Shelly Bond, Black Crown, and the future of comics: a vital connection is made [Part 3]

Shelly Bond, Black Crown, and the future of comics: a vital connection is made [Part 3]

The second part of this interview can be read here.

By Jarrod Jones. On an overcast Saturday afternoon in March I found myself sitting in an Italian restaurant talking to Shelly Bond.

It was ECCC 2017, and for Bond, the cat was out of the bag. Everybody knew that the comics editor was up to no good that weekend, but even with the news out in the open that Bond would curate a new creator-owned imprint from IDW Publishing called Black Crown, the details behind her new endeavor remained mum. Secrecy was paramount. With only a day gone by since IDW’s official announcement and the WonderCon reveal of Kid Lobotomy still three weeks away, there wasn’t much she could tell me during that afternoon.

In fact, she would often glance over at Steven Scott, PR Manager at IDW, and ask, “Did I say too much?” We would all have a laugh and I would glance nervously at my plate, concocting yet another subtle ruse to get something, anything, before Shelly went to Anaheim with Chris Ryall and made her announcement. It would probably please IDW to know that she stuck to her guns and kept a poker face the entire time — though there was no way you couldn’t feel the excitement in her voice. Shelly Bond was making comics again, and you could tell it was making her very happy.

We talked about a lot of things that day. We talked about how much we both loved Love & Rockets — which is funny, considering we found out Gilbert Hernandez would produce Assassinistas with Tini Howard for Black Crown not long after. We talked about Bond’s departure from Vertigo, though it was clear that she had moved on from that chapter and was already well into the next. “When I left DC it was liberating,” she told me. “I really felt like it was an exciting time for me in my life.”

Presented here is the third part of a four-part interview series where I talk with Shelly Bond about comics, Black Crown, music, how much we both love Elastica — all the important stuff. Every Wednesday leading up to the October 18 release of Kid Lobotomy, the imprint’s auspicious debut from Tess Fowler and Peter Milligan, you can read the conversation that took place on the day DoomRocket met Black Crown.

DoomRocket: Tell me more about ‘Femme Magnifique’.

Shelly Bond: With Femme Magnifique, I thought we’d need… not just the people I know in the comics industry, we really just want to reach out to the people who are working within the parameters of pop culture. It’s been fascinating. I’ve been able to read books like The Skeptics, and I hired Tini Howard to do a short story in Femme Magnifique because I liked her cadence. I was able to also find other artists and writers… I’m working with a few people from India — we have Aditya Bidikar, who is our letterer on the book, and I discovered him by reading The Skeptics. I have not been impressed with a new letterer in many, many years. Todd Klein was always my go-to letterer, as you know from reading my books like Fables

Todd Klein is a master.

Well, Aditya is the new master of the game. I hired him because I wanted a seamless, universal look from the letterer. These are three-page stories, so you can imaging that we have a lot of disparate styles. I thought we should ground it with just one letterer. Aditya’s work on The Skeptics just blew me away, so I pulled him in from the get-go.

But we have so many different types of creators.  We have people like Brian Stelfreeze, who I have never worked with before. What an honor, to have him join us on the book. He’s actually going to be illustrating the Michelle Obama story, and his writer, Tee Franklin, actually suggested him. I asked her, “Who would be your top choice?” And she said, “Well. I’m sure you’re not going to be able to get him because he’s famous, but my absolute, number one choice would be Brian Stelfreeze.” I said, “Okay, I’ll track down his phone number.” And I think she fainted. [Laughs] When she woke up Brian had said yes, and she fainted again. [Laughs]

As much as I love putting teams together — and I always love to see something really odd in two different people and merge them together to see how they would translate as collaborators — it’s also nice to ask the writer who they would like to write for. It was such a great honor to put Gilbert Hernandez and Darwyn Cooke together on The Twilight Children, especially since it was Darwyn’s last book before he sadly passed away.

I cold-called Darwyn. Had wanted to work with him for years, but he would always say, “Too busy, too busy, too busy… one day you’ll catch me.” Finally got him on the phone, he had some time for me, and I said, “Darwyn, when are you going to write and draw for me?” He said, “I kinda don’t want to write and draw for you, I’m doing the ‘Parker’ books for IDW…” Scott [Dunbier, editor of the Parker books] would have probably broken my legs. [Laughs] Anyway, Darwyn said, “I want someone to write me a story.” But who could write Darwyn a story?

I was tongue-tied. I asked him, “Well, who were you thinking?” He said, “Well, I know he’s not going to do it, he probably doesn’t even know me, but Gilbert Hernandez is my hero. If he could write me a story, that would be the best.

Wow.

I was like, “Darwyn, I’ve worked with Gilbert a lot. I know his family! I knew his daughter when she was born. And I know he likes your work.” And Darwyn was like, “He’s Gilbert Hernandez — come on!” I said, “Darwyn, just give me ten minutes, and I’ll call you back.” And he was like, “No… no you’re not gonna call me back.” [Laughs] I swear to God, I called Gilbert and I was like, “Gilbert Hernandez, do you know Darwyn Cooke’s work?” “Uh, yeah, who doesn’t know his work!” “Would you like to write him a story?” “Uh… yes, I would like to write him a story! I’m sharpening my pencil!” [Laughs] And that was it.

