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Alex de Campi Chats About Valentine, the Realities of Self-Publishing & More

August 27th, 2012 Comments off

Alex de CampiDigital comics have opened the doors for all kinds of storytelling — both for creators and readers — allowing unique series to gain loyal fans around the world. One such story is Valentine, by Alex de Campi and Christine Larsen. Available in at least 16 languages and downloaded more than 350,000 times, this supernatural historical thriller is coming to print October 3 from Image Comics!

We had the chance to conduct a lively interview with writer Alex de Campi, who was happy to be open about the struggles of self-publishing, the joys of the sequential arts, and the frustration she feels with the Big Two publishers.

The opinions expressed below are those of Ms. de Campi and do not reflect the views of Things From Another World. WARNING! There is some adult language in this interview.

As the mightiest army in the world is pitilessly ground into dust by the Russian winter, two soldiers, lost in a blizzard, are given a package by a dying general. Suddenly the young soldiers find themselves hunted by relentless, blood-eyed monsters out of their worst childhood nightmares. Make sure to pre-order your copy of Valentine: The Ice Death, collecting the first 10 chapters of the series and including an exclusive, print-only 42-page bonus story drawn by Cassandra James!

TFAW.com: What are your earliest memories of comics? What was the first comic you read?

Alex de Campi: Gosh. I did some fast living in my 20s and I have a lot fewer “earliest memories” than I used to. I can, however, remember the lyrics to a number of truly dreadful pop songs in their entirety. My first comics were probably Asterix and then Elfquest, which I totally loved, being a massive fantasy/sci fi nerd.

Eventually that moved on to X-Men, which my mom would buy me off the spinner rack in the drugstore to keep me quiet. I think that was mid-Claremont years, just before or just after the whole Dark Phoenix saga. I looooved Punk Storm. She was the best. She had a leather jacket and a mohawk! How cool was that? And she didn’t take any shit from anyone. In one issue she even quoted King Lear. To this day, most of the Russian I know is from Colossus’ dialogue. I also watched a ton of anime on the local TV stations — Star Blazers, and the one with the four space pilots whose outfits were sort of like birds.

TFAW.com: What inspired you to become a writer, and when did you first begin to explore that creative outlet?

AdC: Like a lot of little kids, I would read or listen to stories and then daydream about being the main character, or being a new character who was somehow more awesome and soon indispensable to the main characters — their new best friend. Or who convinced the bad guy to be a good guy. And I got into role-playing games, which are sort of another gateway drug to making up stories (you’re either making up a character, or making up the plot for other people’s characters). Most kids eventually stop doing this. I didn’t. And eventually, voila, original stories.

By then I had moved on to soaking up a lot of poetry and big modernist literary novels, which is where my writing influences mainly stem. I’ve sadly lost touch with a lot of prose sci-fi and fantasy, and I’d like to get back into it. I have less tolerance for bad stuff now, and zero tolerance for 5,000-page epic series.

TFAW.com: Can you introduce us to Valentine?

AdC: The book is a big fat pulp supernatural thriller that will take you places you can never expect. It’s an unexpected twist or a battle scene or both every few pages; the pace is relentless. The title character, Valentine, is a soldier during Napoleon’s horrifying, tragic retreat from Russia in winter 1812 (spoiler: everybody dies).

He ends up in the middle of a plot by two supernatural groups stuck on Earth after the magic went away, to open portals back to their homeworlds. Honestly? He would have been better off freezing to death along with the other 90% of Napoleon’ army. The story is, however, in no way a historical thriller. All the historical stuff is super accurate because I’m secretly a big military history nerd, but 1812 is just the start of the story.

TFAW.com: Valentine originated as a digital comic, but will soon be a trade paperback from Image Comics. What was the experience like, moving from digital to print?

AdC: Crazy! Especially as Valentine is optimized for phones, so it is panel by panel, with each panel fully the size of a smartphone screen. You know how most comics are cut up kinda weird to read on phones? Well I had to do the exact opposite . . . take all these mainly same-size landscape panels and create dynamic portrait-format pages with them. Every page had to be laid out . . . not anew, because Valentine never had pages to begin with. I had to create pages from scratch.

TFAW.com: Looking back over the first 10 chapters, what are you proudest of? Would you make any changes?

There’s so much I’m proud of in the first 10 episodes. Christine’s art; Tim’s colors . . . the many, many cliffhangers and unexpected twists . . . the kiss scene is especially beautiful. The Chapter 8 twist you will hate me for but I love. The way we take a lot of traditional fantasy tropes and totally upend them in Chapter 7.

As for changes, we sadly lost all the original layered art in a hard drive crash. I really wish we still had that, as we’d then be able to go back and do some cool stuff with the series as (if!) we get funds to upgrade . . . have snow actually falling, fires flickering, etc. Subtle, looped effects that would raise the sense of atmosphere.

Punk Storm X-MenTFAW.com: You made an unusual move when you created Valentine by offering it in about 16 languages. What prompted that?

