As I told you on the first article of this new segment, I Was a Comic Book Fan All Along and I Didn’t Know it for quite a while.
Things sort of slowly became clearer during my college days, but it wasn’t until starting to work in the biz that I truly began to dip my toes back in the dynamic comic book waters.
I still remember the moment of opening the folder with all the projects in the pipeline and flying through them all. One of the stories that was more developed at the time was Ithaca. I read it all in one go and was hungry for more.
At Outland Entertainment, I was presented a huge array of creatives each one with a very unique voice, be it as a writer or an illustrator. Mars 2577, Nightfell, Blacklands, Aegisteel, these are all projects that showed me the different facets of comic book creation.
It wasn’t just sci-fi or violence: no, there was room for a multiplicity of genres and visual styles of every kind.
When some of our IPs started coming out as webcomics on a weekly basis, I had to do some market research of what was going on in this field. That led me to multiple webpages like HiveWorks. And there I was baffled by the choice! So many artists, so many genres and styles of writing and artwork.
It was a big turning point: no longer did I had to rely solely on my friends reviews, but I had first-hand overview of so many projects! I got to interview all the creators from O.E., here for the blog. I have always loved the backstage! How someone became who he is professionally? Where did the idea of the story come from? And I was lucky enough to ask all these questions. In return I dare to say that my knowledge of the comic book universe increased exponentially!
And where has that lead me? To a huge appetite for reading more and more comics, of course! It wasn’t instantaneously, but I found myself perusing the comics section of the bookstores not only “out of professional interest” but because I found them inspiring.
This must be obvious for most of you , but before starting at Outland Entertainment, I didn’t know how similar the cinematographic language was to the one used in comics. They remind me of a really fancy and detailed storyboard. I know, I know! They’re much more than that! They’re an artistic medium of their own. But through the eyes of someone who came from an audiovisual production background they really hit home.
I suppose that being a transmedia creative producer also feeds this need. I’m now itching to work up a universe where a comic book will help explore things even further. And if you ever attended a book fair, you’ll see that all of these artistic forms are connected nowadays. Take the London Book Fair, for example. They run the London Book and Screen Week simultaneously. You have professionals from game studios at the actual fair and lots of extra events that join this two worlds, once so further apart, of pages and screens. Comics are finally being increasingly recognized for the dynamic and expressive format they are.
But I’ll talk about these changes further along the line!
Now, take a moment and check out the interviews I mentioned! There are a lot of creatives: authors, illustrators, designers…whose stories will inspire you.
And if you haven’t read the first post of this series give it a go and learn how I Was a Comic Book Fan All Along and Didn’t Know .
Ed Lavallee has opened up about how his career began and the way he manages to balance graphic design and comics. And when he breathes new life into one his lifelong projects we cannot sit tight: we have to know more about Pop Star Assassin! And about “Ed Lavallee, the Creator”.
We’ve briefly talked about PSA before, but we need more info! Where did you come up with the concept?
The idea for Pop Star came about as a culmination of all of the pop cultural influences I loved growing up as a child in the 70’s. I loved all types of genre films sci-fi, horror, action/adventure, but the pinnacle for me was watching Black Belt theater on Saturdays. This was usually a double feature with crazy, over-the-top characters, and even crazier Kung Fu action, but at the same time it was juxtaposed by the hilarity of the badly dubbed English. With that said, my hero then and now will always be THE MASTER, THE DRAGON – BRUCE LEE! His movies and everything about him had a huge influence on me. If you haven’t seen the documentary I AM BRUCE LEE – watch it! You won’t be disappointed.
What can you tell us about this universe you created?
Well, Pop Star is set in the 70’s and starts out in Vegas, without giving away too much this first miniseries sets events in motion that will change the face of the planet resulting in a very Blade Runner-esque – the only difference it will be brought with 1970’s low-fi gadgetry and tech. Big, bulky, and unreliable. Ray guns, EMPs, orbital weapons platforms, massive rooms full of giant super computers.
