In our latest episode of the Pop Culture SquadCast, we spoke to comic book writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson. Phillip’s catalog of published comic work has increased significantly in recent years. He created and wrote the hit DC Comics Black Label series The Last God and currently is writing for both DC and Marvel comics. He is penning Action Comics for DC and the newly launched Alien book for Marvel, among others.
Phillip has an amazing “day job” as a member of the United States Army and has come to comic book writing later than others. His roots in comic publishing come from the creator owned space with books like Last Sons of America that was published by Boom! Studios, and his collaboration with Steve Orlando on the AfterShock Comics book Kill A Man was a significant topic in our conversation.
Phillip is often found to be thoughtful and excited about telling stories in the comic medium. It is always a joy to spend some time talking comics with him. Our conversation touched on a bunch of different topics including his current projects.
We delved into the world building that Phillip does in his storytelling and how from The Last God to Superman and Alien you can see the care that he takes in making the setting authentic. The topic of alien languages came up and people interested in how to make that work will be very interested in that conversation.
As a reader of comics, I often wonder how the dynamic of two writers works in the practice of writing the story. Phillip went into detail about how the project Kill A Man was proposed to him and about how he and Steve Orlando traded off on scenes and then came back to collaborate and create a fluid single voice to the book.
The concepts and plans that are coming in the second arc of Alien from Marvel were discussed, and Phillip has taken great care to tell interesting stories in the world of Alien that respect the fan base but also push the boundaries. He laid out the premise for “Alien: Sanctuary” which begins in September.
We hope you enjoy the conversation and it inspires you to seek out Phillips work. You won’t be disappointed.
Anyone who has been paying attention to comics over the past thirty years knows that Shelly has shepherded some of the most fantastic comic stories to ever come along. Her decades long tenure at Vertigo brought us books like Fables, Lucifer, American Virgin, Clean Room, Euthanauts, and so many more.
Over the past few years Shelly has been curating and publishing comics through Kickstarter. Her anthologies include Femme Magnifique, Insider Art, Heavy Rotation, and Hey Amateur!
Her latest offering which is still available to back is called Filth and Grammar, The Comic Book Editor’s Secret Handbook. It is written by Shelly as part memoire and part instruction manual.
We had the fantastic opportunity to sit down (virtually) with Shelly and talk about what has gone into the creation of this book and her stellar career in general.
This has been one of the most entertaining and productive interviews that I have ever conducted.
We hope that you enjoy the conversation.
Pop Culture Squad: Let’s talk about the newest project. Filth and Grammar. This is a departure from what we are used to getting from Shelly Bond. It seems very personal. What made you decide on this project?
Shelly Bond: Thirty-three years of blood sweat and red ink on my fingers. This is my magnum opus. You do this once in a lifetime and I have been chipping away at it for many many years. I started writing it officially in 2016, and I just wasn’t sure which way I was going to go with it but I was always sure that the title was going to be Filth and Grammar.
I didn’t know if was going to err on the side of more grammar and some filth or ninety percent filth and ten percent grammar. But I think I finally struck a good balance when I found my superstar artist trio. When you find the right team, most things fall into place.
I cannot wait to continue working on this book and bringing it to life. Really, for anyone who wants to make comics, anyone who wants to make comics better than they’ve ever made them before, and actually for people who want to become more discerning readers, it’s the kind of book for everybody.
What is in the SquadCast?
There is plenty more in podcast, but some of the topics that we covered include:
What she enjoys about and some of the challenges of running a self publishing business through Kickstarter.
Her history as young comic editor at Comico to being Senior Editor at Vertigo, to running her own imprint at IDW, to the present. It is enlightening, and she has so much to offer in terms of her experience.
We spent some time talking about the process of making comics, and lettering nerds will find some fun points in the podcast.
Her work on Fables is a great topic of the conversation.
If you are into comics and want to know more about how they get made, this is a great conversation for you.
Also the Kickstarter campaign for Filth and Grammar, The Comic Book Editor’s Secret Handbook ends this week. You still have a few days to back it.
As a reminder, this was one of the campaigns that we highlighted earlier this month as a Kickstarter You Should Be Backing.
Where Do You Find Shelly Bond?
You can also find her projects at offregister.press.
We got the chance to catch up with cartoonist Steve Conley recently. This is an interview we have been wanting to do for some time and the timing worked out great as Steve is in the middle of a fantastic Kickstarter campaign.
Steve is best known for his multi-award nominated webcomic The Middle Age, but this time around he is collecting and printing his turn of the century webcomic Astounding Space Thrills. The campaign is doing excellent and is something you definitely want to get in on.
