12-12-08: Introducing... Chris and Alan Hebert

Secret Identity: Lazerman is a very funny look at the other side of superheroin'. The stuff we don't see like bad landings and misjudged good deeds. Where did this idea come from?  

Alan: I came up with the idea of Lazerman way back in 1992. Back then, every new super hero seemed to be dark and gritty. I wanted something that felt "classic" but also something that I could lightly spoof the superhero genre with. Every kid who reads comics dreams about becoming a hero himself at one point. That's what Lazerman is: A comic book reader, who actually gets superpowers. I wanted him to be very innocent and a bit naive, going around the "real world" acting like a silver-age style hero.

Secret Identity:
I'm gonna go out on a limb and assume you two are brothers. How is it working with your sibling on a book? Any fights? Different opinions?

Chris: The only times we really fight are when I suggest a dialogue change...although I've actually contributed one or two really funny lines!

Alan: Actually, I think it's funny.  We don't fight over Lazerman all that much, not like we do compared to other things <laughs>.  We are very close compared to most brothers, we grew up best friends.  We share just about every hobby and interest with each other.  Being that close, we of course have our fights, but when we work on the comic, we tend to see eye to eye on most stuff. 

Chris: You see, we've developed an interesting way of working. Generally, Alan writes fairly broad direction, and then kind of lets me lay it out my own way. He kind of trusts me to improvise a bit between the script and the finished pencils from a story telling standpoint, play with the timing, ect. I think it lends itself to a more natural feeling story. For the most part, it's HIS story, so I never really overstep what he has planned, sometimes we just have a healthy back and for about HOW to tell certain parts of it.

Secret Identity: I literally pulled this book out of a pile of self published books and the story and art really stood out. What do you think sets Lazerman apart from other comics?

Chris: Well I think there are alot of books that try to be "cool" or "badass"...we're the only one I know of that actually revels in un-adulterated GEEKishness. Very few people TRY to make thier hero akward. He's a lovable loser, really.

Secret identity: Lazerman has a nice feel to it. It reads much like Atomic Robo and i love the Robo! How are you guys able to put together a FUN comic book?

Chris: I think alot of it comes from our personalities...we're fun-loving folk...it's what we look for in our entertainment.

Alan: It's been designed with the hard core comic book reader in mind, for the love of comics we have.  The good, the bad, and even the dopey things in the genre.  This comic says 'Embrace it, love it all".  How can that not be fun?

Secret Identity: Your company HB Comics is not just a one trick pony. You have another book coming out next summer called Vindication that your brother is writing. Can you tell us a little about it?

Chris: Ah, my book! I actually am the writer for that one, even though I am the artist for Lazerman...I have a strange rule for myself that I won't take on both roles for any book. Vindication is a team book that will expand greatly on the universe we've introduced in Lazerman. It deals with how the world reacts and changes now that all these super-heroic elements are introduced, and how people deal with super-powered beings suddenly being a real. A team ends up forming to try to confront those who try to take advantages of the world's growing pains. The book isn't quite as light hearted as Lazerman, the tone is more like a traditional modern comic...with my sly wit, of course.
Secret identity: In the top left corner i saw this is only a four issue limited series. Now i get sad and begin to swear (!@#$%). After the four, will we be seeing more of Lazerman?

Chris: Well we wouldn't want you all upset and swearing, now would we? Actually, there's some good news for you. Lazerman was always conceived as an ongoing series, but when we started serious work on the books with intention of actually releasing them, it became obvious we'd be racing the clock to get a monthly series done consistently. I actually made the suggestion that we publish them an arc at a time, so that we could take a few months in between story arcs if we needed to, to catch up. It was important to us that above all else we wouldn't say it was a monthly book if we had no way to assure we would actually have them done monthly. When we printed our "pre-release" run for conventions and such, we had the "limited series" tag on there, always with the intention of following it up with another "limited series" for every subsequent arc. Once we stated hitting conventions with the book, and we signed up with Enemi, and everything else, we decided to drop the limited series tag and just keep it a bimonthly series. Future printings of the book will replace that "limited series" tag with a new one keeping track of their story arc. 

Secret Identity: For our listeners who know nothing about Lazerman, what can you say to make them interested in this book? 

Chris: It's about a comic book geek who, after a bizarre accident, ends up with super powers of his own. So, he does what any comic book geek would do...he tries to be a superhero, like in his favorite comics. Of course, the world doesn't work like it does in comics, so things don't quite go like he plans. Basically, he has to learn that there is more to being a super hero than just having superpowers. As Matman said, it's a FUN book...we're trying to capture the lighthearted innocence that you don't find in comics anymore. It's totally unashamed of the "geekier" elements of super hero books...and because the main character is a geek himself, we get to bring an element of satire to it. In short, Lazerman is to the Superhero comics, what Shaun of the Dead is to Zombie movies...it lovingly satirizes the genre while also fitting neatly into it.

Our thanks to Chris and Alan for taking the time to chat with us. For more information on Lazerman, just go to www.hbcomics.com.

12-02-08: Kat Cahill... the Interview!

Secret Identity:
I love your avatar. With the cuteness, music, comics and Japanese monster thing...you must be beating the guys off with a stick or at least a guitar.

KAT: It looks fantastic on paper doesn't it? The reality is not so much.

Secret Identity: So what's a nice girl like you doing writing comic books? Isn't this a guys thing?

KAT: I do think that the perception is that comics are a guy thing, but there actually are a good number of female creators. Of course, women are far outnumbered by men in the field, but that can be said of nearly all creative professions. The Guerrilla Girls once pointed out that "less than 3% of the artists in the Met Museum are women, but 83% of the nudes are female." Mind you, I do think things are improving, but very slowly.

Secret Identity: Tell us about the origins of Gallant Girl. Where did this idea come from?

KAT: "I Hate Gallant Girl" was originally an entry for Shadowline's "Who Wants to Create a Super-Heroine?" contest. When I heard about the competition, I brainstormed a few ideas and IHGG was by far the best of the lot. The premise comes from the observation that, even in this modern era, women are still often judged more on looks than talent. I figured that would hold true for super-heroes as well and from that an idea was born.

Secret Identity: What got you into comics as a youngster, assuming you were young when you got into them?

KAT: The first comic book I read cover to cover was "Maus." That was in seventh grade so I think that I would still qualify as a youngster at that point. A teacher of mine actually recommended it to me and I was reluctant at first because of the "just for boys" comic stereotype we already talked about. After that, I read a number of the Chris Claremont penned X-Men books because my brother owned them. Rogue was my favorite character by the way.

Secret Identity: On your My Space page I see a healthy obsession with Mothra. Of all the incredible Toho characters, why the big moth?

KAT: My brother and I used to watch Creature Double Feature when we were little. For some reason we could never allow ourselves to like the exact same thing. He claimed Godzilla first so I took Mothra by default since they were the two "good guy" monsters. Then that just sort of played out through our lives. Even when we got the Godzilla NES game, I only played it as Mothra. The fact that Mothra is a girl monster doesn't hurt either.

