In this new feature we check in with comic book professionals to see how they’re coping with the current pandemic. What they’re reading, what they’re watching and what music they cannot do without in this time of self-isolation and uncertainty. With me firing off questions from over here in the UK and AHOY Comics Editor-in-Chief, Tom Peyer, answering them in the USA, I think we’ve got this social distancing all worked out. So, let’s proceed shall we?
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?
Tom Peyer: In recent years I would walk to my office in a nearby high-rise and stay there for 8 or 10 hours. Now I go out just to walk and come back home to work. Fortunately, I like the apartment and the roommate, and I’m very lucky to have a room to work in with a door I can close. It’s a little hard to concentrate, but I’m finally learning that I don’t have to be up-to-date on every shocking twist of the news, and that’s helping me focus.
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!
TP: I’m against self-improvement in all its forms. I’d rather watch TV. It feels more real.
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?
TP: Hmm… All Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely is about my favorite comic of this century. I love the Complete Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy volumes, but I’m not into the very early ones from the 1930s. Gould’s style gets clearly individual in the 40s, richly depressing in the 50s, and bizarre in the 60s and 70s. All great stuff. Those pre-Code horror anthologies Craig Yoe puts together are really fun; I love the Jay Disbrow volume. Get anything drawn by Nick Derington.
OM: Any newer titles out there you’ve discovered or been recommended and enjoyed reading?
TP: Well, if you know me, you probably won’t be surprised that I’m enjoying Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen.
OM: And, what will be playing on your turntable over the coming weeks? What albums could you not live without?
TP: Hmm. Albums I couldn’t live without. In a Silent Way by Miles Davis is one. I tend to like instrumental music because I can’t write or edit while some fool is shouting lyrics at me.
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?
TP: I hope so because, in what may be my most neurotic reaction to the situation, I’ve subscribed to every streaming service that isn’t nailed down. BritBox? Well, of course I need access to that much Doctor Who. Of course.
Been doing a bit more reading, too. The Spider really nailed that guy who was spreading the Black Plague.
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?
TP: It quickly became a cliché, but comics freelancers are used to these conditions. They’ve got to be the nicest, funniest, and least shocked people in the world right now, and should be running things.
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?
TP: I’ve got to look at the bright side: There’s no longer any risk of running into John Layman.
OM: What hopes do you harbour for the comic book industry once these stormy clouds have passed?
TP: That it lives long and prospers.
OM: Finally, and to leave a smile on our readers’ faces, have you heard any good/bad jokes recently?
TP: I wish I know who said, “America elected a president so full of shit that the country ran out of toilet paper.”
As well as being EiC at AHOY Comics, Tom Peyer also writes The Wrong Earth and the follow-up, Dragonfly and Dragonflyman, High Heaven and is a contributing writer to Edgar Allan Poe’s Snifter of Terror. Ask your comic book store for more.