Warner Premiere, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation will release the all-new animated original movie Wonder Woman on March 3, 2009 in multiple formats.
The Direct-to-DVD will be available as a Single Disc DVD for $19.98 (SRP), 2 Disc Special Edition DVD for $29.98 (SRP) and Blu-ray Disc for $34.99.
It’s produced by Bruce Timm, and features the vocal talents of Keri Russell (Waitress, Felicity), Nathan Fillion (Waitress, Firefly), Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2), Virginia Madsen (Sideways), Rosario Dawson (Sin City), Oliver Platt (The West Wing) and David McCallum (The Man From UNCLE).
Wonder Woman’s origin and meeting with USAF pilot Steve Trevor are part of the tale.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Warner Premiere, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation will release the all-new animated original movie Wonder Woman on March 3, 2009 in multiple formats.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
In describing his personal projects, the stuff he did outside of working the marketing department, he frequently used the word “re-writing.” Frequently enough to make one think he was being paid per use. As it turned out, he was just fanatically dedicated to his craft, and he was always writing something.
The finished product of some of his early comics work – Warrior Nun Areala from Antarctic Press – doesn’t show half the conceptual or story work that Mr. Lyga put into it, but behind the scenes it was immediately apparent to those who watched the level of effort he put forth for the project.
He created the back story or play concept for an ill-fated toy line called Lazer Wars and we produced the comic book and promotional copy for the packaging together. If they were half as neat as we expected, we’d still be working on it.
As the years passed, he mostly drifted from comic books as something he wanted to write (he was a nearly lifelong fan) to his original love, novels. He started writing and re-writing like crazy, or so it seemed, and he wasn’t afraid to switch between genres.
Then the day came when he said he was going to quit. He had been instrumental in setting up Diamond's side of Free Comic Book Day, but now he had enough money to write for a year, or so he thought. He had been attending writers’ conferences, had some good leads, and was ready to give it the make-it or break-it roll of the dice.
Something like two months later he had an agent and a two-book contract, and he was well on the way to the critical applause that greeted his first book, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, which asks and answers the question, "What happens when a 15-year-old comic book geek meets the girl of his nightmares?"
Steeped in the world of an aspiring creator who is a huge fan of real-world comic creator Brian Michael Bendis (who actually appears in the book), the novel hit big in the Young Adults category. USA Today called it "an entertaining read no matter what age you are," and Booklist and School Library Journal both gave it starred reviews.
His next novel was Boy Toy, which dealt with the depressingly common phenomenon of teachers involved in relationships with their underage students.
“Lyga's Boy Toy is a story that everyone thinks they understand: Teacher Has Affair With Student. However, this book guides readers beyond sensationalism and straight into empathy, challenging expectations and assumptions on every page. Lyga's prose is unflinching and the result is heartbreaking and unforgettable,” said the CYBILS, the Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards, which gave him the win in their Young Adult Novels category.
His third novel, Hero-Type, featured a central character who took a controversial stand for uncertain reasons and managed to walk the fine line between making a point and slam-advocating that same point.
All three novels, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, Boy Toy, and Hero-Type, are all set in the same town and around the same school, but they aren’t really otherwise related. In comic book terms, they’re set in the same universe.
In the “just released” category, he has “The Mating Habits of Whales," a short story in the anthology Does This Book Make Me Look Fat?, a comic book story, with art by Jeff Dillon, whose work was to represent the central character’s comic art in Fanboy but didn’t survive the final edits. Beyond that, this summer he has “The Truth About Dino Girl,” a short story in the anthology Geektastic, and this fall he has Goth Girl Rising, the sequel to his first book
Next up, though, is Wolverine: Worst Day Ever, an all-ages illustrated novel from Marvel Comics told through the eyes of a new student at Professor Xavier’s school.
First, though, we hit Barry Lyga with the 20 Questions:
JCV: What compels you to create?
Barry Lyga: I'm not sure! I wish I could give you some metaphysical answer like, "A desire to understand the universe" or even a mercenary answer like, "The money." But I'm not consciously aware of any particular reason why I do this - I've just always created stories and characters, as far back as I can remember.
JCV: What was the first story you can remember coming up with or actually writing down?
Barry Lyga: As a child in elementary school, I had to do one of those assignments where you write a story using all of the week's spelling words. We were focusing on the "ch" and "tch" sorts of words, so I ended up with a story about a witch who stole my watch and ran to hide in a ranch. That sort of thing. I remember this story very distinctly because it was also my first experience with dealing with criticism - my teacher loved the story, but pointed out that I left out one of the words. She didn't really care, apparently, because the story was sort of advanced for second grade, but I was so mortified that I refused to share it with anyone.
JCV: When did you know that you wanted to pursue writing as your career?
Barry Lyga: God, forever! I distinctly remember telling people I wanted to be a writer when I was as young as eight or nine. I don't think I really had a full understanding of what exactly "being a writer" entailed, but that's what I wanted.
JCV: What type of education did you have? Did you have any particular formal focus on writing or was that something you picked up in addition to other studies?
Barry Lyga: I took some creative writing classes in college, but with one exception, they didn't really impact me. The exception is a class I took in my sophomore year, taught by the one and only Tom Perrotta. Tom was the first person in authority to tell me that reading comics wasn't necessarily an indication of serious brain damage and could, in fact, be helpful to me as a writer, even if I didn't write comics themselves.
JCV: As you evaluate it now, did your education lend itself to this pursuit or was it ahindrance to it?
Barry Lyga: I majored in English, but honestly, I don't think that's necessary for a writer. If you can write, you can write. The English degree is nice when I'm feeling pretentious and want to bust out some classical allusions or name-drop Charles Brockden Brown, but it didn't impact the writing to any great degree. It might have hindered me a little bit in that I always felt like I was comparing myself to legendary writers who were and are so much better than I am, but I think everyone goes through that, regardless of what they studied.
JCV: What was your earliest exposure to comic books that you remember?
Barry Lyga: The first comic book cover I can remember is an issue of Superman. On it, Superman is standing on a deserted city street, screaming to the heavens, "Don't let it be true! I can't be the last man on Earth!" Man, when you're a kid, how can you not read that?
JCV: How did your tastes in reading, including comics, change as you got older?
Barry Lyga: As a kid, I read sci-fi and fantasy almost exclusively, with the occasional mystery thrown in. As I got older, I became more interested in the real world, and then how the real world intersects with magic and speculative notions of science and the future and all that. I like magical realism, metafiction, stuff like that. But it has to be grounded. That's the big thing for me: A story has to be grounded in the real world. I can appreciate the artistry of, say, a science fiction story told entirely from an alien perspective, but ultimately it will feel flat to me. That's not a value judgment - it's a totally subjective opinion.
JCV: Whose writing grabbed your attention and hasn't let go?
Barry Lyga: I can still read old Paul Levitz and Alan Moore comics from the eighties and feel like I'm a kid again. Joe Haldeman's work is amazing. John Barth is a hero of mine. And I will always read anything by Tom Perrotta, who only gets better with each book.
JCV: What is your regular work routine, if you have such a thing?
Barry Lyga: Usually it runs like this: Wake up. Eat breakfast while scanning e-mail and some news sites. Write for a few hours. Exercise. Eat lunch. Then, depending on how the work is going, I either go back to work or I read or do research. I typically write something like 3,000 words a day (about 10-12 pages). I've gone more when I'm really in the thick of things.