Secret Identity: I also see and hear you're in a band? Tell us about Renfield? The song on your page sounds a little Tom Waits meets the Dead Milkmen.

KAT: I joined Renfield about three years ago, but they have actually played around Los Angeles for a good number of years. Part of what attracted me to the band is that they put on a really fun live show. I hate when I shell out ten to twenty bucks and the band just plays in jeans and t-shirts. So I was already enjoying the show when I realized that they were performing a song about "The Killing Joke" from the Crown Prince of Crime's perspective. I pretty much demanded to play guitar for them after that. As a side note, we performed in San Diego during the last Comic Con so I was signing at the Shadowline booth during the day then rocking at night. It was a load of fun.

Secret Identity: The Dead Kennedys and the Talking Heads? That's pretty eclectic taste.

KAT: To me they are both punk bands. Obviously one is a lot more hard core than the other, but Talking Heads were one of the first CBGB groups and toured with the Ramones so I do feel that they have a certain amount of street cred. If you combine David Byrne with East Bay Ray, you come pretty close to the way that I play guitar.

Secret Identity: You are very proud of your Gretch hollow body, eh?

KAT: That's my weapon of choice for Renfield even on the heavy songs. Distortion causes the guitar to shriek like a wounded elephant. It's a great effect. Then I can roll back the tone for a nice jazz sound or crank it for rockabilly twang. Despite the reputation, a Gretsch can be a really versatile guitar.

Secret Identity: What other comic work can we expect to see from you?

KAT: First, I would love to write a second series of "I Hate Gallant Girl", but that will depend upon sales. I know that Kris, Jim, Seth and I all want it to continue so we shall see what happens. I am also working on a pitch for a sci-fi themed love story, but I want to keep that under wraps for now. Of course, I would be interested to see what I could do with either a DC or a Marvel title, but it isn't as though they have offered or anything. Oh yeah, and I want to try my hand at a steam punk story at some point.

Secret Identity: So what would be your dream project?

KAT: I would love to create an animated television show pitched at teens and young adults. One of my biggest inspirations to move into the field of comic books and animation was Hayao Miyazaki. If I could put out something half as good as he has, I would be overjoyed.

Secret Identity: And all this time i forgot to tell you how much i loved I Hate Gallant Girl! 

KAT: Thank you. I hope you enjoy the rest of the series just as much. I know those of us involved are all exceptionally proud of it.

9-24-08: Talkin' with Andy Schmidt!

Andy Schmidt took a chance when he left Marvel. As an editor he not only saw what made great comics, he also saw what made great creators. He began the Comic's Experience to help aspiring creators to fulfill their dreams and recently was named Senior editor at IDW. With his free minute, Andy used the email to chat with Secret Identity and ... 

Secret Identity: According to Joe Caramagna, you’re a very nice guy. Truth?

Andy: He's full of hate and lies.

Secret Identity
: You had a long and very successful run as an editor at Marvel. What was it that made you say goodbye?

Andy: First, thanks, that's nice of you to say. I hope most readers thought it was successful (if they notice editor credits, that is). This is a funny question. No matter how I answer it, I always feel like there's a hidden implication that I'm trying to stick it to Marvel or holding back something. But the truth is, I was interested in doing more than the job description allowed and I was having a kid and I wanted to stay at home with him when he was born. But the fact of the matter is, I owe my career to Marvel Comics and specifically to Tom Brevoort there. He's not only a great boss but a tremendous mentor as well. But I loved that job and a very big part of me was sad to leave it even though I was excited about doing some of my own things.

Secret Identity:  You are now the director of Comics Experience! This is an incredible way for hopeful writers and artists to find out what it takes to get noticed in the comics industry. How did this all come about?

Andy: I'll try to give you the short version. I was already teaching classes through MoCCA (The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art) when one of my students there suggested I do the comics teaching thing as my own business. He really liked the course and thought it was something that there would always be a need for. I looked into it, built a website, found class space, etc. etc. and off we went!

Secret Identity: You have gathered an incredible cast of talent to help teach this course; Dan Slott, Fabien Nicieza, Chris Bautista just to name a few. How do you pick and choose who will teach? How cool to learn from someone like Dan Slott.

Andy: To be fair, Fab and Chris are guest speakers, coming in only one night for each class. But Dan and Mike Siglain from DC Comics are the full on week-to-week teachers now. It's pretty simple really, I think about who has the know how, the teaching experience, and who I would want to take the classes from myself, and then I go ask 'em! Fortunately, Dan and Mike both said yes!

Secret Identity: Like any entertainment field, i would think creators would be fearful of training and assisting who could ultimately be their replacement. Have you ever run into that attitude?

Andy: Not really. That's stupid. All the guys I know get a really great creative boost from teaching. I know the more I see gears turning in my student’s heads, the more excited I get about my own projects. I believe that's true for everyone else who's come into speak with the classes.

Secret Identity
: Along with Comics Experience, you are now the Senior Editor at IDW. I'm not too familiar with them. Other than Doctor Who, Doctor Who Classics, Doctor Who - the Forgotten, Star Trek Year Four, Ghost Whisperer, Dreamland Chronicles and 30 Days Of Night i don't read much IDW (hehe). With G.I. Joe now coming in, this must be an incredible time there.

Andy: Absolutely! It's very exciting. Actually, just last month we officially became the fourth largest publisher in the industry both in sales and copies sold, finally beating out Image Comics. Nothing against Image, but it's been a long time since there's been a different #4 on the list. I'm spearheading G.I. Joe and it's incredibly exciting to be on the ground floor of something like this (I mean, the second time around). The company is growing and people there are amazingly talented. Oh, and don't forget Transformers and Terminator: Salvation! We do those too!

Secret Identity: The thing that sets IDW apart from the others is the quality of the books. Not just the creators and subject matter, but the paper quality, coloring, you name it. It's all top notch. As an editor that must make you very proud.

Andy: There were three things when I started talking with Chris Ryall and Ted Adams at IDW that really impressed me. The first was their willingness to take the interview process at a pace I was comfortable with (I'd been on my own doing freelance for a year and with my kid, so I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to go back to a full time position, much less move across the country). They were awesome to deal with and very in tune with my needs. The second thing was how they treat their creators. i made a lot of phone calls to see if creators were paid on time, paid all their royalties (this is sadly a big problem in our little industry, many publishers really don't keep clean books), and how they were treated personally and creatively. Across the board, all the creators I spoke with had only rave reviews of IDW. That was extremely important to me. And the last thing was exactly what you're talking about--the quality of the printing, the design, and the care that goes into each and every issue of those books. No other publisher puts out a comic that feels valuable on day one. Someone recently told me that IDW comics feel strange--they feel too good to be comics. Then we both laughed, but he's kind of right. I'm used to comics being printed on lower quality paper, and so they felt weird. But they you realize, oh, that's because they fell good and sturdy and look beautiful!

Secret Identity: When you first started out at Marvel those many moons ago, did you ever imagine your career would end up where it is now? Plus living in San Diego!

