We are back to Diner Talk with the longer, more extended part TWO of the Lelan Estes interview. This week we are going to get the Lelan (and Jason Baroody) skinny on so much crap it’s not even funny. They knock on artists, they dissolve comic mythos, AND reference Brian Adams songs. If it wasn’t for the fact that I’m posting this up at 2:15 in the morning, this intro would be SO much more interesting.. so without further adieu, please sit back and relax the conclusion of ‘A Very Special Diner Talk’.
—-ON FRANK MILLER, BRIAN AZZARELLO, AND BENDIS!
James: I sat with Frank Miller the other week. I was at a bar with him while we waited for our flight back from San Diego. I fanboyed out on the guy. “Eshcuse me, Misther Miller. Pardon, Dark Knight 2.. what’s up with that?”
Jason: Did you ask him why Dark Knight 2 sucked?
James: No, the problem is that every single person that I’ve told that I sat next to him and talked with him at the airport has asked me ‘Did you ask him why Dark Knight 2 sucked?’ NO!! Of course not, and you wouldn’t either. Your sitting and taking to Frank f’n Miller!
Jason: I would.
Lelan: Aww, Jay would too. Do you want a good Jay story? The first time we meet Brian Azzarello. It was in a bar, everyone was drinking. We were all outside and I was a fan of 100 Bullets. It had just come out, so I went up and said ‘Man, I’m really liking it.’ He said, ‘Oh, thanks’ and Jay just looks up and go ‘Yeah, I’m not reading it’ and Azzarello says, ‘Well you should be?’ and Jay just says, ‘Why? Gimme a good reason.’ So tough man Azzarello, who writes this big tough shit just turns and wanders off. We just watched him crumble.
Jason: (triumphantly) Yes!
James: Jason Baroody, making friends and influencing people, by not reading shit.
Jason: I’ve read Azzarello, I’m not a big fan. I’m bored by it.
Lelan: You know who I’m bored by?
Lelan: Bendis. I’m just bored by it.
Jason: See, I like Bendis’ original stuff, like I think Torso is his best work —
James: Really? I liked Jinx better.
Jason: Ehh, it’s alright. It works like a short story. I just don’t think he can write superheroes.
James: I’ll admit he can’t really write a team book, but you don’t like his Spiderman characterization.
Jason: I find that alot of modern writers just don’t have a grasp of the characters they are writing. Where they’ve been, their personalities.
James: Now I think Bendis’ strong suit is how he’s writing Spiderman as a 16, 17 year old. The fact that the character DOESN’T have that ‘I’M A SUPERHERO!’ attitude. He just gets dressed up at night in his PJs because he feels it’s something he SHOULD do.
Jason: But it’s all been done, back in the day. I mean, that’s how Spiderman got started.
James: But back then there was still that Lee and Kirby posturing of, ‘I have a responsibility, responsibility begets responsibility’ kind of thing, where now we are so far passed that in the comic world where – i’m going to use the term I hate – use ‘decompressed storytelling’ to tell you the emotion of what is going on with them. So you don’t have that whole ‘I really dig Mary Jane – But, Oh! Look at Gwen’ that comes across as a sappy romance comic, instead of now where we get into the head of how this 17 year old actually thinks. Yes, it’s still a bit campy, but it’s not ‘Gee, I really want to go do the big dance, awwww..’
Lelan: Here’s my deal with that. I like his ideas. I really like his ideas. I’m not reading Ultimate Spiderman, because the concept just doesn’t interest me. Stryczinsky’s Spiderman interests me alot.
Jason: Yes, that Spiderman is real good.
Lelan: Genius. My frustration with Bendis is that there is something at the beginning of the comic, and something at the end of the comic –
James: We’re talking the comic, not the arc right?
Lelan: Right, the comic. The beginning, and the end, yes. Not so much in the middle. All that extra is taken up by exposition. Not even just ‘exposition’, but just that back and forth. I understand the gag of people talking in broken sentences and interrupting each other. That was really interesting to me a couple of years ago, but now I just think it’s old.