JCV: Do like distractions while you work, such as radio or TV, or do you prefer quiet?
Barry Lyga: Definitely no TV. No way, no how. Some days I need to blast some music from iTunes, while other days I need it quiet. I haven't found any sort of pattern to it. It's pretty much a whim.
JCV: When you're going to work on a new novel, what do you have to know to start? Do you have to know the ending, the tone you want, the full outline, something else?
Barry Lyga: Before I start, I need to know: The main character. The overall tone. The beginning. The ending. That's not to say that some of this stuff won't change as I work. In Boy Toy, for example, I got about halfway through and suddenly realized that I had gotten off-track and wouldn't be able to hit the original ending. I had to make a decision: Backtrack and fix things? Or keep going and see where I end up? I chose the latter and I'm really glad I did because I think the new ending was better than the original.I rarely outline. More accurately, I rarely do any sort of formal outline. I always have a vague, shifting, amorphous sort of plan tucked away in my brain. Sometimes I consult it, sometimes I don't.
JCV: You are among the most diligent re-writers I know. To get to that stage, when you're ripping whole chunks out of a finished project, how much do you have trust your abilities to do something different instead of just tweaking what you already have?
Barry Lyga: I think it's gotten easier to trust because I work with that ubiquitous safety net we call a computer. When you can save every iteration of your novel, it's less sweat-inducing to chop out big chunks of it. You can always go back and grab them if you want them. So the question becomes less, "Do I dare try this new draft?" and more, "Is it really worth my time to try this new draft?" Because, really, there are infinite variations on almost every story - the trick is to narrow yourself to one option and exploit it as best you can. You can waste endless amounts of time dicking around with this variation or that variation, so you need to have a clear sense of your story going in so that you don't get sidetracked into pointless tangents.
JCV: How did you develop your eye to do that?
Barry Lyga: This is actually a really difficult question for me because I've noticed that this tends to be an all-or-nothing proposition. For my first two books, I did very little in the way of rewriting. For Boy Toy, I had to cut some big chunks out of the book (the original manuscript was really long), but I didn't think of that as rewriting so much as trimming. For my third book, I did all kinds of rewriting, more than for any other book to that point. Fourth book was a breeze again. Fifth book just gushed out of me. But I'm working on a new book right now where I have - no lie - written this thing four different times. Once entirely from scratch!
So I guess the answer is: Sometimes you can tell that something just isn't working. And sometimes you have to be told. On the book I'm (re)writing right now, I gave a draft to four different readers. One of them loved it. One of them thought it was a great improvement over the earlier draft. One of them was bored by it and thought it needed a lot of work. And the fourth hated it so much that she couldn't even articulate why in any coherent fashion! So what the hell do you do with that? An even split, with extreme reactions on either end. Ultimately, that was gut-check time, and even though it would have been easy to say, "Hey, this person over here loved it, so it can't be objectively bad," I had to admit that the book just wasn't ready. And so, I'm rewriting it. Again.
JCV: What's the best way you could recommend to an aspiring or young writer to look at his or her own work with a critical eye?
Barry Lyga: In my experience, you develop a critical eye for your own work by developing a critical eye for the work of others. So, join a critique group and/or find a good critique partner. When you start finding things in other people's work, that's when you'll begin to notice the same things in your own work.
JCV: When did you write your first novel, and how long was it between then and when you actually sold your first published novel?
Barry Lyga: And the award for Most Depressing Question goes to…!
I was in high school when I wrote my first novel, a truly terrible mish-mash of fantasy, science-fiction, and Millennial fears. I didn't sell my first published novel until I had been out of high school for around fifteen years. That's a long time to wait.
JCV: There's actually a method to my madness sometimes. The reason I asked about how long between your first novel and the first one you sold is so I could ask this question in context: What made you keep after it? What is it in you that made keep going when I lot of talented people, including folks both of us know, just gave up their dreams?
Barry Lyga: I wish I knew. The first answer that comes to mind is, "Stubborn idiocy." I mean, for a very long stretch of time, there was just no reason to keep going. No one was publishing me. No one was even saying nice things about my work. I don't know what kept me going during those years. But I held on long enough that eventually little things started to click, and those little things were enough to make me hang in there a little bit longer.
JCV: Your work at Diamond Comic Distributors could seem to be almost painfully close to what you really wanted to do in that it put you right up against the window looking in but didn't put you inside to do the writing. Was it, in fact, a double-edged sword, and regardless of that what did it teach you?
Barry Lyga: You characterize it well: Up against the window, looking in, but never allowed to open that window and go in. Very frustrating. On the other hand, it also opened me up to a lot of opportunities - I met some cool people and I learned about publishing and marketing in a way that gave me some helpful perspective on the business. I don't really dwell on it that much, to be honest.
JCV: When you got to that point when you rolled the dice, quit your job and decided to go for it as a writer, did you have a time limit in mind? What would you have done if you hadn't succeeded at that time?
Barry Lyga: I seem to recall planning things out where I had enough of a cushion that I could spend a year on my writing before I would have to panic. The plan was to do some freelance editing to try to keep the wolf from the door. But I realized very early on that my calculations were off and I only had six months in that cushion!I was very lucky, though - within two months of quitting my job, my agent sold my first book, so I never had to consider alternate scenarios.
JCV: In the conversations we've had since Fanboy was published and in the interviews with you that I've read, you're very even-handed about the whole Hollywood thing. What's your relationship with the film world been like and when, if ever, do you think we'll really see one of your books made into a film?
Barry Lyga: I look at Hollywood this way: I write books, not movies. If someone wants to make a movie out of one of my books, that's very flattering, but it's going to have to be the right person, with the right attitude. I don't allow myself to let Hollywood become a part of me or my lifestyle. I never put myself in a position where I'm counting on Hollywood for a paycheck. That's the only way to stay sane. I write books. The movies - if they happen at all - are gravy.So we've optioned one of the books and we're close on a second one, and in each case I picked guys who may have small budgets, but they have the right attitudes and the right respect for the material. But you know how it is: A lot of stuff gets optioned, but of the stuff that's optioned, not a lot gets made. So we'll see if either of these end up on a screen somewhere. If they don't, I'm fine with that, too.
JCV: You know I have to ask. You're well-known to your friends as a DC Comics fan, particularly the Legion of Super-Heroes. Now I know - and I'm sure your regular readers have already figured out - that you're not going to do anything unless you can kick ass, but how the heck did you end up writing Wolverine: Worst Day Ever?
Barry Lyga: I am sort of the last guy in the world you would expect to be writing Wolverine, especially when you look at the very non-super-hero-y books I've published.
It just happened. A perfect confluence of events, really. I was sort of between projects - I had finished my edits on Goth Girl Rising and I was waiting for my beta readers to finish commenting on my next project. So I was just enjoying some time off when I got an e-mail from Marvel asking me to write Wolverine.
And my first response was, "Are you sure?" But then they told me what they wanted the book to look like, the tone they wanted it to have, and what they wanted to accomplish with it. And suddenly I could see the whole book in front of me. I could see how I could do this, and I had the time to do it.I just had a blast with it.
