Open Your Mouth: Issue #1

Thu, May 8th, 2003 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
J. Torres, Columnist

"Inside The Actors Studio" meets "Interview Magazine." Or perhaps I should say "Comics Interview." That's what this column is supposed to read like. Like a personal, in-depth and insightful look behind the scenes. Comic creators discussing how they do what they do. Comic book editors and publishers telling you what to do and not do to get their attention. And sometimes, various comic book personalities trying to get you to pay attention to them and their work.

Some of these interviews will take the form of your standard Q&A, while others may be written up as an article, and you'll even see a chat log now and then. There will also be some fun stuff, different types of features like "Probe" where I let you, the reader, have a go at a comic book writer or artist with penetrating questions of your own. That should look a little something like this…

C. Moore of Shawnee, KS asks: "So your first interview is with yourself?"

Two birds. One stone. This is me. This is my new column.

A. De Blieck of North Haledon, NJ asks: "What is the 'J' short for?"

Joseph. But only my landlord and dentist call me that. Everyone else calls me "Jay."

This is not J. Torres and he is not pointing with his lips.
D. Williams of Orleans, Ontario asks: "How would you say growing up in Montreal shaped your early work?"

You start with what you know, so "Copybook Tales" (my first comic) was set in Montreal. The biggest names in the Montreal comic scene at the time (Chester Brown, Julie Doucet, Bernie Mireault) did a lot of personal, even autobiographical work and they influenced me to try and do the same. Plus, with the winters as cold as they are over there, I spent a lot time indoors reading and writing and dreaming of working in comics someday.

J. Nozemack of Portland, OR asks: "What do you think it is that personally motivates you to tell stories? Why are you compelled to do this?"

The majority of my heroes/influences/people I look up to the most seem to be storytellers of some sort. Authors, artists, filmmakers, songwriters, etc. I guess I just want to be like them.

J. Gallagher of Baltimore, MD asks: "Your story subjects seem to be so varied - from personal recollection, to giant robots, to girl adventurers, to a musical group; do you see a consistent theme throughout?"

It seems most of the stuff I write, regardless of genre or concept or format, involves some kind of family theme or dynamic. If it's not about a character trying to keep their family together ("Alison Dare") or someone searching for a lost family member ("Siren"), it's about someone finding a kind of surrogate family to help them accomplish something ("Sidekicks"). I have an idea where all of this is coming from in my personal life, but I'd be interested to see what a professional analyst or other might have to say about it.

R. Cortes of Burbank, CA asks: "Which artist would be your dream collaborator?"

Dreams do come true, children: I've been a big, big fan of Mike Wieringo for some years now and he is currently working on a short story I wrote for the upcoming "Sidekicks Super Fun Summer Special."

You mean this recent work?
J. Robinson of Oakland, CA asks: "Your recent work, "Days Like This" uses the platform of American pop music and even racial lines significant to the emerging identity of African Americans in the 1950s and 1960s entertainment industry. This subject still ripples through the American music industry today. As a Canadian, writing for a heavily American influenced and driven comic industry, about early American pop music, do you feel your work reflects human nature across all boundaries, or just your ability to merge into other cultures and history transparently? Do you leave your Canadian identity at the door when writing such subjects?"

Very interesting question. I've never really considered how being Canadian has affected my work (or not). I like to think most of my writing has some kind of universal appeal to it regardless of the historical setting or how much fantasy might be involved, or who is reading it and where they come from. That said, it still might be interesting to one day look at my comics and see if anything discernibly Canadian comes through, either in approach or sentiment or what have you. But speaking of "emerging identities", I'm sure some people are already asking, "What do you mean by 'Canadian'?" Hmm…

R. Ross of Toronto, ON asks: "Do you point with your lips?"

I would be denying my Filipino heritage if I said no.

S. Rolston of Vancouver, BC asks: "Is everyone at Oni gay?"

No, only the homosexual ones.

E. Northcott of Waterloo, ON asks: "Are you self-promoting/whoring yourself again?!?"

Yes.

Like I said, something like that. I promise that from here on, though, it will be other comic book creators answering the questions (including some of the names you see above). And with "Probe" interviewees are supposed to agree to answer any questions we throw at them. The who, how and when of all this will be posted on the column's accompanying message board. So, go poke around over there.

Meanwhile, any of you aspiring creators reading this would be wise to note the names of the publishing companies that appear on this page in the coming weeks. They're all looking for new material, new blood. But what does it take to get them to look at you? Bookmark this page. You can expect the first series of interviews I present to focus on the "breaking in" thing.

Convention season is near. You want to know what to include in your pitch or portfolio, don't you? Bookmark this page. We're going to try to help you out with that.

In the future everyone will open their mouth for fifteen minutes…
And what can you expect once you're inside the doors? For example, exactly what does the Image deal entail? Does Oni Press pay a page rate? Is Tokyopop accepting submissions? How do I get freelance work at DC or Marvel? Bookmark this page. Some creators will be by soon to share their experiences with you.

But perhaps you don't feel you're ready to put yourself out there just yet. Maybe you'd like to get inside some creators' heads and see what's involved in their workday, what script formats they use, what size brush they ink with, and how they pay the bills. Bookmark this page. You may find some enlightening conversation here.

That and some other amusing (and hopefully insightful) features, including some stuff I am not at liberty to discuss in detail just yet (like something we're tentatively referring to as "Comic Book Idol") should be found right here for your reading pleasure.

"Inside The Actors Studio" meets "Comics Interview." Sound good? I think so. I'm actually looking forward to seeing what some of the people I've lined up for interviews have to say. I hope you do, too. Please stay tuned.

Next week: Jamie S. Rich, Editor-in-Chief of Oni Press, shares his do's and don'ts for submissions, portfolios and applying mascara while in a moving vehicle.

In upcoming weeks: Terry Nantier founder of NBM Publishing; Stephanie Moore gatekeeper of Marvel's new Epic line; "Portfolio Review 101" with lessons from DC's Bob Schreck, Dark Horse's Randy Stradley, Wildstorm's Ben Abernathy and others; details on "Comic Book Idol"; plus much, much more…

Meanwhile, please visit the all-new Open Your Mouth message board and learn more about plans for this column, how you can help me interview Brian Michael Bendis, Gail Simone, Judd Winick and others for upcoming "Probe" features, and maybe even pick up some new swears in Tagalog.

Thank you for your attention.

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