Friday, August 21, 2009

Interview With Joeby Gibson: Creator/Writer of "Lethal: Death Squad Uprising"

We here at Dead Harvey love indie comics. It's a really exciting thing to see happening right now because, much like indie. movies, the indie. comic scene is booming and the internet is proving to be fertile ground for creators to get their material out there like never before. Joeby Gibson's "Lethal: Death Squad Uprising" is a not only a fantastic indie. comic, it's currently FREE. I highly recommend everyone who reads this post to go back and read on from issue #1. It's a very enjoyable throwback to all the 80s action movies we've known and loved and that Hollywood sadly isn't making anymore. Remember "Cobra", "Commando", "Lone Wolf McQuade", "Hard to Kill"? I regularly revisit these flicks not only for nostalgia purposes but because they hold up incredibly well as pulp-style, kick-ass entertainment and they're so much better than most of the movies those action stars have come out with since the eighties.

Joeby Gibson's indie comic captures the essence of the eighties' action movie spirit and more than delivers the goods with every issue. Much like those films, it has a fun spirit, doesn't take itself too seriously, but doesn't slack on the action and gore either. And the artwork is outstanding. Joeby gives us a highly informative interview and whether your thing is comics or movies, it's a must read. Here's hoping that Lethal lives long and prospers!

First off, tell us a bit about yourself. What are your influences and what got you into indie comics?

Ok, well I’m a freelance story producer for reality TV shows and have worked on shows for major networks and cable.

One day, I just got tired of working on somebody else’s project. I can’t tell you how many times a series would’ve been really entertaining had it not been dumb down by twenty executives and the network.

So finally I got off my ass and started writing Lethal. I got into the comic scene because it was cheaper to tell my stories. Instead of paying thousands of dollars to film a concept that might not sell, I can pay very little to get my idea out to the masses and hopefully gain a fanbase.

Which do you prefer and why: indie comics or indie movies?

That’s tough because both bring something very special to the table. Sometimes indie movies are great because they’re a little bit edgier than the Hollywood fanfare. My Netflix que is probably 75% Direct-to-DVD horror films. If a movie tells a great story and can hold my attention for 90 minutes, then I don’t care if it was shot on mini-dv with no name actors. The important thing is that those filmmakers made a product that some distributor thought was profitable.

But indie comics can get away with so much more. With less money involved, the artist or writer can tell a story that will hopefully trump any of the latest Hollywood blockbusters. So if I had to choose, then I’m leaning towards indie comics because there is nothing stopping you from telling the biggest blockbuster you can draw.

Who do you believe is doing the best work in indie comics today and why?

Though he’s not so much indie because he writes for Image but Robert Kirkman is simply amazing. The “Walking Dead” series is not the usual super heroes in tights but zombies and personal stories. Thankfully AMC just picked up the series and it’s going to be written by Frank Darabont. I also enjoyed Brian Wood’s “Local”. Been a fan of that for awhile and had a nerd-gasm at comic-con when I picked up the entire series, signed by Wood.

What inspired you to make "Lethal: Death Squad Uprising"?

I’ve always been a fan of those cheesy 80’s action movies. You know the one’s where the hero is always walking away from explosions, fights are always one person at a time and a car explodes no matter if the hero hits the gas tank or not. All those Steven Seagal and Van Damme movies still hold up today. Just a few nights ago I was watching Under Siege in HD… still a classic. For research I watching every action movie from “Cobra” to “Stone Cold”.

Why did you decide to set the story in 1985?

The year just came to me because that’s when all those action movies started. You had Seagal in “Above the Law”, Van Damme in “Kickboxer”, and also around that time was “Lethal Weapon”. It just seemed right that if I was going to tell a cheesy action story that it should take place in the 80’s. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be some storylines in other decades. There’s a lot of back-story to the character Lethal that I’m hoping to tell.

What separates "Lethal" from other indie comics?

I think the fact that this is entirely independent and free really sets it apart. Each month I’m putting out 16 pages of story and for free. How many big name publishers do that?

What has been the most and least fun about making your own indie comic?

The least fun would have to be the financial burden. My checkbook has definitely suffered, that’s for sure. Unless you’re a one-man DIY army, making your own comic can get very expensive. I can’t draw so I had to commission Rowel Roque, a very talented artist, to bring my script to panels.

