Smash Pages Q&A: Jim Gibbons and Ryan Yount on Stela

You need to understand one thing about a guy as talented as Jim Gibbons. There are some people that are born to be leaders — born to be damn good editors. I firmly believe Jim came out of the womb that way. There are few comics editors that I put on par with Tom Brevoort. Jim is on that par. He has never steered me wrong when it came time to praise a note. To learn he is one of the leaders of the new Stela venture does not surprise me and it makes me want to think that this thing will succeed out of the gates. To say I was eager to talk to him about this goes without saying and I can’t wait to see what is store for Stela in 2016. Please enjoy the interview as much as I did.

Tim O’Shea: What first attracted you to get onboard with Stela, Ryan and Jim?

Jim Gibbons: First, Tim, thanks so much for giving us the opportunity to chat about Stela!

In answer to your question, it’s not every day that you have the opportunity to help build a new comics publisher from the ground up! That was a huge selling point for me. I love editing comics, but at a certain point I think I realized that every company in comics has a pretty established way of doing things and a pretty established type of content they provide. The chance to blaze a whole new trail is pretty exhilarating!

Stela_comment - EditedBut, even more so than that, the format of Stela—by delivering premiere and exclusive comics content built for mobile devices directly to your phone—really impressed me. It seems like the eternal question of comics is “How do we grow the market?” And even while the market is currently the most healthy it’s been in a long time, there are still—for example—millions of people who are enjoying comic book movies, but aren’t necessarily finding their way to comics.

We really believe that by making the entry into comics as easy as, literally, beaming new comics by creators like Victor Santos, Jen Bartel, Irene Koh, Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, Fabian Rangel Jr., Jason Copland, Haden Blackman, Stuart Moore, Sandra Lanz, and Ethan Young (to name a few) directly into your pocket has huge potentially to grow comics readership. That alone was a huge part of the attraction of working at Stela. And then, talking with Ryan, our CPO Sam Lu, and CEO Jason Juan, three guys who are just so passionate about comics, art, and storytelling and about getting into this industry in the best way with big goals… You can’t ask for a better team to sign on to than that!

Ryan Yount: I got a message, out of the blue, from Sam Lu (Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer). Sam and I had worked together for years at Ubisoftwe used to talk about the “Future of Comics”. Over boba tea in Oakland he started describing what they wanted to do, and I was sold pretty much immediately.

As Jim already said, it’s a rare thing that you get the chance to spin up a new comics publisher from the ground up. Being able to lead the Editorial voice for Stela, and set up an environment around treating creators fairly (and paying them fairly!) was huge. And I’m a true believer in the big concept – bringing great comics to mobile gives us a real shot at expanding the readership of comics.

How did you pick the name?

Jim Gibbons: I wasn’t here for that, so I’ll leave that one to Ryan. But, as a big classics nerd, a name derived from Latin in reference to informational tablets from the ancient world was right up my alley!

Ryan Yount: You know that scene in Silicon Valley, where the group is brainstorming names and then picking them apart one by one? Yeah, like that. [Laughs] Everyone brought in their own contributions, and a couple of us came up with Stela independently. A tall stone marker inscribed with words and pictures… the term just seemed to resonate with everyone here.

What criteria allows you to be involved?

Jim Gibbons: If you’re a currently working comics creator or a prospective talent with a story to tell, then you’re meeting our criteria to do comics with Stela

But to elaborate a bit more, for the past six months or so, we’ve been reaching out to different writers, artists, colorists, and letterers and partnering with them on—primarily—new creator-owned comics. We have over 30 projects currently in the works and we’re reaching out to even more creators now to line up more material. 

As we’ll be delivering comics to current comics readers and brand new readers via an entirely new delivery method, one of the most exciting things about lining up creators has been our freedom to go out and find work from extremely talented creators who don’t necessarily have a long history in comics. We don’t have to worry about how creators have sold previously in the direct market, we can simply find great content from up-and-comers on Tumblr, as an example, and add that to the line up readers will have access to via our subscription model. It’s all about lining up new, fresh content that’ll stand alongside a handful of other creator visions for an amazing, interesting, entertaining, and diverse reading experience! 

