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    Jonathan Hickman Interview

    By Tim Leong

    With comparisons to Howard Beale already growing tired, Jonathan Hickman is gaining significant indie buzz over his new book “The Nightly News” (Image Comics). Is it because of the hot topic subject matter of wronged indviduals taking revenge on news outlets? Or becaues he didn’t just write the book, he also drew it, inked it, colored it and lettered it as well? Or maybe even because of his unique graphic design-meets-storytelling style? Find out, as Comic Foundry chats with Hickman.

    Where did you get the original idea for the concept?
    I’d say it’s a zeitgeist thing. People are pretty skeptical of the news right now. They’re obviously not doing a very good job. That coincides with the corporatization of news and how the less and less diversity of the news that you’re getting. In addition to that you’re getting more and more stories that crop up on the Internet where it’s clear that the stories are not only erroneous but they’re rapidly being discovered as being erroneous. There’s a loss of control even though there’s a greater corporatization of news.

    But I’d say the story originally started when I heard the story of Richard Jewell, the Olympic bomber. He was hailed as a hero after finding [the bomb] then got torn apart and was actually completely innocent. It’s one of those things where you have to ask yourself a question — I wonder what would happen if instead of reacting in a normal manner by being embarrassed or ashamed or running and hiding, if some people decided to get even. People who had their lives destroyed by the media.

    What type of research did you do for this?
    I did a lot. Probably more than I originally thought. It was like a tree — it just kept branching and branching into different stories and different ideas about the media and consumers. It started off on stories of people that I knew — like Richard Jewell. Then it got into who owns what and who actually owns what companies and papers, and that’s an eye-opening thing. Twenty or thirty years ago there were 50 companies that owned all the media companies out there. Now, this year, we’re under ten. You get into reading things like Chomsky with the imperialist goals of the media and things like that.

    You write, do all the art and letter the book. Why’d you decide to do everything?
    That’s one of those things where I don’t feel like a control freak. I like other people. I like working with other people. But the reality of the comics business is that if you want to write stories there’s no way you’re going to be able to write something and find a competent artist to draw it. Whereas it seems to me if you’re a pretty good artist you can get work. More so than writers can. I’m willing to collaborate writing for people but as far as doing art for people, it’s one of the things where I end up not drawing things I don’t want to draw and it’s kinda like pulling teeth. And it just gets to not being any fun and I think you should enjoy what you’re doing. It’s pretty much a no-brainer. If I was going to get a chance to do comics and if I was going to get to do my own stories it was pretty obvious I was going to have to do the art myself. In the book you use spreads throughout.

    What was the reason behind that method?
    Some of it is influence. It’s not a new thing. If you look at what JH Williams III did in Promethea, he was doing the same kind of thing. Now obviously what I’m doing doesn’t look anything like that. I’d argue that in Powers, if you’ve ever seen how Mike Oeming does a page — he does two pages on one sheet of paper, so he’s really doing two pages at once. Also, I’m at Image so I don’t really have to worry about ads. I know that each page is going to face the other like it would when it’s collected into a graphic novel. One of the things I’m able to do is make a cohesive page instead of a panel a page with the whole spread working together. Now even though the pages are presented as two-page spreads, there’s enough stuff going on in the pages and there’s even panels in certain pages that makes it work like separate pages. It’s kinda funny because if you look at the art online, you’re looking at two flat pages without the fold. You don’t read the book without the fold in there and it plays a really funny trick on your eye whenever you look at two flat pages of art on the screen.

    Why did you choose this particular art style — graphic design mixed with storytelling?
    I’d say that besides the obvious influences comic-wise, especially (Mike) Mignola with all the blacks I’m using. If you look at some like (Bill) Sienkiewicz or Ashley Wood, it’s obvious that those guys who have a niche that they’re exploiting and have a pretty rabid following and they’re doing the work that they’ve always wanted to do. I think that’s a noble goal and a worthy one.

    What is your art process like?
    I draw with a brush and a crow quill nib. And I do all of my illustration with that. I don’t do pages laid out like you do in the finished product. I do each panel individually. At that point I scan it in and convert it all to a vector format and from there it’s pretty much all happening at the same time. I’m lettering it and coloring it and laying it out all at the same time.

    How does that help the process?
    I think it’s a lot faster. If you look at what I’m doing, I’m writing and penciling and inking and coloring it and lettering it. I’m doing all those jobs and producing a book a month. And I didn’t really have much trouble producing the second issue in that period of time at all. So, I just think that if you compare the process that everybody else goes through it’s faster. Then again, I don’t really know for sure because I’ve never really done any other way and I have no other comics experience.

    Speaking of consolidation and fewer companies owning the market share — how relatable do you think that is to the comics industry?
    I haven’t thought about that but that’s a fair statement. I think they’re very insular. Saying that, I really do like Marvel and DC Comics more than the Washington Post. There’s two schools of thought, in all fairness. And I don’t think this is comparable to the news. I think Marvel and DC do superhero comics better than anyone else in the world. I think it’s a niche that they have that they have exploited and will continue to exploit. People complain about doing superhero comics and people need to remember that Marvel and DC are the best in the world at doing this. It’s obvious that there are other companies in the US and certainly Japan that do a lot better job at telling other kinds of stories. I wish there was more diversity in the American comics scene but I can’t bitch about Marvel and DC because they basically keep all of us in business. I think Image, Dark Horse and some other companies do an excellent job of trying to push the product that’s out there and telling a certain type of story and branching out and diversifying. I think corporate news does a really crappy job. I don’t think Marvel and DC do a crappy job superhero comics. I think they’ve certainly done some crap in the past and some of it seems like formulaic mega-crossover stuff, but they’ve got really, really talented people working there.

    What is the most important think you’ve learned since starting on the series?
    I learn a lot every day. I told some people my biggest problem is how ignorant I am as far as comics goes. Starting out, I didn’t even know when the Previews dates were. There’s just so much that I don’t know that as good and different as I’m trying to make it, I almost feel like it’s a comics beta for me. If I had to say one thing, I’d have to say the thing that surprised how insular the business is, and I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. Everybody seems to know everybody else. It seems like once you’re in the door and you know people and you’ve got a card and you’re in some club.

    Posted by Tim Leong on November 7th, 2006 filed in Story Archive |

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