Steve Darnall Interview

This is my interview with Steve Darnall. He’s probably best know for co-writing Uncle Sam, a Vertigo book he did with Alex Ross. It is a fantastic book and I’m surprised Darnall didn’t get a lot more mainstream comic writing work out of it. This interview was originally published in May 1998.

 

An Interview with Steve Darnall
Steve Darnall is best known for teaming up with Alex Ross and writing Uncle Sam, a book published by DC Comics. He also writes a comic called Empty Love Stories and is here to talk to us about comics, politics, his current and upcoming work.

 

Jamie: What is your book Empty Love Stories about?

Steve Darnall: For practicality’s sake, it’s a satire of old romance comics–and more importantly, about the attitudes many of those romance comics espoused. A great number of those stories of the 50s and 60s were written by middle-aged men–often men needing some money before the next superhero or western script came in–and aimed at adolescent girls. Now, if you were to ask a hundred people at random, “Which demographic do you think should be giving young women advice that will shape their lives forever?” I doubt very much if the first answer on their tongues would be, “Middle-aged men.” It’s absurd. So I just decided to be absurd in the extreme.

In the grand, philosophical sense, it’s about the fear of being alone.

 

Jamie: How long have you been doing Empty Love Stories?

Steve Darnall: The first issue came out in late 1994, another in ’96, a third earlier this year, and we’re planning to reprint issue #1 in July of this year–with another new issue scheduled for January–so that makes almost four years of sporadic loving.

 

Jamie: Where did you get your start in the comic industry?

Steve Darnall: The embryonic moment came when my friend Alex Ross came to me with an eight-page story he’d done involving the origin of the Human Torch. He wasn’t feeling very confident with his script and asked me to try my hand at it. I did so, we rammed the two scripts together at high speed and suddenly, I’d helped to write a comic book story. Some years later, the story appeared in Marvels #0.

As far as landing a position that suggested I could be in this business for awhile, that came when I took a editorial position at a trade publication called Hero Illustrated in 1993. I learned an awful lot about the industry, worked with some good people, won an Eisner Award and got to cultivate a lot of friendships–some of which I still maintain.

 

Jamie: Have you ever sent proposals to Marvel and DC? If so what were they?

Steve Darnall: Oh, sure. They were among the many companies that turned down Empty Love Stories–Marvel’s paying the price for that one now! Obviously, Uncle Sam came about in part because of a written proposal. I recently sent something to DC regarding a Batman story, but I hear there’s a long line of folks ahead of me waiting for that character.

 

Jamie: What inspired you to write Uncle Sam and pitch it to DC Comics?

Steve Darnall: The initial inspiration came from an evening spent over at Alex’s where I mentioned that Sam was one of the few unjustly neglected characters in the DC or Marvel Universes. At that point, the light bulbs over our heads went off. Over the next year or two–a period filled with the Persian Gulf War and the Los Angeles riots and the looming Presidential elections–we discussed the idea that there were really two Americas, the flawless giant we were told about and the rather fragile creature we were seeing in the raw. Then, as the years went by and one of us became a hot property–I’ll let your readers guess which one–Karen Berger approached the hot one about the idea of doing something for Vertigo. Alex brought up “U.S.” and the ball was officially rolling.

 

Jamie: I’m sure you got some reaction from conservative readers regarding Uncle Sam, how did you deal with them?

Steve Darnall: I accepted them as part of the diversity of opinions that make this nation great and wished they could have directed some of their indignation towards their elected officials, who are doing a far better job of selling us down the river than I ever could.

Actually, there wasn’t a lot of negative feedback brought to my attention, and most of what I did see came from people who’d only read the first issue. In fairness to them, I only read the first half of their letters.

 

Jamie: I got to ask this.. Who did you vote for in the last election?

Steve Darnall: Let me put it this way: neither Kang nor Kodos.

 

Jamie: What new books will you be writing?

Steve Darnall: The one thing that remains firmly in place is writing and publishing Empty Love Stories–something of a job in itself these days–and I’m working on getting a new issue written this spring so my artists can have it ready for release next January–just in time for Valentine’s Day. Jeff Smith is scheduled to do the cover. I’m keeping busy freelancing for some other media, in case the powers that be sink comics entirely.

Beyond that, I’ve got a couple of things in the pipeline but nothing so final that I want to talk about it now.

 

Jamie: As a writer, who are your influences?

Steve Darnall: Oh God…one that leaps to mind is S.J. Perelman. An absolutely brilliant humorist. John Steinbeck. Graham Greene. Howard Zinn. Willie Dixon. Shakespeare. Woody Guthrie. Hunter S. Thompson. The Beatles.

In terms of comics: Will Eisner, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Los Bros. Hernandez.

 

Jamie: What comics do you recommend to other readers?

Steve Darnall: Of the current crop, my hands-down favorites are Bob Fingerman’s Minimum Wage, and Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting. I’ve never been big on fantasy storytelling but Linda’s work has a great sense of humor and I’m always drawn to that clean, fluid style of art. I thought Ragmop was tremendous; I was really sorry to see it go. Starman has always impressed me: it’s great to see DC publish a book that’s basically about getting along with your father. Let’s see…Palookaville, Manya, Action Girl, Scary Godmother, Bone…I must like Lethargic Lad, since I’m always calling Greg Hyland with story ideas I hope he’ll use…the EC reprints, of course…and of course, anything by Evan Dorkin.

 

Chris Eliopoulos Interview

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.

 

Chris Eliopoulos Interview

Chris Eliopoulos.. Do you recognize the name somewhere, but not quite sure where? He’s the LETTERER! You’ll find his name inside many big name comic books. Right now he works on Green Lantern and Savage Dragon (hmm.. a Green fetish? whats next, the Hulk and Martain Manhunter?!?). But forget all that. He’s now doing his own funny book called Desperate Times. No that wasn’t a crack, it truly is a funny book. Full of laugh your arse off comic strips that he’s been doing in the back of Savage Dragon. But enough of the introduction.. let Chris tell you about it.

 

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!

 

Erik Larsen Interview

This is my very first comic creator interview. I used to hang out on an IRC chat channel called #ComicBooks and one of the other participants was Sheryl Roberts. She said she wanted to put together an online fanzine and was looking for contributions. At the time I was part of a Fin Addicts Online mailing list devoted to Savage Dragon and also on there was Erik Larsen. Through the mailing list we’ve responded back and forth to each other’s messages and thought since we “knew” each other I could do an interview with him. I asked Erik ad he agreed. This interview was published in the very first CollectTimes issue, in April of 1998.

Erik Larsen 2008 San Diego Comic Con

Erik Larsen 2008 San Diego Comic Con

An Interview with Erik Larsen

Erik Larsen once wrote and penciled Spider-man stories for Marvel Comics. In 1992 he left Marvel to help form Image Comics and produced his own comic called the Savage Dragon. While continuing Savage Dragon, he has recently sent proposals to write Marvel and DC titles. Erik will be writing Aquaman starting with issue #50. With this interview, we ask him about his Incredible Hulk proposal, The Savage Dragon, Aquaman and writing in general.

 

Jamie: Erik, Sorry to hear you didn’t get the Incredible Hulk job. How were you told that you didn’t get the job, and how do you feel about it?

Erik Larsen: I got a phone call from Bobbie Chase and she gave me the news. I don’t feel too good about it, as you might expect.

 

Jamie: Can you tell us any details about your Hulk proposal?

Erik Larsen: Yes, but I’m not going to. It was pretty involved–eight pages, single spaced. There’s no point going into it.

 

Jamie: Some people are still suspicious about you proposing for two books that Peter David just left. Why did you propose for these books?

Erik Larsen: Well– I just thought I needed to get out and do something else for SOMEBODY. It’s been six years since I’ve done any work for anybody but myself and I wanted to get my name out there. I was talking to Chris Eliopoulos and frankly, I don’t know anybody up at Marvel or DC anymore. I asked him to let people know I was looking for a book to write and Kevin Dooley at DC called me about Aquaman. Now, I’ve never read the book so I had nothing to go by. Kevin sent me a few issues and I visited an Aquaman website to get up to speed on the basics. I thought about it and put together a proposal.

Later, Peter left the Hulk and since that was the book I always wanted to do–I HAD to do a proposal for that even knowing that it was a long shot since most hiring at Marvel goes to their lunch buddies.

It wasn’t so much of a “Peter David thing” as it was “these are the books that are open.” Had Kevin offered me Green Lantern, I’d be doing a Green Lantern proposal and trying to get caught up on that title.

 

Jamie: Will you be sending proposals for other Marvel and DC comics?

Erik Larsen: Not to Marvel– I’ve had my fill. At this point I’m a little burned out of the whole proposal process. At some point I’ve got to think that perhaps my body of work can speak for me. I really hate to piss away days out of my schedule to have the job be given to whoever shows up at the door. It’s quite frustrating.

 

Jamie: Are you trying for any writing job or are there characters in particular that you want to work with?

Erik Larsen: The Hulk was a character that I was very familiar with and I wanted to write–Aquaman was just the book that was available. I’ll make something out of it and I’m sure I’ll think he’s cool as all hell in a few months but I never thought of it as a book that I desperately wanted to do.

 

Jamie: What Marvel or DC character currently without a title would you like to do a new series with?

Erik Larsen: I’m not so ambitious that I want to do that at this point in my life. I liked Nova at Marvel and some of the Kirby characters that have been folded into Jack Kirby’s Fourth World at DC such as the New Gods and Mister Miracle but those are hard to sell without a strong artist attached to the project. It’s much easier to keep a boat floating than to build or repair a boat. You just look out for rocks and icebergs.

 

Jamie: Writing wise, how many other books can you take on?

Erik Larsen: If I wasn’t drawing–a lot. As it is–maybe four.

 

Jamie: Over the last 5 years with Savage Dragon, you have chosen not to use gimmicks like special covers or major crossovers. Why?

Erik Larsen: I’m more interested in doing cool comics. I’ve tried a few things to get some attention but I keep falling back on doing what I think are cool comics.

 

Jamie: What can you tell us about Savage Dragon #50?

Erik Larsen: It’s the conclusion of the Unfinished Business story where Dragon goes back to Chicago.The Dragon takes on the Vicious Circle in a final desperate battle. Carnage is the order of the day as the S.O.S. comes in to help Dragon against the most vile group of bad guys imaginable. An extra-length dose of Savage Dragon for those diehard Dragon fans! Dragon faces Horde at long last and damn near everybody gets into the action.

It’s a 100 page spectacular! Featuring pinups by the best guys in comics– Todd McFarlane, Greg Capullo and more than a few surprise artists (superstars >all)! Wizard Comics’ much sought after Savage Dragon 1/2 is reprinted for the first time along with Mighty Man stories that detail the past of Dragon’s most despicable bad guy–Horde!

Plus, a never-before seen Freak Force yarn by Larsen, Vic Bridges and Al Gordon tells the story of how that team came together band more Desperate Times from Chris Eliopoulos! Savage Dragon #50 wraps everything up in a nice neat bundle and paves the way for a brand new story in a completely new direction. It’s great jumping on point for new readers! Comes with our Highest Possible Recommendation!! You’ll blow a fat $5.95 on this thing.

 

Jamie: You have created a lot of weird villains in Savage Dragon. Who are your favorites and why?

Erik Larsen: Whoever I’m doing at the time. BrainiApe is a lot of fun to draw as is Octopus and OpenFace.

 

Jamie: Will Savage Dragon ever become a cop again?

Erik Larsen: That would be telling. I don’t like to give away much of anything.

 

Jamie: Are you involved with the Savage Dragon appearance in Big Bang Comics? If so, are you a fan of the Silver Age?

Erik Larsen: I’m involved as a reader. I enjoy the book a lot. I’m a big fan of comics from all ages.

 

Jamie: You have taken books like A Distant Soil by Colleen Doran “under your wing” into Image. Are there any new books coming in under you that we should watch for?

Erik Larsen: Desperate Times by Chris Eliopoulos.

 

Jamie: Will you be giving Aquaman any new powers?

Erik Larsen: No.

 

Jamie: What makes Aquaman an interesting character?

Erik Larsen: He’s underwater–his world is a different world than the one we live in. The fact that he’s a king. There’s a lot of cool stuff and potential.

 

Jamie: Do you plan on creating any new villains or supporting characters for Aquaman? If so can you tell us about them?

Erik Larsen: There will be a LOT of new stuff.

First there’s Noble-who comes from the hidden city that is deep below where Atlantis now sits. It was his understanding that HE ruled the sea and since he’s never run into Aquaman and since his race predated the sinking of Atlantis–se seems to be in the right on this one. Noble is young and handsome–He’s clean shaven, dark haired and has a cleft in his chin–very dashing. Think Lancelot. He sweeps Mera off her feet and forces poor Arthur to fight for her affection.

Lurkers– are Noble’s people. They’ve dug a maze of tunnels through the earth that are like subway tunnels to other oceans. This is all in the darkest depths of the ocean and very appealing to the Atlantians and Aquaman in particular. These tunnels will lead to the discovery of many undersea races and cities all over the globe.

Rock Creatures– are the race of lava men whose path the Lurkers crossed to build theit underground tunnels. They’re stupid and deadly.

Land Lovers. Blubber, Sheeva and Lagoon Boy are three characters who fall in love with and want to explore the surface world. Blubber is an intelligent whale (son of Pakkul: Aquaman’s whale friend while growing up) who’s an inventor. He’s fashioned mechanical legs and arms for himself and a wheel chair for the mermaid Sheeva. Lagoon Boy is a kid version of a Creature from the Black Lagoon type who can puff himself up like a blowfish to frighten off prey. This intrepid trio is earthbound for adventure.

Plus a lot more–especially villains.

 

Jamie: Do you have plans for other DC heroes appearing in Aquaman?

Erik Larsen: Not right away. Okay–some right away but none are there to hang out for long. My first issue Aquaman #50 has his birthday and folks drop by to pay their respects.

Although Aquaman is in the Justice League– I’m not going to dwell on this. In terms of the character and the book–Aquaman should never seek their help. That’s not to say that they wouldn’t ever show up but that he’d feel that asking for their help was a sign of weakness–to Aquaman, they need HIM–not the other way around.

