Hello everyone, and welcome to my column! For those of you who are just joining us, feel free to look through the column’s archive(s) for last week’s premiere instalment. This week I’m proud to host Nick Derington for a special interview in my column.
Nick is best known for a series of back-up stories he co-wrote and illustrated for Image’s Savage Dragon series. You can see them online at Nick’s website.
I caught up with Nick to learn more about an upcoming short story he is writing and illustrating for X-Men Unlimited, Marvel’s monthly anthology title.
The following solicitation is taken from Marvel’s Product solicitations for January:
X-MEN, UNLIMITED #41
Cover By Chris Bachalo
Jamie Delano & Mike Allred (w)/ Neil Googe & Nick Derington (p)
First, Jamie Delano (Hellblazer) and Neil Googe (Bazooka Jules) introduce the mutant known as MC Mystik! Then, Mike Allred and Nick Derington retell of The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night”â€¦ starring the X-Statix!
48 PGS. WITH ADS/FC/MARVEL PG……$3.50
(X-Statix is a team of mutants, whose adventures are recorded monthly in the title of the same name, published by Marvel Comics. They’re co-created by the creative minds of writer Peter Milligan and artist Mike Allred. The X-Statix comprise a super-team unlike any other, as they’re far more obsessed with their public image and their ratings than saving the world. They’re the superhero crowd’s own WWF league…)
Nick Derington also provided LYS@tD with some character sketches he did of the X-StatiX and Orphan, an Orphan pin-up, a montage of pin-ups from the protagonists of the story and the story’s “movie poster”. You can view them by clicking on the links below. I’ve also scanned the DVD cover of the original movie.
X-STATIX CHARACTER SKETCHES
COMIC MOVIE HOMAGE POSTER
ORIGINAL MOVIE POSTER
I talked with Nick about this project, the X-Statix and comics:
Manolis: Let’s start with the basics! What is this story about?
Nick Derington: It will be an X-Statix version of the Beatles’ Hard Day’s Night film.
Manolis: How did this project come together?
Nick: I met CB [C.B.Cebulski, the editor of X-Men Unlimited] in San Diego and he had seen my work around and expressed interest in working together in the future. I thought about what kind of X-story I’d like to tell. I’d been a big fan of X-men since a little kid so I was familiar with all the characters and thematics but was having trouble thinking of the perfect project without telling a redundant mutant story. My god there are SO many X-men stories, it boggles the brain! And frankly, the best ones have already been told.
Then I thought about using the X-Statix! With the X-Statix being superhero celebrities, putting them in the roles of the Beatles would be the perfect parallel and the fact that Allred is a well-known Beatles geek sorta inspired the idea as well. I’d been friends with Mike for several years and asked him if he was interested in having the X-Statix appear in a slightly more “traditional” X-book like Unlimited. He was all for the idea and was onboard for scripting the piece. I pitched the idea to CB and he was all for it! The rest is history and alotta hard work!
Manolis: How did you first meet Mike Allred?
Nick: At San Diego Comic-con several years ago. He’s been my number one fan since!
Manolis: Which members of the team appear in your story?
Nick: Everyone makes an appearance but it’s mainly about the guys.
Manolis: What is the format of the story?
Nick: 12 pages
Manolis: Why should people check this issue out?
Nick: It’s the first time we get to see X-Statix outside of there own book! After this issue of X-men Unlimited, Milligan and Allred’s creation will be firmly officially planted in the X-men collective and not simply some weird book that just happens to have an X in the title.
Manolis: Why choose this particular movie?
Nick: This is the Beatles’ first movie. The X-Statix are all about what would happen if superheroes were also celebrities. How the Beatles deal with their celebrity status is an ongoing thematic in the movie and one that would be fun to explore with the X-Statix. Hard Day’s night is also a very visual movie and makes for a great translation to comics!
Go check out this movie. It’s an important classic film and so much fun to watch!
Manolis: I rented the DVD, on your suggestion; it’s indeed a great film! I never thought a â€œmusic stars filmâ€ could be so well-rounded and entertaining! (I blame â€œSpice Worldâ€ for my preconceptionsâ€¦)
What is your casting of the film for this story? Who got casted as which Beatle, and most importantly: who plays the dubious grandfather?