It was so much fun to write it, and even though I wrote it aiming at a specific age group, I really think it's one of those books that earns the label of "all ages." Kids will like it, and I think their parents will like it, and I think old fanboys like you and me will dig it, too.
On a personal note, based on my last trip to The 'Burgh, the PG no longer seems to actually stink (I mean, literally) the way it did when I delivered it as a kid -- man, it smelled bad -- it was great to see them do an article like this. Bravo!
Friday, February 13, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Longtime X-Men scribe Chris Clarmont looks like he's either in desperate need of the cup from Starbucks in his hand or he's in equally desperate need of someone taking it away from him...if they dare.
Walter Simonson, one of our favorite creators and someone who usually seems to be smiling, was another of the creators on hand at last weekend's fourth New York Comic-Con (February 6-8, 2009) at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City.
Another of our favorite artists at the show was Justice League / Avengers maestro George Perez, who most recently has been seen on DC's Legion of Three Worlds tie-in to Final Crisis. It's great to see George out on the convention circut again! He hasn't appeared at many shows since the cover of JLA/Avengers #3 almost killed him.
Artist Billy Tucci and sculptor Clayburn Moore unveiled the unpainted prototype of Callie from Return to Wonderland based on one of Billy's covers. Clay, for his part, sculpted the first statue ever done of Billy's character Shi, a long-ago sold-out piece that remains a favorite among Billy's fans. Clay also has about a zillion other projects in the works, so if you get a chance to see his table at a convention near you, do so.
DC Comics' Heather Einhorn was someone new (well, new to us, okay?) at the show.
By the way, the DC booth was crowded about 134% of the time during show hours. Even with the larger crowd at this year's convention, the number of fans lurking about or even lining up right in the open for all to see was downright impressive.
While we didn't see him at that booth, Mike did run into David Michael Beck, who's currently doing a stint on DC's Jonah Hex. Each time he does Hex it's a fantastic, detailed, powerful trip into the old west...and DMB ties in directly to Mike's next subject.
Vincent "Vinvent" Spencer is the artist of Zombie-Proof, and Mr. Beck did a fantastic cover for Zombie-Proof #3. Mike caught Vincent unaware at dinner, but he assures us that all is fair in convention photography. Is that true? Is there actual legal precedent for that? If you know, fill us in.
Mike's last subject was a rather glazed-over looking (another convention norm) Michael Imperiolli, late of The Sopranos and Law & Order and now starring in Life on Mars, for which he sports the 1970s look.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Mike reported that no animals were harmed in the making of this blog entry, at least as long as one doesn't count Billy. Good thing, that. He took a lot of shots that will end up in this week's edition of Scoop in the "Main Event" section. We have just a few here, and we'll have some more later once he finishes going through them.
Alex Saviuk (left), the longtime Web of Spider-Man artist, inker of the Amazing Spider-Man daily and artist on the Amazing Spider-Man Sunday strip, will be one of our upcoming "20 Questions With... " subjects. He's one of the really good guys in the business and actually got to work with Will Eisner on the grand master's final Spirit story (something we'll definitely touch on in the interview).
Last but certainly not least, Amanda Conner tells our first interview subject, Jimmy Palmiotti, for the Nth time to stop wiggling the table. More from Mike soon. We'll post a link to Scoop when it's published.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
When he scripted Army of Darkness, he did so with a capacity to capture Ash’s voice in such a way that it was nearly impossible not to hear Bruce Campbell saying the lines. It’s been observed by fans that clearly he “gets” the character, and more than one of his friends suggested that this was the comic Kuhoric was born to write.
When he crossed Army of Darkness with two other major horror franchises in Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash, he pulled of their nearly impossible task of remaining essentially true to each of the properties while telling a story that was more than just ramming the creations together for a slugfest. Working from a plot by Jeff Katz, Kuhoric made the crossover work and was rewarded with multiple printings of the first four issues of the six-issue series.
But in as much as he probably was born to write Army of Darkness and handle the difficulties of Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash, they weren’t ever going to be his. He might be the best writer the characters ever had, but these properties didn’t start with him.
Now, though, readers finally get to see what he does with characters he’s created. Dead Irons #1 debuted in comic shops today.
Teamed with artist Jason Shawn Alexander (BPRD) and art director–cover artist Jae Lee (The Dark Tower), Kuhoric tells the tale of three bounty hunter siblings who are leaving a trail of death and destruction across the old west. Monsters who only travel by moonlight, they are in turn tracked by their brother, Silas Irons, perhaps their only hope of redemption.
As the tag line goes, it’s 99 innocent souls, six undead monsters, and one shot to save the world.
Nick Barrucci, Dynamite Entertainment’s President, said that Kuhoric’s premise grabbed him from the beginning, but it was first and foremost his passion that made him give the project a serious look.
“I've yet to see Jim take on a job that was strictly for the money. Anything he's worked on, he's worked on because he has a passion for it,” Barrucci said. “He has a love for the material. He wants to bring it his all and you'll see it in the pages of this book in particular.”
He said the story in its published form is very similar to the concept with which Kuhoric arrived.
“The story is very close to Jim's original pitch. There was some feedback from me, Jae, and [Associate Editor] Joe Rybandt, but overall we remained very close to what Jim originally pitched,” he said. “It's a very solid story and I think the input we gave helped flesh it out further and expand on the grand vision Jim had.”
“When we first started this project, I spent some time with Jim over the phone exploring some new ideas. I don't know how much of that made it to the final draft. I'm such a fan of this book, I'm intentionally avoiding reading the scripts until the artwork is done,” Jae Lee said. “When you work on a book, you see the project at various stages and by the time you see the final result, the magic and mystery is gone because you're reading it for the tenth time. I want to get the full reading experience and savor every moment of it.”
When the project began long months ago, Lee had just been announced as the artist for Marvel Comics’ high profile comic book debut of Steven King’s The Dark Tower, a work that garnered an impressive amount of mainstream media coverage and backing from the company that included a full page ad in The New York Times. When undertaking such a celebrated venture for one of the big two publishers, what made Dead Irons worth waiting for?
“I just fell in love with Jim's concept. Jim and the guys at Dynamite were patient allowing me time to find time to work on the character designs and covers,” Lee said. “But the ironic thing is, if this project had come out as intended several years ago, Jason Alexander would not have been available to draw it. We know because we asked him years back and he turned us down. A creative team can make or break a book and serendipity smiled on us this time around.”
Lee said that the character designs for Dead Irons came to him rather easily.
“Jim had created such strong individual personalities I felt as if I knew them already. Also, it's a genre I love so it was fun as hell to do without the usual struggle,” he said.
Barrucci said the fit between Kuhoric’s story and Lee’s character concepts and designs was practically seamless and that made the long wait until Lee’s schedule lightened seem less daunting.
“Jae is one of the most talented creators in comics. I'm not just saying this because he's a close friend but because I really believe it. When he read Jim's script he could see the characters in his mind's eye and the fact that he brought his own passion to the project made him more than worth the wait,” he said.
The artist bringing Kuhoric’s story and script and Lee’s character designs to the printed page is Alexander, who now – having seen his work – seems like the only choice to illustrate Dead Irons.
“The man was born to draw this book. His work has so much mood and energy. He's a highly skilled cinematographer bringing this thing to fluid life. His art has such cinematic flair, reading this comics is like watching a movie,” Lee said.
