Open Your Mouth: Issue #32

Fri, December 19th, 2003 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
J. Torres, Columnist

Despite falling short a few months of a year's worth of columns, I thought it might be interesting to look back at Open Your Mouth in 2003. Thinking ahead to 2004, who to interview, what to write about, and when to launch which event when, also made me reflect on who I've already interviewed, what I've already written about, and all the rest. Besides, everyone's doing the "Year in Review" thing right about now so why not jump off that bridge myself?

For those of you just joining us, here's how I kicked off this whole thing in my first column posted on May 8th of this year…

"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…

What followed this "mission statement" was a kind of light-hearted "getting to know you" Q&A with yours truly providing the A's and some friends of mine bringing the Q's, which you can read here. This really set the pace for a very interactive, fun but useful column with lots of audience participation and people from all levels of the industry contributing. Or at least, I thought so.

Since we were weeks away from the summer convention season when the column first debuted, I thought it a good idea to focus on the "comic book editors and publishers telling you what to do and not do to get their attention" part of the goals listed for this column.

My column for Thursday, May 15th featured an interview with Jamie S. Rich, editor-in-chief of Oni Press - at least until his recently announced departure in June of next year. No, that doesn't leave much time for you to pitch him your masterpiece. But I'm sure submissions policies and procedures will pretty much be the same at Oni even after they take back Jamie's decoder ring, so aspiring creators hoping to place a project there read this and find out why you need to answer yes to the question: "Do you like being poor?"

No more pitches for lame books,
no more fanboys' dirty looks

OYM for Thursday, May 22nd saw me talking to NBM Publishing's head honcho Terry Nantier. You all know NBM, right? Publisher of graphic novels by the likes of Dave McKean, P. Craig Russell, Milo Manara, Will Eisner and soon… me! My favorite quote from this interview: "[O]ne in five books sold in France is a graphic novel!" Read this for more insights like that as well as how to pitch to NBM.

Then on May 29th, just before the floodgates opened, I managed to interview then Epic editor/project manager Stephanie Moore about submissions guidelines and procedures for what at the time sounded like a very promising imprint. Everyone knows how it all panned out in the end. With quotes like "[M]ake sure you've read and understood Bill's remarks on story in 'Marville' #7… because following his advice there is going to help you avoid 99% of the pitfalls that will keep your work from being accepted" I find re-reading this today both frustrating and funny.

A self-fulfilling prophecy?

It's Thursday, June 5th and I know a lot of hopeful artists are gearing up for convention season and showing their portfolios to editors and publishers alike. Wanting to help out both sides of the table in this process, I talk to DC's Bob Schreck, Dark Horse's Randy Stradley, Top Cow's Renae Geerlings and others about preparing for portfolio reviews. This is as handy a guide for aspiring artists - so bookmark the page, kids!

Thursday, June 12th we got more great portfolio prep advice, this time from folks like "Green Arrow" artist Phil Hester, "Elektra: Glimpse and Echo" artist Scott Morse, "Witchblade" artist Francis Manapul and others who have stood in those long lines, had their artwork ripped apart by editors, and empathize with your "breaking in" frustrations here.

After a couple of weeks of concentrating on artists, Thursday, June 19th saw me giving wannabe writers a bit of a hand. "New Mutants" writers Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis, "Beware the Creeper" scribe Jason Hall, "Green Lantern" legend Ron Marz, and others open their mouths about how they broke into comics here.

On Thursday, June 26th, I finally bust out the probe as promised. I wrote in my first column about "fun stuff, different types of features" and what could be more fun than probing someone? "Probe" is what I called the interviews where I let you, the reader, ask the questions. Brian Michael Bendis agreed to be my first guinea pig and the amusing results of this experiment in audience participation can be found here.

Thursday, July 3rd and more probing ensued. This time Judd Winick agreed to field the questions in another virtual panel. Half the questions came from fans, half from James Lipton.

Open my what?

Continuing the "comic creators discussing how they do what they do" aspect of the column, I sat down with Jay Faerber ("Noble Causes", "Robotech") for an interview posted on Thursday, July 10th. This was the first of three interviews about "infiltrating Image Comics."

Thursday, July 17th saw the second of such interviews, this time featuring Mark Ricketts ("Nowheresville", "Whiskey Dickel").

Thursday, July 24th capped off our look "Inside Image" with an interview with B. Clay Moore ("Hawaiian Dick", "Paper Museum").

These three columns combined provided a nice look at these creators' work on top of giving aspiring creators a good idea of what it's like to publish through Image Comics.

On Thursday, July 31st, I had to have bypass surgery but Neal Shaffer (writer of "One Plus One" and "Last Exit Before Toll") was kind enough to guest host for me. Check out this rare interview he conducted with Brian Azzarello ("100 Bullets"). Neal's expressed interest in guest hosting more in the future, and I'm already thinking of giving him a call when I go in for my breast reduction.

And then came a little thing I called Comic Book Idol.

Will there be more in 2004?

