AICN COMICS Q&@: Ambush Bug has 12 Questions for Writer Matthew Rosenberg & His Collaboration with Ghostface Killah on 12 REASONS TO DIE!
@’s by Matthew Rosenberg
Writer of 12 REASONS TO DIE!!!
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): So for those who are not familiar with this project, can you explain the concept behind 12 REASONS TO DIE?
MATT ROSENBERG (MR): 12 REASONS TO DIE is a 6 issue comic mini-series as well as an album by Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge and produced by RZA. The album, like the comic, tells the story of a man who is betrayed by an Italian crime family in the 1960's and returns to bring vengeance from beyond the grave. The comic features a second story, set 20 years later, that may or may not be related. You'll have to read it and see. The bigger idea was to take this story and try to make a compelling record around it, make a great comic, and make them compliment each other in ways that have never been done before.
BUG: Were you able to check out Ghost's new album before writing the book?
MR: What's unique about this book in a lot of ways is that it isn't an afterthought. The comic and the record were always supposed to work together, so I began working on this book before there was a record to hear. Adrian, RZA, Bob at Soul Temple, and Ghostface all had a ton of input and guidance as to where this book should go and how it should work, but I was writing it while Ghost was writing his parts. I think it made for both projects being better and complimenting each other well. We all knew our first goal was to serve the story and the medium best and not get in each others way. And if you read the book or listen to the record you will notice places where we strayed from each other. We want to keep people guessing.
BUG: How familiar were you with Ghost's work before starting this project?
MR: I knew it well enough. I grew up in New York City right as Wu was breaking out. I don't think I knew a kid who didn't own a 36 Chambers tape. That album is one of the all time great records of my generation. Growing up with that tape on everyday I don't know how you couldn't follow Ghost's career afterward. I was a huge fan of Ironman and Supreme Clientele when they came out. I don't have every beat memorized but I have always been a fan.
BUG: What kind of reaction did Ghost have to the comic book once it was completed?
MR: Early on he was very quiet. I think he was just focusing on making the record he wanted to make. RZA has always been really hands on a supportive, and he looks out for Ghost. RZA made sure that I wasn't doing anything in the book that Ghost wouldn't want in there. But after the record was done Ghost finally looked over the first issue and he was really excited. One of my main goals was to do right by him so that was a relief.
BUG: Let's talk a bit about the art. You were able to amass some pretty cool talent for this book. How did all of that come about?
MR: Yeah, I am really honored to have all these folks on this book. Gus Storms and Breno Tamura are handling the main art duties of the two separate stories but I wanted to do something really special and wild with this book. My idea was to try and make the book read more like a Wu record sounds. I wanted all of these amazing guests to come in, do a few pages or a cover, and leave you wanting more. I wanted people to see 3 pages by Tyler Crook and feel the same way they do when Raekwon does a verse on a song and then disappears. I wanted it to feel like this big jam piece where the parts add up to a much greater whole. So I reached out to a ton of the best in the business and was lucky enough to get a lot of positive response. Folks like Tim Seeley (REVIVAL), Nate Powell (ANY EMPIRE), Paolo Rivera (DAREDEVIL), Shaky Kane (BULLETPROOF COFFIN), Ron Wimberly (PRINCE OF CATS), Chris Mitten (30 DAYS OF NIGHT), Michael Walsh (COMEBACK), Anders Nilsen (BIG QUESTIONS), Tony Moore (FEAR AGENT), Ramon Perez (TALE OF SAND), Riley Rossmo (BEDLAM), and a ton more. There are over 20 artists on the book. It's a jaw dropping list when I look over it all.
BUG: How did this book end up at Black Mask Studios?
