Category: interviews

The Ted McKeever Library:
Q&A with Shadowline publisher
Jim Valentino

October 1 saw the release of Transit, the first in Shadowline’s three-volume Ted McKeever Library, which will eventually also include Eddy Current and Metropol. Shadowline publisher Jim Valentino took the time to visit with about the origins of the McKeever library, some of the thought behind the project and the possibility of future volumes.

DOOMKOPF: The long-unpublished conclusion to Transit is clearly one of the selling points of the library’s first volume. McKeever described Transit as his “Holy Grail” in the Shadowline press release, but how much of that conclusion had he worked on since 1988? Had the sixth issue of Transit been worked on before Vortex went out of business, did McKeever work on it at some point in the past 20 years, or was this something he created solely and entirely for the library?

VALENTINO: My understanding is that the finale was plotted out, but never finished — that is, never written and drawn before now. And the pages are simply wonderful. They show Ted’s evolution as an artist far more eloquently than I’m able to tell.

DOOMKOPF: McKeever had what some would call the luxury of creating a missing piece in his larger mythology after the subsequent chapters had already been written. Do you think that made it easier or more difficult to complete, and why?

Strange and Stranger:
The World of Steve Ditko

By Blake Bell
Published by Fantagraphics Books, 2008; 220 pages; $39.99

“Strange and Stranger” by Blake Bell is an intriguing biography in the life, career and politics of Steve Ditko, best well-known in the pop-culture world as the co-creator of Spider-Man, but also creator of several other characters like Dr. Strange, The Question, Captain Atom and the Ted Kord Blue Beetle.

Bell dives into Ditko’s early years in comics, when he scraped by doing whatever paying work he could get. In those days, before the Silver Age superhero boom, much of that work was in horror comics.

“I have a fondness for his pre-superhero Marvel material,” Bell told me. “Those 5-page, Twilight Zone-ending stories that just drip Ditko atmosphere.”

Around this time in his early career, Ditko was exposed to Ayn Rand and the moral and political philosophy of Objectivism that sprang from her work, and for much of the second half of the book, Bell illustrates how Ditko’s creative output would never be the same. A rigid outlook on right and wrong, producers and consumers and justice and punishment steered Ditko’s career into obscurity, and his comic creations ended up becoming a grotesque autobiographical document of the man’s descent into a harshly judgmental, self-imposed isolation.

A healthy sampling of Ditko’s early work is presented in the book, showing the evolution of his style as he built confidence and started developing some of his storytelling techniques.

“I chose every image because I wanted to comment on those images and have them represent the arc of Ditko’s career,” Bell said.

The visual aides are without a doubt one of the best parts of the book. True to comic form, the art functions as a story of its own as it also illuminates points Bell makes in his text. Given Ditko’s beliefs, it’s no small irony that much of this work is now in the public domain.

Q&A: Percy Carey (writer of Sentences: the life of MF Grimm)

Hip hop has always had a connection to comic books, with super hero references slipping into songs and the mini comic Outkast inserted in their ATLiens release. All the same, last week’s publication of Sentences (Vertigo, $19.99) marks a new level of relationship between the two.

A true hip hop autobiography, the book relates the life story of Percy Carey, better known as underground emcee legend MF Grimm, through the many trials and tribulations he faced. The book begins in 1994, as Carey and his brother were shot on the way to meet with record execs. Instead of a record deal, Carey ended up paralyzed. His brother died.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketCarey struggled for several more years, selling drugs and guns, finally ending up in prison. There, he decided to struggle to better himself and those around him. In a recent exclusive interview, we talked about the story behind the story.

Jean-Claude Van Doom: I guess we can safely call this the first hip hop autobiographical graphic novel. How did you come to decide to tell your story in that way?

Percy Carey: The credit goes to my editor [at Vertigo]. Casey Seijas spoke with me and gave me the ability to get it accomplished. He really knew my story already. He was a follower of my music. Took me step by step and taught me the format. It was done by him reaching out to me and giving me the opportunity.

For you to say it’s the first of its kind, that’s a blessing to me. A lot of my life is the first of its kind. Finally I’ve found something I’m capable of getting accomplished. I recently made and distributed the first independent triple CD, with 60 songs. Every time I’ve done something, it’s out of, I want to say desperation to a degree. Before I met Casey, I couldn’t see tomorrow. He’s extended my life. I see a great future in the comic book industry.

