Smash Pages Q&A: Jeremy Holt

The comics writer discusses his latest project, ‘Before Houdini,’ which is about the early life of the magician and escape artist.

Though he came to comics late in life, Jeremy Holt has been making up for lost time. He’s written a number of comics in recent years including Pulp, Southern Dog, Skinned and Skip To The End.

His new book, which was just released by Insight Comics, is Before Houdini. A prequel to After Houdini, the 2018 graphic novel that Holt made with John Lucas and Adi Crossa, the new book looks at the early life of the aspiring magician and escape artist. In these books Holt and Lucas have established an entertaining supernatural universe, but his greatest gift is the sense of sprawl, both historical and fictional, that explodes from the pages, the panels offering but a glimpse into this larger world while also managing the story and plotting.

It’s a fine line to walk, and Holt and I spoke recently about the long path working on both of these books, his love of research and what comes next.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Mark Russell

The writer of ‘The Snagglepuss Chronicles,’ ‘The Flintstones’ and more discusses ‘Second Coming,’ his new series from AHOY Comics.

In the span of a few years, Mark Russell has written a series of comics that have rethought and re-envisioned a number of characters at DC Comics. From Snagglepuss to Prez to The Flinstones, Russell has rethought the characters and their worlds in new and novel ways, finding depths and concerns that are striking and thoughtful. Russell’s first books in comics were God is Disappointed in You and Apocrypha Now, with Shannon Wheeler, which were published by Top Shelf Comix. So religion has long been an interest of his.

His new book is Second Coming with artist Richard Pace. The first issue arrived last month from AHOY Comics, with the second issue scheduled to arrive tomorrow. The controversy around it has drowned out the actual book, which is a smart look at Sunstar, a Superman-like hero, and Jesus, the character from the Bible. It’s a shocking idea, but perhaps more startling is what Russell does with the idea, which is to explore the limits of superheroes, start a conversation around power, and consider what religion and change mean today.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Will Murray

The journalist, writer and Squirrel Girl co-creator discusses his work on Doc Savage, The Shadow and other pulp heroes — and his return to Squirrel Girl.

Will Murray has long been a journalist for Starlog and other publications, but he’s best known as one of the great pulp historians. Murray’s been involved with the recent reprints of Doc Savage, The Shadow and other characters. A few years ago, Murray had two major books published, Writings in Bronze, which collected a lot of his writings about Doc Savage and Lester Dent, and Wordslingers, a book about the pulp Westerns, and more broadly, about what the Western genre was and continues to mean.

All along, Murray has also been writing fiction, something that he’s spent more time and energy on in recent years. Besides writing multiple Doc Savage novels under the pen name Kenneth Robeson, Murray has written a Pat Savage novel, crossovers between Doc Savage and The Shadow, and books featuring The Spider, Tarzan and King Kong. Murray has also written a number of comics over the years, including co-creating one of Marvel Comics’ most beloved characters with legendary artist Steve Ditko – Squirrel Girl.

I spoke with Murray about his current projects, including John Carter and The Spider, his continuing love of pulp fiction and writing Squirrel Girl again.

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Smash Pages Q&A: MK Reed and Greg Means

The writing team discusses ‘Penny Nichols,’ ‘a graphic novel that will warm your heart while stabbing you in the chest.’

Penny Nichols is the new graphic novel from writers MK Reed and Greg Means about the making of a low budget horror film. The titular character is an aimless 20-something who stumbles across people making a movie and becomes involved in the production, taking on an increasing number of tasks, and in the process finding herself. It is a subtle and brilliant tribute to artists with day jobs, found family, and the passions that give our lives meaning.

Means is best known as the editor of the Papercutter and Runner Runner, and the person behind Tugboat Press. Reed is currently co-writing Delver, a comiXology original, and has written a number of other comics including Palefire, The Castoffs, Americus, Science Comics: Dinosaurs, Science Comics: Wild Weather. The two have collaborated before on the graphic novel The Cute Girl Network. Penny Nichols, drawn by artist Matt Wiegle, was just released by Top Shelf Comix, and the writers answered a few questions about the book.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Gary Phillips

The crime writer discusses his latest comic, ‘The Be-Bop Barbarians,’ and more.

Gary Phillips is best known as one of the great crime writers of his generation. His Ivan Monk mystery novels stand out as one of the best series of the 1990s and he’s written many others including The Warlord of Willow Ridge, High Handand The Underbelly. He’s written many short stories and edited anthologies like the recent Culprits: The Heist Was Only the Beginning and The Obama Inheritance: Fifteen Stories of Conspiracy Noir.

