by Jarrod Jones. 10 Things Concerning… is DoomRocket’s interview series, where I’m given the opportunity to reach out to comics creators and talk about the things that matter most—comic books and the drive to create them. This week, I’m sharing my ten favorite conversations I had in 2019. Follow the links below to read more.
“Elsa Charretier’s artbook. It’s a study in artistic growth, of inspiration, of process. A showcase of premium artwork and insight, the coffee table book equivalent of cracking open a Swiss watch and seeing how intricate the machinery is. Elsa, ever a ferocious learner, has much to impart to the novice, and as an established career artist, she now has a tome fit to take even the expert back to school.
“'[I wanted] to give readers an inside look at what goes into creating… The thoughts, the process, the tips, things I love to read about as a fan. The nitty-gritty of comic-book storytelling, if you will. At least my experience of it.’”
“One thing that strikes me about talking to Lonnie and Jenna about Black Stars Above is how invested they are in the book’s central character, Eulalie. She’s a young Métis-French fur trapper who is at a crucial point in her life where the world beyond her confining family cabin seems to be calling her—the universe, in a sense, is beckoning her to venture forth. But to what end? Having read the first issue to this new series, I can say that it’s incredibly reassuring to see two creators offer such detail and devotion in their responses to my questions about Eulalie.
“’I wanted everything in the book to feel authentic to the period, and Eulalie is very much a product of her time and setting, for better and for worse,’ Lonnie says. ‘I wanted her to feel real, but still relatable to a modern readership. While her way of life is so vastly different from the life of an average 16 year-old these days, she longs for many of the same things, such as escape and experience.'”
“‘Bloom’ takes Swamp Thing to Robb’s End, a farm in rural Maine and the current residence of one Dr. Oleander Sorrel, who, with his wife Natasha, has been in a process of mourning the loss of their young son during a crucial point in his floricultural research. And it is in his grief that Oleander will experience a horror amid the crimson blooms he’s grown in the winter snows—ripe conditions for a Swamp Thing tale to blossom.
“’Sure, it’s a story about Swamp Thing and The King of Petals and the greater events of The Justice League Dark storyline,’ Ram says. ‘But on a thematic basis, it is a story of trees and flowers.’
“A warrior returns home after years of victory to find his life is wanting. It’s a crisis of self, a screaming desire for that elusive want. It’s No One Left to Fight, a new series from Aubrey Sitterson, Fico Ossio, featuring letter work by Taylor Esposito and published by Dark Horse Comics. If you’ve seen Dragon Ball Z (and we know you have), you know what a warrior does when it’s time to throw down. But what does a warrior do when there’s… well, you got the title. What happens next?
“’The goal was to tell a story inspired by Dragon Ball in both genre and visual style, but imbued with the kind of heavy themes that you might not expect from a shōnen-style fight comic,’ Ossio says. ‘It was important to us that No One Left to Fight‘s characters’ inner lives be just as rich and complex as the world we’ve built around them—that way they’re even more real and relatable.'”
“For those unfamiliar with the concept of ‘the Royal Stars,’ let writer Jon Tsuei take you to school. ‘The Bundahishn describes the Royal Stars as great chieftains of the sky who will lead the stars in a great battle against Ahriman and his forces of chaos,’ he says. ‘The more research I did, the more evident it became that mythology of the stars was universal. Every civilization and culture has stories about the stars and these stories can bear a lot of similarities to one another.’
“’So, you have the heralding of great warriors from the sky plus a universality to the myths themselves, how can you not want to tell a story around that?’”
“Enter: Brendan McCarthy. Surreal artist and Thargian creator bot turned film designer and journeyman, McCarthy had just returned to comics after a storied career in Hollywood. His contributions to the George Miller-directed Max Max: Fury Road (he co-wrote and designed the Academy Award-winning film) had left him feeling he’d ‘likely never top’ the film’s aesthetic and critical successes; all it took was a fateful phone call to lure him back into the sequential fold—creatively seasoned, centered, and ready to push the form towards new and exciting places. And Tharg was there, as ever, waiting to see what he had planned.
