Smash Pages Q&A: Dan Parent on ‘Kevin Keller’

KevinKeller_01-1nDan Parent is currently in the midst of stage of his long career where his hard work is reaping substantial reward. In addition to his great gains in the Archie Universe, Dan has a Kickstarter (Die Kitty Die) along with Fernando Ruiz that asks: “What happens when a longtime comic book character has come to the end of her run? You kill her! But how? That’s where the fun begins…”

Tim O’Shea: After a couple of years is it good to no longer be pigeonholed as the resident expert writing GLBT characters?

Dan Parent: Well, I don’t really mind. I mean, I do a lot of other work, but my work with Kevin Keller is probably my most important, so I’m happy to be pigeonholed there!

What are you most proud of in terms of your storytelling dynamics for the Archie Universe?

In addition to Kevin, my Archie/Valerie storyline was something I was proud of. And I’m happy that I’ve been allowed to take the Archie characters into more progressive territory than was allowed in the past.

Who do you regard as rising stars among the current roster of Archie creative talent?

Arch_K_A015nWell, Gisele Lagace is great, but she’s a rising star with her own webcomics.  And Fernando Ruiz is doing the best work of his career!

In what ways have you honed your storytelling skills in recent years?

More realistic dialogue, less slapsticky.

Am I right in thinking you take a great amount of effort in fostering a rapport with fans at cons. How critical has that been for your long-term success?

I have a great relationship with the fans at cons.  They give me a lot of insight about what they like and what they don’t like.  And they’re the people you want to listen to, because they’re the real fans and they know what they’re talking about.

Anything we should discuss that I neglected to ask you about?

Hmm.. you didn’t ask me…Betty or Veronica….and of course, it’s Veronica!

 KK_Jughead=n

Smash Pages Q&A: Bruce McCorkindale on Inking & ‘The Falling Man’

tfm

What I always hope is an interview grows organically and in this case it did. I went into this interview with inker and artist Bruce McCorkindale thinking we would discuss one thing when in fact I discovered he’d been an inker for Malibu for a number of years and I launched a whole separate discussion before all is said and done. We of course got around to also discussing his upcoming graphic novel The Falling Man.

My thanks to Bruce for his time.

Tim O’Shea: How did you start inking in the first place?

Bruce McCorkindale: I pretty much knew I wanted to work in comics since age 9, so I spent a lot of time practicing. My first published work was an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Festival” for New Media Irjax’s FANTASY ILLUSTRATED way back in ’84. The editor told me that the company went out of business before it saw print, but it turns out that it squeaked through! However, I didn’t find this out ’til about 15 years later! Around the same time, I went to a lot of comic cons, and got a lot of good response to my inking samples. Thus, I focused on inks, and got my first steady work from Malibu Comics in late 80s. They kept me busy for a good 10 years or so!

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?

These days, the most challenging aspect of my work is finding time and energy to focus on creator-owned works. That’s really the most satisfying aspect of comics creation, but it’s not the most profitable. So, I divide my time between doing inking work, re-creations of classic comic covers, advertising/editorial work, and try to sneak in my own work whenever I can. Aside from finding time for this work, the other challenging aspect is trying to grow and improve. I never think I’m good enough, and I think I’m right!

Has there ever been one you could not successfully finish?

I’ve always been able to finish out comics work assigned to me. In terms of my own works, there are quite a few unfinished ones. However, I’m an absurdly patient guy (probably to a fault), and never give up on the ones I believe in. I’m currently working here and there on projects that have been in the works a long time…like, a decade long!

What do you find to be the most creatively satisfying aspect of the experience.

The most satisfying aspect is when I finish a piece of work that I’m really happy about (rare) and that other people enjoy as well. Those two things often happen, but not always at the same time! I also like when I tackle something I really think I can’t handle, and pull it off. That’s a great feeling.

Who are your influences?

My biggest influences, in order of appearance, are Dr. Seuss, Charles Schulz, Marvel comics from the 1960s-70s, and Bernie Wrightson. In the 80s, THE COMICS JOURNAL was a big influence in terms of exposing me to a lot of different creators trying to push the envelope in comics storytelling.

A lot of great folks worked with Malibu. Were there certain creators that stuck out from that era in terms of creators you inked?

