We wind down our series of informal chats with comic book creators ahead of the Easter weekend with Paul Constant, writer/co-creator of AHOY Comics retro-fantastic sci-fi comedy romp Planet of the Nerds, as well as contributing writer on Edgar Allan Poe’s Snifter of Terror and The Wrong Earth. And, away we go…
Olly MacNamee: Now, for many creators a life of isolation is nothing new, but these are, I think we can all agree, unprecedented times. As such, have you noticed any changes yet to your regular daily routines, for better or for worse?
Paul Constant: Writing fiction for me is kind of like a trance state; I have to forget what’s going on in my life and give myself over to the characters. And though I deeply love the new project I’m working on for AHOY Comics, it is incredibly hard right now to put Twitter down long enough to write fiction.
OM: Like so many others, have you pledged to take up any new hobbies or interests during this downtime? I imagine after one week that resolution—like New Year’s Eve resolutions—may have ebbed for some? So, do you ebb or flow? And that’s not euphemism!
PC: I have a good walking routine going. I walk three or four miles in the morning, a couple miles after lunch, and then another three or four miles before dinner. This helps me partition the day into manageable chunks, it gives me time and space to think, and it keeps my writing routine going.
OM:This could very well go on for a few months, listening to the experts rather than the politicians. We’re all going to soon be clambering the walls, if we’re not distracted. What comic book gems will you have the time to go back, dig out and re-read and suggest to our readers to go order from their local comic book store to help support their business?
PC: I just re-read Roger Stern’s amazing multi-year run on The Avengers, which I originally read on a monthly basis as a kid. Stern was writing complex, multi-issue story arcs decades before “writing for the trade” became a thing, culminating in the Under Siege arc, which saw the Masters of Evil taking over the Avengers Mansion. He balanced big action sequences and fun explorations of the weirder corners of the Marvel Universe with impressive character development—the way he grew Monica Rambeau, the Captain Marvel of the 1980s, from a neophyte superhero into the leader of the Avengers is pretty much a master-class in serialized character development. And John Buscema and Tom Palmer were an underrated art team—they could handle both strong characterization (like an antsy Hercules getting blotto at a dive bar) and wild action (from dinosaurs to Greek Gods to space pirates!).
OM: Any newer titles out there you’ve discovered or been recommended and enjoyed reading?
PC: Having just read the first issue, I can tell you that John Allison and Max Sarin’s Wicked Things is going to be my newest addiction. It’s true that I’m a slobbering Allison fan—I adored Giant Days, I fell hard for Steeple—but I bet anyone who loved Knives Out will enjoy this one.
OM: And, what will be playing on your turntable over the coming weeks? What albums could you not live without?
PC: There’s a Seattle band called Tacocat that made this amazing album last year called This Mess Is a Place, which is kind of a party-rock album for the Trump era — a fun record with a deep undercurrent of awareness that all is not right in the world. It feels even more relevant now when I’m out walking on beautiful spring days in the middle of a global pandemic and everything is feeling like the first ten minutes of a zombie movie.
OM: Any box sets you’ll be going back to rewatching? Or any new films and TV you may now have the time to invest in?
PC: I happened to pick up a copy of Jackie Chan’s movies Police Story and Police Story 2 at the Seattle Public Library right before the libraries here shut down. I’ve been hearing amazing things about these movies forever, so I’m excited to give them all my attention.
OM: I must admit, getting back to comics, it’s been really pleasing to read, see and hear the comic book communities coming together at a time like this. What have been some of the positive stories coming out of the comic book industry that have caught your eye over the past week or so?
PC: My teeny-tiny heart grows by two sizes when I watch up-and-coming publishers like Valiant, Vault, and TKO Studios interacting with their fans on social media. They’re giving out free books, kicking back sales to local comic shops, and trying to make the most of a bad time.
OM:It would have been the start of another busy comic con season on both sides of the pond, but alas no more. Will you miss these chances to socialise and meet up with fellow colleagues and friends?
PC: Emerald City Comicon’s cancellation this year was a real heartbreaker—I was scheduled to be on an AHOY Comics panel introducing my next book, and I was going to host a panel discussion with Garth Stein and Matthew Southworth about their much-anticipated comic from Fantagraphics, Cloven. I was also looking forward to meeting up with my AHOY mateys Stuart Moore and Richard Pace again, because raptly watching great comics veterans hold court in a bar after a con is the purest geek joy I have ever known.
OM: What hopes do you harbour for the comic book industry once these stormy clouds have passed?
PC: It would be a shame if everybody just tried to go back to the way it was before. This crisis revealed some deep flaws in the way we distribute, market, and sell comics, and I hope that smart people are right now plotting new ways for the industry to move forward while welcoming more people into our beloved comics shops. Thanks to YA creators like Raina Telgemeier, more people than ever are falling in love with comics, and we are primed for a golden age.
OM: Finally, and to leave a smile on our readers’ faces, have you heard any good/bad jokes recently?
PC: A guy walked into a library, staggered up to the counter, and said “I’ll have a gin and tonic.”
The librarian, startled, replied, “Sir, this is a library.”
“Oh, sorry—my mistake,” the guy said. Then he whispered, “I’ll have a gin and tonic.”
OM: Many thanks, and all the best. A phrase with even more weight to it than usual.
PC: Thank you for doing what you do! I’m sure it’s not easy right now, but I love reading your check-ins and seeing how the industry is dealing with this profoundly weird moment in history.