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October 27, 2011

Joey Esposito: Footprints, Comic Conventions, and IGN

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Written by: AHudson
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It’s one thing to start a comic independently. But it’s another to keep it going strong and get it picked up by a publisher. Which is exactly what’s happening with Footprints, which just came out with its second issue. A blend between classic noir tradition and mythological characters, Footprints is a solid series that doesn’t mess around and goes straight to the point. I got a chance to discuss Footprints and more with Joey Esposito, whom I interviewed last time when Footprints #1 came out.

Comic Attack: Let’s start off with an easy question. How have you been doing?

Joey Esposito: Good man. Wicked busy. Bursting at the seams to get new projects started, but struggling to find the time. It’s an okay problem to have.

CA: How has the recent trip to Comikaze been? Any insightful lessons or amusing stories?

JE: Comikaze happens November 5-6 in LA, but NYCC was this past weekend, and it was great. Insightful lesson would be to actually try and get sleep. Also, brown bag a lunch. But it was great. Cons are always great, you get to put a lot of faces to names or Twitter handles. It’s impossible to meet everyone you plan to, but the good thing about hitting up the major shows is you’ll eventually catch everybody. It’s also a great place to rejuvenate your passion. It can be a grind working in comics, just like any other job, but a convention reminds you why you love it all in the first place. I was covering the Batman panel for work, and I sat down way in the back like us creepy press people do. The guy in front of me turned around, introduced himself, and shook my hand. He was probably in his early 40s, a Batman fan all of his life, and this was his first convention. He was so excited to meet people that shared his passion. He wasn’t concerned with the ins and outs of sales numbers, behind-the-scenes drama, online controversy, or any of that shit. He just loved comics and wanted to be there out of passion. It’s refreshing to see things like that, especially when you’re feeling the burn, so to speak.

Comikaze will be great though, they’ve been very good to us and our book. We’ll have a major presence there. If you’re in the LA area, you best be stopping by! Tickets are only $12 a day and kids 12 and under are free. I challenge you to find a con with those kind of prices.

CA: Have you run into anyone dressed as Bigfoot or the other characters at the cons (or major fans in general)?

JE: [laughs] I wish. The hacks over at Finding Bigfoot for Animal Planet actually copped a sweet marketing idea I had for the book. Get someone to dress as our Bigfoot and wander the con, and if you can snap a picture of them, bring it to the booth to get some swag. Those guys had something similar at NYCC. Though I can’t be too pissed, since they were giving out free beer on Preview night.

CA: Sometimes I’ll hear stories of Hollywood execs or small time producers scouring the con booths for potential creative properties. Have you bumped into those guys/gals while at your booth?

JE: I’ve talked with some people in various places, but nothing to report. Right now I’m more concerned with wrapping up the book and getting started on my next projects.

CA: Are you going to be releasing any new comic book titles in the near future?

JE: Of course! Nothing in the near future, but as Jonathan finished up the last of Footprints, I’m starting to write our next project, a graphic novel. It’s going to be absolutely insane. Jonathan is a really great artist, comics are something he just sort of tried one day, but he’s a great fine artist. Painting, portraits, all of that. I don’t want to say too much about it right now, the plan is to use a very different art style than you’re used to seeing in comics. So, as you can imagine, graphic novel like that won’t be a fast project. And of course, we’re always tossing out ideas to one another about more Footprints or doing a webcomic or something, but we’ll see. Right now, I think we want to focus on this OGN.

And I have another series that’s currently with the artist, so I don’t want to say much of anything until we’re a bit farther along. I will say that you’ll never look at Disneyland the same ever again.

Beyond that, I have another OGN I started working on that will be a nice mix of comics and prose. After writing about cryptids, time travel and aliens over the last year, I’m ready to bring it back down to Earth. As much as I love the larger than life approach to Footprints and my other projects, there is nothing more horrifying, fucked up, hilarious, beautiful and miserable as every day life. This book will be very much representative of that.  It’s an extremely personal book for me, so I’m really excited to get to work on it. It’s a long time coming.

CA: I know you’ve recently written a few (prose) short stories. Are you planning on releasing any short story anthologies or novels?

