Smash Pages Q&A: David Pepose on ‘Spencer & Locke,’ gritty crime and imaginary friends

“What if this imaginary friend wasn’t so benign?”

Debuting in comic shops tomorrow, David Pepose and Jorge Santiago Jr.’s Spencer & Locke imagines a world where Calvin and Hobbes went on to join the police force and take down bad guys. But when Sophie Jenkins — you remember Susie, right? — turns up dead in back alley, well … that’s where the story begins.

Published by Action Labs Entertainment, Spencer & Locke is a four-issue miniseries written by Pepose, whose name comics fans might recognize from his reviews at Newsarama, with art by Santiago (Curse of the Eel), colorist Jasen Smith and letterer Colin Bell.

On the eve of the book’s debut, I spoke with Pepose about the secret origins of the project.

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Interview | 5 Minutes with Emi Gennis

The creator talks about her SPX debut from last year, “Baseline Boulevard,” and more in an interview from last year’s show.

Emi Gennis does short comics on fascinating topics, usually quirky stories from history. I first discovered her work when I picked up her minicomic on trepanation (warning: includes graphic images of people drilling holes in their skulls) at TCAF last year. Her other work includes The Radium Girls, about women who were exposed to radium while working in a watch factory in the 1930s; and Franz Reichelt: The Flying Tailor, the story of a man who invented a parachute suit and died testing it on himself. The latter is one of Gennis’s comic adaptations of stories from Wikipedia’s list of unusual deaths.

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Delsante & Izaaske return to Kickstarter to give you more ‘Stray’

The duo discuss how the Kickstarter campaign is going, what to expect from the series, some news on back-ups and more.

After funding a miniseries featuring their independent superhero character in 2013, Stray co-creators Vito Delsante and Sean Izaakse returned to Kickstarter this month to raise money for an ongoing series. They reached their goal fairly quickly, which is when the real work began.

The story focuses on Rodney Weller, the former teen sidekick to the superhero known as Doberman. When his mentor is killed, Rodney returns to action after five years to solve the murder as Stray. In addition to the miniseries, Stray also appeared in Action Lab‘s Actionverse crossover series with Molly Danger and Midnight Tiger. Joining the creative team for the first arc is artist Phil Cho. As the first arc takes place in both the past and present, Cho will draw the flashback sequences while Izaakse will draw the present-day story.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Wade von Grawbadger

Over the years Wade von Grawbadger has made a name for himself by bringing out the best of whoever’s work he happens to be inking. The Eisner, Harvey and Inkwell award-winning artist/inker’s most recent work includes Batman/Superman with Robson Rocha and Astro City with Gary Chaloner. Always of note, though, is his work with Stuart Immonen. The duo have worked together on New Avengers, Ultimate Spider-Man, All-New Captain America and Star Wars, just to name a few titles, and as von Grawbadger describes below, their tight collaboration has helped the inker become more versatile. The duo will work together again on the upcoming Empress, written by Mark Millar.

A year ago you were reintroduced to the awesomeness that is Matthew Clark. What makes his art so great?

There is a life and character to his art that is infectious to me. Many can draw a cool face, but Matthew’s have the depth of thought behind them. Subtle information about the personality is evoked that many can’t quite accomplish … and it’s cool! He also has a great graphic sense; his use of blacks really crank up the drama.

What do you most enjoy about inking the recent issue of Astro City?

Inking over Gary Chaloner was great fun, mostly because it was a challenge for me. He’s out of my usual wheelhouse, forcing me to stretch and use inking muscles I don’t often use. His characters have so much life to them. It was simply a lot of fun.

How gratifying is it to be inking Star Wars prior to the film’s release?

How do you quantify something like that? To be in the conversation when one of the more heralded films in a long time is about to hit the scene is an honor, to say the least. There are so many people getting attention for their work on Star Wars-related books right now, I can only say that I am extremely proud to be among them!

A few days ago you ran some of your work from 2009. How has your work evolved over the years?

Thanks in no small part to Stuart Immonen, I have become more versatile. He changes his approach often to fit how he sees a particular project. So if you look at Ultimate Spider-Man, Next Wave and Star Wars, you will see a strikingly different take on each. This forces me to keep up! We have long email conversations about ideas for the the take on a given project, and then it’s an evolution. I may think I know what he means but don’t, and make adjustments based on his suggestions, or I may do something slightly different that he feels fit the situation and he adjusts. Other changes have come as tools or inks change or are discontinued. It’s a never-ending battle to keep current!

