A New Astro Citizen

Astro City_BanditThe news is breaking today that in ASTRO CITY 12, we’re going to have the first “guest artist” the book has ever had in its 19-year history: Graham Nolan, well-known for Batman, Skywolf, X-Men Forever, Hawkman and lots more, including stints on The Phantom and Rex Morgan, MD.

This is a big step for us—we’ve had pinups by other artists and Brent’s been inked and/or embellished by a few different names, but this is the first Astro City story that doesn’t feature his storytelling. We decided a while ago that it was something we needed to do, to keep the book monthly, but we didn’t want to just go out and get anyone. We wanted the right guy.

We spent, literally, years talking about possibilities. A Graham Nolan’s the right guy, as you can see from the story page below.

Graham and I did an interview or two about it. Check ’em out here and here.

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Reading Marvels? In Class?

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As I’ve noted before, I try to avoid e-mails that fall into the category of “Can you answer these questions for my school report.” I’m not in school any more, and despite that, I seem to have plenty of my own homework to do.

But every now and then, someone finds a way around me on this. Julio, here, tells me:

Hello my name is Julio. I’m a high school student. We have an assignment on interviewing a comic writer. I chose you because you’re very talented and we are reading your comic MARVELS. It’s very good. by the way.

They’re actually reading MARVELS? For class? Well, okay, I guess since I haven’t done this in a year and a half, I can do another one. But I’m answering here on the blog, so anyone else who’s interested can read it.
On to the questions:

1. What is the work that you are planning on or that you are working on?

At the moment, what I’m working on is ASTRO CITY, the series I do with Brent Anderson and Alex Ross, and KIRBY: GENESIS, which I’m doing with Jackson Herbert and (again) Alex Ross. On top of those two, I also have a series called BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT to write, a novel featuring ARROWSMITH, a character I co-created with Carlos Pacheco, and a new series called THE WITCHLANDS.

2. What was your first work?

My first professional comics work was a 7-page “Tales of the Green Lantern Corps” story that appeared in GREEN LANTERN #162, back in 1982. That same day, POWER MAN & IRON FIST #90, which I also wrote, came out as well, but I didn’t actually write that story until about a month after the Green Lantern story, so I count GREEN LANTERN #162 as my first.

3. What was your proudest moment?

In comics? It was probably when the first reviews and reader reactions started coming in for ASTRO CITY #1. Alex Ross and I had won a lot of awards and gotten great reaction for MARVELS, but getting that same kind of response to something that I’d created from scratch (with the help of Brent, Alex and others, but not any pre-existing characters or publisher’s universe) was a real thrill, and really made us feel like we’d accomplished something worthwhile.

4. What is the most challenging aspect of working in comics?

For me, it’s the deadlines. Comics are usually monthly, so if you’re writing a series, you need to write a new issue every month, month after month, for as long as it lasts. If you’re writing more than one series, that just means more deadlines. It can be exhausting—writing one good script is a lot of work, but doing it time after time after time requires a lot of stamina.

I used to be able to write a script a week, but the longer I do this, the harder it gets to maintain that kind of speed.

5. What is the most rewarding aspect of working in comics?

It’s hard to say which is better: Getting to collaborate with talented artists, letterers, colorists and editors, so you’re all working together to make a comics story that’s the best it can be—or get to reach a large audience of readers, who want you to tell them a story in the first place. The idea that an audience is out there that wants to read what I write is what keeps me doing it, both because telling stories to people is why I write in the first place, and because it’s the fact that those readers buy the comics that allows me to keep writing them.

6. What does it feel on having an amazing gift such as writing?

It doesn’t feel like a “gift,” it feels like a skill. Something I learned by practicing it and getting better at it over time, just like someone who practices piano, or practices at playing baseball, will get better and better. It can be a lot of work, but it’s worth the effort.

7. How was it like working with Ross on MARVELS?

Alex is one of the most thoughtful and dedicated artists I’ve ever worked with. Doing MARVELS with him was a lot of fun, because we both put a lot of thought into how best to tell the story, and we each had a lot of input into what the other guy did. He had suggestions and ideas on the story, and I had suggestions and ideas on the art. We’d go back and forth, talking over even the smallest details — sometimes we’d be on the phone for hours, talking about stuff that most readers would never notice. But even if a reader doesn’t consciously notice it, it made the story better, and helped us make the stuff the readers did notice all the more real and effective.
I still work with Alex, on ASTRO CITY covers, and on the KIRBY: GENESIS series, and it’s still a rewarding and enjoyable experience, because of the attention and thought Alex puts into what he does.

8. Do you have new ideas?

Tons of them. I have more ideas than I could use up in a lifetime—and I come up with new ones all the time!
The better you get at writing, the more easily ideas come, I think. It’s one of the best parts of the job, coming up with new things, new stories and new ways to tell them.

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Hope that helps!

Saturday Morning Stuff

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A couple-three small items on a pleasant Saturday morning…
First, I should link to a new interview with me that’s up at Broken Frontier. We talk about everything from my upcoming Marvel stories to Ixar and the Ultroids, and even discuss Woodgod, so proceed at your own risk.
That’s art by Marko Djurdjević from my story in Age of Heroes #1, above.