JCVD: Had you ever read graphic novels or comic books before?

PC: I grew up reading Superman, DC, Batman. I always had a fascination for the Hulk. I never assumed that that would be something I would one day do. I’m just happy to be part of that.

JCVD: How did Casey approach you with the idea?

PC: He asked me to write about my life. My life, I found it very boring. He said, “No, it’s not boring. You just got to sit down and do exactly like you do with your music.” I realized there’s a lot of similarities. It became easy to get it done. But the true magic is to edit.

JCVD: What did you think of it once it was finished? What did you think of the art?

PC: The artwork is amazing. It lived up. I’m very proud. I’m proud to be part of Verigo. I’m very happy to still be alive today to teach others not to make mistakes I made. My arrogance. My ignorance.

JCVD: Your story is a hard one. There’s a lot of bad stuff in this book, both bad things happening to you and you doing bad things yourself. Was it hard to be that forthcoming about what you’ve been through?

PC: It became easier to go through it. One of the reasons I’m still on the planet is to learn humility. Being vain and arrogant, it will cloud your vision. It was a process I needed to go through. It was more therapeutic to express all the trials and tribulations I’ve gone through. (more…)

Q&A: Mitch Breitweiser and Andy Schmidt

After our exciting initial interview portion with Mitch Breitweiser, who illustrated interiors and painted covers on the new Captain America: The Chosen series, we’re back for more from Mitch, plus a bonus interview with his editor on the series, Andy Schmidt, who has since left Marvel.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketNow, be sure and remember that Captain America: The Chosen is our Book of Doom this week. So come back this weekend for our communal review. Also, we at Doomkopf broke the news of CATCH a few months ago.

Now, onto the questions and answers:

JCVD: Do you create art outside of comics at all?

MB: I try to, when I get time, do just regular art. I draw realistic stories all day, all week, all month long. It’s great when I get a
chance to paint an abstract watercolor or something like that. Get that side of the artistic expression out. Hasn’t had time for much in past year, because I’ve been busy. I’d love to do more of that sort of thing. But if comics are paying the bills, I won’t get to do too much.

There are times when a deadline is due when I’ll work 48 hours straight. I’ve been known to do a 48 hour stretch and do three pages. There’ll be days I only work a couple hours. I guess it all averages out to a pretty normal day. Again, working at home makes your schedule flexible. But, on the downside, you have to be very disciplined.

I used to take commissions all the time when I was trying to break in. Now I can’t do that kind of thing anymore. I get done with a deadline and I just crash for a couple of days. I don’t want to touch art. I wish I could work more. I sort of have a strange style of working. If I’m doing a panel, I’ll do some sketches, it’s almost like I’m holding these objects in my hand for awhile, for a couple hours. I’ll just look at rough images. I probably waste too much time.

When I draw, I just attack the panel. I’ll spend a lot more time thinking and looking at things than I do drawing. I spend a lot of
time studying and analyzing and thinking of angles. Getting a clear picture of it in my head. It’s the style that works for me. Maybe I use too much mental energy, because I can’t do it for 16 hours a day.

JCVD: Is it hard as one of the newer artists to get the attention of some of the big-name guys within the company?

MB: It’s like a batting lineup. They get on projects in proportion to how Marvel thinks fans will respond. If you can increase the readership of a falling book, that will get you on a big project. They kind of know what books they want to spend money on. You just kind of have to sit back and hope they put you on it.

I also try to find new readers. Every time I go to a show, a few people come by who haven’t heard of me, and I win a new person over. That’s another way to do it.

JCVD: Ever considered a name change? Something short and catchy?

MB: I actually thought about that once in college. It’s long, but you don’t forget it once you’ve read it. There are some other artists out there with pretty crazy names.

JCVD: What’s your favorite comic book or series?

MB: I really don’t have one specific book. If someone was to ask me, what they should pick up, suggest Captain America. It’s a good starting point. You ask me on another given day, maybe I’d have a different suggestion. I really don’t have one particular book that I think is the end all, be all of comic books. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to work on something that I can point people to.

I’ll be able to say I’m really proud of it and it’s a great story with good art. That’s all you can really hope for. If you’ve done that, then you’ve created a good lasting book. Whether it sold well or not, it’s in someone’s memory.

JCVD: Any dream projects?