AdC: I have a lot of friends whose first language is something other than English. And I’ve lived in a lot of parts of America where there are significant Spanish-speaking communities (HOLLA, South Bronx! ¡Ti amo!) It takes forever for series to be picked up and translated, thanks to the archaic and territorial setup of the publishing industry. So we thought, fuck that, Spanish from Day 1! And we’ve been totally justified.

We get 150% more downloads in Spanish on Comixology than we do in English. French downloads are about 50% of English numbers, so still very respectable. Overall, between Comixology and the sadly now defunct Valentine app run by Robotcomix and Kindle, we’ve done over 350,000 downloads worldwide. And I still can’t find a digital publisher interested . . . rassum frassum . . .

TFAW.com: How has your experience been as a female creator in the comics industry?

AdC: It’s totally not a big deal until the moment it is, and then I’m just gobsmacked that it can even be an issue at all any more, here in an age where we’re landing on the moon and building electric race cars. I mean, I have an androgynous name, and I write mean action books that are enjoyed by male readers just as much as female ones. But every so often I run into the feeling that I can’t write this/go there/publish at this place because I am female and therefore not welcome. Or that no publisher will be interested in this female-lead story because “women don’t buy comics” (other than manga). Or there’s just some headshaking bit of misogyny or terrible anatomically twisted tits n’ bum art or something else, and I just sigh, “really, comics?” and walk off to make a cup of tea and write mean stories in my notebook.

TFAW.com: What’s your favorite part of telling stories in the sequential arts?

AdC: The unlimited budget for spectacle contained in what to many is a plain white rectangle of paper. Giant space battle? We can do that. Tender scene in kitchen talking about feelings? Yup, that too. Dinosaurs? Well, how many would you like, madame director? How about on Mars? With Nazis? Done! But all that spectacle means nothing, it is just hollow Potemkin towns, unless you can and do unexpectedly reel it back in to quiet, human moments where terrified people, who are suffering more than you do, make desperate decisions. There’s a lot of that in No Mercy, the series I’m sketching out at the moment.

TFAW.com: What aspect of comics have you struggled with, as a creator?

AdC: Just, the whole way the mainstream is set up. The indy publishers have made amazing strides in the past few years and are so tremendously supportive of new creators with different stories. Yet still, DC and Marvel have less than 5% of their output written or drawn by women. Seriously, the construction industry employs more women on building sites than DC and Marvel do to write or draw stories.

The answer many give is, why should this matter? DC and Marvel are certainly dinosaurs, who cares what they produce? Quite a lot of people. And big movie studios. And that production, even when edited by women, can and does regularly veer into the racist, misogynistic and homophobic, and there is very little way to counterbalance that without a more diverse group of voices creating those stories. Kids read this stuff!

Castle WaitingWe should be much more conscious of the values espoused in superhero comics. Of course, since the GOP is debating something called “legitimate rape” (as opposed to “she was asking for it rape”), maybe there is no hope for us all and I am simply tilting at windmills.

Also, from a strictly financial standpoint, a gig at one of the big two (and its inflated paycheck) is what pays for many creators to take time off and do original stories. It also builds a big fanbase and retailer support for those original stories. And it’s not like female creators don’t reach out to the big two. Hell, I spent nine months emailing DC editor Bobbie Chase on Scott Lobdell’s kind and enthusiastic introduction. How far did I get? Nowhere.

I think another thing that infuriates me is people telling me how lucky I am to be able to self publish. These people, of course, have never actually self published themselves. They are usually “pundits,” which is what bloggers call themselves when they tip over into a certain overweening sense of self-importance. Self publishing is a horrible pain in the arse and makes me do jobs I hate and am not good at: marketing, book layout, distribution, and so forth, and denies me the services of people that secretly make books awesome: editors, designers, and so forth. I don’t want to self-publish.

But some of my books, there is no market for them. Margaret the Damned, my big literary horror graphic novel… ain’t nobody for that. Valentine, even. 350,000 downloads and no one to help me do more of the book. So we’ll have to do a Kickstarter to get the last 14 episodes of Valentine done. I am not looking forwards to another soul-destroying two months of panhandling along the information superhighway.

TFAW.com: What was the last comic you read?

AdC: The last comic I read and loved was the first Fatale trade, by Brubaker/Phillips. It’s really faultless. So many comics these days, I want to just reach in and adjust things, like walking into a house where all the pictures are crooked. Not this one. Also, one of the best and most prismatic female characters to come along in an age. I also picked up the Beasts of Burden trade by Dorkin/Thompson. It’s been out for a while, but dodgy personal finances meant I haven’t been buying books or comics for a long time. I have so much time for Dorkin’s work. If life were fair, people would literally be giving him and Jill Thompson a tickertape parade through New York where we all throw fistfuls of money down to let them do whatever they want. There’s an undercurrent of darkness in all of Dorkin’s work that really helps the stories shine, and of course Thompson’s watercolors are peerless.

