The Lost Comic Reader Interview!
This interview was first posted on the once great, but now defunct, THE COMIC READER website! We were able to re-post the text of the interview with the efforts of the very kind Tim O'Shea. Unfortunately, we were unable to add the art that was originally included.
The interview was conducted during the Summer of 2001 and includes a conversation with P.I.C TOONS' creators Al Nickerson and Michael Kornstein.
Interview by Tim O'Shea
Superheroes and Superfans Meant to Make You Laugh:
Being Entertained by the Folks Behind The ARGGH!!! Chronicles
Periodically, I'll post on message boards (particularly the Sequential Tart board and the ORCA board, check them both out if you have not before) to see if there are any creators interested in being interviewed. This week we will feature at least two interviews that came about that way. The first is with two extremely funny and inventive fellows, Al Nickerson and Michael Kornstein, two of the collaborators on an online comic book enterprise, The ARGGH!!! Chronicles. This week, they're launching a rather ambitious project, which they describe as follows:
"Part One of Crossover Classics brings together Lethargic Lad, Buzzboy, Nihilist-Man, Hunter, and Him. The worldís greatest heroes band together to save the Universe!" My thanks to Al and Michael for their time and thoughts. Now for some legal copyright stuff: The ARGGH!!! Chronicles and Nihilist-Man TM and © 2001 Albert Nickerson. Hunter TM and © 2001 Michael Kornstein. Lethargic Lad TM and © 2001 Greg Hyland. Him TM and © 2001 Steve Remen. Buzzboy TM and © 2001 John Gallagher, Mindset Entertainment. P.I.C TOONS is a Trademark of P.I.C.
óTim O'Shea, TCR Online Senior News Editor
Tim: In an interview with Darren Schroeder last April for the Small Press section of Silverbulletcomicbooks.com, you described the School Of Visual Arts as "a wonderful experience to learn about creating comics from the likes of Will Eisner, Gene Colan, Harvey Kurtzman and Sal Amendola" Which of these artists (or the others that taught you at the school) did you learn the most from while there?
Michael: I actually learned the most from Joe Orlando as far as storytelling goes. Will was great to just sit and watch. And Gene didnít really teach as much as he liked to just see other artists work. I didnít have Sal Amendola. And Harvey Kurtzman was very old by the time I had him as a teacher.
Al: Iím a huge fan of Will Eisnerís SPIRIT comics. Will was a great teacher, and heís also a master storyteller. I learned quite a bit about laying out a comic book page and storytelling from Will. Sal Amendola had an incredible genus in explaining the comic book essentials of coloring, perspective, and inking.
It amazed me how Sal and Will have these wonderful attitudes that inform us that comics arenít just for kids; that comics are truly an artform that can only enhance our lives.
Tim: In the same interview, you say that ARGHH is partially an effort to "point out what's wrong with the comic book industry" What is wrong with the industry from your perspective, and is any company doing things right (other than you and other stable self-publishers)?
Al: I'm hopeful in thinking that Marvel Entertainment and DC Comics have finally realized that spider clone story-lines, funeral for friends, and screwing with distribution are all poor ideas to increase comic book sales.
At the very least, Marvel and DC should stop flooding the market with so much garbage. How many X-MEN books do we need anyway!?! Here's what Marvel and DC should do to help the glut which is the comic book market: Get rid of all the crappy books! Clean house! Put out better comics while making room for the creator-owned small press.
Also, let's fix the distribution system (sorry Diamond). Like in the old days, comics should be available outside the comic book stores. Let's see comics available everywhere, including supermarkets, pharmacies, magazine stands, bookstores, and anywhere else comics might get attention from non-comic book readers.
Michael: Well, I wouldnít say that anything is wrong with the comic book industry. But, there are always things that can be improved upon. The business is very fickle, and it basically comes down to becoming friends with an editor to get work. Some editors are very receptive and some are very abusive of their "power". Itís a constant battle.
Tim: Would you ever want to work with someone like Mike "Herobear and the Kid" Kunkel, another creator who left the animation industry recently?
Michael: Absolutely!. Their work is wonderful. What I find interesting is that most artists being cartoonistís animators etc. all have a common love. First, we all get paid to draw, which in it self is wonderful. We are always looking to do something different, be it animation or storyboards or movies. My one true dream would be to do a Batman story of any kind (like that isnít most comic artistsí dreams). Iím confident that it will happen some day.
