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Jennifer M. Contino Offline

Registered: 08/01/02
Posts: 22928
Loc: PA

When Robert Tinnell and Mark Wheatley began running EZ Street, the story of struggling comic creators working on a pulp hero, Lone Justice, they were pretty sure they would do a spin-off from the comic, they just weren't "positive" it would feature Lone Justice. Tinnell teased what makes Lone Justice different from other heroes of that time. "For Octavius Brown, the hard times of the Depression have led him to a real identity crisis - who is he really when you strip away the trappings of his daily life? Even more to the point - what does a hero do when he discovers that all of his good work might not have been so good?"

THE PULSE: When you were first working on EZ Street was the plan always to spin Lone Justice off into your next comic project?

ROBERT TINNELL: Yes, we knew pretty early on that we were going to have to come up with something that represented what the characters of Scott and Danny came up with for their comic collaboration. So we developed the hook of the spin-off character being one of their earliest creations - which resonated for me because a couple of my finished films actually date back to my early teens and ideas I had then.

MARK WHEATLEY: When I pitched the EZ STREET idea to Mike Gold at ComicMix I included the idea that there would be a promise of the spin-off comic - but I don't know that we were certain just what the spin-off would be. But when you're making a pitch, it is a good idea to at least SOUND like you know what you're going to end up doing. So I think we pitched that the spin-off would be LONE JUSTICE, all the time thinking that we would come up with something else before we reached the end of our hundreds of pages of EZ STREET. Then, during the writing of EZ STREET Bob and I, along with our characters Scott and Danny, fell in love with each new idea and strongly considered each one as having potential to be the spin-off book. We considered VAMPIRE VIGILANTES, MUTANT TEEN WONDER BRA-GADE, DAVID'S NIGHT and DIRK THE DEADLY. Well, maybe not DIRK THE DEADLY - but all the others - except maybe MUTANT TEEN WONDER BRA-GADE. And I agree with Bob. A lot of my creative work grows from a place inside of me that came to be when I was a child. There was a super rush of involvement and excitement in stories back then that I always revisit when I'm creating something new.

THE PULSE: If EZ Street hadn't been as well-received as it was by audiences, do you think you would have done the Lone Justice: CRASH! series?

WHEATLEY: I think if EZ STREET had tanked with the audience, doing a second EZ STREET might have been hard to pull off. But by going to a Pulp Hero spin-off, I think we were pretty bullet proof either way. Of course, as it worked out, EZ STREET was the darling of fans and critics and got the Harvey Award Nomination for Best Online Comic.

TINNELL: Yeah, I agree. Mike and everyone at ComicMix have been incredibly involved in supporting what we've been doing - if we'd gone off the reservation they'd have known and made corrections way before any of stuff appeared on the site.

WHEATLEY: That's true. Mike and Brian and even Craig Wood were all giving us so much feedback, it was an unusual experience. Because they were not responding as editors or publishers, but as readers who were excited to read each new installment.

THE PULSE: How is working on Lone Justice, different from what you were doing with EZ Street?

WHEATLEY: I essentially had to move into the world of 1930. I've immersed myself in everything from that year - cars, fashion, world events and slang. And I've been living in 1930 for a year now - with a few more months to go before I finish. In fact I was so immersed in 1930 that it took me a little while back in the fall, to notice that 2008 was suddenly going through another Great Depression. Also - with EZ STREET I felt responsible to present a raw reality. So I kept the art clean and basic. For LONE JUSTICE I have the opportunity to crank up the drama and action to the extreme, and that's a lot of fun. I get to channel all my love for the great pulp illustrators like J. Allen St. John, Joseph Clement Coll, Edd Cartier, Rudolph Belarski, Tom Lovell, Kelly Freas, Earle K. Bergey, Hubert Rogers, Herbert Morton Stoops, Walter Baumhofer, N. C. Wyeth, Norman Saunders, George Rozen, Raphael de Soto and so many others.

TINNELL: I have to be careful how I say this because I don't want it to come off as pretentious - but EZ Street was written in a very novelistic fashion - not that that was a guarantee it would be good, mind you. But we were not slaves to plot points - we took our time and explored character things and little side stories that interested us - without concerning ourselves with a specific page count or strict arc - unlike, say DEMONS OF SHERWOOD, where Bo and I had a very specific framework within which to work. LJ: C - for all its character development - is still very tightly-plotted. Although one never knows when Mark might blow up a scene I thought was three pages into six. He's naughty like that...

WHEATLEY: Aw, c'mon Bob. Of course you know when I'm going to turn a three page sequence into a six pages sequence - I do it every single time!

THE PULSE: Is Lone Justice your ideal superhero? Why?