FataleTFAW.com: Whose work had an influence in your writing?

AdC: Oh, if I could write as well as Thomas Pynchon or Cormac McCarthy, I’d be a happy gal. Cormac McCarthy taught me about straight lines; Pynchon taught me how to throw a curveball.

TFAW.com: What comics would you recommend that readers check out?

AdC: Other than the aforementioned, I adore Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting books. And pretty much everything Naoki Urasawa’s ever done. Erm, that’s it, really. I’m dead flat broke and hardly ever have the money to buy comics, so I haven’t really stayed current!

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Our sincere thanks to Alex de Campi for the thought-provoking interview! Make sure to pre-order your copy of Valentine: The Ice Death now.

PRE-ORDER VALENTINE TPB VOL. 1 NOW

What do you think about Alex’s account of self-publishing? Post your comments below!

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TFAW Sponsors PAX Show With The Doubleclicks, Sarah Donner & Kirby Krackle

August 23rd, 2012 Comments off

The Doubleclicks PAX Show August 31Getting ready for PAX? Don’t forget to plan your social calendar! TFAW is proudly sponsoring a free, all-ages geek rock show par excellence featuring The Doubleclicks, Sarah Donner, and Kirby Krackle. Go see them Friday, August 31 at El Corazon Lounge at 109 Eastlake Avenue East, Seattle, WA starting at 8:00 p.m.

We’re big fans of Portland’s own The Doubleclicks, a sister act that incorporates a cello, a ukelele, sweet harmonies, and sharp songwriting into some of the funniest, geekiest music you’ll ever hear. With song titles like “Oh, Mr. Darcy,” “Spock Impersonator,” and “Worst Superpower Ever,” they’ve won a legion of loyal fans. But don’t take our word for it–check out their “Happy Birthday, Leonard Nimoy” video below, where they serenade the original Spock with their “Trekkie Birthday Song,” below:

Live in the Portland area? You can also see them perform at this Saturday’s Trek in the Park, an incredible live theater performance of “Journey to Babel.” (which we’re also proud sponsors of).

Don’t miss The Doubleclicks, Sarah Donner, and Kirby Krackle August 31 at El Corazon Lounge in Seattle–make sure to click the link below to RSVP on Facebook!

RSVP TO THE DOUBLECLICKS, SARAH DONNER, AND KIRBY KRACKLE AT EL CORAZON ON FACEBOOK

What’s your favorite geek rock band? Are you headed to PAX this year? Post your comments below!

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Christy Marx Talks TV, Sword of Sorcery, and Games

August 22nd, 2012 Comments off

Christy Marx

Writer Christy Marx has been working in the comics and television industries for some time–’80s classics Jem, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and G.I. Joe are just a few of her credits–so you can imagine our exhilaration when we had the opportunity to conduct a “truly outrageous” interview with her this month.

Read along to find out what drew her to comics, how she almost almost opted to be an artist, and about her new series, Sword of Sorcery, which will bring Amethyst to The New 52 next month.

TFAW.com: What are your earliest memories of comics? What was the first comic you read?

Christy Marx: I was equally obsessed with both comic books and newspaper comic strips. I’d cut the adventure strips out of the paper, paste them onto pages and color them. When I was very young, I found a comic at my grandmother’s house that had a story about an invincible, homicidal robot. I’ve never been able to find anyone who can identify that comic, but it made a powerful impact on me.

Marx's imagination was sparked by Challengers of the Unkown when she was a child. But the one that finally pushed me over the edge was a comic I found in my desk at school in third or fourth grade. It was a Challengers of the Unknown and, if I remember correctly, involved dinosaurs on a spaceship. I spent the class secretly reading the comic rather than paying attention. From that moment on, I bought every comic book I could afford.

TFAW.com: What inspired you to become a writer, and when did you first begin to explore that creative outlet?

Marx: It took me a long time to realize I was a writer. I went down a false path thinking I was going to be a comic book artist, and I was in my 20s before I realized that I didn’t have that talent. The truth is that I was driven to be a visual storyteller and had always been weaving stories and creating characters, so I simply shifted my focus entirely onto the writing.

TFAW.com: You’re a prolific writer. With TV series like Jem, G.I. Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Captain Power in your credits, I can tell you that you’ve brought joy to a lot of kids out there. What are some of the favorite moments of your career so far?

Writing for Jem and the Holograms led to one of Marx's fondest memories.Marx: One high point was when writing the animation series, Jem and the Holograms. I wrote a two-part episode that involved runaway kids. At the end of each episode, we ran a help-line number and they were absolutely flooded with calls from kids who needed help. It brought home to me what can be accomplished with popular media.

And pretty much any time I get to see my name as a screen or print credit is a favorite moment.

TFAW.com: How did you break into the comics industry?