Andy: No. When I took the job at Marvel, the company was bleeding editors. I honestly thought I would be lucky to last three months, but I knew I had to take the chance or I'd kick myself for the rest of my life.

Our thanks to Andy!  We wish him continued success in the future!

9-15-08:  Creator Sean Boyle Talks HDL

Back at ConnectiCon 2008 in August, Max and Brian were introduced to a new rpg system called HDL.  The game provided a flexible system of rules that could be applied to any genre or setting, making it very adaptable.  We wanted to know more, so we tracked down Sean Boyle, the creator of the HDL roleplaying game, and the co-founder of Tremorworks, the company publishing the game.  Sean recently took some time to chat with Secret Identity about the game, and what sets it apart from other rpgs.



SI: How does HDL differentiate itself from other rpgs? 

Sean:  In developing the system, I tried to take a number of directions to do just that. To start with, the focus of the HDL system is a combination of realism and simplicity. I always say, "If it works this way in real life, that's how it works in the game." Of course, it's impossible to be entirely realistic and perfectly simple at the same time, but I feel we've struck a really good balance between the two.  As a universal system, HDL is also highly adaptable and flexible; there are no classes or levels, and character creation is point-based, so players can make pretty much anything they want; they can create a concept, rather than an archetype. Of course, this sort of game mechanic isn't totally unique, but HDL takes a few new directions init with the variety of stats and the addition of the Energy mechanic, which allows for "pushing" certain attempts or exerting additional effort. 

Also, the main book, which in conjunction with the cards, is all you need to play. The books themselves are slim and inexpensive, so not only do players not need to rifle through tons of material to find what they're looking for, but they also don't need to spend a fortune just to play a game.  The cards really add a lot to the game. People constantly mention that the cards are "optional," but they really aren't when it comes down to it. I can't even count the number of times the cards have saved my players; since the focus is on realism, combat can be extremely deadly, and without cards someone will die. But they do more than save lives in a fight, they also give players additional experience and role-playing opportunities, and really add a lot to the game overall.  

While I could go on about what I think makes HDL unique, I'll just add one more thing: ESPers.  The HDL Basic Rules includes rules for creating ESPers, powerful psychics and telekinetics. While ESPers aren't the main focus of the system, they are certainly powerful and exciting to play, with a wide variety of abilities.

What is the core mechanic of the HDL system? 

At the core of the HDL system is its namesake: "Half Die Level."  This was a system I developed to drastically simplify stat and skill checks, allowing a range of rolls without always using the same die or handful of dice, and without using the ubiquitous "number of successes" mechanic. Any check, be it a stat check, a skill check, or a combat roll, is made by rolling the die associated with the relevant stat, and then adding either another stat or a skill rating. The HDL determines what is rolled, based on the stat being half the maximum roll ("half the die level"). So, a stat of 5 is HDL 5, which is 1d10, HDL 6 is 1d12, and so on. There are no d20's, and once you get above HDL 6 multiple dice are used (HDL 7 is 1d8+1d6). Typically, stats range from 1 to 10, so the range of rolls seldom gets out of hand. The Basic Rules includes a table of up to HDL 60, but we've never gone that high, and my players rarely need to refer to the table anyway.

How long has the game been in the works? 

I actually started developing the game in 1999, when I started to get frustrated by the limitations of every other game I'd played.  Every RPG had its pluses, but none of them were simple or realistic, and seemed so arbitrary. No one could ever really make the character they wanted, and had to do everything within a narrow set of rules. So I decided to start developing my own "perfect" role-playing system.  It's been an ongoing process, and it's undergone some really drastic changes since its early days. And, as anyone will tell you, game design is an ongoing process, even after a game is released, so the system has continued to evolve since its release in 2006.

What supplements are currently available for HDL?

Right now we have the main book and the cards, and we have three game settings. First is Demongate High, which is a supernatural high school setting where players are students with a variety of supernatural powers, like Summoners, Spirit Energists, and Holy Chosen. There's also Perfect Horizon, which I call "cyberpop" (it's not as gritty and dark as the cyberpunk genre, but the world is far from perfect and just as dangerous), inspired by manga and anime such as Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell. Finally, we have our just-released setting, LUCID: Dreamscape Reality. This one is actually based on an idea I've been dwelling on for at least 13 years: what if rare, special individuals had the ability to enter reality from their dreams, and control it as if controlling a lucid dream? Players have this ability which they can use to control reality in an almost Matrix-style way, while fighting the mysterious creatures called Shadows, which hunt down Dreamers and make them disappear. LUCID is sort of a mini-setting, in that it can be applied to any other setting, but I think it's also the most open. Campaigns can take place in reality, fantastic dream worlds, or a combination of the two; Dreamers can travel through time, create their own worlds, and do virtually anything (given enough practice).

You guys jumped right into developing an HDL application for the new iPhone.  What is the app, and how did it come about? 

We actually have a couple of iPhone apps: the free HDL CharGen, which is a simple aide to character creation and helps quickly calculate derived stats; and HDL Touch, which is an HDL-based dice roller, so not only do you not need your handful of dice, but you also don't need to remember what HDL 7 is. Both of the apps were developed by Silverstreak Software, the developer who is also working to develop an online character generator that we hope to roll out soon, which allows players to build and save their characters online and contribute to an ever-growing database of characters for use as NPCs or reference for other players. The two iPhone/iPod Touch apps came out of that development, more as matters of convenience than anything else. Since several items in HDL (derived stats and HDL) are derived from other sources, it can be helpful to have a quick "cheat sheet" or, in this case, tool on your phone or iPod.

You also developed conversion rules to take characters from D&D.  How easy is it to move a character into HDL from D&D? 

Well, based on the fact that the D&D Conversion Guide is only 8 pages long, I'd say it's pretty simple! Like I said before, the goal of HDL is to be simple, so converting from any other system is fairly easy, depending on whether you just rebuild a character concept or try to directly convert every single rule. Of course, when going between systems, there's bound to be a few hiccups. For instance, the HDL system doesn't have a full magic system yet (but it will when the Options Guide is released), so when converting from D&D players need to make a choice as to how they want magic to work (the guide offers a few suggestions). I've converted a bunch of my old D&D characters over, and after conversion they become much more interesting, more a concept than a pile of classes; they become real characters. Having tried multiple times to convert characters from one system to another, I can say that converting to HDL is the easiest time I've had, mainly because the rules are so flexible already.

What do have coming up for HDL? 

We're always looking to the future and developing new HDL material, so we have a vast array of upcoming stuff. In the near future, we have the HDL Options Guide, which will include tons of additional options for play, new Backgrounds, new ESPer abilities, a bestiary, and a

full-fledged magic system. It promises to be a great companion to the HDL Basic rules and any setting or campaign. There's also a supplement for Demongate High, which will include over a hundred new creatures, both demonic and angelic, as well as even more types of powers than are in the original DgH setting. I'm also working on a free HDL setting based on the webcomic I've been doing since 1999 called Darkbolt (www.darkbolt.com), which will be available for download via the Tremorworks and Darkbolt sites. In the Darkbolt setting, virtually any type of creature or character can be made, with any "cool anime power" you can think of.

