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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Interviews, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,587
26. Interview: Illustrator Proiti Roy

MWD Interview - Proiti Roy

Indian artist Proiti Roy has illustrated many picture books for children, as well as text books, book covers and magazine articles. Before ‘settling down to become an illustrator’, Proiti worked as a graphic designer in advertising and manufacturing, … Continue reading ...

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27. Interview and Giveaway: Last Chance Hero by Hope Ramsay

Hope Ramsay dropped by the virtual offices to celebrate the release of Last Chance Hero!  Find out what’s in her deadline survival kit.

Top 5 items in deadline survival kit by Hope Ramsay 

Here are the must-haves in my deadline survival kit:

1) A comfy chair, preferably a recliner, because it’s going to be a long night and my neck gets tired if I spend too much time sitting at a desk.

2) A supply of Diet Dr. Pepper because as noted above, it’s going to be a long night.

3) M & Ms.  Chocolate is an inspiration.  And it’s also loaded with caffeine.

4) The Georgia Good Ol’ boy (AKA the dear husband) because he gives really good neck rubs, and sends in food when I need it.  Also, when I get stuck and write myself into a corner he usually comes up with a crazy plot idea that’s so off the wall it might just work.  (Or it could be that my brain is speeding on caffeine.)

5) My iPod cued up with the playlist I create for every book that I write.  Music is essential for me to find the emotional thread in every story.


Ross Gardiner has had his fill of difficult relationships. Returning to Last Chance after a rough divorce, the town’s handsome new fire chief just wants safety and stability-a tall order given his dangerous job and the way he has the attention of all the single women in town. All except Sabina Grey, the girl who stole his heart when they were teenagers. Sabina knows a lot about playing it safe. Always the good girl, she’s now responsible for her antiques store and caring for her sister. But having Ross in town brings back the memory of one carefree summer night when she threw caution to the wind-and almost destroyed her family. Now that they are both older and wiser, will the spark still be there, even though they’ve both been burned?

About Hope Ramsay:

Hope Ramsay grew up on the North Shore of Long Island, but every summer Momma would pack her off under the care of Aunt Annie to go visiting with relatives in the midlands of South Carolina. Her extended family includes its share of colorful aunts and uncles, as well as cousins by the dozens, who provide the fodder for the characters you’ll find in Last Chance, South Carolina. She’s a two-time finalist in the Golden Heart and is married to a good ol’ Georgia boy who resembles every single one of her heroes. She lives in Fairfax, Virginia, where you can often find her on the back deck, picking on her thirty-five-year-old Martin guitar. 

Hope’s SM:






Buy Links:

Amazon – http://amzn.to/1CF3zww

Barnes & Noble – http://bit.ly/1LEeC1u

IndieBound – http://bit.ly/1RMF9IH

GooglePlay –  http://bit.ly/1SYyBca

iTunes – http://apple.co/1Lytcqj

Kobo – http://bit.ly/1KpxTmU


She wore a pair of faded blue jeans that clung to her hips and butt like they were part of her. Her green tank top looked like something she might have found at a tag sale. The slippery, clingy fabric was covered in Oriental flowers, and it was almost see-through.

Not to mention that it exposed her shoulders, which had freckles on them. As usual, Sabina had pulled her hair back into a ponytail. And as usual, wisps of hair had escaped around her face. He wanted to cross the room, pull that damn rubber band out of her hair, and bury his hands and his nose in all those amazing curls.

Oh yeah, and his hands itched to touch her breasts through that silky fabric. Which is why he balled them into fists and jammed them into his pockets. Then he pretended that his feet were set into concrete.

A man could get hurt by lust like this.

And that didn’t even count the damage his feelings for Sabina might do to Lucy or Henrietta or even the folks in Last Chance who were all invested in him marrying Lucy.

He didn’t want to feel this way.

About anyone.

Lust like this was just crazy. It made a man do stupid things, and he had been there and done that. He much preferred the cool, calm feeling he had for Lucy and her lists.

Sabina stood there staring at him for a moment, her lips soft and parted. The afternoon sun coming through the dusty window, lit up her hair. Her voice sounded squeaky when she started talking, and she stammered, which was not like her at all.

“Uh . . . I . . . Uh. I got a call from Bubba Lockheart. I gather y’all moved the trunk down from the attic?”

“Oh, yeah, you came for the trunk.” He had the twin sensations of being relieved and disappointed all at the same time.

She nodded.

“It’s in the living room. Let me get the hand truck.” He hurried out onto the back porch and snagged the dolly and wheeled it into the living room.

Sabina was waiting for him.

“So, did you search through it? What else is inside?” She tilted her head, and for an instant, she resembled a little kid on Christmas morning, so excited to be unwrapping a present.

“Uh, no. We were kind of busy today.” He kept his words sharp and short. He shoved the dolly under the trunk and tilted it back. Then he wheeled it all the way out to the porch and down a make-shift ramp that had been set up over the front steps. Sabina followed him and opened the tailgate of her van.

“Can you lift it yourself or do you need help?” she asked.

“I can do it.” He wanted her to leave. Fast. But the trunk was awkward and he almost tilted it sideways when he tried to lift it. Before he could stop her, Sabina bent down and grabbed one of the handles and helped.

Together they got it up into the van. But in the process they ended up side by side and their shoulders touched.

He’d never been burned by a fire. He was practically religious about keeping his gear in topnotch form. But that touch scalded him. It would have been normal to jump back from all that heat. After all, he’d been trained to know the danger of uncontrolled fires.

But his training went right out the window, along with his common sense. Instead of running like hell, he turned toward her. She looked up at him, the fire dancing in her eyes. Oh, man, this was so wrong.

And so right.

“Ross,” she whispered, her voice so damn sultry.

His mind told him to stop. But his heart had a completely different idea. His heart had been waiting decades to kiss Sabina Grey. And there she was, right in reach, and her mouth looked so ready to be kissed that he couldn’t help himself.

He leaned down and pressed his mouth to her lips, and even though this wasn’t exactly the hands-on, bodies-pressed-together, hot and heavy kiss he’d once fantasized about, the heat of the moment still swept through him.

He wanted to pull her close. He wanted to explore her mouth a little deeper. He wanted to do a lot more than dance with her.

But Sabina pushed back.

“We can’t do this.” Her look was stunningly sober.

“Right,” he said on a deep exhalation. “Right.” He repeated the word because his mind had sort of checked out for a moment. “I’m sorry.”

She didn’t accept his apology. She just gave him one of those female looks that were so hard to decipher. This one was pretty bad ass.

And then she backed away, ran to the driver’s side of the van, and took off, sending the gravel on the driveway flying.

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28. HeroesCon Interview with Michel Fiffe Part 2: The Possibility of Digital, Comparisons to Cerebus, and What’s to Come in COPRA



Continuing on from our first entry this past Friday, here is the second part of my HeroesCon interview with Michel Fiffe, creator of the self-published and much lauded action-adventure comic, COPRA.

It’s funny, the way I discovered your work actually came through a friend of mine at first, as a word of mouth sort of thing. Then I firmly jumped in when Oliver Sava starting writing about it on the A.V. Club, and you ended making a ton of these “Best of 2014″ lists, which is pretty exciting right? That sort of vindication has to be rewarding.

It’s nice, it’s nice that people like it, absolutely. Oliver’s a great supporter.

Everyone wants to make a superlative list at some point, right?

Yeah, that means a lot to me personally, and it actually translates into more readers. I think word of mouth has really worked a lot on COPRA, without any huge marketing muscle behind it. That’s been the primary thing, people are just excited about it, and that’s super flattering. To like it so much – in today’s aggressive marketplace – that they spread the word out of genuine enthusiasm… what more could you want?

That’s literally what’s happening, though the only hurdle is, of course, availability.

That’s the only hurdle right now. Bergen Street Press has been working hard for a couple of years now to get over it. We don’t want to make it super exclusive, this isn’t a super limited boutique item by any means, but it’s also not as simple as pushing a magic button for  books to suddenly appear. Others have that magic button.


When you made the collections, which have obviously been a great way to pull in readers, you went with Bergen Street Press, and that’s Tucker Stone’s outfit right?

Yeah, that’s Tom Adams and Tucker Stone, they’re co-owners of the store, Bergen Street Comics and they started publishing and putting out “compendium” collections of the issues early on because I started selling out of the issues. So they met that demand, they helped me meet that initial burst of enthusiasm. I was too caught up creating the next issue. My financial model is that one issue pays for the next, there’s no room for reprints, that’s not within my budget. Bergen really helped make it more available and more accessible to people. The compendiums led to an official collection, the current “Rounds” as they’re called, which collects six issues at a time. That’s the kind of thing that we’re trying to get into all the comic shops across the country.

It’s showing up in stores in Atlanta, and I even think I saw copies in the UK over Gosh Comics perhaps.

Yeah, we get a lot of orders from all over the world.

Did you just have a relationship with Tucker and Tom, is that why you went with them as the distributor and publisher and go-to guys?

I trust them and respect them, and I couldn’t happier with that specific team of players. Their point of view and their involvement with the comics industry is something I can get behind.

In regards to availability though, is digital not in the cards?

It’s not NOT in the cards, it’s just something I still have to manage and deal with. There are just so many issues with it, the platform, the way it looks, the time to get everything in order. I’m still dealing with the print issues, that’s a huge thing for me, just getting one of these out every four to six weeks. I barely have any time to do anything else BUT this issue. When it comes to digital, I want to be as hands-on as possible, and that’s a time sucker. I wouldn’t rule digital out, but at the moment it’s not a primary concern. Having said that, I don’t want to exclude anyone from reading it, I understand there’s a large portion of the readership that’s gone digital because its more convenient, but personally I haven’t related to that model. So, it’s not a priority. I don’t feel like it’s something that’s burning in me to address anytime soon.

copra physical

But there is an argument you made yesterday (on a panel with Klaus Janson) about the visual of the comic as a physical object. When you go digital, you do lose that. I mean, you can put everyone of those pages, including the back cover and back matter into a digital copy, but it’s not the same.

It’s not the same, and I want to be clear that I don’t want to impose my fetish of the newsprint comic on anyone. But readers do have the option to buy the issues or NOT to buy them, and that’s the risk I take. I’m not forcing people nor am I trying to change the industry “back to the glory that it was”. I’m just doing this because it’s a model that I’m familiar with and I aesthetically like. It’s a much more intimate thing. I just don’t read that many digital comics. That’s not how I absorb this stuff. I would feel weird putting it out in the world if I’m not sure of it myself.


The comparison has been made, and COPRA has been compared very favorably to works like Cerebus, and that’s a comparison that I find to be really quite apt in that you’ve taken an analogous set of characters, like Dave Sim did with Conan the Barbarian, but by Round Three, you’ve expanded that world and its character set in a way not dissimilar from his work in “High Society”. Is that a comparison that you find interesting?

It is, mostly because Dave and I were born on the same day.


Yeah, so it just means we’re both stubborn and hard headed, and we’re gonna do what we want no matter what. But the COPRA/Cerebus thing… I imagine it’s more accurate than I’d like to think, but the main difference is that Cerebus started out as a parody. And my book…well, I personally fucking hate parody comics of that nature. I like Cerebus, but  I especially mean modern indie takes on this sort of stuff. It’s low hanging fruit. You’re going to make fun of superheroes, good job, you’re wasting your precious time on earth doing that. Who cares? You’re not gonna outdo Marshal Law. I love that comic to death. There was a lot of anger behind that book, but it didn’t look down at anyone. Now, you either like superheroes or you don’t, and it’s perfectly fine to dislike it. In fact, you probably shouldn’t. I have zero interest in making fun of this stuff. From the first page of COPRA, it was serious business to me, serious business while fully realizing and basking in the absurd nature of this material.

That’s a difficult balance to achieve – seriousness without being overtly grim.

I just don’t want to wink at readers. I respect the readership too much to be winking at them – like, hey get the joke? Isn’t this DUMB? It’s like, fuck that joke, it’s a terrible joke. And I think Dave Sim wised up to it early on, because he was parodying Conan and the goofy barbarian genre, but then it took on a different identity all together.

Copra WirAnd I feel like that’s where you’re headed too. Round 3 is stunning, and I think when it hits a collected edition, I think there’s going to be a lot of talk. I don’t know how else to put it. I don’t want to speak too highly here, but I think that’s going to be when – people already notice it, but I mean, my god, that chapter when Wir goes back home…

Yeah, that’s a favorite. I was worried about making that one too because it’s so bizarre, even within the norms of COPRA, you know?

It was so touching and so raw. It struck nerves for me. And then Gracie in Miami, and you’re working out some of your own feelings about the city and you even say as much on the back end.

Yeah. Every issue pretty much has at least one autobiographical component in it. And I find that interesting when I read older comics too, whether they meant it or not, I think it comes through. Especially for the older creators who really had no other option but to express themselves through The Brave and the Bold or something. But for me to actually write this stuff, I have to put some sort of personal experience in it. So every issue, there’s something there that’s really personal. But I also don’t want it to be too obvious, though.

COPRA-22-page-674x1024Let’s talk about Round Four or the presumed Round Four, about what’s coming up, what’s being developed. Spoiler alert: Dutch got it at the end of the latest issue. And clearly there’s another team that’s sort of gaining up on the COPRA side of things. At least that’s what it seems like. There’s an organized group of evil doers. What can we expect in the next couple of issues; I think there are two left in this round?

I have two left. And then I’m going to have a 25th issue anniversary-sized thing, that’s going to stand apart from the narrative, the main arc. And then starting with issue 26 that starts another arc all together. I’m going to work in six issue chunks, but there are going to be main storylines in that. I think I’m going to go up to fifty issues, so 25 will be an anniversary issue, as well as the halfway point.

So there will be an endpoint that’s set in stone?

Yes, I do have an ending set, I’ve mapped it out that far. I’m so excited for it.  Knowing that it’s going to end and that everything is building up towards it makes every step of the way that much more fun for me, much richer.

So what can you tell me that we can expect in just very general terms, without spoiling anything, for the next two issues? Is it going to be a battle between the team and this group of guys that are coming after them?

It’s going to be COPRA vs COPRA. That’s all I’m going to say.


You’ve got two other narratives occurring in these books, you’ve got Dieter VDO’s back cover story for Man-Head…

Which is non-canonical.

Let me ask you how that got arranged first. Are you and Dieter friends?

Oh, I’m a big fan of his work. He did a Savage Dragon story for this collection of back ups I edited. This was ages ago. Anyway, Dieter… I like spreading the word on him. I think he’s great, one of my favorite cartoonists. I wanted to have unique back matter for this current arc and he was the first person I thought of to do something. Instead of pin ups, though, I wanted a serialized narrative. Thankfully he was on board. His own weird version of COPRA? Who wouldn’t want to see that?

So what is going on between your narrative and his narrative in these orange and white pages? There’s something appearing in the sky…?

Oh, that. Well, that’s a subplot that has to do with Rax’s dimension. It’ll all make sense once you read it together, there IS a point to it; it’s not as arbitrary as it seems. I’ve been playing it quietly because if I show too much, it’ll spoil things.

When can we expect the next issue to hit?

Maybe 4 weeks, a month? After the show I’ve to get back to drawing it. I’m not really ahead, schedule-wise. As soon as the issue is done, it’s practically in the readers’ hands.

You can purchase recent issues of COPRA at Michel Fiffe and Kat Roberts’ Etsy store. While Bergen Street Press is currently sold out of both collected editions of the series, you can purchase the first collection at InStockTrades.

1 Comments on HeroesCon Interview with Michel Fiffe Part 2: The Possibility of Digital, Comparisons to Cerebus, and What’s to Come in COPRA, last added: 6/28/2015
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29. HeroesCon Interview with Michel Fiffe Part 1: The Challenges/Merits of Self-Publishing and the Appeal of the Analogy


For me, COPRA is the one of the few superhero comics that really matter.

