Jason Wright Tells it like it is.
Posted: Tuesday, December 12, 2000
Hailing from Utica in the United states Jason has been working on his own comics since 1993. His work includes Angel, Johnny Velocity, Spellbound and Project 72. He's interested in telling some new and entertaining superhero stories and I was interested to learn something about him....
Darren Schroeder: What is your full name?
DS: Favourite web site?
JW: Warren Ellis has a great website - very informative. I make it a point to check out anything small press related and I'm an unrepentant ebay addict.
DS: Were comics a big part of your childhood or did you discover them at a later stage?
JW: I was about 9 or 10 when I first discovered comics. Saturday morning cartoons like Superfriends and Spider-man were my gateway to the comic book world. I watched the shows religiously every week and when I saw the same characters in the comics I was hooked.
DS: Did you get your comics from a specialty store?
JW: I bought from the newsstand originally until I discovered the wonder of the specialty store. Now I get all my comics from my local specialty store.
DS: How is your local store coping with the present so called 'slump' in the comics market?
JW: My local store has done surprisingly well during the alleged 'slump'. Its been in existence for quite a few years now and is going stronger than ever in my opinion. Good management, friendly service and great business sense seem to be the keys to their longevity.
DS: Is there much of a small press community in your area?
JW: There is but it's not as big as it used to be. At one point there were as many as 10 different creators in the Utica, NY area alone. Slowly but surely some folks moved away or got out of small press and comics altogether. There are still a few diehards around which is great because from what I hear most small pressers create their books in a vacuum. I've been lucky to have a few fellow creators around throughout my "career" in small press.
DS: Was art an important part of your education?
JW: Not a huge part. I've taken a few high level art courses in college, but my degree is in psychology of all things. I've picked up a few tricks here and there, but by and large I'm a completely self-taught writer and artist. For whatever that's worth.
DS: What was the first comic you published yourself and how did that come about?
JW: My very first book was Angel #0 back in 1993. It was around 12 pages I believe and I did all the writing and art. It came out pretty decent production-wise. Back in the day I thought it was the greatest thing in the world, but now I look back at the art and the story and I want to burn all the existing copies. I only did two issues of that series, but people still ask me to bring that character back. And who knows? Maybe I will someday.
DS: What do they like about it?
JW: God only knows. Maybe I left them hanging because I never finished the story or maybe it was the T&A. Actually, it was probably the T&A.
DS: What made you want to produce your own?
JW: For that you can blame Bob Elinskas. Bob is the current UFO chairman and publisher of Mister Mid-Nite. When the first issue of Mister Mid-Nite came out in 1988 I was like, Cool. I want to do this some day. I was 11 at the time so it was a few years later (1993) that I debuted my own small press publication.
DS: How did you distribute your comics them?
JW: I distributed mainly through APAs. I joined the Small Press Syndicate shortly after Angel was published. I also displayed some books at my local comic store but they went over like a lead balloon there.
DS: Describe what an APA is and how it works.
JW: I currently belong to two Amateur Press Associations. The UFO (United Fanzine Organization) and the Small Press Syndicate. The UFO and the SPS are groups of talented small pressers that exchange and review the books of fellow members.
DS: Looking around the websites for these groups it seems that UFO requires you to put out quite a lot of new work. Is this a demanding?
JW: Not at all. In fact I wish that I could produce MORE material for the UFO members each year. The publishing requirements for the UFO are 20 new pages of material each year, which is very manageable in my opinion. I know some creators don't like to be told when to publish and they don't like to put the logo in their books and yadda-yadda-yadda... I love it though. The SPS and especially the UFO are really great groups with really great people in them, and the benefits of being part of such a group far outweigh any publishing requirements.
DS: What is the worst experience you have had with printers/photocopiers?
JW: I've been lucky so far. No major catastrophes as of yet. Knock-on-wood because I'm doing my first full-size comic early next year.
DS: What materials and equipment do you use when drawing your comics?
JW: I've been concentrating on writing for the last couple years and having other suckers...er...artists do the art for me. When I do draw I like to use a nice bristol board. I start out sketching with non-repro blue pencils and then darken in with regular pencils later on. I ink with tech pens because I could never figure out how to use a brush correctly - which is a shame because I really like the way the brush looks over pencilled art.
DS: How did you meet up with the suckers/artists?
JW: I find artists through Digital Webbing. They have a talent search on their site and I've placed help-wanted ads to attract the talent that I am currently working with. Its not an exact science by any means. It's very hit and miss and time consuming, but it does provide an opportunity to meet with creators that I otherwise would have no contact with.
DS: Who do you see as the target audience for your work?
JW: Anybody who likes their Superheroes with a little bit of an edge. I'm not afraid to take chances with my stories and my characters so its always fresh and exciting. At least I hope it is.
DS: Do you thing the big companies know what they are doing with their superhero comics?
