Open Your Mouth: Issue #11

Thu, July 17th, 2003 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
J. Torres, Columnist

INSIDE IMAGE COMICS


PART TWO: MARK RICKETTS

We continue our look "Inside Image" with the second in series of three interviews with creators producing books with that "i" on the cover. Three different creators with different personalities, publishing different types of comics that found their way into the Image family in different ways.

Last week, we spoke to Jay Faerber, who gave up a lucrative freelance career working for the likes of DC and Marvel to strike out on his own and produce a creator-owned book.

Next week, we chat with B. Clay Moore, a man with a day job who does comics on the side, but would love to make a career of it and even make that Hollywood connection.

This week, Mark Ricketts is up. He's not in it for the money. He does comics because he has stories to tell.

Aspiring creators reading this should be able to relate with one of these Image creators, and hopefully also learn a thing or two about impressing Image enough to give them a shot at producing their own book with that "i" on the cover. Now, let's pick the brain of Mark Rickets and have a look at his comics whose protagonists range from a beatnik to a cowgirl to a serial killer. Does MacFarlane know about this guy?

TORRES: Take us to "Nowheresville," driver.

"This cat is on an espresso-fueled, riffs-n-stiffs, one-way trip to 'Nowheresville,' baby!"
RICKETTS: Dig this, Daddy-O! A 1950s Greenwich Village beatnik seeks love and spiritual enlightenment, but instead finds himself embroiled in a mystery involving a murdered exotic dancer, a thrill-killing mobster, a hopped-up bebop jazz drummer, a ruthless Hollywood starlet and a crooked cop. This cat is on an espresso-fueled, riffs-n-stiffs, one-way trip to "Nowheresville," baby! It's my 192-page graphic novel published by Image Comics.

TORRES: A cocktail or something that I'll need a turtleneck to cover up? What prey tell is a "Whiskey Dickel"?

RICKETTS: Rodeo Queen. Astronaut. Diplomat. Movie Star. International Cowgirl. That's Ms. Whiskey Dickel! And we've rounded up a mess o' her adventures in a 120-page graphic novel slated to come out August 6 from Image Comics. You'll see Ms. Dickel flashback to her humble, white trash beginnings, kick redneck hiney at a rodeo carnival, and hogtie an ornery buffalo. We're also tossin' in a passle of pin-ups and commentary by a herd of notable artists and writers - including Tim Bradstreet and Brian Michael Bendis. The whole shebang is mostly written by me, and mostly illustrated by my partner Mike Hawthorne ("3 Days In Europe", "Terminator 3")! One of the stories is based on the winning entry in the 2000 Klasky Csupo Screenwriting Contest. Them's the folks what brung you "Rugrats" and "Duckman," so you know they know what's good! Y'all come by, ya hear?

TORRES: And your next project for Image?

RICKETTS: "Dioramas, A Love Story." This one is for all of you crime comics kids jonesing for a story that features a love-starved, art lovin' serial killer. The 120 page graphic novel is illustrated by Dario Brizuela ("Star Wars Tales", "Robo Dojo") and will come out as soon as he finishes it. 'Nuff said.

TORRES: How did you hook up with Hawthorne who's clear across the country from you, or Brizuela all the way down in Argentina?

RICKETTS: I leave a trail of cheese leading to a box with a tripwire. I show a little leg and flutter my eyelashes. I hire a Mariachi band to play under their windows. Or I get really damn lucky. Mike Oeming, a friend of a friend, introduced me to Mike Hawthorne. Hawthorne introduced me to Dario Brizuela. Then Dario introduced me to Horacio Domingues. And the dominoes continue to fall.

TORRES: "Nowheresville" is where it all started for you at Image, tell us how it ended up there.

RICKETTS: "Nowheresville" was originally published by Caliber Comics. The last Caliber issue came out in 1997 - my Neolithic period. Flash forward five years later to find me hiding in a shotgun shack, eating beans straight from the can, growing a beard, and re-writing my manifesto for the umpteenth time. Cut to shiny domed, former Caliber-ite and now comics luminary, Brian Bendis, as he takes time from being fabulous (writing multiple titles for his growing cult of followers) to force an old friend out of comics retirement. Anyway, before I make a short story waaaaay too long, lets cut to the chase - Brian sent "Nowheresville" to Image publisher, Jim Valentino, and the rest is history.

TORRES: How do you like working with Image?

"This one is for all of you crime comics kids jonesing for a story that features a love-starved, art lovin' serial killer."
RICKETTS: It's been a great experience. Jim Valentino and Eric Stephenson (Image Comics Director of Marketing) have been very helpful. In fact, Jim took personal interest in "Nowheresville" and contributed to its success. And he was more than a little helpful with the package design. Now, I must tell you, this is not typical of an Image project. Working with Image is a lot like self-publishing, but with the benefit of the Image "I" and Image resources. It's the perfect publishing choice for the ego-driven comics demigod or an over confident upstart. Not for the dilettante.

TORRES: Tell the people about the hats. You know, all the different ones you have to wear as an Image creator. And walk us through the process of making a comic book Ricketts-style…

RICKETTS: Oh yes, the hats.

The script (pyramid thinking cap): I write the project up and edit it. Sometimes I con my friends into proofreading it, but ultimately I'm responsible for every bad idea, screwy transition, missing comma, and misspelled word.

Note #1: If my masterpiece is nothing more than a mess of pieces, don't blame me, blame society.