A few years ago, I was at a point where I had basically given up on everything produced within the arena of the “Big Two”. Sure, I enjoyed the occasional Grant Morrison comic when they would rear their head, but for the most part I had lost the exhilaration I used to get when I would read the adventures of my favorite costumed adventurers. Then, in the midst of a discussion of Jack Kirby and John Ostrander, a good friend floated along the idea that I would find great delight in reading the self-published wonder that is Michel Fiffe‘s riff on Ostrander’s biggest legacy work. What I found was a comic that embraced everything I loved about superheroes and the ideas of some of their most iconic creators, and then spun them off in wholly exciting and unpredictable directions. The jubilation that I feel whenever I crack open a new issue of COPRA is likely on par with what readers in the 70’s felt when a new Fourth World installment was released, or their counterparts in the 80’s when the aforementioned Suicide Squad and Watchmen were being unfurled upon an unsuspecting public.

COPRA reminds me of the actual potential of this side of the medium, and it’s a book that I wish everyone had their hands on. It is superhero comics at their absolute best.

While at HeroesCon, I had the opportunity to sit down with Fiffe to discuss what’s coming up in his lauded series along with other points of interest that encircle self-publishing and the day to day process of creating the issues in which he is responsible for every facet, including their mailing to subscribers. Here is Part 1 of our discussion:

When you conceived of COPRA, what was the impetus to say: “I’m going to self-publish this and do everything myself” vs. pitching it to a publisher like Image or Boom! or any other publisher that might have found a home for it?

I find the pitching process to be rather exhaustive and time consuming. I know it well, I’ve done it many times. It’s such a slow process getting a book green-lit and that’s not the nature of what I wanted to do with COPRA. It had to exist almost immediately. I don’t have a committee to answer to and that’s appealing to me. I’m not comfortable giving that power to whatever company.

And you did a lot of pitching before that you said?

Tons of pitching, tons of submissions, I’ve done pretty much everything I could think of to do to get in through the door. I’ve got some published works as a result, but nothing really satisfying, or that I really felt confident about. So, self-publishing, once I started doing that, that’s when I felt like I was creating comics on my own terms. COPRA is a natural extension of that, especially when I started giving myself a monthly schedule, mimicking the schedule of mainstream comics. For me, that’s the interesting dichotomy of it, where I’m harnessing this kind of “old-school” rigorous schedule to fit my independent needs.

Copra 4But are there significant challenges you find? I know there’s promotion that would be available in a big house publisher, like if you were working with Image there’d be press releases constantly. Is bandwidth an issue?

Well, motivation is always the biggest hurdle to overcome, especially given an unrelenting schedule. I have to wake up every day and treat this like a job, because it IS my job, it is my full-time job. I have to get it done somehow, I can’t wait for the muse to strike. I have to get an issue done a month, or as close as possible. But as far as challenges in not having the marketing muscle of other companies? I’d rather stand apart from the wall of noise. How many press releases does anyone really read, anyway?

Your comics, at least in their monthly form, are only available on your Etsy page and I noticed that you share that with your significant other, I think I saw some nice craft jewelry I think?

Yeah, Kat Roberts sells all kinds of stuff, zines, handmade purses, prints. I totally piggy-backed off her store on Etsy. That was a platform I was familiar with, so when I started publishing Zegas (Fiffe’s first self-published comic) I didn’t have a place to sell it from, except conventions and maybe the occasional store that would take a risk on it. Etsy allowed me to slowly build up my readership. By the time I got to COPRA, there was a significant amount of people that were interested in the stuff I did and that made it easier for me to move forward.

Copra 22Let me turn to the actual creation process of an individual issue, say you’re sitting at your desk and working on Issue 22 right now?

That’s the one that just came out.

Good, let’s use that one as an example, if you’re working on Issue 22, what is your step by step? Do you script first and then directly move into the illustration phase? Do you create thumbnails? How do you piece your typical issue together?

It always changes, but the constant thing is that I always map out the story, page by page, and then I script it loosely. Then I start penciling loosely with the first draft in mind. The real work portion of the process begins when I start refining the script while inking and sometimes hand lettering. That’s when it all starts coming together. But generally I have a very loose plan in mind per issue. It’s equal parts organic and strict. I just have to get a number of pages done every day, that’s basically my main objective.

What’s your average rate right now?

Comfortably, I’d say about two pages a day, complete with full color. And that may range, sometimes I may get three, sometimes just half of a page, it just depends. And then you also have to consider the managerial aspect of it after the book is done. I have to get it shipped out to readers  and stores and that’s definitely a job in of itself.

Copra Rax

Was there ever a page or spread or a panel layout that was really hard to crack? Was there any particular example where you just said “oh my god, what am I doing with this thing?”

Every page is like that, but I try to make it work somehow. I have to bring that blank page to life somehow. But the trick is to not think about it too much, because if I over-think it – which is my natural inclination – it kills it. You can get caught up in that and then nothing exists, there are no results. I strive for perfection, but being my own worst critic, I have to be real careful to not crush my gut instinct.

You’re a real master of negative space, and I read an issue and think “damn, Fiffe really knows how to use that white”. I think that’s a rare talent, and I’m not trying to kiss ass, but when I read through recent issues it’s hard to not notice how much your craft continues to grow every single issue. I’m floored by the way you use this stuff.

Thanks, man!

AsesinosBack to COPRA‘s origins, if I may, when you began to pull together your characters designs and tried to piece together the different teams…and there’s a number of different teams now I guess, you’ve got COPRA, Asesinos…

Right, it’s all splintered.

Yeah, I almost have a hard time keeping track.

I should map it out.

I would love that, if you would put a thing at the end of each issue with the full cast.

I’ve been thinking about that, actually.

That would be awesome, and I’ll take full credit if it happens. But when you were conceiving of your core cast, there are obviously analogous elements to Ostrander’s Suicide Squad.


Copra BoomerDid you ever find it was difficult to skirt the line between your own original ideas and those aforementioned analogous elements or did you just say, I’m going to use this as a starting point and go my own way?

When I initially set out to do this comic, I put myself in the mindset of: “what if a publisher hired me to take over a title, and gave me complete freedom”, which would never happen in the current landscape. So using that fantasy to guide me, I took the Dirty Dozen-esque concept, which has been around for a while in many different forms, and I used it as a blueprint to work from. I wanted a world I could really sink my teeth into month in and month out. I wanted to make something that was serialized, that maximized the nature of the single issue, I wanted to build a place that made it easier for me to explore all my interests. The analogous aspect of it… I was reluctant at first, but I had forgotten that some of my favorite comics are analogous, too, some more blatant than the others.

Are there any examples you can cite? At least of the ones that fall favorably with you?

I mean, the Fantastic Four included a Kirby monster, Plastic Man, and Carl Burgos‘ creation as the Challengers of the Unknown… as a response to JLA.  Watchmen, Marvelman, Supreme, everything Alan Moore does, basically. That’s no secret. So I moved forward citing those comics, using the current cultural momentum of irreverence to just do whatever I want. Plus, I figured no one’s going to be reading this anyway! We’re talking small press here, not many copies exist. It was liberating.

How far ahead did you map out your story?

Not that far, I did it issue by issue. I also wanted it to feel like a very immediate, raw, I wanted it to be as direct a thing as possible. So, it was really just one or two issues ahead. I mapped out twelve issues with super brief descriptions and that’s all I had to go on. I also wanted to make sure that I could fill twelve issues worth of stories. Luckily it worked out.

Look for Part 2 of our discussion on Sunday, when we discuss the possibility of digital distribution and what readers can expect in upcoming issues of COPRA.

You can purchase recent issues of COPRA at Michel Fiffe and Kat Roberts’ Etsy store, or you can order. While Bergen Street Press is currently sold out of both collected editions of the series, you can purchase the first collection at InStockTrades.

0 Comments on HeroesCon Interview with Michel Fiffe Part 1: The Challenges/Merits of Self-Publishing and the Appeal of the Analogy as of 6/26/2015 5:56:00 PM
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30. Of Ponies and Princesses: An Interview with Kate Beaton

PrincessPonyWell, I’m just about as pleased as I can be.  For years I’ve adored and promoted and generally yammered endlessly about webcomic artist Kate Beaton and her Hark, A Vagrant strips.  Whether it was her Nancy Drew covers or her psychedelic take on The Secret Garden (to say nothing of her history strips) she’s one of my heroes.  This year, she’s gone a step further and created her very first picture book.  Called The Princess and the Pony, it’s edited by Cheryl Klein and published by Scholastic.  As you can see from the cover here, the book contains a fat little pony character that Beaton created for the Hark, A Vagrant strip years ago.  On June 30th it’ll hit shelves everywhere.  Before that happens, though, I was given the chance to chat a bit with Ms. Beaton about her work.

Betsy Bird: Let’s talk about the impetus for the character of Princess Pinecone here. I get a bit of an Adventure Time vibe off of her, but that might just be because kickass princesses are in the air these days. From whence did she spring?

Kate Beaton: There are a lot of kickass princesses on Adventure Time! Funny you should mention it, because one time years ago, the Pony itself was featured on an episode. Only it was purple. And turned out to be the Ice King in a costume. But they asked my permission, which was cool! Of course I said yes!


Princess Pinecone came to mind almost immediately for me. I’m one of four girls, our house growing up was full of Girl Stuff and princesses are a part of that. I loved princesses myself, I drew them all the time. I don’t think anyone had to tell me to like them, they were my jam. But kids do get lobbed a crazy amount of princess stuff these days, and some of it is a little too much, so if I was going to make a story about one, who she was and what she wanted would be pretty important. Pinecone deliberately sort of looks the princess part with the blonde hair and ribbons, but she’s also small and tough and she’s named for a bristly little plant thing. And really she is only a princess because I tell you she is, it’s not like her status carries the story, because no one else cares that she is a Princess. What’s important is her goals and how she wants to work to achieve them, and her family that supports her.

BB: With your comic background you haven’t had much need to dive into the wide and wonderful world of watercolors before. How was the switchover?

KB: I’m super flattered that you think it is watercolor but it’s digital colors. And that was new to me for sure. I chose digital because it was my first picture book and I was ready to make 2000 mistakes that would need to be fixed. And that happened so god bless photoshop! I picked a color palette and tried my best to make things look ok, but I’m still new to the whole thing. Go to art school, kids.

BB: If you had to choose your top historical real world princesses, which ones would you select?

Rani Lakshmibai is a good one, so is Boudicca, if you are talking warrior types! Or Tamar of Georgia, and of course Eleanor of Acquitaine and Elizabeth I. Or Anna Nzinga. There are a lot you know!


BB: Any plans for future picture book princessing?

KB: I do enjoy this world, so yes! I hope there will be more adventures. Outside of this book, I have sketched out a bigger family and world, so you never know. But first hopefully people like this story.

BB: Awesome.

So many thanks indeed to Ms. Beaton for her patient responses.  And no discussion of princess would be complete without a nod to this.

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 10.43.30 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 10.45.06 PM



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31. A Conversation with Emily Hughes

The idea of sustainability, respect and nurturing of the land, is not a foreign concept to me, especially because in Hawaii there are lots of traditional morals linking to the earth. …

‘Malama ka aina’ means to respect the land, and they are strong words that resonate in the islands. ‘Ua Mau ke Ea o ka Āina i ka Pono’ is the state motto of Hawaii, and I think shines closer to the book: ‘The life of the land is perpetuated by righteousness.’”

* * *

Over at Kirkus today, I talk to author-illustrator Emily Hughes, pictured here, about her newest picture book, The Little Gardener (Flying Eye Books, August 2015), as well as last year’s Wild.

That link will be here soon.

Next week, I’ll have some art here at 7-Imp from each book.

Until tomorrow …

* * * * * * *

Photo of Emily used by her permission.

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32. Interview: Comics Extraordinare Dirk Manning on Tales of Mr. Rhee and Nightmare World

Dirk Manning is a constant feature of the Comic Con scene. This comic creator and writer extraordinaire might be one of the hardest working men in comics. He does panels at every comic con he attends, stays on the floor to greet fans, gives inspiration to those trying to get into the comic industry, and cranks out books like no tomorrow. Tales of Mr. Rhee from Devil’s Due is his latest work. Recently, The Beat spoke to him to see what’s up with his latest entry into the comics world, what the comic con scene is like, and what is up with all those panels.

Seth Ferranti: You do a lot of panels at comic cons. Do you think you are the hardest working creator out there?

Dirk Manning: Oh, wow! You’re putting me on the spot right off the bat! [laughs] I’d be hesitant to say I’m the “hardest working creator in comics,” because, on a certain level, I think that makes it sounds like there’s a competition where there isn’t one. That being said, I suppose I’m one of the BUSIEST writers who’s not doing any work for the “Big Two” (yet). Last year I did 37 conventions and in-store appearances– including 24 appearances in 18 weeks – in support of my books such as Tales of Mr. Rhee from Devil’s Due, Nightmare World, Love Stories (To Die For) and Dia de Los Muertos from Image Comics, The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West from Big Dog Ink and the Write or Wrong collection from Caliber.  I’d like to think that we ALL work hard… but I can say for certain that between all my writing and book touring, I stay very BUSY, at least. [laughs]

Dirk and Josh Ross at NYCC

Ferranti: What’s it like going to the comic cons all the time?

Manning: As anyone who’s done a lot of conventions can tell you, it takes a lot of stamina and energy to be “on your game” when you’re doing multiple conventions… especially when you’re doing them back to back to back to back to back…etc. [laughs] Admittedly, due to what I post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, a lot of people think that “Life on the Road” (as I label it) is all about hanging out with my “con family,” signing books, hosting panels, and eating a lot of ice cream… but the truth of the matter is that it’s really a lot of work to set-up at conventions as a professional… especially when you’re a one-man-show like I am. When I’m doing a show I’m almost always running my own tables and my own panels… and even fun work like that is work. Basically, doing conventions almost every weekend of the year (after working a day job every weekday and writing almost every weeknight) means rarely getting to sleep in, rarely having any “downtime” for video games or Netflix…but that being said, I wouldn’t trade where I’m at in my career right now for anything in the world.

Ferranti: What is your book, Write or Wrong: A Writer’s Guide to Creating Comics, about?

Manning: Write or Wrong is primarily a collection of my inspirational/how-to columns that ran on another website for several years, now slightly revised and updated for print. There are a lot of books out there about how to write scripts and such, but Write or Wrong is a book for people who know they can write and would like guidance and advice on how to MAKE COMICS even if they can’t draw them themselves, including advice and guidance on meeting and working with artists, keeping your team going, and really how to deal with the roadblocks life can – and most likely will – throw at you as you take that journey.


Ferranti: Is that also the concept behind your Write or Wrong: LIVE! panels?

Manning: The panels – and the book, really – are both my way of “paying it forward.” Sometimes people come up to me and say “Aren’t you afraid that you’re helping the competition?” and I always get a playful chuckle out of that before explaining that, as a writer, you should have no competition, because you should be writing books only YOU can write. That aside, I have a few Write or Wrong: LIVE! panels that are especially popular, including “The 10 Commandments of Working With Artists” and “Building Your Brand as a Creator (or: Doing the Work is Only the First Step)”… and I suppose the names give a pretty fair description of what they’re both about. [laughs]

Ferranti: What other panels do you do at the comic cons?

Manning: Over the last year or so I’ve had the pleasure of teaming-up with with Buddy Scalera of Comic Book School and doing mini-presentations (or, as he loving calls them, “sermons”) to lead-off his Creator Connection panels at C2E2 and New York Comic Con. Thus far my motivational bits have been VERY well-received, so that’s nice. Several people from the Creator Connection panels have already come back to me at later shows to show me books they created after hearing me speak and getting help from Buddy in meeting co-creators… so that’s really rewarding.