My first gig with Malibu was TWILIGHT AVENGER, inking Terry Tidwell. Years later, Terry and I worked together in an illustration studio doing comic-style artwork for the editorial/advertising market, and we even did some animation work. We still keep in touch, and do freelance work together! I inked a lot of guys at Malibu – some of my favorites were Leonard Kirk, Mitch Byrd, and Gabriel Gecko (Hardman). A particularly fun job was inking a short DINOSAURS FOR HIRE story by Curt Swan. Curt’s Superman books were probably some the very first comics I ever read, so that felt very special. I met Curt at an Iowa con not long after the book came out, and he was extremely nice. He said a lot of newer guys weren’t very faithful to his pencils, and he appreciated the work I did. That meant a lot.

I am curious to learn more about in ways Bernie Wrightson influenced you. Also could you please give examples of The Comic Journal talent you found of worth.

I just fell in love with Bernie’s artwork right away. I went through a phase in the mid 70s where I was a little discouraged with mainstream comics, and Bernie’s work on SWAMP THING and in Warren magazines like CREEPY and EERIE just felt like a breath of fresh air. His illustration style was immaculate, but he also had a great sense of storytelling – a quality that I’m not sure he always gets as much credit for. THE COMICS JOURNAL exposed me to a the burgeoning indie scene that was happening in the mid-to-late 80s. That’s how I found out about people like the Hernandez bros., Daniel Clowes, and Art Spiegelman’s RAW magazine.

What can you tell folks about your Original Graphic Novel, THE FALLING MAN.

For the past few years, I’ve been doing a complete re-vamp of my graphic novel THE FALLING MAN. This is a book that I wrote and illustrated, with Phil Hester doing layouts. The book has has a complicated history. Back in 1997, it was planned as a 4-issue series for Jim Valentino’s Shadowline division of Image Comics. They put out one issue, then decided they didn’t want to take a chance on the other 3. The sales were actually pretty good for a somewhat unconventional indie (around 4500, I believe), but this was also around the time when the market, in general, was having an implosion. I eventually put the entire thing together as a single graphic novel for Caliber Comics in 1999, but wasn’t happy with the work I did. Around 2012, I decided that the only things I liked from the original were the script and Phil’s layouts, so I decided to take on the daunting task of re-pencilng/inking the entire thing, and adding color. As much as I love pure black and white art, this particular project really needs color to work. It has kind of an existential WIZARD OF OZ vibe, and color is a necessary element. I’m having to fit the work in between paying gigs, but my main goal is to not rush it, and do the best work I can. I’ve put a couple feelers out about it, but I’m really not even worrying about a publisher at this point. My hope is to finish up the entire book, and then think about where it should (or could) go. I have a few other brand-new projects I’m playing with too, but I feel like I need to get THE FALLING MAN out of my system first. I’m hoping to finally have closure with it sometime next year.

While brief what was it like to work with Hester?

Actually, Phil’s another guy I’ve kept in touch with for a long time, now! We’ve done a lot of work together. Our first team-up was on a story for DC’s BLACK ORCHID ANNUAL #1. I’ve also inked him on THE WRETCH, THE NAMELESS, FOOT SOLDIERS, and FOUR LETTER WORLDS. Most recently, I inked Phil on IDW’s GODZILLA: KINGDOM OF MONSTERS. I also did the inks and colors on a number of his covers for Dynamite’s GREEN HORNET series. He’s a phenomenal artist and storyteller, and very easy to work with. We have very similar sensiibilites, and get along great.

Smash Pages Q&A: Eric Corbeyran on Delcourt-Soleil’s ‘The Call of the Stryx’

Screenshot 2015-11-13 at 6.59.54 PM - Edited

This week saw the release of The Call of the Stryx Vol. 1, which features a dash of conspiracy, action, and unknown creatures. Kevin Nivek, an ex-head of the Secret Service, and Debrah, a mysterious young agent working for a secret organization must confront horde of beings named Stryx, who have infiltrated the highest levels of government and the military.

To mark the release I was lucky enough to interview writer Eric Corbeyran.

Tim O’Shea: How early in the development of The Call of the Stryx did the creative team decide upon setting the plot in the Mojave Desert?

Eric Corbeyran: Setting The Call of the Stryx in the Mojave Desert came naturally. It was a very explicit reference to the infamous “Area 51,” airbase. We loved the idea of a setting filled with paranoia, claims of hidden UFO wreckage, and secret alien communications. Though in our story it’s not about aliens, but Stryx! To go along with the setting we’ve appropriated the mythology about “the little gray men” and UFOs to create our own mythos for the Stryx.