Where can people go to get more info about HDL? 

The Tremorworks website, www.tremorworks.com, would be the first place to go. I'd recommend visiting the forums and asking questions there if anyone has anything specific they'd like to know about HDL, Tremorworks, or any of our other games.

Secret Identity would like to thank Sean for taking time to talk with about HDL.  Keep an eye on the news page for more exciting announcements about HDL in the future!

7-6-08:  Unsung Heroes of Comic Books--Bob Almond Talks Inking with Secret Identity

Bob Almond is a well-known commodity in the inking community, having been around since the early nineties.  His long list of credits include stints on Warlock and the Infinity Watch, Black Panther, JSA and most recently, Quasar.  In recent years, Bob has also taken it upon himself to become an advocate for inkers, in an effort to raise awareness and understanding of the profession.

This year, Bob put together (with a little help from his friends) the first annual Inkwell Awards, created to recognize some of the best and brightest in the inking field.  Bob recently took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to Secret Identity about the Inkwell Awards, and the oft misunderstood craft of inking.


SI:  Do you think inking is misunderstood by most fans?

BA:  Oh certainly.  The problem is that the craft of inking was created exclusively as part of the 'conveyor belt' production process to speed things up.  It allowed the popular artists to do more jobs by not inking themselves.  So the general public doesn't have a reference point when they hear about inking.  With writing, editing, lettering, coloring, they know what that pertains to and even penciling denotes the need for drawing.  But inking?  They think we fill in blacks,trace, even color.  It's a constant effort to inform and educate.

SI:  How do you describe inking to someone not familiar with it?

BA:  Inkers are artists who reinterpret the pencil art using ink and tools.  Sometimes that means they need to 'finish' the drawing because it's very loose or sketchy.  Or this may mean they need to elaborate or fix some of the drawing or they may need to stay more faithful tothe tight pencil lines.  But even so, they use line weights, light sources and shadows, textures, etc. to further enhance what's already rendered to make the image better and clearer for printing.  That's the goal anyway.

SI:  How did you get your start in inking?

BA:  After I graduated in 1990 I mailed out penciling samples and received countless rejections.  But I tried inking samples one time and later showed those samples to Jim Starlin.  He happened to be then writing Warlock and the Infinity Watch and knew that inker Terry Austin would be departing the series.  So after having me try-out inking over the penciller Angel Medina's samples and talking to his editor he was able to get me hired at Marvel in late '91.  Right place, right time.  I was fortunate that I didn't need to wait as long pounding the pavement as others have. 

SI:  Who have been some of your favorite artists to work with?

BA:  Sal Velluto, Mike Lilly, Angel, Pat Olliffe, Kevin West, Leanord Kirk, Geof Isherwood, Tom Grindberg, and I'm sure to be forgetting someone.

SI:  Are there particular artists that you would like to ink but haven't gotten the chance to?

BA:  Doing commissions has been fun because it's allowed me to ink folks I've always wanted to ink but never had a chance and probably never will like Gene Colan, George Perez, Jim Starlin, Adam Hughes, John Romita, Shane Glines, Dan Jurgens, Dick Ayers, Don Perlin, Paul Ryan,MC Wyman, George Tuska, Samuel Clarke Hawbaker, Herb Trimpe, Bob Budiansky, Mark Beachum, and so many others.  Whether commissions or official assignments, though, I still hope to one day ink Bernie Wrightson, John Byrne, Michael Golden, Tom Raney, Bob Layton, CarlosPacheco,  and so many others.

SI:  What inker's work is really impressing you right now?

BA:  John Dell, Tim Townsend, Sandra Hope, Wayne Faucher, Mark Morales, somany....there's a lot of talent out there.

SI:  How did the inkwell awards come about?

BA:  I grew disappointed with how inkers were getting less credit than they used to like in solicitations and cover credits on collections, the Eisner's combined the 'inker' category into a 'penciller/inker' team category instead, and how the practice of skipping the craft of inking and jumping from penciling straight to color was becoming more prevalent.  Ink artists were worried and they are not in a position with any leverage to do anything.  So instead of more grumbling, I thought I'd do something positive as a sign of recognition for what we do and appreciation for the artists and their history.  Someone had to.  And the site also helps the general confusion about what we do by defining and describing it on a few areas.  This may not inspire any long term change in the community but it's a start.

SI:  Who helped you make the inkwell awards a reality?

BA:  Well, I originally created the awards as a topic in my 'Inkblots' column in SKETCH MAGAZINE and my editor Bill Nichols suggested that I ask the inkers on the Yahoo group Inkwell mailing list for feedback.  That was such a positive experience that I promptly contacted my committee members and contributors and we made it all a reality very quickly.

SI:  What can fans do to support their favorite inkers?

BA:  They can plug the site by posting online and word of mouth and vote.  If you see sites that don't list the inker in review credits, in sample art credits, etc. let them know.  The more we're in the public eyes the better.  They can let editors and pencillers  know which inkers do a great job in their opinion and what inker brings out the best of some pencillers.  If the fans are not happy with some art that is not inked because it looks muddy or light or sketchy then let the editors know and don't support the title.  It's all about quality comic book production.  If the quality isn't there and it shows in the sales then it could put more ink artists to work.  If not, it could become a lost art form.

Please visit the site at http://www.inkwellawards.com and show inkers some love!  Our blood runs black!

Many thanks to Bob Almond for taking time to talk to us.  Below is the list of winners for the 2008 Inkwell Awards:

Terry Austin (winner-tie)
Joe Sinnot (winner-tie)
Tom Palmer (runner-up)

Tim Townsend (winner)
Danny Miki (runner-up)

Tom Palmer (winner)
Joe Sinnott (runner-up)

Kevin Nowlan (winner)
Norm Rapmond (runner-up)

Tim Townsend (winner)
Danny Miki (runner-up)

Danny Miki (winner)
Joe Sinnott (runner-up)

Danny Miki (winner)
Mark Irwin (runner-up)

Bob Almond (winner)
Tim Townsend (runner-up)

Danny Miki (winner)
Tim Townsend (runner-up)

Joe Sinnot (winner)
Al Williamson (runner-up)

6-30-08:  David A. Flanary Talks PistolFist

David A. Flanary, Jr. is the co-writer of PistolFist, a comic about a runaway slave who becomes a hero during the American Revolution.  The book is releasing this July, and David took some time to talk to us about the series and the challenges the book faced on the way to its upcoming release.

Secret Identity:  For the uninitiated, can you give us the synopsis of PistolFist: Revolutionary Warrior?

