When you think of the busiest writers in comics, you're likely to think of Brian Bendis or Geoff Johns, who juggle a lot of projects every month, but Canadian writer J. Torres is making a name with a number of critically acclaimed projects and even more on the way. CBR News caught up with Torres to talk about some of those projects and first spoke with the scribe about his Oni Press OGN (original graphic novel) series "Love As A Foreign Language."
"'LAAFL' is a romantic comedy about an English teacher working in Korea dealing with culture shock and home sickness and falling in love with a woman just as he's ready to throw in the towel and go back home," Torres explained. "It's like a 'should I stay or should I go' situation for him. The first couple of issues establish our hero's state of mind as well as the initial contact between the would-be lovebirds. Plus, there are a lot of people named Park and Kim in the story."
Not only is the setting unique to the North American comic book industry, but the series is considered a bona-fide romance comic, something of a rarity in today's spandex clad muscle man dominated industry. Though one might think that'd make it a hard sell to Oni, Torres says that just wasn't the case. "It wasn't that hard of a sell to the Oni people. They're suckers. I mean, they're suckers for romantic comedies over there. As for the fans, it's a bit early to really tell. Of course, we hope people dig it. I'm told it's doing well for an Oni book."
For those enjoying the book, you'll notice very authentic touches, such as the teaching scenes in the first volume that so accurately depict the cultural barriers between Canadian and Korean cultures and Torres says it all comes from his life experiences. "It's all loosely based on my early relationship with my fiancee, who's Korean. She came to Canada to study English. I was one of her first teachers. Ahem. I never taught abroad so that stuff comes from friends' experiences teaching in Korea and Japan. The rest I make up while sitting in front of the TV with my fiancee watching some Korean program she's obviously digging but I don't understand or get in the least."
With the second volume of the series having just shipped, Torres is enjoying universally excellent reviews of the book and has found himself a critical darling of late, though he's modest about it all. "Yes, the reviewers have been kind to us. And it wasn't expected, but a nice surprise. I'm not sure how it's affected sales, but I'm sure it hasn't hurt."
As a Canadian patriot- joining the ranks of such fan favorites as Darwyn Cooke and Bryan O'Malley- it would seem reasonable for Torres to provide a "shout out" to Canadian cultural landmarks, such as Ketchup Chips, Tim Hortons donuts and the Montreal Canadiens, but Torres is tight lipped about how much of his "Oh Canada" attitude we'll see in the book. "Joel will introduce Hana to ketchup chips and it will really test their relationship," he smiles.
Not one to limit himself to one genre, Torres will be tackling a Batman story in DC Comics' "Legends of The Dark Knight #190-191," and he explains "It's a two-part Mr. Freeze story. I'm really excited about it. I hope people like it. I've always loved Mr. Freeze's look, even in his various incarnations and design tweaks. He's got a great origin. One of the best origins of the Bat rogues and a great motivation to be doing what he does. In my story, I sort of take his 'depression' to the next level, if you will. I sort of answer what happens if Mr. Freeze realizes he's lost track of the reason he's Mr. Freeze."
Working on "Teen Titans Go!" and "Justice League Unlimited" (the latter as a fill in) keep Torres pretty busy and while he would like to work on more DC superhero comics, he's got nothing planned… yet. "Nothing on the schedule other than TTG and a JLU fill-in at this time. But I'm working on new stuff. You know what everyone says, 'I can't talk about it right now' whether there's really something to talk about or not. Usually, it means they're developing a pitch for an Ultra the Multi-Alien series and don't want anyone to steal their thunder."
Speaking of "Teen Titans Go!," the series has been quite popular with children who enjoy the animated series and the comic book has been promoted on a number of Post cereal boxes and when asked if that adds pressure to the work, Torres laughs. "That's like asking a clown if he feels pressure at birthday parties. I love kids. I'm in my element here. Want a balloon animal?"
The animated "Teen Titans" series has become more continuity heavy of late, from the Terra storyline to the developing Raven/Apocalypse story, but Torres says it isn't hard to make sure that the comic doesn't step on the cartoon's toes. "Not really. I've got my editor Tom Palmer, Jr. to rein me in if I cross any lines or step on any toes. Plus, I'm in touch with writers of the show so I sometimes bounce ideas off of them before I develop stuff. Continuity isn't a huge concern for anyone. Just as long as I'm not contradicting the cartoon or adding or subtracting major plot or story elements, they keep dropping food pellets into my cage."
Coming up on art duties is Mike Norton, whom Torres previously teamed with on Oni's "Jason & The Argobots" ("I can't talk about it right now," says Torres of the book) and Torres says he is a good fit for "TTG!" "He's a fan of the show and we've worked together before, plus he's a consummate professional who can do good work fast - Palmer couldn't have asked for more in a fill-in artist. He certainly couldn't have found anyone taller who can draw the Titans on model. Mike also makes my coffee just the way I like it."
There's even more work coming from Torres this year and he teases, "Well, I'm working on a new graphic novel for Oni called 'Lola: A Ghost Story.' Hopefully, there'll also be some new 'Sidekicks' with Takeshi Miyazawa sooner than later. There's also the 'Cannon Busters' comic and more fun stuff from me and LeSean Thomas. Plus, some stuff for Image that's still in the early stages, though. And I'm contributing some writing to the 'Hi Hi Puffy Amiyumi' show on Cartoon Network. Then there's my super secret Ultra the Multi-Alien project..."
CBR readers know Torres intimately from his "Open Your Mouth" column and the famous "Comic Book Idol" competition, but if you're wondering when we'll see either return, he answers, "I can't talk about it right now."