Publisher Eric Powell, artist Logan Faerber, and writer Fabian Rangel Jr. took part in the Albatross Funnybooks panel, a panel featuring the indie publisher and its books at C2E2 on Saturday.
Talking about Namwolf, a current series by Rangel and Faerber, Faerber said that their brainstorming resulted in an ashcan in black and white that they showed Powell, who decided he would publish it. Then they were able to move forward with a color version.
Talking about Spook House, Powell described is as an “all-ages horror anthology” for kids and adults. It’s a little like Goosebumps, but “edgier”. Issue #4 comes out next week. Issue #5 will wrap up the series, and be released in may.
The panel took on a comedy tone with slides of badly drawn super hero pitches being shown to the audience in between other slides, and Albatross slides being shown upside down and arranged badly. There was possibly a little subtext in there about a lack of original ideas in comics, and many of the books out there at the moment having the same combinations of characters and concept. Unlike the highly original books published by Albatross.
Talking about Hillbilly #6, which comes out next week, Powell said that it’s “competently drawn”, to laughter. He’s happy with this issue, he said, since it goes into a story about how Rondell and Lucile, the Sabertooth Bear, became companions. He’s not happy that Lucile is also the name of Negan’s bat in The Walking Dead.
Talking about a new upcoming project, Powell discussed Galaktikon recently announced, based on a music album by Brendon Small. They showed a trailer for the comic. It’s going to be a six part series. The “intergalactic rock comic” is going to be “badass” the trailer assured us.
Asked what his favorite werewolf is in his favorite werewolf movie, Eric Powell said American Werewolf in London is a favorite. Faerber said the one in Thriller. Rangel said a more recent werewolf movie called Late Faces is a favorite though the transformation scene in American Werewolf in London is better.
Asked about the role of music in his work, Powell said he doesn’t put music in his comics a lot, but sometimes in The Goon, he’ll have music playing in the bar, and it’ll be a specific song with re-written lyrics.
Asked about research and influence on Namwolf, Rangel said he has a friend in Vietnam who helped with some aspects, and otherwise watching movies and reading other comics have been an influence. The concept started as a joke of sorts, but then the idea “existed” and they had to do it, Rangel said. Faerber said that “creature lore” is more creative and open-ended, with plenty of “making shit up”. Rangel had been “shopping it around awhile” on Namwolf, and one publisher said it wasn’t “historically accurate enough”. Powell, in turn said, “It’s called Namwolf!” and didn’t have the same expectations.
Asked when a Goon movie is coming, Powell said they are “getting much closer to getting a thing made” but it’s in the hands of “contract people” and they are close to getting a “deal finalized”.
Asked about the inspiration behind Hillbilly, Powell said that as he was working on The Goon, ideas accumulated in notebooks and sketchbooks. One thing his mind kept coming back to was a “mountain guy with a rifle on his back and a giant bear behind him”, and the idea was “doing Conan, but set in the South”. When he wrapped up the run of The Goon up, it was the first thing he wanted to jump on.
Talking about their collaboration, Rangel and Faerber have a connection through the arts collective Out of Step Arts and got to know each other through conventions.
Asked why he decided to start publishing, Powell said that he was self-publishing The Goon early on, and when Dark Horse made the offer to pick it up, he “jumped” at it. But recently, he did a book at Image and saw how that worked. Personal reasons, wanting to do something of his own, pushed him to this “big test”. Financial reasons are part of it, he said.
The biggest challenge is to make people “aware of the product” as a small publisher, Powell said. He does admit that he “bit off way more than he could chew” this year. He has a readership who is “following” him into this, so that has helped, but he’s not sure he’d recommend going into this business “cold”. If you had “name recognition”, and you don’t want to split money with a publisher, he doesn’t know why you wouldn’t want to self publish, Powell said. Finding your comfort level with publishers is important, he advised.