I want to make this a great comic that stands up on its own–not one dependant of guest stars to keep it going. That means I’m going to have to make Atlantis and Aquaman the focus– not dwell on other characters from comics outside of my influence. I can’t plan anything long term with a guest star so why go there when I can do something better that’s internal and can have lasting effects on the book?

 

Jamie: Thanks again for the interview. Any other comments you want to add?

Erik Larsen: Buy lots of my funnybooks so my kids can eat.

 

Update! The Combined Best Graphic Novels of 2016!

Since I posted this I’ve had a couple of people point out some sites I’ve missed. This list has now been updated with those lists and the new totals.

Over the last few months there have been many, many websites with “Best of 2016” lists concerning comic books and graphic novels. If you’ve looked at a few, you may have noticed some of the same books on different lists and seen some unique to only that list.

I went through over 120 different “Best Of” Lists regarding comic books and graphic novels and combined them into a spreadsheet. There are over 2,000 different listings of books from these websites. I should note that I’ve included books that were given honorable mentions. In short, if somebody thought it was a good book that you should check out, it’s on here. Pivot tables have been created to show which books appeared on the number of lists. Here are the books with 5 mentions or more:

Book Title Count Writer Artist Publisher
Paper Girls 42 Brian K. Vaughan Cliff Chiang Image Comics
March: Book Three 41 US Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin Nate Powell Top Shelf
The Vision 40 Tom King Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Michael Walsh Marvel Comics
Patience 35 Daniel Clowes Daniel Clowes Fantagraphics
Rosalie Lightning 29 Tom Hart Tom Hart St. Martin’s
Black Panther 27 Ta-Nehisi Coates Brian Stelfreeze and Chris Sprouse Marvel Comics
Monstress 23 Marjorie Liu Sana Takeda Image Comics
Ghosts 23 Raina Telgemeier Raina Telgemeier Graphix
Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq 20 Sarah Glidden Sarah Glidden Drawn and Quarterly
The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye 18 Sonny Liew Sonny Liew Pantheon
Dark Night: A True Batman Story 18 Paul Dini Eduardo Risso DC/Vertigo
DC Universe: Rebirth 18 Geoff Johns Various DC Comics
The Sheriff of Babylon 17 Tom King Mitch Gerads DC/Vertigo
Mooncop 17 Tom Gauld Tom Gauld Drawn and Quarterly
Saga 15 Brian K. Vaughan Fiona Staples Image Comics
The Wicked + The Divine 15 Kieron Gillen Jamie McKelvie Image Comics
Panther 15 Brecht Evens Brecht Evens Drawn and Quarterly
The Flintstones 14 Mark Russell Steve Pugh and Chris Chuckry DC Comics
Faith 14 Jody Houser Francis Portela and Marguerite Sauvage Valiant Entertainment
Sir Alfred 3 13 Tim Hensley Tim Hensley Pigeon Press
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 13 Ryan North Erica Henderson Marvel Comics
The Legend of Wonder Woman 13 Renae De Liz Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon DC Comics
Tetris: The Games People Play 13 Box Brown Box Brown First Second
Superman 13 Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason Patrick Gleason, Jorge Jimenez and Doug Mahnke DC Comics
Black Hammer 13 Jeff Lemire Dean Ormston Dark Horse Comics
Mockingbird 13 Chelsea Cain Kate Niemczyk and Ibrahim Moustafa Marvel Comics
Midnighter/Midnighter and Apollo 13 Steve Orlando ACO, Fernando Blanco, Various DC Comics
Hot Dog Taste Test 13 Lisa Hanawalt Lisa Hanawalt Drawn and Quarterly
Omega Men: The Complete Series 12 Tom King Barnaby Bagenda DC Comics
Beverly 12 Nick Drnaso Nick Drnaso Drawn and Quarterly
Hellboy In Hell 12 Mike Mignola Mike Mignola Dark Horse Comics
Giant Days 11 John Allison Lissa Treiman and Whitney Cogar BOOM!
Black Widow 11 Mark Waid Chris Samnee Marvel Comics
The One Hundred Nights of Hero: A Graphic Novel 10 Isabel Greenberg Isabel Greenberg Little, Brown
Wonder Woman: The True Amazon 10 Jill Thompson Jill Thompson DC Comics
The Fix 10 Nick Spencer Steve Lieber Image Comics
Big Kids 10 Michael DeForge Michael DeForge Drawn and Quarterly
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 5: Super Famous 10 G. Willow Wilson Adrian Alphona Marvel Comics
Peplum 9 Blutch Blutch New York Review Comics
Paul Up North 9 Michel Rabagliati Michel Rabagliati Conundrum Press
Libby’s Dad 9 Eleanor Davis Eleanor Davis Retrofit/Big Planet Comics
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur 9 Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare Natacha Bustos Marvel Comics
Blammo #9 9 Noah Van Sciver Noah Van Sciver Kilgore Books
Demon 9 Jason Shiga Jason Shiga First Second
Megg & Mogg in Amsterdam 9 Simon Hanselmann Simon Hanselmann Fantagraphics
Someone Please Have Sex With Me 8 Gina Wyndbrandt Gina Wyndbrandt 2dCloud
The Arab Of The Future 2: A Childhood In The Middle East, 1984-1985: A Graphic Memoir 8 Riad Sattouf Riad Sattouf Metropolitan Books
Providence 8 Alan Moore Jacen Burrows Avatar Press
Superman: American Alien 8 Max Landis Various DC Comics
Plutona 8 Emi Lenox and Jeff Lemire Emi Lenox Image Comics
Laid Waste 8 Julia Gfrörer Julia Gfrörer Fantagraphics
Moebius Library: The World of Edena 8 Moebius Moebius Dark Horse Comics
Doom Patrol 8 Gerard Way Nick Derington DC/Vertigo
Kill or Be Killed 8 Ed Brubaker Sean Phillips Image Comics
Nod Away 8 Joshua Cotter Joshua Cotter Fantagraphics
Bitch Planet 8 Kelly Sue DeConnick Valentine De Landro and Taki Soma Image Comics
Carpet Sweeper Tales 8 Julie Doucet Julie Doucet Drawn and Quarterly
Goodnight Punpun 8 Inio Asano Inio Asano Viz Media
Goldie Vance 8 Hope Larson Brittany Williams and Sarah Stern BOOM!
Wonder Woman 7 Greg Rucka Liam Sharp and Nicola Scott DC Comics
We All Wish For Deadly Force 7 Leela Corman Leela Corman Retrofit/Big Planet Comics
Soft City 7 Hariton Pushwagner Hariton Pushwagner New York Review Comics
The Nameless City 7 Faith Erin Hicks Faith Erin Hicks and Jordie Bellaire First Second
Future Quest 7 Jeff Parker Various DC Comics
Huck 7 Mark Millar Rafael Albuquerque Image Comics
Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus 7 Chester Brown Chester Brown Drawn and Quarterly
5,000 km Per Second 7 Manuele Fior Manuele Fior Fantagraphics
Frontier #11 7 Eleanor Davis Eleanor Davis Youth In Decline
Adulthood Is a Myth 7 Sarah Andersen Sarah Andersen Andrews McMeel Publishing
Last Look 7 Charles Burns Charles Burns Pantheon
Hilda and the Stone Forest 7 Luke Pearson Luke Pearson Nobrow
Moon Knight 7 Jeff Lemire Greg Smallwood Marvel Comics
Wonder Woman: Earth One 6 Grant Morrison Yanick Paquette DC Comics
Clean Room 6 Gail Simone Jon Davis-Hunt and Quinton Winter DC/Vertigo
Princess Jellyfish 6 Akiko Higashimura Akiko Higashimura Kodansha Comics
Fantasy Sports No. 2 6 Sam Bosma Sam Bosma Nobrow
Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! 6 Kate Leth Brittney L. Williams and Natasha Allegri Marvel Comics
Our Mother 6 Luke Howard Luke Howard Retrofit/Big Planet Comics
4 Kids Walk Into a Bank 6 Matthew Rosenberg Tyler Boss Black Mask Studios
Darth Vader 6 Kieron Gillen Salvador Larroca Marvel Comics
A.D.: After Death 6 Scott Snyder Jeff Lemire Image Comics
Orange 6 Ichigo Takano Ichigo Takano Seven Seas Entertainment
Ganges #5 6 Kevin Huizenga Kevin Huizenga Fantagraphics
Seven to Eternity 5 Rick Remender Jerome Opeña Image Comics
Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride 5 Lucy Knisley Lucy Knisley First Second
The Mighty Thor 5 Jason Aaron Russell Dauterman, Steve Epting and Rafa Garrés Marvel Comics
Shade, the Changing Girl 5 Cecil Castellucci Marley Zarcone DC/Vertigo
Snotgirl 5 Bryan Lee O’Malley Leslie Hung Image Comics
Secret Wars 5 Jonathan Hickman Esad Ribić and Paul Renaud Marvel Comics
Spidey-Zine 5 Hannah Blumenreich Hannah Blumenreich Webcomic – https://gumroad.com/l/aXcO#
I Am A Hero 5 Kengo Hanazawa Kengo Hanazawa Dark Horse Comics
Band for Life 5 Anya Davidson Anya Davidson Fantagraphics
Neil Gaiman’s How to Talk to Girls at Parties 5 Neil Gaiman Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon Dark Horse Comics
A City Inside 5 Tillie Walden Tillie Walden Avery Hill Publishing
How to Survive in the North 5 Luke Healy Luke Healy Nobrow
Black Magick 5 Greg Rucka Nicola Scott Image Comics
Animosity 5 Marguerite Bennett Rafael de Latorre Aftershock Comics
Cheap Novelties: The Pleasures of Urban Decay 5 Ben Katchor Ben Katchor Drawn and Quarterly
On a Sunbeam 5 Tillie Walden Tillie Walden Webcomic – http://www.onasunbeam.com/
Deadly Class 5 Rick Remender Wes Craig and Jordan Boyd Image Comics
Deathstroke 5 Christopher Priest Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz and Jeromy Cox DC Comics
Highbone Theater 5 Joe Daly Joe Daly Fantagraphics

Also of note, a handful of reviewers included a webcomic within it’s best books lists. There was a tie for 1st spot between Spidey-Zine by Hannah Blumenreich and Tilly Walden’s On A Sunbeam (5 picks each). A close 2nd was The Nib (4) as a general site, but also nominated was Nib hosted Bianca Xunise’s work and Melanie Gillman’s Witch Camp.

The full spreadsheet with pivot tables for books, writers, artists, publishers and more is available here.

Regarding Publishers:

Image was the most popular with 73 different titles.

Fantagraphics was 2nd with 62 different titles.

DC has 58 and Vertigo has 16 books.

Marvel has 51 titles.

Dark Horse has 33 titles.

53 Self-Published books made the list too.

 

Caveats:

Where a writer wrote ‘best of’ lists for multiple websites, I’ve cross referenced their lists and removed books that were named twice. I did not think it would be fair if those writers could tip the popularity scale by naming the same book(s) over and over again on multiple websites.

If a writer wrote for multiple sites, but one of those sites picks was a group effort, I did not remove books that are listed twice.

I did not include lists that were a mixed of prose books and graphic novels, with 1 exception (New York Public Library) because they had over 10 Graphic Novels on their list.

I did not use lists where the website was not in English and the books appeared to be translated versions.

I did not use nominations for upcoming awards.

For simplicity sake, if a list named a specific comic book issue or specific volume of a graphic novel, I removed those specifics and just listed the series title, with rare exceptions. Apologies to the reviewers of those books.

Some writers included books that were technically published in 2015 and at least 1 just listed best books they read that year, but the vast majority of those lists were 2016 books. The number of non 2016 books in the spreadsheet is very tiny and insignificant to the overall list.

Most of the lists were general ‘best/favourite books’ of 2016, but I also included lists dedicated to young readers, manga, etc… What type list is noted on column B in the spreadsheet.

A small number of lists also had rankings and those are included in Column C.