Ryan Yount: So far, we’ve been reaching out to creators we want to work with and commissioning new work from them. Technically, we’re not an open-submission publisher. Not yet, anyway. So creators have to know someone who is working with us. This isn’t meant to be an exclusionary club thing—both Jim and I are have been actively pursuing talent we want to work with (not just folks we’ve worked with before). Open Submissions take a lot of extra time; time that we need to spend on getting all of our current projects ready for the app.

Logistically what have been some of the early challenges?

Jim Gibbons: The biggest one, aside from obviously building the app that will deliver all this kick-ass content, has been that each conversation with a creator has to start from square one. We’ve been, until recently, under the radar, so we can’t go “We’re [Insert Established Publisher here]. Let’s talk about doing a comic together!” We’ve had to front-load people with a lot of information on us as a publisher and as a delivery method of content, not to mention getting people up to speed on our format.

That said, it’s been very fun to see so many people say they’ve been wondering about when someone was going to do westernized comics in a mobile native format or that they’re already doing vertically scrolling comics on Tumblr and they’re excited that a publisher is jumping into that arena!

Ryan Yount: The vertical format is something that was a challenge at first, not having many examples to show to creators. But every week it gets easier, as we get more amazing work turned in from our creators.

Early on was it easy or hard to get people onboard?

Jim Gibbons: To a degree, yes. But I’d say that mostly came down to scheduling more than anything. Spend any amount of time on Tumblr or Kickstarter or Twitter and there’s no shortage of extremely talented people with amazing-sounding comics pitches, but very few of them are sitting around going, “I literally have nothing at all to do right now, let’s roll on this tomorrow.”

Other than that, we’re paying very competitive page rates in advance for material the creators own, plus we’re sharing profits with them, as well. Creators also retain their entertainment and print rights. So, it’s a damn good deal, and loads of creators have been very excited to cook up rad new material for our format, as well!

Ryan Yount: Getting the first few creators onboard is always tough when you’re an unknown publisher. After the first few, it gets easier and easier. Creators have to deal with so many jerks trying to take advantage of them that they can be resistant to cold calls. But connections and persistence are key, and, as Jim said, paying our creators page rates helps, as does our fantastic rights arrangement. 

Anything we should discuss that I neglected to ask about?

Jim Gibbons: Oh, I’m sure there are! But for now, I’ll just say “Stay tuned!” All the information that’s come out about Stela in the past week has in many ways been the tip of the iceberg. You’ll be seeing our full creator list and more info on specific series as we move closer and closer to our early 2016 launch date. If you’ve liked what you’ve seen so far, great! But you ain’t seen nothing yet! 

Ryan Yount: What Jim said. *High five!*

The Moment: Huck 1

huckIn this week’s edition of The Moment, I detail how in some ways Huck reminds me of Mark Millar’s 1998 Superman Adventures run.

Superman Adventures remains the high point so far 0f Millar’s work, serving return to that form dating as far back as 1998. Huck is an incredibly likeable character in the way he is characterized in these first two issues there’s an unseen optimism to him I don’t know if it will last but all I know is it’s really a refreshing change from a lot of comics currently on the market. The moment that hooked me was from issue 2 when he could have quit but he chose to presevere and help people as he always does.

Rafael Albuquerque on art is merely icing on the cake. 

 

 

 

Must Read: Chris Mautner Chats with Bill Griffith

Chris Mautner interviewed Bill Griffith ostensibly to discuss Griffith’s new graphic memoir, Invisible Ink: My Mother’s Secret Love Affair With a Famous Cartoonist. During the SPX Q&A it became clear that he had many topics he wanted to cover.

