The prolific Marvel Comics letterer Gets His Mustache On, and tells us about his new comic book, The Further Travels of Wyatt Earp!
The last time we spoke to Joe Caramagna, he was knee-deep in not only lettering many Marvel Comics, but also writing a series of Young Reader Novels starring Spider-Man, the first of which was picked up by Scholastic and is sold at their book fairs nationwide. Caramagna (pronounced "like lasagna") is still lettering comics and still writing the Spider-Man Young Reader Novels, but today he's announcing a brand new project, entitled The Further Travels of Wyatt Earp. Promoted with a teaser campaign entitled Get Your Mustache On, The Further Travels of Wyatt Earp promises to take a look at what we don't know about the famous lawman's life after that one pivotal moment with which he's become synonymous. Caramagna is launching a Kickstarter to fund the project, and he found some time while manning his table in Artist's Alley at New York Comic-Con to talk to The Outhouse about his new venture, his place in Marvel NOW!, and why he's ok with doing things that don't make him any money.
The Outhouse (OH): How has the Con been for you?
Joe Caramagna (JC): It's great. A couple of years ago, I stopped trying to sell things because I didn't like trying to be a salesman. Still don't. It's a lot more fun to give people free stuff. I like calling people over, they come and we chat about comics, and I just give them free stuff and don't pressure them to buy something of mine. My friends [also at the table] are selling stuff. People will bring me comics to sign, and it's kind of cool that I'm helping my friends sell their stuff and people can get their stuff signed by me. Letterers aren't in that high demand, but you'd be surprised because they want to get the complete team on the cover. There are a lot of people who do that. Anything to bring traffic here for my buddies.
OH: You always hear that working in comics is a solitary pursuit, but you're part of a studio...
JC: I am, but we don't actually work together. We're all over the country. It's Chris Eliopolous' studio, Virtual Calligraphy. I actually live very close to Chris. He's about ten minutes away, so we get together and have lunch and stuff all the time. Yeah, but the other guys: one is in Rochester, another one is in Brooklyn, there's another Jersey guy, but he doesn't live as close as I do. Chris is from Jersey, and that's sort of our general area. I do enjoy my alone time. I have no co-workers, I'm sitting in a room by myself. It's fun to come out and do things like this, actually, and get together with my friends because, you know, we keep long hours as letterers, so I don't really get a lot of time to get out and hang out with my buddies, so these events are awesome. I love going to conventions. I love talking comics, hanging out with my friends, no pressure because I'm not selling anything [laughs].
OH: Some of the creators here were a little unsure of Artist's Alley being so far away from the rest of the show because they were afraid they wouldn't be able to sell as much. By giving stuff away, you seem to have found a way around that.
JC: [laughs] Yeah! There are plusses and minusses to Artist's Alley being all the way out here. On one hand, you're not getting the crazy crowds from the Show Floor, but on the other hand those crazy crowds last year cluttered up Artist's Alley so much that people couldn't stop and browse. They always had to keep moving to keep the aisles clear, so people didn't really get a chance to stop, so that worked against it too. There are plusses and minusses to it. I hear yesterday was a little slow, but today [Saturday] it's pretty full in here. I can't really complain.
OH: Let's talk about your new project, which you're teasing here.
JC: It's called The Further Travels of Wyatt Earp. It's about, obviously, Wyatt Earp. What most people know about Wyatt Earp comes from the movies, like Tombstone, and the Kevin Costner movie. Those movies end with what Wyatt's most famous for, which is The Gunfight at the OK Corrall, but that happened when he was thirty-two years old, in 1881. Wyatt didn't die until he was eighty, so he lived on for fifty years in the West, and people don't really tell that story. I was reading up on it and found out that after he left law enforcement, after he left Tombstone, Arizona, he travelled the West looking for gold. He became a gold miner, and he was just in search of his fortune and glory. He was just trying to strike it big. He would travel from mining town to mining town and he had all sorts of different jobs. He was a horse racer, he was a card dealer, he was a boxing referee [laughs]. At the end of his life, he actually worked in Hollywood as a consultant on silent westerns. So he did all these great things that people don't really know about, and it's very strange because he's known as being this Old West gunslinger, and he did all these wild things.