MR: I went to San Diego Comic Con last year and met with all of the publishers I thought could handle a project like this. Everyone I met with was really enthusiastic and was telling me how they thought things should be handled, what we should do with the book, and what they would need. When I met with Matt Pizzolo at Black Mask he just asked me what we wanted to do with it. That was it. Black Mask are artists, comic creators, and musicians. They know what they would want a publisher they worked with to be and they work hard to be that for their creators. They aren't the biggest and they don't have the name recognition of some of the bigger guys but they want to make comics better and make better comics. That just appealed to me and to everyone at Soul Temple a lot.
BUG: What about the comics world excites you at the moment?
MR: I argue this every day but I honestly think comics, as a whole, are better now than they have ever been. It doesn't matter what you are looking for, there are some of the best comics ever made for your tastes on shelves now. I think when the general public figures that out comics could truly have a startling renaissance. Everything Black Mask is doing is truly inspiring. I think most of the Marvel relaunched books have been great. HAWKEYE, DAREDEVIL, ALL NEW X-MEN, and THOR are all brilliant. Snyder and Lemire at DC are consistently amazing. I am constantly floored by how good DARK HORSE PRESENTS is. Image has launched more stunning books in the past 2 years than even seems possible; PROPHET, SAGA, FATALE, NOWHERE MEN, MANHATTAN PROJECTS, COMEBACK, FIVE GHOSTS, MIND THE GAP, END TIMES OF BRAM & BEN, HOAX HUNTERS, there are too many to name. I love all the stuff up at TripCity.net and it's all free. No Brow has yet to put out a book that I don't think is beautiful. I really like most of the stuff Monkeybrain is putting out, it's just really well curated. There is a ton of small press and self published stuff that deserves a lot more readers- SUSPECT DEVICE, COPRA, WUVABLE OAF, LOSE, NIGHT BUSINESS, BOOBAGE. I get anxious that I don't have enough hours in the day to read all of this stuff. I also get excited about the new generation of creators who are completely killing it. James Harren, Garry Brown, Tradd Moore, Sloane Leong, Connor Willumsen, Josh Gowdy, are all making brilliant art. Writers like Frank Barbiere, Michael Moreci, Ed Brisson, Curt Pires, Ales Kot, Nolan T. Jones, and a bunch more. These are the folks who are going to be making the huge comics in a few years and it's fun to watch what they do now.
BUG: There are different horror elements at play in 12 REASONS TO DIE and in talking with you at various cons I know you have some opinions about horror in comics. Can you talk a little bit about those?
MR: I tend to think horror doesn't work very well in comics. There are a lot of great horror comics, but they aren't scary. Comics can do spooky and creepy very well, they were built on those things. But I don't remember ever being legitimately scared by a comic. I think it has to do with the way we take in comics. Film and television assault your senses, you can't stop them, and you can only limit the amount of it that you take in. When you read a book you are handed all of the details. The writer tells you what you need to know exactly and it either works to scare you or it doesn't, but the pacing is controlled by the reader. In comics, there is a weird middle ground. The reader sets the pacing and the reader chooses how much of the visual information to take in. It means that it is much easier for a comic reader to break their sense of immersion or hurry through and miss crucial parts in building the actual horror. Horror comic masters like Richard Corben or Bernie Wrightson work as well as they do because you want to study their pages, you want to linger. With TWELVE REASONS TO DIE I worked really hard trying to build a world that you want to study, that you want to get sucked into. I think that's the only way it can work. There are great scary set pieces and odd little plot points that, if you let yourself get immersed in, will hopefully creep you out in the right ways. And if not at least it's a pretty book.
BUG: So what type of stuff does scare you?
MR: I don't know. I guess the horror that has affected me the most is the horror that seems possible. Real world stuff. The people I care about getting hurt. Being powerless to help the people around me. That sort of stuff terrifies me. That movie MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE that came out a few years ago? That was the scariest thing I had seen in a while because it took something that always seemed so alien and made it seem so real and so possible. It was about families falling apart as much as it was about murder. Stuff like that scares me. Also, my adversarial relationship with sleep is starting to scare me.
BUG: What else do you have coming up that we can look out for?
