1-8-09:  Tony DeZuniga "Just Another Job!"

Jonah Hex is one of the most original and popular characters in comic history! The current Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray has taken the original premise and turned it into one of the best monthly comics going. The character was created by writer John Albano and our guest today on these pages, artist Tony DeZuniga! 

Secret Identity:In the late 1960’s / 70’s there was a huge influx of Pilipino artists entering comics. Creators like yourself, Alfred Alcala, Nestor Redondo, Alex Nino and Gary Talaoc brought a unique style to comics. Who or what were the influences of an artist in the Philippines in your youth?

Tony DeZuniga: In the Philippines, everybody wanted to learn the style of Francisco Coching, he's like the Father of Filipino Comics. He's a very good story teller and great artist.

As a kid all I read were war comics and that is where I discovered you and the others. Not that I’m complaining, but why did you all end up there?

As new artist, you don't have much choice whatever they assign to you, that's your work. We can't complain.

In February of 1971 Jonah Hex first appeared in all star western # 10. the creation is credited to you and writer John Albino! As the artist on a character defined by his look, what were your contributions?

I was the one who design him. John Albano gave me the freedom to do the design and one day I was at the doctor's office and I saw the half man half skeleton and I decided it would be cool to have that kind of design for Jonah Hex and the readers loved it.

After you left Jonah Hex (Weird Western Tales) and moved onto other things, did you keep track of Jonah and his adventures?

Not really because for me, Jonah Hex was just another job.

A few years back, you got to return to the world of Jonah Hex with Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray! What was it like to work with their vision?

Of course Jimmy and Justin are still young blood! There's more actions and I think they really know what they're doing and where they're going.

Later this year the Jonah Hex movie hits theaters. I’m wondering what you’ll think when you see your name up on the big screen? 

I'm really happy that they chose Jonah Hex on top of all other comic characters and I'm very flattered so I hope it will be a hit!

Our thanks to Tony for taking the time to chat with us. Look for Tony's return to Jonah Hex in May with the hardcover No Way Back written by Jimmy and Justin.

12-4-09:  Raven Gregory Talks 'The Waking' With Secret Identity

We here at Secret Identity have always been big fans of Zenescope, and our relationship with them goes back to the early days of the podcast.  Way back at Wizard World Philly 2007 (SI Issue #77.5), SI’s James Martin interviewed Zenescope’s co-founders Joe Brusha and Ralph Tedesco about their flagship title “Grimm Fairy Tales.”  At New York Comic Con 2008 (SI Issue #126.5), Brian caught up with Ralph Tedesco again at the Zenescope Booth to talk “Grimm,” “Wonderland” and “1001 Arabian Nights.”  And finally, at this year’s Big Apple Comic-Con (SI #190.5), Brian spoke with Zenescope Executive Editor and writer of the “Wonderland” trilogy, Raven Gregory.  It was during this most recent interview that Raven mentioned a new series he has coming up called “The Waking.”  We decided to catch up with him again and talk a bit more about that series, as well as the wrap-up of “Escape from Wonderland.”

Secret Identity:  Raven, how does it feel to be bringing the Wonderland trilogy to a close?  

Raven Gregory:  It’s really kind of surreal.  The emotions keep changing every day.  I feel like I’m in high school again.  I can’t wait for it to be over but on the other hand I can see how much I’m going to miss these characters.  They’ve really become real for me which I like to think is biggest goal for any writer.  Then there’s my partners in crime.  Dan Leister and Nei Ruffino.  Both who have become great friends of mine and have just grown to such amazing heights from when we first started.  It’s so wonderful to watch them come into their own, but there really is a bitter sweet sorrow that once this is over, it’ll probably be some time before we jam on something together again.  Nei is becoming a huge star over at DC with “Supergirl,” and all the “Blackest Night” crossovers, and I can really see the sky being the limit for her.  Dan Leister is going on to be the regular artist for Tim Seely’s “Hack/Slash,” and I can’t wait to see how he handles Cassie Hack.  “Hack/Slash” is one of my favorite books.

You’re getting ready to launch “The Waking” as your next big project.  Can you give us an overview of the story? 

In New York City four detectives investigating two random murders begin to discover clues that the victims of these heinous crimes may actually be returning to avenge their own deaths. Now, in a race against time they must discover those responsible for the murders and uncover the supernatural source behind the “wakings.”

What attracted you to the zombie genre as the subject for your new project?