David A. Flanary, Jr.:  Absolutely.  PistolFist is essentially the story of a runaway slave, set during the American Revolution.  This former slave, Salem Attucks, is the fictional brother of real-life Crispus Attucks, who died during the Boston Massacre.  Crispus' death looms pretty large over Salem, who becomes a masked hero fighting the British Empire.  Over the course of the story, Salem comes into contact with a large number of real-life personalities, including Benedict Arnold, Ethan Allen, and, of course, Benjamin Franklin, who serves as our co-protagonist.
Secret Identity:  When you were first batting ideas for this story around, did you come up with the setting or the character first?

David A. Flanary, Jr.:  I remember speaking about this topic to J.S. Earls, who created the character.  J.S. is a big fan of period stories, such as Zorro, and wondered why nobody had ever attempted to create a superhero tale set during the American Revolution.  The character of PistolFist grew quite organically out of the setting. 

I actually didn't enter the picture as co-writer of the series until after J.S. Earls had completed a rough draft for PistolFist #1.  He read one of my prose short stories, A Monument to Suffering, which was published in The Sorrow: Stories in Honor of the National Association to Protect Children.  Once J.S. decided that he needed a co-writer, he immediately contacted me.  At that time, both setting and character were already firmly in place.
Secret Identity:  While Pistolfist: Revolutionary Warrior is a work of fiction, the story has a lot of ties to real historical events and people. How difficult is it to weave the fictional and non-fictional events together?

David A. Flanary, Jr.:  Not as difficult as you might think.  PistolFist almost had to be co-written by J.S. Earls and myself, because his basic nature and my background made the blending of fact and fiction quite simple.  J.S. is a meticulous researcher.  Once he set his sight on historical fiction, he spent hours researching the people, places, and events that shaped the American Revolution.  I hold a Bachelor of Arts in History, and spent a great deal of time studying the American Revolution in college.
Secret Identity:  What are some of the themes in Pistolfist that could be applied to what’s happening around the world today?

David A. Flanary, Jr.:  That's a pretty loaded question.  

I think the notion of freedom is at the top of that list.  Freedom has become a bit of a slogan, a word everybody uses but few people ponder.  PistolFist serves, I believe, as a reminder of a time when we did not have the luxury to take freedom for granted.  How someone applies that reminder to modern situations really depends on his/her individual viewpoint.  That is one of the wonderful things about PistolFist:  the themes the story deals with can mean different things to different people.
Secret Identity:  Pistolfist has had a very interesting publishing history.  How did the title end up with Bluewater Productions?

David A. Flanary, Jr.:  Originally, PistolFist was scheduled to be released by Alias Comics.  Alias went so far as to publish the first issue in October of 2006.  The second issue was delayed for a while.  Then, Alias sent out a press release to inform everybody that they would restructure the company and become a Christian publisher.  Despite a positive critical response, PistolFist ended up being a victim of circumstance.

Thankfully, Darren Davis, president of Bluewater Productions, was a fan of what he saw of PistolFist.  I'm unsure if Mr. Davis first contacted J.S. Earls, or vice versa, but an agreement was reached, and here we are.
Secret Identity:  Rumor has it that Pistolfist may also be branching into other mediums as well.  Can you give us the latest on where else we may see the character in the future?

David A. Flanary, Jr.:  Last time I spoke to J.S. Earls, there was nothing concrete to report.  Still, the concept of PistolFist lends itself to all sorts of mediums.  It would certainly work as a motion picture or even a television series.  Frankly, I could imagine PistolFist branching out into animation.  PistolFist is so universal and versatile that it could be adapted to suit any medium.
Some time ago, I actually suggested to J.S. Earls that PistolFist should become an old-fashioned pulp magazine.  I've always been a big fan of The Shadow and Doc Savage, and feel that PistolFist would work really well in that genre.  

Right now, however, the future of PistolFist is wide open. 
Secret Identity:  Where can people go to stay informed about Pistolfist?

David A. Flanary, Jr.:  To stay informed about the upcoming mini-series, check out the official website of Bluewater Productions at www.bluewaterprod.com.  J.S. Earls' Storyline Studios is another excellent sources of information, and can be found at www.freewebs.com/storylinestudios.  Finally, my own website is a fantastic resource if you want to stay informed about PistolFist, or any of my other projects, and can be found at www.freewebs.com/the_rage.

Our thanks to David for taking time to chat with us!

5-25-08: Finnish-ing up With Temo Vuorensola

Fans of the sci–fi comedy film Star Wreck already know who Timo Vuorensola is. For those who don’t Timo, welcome! Timo is the director of the soon to be classic Iron Sky!  And thru the magic of the world wide interweb, Timo chats with us about being from Finland, Iron Sky and the incredible undertaking of making a feature film.  And of course our thanks for taking time to chat with us.

Secret Identity: This is an alternate history where the Nazis went to the moon towards the end of World War II. Where did this idea come from?

Timo: It was born, as most good ideas from Finland, in sauna. We were sitting there with Jarmo Puskala who also wrote Star Wreck, and he popped up this idea of Nazis on the moon. The idea sounded so wicked and intriguing, that we wanted to start building it. It's an interesting mix of fiction, conspiracy theories and fact.

Secret Identity: Being Finnish, do you have a different view or thoughts about World War II than those in America or Canada?
Timo: I wouldn't say that on WW2 we have different views. We all agree that the National Socialism was history's greatest mistake. Finland has its own history with Nazis - we were oppressed by them, but never allied with them, although we were fighting against the Russia at the same time. That wasn't the proudest part in our history.
Secret Identity: The Iron Sky clip we've been watching has a 1950's sci- fi look and feel to it. Is this by plan or is this just how it turned out?

Timo: Let's say that I wanted to create a film that's stylistically interesting. We will definitively take influences from 50's type of films in general, and clash them together with today's filmmaking traditions, and hopefully come up with something new and interesting.

Secret Identity: On the site, you ask for people to help as part of the production team. How can they get involved and what are you looking for?

Timo: The way to work with us is to join the production via an internet platform we've built just for this, called Wreck A Movie (www.wreckamovie.com). It's a collaborative film production platform, where the film will be sliced into tasks and the community is asked to bring their ideas and creativity to the production. Later on we are looking to expand the platform to accept all kind of films to be set up there for filmmakers to find communities around them.
Secret Identity: What is it about the Nazis that make them so scary and relevant today? We know thru history the horror and atrocities that were committed, but what is it?  

Timo: Probably because as everybody thought after the war that 'never again', but we've been seeing that kind of activism rising up in all corners of the world ever since, and Totalitarism is on the rise again. It's scary, 'cuz it's so close to where certain things are leading the world to. 

Secret Identity: Will the finished film look like it does in the trailer?

Timo: The demo teaser is more like animated concept art instead of being actual material from the film.  

Secret Identity: You have a great site with war bonds posters and blueprint sketches. How fun was it to recreate things like this with a bit of a ‘spin’ on them?

Timo: It was totally hilarious. We've always been very much working on stuff that we find fun and hilarious, crazy ideas that keep us alive.

Secret Identity: What are your hopes for Iron Sky? Is there a plan or hope for it to be on the big screen or will it just be a web movie?  