Please enjoy this conversation where we talk about the Kickstarter for Astounding Space Thrills, Steve’s career, the history and future of The Middle Age, and we throw in a little pop culture etymology for good measure.
Check out the trailer for the Kickstarter campaign below:
What is Astounding Space Thrills about?
Astounding Space Thrills is a fun, retro-futuristic, sci-fi adventure following hero Argosy Smith as he solves cosmic mysteries. Think of Argosy as 1/3 The Doctor, 1/3 Buckaroo Banzaii, and 1/3 every kid who grew up playing RPGs and video games.
There are very accessible backer reward tiers and so far the campaign is blowing by the stretch goals.
It is an amazing effort that Steve is undertaking by resurrecting and remastering a webcomic that was designed to be viewed on a monitor that used a VGA cable and a computer that required a hard wired cable to a dial-up modem to get to the internet. This is definitely a labor of love and we are looking forward to seeing the final results.
In our conversation, Steve mentioned that he is willing and excited to go back to the world of Argosy Smith if the people want more of it. I say that sounds like a great idea.
What are the important things to know?
The campaign ends on May 26, 2021.
You can find the campaign page here.
Steve’s website is steveconley.com.
You can follow Steve on Twitter at thesteveconley.
Steve also has a Patreon page that we highly recommend.
We are proud to bring you the next installment of the Pop Culture SquadCast: Interview Edition.
This episode we caught up with comics editor Heather Antos.
She began her career as an assistant editor at Marvel Comics and is currently a Senior Editor at Valiant Entertainment. Heather’s secret origin story was recently chronicled by Kat Calamia at Newsarama.
We talked to her about a bunch of different topics including: assembling talent, editing covers, diversity in comics, the Fabulous Flo Steinberg, and much more.
We transcribed a good portion of the interview below, but there is plenty more in podcast.
You can find the audio recording of our discussion below. We hope you enjoy the conversation.
Pop Culture Squad: Let’s dive in to your work with Valiant these days. As a comic book consumer, I have enjoyed the fresh takes on the classic Valiant characters that you have been producing over the last few years. How does the process of putting together a creative team with a direction work nowadays in that shared universe?
Heather Antos: A great example to start off with would be that when I came in I was handed Livewire. That wasn’t a story that I helped put together. I think Vita (Ayala) and Joe Illidge (the previous editor) did a great job, but that was something where I was finishing it out. I just want to respect the previous work that is done. A lot of what I did there was asking if things made sense and fit in canonically.
The first Valiant book that I launched was Quantum and Woody that came out in January 2020. When I joined Valiant, there were really two books that I knew I wanted, and they were Quantum and Woody and then Shadowman (which is going to be on sale in April finally). Quantum and Woody is whacky odd couple-esque type humor. Coming off of Deadpool for three years at Marvel. That is the kind of book that I excel at, and I knew exactly the creative team to go for.
For me, as an editor, I always like to give the creative teams as much freedom as possible. I am hiring Chris Hastings and Ryan Browne for a reason on Quantum and Woody. The same for Cullen Bunn and Jon Davis-Hunt on Shadowman. I want them to feel as free as possible to tell the story that they want to.
The only time that I will put the gavel down and steer the ship is in the case of something majorly universally oriented. If Quantum and Woody somehow go down to New Orleans in Shadowman’s territory, then we have to play by Shadowman’s rules and whatever is going on in that Shadowman book at that time.
Note: I tried to see if we could get some secrets about the plans for the Valiant universe out of Heather. Listen to the podcast to see if I was successful. (Ouch that is the most shameless plug I have ever written.)
PCS: One of the things that we like to do is get into the process of how comics get made and demystify it a bit. As an editor, what do you do in relation to direction and/or assignment for regular and variant covers?
HA: Every editor has a different philosophy in this regard. There are artists like Mike Del Mundo, and the way they conceptualize and think about things are just so beyond what the average human can do; so, whenever I worked with Mike on a cover I would just say, “Hey Mike? This character. You interested? Go nuts!” He might as a story element or two to work in, but there are absolutely artists who just do their own thing. With them, I trust that it will be good, because they have a track record.
Valiant typically has three or four covers on every issue. The main “A cover”, two variants, and a pre-order. My personal philosophy is to have the main cover have some sort of a story element in it. For example in X-O Manowar #4, we debut his new suit, and so, on that cover, you can see a new suit morphing on him but you can’t quite make it all the way out. Continue reading “Spotlight SquadCast Interview with Comic Book Editor Heather Antos”
We have another great interview to bring to you. This one is with comic writer Vito Delsante. He has a current Kickstarter campaign in progress for the long awaited graphic novel World War Mob: La Collezione Completa .