The idea of trying something more in line with the genre’s roots really appealed to me.  A lot of the early zombie lore like EC Comics, Frankenstein, Poe, and Lovecraft focused on these creatures coming back from the dead as beings controlled by others or searching for those who had wronged them.  I wanted to play with that concept versus the standardized zombie take we have going around today.  Taking that idea and running with it felt like a story that might work out nicely.

Was the story something you had kicking around in your head for a while, or is it fairly new?

It’s something I came up with back when I was writing my first creator owned book, “The Gift.”  I tried to get it into production more than a few times, but something would always come up and derail the book.  So, I kept it in the drawer and kept polishing it for years.  Then after “Wonderland” became such a hit at Zenescope I pitched them the idea and they dug it—and here we are. 

You take an interesting approach to the narrative in “The Waking,” with two seemingly unrelated stories converging.  Was that your plan from the start, or did the story start to write itself that way once you got started? 

It was part of the plan from the beginning to make sure the narrator had a strong voice that the reader could relate to on some level, so as you grew to know the character in the story along with the narration that exposed you to how the character thought, it would flesh him out in a way that would really drive the characterization and the story forward to an ending that the readers would really feel.

Vic Drujiniu’s pencils look amazing on this book.  How did you end up hooking up with him for this project? 

We worked on a few stories in the past.  He did “Grimm Fairy Tales” #30, “Tales From Wonderland: Alice” one shot, and “Tales From Wonderland: Hatter” part 2.  I’ve always been a huge fan of his work as his rendering really fleshes out the characters and brings them to life on a whole other level. 

What are some of the pros and cons of writing a completely original IP like “The Waking” as opposed to putting a twist on existing IP like “Alice in Wonderland?” 

The biggest con is that with “Wonderland” you have that safety net of an established audience.  The book has really developed a massive following and you can feel safe that if you tell a good story the book will do well.  When doing original work you never really know for sure which side of the coin is going to turn up.  You promote it the best you can and put it out there and that’s really all you can do.  So it really does have that jumping out of an airplane experience which is exciting, but at the same time extremely nerve racking.  The biggest pro is it's a whole new universe, and there are all new rules and all the restraints that apply to one world don't apply to another so you're free to go crazy all over again but in a new fresh way. 

In addition to “The Waking,” you also have “Sci-Fi and Fantasy Illustrated” coming up.  What can you tell us about that project? 

Me and the guys at Zenescope are huge fans of Sci-Fi anthologies, and bringing this project out is just a huge thing for us right now.  It helps us diversify the lineup a bit, while staying true to what we all love—a good story.

Secret Identity would like to thank Raven Gregory for talking with us about "The Waking" and all things Zenescope.  "The Waking" is available for pre-order in the December "Previews," and the first issue will be shipping in February.  For more on "The Waking" and the rest of Zenescope's current and future lineup, head over to www.zenescope.com

8-28-09:  Bob Heske Interview


By now hopefully you’ve read our review of Bob Heske’s “Bone Chiller,” a great horror anthology that features a collection of twisted short stories by Bob and a handful of different artists (if you haven’t read the review, click here).  I recently had the good fortune of catching up with Bob about “Bone Chiller” and some of the other projects he’s involved with, as well as how he got into the comics industry.

SI:  How did the 'Heske Horror' line of comics come about?

Bob Heske:  I kinda backed into it. Back in 2007, I pitched a treatment to Alex Leung (Associate Producer of “Around the World In 80 Days” and also the bloke who helped bring THE RING horror franchise to the US) for a unique vampire tale. Since I was already doing a polish of a film script for him, Alex was kind enough to read the treatment. He told me that he really liked it, and that it would make a great … COMIC BOOK/GRAPHIC NOVEL!! Alex had recently established his STUDIO 407 indie comic shingle and was sorting through a number of quality submissions. So, I dusted off the treatment, threw away my Robert McKee screenwriting CD, and started writing a 4-issue series from the perspective of a comic book writer. While working on THE NIGHT PROJECTIONIST (that’s the title of the vampire original graphic novel, or “OGN”), one of my short film scripts called THE WAITING ROOM was optioned and made into a short film starring Richard Schiff and Izabella Miko. I was a bit disappointed that the original story was altered quite a bit, so I decided to do a comic book version of the original tale wrapped into an indie horror comic series which I called COLD BLOODED CHILLERS: Tales of Suburban Murder and Malice.