WHEATLEY: LJ is not a superhero, he's a Pulp Hero. This all starts in the pulps. And I do really enjoy a good Pulp Hero. I collect pulps and out of all the great heroes like THE SHADOW, DOC SAVAGE, THE AVENGER, and JIM GRIM my favorite is THE SPIDER. Several years ago I did a graphic novel of THE SPIDER and had a ball doing it. But I didn't just want to repeat myself by doing it again with LONE JUSTICE. Instead Bob and I set out to create a hero of the 1930s. Someone who didn't rise above the troubles of the little man. Someone who was a hero, but a hero who was touched by the Great Depression. In that way we can visit the world of 1930 and get a feel for what it was like to live in those times, and have a hero who is standing up for us. Of course unintentionally, LONE JUSTICE: CRASH! has turned into a perfect reflection of our own times.

TINNELL: My favorite super-heroes often do not have super-powers - Batman being the obvious example. So I think that while LJ is a pulp hero he is, in a sense, a super-hero, too. He is ideal for me, personally, because he is embroiled in something that fascinates me - the notion of the hero's true identity. Again, you can turn to Batman - Bruce Wayne is the mask, right? For Octavius Brown, the hard times of the Depression have led him to a real identity crisis - who is he really when you strip away the trappings of his daily life? Even more to the point - what does a hero do when he discovers that all of his good work might not have been so good? As I think about it, it occurs to me that the reason LJ is an ideal hero to me is because he is so very flawed...

WHEATLEY: I don't mean to confuse the issue here. When I call LONE JUSTICE a Pulp Hero - that doesn't mean he isn't a "super hero". In my mind, and in actual fact, the Pulp Heroes came first. They are the wellspring of all super heroes. Before there was a BATMAN there was ZORRO and THE SHADOW and the PHANTOM DETECTIVE and even THE BAT. Before there was SUPERMAN there was DOC SAVAGE and GLADIATOR. And the Pulp Heroes are the archetypes. So I approaching LONE JUSTICE as an archetype super hero, a Pulp Hero.

THE PULSE: Just who is Lone Justice? What sets him apart from a Shadow, Batman or any other costumed adventurer type?

WHEATLEY: Well, for one thing, he's running out of gas and bullets! Still, LONE JUSTICE has much in common with the typical Pulp Hero. But that's just where we start. We shovel on big piles of reality and suddenly the typical Pulp Hero becomes far more complex and interesting. He's not just fighting the super villain - LJ is dealing with the reality that his next meal is not a guaranteed thing.

There is a very romantic view of the 1930s that has survived into modern culture. And Pulp Heroes fall into that view time and again. I think the modern audience tends to see that as a second rate Indiana Jones. But I don't think anyone will mistake LONE JUSTICE for a second rate anything.

TINNELL: Look, here's a guy who has battle all sorts of larger-than-life villains forced to come face to face with something far more insidious: institutionalized disregard for our fellow man. How do you fight that? How do you declare a "war" on a concept? Maybe these things are just semantics but they are worthy of thought. Perhaps the best way that LJ can fight against his latest adversaries - social inequality, abuse of power - is to lead by example.

THE PULSE: What inspired you to create a character like this?

WHEATLEY: I had just spent nearly two years drawing average people doing average things for our epic melodrama, EZ STREET. I wanted to draw something other than average people doing average things. And I was enjoying reading a lot of my old pulps. I was reading THE SPIDER, and PLANET STORIES, BLUE BOOK, ADVENTURE, ASTOUNDING and ARGOSY. I was yearning to tell a story about a two-fisted adventurer. When I told Bob about that he said we would have to do something different with it. I told Bob that a good hero is defined by the villain he fights, that it was almost more important to create a great villain than a great hero. And he said, "Hell, we should just have him fight the Great Depression".

It was a joke. But it was a great idea.

TINNELL: I had another inspiration. Around that time I was working with a well-known producer developing a screenplay that resulted in my spending time volunteering at a homeless shelter and it was a real eye-opener. I spent way too much of my life sort of ignoring the plight of the less-fortunate - I was into environmental issues. But eventually my eyes were opened - and I realized that sometimes there are problems people can't simply overcome by hard-work and good, old American ingenuity. Life is more complicated than that. But like Mark, I had no clue this big party was about to come crashing down on us. Funny enough, I draw strength from LJ: C because I see how the character's life has become richer even though he has virtually nothing. All this
materialism and consumerism - it leads to a shallow existence. Call me the eternal optimist but I see real good coming out of all this financial pain.

THE PULSE: What type of story do you think you're telling that just hasn't really been told as well in comic books? I mean, if you're going to contribute something new, you want it to feel unique, right?

