Monday, October 19, 2015

Five-Q with Joey Esposito, comics creator

Salutations, ya'll!

Today, I begin my "Five-Q" series, where I choose interesting people and ask them five interesting questions. I have a ton of guests lined up for you: bestselling authors, critically-acclaimed artists, journalists from major media markets, several talented comics creators, and a host of other fascinating people I've been fortunate enough to make an acquaintance with.

I have the distinct honor of having Joey Esposito as my very first guest. Esposito worked as a Senior Editor at IGN for three years. He has written for several comics publishers such as Image Comics, Valiant Comics, and Archie Comics. He is also the writer of creator-owned works such as Pawn Shop and Captain Ultimate. We talked about breaking into comics as a writer and the popularity of comics-related entertainment. 

I asked Joey five questions, and an additional question aimed at giving you a way reach him.

Joey Esposito, former Senior Editor at IGN,
 is the writer of Pawn Shop and Captain Ultimate
Aaron David Harris: As a writer, you have contributed to comics both as a creator and a journalist. Was writing comics a life long goal, or something you fell into by chance?

Joey Esposito: Writing was definitely a life long goal, but writing comics specifically came later. I decided the path I wanted to take was to write movies and television -- which I still love doing -- but while at film school I discovered that comics as a medium simply offered more freedom than any other. The unique way that the words work with the art to create worlds and build stories was always something I loved about reading comics, ever since I was a kid, but it wasn't until that experience in film school that I was able to put those ideas into words and realize that comics was what I REALLY wanted to do. I plan on working in other mediums too, but I think comics will always be my home base, so to speak. 

ADH: What writers/creators do you admire? Why?

JE: There are too many to list, but I love guys like Brian K. Vaughan and Grant Morrison, guys who commit to their vision and cross genres and generally do what they want to do how they do it best, with the artists that will best complement the project to make it a true collaboration. There are so many more in comics, though. Eisner, Moore, Lemire, Remender, Miller, Stevens... I'm really attracted to creators who pull out all the stops to realize the best version of their ideas and don't let their past successes (or failures) dictate how they make comics. They're always experimenting and pushing the boundaries of what they're capable of, and I think that's something that all creative types should strive for. And more generally speaking, I'd say my biggest creative influence is George Lucas. I'm a huge Star Wars fan in all its forms, and the thing that I always respected about Lucas (aside from making movies that I adore) is, again, his commitment to his vision. His refusal to let fans take ownership of what he created, tweaking it however he saw fit without catering to the fandom. While fandom is obviously important -- no one gets to that level without the fans that put him there -- it all starts with the art itself and, in my opinion, it should end there. Especially with that level of success, it'd be so easy to bend to the will of fan service. The fact that he didn't, and remained true to his vision, is what I respect the most. 

ADH: What is your take on the nuclear eruption of comics-related TV/Film adaptions over the last eight or nine years?

JE: It's cool! I'm a fan of the Marvel movies and I think The Flash is probably the best superhero TV show on the air, maybe ever. It's certainly the most willing to dive into the nuttiness of the comics, which is fun. I will say that I sort of miss the anticipation that these things used to bring -- waiting years between sequels, never knowing if Batman would ever recover from Batman & Robin, the utter excitement when that first Batman Begins trailer hit, the crushing disappointment of the Birds of Prey show, etc. -- it's all so immediate and massive now that it's bordering on sensory overload. I have a lot of fun, don't get me wrong, but instead of focusing on being good movies on their own, sometimes there is so much setup for future things that they lose sight of the here and now. Like we're excited to see the new movie but halfway through we're already just wondering how it will impact whatever is NEXT. It reminds me of Yoda complaining about Luke in Empire: "All his life has he looked away, to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was, what he was doing." All of that said: I'm always first in line, so how can I complain?

ADH: What do you think is the best way for an aspiring comics writer to break into the industry?

JE: Don't be an asshole. Make comics. Open yourself up to criticism and do better the next time. Also I wouldn't recommend being involved in the comics press. Speaking from experience, that has been more of a hurdle for me than anything. But the only real way to break into comics is to make comics. To spend your own time and money and produce work that is released into the world, be it online, a mini comic, a crowdfunded graphic novel, whatever. The only way to get anywhere in comics is to do the work -- which often means doing it yourself. It sucks, but it's the reality. No one is going to read a script, no one is going to listen to your verbal pitch, no one will give a shit that you wrote three screenplays in film school and want to make them comics instead (also: don't do that). You have to produce finished comics. That means working extra jobs to pay your artists or sacrificing the new video games you want to play. If you want to make it happen, you make it happen. No one works in comics to make money or to be internationally famous. Comics is hard work for often little return. People work in comics because they love comics.

ADH: Where do you stand on comics based on intellectual properties? Some comics professionals have implied that IP-based comics aren’t real comics. What’s your take on the subject? 

JE: I'm not sure I totally understand the question. All Marvel and DC comics are IP-based comics, so if someone is saying THOSE aren't real comics, then what is the industry based around? Does that mean The Dark Knight Returns isn't a real comic? But I guess maybe they're talking about other licensed books that are based on properties from other mediums; comics based on movies, tv, games, etc. "Real" comics are comics that use words and pictures to tell stories, so the content doesn't make a difference and anyone that says otherwise is just being pretentious. Comics are comics. Superhero comics are comics. My Little Pony comics are comics. Creator-owned comics like Saga or The Walking Dead are comics. Newspaper strips are comics. Graphic novels are comics. Graphic memoirs are comics. It's all the same medium no matter what fancy name people come up with: comics.

ADH: Thanks for your time, Joey. How can people keep up with you?

JE: I'm on Twitter @JoeyEsposito and my website is