Anything we should discuss that I neglected to ask?

I recently did part of issue 28 of Batman/Superman over Robson Rocha that’s due out in January that was a blast. Intense detail and fun figure work. I love that sort of style and don’t get to do it that often. Check it out!


McNamara, Hinkle slither over to Image for new edition of ‘The Rattler’

Creators Jason McNamara and Greg Hinkle discuss the new edition of their crowdfunded graphic novel, coming from Image Comics in May.

Late last year Jason McNamara (The Martian Confederacy, First Moon, Continuity) and Greg Hinkle (Airboy) announced their crowdfunded horror graphic novel The Rattler had found a new home at Image Comics.

Inspired by true events from McNamara’s own life, the graphic novel will hit stores in March with a new cover and one new page. I spoke with McNamara and Hinkle about the new edition, how the Kickstarter campaign went and the potential for a sequel.


Smash Pages: For those who don’t already know, can you share what The Rattler is about?

Jason McNamara: Ten years ago Stephen Thorn watched helplessly as Catherine, the love of his life, was kidnapped, never to be seen again. In the years since, Stephen has reinvented himself as a passionate and bitter victims rights advocate. But when Stephen receives a message that may or may not be from Catherine, he embarks on a grisly journey to be reunited with his lost love.

In a nutshell, it’s John Carpenter meets Americas Most Wanted.

Smash Pages: It’s been almost two years now since you launched the Kickstarter campaign for The Rattler. We spoke about it during the campaign, but let’s talk a little bit about what happened next. The campaign was obviously successful; how did fulfillment go? What did you learn along the way?

Greg: Jason had the campaign planned out backwards and forwards, with redundancies and contingencies. It was really something to see. By the time we finished the campaign, there was very little left for us to do aside from writing a check and uploading files to the respective printers. Jason already had the packaging and postage calculated by the time the books actually arrived.


Jason knows exactly, but I think we got the book to our backers a couple of months ahead of schedule. It was really satisfying to connect with our backers on this book. Connecting directly to the people willing to give our story a chance was amazing.

Jason: What I hadn’t anticipated was how emotional running a Kickstarter would be. We were asking people to assign a perceived value to our work. To see it play out in real time with all the analytical tools inspired a lot of ups and downs. The middle part of the campaign, where nothing happens, was especially depressing.

I understand why campaigns offer more stretch goals, sometimes more than they can deliver, to keep excitement going. But I refused to introduce any goals that could delay fulfillment. Our campaign was very cut and dry, which is what I thought a comic book Kickstarter needed to be at that time.

Smash Pages: Would you do a Kickstarter again, if you had the right project?

Greg: I won’t rule anything out, but I’d probably only do something like this again with Jason. I like the idea of having an entire project ready before funding it, in order to get it in the hands of backers as soon as possible. But completing an entire story before even launching a campaign has the potential to stress out a relationship. If Jason and I hadn’t already known each other I don’t imagine it would’ve turned out the way it did.

Jason: I would do another one because I really valued the interactions I had with backers. I also love project managing and solving production problems, I geek out on that stuff. But to do another Kickstarter, the way I want to do it, to create the experience I want backers to have, would take at least a year of planning and pre-production before we launched. And it would all have to be self financed on the gamble that it would be worth it in the end. That’s a lot of external pressure to put on a writer/artist partnership.

Smash Pages: How did the deal with Image come about?

Jason: Within two months of the Kickstarting concluding we were completely sold out of copies and demand was increasing. So, it was clear we needed someone else to pick up the book and introduce it to a larger audience. Image was our first choice for obvious reasons; we created the book completely on our own, just the two of us and we were adamant about retaining 100 percent ownership.

After completing The Rattler Greg immediately jumped onto Airboy with the great James Robinson. Not a bad career trajectory right? Anyway, Greg enjoyed his relationship with image enough to put The Rattler in front of them and a deal was struck. We asked Joel Enos to join us as an editor and he’s been critical in preparing the new edition for print.


Smash Pages: What will be different about the Image release compared to the Kickstarter edition?

Greg: There’s a new cover, and I got to go back and draw a deleted page that didn’t make the original cut, which was a blast. It’d been more than a few months since I’d finished The Rattler, so it was cool getting to revisit some familiar faces with more practice under my belt.