I found that I could transform many of my stories into comic book format – for the price of producing one film short (and directing it badly, since I was an inexperienced filmmaker) I could create a 3-issue indie horror series and a “best of” anthology trade paperback for @ $10,000.00. While finishing up on THE NIGHT PROJECTIONIST, I forged ahead with my CHILLERS franchise and actually completed it before THE NIGHT PROJECTIONIST was finalized (the OGN is  due out this Fall).

What was your experience like breaking into the comics industry as an independent publisher?

Rewarding personally, but not so much financially. On a personal note, I learned a lot and I was able to get it all done with a computer, an Internet connection, and creative “can-do” drive and passion. In just over a year I have made connections with publishers, artists, writers, distributors and other comic visionaries world-wide. It’s been flat-out fantastic. On the financial side, well … suffice it to say that so far this venture has been a bit of a tax write-off. Although I hope to make a profit (or break even) in year three. We’ll see!

Can you tell us more about how about how "The Night Projectionist" ended up optioned as a film?

At the time THE NIGHT PROJECTIONIST was being developed, STUDIO 407 was sharing office space with MYRIAD PICTURES and had a first-look deal set up with this indie film production house and distributor. One of STUDIO 407’s projects – HYBRID – had already been picked up and was in pre-production. Apparently, some execs saw the galleys for THE NIGHT PROJECTIONIST and were impressed enough to take a gander at the full story. They really liked the premise, felt it was marketable and unique, and decided to option the story for film. Currently, the project is in early pre-production. We expect the film to be released in 2011 in the funding falls into place and the script is up to par.

You've embraced digital comics as a form of distribution for your stories.  How successful has that been so far?

Define “successful”. OK, I’m dodging the question a bit. In terms of pure sales, not successful – yet. Although, on DriveThruComics.com my anthology BONE CHILLER is #8 in the Horror genre (among 580+ books) for PDF downloads. Also, my COLD BLOODED CHILLERS and BONE CHILLER e-preview books on MyEbook.com have combined for 350,000 in total hits in a little over 6 months. So to me, in terms of awareness and getting the product “out there,” it’s been fairly successful. But to turn brand awareness into a net profit – I’m not there yet.  

I should also mention that the first issue of THE NIGHT PROJECTIONIST was released in February and has sold about 800-900 copies to date. Sadly, it wasn’t enough to merit Diamond carrying issues 2-4 in their Previews catalog since they raised their sales threshold a shitload last December. But I should mention that, at the time, the book had not been picked up to be made into a movie. The OGN (which is amazingly drawn by Diego Yapura with colors by Jorge Blanco) will be released this Fall and I’m hoping sales will be pretty good, which will also bring fans to my HESKE HORROR comic floppies and trade paperbacks.

(Point of Clarification: THE NIGHT PROJECTIONIST is published and distributed by STUDIO 407 and my other books are self-published and sold under my HESKE HORROR brand.)

In reading "Bone Chiller," I really enjoyed some of the Lovecraftian twists you put on your stories.  Who are some of your other literary influences?

You’ve already hit on one. Rod Serling, Stephen King, William Goldman, Joe Hill (LOCKE & KEY, HEART SHAPED BOX, 20th CENTURY GHOSTS) are others. A lot of my horror shorts are like a sniper’s bullet – fast, unexpected, and lethal. I really love the short story genre, particularly for graphic horror anthologies.

How about horror movies?  What are some of your favorites you draw inspiration from?

For me, the Granddaddy of Horror is the original HALLOWEEN directed by John Carpenter and starring a not-yet-discovered bombshell nymph named Jamie Lee Curtis (circa 1978). Most recently, EDENLAKE gave me a scare. It’s a UK indie horror flick where there “monsters” are a band of unruly tweens who terrorize a young couple on romantic holiday. This one is definitely worth renting! Others in my fave five list: THE EXORCIST(1973), THE OMEN (1976), and THE RING (2002).

When you're not writing your own storeis, what comics are you currently following?


What’s coming up next for you, and where can people go to keep up with your projects?

Up next for Heske Horror is an End Times anthology called 2012: FINAL PRAYER. It features submissions from writers and artists from all over the world (US, UK, Canada, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Philippines, Poland, Scotland, South Africa, etc.) providing their creative perspectives about “what happens on 12/21/12 at 11:11 GST” (the end of the Mayan “long count” calendar which some deem to be either apocalyptic or transformative for the human race). It also includes a few narrative shorts by horror writers describing what happens “the day after” – as well as some brief essays from published 2012 book authors. Look for it this October.  For more details, visit www.coldbloodedchillers.com.