James: I do see what your saying, where in the very early issues of Powers that would have a two pager of just ‘words words words words words’, but it was just two pages. If you aren’t a fan of the exposition –
Lelan: Well, I’m a writer. I’m always going to be a fan of exposition –
—-ON SCRIPTING BOOKS AND DRAWNG SCRIPTS
James: That’s where I was going next, isn’t exposition your bread and butter as a writer? An action sequence for a writer, I think, would be the hardest thing you have to write.
Lelan: You know, I got much more courageous about that, after seeing Warren Ellis’ scripts. There is this beautifully done Ultimate’s page, under the majestic artestry of Bryan Hitch, which rad in the script as ‘The Armada attacks’. That’s him working his strong suit. A writer is doing his artist a disservice by writing a script, saying that this is my story, and whichever artist who gets it saying…
James: ‘I want the exact same thing’
Lelan: Right. It should be tailoring what you are writing to the artist, and trusting your artist to do it. It’s a collaboration. That’s what comic books more unique than anything else, is that collaboration.
James: What do you think about this Jason?
Jason: (out of a daze) Huh? What? Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention. I need more coffee.
James: Okay, you have a script page that a writer has written for you. Which do you prefer, that it says: “The Armada flies in on their golden winged ships, and Captain America stands there, holding off the front of the assault. His shield is approximately 45 degrees, reflecting the sun.” OR would you prefer it says, “The Armada attacks. Have fun.”
Jason: As an artist, I want free reign over whatever I’m drawing. So the less the writer influences what the image looks like, the better. Word balloons are important, but they can go anywhere. I’ve read those infamous Alan Moore scripts that go on and on and on, but they were something else. I couldn work off that. That’s brianless. That’s a factory job.
Lelan: What Moore’s doing is creating an atmosphere for his artist to work in.
Jason: Fine, but it’s my job to take that script and have fun, too. It’s my job to make it dynamic. Don’t get me wrong, if there is some detail that needs to be in the panel, fine. But other than that, I don’t want to feel as if I’m trapped inside the boxes.
Lelan: I know Jay as an artist, so I know that–
Jason: I’m never happy.
Lelan: Right.. no. I know that when he reads a script, he is going to draw something cooler than what I could think of. In my mind, I’m going to see something interesting, so I might leave a note about what I’m seeing. But it’s his job to make it look good.
Jason: I think Lee has gotten a good balance with his scripts, where he will allow the artist to play with stuff. Sometimes I push that, just to see what he’ll let me get away with.
Lelan: Like.. sideways! See, like the story he drew in Anthologica. Further case and point. We didn’t talk about it ahead of time, so he did them all sideways. Which, honestly, was cool.
Jason: The reason I did it was that I knew that this book was going to be filled with all these other great artists. My page has gotta stand out somehow.. hey, I’ll put them in crooked. Whether people like them or not, at least they’ll turn their book and go ‘What the hell is this!’
Lelan: But like he said, if there is something I need in there. I’ll make sure to make a mention. Like Bryan Hitch knows what that story looks like. He designed the spaceships in the Armada. There is no reason to go into exposition about that.
Jason: It’s like here with a shot at this diner. You don’t need to know what’s on the table or from what angle it should be at. Obviously the artist should know what a sitting at a booth in a diner looks like.
Lelan: It’s funny, one of the artists, Khoi Pham, who is actually a lawyer with his own law firm. He’s a great artist, great guy. One of my favorite scripts in Anthologica has for a few pages these two dudes sitting in a bar. As a writer, I can’t think of enough interesting angles to keep it going, so it’s interesting to see where it’s going because Khoi can and did. He did a bunch of great shots. One of them is down through the rafters, looking down on them.
Jason: And what he did really keeps your eye on the page. It grabs you visually.
James: Wow! We beat the hell out of that topic.
Lelan: What was the topic?
