Comic Creator interview
with JB Sapienza
Name: JB Sapienza
City: Jamaica Plain, MA (That’s Boston if you didn’t know)
Comics: Yes. I’m the editor & one of many contributors for the annual My Name is Jonah Free Comic Book Day digital Anthology (I co-directed, co-produced & edited the movie that the comic book pays tribute to) We’ve been putting this comic out for five years. I also have a pin up in Nick Marino’s Holy F*ck which was put out by Action Lab:Danger Zone.
Websites: www.Mynameisjonahfilm.com, http://rejectedbycovered.blogspot.com
QRD – How old were you when you first got into comics & did you always stick with them or did you come back to them?
JB – For Christmas in 1988 I was given a How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way when I was 8 years old. . I loved cartoons & comic strips, but I was not into comic books at all. I remember thinking, “Comics are for Nerds.” In fact I drew a comic about it once. It appeared in Candy or Medicine’s 2008 FCBD print issue. http://jbinks.deviantart.com/art/How-I-Discovered-Comics-216099324 A year later I was given four back issues of Batman. Batman & Jason Todd-Robin hunt down a rapist, when Jason catches up to him he beats the rapist to a bloody pulp. Batman had to tell him to ease off & I think he wondered if his new sidekick has psychological problems. Heady stuff for a 9 year old. Comics were just something people gave me until about 1991, when I started noticing them for sale in our local video stores. Then comic book shops started popping up with-in bike riding distance & it seemed like a great way to spend my pocket money. After I started reading them for myself I stayed with it until first semester of freshman year of college. Not because I thought people would think I was a nerd or anything, I went to art school, just because I didn’t feel like I had the time. That was fall of 1998. Then by the second half of the school year, 1999, I was actively reading them again & I haven’t really stopped.
QRD – What was the first comic book you ever bought?
JB – The first comic I ever bought for myself was an issue of Flash that had the Wally West Flash & Aquaman on the cover about to take part in a foot race. There was a blurb on the cover that said “WARNING: This scene does not take place inside this comic book!” They weren’t lying.
QRD – How old were you when you put out your first comic?
JB – The first of my comics that was ever published may actually have been the “comics are for nerds” gag. That came out in Candy or Medicine & was in 2008ish. So I was 28. The first comic that “I” put out, I guess would be My Name is Jonah FCBD issue #1 & that came out in 2011. I was 31.
QRD – What decade do you think produced the best comics?
JB – I will always be a sucker for pre-Jim Lee X-Men. Whenever I think of “wow these comics are amazing,” I always flash back to being 16 & buying all of the X-Men TPBs from the mid 70s to the late 80s. Paul Smith is the best X-Men artist. That said, I’ve never loved comics more than I do right now. The independent/underground scene featuring guys like Patt Kelley, Noah Van Sciver, & Sam Spina who all started out contributing to Candy or Medicine just like me. Now Sam is a storyboard artist/writer for The Regular Show, Noah has had 3 books published by Fantagraphics & Patt is about to put out one of the best comics I have ever read in my life, FEDOR. Look for it! PLUS Image Comics is absolutely killing it right now. Prophet is one of the best science fiction stories. Period. So long answer. Now. Right now. Comics are the best in this decade.
QRD – Why comics instead of just writing or drawing?
JB – In my mind I’m a cartoonist who dabbles in comics. So I don’t have a great answer for this question.
QRD – Do you see mini-comics & indie comics as paths to mainstream comics or as their own unique media?
JB – Well considering some of the people I know are working for Cartoon Network or have their books published by Fantagraphics I’d say they CAN be a path to the mainstream. But that’s not the only reason to make art.
QRD – How many copies of your comic do you print in your first run?
JB – It is at this moment that the interviewee would like to point out that he has never actually physically self-published a comic book. I’ve had stuff in other people’s publications. But the movie’s anthology comics have all been digital. So the answer is lots of 0s & lots of 1s. Binary humor.
QRD – How much do you think comics should cost?
JB – Man, I wish they were only 50 cents an issue. I’ve pretty much just stopped buying single issues. I wait for the trade. & even that has gotten way to expensive. 20 bucks for 4 issues bundled together. I don’t want to sound super old, but Watchmen probably only cost me 14 bucks in 1996.
QRD – How many books do you produce a year & how many would you like to?
JB – I produce one book a year. I’d love to do more. I’d love to do a book that is just me. I have a ton of ideas. The last 6ish years of my life were focused on the movie, so maybe now is the time. But maybe not… YOU DECIDE!
QRD – Do you think stories should be serialized or delivered as complete works?
JB – Both work. I often read a complete work as if it’s serialized anyways. Bathroom trips, commuter rails, or bedtime reading. The last multi-issue comic I read all the way through was Holy F*ck, because it was so funny.
QRD – How are comic strips different than comic books & which medium do you prefer?
JB – Comic strips were my first love. I don’t see much of a difference. When you read a collected comic strip, the biggest difference is that there is “an” ending on the last panel of the page. But you turn it over & the story keeps going. Comic “books” don’t have to do that. The Spirit is a great example of a comic strip that is really a comic book. Or is it a comic book that is really a comic strip?
QRD – How long is it from when you start a comic until it’s printed?
JB – As an editor I start asking people to contribute to our anthology in January. The book comes out in May. As an artist, even though I work infrequently, I can usually churn out a story in a week or two. & it shows! I once had the honor of doing the back-up feature for a Patt Kelley book, Parasitic Twin #2. I had a deadline of months. I sat down to draw my two-page story exactly 18 hours before the deadline with no plan whatsoever. It came out stupid, but it’s not terrible. I’ll take it.