My book is about what his life might have been like at all different stages after Tombstone, Arizona. The first issue takes place in Idaho, the second one takes place in San Francisco. It's historical fiction, but it's based on his real travels. The places and the times are accurate. The stuff that's public record is accurate, and I fill in all those blanks with my own details of what his life might have been like as someone who was nationally famous, but in the pre-TMZ era, pre-TV, pre-internet, all they had was newspapers. All these stories were told secondhand. He didn't really want to bother with the press, even though he was nationally famous. All the stuff we know about that time was told to reporters by his enemies, or people he knew...he never really got to tell his own story. So this is what his life might have been like all those years.
It's digital only. It's not going to be printed. The only way to get a print copy is to be a Kickstarter backer. I'm going to print special Kickstarter backer editions of the book with all kinds of notes and pages of the script included and all kinds of fun stuff. Otherwise, it'll be on sale on iTunes...I'll announce it when it's ready to go. Right now we're pushing the Kickstarter campaign to get funded so I can pay my team that's putting it together for me. I'm not getting a penny of it, but I have to pay the guys who are taking time away from their work – their real paying work – to do this for me, so we really have to push this campaign. I can use all the help I can get. Anything to help spread the word is fantastic!
OH: Talk about the creative team you're working with.
JC: The artist is Scott Koblish. He's worked for Marvel, DC, and he works for Disney Publishing currently. He was the inker on the recent OMAC series, for the New 52. Actually, I write a series of Spider-Man Young Reader Novels, and Scott illustrated some of them, so you can look for that too. The work he's doing on this book is phenomenal. I've always been a fan of Scott's work, and I thought he was going to say no when I asked him to do it, but he said yes, and I'm so pleased. Everytime I do any writing work, he's always my first choice, to draw it, and he's either busy or editorial has someone else in mind, so I'm so happy that he was able to do this Wyatt Earp comic for me.
My colorist is Andrew Edge, he's a friend of mine, going back to school; we were classmates. He's a phenomenal painter, and he has a lot of experience doing color, and his colors are great. If you go on the Kickstarter, you can see some of his color over Scott's work. Our book designer is Melissa Horvath-Plyman, who's a friend of mine from years ago, we actually went to elementary school together. She designs my book, she designed the logo, and she's fantastic. That's her job, her profession, so I was happy that she was able to do this in the very little spare time that she has too. So I'm very lucky that all my friends are able to do these things for me. It's a real labor of love, so hopefully that shows through in the final product. I think it does. I hope all of you can see it too.
OH: So you're giving away stuff for free here, you're not making money off the Kickstarter so...
JC: [laughs] So how do I feed my family? Is that where this is going? By lettering lots of comics and writing stuff for Marvel.
OH: I can see why you letter so much.
JC: Yeah, exactly! [laughs] I'm writing a series of Spider-Man Young Reader Novels. The first one is Spider-Man: Behind the Mask, that's been out for a while. It's been picked up by Scholastic, and it's being sold at the Scholastic Book Fairs nationwide. The second book and third book, which are Vulture and Dr. Octopus are on sale now also. Dr. Octopus was actually illustrated by Tim Seeley, so comic book fans will love that. You can get it for your kid, but then you can see Tim Seeley draw J. Jonah Jameson and Spider-Man and Dr. Octopus, so it's a plus. The fourth book comes out Mid-November, and it's called Sandman, and it's illustrated by Scott Koblish. I also have an issue of Marvel Universe: Ultimate Spider-Man coming out November 28. It's issue #8, and it's Spider-Man versus a fire-breathing dragon. And I letter a ton of comics. That's how I feed my family. That's how I'm able to give away comics for free at the table. [laughs]
OH: What will you be lettering for the Marvel NOW! relaunch?
JC: I'm not sure what hasn't been announced but...I'm doing Captain America and Iron Man. I'm on the Avengers: Arena book. I'm sticking with the books that I have been doing. Even though they're moving into the Marvel NOW! era, I'm sticking with most of what I was doing before. It should be fun. I hope everyone's excited for it, because I am. I've read some of the issues, and they're fantastic.