7-6-09: Roger Langridge - From New Zealand With Love

Roger Langridge has been at this comic book thing for a while! But recently, he has hit the hearts of comic fans in a big way with Boom Studio's Muppet Show - The Comic Book! Secret Identity hunted down Roger like Kraven after Spider - man and this is the little chat we had. Enjoy! 

Secret Identity:
Before we talk about your current project, lets talk about the New Zealander who now lives in

Roger: I've been living in London for about 17 years now - I first came here from New Zealand because I wanted to be a cartoonist and, in those pre - Internet days, it helped to live in a country that actually had a comic industry. Now, probably not so much... but I've planted roots here now and I don't think I could ever go back for very long. I've been doing comics since I could hold a pencil, just about, but my first published work outside New Zealand was in 1990 - Art d'Ecco #1, for Fantagraphics. And I've worked for just about everyone since. Pre-Muppets, my best-known work was probably Fred the Clown, which was a web strip and a self-published comic book for a few years. The more or less definitive collection was ultimately published by Fantagraphics (those guys again!).

Secret Identity: Perfect segue… tell us about the project that got you on the map; Fred The Clown. Once i read it I didn't know what to think other than I liked it; funny, sad and a bit creepy. Where did this idea come from?

Roger: Life, dear boy, life! And I'm a huge fan of silent movie great Buster Keaton, whose melancholy expression accompanied his comedy constantly, and made it ten times funnier than if he'd been Jim Carrey-ing it up. Lesson learned: melancholia enhances comedy. Also, it partly comes from the British comedy tradition: British comedy heroes ten to be losers, flawed characters, characters trapped in hopeless situations without the self-knowledge to change themselves. I've never liked brash, confident comedians like Bob Hope... give me a loser every time.

Secret Identity: It seems every British artist or writer (natural or import) works on or near either Doctor Who or Judge Dredd and you are no exception. Tell us about the Straitjacket Fits?

Roger: That was a strip set in the world of Judge Dredd. In 1990 / 91 (I forget the exact date) I had made an appointment to see Peter Hogan, who was then the editor of a magazine called Revolver - they ran things like Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes' Dare and Milligan & McCarthy's Rogan Gosh. But on the day I showed up for my appointment, I was informed at the desk that Peter had been fired. Steve McManus, the editor of the Judge Dredd Megazine, kindly met with me instead - and after a chat, he invited me to submit a one page gag strip idea, which I did. I can't remember what it was called now, but Steve decided it needed another writer, so he paired me up with his editorial assistant, David Bishop, a fellow New Zealander, and my submission got tweaked into what became The Straitjacket Fits. (The name comes from a New Zealand band who were around at the time.) Eventually voted the least popular strip they ever ran - a badge I wear with perverse pride!

Secret Identity: As we draw closer to your current project, what were your first memories of the Muppet show?

Roger: I don't know if I can nail down a specific first memory. It's the overall tone I remember, really. I do recall recording the Spike Milligan episode - just the audio, by putting a cassette recorder right up next to the television speaker - and listening to it over and over again. I did that a lot, not just with the Muppets, but with comedy of all kinds. I wonder what happened to those tapes...

Secret Identity: Since it's now out in the open, when and how did you get the job on the Muppet Show comic book from Boom Studios?

Roger: It started a few years ago now, when I was doing a bit of illustration work for the now-defunct Disney Adventures Magazine. They'd been running some Mickey Mouse cartoons by Glenn McCoy that were drawn in a raggedy, underground-ish sort of style, and they were popular enough that they were looking to try a similar treatment with some other Disney properties, so they approached me at that point to take the job on - having seen my other work like Fred the Clown and noticing that I was already doing vaudeville sketches and made-up songs, presumably. So I did about 15 pages of that before the magazine was cancelled, only one of which was ever published - a Fozzie Bear one-pager. I was really disappointed that the work never saw the light of day, and thought that was the end of it, but those pages must have been circulating behind the scenes, because Boom eventually approached me to pick up more or less where I'd left off. And here we are!

Secret Identity: I and I think many fans want to thank you for capturing the feel of the show. The way everything revolves around the production but most important and this was a big selling point, you don't draw legs and feet!

Roger: They show up occasionally! But yes, it's not really an action-oriented strip. The faces are what carry the story most of the time. The fact that focusing on the faces evokes the puppetry of the show is a happy coincidence.

Secret Identity: Are there any Muppets you love to draw and any that give you trouble?

