An intimate crowd was very eager to see Paul Pope and Bob Schreck take the dais at last weekend’s Baltimore Comic-Con. Billed as a “cage match,” the panel was surprisingly low-key, extremely low-tech (no slides) and very casual. Paul Pope and Bob Schreck first worked together while Schreck was editing at Dark Horse. Schreck confessed to having to hound Pope, which resulted in Pope casting Schreck as Captain Haddock from “Tintin.”
Schreck noted that what creators and editors both strive for in comics is “critical, aesthetic, and commercial success.”
“Without compromising,” added Pope.
Schreck said that working with Pope is like working with Frank Miller “or someone else in that realm.” As Pope’s editor, Schreck is able to say, “What do you want to do?” He just needs to see a very basic pitch from Pope or a creator of his caliber to know whether the project should move forward or not. Schreck said that as Pope’s editor, he basically serves as a guardian, allowing Pope to turn things out with little variation than originally intended.
Pope cited Schreck as his inspiration to purchase a DVD player. In their work discussions, Schreck would often refer to films for comparisons but Pope, who apparently hadn’t seen a lot of movies, didn’t have any frame of reference. In order to relate to Schreck more effectively, Pope decided he would need to do some work. “It’s interesting how comics relate to movies,” Pope said, adding that he knows creators in the comics industry who desperately want to be film directors.
As for what informs his own choices in making that crossover between film and comics, Pope said, “I’m really into ‘The Outer Limits’ television series.” He cited the lower budgets but stronger cinematic framing as the factor that makes “Outer Limits” distinct.
Later, Pope remarked, “This is a nice time together right now, with Bob as friends, because we’re not working together.” When the pair are hard at work, the comics tend to take precedence over the friendship. But with no shared work between them, they’re able to strengthen their professional relationship.
Speaking about his career, Schreck said he fashions a different way to work with every different creator. “I was only at DC for a little while but I got a phone call and it was Frank Miller,” he recalled. Miller asked Schreck if he wanted to go on “a suicide run.” This led to “The Dark Knight Strikes Again,” which was a commercial success. Schreck narrowed in on a specific scene featuring Catgirl where she has to put the hurt on one of the batboys, who had killed a man. Miller had different ideas for the scene following what he and Schreck originally discussed, but Schreck convinced Miller to return to the original.
Pope, in offering some insight into why he does what he does, stated, “I want to express myself through comics.” Pope wants to continue the tradition of Alex Toth and Milton Caniff, and hopes to bring that style of work to a younger generation. Schreck and Pope then lamented what they described as a vast ignorance among younger comics fans. Schreck offered that he has, more than once, met students who are unfamiliar with Caniff or Toth, but are still studying comic book art.
Pope’s artwork ifinds inspiration and advice from all corners. “I draw with a brush,” he revealed, and has gotten to his current comfort level following some advice from “Cerebus” creator Dave Sim, who told Pope that the first thousand brush drawings would be horrible, so he’d “better start now.”
A fan asked what would the worst case scenario, an editor being a tyrant or an artist being a goof? Schreck said one of his talents was tricked with eight months of fake deadlines, established to counteract any slow turnaround, yet the talent still blew his deadline before lying to cover up. It was a one-page assignment for an “Elementals” jam issue. When the page was “due,” the artist hadn’t even penciled it yet – after eight months! Years later when Schreck was at Dark Horse, the same creator was delaying another book. Knowing the creator was exclusively employed at Malibu Comics, Schreck called the Malibu office and asked to have the creator paged -- “Bob Schreck from Dark Horse is on the phone.” This caused a bit of consternation on the part of the talent, but Schreck figures the lesson was learned.
The worst case scenario from Pope’s perspective is the “frustrated writer cliché,” where the editor imposes his ideas upon what should be an expression of the creator. “The people you really want to work with are the people you can sit down with, talk to, have a drink or a coffee with,” Pope said.
Schreck agreed, “There should be a mutual respect. A give and take. It’s the discovery of how the other person works that energizes the professional relationship.”
Pope was asked what he does to “stay fresh” and how an editor can help him do so. Pope said his current editor at First Second, Mark Siegel, is considered a friend. Beyond that, Pope does things he enjoys doing. He tries to only draw people he knows. “The reference is there, honest and direct.”
Asked what music he listens to while working, Pope said Wagner, jazz, and other types of music, but specifically instrumentals. Pope likes DJ’ing, and will DJ for an MTV party for the New York Comic-Con. No further details were available on that.
In response to a question about professional disappointments, Pope revealed he was on board for a “third year of ‘All-Star Superman’” that would have seen him “share art duties with J. H. Williams III and Richard Corben.”
For his part, Schreck said a Dave Stevens Superman project was shot down. Another one was a story by Neil Gaiman and Matt Wagner that was “dumped” by a higher up from DC. Schreck also mentioned a Batman story to be drawn by Cliff Chiang that was also nixed.