AICN COMICS Q&@: Ambush Bug sits down with J. Michael Straczynski to talk about his new multimedia company Studio JMS, SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE, and elaborates on his feelings about Alan Moore & BEFORE WATCHMEN!!!
@’s by J. Michael Straczynski!!!
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Hi, Mr. Straczynski. I’m a huge fan of your work,sir. It’s fantastic to meet you face to face. How are you today?
J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSZKI (JMS): Peachy keen. Nice to meet you as well. I’m sorry the whole face to face thing isn’t working out for you so well, you have to see me in public, and writers are best served not being out in public. We’re miserable creatures.
BUG: Well, you announced something exciting at SDCC this year. What was it?
JMS: Second day here, we announced the whole Studio JMS thing.
JMS: So, it’s been a lot of press, a lot of attention about the whole operations starting up. It’s really been back to back to back to back interviews.
BUG: Great, well, tell me about Studio JMS. What is it all about, is it for a specific media or is it a multimedia thing?
JMS: It’s multimedia. What I discovered recently, and I’m probably the slowest guy on the planet in this respect, is that there’re the fans who know my work from comic books who don’t notice that I do television, TV fans don’t notice that I do film, and film guys don’t know that I do comic books. Let’s get organized, and what if, can I start my own mini studio, sort of a mini Dreamworks or Imagine to do a whole range of things? We have two series in development right now, one with STARZ, one without with Will Smith’s company, Overbrook Entertainment. We’re doing two webseries, we made a deal with MTV.com to do “The Adventures of Apocalypse Al”. We’re doing another show called “Living Dead The Musical”. We’ve got our first film we’re going to be shooting in Berlin next year. I just revived the Joe’s Comics imprint with Image to do four comics for them starting next spring, so it’s really a chance to have an umbrella company that, by virtue of all these side deals, pays for itself. I don’t have to make a deal with a studio for it to survive. Really, it’s just about doing my own stuff, and if there’s going to be dumb studio mail, it should be my dumb studio mail, not somebody else’s, and I’m perfectly happy to get dumb studio mails. Eventually, we’ll bring on other writers in other capacities, but for right now, it’s just a chance to finance, produce, direct, own my own stuff.
BUG: Wow. You mentioned quite a few projects there. What is the first one coming out, the one that’s starting out?
JMS: Well, oddly enough, the TV things are the ones that are about to crest.
JMS: I’m developing a Vlad Dracula story that’s a series for STARZ.
JMS: With Rob Tapert, the guys who did SPARTACUS, and we are very shortly getting green light for that. The EPIDEMIC series I’m developing for Will Smith’s company and James Lassiter, we are, again, days away from being green lit for that to go ahead. Those are going to be the first ones to hit. Now that we’ve sold, made a deal with Image, those comics have to start being written now. Most of the stuff’s been done, the groundwork’s been done, we’ve got the artwork done. We’ve got guys like Jerry Ordway and Ben Templesmith, and Dan Overton and others doing artwork for us.
BUG: Great. You mentioned comics. I do the comic site there, so I wanted to talk about that. You’re going to start Joe’s Comics again. What’s going to be that whole section of the company?
JMS: Joe’s Comics imprint did MIDNIGHT NATION and RISING STARS, and is kind of known for doing quality stuff and my own stuff. So, I went to Eric Stephenson at Image and said I wanted to bring back that imprint, and he was very excited about the idea. We’re going to be launching four books through them: FALLING ANGEL, GUARDIANS, TEN GRAND, and one other. The cool thing about what we’re doing is we’re going to be rolling out in six month increments. So the first issue will come out, and then we’ll do another one six months later, so that will be two running concurrently.
JMS: Then, the first story, flip over, we’ll have two again running. We’ll do twelve issue arcs then stop, take a brief breather, drop the graphic novel version of it, bring out the next story and the other twelve, and do it in a way almost like the British process of doing the small serial like eight or ten episodes, you take a breath, prepare your next batch, get it done right, and then put it out.
JMS: So, you’re not pushing out a monthly comic every month, cause you do twelve monthlies, stop re-evaluate, then do your next bunch.
BUG: OK. You said FALLING ANGEL? It’s not FALLEN ANGEL, the Peter David series.