You’re in a safe place here. You can confess: is Elvis secretly your almighty idol and inspiration?
Elvis did play a big part of my childhood. He was larger than life – THE KING of Rock n Roll. His fame was otherworldly, legendary. Part of that plays into the story in the fact that when Elvis died there was so much speculation, an unanswered questions…then the Elvis sightings started popping up and that just added to the mystery and elevated him to god-like stature in the eyes of the world – not just Americans. The tabloids are still running stories about Elvis to this day. Makes for a great story though, huh? 😉 Ultimately though, Bruce Lee is my ultimate inspiration and almighty idol!
Now, seriously, were there any artists and/or authors who influenced you on this particular project?
Well, like i said previously the majority of the influences for Pop Star were all of the things that influenced me in the formative years growing up in the 1970’s, but I would say it is ultimately influenced by everything. No one specific artist or author comes to mind, but if I had to name names, I would have to say Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorcese, and Francis Ford Coppola.
PSA has a very specific style when we speak about its artwork and storyline. What was your goal?
Really, my goal with the artwork for PSA is the same as my goal with artwork for every comic book project I work on – find the BEST, most talented, and unique artists I can find to bring the story to life. I am very lucky to be working with the brilliant, MARCELO BASILE. A true master of the craft, he is really kicking ass on Pop Star. Each new page of art I receive is better than the previous. He is the visual mastermind behind the look and feel of all things Pop Star Assassin. He is to be applauded. Take a bow, Marcelo!
You work with different artists on this project: Marcelo Basile, as artist, and MattCashel, as co-writer. What did you find more difficult to collaborate in: the artwork or the writing?
I’m a fairly laid back guy when it comes to collaborating with other creatives – I think this comes from working as a production artist/graphic designer as my day job. As part of a team it is all about compromise. I tell all of the artists. I work with that my script is just a loose outline of what I see happened, and to feel free to change things up if there is a better way to something visually. After all they are the experts. I will make points in y script if there is something specific that needs to be seen, but other that I like to leave most of the heavy lifting to the artist. Writing collaboratively, is much the same, but more back and forth with dialogue and moving the story forward in a way that is interesting and makes sense. Compromise is key.
Did you find yourself on the spot, having to make many concessions or was it a smooth ride?
It is a fairly smooth ride. Marcelo is a consummated professional, and is always willing to make edits to art if there is something I need changed. though it is pretty rare that I ever want to change anything. I mean C’MON, have you seen his pages! Perfection!!!
How did it feel to get such positive feedback from Jimmy Palmiotti?
Jimmy P is the hardest working professional in comics today. He is also the coolest, most genuine, and nicest guy you will ever meet at a comic convention! I am truly lucky to have Jimmy’s endorsement. Meant a LOT to me for sure.
Having personally financed the first 2 issues of Pop Star Assassin, you’re now running a Kickstarter campaign to help fund issue #3 and beyond.
What do you think attracts comic book fans to PSA?
Well, I know for one thing the art if out of this world, but I hope that readers see PSA as the total package. After all, what’s not to like about Sex, Drugs, Rock-N-Robots, right? We believe strongly in the story and characters and come hell or high water we will get this first 6 issue miniseries finished!
You offer many variant covers for PSA, from an array of comic book artists. How did you manage to get so many different artists interested in the Pop Star Assassin universe?
All of the artists doing variant covers are either people I have worked with in the past or people who I admire and would like to work with in the future. We truly are lucky to have so many talented artists doing covers for the campaign. Most of them I just asked.
What can we expect from Pop Star Assassin in the future (besides its 3 other issues!)?
Pop Star is a far reaching story and was originally planned as an ongoing series. As we reach the end of issue 6 the world will be turned on its head. We are trying to build a deep universe of characters and sub-plots that can really go in any direction. We will start to see some of that with Norma and a new character that debuts in issue 3. Stay tuned!
Have you ever considered seeing it adapted to an audiovisual format? If so what would you choose: live-action or animation? Movie or TV-series?
