Tyler Jennes is a newly minted comics professional who’s on a career rocket ride. He’s currently working at Modern Fanatic, but there’s so much more to what he does. I was so impressed with everything he was doing and involved with at NYCC that I just had to catch up with him. I think you’ll enjoy what he has to say.
Ed Catto: What sort of comics and pop culture things did you like before you became part of the industry, and how deep into it were you?
Tyler Jennes: Well, I did go to Ithaca College as a film major, so I was definitely trying to watch as many movies as I possibly could. Besides that, I know I watched a hell of a lot of sitcoms when I was supposed to be doing work, so I can always talk shop about the Norman Lear and James L Brooks output! And I’d like to think I was pretty deep into the comic book scene before I was ever officially in the industry! I would go to NYCC annually and try to meet as many creators as I could (some of whom I now have the pleasure of working with!). But in terms of avidly following characters, there was a period of time where I’m pretty sure I had read every Deadpool title ever published. Now I try to keep myself caught up on all the hot new titles for work purposes!
EC: At Ithaca College, you were very involved with Ithacon (the nation’s second longest running comic con). Can you tell me a little bit about it?
TJ: Like you said, Ithacon has been around for a WHILE. I’m pretty sure it was even one of the first conventions that Frank Miller ever attended. It has a deep, rich history in the comic world, and what makes it even more special is that it’s now student-run! Of course, they still have the original organizers around to supervise things, but the convention is now hosted at the Ithaca College campus, and the student put together the whole thing, from handling guests to setting up events to running booths. I’d also like to add that you can find some amazing stuff at these booths. I vividly remember looking at used comic trades and coming across a Superman collection signed by Curt Swan, Murphy Anderson, Julie Schwartz, and John Byrne. The seller didn’t even realize what he had on his hands, so do you know how much I paid for that? Eight dollars.
EC: There’s a general consensus that many professionals have got to find their own way into the industry -there’s no set plan (unlike a classic profession like, say accounting). How did you get involved?
TJ: I was a junior poised to go off for a semester in LA and start the production assistant grind many film students go through when the pandemic kicked in. At the time, I was in the class for Ithacon, gearing up to put all our convention plans into motion. Obviously, the con wasn’t going to happen that year, so to make it up to us, our professor, the one and only Ed Catto, started having industry folks join the remote classes every week to talk about the biz. These were folks like Rob Salkowitz, Paul Levitz, and even Dan DiDio. But one of those guests was an IC alum, comic editor Will Dennis, who was involved with just about every title Vertigo put out. During the class I tried to make myself stand out by asking a bunch of inside baseball-type questions. He had also mentioned being overloaded with work recently and probably needing an assistant. So, I crossed my fingers and contacted him afterwards, and the rest is history. I started working on Scott [Snyder]’s stuff with Undiscovered Country, and after about a year, I fully hopped on the Best Jackett train and I’ve been running with those two guys ever since.
EC: You seem to have a ringside seat for two of the most fascinating new ventures today – Scott Snyder’s comiXology Originals comics and the Substack. Can you please tell us, Tyler, in as much detail as possible about these projects?
TJ: The comiXology Originals stuff is really fun. We’re publishing eight books over the next year or so, and we’ve already seen tons of positive feedback over the first three (We Have Demons with Greg Capullo, Clear with Francis Manapul, and Night of the Ghoul with Francesco Francavilla) that we’ve already started putting out. One of those (Demons) is three issues, so that’ll run through December, but the other two are six issues, so those’ll go through early 2022.
Starting in the spring, we’ll start our next wave of releases, so that’ll be stuff like Canary with Dan Panosian and Barnstormers: A Ballad of Love and Murder with Tula Lotay. The great thing about all these titles is that no two are the same. We’ve got big action, romance, horror, prose, sci-fi, adventure, and just about every genre covered here. So, there’s going to be something here for everyone. They’re all digital first, so that means that they’re initially released digitally on comiXology’s storefront and then in print form via Dark Horse a few months later. I’m on weekly calls with comiXology, and they’ve been the absolute best about working with us, and I look forward to partnering with them for a long time.
The Substack stuff is super interesting, especially as someone who’s dipped their toes a bit in writing my own comic stories. Essentially, Scott’s teaching a Comic Writing class through Substack, and uses the site as a combination of a teaching resource and a general newsletter. So twice a week, I’ll take an audio file he sends me, edit it, transcribe it, and put it up on Substack with titles and images added in. One of those is for free subscribers and is usually a basic update on what he’s working on and any other musings he wants to bring up. The other is a post for the paid subscribers (aka students) that covers a specific topic on constructing a comic story. This can be anything from tone, character beats, obstacles, etc., and he’ll use his own works as examples. Then he has an actual class he teaches monthly over Zoom that all students are sent a link to where he goes more in-depth on one of those comic writing topics. He’ll either do those solo (with me there to help out on tech stuff), or he’ll invite a guest to chime in and answer student questions. So far we’ve had Greg Capullo, Donny Cates, and Chip Zdarsky as guests, and we’re talking about how to bring more folks in at some point! It’s been a blast working on those, and I’ve learned a ton about the craft in the process.
EC: In addition to the editorial and business side of things, I see your name popping up on quite a few creative ventures. What are you working on and what’s next?
TJ: Yeah, I just contributed my first ever bits of comic writing to this Most Important Comic Book on Earth environmental benefit anthology, mostly because we were on a deadline crunch, and I was crazy enough to volunteer. I think I’ve got five writing or co-writing credits in it, and I’m so incredibly proud of all of them. I got to work with some amazing folks, and who else can say that they got David Mack to draw one of their first ever stories? So, buy a copy of that book if only to benefit some great causes. In terms of what’s next, I’m thinking about some ideas for longer form stuff, but I did just write a four-panel story for that same environmental campaign, Rewriting Extinction, so that should be getting posted sometime soon.
Question 5 and a half:
EC: This year’s New York Comic Con may have been, correct me if I’m wrong, your first big convention. How did it go and what did you think of it all?
TJ: It was definitely the first big convention I’ve gone to as an insider! That was a crazy, surreal experience, because I got to meet a bunch of the creators whom I’d worked with in person for the first time, both inside and outside the convention. I also got to attend my first industry event that comiXology threw for Scott, and that was simply amazing to attend. The best part, as cheesy as it sounds, is that I made some genuine friends that weekend, and I got to feel like I truly was a member of this community that I’ve loved since I was a kid. I really am incredibly fortunate to be where I am now, and I have a lot of people to thank for that, including you, Ed. You set me on this path, and I owe it to you to walk it to the best of my abilities.
EC: Aw, shucks, Tyler. I think it’s you who is making happening. Keep up the great work.