Al: Herobear and the Kid is probably one of the most enjoyable comics produced today. Iíd love to work with Mr. Kunkel, John Byrne, Joe Staton, Keith Giffen, Jon Plante, or any other creator that I admire. We have, and are currently, working with such talented people as Greg Hyland, Steve Remen, and John Gallagher on a crossover project. Working with other creators is a blast!
Tim: Other than your own work, what creators out there do you think deserve more attention?
Michael: I donít know, I would like to see all my friends get the attention they deserve. They are all very talented people.
Al: I really enjoy Strangers in Paradise, Cerebus, Hellboy, Liberty Meadows, and Herobear and the Kid. More people should be reading these books.
Also, thereís some great Online Comics which should get some more attention like Lemon Custard Comics, Greg Hylandís Lethargic Lad, Steve Remenís Him, Tatsuya Ishidaís Sinfest, Don Simpsonís Megaton Man, Mitch Waxman's The Starry Ones, Jon Plante's Two Headed Tales, and John Gallagher's Buzzboy.
Tim: Al, you're inking Issue 7 of the new DC Animated JLA book, of this line-up, what was your favorite character to ink? Has this gig lead to work with other DC books? How does it feel to be working on the same line of books that one of your inspirations (Terry Austin [who recently has inked SUPERMAN ADVENTURES]) has worked on?
Al: Inking Chris Jones' work on JUSTICE LEAGUE ADVENTURES was great fun. Inking Wonder Woman was a bit more challenging than the other characters, but also the most enjoyable.
Iím waiting for more JLA stuff. We did seven issues at one shot, so, I have to wait a bit longer for more pages.
Iíd like to ink more DC books. Iíve been bugging the hell out of a few of the editors over at the DC offices (hey Joan!).
Tim: What can you tell me about the new ARGHH! strips, a recent interview I read with you, you said they were "kinda hush-hush right now, but I can tell you that weíll be working with a few other comic book creators on the new stuff" (http://albert.nickerson.tripod.com/picnewsjla.html)?
Al: Weíre working on a online comics crossover with Greg Hyland, Steve Remen, and John Gallagher. Itís called Crossover Classics featuring Lethargic Lad, Him, Nihilist-Man, Hunter, and Buzzboy (http://albert.nickerson.tripod.com/crossoverpg01.html)
Part One will be posted every Sunday throughout the month of November at The ARGGH!!! Chronicles (www.arggh.com). Part Two will be posted in December at the LETHARGiC LAD website. And Part Three will conclude back at ARGGH!!! in January.
Tim: A lot of self-publishers or independent creators are starting to work for the major companies (i.e. Terry Moore signing on to do BIRDS OF PREY). What "mainstream" character would you like to take on inking, if given the chance?
Al: Iíd really like to ink the animated Batman book. I love the animated style. And the Batman Gotham Adventures comic looks so good now-a-days. However, until Terry Beatty gets hit by a bus, I donít think Iím going to get a crack at that book any time soon.
Tim: Is it harder to produce comedy art in a post-9/11 world (particularly given your proximity to the tragedy [in New Jersey])?
Al: Good question. I donít think itís any harder. I think itís even more important now to take a breather and enjoy something humorous. The 9/11 has brought the whole nation closer. And Iím very happy to see Marvel, DC Comics, and other artists getting together and producing their benefit books to help those in need.
Michael: GodÖ given the topic, everyone needs a little comedy. I guess it all depends on the topic.
Tim: Of the ARGHH!!! cast of characters, which is your favorite?
Al: Nihilist-Man is my favorite ARGGH!!! characterÖ, since I did create the guy. I have to say that ARGGH!!! has been such a great vehicle for all these artists and their creations to get together.
Michael: I dig all of our characters.
Tim: Oh and one more question, given that stories are done with apologies/homage to Walt Simonson and John Byrne (in the ARGGH!!! CHRONICLES 2000 EDITION comic book), did anyone at P.I.C send the stories to either creator and hear any kind of reaction to the work?
Al: John Gallagher (of BUZZBOY fame) sat next to Walt Simonson at a convention signing. John gave a copy of THE ARGGH!!! CHRONICLES 2000 EDITION comic book to Walt. Afterward, John told me that Walt laughed at the ARGGH!!! parody of his cover to THOR # 338. Great guy that Walt Simonson!
We never sent any comics to John Byrne. But, I did ask John if we could use Rog 2000 for CROSSOVER CLASSICS. He very graciously declined the offer.