Were there certain characters that grew on the creative team more over the evolution of the story?

From the beginning of the project we had actually established a strict narrative path for each character and we tried not to deviate from that line. However there was one exception: Jill’s character was born from our imaginations after we had already started The Call of the Stryx when she appeared in a short story published in Pavillon Rouge (a magazine published by Delcourt). We were so excited by what we created in these few pages, while also frustrated we couldn’t tell more stories about her, that we decided to integrate Jill into The Call of the Stryx beginning in the second arc.  

Each page is jam-packed with panels, is that due to the script or more of a function of the art team?

The traditional format for European BD is very limited in volume and the release schedule is very long – by that we mean that every year we deliver a 46-page book to readers. Since the first issue (in 1997) we decided to increase the impact of our issues by giving them a greater “density” than the average BD – more panels per page, more text and richer colors. This move was really appreciated by readers who were surprised by how much we packed into each issue. I think this choice was critical to the success of the series from its inception.

In constructing a story like this, what is the key to striking the proper balance between conspiracy and action?

The conspiracy plays a big role to the mystery surrounding the entire series, from the first panel to the last. With that in mind, I think of the conspiracy in The Call of the Stryx as a kind of fog that keeps the reader from knowing the entire story at once. The action however is more like a car – it’s possible to drive fast, certainly, but we pick-up the speed only when it’s necessary. Knowing how to drive fast through the fog, we think, is what’s been the key to The Call of the Stryxs success (laughs).

 

Smash Pages Q&A: Jimmy Palmiotti on AfterShock’s ‘Superzero’

SuperZero01_17_PreviewIt is impossible not to root for a new comic when it is pitched by Jimmy Palmiotti. Latest example is the AfterShock Comics creator-owned Superzero: “There is a lot of joy and craziness in Superzero and I think right away you will be rooting for the main character Dru, a teenage girl with a love of comics and everything superheroes.”

To mark the upcoming release, Palmiotti was kind enough to let me interview him.

Tim O’Shea: How important is it to foster a strong relationship with retailers in the run-up to the release of the first issue?

Jimmy Palmiotti: If people do not see the book on their store shelves, then in their mind it doesn’t exist, because a lot of comic fans do not read the internet as much as we think they and rely on their stores to keep them up to date and stock books for them. With any new company, it’s a lot to ask retailers to order heavy on something that is brand new, so its super important for them when ordering to see some familiar names to get a feeling for their initial order. For us, with Harley Quinn and Starfire coming out monthly, they might already have a bit of an idea what to expect with Superzero, but I’m making sure I’m available to them via social media to answer any questions they may have. For my whole career I’ve always been communicating with retailers about the work, and with these trusted relationships have been helping them set their orders as best as I can. With Superzero, we feel this book will appeal to the Harley and Starfire audience as well as the Kick-Ass audience. Look at the other books they have coming and you will see this is a creator-driven launch. So to directly address the question it is key to the success of the company to always work with the retailers. They are our partners in this at all times. Our success is dependent on them.

How enjoyable is there to be known as a part of the creative team with Amanda Conner that is known for creating fun lighthearted stories?

It’s a fantastic time to be working in comics where female leads are becoming normal and working with Amanda, we really are having a blast. This idea for Superzero is something we have had cooking for over six years and its really exciting for us to think we will finally get to entertain and tell the story we wanted to with this project in the initial launch of After Shock comics. There is a lot of joy and craziness in Superzero and I think right away you will be rooting for the main character Dru, a teenage girl with a love of comics and everything superheroes,  and hopefully get hooked at the idea we are presenting. The theme is how can a normal person become a superhero and we take it to places that are borderline insane…and at the same time ground the book is in a realistic world that everyone can relate to. I think this book is easily one of our best we have done and we hope everyone else thinks the same. The first issue will surely bring a smile to a lot of faces.

What makes this an attractive property for AfterShock Comics as opposed to some other creator-owned focused company?