Here are the websites I used, including the ones with lists broken up into multiple pages.
A.V. Club – http://www.avclub.com/article/best-comics-2016-247013
Adventures In Poor Taste – http://www.adventuresinpoortaste.com/2017/01/05/the-15-best-manga-series-of-2016/
All The Wonders – http://www.allthewonders.com/books/best-of-2016-comics/
Amazon.com – https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=as_li_ss_tl?fst=as:off&rh=n:283155,n:!2334088011,n:!2334119011,n:10207069011,n:10207117011&bbn=10207069011&sort=review-count-rank&ie=UTF8&qid=1479311361&rnid=10207069011&linkCode=sl2&tag=thebeat0b-20&linkId=29e69bcf1db7acc87ad1ccf25f740094
Audiences Everywhere – http://www.audienceseverywhere.net/best-comics-read-2016/
Austin Public Library – http://library.austintexas.gov/list/best-graphic-novels-2016
Autostraddle – https://www.autostraddle.com/drawn-to-comics-the-10-best-comics-of-2016-364541/
Barnes and Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/best-comics-graphic-novels-2016/
Barnes and Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/best-continuing-manga-series-2016/
Barnes and Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/best-new-manga-series-2016/
Benzilla – http://www.benzilla.com/?p=6040
Bleeding Cool – https://www.bleedingcool.com/2016/12/31/bleeding-cools-11-favourite-graphic-novelscollections-2016/
Bleeding Cool – https://www.bleedingcool.com/2016/12/31/bleeding-cools-11-favourite-single-comics-2016/
Book Minx – https://bookminx.net/2017/01/03/2016-in-review/#more-12194
Book Riot – http://bookriot.com/2016/12/14/best-comics-of-2016/
CBR – http://www.cbr.com/cbrs-top-100-comics-of-2016-100-76/
Chicago Public Library – https://chipublib.bibliocommons.com/list/share/200121216_chipublib_teens/684190077_best_teen_graphic_novels_and_manga_of_2016
Comic Alliance – http://comicsalliance.com/comicsalliances-best-of-2016-all-the-winners/
Comic Bastards – https://comicbastards.com/comics/best-of-2016-the-entire-list?rq=Best%202016
Comicosity – http://www.comicosity.com/best-of-2016-graphic-novel/
Comicosity – http://www.comicosity.com/best-of-2016-series/
Comicosity – http://www.comicosity.com/best-of-2016-single-issue/
Comics Alternative – http://comicsalternative.com/episode-220-our-favorite-comics-of-2016/
Comics Bulletin – http://comicsbulletin.com/11-comics-improved-2016/
Comics Bulletin – http://comicsbulletin.com/jams-top-10-2016/
Comics Bulletin – http://comicsbulletin.com/top-15-comics-elkin-reviewed-2016/
ComicsBeat – http://www.comicsbeat.com/the-beats-best-comics-of-2016/
Crave Online – http://www.craveonline.com/entertainment/1189005-10-best-comics-2016
Critical Hit – http://www.criticalhit.net/entertainment/ten-best-comic-books-2016/
Den of Geek – http://www.denofgeek.com/us/books-comics/best-comics-of-2016/261139/the-best-comics-of-2016
Entertainment Weekly – http://ew.com/gallery/best-comic-books-2016/the-best-comic-books-of-2016/
Fantagraphics – http://fantagraphics.com/flog/whats-store-top-ten-2016/
Five Books – http://fivebooks.com/interview/best-comics-2016/
Flying Colors – http://flyingcolorscomics.blogspot.ca/2017/01/flying-colors-retailing-brigade-best-of.html
Forbes – http://www.forbes.com/sites/robsalkowitz/2016/12/08/the-best-graphic-literature-of-2016/#4d66f12114f2
Forbidden Planet – http://www.forbiddenplanet.co.uk/blog/2016/best-year-2016-andrew-girdwood/
Forbidden Planet – http://www.forbiddenplanet.co.uk/blog/2016/best-year-2016-andy-luke/
Forbidden Planet – http://www.forbiddenplanet.co.uk/blog/2016/best-year-2016-andy-oliver/
Forbidden Planet – http://www.forbiddenplanet.co.uk/blog/2016/best-year-2016-james-lovegrove/
Forbidden Planet – http://www.forbiddenplanet.co.uk/blog/2016/best-year-2016-joe-decie/
Forbidden Planet – http://www.forbiddenplanet.co.uk/blog/2016/best-year-2016-julian-hanshaw/
Forbidden Planet – http://www.forbiddenplanet.co.uk/blog/2016/best-year-2016-krent-able/
Forbidden Planet – http://www.forbiddenplanet.co.uk/blog/2016/best-year-2016-metaphrog/
Forbidden Planet – http://www.forbiddenplanet.co.uk/blog/2016/best-year-2016-robin-etherington/
Forbidden Planet – http://www.forbiddenplanet.co.uk/blog/2016/best-year-2016-supplemental-sarah-mcintyre/
Forces of Geek – http://www.forcesofgeek.com/2017/01/best-of-2016-part-one.html
Forces of Geek – http://www.forcesofgeek.com/2017/01/best-of-2016-part-three.html
Forces of Geek – http://www.forcesofgeek.com/2017/01/best-of-2016-part-two.html
Forces of Geek – http://www.forcesofgeek.com/2017/01/graphic-breakdown-best-comics-and-graphic-novels-of-2016.html
Game Spot – http://www.gamespot.com/gallery/best-comics-of-2016/2900-1044/
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-graphic-novels-comics-2016
Graphixia – http://www.graphixia.ca/2016/12/260-the-annual-graphixia-year-end-spectacular/
Heroic Girls – http://www.heroicgirls.com/best-comics-2016-kids-teens/
High-Low – http://highlowcomics.blogspot.ca/2017/01/top-thirty-long-form-comics-of-2016.html
Hollywood In Toto – http://www.hollywoodintoto.com/the-years-best-comic-books-and-graphic-novels/
How to Love Comics – http://www.howtolovecomics.com/2016/12/06/10-best-comics-2016/
io9 – http://io9.gizmodo.com/the-20-best-comics-of-2016-1790283155
Just Indie Comics – http://justindiecomics.com/2017/01/16/best-16-comics-2016/
Lazygamer – http://www.lazygamer.net/comics-2/ten-best-comic-books-2016/
Library Journal – http://lj.libraryjournal.com/bestbooks2016/graphicnovels.php
Mental Floss – http://mentalfloss.com/article/89562/30-most-interesting-comics-2016
Multiversity Comics – http://www.multiversitycomics.com/news-columns/2016-yir-anthology/
Multiversity Comics – http://www.multiversitycomics.com/news-columns/2016-yir-digital/
Multiversity Comics – http://www.multiversitycomics.com/news-columns/2016-yir-limited/
Multiversity Comics – http://www.multiversitycomics.com/news-columns/2016-yir-new-series/
Multiversity Comics – http://www.multiversitycomics.com/news-columns/2016-yir-ogn/
Multiversity Comics – http://www.multiversitycomics.com/news-columns/2016-yir-reprint/
Multiversity Comics – http://www.multiversitycomics.com/news-columns/2016-yir-single-issue/
Multiversity Comics – http://www.multiversitycomics.com/news-columns/2016-yir-translation/
Nerdist – http://nerdist.com/the-16-best-comics-of-2016/
New York Times – https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/02/books/review/the-seasons-best-new-graphic-novels.html?_r=1
NPR – http://apps.npr.org/best-books-2016/#/tag/comics-and-graphic-novels
Odyssey – https://www.theodysseyonline.com/top-5-creator-owned-comics-2016
Olathe Downtown & Olathe Indian Creek Libraries – http://www.olathelibrary.org/kids/blog/staff-picks-2016
Omnivoracious – http://www.omnivoracious.com/2016/11/graphic-novel-friday-best-of-2016.html
Panel Platter – http://www.panelpatter.com/2016/12/james-2016-favorites-part-1-favorite.html
Paste Magazine – https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/12/10-amazing-indie-self-published-comics-you-might-h.html
Paste Magazine – https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/12/the-best-comics-of-2016.html?a=1
Print Mag – http://www.printmag.com/comics-and-animation/best-comic-books-year-designer-guide/
Publishers Weekly – http://best-books.publishersweekly.com/pw/best-books/2016/comics
Publishers Weekly – http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/comics/article/72373-march-book-three-tops-10th-annual-pw-graphic-novel-critics-poll.html
Random Thoughts – https://lars.ingebrigtsen.no/2016/12/21/the-best-comics-of-2016/
Richland Library – http://www.richlandlibrary.com/recommend/top-ten-great-graphic-novels-teens-2017
Rob Kirby – http://robkirbycomics.com/RobKirbyComics/Blog/Entries/2016/12/12_Robs_6th_Annual_Top_20_Comics_List__the_2016_Edition.html
Savage Critic – http://www.savagecritic.com/uncategorized/abhay-2016-another-year-that-i-mindlessly-consumed-oh-god-oh-god-make-it-stop-uncle-uncle/
School Library Journal – http://www.slj.com/2016/11/reviews/best-of/top-10-graphic-novels-2016#_
Slate – http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2016/12/top_10_best_comics_and_graphic_novels_of_2016.html
Study Group Comics – http://studygroupcomics.com/main/process-party-episode-12-the-best-of-2016/
TCJ – http://www.tcj.com/the-best-comics-of-2016-according-to-some/
The Comics Reporter – http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/fff_results_post_467_best_of_2017/
The Daily Dot – http://www.dailydot.com/parsec/best-superhero-sci-fi-comics-2016/
The Globe and Mail – http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/the-globe-100-the-best-books-of-2016/article33132356/#collection/comicsfive2016/
The Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/dec/04/observer-graphic-books-of-year-2016-stan-nan-hundred-nights-hero-lost-time-proust-irmina-mooncop
The Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/dec/19/best-comic-books-graphic-novels-2016-hellboy-wonder-woman
The Hollywood Reporter – http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/best-comic-books-2016-series-read-959653
Under the Radar – http://www.undertheradarmag.com/lists/under_the_radars_top_25_comic_books_and_graphic_novels_of_2016/
Unwinnable – http://www.unwinnable.com/2016/12/28/the-best-comics-of-2016/
Uproxx – http://uproxx.com/hitfix/2016-best-comics/
Vox – http://www.vox.com/culture/2016/12/21/13919580/best-new-comics-2016
Vox – http://www.vox.com/culture/2016/12/28/14009216/the-best-comic-books-of-the-year
Vu Weekly – http://www.vueweekly.com/148643-2/
Vulture – http://www.vulture.com/2016/12/best-comic-books-of-2016.html
Washington Post – https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/best-graphic-novels-of-2016/2016/11/17/684ef15c-9dde-11e6-9980-50913d68eacb_story.html
Wired – https://www.wired.com/2016/12/best-comics-2016/
Women Write About Comics – http://womenwriteaboutcomics.com/2016/12/27/wwacs-favorite-big-press-comics-of-2016/?utm_content=bufferc7199&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
Your Chicken Enemy – http://www.danielelkin.com/2016/12/top-15-comics-i-reviewed-in-2016.html (Duplicate List)
Bomb Magazine – http://bombmagazine.org/article/42281213/just-a-few-of-the-best-comics-of-2016
Calgary Public Library – https://calgary.bibliocommons.com/list/share/393989767_calgarylibrary_adults/777209168
CBC – http://www.cbc.ca/books/bestbooks2016/
Guide Live – http://www.guidelive.com/comic-books/2016/12/27/perfect-panels-10-best-comic-books-2016
Everett Public Library – A Reading Life – https://areadinglife.com/2016/11/28/best-of-2016-adult-fiction-graphic-novels/
Flood Magazine – http://floodmagazine.com/42168/flood-presents-the-year-in-arts-and-culture/
The Hundreds – https://thehundreds.com/blog/only-built-4-true-believers-the-best-5-comics-of-2016/
ICPL – http://blog.icpl.org/2016/12/30/icpl-top-staff-picks-for-2016-graphic-novels/
Irish Examiner – https://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/artsfilmtv/truth-is-stranger-than-these-comic-fictions-437019.html
Lafayette Public Library – https://lplbooksandbeyond.com/2016/11/30/dont-miss-list-great-graphic-novels-of-2016/
NewsOK – The Oklahoman – http://newsok.com/article/5532325
Pierce County Library System – http://www.piercecountylibrary.org/books-materials/best-2016.htm
The Herald – http://www.heraldscotland.com/arts_ents/books_and_poetry/14971551.Graphic_Content__The_Best_Graphic_Novels_of_the_Year/
New York Public Library – https://www.nypl.org/books-music-dvds/recommendations/award-winners/ya
San Jose Public Library – https://www.sjpl.org/blog/best-new-graphic-novels-2016

George Perez Interview

George Perez – 2003 HobbyStar Toronto Fan Expo

This was originally published in June 2000.

This interview became a wake up call for me. Normally when somebody got some breaking news other sites would mention it and link to the source. It was seen as ethical, without it being formally defined in that way. George Perez leaving the Avengers (which was a top selling book at that time) was major news and it wasn’t announced anywhere yet. When I told Comic Book Resources I was stunned to see that instead of mentioning it and linking to the interview, they instead contacted George, got confirmation and then announced the news themselves as if they broke it. I learned after that to not give them anymore news. The internet comic community, which used to be very volunteer minded, co-operative place was now commercial. The desire to maximize traffic to make money was now more important.

Anyway, I’ve seen George at many conventions over the years and he’s always been super nice to me. He’s generally known as one of the nicest creators out there.


An Interview With George Perez

George Perez has been working in the comic industry for about 25 years. While some hot pencilers come and go, he’s is one of the very few that remains a fan favorite through the years. He has a long list of very popular works behind him both in DC and in Marvel. Among them, Teen Titans, Wonder Woman, Crisis of the Infinite Earths, and currently Avengers. George answers all sorts of questions and gives us some details about when he is ending his run on Avengers and starting his new work Crimson Plague, coming out through Gorilla Comics.

 

Jamie: We have heard lots from Mark Waid and Kurt Busiek about why they formed Gorilla Comics, but we have yet to hear from you. What is your reason for doing comics through Gorilla?

George Perez: The chance to be in full control over my own work is way too tempting to resist. However since I was on exclusive contract with Marvel, I couldn’t work on any new projects until July 2000 when my Marvel contract expired. Except for CRIMSON PLAGUE, which predated that contract With Event Comics seemingly on hiatus while Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti worked on marvel Knights it seemed the perfect time and place to restart the series. With Joe and Jimmy’s generous blessings, CRIMSON PLAGUE became my contribution to the Gorilla launch.

 

Jamie: Crimson Plague is coming out again through Gorilla Comics (Image). For those that don’t know anything about the series, what is it about?

George Perez: It’s about a genetically engineered woman who was first discovered as an embryo inside a dead woman on a mining colony on one of Jupiter’s moons. As the woman (named DiNA: Simmons) grew to maturity it was discovered that her blood was becoming more and more toxic until it was capable of totally disintegrating any organic or non-organic matter. And since DiNA: is a woman, the scientists learn that her menstrual blood could become an airborne virus capable of destroying an entire planet. She becomes a walking crimson plague– and that plague is on its way to Earth.

The artistic gimmick for this series is that every featured character is modeled and named after a real person. There really is a Dina Simmons (who is now pursuing a modeling career using the DiNA: Simmons spelling of her name). It’s a real artistic challenge.

 

Jamie: After the one shot, will Crimson Plague turn into an ongoing series? If so can you draw both it and Avengers at the same time?

George Perez: CRIMSON PLAGUE is scheduled as a limited series, currently eight bi-monthly issues, although that may change. As for AVENGERS, my contract expires in July and it looks like I won’t be continuing with it as a penciler past Issue #34, another double-sized issue. I just need to take a break from the monthly grind for a while and I’ve been offered a few short-term assignments that I’m looking forward to working on.

 

Jamie: What all happened with that eHeroes.com thing? Fans are still confused.

George Perez: As of now, there are still talks going on and, hopefully, this will all be settled by the end of June. I wish I could be more definite and forthcoming, but I’m just waiting with guarded optimism. Things look promising though and Gorilla Comics will survive regardless.

 

Jamie: Will Gorilla Comics be keeping their TPB’s in print and accessible like DC Comics does?

George Perez: That’s one of the cornerstones of Gorilla policy.

 

Jamie: Avenger fans wonder and worry how long you’ll be on the series. Any definite answer?