Marx: It was a combination of luck and preparation, as these things usually are. I lived in L.A. at the time and Roy Thomas had just moved to L.A. while still working for Marvel. I found out that he’d be speaking to a group of fans in a small setting (not a convention), so I showed up with a Conan story I’d written, listened carefully to the questions being asked, and then at the end asked him the question nobody else had the bothered to ask. While I still had his attention, I asked him if he would read the story. He did and he bought it and that was my first sale.

TFAW.com: How did your experience writing for TV translate to writing comics?

Fantastic Four Animated Series circa 1978.Marx:Technically, the comics came first. It was after I’d made a couple of comic story sales that I had the chance to write for a Fantastic Four animation series. The writing format was completely different, but the general sense of visual storytelling carries over.

TFAW.com: How has your experience been as a female creator in the comics industry?

Marx: Excellent. I’m not sure whether I was amazingly lucky to fall in with the right group of people or whether it was my own attitude, but I didn’t encounter any obvious barriers to writing for comics. I never stopped to think about the fact that I was female or that there would be any reason I couldn’t do it. I simply got out there and did it. After I had been writing both comics and animation for years, I would find that I was considered special because I was a woman writing action-adventure. I wrote it because that’s what I enjoyed writing.

TFAW.com: What’s your favorite part of telling stories in the sequential arts?

Marx: Telling a good story with interesting, compelling characters and a satisfying conclusion. Which, by the way, applies to telling a story in any medium.

TFAW.com: What are three things you think comic book publishers should be doing to attract female readers?

You can pre-order the first few Sword of Sorcery issues right now  at TFAW.com!Marx: 1) Less mindless action and graphic violence; 2) less hypersexualizing of female characters; 3) better and deeper character development.

TFAW.com: What aspect of comics have you struggled with, as a writer?

Marx: Getting work solely as writer without having an artist attached to a project. It’s so much tougher for a writer than it is for an artist.

TFAW.com: What advice can you give aspiring writers or comic book creators?

Marx: I put tons of advice into my book, more than I have time to repeat here, so at the risk of coming across as self-serving, I’m going to point people to my book: Writing for Animation, Comics and Games.

TFAW.com: Whose work has had an influence in your writing?

Marx: Mary Stewart, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, J.R.R. Tolkien, Michael Moorcock.

TFAW.com: Who’s one woman in comics that you admire?

Marx: Wendy Pini! A fantastic talent and one of my favorite people. Elfquest rocks.

TFAW.com: What was the last comic you read?

Marx: I’ve been reading Rachel Rising by Terry Moore (and anything he does), Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai, the Astro City series by Kurt Busiek, the Buffy series, and X-Men.

You can pre-order the first few Sword of Sorcery issues right now  at TFAW.com!TFAW.com: Can you tell us a little bit about Amethyst’s introduction to DC’s New 52 in Sword of Sorcery?

Marx: I tried to honor the previous series, which I read when it first came out, but give it a reboot for today’s audience. It skews slightly older and I’m doing a lot of new world-building. There’s an entirely new set of characters. Amy is 17 and has a difficult relationship with her mother, who happens to be a powerful woman in exile. When they return to their home world the entire balance of power shifts, causing all sorts of intrigue, strife, betrayal, and not to mention more than a few assassination attempts.

TFAW.com: What projects do you have coming up soon?

Marx: I work full-time as a Narrative Designer at Zynga on a Facebook game called Hidden Chronicles. Between that and Amethyst, I don’t have time for anything else.

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Our thanks to Christy for taking the time out of her busy schedule to chat with us about her experience in the comic book industry. Be sure to check out her newest comic book adventure when Sword of Sorcery begins on September 19.

ORDER YOUR SWORD OF SORCERY ISSUES NOW

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Greg Rucka’s Stumptown Returns + New Punisher Comics

August 20th, 2012 Comments off

This week we’re shining a spotlight on Eisner Award-winning writer Greg Rucka, who has some fantastic books coming out this September.

We were extremely excited to see that Stumptown, Rucka’s Portland-set detective-noir series with Matthew Southworth, returns September 12! In Stumptown Vol. 2 #1, Mim Bracca, guitar player for the Portland rock group Tailhook, returns home from a long tour–but not everything made it back with her. Can P.I. Dex Parios track down her missing baby?

If you haven’t been reading Punisher, now’s the time–it’s coming out bi-weekly this summer, and it’s incredible: gritty and packed full of action and excitement.

Punisher #15 features a climactic battle: Punisher vs. the NYPD, while issue #16 warns us to prepare for Punisher: War Zone, a five-issue series by Rucka and Marco Marco Chacchetto, starting this October!

Don’t miss Rucka’s newest comics: pre-order them today and save 20%!

SEE ALL GREG RUCKA COMICS AND GRAPHIC NOVELS

Are you excited for the return of Stumptown? What are your favorite Greg Rucka comics? Post your comments below!