Nick: Well, we’ve got Guy as John Lennon and Tike plays the role of Paul. I kinda wish I could have had Mr. Sensitive play Paul but it worked out better the other way around. George Harrison is played by Phat and Myles is, of course, the dorky Ringo.
As for the grandfather I’ll leave that a surprise for the story!
Manolis: Gotcha! What is your favourite scene and catch line from the movie?
Nick: Any thing with a cute girl! Ha! All the witty banter scenes are amazing but I’d have to say the when Ringo starts dancing like a total spaz I can’t help but crack up. Lennon’s ongoing quips with the manager are always brilliant as well.
Manolis: Which member of the X-StatiX did you enjoy drawing the most?
Nick: Orphan is the coolest character ever! Nuff said!
Manolis: You won’t get away that easily from me! [Evil grin]. What do you like best about this character?
Nick: Visually he’s so well designed (both versions of his costume) and Peter Milligan has just put so much life into his action and reactions to all the crazy stuff that happens within the team. It’s fun to see this moral individual try to function in a team of self-centered jerks!
Manolis: What do you think of the way the character has been handled since X-Force #128? He has been slowly losing more and more of his sanity ever since Edie diedâ€¦
Nick: Who wouldn’t after losing the girl he loved, let alone feeling partly responsible. Again Peter keeps applying the normal feelings that people have and putting them into the bizarre superhero context that has been developed over the last 70 years! It’s superhero soap opera at it’s best!
Manolis: What attracted you to the comics medium?
Nick: I grew up loving cartoons and drawing so falling into comics was obvious. Not only was I entranced with the art but I also fell in love with following and collecting the monthly exploits of these characters. So many neat reasons combined together make comics very addictive and fun.
Manolis: what comics do you look forward to reading every month?
Nick: Oh boy, my tastes are SO wide I don’t know where to start. I enjoy anything that has vision and breaks away from the normal continuity heavy stuff. I mainly follow certain creators knowing that they only work on projects that I would probably enjoy. People like Paul Pope, Jay Stephens, Mignola, Dave Cooper, Darwyn Cooke, Peter Milligan … pretty much all the guys who are way smarter than me. I also buy a lot of reprints of great authors and artists that built the foundation of what comics are. Like literature, everyone should be familiar with the greats. Herge, Caniff, Kirby, Tezuka, Raymond, Herriman, Eisner and Toth all set the bar on what great comics are and what they are capable of achieving.
Manolis: if you could choose any character or team concept from the major companies to write/draw with your own twist, which would you go for?
Nick: There are so many great teams and character to choose from it’s really hard. I can easily say that I have an idea I’d love pursue with each of the major characters out there. However, I think I’d rather approach something like the Atomic Knights concept: An old forgotten DC series of short stories that has so much potential in being revitalized into something completely new. I think I’d rather work on an obscure character like that. I’d become paralyzed with fear trying to work on something like Spiderman. It’s tough going into a big project like that knowing that the best Spiderman work has already been done and you will simply be “not Romita” the entire time you are working! Why even try!
Manolis: You’re being too hard on yourself and today’s industry. Some older runs on characters like Spidey and the X-men are legendary but recent examples have shown that these characters still have stories in them worth telling!
Nick: Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to tell a Spider-man story! I firmly believe there is nothing wrong with telling the same story for a new generation of readers, but there are always more stories to tell with these characters. That is what defines a good serialized character, but from the standpoint of a creator who knows the entire scope of comics I can’t help but feel a little intimidated. Many of the world’s greatest creators have drawn and written for these fantastic characters, and to not respect that will only lead to another Clone Saga.
Manolis: how do you feel about the recent avalanche of “adult” superhero books, like X-Statix, the ultimates and the Authority?
Nick: It’s good to see growth in any direction, but it’s sad to see that the millions of 8 year old that loved the Spider-man movie don’t have a Spider-man comic they can read. It’s even sadder that the millions of kids watching Dexter’s Laboratory and the Power Puff Girls can’t FIND the comics they’d like to read because they stashed away in the one comic shop in town that may or may not carry kids comics.
The production of Adult oriented superhero stuff is an attempt to break the stigma of American comics being for kids or simply being dumb. While some great material is being produced, I can’t help but think that the first priority of business should be to get kids convinced of the validity of comics. By getting kids involved with the medium they grow up with them, respecting them and will continue reading comics throughout their WHOLE lives like they would do movies and books. Not just for the time when they are 20-40 and want adult versions of a traditional child’s genre. All kinds of comics need to be pushed not just “adult superheroes”. This is much too narrow of a focus.