We spent some time discussing the origins of this comic project. It sounds and looks fantastic. We highly recommend backing this project.
The elevator pitch for the book is simple.
“It’s the mob from the 1930’s, they take a hit out on Benito Mussolini and I think it is pretty self explanatory from there. If I am worth any kind of salt as writer, there will be obviously nuance involved, but I will let the audience suss that out as they read it.”
The goal of the campaign is to complete and print the book that had been solicited a few years ago but never made it to print.
Artist Giancarlo Caracuzzo is utilizing a fantastic watercolor style bring a unique look to this book.
The Kickstarter campaign ends in twelve days on January 27, 2021, and this is one that you won’t want to miss. The rewards for this project are reasonably priced and as we discussed in the SquadCast, this is one of the projects that you want to see succeed because it deserves to be in the world.
Take a listen to our conversation for more about the history and content of this interesting comic project.
Of course, Vito and I discussed his creator owned book Stray that he developed with co-creator and artist Sean Izaakse. We talked about the plans for the next volume of Stray that he hope to get going this year with artist Marcelo Mueller.
For more of my feelings about Stray check out the Continued After The Next Page column that I wrote about it.
Fans of ’80s comics will enjoy the last third of the SquadCast as we dive into collecting X-Men comics, and you will find out what Chris Claremont has to do with “Luke and Laura” and “Bo and Hope”.
Here is some more art from the Kickstarter campaign.
World War Two! Five men, all members of different crime families, all US soldiers, undertake a clandestine mission ordered by the heads of the Five Families; for crimes against the Mafia, Benito Mussolini must be killed! They must overcome bad blood and family rivalries, the Nazis and the men loyal to Il Duce, and go behind the Army brass’ backs to do it for “La Cosa Nostra!
You can follow Vito’s work at www.incogvito.com
Well, we made it to the end of 2020. I am sure that it didn’t turn out like any of us expected. There have been plenty of low lights, and there are too many people who have been irrevocably harmed by the local and global tragedies that happened this year. That is awful.
However, someone told me something recently that stuck with me. Despite the horrible dumpster fire that 2020 has brought, your mental health can benefit from the activity of looking at the good things that happened in this past year. So, that is what this final post of 2020 will be about.
This year I finally got off my tush and started presenting the interviews that I do with comic book professionals in a podcast format. In the past, I had merely transcribed the interview, but I found that there was more interesting content in the discussions that people would enjoy that didn’t quite fit in a text post.
So, I went to Buzzsprout and created a hosting site for the Pop Culture SquadCast: Interview Edition. I learned enough of Audacity to edit the interviews and splice some sound together, and here we are.
I need to say thanks to our artistic genius Marc Allan Fishman for the logo and episode art. Also Space In Time is the band that we use for the intro and closing music. You can check there music out at Bandcamp.
And of course, thanks to the pros who to took the time to talk to me about their work.
While all of you Pop Culture Squad Members know about our digital presence here on the site and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, there is now physical printed evidence that Pop Culture Squad exists. On the back covers of two trade paperback collections, I have blurb quotes for reviews.
I cannot tell you how awesome it is to see my name on a comic book. I could not even have ever imagined that five years ago.
Both of these books are special to me. Hyperbreed from Louise Simonson and Guy Dorian is a fun YA space story from Storm King Comics. Did you notice that? My name is on a book written by THE Louise Simonson!!!!
I have been following the Love and Capes stories that Thomas Zahler creates for years, and when he told me last year that he would be coming back to that universe, I was stoked. He totally made it work, and I am grateful for his putting my review blurb on the back of the book in some seriously impressive company.
The Comics Industry Adapts and Supports Itself
This year has hit the comics industry hard. Publishers and retailers had to deal with a nearly two month shutdown of new comics distribution. But through it all, people worked hard to support each other and save the industry that relies a lot on in-person contact.
So many great new comics were made and you can check out our list of the years best here.
Fundraisers and charity auctions popped up all over the place. We detailed some of those as they occurred.
Give Comics Hope is one of the charities that we highlighted through the year and will continue to do so.
There were plenty of Kickstarter campaigns launched to find different ways to publish and create comic book content. You better believe that we covered them.
Conventions Happened… Sort of
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit America hard in March, comic conventions were scrapped as we all needed to isolate to stop the spread of the dangerously contagious disease. But plenty of talented people scrambled to turn the experience of seeing pop culture personalities and comic creators in virtual cons.
Some were better than others, and none truly replaced the experience of strolling down artists alley and chatting with creators and friends. However, they were good enough to be a decent placeholder for the time that we will be able to be vaccinated and able to go out and see each other in person.