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New From IDW: Star Trek, Doctor Who & More

August 17th, 2012 Comments off

Coming up from IDW! First, Star Trek TNG writer Brannon Braga brings us Star Trek Next Generation: Hive #1, out September 19. In the distant future, the entire galaxy has been completely assimilated by the Borg and its king . . . Locutus! Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the Enterprise face off against the Borg in one final encounter!

We’re also psyched for Doctor Who Vol. 3 #1, a new ongoing debuting September 26 from New York Times-bestselling writer Andy Diggle (The Losers) and Eisner-winning artist Mark Buckingham (Fables). Welcome to a new era for your favorite Time Lord!

Star Trek The Next Generation: HiveDoctor Who Vol. 3Womanthology: SpaceThe Pound: Ghoul's Night Out

Make sure to check out the sci-fi Womanthology: Space #1 September 16. Every issue has three six-page stories, plus pinups and how-tos by awesome women creators!

Finally, Stephan Nilson and Portland’s own Ibrahim Moustafa bring us The Pound: Ghoul’s Night Out #1 September 26! What do two unemployed animal control specialists do when their city is infested with monsters? They open “The Pound” and start capturing them! Don’t miss out—add these exciting series to your box today!

SEE ALL UPCOMING IDW PUBLISHING PRODUCTS

What IDW comics are you looking forward to this month? Post your picks below!

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Cat Staggs Talks About Smallville, Superheroes, and Star Wars

August 17th, 2012 Comments off

Cat Staggs rocking her rad Wonder Woman tattoo.

Cat Staggs is an up-and-coming artist to keep your eye on. She’s worked on projects for Lucasfilm in the past few years, and you’ve seen her breathtaking covers for Smallville Season 11.

We had the chance to chat with Staggs about her earliest memories of comics, her favorite part about working in comics, and how she came to work on her newest project — the four-issue Phantom Lady miniseries.

TFAW.com: What are your earliest memories of comics? What was the first comic you read?

Cat Staggs: My earliest memory of comics were actually storytelling records that I got when I was five . . . Batman and Superman records that came with the comic for you to read along. I absolutely wore them out listening to them over and over and obsessing over the art. I still have them, actually.

Superman and Batman Book and Recording Sets inspired Cat as a young girl.TFAW.com: What inspired you to become an artist, and when did you first begin to explore that creative outlet?

Staggs: I don’t remember ever not drawing. I think I may have been born with a pencil in my hand and luckily for me, my parents were always very encouraging. (And my mom survived birthing a pencil-wielding infant unscathed.)

TFAW.com: How did you break into the comics industry?

Staggs: I started going to conventions with my little portfolio and passed it around, and I was fortunate enough to get an email asking if I wanted to work on sketch cards for Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. That led to me doing more work for Lucasfilm, which then led to other work with other companies.

My real “pinch me” moment where I thought, “Oh my god, this is really happening,” was very recently, the press release for my first Smallville cover for DC. Even though I had done the cover four months earlier, seeing the press release online finally made it feel real. It was overwhelming.

Cat's Star Wars Celebration VI PrintTFAW.com: How has your experience been as a female in the industry?

Staggs: I really haven’t had any problems with it. I’ve never lost any jobs for having boobs. The only thing that has ever happened that made me feel any different as a “female creator” have been the few times that someone has told me, “You don’t draw like a woman,” and meant it as a compliment. I still don’t understand what that means.

TFAW.com: What’s your favorite part of telling stories in the sequential arts?

Staggs: I love getting to depict more than just a standard pin-up shot. It’s so much fun to get to play with an entire spectrum of emotions and actions in order to tell a story. Getting to be part of the storytelling process is so much fun. It’s great to be able to even show the “mundane” things that as an artist you normally wouldn’t draw, but then to be able to go through the entire spectrum, from shots of cityscapes to action-packed sequences, is thrilling.

Cat's beautiful interior work on Phantom Lady.Jason Wright's colors perfectly compliment Cat's dark art in Phantom Lady.

TFAW.com: What do you think comic book publishers should be doing or have been doing to attract female readers?

Staggs: Well, there is always, tell good stories . . . which is true for attracting any readers. I actually think that a lot of female readers are already there and they need to remember to acknowledge that they exist. I don’t mean by special catering, we don’t necessarily need more flowers and rainbows and unicorns, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but a lot of women like superhero books and action books.

TFAW.com: What aspect of comics have you struggled with, as a creator?

Staggs: I think that the hardest part is getting in the door, convincing someone to give you a shot is always difficult.

Cat Stagg's Smallville Season 11 #1 coverTFAW.com: What advice can you give aspiring comic book creators?

Staggs: If you are an illustrator, my advice is: anatomy, anatomy, anatomy. And for everyone else, just keep plugging away. A bit of rejection shouldn’t be enough to stop you. You will only get better with hard work.

TFAW.com: Who’s work has had an influence in your art?

Staggs: Norman Rockwell, Drew Struzen, Neil Adams, Alex Ross, Sean Phillips, Bernie Wrightson, oh God I could go on forever, there are a zillion people . . . even Keith Herring and Michelangelo . . . I’d better just stop now.