But I will say it’s been very rewarding to work on your own material. At the end of the day, it’s my characters, scenes, and universe that’s being created. There’s no executive standing over my shoulder giving me revision notes because they need to piss all over the project. Now I’m not saying my writing is golden, but there’s a sense of accomplishment when it’s your work. I do take criticism very well. But if it’s my dime and I don’t agree, I have the right to tell you to fuck off. Now if someone were paying me to write, then that’s a different story.

What were the biggest challenges you faced in getting "Lethal" off the ground?

Mentally for many years, I was my own worst enemy. I just kept telling myself that my stories weren’t good enough or to do a comic was too difficult and people wouldn’t read it. Every month, I would talk myself out of starting a comic. Finally, I read the book “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. That was the kick in the ass I needed and I highly suggest any artist suffering from doubt to read it.

After reading the book I knew I had to at least try and get Lethal out there. Now, Lethal is not the best indie comic out there. Nor do I claim to be the next golden child of screenwriting. But at least I stopped reading comics, got off the couch and started writing. So for all those writers out there claiming they can write a better story, do it! Stop your barking and actually bite.

Physically, I can’t draw to save my life. Lethal would be stick figures if I had drawn it. The biggest thing was finding an artist that I felt could bring life to the story. Rowel’s artwork is simply amazing. I love seeing the script go from word to finished panel.

Also, I have no clue about this new fad the kids call the internets. I’ve never made a webpage. Seen lots of them, but never made one. After a quick tour of iweb, I ran out to the nearest Apple store and bought an imac. It’s been one of my best purchases to date.

How long does it take to put an indie comic together?

All together I’d say it takes about a month to produce a 16 page issue. Work schedules get in the way of my writing sometimes, but usually I can finish a script in a week. But that doesn’t mean the writing stops there. The script gets handed off to Rowel and it takes him a week to sketch 8 pages. I’ll send him notes and get the inked pages a week later. Then the process continues for the next set of 8 pages.

Once all the pages are inked, I’ll go in with Photoshop elements and do clean up. That takes a lot of time because I really want to put out the best looking comic possible. After the artwork has been cleaned, I’ll start lettering and that usually takes me about three to four days. A big part of lettering is rewriting. I’m constantly rewriting as I go. If I was on the ball, an issue could be completed within a month. But luckily I’ve spaced out issues so I wouldn’t be up against any deadlines that would conflict with my actual paying gig.

What have you learned so far from navigating the indie comics scene and what advice can you pass on others looking to get into the business?

What I’ve learned is you just have to get out there and do it. The industry is changing at a rapid pace. If you have a story to tell, then stop reading and starting writing. Anyone can say they can tell a better story, but to actually put yourself out there and write something for everyone to judge; that takes a lot of determination.

Also you are constantly rewriting. There are three stages of your script; the draft you give to your artist, the interpretation the artist comes up with and then the final draft during lettering.

What are your future plans for "Lethal"?

To be honest there are no big future plans for Lethal. The “Death Squad Uprising” storyline will wrap up at issue #9. Once that is done, I plan on taking a short hiatus and then hope to start up again with the next storyline. Right now it’s just about delivering a story and getting a fanbase.

If "Lethal" were to be made into a film, who would you see playing the main characters?

I’m a big fan of “Lost” and I would say Josh Holloway would be the perfect fit to play Lethal.

How can our readers get more information on "Lethal: Death Squad Uprising" and support your indie comic?

First off, if you haven’t already gone to the website, do it! It’s free and hopefully you’ll enjoy it. Also I’m on Twitter (@joebygibson). I’m doing something very special for the fans. The first 500 followers will be listed in the graphic novel coming out later this year. How many comic book fans can say their name is in the special dedication page of a graphic novel? So I thought that’d be a nice thank you to the fans.

What upcoming projects are you working on: comics or otherwise?

Well the Death Squad storyline only has four more issues left. After that I’ll probably take a hiatus. I’ve already started outlining the next volume of Lethal and can tell you things are going to get really brutal. The last few pages to the Death Squad Uprising storyline set up the next volume and I had to tell Rowel to pull back on the artwork because it was too brutal. Hopefully people will be surprised at the end of the story and will want to know what happens next. All I can say is that there’s going to be a new villain introduced in the last pages that is just gruesome.

As for me, I’m still doing my day job as a story producer. But I do have plenty of other stories to tell and believe it or not, I may do a more family oriented comic. But then there’s always a side of me that wants to do a horror comic.

Thank you for the interview and for keeping the indie scene alive. "Lethal: Death Squad Uprising" is a blast to read and we here at Dead Harvey very much look forward to your upcoming work!

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