MR: My writing partner Patrick Kindlon and I are lucky to be doing a series of 2 page backups in the Image book FIVE GHOSTS. Ours is a story called “Intellectual Property’ and it's a sort of cross between Winnie The Pooh and CHINATOWN. The amazing Jason Copland, Shaky Kane, & Sloane Leong are handling art duties on that and making a beautiful book. I feel stupid urging people to buy a comic to read our 2 pages, but FIVE GHOSTS is one of the best books on the shelves right now so I will urge people to do it for that. Just stick around for our story too. We also write a series of post apocalyptic short stories about a boy and a dog called MENU, which appear for free every month on the site TripCity.net. We team up with different artists to give little glimpses into the lives of these two characters as they have to fight for everything they have in the world. Its equal parts KAMANDI, GROO, JONAH HEX, and LONE WOLF & CUB, with a lot of obvious nods to A BOY AND HIS DOG thrown in for good measure.
BUG: How can we get a copy of 12 REASONS TO DIE and when is it going to be available?
MR: You can go to your local comic store this Wednesday, May 8th and buy issue #1 off the shelf. And then come back every month and do it again. Or, if you don't have a local comic store for some reason you can order either the physical book or a digital copy online directly from Black Mask.
BUG: Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Best of luck with the book. It really is a fun project.
MR: Thanks Mark!
BUG: 12 REASONS TO DIE #1 is out now! The comic’s got some awesome variant covers;
The Ghost Variant illustrated by Jason Jagel who did all the MF Doom artwork. This is available at these fine stores throughout the country: A Little Shop of Comics (Scotch Plains NJ), Alternate Reality Comics (Las Vegas NV), Another Dimension (Calgary - Canada), Austin Books & Comics (Austin TX), Beach Ball Comics (Anaheim CA), Brave New Worlds (Willow Grove PA, Philadelphia PA), Bridge City Comics (Portland OR), Bunjee’s Comics (McDonough GA), Casablanca Comics (Portland ME, Windham ME), Chapel Hill Comics (Chapel Hill NC), Chicago Comics (Chicago IL), Comic Oasis (Las Vegas NV), Comicopia (Boston MA), CornerStoreComics (Anaheim CA), Earth-2 Comics (Sherman Oaks CA, Northridge CA), Fantasy Books (Belleville IL), Fantasy Books and Games (Fairview Heights IL), Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff (Concord CA), Heroic Adventures (Edwardsville IL), Keith’s Comics (Garland TX, Dallas TX), Laughing Ogre Comics (Columbus OH), Laughing Ogre Comics (Fairfax VA, Lansdowne VA), Local Heroes (Norfolk, VA 23517), Main Street Comics (Middletown NY), More Fun Comics (Denton TX, Lancaster TX), Secret Headquarters (LA CA), Southern Fried Comics (Hattiesburg MS), Speeding Bullet Comics (Norman OK), Star Clipper (St. Louis MO), Strange Adventures Comix & Curiosities (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia - Canada), TATE’S Comics (Lauderhill FL).
The Suspiria Variant, illustrated by Shaky Kane (Limited to 100 signed & numbered copies at C2E2, 400 unsigned/unnumbered copies only at Black Mask Store).
And The Tour Variant which is exclusive to these fine stores; Austin Books & Comics (Austin TX), Brave New Worlds Comics (Philadelphia PA), Casablanca Comics (Portland ME), Chapel Hill Comics (Chapel Hill NC), Forbidden Planet - UK (London England UK), Graham Crackers Comics (Chicago IL), Heroes Haven Comics (Tampa FL), Jim Hanley's Universe (NY NY), Newbury Comics (Portland ME, Boston MA, Providence RI, New Haven), Third Eye Comics (Annapolis MD).
You can pick up a copy from the Black Mask website or at any comic shop worth a damn.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 12 years & AICN HORROR for 3. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment & GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81. Look for GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES available in February-July 2013 and the new UNLEASHED crossover miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER #1-3 available in May-July 2013! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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