MB: Who wouldn’t want to draw the X-Men? That’d be awesome. (more…)

Q&A: Mitch Breitweiser Part One

As you should know, Captain America: The Chosen is our Book of Doom this week. If you remember, it was also the series that we here at Doomkopf brought you an exclusive announcement about a few months ago.

Now, I’m pleased to bring you another exclusive — interviews with series artist Mitch Breitweiser. Below is the first half of the interview. And remember to come back this weekend for our roundtable review of this book (a sneak peek: I really enjoyed it).

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketJean-Claude Van Doom: So, how did you break into comics?

Mitch Breitweiser: I was going to trade shows and buying tables on what they call artist’s alley. I would do sketches for $10 a piece. I was just trying to break even at the time. I started meeting people the more I went. We would hang out at the bar after
the show. And then just started meeting editors and other artists and writers. I just sort of forced my way in.

JCVD: So, a lot of convention hopping?

MB: I’d go from here to Chicago. I would drive from New York City to Chicago, or fly to San Diego. I even drove from Little Rock [where he lives] to San Diego. If I couldn’t afford a plane ticket, I would drive.

JCVD: What’s your background in art?

MB: I went to Harding in Searcy, through their art program. Then I went to New York to try to get into comics. I lived in the northeast from right after college to two years ago. I accomplished what I wanted to do, what I needed to do. Paying $1,600 a
month in rent, there didn’t seem much point anymore. I felt secure, since Marvel offered me a contract. I came back to buy a place, start a family.

JCVD: Why did you end up working with Marvel and signing with them?

MB: Marvel was always more receptive of my art, even when I wasn’t published. They seemed more interested in me. I was drawn to them just because the editors more receptive to my art.

I always had more of a passion for the Marvel characters anyway. Growing up, reading Wolverine, X-Men and all of that good stuff back in the ’90s. But I never really was a big comic book reader. I didn’t go out and blow my allowance on comics every week. I got really drawn into just the artwork. I’ve been drawing since before I could write. I was always, when I was younger, drawing little cartoons and making up stories before I even knew what a comic book was. (more…)

Q&A: Cecil Castellucci (PLAIN Janes)

A few months back, I wrote about the debut of DC Comics’ Minx line and the first books. One of those, The PLAIN Janes, I raved about. Recently, I had the luck to talk to the book’s author, Cecil Castellucci, about her first graphic novel, her love of comics and plans for new books.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketJean-Claude Van Doom:Okay, first, the obvious — what got you interested in comics? Did you read any growing up? If so, what? Do you still read a lot of them?

Cecil Castellucci: I did read comics when I was a little girl. I’m French Canadian (but grew up in the States) so my parents got me into Tin Tin, Asterix, Smurfs, Lucky Luke. Also, I was obsessed at a young age with Batman and Superman. Let’s just call them “boyfriends.” Then I also had a little brother who had a fine collection of superhero books. So that’s where I read a lot of Spiderman, Avengers, X-Men, etc. etc. etc. He also got into Vertigo stuff when he was in High School and I was in college. I loved those. Sandman and Animal Man were faves.

Then I was in Montreal, where Drawn and Quarterly is, so I discovered a lot of indie comics, Julie Doucet, Chester Brown, Seth. I loved Roberta Gregory then, too. I wrote her a fan letter when I was 20, and she sent me a Naughty Bits button back. Then I kind of stopped reading because it was too expensive an addiction, and quite honestly I was flat broke. I would occasionally pick some stuff up. And now, happily I’m back reading as much as I can. And am enjoying Fables, Y the Last Man, and all things Superman.

JCVD: How did you get into writing as a career? What made you want to write for a younger audience (I assume that’s not a mischaracterization of your first novels)?

CC: I always wanted to write books and tell stories. I think one of the things about writing for YA is that it is such a compelling time in life. Everything is for the first time. Every feeling runs so high. Every day you are moving from who you were to who you are. It’s like a time where you awaken and I think that is very interesting. That’s why I write for young people.

JCVD: How did the partnership with DC/Minx come about? Had you been interested in doing comics?

