Blair: Well, I agree with you 100% about trying to control people. My fear about bringing someone on to collaborate, would be that it automatically means giving up a portion of control. A huge lesson I learned from marriage, is that no matter how hard you try, it’s a losing battle if one spouse tries to control the other. It seems to me that you and Gerhard had the ideal partnership and it really is a feat what you two accomplished by making it to issue 300 and crossing the finish line together! (Kudos to you two on that!)
And yes, as we speak I’m getting ready to drive down to Texas with the family, early tomorrow morning, although it would take a lot more than a road trip to keep me from participating in a discussion like this. It seems with me these days, there’s always 2 or 3 pots in the fire, so I’ll just pretend it’s all business as usual and take part of the blame for planning a road trip the same week my episode of Cerebus TV is running.
Now, about my lovely wife, Rochelle: We met at Sheridan College in Oakville, while we were both taking the animation program there…. There were 4 or 5 girls in our graduating class, and somehow I managed to convince one of them to marry me. We actually worked together at many of the same animation studios once we graduated, which was a good thing, because with the hours we worked at some of those studios, we never would have seen each other if we weren’t working together. I’m not sure how familiar you are with the animation world, but depending on where you work it can be a pretty competitive industry with some very long hours (Much like comics I guess), and after 8 or 9 years of it, Rochelle was getting tired of the politics. Once we were married, and Rochelle was pregnant with our first child (Avery, or “Tex” as a few people we worked with liked to call her), she was more than happy to become a “full time mom”. It’s funny, because we had never really talked about whether or not she would stay home with our future kids until the inevitable discussion needed to take place, and I really, really didn’t like the idea of daycare. Luckily we were both on the same page with our thoughts and she was the one who suggested that she stay at home. It’s sad though, because a lot of women feel pressured to return to work, and I’m not sure if that pressure is real or if it’s put on them by themselves because of the unreal values that are in their minds of what a woman should do, but it’s definitely there. I understand that not all families can afford to live off of one income, and many things in this world don’t work the way they should, but from the children’s point of view, having a mother there to greet you when you get home from school is the best case scenario by far. I don’t even think that a stay at home dad can fill that role the same way a mom can. Rochelle is definitely not a comic book reader though. She can appreciate the art, but as far as interest in sitting down and reading a comic book goes, there’s not much there. I got her to read Jaka’s story once, but I’m not sure if she made it all the way through, and she read a few issues of Invincible, but that’s about it. I must say that it is nice to have a fellow artist in the house when I can’t get an expression right, or just to have a second pair of eyes. She always gets frustrated with me, because I tend to ask for advice a lot and when she gives me her opinion, I often say “no, I think it should be like this” and then do the opposite of what she suggested. (sometimes you just need to hear someone else’s opinion to actually realize what it is you wanted in the first place), although I did take her suggestion on the Possum’s expression for the cover of issue #5 which will be ready for Comicon this year. Rochelle still draws when she can though, during those rare moments when the kids are in bed and the Kitchen’s cleaned and the laundry is done. (much like me when my animation work is finished, and the garbage is put out, and the house is in working order). She has a sketchbook full of great children’s book ideas that she would really like to illustrate as soon as our youngest is in school (which is still a few years off). A few times when money has been tight, she’s toyed with the idea of picking up some animation work, and she still gets calls from studios from time to time, but I know she really doesn’t want to do it right now, and I think her time is much better spent working on her own artwork. As for her getting stuck with the babysitting duties in Halifax, that was her call. We were staying with an old friend in Halifax, and also visiting Mike and my sister who was living there at the time, and I think the thought of a nice quiet evening watching a movie trumped hanging out in a comic shop till 2:00 am with 3 tired children. During the Glamourpuss event, I think she was over at my sister’s place with the kids and their cousins, hanging out. By the grace of God, Mike and I did OK with finding wives that will give us their blessing as we run around from convention to convention, pretending we’re comic artists. All joking aside, it takes a lot of evenings, weekends and sacrifices to make these comic books, with no assurance that we will ever see a profit from them, and having a supportive spouse makes all the difference in the world.
Mike: My turn. The sports analogy is a great one. Personally, I always tend to think in military analogies for some reason; combat being a “young man’s game” as well. As I see my own youth slipping behind me, I find I’m tending to look at Will Eisner for inspiration – “The Plot” was a masterpiece. It keeps the thought in my head “it isn’t futile… keep going…”.