QRD – What do you do better with your comics now than when you first started?
JB – I hope I’ve improved all around. It’s not really for me to say. I have been experimenting with new coloring techniques. I think they are “better”.
QRD – Do you do thumbnails?
JB – Most of the time.
QRD – At what size do you draw?
JB – 8.5x11.
QRD – What kind of pens do you use?
JB – I use these pens from Papermate called “flair” They aren’t great pens, but it’s what I draw with. I just got a new pen that uses a feather tip & has an inkwell. It’s very different, but I’m enjoying messing around with it. I often use Sharpies as well. I mostly draw with the flair pens, but I’ll draw with anything.
QRD – What does your workstation look like?
JB – I’ve switched rooms in our house 4 times in 6 years. We just had a baby, so I think this set up is permanent. I just got this hanging cabinet that swings out from the wall & turns into a table. It’s not perfect, but it saves space & I can store all my materials inside it.
QRD – At what point in the artistic process do you work digitally?
JB – I do thumbnails, a skeleton sketch, lightbox it, & then I scan it & color it digitally.
QRD – What do you think of digital comics & webcomics?
JB – I’d rather read comics in a printed form; but most of my comic collaborators, friends & new favorite artists, have been discovered via web comics or digital comics.
QRD – Do you prefer working in color or black & white?
JB – Color, but sometimes the limitations of black & white are nice.
QRD – How many different people should work on a comic & what should their jobs be?
JB – As many as are needed for that book. A Butcher, a baker, & a candlestick maker.
QRD – How do you find collaborators?
JB – THE INTERNET.
QRD – How tight do you think a script should be as far as telling the artist what to draw?
JB – Depends on the writer & the artist.
QRD – Do you think it’s important to have a full story arc completely written before starting to draw?
JB – Nope. Though the procrastinator in me does.
QRD – What comic book person would you be most flattered to be compared to?
JB – A lot of people have told me that my work reminds them of Gary Panter. Which is incredible. Or less flattering, that I “should really check out Gary Panter if you don’t already know him. You would really dig him.” I do dig his stuff & Pee Wee’s Playhouse is burned into my brain as a huge influence. So I get it. I don’t see it myself, but I get it. Other than that… I’d love to be Mike Mignola good. Or even Jim Mahfood good. Dan Hipp is amazing too.
QRD – What do your friends & family think of your comics?
JB – I think some of my friends like my comics & some don’t. I don’t think my family thinks anything of my comics at all. I mean, my Mom would tell you she likes them. & she might even. But how do you trust an artist’s mother?
QRD – What do you think of superheroes?
JB – Yee-Haw!
QRD – Marvel or DC?
JB – I grew up being split down the middle & maybe even slightly more DC. I’ve had a hardcover History of the DC Universe that was put out post-Crisis since I was 9 or 10ish, it was sort of my bible as I first got into comics. But eventually I identified more with the Marvel gang. Today, I pretty much only read back issues & am picking up trades that fill in the blanks for my comic collecting of yore. I’m not sure I’ve read a new Marvel or DC book in a long time. Oh wait, I just bought the first two Ms.Marvel trades for my daughter. She’s not even a month old yet. But I wanted her to be able to “read” her own comics so that when I have to ask her to put my comics down I can give her ones that she owns. Plus as much as I like cartoon boobs & butts, it’d be nice for her to see that not all comic book women are drawn like that. So… Marvel by a tit-hair.
QRD – What comic characters other than your own would you like to work with?
JB – I have had a team-up story featuring Wolverine, Daredevil & Spidey in my head since I was 14. I’ll never write it. I’d love to write some Iron Fist. & I really really really want DC to hire me to do the screen adaptation of James Robinson’s Starman. So, do me a favor & start that rumor. Thanks.
QRD – Ideally would you self-publish?
JB – No. But I wouldn’t not self-publish.
QRD – What conventions do you try to attend & why?
JB – Because of various circumstances, I have not been to a con since 2012ish. Though My Name is Jonah played at Boston Comic Con last year & I think we’ll have a table at it this year. Also, weirdly enough, I’ve done the voice over “SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY” “acting” for the Boston Comic Con TV commercials for 6 or more years now.
QRD – How do you feel about doing work for anthologies?
JB – Sure!
QRD – What do you do to promote your books?
JB – INTERNET. Public Screenings. One year on FCBD I walked all over Boston & handed out copies of Candy or Medicine’s FCBD issue to random people & I just shouted “IT’S FREE COMIC BOOK DAY!” This was probably 2008.
QRD – Do you think your comics are well suited to comic shops or would sell better elsewhere?
JB – I think if I could afford to print the My Name is Jonah anthologies, they’d sell some.
QRD – What other medium would you like to see some of your comics made into (television, film, games, action figures, etc.)?
JB – All of the above my man.
QRD – Do you consider yourself a comic collector or a comic reader or both?
JB – Reader first & foremost. But when you walk into my house you are greeted by a huge bookshelf filled up with all of my trades, graphic novels, bound comics & mini-comics. All the stuff that doesn’t fit comfortably in a long box. That seems like a “collection” to me.
QRD – What do you see as the most viable mediums for comics distribution 10 years from now?
JB – I hope it’ll go back to comic book stores. But it’ll probably be Amazon or Kickstarter or some such version of those & that’s cool too.
QRD – What would you like to see more people doing with comics?
JB – Let’s bring back the gatefold, holographic, & gold foil covers! No. I’m kidding.
QRD – Anything else?
JB – Oh, God. I think I’ve said enough.