Zero Killer: Reference for an Ass-Kicking

Posted by: on Sep 14, 2010 | 5 Comments

Zero Killer, a comic of mine that finally came out in collection last July, is set in an alternate-present where the United States never dropped atom bombs on Japan to end World War II. So things are ever-so-slightly different: there was a global nuclear war in 1973.

Zero, the main character, practices a martial art born in the cell blocks of Riker’s Island. Apparently this martial art actually exists, but I don’t know very much about it. No one does, except for the guys who practice it, and they’re not too keen on sharing.

You fight barefoot, like Zero, using your toes to jump up and grab the rim of toilet bowls, shower rails, whatever, to get a height advantage on your attacker, and then you use quick strikes to vulnerable areas like the eyes and throat (nice!). Or so I’m told. I believe it’s different from “52 Blocks”, an American-born martial art that’s been getting some of attention lately.

That’s the extent of my knowledge, so I used Kempo, a martial art I’m more familiar with, to choreograph the fight scenes. Later on, when Zero gets his knives, he uses Arnis, a Filipino style similar to Escrima.

The actions scenes in Zero Killer would not have turned out as well as they did without the help of my friend and professional fight choreographer, Kenny Burgin. One day we climbed onto the roof of our apartment building in Queens – in 100º heat and 90% humidity! – to take reference pictures for Matt, the artist. There’s a big difference between knowing how to fight and making a fight look good. Kenny really schooled me, and I’m in his debt.

Click away for larger images and descriptions of the simulated brutality!

Oblivion

Posted by: on Aug 1, 2010 | No Comments

I’m back! I’m back. After five days at the San Diego Comic-con and another four in Los Angeles, I’m home. The main purpose of my trip was the short novel I’m working on for Radical Comics, Oblivion.

The story’s about a two-person team, a man and a woman, who monitor and repair drones scouring the surface of the Earth for the remnants of an alien invasion that destroyed our planet 30 years ago. More than that, I dare not say!

Oblivion is the brain child of Joseph Kosinski, the chap who’s directing the upcoming TRON: Legacy movie. I finished the first draft just before getting on the plane for my little California adventure – nearly 30,000 words in three weeks.

It’s no secret Joe wants to do Oblivion as a film. He’s looking for a home for it right now with the studios, and I wish him all the success in the world. I hope the work I’ve put into it has aided him in his quest. The story’s come to mean a lot to me personally.

Regardless of the writing, the book is going to look beautiful – Andrée Wallin, a fantastic concept artist (and a fellow Swede!) is doing over 40 full-page illustrations for it.

The finished product will be somewhere between a comic and straight prose, presented in a cool “widescreen” format. I think it will be like reading a movie.

We had free give-away ashcans at San Diego, just a little taste of the story. Joe and I signed a ton (maybe literally). I forgot to pick one up for myself, which is entirely typical of me, but it’s an unbelievable honor to have some of my prose out there in the world for people to read.

So thanks, Joe, and thanks Barry (Barry’s the sick genius behind Radical) for picking me. Now that the story’s nearing completion, I know I was the right person to write it. I have a feeling people are going to respond to it once we get it out into the world.

My Monkey’s Name is Kennifer

Posted by: on Jun 9, 2010 | 2 Comments

Ken Knudtsen!

Ever notice how the weirdest people on the inside usually look totally normal on the outside? That’s Ken Knudtsen for you. If you ever approach his table at a convention: BEWARE. He will throw a football at your head and offer you a shot or three of vodka.

I’m serious.

Ken’s also the creator of My Monkey’s Name is Jennifer, which, if you haven’t read it, is one of the greatest independent comics ever to have dribbled off of a pen.

I’ve been a dedicated fan of Ken’s since meeting him at a convention several geological epochs ago. And I’m thrilled to the marrow, because, after seven long years, a new Jennifer comic is finally coming out. Ken was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about life, comics, and growing up a Jehovah’s Witness.

My Monkey's Name is Jennifer, Book 2!

RVID: Ken, where did you get the idea for My Monkey’s Name is Jennifer?
KEN: Well, a little bit of background is needed, because I might ramble a bit. As students from the School of Visual Arts, my friends and I thought we’d all get great jobs at Marvel or DC when we graduated. Then Marvel went bankrupt, and DC was right behind them. Nobody was getting any work. So, after many failed attempts at this, Jerry Ma and I decided to self-publish our own books. The only problem (well, the first of many)? I had no idea what I wanted to do! As I was sitting on my couch, exhausted from thinking up many failed ideas, inspiration hit in the form of the Simpsons. Specifically, the episode when Homer gets a “helper monkey”.

Hurray, I will do something with a monkey. But what could be better than a story with a monkey? How about a story with an angry monkey! The story began to build from there as I tried to come up with as many ways as possible to make a monkey miserable.