BUG: That’s something completely different?
BUG: What is that one about?
JMS: FALLING ANGEL, there’s a woman, her name is Angel. Very quiet, very studious young woman, and a kind of boring personal life. She’s walking down the street to see this villainess character who is known for being this world’s Joker, just a really bad person with great powers, is dying in an alley. She goes over, doesn’t recognize this person and sees what’s happening is reaching out to her, and she reaches to help her, and that persona is now put into her.
BUG: Oh, cool.
JMS: Where the villainess was is now this old woman who’s dead. Now, she can be herself and this other character, and what we find is that being the person wants to rehabilitate that image and try and do good things, but the good guys won’t accept her, and the bad guys still think she’s one of them. Whenever she does become this other character, late at night, there’s this pull to do dark stuff. She’s trying to do right even though everything around her including the expectations of others to go otherwise is strong.
BUG: It sounds like a very human tale.
BUG: And you’re known for putting a lot of humanity into your characters. What do you think what has guided you to do those types of stories? Is this just the way, was that the way you were raised?
JMS: My brain works, I have a brain like a bucket of snakes. Again, look at things from different directions. The other book called SIDEKICK, it’s about a guy, it’s actually the DARK LEAGUE comic book, who was a sidekick to a character named, a good guy named The Cowl because he wore a cowl, so he said, “I’m going to be The Cowl,” and my young sidekick could fly, and he’s a boy, so he’s going to be Flyboy. We’re talking about not very imaginative people at all. You think, “oh Christ, really? Fine, I’m Flyboy,” and he does his job for like two or three years from age fifteen until eighteen, and his mentor is killed. Now, he’s on his own, and no one takes him seriously. It’s like Robin the boy hostage thing, and it’s his slow descent into madness.
JMS: As he tries to make the world take him seriously, and they will not take him seriously. So, he starts staging crimes so they can then solve, and no one believes him. He wears patches of sponsorship of small companies like Bob’s Garage. Can’t get big companies.
JMS: Just him completely disintegrating over the period of our story.
BUG: Sounds fun.
JMS: Taking things and turning them around a bit.
BUG: Sure, sure. Like you said, you kind of have your finger in movies, TV, comics. Is there something you prefer, or do you like the variety?
JMS: I like the variety, I like to keep moving, you can’t hit a moving target. I like them all for different reasons. The comics, there’s no budgetary constraints, you can go as big as you want. Television has the benefit of the immediacy and the adrenaline of having to hit a deadline all of the time and millions of people watching the show. Movies, it’s the challenge of a really big story and making that work. So, I like them all equally, but for different reasons.
BUG: Yeah, that’s very, very cool. You talk about immediacy. A webseries is immediate.
BUG: It’s out there like that. How have you adjusted the way you work to deal with the immediacy of a webseries? Are you familiar with that type of stuff?
JMS: Yeah, and it’s just how you’ve got to be organized about how you do it.
JMS: The other one we’re doing is called “The Adventures of Apocalypse Al” for MTV.com, and what’s going to happen with that is they’re going to do a graphic novel first.
JMS: That’s already written. Then, we’re going to follow it up with a live action webseries, “Al 2.0”. So, a two component part of it, a graphic novel buys us the time to get the webseries up and on the rails.
BUG: Yeah. It seems like this is the perfect time for you to do this. It seems like you’ve reached, I don’t know, it seems as if you’ve achieved all of your goals in comics, but is there anything else that you want to do? Are you going to be exclusive to your own studios or are you going to still do some of the stuff for DC?
JMS: Oh no, I’m not exclusive at all. The whole point of the studio is to do what I want to do. I like working on SUPERMAN EARTH ONE books. I like doing other people’s movies. I like doing people’s shows. So, it’s just a home base, where I can do what I want, venture out, do somebody’s stuff and race back in when I’m done.
JMS: And have the best of both worlds.
BUG: Cool. Well, speaking of SUPERMAN EARTH ONE, do you know when we’re going to be seeing that?
JMS: October. It’s all done. It’s all penciled, lettered.
BUG: Oh, fantastic, I look forward to seeing that, I loved the first issue.