The ultimate dream of most comic creators getting that option! While I can honestly see PSA as a full-on, over-the-top, live action blockbuster, I feel that the depth of the story and its characters could only be done justice with a live action TV show on a premium cable channel – HBO, Showtime and Netflix are all doing stellar work. Game of Thrones for me, is my favorite show on televisions right now. Season 2 of Daredevil was pretty kick as also though!
We know you’re hyper focused on PSA right now, but what other projects can we expect from you in the near future?
Well, I currently have a few irons in the fire so to speak. I am working on Backlands with Jeremy Mohler and Erick Marquez – issue 1 is complete with issue 2 in production. I am working with artist Rudy Garcia on Julia Cruz: Evolution Cop. We are putting the finishing touches on issue 3 right now
Fans will be able to find you at Planet Comicon this month! What are you most looking forward to that weekend?
Conventions are always a creative re-charge for me, catching up with old friends, making new ones, and seeing all of the new comics and art is always super inspiring for me. It’s always fun hanging out afterward with everyone, having a few beers and talking shop. But ultimately, I am there for the fans and hope to make a lot of new ones! Without them, we are nothing! Putting a smile on someone’s face is what this is all about. Stop by and see us at the Outland Entertainment booth.
Any surprises planned?…
Thank you, Ed, for killing our curiosity about this “lysergic trip to the heart of American conspiranoia” that is Pop Star Assassin.
P.S.: Don’t forget to check out PSA Kickstarter campaign! (At least have a look at the video and spread the word: Ed’s rock’n’roll look is worth it!!)
If you asked me, I wouldn’t probably say I was a hardcore fan of comic strips or comic books…but I was. No, I wasn’t ashamed of my hobby, I just had the wrong assumption that only the people who read those big famous names like “Superman”, “Spiderman” or “X-Men (the ones I saw as animated cartoons every weekend on the clock!) were worthy of being called “comic book fans”. Only now I hear how ridiculous this sounds.
Although I did not read the mainstream superheroes or indie obscure comic books, I started by devouring one series: “Turma de Mônica” by Brazilian cartoonist Maurício de Sousa. I loved those simple stories about a small group of kids: Mônica with her anger management issues, Cebolinha always trying to take her iconic blue bunny away and failing miserably, Cascão with his fear from water, Magali eating a watermelon with two bites and all the pastries she could, and of course the other characters that came in comics from the same author. Penadinho, a nice ghost not too different from Casper, Bidu the intelligent and slightly sarcastic dog or Chico Bento from the inner state area who was written with the distinct Caipira accent – which means “bush cutter” accent.
“Mônica” reading “Turma da Mônica” – It’s inception!
Yes, you get it: I was deep in Brazilian kids’ lingo, knowing what their words meant back in Portuguese from Portugal – it might seem all the same too you, but believe me, there’s quite a difference. Think American vs British English.
I then started reading the strips launched online, so I guess one might say that was the first time I dwelled the webcomics world as well.
I also read (even though I wasn’t mad about them) the Disney Adventures: pure Portuguese, pure classical Disney characters from Mickey to Donald Duck, and, of course, Scrooge McDuck and the quests of his three grandnephews Huey, Dewey and Louie.
“Scrooge McDuck” and his famous pile of money.
After a while I upgraded and started reading “Garfield” by Jim Davis . After tons of books about the conundrums of the fatty cat and lasagna in landscape format, square format, A6 format…the stories all started to sound pretty much the same.
The different sizes of “Garfield”.
So it was time to read about the universal questioning “Mafalda” written and drawn by the Argentinean cartoonist Quino. The comic strips count with the scathing tone of a precocious 6-year-old girl talking to her parents and her friends about Global problems and, why not, the big issue of having to eat soup.
The dilemmas of “Mafalda”.