“Or, as McCarthy puts it: “’I wanted to get back to basics and just draw some damn comics.’”
“It was 2017’s There’s Nothing There that put [Maria Llovet] on my radar, but it’s what she’s doing now that just might deliver her rightfully to the annals of comics super-stardom. Flip through the last issue of Faithless, the utterly buzz-worthy new erotic thriller from Llovet and comics raconteur Brian Azzarello, and see if your eyebrows don’t spike. Follow the character Faith as she comes to her own magical, sensual, Sjöman-esque awakening and see the potential for countless new stories to be told in the mainstream. Comics are in a far better place for such material, light years away from the stunted days of the Comics Code, and yet there are still barriers in the American comics market in terms of sexuality. I bring this point to Llovet, and I use the word ‘prudish.’
“’I’m honestly surprised to be working on something like Faithless,’ Maria Llovet tells me. ‘I didn’t think that was possible. It’s great that something like this is being published in the mainstream industry. I wouldn’t have believed it if I’d been told I’d do a sexually explicit cover for the US market. The cover I’ve done for the issue #1 reprint is probably the most sexually explicit drawing I’ve ever done. This puzzles me.’ She laughs.”
“I ask Ryan what parts about our contemporary lives factor into his latest opus, Death Orb, a nasty future shock with angst to burn. ‘Not to sound like a pessimist, but, like, everything?’ he says, and then does the email interview equivalent of gesturing broadly. Considering the story of Death Orb, where a lone biker navigates the wastes of a decimated North America ruled by a maniac and his ever-expanding cult, you can see how certain anxieties could foster such a story. Watching the rise of global warming, homeland extremism, and other such horrific things occur in the ceaseless real-time of social media? Yeah. We could use a bit of catharsis in our escapism.”
“More than imagination, Queen of Bad Dreams is about agency. Who has it, who gets to have it. It’s a story about those who are robbed of it. Timely themes no matter the age, but today, now, Danny Lore’s Queen of Bad Dreams feels exceptionally apt.
“’Queen of Bad Dreams was actually conceived as a metaphor for other (and related) abuses of marginalized people—for the ways in which brown women and queer brown women in particular are told they can’t dream the ways that others can,’” Lore tells me. ‘That they have their place, and that their roles are to dance a dance they never get to lead.’”
“Beasts of Burden co-creator Evan Dorkin lays out the premise for us. ‘The idea for Presence was that enough weird stuff has happened in Burden Hill that someone has had to have noticed,’ he tells me. ‘Someone does, and calls in a paranormal team to look into things. The dynamic between the two groups [the animals, the humans] is what’s important in this story, it’s a new experience for them both.’
“A new experience for the eponymous pups and felines, and a chance to continue a collaboration that began with the series’ acclaimed 2018 mini, Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men. Co-creator and series illustrator Jill Thompson set up The Presence of Others with a beautiful Part One entry (out May 1), and Part Two will re-team Wise Dogs and Autumnlands artist Benjamin Dewey with Dorkin and letterer Nate Piekos. For Dewey’s part, the responsibility of creating a fluid experience for readers while keeping his craft in harmony with Thompson’s was a paramount concern.
“’It’s funny because I went from finishing Eldritch Men right into this,’ Dewey says. ‘I was all ready to jump into a digital format—which will speed up my workflow propitiously—but I’m painting one more issue because I want it to feel consistent for the readers who had become accustomed to what the series was like when Jill was working on it.’”
Extra favorite interview…
“It’s ridiculous how well the irreverent and whip-smart Second Coming fits with the ethos of AHOY Comics. Editor-in-Chief Tom Peyer agrees. ‘I think [Mark] and Richard thought—as we do—that Second Coming fits right in with AHOY’s sensibility, and vice-versa,’ he tells me. So… what are the chances of a High Heaven/Second Coming crossover? ‘Be careful what you suggest to me,’ Tom says. ‘I do like a drink, and my judgment is not always sound.’”
Special thanks to all the press contacts DoomRocket has worked with over the last 6 years. I wouldn’t want to do this without you.