1. The Coen Brothers or Stanley Kubrick?
I love these filmmakers, and they are favorites for different reasons. You can learn so much about storytelling from watching both of them. Kubrick’s films are dense, intelligent, highly crafted obsessions. There is very little humor in his work, with the exception of Dr. Strangelove, and his characters are a little more “every man”, or universal.
The Coen Brothers create worlds in their movies, just like Kubrick, and they are just as technically brilliant as Kubrick, but they explore idiosyncratic characters and stories. They make movies that haven’t even occurred to anybody else, and they do it over and over again.
I can say that there are about 5 Coen Bros. movies that I can watch over and over. For Kubrick, I love his movies, and I love to study them, but I don’t get that same joy from watching them anymore.
That being said, The Killing is better than anything the Coen Brothers have made, IMO, and I just want to put it out there, I don’t think Kubrick finished Eyes Wide Shut. I think the studio and producers said that he completed it a few days before he died, but Kubrick was known to edit his movies right up to their release dates. If you are the studio, of course you say he finished it, what else are you going to do? It’s probably just wishful thinking, as I really don’t like Eyes Wide Shut, especially the last half. Better to think that it’s not really part of Kubrick’s legacy.
2. Do you ever drink and write? If not, are there any other vices you partake in while crafting your stories??
Pepsi is what I usually enjoy while pounding the keyboard. But if I’m writing after 5:00pm, then I’m probably drinking Corona.
3. Your last comic, Edge of the Unknown, was a horror story set in the 1920’s, and it was very, very adult. Now, with this new project, Nightingale and the Finch, it seems that you’re moving away from “mature” comics, and doing something a little more “all ages”. Is your approach different with this project, and why not do this as a “mature” book?
I like to write in different styles, in different genres, and even different mediums. Edge was always envisioned as an “adults only” kind of book, because of the level of sex, and violence that I was going to show. The 1920’s were a very hedonistic time in American history, and I wanted to explore that. Nightingale and the Finch has a different purpose. I want to do a straight up super-hero story. One that will appeal to anybody who reads Batman, or Spider-Gwen, or any other mainstream super-hero comics. I hope that it will resonate with younger readers the way comics did for me back in the day. I also hope that I have a main character that younger readers can relate to and want to stick with, but at the same time, I want there to be something for older readers as well.
Listen, I’ve read a million super-hero comics. I’m well aware of the clichés, and I’m going to stay away from them. I’m using the familiar Batman & Robin template, but I’m playing with expectations. DC would never do a Batman story like this, I know they won’t. For one thing, their characters have to stay very rigid and unchanging. Since these characters are mine, and not owned by some multi-million dollar corporation, I can do whatever I want with them, and hopefully challenge your idea of what it means to be a “hero”.
So, how would you describe Nightingale and the Finch if you were pitching it to an editor?
It’s a super-hero book for people who feel like they have seen it all. The story that you are expecting is not the story you will get. It’s a little hard to talk about because the ending of the first issue changes everything about the story and I don’t want to spoil it.
Do you Remember that great TV show, The Shield? It had a pilot episode that made you believe you were watching one kind of show, but when the ending hit, you realized it was a different beast altogether. I’m going for that kind of ending in my first issue, an ending you just don’t see coming.
4. Describe your worst dating experience.
Every date I’ve ever had could be described as “embarrassing”. I did not do well with the ladies when I was younger. Too awkward, too locked in my own head. Luckily for me, I stumbled into a relationship with a wonderful woman and we’ve been married for about ten years now. So, thank goodness, no more embarrassing dates for me.
5. What can you tell us about the main characters in your comic?
Well, the first issue is from Kara’s point-of-view. She’s 16-years-old. She’s funny and smart, but she’s also awkward around the boy she likes. Kara has some baggage from her past, stuff from before she was adopted by Kat, and it still weighs on her. She’s been training for about six months to be the Finch, Nightingale’s sidekick. Katherine Rollins is the Nightingale, a living legend, and one of the very first super-heroes. She’s a master of the martial arts, and she’s trained her mind to be a lightning-fast, precision instrument. The second issue is from her point-of-view and you’ll learn more about her there.
6. Who are some of your favorite comic creators?
Dave Sim has a huge body of work that I don’t think has really been critically reckoned with yet. I think Cerebus is one of those books that will one day have a whole college course devoted to it. 6000 pages, written and drawn by one man, where he tackles everything from relationships to religion. Even if you don’t agree with his conclusions, I think you should respect his work. Morrison, Moore, Bendis, Ellis, Aaron, Millar; these are the writers that I return to over and over. There’s also lesser known guys like Enrique Alcatena, and Timothy Truman who don’t get nearly the respect they deserve.
7. Edge of the Unknown featured a team-up of Harry Houdini & Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; you explored their real life friendship, and how it was a complicated relationship. I wondered how you felt when you saw Harry Houdini vs. Sherlock Holmes from Boom Comics. Did you read it?
No, I haven’t read it, if only because I am a horrible “back-seat writer”. Obviously, my story covered similar ground, and I know all the reasons why I made the story decisions I made. So, when I see someone else making different decisions I have a tendency to think, “Well, that’s not what they should have done”, instead of just sitting back and trying to enjoy the story. Now conversely, H.P. Lovecraft is a major character in Edge of the Unknown, and I wrote him in a particular way, with a particular voice. I’m very curious to see what Alan Moore does with Lovecraft in his upcoming series, Providence. I want to see how vastly different our interpretations of the same man are.
8. What artist would you most like to work with?
I love Jim Rugg! I think Street Angel and everything else he does is just amazing. I think he would be a joy to work with. Plus, he seems so nice.
9. Are there any Marvel or DC characters that you would like to work on?
Quite a few, actually. I grew up on all these characters and have been reading their adventures for a long time. I actually wrote a spec script for a Spider-man story called, “That Swingin’ Spider-man” and it was all about New York in the 70’s, and what Spider-Man’s life would have been like at the time. Remember that issue of Marvel Team-up featuring John Belushi? Let’s go back to that time and have a little fun with it. What if Gwen took Peter to a “key party”, how would he react? He would probably be really embarrassed and then she
would playfully laugh at him. Then they would leave the party immediately and spend the rest of the night out on the town. Throw in a few B-List villains to interrupt their date, and I think you have a fun story. Now if only Jim Rugg would agree to draw it.
10. Any words of advice to writers out there that are thinking about getting into comics?
Before doing anything else, make sure writing comics is something you really want to do. Because success won’t come easy and it won’t come quick. Heck, success may never come at all. So don’t do it for the hope of success, do it because you love to write and you love comics.
Interview date: April 2015 – A. Yates