“If Jim's the writer than Jason's the director,” Barrucci agreed. “In a lot of way Jim was the writer, Jae was the casting agent and producer and Jason's the director. He makes everything flow, he makes this perfect world that much more perfect (in a really messed up way because it's a really messed up world). Jason is another person we had to wait for, but I can honestly say he's the perfect choice for this and I'm so happy he is working on this.”
It remains to be seen how the general public will react to the gothic western, but Barrucci said he’s confident of the product.
“I think it's one of the best books Dynamite will be releasing and I'm quite happy with it,” he said.
[Publisher's note: Look for one of JCV's "20 Questions With..." interviews with Jim Kuhoric in the coming weeks.]
Monday, February 2, 2009
After seeing what the company had brilliantly they had made CSI: Crime Scene Investigation work as a comic (it didn’t hurt that the great Max Allan Collins was writing it), we had pitched Jeff and IDW’s big kahuna Ted Adams on the idea of bringing Jack Bauer to the printed page. Never mind that this was the company that published 30 Days of Night or any number of other cool things; we thought 24 needed to be a comic book. They actually agreed, and after some hits and misses they licensed the property.
When Chris came on board, he became our editor for our second one-shot and we pretty quickly got to know we liked working with him. At one point, after we’d submitted plots regarding experimental drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve almost immediately before similar real-world proposals hit the newspapers again and Chechen terrorists about six weeks before some of them blew up a school in Russia, Chris dropped us an email that said simply, “I want to go to Vegas with you guys.” So, yeah, he was okay by us.
But that’s the small view.
The big view is that in short order, as IDW continued to grow, Mr. Ryall found himself shepherding a line that included material as diverse as 30 Days of Night, Transformers, The Complete Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy, Popbot, and Angel, and that really is just only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
The company published collections of Mike Grell’s Jon Sable, Freelance and John Ostrander and Tim Truman’s GrimJack, and a hardcover collection of Eric Shanower’s Oz graphic novels.
To their licensed line they added such properties as G.I. Joe, Star Trek, Terminator: Salvation and Doctor Who, while picking up varied additional titles as dissimilar as Ben Templesmith’s Singularity 7 and Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse, Beau Smith’s Cobb: Off The Leash, and William Messner-Loebs’ Journey.
At the same time the company has published the various archival editions of Dean Mullaney’s ambitious project, The Library of American Comics, including The Complete Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff, Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles, and The Complete Little Orphan Annie by Harold Gray.
His collaboration with artist Ashley Wood, Zombies vs. Robots, found not only a home with IDW but an instant cult following as well. As IDW’s catalog has grown impressively – not everything has been a home run, to be sure, but virtually everything was worth trying – his list of personal writing credits has quietly expanded, too.
In the next few months, he has Groom Lake with Templesmith due out in March, Comic Books 101, a prose book about comics coming in May, I Am Optimus Prime, a hardcover children's picture book due that same month, and a new Zombies vs. Robots series, again with Wood, slated to kick off in June.
But that’s the future. Right now it’s time to kick off the 20 Questions:
JCV: What compels you to create?
Chris Ryall: I've always been taken with the written word. Words came easy to me (on paper, anyway), more than numbers or art, and since I was a kid, I always wanted to write. But even more of an answer than that is the fact that when I'm not doing some sort of writing, no matter what it is, I get restless and edgy and feel like I'm wasting time that could be better spent writing.
I think what it all really boils down to is a love of reading. I'd been reading books and comics since I can remember, and just became enamored with others' storytelling early on, which sort of set my course to whatever degree.
It always feels lofty talking about these things, but really, all I ever wanted to do was be a writer to whatever degree I could. I never even entertained the idea of making a career doing such a thing -- I came from a middle class background with a cop father who never put much stock in something like writing -- so instead, I dabbled on the side, writing stories for myself but never daring to think it would amount to anything lasting (ah, but hoping, there was plenty of that). The only real goal I ever had was writing for a magazine someday.
Chris Ryall: It's funny, I actually found it recently. I had this little spiral notebook when I was 8, and I wrote this goofy serialized tale called "Dr. Messupp," about me hanging with a Doc Brown-type. It's not good, but it makes me chuckle to read it. Had some good attempts at 8-year-old humor, most of it likely cribbed from '70s Marvel comics.
JCV: When did you know that you wanted to pursue writing as your career?
Chris Ryall: It was really always a sideline thought more than something I thought would work out -- I was always pushed to major in Business, like that was somehow the answer to a directionless start at college. I snuck in creative writing classes to fill out my schedule until I realized that hell, my parents weren't paying for my college so they actually no longer got a vote as to what I did. My mom was always encouraging my writing compulsion but I was that kid who wanted to please his dad and thought "father knew best," so I took these interminably soul-crushing accounting and marketing classes and pined away for something more.
I got into a corporate advertising/marketing job for a car company in college and immediately started pushing to write whatever nonsense I could, corporate newsletters and brochures and what-not. I left there and went to an ad agency thinking I could be a copywriter... but my background was that of an account person, so I gave that a run, expecting to be able to move over. Which isn't allowed once you're tagged as a "suit."
I was doing some freelance writing at the time, other corporate newsletters and got my first fiction piece published in a magazine (a free LA mag that paid me $25 for the story. Which was awesome.). But again I found myself doing work I didn't like and hoping for more. I stopped hoping when I got recruited to be a corporate speechwriter at Honda. It wasn't glamorous but it was writing, and doing that sort of writing was a real challenge, mostly a good one. That's when I started to think that I should keep on pushing in this direction. It never felt right being a suit. Which is even more amusing that I actually returned to that ad agency a few years later as first a proofreader and then a copyrighter...
Chris Ryall: It was no help at all, no. It really didn't help me land any of my jobs, it didn't open doors for me. It just frustrated me and put me in debt for a few years. I’m definitely not anti- formal education by any means, but I went to state school, and night school at that, working all the while, so my college experience wasn't all parties and binge-drinking and connections (although I did manage two of those three). It can certainly be a help when your goals and your educational pursuits line up, but when you're doing one thing and wanting another, it's not a great match.
Chris Ryall: It was basically as mentioned above: ad/marketing gig, ad agency, Honda's corporate headquarters, Dick Clark's production company as a program director (writing and developing creative proposals for companies including Stan Lee Media), back to the ad agency as a proofreader and then copywriter (but a technical copywriter, so I was doing technical video scripts and brochure stuff, not the flashy billboards or whatever I thought was the pinnacle at the time). The Kevin Smith gig came along during the copywriting period (man, I had so much spare time then, it was great), and it was that job, the after-hours lark that actually led me to IDW. All of which, when I look back at the path and everything I've mentioned above, really shows me that the connections you do make are worth more than any education. At least in my experience.
JCV: You're a multi-hat guy. Publisher, Editor-in-Chief, writer. What is an average day like for you, or is there even such a thing in your life?
Chris Ryall: It sadly starts before I get out of bed... I wake up at 6 AM, check the e-mail on my phone to see if there's anything pressing, do an hour or so of work from home, contend with my 3-year-old for a while, then head into the office. None of the days' spent there are average in that different things, crises and deadline nightmares and press situations and so many other things, do their best to derail my plans for the day. Then it's home at 6 PM to spend whatever time I can with the wife and kid before doing another couple hours work and then trying to do some other kinds of writing (there's a book, a contracted screenplay, comics scripts and a couple other things all at various stages right now) before sacking out around 1-2 AM, and then doing it all again the next day. Which would be a lot if I didn't love most all of it.