Superzero#02_03_Preview-1
We could have gone to many different places with Superzero and each company offers a different deal as far as pay, royalties and ownership. We looked at what was out there and we wanted to partner with another company, rather than just own all of the property, because we just don’t have the time that we would need to self publish, promote, and push it properly. With a lot of companies, you have to do a lot of your own flag waving and with After Shock, they have a team onboard that is going out and doing the things we can’t do, leaving us to tell our story and do what is important to us on our end. As well, outside of the book, After Shock has a crew that can go out and take the property to other media, which is great, but for us, we don’t have any time but to focus on the book. Its great if they do get other media interested, but all we care about is that Superzero is the best comic book we can deliver. The decision to partner with After Shock was made easy because we already had existing relationships with Joe Pruett, Mike Marts and when we met the rest of the gang, we all got along great. This part of the business, the relationships, is key. A lot of time I have worked with publishers that once they get the book from you, you don’t exist anymore unless it’s a big seller. This is not the case with this crew. We are in it together all the way.

Care to elaborate on this gem “What comic creators really need is a brilliant experienced person to go out and sell licenses for creators and their work.”

What I was making note of was there are a lot of license conventions and designer cons and so on where the bigger companies like DC and Marvel license out their characters and art to companies to use for toys, games, statues, t-shirts, posters and a million other things and I wish there was someone that would look , as an example, at my creator owned work at Paperfilms.com and dig in and go out there and sell licenses of the characters to other types of media. For me to do it, which I do most of the time, it takes a lot of effort, connections and time that I just don’t have because of the work I put into the books. I could really use someone that knew what they were doing is all. I feel a lot of the properties are ripe for other media.

You liken Superzero to Harley or Starfire. In what ways do they share common traits?

Aside from the same creators writing them, Superzero is a good person wanting to help the world around her and has a good heart that even though things may go wrong, people can see where she is coming from. I also thing that Dru is also someone that wants better for those around her and is driven to make it happen, so they have that in common.

What can you tell me about the art team for Superzero?

Superzero#02_10_Preview-1We won the lottery as far as getting the perfect team on the book. On pencils and inks we have Rafael De Latorre who is one of the very few artists that can draw characters in their teens and they actually look their age, not something that is easy to do in comics. His storytelling skills are cinematic, and very telling of someone who has a great sense of set up and delivery and can convey body language. These were the key things we were looking for in the art and his facial expressions are so dead on we hate to cover a single line with dialogue at times. We also scored big time getting colorist Maiolo working with Rafael on this book. He sets a mood and a palette that captures the sun-drenched world that the story is set in, that being Tampa, Florida. He understands story and scene shifts and gives the book a painted feel that is just beautiful to look at. Rounding off the team is designer and letterer John J Hill, our letterer on Harley Quinn and now working with us on Superzero. John has some serious skills and the patience of the Gods working with us again. He simply is the best and we demand him for just about everything we do.

Is it too early to discuss supporting cast?

We meet most of the supporting cast in the first issue. We meet Dru’s mom and dad, sister, best friend and a couple of classmates. These are the important people in her life and a very colorful bunch at that. Her world is a small one that is about to get much bigger as she experiments and throws herself into some pretty insane situations. This book we keep the camera and focus always on Dru as we follow her and I think it works out just great. We get to see the people around her through her critical eyes.

Smash Pages Q&A: Fred Duval on Delcourt-Soleil’s ‘Hauteville House’

hotvikk

Set in an alternate historical version of 1864, under an imaginary Second Empire, Napoléon III uses his army and his secret service to study certain phenomena relating to the occult and to popular legends. His goal is quite simple: achieving world supremacy. This Delcourt-Soleil series mixes steampunk with espionage. Given that this week saw the release of Hauteville House Vol. 1 , writer Fred Duval obliged me with an interview.

Tim O’Shea: How exactly did the creative team conceive of this imaginary second empire involving Napoleon III using occult in order to achieve world supremacy?

Fred Duval: We were very interested in the idea of Steampunk as it’s one of those English genres based around Queen Victoria’s reign. We wanted to stay in this era but also wanted to reimagine this period with a second empire challenged by Republican forces more than it actually was at the time. Beyond this time period, the principle setting in this story was greatly influenced by civilizations described by Lovecraft.

Can you discuss what you believe is the core appeal of the main cast?

I believe the core appeal is the love story and rivalry between Gavroche, Zelda and Eglantine as well as the comedy and tragedy that surrounds those characters. Eglantine for me is the main character, even if we don’t see her in every issue. The relationship between Gavroche and Zelda lets me have a little fun with US/France relations, while giving me the chance to explore a true and enduring love story that’s somewhat complicated.

What do you most enjoy about working in the steampunk genre?