It was only when I got to college and made new friends that I truly saw another side of the comic book universe. “V for Vendetta”, “Cat Woman”, Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman”: a world of adaptations and expansions of TV and film sagas as well as original stories, in such a more dynamic way than a novel. I discovered the shops and little bit of the collector’s culture. You know? The one where each issue is carefully stored in a specially-for-this-purpose-only plastic folder? No sweaty fingers allowed in the vicinity.
And when I got into the Outland Entertainment team THEN it all expanded multiple times. The work our artists had already done, the works (some still under wraps I’m afraid) we were going to be a part of and be involved in their development. The webcomics, the awesome gripping, eccentric, fantastic characters. And, when attending a book fair I’d be more open to hear talking about comics and you know what? I love them! It’s an amazingly dynamic and expressive format for narratives.
“Nightfell” by Nicolás Giacondino and Jeremy Tolbert.
“Aegisteel” by Mat Nastos and Jeremy Mohler.
So please, do join me in this new path of discovery. I’ll be pouring my “Newbie” views on the comic book Universe right here every fortnight.
How about you? What was the first comic strip/book you read? Is it still your favorite?
Let us know in the comments below or via our social media channels (Twitter or Facebook).
P.S.: Featured image from this page.
This year, the London Book Fair celebrated Graphic Novels and as such I was gladly presented with a huge array of seminars on the topic.
[Of course, I blistered my feet running through Olympia to get from talk to talk. From Mexican culture, to the progress of VR, AR and digital publishing, passing through matters such as “Publishing for Boys & Men”, the fair managed to cover an range of subjects sure to pick anyone’s interest.]
The speakers were passionate about the discussions, laying bare preconceptions and stereotypes. From the need to establish graphic novels as an artistic medium to the more farfetched possibilities the digital format allows, all of it was thrown towards the audience in an urgent need to stir further debate.
Everyone defended this world and some have as their life goal to make Graphic Novels not frowned upon, like Neil Gibson, founder of T Pub. He currently acts as a sort of ambassador for the medium, stating it is one of the most efficient ways to communicate stories. His mission to get more people reading comics involves advocating how to use them in work and study environments.
Neil Gibson talking about the pacing of Comic books.
With Paul Gravett – renown British comic book critic – we reflected on “What can comics do that other forms can’t”. A lively overview of several international projects: “Pablo” by Julie Birmant & Clément Oubrerie, “Death of the Artist” by Karrie Fransman and “There’s No Time Like the Present” by Paul Rainey. It’s interesting to see extremely different approaches of the medium on a conceptual and visual way. From freely drawn black & white cartoons to photography and full pages reinterpretations of famous works of art, you get but a tiny scope of what the Graphic Novel really allows you to explore.
“What can comics do that other forms can’t” panel.
A final but quite controversial discussion about the digitalization of comic books left everyone still in doubt of what the future holds. Bringing together Sam Arthur from Nobrow, Sam Humphrey from SelfMadeHero, Leah Moore from Eletricomics and Russell Willis from Sequential, moderated by South London Hardcore Podcast’s Steve Walsh.
Does the reader want extra content: interviews, audio commentaries? After the early flop of motion comics it is safe to say everyone is thinking (or at least trying to) go for subtlety instead of bells and whistles.
Everybody agreed that we don’t want to disturb the readers experience. The aim is to create a new way, nearly a new medium which has graphic novels at its very core. A more immersive – but not invasive! – medium to experience stories.
“Graphic Novels go Digital” panel.
Outland Entertainment was part of the innovative addition of the Sequential app at the LBF15. The upcoming graphic novel N0.1R [created by Nicolas Giacondino and Scott Colby. writen by Colby & illustrated by Giacondino]” is an old school whodunnit starring a cast of really cool robots. Artist Nic Giacondino does an amazing job bringing both the characters and the setting to life.” Scott Colby states.
You can get N0.1R‘s preview as well as the whole catalog from #LBF15 exhibit at the Sequential app using the code LBF15 – LBF15 – LBF15.
Attendees browsing N0.1R at the Sequential app corner.