MMNiJ 2, page 62

RVID: It’s been a long time – too long! – since you graced us with new Jennifer. What can we expect in the new edition, more of the same sweetness, or is it going to be even weirder more over-the-top?
KEN: A little bit of both, actually. Without giving too much of the story away, the evil Dr. Tunick returns to gain his revenge on Jennifer and Kaitlyn. This sets into motion their adventures to the jungle, tropical islands, and more. I had a lot of fun doing these guys again after taking some time away.

MMNiJ 2, page 63

RVID: What’s the biggest challenge you face as an independent creator?
KEN: MOTIVATION! Man, it is tough to try to do this each and every day. As someone who works full-time at my “day” job, I am effectively working two full-time jobs. That also means my output of final product is less than I’d like, but it’s something I’m always striving to get better at. But then, I guess that YOU, Arvid, might be able to empathize just a bit with me on this.

Oh my sweet, sweet Jesus. Four words, Ken: thank God for caffeine.

MMNiJ 2, page 64

RVID: You were raised Jehovah’s Witness, if I’m not mistaken. How did that impact you as an artist?
Wow, this is easily the only question in an interview that I’ve had to actually stop and think about. As a JW, a lot of what people take for granted without a second thought (origins of holidays, blood transfusions) were things I was forced to deal with as a young child. It should not be understated how profound, almost scarring, this information can be, and what effect it might have on each individual’s development.

More than anything, I have found myself not taking any thoughts or theories as instant truths on their own. This goes for JW and religions especially. I left “the truth”, as the JWs call it, at 13, pretty much disenfranchised with all of religion. It certainly affected how I see and think about everything, which I guess has affected how I try to go about my art process. It also, not to sound too depressing, helped with dealing with the isolation involved with make art. It can be a very lonely experience at times (both good and bad), but hey, nothing gets you ready like having to spend every school birthday or holiday celebration in the library!

MMNiJ 2, page 65

RVID: Any chance we’ll see Ken Knudtsen’s Illustrated Leviticus as your next project? No? Fine. What *are* you gonna do next?
KEN: Only if you’re willing to script that out for me, Arvid! I’ve actually got a couple of things lined up for my next project. Kids, take note, because when you do this type of creative work, you always want to have a couple of things ready to go at a moments notice. Chris Kirby (LOST SQUAD) is writing a noir western for me, Jim Ma (BURN) and I are working on a roman gladiator/fall of Rome story, and of course, the next MY MONKEY’S NAME IS JENNIFER. What would their family vacation be like…hmmm…

Ahthum! Glad we’re going to see more Jennifer. Jim told me a little bit about the twilight of Rome story. That period of time interests me, too. I can’t wait to read it.

ARVID: Thanks, Ken!
KEN: Just wanted to take a second to thank you, Arvid. To all you readers out there, I’ve known Arvid since “the beginning”. The beginning of Jennifer, and of Rex Mundi. I was waiting on line for a portfolio review, which was obnoxiously formed as a human blockade in front of several booths, Arvid’s being one of them. So, as I waited, I chatted with Arvid and Eric about their cool looking ashcan(?) they had out. The line was very long and slow moving, so we got to talk and look at each other’s books. I bought the 0 issues, and we’ve kept in touch since. And now I’m off to buy a copy of my new favorite comic, Red Sonja. The art clearly saves the story in this, but nobody’s perfect.

Damn you, monkey! Growing up with you in comics has been a great experience, Ken. Thanks for offering me all the shots of vodka. Sorry I’m such a lame-a$$.

Thulsa Doom #4 in stores

Posted by: on Dec 16, 2009 | No Comments

Thulsa Doom Issue 4 Front Cover, art by Alex Ross

The final installment of the four-issue Thulsa Doom miniseries hits stores today. And we saved the best for last! Reviews of the first three issues have been really positive, and I hope this one lives up to expectations. It just feels great to have the entire series out there for people to judge as a whole.

Thulsa Doom is an early creation of Robert E. Howard. Most people know him from James Earl Jones’s character from the original Conan movie. This series recounts Thulsa’s story thousands of years before Conan’s time, before he was such a bad guy…

Art by Lui Antonio, cover by the great Alex Ross… and writing by me!

“If you like butt-shots, you’ll love this comic book!”
— Alex Zalben, popcultureshock.com

Review of Issue 1
Another review of Issue 1 (scroll down)
Review of Issue 2

Got the color pages for Zero Killer #6 today…

Posted by: on Sep 1, 2009 | No Comments

Oh my dear sweet LORD. David Stewart, one of the greatest colorists of all time, is responsible for the lightwaves bathing your retinae right now. You can see why he’s won so many Eisners.

It is such an honor having him coloring Zero Killer. The more I look at his pages, the more they unfold to me. Like a Buddhist koan. Or something.