Porcelain38 interviews the up and coming Image writer that you should be reading!
Ok, so this really isn't an exclusive interview, but it's still an interview! Pull up a chair and take a gander at it!
When most people hear the name Benito Cereno they go: who the hell is that? There might be a few people who can draw a link to the Herman Melville short story, but those are few and far between. For the past few years a writer by the name of Benito Cereno has worked his way up from small time indie writer to co-writing Image Comics' upcoming Guarding The Globe mini-series with company partner Robert Kirkman.
Recently I got a chance to sit down with the writer and discuss his travels from a relative unknown to current creative force at Image, his future plans and why you should read his books!
So Benito, you have many current and upcoming projects. Starting next month you will be co-writing a Guardians of the Globe mini-series with Robert Kirkman and artist Ransom Getty. What can you tell us about the series?
It's going to be a six issue mini-series exploring what's going on back onEarth while Invincible is off with his dad and others fighting the Viltrumite War in Invincible 71-78. So for longtime readers ofInvincible, this will be a chance to take a closer look at unseen and little seen corners of that universe as well as get a peek at some brand new characters that will have some impact on the Invincible universe. For new readers, it'll be a cool, action-packed mix of old school superheroics and modern storytelling sensibilities, with lots of fun characters and scenarios.
The basic premise is that the Guardians of the Globe have suffered some losses in their roster and are now recruiting to beef up their firepower. Meanwhile, an international crime organization known as the Order are taking advantage of the heroes' depleted ranks and gearing up to make a move. So the question is whether the GotG can pull themselves together in time to stop the threat of the Order.
Now this isn't your first tour of duty within the Invincible universe. How is writing this mini different from your past Atom Eve mini's?
With the two Invincible Presents mini-series, Robert was acting as a story editor rather than a writer. Basically, he gave me the important bits of Eve's and then Rex's back story and I was free to embellish on those in a logical fashion, and Robert would make suggestions and corrections for pacing or dialogue or whatever, but I was still writing the whole thing.
In the case of Guarding the Globe, Robert and I are co-writing the book, and so there will be a number of pages in each issue that I didn't even touch, because they're 100% Kirkman. It's a different kind of way to think about approaching a story, because I only have to focus on certain elements and characters in each issue.
Now at the time of this interview, the name of the mini-series has been changed from "Guardians of the Globe" to "Guarding the Globe". Can you give us insight as to the reason for the name change? Most importantly, are you saving the "Guardians of the Globe" name for an ongoing?
Well, all I'll say is that circumstances became such that we felt it behooved us to change the title, and so we did. We didn't want to change it so much that the new name would be unrecognizable to the reader, so we did what we could. So now it's "Guarding the Globe."
As for an ongoing, the plan now is, if this first mini is successful, to follow it up as a series of mini-series, in the model of something like Hellboy or BPRD. As to whether or not subsequent series will also be called "Guarding the Globe," I honestly do not know. But don't expect to see "Guardians of the Globe" as the title of anything from us any time soon.
What was it like co-writing this series with Robert Kirkman? How is the work load spilt up in a mini-series like this?
It's fun, you know. Invincible is obviously the best superhero comic book in the universe, so it's always fun to play in that universe. Robert has a clear idea of where he wants his books to go, so it's really just a matter of keeping the boat pointed in the direction it's supposed to go.
The workload is divided basically like this: the two of us will discuss the plot for each issue and what that issue needs to accomplish. From there, Robert will decide who's going to write which scenes, and then the two of us write the pre-determined scenes. From there, Kirkman will make any corrections and tighten things up and it's all (hopefully) seamlessly put together. The division of scenes will vary from issue to issue, so one person might write more or less of any given issue, depending on how the scenes are divided. Hopefully you won't be able to tell the difference
Do people need to be reading Invincible to get into this series, or can it be enjoyed independent of the series?
I'd like to think it can be read separately from Invincible. This mini-series focuses on introducing new characters, and so old readers as well as new will be meeting these characters for the first time, putting everyone more or less on equal footing.
Certainly there are a core of characters and ideas that are will be familiar to people who have already read Invincible, but I think most people can get up to speed pretty quickly. But, really, if reading this mini-series doesn't entice you to pick up books like Invincible, Tech Jacket, Brit, Capes, or Astounding Wolf-Man as a result, we haven't done our whole job.
You are also writing a new Tick series. What drew you to the character? How is it different from your previous work?
The Tick is a character I have enjoyed for a long time. Many people about my age have fond memories of watching the Tick cartoon on Fox Kids or Comedy Central or whatever. But I was also really into the original comics by Ben Edlund, and I was kind of amazed how different and how much funnier they were than even the cartoon (which was already very, very funny, unlike anything else on TV at the time). Those comics were a pretty big influence on the way I thought about humor in comics, and definitely affected the way I wrote books like Tales from the Bully Pulpit.
So I jumped at the chance to contribute a story to the Tick's 20th Anniversary special, and double jumped at the chance to write the ongoing series when they offered it to me based on that story.
The Tick is different from anything else I've ever written because the character is part of a franchise: he's been two different TV shows, t-shirts, action figures, fast food toys, and all. There's a huge difference between working on something you own and working on something with that kind of cultural weight. I can't just do whatever I want knowing that there's nobody to tell me no, because there are a number ofpeople to tell me no. So that's different.
