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Morning Movies

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Here's a quick morning run-down of SLG-related newsies with visual aids!
  • The Electric Playground gives us a quick interview with Chumble Spuzz creator Ethan Nicolle. It's the first story after the intro:
  • Michael May reviews Captain Blood #1 by Matthew Shepherd and Michael Shoyket at Robot 6*. He's not a fan of the in medias res approach the adaption takes, but still writes, "Having read the first issue now, I’m anxious for the second and that’s a great indicator of a successful series." He also warns that our trailer spoils the ending of the first issue, but I'm not sure that revealing that a character named Peter Blood in a series called Captain Blood becomes a sea captain is much of a spoiler. Oh, crap, I did it, too. Well, now you have no reason not to watch the trailer:

*Disclaimer: I do freelance work for Robot 6.

- JdG


Mini-Interview with Tommy Kovac

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A new edition of Tommy Kovac's first comic, Stitch,which tells the story of a rag doll who can't remember his past or identity, will be published in March. In Stitch, you'll the moody magic of Autumn and the whimsy of Wonderland. I asked Tommy some questions about Stitch, and here are his answers. There's a mild spoiler in the first paragraph after the last quesiton that I've set in white text -- highlight it to read it. (I know that this tactic doesn't work if you're reading this on a dark background with light text, but you've been warned!)

Stitch was your first published comic book. What kind of stories were you writing and comics were you drawing before you started on Stitch?
T:  I had already pitched Skelebunnies as its own comic book to SLG, but Dan said it was awful and nobody would want to read it. So he asked me to create a new storyline, something different. I ended up completely switching gears from total silliness, and a very episodic approach, to an actual linear story in which I'd try to create "mood" and "tone," and other tricky things like that. Before I decided to try my hand at comics, I'd been working for a few years on my writing. I'd written a depressing and unfocused young adult novel that never got published, plus several binders full of short stories. Mostly touching on the horror, sci-fi, or "weird tale" genres. I'm still quite proud of some of those short stories.

The main character in Stitch looks like you. How is Stitch a personal story for you? What is the significance of him not knowing his name?
T:  People ask me that a lot, why Stitch looks like me. The simple answer is that I was really still learning how to draw, since it was my first comic book, and whenever I needed to study and certain kind of facial expression, or how a nose looks, I'd look in the mirror. In that way, I think maybe the fact that this character ended up looking like me influenced the story I put him in. The bit about him having sort of a human face with the body of a rag doll came about because I had no interest in learning how to draw a human body at that time, so just for grins I stuck a rag doll body on this character. When I looked at the page and saw that, my brain started to spin, creating a story about why he was like that.
    
I try not to analyze what I'm doing while I'm doing it, but it seems like the whole quest for identity is obviously my own journey in defining myself as a creator. Whether I intend to or not, I always wear my heart on my sleeve. I wish I knew how not to do that! But there it is. At the time I was securing the deal with SLG, I was also in the process of letting all my friends and family know I'm gay, and trying to figure out how that related to my creative work. I even seriously debated using a pseudonym, but ultimately decided to just be myself.  It seemed natural that Stitch would of course be gay, but I didn't want that to be the central point of the story. I wanted to tell a creepy little tale about magic and loneliness, and have the sexual orientation be incidental.

What kind of reflections do you have on this work after nearly ten years since the first issue was published? You added an epilogue -- why did you feel the story needed additional closure?
T:  I still have occasional fans who ask me if I'll ever continue the Stitch storyline, and some of them seem to want additional "closure." To me, the whole point of it ending before you know if they get out of that playroom or not is that it doesn't necessarily matter if they do. What's most important is that Stitch has figured out who he is, and he and Simon have connected and are happy together. But since this is a re-issue of previously published material, I wanted to do something special for people who already have the first edition. I thought it would be nice to figure out a way to give just a little bit more closure while still being true to  my original concept of the "emotional resolution." (Especially since I've known this stuff in my head, I just hadn't made it clear to my readers.
  
And how do I feel about this story I did ten years ago...? I'm highly critical of the first ten pages of it, but overall I still feel good about it. You can totally see what a beginner I was to the comic book format and how I develop during the course of the four issues. I can even tell when I experimented with one type of pen, ditched it, and started using another, until I found one I was comfortable with. Looking at Stitch is almost like finding an old junior high diary. Sometimes embarrassing, sometimes, re-affirming.

Interview with Derf

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I really like Comics Career, a publication I've only just learned about. The interviews with creators focus on craft and career-building, and in comics, where many fans want to be creators too, this is a very welcome point of view.

They've most recently interviewed Derf about his new graphic novel Punk Rock and Trailer Parks and about his career and creative process. Here he is on how he draws a graphic novel:

For comic books, it’s a totally different process. I write out the narrative in a small, very rough thumbnail. Mostly I see it in my head, so I don’t require a lot of sketch phases, like some creators do. After thumbnails, I go directly to pencils and these are pretty tight. I pencil straight through, page after page, all the way to the end. Then I’ll go back and make alterations and corrections, additions or subtractions, and make sure everything is consistent, faces, clothes, that sort of thing. Then I start inking. I use the old pro trick of hopping around all over the book, inking page 5 then page 57 then page 123, so the inking is consistent throughout and doesn’t change from front to back.

I like the "old pro trick" for the inking! There's much more at the link -- the interview is long and there is a lot of interesting and useful stuff there.

Interview with Jamie Smart

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The comics podcast Comic News Insider interviewed Jamie Smart before Christmas. I'm a little late linking to it, but, I swear, this isn't like egg nog -- the interview is still fresh!