I looked up the stats on Gordie Howe:
– Oldest player to play in NHL: 52 years, 11 days (no other player has played past the age of 48)
– Only player to play in the NHL in five different decades (1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s)
– Another milestone in a remarkable career was reached in 1997 when Howe played professional hockey in a sixth decade. He was signed to a one-game contract by the Detroit Vipers of the IHL and, almost 70-years-old, made a return to the ice for one shift. In doing so, he became the only player in hockey history to compete in six different decades at the professional level, having played in the NHL, WHA and IHL from the 1940s to 1990s.
The formative years of SPY GUY were the late 1980′s. At that time the action hero cop genre was all over the place. Lethal Weapon, Beverly Hills Cop, Die Hard, et al… so the Action Movie was a HUGE influence. It doesn’t show so much in the one panel gag comics I created at the time, doodling in my sketchbook at Milton District High School, due to the limitations of the format… but in my head, that’s where it was going. When I discovered manga comics while at Sheridan College (shortly after I discovered Cerebus with issue #166) it became the moment everything crystallized in my mind. I wasn’t thinking SPY GUY so much at the time (I had moved on to a Cyber-Punk idea called ULTRAISTS) but the handling of black-and-white half-tones, and decompressed storytelling and manga action tricks started to fall into place like Tetris blocks in my mind.
“When I get this story arc done I’ll have a blueprint for a movie” is at the opposite end of the spectrum from where my mind is at. My experience with Hollywood definitely has me avoiding that, to keep SPY GUY strictly my own. A video game or something? Maybe (it would be something to pay the bills). But I can’t see SPY GUY surviving the Hollywood movie process intact.
An interesting aside; At San Diego Comic Con I was approached by someone who was apparently involved with the Bourne Identity movies, who was looking for new SPY material to be made into feature films. He asked if I ever though of having SPY GUY turned into a movie, and I told him that if it were ever to happen, I’d see it as an animated movie, at which point he visibly lost interest, though he gave me his card, and I gave him a comic. But the thought of having something like “Bruce Willis as SPY GUY” was a funny enough idea to keep me amused for quite some time after that.
Back to the question; I should also quantify this answer by saying my experience working on HELLBOY was a career highlight for me, so THAT wasn’t at all a factor. There are places where the HELLBOY movie went off the mark compared to the comic (which I was a huge fan of – so I was wanting it to hit the mark EXACTLY), but not NEARLY as off the mark as so many other comic-turned-movie projects. Tippett Studio (where we handled the animation) operation was analogous to a sports team. It was lunchbucket effects. A studio that brought out the best in artistic people. A place that encouraged us to exercise our creativity. Unfortunately I can’t say that about every other animation studio I’ve worked at. Those other studio experiences I can say have definitely been a factor. I always saw SPY GUY as my Mickey Mouse, or Bugs Bunny, or Charlie Brown… a character that I can keep going with… that can be dropped into any situation to get a story from… a character that can express what’s going through my head at any given moment. I’d hate to lose that.
I wouldn’t be against creating some other project with the intent of having a Hollywood blueprint to sell. Cash it in and ride the wave of success? Beats working the day job! But this is where the control freak nature for me comes in: If SPY GUY were to get the Hollywood treatment, I wouldn’t want it butchered, so I’d want some part in the creative process, which would probably require starting an animation studio, and next thing you know I’m running a studio and making the money-men happy rather than doing the hands on creating. Seems like a lot of hassle when I could be putting some of my own ink on some S-172 Bainbridge and telling the same story. Now if only I could earn enough of a living doing that to take care of my family…
Now I’ll ask YOU one: Since we’re speaking of creating “a blueprint for a movie”… Have you ever considered doing the Mark Millar “MILLAR WORLD” thing, where you create a comic mini-series of 3 to 8 comics to tell a short story that you’re not as attached to (as say Cerebus or glamourpuss) with the idea that it could be released into the Hollywood meat-grinder for a quick buck? I mean, the question seems moot, now that you’ve got your drawing board full with glamourpuss and Cerebus Archive… but I remember years ago via the Blog And Mail you had mentioned that Cartoon Network had been asking you about intellectual properties that you’re not as finicky about, and you mentioned a movie idea you had… AND I see that Jeff Smith just recently had the RASL movie rights picked up AND Doug TenNapel seems to be doing well with this model… and, well, I’m curious: What are your thoughts about creating a (disposable) comic mini-series as a blueprint for a movie?
ps. The tech people managed to solve my missing fax pages problem (so you can send them all at once like you did the first time), and now this whole exchange should go off without a hitch… God willing of course.