George Perez: I think I answered that already. It hasn’t been announced officially, but I see no reason in keeping it mum now. I should explain that this decision has nothing to do with my working relationship with anyone on the AVENGERS team. I love them all. It’s just that, according to my last medical check up, I need to slow down. My blood pressure’s up and my diabetes needs to be controlled better. That means more exercise, among other things, and my current schedule just doesn’t allow that. I’ll still be doing a lot of work; it just won’t be on a monthly title for a year or so.

 

Jamie: If you could add one more character to the Avengers, simply so you can draw them who would it be (excluding the Beast)?

George Perez: Tigra. I love the babes.

 

Jamie: You have done a lot of costume designing for Avengers, do you have a favorite?

George Perez: The Scarlet Witch. I think her costume is a perfect reflection of her character.

 

Jamie: Kurt Busiek is big on creating minority characters and made the amount of them on the Avengers team a major plot line. What is your feeling on minorities and their portrayal in the Marvel Universe?

George Perez: As a member of minority group myself, (I’m Puerto Rican) I must say that the issue never really meant anything to me one way or another. To me a hero transcends racial barriers. It is nice to see different races represented, but I’m more likely to follow a character because he or she or it is written well and drawn well. I do, however, enjoy characters having distinctive personalities and often that is well-served by the character having a unique background that distinguishes him her or it from the other. For example, I always liked what Victor Stone (Cyborg) brought to the Teen Titans dynamic. Ironically, the one Puerto Rican character I am credited for creating, the White Tiger, was actually created by writer Bill Mantlo. I just visualized him, using my childhood as reference. But it was Bill who gave that character his soul.

 

Jamie: There is a rumor floating around that after Avengers you and Kurt are going to do a series for DC featuring their Golden Age characters. Any truth to it?

George Perez: None whatsoever. Besides, I wouldn’t have wanted to compete with the memory of James Robinson’s and Paul Smith’s GOLDEN AGE. I thought that was great.

 

Jamie: You had once penciled a JLA vs. Avengers crossover that never saw print. One side says it didn’t come about because of politics, the other (Jim Shooter) said it was because of bad writing and when the writing got fixed you had found other projects to do. What is your take on that mess?

George Perez: To tell you the truth, this is a very old topic and my position is already well-documented, so I’ll just let it pass. All I can add is that, regardless of statements to the contrary, there was no other project I wouldn’t have dropped if the JLA/AVENGERS project ever had gotten greenlighted.

 

Jamie: Some people had doubts that you could keep a monthly deadline when it was announced that you were penciling Avengers. How do you draw all those details and keep the book coming out regularly?

George Perez: With great force of will and little sleep. Actually, it’s the only way I know how to draw. I love groups and details. I just had to work on my work discipline. Despite my health problems, I’m proud of that achievement.

 

Jamie: Where did you get your art training and how did you develop your popular style?

George Perez: I’m self taught and my style was based on emulating the artists whose work I admired.

 

Jamie: Who are your art influences?

George Perez: This is always a hard one. There are so many. Among the comic artists my first major influences were Curt Swan, Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, Gil Kane, John Buscema, Barry Windsor-Smith, Jim Starlin, Nick Cardy, Mort Drucker, George Woodbridge, Leonard Starr, Murphy Anderson, the list goes on and on, and continues growing. Outside the comics field I’ve been forever inspired by the likes of Norman Rockwell, Alfonse Mucha, N.C. Wyeth, Virgil Finlay, Salvador Dali, M.C. Escher, Bob Peak, Richard Amsel and so many others.

 

Jamie: If you weren’t an artist what would you be doing?

George Perez: Probably interviewing an artist.

 

Jamie: You have been a very popular artist for a long time, while many hot artists turn lukewarm in a few years. To what do you owe your longevity?

George Perez: I haven’t the foggiest idea. I try to maintain a certain level of excitement to my work and never sacrifice storytelling for flashy visuals– although they are not mutually exclusive. I just hope that my love for what I’m doing is evident– and contagious.

 

Jamie: Which of your many projects on are you proudest of?

George Perez: Inking Curt Swan on “Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?” A dream come true.

 

Jamie: Are there any writers you have yet to work with that you’d really like to?

George Perez: Yep. If Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Mark Waid, James Robinson, Grant Morrison, Devin Grayson, or Garth Ennis are ever interested in working with me, I’d be proud to be in any of their company.

 

Jamie: As of late we’ve had Siegel’s family, Joe Simon and now Martin Nodell ask for their characters copyrights back. What is your take on these events?

George Perez: I’m all for creators getting all the rights they can and there seems to be little dispute about the validity of the Siegel’s claims. There does appear to be some disagreement with the others, and I’m not familiar enough with those cases to make a valid judgment. Speaking strictly from a moral and artistic standpoint, however, I believe that all these creators were screwed out of just rewards for creating characters that have netted millions for their respective publishers. But then again, business decisions are seldom made by artists and moralists.

 

Jamie: I hear you are involved with a few charities. CBLDF just gave you a DEFENDER OF LIBERTY AWARD for the money you raised for them over the last three years. Can you tell us which charities you work for and what you do for them?

George Perez: I do pretty much the same thing for all of them. I go to conventions and draw like crazy, donating all my commissions to charity. I also boost the amount by printing up some color prints (colored gratis by my friend Tom Smith) of my CRIMSON PLAGUE characters DiNA: Simmons and Shannon Lower and those girls hawk them and pose for photos — all for donations. Among the organized charities I’ve worked for are The Charlotte Firefighter’s Burned Children Fund, The Muscular Dystrophy Association, Make-A-Wish, Florida Hospital Diabetes Association and The Juvenile Diabetes Association. I’ve also raised money to help some friends in dire financial straits and have presided over a few charity auctions as well. Interestingly, the CBLDF is the only charity that I ever have to explain or justify — and that makes it all the more imperative that we never take it for granted.

 

Jamie: I notice you are now posting on the ApeNation.com Message board, but you are very rarely seen elsewhere on the internet. Do you visit any other comic related web sites or gatherings (like Usenet)?

George Perez: No. I browse and lurk from time to time, but I’d never get any work done if I sat and typed answers all day — like I’m doing now. Hmmm.

 

Jamie: Anything else you’d like to say to the readers?

George Perez: Only that I’d better get back to work — or else they’ll have nothing of mine to read next month. Take Care.

Colleen Doran Interview

Colleen Doran – 2008 San Diego Comic Con

This interview was originally published in January 2003.

Colleen Doran is one of many creators I “knew” via online for many years before getting to meet her in real life. In this interview I ask her about the Warren Ellis Form and I think enough years have gone by that I should probably explain what that was and why it was important.

In the 1990’s most “comic book” talk on the internet happened on Usenet, which was a pre-world wide web and pre-web browser message board. You needed a software like FreeAgent and know your ISP’s Usenet server details to access it (like POP3 e-mail). Outside of that there was the CompuServ forums, but you needed to be a CompuServ customer to access them. One of the flaws of Usenet is that it was open to everybody and there wasn’t anybody in charge that could ban trolls. The most you could do was put somebody on ignore, but if they replied to a comment of somebody else, you’d see their comments (and their insulting and or lying about you). There was plenty of abuse, up to and including an asshole making a death threat against Peter David.

Warren Ellis created a Warren Ellis Forum on Delphi and nicknamed himself Stalin. He made it crystal clear that trollish or even bad behaviour would not be tolerated and anybody engaging in it would be banned from the forum. This lead to a popular forum with lots of comic creators and well behaved and often intelligent fans communicating regularly. A number of those fans are well known comic creators today. Other comic creators followed Warren’s lead and went on to create their own message board/forums.

Back to Colleen, she saved my bacon with this interview. CollectorTimes was a monthly web magazine and I needed an interview before the end of the month. I had an interview set up with another creator but because of Christmas stuff getting in the way, they bailed on doing the interview with apologies. Desperate, I took a chance and e-mailed Colleen to see if she would agree to an interview and get it done between Christmas and New Years. She agreed and came through for me. I would later meet Colleen in person at my first San Diego in 2008 and took this picture of her.

 


Colleen Doran Interview

Colleen Doran has been working professionally since the age of 15. Throughout her career she’s worked for all the major publishers as either an artist and/or writer. She has also worked for Lucas Film and Disney, among other companies. These days she is mainly known for doing A Distant Soil through Image Comics, a story she’s been wanting to do since she was a teenager. In this interview Colleen talks to us about A Distant Soil, her success outside of the traditional comic industry and other topics.

 

Jamie: You have been doing A Distant Soil (a.k.a. ADS) for a number of years now. How long do you see yourself going with the series?

Colleen Doran: I started doing this book professionally when I was in high school, which is hard for me to believe now! In fact, some of the pages in the current edition are actually from the original pencils samples I was showing publishers when I was a kid! It is very strange, I suppose, to be doing the same book all these years, but I am determined, if nothing else. I intend to go until the story is told and then it will be over. However long it takes. I imagine another year or so.

 

Jamie: Do you have a definite end for it planned out?

Colleen Doran: Oh, yes. The current storyline has about five issues left. I have two other, much shorter, story arcs, but I know the ultimate ending of every character and plotline. I have it all planned out.

 

Jamie: Among some creators there is a movement to do quick, cheap, thin graphic novels. But when you collect ADS you do more issues than usual, creating thick books. Why?

Colleen Doran: As a reader, I am not satisfied with thin, expensive books. They look cheap and cheesy. I hate them, always have. I want to give the reader real value for their money and a sufficient chunk of story to give them hours of entertainment. That is what I want as a reader, too.

From a purely commercial standpoint, a thin graphic novel disappears on the stands when it is spine out. It doesn’t have a satisfying heft and feel and less perceived value.

 

Jamie: Have you considered going straight to graphic novel with ADS? You’ve mentioned before that you lose money on the single issues and it’s the TPB royalty cheques that keep the series going.

Colleen Doran: The comic books don’t lose money, they just don’t make any. If it takes me two months to do an issue and I only earn $1,000, for all intents and purposes, I have lost all the money it took me to live on for that time.

I am afraid of getting bogged down while working on a huge chunk of story, so I would rather produce it in installments, even if it doesn’t really bring in any income. It is an enormous undertaking to do a 200 page book and to work in a vacuum for all that time with no feedback. I would prefer to just dole it out to those who want to see it. Those who don’t can wait for the trades.

 

Jamie: I recently bought a full color ADS graphic novel published by  StarBlaze Graphics, I also noticed they published some of Matt Wagner’s Mage books as well. What happened to them?

Colleen Doran: Donning was a bit of a mess. They were having financial problems for years before I signed on with them and had been bought out by their printer, so they weren’t an independent publisher like I thought when I went to them. They were very badly managed. There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the books they were publishing. Some of them were very good, but many were downright amateurish. Some of the books like Gate of Ivrel and later volumes of the Thieves World graphic novels had terrible sales, only a couple thousand each, and that was for color original graphic novels at a time when the comic book market was doing very well. Many other companies had GN’s selling tens of thousands of copies.

Eventually, Donning decided to close its trade publishing division. They sold our contracts to another publisher and there was a big class action lawsuit. Many of the authors ended up suing them, including me. It was a nightmare. We all settled out of court, but Donning has disappeared off the radar for good, I think.

It’s not uncommon for small publishers to be badly managed, particularly when they start to get big and expand. They don’t have the expertise to handle it. Donning was yet another example of that. They just weren’t qualified to do the business they were doing and yet wouldn’t go out of their way to get people with real expertise in the market. They had very limited knowledge of the direct market and they weren’t too savvy in the trades, either. In fact, their whole foray into graphic novels was something of a fluke. Before Donning began publishing graphic novels, they were really a kind of vanity press. They did subsidized books, pictorial histories. Cities and towns paid Donning to publish these things. So, when they did get the idea to begin publishing graphic novels and they sort of took off, they weren’t prepared to handle it, and they botched it pretty badly. They lasted as a graphic novels publisher for only about seven or eight years.

Donning had had some mild success doing science fiction books for a few years before they got into graphic novels. The Starblaze line was created by science fiction artist Frank Kelly Freas. They published a few books that did very well and that is how they got their feet wet in trade publishing, but they were complete know-nothings when it came to the direct market. They pretty much ignored it. It was weird.

 

Jamie: I understand you sell a lot of ADS books outside the traditional comic bookstores. Can you give us a rough estimate, percentage wise, of where your books get sold?

Colleen Doran: My orders on the third graphic novel came in and showed that more than 50% of my sales on the new trade were outside the direct market. A big chunk of those go to libraries, too. I wish I had more market penetration in major bookstores, but that is slow in coming. However, libraries love my books!

 

Jamie: You also attend Sci-Fi conventions and sell many books there do you not?

Colleen Doran: Yes, I do a number of them, though I have cut way back in the last couple of years because my work schedule is really brutal and I am just not doing many conventions anymore. I could expect to see much higher numbers at the World Science Fiction Convention than I would at San Diego Comic Con even though Worldcon would have only about 10% the attendance as San Diego. My take would be 100% higher at Worldcon.

 

Jamie: There was a rumor that CrossGen was going to try and “poach” some creators/books from Image Comics in order to grow their own creator owned line. Have you been approached yet?

Colleen Doran: I am committed to Image.

 

Jamie: Once ADS is completed, will you put the whole thing on CD Rom and sell it?

Colleen Doran: I hadn’t even thought about that! Maybe.

 

Jamie: You did a small web comic with Warren Ellis called SUPERIDOL for Artbomb.net. What was it like working with Warren?

Colleen Doran: I love working with Warren. I was thrilled when he chose me to do Super Idol. He has such great ideas and he is an exciting writer. I am working with Warren on a new graphic novel for Vertigo called Orbiter as well. I am penciling and inking it and am painting the cover. I am almost finished. I think I will be finished in a couple of weeks. It is 100 pages! I also worked with Warren on an animated project called Distance. I was the principal conceptual designer. It was optioned by Sony, but they shelved it after Final Fantasy tanked and the option has returned. I don’t know what’s going on with it now.

 

Jamie: Did you do SUPERIDOL on paper or did you work on a computer?

Colleen Doran: Oh, Super Idol is entirely hand painted. Each panel was a separate painting.

 

Jamie: Was getting it scanned in and looking right a big pain?

Colleen Doran: It really wasn’t too much trouble. Looked pretty good to me right off.

 

Jamie: The art and storytelling style in SUPERIDOL was very different from ADS. Had I not seen your name I would not have guessed it was you. What influenced you to draw in that manner?