Note #2: Image doesn't edit your work. So unless you're a comics genius or it was always your intention to create a flawed and self-indulgent work - you better find a good editor. Now, I've heard lotsa whiney folks complain about being edited. Well, I can tell ya that with my Dark Horse project (Hype #4: "Lazarus Jack" a full color graphic novel coming in the summer of '04) I've had the privilege to work with a great one. Scott Allie pushes me to do my best work. (Hype #5: Another shameless Dark Horse related plug - Have you seen my story in "Hellboy: Weird Tales #2"?)

Okay, back to the hats...

The art (hair net): I make-ah da thumbnails. I make-ah da pencil. And I make-ah da inks. Then it's ready for the oven (computer).

Note #3: Lately, I've been turning this hat over to collaborators. It never quite fit anyway.

The electronics (copter beanie): Once the illos are finished, I scan them into the computer. I don't hand letter, because I like to change dialogue as I go along. So lettering purists can just bite me! Then it's tweak, tweak, tweak! Once I've grown tired of trying to make a silk purse from a sow's ear, I prepare the files for the printer. For b/w books, Image prefers that you use Adobe Illustrator EPS or Bitmapped Tiff files dropped into Quarkpress. Shipping (mesh farm equipment cap): Once I have everything on disc, I ship the files off to the fine folks at Image. They do the rest. Of course, if I screw something up, I'm sure Image will give me some help with the file preparations. They won't just point and laugh. Advertising (balloon animal hat or wide brimmed pimp hat): Oh yeah, after that's over and you're riddled with self-doubt and undergoing withdrawal, it's time to push that product. As far as my plumed pirate hat goes, I've never had a reason to wear it. One day.

TORRES: I have an idea for the pirate hat, but we'll discuss that later. So how much say do you have in terms of packaging, solicitation, release dates?

RICKETTS: With Image, you can either make decisions or leave it to their discretion. At least that's been my experience. Of course, they'll tell you that if you want your comic printed in the blood of virgins on sheets of oven dried human flesh, the cost could be prohibitive. As far as when a book gets launched or who decides release dates, it all comes down to when the book is finished. Image has a policy that they won't solicit until the work is complete and in house. Having said that, I have to add that Image is gonna consider all the particulars before throwing your product out to the wolves, er, I mean, adoring public.

"Y'all come by, ya hear?"
TORRES: I really think that timing is key to the successful launch of a new book. Do you have any thoughts on when it's best to put something new out there?

RICKETTS: After a well-publicized scandal is good. Or maybe a few weeks after saving children from a burning building. Ya know, I'm not sure that, in the current market, it's ever a good time to launch a "new" book. Especially one without tights-wearing, muscle-necked do-gooders in the story. However, conventions are the best place to promote your new book. The perfect time to shake hands, kiss babies and hawk your wares like a carnival barker.

TORRES: Now, sell the people on pitching a book to Image Comics.

RICKETTS: If you're willing to take a chance on yourself and work your butt off - Image is the place. If you can't sell enough to warrant printing - you've come to the wrong place. If you're a control freak with mad talents - Image is the place. If you need to have your hand held - you've come to the wrong place. If you don't need cash up front, because you believe your project is gonna reap big reward after publication - Image is the place. If you're looking for the cookie aisle - try a supermarket.

TORRES: Obviously, Image is the place for you with three projects there and counting. So, are you reaping the "big reward after publication" that you were hoping to?

RICKETTS: I can't afford a hot pink 1955 Thunderbird or a heart-shaped, Jell-O-filled swimming pool. I can't even afford to light a cheap cigar with Monopoly money. But then, I don't really make comics to reap big reward. I make comics because I like to tell stories.

TORRES: After that Jell-O comment I'm too afraid to ask how you pay your bills…

RICKETTS: Well, getting an advance from a publisher when you create personal, untried projects can be difficult. I sometimes go to the airport and dance around a cup marked "feed me." I look really good in a saffron robe and a skullcap, so I do okay.

TORRES: I'm not sure what's harder, getting advances out of some publishers, or getting people to pick up your books. Tell us about your experiences with the latter hurdle.

RICKETTS: When it comes to promoting books, hurdle jumping is de rigueur. I've tried everything but making balloon animals while playing cymbals strapped to my knees. And I'm considering that for this year. I'll be at the Wizard World con. Don't forget to bring your babies - I'll be happy to kiss 'em. Now, I couldn't tell you if any of my efforts are working, but that doesn't mean I won't continue to push that product, jump those hurdles, tote that bale.

TORRES: You'll have that retirement fund yet!

RICKETTS: Retirement fund? (Mark's hysterically laughter degenerates into hysterical sobbing.) Oh hell, it's all hurdles. You know the panic of watching your toilet overflow? That's pretty much how I feel during the whole process - from production to promotion.

TORRES: Based on your own experiences publishing through Image, what kind of advice would you give to creators thinking of going to the "I"?

RICKETTS: Roll the dice and if it comes up snake eyes - take the hit, pull up your pants, lick your wounds and try again.

Related Links:

Whiskey Dickel, Int'l Cowgirl GN (ISBN 1-58240-318-X)


Five Page Preview Nowheresville


Diorama

Next week: B. Clay Moore pulls out his "Hawaiian Dick."

Meanwhile, check out the "Whiskey Dickel" preview then drop by the Open Your Mouth forum and tell us what you think.

Thank you for your attention.

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