[So babbling commensed, and coffee flowed like the blood of the nonbelievers. The topic of religion popped up. Or hung down. However you really want to look at it.]
—–ON RELIGION AND MYTHOLOGY
James: How religious are you?
Lelan: Dude, I came from church today.
Jason: What?! You can’t tell in his writing? What with the child molestation and the mutilation.
Lelan: So much of mythology and stories in our culture is based on Judao-Christian concepts. It’s the single sacrificing themself for the whole. It’s good versus evil. Just because it’s not a tract or preaching, it doesn’t mean it’s not dealing with concepts that I believe in.
James: Alright, that’s fair, but you could also take it back to.. and don’t get me wrong, I’m not smacking your religion —
Lelan: No, go ahead, hit me.
James: You could take that back further to Greek Mythology, and the focus on the hero. Like Joseph Campbell’s ‘Journey Of The Hero’. The story of Perseus and Theseus.
Lelan: A big problem that I had, and I think it’s good to question your faith. Because I grew up with a belief that I was just supposed to subscribe to, I think it’s good. My problem was always ‘How come the Jews were the only ones to get it?’ Why, in that one little place, when the rest of the world was left to rot? See, it’s not like that. It was just the Jews got this bit of it, where the rest of the world got a different part of it in mythology. Different characters, different stories, same ideas. Like God being of the flesh of man. All of these same themes show up in universal languages so we can discuss and see them.
James: I’ve had this discussion about religion in comics before, because that is what comics breaks down to, which is the path of the hero. In it’s most basic initial form.
Jason: The Illyad. The Odyssey.
Lelan: They were the first superheroes. Jim and I were discussing the idea of doing a story that was based on the great works.
James: I would be all over that. See, we at the Nexus am smart. Ooo Boobie! Look Boobie! So, what IS your theory about Homer, the Illyad, and Titties.
Jason: Well, Homer was blind, and he didn’t write the whole thing. I know ALL about Homer and the Illyad and how it was formed 400 years before he was born and it was passed onto him and then transcribed.
Lelan: I like to think of Jay as a subversive historian. Because no matter what historical reference you bring up, Jason will know it, discuss it, and have an alternate history for how it happened that is outside of your belief system. Which rocks.
Jason: It’s true. I’m not lying. He was blind. It was written 400 years before he was born. He didn’t witness ANY of it. ..wait.. how did we get on this?
Lelan: He asked me how religious I am. Very religious, but not in a religious way.
James: I ask, because my business card has that whole thing with me giving a high-five to God. I worry about handing that kind of thing out to people who are religious, because they could be on either side of that ‘offended’ fence.
Lelan: Here is that thing. Let me piss off a lot of religious people out there. I would propose that a lot of the people that would allow themselves to get pissed off by something like that are missing the point of ‘The Message’. Missing the point of the way that they are supposed to be living. It’s not our job to be pissed off at people for what they say about God. It should never be the example. It’s the point of the whole thing to not point fingers at people that way. So yeah.
James: Pardon me that I am amazed at how much I impressed by this whole thing, but now let’s move onto another question. Great segue eh?
Lelan: Gee, thanks…
—-ON LELAN’S ROCKSTAR LIFE!
James: Right. So, you have a band. Maybe you did have a band. Danielle, and I — Danielle is my girlfriend. Hi Dani.
Lelan: Hi Danibaby.
James: We looked at your website, which is…
Lelan: It’s old, very old.
James: Right, because we saw it and said, “Oh! Lee’s band is playing at the Corner Tavern, we should go to the Corner Tavern and see him.” And she said, “Honey, we can’t.” I asked, “Why?” And she tells me, “Because they were playing there two years ago.” “Oh. I guess we won’t go then.”
Lelan: The website is www.lelanestes.com, but right now I’m working on have somebody else do the website. So.. right, the band.
James: First off, do you have a band?