Roger: Love to draw: I'm finally getting the hang of Miss Piggy after a shaky couple of issues. Really hard to capture, but engaging because of the challenge (I guess that one comes under "gives me trouble" as well!) Crazy Harry is a slippery one to capture for some reason. I always have to have a few tries every time I draw him.

Secret Identity: After the Muppets, what's next for you? And please say more Muppets!!!!

Roger: More Muppets. Really, it's a full-time gig - Boom are breaking it up into four-issue chunks for marketing reasons, but as far as my schedule is concerned, it's an ongoing monthly. I've got a few things coming up which I was working on before the Muppets started filling every waking moment: a handful of Captain America backup stories in Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes, written by me and drawn by Craig Rousseau, featuring a World War Two version of MODOK; a two-pager that's just come out in Uncanny X-Men: First Class Giant-Size #1, written by me and drawn by Jeff Parker; a short story called "Venus in Fur" for an anthology called Snow Stories, edited by Mike Getsiv; a short piece in Strange Eggs Jumps the Shark, written by Chris Reilly and drawn by me, published by Slave Labor Graphics; and a "Mugwhump the Great" short story in IDW's upcoming Act-i-Vate Primer, a prequel to my web strip (currently on hiatus as I try to get ahead on all things Muppet).

Our big thanks to Roger for taking the time to talk with us. For more information, please go to http://www.hotelfred.co.uk/

1-12-09: The World According to Kelly Yates!

Kelly Yates has got a busy February! First up, he and his studio mates at Tsunami Studios will be meeting and greeting at New York Comic Con and a few days later, his Amber Atoms # 1 will hit the stands the following Wednesday. A few weeks back, Secret Identity stalked, found and forced an interview with Kelly. Our thanks to him for taking the time and not filing the restraining order!    

Secret Identity: I made my way around your site I thought 'holy cow' this guy is good! Your doodles page shows an incredible variety of styles... old school Marvel, manga and a wide variety of beautiful women. So, which is the real Kelly Yates?

Kelly: I think my “real” artwork will always be an evolution of styles, but I believe that work I’m doing on Amber Atoms is the direction I want my style to develop. Hopefully, every time I put my pencil to paper I’m learning something new and never know when that might push you into another direction.
Secret Identity: As I flipped thru Previews Guide, I was drawn to the full 2 page Amber Atoms layout. Tell us about the world of Madissome and Amber Atoms!

Kelly: Amber is a young girl in her late teens or early 20’s who still lives at home with her parents. She dreams of leaving her remote home planet of Madisomme and getting out into the real galaxy. However, she doesn’t receive any encouragement from her parents and feels stuck working in her father’s salvage yard business. What Amber doesn’t know is her father is actually trying to protect her from the history of the “Atoms” family name out in the galaxy, but everything changes that in issue #1.

Secret Identity: How long has this idea been germinating in your head and hands?

Kelly: The basic idea for Amber Atoms has been in my head for about 10 years, but I only really started to put it down on paper a few years ago. Like a lot of ideas, they need to mature and develop and I wanted to get a few issues in the can before submitting to any companies. I had 3 issues written, penciled and inked before I even submitted Amber Atoms to Image Comics.

Secret Identity: How does it feel to see the ad in Previews and think "wow it's finally coming out?

Kelly: It’s an incredibly amazing feeling to see Amber Atoms in Previews and for Image to support me with the double-page spread was even more awesome!  But now reality sets in and so does the pressure of deadlines and completing future issues.

Secret identity: Who do you think will enjoy this story? It has a Flash Gordon feel to it with a very strong and beautiful heroine. Will it appeal to female readers?

Kelly: I certainly hope Amber Atoms will appeal to female readers because of the strong female lead character, but I hope it also appeals to the core comic book fan base. I approached Amber Atoms from more of an all-ages comic. Not necessarily a kid’s comics, but kids could certainly read it. 

Secret Identity: A late congrats on fatherhood. Has being a father given you a different view on life and your work? Think about this! Issac has the cool father that draws comic books.

Kelly: Yeah, now I have to make the money because those new Spider-Man toys are getting expensive. Seriously, Isaac is truly a blessing and having him certainly helps me focus or what’s important. Material things don’t matter as much nor the 30 long boxes I have of comics.  

Secret Identity: So we'll see you at New York Comic Con in February?

Kelly: Yes, I will be attending the New York Comic Con where I’ll be setting up with my studio mates from Tsunami Studios. Come by and visit.