professionally before?
Chris Eliopoulos: I’ve tried sending out samples to Syndicates, but I was always trying to give them a very homogenous, unoffending strips. Now that I’m working on DT, I don’t try to cater to people or not do something because I’m afraid of what people think. I do it for me. I’ve also done cartoons here and there in other comic books.
Jamie: What are your favorite comic strips?
Chris Eliopoulos: My all-time favorite is Bloom County. Great characters with an edge. Calvin and Hobbes was great. I try to enjoy Krazy Kat, but it’s kind of like Picasso–you know it’s great, but you have to work at it to enjoy. FoxTrot is good, For better or worse is a very nice strip, but sometimes gets too sickly sweet for me. It’s the cynic in me.
Jamie: Now that you have a monthly book full of Desperate Times, will you continue to do strips in the back of Savage Dragon?
Chris Eliopoulos: We’ll see if it’s a regular book. I’m going to put it out every other month if sales are good enough, if not Image will pull the plug. I plan on doing the strips in back of SD as long as Erik will have me. who knows, maybe if the book sells, I can do another strip in the back of Dragon.
Jamie: Do you want to do any crossovers with other comic books or strips?
Chris Eliopoulos: I don’t think my stuff lends itself to crossovers with many comic books, but there will be a slight crossover with Savage Dragon’s main story in issue #48. As for other comic strips, I’d like to see Marty bump uglies with Cathy.
Jamie: When will Desperate Times come out and how much is it?
Chris Eliopoulos: The first issue will be out in June with a $2.95 cover price.
Jamie: Do you think you will try other strips in the future?
Chris Eliopoulos: Like I said earlier, I may if the circumstance presents itself.
Jamie: Okay, now on to lettering. We always hear how artists like Jack Kirby and such are inspirations. Who do letterers get their inspiration from?
Chris Eliopoulos: Like everyone else, I never paid much attention to lettering, but I picked up on it later. Jim Novak, Mike Heisler, Ken Lopez, Phil Felix, Tom Orzechowski, Bill Oakley among others I think are great hand-letterers.
Jamie: How many books can you letter a month?
Chris Eliopoulos: Depends month-to-month. When Image first started I was doing something like 23 books a month. I’ve cut down a bit over the years to save my sanity. Now I do between 5 to 10 a month.
Jamie: Do you letter by hand or are you using computers and special fonts now?
Chris Eliopoulos: Both.
Jamie: What do you think of the computer lettering and special fonts?
Chris Eliopoulos: The process is good in that it saves time, but you have to be careful not to overwhelm the art by having every bell and whistle blaring. Lettering should be very subtle and not take away from the stars of the book–the art and writing.
Jamie: Do you have to fix spelling mistakes all the time?
Chris Eliopoulos: All the time–it’s a wonder that some writers can be call writers since they can’t spell a word.
Jamie: Who gets blamed when spelling mistakes gets through, you or the editor?
Chris Eliopoulos: The editor is ultimately responsible, but they also have proofreaders and others who check the book, but even so mistakes get through.
Jamie: Anything else you want to say?
Chris Eliopoulos: I just hope everyone gets a kick out of my stuff!