Let’s talk about Black Crown’s launch book. 

Oh, I dunno, he’s looking nervous. [Laughs, points to Steven] It’s a tough thing, you know, you’re coming out of the gate with a really killer logo… that launch title has to say everything. If you come out with something that’s 80%, you’re done. It’s like a record company with a new band. That debut album is a statement of intent. This launch book is… unbelievable.

Well, you say things like, “debut album” and “statement of intent”, and I know you like BritPop. So I would ask… is this launch title more like “Elastica” by Elastica or “Suede” by Suede? 

Ooh, this guy knows his stuff. [Laughs] Um… it’s both. Left speaker, right speaker. Simultaneously. [Laughs] We have one creator that is all verve, all Elastica. And we got the other creator who’s got the swagger.

Like Brett Anderson.

Exactly. Like Brett Anderson. Glam. That’s what makes such a killer combination. You picked two really good examples.

So I’m picturing in my mind…

Oh, god. Poker face, poker face! [Laughs]

… the iconic nature of the cover to “Elastica”… four of them, up against the brick wall…

With the red logo! Uh-huh.

It had a scuzziness to it, like an antithesis to Suede, because Justine Frischmann had left Suede and Brett and took the drummer with her.

Yeah, for Damon Albarn! What was she thinking?

Oh, I have no idea.

Hey, Oasis versus Blur — who has Oasis?

Right here.

Yay! [High-fives] I’m so excited. I can’t believe I have an Oasis fan in my midst. My husband loves Blur. It can be problematic… I mean, I like “Parklife”… it’s a good album, but I’m in a mixed bag. My son loves Gorillaz, so there’s trouble in the family! [Laughs] I mean, we all have band we all love, and then we have bands, like, don’t touch my band. Our son is a big grunge fan. He likes Nirvana. He plays the drums, so “Come As You Are”… his life began when he learned that song.

I have the T-shirt from the original tour — I didn’t get to go to the show — but Richard Case, who was working with me on Shade at the time, he gave me a T-shirt. And I still have it. I’ve only worn it twice because I want to have it forever.

I’ll tell you a cute story that you’ll appreciate. When Glyn Dillon, who was Philip’s roommate back in the day, Steven Dillon’s younger brother… he did a little work for us back then. He did a little Sandman, he did Egypt, with Peter Milligan… he came to New York, and I took him around town. He came with a friend who was in the band Senseless Things, who had brought me some chocolates — he knew I loved British chocolates — and he also brought me a cassette tape. He there was a picture on the cassette of this girl with short hair kinda pushed over to one side, kind of like your hair, and he said, “This is my friend’s band!” And it was Elastica.

Justine Frischmann.

He was friends with them!

I remember I was a teenager…

Was that your first crush? Donna Matthews?

Oh, it was Justine. But I’ll never forget it, it was ‘120 Minutes’, the only time MTV would ever play actual music videos, and “Car Song” came on. The colors were popping, but there was this woman there with jet black hair and a sneer on her face, and I thought… who is this person? [Laughs] I didn’t realize the Suede connection until later.

Yeah.

But when “Connection” came on an hour later… there was no going back. [Laughs]

They were an example of the perfect first album. I actually didn’t have a problem with their second album [“The Menace”], even though it took ten years for it to come out.

They changed the lineup of that whole band.

They did. When you have the first album that’s so perfect, you really hope that the second album is going to be at least as good or better.

Well, what’s your favorite song on “The Menace”?

[Pauses] I don’t know if I have a favorite, I just don’t mind it like everyone else does. But then again, I’m a Style Council fan, and there’s nobody that’s a fan of The Style Council with a pulse that I’m aware of. [Laughs] I get made fun of all the time, but I love The Style Council. I think Paul Weller did a good thing. You could tell when he was leaving The Jam that he wanted to get more into brass, do more sort of like Blues. I mean, you can really dance to that stuff.

But I like the Paul Weller solo work that came out in the early Nineties as well. I just think he’s a visionary singer-songwriter. And a lyricist.

It’s like, do you want Brian Ferry and Brian Eno together or apart, because you’re gonna get great things either way. 

It’s true. Though I do prefer Roxy Music more than either of their solo stuff. I would say that you’re hitting on all my personal touch-points. Glam rock, androgyny. When I say “rock ‘n’ roll swagger”, sure I like the Rolling Stones — I mean, no one was a rock star like Mick was in the early Sixties. It’s glam. It’s also Liam Gallagher, his swagger… we have a character in our launch book who goes around barefoot. There’s a good reason for that. There’s a reason why certain people perform on stage barefoot.

Our interview with Shelly Bond concludes next Wednesday, the day of release for ‘Kid Lobotomy’ #1.

The first part of this interview can be read here.

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