Manolis: You’re right. 20-30 is the main age group of comic readers today and all titles are nowadays being tailored for that target-group. The companies have made some moves to approach young readers; recent examples are the Xmen Evolution comic, the aforementioned Powerpuff Girls and other cartoon adaptations. The first title is already cancelled after only 9 issues. Where do you think these initiatives have gone wrong and how would you approach this task, to get young people interested in comics again?
Nick: The problem is that while some kid’s comics are filled with fairly solid material they are still sitting in comic shops. I love comic shops, but then again I am a 20-30 year old comic geek who has a car and my own money. Comic shop owners know that 90 percent of their customers are 20-30 so that’s what they cater their stores to. It’s a viscous circle of inaccessability. Monthly comics can only be bought from weird little specialty shops that aren’t very kid/girl/normal person friendly.
I can go buy a movie at a grocery store, Wal-mart, Best Buy or a specialty movie store. It’s great to have all these options. It’s called good marketing to have your product visible all over the place. If there was a really cool Spiderman digest sitting next to all those boring Archie digests at the super market DEAR GOD I would have freaked out as a kid!
Things are slowly getting better and common sense is starting to fix many of the problems of American comic book. I relish the idea of comics being made for every kind of person, just like TV, music and movies. Why sell comics to a few thousand jaded comic fans when you can make comics that everybody can get into!
Manolis: What are your past comics credits?
Nick: I’ve been doing a back-up story for Savage Dragon for about a year now. I self-published a book called Paper Museum that was very well received and did a pin-up for the Madman Exhibition. I’ve got a handful of future projects that are in the works including another Allred related piece! I’m also notorious for my lovely Powerman and Ironfist piece called “70’s Marvel Bonanza” (It can be found in electronic format on my website)
Manolis: I just went there and read it! I really liked it, very funny!! But wasn’t Misty slipperboy’s girlfriend? 😉
Nick: Well then I think we’d better keep this little adventure on the down low! Don’t want our boy Danny getting in trouble with his lady-friend now! Why do you think this lost story never got published!
Manolis: Never thought of it that way! Was this story a commission from Marvel or your own pet project?
Nick: Ummmmmâ€¦ no comment.
Manolis: what is â€œPaper Museumâ€ about? Why did you choose to self-publish and not head for the Indy companies like most new talent? Did it fare out as you had hoped?
Nick: Paper Museum was my first self-published effort. Paper Museum was a one-shot anthology title that contained four stories. Two created by my friend Jai Nitz and two by myself all relating to a classic Pulp genre or theme. This was a great way to test my creative juices and tell small samplings of the larger concepts I have planned. Being able to see people’s reactions to the different styles of art and storytelling has been very useful in evaluating my own skills and how I plan to approach my upcoming projects.
Manolis: I also read the Savage Tales samples you have in your site. Most were wickedly hilarious! There’s only question that has been bugging me: What are â€œWacky Snacksâ€ and why is everyone so desperate for them?
Nick: Wacky Snacks are a delicious snack treat developed in Guatemala by rogue members of secret scientific agency bent on ruling the earth through snacking. So far they only seem to work on criminals and superheroes, so for now the world is safe.
Manolis: what can we look out from you in the future?
Nick: A new issue of Paper Museum is in the works, still doing the Savage Dragon stuff for Erik, I’m drawing and writing a small project for Allred soon and whole bunch of other little things that I can’t talk about yet.
Manolis: Thanks for answering my questions; I’m really looking forward to the story!
Nick: Thanks for the interest! It’s been a blast to work on so far!
Visit Nick Derington’s homepage for more samples of his work
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Next week: We’ll take a close look at one of my favourite new Vertigo titles of 2002! Until then, feel free to visit the message boards or email me to give me your thoughts and remarks..
Congratulations to Blottie who was the first to email me with his comments and wins a personalized sketch from yours truly! (Blottie, you can email me to arrange the specifics).
Question of the week #2: â€œWhat do you think is the target group of today’s mainstream comics?â€ You can answer via email or through the boards. As was the case last week, one lucky (?) fellow will win a commission sketch from Manolis Vamvounis (that’s me).
a.k.a. Doc Dooplove