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[Posted 06 February 2006]

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Interview:
Talking Infamy: The Big Honkin' Roundtable Interview

  By Adam White
Published: 05 Feb 2006

 


If you haven’t read Living in Infamy from Ludovico Technique then you’re missing out and need to go read it right now. After that (or before, I suppose, if you need further convincing), I recently conducted a roundtable interview with the crew behind “one of the best new series of 2005” (and yes, I can paraphrase/quote myself if I want to) to find out what kind of sorcery went into its making. Ben Raab, Deric Hughes, Greg Kirkpatrick, Ashley Miller and Robert Meyer Burnett were all kind enough to humor my questions with well-considered responses and give us a glimpse inside the men behind Living in Infamy.


ADAM: First off, why are each of you a comic creator? What motivated your career choice?

DERIC: I’ve loved comics since I was six years old and always wanted to work in the industry. Ben motivated me, because he was already a veteran in the industry and since we were working together on film and television stuff we just started exploring comic book ideas together as well.

BEN: From a purely logical perspective, I’m a comic creator because I create comics. Y’know, that whole modus ponens thang… But from a more personal perspective, I’m a comic creator because, as a writer, I love the freedom of expression that this medium allows. Words and pictures are two incredibly powerful media when employed separately. But when you combine them, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It really is something magical. Kinda like chocolate and peanut butter…

As for my motivation… Well — aside from the requisite greed — comics were what I loved as a kid and writing was something that I became passionate about because of my love of comics, so it really was just a natural extension of that. But it wasn’t until I became an editor at Marvel that I actually realized HOW to make a career of it. Talk about an invaluable experience…

GREG: I have been in love with comics for as long as I can recall. My parents would buy me comics, I spent my allowance on comics, and I would be drawing pictures of all the heroes wherever there was something to draw with and something to draw on. When the time came to go to college, I had decided I would major in some form of business, figuring that art could not be very lucrative of a career. Thankfully, my parents and high school art instructors persuaded me to pursue what I loved and what I was good at. From that moment, I realized that no job in the world would fulfill me like creating comics does.

RMB: I consider myself a filmmaker first (Free Enterprise). With comics now looked upon as terrific source material for feature films by the industry at large, it made sense to begin publishing our own material, which we could quality-control and develop in-house first, with a specific eye towards exploiting our finished product across other media, whether it be television, video games or feature films. After all, aside from Burlyman Comics, what other comic publisher can boast real, working producers and directors among its staff?

ASHLEY: I don’t consider myself a creator so much as a facilitator — that’s what a good editor does, methinks. He facilitates the artist’s efforts to do his best work and not lose sight of his creative goals. I don’t care if you’re talking about Stan Lee or Ezra Pound, the nature of the gig has been the same since its inception. As for the choice to involve myself, chalk it up to passion for the project and a desire to see it succeed. If I didn’t care deeply about this book, I wouldn’t have my name on it in any capacity.

“The people who’ve had the greatest influence on me creatively are Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee, and Neil Peart of RUSH because despite their talent and success they continue to strive to improve themselves with each album.”  — Ben Raab


ADAM: You obviously have a mix of creative backgrounds among everyone involved in the team, from a variety of mediums. What creators, in any medium, were your biggest influences?

GREG: I was very impressionable when John Byrne and George Perez were strutting their stuff. I would follow them anywhere back then. I finally came to the realization that Jack Kirby was a genius and not just the guy who drew square knees and created Devil Dinosaur. Seeing his work full-size and in pencils in The Jack Kirby Collector demands respect for his storytelling and the amazing pace at which he produced action-packed work. Currently, I will get just about anything by Alan Davis, Carlos Pacheco and Steve Rude. Solid artists, right there.

DERIC: Wow… it really is just great storytelling no matter what the medium that influences me. Too many to tell here, but definitely movies and TV, books and manga were a big part of my life helping me shape my storytelling abilities.