JW: I think that they do to a certain extent. If you look at comics like Powers, Daredevil, Birds of Prey, The Authority, Thunderbolts and Ultimate Spiderman you can see that the big boys are making some pretty dynamite superhero comics. The big problem is there are WAY too many of them. For every Powers there are 100 Youngbloods. DC and Marvel make far too many superhero comics for the fans to sustain. Do we really need 15 different Spiderman, Batman, X-Men or Superman books every month? I don't think so. One or two would suffice. I know there's something to be said for marketing and milking your cash cow, but enough is
DS: What character would you most like to write for and why?
JW: A lot of other creators would pick the big characters like Batman and Superman for their dream assignment, but I'd like to tackle some lesser known characters like Zatanna, The Doom Patrol or The Suicide Squad for DC. Daredevil is probably my favorite superhero character so I might like to do a mini-series or special with him. If I had carte-blanche with any small press character I'd love to do something with Bob Elinskas' Mister Mid-Nite.
DS: What is the single best Superhero story (Individual issue or miniseries) that you have read and why?
JW: Watchmen. Watchmen. Watchmen. That is probably the best comics story of all time. Its so rich and multi-layered. I've read it about 5 times and each time through I discover something new. It's just brilliant. The Dark Knight Returns comes in as a distant second.
DS: What comics have you read recently? Why did you like/dislike them?
JW: I buy a ton of books every month just to keep up on what's going on. Some of my favorites are The Authority, Daredevil, Powers, Planetary, 100 Bullets and Birds of Prey. I like to read a well-written story so I tend to follow writers like Alan Moore, Garth Enis, Paul Jenkins, Brian Michael Bendis, Brian Azzarello, Warren Ellis and James Robinson. I'm reading From Hell right now and I'm blown away by it.
DS: What made you buy From Hell?
JW: Alan Moore is the man. Period. I'd read the phone book if he wrote it so when I say the From Hell graphic novel on the shelves of my local comic store I had to snatch it up.
DS: If a film was made of your life, who should play you?
JW: I don't know of any actors that even remotely look like me so it would have to be an unknown. Or I could play myself as long as we cast Tiffani Thiessen (Beverly Hills 90210) as my love interest.
DS: What are the common themes in your stories?
JW: There are two that jump to mind immediately. The first is that any action - no matter how small and insignificant it may seem at the time - has a ripple effect that can loom large in the grand scheme. Second - the world is not simply divided between black and white, good and evil, justice and injustice. There are a thousand shades of grey. The so-called bad guys, given certain circumstances, could have ended up just like you or I. In addition, the 'good-guys' might not be as great as they would have you think them to be. You need to look beyond the surface in a lot of cases and what you find might not be what you necessarily expected.
DS: Describe the concept behind Project 72.
JW: The concept of Project 72 plays upon the above themes beautifully. The series focuses on an old hero from a bygone era, Rook, that returns to crime fighting alongside a new group of generation X heroes. He looks at his return as an opportunity to correct the mistakes he's made in the past. Only what's in his past is about to resurface and could spell the end of the world as we know it.
I wanted to do something that was more than just the average super-hero story. Over the last 3 years or so I've created a gigantic back story for the series and mapped out its future all the way to the end. We come into the first issue in the middle of the story as it were (kind of like the original Star Wars movies) so the story kind of moves ahead and backwards all at the same time.
DS: Do you give the artists layouts or just a script to work from?
JW: I try to do layouts or thumbnails if I can, but I usually just give them a full-script to work from.
DS: What made you choose John and Kris to work on Project 72 with you?
JW: Let me start out by saying that John Michael McDonnell was perhaps THE best choice to do the pencilling on this series. His visuals really blew me away and the combination of my words and his pictures made for a very impressive package. Unfortunately, due to time constraints in his schedule, he had to leave the project a few months back. You'll still be able to see some of his pencils in Project 72 and the rest of the book is being finished by Jonas Diego. Jonas is another great penciller and is doing a bang-up job as well. What attracted me to John, Jonas, and Kris (the inker) was their passion for the material. They have such a genuine appreciation for the material that their incredible skills as artists is almost a bonus. Not to mention the fact that their styles are almost scarily in-synch with what I had always envisioned the art on the series to look like.
DS: How big are the printruns for Project 72?
JW: The printruns for the digest version were barely over 200 copies. Once I go full-size the printrun will jump to...gulp...2,000 copies.
DS: When does Project 72 hit the shelves?
JW: The first issue should be out in late February/Early March.
DS: What does the medium of comics offer over the other ways for people to tell stories?
JW: In comics you are only limited by your imagination. You don't have a special effects budget in comics so you have the freedom to do whatever you want. Comics are the perfect marriage of movies and books - visual and literary at the same time.
You can contact Jason via:
Snail-Mail: 1813 Girard Street, Utica, NY 13501, USA
E-mail: JWright72STOP-@-SPAMaol.com or RedSunPressSTOP-@-SPAMaol.com
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