I loved the world of the Wild Wild West TV series as a child and brining that world closer to French historical events is a dream for me. The steampunk elements of Hauteville House let me play with inventions and technology that Jules Verne predicted in his stories. Hauteville House is a universe where Jules Verne’s inventions would be a reality I think.

How satisfying is it to be able to introduce stories like Hauteville House to an English speaking audience?

I’m very happy that Hauteville House is being published in English. I know that English readers appreciate Jules Verne, who I consider as the founder of French Science fiction and as I mentioned a key influence of Hauteville House. I actually had a chance to share this series in French to students of San Marcos, College station in Texas. They were studying French and they appreciated. So if English speakers studying French liked it, I think that English speakers reading this story in English will also appreciate it (laughs).

Is there an aspect of Hauteville House you would like to discuss that I overlooked?

Yes! There are several allusions to American literature throughout Hauteville House. I mentioned Lovecraft as an influence, but beyond that Ambrose Bierce who wrote An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and The Devil’s Dictionary can also be seen in Hauteville House. Our cartoonist, Thierry Gioux, will tell you that he’s definitely a fan of Bierce.

Otherwise I can say that I’m excited to be in Texas for Thanksgiving this year. I’ll be working with students doing research for an issue that takes place around Fort Alamo!

Smash Pages Q&A: Marguerite Bennett on AfterShock’s ‘InSeXts’

INSEXT2015002_INKS_005 DIL

To say Marguerite Bennett is an up and coming writer would be somewhat of an understatement. Not many people at this early stage of their career could convince someone to let her take the reins of a creator owned-project much less a project that DC and Marvel would not touch with a ten foot pole–due to subject matter. InSeXts is an erotic horror story about a pair of Victorian era lovers who go on a vengeful killing spree.  Luckily for Bennett Mike Marts, the Aftershock editor-in-chief, like what he saw in greenlit the project.

Then another fortunate development, Bennett agreed to talk to me about the new series.

Tim O’Shea: InSeXts is an erotic horror story about a pair of Victorian era lovers who go on a vengeful killing spree. Was that the initial pitch you gave AfterShock Editor-in-Chief Mike Marts, or did it evolve to that over time?

Marguerite Bennett: This was the original pitch, yes! I was astonished and delighted and maybe a little bit horrified that of the stories I submitted, this was the one that was approved, because now the whole world would know the awful things I like to read and write about in my downtime, haha.

The story actually began as a 12-page one-shot in the IN THE DARK: A HORROR ANTHOLOGY edited by the magnificent Rachel Deering (drawn and colored, at the time, by Jonathan Brandon Sawyer and Doug Garbark), but I had always had great plans for my lethal ladies. I’ve been thrilled that I’m finally able to continue their story and give them the space to breathe and evolve and commit a LOT of murder.

Am I correct in thinking this is not a creator owned project that Marvel or DC could or would touch with a 10 foot pole. Why do think AfterShock is willing to take the risk?

Hahaha, no, I can’t say many companies would’ve touched it–the brutality and sexuality and time period and relative absence of traditional heroes certainly set a ghastly tone. AfterShock has been wonderful to work with, though, and have given me such freedom. Mike Marts is kind of my comics dad (sorry, Mike) and brought me in to DC and then to Marvel a year later, and I work very hard to make sure the scripts I send him are up to scratch. He can tell you, I actually took a script back because I decided there weren’t enough “Holy #$%&” moments and gutted the whole thing and rebuilt it until I felt it was worthy. I work very hard to make sure that there is nothing like this story and it can be a suitable feather in AfterShock’s hat for all the support they’ve given me in its creation. For everything I’ve seen in my relationship with them, they’re committed to making sure there is nothing like their books on the market. I’ve been very happy.

What can you tell readers about the lead characters as well as some of the supporting cast?

The main protagonists are Lady and Mariah, our titular lovers. Lady is high-strung and anxious, Mariah younger but more mature. Lady, having been caged by her life for so long, takes deadly risks, while Mariah is more calculated, more inclined to wait for her revenge. Both of them are devoted to one another, and long for a family of their own above all else. Beyond that, they are aided by Dr. William Taylor, their beloved friend, and hunted by a variety of foes, from human abusers to Old World horrors to surprising villainesses. One villainess has been shockingly fun to write–Sylvia, Lady’s sister-in-law, a female misogynist who despises everything Lady is and will do anything to see her put in her place.

What creative risks are you able to take with an ambitious artist like Ariela Kristantina especially when teamed with a colorist like Bryan Valenza?