Colleen Doran: I choose to do every project in a different style. I try to come up with something that suits the book. I believe that a cartoonist’s job is to create a unique look for each book and do what is necessary to tell the story in the manner that is most appropriate to the story, to the best of their ability. I don’t try to twist each project to suit me, I try to suit the project. I approach my work in much the same manner that an actor approaches a role. I want to disappear into the work. I don’t want to leave any stamp on the work except the stamp that gives the reader a feeling of satisfaction that they have thoroughly entered the world of the story. My job is world building. Some artists complain about having to change their style to suit a project, but no one complains if an actor changes his entire personality to fit a role. That is what I think I do best with my work: I change to suit the role, and the role is the story.

 

Jamie: Do you see yourself doing more “freebee” webcomics in the future?

Colleen Doran: Well, I didn’t do it for free! I got paid. But if someone wants to pay me to do another, sure!

 

Jamie: Do you see yourself trying to make a serious go at web comics like some artists do?

Colleen Doran: Not unless there is income to be derived from it, though I may do a couple of comics for A Distant Soil on my own website, just for kicks. Unlike a lot of artists, I am a pro and do this for a living, so the prospect of making my web comic an expensive hobby has little appeal. Some web comics pay, but most do not. If I want to do something for fun, my impulse is to go skydiving, not drawing! I need to get away from the board once in awhile!

 

Jamie: You were a frequent visitor to the Warren Ellis Forum. Has it’s demise affected you the same way it affected other people?

Colleen Doran: I don’t know how it affected other people because I am rarely online anymore. I didn’t really spend much time online before the forum and even before the forum went down, I drastically cut my online time. I am naturally introverted and while I enjoy communicating with other people, my desire to do so has a limit. Too much makes me nervous and upset. I have been very hermetic of late.

 

Jamie: These days it’s popular for some creators to say enough with the work for hire superhero comics! What do you think of them?

Colleen Doran: Well, whatever they want to do. But I don’t have any problem with it. I think about the project first. If it is a project I want to do, I will do it. I like superheroes and would gladly do them again.

 

Jamie: Legion fans tell me you had an Element Lad story done 10 years ago. Today the character is dead. Can you tell us about that story?

Colleen Doran: You know, I was a big Legion fan for many years. Everyone  knew that. But the last Legion editor flatly informed me that anyone who had been part of the previous Legion mythos was not welcome back on the book. In fact, I was slated to write and draw an issue of the Legion with Element Lad as the main character! My script had been approved by then editor KC Carlson, right before he left DC Comics, but when the new editor came along, he refused to go forward with the story and I didn’t get paid for my work. He wouldn’t even return my phone calls. I was very upset by that, so I stopped reading the Legion entirely. I didn’t even know Element Lad was dead until now! I guess I should be really upset! He was my favorite character!

The last time I was up at DC, I did show the Legion editor my new work on Orbiter and he completely changed his mind about me and asked if I might want to do some Legion work again sometime. However, he didn’t last another week at the company.

Anyway, that Legion story I did was written by Keith Giffen. I will never forget it. It was important to me in a lot of ways. It wasn’t my first Legion work, but it was my last. When I was in high school, Keith Giffen had seen my work in a fanzine and called to offer me a job on the Legion! I really wasn’t ready for it, but a few years later, I did get some small Legion jobs. Keith Giffen has always been very important to me. He was one of the first professionals to see my potential and he always treated me with absolute fairness and honesty. So, to get to work with him on a Legion tale with my favorite character Element Lad, was a real treat.

The story concerned Element Lad’s girlfriend Shvaughn Erin, who actually turns out to be a guy who has had a sex change! The fans went wild! Some of them really hated it! Politically correct gays got up in arms about it. Others were cool. I thought it was audacious and I loved it! However, there are about four pages in it that were drawn by Curt Swan. I became so sick with pnuemonia while working on that book I almost died. I’ll never forget it! I couldn’t even hold a pencil or speak. So, Curt finished the job. In a way, it was good, because I got to collaborate with Curt who was always one of my big heroes. Every year for Christmas and my birthday he would draw me a little picture of Element Lad with hearts and flowers or something. My agent would get him to do them for me. I loved Curt and I miss him terribly.

 

Jamie: What are you doing in the future?

Colleen Doran: Well, I am working on Orbiter as I said before. It is a science fiction tale about the space shuttle. The shuttle went on a mission and disappeared. Ten years later, it returns! Mayhem ensues. As a total space program geek, this is a dream project for me and I went gonzo on it. Frank Miller told me I was outdoing Geoff Darrow! The detail is out of control. I am loving it.

Also, I am doing a new series for DC with Keith Giffen. It is called Epoch of Zodiac or Zodiac for short. I am penciling and Bob Wiacek is inking, which is a blessing because I am very hard to ink and Wiacek is one of about three people who can pull it off. Zodiac is an epic fantasy about the warring houses of the Zodiac. It is very dramatic and political and is, in my humble opinion, Keith Giffen’s best work. People are going to go ape over this book. It is one of the most difficult things I have ever drawn in my life because each house of the Zodiac must have distinct looks, styles of architecture, clothing and props. Nothing can look comic-bookish or costumey. It is a monster task. The goal is to have the styles so distinctive that one look will tell you with which house someone is associated. That’s not at all easy. However, I think I am up to it because I am notoriously detail obsessed. Keith says I am the most fun he has ever had working with an obsessive compulsive!

I am also working on future issues of A Distant Soil. A Distant Soil is the story of a young girl who is born the heir to an alien religious dynasty. She is the center of a conflict between rival factions fighting for control of their world. It is extremely complex and highly character oriented. I adore working on this book. It is nearing the end of the principal story arc and we finally get to see who wins. But good guys are not always good guys in this story and things really don’t go in any one direction, so I am keeping people guessing. No one has correctly
pegged the ending.

I have only told one person what happens: Jeff Smith. I was pulling a marathon session on A Distant Soil one night and he was going berserk on Bone and we both just said “I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours!” During this eight hour phone call that went until about 5 AM one day, we both told each other everything about our books and where they were going and he had exactly the kind of reaction every author hopes for when he heard what I was up to, so now I am moving toward the end with confidence. If Jeff says it’s good, I’m okay!

I am also working on The Six Swans for Image. It is an adaptation of the old Brother’s Grimm tale of six brothers who were changed by their wicked stepmother into Swans, and the trials their sister must endure to save them. It is a very straightforward telling, but I have added some elements of my own. It will be a combination of illustration and graphic storytelling, much like Stardust, I imagine.

 

Jamie: Do you have any work lined up outside of the comic industry?

Colleen Doran: Actually, until this year, I have been doing a lot of illustration outside of comics, but this year I have so much comics work, I have cut back. however, I have been speaking to a major film studio for a few weeks about doing conceptual work on a feature film. It is up in the air. I am excited about it, but would have to live out of the country for awhile. I do not know if I will take it or not. It all depends.

 

Jamie: You have told a wide variety of interesting stories about your experiences in the comic industry, with crazy fans, bad publishers and other creators. Have you considered doing an autobiography comic?

Colleen Doran: I have thought about it, but actually, I have been working on an autobiographical screenplay with Keith Giffen. A publisher got buzz about the project and has approached us about doing it as a graphic novel first. We haven’t decided. The buzz on the screenplay is incredibly good. People who have read parts of it have laughed their heads off. Some of my experiences were horrific, but we have turned them into comedy gold. It’s the best revenge, really.

 

Jamie: I know in the past you had problems with crazy fans trying to break your hand and stalking you. Do you still have these problems today?

Colleen Doran: Very rarely. When I went pro, I was a very young girl. I was fifteen. I weighed 95 lbs and looked 12. Every creepy old pervert from coast to coast was chafing my trail. I got older, I got wiser and I learned to fight back. It has slowed down considerably.

Actually, Harlan Ellison took care of the stalker. This guy began creeping around when I was a teen. He used to write me letters saying I looked like a “little English schoolgirl”. He was in his thirties, I think, when he started, and here I was, a teenage girl. He would send me resumes and newspaper articles about him with his age scratched out so I wouldn’t know he was a middle aged perv. The guy was a total creep. This went on for a decade. One day I was boo-hooing to Harlan and he just said “Give me his number. I’ll take care of it.” Apparently, he made a phone call to this freak that scared the bejeezus out of him. We didn’t hear from him for two solid years. Then he started back up again and I went right to the police. Stalking laws have come a long way in the last decade and I think he finally got he message that if he didn’t stop his nonsense, he was going to end up in jail.

 

Jamie: Do you think the comic industry has matured since you began working in it?

Colleen Doran: Hell, yes. To be perfectly frank, I would like to blot out all of my early experiences and pretend they never happened. I am so enjoying my life in comics today, it is hard to believe it is the same business. My life now is the way I always dreamed it would be.

Kevin Nowlan Interview

Kevin Nowlan – 2007 HobbyStar Toronto ComiCON

This interview was originally published in July, 2007.

I have a horrible confession to make. When I was at a convention looking for somebody to interview, I was actually looking for Kevin Maguire. I did not know what he looked like so I was walking through the artists alley looking at names on the tables and saw a Kevin and immediately went over to introduce myself and ask for an interview.

Kevin Nowlan agreed, but said he had just done a long interview about his career that was now out in the TwoMorrows Publishing Modern Masters series. He asked me to pick it up and try to not ask him the same questions. This was a reasonable request and not unusual either. I usually try my best to avoid asking the same questions as I think one of the goals of an interview is to learn something new about the subject so I was glad Kevin made me aware of the Modern Master’s book on him.

Since Kevin agreed to the interview I felt I ought to go through with it. I was able to pick up the Modern Masters book right at the convention itself and took it home to read it. Little did I realize how great of an artist he was and felt dumb for not knowing who he was before. I came up with questions and did the interview via e-mail. Off to the interview.


Interview with Kevin Nowlan

Kevin Nowlan is a jack of all trades when it comes to comics. He’s known for penciling, inking, lettering, coloring and even color separations. He’s also done a bit of writing. Nowlan is probably best known for his work with Alan Moore on the Jack B. Quick stories within the ABC line of books, but he’s been working in the industry since the early 80s. Kevin answers questions about his early experiences in the industry, his art, Alan Moore, recent Witchblade & X-men work, and more.

 

Jamie: I imagine there wasn’t a lot of professional comic artists in Nebraska where you grew up. Who was the first comic professional you met?

Kevin Nowlan: No, Nebraska is pretty much a comic artist free zone. I think Gil Kane was the first professional artist I met. The Fantagraphics guys went out to eat with him when I was visiting them in Connecticut. I was too frightened to speak but I hung on his every word.

Later, I saw him again at conventions and inked a couple of stories that he penciled. For a while, I seemed to be his go-to inker at DC. They kept calling me every time he was scheduled to pencil something.

 

Jamie: I believe you inked both Gil Kane and John Buscema’s last work, which was in the comic Superman: Blood of my Ancestors (what a title, yeech!). Did you feel at all uneasy about inking another artist from the golden/silver age?

Kevin Nowlan: No, but I wasn’t as comfortable inking Buscema’s pencils as I had been with Kane’s. With Buscema, there was less information on the page. The book was in limbo for a year or more after Gil died. He’d penciled the first 24 pages but no one could think of an appropriate replacement penciler. There just aren’t any Gil Kane Juniors out there.

John Buscema seemed to make sense. Their styles couldn’t be more different but the book already resembled a Conan Annual so who better than John Buscema to finish it?

 

Jamie: Early in your career you worked for Fantagraphics. How did you first meet Gary Groth and work for him?

Kevin Nowlan: I sent them some sample drawings and they published them in The Comics Journal and Amazing Heroes. They were just starting to move toward publishing comics so Gary tried to get me involved in one of those projects.

 

Jamie: What projects was he trying to get you to do?

Kevin Nowlan: A Harlan Ellison story, “Eyes of Dust” and an adaptation of E. L. Doctorow’s “Welcome to Hard Times”. Those didn’t work out but “Grimwood’s Daughter” a 5-part back-up story in “Dalgoda” was one of my first assignments. It was written by Jan Strnad. I hope it will be collected one of these days.

 

Jamie: You said Al Milgom gave you some solid advice on your first work for Marvel. What advice did he give you?

Kevin Nowlan: He warned me about trying to draw faster and encouraged me to just work at drawing better. He said that many of the really fast artists who cut a lot of corners have trouble getting work when times get tough. I took it to heart but I’d still like to pick up a little speed. Some of my favorite artists work or worked incredibly fast: Owen Fitzgerald, Kirby, Buscema, Byrne.

 

Jamie: When you draw normal people they end up looking much more ‘real’ than the standard superhero comic artist. Where did you learn to add in those very human looking flaws to the characters and do them well?

Kevin Nowlan: I try to imagine how the characters and settings would look if they were real so that I’m not doing a new version of someone else’s drawing. Then I exaggerate the proportions or gestures or expressions to give the drawing a little punch. But I like to start with reality. For instance, when I was a kid I copied Superman drawings by Curt Swan and put the little parallel lines under Superman’s shoulder even though I didn’t really understand what they were. Later, I tried to draw a shoulder by looking at the way the deltoids connect with the triceps instead of just repeating someone else’s abstraction. But I never like to get too clinical about it. Those things evolve as you work on them until eventually you have your own abstraction.

 

Jamie: Another thing I really admire is your ability to draw detailed facial expressions. Do you have people pose for you and take pictures for reference?

Kevin Nowlan: I’ve done that before but I don’t make a habit of it. It depends upon the requirement of the job. I vacillate between realism and exaggeration. I went through a phase where I was taking lots of photos for reference. Nowadays I’m more likely to make stuff up and if it doesn’t look right at first I’ll keep sketching until it does.

 

Jamie: You mentioned in your Modern Masters interview that you go to the library to get reference material on things. Are you still doing that today or does Google take care of that?

Kevin Nowlan: Yeah, Google is a lot faster. You can find 50 photos of fire hydrants in two minutes. But there are still things that you’re more likely to find at the library.

 

Jamie: You were working when comics were printed on newsprint. Today the printing process is much different and comics are generally printed on much better paper. How did the upgrade in production qualities change the way you work?