JCV: One would guess that you probably don't get to spend a lot of your time at the office writing? Is that accurate? Do the publishing and editing duties keep you busy there?
Chris Ryall: Yeah, no writing at the office, just no time at all even if I wanted to. The actual disconcerting thing about it is that the publisher - EiC duties usually follow me home and require some good amounts of time at night, too. I try to use those nights for things like comic scripts but work often intrudes. And I try not to do too much while my wife's up because, you know, wives don't like being ignored all night. So that leaves the 11-1 hours for other writing. I somehow managed to co-write a book coming out this May, Comic Books 101, in the first 6 months of 2008, but it's all a bit of a blur how that came about. Luckily, I like typing on my laptop much more than I do sleeping...
JCV: IDW has had 30 Days of Night become a movie and lots of other Hollywood interest at various stages ranging from long, furtive glances to actual options. How has all this film and TV interest in your line and comics as a whole made the industry better?
Chris Ryall: It's made it better and it's made it worse. I mean, movies are great as a way to focus the uninitiated in on the fact that comics are not only great source material for inventive movies, but they also offer all kinds of different and sophisticated storytelling. Well-done comics movies have helped changed some peoples' perceptions about comics being just for kids.
That said... I never really cared if people that didn't get comics also didn't respect them. Like, if they thought so little of comics before, who needs them just because Road to Perdition or something made them notice that comics weren't just spandex and capes? And other than the one-off projects that draw in new readers (Watchmen, maybe Sin City or 300), comics don't usually see a big uptick when a movie comes out. Did Batman pick up new readers after The Dark Knight opened to such acclaim? Nah. New 30 Days comics didn't sell better after the movie. But movies do allow the chance to get graphic novels into places and hands that might be trying them for the first time, so that's good.
The reason movies have made comics worse in a way is sort of the larger impact of Comic-Con being treated as a kind of geek Sho-West now. Now some publishers get into comics only to sell properties as movies, and when that ends badly, as it has with places like Virgin or Platinum, it sort of puts a little stink on the whole industry. Some of us proudly publish comics and don't just aspire to create storyboards for studios. When it happens, it's a nice bit of capital for the company, and hopefully the creators, and it helps sell some comics. But we've always been a comic publisher first, so that other stuff isn't going to make or break us.
JCV: So, conversely, some of that attention and the dream of big money made us sloppy or short sighted in some instances?
Chris Ryall: Oh, yeah, which is the last point I was making above. Some people dream of the big payday and treat comics as nothing but their supposed short-cut to that. Which I think comics fans are aware of, and cynical of. If you don't get into comics for the love of comics and graphic storytelling, well, you usually get revealed as a straw man sooner or later (usually sooner). And too many novice creators get the idea that a movie option will lead to big bucks, big-screen movies and other such things. So they option their property for pennies and then lose all rights to the work for years all in hopes of a movie that never comes. Like I say, it's nice when it does, especially when it helps focus people in on worthy books like Oni's Scott Pilgrim, but if you aim for that, you're gonna miss the mark. Just make good comics because you want to make good comics and you'll never be disappointed by whatever else comes or doesn't come from there.
JCV: You got to go to the 30 Days of Night set, right? Coming from the company that publishes the comic, what was that like? Did the movie people dig you being a comic book guy or were you just one more outsider that had to be shown around the dog-and-pony show?
Chris Ryall: I spent a week in New Zealand with Ben Templesmith and for me, it was amazing to see what care the director, David Slade, took to match the look and feel of Ben's book. It was also great to see it through Ben's eyes as this little comic he did in 2002 was brought to fully three-dimensional life. And it was also really nice to see the cast and crew respecting Ben for his book, too. There was no dog/pony show on this set, we hung with the actors and director and set designers and they were all great about asking opinions and including us on everything. Which was really all a testament to Slade, who loved the comic when it first came out and worked hard to be true to it.
JCV: Even with the general economy being what it is, there still appears to be a lot of hunger in Hollywood for what we produce. Is that perception accurate? What’s the vibe really like out there?
Chris Ryall: I think there's interest still, sure, but between the writers' strike last year and the economy now, and likely after movies like The Spirit, there's definitely caution in what studios are looking for. I think everyone gets the appeal of comics as a visual show-piece to easily let producers see what a project could look like, but with comics and Hollywood, it always feels like a tenuous thing, like we're only one or two bad movies away from being kicked out of the club. Until the next one hits. There aren't that many big comic movies coming this summer (unless you count Transformers or G.I. Joe), so we'll see how the mood is when the net crop, Watchmen, Whiteout and Iron Man 2 and, uh, Jonah Hex or whatever arrive. It's projects like Whiteout that excite me because it's not your traditional superhero movie, so hopefully the source material gets some good attention. And then if someone tries Whiteout, it's a short road to Queen & Country to maybe Ed Brubaker's Criminal or something of ours, and then boom, someone new gets hooked. That's always the dream, anyway.
JCV: IDW has a wide mix of titles, licensed properties, creator-owned material, and even some company-owned titles. As an editor, what are the upsides and downsides of each?
Chris Ryall: I'd say all have their strengths and their challenges. Licensed books are a lot of fun because we tend to only pursue licenses we like. And from there, it's great to be able to do "your" version of something you read as a kid, Transformers or Joe. It's like when you sit in school with a bad teacher and think "if I'm ever a teacher, I'd do things differently." You rarely get that chance to actually back up those thoughts, and it's a lot of fun to take a license and figure out something new to do with it. Creator-owned titles are great because they don't have built-in history or brand sensitivity or large groups of people to approve them, they're undiluted visions from creators, and when they work to the degree of 30 Days of Night or Locke & Key, it's just magic. But they're also a harder sell in this marketplace -- same as it ever easy, really -- so it can be that much harder to take when a book you love and know people would like if they ever gave it a chance just dies on the vine. The company-owned titles are fun and challenging for that same reason, although they're easy as hell to get approved!
JCV: The production side of licensed titles is dependent on various approvals. I won’t put you on the spot and ask what the worst experience you’ve had along those lines was (unless, of course, you feel particularly like sharing and naming names), but what’s been the best experience you’ve had to date in the licensing realm?
Chris Ryall: You know, it sounds like blowing smoke, but overall, I've had a great experience with nearly every licensed book we do. There are always small annoyances (we once had a small movie project where the lead actor, an older guy who was never a leading man in his prime, complained that the likeness of the back of his head didn't look right. The back of his freakin' bald head. But we seem to partner with people who trust us and then we do our best to constantly deliver on that trust, so the big projects that seem like they could be nightmarish, Angel or Transformers, have just been a dream. Angel is the one I've worked on the longest while at IDW, and it's been an absolute dream the entire way.
I once did an adaptation of a movie after only being sent an old version of the script, one that was considerably different from the final version, which caused me and the artist a fair bit of anguish, but I don't know, after doing this for about five years now, I don't really seem to have the battle scars that you might expect. Either that or I've built up so much scar tissue, I no longer notice the new wounds.
