Q: Since you are a prolific writer with an impressive body of work, let’s go back to when you were younger and you picked up your first comic book. Who was your favorite character? What series or storyline first inspired you to say “I wanna write comics when I grow up!”
A: GI JOE: A Real American Hero #34 was my very first comic book and I was instantly hooked. I was a fan of the toys and cartoon series, but the comic was so much more serious. Larry Hama’s writing on the series is what made me want to write comics. He would plant a seed in one issue and then not go back to it for years. It was long form storytelling at its best.
Q: Were there any cartoons, TV shows or movies that you looked up to as a kid?
A: Like I said, I was all about GI JOE. The new school year was tolerable because it meant new episodes of GI JOE every fall. Outside of GI JOE, I loved the Lost Boys. I was obsessed with that movie. I saw it in the theaters opening night and then watched it every day for probably six months once it came out on VHS. It remains my favorite movie of all-time.
Q: Were there any writers that inspired you or continue to inspire you? How did they help you find your voice as a writer?
A: I mentioned Larry Hama, but the one creator who really inspired me was Rob Liefeld. The 90s’ were just an incredible time to be a comic book fan. The indie scene was amazing and Image was leading the charge. Rob was just full of so much energy and enthusiasm. I was a teenager at the time and here was this guy not that much older than me running an entire company. It seemed like the hot place to be and a place I would daydream about being a part of. As for his storytelling, I love the pacing of his stories. They are summer blockbusters only in print form. High energy, fast paced. I think that’s my biggest take away from Rob.
Q: What do you think is the most challenging thing about being a writer in the comic industry today?
A: I know the struggles of being that aspiring writer trying to get his start. You have to make your own comic book. You need to find that like-minded artist, who wants to make it in the industry just as bad as you and do your own creator-owned comic book. It sounds easy, but in reality it is hard. Everyone has real-life commitments, or wants to be paid for their time. Finding that someone who is all in like you can be a real uphill battle, but it can be done. That’s how I got my start. Once you build a body of work, people start to take notice.
Q: Let’s talk about your experience with The Savage Hawkman. How did DC tap you to write the series and what was your most quintessential moment that defined YOUR take on the character?
A: I can thank Rob Liefeld for the job on Savage Hawkman. I’ve always been a huge fan of Rob’s and while I was an aspiring creator, I would post on Rob’s message board and he was always very complimentary of my first book, Koni Waves. My work on Koni Waves led Rob to tap me to write the Avengelyne ongoing at Image, which eventually led to Rob telling DC that he wanted me to script Hawkman with him.
Q: I gotta ask, what do you think is the coolest thing about Hawkman?
A: I describe Hawkman as a tank with wings. That’s the approach I took to the character and that’s what I like about him. I consider Carter Hall someone who really internalizes everything, but eventually that builds up and he unleashes in on some poor soul. Those moments were fun to script!
Q: You’ve also worked on Avengelyne with creator Rob Liefeld and artist Owen Gieni for Image Comics. She’s a very recognizable character that’s been around since the ‘90s. How did you and Rob refresh the character? What were the challenges and were they difficult?
A: Back in 2007, Rob gave me a call and said he was considering bringing back Avengelyne and he wanted me to write the book. He had a specific idea in mind, but just needed the right time for it. In the meantime, he let me do an Avengelyne vs Koni Waves oneshot. We would talk about the the new series for years, but it just never materialized. Rob hand me help out on some other projects during that time like the Bloodstrike back-up in Image United, a Brigade relaunch, and a couple things that never saw the light of day. I think by sheer will I made it happen. At one point Rob referred to me as the squeaky wheel because I wouldn’t let the idea for the book die. Once we found Owen, everything sort of came together. The biggest challenge with the book was trying to get people to not think of it as a bad girl comic. I never thought of Avengelyne as a bad girl. To me, she was the ultimate good girl. That’s how I wrote her and Owen’s artwork complimented that perfectly. I don’t think we shook that misconception until Rob let us take the book to Keenspot to run as a webcomic. That was a whole new audience and one not familiar with the character. They loved the series. By the end of our run on Keenspot, we had a readership over 500,000, which is mind blowing.
Q: Your children’s book, A Cat Named Haiku, was nominated for Best Single Issue Story in the 2011 Eagle Awards and was selected to be part of the TogetheRead Program by teachersandfamilies.com. What’s the story about and how did you come up with the idea?
A: A Cat Named Haiku is about the day in the life of a cat told completely in haiku. I knew I always wanted to write a children’s book and I wanted to write one about a cat. The book is about my cat Parker, but A Cat Named Parker doesn’t have the same ring to it as A Cat Named Haiku. Once I had that title, the book basically wrote itself. It’s probably my favorite project to date. I’m really proud of it. And I’m so excited for its future.
Q: What other upcoming projects can we expect from you in the future? Do you have a dream project that you have yet to work on?
A: Coming up in the near future, I have a graphic novel called The Pizza Tree that I wrote with my 6 year old son, Chase. It was his idea. He came up with it a couple of years ago, but as it goes with so many independent projects; it takes time to see fruition. It’s just fun and wacky and has amazing artwork by Ryan Oronato. It’s the type of book I would want to read to my son, but instead we wrote it.
Q: Graveyard Shift is another project I have on the horizon. It’s with Marvel’s Thunderbolts’ artist, Jon Malin. It’s our take on the Universal Monsters, but as super heroes. Rob Liefeld has sort of been a mentor to both Jon and I over our careers, so this is something you would expect from us. It’s straight up summer blockbuster, action. We have the first graphic novel completed and are currently talking with a publisher.
A: I also have another book called Squirt, which deals with bullying and heroes coming in all sizes. I did this book with newcomer, Mark Yoon. It plays off my love of Power Rangers and the Japanese Sentai shows. We’re in the process of coloring the book, so hopefully it will be on shelves in the New Year.
My dream project is currently being worked on. Without giving too much away, it has to deal with A Cat Named Haiku, and hopefully you will be seeing that sometime in 2017.
Q: Last, but not least, what is the BEST advice that you have for aspiring writers seeking a career in comics?
A: Just write. If a publisher won’t give you a break, make your own. Self-publish, build a body of work and show those people you have what it takes. Also, if you have nothing positive to say, stay offline. I see so many aspiring creators taking shots at professionals or publishers online. It’s ridiculous. It really leaves a bad impression of that person. As someone who has done hiring in the past for publishers, I wouldn’t work with those people and I’m sure the other people in those positions feel the same way.