When I asked Powell if there’s a governing principle or aesthetic at work in the books he wants to publish at Albatross, he said he’s looking for quality material that he enjoys himself, Powell said. Namwolf was just “a lot of fun” and something he’d buy, he said. They are keeping Albatross small because of the “glut of material out there”. His goal is not to have a giant market share and compete with publishers, but do what he likes and publish “good stuff”. Also caring about the industry and retailers in how they do things. Trying not to overwhelm retailers with the number of offerings. Faeber also commented on how publishers are changing their brands and making it hard to pick and choose titles. Rangel said he’s thankfully to be part of Albatross.
Asked about Chimichanga, Powell said it was an animated pitch that didn’t get picked up, but his sons kept talking about it, so he did the comic “for them” so they could have it. As a kid, he loved “anything scary”. He thinks that publishers aren’t really making an effort to get kids into comics, even if they think or say they are. He values making sure you don’t “speak down” to kids rather than trying to construct something you think kids will like but the idea is off-base.
The two things that publishers say that you can’t do in comics–kids books and anthologies–and he did it with Spook House and it outsold his books at other publishers.
Asked about why the South is featuring in so many comics right now as good storytelling fodder (like Southern Bastards, Red Neck, and more), by Shane Berryhill, Powell said he’s from middle Tennessee, so that’s been part of the Goon. But Southern Bastards seemed to start a “wave”. For “all the good and the bad”, Powell said, the South has it’s own “culture and atmosphere, and so much of it is creepy”. Growing up in the South is creepy, he reiterated, with old barns, woods, and the like.
Faerber said that growing up in New England, the South seemed very alien, like an “alternate universe” and if you’re not from there, it’s a “different type of world”. This brings excitement to storytelling.
I asked about what tools the artists use to create art, Faerber said that he now uses a Cintiq, which doesn’t leave him with a final paper product, but he’s becoming ok with that since he lives in a small environment, but then does commissions or items outside of that for sale. He does design work, too, which enables him to transition between platforms for work.
Powell felt a little guilty getting into digital, too, since it felt like “cheating”. But he does a “mix of the two”, but he can’t do some of the washes and dry-brush digitally as much. He does stuff on the board, then scans, as if the page is an underpainting, and then a finished painting is produced digitally. Most are a combination of those two methods.
I asked more about why they feel “guilty” about it, Powell said it took him years to “proficiently ink with a brush” then he opened Manga Studio and made one stroke and thought “son of a bitch”. It disappointed him to lose that craftsmanship. It’s not about the tool you’re using at the end of the day, he said. It still takes talent and artistic vision to put those lines in the right places.
Faerber said that his sense of guilt is not about any particular genre, but about growing up with traditional materials, as a discipline, like watercolor. Digitally, it’s so easy. Using these traditional media, like silk screening, with both digital and makes a physical project, that’s satisfying.
Powell said he’s also getting “older and slowing down” so he doesn’t feel so bad about moving to digital. It gives him a chance to reach his ideas that are waiting in his own lifetime. It speeds up that process, so that’s what he’s looking for. He wants to make something good, but also “get it out there”. It doesn’t have to all be “artisanal” like a hipster, he laughed.
Talking about writer/artist collaboration, Rangel described some of his scripting process. Faerber said that doing layouts and going back and forth is really helpful before final composition. There’s a lot of research into how the storytelling will work, like where speech bubbles will go, well before “committing to the pen”.
Powell commented on how great a storyteller Mike Mignola is, with no “over-writing” and a great deal of “economy” in his storytelling. That teaches him to be a better writer, and make sure he’s not “overindulgent” in the language.
Asked if Albatross books would ever cross over with characters from other publishers, Powell said that would only really be possible if it was a cross over with other creator-owned books. For a “dream” cross over with Hillbilly, Eric Powell said DC’s The Demon appealed. But Hillbilly is such an odd property that crossovers would be difficult, Powell said.
Asked about what comics they first remembered reading, Powell talked about the big influence of Bernie Wrightson on him though he couldn’t say which book exactly that was.
You can find these folks at L1 and L2 at C2E2 this weekend.