JCV: You mentioned how hectic your work schedule is. When you do get time to write, what’s your approach? Do you plot and outline first, just go at it, or something in between?
Chris Ryall: I plot a lot of things out in my head, just working out the overall structure of a story, but as soon as a scene or line of dialogue hits me, I start putting it on paper. Usually random bullet points and ideas that I then tighten into issue breakdowns and then from there, I do a page-by-page outline, just figuring out breaks and beats and assigning page counts to the various bits in each issue. So by the time I go to actually script it, I usually have a good idea where things are going to go and it comes together a bit more quickly.
I do seem bad at ending stories where I originally intended, and often end up in a very different place from where I thought I'd be, but that's the fun of it all.
JCV: With writing time in your schedule being a precious commodity, has this improved your focus during the time you can actually spend writing or do you have a tougher time getting going than you did in earlier days?
Chris Ryall: Well, I've certainly learned I can focus through bad TV, conversations with my wife and other things, if that's any answer. I am actually bad at staying focused but good at living up to the deadlines I set in my head. And I've gotten better at getting a first draft done so I can then take more time on a second or third pass.
Incidentally, that's something I've noticed is a really bad habit of many comics writers, the tendency to send out scripts, proposals, e-mails, all of that, as soon as the last sentence is typed. The amount of first drafts I see is really dismaying. I understand that comics for most don't pay enough to be the sole source of income, and it's damned hard to find time to write multiple versions of scripts while doing other work, too, but you just have to. First drafts are unmistakable, and any kind of writing that's worth doing should really be done properly, not just as soon as possible. Writing is important but RE-writing is vital.
JCV: When you do a re-write of your own work, are there specific mistakes you know to look for, things you find yourself prone to do in early drafts, or is what you’re looking to improve more general?
Chris Ryall: I typically don't mess with the layouts after a first draft, unless an entire scene doesn't work. But I do obsess over dialogue. A first pass is usually what I want to say, then subsequent passes are massaging down the words to the bare minimum to work on the page and still get the point and the characterization across. And then a final pass once the art is done.
JCV: Sticking with the theme of re-writing, is there something specific or are there several specific things that you think creators should focus on before presenting their scripts or pitches to a publisher or editor?
Chris Ryall: One thing is pretty obvious--typos. Typos and formatting. Some scripts come in so sloppy, or formatted so roughly, that they just take almost a full rewrite/revise to clean it up. One good lesson for any freelance writer: do your best to minimize the reasons NOT to hire you again. There is no shortage of competent writers for the most part, so presentation and care does matter. If a good script takes hours of work to get it into legible shape, and a script that's equally on par is clean, easy to work with and shows that some care and thought was put into it, well, the latter person is getting the next call 9 times out of 10.
With proposals, they should be looked at sort of like dialogue: what's the shortest way I can communicate what the story is? Many/most proposals seem to opt for "more is better" at the start, which just ain't true. It's pretty difficult/nigh impossible to find time to read unsolicited proposals, and the longer ones are usually picked up, flipped through and seen as to long and mentally catalogued as "I'll read this later when I have more time." And then there is never more time. If a short pitch is good and intriguing, an editor will ask for more. So be short, concise and interesting at the start. Hook 'em with a short pitch, and realize that sending four full scripts in an initial pitch doesn't impress an editor, it depresses them, because they know they'll never have time to read it. One-page proposals, no problem. One-page proposals with typos, well...
The Internet and e-mail have helped the process because now people don't have to send through mail and include an S.A.S.E. and all of that, but they've also made things so informal as to lead to extreme sloppiness or unprofessionalism. It's still a query letter to try to get published, so while there's no need to send a formal letter on parchment paper, there should still be a level of professionalism in the submission.
Chris Ryall: You know, not to name-drop, but Clive Barker and Harlan Ellison both have given me some really good words about writing, and we've talked at length about various things related to writing, but those conversations seem more private and not really broad comments that work to talk about here. So... this is where I'd love to have some clever answer that some teacher gave me something that stuck with me forever, but I really don't have that. I guess if I needed an answer here it would be a thing my old Business Writing professor used to say all the time, "write because you want to, not because you have to."
JCV: Did you ever get any writing advice that was well intentioned but actually derailed your work or became an impediment to it?
Chris Ryall: Not really, because like all advice, it's best to use what works and jettison what doesn't. Just because someone has a plan that works for them or tells you something that they believe doesn't mean it will work for you. So like all advice, it should be listened to, weighed and then you decide what's best for you.
JCV: As a comic book writer, is it frustrating not to be able to draw your own stories? What’s the best experience you’ve had, perhaps a time when you looked at a page of art and said “That’s what was in my head!” or something similar?
Chris Ryall: It's not frustrating, because it allows me to work with guys who are so much more inventive and talented and see totally different things in scripts than I saw in my head, and that collaborative process is just magic, like nothing any other kind of writing can deliver. If anything, I feel bad that at times I can spend 20 minutes writing a page that will then take an artist an entire day or more to draw. Like, writing "there's a big crowd scene" is much easier than actually drawing that crowd scene. But pretty much every time I've worked on a comic, the artist has made the script better and delivered beyond what was in my head.
Maybe the most in sync I've felt with someone is with Gabriel Rodriguez on The Great and Secret Show. But one nice thing about my job has been the chance to hand-pick artists on all these projects -- Zach Howard, Gabriel, Don Figueroa, Ashley Wood, Ben Templesmith... it's like a murderer's row of guys I was dying to work with, and luckily I was able to make that happen. I'd be happy if I never worked with anyone but that group for as long as I'm writing comics.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Since I was coming from a management background with plenty of scheduling experience, I knew the problems were fixable; we just had to find out where everyone was coming from and what they were bringing to the table. We gathered everyone together and created an assignment board that indicated what was completed and what wasn’t. Then everyone started discussing everything.
Toward lunch time it was getting pretty heated and at least fairly stupid (“fairly stupid” in the way that Custer’s battle plan at Little Big Horn was “slightly deficient”). I was certainly wondering why I’d chucked my career at Avis Rent a Car and moved across the country to write about comics.
“Okay, I think we should we should break for lunch in just a bit…” I said, as some argument or another got a little more heated. I waited a moment, rubbed my eyes, looked at the floor, and said, “I just have one question…”
“No, we’re not f—ing going to do ‘Stonehenge!’” Joe snapped back. I really think about two other (out of twelve) people in that small room got the This is Spinal Tap reference, but it certainly made me happier about my choice of where to work and gave me a degree of instant respect for Joe.
Over the next two years, I got to see Joe become a passionate and early supporter of James Robinson and Tony Harris’s Starman at DC Comics (he even arranged for Harris to do a Justice League cover for The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #26), Drew Hayes’ Poison Elves at Sirius, and a number of other projects.
By asking “Is that our Jeff Fun Fact for the day?” in an offhanded way one day, he created a phrase that hasn’t left my vocabulary since (so, if you know me personally, blame Joe for that one).
We butted heads on a number of subjects, but Joe could usually back up his opinions with sound reasoning even if we disagreed. So, when FAN ended, I was sorry to see him depart.
When he finally ended up with Dynamite Entertainment, I knew Nick Barrucci and company had found themselves a strong voice for good comics and looked forward to seeing what they’d come out with.
