@’s by PANELS FOR PRIMATES
Editor Troy Wilson!
RUSS SHEATH (RS): Troy, where did the idea to use comics as a method to raise money for the Primate Rescue Center originate?
TROY WILSON (TW): Okay, here's the origin story. I wish it were as simple as "a baby gets rocketed to Earth from an exploding planet", but it's not. Way back in 2007, John Schlim Jr. of Fablewood Studios came up with the idea of putting together a little 20-page comic featuring super-short kids' stories about monkeys by lesser-known-but-decent creators. I was one of the lesser-known-but-decent creators who answered his call for submissions.
John shopped the project around (back then, pamphlet-sized indie comics were still a semi-viable option), but no publishers were interested. John was about to self-publish it when I suggested he hold off. I felt that the project had much more potential, and proposed two things: 1) that we make it a charity anthology, and 2) that we recruit bigger names than ourselves to contribute to it. Everyone agreed. I recruited pretty much all of the new talent, so John invited me to join him as co-editor.
The project continued to evolve. We decided, for instance, that it would no longer be strictly all-ages because ...well ...not all of the material we were getting back from creators was strictly all-ages. We also toyed with the idea of going digital because publishers didn't seem any more interested in the book version of the anthology than they were in the pamphlet version, despite the big-name talent involved.
Later, John had to relinquish his co-editing duties to deal with pressing issues in his personal life, leaving me the sole editor. Our parting was totally amicable. In fact, the monkey story he wrote in 2007 is indeed featured in the current incarnation of the project.
I did three main things after John left. 1) I officially switched the focus from monkeys in particular to primates in general. A number of creators had already turned in stories about primates rather than monkeys. And like the title of Roger Stern and Caleb Hystad's story says, "All Monkeys are Primates, But Not All Primates are Monkeys!" Contributor Mark Shainblum came up with the name "Panels for Primates". 2) I secured our digital venue (ACT-I-VATE). And 3) I secured an appropriate primate-related charity (the Primate Rescue Center).
RS: Can you tell us a bit about the Primate Rescue Center, the work done there and how money raised has been put to use so far?
TW: The mission of the Primate Rescue Center is to alleviate the suffering of primates wherever it occurs by: providing sanctuary or referral to appropriate facilities;
working to end the trade of primates both in the United States and abroad; educating the public to the plight of primates caught in the breeder/dealer cycle; assisting researchers and zoo personnel in finding appropriate placement for surplus primates; encouraging compliance with applicable local, state, and federal laws and animal welfare statutes. They currently provide lifetime care for 11 chimpanzees and over 40 monkeys. The money raised isn't earmarked for any one function, so I'm assuming it's been used for all of the above.
RS: The project has a truly international appeal and, for that matter, content; with contributions from around the globe, what have been the personal highlights for you, about the project?
TW: I'm very pleased that creators from the U.S., Canada, Israel, Britain, Mexico, Germany and Indonesia have gotten involved. On a personal note, I'm thrilled that people I've followed since the 70's and 80's have signed on - Roger Stern, Rick Geary and Colin Upton.
RS: It’s great to see that you have been able to get many of your personal heroes to contribute. Are there any artists or writers you'd like to see bring their skills to the Panels for Primates?
TW: I've gotten plenty of my dream contributors, and haven't gotten plenty of others. But it's too late for any creators, dream or otherwise, to come on board. The final instalment of new material goes live on June 1st. PANELS FOR PRIMATES should remain accessible in the ACT-I-VATE archive for a while after that (maybe a short while or maybe a long while - we'll see), but there won't be any more updates after that final instalment.
RS: How can folks donate?
TW: They should swing on over to the Primate Rescue Center website and click on the 'Make a Donation' tab. The PayPal option is a great way to go for people who want to donate smaller amounts. And you don’t have to draw from a PayPal account to use this option; you can hit the PayPal button and still use your credit card. I know because I've done it myself. Plus, I'm in Canada, so it works outside the U.S.
It's also important that readers specifically type in the words "Panels for Primates" at the end of the donation process. If they don't, then the creators who have so generously donated their work for this project won’t get any credit for raising the money.
RS: So, let's talk Stan The Man; what a great opportunity! Can you tell us about how Stan came to be onboard?
TW: Well, he came on board pretty much the same way everyone else came on board: I asked, and he said yes. And as for exactly how I managed to get ahold of him, well, I think I'll leave that to your readers' imagination, discretion being the better part of valour and all that.
RS: Is Stan a primate fan?
TW: I dunno. But he sure did a great job getting into the heads of a couple of gorillas. And I've gotta say, it's amazing to me just how much of Stan's unique voice comes shining through in such a short strip.
RS: Pairing Stan with artist Eisner nominee Dean Haspiel is an intriguing choice; how did that partnership come about?
TW: When I initially approached Stan, I thought it would be great if he and John Romita Sr. reunited to do a strip. Stan said he was game if Romita was. And thankfully, when Romita passed on it, Stan was still game. Obviously, any number of artists would've gladly jumped in to fill Romita's shoes, but Dean just felt right. His work is a little bit Kirby, a little bit indie, and whole lot of one-of-a-kind Dean. It just pulses with life. His work speaks for itself, I think (and thank goodness for that, because lord knows, I'm not doing a great job of speaking for it).
RS: Can you tell us about your experience bringing the two together for the project?
TW: When I approached Dean about it, he jumped at the chance. I mean, who wouldn't? He also said he needed proof that the script was really written by Stan. He just couldn't believe it. And heck, I could hardly believe it myself. So I forwarded him a bunch of my email correspondence with Stan, and he was satisfied. Honestly, Stan's email address alone is a dead giveaway. (It's an email address that I've pretty much guarded with my life. Dean is the only person I've shown it to.)
The whole thing has been a dream come true for Dean. June 1st is a great day for the strip to go live, too. It's the day after Dean's birthday, and three days before mine. So it's a slightly late birthday present for him, and a slightly early one for me. And Stan absolutely loves what Dean has done with the strip. He sent Dean a very flattering email that Dean says made his year.
RS: What does the future hold for Panels for Primates?
TW: The future holds donations for the Primate Rescue Center (primaterescue.org), and plenty of them. Assuming everyone reading this donates a couple bucks, that is.
Panels for Primates, including Stan Lee’s contribution with Dean Haspiel, can be found here at the ACT-I-VATE website and information on the Primate Rescue Center here
You can follow Russ Sheath's blog Russwords here and on Twitter here.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G