Ferranti: What’s the concept and storyline of the Tales of Mr. Rhee series?

Manning: Tales of Mr. Rhee is about a magician who lives in a world where, after the Armageddon and Rapture has happened, everyone left behind wants to think things are back to normal again. Mr. Rhee knows they aren’t, though, and is trying to convince people of what’s REALLY going on in the world – even though they don’t want to admit it.As a result, it’s very much a “man-against-society” type of book… almost a H.P. Lovecraft meets George Orwell kind of horror… with some Franz Kafka mixed in for a little extra creepiness and despair.

RHEEv1 -- 2nd Printing

Ferranti: What would you tell someone they can get out of reading Tales of Mr. Rhee

Manning: A lot of what publishers call “horror” comics are really super-hero comics in disguise, where, instead of super-heroes they have magicians and instead of super-villains they have monsters… but that is NOT the case with Tales of Mr. Rhee. Rather, Tales of Mr. Rhee is a straight-up horror comic that really studies what it would be like to live in a world where our protagonist know nasty things exist in the shadows and the effect that knowledge has on him long-term… especially when everyone else is in such denial. Imagine being that one person who knew that monsters and demons were real – or, in this case, still skulking around Earth. How would you make friends? Or work a job? Or even trust anybody – ever – knowing they could be some sort of demon or vampire or monster sympathizer or something? That’s what Tales of Mr. Rhee is about: The toll being a “monster-hunter” would really take on someone over time…

Ferranti: You recently finished Tales of Mr. Rhee Vol. 2: Karmageddon. When is the release date?

Manning: We recently wrapped-up a very successful Kickstarter for Tales of Mr. Rhee Vol. 2 via Devil’s Due through Kickstarter (pulling in just shy of $20,000 inpre-orders!), so the Kickstarter backers are going to get their books first. The Tales of Mr. Rhee Vol. 2: Karmageddon TPB is been solicited for an October release in comic stores across the country, though, so people who missed the Kickstarter can get a copy that way. Tales of Mr. Rhee Vol. 1: Procreation (of the Wicked) also recently sold-out of its first print run, so Devil’s Due will be resoliciting the new printing of that book when Tales of Mr. Rhee Vol. 3 starts as a five-issue mini-series early next year. The good thing about Tales of Mr. Rhee, though, is that you can pick-up any volume and just dive right into it. That’s a priority in ANYTHING I do: Making sure anyone can pick-up any TPB I’ve written, read it, and know exactly what’s going on. In my opinion that’s what all comic creators should strive for, as it’s entirely possible to tell big, complex, and engaging stories without requiring readers to buy the previous three dozen issues to understand what’s going on.


Ferranti: You’ve had a long career to date… what are some of the highlights?

Manning: I self-publishing my first comic series Nightmare World online back in 2002, and back then I couldn’t understand why digital comics and online comic distribution weren’t a bigger thing… so I’m of course super-excited to see that platforms like Comixology are now being so strongly embraces by readers and publishers alike. That aside, I have to say that working with Riley Rossmo (Constantine: the Hellblazer) and Eric Powell (The Goon) on the covers to the first two Tales of Mr. Rhee collected editions, respectively, has been a professional highlight, for sure, as they’re two of my favorite comic artists currently working in the industry.

Ferranti: What is up with Nightmare World?

Manning: Shadowline Comics, which is Jim Valentino’s partner studio  of Image Comics, ran Nightmare World in syndication as part of their online comics hub when it still existed, and from there went on to publish three-fourths of the series over the course of three TPB collections. That being said, there’s still ¼ of the series not in print, and not a convention or signing appearance goes by where people aren’t asking me about releasing one last Nightmare World collection or – better yet – an omnibus that collects all 52 eight-page stories in one giant book. I switched gears away from Nightmare World for a few years to launch Tales of Mr. Rhee and the first Write or Wrong collection in print, but that being said, I know that people are clamoring for one last Nightmare World book to cap-off the series – especially since the events of Nightmare World and Tales of Mr. Rhee are more clearly becoming intertwined – so I fully intend to release Nightmare World Vol. 4 sooner than later at this point. Stay tuned to all my social media outlets and my personal webpage for details!

Life on the Road-2

Ferranti:What comics did you like growing up?

Manning: I didn’t really get into comics until my teens, at which time I started with Peter David’s run on The Incredible Hulk.  Then, I started reading Ghost Rider before moving into the works of Alan Moore, Garth Ennis, Mike Mignola, David Lapham, and Japanese horror comic master Junji Ito, all of whom continue to have a huge influence on my writing to this very day.

Ferranti: Where do you get your inspiration from?

Manning:My inspiration is writing comics that only I can contribute to the world and then bringing them to life with some of the most talented up-and-coming artists in the industry. Take Tales of Mr. Rhee, for example. The “magical monster hunter” trope has been done to death in comics, especially, but I can guarantee you that there’s no other comics out there like Tales of Mr. Rhee.

Ferrnti:What’s next for Dirk Manning?

Manning: My writing schedule right now consists of Tales of Mr. Rhee Vol. 3, Nightmare World Vol. 4, Tales of Mr. Rhee Vol. 4, Write or Wrong Vol. 2, and a few other projects on my plate… not to mention any other opportunities that I may take-up along the way, of course. Honestly, due to how much I love doing my own creator-owned comics I say “No” to a lot of things, but even if I just stick to that list of creator-owned projects listed above – not to mention all of my touring across the convention circuit – it’s going to be a very busy 2016 for me, for sure! [laughs]


Dirk’s personal website, complete with tour schedule, can be found at  www.DirkManning.com, He’s also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr under the handle “DirkManning” at each site.

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33. HeroesCon Interview: Kevin Wada Talks Style, Process, and the Future

by Harper W. Harris

Kevin Wada has been one of my favorite cover artists since he started on She-Hulk; it was one of those rare but wonderful circumstances where the cover artist seemed to really play a key role in the creative team, and his unique style was part of what made that book such a standout. Since then he’s gone on to provide covers for many series and continues to become more and more of a fan favorite. HeroesCon 2015 kept him busy and his commissions list full, but I got a chance to have a brief chat with him on Sunday about his interesting path to comics, his process, and what to expect in the future.


Kevin Wada HeroesCon Comic Artist She-Hulk

Kevin Wada at HeroesCon 2015

Harper W. Harris: We are here with Kevin Wada, one of my absolute favorite artists and the cover artist of some of my favorite books. How is your con going?

Kevin Wada: I am doing great, I feel re-energized and I’m ready to end the con on a strong note!

HH: You have a really interesting story about how you came into comics from outside of the comics industry, could you elaborate a little on that?

KW: I had done this series of X-Men as fashion illustrations and it went viral. Because it was popular I continued it, making more ambitious projects. When the new X-Men team launched and it was all women, I did an illustration of that. I think this is what happened: Brian Wood bought a print of that from my store and I tweeted to him like, “Thank you!” and I think he passed my name along to editors at Marvel. Then I got my first X-Men variant and then the editor that I worked with who was amazing really wanted to get me on an ongoing book and that’s how She-Hulk happened.

HH: Have you been a fan of comics your whole life? Were you an avid reader or did you come to it from more of the art side of things?

KW: I always say I was sort of orbiting ‘planet comic’. My cousin was really into comics, and he was like my best friend growing up, so I always had this very loose handle of superheroes and all that kind of stuff. I loved it–I loved it aesthetically, I loved the drama of it all–but I wasn’t a hardcore reader, it was very, very casual. So I have this nostalgic affinity and it kind of makes me feel very comfortable. But I’m not going to know the history of every single character.

HH: You have a really unique style. Can you talk a little bit about what your process is and what your materials are?

KW: I work in watercolor, but other than that it’s a pretty straightforward process. It’s pencils to either colored pencils or pen on top of that, and then I use the watercolor to flesh it all out. Often, but not always, there’s some digital editing going on. It’s not unlike retouching a photo–I’ll correct colors, I’ll correct like if an eye looks a little wonky I’ll fix that. One thing I usually have to correct in the computer is my sense of value, my sense of value is horrible. I’ll push my lights, I’ll push my darks, and really make the image pop.

HH: You work primarily as a cover artist with some of the most talked about covers in the industry. What is your creative process for coming up with an idea for a cover? Do you typically know a lot about what the content of the issue is going to be before you start?

KW: That really depends on who you’re working with and what their schedule is, and if they’re on top of things. I’ll often get a one sentence synopsis and a one sentence concept that they want me to push, and then you kind of just have to go. It’s kind of scary because you have this really horrible idea of what the story is or what the themes are, so luckily it’s just one issue and then you’re on to the next one!

HH: One of the things I love about your covers is that you’ve got a great ability to tell a story with a single, wordless image. Do you have an interest in pursuing that kind of storytelling in interiors, from a panel-to-panel perspective?

KW: We’ll see, it’s a totally different beast. I haven’t flexed that muscle since college. I don’t know how good I’d be at it–I’m down to learn, I know it’ll be a lot of work and that’s scary because I’m very lazy (laughs). So I don’t know, we’ll see…time will tell.

HH: Where can people find your stuff, and what are you working on now that you’re excited about?

KW: You can find me @KevinWada everywhere, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, I’m on Facebook but I don’t really use it. Coming up is a lot of Catwoman covers and a lot of DC variants, they’ve been throwing tons of work my way. I have an A-Force variant for Marvel, some character designs coming out…that’s about it!

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34. Interview: Jeff Lemire on the Past, Present, and Future of his Comics Career

Jeff Lemire is one of the most prolific comics creators currently working in the industry.  Following his breakout graphic novel Essex County, Lemire has explored themes of childhood and innocence lost through contemplative and grounded graphic novels like Underwater Welder and through genre series like Sweet Tooth and the breakout hit Descender, which was recently optioned for a film adaptation.

I recently sat down with Jeff Lemire to discuss his storied career.  We explored his early career, the difference in perspective that fatherhood has provided him as a writer, and the horrors he learned were perpetrated by the Canadian government against the First Nation aboriginal community as he prepared to pen Roughneck.  The word “X-Men” was also mentioned.

Alex Lu: How’s Descender going?

Jeff Lemire: It’s going great.  Dustin’s finished issue five and he’s working on number six.  I’ve written eleven scripts, and the reception has been as we possibly could have hoped, both critically and in sales numbers.

Lu: Eleven scripts?  You’re pretty far ahead.  Is that how you typically work?

Lemire:  Yeah, I work really far ahead on everything.  I’m juggling so many projects right now that the only way I can handle it is to be so far ahead on everything that I can take a couple months off one thing to work on something else.  Right now is my time off from Descender so I can let it sit and come back to the scripts once Dustin draws them.

Lu: Because you work so far ahead, do you often find yourself revising older scripts based upon where the later ones take you?

Lemire:  Oh, absolutely.  That’s a real benefit that you don’t often get working in monthly serialized comics.  When you’re doing the monthly schedule, most people are getting the scripts in right on time and flying by the seat of their pants.  It’s nice, especially on creator owned stuff, when you have the opportunity to let the story take you wherever it wants to go and if you go in a direction you hadn’t anticipated, you can go back and rework earlier things to make everything line up.  It’s a unique adventure.

Lu: In the third issue of the story, you introduce the concept of a robotic afterlife.  Is this something that was in the story from the onset or was it something you came up with later?

Lemire:  It wasn’t in the initial pitches, but it emerged early on in conversations with Dustin.  I don’t want to give away too much about where the story is going, but the sequence you’re talking about came out of an idea Dustin had after reading the initial pitch.


Lu: What was the initial pitch like and how far have you deviated from it?

Lemire:  It’s pretty close to the initial pitch.  The story should run for 23 to 40 issues, and I think we’ve added one major character who’s now pretty integral to the whole thing, but other than that…I spent a long time on the pitch before showing it to Dustin so I had the building blocks in place.  It was a matter of fleshing the characters out and letting some of them breathe and develop.  Sometimes, seeing Dustin’s art will give me ideas for new directions or I’ll fall in love with a background character and I’ll start writing a bigger role for them because I like the look of them and want to tell a story about them.

Lu: I think one of the breakout stars of the first arc is the Driller bot.  I didn’t think he’d make it past his introductory issue, but he’s still around!

Lemire:  Driller was always one of the main characters.  He, Tim, and Bandit were always going to be a threesome, right from my initial pitch.  I was surprised to hear that people didn’t think he was going to he was going to stick around, but he’s here to stay.  I always like my big dumb guy and he gives a good balance to the rest of the group.  Physically, the difference between him and Bandit is a great juxtaposition.

Lu: The relationship between Tim and Driller seems similar to the one between Rocket Raccoon and Groot.

Lemire:  Yeah, I guess!  Driller has some secrets that Groot probably doesn’t have, though.  There’s a bit more to Driller than what people are getting right now.  We’ll leave it at that.


Lu: What’s been the most exciting part about working on the series so far?

Lemire:  Oh, it’s definitely been seeing Dustin’s art.  It’s the first creator owned book I’ve done that I haven’t drawn myself and it’s a real thrill to invest so much into something and then share it with someone.  Then you’re surprised by how that someone brings themselves to it as well.  Seeing these ideas that I came up with being realized and built upon by Dustin is a real thrill.

Lu: Were you thinking of Dustin when you came up with the pitch for Descender?

Lemire:  He was the first artist I asked.  I don’t remember if I had him in mind when I was writing the initial pitch, and I don’t think I did.  However, now I can’t imagine the series without him because his watercolor style has become so indicative of what people think of when they think of Descender. 

Lu: Dustin’s art is a great yet unexpected choice because of the way his natural watercolors stand in contrast with the cold and mechanical feel of this futuristic world.

Lemire:  I think the art style he’s using embodies the whole core of the book.  It’s a science fiction book about machines and things that are technical, but it’s executed in a very organic way.  That mixture of the human and the machine embodies Tim and really, the heart of the book.  It ends up being perfect in that way.

I think Tim is the most human character in the book, which is ironic given that he’s a robot.  I think robots are the ultimate symbol of human arrogance.  It’s us playing god, creating something in our own image.  We’re seeing this world that’s outgrown us.  These machines grew beyond us and we couldn’t handle it so we destroyed our own creations.  I think that says something about us.

Lu: What were you influenced by as you developed Descender?

Lemire:  It’s always a tough question to answer because I never remember exactly what I was into when I develop a concept.  It’s a weird alchemy how any idea comes together.  I can’t think of a lot of real sci-fi I was into at the time.  One thing that influenced me a little bit was Jack Kirby’s Machine Man.  I was really into reading all the 70s cosmic stuff he was doing at Marvel.  I don’t think you see a lot of it in Descender, but I think it’s there somewhere.  You know, I don’t know, I feel like I’m avoiding the question but I really don’t remember what I was into it.  Sometimes these things happen real fast and these things just spill out.


Lu: How long have you been working on Descender?

Lemire:  I think I started working on the pitch last February or March.  I knew my DC exclusive would be done in June at that point so I was starting to develop things I could work on with Image or elsewhere.  That was around the point Dustin got involved, but I had been working on concepts six to seven months before that as well.

Lu: Did you find it challenging to work with Dustin given that his style is so different from your own?

Lemire:  Not at all.  I think if you want someone to draw just like you, then there’s no point in collaborating at all.  You try to find artists whose work you like and respect and you work with them because you want them to be themselves.  It’s very easy for me to be completely hands off when I’m not drawing something and give my artist, in this case Dustin, the room to let him be himself.  I respond to his work emotionally and aesthetically so I wouldn’t want him to be anything other than Dustin.  I think it’s a very easy collaboration.  There’s a lot of mutual respect and trust.

Lu: A lot of your creator owned work has been published in the form of a graphic novel.  What made you decide to produce Descender as a monthly?

