Diner Talk: Bill Ellis-Pt. 1


Everybody ready for another sit down meeting at one of New Jersey’s finest 24 hour eateries? Welcome to another Diner Talk.

Now first off, before we begin, let me apologize for the time lapses, and explain the reasoning behind them. With a column like Diner Talk, I always need to have someone to interview. Sometimes there will be times that an interviewee isn’t available. Case in point, I had three interviews lined up for this past week.

Each and every one of these fine folk who will be appearing in this space in the future cancelled out. Finally, our guest today was able to fit me in on his break from school.

If you are interested in being a Diner Talk victim, please drop me an e-mail at jamesh@comicsnexus.com. All I ask is that you are a part of the comic industry in some way, and live in the tri-state area (or will be visiting sometime). I don’t strictly want writers and artists, but people who are in some aspect of their career. Comics isn’t just writers and artists – and I think people are interested in hearing what other angles this wonderful industry has.

Now, let’s get to the booth, shall we?

James: Good morning – we are here at the Felix #9 Diner in beautiful Bridgewater, NJ. We are having breakfast which is a bit of a change, and we are here with Bill Ellis, a student at SCAD University – a guy who should be doing a webcomic more. We are also joined by Miss Laura Fisher, his lovely girlfriend – and my consistant partner in crime, Danielle O’Brien. Bill, say Hi.

Bill: Hello.

James: Laura, say hello.

Laura: Hello you sexy beasts.

James: Danielle?

Danielle:: …

James: You have to talk louder.

Dani: I don’t have anything to say.

James: ..kay, I’m done that’s it… god, I do that joke every interview.

Bill: I’ve never seen that joke appear in your columns.

James: Really? Maybe I just edit it out – I don’t remember. See, that’s the power here, I just edit out what I don’t like – it’s my …

Bill: Artistic license?

James: Exactly, my artistic license.

Bill: Sounds like a copout to me.

James: You’re right, it’s a total copout. Let’s get to the first question. So let’s start with what got you into comics.

Bill: I hate that question!

James: Alright, when did you start reading comics?

Bill: When I was kid, I just had a lot of back issues and stupid things. People find out that you are into comics and they give you their old comics. So I had a lot of old 70’s Power Pack books. To be fair, I grew up reading Power Pack, if that gives you any idea what kind of comics I’m going to produce, it’s going to be all about children with magical rainbow powers.

James: And one kid that’s nothing but vapor.

Bill: Sometimes she would go super dense.

James: Really?

Bill: That whole book was super dense.

James: I only remember Power Pack from the 80’s commercials with “Kids don’t do drugs” and “Kids, stop those forest fires.”

Bill: Yeah, they would be Power Pack, Spiderman, and then for some damn reason, Storm. Storm would be in her slutty little Ring outfit – so there you have to.

James: Yeah, but the one girl would always be vapor.

Bill: No! She had the power to change her density.

James: Like Fade From Grace?

Bill: Huh?

James: Fade From Grace, a new book from Beckett.

Bill: Don’t ask me about new books.

James: Oh don’t worry, we’re getting to that later. I’ve got an entire section on books you haven’t read yet so I can ruin the endings.

Bill: “Oh, great. Let’s just read off all of these books that just came out last week” My answer is, don’t know, haven’t read em’.

James: I know, I’m going to ask you opinions about them anyway – as a matter of fact, let’s ask one right now. Just cause. So what did you think of Astonishing X-Men #4

Bill: What the hell is that?
**THUNK**
James: Nonono.. I want an opinion.

Bill: I have no opinion.

James: Make one up.

Bill: Make one up? It was awesome. The twist was insane, when Nightcrawler killed that baby to save the world? That was– I mean he’s a priest! That’s pushing the line!

James: Ok.. let’s get to the real stuff. What’s your favorite books?

Bill: Lucifer, Hopeless Savages — ummmm…. that’s about it.

James: Bill, do you read comics?

Bill: I do read comics, occasionally. It’s just I read the same trades over and over, because I own them. That doesn’t cost me money.
**THUNK**
James: So.. what trades are IN your library.

Bill: Ok, I’m getting to that – Punisher, Garth Ennis. Preacher, but that’s in her library. Transmet, Sandman, Barry Ween which you bought me.

James: We give EVERYBODY Barry Ween.

Bill: I went out and bought the Monkey Book.. what is that the 3rd trade?

Dani: Yeah, that’s the 3rd trade.

(At this point in time, I’m noticing that Bill is tapping his orange juice glass right next to the microphone, thus the thunking noises)

James: Can you stop doing that?

Bill: Oh! I’m sorry.

James: I’m going to go back to transcribe this, and I’m going to have to remember whether we were sitting there through an earthquake. So, let’s hit the meat and potatoes of this interview. Where do you go to school Bill?

