Joey Esposito (the human to the right)
IGN Comic Editor Joey Esposito is among some of the newest comic book writers that go outside of the superhero scene to try new creator owned projects. Not only does Joey Esposito engage in high concept, solid stories as his peers do, but he also embraces the new ideology and economy of the modern comic book market. Publisher in advance? Doesn’t need one. Distribution? Sells it himself. Financing? Uses Kickstarter.
Last week I reviewed Joey Esposito and co-creator/artist Jonathan Moore’s Footprints. It’s the black and white noir story of Bigfoot as a detective during the 1940s. After some further back and forth contacting, I was able to get an interview with Joey Esposito. He comes off as a writer who’s passionate about his work and is more than happy to talk about Footprints, future projects, and what might be in store for us in later issues.
Comic Attack: Let’s start off with an easy one. How are you feeling now that Footprints has been given media coverage?
Joey Esposito: Oh, it’s awesome. It’s strange being on the other side of that equation. But I love hearing what people think — good or bad — so it’s very helpful and rewarding. As they say, any press is good press.
CA: Tell us a little bit about your background in comics, and how you become an editor for IGN Comics?
JE: I started as a fan just like pretty much everyone else, but always had an affinity for writing stories and such. So, as I got into creative writing growing up, I started to sort of plot out my own comics, or at least what I thought qualified as such. In college I took some really great comics courses that sort of expanded my knowledge of cartooning and the alternatives to superhero books. I did a super punk rock alternative mini-comic called Cancer & Fun that was received to much indifference, mostly because my main characters were either ducks or cigarettes. And also, my cartooning leaves plenty to be desired. After college, I began writing for a small-time pop-culture website about comics and just doing general freelance writing work for various places. From there I became the Comics Editor at CraveOnline, and eventually at the mecca of entertainment websites, IGN. Of course, all the while I’ve been making comics.
CA: Is there a difference between working for the small press sites versus working for the behemoths such as IGN?
JE: Of course. You don’t have to scramble for attention or fight your way through the masses as much. I’m lucky enough to be in a position where I have the name value of a great outlet behind me. But at the same time, I wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for the smaller sites giving me a shot and letting me work my way up.
CA: As an editor for various sites, have you ever received any hilarious query letters or submissions (whether for the right or wrong reasons)?
JE: Aside from the oddball reader e-mail, I’ve never really experienced any sort of bizarre requests or anything. Some hate mail, but nothing that wasn’t deserved or unexpected!
CA: Who are your biggest influences in the work you’ve produced?
JE: In terms of comics, I adore the work of Chris Ware and Jason, they are two of the greatest living cartoonists and I can’t get enough. I’m an adamant believer in the brilliance of Grant Morrison, and I’m also a huge fan of Greg Rucka, in anything he does, in or out of superheroes.
But ultimately, I’m influenced by a lot of things in a lot of different mediums. I’m sort of the anti-fanboy in that I really dig things like Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, which for many people, disintegrates my nerd cred. And that’s fine. But I love things that don’t take themselves too seriously; Lois & Clark, the Adam West Batman, or even Batman: The Brave and the Bold. I think a lot of the ideas of Footprints stem from there. Taking a genre I love and filtering it through the cheekiness that appeals to me in those renditions of iconic characters. Comics is serious business, but we all need to lighten up.
In terms of influences I can put a face to, the novels of Raymond Chandler had a hand in the creation of Footprints, but even more so are Hitchcock and Fritz Lang. Taking these archetypes that they portrayed so well and using them tongue-in-cheek. Oh, and adding monsters as well.
I’ve got another book coming with 215 Ink called Rip Nixon, which comes from a different place entirely. It’s more pulp, influenced more by Doc Savage and Star Wars than anything else. It’s probably the closest I’ll get to writing, or at least creating, a superhero. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and it’s nice to do these projects simultaneously and have to draw from all these different places. It gives me an excuse to watch sweet stuff all night long. It’s “research.”
CA: I see you also write prose and screenplays. Anything up and coming with those two mediums (or any past projects we should check out)?
JE: Nothing to speak of, unfortunately. I’ve been working on a novel for some time now, and have a few completed screenplays that could or could not go somewhere in the future. I’ve had a low-budget film in the works before, but funding never fully came through. These have kind of been side projects for the last couple of years, but comics are my first love and I’m lucky enough to have my plate full of comics scripts to write for the time being.
CA: Do you write standard comic book scripts (dialog, description, and page/panels) or something different?
JE: Nope, no crazy Alan Moore panel descriptions here. I do what’s needed to convey what should be happening, and I pride myself on collaboration. I want the artist to enjoy what he’s doing and feel like he’s creating something, not being dictated to. That being said, all of my scripts are up for discussion in terms of panels per page and such. I’m not an artist, or at least not a good one, and if my collaborator things there’s a better way to accomplish something visually, I’ll listen.