Well, luckily Zippy just rolls out of me every day. I get up about 9:30 a.m. and I go for a walk – about a mile-and-a-half walk. Inevitably, when I come home I have at least one if not three strip ideas. A walk literally jogs them out of my head. I write them down while I’m walking and I come home and I do either one or two Zippy strips. It’s a little bit like writing in my diary.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Fred Van Lente on Valiant’s ‘Ivar, Timewalker’

ivarIt astounded me to learn that Fred Van Lente‘s Ivar, Timewalker (published by Valiant) was initially slated to be a four-issue project. One part love story three times the adventure the story stars two versions of Neela Sethi (thanks to time travel) the tale deserves and has 12 issues to tell its story. For my money that is a hell of a compliment that Valiant gave Van Lente and Sethi that much freedom. Fortunately she has Ivar, Timewalker, in her corner. Now it’s down to history’s most jaded, most tempestuous time traveler to stop the worst of everything that is, was, and will be…before time runs out!

Tim O’Shea: Who is to blame –I mean credit –with issue titles like let’s not kill Hitler seriously those titles are absolutely hilarious.

Fred Van Lente: Thanks. Originally, the title was Let’s Kill Hitler but then Clayton posted some inks of the story on Facebook and somebody told him that was already the title of a Dr. Who episode. I have seen exactly two — well, now three — episodes of Dr. Who in my entire lifetime and I went and watched that one on Netflix as soon as I saw the Facebook post. The two stories don’t have much to do with each other beyond that killing-Hitler part, but since the whole point was you can’t kill Hitler I thought I should change the title to differentiate ourselves from the episode.

Am I right in thinking the time travel aspect is the most logistically complicated element of the story?

Sort of. Making sure the time-tossed characters are all consistent — like older Neela still sounds like Neela and younger Ivar still sounds like Ivar, that’s sort of the complicated part, depicting these two people at such different parts of their own lives, which, thanks to time travel, are so consistently at odds with each other.

How early in the planning of the story did you realize Armstrong needed to be part of the plot?

I went a couple rounds with the editors as to who exactly would go with Ivar on his suicide mission to rescue Ivar from the end of time. After a couple discussions I just realized his immortal brothers were the most fun choice, as well as the most logical, as who else could survive a trip to the end of eternity but some immortals?

Are there members of the cast that ended up with expanded roles because you grew to like them?

Definitely the Lurker, who was just a one-off bit in #2 that the editors loved and begged for me to bring him back. I think people just liked his truncated text message-speak, kind of like an extreme version of newspeak from 1984. Also the fact he’s basically 4chan come to life, which is a terrifying thing to even type…

How much of the success of the series can be credited to the art team.

All of it. Clayton is such a great designer, and Francis kills the far-future bits with his design, and Pere is so good at the acting and action. I’d be nothing without them.

The 5 Guys bit was an instant classic. How did it come about.

I really like 5 Guys!

OK the Juggalo Clowns of issue 9 how did you pull that gem off?

Well, I already knew that I was going to do the Roman dinosaurs — seemed like a natural fit, what with their Latin names. And I needed another historical mash-up to kind of introduce the idea that the multiverse is made up of infinite numbers of recombinations of matter. I wish I could even remember what the other candidates were. The first thing I thought of may have just been Clown Vikings, and I was like, “Full stop. That’s it!”

How critical is Tom Brennan to the success of the series?

Very. He’s been a tireless advocate for the book and great sounding board for making it better, exactly what I want from an editor.

Was it always set to be a 12 issue series.

No, it was originally four, but Valiant was very cool about letting me extend the story and flesh out the characters to tell the tale I wanted to tell. It was very generous and not something every publisher would do.

Anything we neglected to discuss?

The ending is coming soon. The team is pretty happy with it, I’m not sure. I hope people dig it. There’s a moment that pretty much sums up the idea of the whole series. I hope it lands. Time will tell!

Ha ha, that was totally unintentional humor, I swear…

1990s Era Color Guide by Walt Simonson

As part of a larger piece on the comics coloring process by Glenn Whitmore Smash Pages uncovered a 1990s era color guide by Walt Simonson, along with this supplemental contextual data.

The separator, which for much of comics history was Chemical Color Plate in Connecticut, would make nine acetate prints of the original art, one for each percentage of each color.