JE: I mean, eventually, yeah, that’s something I’d like to do. I’ve been working on a novel for quite a while, but it’s something that keeps getting put on the backburner with all the comics stuff I’m working on. Short stories are something I’m making a conscious effort to do more of, if only as an exercise to help my writing. If I like them enough, I’d like to do a short story e-book or something. We’ll see, but yes, that’s something I’d love to do.

CA: How has the journey been between Footprints #1 to Footprints #2?

JE: It’s been long! You mentioned in your review that it’s been about seven months, and that’s true, but it’s not like a creative delay or anything. As you know, we Kickstartered the rest of our funding after I paid for issue #1 out of pocket. So, we launched issue #1 to spark interest in the Kickstarter, which lasted 3 months. By the time we had succeeded, Jonathan and Adam were in the midst of finishing up some other work they had taken on during that time, but once that wrapped they pumped out issue #2 and, I think, exceeded the quality of issue #1. So in that time between launching the Kickstarter and when they got to work on #2, I actually finished the rest of the issues from my end. I’m still tinkering with #4, but we’ll be more or less on a regular schedule for the last two issues.

We’ve also been blessed with a lot of great attention, with a piece in USA Today about the book and a badass launch party at Meltdown Comics here in LA. I’ve also suddenly taken on a lot of different projects in that time.

CA: Is there any advice you would give to anyone thinking about starting a Kickstarter campaign?

JE: I was just on the Kickstarter panel at NYCC and the room was packed; it’s clearly something people are really really interested in. My basic advice is to just promote your butt off, but make sure it’s a project you really believe in. Make it appealing and sell yourself. You’re selling your passion as much as you’re selling the project itself, so be passionate and be aggressive. Don’t be afraid to ask people for RTs on Twitter, websites and blogs for link outs, the works. And don’t underestimate anything or anyone’s influence. My mom sent the link to everyone she knew – members of my family I’ve never even met – and all of them contributed something. Take advantage of every single opportunity.

CA: Are you naturally a seller/promoter, or was it something you learned how to do (or love) while working on Footprints?

JE: It’s a hell of a lot easier to sell something you have a stake in, I can say that. Easier because your livelihood rests on it [laughs]. It’s weird talking about yourself and your work so much at first, but I enjoy it, it makes me happy that people want to know. In terms of promoting myself, I know what I like and what I hate being on the receiving end of marketing and PR, so that helped in a way as well. But I’ve worked in retail and e-commerce and all of that, so I have a pretty decent handle on getting myself out there, for better or worse.

CA: How has the experience of doing Footprints under 215 Ink been compared to doing Footprints independently?

JE: Exactly the same, actually. 215 Ink is incredibly devoted to creator-owned comics. It’s a nice weight off my back to not have to worry about the actual printing or having a presence at conventions, but I’m still doing the exact same amount of promotion and work that I’d be doing otherwise. But creatively, they support their creators 100% and let us do what we want. Footprints under 215 Ink is exactly what Footprints was meant to be.

CA: Did you approach 215 Ink or did 215 Ink approach you?

JE: It was sort of a mutual thing. I had talked with Andrew, the publisher of 215 Ink, often through my love of Shawn Aldridge’s Vic Boone and through press stuff. It worked out well.

CA: Has 215 Ink approached you and Jonathan Moore for doing other projects?

JE: I can’t speak for Jonathan, but it’s looking like I’ll be working on something else with them soon.

CA: How are your writing habits? Are you a morning writer, night writer, or someone who writes sporadically?

JE: I’m a writer that writes whenever he can. Typically, that means really late at night or on the weekends. My day job requires me to be planted in front of a computer all day writing as it is, so I need a lengthy break to just relax and regroup. By the time I’m ready to switch to creative mode and start writing, it’s pretty late. Weekends are a boon for me because I can actually get work done at a decent hour. But you have to do it when you can, otherwise you’ll get nothing done.

CA: Are you writing Footprints by the seat of your pants or do you have it all plotted out?