Bill: I go to the Savannah School of Art and Design. It’s not a University – you liar.

Dani: It is true.

James: Did I say University.

Laura: There is a difference between College’s and Universities. Universities have lots of colleges within them. That’s why Rutgers is a University.

Dani: “I” go to a University.

James: Where is there another Kean College?!

Dani: It’s because there is other schools in between it. They’re small departments, but they are small colleges.

(The food arrives, omelets and eggs and toasts and things – and our beautiful waitress Brianna refills my coffee.. for the first of at least 20 times throughout the breakfast. As a matter of fact, she fills it twice before we get back to the interview.)

James: Shall I wait for you to eat?

Bill: (mouth full) noo..go ahead.. ashk your queshhin..

James: Ok, so why don’t you tell everyone what SCAD is?

Bill: It’s a school of art and design. Apparently it’s very prestigious… or something.

James: Great.. now I have to spell prestigious.

Bill: Just go look in the dictionary. …great… now he has to spell dictionary… There are alot of different majors. It’s very diverse, I’m in the sequential art program – for you kids at home that’s a Major in Comic Books.

James: (feigned surprise) You are trying to tell me that you are majoring in comic books?

Bill: I’m telling you that I am majoring in comic books. Right now I”m in a class called “Survey of Sequential Art” which is, get this, the history of comic books. It’s so cool. It’s a really good class.

James: So in your textbook, where ours old history textbook would say something like ‘George Washington’ with his age and what he did – does yours have Jack Kirby with a picture of what he’s done and who he wa sin the industry?

Bill: No, I don’t think…

Dani: Do you even have a textbook?

Bill: Yeah, it’s Comics Comics, and Sequential Art. You can get it off of Amazon, that’s where I got mine. We were also required to buy Bob’s book – “The Bristol Board Jungle” which really doesn’t prepare you for anything, except for taking Bob’s class.

James: Bob who?

Bill: Bob Pendarvis

James: And what else has he done.. anything we might have known?

Bill: ..ermm.. Bristol Board Jungle – he teaches at SCAD and he’s a really cool guy. He’s taking us to see the Incredibles.

James: ..a class trip to see the Incredibles..

Dani: In my history of communications class – it was a survey class from cave paintings until now about design. You get frigging comic books.

James: Haha, we started with William Bogart.

Laura: Cave people had design?

Dani: They did, they had cave paintings, and that was their language.

Laura: So how was that design?

Dani: Because it was the beginnings of the first letters and communications.

Bill: That was in Scott McCloud’s book.

Dani: Yeah, it’s not as good because you don’t have Martin. If you knew Martin you would understand. If I said the name Martin and someone from Kean read this – they would probably shudder.

Bill: Frau Bleuchar! *Neighing noise*

Dani: He’s my ‘Type’ professor.

James: I’ve heard more nights of complaining, whining, pissing, and bitching about how hard Martin is – but now she sits and talks about how she learned so much. So she gives with one hand and takes with the other. So Bill – where did you hear about SCAD?

Bill: I heard about it at a college fair.

Laura: You went to those?

Bill: I went to one.

Dani: It must have been a good one.

Bill: It worked, so yeah. All I looked at were art schools, so I narrowed the field a little bit.

James: Were there any other schools you were considering – like Joe Kubert or anything?

Dani: That’s not a real school.

Bill: It’s more like a Graduate School.

Dani: You only get a certificate for going there, not a full degree.

Bill: I have heard that they teach you how to draw like Joe Kubert.

Dani: He ‘DID’ make an amazing career.

James: So, you just heard of it and checked it out.

Bill: I said, “Yeah, this is cool – they don’t need me to have good grades in high school, and they take people for degrees in comic books.”

James: So did you decide right then and there that you were going to try and start a career in comics?

Bill: If I could. To be fair, and I don’t tell many people this – but this was the only school I actually applied to.

James: You suicide applied?

Bill: I suicide applied. My parents THINK I applied to Pratt.. but no. Fuck Pratt.

James: Kamikaze.

Dani: Wouldn’t your parents be happy you didn’t go to Pratt.

Bill: I don’t know.

James: Why, how expensive is Pratt?

Bill: Is Pratt more than SCAD? SCAD’s pretty expensive.

Dani: I don’t know, but Pratt is one of the best, if not ‘the’ best next to the School In Visual Communications

James: But at Pratt, can you major in Comics?

Bill: No, you cannot.

James: Can you have a class that’s based on you sitting and staring at Rob Liefeld sketches and have them point out everything that’s wrong.

Bill: We’re not there yet. For the purpose of taking a history class, we have to look at Liefeld objectively.

James: Can you?

Bill: No.

James: Can anyone in your classes? I mean, are your entire classes filled with aspiring comic artists?