Lemire:  The biggest creator owned book I ever did was Sweet Tooth, and I did that for four years so doing another was nothing new for me.  I think I’ve really grown accustomed to a monthly format and I even kind of prefer it.  In a film, you have two hours to tell a story and develop a character, whereas in television you can spend multiple seasons and many hours developing characters and plotlines.  Comparing graphic novels to monthlies is similar because in monthlies you have more time to develop everything and execute stories.  You’re not trying to boil everything down into an easily digestible three act structure like you are in a graphic novel.

I prefer that longer format monthlies provide; the ability to take an issue and focus on one character per month.  You don’t have to be so focused on the amount of space you have to play with or the space you’re wasting in order to tell a story.  I just finished a graphic novel, but I think I want the next thing I draw to be a monthly.  I ultimately prefer things that way.


Lu: With monthlies, do you ever worry that you might wander so much that you lose sight of what you originally wanted to say with the work?

Lemire:  No, because what I start with is usually very simple.  One or two sentences.  A simple core idea.  It’s never anything too complicated or too complex.  You’re not starting with a byzantine plot you’re trying to hold onto.  It’s easy to remember a core idea, so it’s never been something I’ve been worried about.  Plus, the more you get into a book and develop the characters, the more you feel like you know them and the easier it is to find your way through a work.

Lu: How long does it take you to find that kind of rhythm with your characters?

Lemire:  It varies from project to project.  Generally, with stuff like Descender, it develops pretty quickly.   Once you write the first issue, if you’ve done it well, you get a pretty good sense of who these characters are.  Especially when you’re the creator of these characters, you already know these characters better than anyone else so it’s not hard to find that rhythm as long as you stay true to and build off of your original idea.

Lu: Your story in the Vertigo CMYK Anthology, “Sweet Tooth: Black,” really struck me because it caused me to develop an empathetic relationship with a group of characters in a very short period of time.

Lemire:  Thanks.  I actually think it was a mistake to do that story.  I was happy with how it came out but I had already told the Sweet Tooth story and I was really happy with the ending.  After I made the Black story, I wondered why I went back to something I was happy with.  I’m glad it affected other people.


However, doing more short stories is something I would love to find time to do.  These days, though, I seem to jump from one project to the other and don’t have as much time to experiment as I used to.  With this story, I think I just missed the character a little bit and thought an eight page zero issue would be a good way to scratch that itch without committing to something bigger, but in hindsight, I probably wouldn’t have done it.  I don’t think I’ll ever go back to any of my stuff again.  When something’s done, I usually move pretty quickly.

Lu: Something like Essex County seems like it still has room for development.

Lemire:  Yeah, but I would never go back to it, either.  I’ve had people ask me, and I feel like I’m a completely different person than I was when I wrote that book.  Each book marks the place you were in when you did it, and it’s really hard to go back and be the same person you were.  You mentioned holding onto that core idea and not losing it, but when you finish something it goes away and you get another core idea.

It’s really hard to go back and find that original idea, especially when that idea inspired your first book.  I was in a very different place compared to where I am now, so it’d be very difficult to do more Essex County that would fit with what I was doing before.  Plus, Essex County is almost ten years old and people are still enjoying it and it still sells very well so it still has a life and I don’t want to mess with that.  I want to do new things.

Lu: Would you want to go back and explore the more realistic space you explored with Essex County, though?

Lemire:  Absolutely.  That’s the Simon and Schuster graphic novel I just finished.  It’s not another chapter of Essex County, but it’s a return to the grounded family drama work I was doing from a different perspective.  I love doing genre books like Trillium and Descender and I think I always will, but it’s also important for me to balance that work with stuff like Essex County to make sure I don’t stray too far away from reality.

Lu: And this new book is called Roughneck, right?  What did you discover the difference in your headspace to be between this book and Essex County?

Lemire:  Yeah…I’m a totally different person.  When I was writing Essex County, I had never published anything and nobody knew who I was so there was no expectations on the work.  I was still finding myself as a creator and on a personal level, I wasn’t a parent yet.  I am now, and that dramatically changes your life and everything about your perspective on life.  I’ve had a certain amount of success now so I get to do comics every day and make a living off it whereas I was struggling to write Essex County while working day jobs.

Lu: Even though you weren’t a father while you were writing Essex County, there are recurring storylines in that book and your other works about what it means to be a kid and to grow older and lose your sense of innocence.  What is it about childhood that you find so fascinating?

Lemire:  I have no idea!  It’s one of those themes that I keep coming back to and keep exploring.  To sit back and analyze why I do that is not really how my mind works.  I do the analysis through my comics, so I don’t know what it is about childhood, innocence lost, and fatherhood that makes me keep coming back to them, and sometimes you don’t even want to analyze, think about, or articulate those things because you don’t want that well your ideas seem to come from to go away.

On a basic creative level, I have always enjoyed writing from a child’s perspective.  It comes very naturally and I seem to have a knack for it.  I think I’m interested to look back in a few years and  compare the stuff I wrote before I was a father to the stuff I wrote after and see if the early works were about being a child while the later ones are about being a parent.


Lu: How has having a son influenced your depiction of kids?

Lemire:  I think I have a much better sense of innocence and the sense of wonder through which they see the world.  I think that’s why Sweet Tooth is the way that it is.  It’s about this completely innocent kid slowly discovering the world around him, and I think Descender is much the same.

Lu: Do you think it would be accurate to say that before you had your son, your stories about childhood were influenced by your childhood?

Lemire:  Yeah, I think that’s accurate.  I think Essex County was about me fictionalizing and dramatizing my childhood.  It’s where I grew up. On the other hand, Sweet Tooth and Descender are much more about my fears for my son and me wanting to protect him and his perspective about the world.

Lu: Now, tell us a little more about Roughneck.

Lemire:  It’s a 275 page graphic novel written and drawn for Simon and Schuster for a Spring 2016 release date.  The story focuses on a guy named Derek who is an ex-NHL tough guy whose career ended in disgrace after a violent incident.  Since then, he’s returned to the remote First Nation community where he grew up in northern Canada.  He’s been stuck in this small town and a bad place, drinking too much and fighting too much; not really moving on or finding a new path for his life after hockey left him behind.  Then, his sister, who ran away from town when she was 15, comes back into his life.  Her return triggers the creation of a new path for both of them.  It’s a story of brothers and sisters, healing, and them reconnecting with the land and their Cree heritage.  They find a healing in the old ways of their people.


Lu: Did you do a lot of research for this project?

Lemire:  Yeah.  I never feel like I’ve done enough because I’m not aboriginal and don’t have any native blood.  So, as a white guy writing about aboriginal people you always feel like a bit of a pretender, but I did as much research as I possibly could.  I spent a lot of time in one of the First Nations here in Ontario, just meeting people and talking, trying to understand the community more and being inspired by it.

Lu: What was it that made you want to tell this story?

Lemire:  A couple of things.  I got really inspired by this Canadian novelist, Joseph Boyden.  He’s done three novels now, and they’re all favorite books of mine.  He writes about a lot of the northern communities in Ontario and I just fell in love with that community through his stories and wanted to learn more about them.  That created a big gap in my understanding of Canada.

Canada is a very big and diverse country, but there wasn’t a large native community where I grew up.  I had no firsthand experiences with aboriginal people and their culture.  I realized how ignorant I and so many other Canadians to the first peoples of Canada, so the project became a way for me to learn more about that culture and hopefully help others connect to that culture as well.

Lu: In American schools, we’re taught quite a bit about the current and historical treatment of Native Americans.  How were and are the aboriginal people of Canada treated?

Lemire:  Horribly.  We basically committed cultural genocide and we don’t even learn about it in school.  You see a headline every once in a while, but we really have no understanding of what really happened to these people and how these communities found themselves where they are today, which is marginalized and isolating.  It’s a third nation living in a first nation, and when I started to learn about that it triggered my need to explore and learn about the positive aspects of First Nation culture.

We so often see the negative stories that focus on the hardships the people face and the end result of years of abuse that we’ve inflicted upon them.  You never see the beautiful and amazing parts of their beliefs and their culture.  They’re a vibrant and resilient people, and these are the things I wanted to communicate to other white Canadians through my work.

Lu: You never learned about the suffering inflicted on aboriginal people in school?

Lemire:  Not really, or at least not nearly as much as I should have been, that’s for sure.  Also, I’ll be fully honest, it’s hard for me to go back in my mind and remember what I was actually taught in school and how much I was paying attention.  Nonetheless, I’m not being hyperbolic when I say there was a cultural genocide.  The church and the government of Canada basically wiped out native culture and took their children, putting them in residential schools where they were forced not to speak their language.  They never saw their parents again, and in many cases they were sexually and psychologically abused by the people running these schools.  This went on for decades until the 80s and 90s, and most Canadians aren’t aware of exactly what we did to them.  I think it’s something we need to be educated about more because it’s a huge part of our culture and country.

As much as I love Canada…you know, to go back to the subject of my early work versus now, Essex County was my perspective on Canada as a naive 20-whatever year old who loved the classic old-age feel of hockey and nostalgic things that we positively associate with Canada.  Roughneck is the 39 year old me who’s now looking at Canada and realizing the country and history is a lot more complicated and shameful than I realized back then.  There’s a pretty stark contrast between my perspectives, and even though I use hockey as a central metaphor both, I use it for two very different reasons.


Lu: It’s incredible to me that these shameful practices persisted into the 90s.

Lemire:  Yeah, I think the last schools closed in the 90s.  I can’t speak to the history of abuses and when those stopped, but it’s clearly not something that’s way back in our history that we can just forget about.  It’s still very recent and very much being dealt with by modern aboriginal communities.

Lu: Race issues are a huge topic in America nowadays.  Is it often discussed in Canada as well?

Lemire:  Yeah, you know what, as much as I’ve bashed Canada in the last bit of this interview, I think that’s one spot where we’re a lot further ahead than you guys.  It’s easy for me to say sitting in Canada, not being a part of your country, but I do think we’re a bit more progressive in terms of race relations.

I happen to live in Toronto, one of the most multicultural cities in North America, so maybe my perspective is a little different because so many different cultures and races live together here.  It’s so different from what a lot of the US is experiences.  In terms of First Nations and aboriginals, though, we’re shamefully ignoring another huge problem.

Lu: I consider myself blessed to have grown up in a community that was relatively racially diverse.  Was your childhood community the same way?

Lemire:  No, not at all.  I grew up in Essex County, which was a tiny farming community in southwestern Ontario, was 99.9999% white.  There was a lot of ignorance and there still is in these small towns about different cultures and races.  You can’t help but be surrounded by that, growing up there, but I was lucky because both of my parents were very progressive and open minded and accepting of other races when I was young.  That influenced how I grew up.  I moved to Toronto when I was fairly young, so I came of age in an extremely multicultural city.  That, combined with the basis my parents gave me led to me becoming a very liberal-minded person.

Was there a transitional shock going from a very homogenous community to a very diverse one?

Lemire:  No, I don’t even remember thinking about it.  I think it was all part of the excitement of being in a big city and being surrounded by all these new people and all these people that wanted to create art.  Being young, it was all just newness and excitement, rather than anything I needed to adjust to.

It’s interesting that, even though you came of age in a metropolitan area, many of your stories take place in the countryside.  What is it about the province that keeps calling you back?

In the case of Essex County, it was a story about where I grew up and how I grew up.  Sweet Tooth was set in a rural post-apocalyptic setting because I was so sick of seeing post-apocalyptic cities in every movie.  That book was also a return to nature through human-animal hybrids and it just felt more appropriate to set things in more bucolic settings.  Roughneck is also about a very specific small town that’s very different from Essex County, being set in one of our First Nations.

lemire001Lu: When do you think we’ll start seeing pages from Roughneck?

Lemire:  I’m not sure.  It’s my first time working with a non-traditionally comic publisher.  Simon and Schuster, being a book publisher by trade, has a different way of operating and promoting the book.  I’m not really sure what their schedule is in term of releasing previews, but I do know they work a lot further ahead than comics publishers which is why the book won’t come out until next year.  So it’ll probably be a while.

Lu: What brought you to Simon and Schuster as opposed to Vertigo, Image, or Top Shelf?

Lemire:  I think it was just something I hadn’t tried yet.  I’ve worked with basically every kind of comics publisher from mainstream DC/Marvel to Top Shelf and the smallest indie publishers.  I wanted to see what would happen if I did a book that was aimed at the traditional book market and built on some of the groundwork I laid with Essex County.  I had a big breakout here in the Canadian literary market with Essex County and I feel like I never followed up on it.  Simon and Schuster has a strong Canadian branch, and given the specific subject nature of Roughneck, I knew I’d need a publisher that understood what I was writing about and could get the message out in an accurate and big way.

Lu: I’m really looking forward to seeing how the book turns out.  One final question: X-Men?

Lemire:  I can’t comment.  All I can say is that I am working on other stuff for Marvel, as Axel Alonso has mentioned before.  The identity of those books will probably start to be revealed at San Diego Comic Con, but I’ll also say that you shouldn’t believe everything you hear on internet rumor sites.

Descender #5 releases on July 8th.  Roughneck comes out in Spring 2016.

2 Comments on Interview: Jeff Lemire on the Past, Present, and Future of his Comics Career, last added: 6/23/2015
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35. Interview: Bryan Hill in Conversation with Former Batman Editor Joseph Illidge

By Bryan Hill

I met Joseph Illidge in 2002, before I wrote my first comic book. That year was a lot of me listening to his experience as a writer, filmmaker and comic book editor — and a few arguments about which Frank Miller work was the best, who would you rather have a pint with, Moore or Morrison, and the unbearable importance of Batman.

In 2015, I’m now writing several comics, as is Joseph, and diversity is one of the preeminent issues in the business of entertainment. Joseph, through his weekly column “The Mission” for CBR, stands defiant at the forefront of some difficult, but much needed conversations. Our back and forth tweeting around these issues seemed to urge us to do a formal interview. This is what happened.

Neither one of us held much back.

Bryan Hill: Origin stories matter so what’s yours? What drew you to storytelling? Was it an acute experience or a slow developing process? When were you certain you were going to dedicate your life to it? 

Joseph Illidge: I’ve always been an avid reader, and my mother encouraged it. Between taking me to buy comic books every Friday evening when I was in the second and third grade, to buying me an Encyclopedia Britannica set when I was in the fourth grade, she made sure my young brain was not starving for content.

I was also a nerd way before it was socially acceptable by the mainstream, so fiction, at times, was a more constant companion than peers, especially peers who were cooler than me.

Seeing as how I was more attracted to team books like Uncanny X-Men and Legion of Super-Heroes from the beginning, I think the idea of teamwork and family were themes that attracted me to comic books and stories in general. The idea that great things could be accomplished by enough good people with the same ultimate goal.

The day I started working for Milestone Media, the first Black-owned mainstream comic book company to have a publishing deal with an industry giant like DC Comics, was the day I knew I wanted to tell stories for the rest of my life.

Hill: Someone once told me “Don’t be a black intellectual because they kill those first.” You’re a black man and an intellectual. You survived where many haven’t. How? 

Illidge: In addition to having a great support structure of mentors and friends to enrich my life, I realized the importance of diplomacy and communication with precision. You can throw your opinion around like gasoline and light a match, in which case you’re going for a scorched earth effect, or you can wield your thoughts like a crossbow with a set of arrows. Know your message, aim with focus, pull back the arrow, then let it go. Hopefully, your ideas will connect with the audience.

I want to provoke conversations and debates, but in a fair way that maintains mutual respect between parties. I’ve criticized Marvel Comics in various ways, but I’ve known Axel Alonso, Marvel Comics’ Editor-in-chief, for almost twenty years, and he and I are still as cool as ever.


My reputation throughout the industry is solid because people know my intentions are genuine, my message is authentic, and my efforts toward a better comic book industry and medium speak to my love for the artform of comic books and art, in general.

So because people know where I’m coming from, I think that transparency has helped me meet and become friends with like-minded people.