CC: I think what happened was that Shelly Bond was starting the Minx line and was looking for some new voices, to see what was out there in people in the YA world who might want to write a graphic novel. She had talked to my friend, an author named Rachel Cohn, who wasn’t interested but passed along my name because Boy Proof (my first novel) is about a girl who reads comic books (a lot of Vertigo ones.) (more…)

Q&A: Brad Meltzer

Our impromptu Justice League of America week here at Doomkopf chugs right along with the thoughts of the man pulling all the strings. Yes, Brad Meltzer checked in for an exclusive interview. He’s the writer of JLA from issue 0 to present (his arc ends in a couple months at #12) and Identity Crisis and a whole bunch of books without pictures (apparently there are uncouth folks out there who enjoy such things). Brad shed light on how he got into comics, his writing style and who would win a geek-off between him and Geoff Johns.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketFor a review of the trade of Meltzer’s first JLA arc, The Tornado’s Path, click over to here. Now, without further ado, Brad Meltzer:

Jean-Claude Van Doom: I read that you grew up reading the Justice League. Did you ever imagine you might end up writing it?

Brad Meltzer: I certainly wished it, but I never for one second thought it was going to happen. It’s like saying I want to be a baseball player. These are childhood dreams, but eventually childhood dreams fall under reality. Only an egomaniac would ever think he would be able to do that.

JCVD: So, how did you end up getting into comics?

BM: The truth is, this was back when The Millionaires was published, the DC editors approached me when they realized that for four novels I’d been hiding comic book references in my novels.

So, I had to write four books [novels] to do it. That was how it happened. Kevin Smith was leaving Green Arrow. They thought about bringing in somebody else from outside of comics. They said, “You’re a guinea pig.” At that point, it’s just up to your writing. [Meltzer began with issue 16]

After that I wrote this very emotional, character-driven story. And then 9/11 happened. The editors came to me and said, “Before 9/11, people in the fire department were out of a Norman Rockwell painting. After 9/11, we realized these men and women, when they put on their uniforms everyday, they could die.” That’s something we’d gotten away from in comics.

I set out to do Identity Crisis as a small emotional story. I did the whole thing all at once. Then the people in charge saw it and liked it and promoted it a lot. We never set out to create Identity Crisis as we now know Identity Crisis.

JCVD: All your work in comics seems to have a more emotionally driven feel. Where does that come from?

BM: I think, in my novels and in my comics, all I want to make you do is make you feel that it’s true. My goal is to convince you that my lie is absolutely real. I arm you with things that make you think it’s real. I try to write characters that aren’t cookie cutters, I do tons of research. I don’t want to read a coloring book.

I don’t know how to tell any other stories. That’s how I tell my stories.

JCVD: So far, you’ve worked exclusively with DC. Is that where your interest is, or do you see other projects with other companies in your future? (more…)

Q&A with Brian Phillipson (God the Dyslexic doG)

Alert readers will recall that some time back we brought you a review of the collected series God the Dyslexic doG, which was written by the father-son team of Philip and Brian Phillipson and illustrated by indie comics mainstay Alex Nino. It’s a sort of psychotropic adventure through history, mythology and psychology, heading full barrel for doomsday. And at the center is a dog that’s really god. Or maybe not. There’s a lot left open to interpretation and imagination, which is part of what makes the book such a fun read.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketCo-writer Brian Phillipson took the time to give our readers a bit of the story behind the story, even though he’s swamped at his day job working on the upcoming Futurama series of films. So, without further delay, Brian Phillipson:

Jean-Claude Van Doom: Most of the first four issues and prequel seem like a setup, establishing this trippy universe and the characters. Yet, the cliffhanger leaves off with the world nearing its end. Do you and your father consider this the feeling out period of the storyline? How much do you have plotted ahead?

Brian Phillipson: The first four issues are definitely a set up for bigger things to come. We wanted to establish this trippy universe first and eventually let the characters interact and play out on it. As far as plotting out goes,we know exactly where it’s going and how it needs to end. Now the fun part comes… the journey to it. From modern day to when the gods were invented is our time line, which gives us a lot of flexibilities and infinite possibilities, story and character wise.

Underlining it all is doG, our hero, witnessing and living through it all.

Q&A with Dean Haspiel

By nature, comics is home to fun-loving writers and artists, some of the strangest and most interesting folks in the entertainment industry. So, it’s saying something when I call Dean Haspiel one of the most unique creators I’ve ever talked to. The guy’s stories always spin archetypes in some bizarre directions and his art is very clean and high in contrast while always tossing out some weird elements or unpredictable perspectives. The New York-based Haspiel has eschewed the standard route of artists into the comics industry and instead carved a niche with ACT-I-VATE, an online comix anthology, and worked with Harvey Pekar, among others. Haspiel’s also been known to use the phrase “cool beans” and signs his art “Dino!” To learn much, much more about the guy, keep on reading.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketJean-Claude Van Doom: First, can you fill me in a bit on your background, how you got into art, where you studied, how you ended up in New York?