Lelan: No. The band was called Crop Duster. We were together for about five years. Near the end we did a name change to The Brokedowns, but that only lasted a month or two then we officially broke up. We had a great run. We opened for Ringo Starr at Jones Beach. We hit the top 12 at CMJ college charts. We toured half the country in a van – the full experience. We had a great time.
James: ..we did coke off a hooker’s tit…
Lelan: Actually I will say for the record that I was good on the road.
James: Were you married at the time?
Lelan: No, engaged. I think…
James: ”There were days that I couldn’t remember. ‘Tonight, I’m not engaged, everybody Bodyshots!”
Lelan: Favorite road moment, was we went to this place in North Carolina. The place was opened until dawn. So we partied with these people until the sun came up. Two of the guys left with the girls and the band. Me and the drummer just left by ourselves, walking around wasted. We knew there was a park nearby, so we just decided to go sleep in the park. It’ll be nice and soft, and we’ll wake up and figure out where we’re at. So we reached this little cove of trees, it was really nice, so we figured we must have reached the park. We pass out asleep. I wake up with my phone ringing. Dew all over me. On the phone is the label saying ‘You guys gotta be at this place and such and such a time, and I can’t get a hold of anybody. Where are you?’ I just said, ‘Look.. I don’t know.. I think I’m in a park.. I don’t know where the other guys.. I gotta go..’
So I wake up, and look around and we’re not in a park. We’re on somebody’s lawn, sleeping under his bushes. The drummer is sleeping two feet away from me so I wake him up. ‘Dude we have to get outta here before these people wake up.’ We zoom off, it was awesome.
But yeah, we had a good run.
James: Did you ever hear them Jay?
Jason: Oh yeah! I know it sounds stupid because I know Lee and he’s my friend, but he is the only reason I went to see the band. The band was really good. They had this real unique sound, all the members were really good. I can’t fathom why a real record label didn’t have picked them up. I’ve seen lots of garage bands, and these guys were really good. It was just one of those bumdeals.
Lelan: Yeah, we were close, but we just didn’t hit it. When we realized that was the case, we met up and said ‘Look, we can do this for another ten years’ maybe, maybe not. I was the youngest, these guys are around thirty or so now. One guy was a programmer who had passed up promotion after promotion. We had all sunk so much money into it. We all decided to just move on. From time to time we all get together and play a show. I get sad about it, but we play in Jersey City every once in awhile.
Jason: You should give him the albums. It’s real good.
James: What kind of music?
Lelan: It’s just rock and roll. The Stones, the Beatles, the Pixies. Just good rock and roll. I got my musical education playing with this band. Some of the guys really liked Neil Young.. and umm. What’s her name? *singing* Ricky don’t lose that numberrr… crap.
Jason: No idea. Umm.. Steve Miller Band
Lelan: No.. umm.. Warrent
Jason: Striper was our BIGGEST influence.
Lelan: Here is the new project. This is the new idea. We’re looking for a drummer. Specifically someone in the comic industry. It’s all comic guys. It’s myself, Mike Malborough, Scott St. Pierre, and Khoi who we mentioned. Doin this thing called ‘Ranger’.
Jason: oh.. Ranger is going to be the next big thing..
Lelan: It’s early Kiss, AC/DC cockrock. The act is that every song is secretly about dressing in drag. Our big hit single is ‘Great To Be A Lady’. Some others are, ‘Fire In Love’.
James: What do you play by the way?
Lelan: Bass player. Look, I can’t tell you anymore about it now.. there are too many secrets I’ve already revealed. Oh, except Jay gets to be the manager.
Jason: The EVVVILLL Manager.
James: Do you get a big Colonel hat?
Lelan: We were also thinking about doing a fake documentary about Ranger…
James: Like Spinal Tap?
Lelan: Kinda, where we came over from Europe, except the manager ditches us and steals all of our equipment, so now we are here trying to gain back our fortune by ROCKING.
James: …sounds like the story of Manowar. THEY WERE THE KINGS OF METALLLL! Have you ever heard any of that?