TFAW.com: Who’s one woman in comics that you admire?

Staggs: Collen Doran. Check out A Distant Soil!

TFAW.com: What was the last comic you read?

Staggs: Besides my newest pages of Phantom Lady? Legends of the Dark Knight: Letters to Batman by Steve Niles

TFAW.com: How did you come to work on Phantom Lady?

Staggs: My editor for Smallville at the time asked me if I would like to do it, and I jumped at the opportunity.

TFAW.com: Can you tell us about your creative process for this book?

Staggs: Well, Cully Hammer designed the costumes and did an amazing job. There were a lot of emails back and forth about the look and the costumes, and then came the fun part, which was me getting to take all of that and incorporate it into the storytelling.

Another one of Cat's amazing Smallville CoversTFAW.com: What projects do you have coming up soon?

Staggs: For now, Smallville covers and Phantom Lady issues are the main things I am working on. I also have artwork in the new, Star Trek Federation: The first 150 Years that comes out in November and I am doing a print for Star Wars Celebration VI in Orlando at the end of August.

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Our thanks to Cat for taking the time out of her busy schedule to chat with us about her experience in the comic book industry. Be sure to keep your eye out for her artwork on the covers of Smallville Season 11 and in the interiors of Phantom Lady.

Looking forward to Phantom Lady #1? Good news — the first issue hits on August 29th. Post your comments below!

ORDER YOUR PHANTOM LADY ISSUES NOW

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DC’s Zero Month Breaks out in September

August 15th, 2012 Comments off

To celebrate the anniversary of its headline-making New 52 initiative, DC Comics will launch its much-anticipated Zero Month this September! In addition to offering #0 prequel issues to its remaining New 52 titles, DC is launching four new series!

These include Talon, a spinoff from Batman’s “Night of the Owls” crossover that stars Calvin Rose, the only Talon to ever escape the Court of Owls; Sword of Sorcery, featuring an “Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld” serial by writer Christy Marx and artist Aaron Lopresti; Phantom Stranger, from DC’s recent FCBD special; and Team 7, a tale of the earlier days of the DCU, which includes Dinah Lance, Amanda Waller, Steve Trevor, John Lynch, Alex Fairchild, Cole Cash, and Slade Wilson. Which ones will you read?

Here are a few of our favorite covers–which ones do you like? You can see them all in one place on our Zero Month page.

Batwoman #0Resurrection Man #0World's Finest #0Justice League #0

Don’t miss these sneak peeks into The New 52′s past, or these exciting new series–visit our Zero Month page and pre-order every issue at 20% off!

PRE-ORDER DC’S ZERO MONTH ISSUES AND SAVE 20%

SEE ALL UPCOMING DC COMICS PRODUCTS

What titles are you looking forward to this month? Post your picks below!

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Kelly Sue DeConnick Talks Shop with Us

August 15th, 2012 Comments off

Kelly Sue DeConnickKelly Sue DeConnick is blowing up. The second issue of her new series, Captain Marvel hits stands today (it’s really, really good, BTW), and she and artist Dexter Soy have received a lot of praise for the book. We had the chance to sit down for an interview with Kelly Sue about her first writing gig, the best part of making comics, and her advice to aspiring creators.

TFAW.com: What are your earliest memories of comics? What was the first comic you read?

Kelly Sue DeConnick: You know, it breaks my heart that I don’t remember that. That’s a question I get a lot and I know many people can remember their first comics; I can’t. They were just always around. I grew up in large part on military bases. My father was in the Air Force and comics are a big part of (or at least were in the ’70s) base culture. Everyone read them, everyone trades them at swap meets. It’s just a thing.

There are a few early ones that I remember particularly well. There was one — a Christian comic of some sort, I think it was Al Green — that my grandmother picked up for me at a gas station on a road trip. I remember that one particularly well because that summer with my grandmother, I didn’t have access to very many, I just had a couple comics. So I read that one over and over again, and I started taking it apart — literally cutting the panels apart, sort of rearranging things . . . I tried to copy panels as well. Although I’m not, how you say, a good artist.

TFAW.com: What inspired you to become a writer, and when did you first begin to explore that creative outlet?

DeConnick: Spite, probably? I have a theater degree and was trained as an actor. I have a single ugly breakup in my lifetime, and that was with a writer, and I suspect on some subconscious level I decided, “Oh yeah? I’ll show you.”

TFAW.com: How did you break into the comics industry?

DeConnick's first multi-issue writing gig with Steve Niles in 30 Days of Night: Eben and Stella.DeConnick: Have I broken into the comics industry? This is one of those things . . . I feel like I’ve broken in over and over again. I feel like every gig is a new “breaking in” story.