The black and white artwork – originally drawn at twice the printed size, then 1½ times, and currently slightly less than that — was photographed, reduced and printed on sheets of clear acetate. Nine copies were made of each page – one for each of the three percentages of the three colors – and these were turned over to a separator.

Using the colored artwork as a guide, areas on the acetates would be filled in with an opaque paint (Rubylith) to correspond to the color(s) necessary.

Once the color guides were fully “translated” and the acetates were finished, they would be photographed with appropriate screens to create a single version which included the percentage dots and the solid of one color. These three new pieces of film, along with a fourth clean version of the art which was used to make the black, were used to make the printing plates.

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Enjoy This Karl Kesel Treat from 1991

Today on Karl Kesel’s Facebook page he treated fans to a 1991 Throwback Thursday flashback:

“FEMALE FURIES, “NEW.” I’ve always loved Kirby’s “bad girl” characters, the Female Furies, with the original five each clearly reflecting a different stereotype/archetype of woman— Barda = Amazon, Lashina = Dominatrix, Stompa = Butch Dyke (this was the late 60s, after all), Mad Harriet = Hag, Bernadeth = Spinster. But the Furies are an entire battalion— there are a LOT more where those came from! So in 1991’s Hawk & Dove #21, I came up with a few more. Again, I tried to make each represent a type of woman— Gilotina = Girl Next Door, Speed Queen = Rebellious Teen, Bloody Mary = Seductress, Malice Vundabarr = Brat. (Gilotina first appeared and was named in a few Kirby Mister Miracle panels— but I gave her her personality and outlook.) Bloody Mary never quite jelled as a character (odd, because she seems to be the strongest, high-concept-wise) but I’ve always really liked the others. I actually stranded Gilotina in Project Cadmus for a while, and started a romance between her and Tommy (the typical boy-next-door). Of course, I’d revisit the Furies again when Tom Grummett and I introduced Superboy to a lady named Knockout a few years later. Side Note: Malice’s pet “Cheshire” was renamed “Chessure” in the printed comic, combining “cheshire” with “pressure.” It seemed more “Kirby” to me.”

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Michel Fiffe in Praise of Jerry Ordway

Today Michel Fiffe took to his Facebook page to admire Jerry Ordway’s work–his Superman covers in particular.

Today’s inspiration: one of my favorite Jerry Ordway covers.

Adventures of Superman 439
Adventures of Superman 439: Today’s inspiration
When I asked Fiffe what makes Ordway so strong for him this was his answer. “The composition, the draftsmanship, the linework, the duo shade tones, the characters and the suspense portrayed, the color, the paper, the subjective nostalgia, the objective technical skill, the context of both the story and artist in relation to the title and its placement in the art form.”

I then contacted Fiffe offline to see if he could name for more covers of note, within minutes he did.

Adventures of Superman 424
Adventures of Superman 424

Back in 2013 Ordway revealed a cover that ended up not working, as well as the selected uncolored version.

Aborted Adventures of Superman 441
Aborted Adventures of Superman 441

 

Uncolored Final Version of Adventures of Superman 441
Uncolored Final Version of Adventures of Superman 441

 

Colored Final Version of Adventures of Superman 441
Colored Final Version of Adventures of Superman 441

 

Adventures of Superman 444
Adventures of Superman 444

 

Superman 44
Superman 44

Tony Harris’ Special Moment with A Fan at NC Comicon

Tony Harris is a creator who has always fostered great relationships with his fanbase. This weekend he is at NC Comicon. I was impressed by a comment Harris made on Facebook.

This young lady stole the show- really an amazing moment for me.

To get the full context you need to visit genderthief’s (the fan) Instagram account.

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Recent Wilfredo Torres Process Pieces for ‘Jupiter’s Circle’

In recent days Wilfredo Torres has taken to Instagram to post a few process pieces for Jupiter’s Circle and Smash Pages thought it would be great to rerun a few of them here.
SFX

Brikk

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