Timo: We are aiming for the big screens, first and foremost, but are also seeking for an intelligent internet distribution option. Right now, all the big players are way in the woods with their VOD and Internet video plans, we might need to teach them a thing or two :)

5-2-08: Rebekah Isaccs Gets Drafted - The Interview


Secret Identity: Nice spelling on the first name. My daughter is an Old Testament spelling Rebekah!

Rebekah: Let's hear it for old-school Rebekah! You have good taste in names, my friend. I have to laugh when people assume my spelling is the new, trendy take on the "original."  Hah! And since you seem to be familiar with the Old Testament, you can probably tell my parents thought they were being pretty clever putting Rebekah with Isaac(s).

Secret Identity: Since we cleared up the name thing, tell us a little about yourself? 

Rebekah: I grew up in a tiny mountain town where no one really reads comics. I've always been into sci-fi, fantasy, and video games and I've drawn since I could hold a pencil, but it wasn't until I read Watchmen at about 16 that I knew I wanted to draw comics. Since then I've been devouring every title I can get my hands on. When I'm not doing that I'm still playing way too many games, geeking out over Lost with my boyfriend, and studying Italian for when I flee to Sicily and am never heard from again.
Secret Identity: So how does a girl get into the ‘man's only’ world of comic books?

Rebekah: I'm still not sure I'm fully in it yet, but attending Savannah College of Art and Design really helped. The professors there, though mostly male, are incredibly open-minded to women in comics and really bust their butts to help ALL their students find work. They never pigeonhole people, say, expect all the guys to draw superheroes and all the girls to draw manga.  I'm sure I would have given up a long time ago if I hadn't had that support network in school.

Secret Identity: Has your gender ever gotten in the way of being taken serious as an artist?

Rebekah: Good question.  I think very few people in comics knowingly harbor prejudice towards female artists, but it definitely still exists subconsciously.  A comment I get often in portfolio reviews from male artists or editors is "wow, you draw like a guy!"  I take that for what it is - a well-meaning compliment - but it's still makes me a little sad that there's still a "way" that women are expected to draw.  I don't think I've ever had a problem being taken seriously, per se, but it has been difficult for people to see me not as a female comic book artist, but just as a comic book artist, plain and simple.
Secret Identity: Tell us about your previous comic book work or where we may have seen you before.

Rebekah: To be honest, I'm still pretty green, so I'm doubly grateful that Devil's Due took a chance on me as a series artist. I drew a graphic novel last year for the new Twilight Zone series for younger readers that'll be published in 2009. I'm a little embarrassed by my work on it, but at least it's a sign that I'm improving and learning from my mistakes. After that, I did 3 guest issues on Hack/Slash for the Tub Club arc. That was awesome; hot chicks, a giant flesh-stealing snake monster, and lots of good old-fashioned gore! It wasn't even like work!

Secret Identity: So how did you get the job on Drafted? I mean, this is a big book for Devil’s Due!

Rebekah: I had originally gotten in with Devil's Due when my former SCAD classmate Mike Bear (GI Joe and soon Voltron) recommended me for the guest issues on Hack/Slash. I sent over my scant portfolio and did a pin-up of Cassie that (writer) Tim Seeley really liked. After my 3 months on that were over, Drafted really just came out of the blue. Mike O'Sullivan (editor for both titles) asked me if I'd be up for another project, I said heck yeah, and there ya have it!

Secret Identity: Have you been reading Drafted?

Rebekah: I hate to admit it, but I read it for the first time after I was hired on. It has just slipped under my radar somehow, which is insane because I'm always looking for good sci-fi comics ... and believe me, this is the best out there. I go back through and reread sections periodically to remind myself of the character's histories and motivations. That's what I love about this series, it's not about airbrushed, veneered Ken and Barbie dolls running around in space, it's about real people!

Secret Identity: Well, good luck on Drafted and thanks for taking the time to chat with us!

Rebekah: Always glad to hear from Drafted fans! I just checked out your link and browsed around your site for the first time, actually. Looks like you've got tons of great stuff!  I have a feeling I'm gonna be procrastinating there for a while!

Look for the first Drafted trade coming soon. When you’re done and wanting more (because it’s that good), look for Rebekah’s first issue hitting the stands next month! To get a sample of her incredible art, go to her online gallery at http://rebekahann.deviantart.com/. Our thanks to Rebekah for not reading the Devil's Due "Don't talk to Secret Identity'" memo.

4-9-08: Monkeying Around With James Vining! 

Secret Identity: So who is the real James Vining?

James: I graduated from SCAD in 2000 and joined the Coast Guard so I could live in Alaska for a bit. Once my tour was up, I used the money I saved to work on First in Space without the little inconvenience of a day job. Currently I'm working full time illustrating flash games and going to school here in Indianapolis for my masters degree. 

Secret Identity: First In Space is like nothing I’ve read before. Were you a comic book fan as a kid?

James: I didn't get into comics until junior high or so. Up until that point I was more interested in animation and strip cartoons. My first comics purchase included an issue of Batman, X-Men, and a back issue of Cerebus the Aardvark and Ninja Turtles. I did the whole Image thing and lost interest for a while-basically until college. That's where I was exposed to stuff that I'd never heard of before and got excited about comics again.

Secret Identity: It’s not obvious who your influences are, so please tell us…

James: Hard to say. There are folks that I like a lot, but "influences" implies that I'm trying on some level to be like them. Believe me, I tried for a while to be as awesome a draughtsman as Mark Schultz, or as brilliant a designer as Durwin Talon or Brian Stelfreeze but I quickly realized that I was going to drive myself nuts, so I came to the conclusion that I was better off trying to draw like me. I looked at Bruce Timm stuff when I decided to do First in Space because I wanted a more sustainable style for my first book.

Secret Identity: Where did the idea for First In Space come about?  

James: I made a doodle at work one day of an angry chimp in a space suit with the title "First in Space." I thought that might be a good subject for my first book, so after some really awful fictional versions, I decided to do a little research and stuck with trying to make a little more historical based fiction.

Secret Identity: Did the story end the way you started it or did it change as you were writing it?
James: I pretty much knew that it had to end with Ham in the zoo. The point of the story is the disposable nature of not only the space animals, but those we use to achieve any ends. We have short memories and little appreciation for the sacrifices that are made in our names, militarily, scientifically, even interpersonally.

Secret Identity: As an animal lover, I never thought of the emotional toll or disposable lives these poor animals had. Was this what you were looking to get across?

James: See the above comment.  Yeah, I hoped I'd get some of that across. Hopefully more people get that. I have read some reviews that are angry that I didn't push it further, but I didn't want to find myself pushing an agenda. The best way to get people to shut down is to tell them how to think about something. It's better if they come to your conclusions naturally, without conflict.
Secret Identity: What reaction have you gotten in the press or from the readers of First In Space?

James: It's been very positive. Schools and libraries have been picking it up pretty well, and there are lots of space enthusiasts. And I can't say enough nice things about Oni Press. They've been really great and supportive and have been good about nurturing my next project along. It's nice to be a part of that family because I have such good company creatively and personally.