JMS: It came out really well, and it’s actually, this is better than the first one.
BUG: Yeah. BEFORE WATCHMEN, can we touch on that just a little bit?
BUG: I know there’s a lot of fervor on the internet about returning to that area, and you’ve been very vocal on the internet talking about how you feel about taking on this project. Is there anything you’d like to say to anyone else about this?
JMS: Not really.
BUG: I’ve read the first couple issues of your series, and they’ve been really great. I’ve liked pretty much everything on this BEFORE WATCHMEN event, this kind of project that they’re doing. I think some people are looking at it with less of a biased eye, I think that’s what I was trying to do, but other people seem to have already made up their mind before reading it, so what are your thoughts on this whole mess?
JMS: As you say, the books now had stand on their own two feet. These are great characters, this is a great universe, and DC waited for him twenty-five years to do something, and people say they screwed him with the contract, which is technically true, but also at the same time, you have to remember that back in the 80s when this came out, the average shelf life of a graphic novel was about six months. Al was like, “why should I do this if the offer is for six months?” and DC says, “look, here’s what we’ll do, the moment we go out to press with this, you get your characters back. It gives us a reason to keep it going so you can make money off of it.”
JMS: So the clause was there as a lot of graphic novel writers were at the time, to protect them by keeping a source of income going. They weren’t trying to screw him because back then they never thought it was going to go more than six months. Al himself said that he was going to do a prequel of it, and Wikipedia talks about the fact he wanted to go back revisit those characters again. So, the idea it was a closed thing was just not true. If you’re going to take the position of my characters can’t be from somebody else then you have to about face your own career on taking other people’s characters, I don’t care about how the person is alive, and the principles the same.
JMS: And use them in ways they wouldn’t have approved of. Most of them sit back for a second, and I hate to say this, but look at the last ten, fifteen years of Alan’s work. Most of books he’s selling are based on other people’s stuff. LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, the pans stuff, THE LOST GIRLS...
BUG: Even WATCHMEN was based on other characters.
JMS: I hate to say it’s slash fan fiction, but it’s kind of slash fan fiction.
BUG: Well done slash fan fiction.
JMS: Yeah, and when was the last time Alan created something completely new and original that wasn’t based on somebody else’s work? I challenge you to name me one. PROMETHEA was based on Wonder Woman.
BUG: Exactly. Even Tom Strong is kind of a derivative of things like Doc Savage.
JMS: Doc Savage. Supreme, of course, is Superman.
JMS: So, it’s like you lose the moral high ground when you say to someone else don’t do it when you’re doing it yourself.
JMS: And guys say, “well, it’s different because they’re dead.” Well, that’s cowardly to pick on a dead person. It’s really Alan’s alive, and he can speak for himself. If I wait until he’s dead, that would be cowardly.
BUG: Yeah. It looks like I’m getting the cue to wrap things up here. So, is there anything else? Just final words you want to say to the AICN readers about JMS Studios or anything else?
JMS: Never eat anything bigger than your head.
BUG: Hah! OK.
JMS: Never shoot pool in a place called Pop’s. Never eat food in a place called Mom’s.
BUG: Great. Well, thank you so much for talking with me, I’m a huge fan, and I can’t wait to read and see all the next things that you have going on here.
JMS: I appreciate it.
BUG: It sounds exciting and I can’t wait to check out all of your new work in all forms of media.
JMS: Excellent. Thank you.
BUG: Look for more info on Studio JMS and on Facebook here! Check out this cool little preview of some of JMS’ upcoming works.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over ten years. He has written comics such as MUSCLES & FIGHTS, MUSCLES & FRIGHTS, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010 & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND & has co-written their first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in late 2012 as an 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment to be released March-August 2012. Also look for Mark's exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-80 which begins in August 2012.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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Aug. 1, 2012, 11:45 a.m. CST
by Dr. Francis B. Gross
Might be cool.
Aug. 1, 2012, 11:53 a.m. CST
Left with a limp dick.
Aug. 1, 2012, 12:03 p.m. CST
Damn right about Alan Moore.
Aug. 1, 2012, 12:21 p.m. CST
Or about kerning?