James: Seriously, go buy them. You can find their albums in dollar bins everywhere. In all seriousness, Ted Nugent has gone and said they are probably the greatest rock band that came out of the 80’s, but nobody would know it because all they sing about is Rennasaince Festivals. It’s f’n genius. They did a speed metal version of Flight Of The Bumblebee.
—-ON KEVIN SMITH!
James: Okay, quickfire question. Kevin Smith in comics, opinion?
Jason: ..I really liked Daredevil.
James: That’s pretty much what people have to say about him. That and ‘I really liked Target #2’.
Lelan: I read some of his Green Arrow, and I just kind of realized that I just don’t like Green Arrow. He does nothing for me.
Jason: I think he’s a great filmmaker. I like that he loves comics and brings attention to comics.
[[Coffee refills commence]]
—-ON BRYAN ADAMS!
Jason: More sugar.
James: That’s a lot of sugar.
Jason: Yeah, I prefer a coffee candybar really.
James: Lee, you don’t drink coffee.
James: I’ve gotten used to my coffee mean. I’m very particular about my coffee. I worked at a coffee house for two years.
Jason: Aww yeah, Brian Adams baby.. Summer of 69′
James: (feigned weeping) hold me… was he even alive in 69?
James: I think that’s my biggest problem with the song.
Lelan: You see what I’m saying, Jason with his subversive historian. He knew where Brian Adams was in 1969 and has his own spin on it.
—-THE BIG QUESTION
James: So… Brian Adams in 1969 was in.. the Illuminati? Okay, next question.. dream project?
Lelan: My dream project?
James: You can take any book from any place. You’ve gotten the gig of a lifetime at Marvel, or DC, or Image, or Dark Horse, or Eros, or wherever..
Lelan: I think that everybody that wants to work on somebody else’s book, wants to take a crack at the X-Men. Of course, everybody has the story of how they want to kill them.
Jason: I just want to kill all trademarked superheroes. Line them up, and watch them all die. That’s what makes them a mythology. They live, they do good, they die.
Lelan: I would never want Superman.
James: Yeah, I fear that. I know I couldn’t make Superman look good.
Lelan: The only way to do that is to make him dead, and that stops the mythos. This bums me. We don’t have any current mythologies. Superman and Batman are maybe the current mythologies.
James: Do you mean us as people, or us as comic book people.
Lelan: Us as a culture today. We are not producing Peter Pans. We’re not producing things that are going to be legend and retold. The problem with Superman and Batman is that their not getting a finite end. To be a suitable legend and mythos, there has to be a definate end.
James: Well that’s because we live in a world of commercial viability.
Lelan: Right, and so we will continue to allow it to perpetuate itself as long as we can.
James: Jean Grey is the prime example of that. X-Men 3 will be coming out and she’ll be coming back.
Lelan: You can make Hook. You can make Fables. But that’s are recreation of older stuff, but.. maybe Harry Potter.. but I don’t think it’ll hold.
James: Besides Star Wars, what over the last 20 or 30 years CAN be considered legendary.
Lelan: Nothing. Lord of The Rings was at the end of that era where we were creating legends and mythologies, and there really hasn’t been anything since.
James: Well that brings us right back to the comic industry. When you have something like Sandman or Bone. Something that has a definitive beginning and end. Bone which is now going to be released in schools and at school book faires and things. So maybe in five years, a teacher will see that and put it in the curriculum. Do you see that comics as a whole can create the legend and mythos you are talking about. We ARE living in a culture that is once again putting comics as pop culture.
Lelan: Yes, thanks to Marvel and the movies we have the best chance to take over that next stage of Mythos…
From there we really just paid the check and headed out. I’d like to thank Lelan Estes and Jason Baroody for joining me. Please check them out:
So, time to pay the tab and head on out. Please check us out next week where we jump away from the talent IN the industry and meet the INFANTRY ON THE WAR ON COMICS!