Oh my goodness God, I love Ariela and Bryan to pieces. Ariela takes these horrifying things and adds such loveliness and elegance to them–sincere tenderness that, in the hands of another artist, would be lacking, would turn the entire story into some low pornography. Bryan’s textures are rich and subtle, with soft warmth that suddenly gets slashed through by some hypersaturated neons in moments of outrage and violence. Together, the beauty of their artwork highlights the ghastliness of our story–I couldn’t be happier with any other team.

Smash Pages Q&A: Phil Hester on Image ‘Mythic’

Late September saw the release of Mythic #4 by Phil Hester and John McCrea — to mark the release I interviewed Hester.

Continue reading “Smash Pages Q&A: Phil Hester on Image ‘Mythic’”

Smash Pages Q&A: Image’s ‘Ringside’ Creative Team

The next Image Comics ongoing series from writer Joe Keatinge (SHUTTER, Adventures of Superman), RINGSIDE, introduces artist and co-creator Nick Barber for an ensemble drama set around the world of professional wrestling. An exclusive teaser trailer featuring all-new material from RINGSIDE #1 will debut in THE WALKING DEAD #147 in stores on October 14th and will outline the new series’ characters and storyline for the very first time. To mark the upcoming release Smash Pages Tim O’Shea spoke with Keatinge, Barber as well as colorist Gough and letterer Maher.

image

Simon please discuss the muted coloring approach to the series?

Simon Gough: Well, the colouring process is very simple compared to a lot of other work I’ve done, and I’m trying to get that balance of not over rendering like i’m used to, which in turn is letting me play around with the colours a lot more. Its great to get a job where I have time to experiment with the palettes, and put more effort into that side of colouring, as usually its quite technical and can be repetitive. Its hugely important for me to work ‘with’ Nick lines for this book too, and Nick has been nudging me in the right direction, so its been great collaboration as well. The whole team have been working hand in hand throughout to get the pages where we want them.

The issues so far all go through a fairly broad spectrum, where I’m trying my best to give a distinction for each scene.The emphasis on the muted colours will change depending on the mood or action that’s going on, so hopefully you’ll see some noticeable changes in emotion throughout as the story unfolds.

Ariana care to discuss lettering approach?

Ariana Maher: There’s a slightly uneven aspect to the word balloons to reflect the content of both the script and art. A clean, uniform style in the balloons and the text – the sort of style that could work for a different series – would look too sterilized and out-of-place in Ringside’s world. Imperfect works best here. I have to put thought into making mistakes in a mindful way. Though, hopefully, no one will give those details any notice. If readers get drawn into the book without distraction, then I’ll know the lettering works.

I’m looking forward to working on sound effects in Ringside. It’s a bold, harsh world. There are some very loud moments, so accentuating those scenes gives me some very enjoyable challenges to work with. I’ve already had some fun with the very first page of issue #1 because I’m bilingual and the guys didn’t stop me from goofing off with some of the fliers and signs.

What goes into your philosophy for the art Nick?

I’m a fan of high contrast, noir style artwork so that’s definitely the design philosophy I use. On RINGSIDE the art is literally rough around the edges, I’ve been tweaking exactly how rough to go with it – but wanted something that conveyed the tone of the story. Less-is-more is definitely the rule I go by with my stuff – I hate reading comics where the energy has been suffocated by overworked art. But yeah, pretty much my philosophy is how can I tell the story and convey the acting simply and clearly.

Can both of you single out characters that are really growing on you in the creative process?

Nick: All of the characters have become really special to me. Everytime there’s a new script I’m anxious to see what’s happening with each of them. As far as a creative process, I definitely have a sliding scale or how I want a character to look in a certain panel depending on what they’re feeling or conveying. So that’s part of a growth process too – I will push faces into a pretty cartoony area if it feels right, other times maybe go more ‘realistic’ I like having the freedom to do that. Sometimes it’s trial and error of what is more appealing or what might have been too far (either side of the scale). I think playing around with their design like that has made me really fond of the whole cast, I feel like I know their faces, their clothes, their environments etc pretty intimately now that I’m heading towards finishing the first arc of the story.

What are the biggest advantages to publishing with Image?