Kevin Nowlan: It’s easier to be subtle now. The printing isn’t just better, it’s more consistent. Letterpress ink could look great or it could be run light and you’d lose half the color. The art has to be a little more refined than it did on newsprint. You see everything, whereas newsprint would soften the images up a bit.

 

Jamie: I have to wonder, your work in comics is often short stories, pin ups, inking and so on, all over the place. Do you make your living on comics alone or do you have outside work?

Kevin Nowlan: Mostly comics. I do a few commercial jobs from time to time but nothing steady.

 

Jamie: You spoke to Alan Moore on the telephone over the Jack B. Quick work for the ABC line. What was he like?

Kevin Nowlan: He was terrific. I had a little trouble with his accent but I got most of it. He was also surprisingly open to any of my concerns or preferences.

 

Jamie: You are the co-creator of Jack B. Quick. What did you contribute to the character?

Kevin Nowlan: The visuals. I don’t think Alan had anything specific in mind for the appearance of the main characters. Or if he did, he didn’t share it with me. It wasn’t until the third or fourth story that he described what someone would look like, and that was a secondary character, Mr. Murk from the Dairy.

 

Jamie: Will there be any new stories with the Jack B. Quick character?

Kevin Nowlan: There will if Alan decides to write them. I don’t know what his plans are but I don’t see much point in doing a Jack story without him.

 

Jamie: In X-Men First Class Special, you gave Jean Gray the smallest boobs I’ve seen on female superhero in a very long time. Did that sail through without any uh.. suggestions from editors?

Kevin Nowlan: Yes. The editors, Mark Paniccia and Nate Cosby were as
obliging and supportive as any I’ve worked for, almost to a fault. I think I needed someone to step in and point out that I’d drawn Jean Grey way too thin on the cover. But I was trying to suggest that all the characters were young, barely out of their teens. I think I was more successful with Bobby and Hank on the story inside. For some reason, exaggeration seems to work better when you’re drawing males. But females come in different shapes and sizes. I’m trying to avoid drawing them like they all have the same bodies.

 

Jamie: You’ve been inking Witchblade over different pencilers lately; Matt Haley, Stephen Sadowski, and Rick Leonardi. Are you supposed to keep it all looking similar?

Kevin Nowlan: No. I don’t think that would be possible. They’re three very different artists.

 

Jamie: Are you inking on paper or doing it on computer?

Kevin Nowlan: On paper.

 

Jamie: How many more issues of Witchblade are you doing?

Kevin Nowlan: Three.

 

Jamie: You have also worked with DRAW! magazine showing penciling and inking. Do you have any desire to teach comic art?

Kevin Nowlan: I’ve thought about that a little. In the right situation I think it could work.

 

Jamie: In your Modern Masters interview, you mentioned wanting to do a complete Graphic Novel. Are you any closer to doing that?

Kevin Nowlan: I hope so. The Man-Thing graphic novel is back in my hands now and I’m hoping I can clear my plate and finish the remaining pages later this year.

 

Jamie: Was that supposed to one of those thin 80s Graphic Novels with Steve Gerber?

Kevin Nowlan: Yes.

 

Jamie: How many pages are left to do?

Kevin Nowlan: Twelve — fifteen at the most.

Chuck Rozanski Interview

This was originally published in April of 1999. Chuck was quite angry at Diamond Comics (the only major comic book distributor) and specifically Diamond’s owner Steve Geppi. He had legitimate reasons for this as they were in partnership with two online retailers and they appeared to have an unfair advantage over not only comic book stores but other online retailers too. Chuck called the US Department of Justice to have Diamond investigated for being a monopoly. The Department eventually sided in Diamonds favour and took no action against them. The online retailers involved are no longer in operation.

This interview was republished in print in Gauntlet Magazine #19. That magazine’s issue was about censorship and sadly, because I lived in Canada I wasn’t able to buy it the normal way through my comic shop. Canada border guards are very nitpicky when it comes to material coming over the border and tend to flag a lot of stuff that would be perfectly okay if a Canadian produced and sold it within the country.

Sadly this is still an ongoing issue even today. Diamond’s experience with the border guards is that one “problem” book will hold up the entire shipment coming into Canada, which is why they don’t ship anything that could be controversial. In fact the only other country Diamond wouldn’t ship this magazine to was China.

I did manage to get a copy of the magazine though, but I had to contact an understanding US retailer who mailed it to me directly, which meant paying extra for it.

An Interview With Chuck Rozanski

For those that don’t know Chuck Rozanski is, he the owner of Mile High Comics. Long time readers might remember their ads in Marvel Comics and in various industry magazines. He has been in the business of selling comics for decades and has an influential voice in the comic industry.

Below is a very eye opening interview where he discusses his opposition to recent Diamond Comics / Steve Geppi dealings with online super stores AnotherUniverse.com and the upcoming NextPlanetOver.com. Also discussed are his near purchase of Marvel Comics publishing arm and his thoughts on other industry matters.

 

Jamie: You recently asked the Department of Justice to investigate Diamond Comic Distributors. For those that don’t know what is going on, can you explain what Diamond is doing to warrant this investigation?

Chuck Rozanski: My initial contact with the Justice Department was when they called me for my opinion on Steve Geppi’s acquisition of anotheruniverse.com. I told them that I considered his personal ownership of the leading Internet retailer of comics to be a direct conflict of interest with his other role as the owner of Diamond Comic Distributors, the sole-source supplier to the retail comics trade of Marvel, DC, Image, and Dark Horse publications. But I told the investigators that I was negotiating with Steve Geppi personally to find ways to mitigate the conflicts involved with his ownership of anotheruniverse.com.

Unbeknownst to me, however, at the same time as I was trying to explain to Steve that he needed to find ways to utilize the huge Internet mailing list (400,000 addresses…) of anotheruniverse.com help the Direct Market retailers dependent on Diamond, Diamond was secretly negotiating an arrangement with yet another Internet retailer, Next Planet Over, to enter into a deal by which Diamond would provide exclusive shipping from their Sparta warehouse. This arrangement allows Diamond to collect shipping and fulfillment fees for a period of two years from Next Planet Over, while denying this same opportunity for that same two-year period to any other Diamond accounts. It also allows Next Planet Over nearly immediate access to the huge Diamond Star System inventory backlist of trade paperbacks, toys, cards, etc. with minimal, or possibly no freight charges. The Diamond team also revealed, under intense questioning by retailers, that they were going to warehouse inventory in the Sparta warehouse for Next Planet Over, including back issue comics. The revelation that caught everyone by the most surprise, however, was Steve Geppi’s admission that he had an option to purchase equity in Next Planet Over. If exercised, that option would give him partial ownership of both major Internet retailers of comics product.

This information came out by accident at the annual DC Comics retailer meeting the weekend of March 12-14, and it’s sudden release caught the Diamond management team by surprise. They tried to convince the approximately 65 retailers in attendance that their secretly negotiated contract with Next Planet Over was no threat to other Diamond accounts, but were met with extreme skepticism. All the retailers with whom I had discussed the matter at the DC meeting were very concerned about the possible implications of Diamond/Steve Geppi making this bold intrusion into comics retailing. Given that he already owned the majority of stock in anotheruniverse.com, Steve Geppi was viewed as now having a personal interest in gaining a percentage of the retail market for comics.

While I had already resolved at the meeting that I had to call the Justice Department (I promised them I would call them back if the situation with Steve Geppi changed…), I was given added impetus by Diamond’s announcement of March 17th that all retailers currently being serviced out of Diamond’s Sparta warehouse (including Mile High Comics) would be shifted to Diamond’s warehouse in Plattsburg, NY effective April 8th. The net effect of this shift (according to our Diamond customer service representative) is that it will now take seven days, instead of five, for Mile High Comics (and all other retailers formerly serviced out of Sparta) to receive a Star System reorder unless we are willing to shift from truck freight to UPS. Given that UPS shipping costs are significantly higher, we’ve just seen a degradation of our service. Meanwhile, Next Planet Over has nearly immediate access, and theoretically no freight costs. All this because they’re willing to pay Diamond a fee to ship for them.

According to Diamond, the shifting of accounts from Sparta to Plattsburg is being done to facilitate expansion of the Star System. But the fact that the displacement to Plattsburg comes right on the heels of the admission by the Diamond staff that they had a secret arrangement to give space in Sparta to Next Planet Over, makes this entire process highly questionable to many retailers. In any event, whether it was planned, or not, this move increases the already significant competitive advantage of Next Planet Over over the retailers who were displaced from Sparta. It was this combination of events that made me feel that petitioning the Justice Department for relief was the only option left.

 

Jamie: If Steve Geppi/Diamond Comics continues their plans with NextPlanetOver.com, what will their positions in the industry be like one or two years from now?

Chuck Rozanski: I have no way of knowing. Much depends on the negative feedback they receive from retailers, fans, and the Justice Department. I have already been told that they are changing the reality of some of the answers they gave to the retailers in Baltimore. I have to believe that they were expecting little, or no, reaction to the eventual announcement that they were taking fees for giving Next Planet Over competitive advantage over their captive retailers. The fact that comics retailers have taken to the Internet to inform the entire world of comics about how the Diamond team is altering the competitive environment of comics retailing, seems to have never occurred to them. What they do now completely depends on how much negative reaction they get…

 

Jamie: You have asked for other retailers to join you in getting Diamond investigated. How has the response been?

Chuck Rozanski: I’ve actually been working primarily on a very lengthy report to the Justice Department about the entire history of my interactions with Steve Geppi about anotheruniverse.com. Since I had been trying to reason with him for five months prior to the DC retailer meeting, this report is up to 22 single-spaced pages, and still growing. I actually have only sent my Justice Department letter to comicon.com, and a couple other individuals. They have been spreading the word. I am now receiving e-mails from around the world faster than I can download and answer them… Once my report is finished, and I post it on our website, I am anticipating far greater response.

In terms of feedback, I have had 100% support. There are those who are (quite naturally) skeptical that we will win, but all those who have written me have praised me for taking this public stance in opposition of the Steve Geppi/anotheruniverse.com/Diamond/NextPlanetOver.com potential combination.

 

Jamie: Diamond has come out with a press release discussing the terms between them and NextPlanetOver.com, what was your reaction to the release and the information in it?

Chuck Rozanski: They’re working like crazy to “spin” this information now that they’ve been forced to reveal their secret dealings. If the press release you’re referring to is the one where they say that Steve Geppi “forgot” that he owns a small part of Next Planet Over, I would ask how anyone could believe such a statement? The retailers at the DC meeting asked Steve point blank if he owned any stock in NPO, and he swore he didn’t. Now they’re saying he does, but he didn’t contribute any funds.

So how did he get the stock? No one ever gave me stock for nothing…That’s just one of many inconsistencies in their press release. I think it’s safe to say that these guys are sweating the proverbial bullets.

 

Jamie: The press release says Diamond is exclusively fulfilling internet orders from NextPlanetOver.com, what does that do to others selling comics online, like Mile High Comics?

Chuck Rozanski: Since we specialize primarily in collectibles (back issue comics, toys, etc.), this will have less impact on Mile High Comics than others who sell more new, or Star System backlist. Those who have been selling Star System backlist are now at a huge competitive disadvantage, as they now have to either buy massive amounts of inventory and stock it at their in-house shipping site, or pay the huge expense of setting up a fulfillment point in Sparta. Otherwise Next Planet Over will have up to a seven-day advantage in filling orders for Star System Backlist. There is also the fact that they will have to pay freight, while Next Planet Over theoretically does not. And don’t forget that Next Planet Over will have a much greater likelihood of being able to discover when the Star System is running short on a desirable item. When we call in to Star, they tell us if an item is in stock, or not. But they never tell us how many are left… Even if Diamond sets up a “firewall,” it seems reasonable to assume that the managers of Next Planet Over will figure out how to get the information on what’s available on the other side of their same building.

 

Jamie: The press release also says NextPlanetOver.com will be buying comics from the comic companies and selling/shipping them to individual customers within 2 days. Does this not make them both a distributor and retailer?

Chuck Rozanski: Sure seems like it. This would very negatively impact our N.I.C.E. new comics subscription club. How can we compete with a distributor selling to consumers?

 

Jamie: NextPlanetOver.com had earlier announced they made deals to carry titles and online content from Abstract Studio (Strangers in Paradise), Oni Press, Slave Labor Graphics and Adhesive Comics. Will this not help those publishers?

Chuck Rozanski: Maybe. The industry currently receives most of its sales from about 3,000 independent retailers. If even just a few more of those retailers are forced out of business by these new practices, will the lost sales volume be made up by just one company? It could be that they end up with fewer sales, not more. Also, did these publishers realize who they were actually making a deal with when they agreed to give preferential treatment to Next Planet Over? These are all companies who pride themselves an being very retailer-friendly. What will they think as the truth reaches them? How will they explain their actions to retailers who have supported them for many years?

 

Jamie: You clearly feel betrayed by Diamond’s deal with NextPlanetOver.com, do you think you can trust Diamond or Steve Geppi again?

Chuck Rozanski: No.

 

Jamie: Exactly what would you like the Department of Justice do to Diamond Comics and Steve Geppi?

Chuck Rozanski: I am now a firm advocate that the exclusive relationships that Diamond has with any comics publishers must be voided. We trusted Diamond and Steve Geppi, and I feel they have betrayed that trust. I once advocated the exclusive relationships because I felt that maintaining stability in the world of comics was more important than fears of monopolization. I now fear Steve Geppi and Diamond far more than I fear chaos.

 

Jamie: What would Diamond have to do in order to convince you that they are no longer competing against retailers through NextPlanetOver.com

Chuck Rozanski: 1. Publish the contract between Diamond and Next Planet Over for everyone to see.

  1. Offer the same terms and services allowed Next Planet Over to anyretailer at the same cost
  1. Guarantee in writing that neither Steve Geppi, Diamond, or any member of the Diamond staff would ever take any equity position in a comics retailer ever again.
  1. Immediate divestiture by Steve Geppi of his personal stake in anotheruniverse.com

 

Jamie: Do you think the industry would improve if Diamond Comics had competitors?

Chuck Rozanski: I think Diamond has done a pretty good job of shipping comics. But I would sleep better at night if I had an alternative to their service. Otherwise they are free to inflict deals upon us like the Next Planet Over deal, and we still have to buy from them.