Aug. 1, 2012, 12:23 p.m. CST
Also LOL at (paraphrasing) ''With this new studio I can do anything. Total creative freedom. So I'm writing a tv show about vampires.''
Looks like the guy has plenty of ideas, to be fair, but to start off talking about a Dracula show was good for the lulz.
Aug. 1, 2012, 12:31 p.m. CST
Yeah, venkman, I hoped for at least a little ray of light on B5, but I think JMS has truly buried the project until someone offers him a decent no-strings budget. So sad... probably the best sf show of all time in some ways (powerful, consistent story arc) and left to rot.
Aug. 1, 2012, 1:14 p.m. CST
If waiting until Moore is dead would be cowardly, what is it to use his characters against his wishes while he's alive?
I don't particularly care about anyone involved in this, or the Watchmen world/concept in general, but the rhetoric used in some of his answers is interesting. Especially in comics, characters get re-used and re-worked over time. Rarely does it improve on anything (see: Spider-Man from the clone nonsense onward, including the horrific Ultimate rubbish), but it seems inevitable from a marketing standpoint. But it's not often that a creator comes right out and says he doesn't want something to happen. Does he have the right to say so? That seems to be a legal matter. Should others listen? It probably depends on what you think of art and artists at the end of the day. We as a culture seem to be at an all-time low for respect for artists, except as sources of raw material that can be freely stolen and pillaged.
Aug. 1, 2012, 2:09 p.m. CST
He has fundamentally misunderstood the whole argument Moore has with DC. And tgrying to dismiss everything Moore has done in the past 15 years ago as "slash fiction" is insulting. JMS, you're a hypocrite.
Aug. 1, 2012, 2:33 p.m. CST
Aug. 1, 2012, 2:33 p.m. CST
Aug. 1, 2012, 3:29 p.m. CST
by Michael Miller
that the Rising Stars and Midnight Nation film projects are dead. To bad, I'd have really liked to have seen those happen.
Aug. 1, 2012, 3:29 p.m. CST
Aug. 1, 2012, 3:53 p.m. CST
by Stereotypical Evil Archer
Where da info at?
Aug. 1, 2012, 5:11 p.m. CST
Really cant see how any creator could defend what happened to Moore and Gibbons...or Kirby or Kane..Siegal and Shuster. Just because something happened in the past,doesnt mean its ok to defend it and make excuses in the present day. Fuck Before Watchmen and Fuck DC.
Aug. 1, 2012, 7:06 p.m. CST
by Fieber Bever
you don't need to put in every mindless "uh-huh" and "sure" you responded in a transcript of an interview, Bug. it sounds like you're jamming your presence in during his speech. and Fuck Alan Moore. I love his work, but Fuck Him. Fucking Hypocrite Graverobbing Self-Righteous Prick.
Aug. 1, 2012, 7:27 p.m. CST
by Homer Sexual
Or after Watchmen? Just wondering. JMS is such a mixed bag, doing awesomeness like The Twelve, but taking years to finish it. Same with Squadron Supreme, that book couldve been huge if it had ever published regularly. He sure sucked on Wonder Woman. I read his first novel, Othersyde. It actually rocked! Idk if Im "defending" DC, and Im nobody anyhow, but I can't get behind Alan Moore in all of this.
Aug. 1, 2012, 9:21 p.m. CST
by hank henshaw
Superman Earth One, worst Superman origin yet, and I'm not a fan of Birthright or Secret Origin. Lois is completely wrong in JMS' Earth One.
Aug. 1, 2012, 11:02 p.m. CST
OK. You said FALLING ANGEL? It’s not FALLEN ANGEL, the Peter David series.
Aug. 1, 2012, 11:08 p.m. CST
Just look at his picture! How are you gonna write comics and make rip snorting adventure flicks when you've got no style? I like his comics, sorta, but they are kinda egghead and cerebral. Him and Johns. Their titles sell like hotcakes but they're as boring as bran flakes. I mean, listen to his limp descriptions of his own Hot New Properties. Does that make you wanna read any of it? And this- BUG: OK. You said FALLING ANGEL? It’s not FALLEN ANGEL, the Peter David series. JMS: No. BUG: That’s something completely different? JMS: Yeah. NO style, man!!
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