Nick: I’m new to comics, so Image is the only publisher I’ve worked for so far. In that regard it’s pretty hard to compare it to any other publishers. But one of the things I really like about Image is the freedom you get to create your own book. Our team is small, but we’re all on the same page with the look and feel of this book. There isn’t any meetings going on elsewhere about what should be happening in RINGSIDE – it’s completely up to us. Ownership is obviously a huge advantage – it feels really nice to be creating something with Joe that we own. Another advantage of working with Image is how good everyone there has been on the publisher end of things – a really great team, they’ve helped get the word out about RINGSIDE – obviously first announcing it at Image Expo which led to a lot of excitement.
Can both of you single out characters that are really growing on you in the creative process

Joe: It’s a bit of a cheap answer to say, “all of them,” but that’s part of the point of the series. How all these different characters from all these different perspectives and backgrounds interact. What one’s actions has an effect on someone they otherwise never knew. As it builds, it’ll become more evident.

What are the biggest advantages to publishing with image

Joe: Everything. There’s no better place to have total control over your own work. No one gives the same level of ownership as they do. Other companies will claim you keep 100% of your copyright, sure, but then they tie you in forever on print rights or digital rights or foreign rights or media rights. There’s always something. And some of those companies do a great job of making sure they earn their cut, but I find that Image just works best for me. If you want total freedom without anyone else, they’re great. If you want the support of a huge team who knows their shit, they’re perfect. I choose for something in the middle, where I regularly talk sales with Corey Murphy, publishing with Eric Stephenson, marketing strategy with Kat Salazar, production with Addison Duke, design with Drew Gill and so on and so on. They have been a major help on every single level. They’re an essential part of the team behind Ringside.

And even still, Nick and I choose everything. Our paper stock. Our pagination. What ads go in the book, if anything. Who represents our media rights, what kind of cut they get, who we bring on for editorial (because I love working with a good, simpatico editor), who does our logo, who colors the book, who letters the book. You don’t get to do that to such a degree anywhere else. Plus it helps their brand is so damn strong right now. My weird world explorer book can thrive in tradepaperbacks. I’m looking forward to what they do with this wrestling ensemble drama. No one’s able to compete on the same level with creator-owned work; the numbers speak for themselves.

Look, I’ve worked with other companies, loved doing it and will likely do it again, but for the type of work I’m doing now, which is largely creator-owned, original series, Image and their subsidiary, Skybound, have been amazing to work with.

Has anyone ever said there was a Tintin quality to your art Nick?

Nick: No! But I’ll take it. Personally I don’t see it, but I love Hergé. The big influences on this book (and my work in general) were Jose Munoz, Hugo Pratt, Eduardo Risso, Gabriel Ba, Taiyou Matsumoto, Rueben Pellejero, Toth… a lot more, just that high contrast school of cartooning. I don’t think I could ever work as cleanly as Hergé!

Has anyone ever said there was a Tintin quality to Nick’s art?

Joe: That’s funny, even as big a Hergé fan as I am, I didn’t pick up on it until you mention it, but you’re totally right. I can see it in Nick’s character’s facial expression especially. Interesting call, even if it’s unintentional.

What did both of you most enjoy about that two page spread wrestling scene?

Nick: For me that was just about making a really BIG page turn. The moonsault is a really dramatic move, it sort of slows down time. The opening pages of issue one really ramp up this spread beautifully so I wanted to hit the right note. It places the reader right there at ringside too. It’s a cinematic opening to what is going to be a really epic ongoing series.

What did both of you most enjoy about that two page spread wrestling scene

Joe: I’ve been thinking more and more in how to keep a reader’s attention. There’s more distractions than ever or, at least, more ways for the things in our lives to distract us. With Shutter, I started writing on the Inside Front Cover, so you’re instantly immersed in the comic book. You are in the world without a beat of a credits page or ad to distract you from it. With Ringside, we’re largely a slow burn book, but I wanted to work in something which similarly immersed you in the world, but also gave a rough idea of the different perspectives we’d be seeing it from through the first arc. As readers will see, we have a slow burn, somewhat dense with panels, until a huge kick in the ass of a double page spread, made beautiful by Nick and Simon, with Brandon’s massive logo and Ariana’s design completely selling it.

Smash Pages Q&A: Paul Allor on IDW’s ‘Tet’

Early September saw the release of Paul Allor’s creator-owned series Tet from IDW. Allor was kind enough to give me a brief interview. Enjoy.

Tim O’Shea: You’re very precise with your language consider this advice you give the reviewers Quick tips for people reviewing Tet: Marines should be called Marines, not soldiers. Also, not all opposing forces in Vietnam were Viet Cong  Why are these details so vital to you?