My first work in comics was writing reviews of comics with Warren Ellis on ARTBOMB.net, and then I moved on to writing the English adaptations of Japanese and Korean comics for TokyoPop and Viz, and I did that for a number of years. And then Steve Niles gave me the opportunity to co-write 30 Days of Night: Eben & Stella with him, so that was my first multi-issue original comic.

I got to work for Marvel as part of the “Women of Marvel” initiative of 2010.

With the exception of anthologies, it has been entirely work-for-hire thus far. I’ll have my first creator-owned book out from Image next year. Everything is a new breaking-into-comics experience.

TFAW.com: Last month, you launched Captain Marvel with Carol Danvers as the eponymous hero. Can you tell us a little about that experience?

Captain Marvel #2 comes out today!DeConnick: The story of that book is really a story of the fan base for Carol Danvers, I think. That has been my good fortune. I got very lucky. I started talking to Steve Wacker at Marvel (my editor on Osborne: Evil Incarcerated) about a Ms. Marvel series back in . . . well, I opened a file for Ms. Marvel in 2010, so we’d been talking for quite some time. The timing wasn’t right for it, but Steve really championed that book — and me. He is a large part of the success of that book. We’re only one issue in, but I’ve been told our launch numbers were better than expected and the outpouring of support from the fan base is absolutely the reason for that. Really, if we had to stop now, I would feel like it was a victory — that someone else would pick up Carol’s torch for her in short order.

TFAW.com: How has your experience been as a female creator in the comics industry?

DeConnick: That is a really hard question for me to answer, because I couldn’t tell you what the experience has been for me as a male in the industry. (laughs) You know what I mean? I often make light of that question. It suggests that somehow I’m typing with my girl parts.

I think that we’re all very lucky to have this job. I think it’s a very hard job to get, and a harder job to keep. I think that as an industry I would like to see us treat our female characters better and I would like to see more women professionals working steadily. I think we’re on our way.

I don’t think it’s easy for anyone. Where I tend to get my dander up is when people suggest that women don’t want to (or shouldn’t want to) read superhero comics — or read comics at all! — or that women who want to work in the industry are statistical anomalies. People who should know better have suggested that the only reason there aren’t more women working on comics is because there aren’t very many women who *want* to work in comics. I call bullshit on that one.

Kelly Sue resurrects Dark Horse's Ghost in a new series starting next month.TFAW.com: What’s your favorite part of telling stories in the sequential arts?

DeConnick: When I’m done! (laughs) Again, this is a great job, and I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining, but it’s hard work. I go through a rollercoaster of insecurities during the process: “I’m terrible, I’m a hack, I’m never going to get better. I’m so slow, I’m out of time . . . ” All those things pop up. And then you make it through, and then you think, “It’s not so bad.” And you get to the point where you have to turn it in and you say, “I’ll have to do better next time.” And then someone writes you and tells you they liked your book and it made them cry and you think, “Yeah! I can’t wait to do the next one,” and it’s lather, rinse and repeat.

TFAW.com: Your husband is also in the comic book industry. What’s that like?

DeConnick: I’m fond of my husband, as it happens. I think I’ll keep him. As far as our being colleagues — I bounce stuff off of him all the time. They’re usually craft questions rather than story questions, because we’re interested in different stories — we tell different stories. But I could not be a bigger fan of his work. He’s so gifted, and sometimes it makes me horribly, horribly jealous. I know how hard he works, how much stress he’s under, and what level he produces at — and yet he makes it look utterly effortless.

I just recently read a Mark Waid script, it was the first of his I’ve read. I was struck too, with him, at how effortless he makes it seem. And I envy that so much. It’s so amazing. It’s such a testament to their level of their talent and craftsmanship. I look forward to one day (laughs) getting somewhere near that.

TFAW.com: What are three things you think comic book publishers should be doing to attract female readers?

The manga boom is still alive and kicking. Click here to see the hottest upcoming manga at TFAW.DeConnick: I don’t think the female readership is a monolith. I have some ideas about how, as an industry, we can try to make things friendlier to new readers in general — and I do think we have a huge potential audience of new female readers. (The manga boom ought to have dispelled the myth that women won’t read comic/buy comics. They’ll do it, and they’ll pay $10 a pop!) I think that we have a tendency to dismiss not just the female readers, but new readers in general and market only to people who are already reading comics, and I think that when we do that, it’s not really self-sustaining. We’re leaving money on the table. One thing I think helps is more obvious jumping-on points.

TFAW.com: What aspect of comics have you struggled with, as a creator?

DeConnick: The schedule. I think that is the bane of my existence right now. Because we’re a serial format — the train leaves the station every thirty days. The way things tend to get up and running, the turn-around time is breakneck.

Neil Gaiman said something recently about when he’s writing a book, he starts with the first word and puts one after another until he gets to the end of the story, and that’s the first draft. Then he goes back and reworks it so it looks like he knew what he was doing the whole time. That’s the same idea as one of my favorite E.L. Doctorow quotes (and I’m paraphrasing here):

Writing is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as the headlights, but you can make a whole trip that way.