When we support each other in common goals, “killing” the intellectual, Black, female, or otherwise, becomes a harder proposition for the opposition, because that intellectual is not alone.

Hill: You work across disciplines. How has working in different disciplines affected your understanding of them and art in general? 

Illidge: Having a background in art from my college years at New York City’s School of Visual Arts helped make me a better editor, because I speak to illustrators in their language and vocabulary of terms.

Being an editor has helped make me a better writer, because the idea that the story is always the first and last thing, the most important thing, gives me a safe distance from my ego. I can be in love with every draft of every script I write, but understanding the editor is my ally and being prepared to jettison ideas helps me get to the better draft in a way that spares me a certain amount of agita.

My writing helps me understand the virtues of various different story forms, so when I write a comic book or graphic novel, I don’t have to strive to imitate cinema because I’m working to exploit the unique aspects of the graphic novel format for telling a story.

Hill: Before I met you, I didn’t know there were editors of color in mainstream comics, or at least that editors of color were working on “white” comics like BATMAN. I was encouraged when I met you. It showed me that we didn’t have to play negro league baseball. We could just play baseball. What’s more important, a person of color initiative like MILESTONE, or people of color getting to play in traditionally “white” sandboxes? 

Illidge: The ownership of intellectual properties and creation of companies by people of color is the more important of the two.

Granted, playing in a well-known mainstream sandbox like Marvel Comics or DC Entertainment helps give creators of color notoriety, good pay rates, and an audience, all of which can and should inform and fortify that creator’s individual, self-owned or co-owned, projects.

However, the future will require more creators of color getting together with businesspersons to create formidable companies. It’s the most direct way to become part of the architecture of innovation, product creation, and the potential rewards for profit and empowerment.

Getting to draw or write Superman is not the summit, it’s the illusion of the summit when someone is in a mental desert starving for a form of nourishment the gatekeepers told them was needed to live and thrive.

Intellectual properties owned by corporations should not be the salvation for a creator of color looking to make a long-lasting impact.

Hill: I have to ask this, and it’s gonna piss some people off. Cassandra Cain was more interesting than Barbara Gordon. Damion Scott’s work was amazing. Cassandra Cain makes much more sense as Batgirl than Barbara Gordon. Did DC just “villain” her and then bury her because she’s brown?

illidgeBatgirlIllidge: I can tell you that for myself and the other members of the Batman editorial group at the time, getting upper management to go for an Asian Batgirl was a struggle.

My guess is that while Cassandra Cain as Batgirl was making a certain amount of money, she was “tolerated”, but once that changed, they didn’t know what to do with her.

Kill off the Asian girl? That wouldn’t look good.

Making her a villain was the next best option.

Unfortunately, Cassandra Cain was a victim of the mentality that fans don’t want change, and that intellectual properties cannot withstand change.

It’s a shame, because when you look at how DC Entertainment has embraced racebending, and Marvel Comics has really pushed a non-White Ms. Marvel, Cassandra Cain as Batgirl was certainly ahead of the curve by almost fifteen years, and DC Entertainment could have owned that prescience.

At this point, “Batman” writer Scott Snyder has made it clear that major developments are in the works for Cassandra, and writer Gail Simone helped keep the character somewhat visible, but really it feels like a corporate backpedal to me, now.

That said, I look forward to seeing what they do with the great character creators Kelley Puckett and Damion Scott brought to life.

Hill: What was the best experience you had being an editor, and why was it so rewarding? 

Illidge: While working as a Batman editor for DC Comics, I received a call out of the blue from Dick Giordano. He called to compliment me on Birds of Prey #16, which had Barbara Gordon, The Oracle, face The Joker for the first time in a “Silence of the Lambs” type story by writer Chuck Dixon, illustrator Butch Guice, colorist Gloria Vasquez, and letterer Albert Deguzman. It’s still one of my favorite comics from my editorial career, and Dick was gentlemanly enough to call and tell me he considered it a great comic book.

The man, God rest his soul, was a great guy and is a legend in the business, so that’s about as good as it gets.

Hill: What was your worst experience as an editor (without naming names) and why does it have that distinction? 

Illidge: Fortunately, I’ve had very few bad experience in my editorial career thus far.

The worst experience would probably be my last day at Milestone. It was bittersweet, because I wrapped up my last book, but I said goodbye to the first company that gave me a chance, to the men that gave me an opportunity.

I lost faith, and honestly, there was a part of me that felt guilty for working at DC Comics afterwards, due to the complicated relationship between them and Milestone in those days.

The good things I did for creators and comics at DC Comics got me past that guilt, and the returns (plural) of Milestone through the years helped teach me to never lose faith in the power of positive action and impact.

Hill: What is something that creators don’t know about editors that they should? 

Illidge: Editors are subject to the trickle-down of corporate manure, and they take more bullets for creators than the public will ever know.

Hill: You explore the role of both race and racism in popular culture. When did you decide you were going to do that exploration and has your perspective changed along that journey? 

Illidge: When Jonah Weiland, the Executive Producer of Comic Book Resources, offered me the opportunity to write and manage “The Color Barrier,” my first series of columns for the site, I knew I had an opportunity and responsibility to explore both, without flinching.

My perspective has changed in the sense that I’m more aware of the progress of parallel struggles for diversity in comics, by women, LGBT persons, disabled persons, and so even though the comic book industry has miles to walk, still, to address diversity in a universal manner, I’m more hopeful every day. Setbacks and slights against people in the aforementioned groups do not affect the inertia of my hope in the slightest.


Hill: Why do you think comic book companies are very willing to create and promote characters that suffer prejudice because of their diversity, but they seem to not want diverse creators to tell stories about those characters? Is it just fear and if so, of what? 

Illidge: Creating diverse characters is easy, especially when the industry assigns most of their creation to the mostly non-POC writers pool of their companies.

Promoting them is easy because the apparatus for such is already in place, and it makes the publishers look impressively progressive.

It’s apparently more difficult because of a lack of desire to expand beyond the paths of least resistance, expand beyond the more publicized writers. That takes effort, it takes work, and people can always use looming deadlines and heavy workloads as excuses to not investigate outside of familiar territory when it comes to discovering writers of color.

Also, I suspect the publishers are afraid of being seen as caving in to public outcry, because, really, what profitable organization wants to give people the impression that their unfavorable criticisms carry weight?

Additionally, when it comes to Black writers, the general assumption that agenda comes with skill. A Black writer, given an opportunity to write The Punisher won’t automatically turn it into a polemic on violence against young Black people in America.

Interesting that a Black writer has never been given the opportunity to write a monthly X-Men series, considering how the premise of that franchise dovetails with racism.

Hill: I feel the existence of a double-standard in comics, but I can’t define it as more than that. Do you feel that way and if so, what do you think is the nature of that double standard? 

Illidge: Black people are respected as consumers, but not as writers, in general, by the major publishers. Full stop.

Hill: What do you believe is the most underserved market in the world of popular culture, comics and beyond? 

Illidge: Disabled persons.

Hill: In your CBR column, THE MISSION, you often reach the conclusion that attention to diversity is transient, a strategic reaction to social pressure, but rarely does it persist beyond a news cycle. How can that change? 

Illidge: Two ways, at the least.

People from the groups not benefitting from equality can band together in unified efforts. Join up and create companies that create formidable product. Carve out new territories and command some market share. When success is achieved without the aid of popular companies, their attention turns to you. They seek you out.

That’s when the real discussion and negotiations can begin.

In addition, we cannot let up on the gatekeepers. Remain vigilant, give credit where it’s due, and honest examination always. Consistent, intelligent discourse combined with action can chip away at walls of corporate indifference.

When cereal companies make commercials targeted at interracial couples, when DC Comics announced two female-centric lines inside of two months…these things confirm an understanding of our financial power, and our capacity to spend our money on their competitors.

Hill: I know a bit about one of your current projects, a graphic novel about the Harlem Renaissance, but I don’t know much more than that. What is it and what should readers expect?   

Illidge: The graphic novel is called The Ren, a 200-plus page story about a romance between Black teenage artists, one from Georgia and the other from Harlem, during the Harlem Renaissance years. In the midst of a crime war, the couple try to make their way, while doing a little growing up at the same time.  The story was created by myself and co-writer Shawn Martinbrough, the artist on Image Comics’ “Thief of Thieves” series, along with illustrator Grey Williamson.  I consider it a love letter to creative artists of all ages everywhere, who struggle within a world getting more complicated day by day.

The Ren will be published by First Second Books, the house behind critically-acclaimed graphic novels such as This One Summer and American-Born Chinese.


Hill: Many writers I know have rituals for working, music they choose, a place they like to work? What is your creation ritual? 

Illidge: Put on some comfortable clothes, eat some food, do something active for ten minutes, sit at the chair, choose a Pandora station, and hit the keyboard. Rinse, repeat.

Keep two Google windows open for research and fact-checking.

Stop when my thoughts take on the consistency of molasses.

Hill: Did you have mentors, and if so, can you name some of them and what you learned (and likely continue to learn) from them? 

Illidge: My mentors of past and present are Derek T. Dingle, Dwayne McDuffie, Michael Davis, and Denys Cowan, four of the five founders of Milestone Media, Inc.  Dennis O’Neil, former Batman Group Editor, co-creator of Ra’s Al Ghul, and critically-acclaimed writer of many a Batman story, Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter, The Question, and many other books by DC Comics.  Steven Barnes, novelist, martial artist, and lifestyle guru/advisor.  I have a new mentor, helping me with my global goals.

In general, what I learn from them is professionalism, patience, control of the message, and balance.


Hill: Do you think that the business synergy between comics and film, while certainly lucrative for both spheres, has negatively affected the quality of comic books? It’s not a loaded question. I honestly am not sure most of the time and I’m curious about what you think. 

Illidge: I think the quality of comic books overall has never been better, and there are certainly more opportunities for comic book creators to receive well-deserved visibility and profit due to the synergy between comic books and Hollywood.

Unfortunately, the synergy has led to greater corporate oversight, which has stifled creativity in various instances. It’s no coincidence that more high-profile creators have more creator-owned projects in monthly publication than ever. That’s the result of ennui and the exhaustion of navigating around story for reasons connected with profit.

Hill: Many people reading this are creators looking to become professional with their work. I’m sure you have a multitude of perspectives to share, but if you don’t mind boiling it down into three things all creators should keep in mind during the transition into professional work, what would those three things be? 

Illidge: Find allies and advisors who will tell you the truth, in order for you to become better at your craft.

Aspire to create work as good as the works you admire, on schedule.

Develop a mental callouses, because criticism is inevitable and you will have to make many changes on the way to good work.

Hill: Miles or Peter? And why? 

Illidge: Peter.

He lost his uncle to a criminal, his first love to a villain, his first wife to a deal with The Devil, faces pain and suffering with humor and hope, and never, ever gives up.

Bryan Hill is a comic author and screenwriter. Currently he is writing POSTAL for Top Cow/Image. He lives and works in Los Angeles. 

2 Comments on Interview: Bryan Hill in Conversation with Former Batman Editor Joseph Illidge, last added: 6/25/2015
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36. Comics Illustrator of the Week :: Joe Matt





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Small Press comics publisher Drawn & Quarterly just released their 25th Anniversary book and since it features the first new material by cartoonist Joe Matt in years, I figured now would be a good time to celebrate his work! Peepshow, Joe Matt’s long running biographical comic, started back in 1987(the last collection was printed in 2007). It would go on to become one of the seminal works of the 90’s alternative comics scene, along with Clowe’s Eightball, Seth’s Palookaville, and Ware’s ACME Novelty Library.

The 15 new pages featured in D & Q’s 25th Anniversary book are intended for Matt’s next book and are a work in progress.

Joe Matt has been nominated for multiple Eisner Awards and both an Ignatz and Doug Wright Award.

You can find him on Instagram (@joepeepshowmatt) now where he sometimes posts new art or you could find him surfing the web at a random Los Angeles, CA library.

For more comics related art, you can follow me on my website comicstavern.com – Andy Yates

0 Comments on Comics Illustrator of the Week :: Joe Matt as of 6/18/2015 10:15:00 PM
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37. Bright Skies with Aimée Sicuro

“With the city suddenly darkened,
Phoebe and Dad sat in the store, listening to the rain. …”


Since I chatted last week (here) with author Uma Krishnaswami about her newest picture book, Bright Sky, Starry City (Groundwood, May 2015), I’m following up here today with some spreads from the book, which was illustrated by Aimée Sicuro.

Enjoy the art.

(Note: Some of the text in the spreads featured below varies slightly from the text in the final copy of the book.)


“Phoebe helped Dad set up the telescopes outside his store. …”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“Two of the planets—Saturn and Mars—would be up in the sky later, between those buildings. They’d be up, but Phoebe worried she wouldn’t be able to see them. …”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“… Rain blurred the lights. Clouds blotted out the sky.
Dad hurried Phoebe back into the shop.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“Crash! Boom! The echoes faded. But something had changed.
Where were all the lights?”
(Click to see spread in its entirety)


“Above the newly washed city, with the power still out,
glowing, sparkling, gleaming lights painted the night …”
(Click to see spread in its entirety)


“… How deep the night was and how endless!”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“Phoebe breathed in the night, with all its stars and planets.
‘What a bright, bright sky,’ she whispered.”
(Click to enlarge spread)



* * * * * * *

BRIGHT SKY, STARRY CITY. Copyright © 2015 by Uma Krishnaswami. Illustrations © 2015 by Aimée Sicuro. Published by Groundwood Books, Toronto. Spreads reproduced by permission of the publisher.

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38. Fuse #8 TV: Steve Sheinkin

Allo, folks!

Hosting Steve Sheinkin on Fuse #8 TV this month does have a bit of the old bringing coals to Newcastle feel to it.  After all, Steve’s been generous in sharing his Walking and Talking comic series with us on this site regularly.  So regularly, in fact, that it would be easy to forget that he’s one of our premiere YA nonfiction authors working today.  Now his most ambitious book to date is coming out.  Called MOST DANGEROUS: DANIEL ELLSBERG AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE VIETNAM WAR, it allowed me to commiserate with Steve over everything from our childhood schools’ failure to teach anything about the Vietnam War to the state of YA nonfiction today.  Oh!  And I also continue my “Reading (Too Much Into) Picture Books” series with a Dallas-like interpretation of Kathi Appelt’s BUBBA AND BEAU MEET THE RELATIVES.  There is also a baby cameo.  Yes indeed, I will hock my baby to get you to watch my video.  I’m just that cunning.

In case you’re interested, all the other Fuse #8 TV episodes are archived here.

Once more, thanks to Macmillan for being my sponsor and helping to put this together.


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39. As Animation Booms Globally, So Does Annecy

Annecy's Marcel Jean and Mickael Marin speak with Cartoon Brew about the Annecy festival, which begins today in France.

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40. Interview: Trees Artist Jason Howard on How Warren Ellis “Breaks His Heart”

Jason Howard is a prolific illustrator whose work has been featured in a number of hugely popular titles such as Superior Spider-Man and Invincible.  He’s currently the series artist on Trees, collaborating with writer Warren Ellis to tell a uniquely human science fiction story.

When a group of monolithic alien towers, colloquially referred to as Trees, touch down around the world, people prepare for war.  To their surprise, nothing ever emerges from these Trees, and humanity is forced to reconcile with the idea that their existence is not even worth the aliens’ time.  Through this premise, Ellis and Howard tell the affecting stories of people who are forced to alter their lives in the face of their own smallness.


In the run up to issue 10 of Trees, which releases on June 17th, I took a moment to speak to Howard about his working process and favorite moments throughout the series thus far.


Alex Lu: So currently, we’re up to issue 9 of Trees.  How long do you see the series running for?