CA: If you could pick one artist you could do a project with, who would it be and what would be the project?
JE: Man, that’s tough. In terms of my creator-owned stuff, I’d kill to work with Chris Sprouse. Tom Strong is one of my absolute favorite things ever, and I think his work is just brilliant. And a Ragman book with JH Williams III would blow your mind, guaranteed!
CA: I see the artwork in both Footprints and Roscoe and Alice Find God (earlier work) has been done by Jonathan Moore. How did you end up collaborating with him, and why is your chemistry so successful?
JE: We met up on the Digital Webbing forums, like a lot of upstart collaborators. Originally, Roscoe & Alice was meant to be an entry for Zuda, but we connected at just the right time; Spring of 2010, when Zuda announced the end of their competition. Not far after that was the closure of the imprint entirely, and so we opted to change R&A to a traditional 8-page pitch in the standard comic format. Though it’s a story I’d like to go back to one day, I think when we created the idea of Footprints our minds moved to a different place, and at least at this moment, somewhere far more interesting and exciting to us as creators.
Jonathan is great. We just met in person for the first time at C2E2 and had a blast, and even talked about yet another, completely different project that we’re both excited for. But I think we work so well together because we’re on the same page with what we want to deliver in our stories. He’s the only person that was willing to accept “Bigfoot Detective” as a viable character right out of the gate, before he saw a script from me. And I feel comfortable in writing a description like “Nessy is wearing a 60s outfit” because I just know that he’ll get it, make sure the clothing is accurate to the time period, and proceed to knock it right the hell out of the park. I learned quick and easy how he likes to work, and I think that he understands what appeals to me. So, we both just nurture that aspect of our creative relationship, and hopefully it grows as we do as artists.
Roscoe and Alice Find God
CA: You said that the C2E2 expo was the very first time you’ve met (in person) your fellow collaborator Jonathan Moore. Was it an odd feeling, meeting him for the very first time even though you’ve known him for a while? Was he different than you thought he would be?
JE: Yeah it was a bit weird. We’ve talked on the phone a few times, but mostly communication had been online. I wouldn’t say he was different than expected, but it’s odd having a face to put his e-mail or whatever, instead of some vague imagery. But it was great, we had a good time and even started talk of a new project because of it. The internet is great, but nothing gets ideas flowing like chatting over a beer.
CA: What are some of your favorite convention moments you’ve experienced?
JE: To be honest, C2E2 was my first convention as a creator, and I was working the con from the press side mostly, so I have a very small amount to pick from. That said, apparently someone actually stole a copy of Footprints #1 — after having Jonathan sign it — from the table, so that’s kind of awesome and validating in some strange way. Other than that, I got a very nice e-mail from a fan that picked up Footprints #1 and enjoyed it so much that they donated to our Kickstarter project. It’s incredibly rewarding to hear back from someone like that on a project you’ve put so much work and time into.
CA: How has the Kickstarter site helped your project, and do you plan on using it again with any future projects?
JE: Kickstarter is great, albeit incredibly stressful. To have the financial future of your project hang in the balance of the interwebs is intimidating, but it’s also incredibly humbling. To have — as of this interview — 70 people, some you know, some you don’t, giving you money to make your dream project happen is awesome.
I’ll be using Kickstarter again, whether or not Footprints is successful on there. You probably won’t see it until after our Footprints Campaign is over (June 5, people, let’s make it happen!). I’m trying to put together a comics anthology of short stories from various creators in support of animal rights, with all proceeds benefiting the Humane Society. We need Kickstarter for production costs on the book, and obviously getting to cons and such to sell it. If we can work with various animal support groups, I think we can get enough funding together to do something really special. All the stories will be animal-centric — which doesn’t mean preachy — from a wide array of creators. That being said, I’ve got a few on board, but anyone interested in pitching a story or contributing artwork, shoot me an e-mail at email@example.com. The stories can be anywhere from 1-8 pages. And that’s my pitch for that [laughs].
CA: Are you planning on doing any other anthologies in the near future?
JE: I think it’s a great format, and so I’d love to, yeah. At the moment I’m pretty booked up with projects I want to do or am already working on, so I think this Humane Society one will be it for the time being.
CA: Who’s your favorite character (whether personally or to write) in Footprints?
JE: I love Jersey Devil. I know it’s like the “cool” thing to do to make fun of the Jersey Shore folks, but I hope that I’ve infused Devil with enough endearing qualities to make him appealing, including to the Jersey Shore people. He’s just a lot of fun to write. He’s the glue that holds the team together, really, even if he’s sort of this hapless troublemaker. They all need him, even if it’s only to put him down every other panel to elevate their egos. The character interaction is a lot of fun to write. If I ever get to the point where I can deliver his one-shot origin tale, that will be a complete dream.