Second, our spiffy website Contact Line scored this e-mail, from a reader named Dave…
Have been watching the final season of Lost and the “sideways memories” prompted me to go back and read KBAC 1/2, which still stands up as a really powerful and inspiring story for me. Just felt like letting you know you really hit it out of the park with that one.
…and I just figured I’d say “Thanks!”
I haven’t watched Lost since early in the second season—I loved the first season, but just kinda slipped away from it after that. I hear it got back to being compelling and fascinating, but what with one thing and another, I never got back to it. But Dave’s not the first to bring up Astro City #1/2 in comparison to Lost, so once it’s all done and available on DVD, I may have to catch up and see what the fuss is all about.

And third, I figured I’d mention that I’ll be bringing copies of the Superstar: As Seen on TV ashcan edition to the Stumptown Comics Fest this afternoon, to have at my 3PM signing in case anyone wants a signature but didn’t bring anything I wrote.

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The ashcan is a nice little package artist Stuart Immonen and I did up for when Superstar (as part of the ill-fated Gorilla Comics) was announced back in 19-aught-99, with a preview of the Superstar GN and a lengthy feature on how the character came to be, along with lots of cool art by Stuart.
On the one hand, I figure this means I’ll have something to sign even for the empty-handed (and I’ll charge a few bucks as a donation to the CBLDF, since that’s what I’m there supporting). On the other hand, Stumptown’s already on, so I figure most of the people going are already there or on their way, and won’t see this blog entry.
But so it goes, on a pleasant Saturday morning…

Do A Good Turn Daily

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Ordinarily, I resist e-mails that fall into the category of “Can you answer these questions for my school report,” on the general principle that writers shouldn’t be doing students’ homework for them, and the idea of the questions was probably to get the student to do their own research.
However, when I was asked if I’d answer some questions for a ten-year-old Girl Scout working on earning a badge in “Comics,” I had to make an exception. My one specification was that I’d answer the questions here on the blog, so I’d have it to hand to point others to, if similar questions arise.
Anyway, here are the questions, from Breena, along with my answers:
1. What did you like about comics that made you start writing comics?
A lot of different things.
I liked the way comics are a combination of words and pictures, so the right line of dialogue, or caption, or even the right sound effect, combined with the right picture, can be more powerful than either of them alone.
I also like the way the superhero worlds of Marvel and DC Comics were sprawling, interconnected world where characters from one series could meet characters from another series, and a long ongoing history full of lots of different characters had been developed and could be explored.
But the thing that first got me to want to write comics was that they were short. I knew I wanted to be a writer, but writing a whole novel seemed like so much work, particularly if you got to the end of it and found out you weren’t very good at it. Comics were a lot shorter, so I thought it would be easier to try to write comics and find out if I was any good at it without it taking so long.
So I did, and it turned out I really liked doing it.
2. How long have you been writing?
I started writing and drawing comics with my friend Scott McCloud in 1976, for fun and to get practice at doing it, and I sold my first professional script in 1982. So I’ve been writing comics professionally for twenty-eight years, and for fun for thirty-four years.
3. Do you have fun making new characters when you get to?
Usually. Creating characters is work, too, and if I’m trying to crate a character to fit a very particular role in a story, it can be a lot of work, but usually it’s fun to come up with names, powers, costume ideas, personalities, histories and that sort of thing.
4. Are you just a comic book writer or do you write books too?
I’ve written some short stories, co-wrote a novel, and written articles and interviews and things, and I’m working on a novel now. But mostly, I’ve written comics.
5. Do you have a favorite character to draw or write about?
I always like writing Hawkeye, and there are other characters I have a great time writing, like Green Lantern, Thor, the original X-Men and some others. But I like writing my own characters, too. I like variety, so I wouldn’t want to write any one character all the time, and whoever I’m writing, I can usually find something about them that makes me have fun writing them.
6. Do you have a worst character to write or draw about?
There are some characters that I don’t enjoy writing, either because they have a funny speech pattern that I can’t get right in my head, or I just don’t enjoy reading about them so it’s hard to get excited about writing about them. Probably the top of that list would be Gambit of the X-Men. There are lots of readers who like him a lot, but I’m just not one of them.
7. Do you draw or just write?
I just write. I used to draw my own comics, when I was learning how to write comics, and I think it helped me a lot because I developed a sense of how much space there is on a page, and what would be too much stuff to try to fit onto it. I can also sketch well enough to how someone what I mean in a tricky page layout, or suggest costume designs. But I don’t draw well enough to want to do it professionally.
8. Did you enjoy comics when you were little?
My parents didn’t let my sisters and me read superhero comics when we were kids, but we had other comics, like Asterix and Tintin and Pogo and Dennis the Menace in books, and I’d read the comics in the newspaper, and I liked those a lot. But I didn’t start reading regular American comic-book type comics until I was fourteen. I liked them a lot then, though!
9. Do you write with other people to make good ideas?
Sometimes. It’s good to be able to bat ideas back and forth with someone else. Even when I’m writing by myself, I try to talk with my editor or artist to make sure I’m able to test out my ideas and get their opinions as I go along.
10. Do you ever do comic book signings?
Yes. Just last weekend, I was at the Emerald City Comics Convention in Seattle, and I was signing comics there. And I’ve done comic book signings as far away as Spain, Australia and Singapore, and as close as a comics store in my home town. I like meeting the fans and hearing what they think about the comics.
EXTRA: My dad thinks Aquaman is the BEST. What do you think?
I like Aquaman, too. There are a lot of other heroes I like, so I’m not sure I’d say “best,” but he’s a very good character. I even wrote Aquaman in his own series for a while a few years ago, and in other series like Justice League of America and Superman as well.
Hope that helps!