Jason Howard: We thought the series would go somewhere between 13 and 23 issues.  It’s one of the stories that has a lot of threads, so we’ll keep it going for a while.  Personally, I’d like to get at least three trades out, since all my prior series had at least three trades.  Things are going well, so I’d like to keep things rolling.

Lu: I remember an end date being set, is that no longer the case?

Howard: I don’t recall…maybe Warren said something, but we never had a firm end date and the story was always a little wander-y, so we might go down some of those stray threads if Warren has ideas for them.


Lu: How did you come to work with Warren on Trees?

Howard: We did a webcomic together called Scatterlands, and while I was working on Super Dinosaur it was a fun side project to do.  Later on, Warren was getting pretty busy with TV stuff and I was nearing the end of my Super Dinosaur run and I was looking for something else to fill my time so I contacted Warren and this is where we ended up.

Lu: What’s your collaborative process with Warren like?  Does he like to direct you with firm scripts or give you a wider berth to explore and wander on your own?

Howard: He writes a full script.  At the beginning of Trees, we talked a lot about the nature of the series and the different ways we were going to touch on the themes of the title.  From there, it’s been a pretty normal collaborative process.  I get a script from him and then I start drawing it and do the script justice.

Lu: The art of Trees is quite soft despite the series’ grim tone.  How did you nail the art style and how do you design the color palettes for the series?

Howard: I’m always trying different things with the colors.  I like mood coloring where you get a sense of place and time.  Depending on what’s happening in the scene, I want the colors to play with that or play against it.

With the linework and inking, I’m going for something scratchy, broken, and dirty.  It expresses the tone of the world and that the earth isn’t quite right anymore.

trees004What’s been your favorite thing to draw in the series?

Howard: I love drawing snow…or not drawing it depending on the situation.  The snow scenes are definitely some of my favorites.  There are some pages in issue 11, which aren’t out yet, that are some of the most fun I’ve had on the series so far.  One of the storylines in the second arc takes place in New York City and we touched on a couple of characters in volume one that we’ll be spending some more time with there.  That post-tree New York City is really fun, and I love drawing environment and world stuff in general.

It’s been fun because Ellis is placing the story in actual locations or places extrapolated from actual locations, so I get to spend time looking for cool references.  There’s a part of the first arc that takes place in a town in Italy, so I got to look at all the pictures on the internet, people’s vacations photos in Italy, stuff like that.  It gives you a real sense of place in the story.


Lu: What kind of references did you use for the scenes set in China?

Howard: I pulled a lot of different stuff because Warren envisioned that city as a sort of artistic community.  There’s an oppressive government in our China, but they let this flower bloom.  I looked at a lot of photos of Chinese cities and photos of different kinds of art communities.  I mashed them together and this is what we ended up with.

That stuff was kind of hard because sometimes the schedule of monthly comics means you just have to get pages done.  Meanwhile, the designer in me would have loved to have spent a month just really sinking into the various elements of the city, but, well, I just have to draw those pages.

Sometimes I feel like I’m really successful, but other times I want another shot at it because I think I’ve come up with some better ideas.  Ultimately, that setting was complex for me so that’s one of the things that I’d like another crack at just to have the opportunity to push my ideas a little bit farther.

Lu: Personally, I feel like those scenes were some of the most fully realized in the series.  The way that ChengLei’s scenes were framed really encapsulates some of the overarching themes of the book.  As an artist, he more than most realizes how small the human race is in the face of these trees, so he decides to live life the way he wants to and experience everything he can.

Howard: I liked the scene in the art studio they found…that was really fun.  I found lots of old warehouses for reference and tried to artsy them up.  I thought that that storyline was one of the ones in the first arc that really hit home for me.  I got some of the scripts from Warren and told him, “Oh, you’re really breaking my heart.”


Lu: Are you clued in to the greater scope of the story?  Do you have full knowledge of what the trees are and what they do?

I know what our intial talks were.  I don’t know where Warren has gone with it creatively since then.  Trees is ultimately more about the characters surrounding the trees than the trees themselves.  What would a normal person like us do after a big world event like the landing of the trees.

You know, something might be happening overseas or in Washington D.C. and we might be aware of it and how it affects us, but we don’t really know all the details.  We’re worried about what’s happening today with this girl we like or this job situation.  I think Warren is trying to focus on the stories of the individual characters as they’re affected by the trees.  We’re getting hints of the greater scope along the way that hopefully start to paint a big picture in someone’s mind.

Ultimately though, I don’t think there’s ever going to be a big action team that goes and attacks the trees to kill the aliens.

Lu: I hope not!  That’d go against the whole tone of the series so far.

Howard: Maybe that’ll be the last volume.  It’ll just be a huge shift in tone and become a dumb 80s action movie to wrap it all up.


Lu: Well, that’s actually what The Wake did, though!  

Howard: That book was crazy!  It was super entertaining, but it started off as horror and suddenly became a totally different post-apocalyptic story.  It felt like he was intentionally using genre tropes from horror and sci-fi to tell different parts of the story, so it was really cool, but reading it was pretty jarring!

Lu: Did you like the shift, though?

Howard: Yeah, I liked it in the story.  I don’t know if I’d like everything like that, but I think [Snyder] pulled it off pretty well and it was gutsy move to suddenly say “Alright, this part is done, but the story’s not done.  We’re going to jump forward in time so we see the beginning of the big event and its end.”

Lu: Would you like to try something like that in a series?

Howard: I don’t know.  As a creative person, I want to try out everything I see.  I’ll read an auto-bio comic and want to do that, but then I’ll see an action movie and want to make something really dumb with big guns and cool visuals.  Trees is a thoughtful book that has a slow-burning plot and a lot of environments, and that’s been a lot of fun, but on the other hand I also had fun doing Super Dinosaur.  That series was something for my kids.  Big cartoon in-your-face dinosaurs and robots.  It’s as opposite in tone as you can get from Trees.

It’s all great, and ultimately, I just hope to get a chance to stretch all those creative impulses.


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41. Exploring the Skies with Uma Krishnaswami

The picture book is such a fabulous form! The great joy of writing picture book text is that I can hold the whole idea in my mind at once, all the way through the process of writing and rewriting. It’s like working with a small jewel.”

Today over at Kirkus, I talk with Uma Krishnaswami about writing picture books, her teaching, and her newest book, Bright Sky, Starry City, illustrated by Aimée Sicuro.

That Q&A is here, and I will have some art from the book next week here at 7-Imp.

* * * * * * *

Photo of Uma is used by her permission.

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42. Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez discuss the new era of Invincible Iron Man


Last weekend’s announcement of Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez taking over the reins on the second announced “All-New Marvel” title, Invincible Iron Man, was the biggest headline of NYCC Special Edition. The Eisner winning writer and his collaborator on Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man taking over the adventures of Tony Stark mark a brand new era for one of Marvel’s premiere heroes, and it’s a title that’s sure to grab readers’ attention from its inception.

Today, The Beat had the opportunity to sit in on another of Marvel’s “Next Big Thing” conference calls, this time with Invincible Iron Man‘s new creative team, along with Marvel’s EIC Axel Alonso and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort.

Marvel was also kind enough to provide the following preview art to give readers a sneak peak into Bendis and Marquez’s take:

IRONMAN2015001_Cov_col_Logo IronMan2015001006_INKS_scan IronMan2015001004s_INKS Iron_Man_Armor_Concept_by_David_Marquez Iron_Man_Turnaround_by_David_Marquez

We’ll be updating this post live as it happens! Stay tuned!

The call opens with Marvel’s Chris D’Lando giving an overview of the series discussing the new status quo of the “8 month later” time jump of the series post-Secret Wars. He informed everyone on the call that Justin Ponsor, the colorist of the most recent run of Ultimate Spider-Man, will also be joining the team. Thusly, the entire Miles Morales team will be on board the new book.

Chris first asks Axel Alonso what they want fans to take out of these new promo images that have been released and what you see above. Alonso states that he wants fans of the character to know that Marvel is “all in” on Iron Man, especially given the high quality of talent that has been enlisted for the book.

Tom Brevoort then informs us that this is the first Iron Man book he’s been editing since the first iteration of “Marvel Now!”. Brevoort then, when asked why Bendis was the ideal writer for Iron Man, stated that his celebrated run on Daredevil and its ability to bring out new facets of the character long made him a desired option to take over Tony Stark’s adventures. The issue at hand, he states, was that the timing was never right. But, with his X-Men run wrapping up, we finally get the opportunity to see Bendis “take Tony Stark into places we’ve never seen before, much like he did with Daredevil ten years ago”.

Bendis then chimes in and jokes that he isn’t planning on doing any of that. On a serious note though, Bendis cites that the Fraction run and other runs the preceded him are difficult to live up to, but he looks forward to the challenge.

The discussion then turns to the new armor that Marquez designed and he states that “it’s an all in one kind of tool, it’s any armor you want it to be”, with multiple different abilities including the ability to change shape, which he said was one of the big points they wanted to cover along with being bold and fresh. He also cites that the armor was slimmer, which follows the general trend of technology in our own world. Bendis states that this similar line of thinking led to Warren Ellis’ Extremis storyline: this idea of Tony building himself the best toys.

The call then turns to Tony’s adopted parentage, where the previous run by Kieron Gillen had revealed this new piece of information about his past. Bendis stated that this particularly strikes a chord with him as two of his own four children are adopted and that Kieron set this up angle up for him perfectly. “We’ve got this cool new armor, and almost a whole new man in Tony Stark, who’s got to figure out who he is.”

A discussion about villains then came up, with Bendis highlighting that Iron Man’s bench is not as deep as Spider-Man’s, and during the planning phase of the new run he went into Marquez and said “show me the villains in your sketchbook” and they pulled from much of Marquez’s ideas. Bendis says “you’ll see all the new villains all at once” and they’ll be built up over the course of the new year, though a marquee Iron Man villain will appear in the first issue.

Bendis also mentions regarding Tony’s rather storied love life…he may have finally met his match in this run, additionally he teased a new supporting character that will become a major player in the book as well that hasn’t been involved in Tony’s life before.

The call then turned to press questions:

– Will Arno Stark, Tony’s brother, appear?

Yes! Though Bendis could only reveal a one word answer regarding Arno’s involvement in the book.

– With the entire Miles Morales team coming over to this new book, has the workflow of the team remained the same?

Bendis and Marquez both highlighted that they are excited to build the book from the ground up and that they are excited to continue the partnership that’s work so well in the past.

– How much will the new book build off of Tony’s personality in Tom Taylor’s Superior Iron Man?

Bendis says that everything will be touched upon from Taylor’s just concluded (as of last week) run. Nothing will be ignored or pushed aside according to the writer.

– Will we see a resolution of the future Tony that was set up in his previous Avengers run?

Bendis says that this long awaited resolution is still to come, including the idea of Tony Stark as the “Sorcerer Supreme”.

– I asked how long the first arc will be, will it be composed more of stand-alone stories or will it be a larger arc of 12-13 or more issues?

Bendis replied: “Not unlike my work on Spider-Man or Daredevil, you’re gonna be looking at a long, multi-year storyline that’s gonna be easily digestible in chapters. As one drama brings itself to a conclusion, another one pops up. Tony’s got so many balls in the air that even if he knocks one villain down, there’s another one coming. For anyone who’s read Spider-Man, the structure will be very similar.” He stated that those are the kind of books he likes to read and buy.

– On two related questions, Bendis was asked if Invincible Iron Man would cross over into other books and if any of the All-New Avengers would appear in this title?

Bendis says there are currently no plans for a crossover and that he is excited to just be writing Tony solo for the first time. He wants this series to specifically stand on its own. But, he said that the new Avengers team will appear, though he had to be coy to elaborate further.

– Will we see any of the relationship between Steve Rogers and Tony get defined or re-defined in the new title?

Bendis emphasized that he really likes their relationship and how they challenge each other, and that readers can expect to see him touch upon that dynamic.

– Outside of comics, what are you drawing from, both in terms of design and writing?

Marquez answered that he draws a ton of information of television, anime and manga. While Bendis felt like his biggest influence for this run was a shot from Iron Man 3, where Tony picks up a screwdriver out of the rubble of his house. He’s inspired by the idea that Tony can build himself up all over again despite his life often falling apart. Bendis calls this his “Iron Man 4″. He also said that the book “On Intelligence”, which speaks to why humans can’t program A.I., is a big part of the reason why he was able to get on-board with Tony’s character in the first place.

– In my favorite question of the call, one of the comics press asks, with all the changes occurring to Thor, Captain America, etc…why is it important that Tony remains Iron Man?

Bendis states that Tony himself will be undergoing changes, which while they may not be cosmetic as the other books, they will definitely be there.

– I asked if this is Bendis’ Iron Man 4, is it too much to ask that we may finally get the Marvel Comics version of Trevor Slattery?

Bendis laughed, and said “yes”. I am saddened.

– Is the idea that Tony is his own worst enemy, as we’ve seen in films like Avengers: Age of Ultron, important to this new version of Tony?

Bendis gave a great answer here when he said: “A futurist is someone who can look ten years ahead and see what the world will need and build it.” He elaborated further on this point by stressing: “Tony’s got to pick the thing that he thinks will work the best, and go with it. Not to make a King Arthur reference, but heavy is the head that wears the crown.”

The team then revealed that it was Brevoort’s idea to bring back the Invincible portion of the title, as well as returning to the red and gold design.

And speaking to a question regarding the overall accessibility of the book to new readers, Bendis states that “everyone knows Iron Man” and that’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t know him at any age at this point given the feature film success. He says that his current mindset is about taking what people like and adding to it and that Iron Man is the character most associated with Marvel today akin to how Spider-Man was in the 60’s and 70’s.

Invincible Iron Man hits stores in October! Big thanks to Chris D’Lando for having The Beat take part in this great discussion.





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43. Interview: Sydney Padua presents “The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage”

978-0-307-90827-8[1] 2

by Alex Dueben

For the past few years, one of the funniest, strangest and most inventive webcomics around has been crafted by Sydney Padua, a Canadian animator living in Britain, who has been telling strange fictional adventures (and misadventures) of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace. Admittedly, 19th century mathematics does not seem like a logical source for an ongoing webcomic – much less one that’s consistently laugh out loud funny – but Padua has managed to do just that.

This spring Pantheon released “The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer” and Padua just completed a tour through North America and she recently spoke about the comic and her process.


Alex Dueben: Just by way of introduction, Sydney, what’s your background?

Sydney Padua: I’m an anonymous toiler in the mines of feature animation. I’ve been an animator for about twenty years. I went to Sheridan College Animation School in Toronto. Before that I studied theater history and design at the University of Alberta. I was very lucky to do that at the exact right time. When I started studying animation it wasn’t really a thing. Disney was doing some films, but that was about it. When I was in the middle of school the boom happened–Toy Story and Jurassic Park–and then suddenly every animation grad could get hired in Hollywood. I went to Warner Brothers and was a 2D animator and artist for almost ten years. Then 2D animation collapsed so I had to learn computer animation–with great reluctance–but now now I’m pretty happy working as a CG animator. I’m doing VFX for big movies.

Dueben: Where did “The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage” start? Correct me if I’m wrong but it began as you doing a short biographical comic about Ada Lovelace?

Padua: It started as a joke. It was literally a joke. I was in a pub–actually strictly speaking I think I was in a wine bar but it sounds better if it was a pub–with my friend Suw Charman, who started Ada Lovelace Day, which is this women in computing day. She was like, you’re a woman in tech you should do a comic! I was like, I’ve never even heard of Ada Lovelace. I went to wikipedia and was like, oh my god. I dashed off the comic in an evening or two. This punchline is that they die and it’s really boring but that’s too stupid an ending so I drew them in these steampunk outfits fighting crime. That was completely a joke. I didn’t have the smallest intention of doing another comic. It turned up on the internet the next day and people on twitter were like, this person is going to do this comic. [laughs] So then I felt obliged.