WHEATLEY: I think, after comics like my MARS, BREATHTAKER, FRANKENSTEIN MOBSTER, RADICAL DREAMER and well, everything - my fans know by now that I don't deliver the usual stories or art in my comics. What they might not know is, that is not a result of my trying to do something different. I do not set out to shock with the new and different. What I do, time after time, is tell stories that mean something to me personally, that touch me with emotional truth as powerful as I am able to deliver. One of the reasons I enjoy working with Bob so much is his
incredible ability to nail emotional moments in our stories. He has such a wonderful sense of real motivation - both the big beats of strife and conflict and those little, quiet events of love and loss that sometimes affect us more powerfully than the big stuff. And I think that LONE JUSTICE: CRASH! is the best example of that, that I can imagine.

TINNELL: I don't know how to answer that with any degree of certitude. All I can say is that the voice may not be unique - but it's honest. And those are the kinds of stories I personally look for...

THE PULSE: What have been some of the biggest challenges with working on a story in the format that Comic Mix has set up? How is this different than creating comics strictly for print?

WHEATLEY: Back at the beginning, ComicMix set out to create a screen reader that emulates the print experience. It is designed to be the size of a comic book page. And the pages are set up to read just like in a comic book. I think Brian Alvey and his tech crew did an amazing job creating this reader - and they keep adding new bells and refinements on a regular basis. Because of that, there is very little difference between how I create my comics for online or print. In fact, next year, LONE JUSTICE: CRASH! will be released in a print edition through the ComicMix imprint at IDW. And to pull that off, all I'll have to do is correct a couple misspelled words and upload a PDF file to
the printer. Actually - I've already corrected the words.

THE PULSE: With Lone Justice, there's kind of a pulp feel to the series, but also something "timeless" about it as well. How did you decide on the tone for this adventure?

WHEATLEY: When Bob and I were working out the beats of the story we were specifically aiming to capture the look and feel of an authentic pulp story from 1930. The script was completed shortly after the September market crash last year. So, by the time I started drawing the pages the world was suddenly mirroring events from 80 years ago. Because of that I think it has affected the way I'm telling the story visually. Also I'm doing a slight rewrite on the dialog and captions on layout - not to try to give it a contemporary feel - but just to make it flow in as seamless a combination of words and pictures as possible.

But I think our society has seen a change in our common vocabulary - both in words and pictures - our point of view has changed and I think it more closely matches what was going on in 1930. I'm responding to that, but I also think readers are responding in the same way to the 1930 we are presenting in LONE JUSTICE: CRASH! So it works both ways. Does that make sense?

TINNELL: My knowledge of the pulps was cursory at best. I dug the Shadow and read some Doc Savage when I was younger. But Mark really took me through the paces of stuff like the Spider and gradually I absorbed the approach. But I was trying to channel stuff like Steinbeck also. And my family talked often of the Depression throughout my childhood and beyond, and I had a real sense of that time - at least, as viewed through my family's eyes. I mean, hell, Eleanor Roosevelt stayed at my great-grandmother's house - or so they say. Compounding all of this was my wife Shannon's work in graduate school on her masters in public history. She was deeply involved researching immigrant communities of coal miners and the terrible conditions they endured during the Depression - around north-central West Virginia specifically. There was a whole of lot of nastiness that went on around here - just check out John Sayles' film MATEWAN if you want to get a sense of it. Speaking of Matewan - my grandfather was there just before the violent conflict between the miners and the mine operators just after WWI. These were the kinds of stories I was raised on. I realize this probably makes me sound like some sort of "fellow-traveler" and nothing
could be further from the truth. But no sane person can look at that period in American history and not see some gross abuses of power and privilege at the expense of the poor ...

THE PULSE: What plans, if any, do you have to put Lone Justice in print?

WHEATLEY: While we don't have a locked down release date yet, the ComicMix imprint from IDW will launch this fall. Pretty much everything that appears on the ComicMix site will be released as comic books and graphic novels, along with a few surprises (unless you are really good at guessing). LONE JUSTICE: CRASH! will be out in hard copy some time in 2010.

THE PULSE: Mark, how did you develop the look for this series? What drove you the most as you decided how Lone Justice's world should feel on the printed page?

WHEATLEY: The lurid world of 1930s pulp magazines is my jumping off point. And I've backed that up with every photograph and newsreel, documentaries, movies and books that were released in either the late 1920s or early 1930s. Because Bob and I have known for about two years that LONE JUSTICE: CRASH! would be our next project after EZ STREET I had an unusually long lead time to amass my trove of reference material. And I'm not just looking at how people dressed or the way cars looked. I try to pick up on the body language of the period. People in the early days of motion pictures, before TV, were more innocent about presenting themselves to others. Before we got the feedback of how we look when we move, we were more open in our gestures and expressions. And I hope I'm getting some of that across in my work on LONE JUSTICE: CRASH!