He’s also been writing comics for years. From Shot Callerz and Midnight Mover at Oni to The Rinse and High Rollers at Boom to Angeltown and Cowboys at Vertigo he’s written some of the best crime comics in the 21st Century. He wrote a webcomic Bicycle Cop Dave, which was collected in Beat LA, with Christa Faust he wrote the debut series for the Hard Case Comics imprint, Peepland, and wrote the relaunched Vigilante at DC Comics. His new graphic novel, which is out now from Pegasus Books, is The Be-Bop Barbarians.

While his comics tend to be crime stories, The Be-Bop Barbarians is different, but readers of his novels will find it familiar. One of Phillips’ great strengths as a writer is the way he is able to use fiction to incorporate historical details and history as it is lived in a way that provides a fuller understanding of the present. The Be-Bop Barbarians is about three African-American cartoonists living in New York in the 1950s and though they’re vaguely based on real life figures, Phillips uses them to talk about the comics business, to discuss politics, and get an understanding of the historical moment and the progress that has been made.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Teresa Wong

‘Dear Scarlet: The Story of My Postpartum Depression’ is a deeply personal look at the weeks after the birth of Wong’s first child.

Teresa Wong still thinks of herself as a writer, but the Calgary-based creator just had her first graphic memoir as writer and artist published by Arsenal Pulp Press. Dear Scarlet: The Story of My Postpartum Depression is a deeply personal look at the weeks after the birth of her first child.

The text is written in the form of a letter to her daughter, but the book is unsparing in looking at the physical and emotional costs of motherhood. In recent years, the stigma around postpartum depression has lessened as more women have begun to open up about their experiences, and Dear Scarlet helps to open the conversation around motherhood and parenting in important ways.

Wong and I spoke recently about depression and how Raina Telegemier helped her make the book, and we laughed about Coldplay.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Cullen Bunn on ‘Blossom 666’

The writer of ‘Harrow County,’ ‘The Sixth Gun,’ ‘X-Men Blue,’ ‘Unearth’ and more discusses the recently wrapped-up Archie Horror title.

Cullen Bunn has written a lot of horror comics in recent years – along with a lot of comics in a lot of other genres. In comics ranging from Harrow County to The Empty Man to Bone Parish to The Damned, he’s played with the genre in different ways.

The five-issue miniseries Blossoms 666 which Bunn made with artist Laura Braga just wrapped up, in which Cheryl and Jason Blossom compete to become the Antichrist. The Archie Comics horror line has a reputation for being shocking and brutal in a lot of strange and creative ways, but Blossoms 666 is a much quieter book compared to the others, with the horror being much more subtle and running under the seemingly placid surface.

Now that the series has wrapped up, Bunn answered a few questions about the comic and playing with an ideal version of Riverdale.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Ben Sears

The creator of Plus Man and Hank discusses his latest book, ‘House of the Black Spot,’ working with Annie Koyama, designing covers and more.

Comics creator Ben Sears is known for his brilliant use of design, color and composition. His Double+ series of graphic novels feature all-ages adventures about two characters, Plus Man and Hank, and their various escapades as treasure hunters, breaking into haunted houses and old tombs.

His new book House of the Black Spot from Koyama Press is something of a departure for Sears. The wild adventures take a backseat as Hank’s uncle, who raised him, has died under mysterious circumstances, and the two go back to Hank’s hometown to try and solve the mystery. The art in this book manages to be as exciting and dynamic as anything Sears has made.

While the story is a lot quieter than his previous books, Sears makes it as engaging and intense an experience as his previous narratives. It’s his best work to date, and I was thrilled to talk with Sears about how his work has changed, Patreon and working with Annie Koyama.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Vivek Shraya

The writer, artist, musician and performer discusses her collaboration with Ness Lee, ‘Death Threat.’

Vivek Shraya is a writer, artist, musician, performer who has consistently pushed boundaries between forms and genres. Given this, it was perhaps inevitable that Shraya would eventually make a comic.

Death Threat, a collaboration with the artist Ness Lee, was published earlier this year by Arsenal Pulp Press. In fall 2017, Shraya began receiving a series of threatening, disturbing letters and while terrifying, they were also visual in a way that Shraya couldn’t ignore. The result is a book about receiving such letters, about how to survive such an experience that is chilling, moving and deeply powerful.

I spoke with Shraya recently about comics, collaboration, and the connections between this book and her previous one, I’m Afraid of Men.

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