 

Jamie: Is there any chance you would start a distribution company to compete with Diamond Comics? If not why?

Chuck Rozanski: No. My wife ran a distribution service (Alternate Realities) for ten years. She found that the economies of scale in distribution greatly favor those who operate near great masses of population. Since there are only about 8 million people living within 500 miles of Colorado, any distributorship I could set up would be highly inefficient compared with a distributorship based in one of the more populous states. Besides, I am proud to be a comics retailer. Making comics fans happy is what gets me up with a smile every morning. I don’t want to do anything else.

 

Jamie: At the recent Retailer Representative conference between Diamond and retailers, there seemed to be other complaints about Diamond policy. Can you tell us what they were?

Chuck Rozanski: Actually, no. That meeting was so intense, and I was involved in so many discussions about anotheruniverse.com and Next Planet Over, that the rest of the meeting was a blur. I know that Rory Root from Comic Relief in Berkeley, and Mimi Cruz from Night Flight Comics in Salt Lake City briefly raised other issues, but I was distracted, so I don’t know what they were.

 

Jamie: How do you feel about DC Comics option to buy Diamond Distribution in three years?

Chuck Rozanski: It seems an unreasonable consolidation of the market. But I respect the individual members of the DC management team very much. After this situation with Steve Geppi, however, who I had considered a personal friend since 1977, I would like their assurances that any such deal would be reasonable to be put into writing.

 

Jamie: How has Mile High Comics remained successful in today’s market?

Chuck Rozanski: Internet, Internet, Internet. We run Internet auctions, we have six million back issues listed on our website, we send weekly e-mail specials, we cut deals with companies like Excite, and we post thousands of items on ebay.com. The Internet is now over half of our business, and all of our earnings. Without the sales we derive from the Internet, we would go out of business very quickly.

 

Jamie: Mile High Comics has an associate program for selling back issues, how much has that helped your company?

Chuck Rozanski: Not very much in terms of sales, but the goodwill has been great. Sharing revenues with anyone willing to send us a little business has been very pleasant. Even if we don’t generate many sales, we make lots of new friends.

 

Jamie: In terms of getting new comic readers, how do you think the industry proceed. Should we try to latch comic books to other stores or should we try to make comic shops like music and book stores?

Chuck Rozanski: My vision is entirely different. All of our stores are very profitable right now, as we have shifted over to selling more backlist and collectibles. I started selling comics in 1970, and in those days new comics were a tiny part of the business. I view the Direct Market boom period of 1986-1995 as being an aberration. The income from new comics was never intended to keep stores in business. New comics are (were) a way of getting collectors to visit your store. Selling new comics was a service you provided in order to sell them backlist. We’re now seeing a return to that more stable world, and retailers who have adjusted are doing very well. But this is bad news for the publishers, and for Diamond.

 

Jamie: Do you think putting comic books in book stores or other places would draw people to comic retailers?

Chuck Rozanski: It’s been tried, and didn’t work. I believe collectors like going to an environment where they can speak with individuals who share their same dreams and manias. That seldom happens in any book or record store.

 

Jamie: Some readers complain that comics are too expensive. Do you agree?

Chuck Rozanski: Yes! Ron Perelman wrecked this industry when he rammed through the yearly price increases after he took Marvel public. They took comics from being a cheap, disposable, impulse item to being (of necessity) a collectible. Once readers became (at least partially) investors, the industry collapsed. Comics should be a buck. But rebuilding sales volume to the point where that would again be feasible is such a herculean undertaking that I doubt it will ever happen. But it sure would be nice if one of the publishers were to take the economic risk of trying to work prices back down.

 

Jamie: Fans also complain that event story lines and gimmicks are hurting the industry, driving long time readers away in the long run. What is your opinion as a retailer?

Chuck Rozanski: Long-time fans complain. But publishers find that the “silent majority” buy more when those tactics are used. I think it might be a mistake to give too much credence to fans who know when, and how, to provide input. They’re good folks, but they are only one perspective.

 

Jamie: Mile High and Jim Shooter attempted to buy the publishing arm of Marvel Comics not that long ago. Exactly what were you two planning on doing with Marvel if you bought it?

Chuck Rozanski: I was supposed to be in charge of all marketing. I was going take Marvel on the Internet in a massive fashion, and use the Internet to drive more business into comics stores. I was also going to try and get top creators on reduced priced books. A tough job, but I was going to break the price cycle… Jim was going to run editorial, and his goal was to provide more stand-alone stories, plus make sure that the stories that were written were more understandable, and maintained the integrity of the Marvel Universe.

 

Jamie: Jim Shooter said you talked him into self publishing his Daring Comics line and using a limited print run of 5,500. Why the limited print run?

Chuck Rozanski: I knew that Jim could get only a limited amount of credit from Ronalds to print. I debated the issue with my staff here at Mile High Comics about how many of a new Jim Shooter book would absolutely, positively sell. I argued for 10,000, but was voted down. Everyone pointed out that the market is so bad these days, that even a Jim Shooter book (in Black & White) probably wouldn’t sell more than 6,000 copies. Well, that didn’t make economic sense. So I came up with the idea that we could have Jim sign 500 of them, and sell them for about $10 each (later raised to $17.95). If we sold a bunch in advance, and we gave Jim 90% of the gross from those signed issues, then the project was guaranteed breaking even. Since that was really the only goal of the first issue, that’s where the number came from. Some folks thought this was some scheme to drive up the price on the first issue, but it wasn’t. We just had to make sure that Jim generated enough income to pay the printer.

Tony Isabella Interview

Mark Evanier and Tony Isabella at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con. Tony is holding his just awarded Inkpot award.

This Interview was done via e-mail and was originally published in May of 2000. I decided to bring it back now due to the news of a Black Lightning TV series. Tony was one of the first comic creators I got to “know” via online when I joined the internet. He wrote a Tony’s Online Tips column and posted frequently on usenet (and old pre web browser based message board of sorts). Tony had actually requested letters for X-Files (Topps) on usenet and I was one that replied. I got a number of them published in the Topps X-Files series, particularly towards the end of the series.

I should also note that Tony stopped doing Tony’s Online Tips back in 2010. He currently writes a blog and you should probably read his Tony Isabella’s Black Lightning Facts in regards to some of the things he says here in regards to the character.

 

If you read Comic Buyers Guide or visit Tony’s Online Tips, you already know who Tony Isabella is. For those that don’t, he’s a long time writer who has also been an editor and comic shop owner. He has recently been getting some freelance work and he is here to tell us about his work, his past and some things he’s involved with outside of comics.

 

Jamie: What do you do differently that separates you from most comic writers?

Tony Isabella: I don’t know; maybe my deodorant isn’t strong enough.

 

Jamie: Which method of writing do you use most and prefer? “Marvel Style” or full script?

Tony Isabella: I’ve been using full script almost exclusively for several years because that’s what was requested by the artist or required by the editor. However, I went with “Marvel Style” on my MARVEL COMICS: DAREDEVIL story with Eddy Newell because a) I wanted to make sure I still remembered how to do it, and b) Eddy and I wanted to show we could do it. However, I should point out that my plots are fairly detailed. They even include some dialogue.

I don’t have a strong preference for one method over another. I’m adaptable to the needs of the story, the needs of the artist, and the needs of the client.

 

Jamie: I know you’re doing a Daredevil one-shot. When is it coming out and what is it about?

Tony Isabella: It’s one of six “Marvels Comics” one-shots; these are the comic books published within the Marvel Universe itself. They come out at the end of May. Ours features a Daredevil unlike any you’ve seen. Eddy has done his usual magnificent best to make me look good. And that’s all you’re getting out of me.

I think that a reader spending $2.25 for a comic book deserves to experience all the surprises within that comic book first-hand and not after having already read about them elsewhere. I’m proud of this story; I want my readers to get all they can out of it.

 

Jamie: In the May edition of Gauntlet Magazine you tell a story about Jim Shooter nixing a Ghost Rider story you wrote which had some religious elements in it. Do you think he did that because he wasn’t religious himself?

Tony Isabella: I think he did it mostly because he could, although I was also told at the time that he was an agnostic and the story offended him. I think if you look at interviews from creators who were working at Marvel at the time–I left for DC shortly after he came on staff–you’ll see a picture of an arrogant guy who didn’t really know too much about the Marvel Universe. He certainly never grasped that he was trampling on the conclusion of a two-year story approved and supported by three previous editors.

 

Jamie: Do you have any other stories that didn’t make it to Gauntlet that you can share here?

Tony Isabella: I think I covered the Ghost Rider stuff pretty thoroughly in that article. As for other stories, heck, I’ve got lots of them…and if I keep writing a daily online column I’ll probably get to them all by next Thursday.

 

Jamie: Do you have any new work you can announce yet?

Tony Isabella: Sadly, no. I don’t like to announce stuff until I’ve finished it and been paid for it. I do have a project awaiting a contract, various proposals being looked at by various editors, and a number of characters and concepts I’m developing.

However, out on the stands now is the first chapter of the three- issue back-up serial I wrote for Claypool’s ELVIRA, MISTRESS OF THE DARK #83-85. It’s a little ditty called “Better Read Than Dead.” It’s sort of a parable for our times involving Elvira, a library bookmobile, and a censorious group called Protect Our Old People.

It was a very satisfying story to write.

 

Jamie: You’ve been doing daily columns at Tony’s Online Tips  for a long time. Do you think your column is responsible for you getting your recent assignments?

Tony Isabella: I think it’s certainly helped. It keeps my name out there before the readers and those editors savvy enough to appreciate/understand online promotion. And it’s also been a useful tool for promoting the assignments I get.

Case in point: CAPTAIN AMERICA: LIBERTY’S TORCH, the novel I wrote with Bob Ingersoll. It had the best sell-through of any of the Marvel novels to that point; an impressive number of copies were sold through my website via Amazon Books.

 

Jamie: In your column, you are a big booster of Archie Comics. Why?

Tony Isabella: I honestly enjoy their titles. The late Frank Doyle was one of the best comic-book writers in the history of our industry. George Gladir has done many excellent scripts as well. And Craig Boldman has turned JUGHEAD into one of my favorite comics.

I also think the rest of the industry can learn a lot from Archie Comics. Their characters are among the most visible in comics and I’ve found their digest magazines in nearly every supermarket I’ve ever visited.

Their comics are wholesome reading for younger readers, though I’d like to see more variation in the body types and skin colors of the high school students.

Finally, Archie serves a segment of the comics-reading public that is generally ignored by all other publishers and most direct market retailers. I think they can attract new readers to our stores and to a lifelong love of comics.

 

Jamie: With Tony’s Online Tips, you do a lot of comic-book reviews. How many comic books get sent to you per week or month?

Tony Isabella: I’ve never kept a strict count, but it’s over 300 items a month. I try to read as many as I can, but I have to set aside some time to actually write the columns…and to take care of my kids…and to answer interview questions.

 

Jamie: What comics do you buy on a regular basis?

Tony Isabella: Very few. Mostly stuff I don’t get sent for free and off-brand titles that seem interesting. I do buy extra copies of everything I write because my relatives are much too cheap to buy copies for themselves.

 

Jamie: Okay, I’m going to spill the beans. You were the secret “Deep Postage” compiler of The X-Files letters pages for Topps Comics. I understand there were quite a few behind the scenes problems doing those comics. Can you tell us some stories about the problems you faced?

Tony Isabella: The basic problem was that whoever was approving the comics over in Chris Carter Land were the poster kids for anal retentiveness. Although it’s possible that they were so picky because they never wanted the comics out there in the first place.

The main reason the comics fell behind schedule was because it took so long to satisfy the X-Files people. They went over *everything* with a fine-tooth comb, including the letters columns.

After I had written a couple of letters pages, I started writing them 50-75% longer than Topps could actually fit into the issues. That way, after the X-Files folks made their cuts, Topps still had enough to fill the pages. This also saved me from having to return to completed columns and add additional material.

I rarely ran negative letters in these columns because the editors were afraid that the X-Files people would want even more changes in the material. Almost from the start, there were never enough useable letters for our needs. That’s why I started including the “Deep Postage” news items…and making up letters completely.

I also wrote the Xena letters columns, but those were a lot easier to produce.

 

Jamie: Do you know why Topps Comics stopped publishing comic books?

Tony Isabella: Given the market conditions, falling sales, and the difficulties in producing their best-selling title, which was The X-Files, the company opted to get out of comics for the time being. I hope Topps gets back into comics publishing in the future because they were a terrific client. They paid well. They paid fast. And the people I worked with were very professional.

 

Jamie: You are best known as the creator of Black Lightning. I was curious what kind of research did you do before creating him?

Tony Isabella: The first series didn’t require much research. Although it was somewhat grittier than other DC super-hero comics of the time, it was still fantasy-based.

The second series was much more realistic. I did research for two years before writing the first issue. I went to Cleveland’s inner city, interviewed all sorts of people, tutored gang kids, and did my best to get it as right as I could without losing the fantastic elements entirely.

 

Jamie: You have often said that another writer doing Black Lightning would be like crossing the picket line. Why do you feel that way?

Tony Isabella: I’ll try to make this short. I was unfairly fired from the title I created, a title on which I was doing the best work of my career. As far as I’m concerned, this is an ongoing labor dispute between myself and DC and will remain so until they do the right thing by me. Which the company will likely never do.

There’s a lot of history between myself and DC over my creation of Black Lightning. Promises that weren’t kept. The fabrication that the artist of the first series was a co-creator of the character. The failure to promote the use of the character outside the comics industry to any great extent. And so on.

Given all this, my position is that no one other than myself should write Black Lightning. I’m ready and able to write as many Black Lightning comics as DC is willing to publish. They need no other writers for this creation of mine.

 

Jamie: Some of your fans know you went through a serious period of depression, can you tell us about that?

Tony Isabella: I was diagnosed with clinical depression around the time I was fired from Black Lightning. I probably had it all my life, but it was that event…along with some personal problems in my life which shall remain personal…which triggered self-destructive behavior on my part and convinced me to seek medical help.

I got some therapy. I got some drugs. The first worked well, the second didn’t. Eventually, my therapist and I found other ways for me to deal with my depression. Being here for my kids was the most powerful motivating factor in my improved condition.