Secret Identity: So other than this interview, what are you working on now?

James: Right now I'm up to my eyeballs in my thesis project. I've done my research for the next book which will likely be about Von Braun. It'll be a busy summer for me! 

Our thanks to James for taking time away from the important things in life and chating with us. First In Space can be found at any online books shops or the Sixteen Acres Library In Springfield, MA. For more about James you can go to www.firstinspace.com.

3-16-08: Thomas Boatwright, the Interview! 

Secret Identity: So who is this banjo playin, comic drawin’ guy from North Carolina?

Thomas: My name is Thomas Anderson Boatwright. I am 27 years old. I was born and raised here in
North Carolina. I am an only child so I spent a lot of time alone making up stories with my toys. Not just "this guy punches this guy" but epics. I spent an entire summer once acting out a Ninja Turtles saga. I read a few comics my Dad had leftover form his time collecting them. He had sold all but a grocery bag by the time I got to them. I watched a lot of cartoons and daytime TV. Comic strips made more of an impact on me than comic books. It wasnt until about 2001 I got serious about making art a career.  I took a few classes at a community college and spent a year at the Kubert School in New Jersey.

About the banjo… I've always loved old time music, so when drawing became more of a job and less just for fun, I picked up playing Clawhammer banjo back in March 07.
Secret Identity: How did you first hook up with your partner in crime, Ryan Rubio?

Thomas: I first worked with Ryan while he was writing the script for a monster movie I was doing concept art for. The movie fell through, but we enjoyed working together. He saw an image that I drew of a guy and his creepy sidekick killing a vampire in a crypt. We tossed ideas back and forth on that until we created Cemetery Blues. We self-published a three issue mini-series called Cemetery Blues: The Curse of Wallace Manor.

Ryan and I pitched Cemetery Blues to them and we all decided that a sequel was in order. If that sold well enough, they would package the first series and this new one in a trade. The first issue of Cemetery Blues: The Haunting of Hernesberg was released on January 16th 08. 
Secret Identity: Your art style is both beautiful and a bit creepy at the same time and I mean that as a compliment. Where did this style come from?

Thomas: I've always been drawn to creepy stuff. Halloween is my favorite time of the year. I got a collection of Charles Addams cartoons when I was young. I discovered Edward Gorey a few years back when I realized the opening cartoon of Mystery was based on his art.

When I first got serious into doing comics, I was looking at all sorts of guys. And think Bruce Timm and Mike Mignola were the biggest. I sort of rediscovered Guy Davis though, and came at comics from another angle. I stopped trying to be somebody else and started drawing the way I draw. I figured I would just let it develop over time, which it has. I was just looking back at the first Cemetery Blues art compared to what just came and I've grown by leaps and bounds.

Secret Identity: I first became aware of your work when your bosses at Image sent us scans and pages of Edgar Allen Poo! Title and concept alone give it a 5 out of 5. How did you get involved with the book?

Thomas: Dwight MacPherson needed a fill-in artist for one of his webcomics, WHACKED! I sent him some links to what i had at the time and he gave me a three page script. When that was done he told me he had a project that my art would be perfect for. He liked my art and got me in on his next project "The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo". It started as a webcomic and then Shadowline Image Comics picked it up as an original graphic novel. It was published in August 07.

I didn’t get Edgar Allan Poo at first, but after seeing the characters as drawn by other artists, I saw the potential of what I could do with it. I really liked the idea of drawing Victorian mice in a city built out of Christmas decorations.

We started doing it as a weekly webcomic on Drunkduck.com. After finishing the first chapter/issue, we pitched it all around. Jim Valentino got back with us and wanted to do it as a graphic novel. It came out August last year. A second book is in the works, but I'm only doing the cover. Dwight has his good friend Avery Butterworth doing the interiors this time. 

Secret Identity: What was the reaction to your art when that book hit the stands?

Thomas: General praise. There were a couple of people who would rather have had David Hartman, who did the cover art, do the interiors. For the most part however, reviews favored the art. Sometimes even more so than the story. 

Secret Identity: Your current project is the above mentioned Cemetery Blues, a book you not only draw but authored with Ryan Can you tell us about this book?

Cemetery Blues follows Ridley and Falstaff, two low-life henchman who work for the ghost of legendary monster hunter, Wilhelm Lear. It’s a horror comedy following in the footsteps of the films from Hammer Studios.

This is a sequel to a previous Cemetery Blues story that Ryan and I self-published in 2006. The first one was called The Curse of Wallace Manor and this one, now from Image Comics Shadowline, is called the Haunting of Hernesberg.

To find out more, or to contact Thomas, use any of the links below. Our thanks to Mr. Boatwright for taking the time to chat with us, via the world wide internet!

Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/taboatwright
Deviant art profile: http://boatwright.deviantart.com/
and blog: http://boatwrightartwork.blogspot.com/

2-14-08:  BioWare's Drew Karpyshyn on Mass Effect

Drew Karpyshyn has worked as a writer for BioWare on many of their most successful games, including Neverwinter Nights, Jade Empire and Star Wars: Knights of the OldRepublic.  Most recently, Drew was the lead writer on the award winning Mass Effect, which has sold over 1.5 million copies to date.  Secret Identity chatted with Drew about the game and the universe that he helped create.

SI: Having been the lead writer for both Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) and Mass Effect, how did the writing process on KOTOR inform what you did with Mass Effect 

Drew: Obviously with each game we see the writing process evolving and improving. BioWare has always excelled with branching narrative storylines, ever since the days of Baldur's Gate. However, with KOTOR we made the dramatic leap to full non-player voice over, which forced us to change our writing style to make it more cinematic; dialog became tighter and punchier. This paved the way for us to add player voice over in Mass Effect, and to once again take another step towards a fully immersive dialog experience. 

SI: Mass Effect is a game that players can experience in a myriad of different ways.  How do you craft a story that people will be approaching from multiple angles?  

Drew: Branching narrative is the most difficult part of writing BioWare style games; it really is something unique to the games industry. To manage it, we have a team of writers who are each responsible for a specific area, planet or region in the game, as well as a lead writer who oversees the writing process and helps to keep all those different areas and player choices on track. There isn't any real secret to it, however; it's just a talent the BioWare writers have developed over years of creating our unique style of games. 

SI: In Mass Effect, players always have two NPCs in their party, which they pick from a roster of six.  How difficult is it to make each NPC interesting enough that players will want to experience playing with each of them, as opposed to always picking the same two and overlooking the others? 

Drew: The interesting thing about the NPCs is that we don't actually worry about players picking only their two favorites and using them all the time; if that happens, we're okay with that. What we focus on is making each character unique from each other character, and interesting on their own merits. That way we insure every player will have two (at least) party members they care about. Often, of course, players are intrigued by 3, 4 or more different party members, but we don't specifically set out to make this happen. 

SI: It was great to see that Captain Anderson is the main character in the prequel novel Revelation.  Was he always intended for the prequel story, or did that decision come about during the development of the game? 