Bill: Yeah, but believe it or not it’s a wide range. There are people who are more interested in doing underground comics, people who hate superheroes, people who give a nod to superheroes. There are people who have never even read an American comic. Then, there are people not even in that major. My classes will occasionally have an animation major or a painting major.

James: So besides painting and animation, and of course sequential arts – what other majors does SCAD offer?

Bill: They have jewelery making.

James: JEWELERY MAKING?! You can get a degree, in using the Bedazzler?

Bill: You know, people make jewels for a living.

Dani: Yeah, somebody’s gotta make the setting for my engagement ring.

Laura: It’s the class of ‘BLING BLING BLING’

James: I always thought that was an apprenticeship kind of job.

Bill: I think those kinds of things went out with indentured slavery.

Dani: No.

Bill: I was kidding.

James: People don’t have slaves anymore?

Bill: Oh! Your midget… YOU’RE FREE! YOU’RE FREE.

James: I guess I gotta let all of those foreigners out of my attic.

Bill: Printmaking, there might be underwater basket weaving.

James: Umbrella opening…

Bill: Now that is not an art. Now if you were going to take a picture of the umbrella opening – that would be art. Oh, right, photography.

Dani: You have a graphic design program, right?

Bill: Yes, we do. Basically, anything you can put in that field – we have. We have an interactive design program, like video game design. Anything with art or designing, it’s going to be at SCAD eventually.

Dani: They probably have an industrial design, like making these coffee cups.

Bill: They do.

James: Who are you learning from? Like any famous names?

Bill: Linda Medley, who does Castle Waiting. She showed us her book and I was like, “I’VE SEEN THAT ON THE STANDS!” and I had never picked it up.

Dani: It’s a really good book.

Bill: I’ve been meaning to pick it up from the SCAD bookstore.

James: Does the bookstore have an entire graphic novel section?

Bill: It does have some. For a long time it was this sparse little crappy section with whatever they got for that week. Now they have an entire decent library – like you would see at Borders or something. Not arranged in any order that makes it easy to find something.

Dani: Is there a comic store in that area?

Bill: There are two, but I won’t say their names, because I hate them. There actually is a good one in Statesboro called Gallops, I’ll give them the props.

Dani: Is it that the stores just aren’t well stocked – or are they just shitty stores?

Bill: Well, HRV is this video rental place that just happens to HAVE comics, it’s.. ok… they’re just not really organized.

Dani: Doesn’t it seem to make sense to open a comic store in Georgia.

Bill: It would, to put a really good one in downtown Savannah.

Dani: With a coffeeshop… we’re moving to Savannah! Set it up with a lounge area.

Bill: You might get hit on the coffee shop, it is a college town.

James: Yeah, but with the comics right there with the coffee, and a big sitting lounge that’s all swanky.

Laura: Can we move there?

James: If you, the reader, are considering opening up a comic store like this, please read Diner Talk #2 with Chris Eberle.

Dani: We’ll do everthing that Chris didn’t do at first.

James: Yeah, and watch out for flooding.

Bill: Oh yeah, Savannah is bad in the flooding. They get hurricanes.

James: There is one other problem with having a retail outlet in Georgia. You must deal with Southerners.

Bill: They’re not that bad. They’re nice people.

Dani: No diners.

Laura: They have them. They call them Waffle Houses.

James: No way am I changing the name of this column to Waffle House Talk. It doesn’t sound right.

Bill: (mock defensively) There’s also Pancake Palace.

James: Are you serious?

Bill: Yes, very. If you want famous grits.. you go to the Waffle House – they have some good grits.

James: Umm… you eat grits?

Bill: It’s like Cream of Wheat.. but grits!

James: You eat cream of wheat? I’ll eat farina, but I can’t do grits or cream of wheat.

Bill: I don’t even know what farina is. Grits are good, you can put cheese on them, put mushrooms in it. Stop looking at me like that.

James: I’m too much of a Yankee I guess. I feel like Joe Peschi.. ‘Whuzza grit?’ ..So, are there any other teachers you can tell us about that have some fame?

Bill: Well, Linda Medley, Castle Waiting.. umm… that’s it. I mean, I don’t know all of the teachers.

Dani: You are in your WHAT year?

Bill: I’m a junior, that doesn’t mean I know every single teacher.

James: You haven’t had any other teacher that’s had a published book?

Bill: Like I said, Pendarvis has Bristol Board Jungle which is pretty good – it prepares you for taking a sequential art class.. it’s a narrow field, but it’s good!

Dani: It’s like when you look in the back of Previews and see some noname company that has published a book about how to publish an independant book. And the only thing you can wonder is why you would take their advice if this is their only book they’ve put out.

James: “And our submission guidelines are in the back of the book.. JUST in case of you were wondering.”