That’s a much more natural process for me — to just kind of dive in and write and see where I end up. Then go back and say, “Oh, if I’m going to need this gun in the third act, I need to make sure it’s there in the first act.” But because of the way that the comic book industry works, you don’t get that much time, and you need to be able to write from an outline and structure it from the beginning. Ideally, I’d be able to write a whole story out, figure it out as I go, and then go back and rework it before any issues ever came out. But that’s just not possible in serial fiction.

TFAW.com: What advice can you give aspiring comic book creators?

DeConnick: Work hard. Make comics. This absolutely attainable. If this is the thing that you want to do, you can absolutely do this. It is not easy, but nothing worthwhile is. Don’t be a jerk to your editors — that’s always a good idea. Work hard, care about what you’re making.

TFAW.com: Who’s work had an influence in your writing?

Kelly Sue and Brian Michael Bendis collaborate on the critically acclaimed Castle graphic novels.DeConnick: Brian Bendis — for his dialogue, in particular. It’s just some of the best in the industry. He’s also not afraid to write very vulnerable books, if that makes sense to anyone. Warren Ellis is just a master in every sense of the word. He understands this craft better on his worst day than I ever will. He’s also hilarious. I think that’s the great secret about him — that he’s a comedy writer. He makes me think while he’s making me laugh.

TFAW.com: Who’s one woman in comics that you admire?

DeConnick: I couldn’t narrow it down to one. Diana Schutz would be huge for me — the stories that woman can tell . . . Gail Simone. I just admire Gail as a human and as a comic creator. I adore Jen Van Meeter. Jen Van Meter, Kathryn Immonen, and Marjorie Liu are all three women who have a certain grace to them that I will never possess, and I admire greatly. Kathryn is elegant on every level. Jen manages to be both fiery and gentle at the same time. She’s one of the most nurturing people I’ve ever met in my life. My shoulders fall three inches whenever I’m in her presence. Marjorie Liu is just classy, I don’t think she and I are the same species. I feel like the mushroom toad girl next to her. She handles all of this with such grace.

TFAW.com: What was the last comic you read?

DeConnick: Jason Aaron’s Incredible Hulk.

Captain Marvel #6 now available for pre-order at TFAW.com!TFAW.com: What projects do you have coming up soon?

DeConnick: I have Ghost from Dark Horse right now with Phil Noto. His work always solicits gasps — he’s amazing. Obviously Captain Marvel with Dexter Soy. He’s astonishingly talented, very epic work. I have a creator-owned book called Pretty Deadly coming out next year from Image with Emma Rios, who was my collaborator on Osborn. I love her work. Castle: Storm Season just went out to the printer, so that should be out soon too — that one is with Ema Lupacchino, who is killer.

—————–

We want to thank Kelly Sue for taking the time out of her busy schedule to chat comics with us, it was a great time. Very cool to hear about her first creator-owned book. You can bet that Pretty Deadly will be on our reading list.

SEE OTHER WORK BY KELLY SUE DeCONNICK AT TFAW

Did you pick up Captain Marvel #1? Did you love how fun the issue was? What did you think of the first Castle graphic novel? Let us know below.

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DC Update: New Phantom Lady and Before Watchmen This Month

August 14th, 2012 Comments off

Lots of good stuff is coming from DC Comics later this month, so let’s dig right in! First, one of the Golden Age’s first female superheroes returns in Phantom Lady #1, a four-issue miniseries by Justin Gray, Rich Perotta, and Amanda Conner. Co-starring Doll Man, this book looks like a lot of fun. Pre-order by August 29 and save 20%!

Phantom Lady ComicsBefore Watchmen RorschachBefore Watchmen Dr. Manhattan

Plus, two new Before Watchmen series are due August 15 and 22: Before Watchmen: Rorschach #1, by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermajo, and Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #1, by J. Michael Straczynski and Adam Hughes. Honestly, just the idea of Hughes doing interior art again makes us curious, and we’re curious to see what Rorschach was like earlier in his crime-fighting career.

PRE-ORDER PHANTOM LADY AND SAVE 20%

SEE ALL BEFORE WATCHMEN TITLES

What titles are you looking forward to this month? Post your faves below!

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New Batman Story Arc Begins in October

August 13th, 2012 Comments off

Batman #13 at TFAW.comThe Joker returns in “Death of the Family”–Scott Snyder’s new story arc starting in Batman #13 this October.

He crippled Batgirl. He killed Robin. What will the Joker do now that he’s returned to Gotham City? What must Batman do to protect his secret identity and that of those who fight alongside him?

Critics and fans agree, Scott Snyder’s run on Batman has been one of the strongest series in DC’s The New 52 relaunch. If you’ve missed out on the first arc, don’t make the same mistake again. Don’t wait for the trade. Get that feeling of excitement each month and start a Batman subscription today!

ORDER YOUR COPY OF BATMAN #13

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