Drew: Anderson existed in the game before the novel was even begun. It took us almost 4 years to create Mass Effect, but only about a year to go from blank page to on the shelves for the novel, so the game had to come first. When I set out to do the novel, I knew I wanted to introduce Saren to the readers, and I knew I needed a strong, moral center in the novel to balance Saren's actions. Anderson - the player's mentor in the game - seemed like a perfect fit, and his history with Saren was already part of his background. All the pieces just fell into place. 

SI: You’ve written games and novels based in the Forgotten Realms and Star Wars universes, both of which have established “rules” that you must play within.  Do you find it liberating to write in the Mass Effect universe, in which you are making most of the rules? 

Drew: There are good and bad elements to working in your own setting as opposed to an established setting. Obviously, Star Wars and Forgotten Realms have a huge audience, and as a fan of both settings I understand what readers are looking for when they pick up a SW or FR novel. With Mass Effect, the audience isn't established, so as an author you're taking more of a risk... you hope your instincts are correct, but you're never quite sure if you know what the fans really want. Also, the freedom to create everything from scratch also comes with a responsibility to explain everything so the reader can follow the action. For example, I don't have to explain the Force in a SW novel, but when I mention biotics in Revelation, I knew readers would need some exposition to help them grasp the concept. 

SI: Is there anything you do differently when writing for a game like Neverwinter Nights, which has the potential for user created content, as opposed to KOTOR or Mass Effect, which do not? 

Drew: We treat the user created content separately from what we are doing, so they don't really overlap. We used the same process on NWN to create the stories (and on the Hordes of the Underdark expansion) as we did on KOTOR and Mass Effect. The end user tools have more of an impact on the technical side of the game than the writing. 

SI: Are there plans to take the Mass Effect into other mediums, either in-house or through licensing, such as comics or pen-and-paper RPGs?  

Drew: Obviously we've already expanded into novels, so we are open to exploring other mediums with Mass Effect. However, there are no official plans in place at the moment.  

SI:  Last, but not least: Will the second installment of Mass Effect pick up immediately after the events of the first game, or will it be similar to KOTOR 2 where it will take place in a different time period, but feature cameos by some members of the original cast? 

Drew: I can't say too much about ME 2, but you will expect to see both familiar and new faces. And of course, Shepard (your Shepard!) will be the main character.

Thanks again to Drew for taking time to answer our questions!  For more info on Drew, head over to http://www.drewkarpyshyn.com.  To find out more about Mass Effect, check out http://masseffect.bioware.com/  

2-5-08: Talkin' Tardis with Gary Russell

Gary Russell is a lucky man! He was able to take his boyhood passion and turn it into a career. Lucky for us, Gary took the time to chat with Secret Identity. As recent converts to the good Doctor, Gary was able to help us with some questions we had. After all, Doctor Who has over 40 years of history, ten doctors and oh, head hurts! Help us Gary!

Secret Identity: When did you first discover the good doctor?

Gary: When I was but a babe, sat in front of the TV with my brothers watching William Hartnell turn into Patrick Troughton. Not that I realized what a momentous occasion that was then, to me it was an old man falling over but I can picture it vividly. The next few years kinda passed me by until 1968 and evil of the Daleks getting a repeat. From then on, I was hooked. That music, that credits sequence. Daleks! Old houses! Explosions! The Emperor! And Troughton. What wasn’t to fall in love with? 

Secret Identity: For a British TV fan was / is it hard to follow the constant changing of doctors? In the states, we can't handle change in anything, including our stories.

Gary: Nope, easy because change was such a fundamental part of the programme. The supporting cast changed almost annually so when even the lead hanged, it really wasn’t a big deal. I mean, obviously each new Doctor is a HUUUUGE deal, but in terms of public acceptance, it was nothing. Perhaps it’s why we accepted every one of Blake Carrington’s kids growing new faces every so often 20 years later.

Secret Identity: Did your parents ever tell you "Dr. Who will rot your brains" or "all that knowledge won't get you anywhere?" If so, how was the gloating?

Gary: No at all. My mother was incredibly supportive of my love of Doctor Who right from the word go because it inspired me to be creative from a very early age. I was writing my own Doctor Who stories with Jon Pertwee’s Doctor from Day One. I was a very early reader too, I could read well from the age of three, if not a bit before, and lapped up books of all kinds, and that was because my love for Doctor Who inspired me to explore. She was less keen on Marvel Comics it has to be said, but every cloud and all that. And I’ve loved comics for over two thirds of my life now. I blame Roy Thomas and Rich Buckler for that.
Secret Identity: Since so much time had passed from the end and resurgence a few years back, were UK audiences clamoring for a return or was it just a pleasant surprise?

Gary: Like so many things in life, I’m not sure people realized how much they wanted Doctor Who until it was delivered to them on a plate. And to stretch that metaphor to death, it was a meal served up on the finest china, cooked with the finest spices and tasting of pure heaven, all of which is down to Russell T Davies, who just understood, on the nose, exactly what Doctor Who needed to be in 2005 that it wasn’t in 1963, 73, 83 or 89. Now I think people (and be people I mean the general viewing public rather than us hardcore fans) can’t imagine it not being here. And there’s finally a new Doctor to inspire this generation of kids to be creative and not mundane. And going by the pictures and letters that wend their way Cardiffwards, creativity is utterly the primary thing Doctor Who inspires, followed by loyalty and a basic feeling of all-round goodness. Russell is the Willy Wonka of TV without the bad hair or Ooompa Loompas, but with the wit, charm and imagination to fire the kids up. Actually, sometimes, the rest of us do feel a bit like Oompa Loompas. Minus the chocolate. Mmmm, chocolate....

Secret Identity: This may be a hard one, given the history, but whowas your favorite Doctor and why?

Gary: Jon Pertwee, ‘cos he’s the one I grew up adoring. No contest.

Secret Identity: Let’s talk current times. Tell us about your involvement with IDW's Doctor
Who comic, which is coming out in January.

Gary: They asked and I said yes. No one in Cardiff had heard of IDW but I had ‘cos of their CSI stuff and I knew the Star Trek license was theirs too, so I raved and cheered and generally explained in irrational terms how brilliant they’d be, and how important the show would be to a smaller company. And I think Chris Ryall charmed the pants of everyone, too. That helped.

Secret Identity: Why do you think the last three seasons of Doctor Who have struck on with American fans where past seasons didn't?

Gary: You know, I’m not sure. The oft-lauded stuff about it being appealing because of its British eccentricity is a bit hackneyed as an explanation and if that was the reason, the 1996 Paul McGann Fox TV Movie (which I still adore) would’ve worked cos it had that in bagfulls. Why has the new show worked then? I think it happened at the right time, and because it’s good. Russell, Julie Gardner and everyone else are never quiet about their love for anything Joss Wheedon, Smallville, Supernatural and shows like that. Fantasy TV now made for a wider audience. And Doctor Who is utterly the most unique show! There’s nothing like it, nor will there ever be. And no one need try, ‘cos this version’s not going away.