ASHLEY: Sam Peckinpah. Howard Hawks. Those are guys who understood how to tell a story, how to create engaging characters and how to be brilliant without feeling the need to reveal their hand in every frame and every exchange. Hawks is a particular influence — we’re talking about a guy who did everything from His Girl Friday to Rio Bravo to The Thing for Another World. That’s what I call “eclectic.” And that eclecticism is a product of both his immense talent and his passion for great material. Some day when I grow up, that’s who I want to be.

RMB: As far as genre material is concerned, I’m a child of television, so I adore classic Star Trek, the Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. The Prisoner, UFO and The X-Files are also favorites. I, Claudius is probably the greatest thing I’ve ever seen on television. As far as comics are concerned Howard Chaykin’s storytelling in his American Flagg! was groundbreaking at the time. Of course Watchmen, Sandman and The Dark Knight Returns. I love early Stephen King, especially the original version of The Stand. I’m also a huge fan of Dan Simmons.

BEN: Oddly, the people who’ve had — and still have — the greatest influence on me creatively are Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee and Neil Peart of RUSH. Not simply because they’re incredibly talented — and grossly underrated — musicians who’ve achieved an amazing amount of success without compromising their own artistic integrity, but because despite that talent and despite all that success, they continue to strive to improve themselves with each album. It’s that driven philosophy, that unflinching work ethic, that I’ve tried to emulate most in my own creative life. To be better at what I do tomorrow than I am today…

Aside from them there are, of course, the usual geek suspects for someone who came of age in the Reagan era… The original Star Wars movies, the Indiana Jones movies, the Claremont/Byrne run on X-Men, Alan Moore’s Watchmen, John Byrne’s Alpha Flight run, Frank Miller’s Daredevil and Dark Knight Returns, Walt Simonson’s Thor, the Wolfman/Perez run on The New Teen Titans, Star Trek, the Super Friends cartoons, Battle Of The Planets, etc., etc.

ADAM: What were each of your first jobs in comics? What work of your own are you most satisfied with?

ASHLEY: This is my first job in comics, and I must say I’m immensely proud of Infamy so far… but I’m never “satisfied.” Da Vinci said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” That’s as true of comics as it is for any other medium.

RMB: Publishing Living in Infamy is my first job in the comic industry as well… and having other creators such as Brian Vaughn single out the book as one of the best of the week is greatly satisfying.

BEN: I started out at Marvel Comics in the summer of ’93 as an intern in the Special Projects department. Before Marvel acquired Fleer, S.P. was responsible for creating all their trading cards and posters and whatnot. But as a writer, my first gig was a Giant-Man back-up story in Avengers #375. This weird little psycho-drama about him dealing with his past and how big or small of a man he really is, despite his growth powers. It was, to say the least, interesting…

I don’t think I’m ever completely satisfied with any of my work. Nor will I ever be. Which goes back to that whole shark-brained “Don’t stop moving, keep improving” mentality I’ve got… But I do appreciate the work I’ve done largely due to the people I’ve been fortunate enough to collaborate with. Like the X-Men/Alpha Flight and Union Jack miniseries with John Cassaday… The Legend of the Hawkman miniseries with Michael Lark… The X-Men: Hellfire Club miniseries with Charlie Adlard… The JLA: Shogun of Steel one-shot and The Human Race miniseries with Josue Justiniano… Wonder Woman #162-163 and Action Comics #791 with Deric Aucoin… My work with Pat Quinn on Cryptopia and The Phantom… And, of course, the entire creative team of Living in Infamy

GREG: I did a 3-page story for a book called Occupational Hazards which was a book benefiting the CBLDF through some other small publisher. Shortly after that, writer Jai Nitz and I, who’ve known each other from frequenting the same comic shop, put out an anthology book called Novavolo (Have to rib Jai and let everyone know he thought up the title).

DERIC: When I was twelve years old, I worked in a used book store that sold comics and the owner paid me by giving me comics… my parents weren’t too happy about that. Now Infamy is my first real job in the comic book industry and Rob pays me in comics and action figures. It’s a step up, but my parents still aren’t too happy about the pay situation. And of course since Living in Infamy is my first comic book, it’s the book I’m most satisfied with. [continued on page 2]

—CCdC—

 

 

 

Cover image used without explicit permission in accordance with the "Fair Use" provision of US copyright law.

 

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