I’ll suffer from depression my entire life, but it’s an enemy that I know and that knowledge gives me power over it. There are more than a few graves on which I want to dance; I intend to live long enough to accomplish that modest goal.

 

Jamie: Outside of comics, you are running for the board of your local (Medina County) Library. Can you tell all the stuff you do that’s involved with that and how is it going?

Tony Isabella: One doesn’t run for a position on the board, one applies. When there are vacancies on the board, they are filled–alternately–by the Medina County Commissioners and the presiding judge of the Medina Court. I’ve applied for the last two openings and never got as far as an actual interview.

The Commissioners eliminated me because I had an agenda, which is to say I think the First Amendment is a good thing. The judge went with the typical political hack; God forbid he should appoint an average citizen to the board.

Currently, I have “divorced” myself from participation in library matters in protest of the board’s decision to put filters on some of the library’s computers. It was a blatant attempt to mollify the Medina Christian Coalition and didn’t even succeed on that base level. The cowardice of the current board disgusts me.

I’ve been exploring the possibility of legal action to overturn the board’s decision, but, without the assistance of the Ohio branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, that probably won’t happen. I don’t have the financial means or legal expertise to challenge the board without help…and the ACLU has turned down my every request for assistance.

I still support the ACLU. I know the organization doesn’t have the manpower to fight every battle. But it was very disappointing when they walked away from this one. Especially since they had gotten involved with library concerns previously.

 

Jamie: You were also a comic book store owner for a while. Can you tell us more about that?

Tony Isabella: Cosmic Comics was easily the most successful comics shop in the Cleveland area for nine of the eleven years I owned it. We had a full line of comics–the only store that did–and a good selection of magazines and paperbacks.

I enjoyed running the store and serving my customers, but I wanted to get back to full-time writing. Seven years into the gig, I was ready to sell, but my waste-of-oxygen attorney was never able to find a buyer who could actually afford to pay me even a fraction of what it was worth.

Unfortunately, Cosmic Comics lost its location…right on the heels of my suffering a considerable financial loss from my involvement with the International Superman Expo of 1988. The new location was so awful that I couldn’t hire or keep good employees. This led to an increase in employee theft and in shoplifting.

Add the afore-mentioned attorney, later disbarred from the practice of the law, albeit not soon enough to help me, and the store became a money pit for the last two years of its existence. I didn’t make a dime from it in those final years.

It’ll make a heck of a book someday. Might do for comic shops what Psycho did for motels.

 

Jamie: As a former editor, retailer and long-time freelancer, you have a wide perspective on the industry. What do you think needs to be done to improve it?

Tony Isabella: We must look beyond the Direct Sales Market, beyond the flavors of the month, and beyond the editors and publishers who have slim knowledge–creative or historical–of the comics art form. And we must stop pissing off the readers who have stuck with us for years and years waiting for us to get our acts together.

That and hire me a lot more often.

 

Jamie: I was wondering what your opinion is on current legal battles between Marvel and creators over the rights of characters, battles such as Joe Simon with Captain America, Marv Wolfman over Blade, etc…

Tony Isabella: I hope they win and win big. The comics industry has treated creators abominably since its earliest days. I’d love to see these guys balance the scales a bit. As far as I’m concerned, if the comics industry can only exist by treating its creators poorly, then it doesn’t deserve to exist one more day.

 

Jamie: Anything else you want to say?

Tony Isabella: Often readers ask why I’m not writing more comics. They ask the same question of many other comics creators as well. The answer, more often that not, is that editors and publishers aren’t hiring us. If they hire us, we will write and draw.

If readers want to see more comics by favorite writers and artists, by creators who aren’t this month’s flavor, they absolutely must do three things…

One. Let the editors and publishers know, frequently and politely, that you’re ready to give them your hard-earned cash for new comics by these creators.

Two. Actually buy the comics we do. Let’s suppose, for example, that MARVELS COMICS: DAREDEVIL #1 turns out to be the best-selling of the six specials. Odds are someone might figure Eddy and I had a little to do with that success…and that someone might hire us for more projects.

Three. Assuming you like the comics we do, write the editors and publishers and let them know you liked them and are eager to buy more comics by us. Tell your retailer you liked them and are eager to buy more comics by us. Tell your fellow readers you liked them and convince them to buy more comics by us.

Thanks. You’ve been a lovely audience. Don’t forget to tip the interviewer as you leave. He’s been working his way through beauty school and obviously needs all the help he can get.

Ramona Fradon Interview

Janet Heatherington and Ramona Fradon – Paradise Comics Toronto Comic Con 2006

This interview was done at the Paradise Comics Toronto Comic Con in April of 2006 and was published in June, 2006. I still regularly see Ramona at San Diego Comic Con and occasionally on panels.

 

Ramona Fradon is one of the great silver age penciler-creators. She co-created Aqualad and Metamorpho. Fans remember her for long run on Aquaman, the early Metamorpho stories and Super Friends. She is also well known for drawing the Brenda Starr newspaper strip for 15 years. I met her at the Paradise Comics Toronto Comicon and did an interview on April 29th. We cover a wide range of topics, taking careful consideration to not duplicate questions she had just recently answered on a panel (moderated by Janet Heatherington) about her career. You can hear that panel here.

Now on to the interview which includes a special appearance by another popular creator.

 

Jamie: How are you Ramona?

Ramona Fradon: I’m fine, thank you.

 

Jamie: Are you enjoying Toronto?

Ramona Fradon: Oh yes.

 

Jamie: Have you been out to see the sites at all?

Ramona Fradon: No I haven’t, I’ve been sitting here drawing steadily.

 

Jamie: Are you making money?

Ramona Fradon: Oh yes. It’s very nice.

 

Jamie: Okay to start off, I’ve recorded your panel and I’m going to try not and duplicate those questions. At the beginning you said you read comic strips. What strips in particular?

Ramona Fradon: Oh I like all the daily newspaper strips. I liked Dick Tracy, Orphan Annie, Alley Oop, Mandrake the Magician and more. The only one I didn’t really like was Brenda Starr (laughter). I never read it, I didn’t like the way it looked.

 

Ty Templeton (to Ramona): Hi, I can’t let this convention end without saying you are one of my favorite people in this business. I love absolutely everything you have ever done. My name is Ty Templeton and I worked on Plastic Man at DC. We’ve shared characters. I didn’t want to interrupt this conversation but I at some point just had to come by and shake your hand.

Ramona Fradon (to Ty): Thank you very much.

Ramona Fradon (to Jamie): Lets leave that part in (laughter).

Jamie: Okay (laugher).

 

Jamie: You said your father got you into becoming an artist. How did that go about?

Ramona Fradon: Well, he just kept saying it was conditioning. When I got to high school I took a lot of art courses. Not because I was particularly interested in it, but because it was something I could do. I had neglected studying so I couldn’t get into college with the grades I had. So I went to art school but I didn’t have any idea of what I’d do.

 

Jamie: So you just went along with the flow?

Ramona Fradon: Yeah, I went a long with the flow. When I got out I was just bewildered. I had no idea and I just got steered into cartooning.

 

Jamie: When you were learning art was there any particular influences that you had?

Ramona Fradon: Will Eisner. I just thought he was incredible when I first saw the Spirit. It was just the way it should be you know? There was a mix of serious and cartooning.

 

Jamie: Did you ever get a chance to meet him?

Ramona Fradon: I was nominated for an Eisner and at one point I was on a stage with him and shook his hand.

 

Jamie: He was here two years ago.

Ramona Fradon: He was a genius, definitely a genius.

 

Jamie: Oh yes. You mentioned that you almost worked with Fox?

Ramona Fradon: I got a script from Fox and I returned it because I heard they didn’t pay. I then did three scripts for Stan Lee at Timely. The last job was for the dogs (laughter). It was bad.

 

Jamie: Were there any other publishers besides DC and Marvel that you worked for?

Ramona Fradon: No, just those two. And mostly DC.

 

Jamie: So you never bothered with Charlton?

Ramona Fradon: I never knew anything about them. I was lucky.

 

Jamie: At DC how strict was the creative process of drawing? I know they were a lot more strict than Marvel.

Ramona Fradon: Well DC was interested in maintaining a certain format. When I started they wanted to maintain the 6 panel grid, two panels to a line. They didn’t really want to deviate from that. But as time went on they got looser. By the time I finished I could make any type of layout that I wanted. I mean, they were strict at first, they were very worried about the continuity from one panel to another.

 

Jamie: The storytelling?

Ramona Fradon: Yes, sometimes I could get something in the wrong place.

 

Jamie: Did you every deviate from the script at all?

Ramona Fradon: I never wanted to. Unless it was something that was so horrible to draw (laughter). The most that I would do is when the writer would say… and this is the thing that made me quit cartooning… there was a panel where I had to draw thousands of roses being dropped out of an airplane. And I thought, I cannot do this, this is just insane (laughter). So you have to think of ways of abbreviating the idea, the impression. Thats the only way I would change things.

 

Jamie: You’ve spent a long time on Aquaman. Do you know why Aquaman stuck around while other superheroes didn’t?

Ramona Fradon: I really don’t know. I guess it was all the silly young men that kept reading him. He’s changed though, I don’t see him as the character at all.

 

Jamie: Are you surprised Aqualad is still around after all these years?

Ramona Fradon: Yes, I never understood while he had any appeal to begin with (laughter).

 

Jamie: I know you took some time off and then they called you back to work on Metamorpho.

Ramona Fradon: Yes, I think I was out for about 3 years. George Kashdan called me and asked me to at least help get it started. I then stopped again around 1973 I think.

 

Jamie: Why did you stop?

Ramona Fradon: I had a baby. She was clinging to my knee while I was trying to draw and it was terrible. So I just quit.

 

Jamie: What went into the creation of Metamorpho? Were you given any visual cue’s on how he should look?

Ramona Fradon: No, no, we did do a lot of talking about it. The first sketches I did and I think I may have them somewhere.. I made him a conventional type hero with a cape and tights and whole thing. That didn’t seem to work, then we talked some more. I think I finally figured it out that since he was based on 4 basic elements that he should be divided into 4 parts and that he shouldn’t have any clothes on. I mean.. otherwise, how would he do that? So it just evolved as we reasoned it.

 

Jamie: Do you know why they ended his series?

Ramona Fradon: I don’t know, I know it sorta fizzled out and they keep trying to revive it from time to time. I think his time you know..

 

Jamie: It came and gone.

Ramona Fradon: Yeah.

 

Jamie: So how did you end up working at Marvel?

Ramona Fradon: Well, I didn’t “end up” (laughter). It was the 70s, I was retired for about 7 years and there was the womens movement. They had a Womens strip and they wanted a women to illustrate it. I heard somewhere that Stan Lee really loved my work on Metamorpho and maybe they were hoping I could still draw that way, but my drawing was really rusty. And besides, it wasn’t the same story.

Jamie: Yeah, not the same character. The Cat is not Metamorpho.

Ramona Fradon: No, not at all. My drawing has always been really influenced by the script. It tends to change with the script and that was quite different.

 

Jamie: The last story that I know of, that you did was an 8 page Aquaman for Just imagine Stan Lee’s Aquaman.

Ramona Fradon: Oh that’s right, yeah. That was hard to do. That was bad. I mean, I was rusty. It’s very hard to get back into illustrating a script after you’ve been gone a long time. That was not my proudest moment (laughter). And I hate the colors. There is a woman down here she’s got that.. have you seen her coloring? It’s beautiful! The computer stuff is just bad.
Jamie: Going back to Metamorpho, do you know how they decided on the colors of the character?

Ramona Fradon: I don’t know if I did that or not. I have a feeling that I did. I never colored so I’m not sure how I would have. I don’t know.

 

Jamie: Did you like inking your own work?

Ramona Fradon: No. It was like doing it all over again.

 

Jamie: I heard Kirby said the same thing.

Ramona Fradon: I never got a handle working with a brush. You never know what it’s going to do.

 

Jamie: As of late a lot of your work is being reprinted by DC. Hopefully you are being compensated for that?

Ramona Fradon: Oh yes. DC has been really good about royalties, they really have. I can’t complain. I get paid better now than when I was first drawing them (laughter).

 

Jamie: That’s good to hear. Have you seen the new [Showcase] Metamorpho trade?

Ramona Fradon: Yeah.

 

Jamie: Do you like it better in black and white or color?

Ramona Fradon: I think I’d like to see it in color.

 

Jamie: So you have no interest in going back and doing comics at all?

Ramona Fradon: No.

 

Jamie: Been there done that?

Ramona Fradon: Yes. It’s WORK. I don’t draw easily. I’ve seen some of these artists and they just spin it out. Marie Severin is like that. She’s just do-do-do-do and it’s a finished drawing. I can’t do that. I really struggle. It’s hard unless I’m up against a deadline I just put aside all inhibitions and just draw. Then it’s easy. Otherwise it’s just hard for me. I keep editing and changing.

 

Jamie: I’m trying to think of a Brenda Starr question that hasn’t already been asked…

Ramona Fradon: On Brenda I did my own inking.

 

Jamie: You penciled and inked that?

Ramona Fradon: It was a more comic style. It was easier to ink that. Every week, 7 pages. I used to number the panels. 25-26 panels a week, penciled and inked. It was just a grind. It was horrible (laughter). And it wasn’t like the strip was making a million dollars either. The Syndicate was so cheap. In over 5 years I didn’t get in increase in pay.

And not only that I used to get the receipts, the statements, and I began to notice that when the receipts went up, the production costs went up. And that was what my pay was based on. This went on and I thought it was crazy. So I got a lawyer. Then it didn’t happen anymore. They are just criminals.

 

Jamie: They didn’t want to pay you any more?

Ramona Fradon: I just can’t say enough bad about the Syndicate. Everybody I know that worked for them was treated badly by them. They’re all criminals in expensive suits.

 

Jamie: You mentioned Dale Messick left Brenda Starr under bad circumstances.

Ramona Fradon: She hated them. She made them hundreds of millions of dollars over the years with movies rights and merchandising. They fired her actually and they didn’t even give her a wrist watch. They probably ripped her off for all those years too. She promised she’d live forever so they’d have to keep paying that puny pension they gave her.

 

Jamie: Okay, you are doing commissions now. Is that going well for you?

Ramona Fradon: Oh yes. It’s as much as I want to do and I can do it whenever I want.

 

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