The steady stream of comics from the company that were good, popular or both caught many by surprise. The successes include Red Sonja, Project Superpowers, Army of Darkness, Battlestar Galactica, Terminator 2, The Boys, and Painkiller Jane, as well as a trio of licensed westerns The Lone Ranger, Zorro, and The Man With No Name, among others.
As he’ll detail in the course of this interview, many of these projects have brought him into working contact with some of the top creators in the industry.
“In the old school sense, the editor was seen as the representative agent of the various publishers--overseeing the use of the company's various copyrighted characters and, in many cases, guiding the course of how those characters were used. In fact, at Marvel and DC, that's still often the case. Joe falls into the newer category of editorship; he's basically the case manager and facilitator of all the various books he helms,” said Matt Wagner, creator, writer and artist of Grendel and Mage, who writes and serves as cover artist and Art Director for Dynamite’s Zorro title. “That's especially important with a company like Dynamite that deals with so many licensed characters. In addition to handling the day-to-day organization of getting the books produced (no easy task, believe me), he's also got to be the company liaison to the many different licensors with whom Dynamite works.”
He said Joe's job is to see that everything runs smoothly and on time and meets with the licensor's approval.
“Again, no easy task,” he said, “especially considering how many books he handles in this regard.”
But what’s Joe like to work with from the creator’s perspective?
“I really don't see how it could be any better. From what I can tell, Joe is fairly unflappable. He always maintains his cool and yet never loses the sense of urgency that comes with producing monthly comics. That ship's gotta sail on time, every month, and Joe just seems really capable on every level in that regard. Additionally, I always feel like Joe's got my back in the creative sense. He's consistently followed the directions I feel this latest interpretation of Zorro should take in order to appeal to a modern audience and he's relentless in following up on every little detail,” Wagner said.
“Again, part of the challenge in this sort of venture is dealing with a licensor--sometimes that can get tricky and, in this case, there have been a few rounds of head-butting over certain aspects of the book and our handling of the character. To his credit, whenever these situations arise, Joe's the perfect conduit to seeing these situations resolved. He knows which points are worth fighting for and, if it's an issue I feel strongly about, he's always ready to back me up. I can't stress enough what a great aspect that is to have in your working relationship with an editor,” he said.
“I am continually frustrated that Joe does not get the ‘editor’ credit he deserves,” Jim Krueger said. In addition to creating The Foot Soldiers and numerous other properties, Krueger (with artist Alex Ross) developed and writes Project Superpowers for Dynamite as a vehicle to bring back a significant number of Golden Age characters that have languished for years. He also wrote the Avengers/Invaders crossover Dynamite produced for Marvel.
“I've worked with a lot of people, and Joe's one of the best,” he said. “His ability to be both diplomat and editor is amazingly well-honed. He's a really good guy to work with.”
Now it’s time for the 20 Questions:
JCV: How did you get started reading comics? What was your first exposure to them?
Joe Rybandt: I distinctly remember that it was in the fourth grade and the nerdy little group of misfits I hung with liked the X-Men. And one of them, either at school or a playdate of some sort, had a reprint of Uncanny X-Men #4 (Brotherhood of Evil mutants) and some of the early Byrne issues. From there I was hooked and the first comic I remember buying was Uncanny X-Men #138 – which was an awesome issue to buy off the rack because it had the entire history of the X-Men retold in one issue. They don’t do it like that way anymore, that’s for sure…
JCV: What were your early favorites?
Joe Rybandt: Easily the X-Men and scattered Marvel issues. I was only allowed to buy one comic a month. I made it the X-Men. I eventually figured out a way around that rule and went nuts… There’s still stuff today that I’ll buy single issues of, or a collection, because during that one-a-month period I missed a lot of great stuff (late ‘70s Marvels mainly).
JCV: How did your tastes evolve as you got further into collecting?
Joe Rybandt: I was in high school when things like Hellblazer and Sandman were getting started. I also discovered Grendel and Mage and all this incredible stuff that was going on outside of Marvel and DC. I transitioned into that stuff as well, while keeping up with the superhero stuff. I like any comic if it’s a good comic, superhero or not; I still do to this day.
JCV: Since I’ve known you, you always seemed to have a feel for the indy titles, but never completely disregarded superhero comics the way some indy fans do. Is that an accurate assessment or would you describe your tastes another way?
Joe Rybandt: That’s pretty accurate, I’ll buy and read most anything, a good comic’s a good comic whether it’s indy or not. This last year alone, the latest issue of Acme Novelty Library and Geoff Johns/Gary Frank’s Action Comics were both on my best-of list…
JCV: What was your first job in the industry and how did that come about?
Joe Rybandt: I worked in a comic book store while I went to school. It was a local chain in the western suburbs of Chicago that no longer exists, More Fun Comics. I spent about five years doing that while I waited for my life to get moving in one direction or the other. It did and I found myself on the East Coast… but it was those five years in the store that really ingrained a lot of things that are still with me (including friendships with the guys I worked with) to this day. I mean, I was there for the boom and the bust and I think that helps me look at the market today with a careful eye.
JCV: What led you to your gig at Gemstone Publishing, working on Overstreet’s FAN and The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide?
Joe Rybandt: Right place, right time for sure. I moved out to the east coast with no job and no prospects (except a place to live and someone to live with, who’s now my wife). Kristen (my wife) bought me a copy of Baltimore magazine. Now, I knew who Steve Geppi was (owned Baltimore magazine) and what Diamond Comic Distributors was, and it was my hope to try for a job at Diamond. Anyway, in that issue, there was an ad for the Diamond International Galleries, which was opening and I called the number in that ad really just looking to go check out the gallery. I n the course of the call I found out Overstreet had just moved in and was hiring. Two interviews later and I was in. I think I started as a Research Editor and was a Price Guide Editor and then a Staff Writer by the time my gig was up. I learned a lot on that job though, how to write, work under a deadline and stuff that still serves me well to this day.
JCV: We did a lot of things wrong back then. What did we do right?
Joe Rybandt: I think that we were a nice, well-rounded group of fan-professionals, meaning that there was a wide range of tastes and viewpoints that were given the creative freedom to preach goodness to the masses… and that goodness came in all forms from all different types of creators and comics, true diversity. There was also a good sense of history about the medium in there as well, a nice overall package for sure… No wonder we couldn’t compete! Also, expanding into other areas of popular culture didn’t get us many new readers, but it’s what everyone is doing now and did after… I think for our little corner of the world, that was a good move.
JCV: How did your career progress after Gemstone and before you went to work for Nick Barrucci?
Joe Rybandt: I ended up spending some time in the online commerce world, still dealing with comics at the core, but expanding into other “collectibles” and toys and stuff with the company that became AnotherUniverse.com (before it all went to crap) and then onto SciFi.com. These both involved two moves, one to Virginia and the other to Jersey and I learned a lot about the online space in doing so. It had zip to do with the previous creative energies of the magazine work previous (although that’s what got me hired at AU.com, long story there!), but it was during the online boom and put a couple of roofs over our heads.
JCV: When Dynamite Entertainment started up, did you foresee the presence it would have in such a short time?