Jason: I made some small dialogue tweaks, nothing major.

Smash Pages: Jason, you mentioned plans for a sequel in a recent message to your Kickstarter backers. Do you already have a story mapped out, and if so, can you tell us in broad terms what it might look like?

Jason: Working with Greg inspired me to keep writing and creating characters for this world (editor Joel Enos and I call it the Hinkle-Verse). The next book in the series is a period piece taking place in 1993 and follows Emma, a 15 year old prodigy with a unique medical condition who becomes the target of a serial killer. Like The Rattler it has a lot of twists and turns and deals with some pretty dark situations but it will be more of a detective story. It will connect with, and compliment, The Rattler but will also be its own thing. Similar to how Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul co-exist.


Smash Pages: For one of the prize tiers for the Kickstarter, you offered fans the chance to have dinner at your house, Jason. How did that go?

Jason: It was kind of a strange actually. We confirmed a date, sent a reminder and cooked up a feast. But they never showed up.

I hope they’re okay.

The Rattler arrives in March from Image Comics. Check out the cover for the new edition below:


Smash Pages Q&A: Eric-Nolen Weathington on ‘Modern Masters: Paolo Rivera’

While Eric Nolen-Weathington’s Modern Masters Volume 30: Paolo Rivera was released late in 2014, this has been my first opportunity to chat with one of my favorite interviewers in the comics industry about his latest projects. Added bonus, I had no idea that Rivera was mentored by David Mazzucchelli, so that added another layer of enjoyment for this interview.

For fans of Jim Aparo, there is good news about the long-awaited Modern Masters edition. More immediately though the next Modern Masters subject will be J.H. Williams III.

Thanks to Eric for the interview.

Tim O’Shea: Who picked the cover choice and how was it selected?

Eric-Nolen Weathington: Paolo unfortunately did not have time to do a new piece for the cover. He was in the early stages of working on a commission at the time that we were hoping could double as the cover, a really nice Spider-Man piece. But it soon became apparent that the painting wouldn’t get done in time for the book solicitation. So, Paolo went through some of his previous commissions and found three that he liked enough to use for the cover. I did some sample layouts with each of the images, and it was clear that the FF painting worked the best, so that’s what we went with. Paolo’s wife, April, who is a graphic designer, then did the revised final cover that ended up on the book.

Did you know David Mazzucchelli taught him before starting research on this book. Am I right in thinking it proved to an enlightening topic?

Yes, I discovered in my research that Paolo had taken Mazzucchelli’s class at RISD, but I didn’t know the story of Mazzucchelli letting Paolo use his first job for Marvel as a class project, or that Mazzucchelli was critiquing the job as Paolo was working on it. I was just hoping for a little insight into Mazzucchelli’s teaching style, so that was a great bonus.

I would love to do a Modern Masters book on Mazzucchelli. I tried approaching him through a mutual acquaintance a few years ago, but I had no luck. He seems to be one of those guys who doesn’t like to talk about his work, at least not in that type of forum. I’ve run into that roadblock a few times unfortunately.

What Rivera treasures did he unearth that thrilled you?

I love looking at artists’ sketchbooks and thumbnails—the preliminary work where they’re either playing around with ideas, or fine-tuning a concept. There’s usually more energy in those drawings that what ends up on the printed page, plus it’s a look inside their creative process. I mean, that what the Modern Masters books are all about, really. For whatever reason, I really loved this silly Punisher sketch he did as a warm-up to a Spider-Man story. But I think my favorite of that stuff was this page of sketches he did for a Spider-Man/Sandman story he ended up not being able to do. His Sandman was soooo Ditko, and there was this little sketch where Sandman is sitting on a tiny deserted island, and he’s part of the island. The pose is both funny and sad, and it made me wish he could have drawn that story.

Also, being able to zoom in on a high-res scan of Paolo’s cover for Daredevil #10 was worth the price of admission alone.

Who looked more forward to chatting about H.J. Ward, you or Rivera?

Well, we hadn’t talked about him beforehand, so I don’t think Paolo knew we’d be talking about him. I’m a fan of the old pulp magazine artists, and Ward is one of my favorites, so I was very interested in what drew Paolo to his work. We probably could have gone at least a couple of pages talking about Ward, but I had to keep things rolling.

Were there any topics he was reluctant to talk about or was he open to any topic?