THE PULSE: What advantages does being a part of Comic Mix offer you that self-publishing the strip on your own website wouldn't? Do you still retain rights and own every inch of this series?

WHEATLEY: The top advantage is working with Mike Gold, Glenn Hauman and Brian Alvey. Better people, more creative than these guys are hard to find. Also, they pay a nice advance against royalties. And yes, we not only retain ownership, we also retain control over our properties.

TINNELL: I have to throw in a "me too" here. These guys are not only my colleagues - they've become real friends.

THE PULSE: What have you found the most rewarding about collaborating on a series like this?

WHEATLEY: Working with Bob - getting to dream things up together and feeding off each other's excitement and creativity. Getting instant feedback from our fans at ComicMix - and our fans at ComicMix are the best! Being able to offer totally free graphic novels to anyone who wants to read them!

TINNELL: He keeps stealing my answers.

WHEATLEY: What? You like working with Bob, too? By the way - those free graphic novels can be found at these links:



THE PULSE: What's coming up in Lone Justice?

WHEATLEY: Depending on when this interview hits THE PULSE, about 150 more pages of pulp action and adventure by way of John Steinbeck!

THE PULSE: What other projects are you both working on?

WHEATLEY: Bob and I are in the early stages of working out our next collaboration. All that I can tell you is that it won't be anything like what we have already done. But I'm working on my next ComicMix project which will be a new FRANKENSTEIN MOBSTER graphic novel. I'm collaborating with MJ Butler on the script and we should be finishing that in June. If you want a taste of what it might be like, MJ and I worked together on a short FRANKENSTEIN MOBSTER story that is free at ComicMix:

Also, Mike Oeming and I are preparing a new edition of HAMMER OF THE GODS.

TINNELL: On the comic front, Neil Vokes and I are working on a mini-series that returns us to our monster-rally roots ala THE BLACK FOREST, although in a different setting - think the look and feel of sixties British horror films. Bo Hampton and I are working up a werewolf project. The Fraim Brothers and I are doing an Arthurian comic aimed at kids that is destined to run on Comic Mix - hopefully sooner rather than later. On the film front I just finished a rewrite with Todd Livingston on the screenplay version of our graphic novel, THE LIVING AND THE DEAD, for producers Cary Brokaw and Stephen L'Heureux. And we are beginning casting on the Feast of the Seven Fishes movie which was postponed last year thanks to this brave new world of financial meltdowns we've entered.

WHEATLEY: Oh - and for anyone interested in seeing moving pictures - we have four videos that feature LONE JUSTICE. First is a short "trailer" for the graphic novel, featuring exclusive art and the LONE JUSTICE theme music:

Then there is the video pow-wow between The Tinnell and The WHEATLEY:

And next is a step-by-step instructional video on how I draw LONE JUSTICE:

And another step-by-step instructional video on how I paint LONE JUSTICE:

#543986 - 05/11/09 08:29 AM Re: TINNELL & WHEATLEY'S PULP FUN W/LONE JUSTICE CRASH [Re: Jennifer M. Contino]
Juss Offline

Registered: 08/24/04
Posts: 259
Boyoboy, if only Republic Studios could be brought back to make another 15-chapter movie serial, what a great subject Lone Justice would be!

#543987 - 05/11/09 08:34 AM Re: TINNELL & WHEATLEY'S PULP FUN W/LONE JUSTICE CRASH [Re: Juss]
Jennifer M. Contino Offline

Registered: 08/01/02
Posts: 22928
Loc: PA
It would be fun to have chapter serials again. Some rich guy should start them up again. Wonder what Ted Turner's up to ...


#544038 - 05/11/09 02:02 PM Re: TINNELL & WHEATLEY'S PULP FUN W/LONE JUSTICE CRASH [Re: Jennifer M. Contino]
Juss Offline

Registered: 08/24/04
Posts: 259
There ought to be a new dawn of cheapie adventure shorts, using B-list actors bullpens of staff writers, and green-screen sfx and backgrounds to bring down costs. Millions could be made selling each new short, cheap, to millions of cell-phone subscribers. I'll bet lots of people would pay $5, $10 or more, once every week or two for the latest installment of a high-adventure serial.

I don't think it so terribly far-fetched to bring serials back to cinemas, either. I'd be willing to watch a minute or two of commercials (we're made to now, anyway) to see the latest serial chapter, in addition to a full-length movie.


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