Dueben: You have a great comic explaining what they define as crime–for her, poetry, and for him, street music.

Padua: And it’s all true! [laughs]

Dueben: I first heard of Ada Lovelace about 15 years ago because of this Tilda Swinton movie, “Conceiving Ada.” At the time I assumed that she was obviously fictional because if she were real, everyone would know who this woman was.

Padua: I know. It was so bizarre. I still remember reading the wikipedia article and saying, you’re joking? It just got more and more crazy. I still find stuff through research and I go, you’re making this up! [laughs] This cannot possibly be true. I couldn’t believe that nobody had done an ongoing series with her or really used her as a character. I hadn’t read “The Difference Engine” when I started the comic, but she’s not really a character in it. She’s there, but they don’t make anything of her, which I thought was weird. She’s perfect. She’s like Batman. She’s got all this angst. Babbage is fantastic. He’s such a personality. He was such a funny guy. It was such a gift. There were gags lying around.

Dueben: How much of the strip came from research? And what was push and pull between doing more research and making more comics?

Padua: The research definitely drove the comic. I would say most of the time I was drawing the comic because I wanted to be able to footnote it with a really amazing thing I found. The comic was completely improvised. This may be obvious, but I don’t sit down and write a really careful script. I just went online and completely improvised episode to episode. I was just bouncing off the stuff that I was reading literally as I was drawing the comic. Google books was a big gift. Around the same time I started the comic they were just dumping all this 19th century stuff online that had never been indexed before. I was finding stuff that proper actual scholars had never seen–and I knew they’d never seen it because it was often contradicting stuff that they were writing! [laughs] It’s not like some official obituary, it’s some guy in some town paper writing a letter about how I met Babbage. It’s so fresh and so alive and I just found it incredibly inspiring. It was like this little wormhole into the past.


Dueben: I loved the story with George Eliot. Where did idea come from, because its one thing to say that it involves Eliot meeting Babbage and Lovelace. That conjures a certain idea for people, but you discuss how computers process information and there’s a lot going on besides just, isn’t it cool these three historical figures are meeting.

Padua: I knew I wanted to have a civilian, basically, collide with the engine. I’d done a bunch of stories with Babbage and Lovelace and of course they know everything and they’re these super-geniuses, but I’m not a computer expert of any kind. My own experience with computers as a 2D animator is that it is this fiendish torture device that they make us animate on. [laughs] It’s incredibly complicated software, it crashes all the time, there’s always some bit that you’ve never seen before with fifty buttons. Even the experts on this software don’t know how it works. [laughs] So despite not being a computer person, I have a lot of experience in my day to day working life of the bafflements of extremely complicated software. I called the George Eliot episode “User Experience” because it’s about really terrible user experience. [laughs] That is absolutely me lost in the software that I have to use for work every single day.

Dueben: You draw this massive building housing the engine dominating the city of London and I kept picturing it as the power plant that became the Tate Modern.

Padua: I’m not too far from the Tate Modern. If I was better at drawing backgrounds it would have been even better.

Dueben: In the book’s introduction, you’re self-deprecating, saying that you’re not a comics artist and you didn’t know what you were doing. What was it like learning to do this as you were doing it?

Padua: It was actually super fun. I mean I’ve never done a comic. I had done a fan fiction comic very loose and messy years and years ago. It was really fun. What’s nice about comics is that if you can’t write it, you can do a drawing and if you can’t draw it, you can write something down. I’d been thinking I’d like to do a comic properly. Having come from 2D animation and features, drawing is quite stressful. There’s performance anxiety and you’re always being judged and corrected on your drawing all the time. It’s great training obviously, but at the same time despite always wanting to do a comic, I didn’t want to do an “official” comic because then my drawing would be on display and everyone would be like, your drawing is terrible. This really liberating thing happened with “Lovelace and Babbage,” which is I didn’t think anyone was actually reading it. I never mentioned it to anyone at work. It was just a complete playful space where I was never even thinking about the drawing. I was just playing around. The drawing is super loose and rough. You just go into the challenge of constructing the panel and all that like a game. I had all these rules. I had to have a gag every single panel. Lovelace and Babbage always have to cause the problem and then solve it. I had this whole list of rules and it was this very playful space. I think that’s the best way to learn, if you can turn something into a game.

Dueben: Coming off of animation where you have to be on model all the time, is the loose style of the comic more of how you draw?

Padua: It took me years to get animation out of my drawing. In the process of learning to animate, there’s a lot about getting rid of your own style and being able to impose the official style. You get a ton of really useful tools, obviously, in terms of craftsmanship, but I think you lose a lot of individuality. I had to go back and unlearn everything. To let myself not construct something, but to just draw the gesture and leave it. That was a really long learning process. It didn’t start with the comic. I’d been trying to do more life drawing and find my own style for a long time before that.

Dueben: The comic is just where it came together.

Padua: Yeah this is the arena where I could really use it. I really resented going into computer animation at first. Because you worked so hard to learn this tuff and then it’s like, oh you don’t need that. At the same time, I realized that my drawing is mine again. It doesn’t have it be this official tool that has to conform to all these rules. Now it can go back to being my own.

Dueben: You said that you’re not much for backgrounds but the body language, the clothing, the Victorian touches, technology, animals–are these the things you like to draw? This is what you randomly sketch?

Padua: About fifty percent ponies. [laughs] And funny gestures.


Dueben: You did a lot of life drawing and spend time focusing on body language.

Padua: I studied theater, which was more on the theory and back stage side of things, but my specialization was mask theater and mime. I guess that is a line that runs through animation and the comic. This caricatured body language is something that I enjoy playing with.

Dueben: When you started out, did you have a model for what you were trying to do?

Padua: Asterix. I wanted to do Asterix but in the Victorian era with computer jokes.

Dueben: I wouldn’t have guessed that, but now that you say it, I can see it.

Padua: [laughs] I’m a complete Asterix nut. If I think back when I was like twelve and copying comics, I was copying Asterix obsessively. Especially the horses because he was amazing at horses. Asterix was a big one. Will Eisner was another big influence. I like old comics. Asterix and Tintin and Milton Caniff. Mad Magazine. Groo. I inherited this giant pile of really old Mad Magazines with Jack Davis and Sergio Aragones.

Dueben: When you signed the book deal with Pantheon, what kind of conversation did you have about what to include and the structure of the book?

Padua: My entire brief was basically they wanted the comic poured into the book. They wanted what I’d already done. I had actually talked to another publisher in a very informal way and  they were like, of course you can’t do what you do in the comic because it’s too weird. And I completely agreed with them. To me the idea of doing the comic with all the footnotes, these weird super inside jokes and a ton of super technical details just seemed like a stupid idea. Of course I shouldn’t do that.

But Pantheon and Dan Frank were like, it needs to be exactly like the comic. It needs to be as eccentric as possible. Just do what you do. He left me alone, which was terrifying because I had no clue what I was doing. I just cried a lot and tried to somehow make it work. Basically I was trying to keep the spirit of the website in book form so obviously a lot of the structural stuff had to be quite different. The footnotes had to be there on the page. If you just extracted all the comics and ran them, I don’t think it would be very good. The comic is existing in this space between the footnotes and the drawings, if that makes sense.

Dueben: It does. I would argue that the footnotes are as important as the dialogue.

Padua: It’s not a straight comic with footnotes. It’s a whole different thing. I was desperately trying to find somebody who had done the same thing so I could see that it worked. But no one had–which proved to me that it wouldn’t work. [laughs] I hope it works. It was a leap of faith to make the book that I would personally want to read. For example, I always want to see the whole document. This is super nerdy but I hate it when people quote half a line and then contextualize it themselves. The more secondary histories I read the more I’m like, just give me the document, man! I don’t want to hear you paraphrase because you’re probably distorting something. That’s why I have the appendix. I could have easily made that 300 pages. [laughs] The engine diagrams probably took me five or six months alone, but you read all these books and even serious ones–especially quite serious ones–and you’re like, what does it look like? No one had done that, so I did. It took me ages so I hope people appreciate that. It seems a very strange book to me because there are all these funny gags and comics and poor Babbage has this as the first visualization of his analytical engine, in this random comic book.

Dueben: I couldn’t think of anything that worked quite like this, but David Foster Wallace wrote a number of fiction and nonfiction pieces which had footnotes and endnotes, and they weren’t an addendum, they were an essential part.

Padua: Interesting. I haven’t actually read David Foster Wallace. I was thinking of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell which is one of my favorite books from the past ten years. That’s an imaginary history and the footnotes again create this tension between the text and the footnotes. I just really love footnotes.

Dueben: I do wonder about people who pick it up. Will comics people go, what are all these documents? Will technical people complain about the comics?

Padua: Everyone’s going to hate me for different reasons! [laughs] There was zero interest in doing a marketable commodity.

Dueben: So what’s next for you?

Padua: I have no idea. Everyone’s asking me this and we’re in crunch on this movie and I don’t have a spare second of brain power. I don’t have expectations of how the book is going to do. There is almost two hundred pages of material that we cut. “The Organist,” which is everyone’s favorite story, is not actually in the book. It was so huge and I was not going to finish it in time to get the book out when they wanted it out. “The Organist” can probably be a stand alone book. If somebody wants to pay money for it and some other stories, that would be great, and if they don’t, I might kickstart it. I have so many Lovelace and Babbage stories I want to draw. I’ve got a ton of gags and stories I want to do. It’s been killing me that I’ve been so slammed that I haven’t been able to keep the blog going. I’m sorry everybody! I’ve just had no time. When stuff slows down, I really want to start drawing again.

Dueben: But there will be more “Lovelace and Babbage?”

Padua: Yes!

Dueben: In your trip to America is there anything you’re really looking forward to?

Padua: Yes they’re going to have a very special private cranking of Babbage’s difference engine at the computer history museum for me. Which is so fantastic because they don’t run the one at the science museum here. It’s in a glass case, which is a shame. The thing about those engines is that they jam. [laughs]

Dueben: Which is part of the machine’s genius, as they explained to Queen Victoria!

Padua: Yes! I have a feeling that it would take quite a bit of readjusting if they wanted to run it a lot. I’ve never actually seen one live in operation, so I’m super excited about that.

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44. The Copacetic Club

‘Loquacious’ (used in the book), along with ‘copacetic,’ were two words I learned from my sister’s boyfriend. When I was a kid, I loved knowing these big words. It made me feel grown-up. In fact, when my friends and I used to greet each other with ‘How ya doin’?’, the correct response was ‘copacetic.’ It was like a code or our own secret language, hidden right there in English vocabulary. If you knew the response, you were in the ‘copacetic club.’”

Today over at Kirkus, I talk with Jim Averbeck, quoted above, and Yasmeen Ismail, both pictured here, who are the author and illustrator (respectively) of the new picture book One Word from Sophia (Atheneum), which will be on shelves in June.

That Q&A is here, and I will have some art and early sketches from it next week here at 7-Imp.

* * * * * * *

Photo of Jim taken by Tim O’Meara and used by his permission.

Photo of Yasmeen taken by Olivia Hemingway Photography and used by her permission.

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45. Sergio Pablos Talks About His Stunning Hand-Drawn Project ‘Klaus’ [Exclusive]

Hand-drawn animation like you've never seen before.

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46. Ilyasah Shabazz on X

shabazz_xIn our May/June 2015 issue, reviewer Martha V. Parravano talks to author Ilyasah Shabazz about her approach to writing a novel about her father, Malcolm X. Read the starred review of X here.

Martha V. Parravano: Why did you choose to present the story of Malcolm X’s formative years as fiction, rather than nonfiction — and told in the first person, at that?

Ilyasah Shabazz: I wanted to write a book that portrays my father in the light my family remembers him. I chose fiction to illuminate the true spirit of Malcolm that a straight biography couldn’t possibly capture. I wrote X to show teens who may share my father’s feeling of rejection by society that circumstance does not determine destiny. Through passion and hard work, any young person can rise up and make a difference. Writing in the first person enabled me to take the reader inside Malcolm’s head to experience his journey from lost adolescent to human-rights icon as he did — through his own eyes.

From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The post Ilyasah Shabazz on X appeared first on The Horn Book.

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47. MATT CHATS: Andy Suriano on his Return and Second Goodbye to Samurai Jack

There are a lot of licensed comics out there that lack a certain legitimacy. Whether they’re good or bad, they’re not the main version of those characters and those worlds, and they’re usually created by people who weren’t involved in the original. IDW’s Samurai Jack circumvents that sense of not feeling like the “real” thing not only by continuing where the animated series left off but also with art by Andy Suriano, character designer of the Samurai Jack TV show. I spoke to Suriano about how it felt to wrap up the comic with Issue 20, along with other projects he’s involved in.


For a day job you’re working on cartoons of Mickey Mouse, who is Disney’s flagship character but has lately been off a lot of viewers’ radars. Does that give you a chance to experiment and get away with more?

I wouldn’t say Mickey Mouse is ever off anyone’s radar, but yes, Disney has been very supportive and encouraging with the type of designs, humor and stories we’ve been doing–playing to the strength’s of our team as well as the climate of today’s viewer, all the while keeping them timeless.


You were considered to write the series as well as handling art duties. How did the plans you laid out in your pitch differ from what you and Jim Zub did together with the series?

I think my stories were more stand alone that intersected occasionally versus Jim’s more connected, linear story arcs, which fit better with the direction they wanted for the book. I’m happy Jim landed the gig because he did a terrific job. But I am happy that a couple of my stories still made it into the final product with issues #8 and #18 which I got co-writing and writing on, respectively. 


What unique elements do you think Zub added to Samurai Jack that weren’t there before the comic book series started?

Well, Jim brought the AWESOME that IS Jim to the series. He came on board with actually more knowledge about the episodes I worked on than even I did. I think he took the rules and framework of what we established with the animated series, and quickly took ownership of the character and was able to expand the mythos in a fun way.


In your mind, what are the most crucial elements of any Samurai Jack story?

Action. Humor. Visual storytelling. 


Zub mentioned that he’s seen you draw a Samurai Jack sketch in less than 10 seconds. How long does it take you to draw a whole page?

It’s not about the time in which I do a drawing, it’s what I put into it. I purposely decided early on to use a more kinetic line quality on the book to intimate a sense of movement and speed, that was so integral to the animated series. It was my way to try and “animate” the stationary printed page. 


A number of pages of Samurai Jack (such as Page 4 of #20) contain multiple actions but don’t use typical panel arrangements. How do you manage to keep everything coherent?

Ha! I close my eyes and hope for the best! Confusion to the reader or viewer is what will kill you, so I experiment a lot in the layout phase and see what works the best–and what leads the readers eye the best, to hopefully create a fluid, organic and fun experience. 

Is Samurai Jack #20 your final stamp on the character, or would you return for more?

If IDW and Cartoon Network decided to do more and asked Jim, Josh and I back, we’d be back!


What did you take away from more time with the property?

I just enjoyed getting an opportunity to live in that world a little bit longer.


After two years revisiting Samurai Jack, where do you go from here?

Well, thankfully I still have my day job on the new Mickey Mouse shorts at Disney, I actively contribute to the new TMNT series at Nickelodeon and I do a weekly webcomic with homestarrunner.com creator Matt Chapman called Cosmic Scoundrels which I encourage you and anyone reading to check out and help us spread the word! 

andy profile

You can find Andy Suriano on social media like Twitter and Tumblr. Check in next week for my interview with Samurai Jack writer Jim Zub!

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48. The Many Sides of Sophia

“Sophia’s birthday was coming up, and she had five things on her mind –
One True Desire and four problems.”


Since last week over at Kirkus, I chatted with Jim Averbeck and Yasmeen Ismail about One Word from Sophia, coming to shelves in mid-June from Atheneum Books for Young Readers (that Q&A is here), I’ve got some art and early sketches from Yasmeen today.