Dean Haspiel: I was born in New York Hospital on May 31, 1967. I grew up a middle-class kid with my brother, Mike, in the melting pot of the Upper West Side under the parental guidance of my mother, Barbara, who was the Deputy Director of The NY State Council of the Arts, and my father, James, who is a writer and world renowned authority on Marilyn Monroe. Manhattan is where I made life-long friends of all colors and creeds in public schools, including Music & Art cum La Guardia High School, where I got the chance to hone my comix chops in retaliation to the fine arts my teachers were bugging me with.

I took a few years off working odd-jobs before going to SUNY Purchase where I studied film, broke my heart, and broke my legs. I split college when I didn’t have the funds nor the desire to graduate and moved to Soho with my buddies, Drew and Larry, where I waited tables for 4-years while writing never-produced screenplays. Later on, I moved to Alphabet City with my [then] girlfriend, Linda, and worked part-time gigs and returned to the indie/alt comix fold. It was SHAZAM and THE FANTASTIC FOUR that got me reading comix when I was 12 years old and YUMMY FUR, and AMERICAN SPLENDOR, that made me think I could create my own characters and write about myself without having to tackle BATMAN. EIGHTBALL and SIN CITY pushed me over the edge to spark KEYHOLE, a two-man comix anthology with my good buddy, Josh Neufeld, where I invented “the last romantic anti-hero,” BILLY DOGMA. Ten years ago, I moved to Brooklyn, went full-time freelance, and I haven’t looked back since.

Having travelled a little bit around America throughout the years, it’s not hard to wonder why I’ve made NYC my home. Not to bash the USA, but NYC is unlike any city I’ve ever visited and my ghetto ingrained coda has never embraced farm life. Dub me a comfort slut. However, last year, my girlfriend bought a beautiful house in the Catskills [near where my mother lives now] and I’ve started to acclimate towards mountain life. In a few years, I’d like to give a European city a shot for a year and see what that experience yields in my heart and art.

Q&A: Mike Allred

Of the many good things one can say about Mike Allred, the first thing that needs to be said is the guy’s work is unmistakable. Anyone who pays any attention to comics can immediately pick up his crisp linework that feels classic and modern all at once. If that’s not distinctive enough, Allred has made a career out of some of the most unique characters the industry has seen, especially Frank Einstein. Or, as he’s known to most, Madman. In April, Madman will be making a return to comics with a new series by Allred (published by Image). Also, a Madman movie is in development. With all these developments going on, we tracked down Allred for an interview on his most famous creation, among other topics.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketJean-Claude Van Doom: First, I was wondering when you began developing the new Madman series and what prompted you to return to the character? Were there stories that you’d been wanting to tell for some time? In short, why now?

Mike Allred: I’ve been meaning to get back to Madman for several years. I was fulfilling my contract with dark Horse in 2000 with the intention of self publishing via AAA POP following the ATOMICS. We’ve had the MADMAN movie in devlopement with Robert Rodriguez’s Troublemaker studios since 1999 and really wanted to have new material to coincide with the movie. But Robert hit a major detour with the success of the Spy Kids movies and then helped hook him up with Frank Miller to make the Sin City movie. I hit my first major detour when I agreed to work with Peter Milligan and create new Marvel mutants and relaunch X-Force with Axel Alonso. Then I took another left turn with our GOLDEN PLATES series, which is a huge commitment.

Long story short, my burning desire to get back to the world of Frank “Madman” Einstein was something I couldn’t put off anymore, and following our self-publishing experiences, and a long conversation with Erik Larson, realized that Image Comics would give us the best of both worlds.

JCVD: What about Madman’s character do you hope readers take away from the new stories?

MA: A deep connection. I want to show connect with him what all human beings have in common. At least those that don’t take life for granted and ask all the big questions, starting with “Who am I?” and “What is life all about?”

JCVD: And, conversely, what is it about Madman’s character that you think has kept him so popular over the years?

MA: I can’t be sure. Based on what I’m told, he’s fun, exciting and a well rounded believable character.