Paul Allor: Honestly, those kinds of small-ish errors in reviews don’t really bother me, but I was seeing them a lot, so I thought it might be worth mentioning. I debated it, but my thinking was, if I was writing a review, I’d want to know. But yeah, no one expects a comics reviewer to be a historian.

For the book itself, though, accuracy was extremely important, and both Paul Tucker and I did a fairly massive amount of research to make sure our story had a sense of verisimilitude, out of respect for the men and women who lived through this conflict.

What is the significance that Paul Tucker gets top billing on the cover?

My personal feeling is that artists should always get top billing in comics. They’re equal storytelling partners, but put in far more time and effort on an individual book. So on my creator-owned books, I always ask my artistic collaborators if they’re cool with their name being first. And in this book in particular, a ridiculous amount of its storytelling success is due to Paul, from his extraordinary covers to his fantastic character work to his amazing use of color as a storytelling tool.

How important  were the consulting editors to your creative process?

Pretty vital. The “consulting” modifier is pretty much just there to indicate that it’s a creator-owned book, and Paul and I have final say over it. But in every other respect, they were like any other editors, offering feedback on scripts and art, serving as sounding boards for any issues we might have, and generally shepherding the project through. I love working with editors. I don’t really understand creators who don’t.

All of the scripts in this book were also workshopped through Comics Experience, which was tremendously helpful, and provided me with a lot of great insight on what was working and what maybe needed a second look.

Did you ever consider delaying the 1984 flashback to a second issue or  was it a critical that have occurred in the first issue?

No, it was always planned for that first issue. The dual timeline structure becomes more important as we go on. And since a big part of the book is about the decades-long journey these three characters take, it was important to establish that scope early in the book. Plus, it fit really well narratively, providing a nice sense of dramatic irony, following Eugene and Ha’s conversation about their future plans, followed immediately by what actually happened. It deepens the mystery, and adds some tension to the story as we launch into the second half of the issue.

How much does social media help you build your audience?

Boy, I wish I had a decent answer for this. I don’t really know. I blab on Twitter a lot – a LOT – but I don’t know how effective it is. I don’t feel like I’m good at building a brand or developing a Twitter persona, or going about it in a deliberate way. It’s just me blabbing. So if it’s helping me build an audience, it’s probably happening despite my efforts, not because of them.

What prompted you to take this creator-owned project to IDW?

I had a really good relationship with both IDW, through my work on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and GI Joe, and with Andy Schmidt, who’s overseeing the Comics Experience imprint. So it seemed like a good fit. Plus, I don’t think anyone else would have published this book. That’s not a dig on Comics Experience/IDW – it’s a compliment. This is a very niche, difficult-to-market book, and they’re very dedicated to putting out good comics, regardless of factors like market accessibility or multimedia potential. I think Andy’s philosophy is that there is a healthy market for great comics, so if you put out great comics, and you work hard to get the word out, the readers will find you. Even if, on paper, it doesn’t seem like a slam-dunk.

Care to discuss Tucker’s coloring style as well as your lettering style? 

Paul’s colors in this book are so amazing. He’s doing so many things with them – using them to set the mood; to establish the different timelines; to get us inside the characters’ heads. He’s using them as an incredibly storytelling device – and honestly, I don’t have the proper vocabulary to discuss it as well as I’d like, or give him the credit he truly deserves.

On the lettering side, I’ve always lettered my own creator-owned books, but I really tried to step up my game on this book, in terms of designing lettering that would mesh well with Paul’s art and advance the storytelling. So that’s how we came up with the rough, off-center narration boxes for our main character, and the text-only boxes, which hopefully give the feeling that you’re inside his head, as the visuals drop away for a moment. You shouldn’t consciously think that, of course, but that’s the mood we’re going for. It was very important to us that the writing, art, coloring and lettering all feel extremely cohesive in this book, that they all work together towards our common storytelling goals. To that end, we designed the visual vocabulary of our story before I’d begun scripting issue #1. And I think it paid off.

Anything else we should discuss 

Probably! But my lunch hour is ending at the ole’ day job.  And thank you for taking the time to discuss it with me. It’s been such a joy to see media, readers and retailers discover and embrace this book. Paul and I are so incredibly proud of it. I hope folks check it out, and if they do, I hope they enjoy it.

Continue reading “Smash Pages Q&A: Paul Allor on IDW’s ‘Tet’”