JE: There’s stuff that changed, but I’ve been writing towards an end. I’m one of those people that find it hard to write without the ending in mind and a very good guideline. Of course, some of the best stuff comes from thin air when you’re not expecting it, but it helps to have an endpoint to write to. With issue #4, I made the classic mistake of not saving my document correctly and about 5 pages were lost in the ether. But I know for sure that what’s there now instead is leagues above what I had originally, and that’s following my same guidelines. I just took a different path, if that makes sense.

CA: Has being a reviewer and editor at IGN prepared you for fictional writing (and dealing with critiques)?

JE: I mean, I guess. One thing that reviewing comics has done for me in general is made it very very clear for me to identify what I really enjoy/don’t enjoy in comics. In that regard, it’s helped me focus my sights on the kind of stories I’d like to tell. And in terms of actually dealing with getting reviews of my own books, for sure. Reviewing comics – if you’re doing it right – isn’t a personal dig against the creators. Not everyone is going to love what you do, and that’s fine. If you’re reacting to a specific outlet or reviewer because you got a bad review, that’s childish. If there’s some other beef there, then fine, but if it’s a fair review with fair opinions, then so be it, suck it up and let it go. You’re not writing to please everyone, you’re writing for yourself. Or, at least I am. Especially for such a small book like ours, I’m just happy to have it being covered at all.

CA: You’ve interviewed some pretty big names over at IGN. Is there anyone in particular whom you enjoy chatting with?

JE: Oh, for sure. Talking with Scott Snyder is always a joy and an education. We’ve become friends over the past few years and he’s actually helped me a lot with Footprints, letting me bounce ideas off him and offering notes on early drafts and such. He’s a genius. And he wrote our foreword for the book! It’s in the 215 Ink version of issue #1 and will be in the trade. But interviewing him about Batman or Swamp Thing or whatever, you just learn so much about world building and structuring a narrative. He’s really going to be the writer that we look back on years from now and just say, “Holy shit.”

CA: Guilty question. Did you choose “Joey” instead of “Joe” to avoid confusion with a certain singer/songwriter?

JE: [laughs] It’s funny, actually, because I moderated the Blood Red Dragon panel at San Diego Comic-Con, with Stan Lee, Todd McFarlane and Japanese musician Yoshiki of X-Japan. The Getty Images people, if you google the images from that panel, labeled me as “Singer” Joey Esposito. My guess is whoever was filling out the caption didn’t know who I was, googled me, and determined that the Karate Kid guy was more likely a candidate for panel moderating than a comic book guy. It’s hilarious though, I’m okay with it.

CA: It seemed to me that Footprints #2 had some political and social undertones to it (e.g. global warming). Were they intentional and will we be seeing those themes/messages get played out in future issues?

JE: Yeah, it’s intentional. It’s not going to be preachy or anything like that, but those things do have implications in terms of the motivations for some of the characters. You see it a little in #2, but the next two issues even more so. I think there’s a really interesting dichotomy to be found between ourselves as human beings and these creatures that have clearly adapted and survived for so long while we pretty much arrived on the planet and immediately started destroying it. It’s nothing heavy-handed though, I promise.

CA: Knowing that you’re a big Back to the Future fan, I was wondering if you got your hands on those Nike MAGs.

JE: Man, I would LOVE to. I watched that commercial like five times in a row. Someday, if only to cosplay as a BTTF II Marty. I saw a dude at NYCC with a decent Marty McFly costume from Part I – the orange vest, jean jacket, etc. But he didn’t have the Nikes, he was wearing like New Balance or something. It was lame. If you’re going to commit, commit.

CA: Any last plugins or things you’d like to say?

JE: Just that you can follow me on Twitter at @JoeyEsposito and Jonathan at @TheOnlyJonathan, and you can find my blog at joeyesposito.com, which I’ll be getting better at updating! But we have some really exciting stuff left in Footprints, and we’ll be unveiling our new book soon, so stay tuned!

And if you want to order the individual issues of Footprints, Diamond isn’t carrying us, but you can get us through Liber Distro so ask your LCS! The trade, however, will be solicited in December Previews available for order through Diamond from any LCS.

Andrew Hudson


One Comment

  1. Nait93

    First. Great interview, great comic! Can’t wait till the trade comes out!

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