No, he was very open. He’s the one who brought up his breakup with his then-girl, now-wife, and how it affected his work and deadlines. Maybe that was easier to talk about since it all ended up positively, but no, there were no issues at all. Of course, I’m not digging for dirt in these books—that’s not what they’re about. But I do like to discuss emotional topics when they affect, either positively or negatively, the artist’s creative process, so I was very happy that Paolo didn’t downplay any of that.

Was it more critical to talk to him about the collaborative dynamics on DD with Waid or Wacker?

I think they’re equally important. I mean, when an artist is doing work-for-hire with Marvel or DC, they’re going to be working with both writers and editors—it’s unavoidable. And both can require the artist to make compromises in their work on some level. So, I think it’s worth discussing when those dynamics break down, and when those dynamics create a book as wonderful as Daredevil.

Did you dictate what topics that were covered or did Rivera have a say?

Paolo was familiar with the books, already owning a few, so he knew going in my general approach to the interviews, and we didn’t really need to discuss any of that beforehand. But I knew from his blog that Paolo is a process guy and likes to talk about that stuff, so I thought it would be great to take advantage of that and break down one cover in detail. I talked that over with Paolo before we started the interviews, so that he’d have time to document something if he didn’t have enough material like that on hand. Paolo was on board for it, and he picked the cover we used and wrote the text to go along with it, and it worked out pretty well, I think.

Any chance you know the backstory on the Madman (pg 125)?

That was a pin-up for Mike Allred’s Madman in Your Face 3-D Special that came out last November. Mike, another Modern Master subject by the way, likes to have other artists whose work he likes participate when he does projects like this. Mike asked Paolo if he could do something, Paolo was honored to be asked and said yes, and this was the result. Paolo also colored it, and for the Madmanbook, Christian LeBlanc converted it to a 3-D image. I don’t know if you’ve seen the book, but it was a cool little project. I thought it was a nice touch that Mike had Marcos Martin’s pin-up on the opposite page from Paolo’s.

Care to discuss your current design work, or whatever you work you have on the horizon?

I’ve always got more Modern Masters books in the pipeline, but none at the design stage yet. J.H. Williams III should be the next one up though. I’ve got two design jobs on my desk at the moment. One is issue #31 of DRAW! magazine. I’ve been the designer for several years now, and it’s been nice to work with so many different artists there.

The other project is a book written by my good buddy and sometimes collaborator, George Khoury, called Comic Book Fever. On the surface, it’s a love letter to George’s golden age, the mid-’70s to mid-’80s. He covers all, and I mean all, the things that made comics great during that period—the top artists, the coolest stories, and even the best of the ads, like Jack Davis’ “Street Ball” ad for Spalding basketballs. But when you look a little closer, the book is more than just a trip down memory lane. Although it’s not directly addressed, the book is also about how much the comic book industry changed in the ten years between 1976 and 1986. It’s been a blast to work on, but it’s labor-intensive. It’ll be out next spring, and I can hardly wait to get some reader feedback on it. I think people are going to love it.

And the long-awaited Jim Aparo book is getting closer to completion. We won’t be announcing a release date until the book is completely done, and there’s still a lot of work to be done, but the end is within sight now.

If you were to settle on a percentage would you say the Aparo book is 75% done? 

I’d say the text is about 80% done, but there’s also the design to do. I had done some design work for the two previous false starts, but I’ll probably end up having to scrap almost all of that.

Refresh my memory, why has the book had such a long journey.

For those that don’t know, the book is ten years in the making. It was started back when Jim was still alive, but he passed away just a couple of weeks before we were set to start the interviews. Needless to say, this required a complete retooling of the book. And during the process of figuring out what the book should become and how we could achieve that, more obstacles arose. I won’t go into all the details, but both myself and my then co-author were thrown into situations where we had no time to work on the book. It was through no fault of our own or of anyone else. It was just a couple of those curveballs life throws at you from time to time—the type of curveballs that get away from the pitcher and bean you in the elbow, and you’re not sure you can stay in the game. I think you’re familiar with those.

Anyway, long story short, for many years and a few different partners, we’ve had trouble wrangling the time and the material we needed to make a book worthy of Jim Aparo. But over the past two or three years, we’ve been able to get the book back on track, and we’ve been making slow and fairly steady progress, and now we’re finally to the point where the monkey I’ve been carrying on my back these past ten years is starting to loosen his grip and feel a little lighter.

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