Stuff & Nonsense 072: A Ghost is Born
Hey there. How are you? Hanging in there, I hope. Thanks for opening this email.
So, just a few little tidbits to report, plus a new feature of the newsletter I like to call FIVE QUESTIONS WITH SOMEONE I LIKE. Ready?
Okay, let’s go.
First off - I'm not big on pleading for awards, so don't fret - I'll only mention this once.
Anyway, all you have to do is click here and nominate the books and creators you think are deserving (and that meet the criteria). If you need a little added guidance, here's how The Black Ghost, which came out digitally via ComiXology Originals, fits:
Alex Segura and Monica Gallagher - Best Writer
George Kambadais - Best Artist
Taylor Esposito - Best Letterer
Ellie Wright - Best Colorist
Greg Smallwood, Francesco Francavilla, Veronica Fish, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Monica Gallagher - Best Cover Artist (pick one!)
The Black Ghost - Best Series or Best New Series (or both, up to you)
Greg Lockard - Best Editor. This is not a category but Greg is the best editor, so I felt the need to recognize him as such! Buy his GLAAD Award-nominated OGN, Liebestrasse.
Most importantly, thanks for reading the book. It means a lot.
Just a gentle reminder that Phil Noto is the best.
The first installment of FIVE QUESTIONS WITH SOMEONE I LIKE puts the spotlight on longtime pal, Landry Q. Walker. Landry is an acclaimed writer who’s worked on a number of recognizable properties. His next graphic novel series, The Infinite Adventures of Supernova, with artist Eric Jones, hits next year from First Second. This feature is pretty self-explanatory. I talk to people I like, briefly. Then hopefully you will like them, too!
What are you working on these days?
I'm always working on about twelve different things, half of which are usually work for hire and the other half are creator owned dream projects. Work for Hire stuff - I'm at the tail end of a 32 issue comics adaptation of the second novel in GRRM's Song of Ice and Fire. I was recently hired to create bible for someone else's TV show and write a tie-in prequel all-ages novel. I've got a couple Star Wars things under development - not sure where those will land yet though.
What I'm really excited about right now is my newest creator owned project - The Infinite Adventures of Supernova: Pepper Page Saves The Universe. It's a 200 page original graphic novel with First Second due early 2021, I believe. It's a very collaborative effort with my long time friend and frequent co-creator, artist Eric Jones. Together we worked on Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, Star Wars Adventures, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and a couple decades of comics for Disney. We've been putting Supernova together for at least 5 years - mind you half that time it was on the back-burner while we completed other things.
Supernova follows the story of a comic book fan named Pepper who escapes regularly from the anxiety of her world by burying herself in the pages of her favorite comic books. But bit by bit, the boundaries between fantasy and reality become blurred. It's fun, and there's a lot of myself in it.
Can you talk a little bit about your creative process?
My creative process involves a lot of coffee, insomnia, music listening. If I have the right music to listen to, the words fly. But without that right thing, I might just stare at a blank page all day. I also need some structure. For a comic I create a script template with all the pages and panels numbers all in place. I have giant monitor that stands vertically where I write. That way I can better visualize the pacing by seeing that whole page all at once.
Sometimes I need to change my perspective. Anything i can do to alter my head space to look at the problem in a story from a different angle, that's a huge part of my process. I love being a writer, but I don't always love writing. It's a challenge every day. But the thing is to make sure you put in the time regardless.
What are you reading/watching/listening to that’s got you jazzed?
I mostly avoid a lot of TV and movies I would probably enjoy because too often they pull me out of the head space of whatever I'm working on. That said, I'm about to watch the final episode of Belgravia - a series by the creator of Downton Abbey. I'm a nut for historical fiction dealing with classicism. I'm also reading a series of history books about life in medieval times. Music-wise I've been turning the clock back a bit and listening to Dead Milkmen, the Pixies, Cranberries. Various late 80's to early 90's pop-punk sort of things.
I grew up in the 80's Bay Area Gilman punk scene, but sometimes that edge is the wrong tone for where my head needs to be - especially with some of the brighter and happier story beats of the all-ages stuff I am working on right now. Just like what I watch, a lot of what I'm listening to needs to feed into where my head needs to be for work. So when that's on the table, I also find a lot of inspiration form soundtracks for TV shows and movies. Murray Gold makes for some great listening. Lots of inspiration in his Doctor Who soundtracks. that sort of stuff.
Is there someone you know or work with that you think deserves greater recognition?
I mean, I have to shout out to the aforementioned Eric Jones. He's been working in comics for thirty years and has drawn for almost every publisher and shift his art style on a dime. Yet people are barely aware of him. His art is extremely polished. Absurdly so. I remember showing some of it to Matt Wagner back in... 1993? And he listed some things he thought needed work. Then I pointed out that he was looking at pencils - not inks. He closed the portfolio and said to ignore everything he had just said. The pencils were so very detailed and perfect for that stage of the art... Eric draws like a machine. These days he wouldn't even need the ink stage really. I think our entire series Danger Club was just pencil work.
He's actually just good at whatever he picks up. So much so that I frequently curse his name for it.
I'm also going to throw this out to Derek Hunter, whose recent Image series Pretty Violent is fun and completely over the top. Derek is easily one of the nicest and most professional guys I have gotten to know in the strange world of comics. From his old Pirate Club comics to his current book with Image, he's always pushing himself.
Can you share something about your breaking-in that you haven’t before? Some advice, too?
Breaking in is a weird one. Because you never really actually break in, right? Or more to the point, you're pushed right back out. I think about sitting across from legendary Batman artist Dick Sprang, many many years ago. No one was talking to him. You hear about creators who found work dried up for them despite having been a huge seller for a major publisher years earlier. Success is temporary, at least if you measure it in terms the industry unlocking the door for you. You have to break back in every day. Or even better, you have to find a different way to measure your success than acceptance by an industry that has a extremely low attention span. And if money is the highest priority, you owe it to your future self to find a business model that isn't dependent on the approval of others.
I met Jack Katz last summer. 92 years old and he's still drawing and making the books he loves. He does it for himself and stands as a pioneer in the self-publishing market with his series The First Kingdom. It was an inspiring conversation and a good reminder of what I want to do with my time. If you make comics or write novels for yourself, you don't need to break in. You don't need anyone's permission. Just do it.
We’ve been doing some regular “virtual” Noir at the Bar events over at video platform Crowdcast, to support amazing local indie bookstore, Kew & Willow Books. We’ve switched the date of the next one to Sunday, May 17 at 7pm. Check out this lineup and register here:
We’ll probably do another one on June 6, too, if I can swing it.
Also, good pal Ed Aymar’s been killing it with his D.C. virtual Noir at the Bars - going weekly with them. He’s got one on May 15 and more. Here’s the schedule.
Before I go, take a minute to read this interview I did with Rachel Howzell Hall at Writers Digest, where we dicuss the importance of diversity in crime fiction, and our gig judging this year's Eleanor Taylor Bland Award, which is presented by Sisters in Crime.
Thanks to Landry for swinging by and to YOU for reading.
Hang in there - stay safe, wash your hands, and be kind.