Joe Rybandt: I started with the company when it was Dynamic Forces. At that time, the company was doing anything but make comics and I did a little bit of everything as people in smaller companies find themselves doing. The creative started to creep back in to some extent, but I did not imagine that I’d be sitting here working for a top comic book company in any way, shape or form. It was never a goal of mine or anything I pursued. I guess it just never occurred to me…
JCV: What do you do in your current position?
Joe Rybandt: My main responsibility is the comic you hold in your hands with a Dynamite logo on it. From start to finish I’m there (not solo of course, but helping to steer the ship with the talent and then the production team on our end) and that involves visioning the property or license, working to find the right talent to enact that vision, then the art team and right on through to working with the licensors on changes and proofing the book before it goes to press. Week in and week out… I like what I do for sure and get to work with a fantastic array of talent, from the big guns like Matt Wagner, Alex Ross, Garth Ennis and more to the up n’ comers we’re working with like artists Edgar Salazar, Carlos Rafael and others…
JCV: What is an average day like for you, if there is such a thing?
Joe Rybandt: Yeah, there is such a thing, it’s all about routine for me. I have several disciplines that get me through and let me start with those:
Always keep a clear inbox
Always respond to an email immediately when able to do so.
Always end the day with everything for that day in some sort of motion.
So, I’m an early riser (two young kids will do that to you) and up and 6:00 AM and in the office at around 8:30 and the first thing is the morning email and new gathering. From there, it’s a constant motion of juggling new incoming issues and moving the other parts along for the week’s printing and next week’s printing etc. It never stops. It’s kind of terrifying actually now that I dissect it here in this interview. I mean, I’m heading to Disney for a vacation this month and I can’t even think about leaving the laptop at home… The amount of work that’d pile up in my absence would send me off the nearest bridge, and I live near plenty of bridges…
I do try to keep up with things outside comics, I’m very political and like mindless entertainment as much as the next guy, but comics are my world and I owe it to my job to be as educated in that world as I can be. I still hit the local comics shop every week and local comics shows and stuff like that to keep an eye on the world outside my desk…
JCV: Dynamite’s line runs the gamut from licensed titles like Battlestar Galactica to creator-owned such as The Boys. With Project Superpowers, you now have a company-owned component as well. What requirements are different with each of these different types of comics? How does your job change for each?
Joe Rybandt: It’s really all a matter of routing: licensed stuff has input from licensors and that adds a layer for sure to the routing, but once you get past the pitch it’s really a matter of routine, very little deviation from the licensors end. Some licensors are more active in the process and some more “corporate” in their handling of the material. With company-owned stuff like Superpowers has input from us, the company and the talent (Alex and Jim), but it’s a much more creative process as I detail below. The Boys is all Garth and Darick, though there’s always some talk about can we do this or what would this look like that way, etc. Those conversations are the best. Garth is great, so’s Darick…
JCV: When Dynamite started out, you guys attracted quite a few names to work on titles. Now that you have a track record and a pretty impressive list of talent on the roster, is it easier to get high profile creators to work with you? Do you find more of them headed your way without having to chase after them?
Joe Rybandt: Everyone and everything is different, some things fell into place and some things take a lot of work back and forth. I think we are in a place that we attract a certain amount of attention from the fan base, retailers and talent pool but we don’t take that for granted at all. It’s a tough market out there and we’re very lucky that Nick has been such a force in the industry as long as he has and made so many friends and partners over the years that like him and want to work with him creatively.
JCV: What creators have you worked with that in your estimation are underappreciated?
Joe Rybandt: Honestly, I think anyone that’s working is well-appreciated, but I know what you’re saying. These a lot of guys that are so reliable and steady and solid that I’m always happy to have them on a project: Mike Raicht, Brandon Jerwa, James Kuhoric, Leah Moore, John Reppion… and a new guy that we put together with Jerwa on a cross-over that really did an awesome job for a “newbie,” Elliott Serrano.
And on the art side, guys that we appreciate a lot that the fan base are going to appreciate more and more: Carlos Rafael, Carlos Paul, Edgar Salazar, Scott Cohn, Jackson Herbert, etc.
I know each and every one of our colorists is unappreciated because of the work they do under an always tight deadline…
But, morseo than creators, I think characters and titles can be unappreciated due to the hard work that goes into each and every one and how casual it is to dismiss them without appreciating all that work. Not to be overly whiny about it or anything…
JCV: In terms of publishing history, your company is still relatively young, but what’s been your best experience in working on the Dynamite line thus far?
Joe Rybandt: Red Sonja and Project Superpowers for sure, because with both of those I was able to get into the property’s and help steer the vision, be a real active participant before the script is written or a page is drawn. For our crossovers, both with DC/Wildstorm and Marvel, I was in there on the ground floor as well, and it’s more fun to be part of the team than just pushing paper around. And on a lot of the licensed books I push a lot of paper because there’s already a lot of structure on what these characters can and can’t do.
JCV: You mentioned before that you weren’t looking to get into editing comics, but now that you’re there, what do you really enjoy about it and what’s the tedious part?
Joe Rybandt: There’s never any downtime and that in itself gets a little tedious, which is a weird reversal. The thing I like the least about the job is hounding people for the work and having to put up a callous veneer when reasons for lateness are personal. It’s also hard because these people become friends and you have to keep all the separate and focus on the job at hand and judge the work for the work, not for anything intangible… in short, there’s nothing tedious per say, but there can be things that are a real grind for sure.
JCV: Following up on that and going back to your time with Overstreet’s FAN and on the websites, how have those experiences helped you get Dynamite’s books on schedule?
Joe Rybandt: Not one bit, because there are so many moving parts to a comic as opposed to anything else that I’ve done, though the magazine comes close….but when I
think about the team on the mag and the team here, the mag had us out-staffed like 3 or 4 to 1. All that said, we have done a lot better with our schedule but there will always be delays. There are only a handful of guys I can say without doubt hit their marks each and every time.
JCV: One of the projects that took the longest to come out from you guys turned out to be well worth the wait, and that’s the American Flagg! hardcover. Do you hear a lot from other creators about how that series influenced them or is it just a nostalgia trip for those of us who loved it the first time around?
Joe Rybandt: I think it’s both, but I think the influence outweighs the nostalgia for sure. As I said earlier, there’s a lot of stuff I’ve never read, and I know I’m not alone and as such, stuff like Flagg – which I had read, though not the entirety of its run – is finding a new audience today as well as a remembrance from its initial go-around… I’ve gotten to meet and spend a bit of time with Howard [Chaykin] in my time here and he’s an incredible guy and I can see the person in him today who created all that great work over the course of his career.
JCV: Back in the FAN days, you worked pretty consistently to improve your writing. Do you ever see yourself writing comics or isn’t that a direction you’d like to go?
Joe Rybandt: I’ve done some writing, but nothing serious. It’s been this way for me for the last 10 years or so, I do a lot of non-personal writing for “work” and don’t find the time or energy to do anything personal. I’d like to, not sure it’d be comics, but it all comes down to time, doesn’t it?
JCV: How do you see Dynamite’s line progressing over the next few years?
Joe Rybandt: I think this year is a good reflection of where I think we should and will be. Things could change, but the mix this year with strong company projects (Superpowers, Super Zombies, Dead Irons, mixed with the powerhouse that is The Boys and strong licenses give us a nice balance and a nice portfolio for both the direct and mass markets.