The games panels were also incredible insightful with a special shout-out to the funny and incisive Jo Twist [@doctoe] UKIE CEO and to the creative Rob Morgan [@AboutThisLater], freelance game writer and narrative designer.
Bottom line: the LBF offered insightful seminars on a varied assortment of topics. Three intense days that allow you to get an overview not only of the publishing industry but of what is being done in the whole entertainment sector.
And one cannot forget that it was the 1st London Book & Screen Week! An event that complemented the whole experience by consolidating the idea of this increasingly cross media world.
William Ward has a passion for storytelling, be it short story or comic strips. He is also an award-winning photographer and RGP developer. Let’s find out a little bit more!
William, it’s no secret you started out as an avid (and talented!) Dungeon Master. Would you say that D&D played a big part in your passion for storytelling?
The similarities between modern tabletop role-playing games and traditional oral narratives are, in my view, an exceedingly fascinating topic. Before the rise of the novel telling stories was a community driven process. It was interactive. The reason that a single folktale has dozens of variations is because of storytellers that altered their tales based in there audience. I think that tabletop role-playing games fall into this tradition of interactive storytelling. Seeing my audience at the game table was certainly rewarding – an experience that made me want to tell more stories.
What do you enjoy most in roleplaying games?
I’ve always enjoyed the creativity involved in the planning and running of the game sessions. As a player you have the opportunity to creatively solve problems within the game. As a game master you have the challenge of creating scenarios that will be well received.
How often do you GM nowadays?
I’m not able to play as often as I would like. I typically run Pathfinder once every other month. Our schedules make it difficult to get together more often, but in addition to those sessions in person they also roleplay on message boards between games.
How about working in RPG? What is the most rewarding part?
The things that I find most enjoyable about creation process overlap a lot with what I enjoy about playing. The process of creating a RPG is interactive. While you can create a role-playing game solo, it’s most often a group process. Game designers, writers, artists, designers – it’s a process that can create a lot of back-and-forth. I think it’s the same reason that I enjoy the collaborative process of comic books.
Speaking of writing comic scripts. When did comics enter your life?
When I was in elementary school and junior high school I’ve read a lot of superhero comics. I enjoy them, but at a certain point they no longer held my interest and stopped reading. I was fortunate enough to have my interest rekindled during my freshman year at college. A professor included Maus in one of my classes and it made me give comics a second look.
With a little research I discovered that the reason I lost interest in comics was that I was not reading the right comics. I began to read through all of the comics my childhood grosser didn’t carry: Sandman, Hellraiser, The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke, The Incal, and dozens of others.
Photography is another one of your passions. Is this something you consider a hobby, or more of a parallel professional activity?
Photography has somewhat come full circle for me – hobby, parallel profession, and back to hobby. While I’ve always enjoyed photography it became a serious hobby for me after taking a class in college. Taking what I learned from the class I entered the Main State Fair photography contest. Since (like most artist) I am critical of my own work, it was a surprise when I won best in show (B&W) and ribbons in half the categories where I submitted photos.
That gave me the confidence to pursue photography as a parallel career. Since then I’ve worked on-an-off as a portrait photographer for outside companies and independently. My real passion is for landscape photography though, and that is where I concentrate my time currently (as a hobby).
Who do you consider to be the most influential writers?
Ursula K. Le Guin as a writer that has had the most influence on me. A Wizard of Earthsea was my first favorite novel. I still keep a extra “giveaway” copy at all times that I gift to others who show interest in the fantasy genre.
Any novel or comic book recommendations?
There are so many lists out there that I always find it difficult to make recommendations. I’ll try to keep my suggestions somewhat obscure rather than repeating the same books that are on every other list. I’d recommend In the Night Garden by Catherynne Valente and Little, Big by John Crowley for novels. For graphic novels I would recommend Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa.
How about the future? What projects can we expect?
Currently I’m working on a graphic novel retelling of a Shakespeare play based on an academic exercise that I was introduced to in college. I’m also working on several tabletop roleplaying supplements that use the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game rules.
Thanks William for telling us a little bit of your own story.