Part one is here and part two is here.

Jamie has just finished up issue four of Ubu Bubu and you can expect it in stores in March 2009!


The War at Ellsmere

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The War at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks is in stores now!

Johanna Draper Carlson recommends it at Comics Worth Reading and reviews it with some nice analysis of the characters:

"The emotional core of the story, Jun and Cassie’s growing friendship and the way it reveals Cassie’s hidden depths, drew me in as it developed. I particularly admired the way Hicks made Juniper well-rounded. I was rooting for her, of course, as the underdog, but she’s not perfect. She’s got her pride and her own weaknesses."

Rachelle Gougan at Living Between Wednesdays has a review: "...this is one of the best books I've seen for teen girls in awhile, at least as good as Hope Larson's Chiggers, or Mike Carey's Re-Gifters. If all is right in the world, then this book should secure Hicks' spot among the top indie comic creators." There's also an interview with Faith in which the Ellsmere creator talks about the development process:

"I wanted to do a story about two girls fighting, and have the fight not be over a boy. Those kind of stories always leave me cold, and I can't remember reading many where you have women doing battle with each other over things other than men."

Punk Rock and Trailer Parks

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The reviews for Derf's Punk Rock and Trailer Parks have been rolling in lately, and iFanboy has named it the Book of the Month! Reviewer Josh Flanagan writes about Derf's signature drawing style as it's used as a storytelling device:

The art in this book, while not at all photorealistic interprets what life often really looks like. It's got pimples and hairy legs, and most people aren't shaped perfectly. Most of real life is stained and maybe a little bit greasy. So when I'm reading a story about what real life can feel like, I learned to appreciate an art style that doesn't dress things up more than they need to be. The art tells the story, and does it perfectly, and you can't ask more of a comic book artist.
The review at Northern Express makes note of Derf's style as well: "As a stylist, few graphic artists match his ability to capture the 'no future' slouch and despair of the underclass."

Finally, (for this post, anyway) there is an interview with Derf at Comics Waiting Room, in which he asks rhetorically, "Did I even have a life before punk?" He adds, "Music speaks to you at age 20 more than any other point in your life. I don't know why that is, but it's just a fact of life."

That's something I always found fascinating -- my father-in-law says pretty much the same thing, though he puts the time frame at your senior year of high school. You might find new music that you love, but what you listened to then will always have a certain constant relevance to you. Derf includes a play list of his essentials in Punk Rock and Trailer Parks.

What
would be on your play list? I'd have to go with the entirety of The Smiths' Louder Than Bombs. I was seven when it was released, but I listened to it incessantly throughout my senior year of high school

Interview with Derf

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Speaking of Punk Rock and Trailer Parks, there is a two-part interview with its author, Derf, at Comic Book Talk Radio. I'm listening to it now -- the conversation starts with Punk Rock and The City and then moves on to Trashed and My Friend Dahmer.

It's a very interesting interview, with Derf touching on the socio-economic background behind the story and setting of Punk Rock and Trailer Parks, which is set in Akron, Ohio in the early 1980s, and "the egomanical geek," and the music that goes with the book.

"It's the end, the end of seventies, it's the end, the end of the century," indeed!

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Derf was interviewed at WKSU Public Radio in Kent, Ohio about his new graphic novel Punk Rock and Trailer Parks. You can listen here. Can I just say hurray for public radio? It's one of my favorite things.

There's a review of Punk Rock and Trailer Parks at Rack Raids by Graig Kent. He writes of Derf's protagonist Otto, "Too often in underground comics, the writer/artist hates their character (or themselves) and puts them through shame after shame in attempts to break them. With Otto, Derf doesn’t. He admires his character and has him triumph even when he fails, which seems to be another punk philosophy (where getting arrested is a good thing)."

And of the book? "It’s funny, smart, and insightful, and presents something different but not so different as to be off-putting (except that there is punk rock, sex, nudity and language, which obviously may not agree with all audiences)."

Kerry Callen Interview

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Kerry Callen, creator of Halo and Sprocket, is interviewed at ComicsCareer.com, which reveals an interesting comic book creator day job: greeting card artist:

As part of his work at Hallmark, Callen occasionally ghosts the work of other cartoonists; sometimes the original creator has simply never drawn the pose or costume needed for a card. ... He has also formed close relationships with current and former Hallmark staff artists who moonlight in the comic book business including Chris Grine of Dark Horse’s Chickenhare and Anna-Maria Cool of Claypool’s Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.

It's always important to me to show that artists, more often than not, have and need day jobs, and that those day jobs aren't necessarily the kind that they get all angsty about in autobiographical comics.

I also like interviews that asks artists about their creative process. Kerry describes how he writes Halo and Sprocket, a method I am familiar with and has led to many a missed exit: "The writing part is easy because I have a 45 minute commute to work, so I have all that time to think about stories. They usually get pretty refined during the drive."

Interview with Faith Erin Hicks

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JK Parkin at Blog@Newsarama interviews Zombies Calling creator Faith Erin Hicks about her upcoming SLG graphic novel The War at Ellsmere.

I like when some good "get off your duff" advice pops up in interviews. Here, Faith is talking about the art available to view at her website:
Although be prepared for some genuinely bad art here and there. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. But at least I DID it. I hear a lot from people about how they’re intimidated by starting a comic project, and how they don’t think they’ll have the skills … y’know, you waste a lot of time doing that. Just start the bloody thing, and you’ll learn as you go.
The War at Ellsmere is available for pre-order now, both at comic book stores and the SLG website.

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