I thank her for sharing.


Early sketches
(Click each to enlarge)


More early drawings


“…Her One True Desire was to get a pet giraffe for her birthday.”


“… and Grand-mamá, who was very strict.”


“So Sophia used fewer words with Father. ‘Giraffes,’ said Sophia, ‘are a good source of manure, which can be sold at a profit to garden centers and activists.”


“Her proposal was accompanied by a compelling graph
showing how much money she would make.”


“In a last, desperate attempt before her birthday, Sophia prepared to speak to everyone on once. She revised and shortened her proposition
until it was just one word.”


“‘One word really worked,’ she said.”


“And two words came in handy as well …”


Click to enlarge cover


* * * * * * *

ONE WORD FROM SOPHIA. Copyright © 2015 by Jim Averbeck. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Yasmeen Ismail. Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York. Images here reproduced by permission of Yasmeen Ismail.

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49. Interview and Giveaway: Gambling on a Dream by Sara Walter Ellwood


[Manga Maniac Cafe] Good morning, Sara!  Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Sara Walter Ellwood] Determined, overachiever, perfectionist, passionate, and loyal

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Sara Walter Ellwood] My journal. I never know when an idea will strike.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.

[Sara Walter Ellwood] Computer, coffee mug and writing craft books (though I suppose that’s more than three things…<g>)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s your favorite snack when you’re working on a deadline?

[Sara Walter Ellwood] Like right now? I’m on two separate deadlines… An infusion of coffee and lots of chocolate.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

[Sara Walter Ellwood] I honestly can’t think of anyone. I’m content with who I am.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week. Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it?

[Sara Walter Ellwood] Super speed. I always have a million things to do and wish I could do the mundane things like housework faster to allow for more time that I could do the other things I need to do. Or better yet, magic ability. I’d love to be able to snap my fingers or twitch my nose and the toilets would be cleaned and the laundry done.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

[Sara Walter Ellwood] I love paranormal and recently read Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy and the Fairwick Trilogy by Carol Goodman (writing as Juliet Dark). Right now I’m reading Redemption (book 1 of The Penton Vampire Legacy) by Susannah Sandin. And Paul Kemp’s Star Wars: Lords of the Sith.

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Colton Gamblers #3
Sara Walter Ellwood
Lyrical Press
Releasing June 9th, 2015

With Everything At Stake….

It’s been years since Sheriff Dawn Madison said goodbye to Texas Ranger Wyatt McPherson. She’s closed the door on the heartache of her past. But when the sleepy town of Colton, Texas, is rocked by a series of shocking murders, Dawn has no choice but to trust the man who broke her heart if she wants to protect the ones she loves…

All Bets Are Off

Four years have passed. But Wyatt hasn’t forgotten the bold, Native American beauty who stole his heart . . . and broke it. Losing her and the life they had hoped to share left him an empty shell of himself. But if he wants to stop the deranged killer terrorizing the innocent kids of Colton, he’ll have to let Dawn back into his life. It’s a risk he’s willing to take, even if heartache is all he takes home…


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Although Sara Walter Ellwood has long ago left the farm for the glamour of the big town, she draws on her experiences growing up on a small hobby farm in West Central Pennsylvania to write her contemporary westerns. She’s been married to her college sweetheart for over 20 years, and they have two teenagers and one very spoiled rescue cat named Penny. She longs to visit the places she writes about and jokes she’s a cowgirl at heart stuck in Pennsylvania suburbia. Sara Walter Ellwood is a multi-published and international Amazon bestselling author of the anthology set Cowboy Up. She also publishes paranormal romantic suspense under the pen name Cera duBois.



When the door closed with a resounding click, Dawn pounded a fist onto the table with enough force to rattle their coffee mugs. “Dammit, who is he protecting?”

He glanced back at the door. Talon had always had it rough, but no worse than his sister or younger brother. Sure, being one of Jock Blackwell’s ill-begotten sons wasn’t something he’d wish on a rabid coyote. However, Tom Madison had treated Talon like a son all his life, even giving him a third of his ranch when he retired.

Talon had changed, and not for the better. His problems didn’t come from how he was raised, or even the occasional bullying. He was a troublemaker, and nothing would have changed him.

He sat in the chair Talon had vacated. “Or the question could be what is he hiding?”

She ran her hands over her dark hair to the tight bun at the base of her skull. With jerky movements, she pulled out the band holding the twisted braid captive. As she ran her fingers through the long mass of raven silk, heat coursed through him at the memories of all that hair covering him like a blanket while they’d made love. When she bent over the table and scratched her scalp in pure frustration, all he could think about was her hair hanging down her back to brush and tickle his thighs as she rode him–her favorite position–to orgasm.

The erection was fast and furious and nearly had him groaning. Thank God, he was sitting. He forced his numbed mind to focus on the case.

“We have to find someone else who may have seen or knows something.” She glanced across the table at him and straightened. If there was ever the perfect picture of a beautiful Indian maiden, it was Dawn with her hair down. Had she ever had the stuff cut? He swallowed hard and shifted in his chair as his jeans strangled his cock. How long had it been since he’d had sex? He couldn’t remember, but refused to believe he hadn’t been with someone since Dawn.

With swift, practiced motions, she broke the trance he was under by daftly braiding her hair and wrapping it into a bagel-sized knot at the back of her head. She snapped the hair band over the bun.

He cleared his throat. “When are we talking to Chris’s friends?” His voice came out sounding a bit husky, even to his ears.

She stood, taking their coffee cups with her, and refilled them. After she dumped that god-awful crap pretending to be creamer into hers, she handed him a mug of black joe. Sipping her coffee from the extra-large, bright green mug he’d given to her for her thirtieth birthday, she returned to her chair.

“Hendricks and Kennedy are getting a list, but according to Julie, he didn’t have many friends in Colton.”

“How about Justin Vaughn? He’s always been a known dealer. Maybe he knows something.” He sipped his coffee.

She smiled, and he almost choked as he swallowed the hot, bitter brew. “Haven’t thought of him. We should talk to him. They’re about the same age. Vaughn’s working over at his uncle’s farm and garden market.”

He set his mug on the table and glanced at his watch. “I can’t today.”

“Hot date?”

Grinning, he stood. “No. I’m buying the Estrada Ranch.”

Her dark eyes widened. “Really? I heard Luis and Stella were thinking of moving to New Mexico, but I didn’t know it was a done deal. I figured it would go to either Jose or Mary,” she said, referring to the Estradas’ son and daughter. “How long has their place been up for sale? I haven’t seen a sign in their yard.”

He shrugged and reached for his hat where it sat on the edge of the table. “Luis and Stella told Mom and Dad they planned to sell the place a couple of weeks ago while playing Bingo at the firehouse. When they told me, I called the Estradas and made an offer. It never officially made it on the market. I’ve been looking for a small ranch.”

“We’ll be neighbors when you settle in there.” She cocked her head to the side. “I never knew you wanted to be a rancher.”

“You never cared about a lot of things I wanted.” His bitterness surprised even him.

She stood and picked up her mug, leaving his where it sat. As she headed for the door, she nodded toward it. “We have a policy around here. We clean up after ourselves. Something I seem to remember you have a hard time with.”


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50. Interview: Jack Baxter returns to Tel Aviv for Mike’s Place


By Cal Cleary

Jack Baxter, an American filmmaker, went to Israel in 2003 to make a documentary. When his initial subject fell through, he found a new story in the form of Mike’s Place, a Tel Aviv blues bar where people from all over could meet in peace amidst all the turmoil. There, he met Joshua Faudem, an American-Israeli filmmaker, and the two teamed up to tell the story of Mike’s Place, unaware that the bar would soon be targeted by suicide bombers. They kept the cameras rolling through the aftermath of the bombing and the bar’s rebirth, and Blues By the Beach, their documentary, came out in 2004. Baxter’s newest project finds him re-teaming with Faudem and working with cartoonist Koren Shadmi to dig deeper into both the bombing and the lives of the men and women who frequented the bar. We recently got a chance to speak with Baxter about Mike’s Place, the transition from filmmaking to making graphic novels, and much more.

You come from a history of documentary filmmaking. In addition to producing Blues By the Beach, the making of which you detail here, you also wrote, produced and directed Brother Minister: The Assassination of Malcolm X. What was it about the graphic novel format that interested you as an alternative to filmmaking or a more traditional book?

A graphic novel is essentially the same as a movie storyboard: A continuous storyline with written dialogue and description and illustrations in both mediums.

Actually, in 2006, literary agent Jerry Rudes did pitch a nonfiction book idea to major publishers that I was supposed to write. Long story, didn’t happen. I kept thinking about slogging away on my great American novel for years and years rehashing a tale of woe. I’m glad that book never happened.

Filmmaking is a hassle from day one to the finish line. But the satisfaction quotient from watching a live audience experience something you helped create makes all the work worth it. So when my co-writer and the director of Blues, Joshua Faudem, said we should write a movie screenplay I was all-in. MIKE’S PLACE was born of the screenplay.

Was it challenging to write a graphic novel script, or did the experience you had from crafting narrative out of documentary footage translate easily to the new format?

MikesPlace_combined_100-28We already had a fully realized screenplay filled with description, dialogue, locations, and a fast-paced narrative. When it served the story we used actual scenes and outtakes from Blues by the Beach. First Second provided us with their graphic novel format template, and we re-worked some scenes and dialogue where it was suggested. Once it passed the collective smell test, we were off to the races.

In terms of storytelling, did you find the graphic novel medium better than film or vice versa?

Creating a graphic novel and making a film are in the same ballpark for me. The big advantage of film is SOUND. The advantage of the graphic novel is that you ingest at your own pace so you can really focus and ruminate. No wonder to me Hollywood is snatching-up this storytelling format left and right. It’s not a giant leap from paper to film. You have built-in visuals that weary-eyed studio readers can more easily rate and recommend.

Blues By the Beach was released very soon after the suicide bombing. With Mike’s Place, you have the added perspective that comes with more than a decade’s distance. Has that changed the way you see the bar, its mission, or the bombing itself?

The mission of Mike’s Place remains the same today as every bar and live-music venue anywhere in the world – social interaction and making a buck. The terrorist conspiracy that tried to send a message to a Tel Aviv beachfront bar, next-door to the American Embassy, failed. Yes, they killed and wounded people, but they didn’t get the “last word” in Israel or here in the USA.

Mike’s Place is bigger than ever and has locations all over Israel and is soon expanding into Europe, and who knows, maybe even another Mike’s Place in a hipster neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Do you see Blues by the Beach and Mike’s Place as companion pieces, or separate works with separate goals?

I think they both stand on their own. The big difference is, in the graphic novel, we were able to dig deeper into our characters, chart the journey and reveal the true motivation of the terrorists. It shows the historical significance of why Mike’s Place was chosen for attack after midnight on April 30, 2003.

Mike’s Place strays so thoroughly from the way we typically see this region. In a lot of ways, the bar at the center of this story wouldn’t feel out-of-place anywhere in the U.S., something you mention being important in the book. Do you think that the way the media portrays this conflict has helped desensitize or dissuade people from believing a lasting peace can be achieved?

There are lots of voices crying in the wilderness. If you don’t like Fox, MSNBC or CNN – change the channel and MikesPlace_combined_100-27check out Al Jazeera and the BBC every once in a while. Meet some Palestinians and Israelis face to face. They don’t have horns on their heads.

If Mike’s Place can serve as an example of a modern Middle East then we’re on to something. And if you go there and you don’t drink, you can always get some falafel or a cheeseburger and listen to free live music. Just make sure no matter what, that you tip the bartenders and waitresses and when the musicians pass the hat, don’t pretend your texting on your iPhone. Now that could really start a war…

What made you choose First Second as the publisher for Mike’s Place?

First Second publisher-editor Mark Siegel is a family friend of the Faudem Family from Michigan. Matter-of-fact, I met Mark’s mother and father at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival eight years before I met him. Joshua suggested I drop off our screenplay and Blues DVD to him at his office, a couple blocks from here. A year later, after Mark finished his own Sailor Twain graphic novel, he saw the film and read the screenplay.

As I see it, all these connections and stars aligning is Bashert – that’s Yiddish for Fate.

How did you meet artist Koren Shadmi?

Through Mark Siegel. He told us he’d always wanted to hire Koren and our project was perfect for him. And when we saw his work, we wanted him too.

Autobiographical and journalistic graphic novels are big right now, and getting bigger every year. Are there any that particularly inspired you?

Hands down, Zahra’s Paradise by Amir & Khalil about the 2009 Iranian elections and Arne Bellstorf’s Baby’s in Black about Astrid Kirchherr and Stuart Sutcliffe and the Beatles in early 1960s Hamburg.

Although much of the story is shown from your perspective, there are a lot of bits that you weren’t present for. Did you go back and talk to any of the Mike’s Place family to fill in those gaps? What kind of research did you do to piece together the parts from the bombers’ perspectives?

Jack.Baxter1.credit.Gerry.LernerI went back to Israel for two months in March of 2006 for more medical treatments. I interviewed every person I could who was at Mike’s Place that night. Back then I still thought I’d write my great American novel. I compiled everything as part of my research for that prospective book. One survivor, who I was next to that night, “Sugar Shiri” Mirvis, showed me where we were and where security guard Avi Tabib had landed inside the bar.

I read everything I could about the British terrorists Asif Hanif and Omar Khan Sharif – their seemingly happy boyhood in England, their radicalization and friendship with Mohammad Sidique Khan – the future mastermind of the July 7, 2005 London Transit Attack. And I studied detailed timelines published online by Israeli and British investigators. I think we have a good handle on who they were and what they believed.



In the book, you come across as incredibly optimistic, as though all it would take for peace in the Middle East is for everyone to just listen to one another for a moment. Would you still consider yourself optimistic about the situation? Are there any hopeful signs you see for the region?

I really come off that naive?

Besides Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer is my favorite philosopher. I’ve read both volumes of his The World As Will And Representation. And Schopenhauer’s the patron saint of pessimists.

Forgive me for being a wiseass. It’s getting late here.

I do hope for a lasting peace in the Middle East. But pragmatism urges me to caution. In the present, I try and see past stereotypes. But people and situations are often typecast for good reasons. Like I said to Gal Ganzman when I first met him tending bar at Mike’s Place: “It’s not easy trying to solve the Middle East Conflict.”

As someone who is clearly familiar with this struggle, are there any books or documentaries on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that you’d recommend to readers who enjoyed Mike’s Place and want to learn more?

For books: Samuel P. Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the T.E. Lawrence masterpiece The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. A great movie comedic tragedy is Palestinian director Elia Suleiman’s Divine Intervention. For documentaries: the brilliant Israeli documentary filmmaker Ram Loevey’s Close, Closed, Closure. And of course, check out Blues by the Beach.

Do you have any upcoming projects, either in film or in graphic novel, planned right now?

Israeli producer Avi Bohbot, director Joshua Faudem and I want to make a documentary about a friend of mine, Imam Benjamin Bilal, who was my Islamic Consultant for Brother Minister and also helped choose the Quran verses showcased in MIKE’S PLACE. Long story short, Ben is a charismatic Muslim-American leader on the rise. He was born a Black Israelite and raised Jewish in Harlem. At thirteen he joined the Nation of Islam, eventually becoming a traditional Muslim. We want to show Ben Bilal in action at his mosque in Trenton, New Jersey, and follow him preaching around North America and Europe. We all wind up in Jerusalem where Islam, Christianity and Judaism meet.

My hope is Ben comes across incredibly optimistic.

IMAM BENJAMIN BILAL May 15, 2015: http://muslimjournal.net/?p=1720

BILAL Trailer: https://vimeo.com/98628538

Mike’s Place is on sale from First Second as of June 9th and can be purchased at your local book retailer.

Be sure to check out the trailer for Mike’s Place : http://www.mikesplacebook.com/


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