CA: If Footprints was made into a film, who would be your dream cast?
JE: I’m really not a fan of the idea, to be honest. First, I don’t think it’d work as a live-action movie. An animated flick would be cool, but Hollywood would insist on going CGI with it, and that’d be lame. So I don’t have a good answer for you, aside from Brian Cox playing Dr. Weber. That would be badass.
CA: Can you give us a hint about where you’re going to take Footprints next?
JE: Well, we saw Devil get carried off by a rather suspicious looking G-Man at the end of issue #1, so rest assured that we’ll be digging a little deeper into just what the hell the team has stumbled onto. I can say that issue #2 opens on the evening that WWII ended, in a brief glimpse into the past lives of Foot and Yeti. I can also promise waffles and explosions. If you’ve seen our Kickstarter Exclusive Art Print, there’s also some hints about the overarching plot of the series in the article clipping within the image.
CA: Fiction based on past decades tend to set their themes to the times they’re based on (depression in the thirties, McCarthyism in the fifties, etc.). Since Footprints starts right after WWII, will we see any themes connecting with the post war era?
JE: Well, the overall “story” of Footprints begins around the WWII-era, though “Iced” is set in the modern day. But yes, there are ties to the war that plays into the events that are unfolding, as well as current events overseas. It’s definitely fun to play into those eras, and future Footprints tales, with luck, will be able to explore this cast throughout different decades. The general timeline I’ve given is that the cryptids have been integrated in society since about the early 20th century, so there are so many options.
CA: Is Footprints going to be a one story event or, should everything go successfully, will you write other tales with Bigfoot or spin-offs with other characters?
JE: It’s structured so that we can tell numerous stories with these characters, in a series of minis or what have you. “Iced” is a complete story, but there’s definitely more to dive into. Obviously I have huge plans about what COULD happen, depending on our level of success. Jonathan and I have chatted briefly about the next story, but right now our focus is on getting our Kickstarter fully backed and being able to finish the first on our own, should we be unable to trick a publisher into releasing it!
CA: Is there any publisher that you would absolutely love to work with?
JE: I would love to work with Archaia someday. They are a nice group of smart, genuine people that put out some of the best comics today. Their catalog varies so greatly, and every single book they publish, even if it’s not what typically appeals to you, looks like a million bucks. Com.x is another great publisher that is doing a lot of new and exciting things, and they too take great pride in what their product looks like. Both of these companies always get behind all of their books 100%, and I think that’s something that every creator wants for their book.
CA: I hear you’re a huge Back to the Future fan. If you could choose one artifact from Part II, what would it be? A hoverboard, self-lacing shoes, or an auto-dry jacket?
JE: God damn, do I LOVE Back to the Future. So much. But my choice of artifact would actually be the Black & Decker Food Hydrater. Can you imagine hydrating an ENTIRE pizza in 4 seconds? To be fair, I’m a little disappointed in the McFly family for going with Pizza Hut pizzas, but still. That would solve every single late night craving I’ve ever had.
CA: Any tips or advice you would give to any aspiring independent comic creators?
JE: I always feel weird answering that question, because I’ve hardly even cracked the surface of this industry, so what the hell do I know? I’m a splinter in a redwood. But when asked, I always say the same thing. Don’t take shit from anybody. There are so many methods for getting your own stuff out there without using Diamond or a publisher or whatever. We’re lucky to be in an age where we can go around the man instead of having to work through him. Take advantage of that, and use those online resources. I’m not saying you shouldn’t WANT to get a publisher to put out your book, of course we all want that. But don’t sit around and wait for it, stewing in some misplaced superiority complex. Your stuff could be the best book in the world, but no one is going to come to you to read it. Of course, I say this to those that want to create comics out of passion and a love for the medium. If you’re turning your unused screenplay or TV pitch into a comic because it “sells better,” I’ve got no advice for you, aside from stop being a tool. But really, if you’re looking for a payday or something, making comics is quite the opposite, especially for a writer. Jonathan is a great artist and I was lucky enough to get a great deal, but rest assured. Paying for art (that’s pencils, inks, colors, and letters, folks), production and printing, tables at cons, additional promotional art (prints, character design, sketches), the works — costs a lot of money. Make sure you believe in what you’re doing and are prepared to see it through before you invest in something, because accomplishing it is likely the only reward you’ll see.
CA: Any closing words about Footprints, or comics in general?
JE: Just that we need your support on Kickstarter! Issue #1 is also available for sale now at joeyesposito.com (and soon digitally), but it’s the funding of the rest of the series that we need fans’ help with. But I hope you’ll all give Footprints a chance, and just as important, give me feedback when you do. I’m readily available via Twitter, e-mail, and what have you, and love to talk comics. It’s my job, remember?
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