You all remember CBI, right? I really didn't know what to expect of this event. I thought it would just be this little "art contest." But one thing led to another and Joe Quesada got involved. Go big or go home, I guess? Sorry, no highlights reel here, but click on the links below to see what you missed (or to revisit those productivity-killing days of waiting for the votes to come in)…

Thursday, August 7th


The Preliminary Round

Thursday, August 14th


The Ten Top

Thursday, August 21st


The Eight Not Eliminated

Thursday, August 28th


The Six Survivors

Thursday, September 4th


The Final Four

Thursday, September 11th


The Two in Title Match

Thursday, September 18th


The Comic Book Idol

With the contest all said and done, Thursday, September 25th's column featured a group interview with six of the contestants who helped make "Comic Book Idol" as fun and exciting and memorable as it was. We talked about the highs and lows of the contest, the "controversies", the fan reaction, and how I have better hair than Ryan Seacrest without even trying.

To see some of the artwork drawn by the contestants, check out this special gallery.

And with at least half of our ten finalists with projects lined up for 2004, you can bet that they'll be getting more air time here!

Thursday, October 2nd brought about something completely different. Well, not entirely different since there was a comic book/reality TV theme again. But whereas in the past I interviewed comic creators, this time I interviewed some real characters. No, really, I interviewed characters from Todd Nauck's best-seller "Wildguard."

On Thursday, October 9th, I got back to everyone's favorite topic: "breaking into the industry." You asked for it, you got it. This time I spoke to former interns from Marvel, Dark Horse, and Oni Press to give readers an idea of what it's like to work in a comic book office and get some advice on how to break in as… an editor?

Thursday, October 16th, Robert "Invincible" Kirkman, Brandon "G.I. Joe" Jerwa, Ande "Union Station" Parks, and Gail "Birds of Prey" Simone open their mouths about writing comics in a virtual round table. Forget "Inside the Actors Studio"! This was more like "Politically Incorrect" or John Favreau's "Dinner for Five" and probably one of my favorite interviews from the past year. I mean, eight months. Anyway, I'm hoping to do more columns like this in 2004.

In the future everyone will open
their mouth for fifteen minutes.

On Thursday, October 23rd, I decided to do some comic book reviews. But instead of just talking about the book and what I liked about it, I contacted the creators and did some brief interviews to accompany my reviews. If you haven't read "True Story, Swear to God" by Tom Beland, "Punch and Judy" by Chris Reilly, or "Tales from Under Your Bed" by Doug Holgate, then you owe it to yourself to read this. I'm also hoping to do more of these types of columns in the future.

At the end of October I embarked upon a three week, three-city convention "tour" so I once again brought in a fill-in writer. This time Filipino writer/editor Budjette Tan provided OYM readers a two-part look at "komiks" and "komikeros" in the Philippines (my birthplace). Part 1 (paying tribute to Filipino comic legends like Alfredo Alcala, Alex Nino, and Whilce Portacio) can be found here while Part 2 (focusing on newer Filipino creators working in North America today) can be found here.

On Thursday, November 13th, as a follow up to Budjette's two fill-in columns, I decided to interview the "Superman: Birthright" art team of Leinil Francis Yu and Gerry Alanguilan, as well as Budjette himself, about their experiences working in the US comic market, becoming local heroes, and the state of the industry over there versus over here.

Friday, November 28th, rising star LeSean Thomas, artist of Dreamwave's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", opened his mouth about his work in comics, animation, and freelance illustration. Unfortunately, it was recently announced that the Dreamwave TMNT series is being cancelled, but you can read all about LeSean's next project "Cannon Busters" here.

OYM for Thursday, December 4th ended up being my favorite column of the year (er, past eight months) thanks to Andi Watson, one of my favorite comic creators. His series "Love Fights" (Oni Press) is sure to make a number of "best of" lists for 2003, so if you already haven't, make sure to read this for more info on the critically acclaimed, fan-favorite comic book. Plus, some kind words about Bill Jemas!

Which brings us to last week when I, along with the help of some of Santa's helpers, suggested some comic books appropriate for giving as gifts and stocking stuffers to kids as well as donating to local toy drives and other children's charities. We're less than a week away from Christmas, have you finished your shopping? Did you remember to pick up an extra comic book or graphic novel to donate to Toys for Tots or the Christmas Wish Foundation? It's not too late! Look here for some kid-friendly suggestions and help spread some Christmas cheer as well as the love of comics this holiday season.

So there you have it. You know, in case you missed any of these columns the first time they ran. Not that you couldn't have just referred to the archives. But try to think of this like one of those flashback episodes of a sitcom comprised of clips from past shows. And don't the plots of those eps tend to revolve around a holiday if not air around a holiday? With that, let me wish you and yours Happy Holidays whatever and however you celebrate this time of year. Thanks for your support in 2003, and I look forward to you continuing to read Open Your Mouth in 2004!

Have a safe and super holiday, kids!

Next week: It's Christmas, you Grinch! And the week after that I'm helping Rudolph escort the Baby New Year to Father Time's house. See you here in a couple of weeks - unless Santa gives me that Caribbean cruise I put on my list…

Meanwhile, you can probably find me posting in the OYM forum during the commercial breaks of "It's a Wonderful Life."

And don't forget: Teen Titans Go #2 is in stores 12/24. Did someone say stocking stuffers?

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