Bill: Oh! There’s also Paul Hudson. I don’t know if he’s published, or a huge name —

James: That’s because you don’t read comic books.

Bill: Shut up. But he used to work for NASA. He does these anally detailed anythings that you’ve ever seen.

Dani: NASA?

Bill: He did illustrations for Nasa. Now he teaches me.

James: Dr. Seuss used to do Hitler cartoons, it all comes from somewhere.

Bill: Really?

(This part has been edited out, where I claim that Dr. Seuss used to work on Nazi Propaganda. This was wrong of me, as I went and researched later. I was confusing it with an article I had read stating that Dr. Seuss had done political cartoons – some of which labeled Japanese Americans as traitors. I apologize to anyone this might have offended.. which honestly, should be nobody. I’m an idiot.)

James: So we’re done with famous teachers.. thanks Linda. Any famous graduates?

Bill: Alot, I don’t know any of their names. I can’t help you. You wanted to interview ME! I wasn’t going to dissuade you, I have illusions of my name in lights – and this isn’t helping them.

Dani: It’s good to know you pay attention to what happens in your school.

Bill: Shush! I read an email they sent me about the guy who inks Forsaken! He was a graduate.

(If Bill is correct, his name is Nick Zagami – Editing James)

Bill: It looks really pretty. Very clean and nice. Oh! I know Michael Poe dropped out of SCAD and he does a couple of onliners. He did Exploitation Now, and that’s done. He now does Errant Story. He dropped out of SCAD. Laura’s tattoo artist came out of SCAD.

James: For the record, Laura has a Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man tattoo underneath the places her bathing suit covers.

Bill: I’ve seen them.

Laura: If I wear low-rider jeans, you can see them.

Dani: I want to get a Parker Lily tattoo. It’s from Strangers In Paradise – it means you area hooker or a high class callgirl. I want one.

Laura: We should get them together and we’ld be Hoes…

Bill: I’m game.

James: So after you leave SCAD you can become a tattoo artist.

Bill: Yeah.. that’s ok.

James: Is that ok? Really?

Bill: No.. but only because if I was going to be a tattoo artist, I would need to HAVE tattoos.

James: And your parents won’t let you?

Bill: No, I’ve talked with them about it. They frown on it, of course, but they didn’t say no.

Dani: Wait, we have to play “What would Bill get on him.” Okay, I’m going to go first. Okay, it’s either a comic or video game. I’m thinking Super Mario.

James: Damn! I was going to guess Super Mario.

Bill: It’s not Super Mario.

James: NO! You can’t answer til we guess. It’s Link.. but I’m going to
guess…Wait! Let’s go with a video game guess and a comic book guess. Go ahead.

Dani: I’m going to guess Metroid. For my comic book guess. Lucifer for my comic guess.

James: Wait! Spyder Jerusalem’s glasses.

Bill: That’s a really bad guess.

James: What? It would be a cool tattoo, the circle and the square glasses. So what is it?

Bill: It’s actually going to be Sandman. Specifically Daniel, because that would take less ink.

James: Okay, a big jump in topic – who are your art influences?

Bill: That is a big jump in topic, but right off the bat I will say Bill Waterson. I love Calvin and Hobbes. Later in life, I started to really like Christopher Muller who does JLA covers and a lot of Magic: The Gathering art and Lucifer covers. Those are really pretty. Also, Frank Cho is really pretty. I like Scott Kurtz.

Dani: It’s like you are channeling Danielle Corsetto.

Bill: She and I have similar styles.

James: You do, but she puts her comic out in the clutch.

Bill: She’s just better than I am.

James: HER web comic came out this week. Oh! Girls With Slingshots, strip #1. Guess who’s in it?

Dani: Fucker.

Bill: Yes, you should have seen the IM conversation between Jamie and I when I saw that. I just broke down and yelled out, “I DON’T WANT TO HAVE TO SHARE YOU!” – “YOU LOVE HER MORE THAN YOU LOVE ME!” It was good. I couldn’t continue own because I was laughing too hard to type.

============================

See, it’s hard to find a place where to stop these columns, they kind of flow in such away that doesn’t allow for it, but at this point in time we’ve reached the halfway mark – so what a better place.

Anyway, if you are interested in seeing some information about SCAD, click here.
If you are interested in seeing some of Bill’s work, please check out NOWHERE FAST.
If you are interested in seeing Danielle Corsetto’s drawing of me at her new strip, check out http://www.girlswithslingshots.com

I think that’s enough pimping for the time being, please join us next week where we learn what Bill thinks of more of comics hot button topics (in which he’s never read) and he gives you even more information about being a creator at SCAD.

This is your host James Hatton saying to please keep sending that feedback – and I’ll see you at the diner next week.