Geek Culture TV
There was a massive amount of quality television programming that was produced and broadcast this year. There are more outlets, streaming and otherwise that are now committed to delivering high quality shows. Here is a list of some of our favorites in no particular order:
- SCHITT’S CREEK: SEASON 6 – AMC
- WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS: SEASON 2 – FFX
- HARLEY QUINN: SEASON 2 – HBOMax
- THE BOYS: SEASON 2 – Amazon Prime Video
- THE MANDALORIAN: SEASON 2 – Disney+
- LOVECRAFT COUNTRY: SEASON 1 – HBOMax
- THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY: SEASON 2 – Netflix
- STARGIRL: SEASON 1 – CW
- I AM NOT OKAY WITH THIS: SEASON 1 – Neflix
- STAR TREK: PICARD: SEASON 1 – CBS All Access
- KILLING EVE: SEASON 3 – BBC
- PERRY MASON: SEASON 1 – HBOMax
And don’t forget there were some other shows like Tiger King (Netflix) and The Vow (HBO) that left us captivated, or horrified, or both.
Based on the announcements from Disney, Warner Bros, and others, it looks like this trend of high quality serialized episodic programming with continue.
Pop Culture Squad Thrived
Even before the pandemic shut down a lot of the world, we worried that this would be a slow year for PCS. However, we persevered and continued to bring you content as best you can.
If you are not a regular reader of Mike Gold‘s two columns here, you are missing witty and entertaining stories and opinion.
Ed Catto’s regular With Further Ado column finds new ways to look at comics, books, film and other cool stuff.
While we have bigger dreams for what is to come, it was a pretty good year for Pop Culture Squad and we are excited for making them happen in the next year.
Thanks for being here, and READ MORE COMICS!
Today, we bring you a new spotlight interview. In this session, we spoke with comics writer Justin Jordan.
Justin has been a professional comic book writer for over a decade now and is the co-creator of fan favorite indie comics The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, which has recently been optioned as film by Allnighter, and Spread among others. He has worked for DC Comics and Valiant Entertainment as well as other licensed properties while developing his creator owned comics.
In collaboration with artist John Amor and letterer Micah Myers, Justin has been publishing the webcomic Urban Animal on Webtoon.com for a couple of years now. He and John are bringing the webcomic to print through a kickstarter campaign in conjunction with Rocketship Entertainment. The campaign has hit its initial funding goal already and there are over 10 days to go before it ends.
We had a great conversation about the origins of Urban Animal, and his career. We talked about how this year has been different for everyone. We transcribed a good portion of the interview below, but there is plenty more in podcast.
You can find the audio recording of our discussion below. We hope you enjoy the conversation.
PopCultureSquad: Let’s talk about the kickstarter for Urban Animal. What are you looking to accomplish and how does that work with Webtoon, who publishes the digital comic on their platform?
Justin Jordan: Well John Amor and I do a series called Urban Animal over at Webtoon.com. It’s about Joe Gomez who thinks he’s an ordinary kid until one day he turns into a sabre toothed tiger and finds out his life gets a whole lot weirder from there. Continue reading “Spotlight SquadCast Interview with Comics Writer Justin Jordan”
Steve has recently fulfilled his exclusive contract with DC Comics and is planning his expansion into lots of new types of projects and genres. He is well known for his work on Midnighter and Martian Manhunter, but also wrote Justice League of America, Unexpected, Electric Warriors, Wonder Woman, and others. He has written Crude for Image Comics, and Dead Kings for AfterShock Comics which were well reviewed here at Pop Culture Squad.
His latest bold project is a collaboration with artist Davide Tinto called Commanders in Crisis, and it debuts this week from Image Comics.
We has a wide ranging discussion of his past work, his influences, and how he views himself in society. It was a wild conversation and one that defies the written word. I tried to pull some highlights as you will see in the abridged transcription below, but this is an interview that needs to be heard.
Steve is a fascinating man and incredibly talented writer who knows what he wants to say and has done an excellent job of accomplishing that up to this point.
You can find the audio recording of our discussion below. We hope you enjoy the conversation.
Steve Orlando: Commanders in Crisis will give you hope. It will talk about the current moment, and it will do so with some wild comic book s#!t that you could never see at DC.
PCS: What was it like working with Philip Kennedy Johnson on To Kill A Man, soon to be released from AfterShock Comics.
SO: I love working with [Philip]. We make each other better. I am very proud of that book. I think it’s one of the best if not THE best thing that I have been part of as a collaboration, and a lot of that is because [Philip] and I aren’t precious about s#!t. We sort of know when to lean in and lean out so that everything feels real and authentic. Continue reading “Spotlight SquadCast Interview with The Steve Orlando of Comics”