Also, on this project, I'm really only writing. I come up with a story, write a script, and then my contribution is done. On a creator-owned project like Hector Plasm, my fingers are in everything every step of the way. In Hector Plasm: De Mortuis, Nate Bellegarde and I did literally everything down to hand writing the indicia (the tiny little type inside the cover with all the legal information) just because we wanted everything done our way. With a work for hire book, all that stuff is taken care of by someone else. So there's really two ways to look at that: it's something of a burden off of me, because all the production stuff is done by someone else, but on the other hand, that's a loss of control, too. But that's how it goes, man.
Hector Plasm was a character that you and artist Nate Bellegarde created. Do you have any plans to return to the character? Is it possible to see Hector appear in the Guarding the Globe mini or is Hector's world completely separated from the rest of the Image Universe?
Hector is Nate's and my baby. In a way, everything else Nate and I are doing is working toward doing more Hector stories. We have a long (albeit finite) series for Hector planned. We know what will happen; we know how it ends. We're just working toward the opportunity to do those stories.
As for Hector and the Guardians...not so likely. Hector's stories don't really work in a world full of superheroes and aliens and that kind of stuff. He's pretty strictly a paranormal guy, and so only fits in with a world like that. Books like Hellboy and BPRD seem like the obvious choice for a crossover, but Hector's world has way less Lovecraft to it, so I dunno. I think the coolest crossover for Hector Plasm would be someone like Phil Hester's The Wretch.
What comics are you reading on a regular basis and enjoying? What is a title that you think everyone should be buying?
Let's see. My favorite books include: all Mike Mignola books, like Hellboy, BPRD, and any ancillary titles; pretty much anything by Grant Morrison, like Batman and Robin and Joe the Barbarian; Brandon Graham's King City and James Stokoe's Orc Stain; anything written by Phil Hester for as long as it lasts; The Muppet Show Comic by Roger Langridge; anything by Jason Aaron, but especially Scalped; a lot of things I am being remiss in forgetting.
The two books I think everyone should read but probably is not are Atomic Robo by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener and The Weird World of Jack Staff by Paul Grist. Atomic Robo is just the most fun you can have in twentyish pages. And Paul Grist is just one of the most interesting and innovative storytellers in comics. JH Willaims III gets a lot of credit (and rightly so) for his page layouts, but there's no comic in the world that has pages that look as good or as fresh as a Paul Grist page. Comics FACT.
You've been around in the comic industry for a couple of years now. Can you tell us how you broke into comics and describe the process of working up to the point where you are now?
No two people get into comics the same way, really. Some people struggle for years in obscurity until finally getting a big break, some people accidentally have a big hit right off the bat, whatever. There's no one "right" way to do it, but one of the most important thing you can do is make connections and network and hope it pays off for you.
I myself managed to get where I am because of the community at Penciljack.com, which is a website for aspiring comics creators of all different types. Lots of the people who were prominent members of that site at the time I was there are professional comics creators today. Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker, Tony Moore, Nate Bellegarde, Khary Randolph, Mark Englert, Jason Latour, Travel Foreman...all these guys and more were all members of that site at one point, and it's the reason most of us know each other. It's how I met Kirkman, and how I managed to get my earliest work published--backups that ran in Invincible for the first couple of years of that book.
That community is how I met most of the collaborators I've had, especially Nate Bellegarde and Graeme MacDonald, the artist on my first non-backup book, Tales from the Bully Pulpit.
Getting into comics involves a lot of having the ear of the right people and then working to prove you're worth those people's attention. It can take a lot of work. It's been seven years since my first book came out, and I'd venture that 97% of the people looking at this right now are thinking, "I have no idea who this guy is." Breakout successes rarely happens overnight, but when your first big hit does come out, expect tons of people to say things like, "Wow, this guy popped up out of nowhere!"
Now your personal friends with Robert Kirkman. Last year Kirkman released a video manifesto demanding more creator owned work. Do you agree with his mission statement? Would you want to go to work for Marvel or DC or are you happy with your independent work?
I think part of the reason Robert and I work together as well as we do is
that we agree so much on that philosophy, which, in a nutshell, is that
the best thing you can do as a comics creator, for yourself and for comics
as a whole, is make something new, contribute something, own it, control
its destiny, etc.
While I would certainly not turn down work at Marvel or DC, either to get a chance to work with characters I have a fondness or nostalgic feeling for, or to help gain exposure, that's hardly my end goal. What I really want to be doing is making my own stuff, and developing something I own. That just feels more personally satisfying to me than donating ideas to someone else. So while I would definitely like a chance to write, say, She-Hulk or Metamorpho, what I really want to be doing is more Hector Plasm or Tales from the Bully Pulpit, or something new I haven't even thought of yet.
10.) What else can fans expect to see from you in the upcoming year?
More Tick! Les McClaine and I continue to work on the bi-monthly Tick New Series, with no signs of stopping. Issue four recently came out, my favorite issue yet. Soon number five will come out, which is part one of our first two-parter, featuring a Tick from the Golden Age. Guarding the Globe with Robert Kirkman and Ransom Getty starts in August, and should be super awesome. The trade paperback of my Invincible Presents mini-series comes out in July. We just got copies in and they look super beautiful. Les McClaine and I also did a full-length Dr. McNinja story for the forthcoming fourth print volume of that book that should be available soon. It is super fun and I hope people like it. I also have a more or less secret project that I'm hoping we can get out by the end of this year, so keep an eye out for that.
Any final comments?
Comics readers can always do a favor for themselves and for comics by not being afraid to try something new, especially if it is by me. So next time you're in the comic store, just grab something that looks cool that maybe you haven't heard of before. Maybe you'll find your new favorite book.
I want to thank Mr. Cereno for taking the time and answering these questions.
NOW GO BUY HIS BOOKS DAMNIT!