Monday, November 10, 2008

Word Balloons 8, October 2008

“I’m just too driven to know when to stop.”
An interview with Jason Badower.
Conducted by Philip Bentley, December 2007 and updated before publication.

Although not a name on every local comic fan’s lips Jason Badower has still forged a career for himself in the US comic industry, working first from Australia, then from 2008 shifting base to Los Angeles. Best known for a number of adaptations of the TV series Heroes (initially online more recently included in the first volume of a trade paperback reprinting) Jason’s career path presents one template for those seeking to establish themselves in the US industry.

Along the way Jason has also worked on some of the more notable local comics of the 1990s and early 00s. He has practised martial arts at an elite level, acted in, produced and been a stunt man for movies, and been a partner in a personal training business and gym.

As well as more work for Heroes he currently has two strips being published: the SF adventure Zero G from Spacedog and True Blood, a web comic based on the HBO TV series currently screening in the States.

PB: How did you crack the US market? Was that always your intention?
JB: Yes. Every year I’d go up to the Sydney convention with my portfolio to get some feedback. I remember once [US comic artist] Walt Simonson was there and he said to me “This is nice” and “That is nice”, and I said to him “Walt, if I want to hear it’s nice I’ll ask my Mum. I need to know how I can be sitting in your position”. He looked at me and asked “Really?” and I said ”Really!”. So he gave me some incredible insights into my work. Another great help was meeting [US comic writer and editor] Archie Goodwin at another Sydney Con. I asked him what he looked for in an creator. He said “In this order: reliable, nice and talented. I want to know that you can get the work done. I want to know that I’ll enjoy working with you. And if your work’s good then that’s a help too”. So everything from that meeting with Archie Goodwin has been a work in progress of putting together pieces of that person that I need to be. If he had given me a job at the time I wouldn’t have been ready. I didn’t have the discipline, the energy, the intelligence, the experience or the know-how to produce a commercial job.
PB: Had you been submitting work to US publishers?
JB: I only began around 2000, but didn’t get much response. I think the only person who replied was Mike Carlin, editor in chief at DC. He only sent back a postcard saying that he didn’t think I was ready, but it was really nice of him to take the trouble. It was around this time Darren Close approached me about doing some work for Killeroo. At this stage I was working pretty exclusively with JAn [writer JAn Napiorkowski] so I asked Darren if we could do a strip together and he agreed. It was originally going to be a back-up story, but ended up being the lead strip in the second issue. I had loads of fun doing it. Darren was hoping to get a cartoon series of the character up so that inspired me to draw it in a more cartoony style.
The year it came out (2004) I went up to Sydney and was sitting there doing sketches for the few people wandering by and this guy came up to me and said “Did you draw this?” And I said “Yeah” and he replied “Well, we need to talk”. His name was Roger Mincheff and he runs a company called Space Dog that does a lot of cross-media marketing for Top Cow, Mark Silvestri’s company. He’s responsible for video games, TV Shows, movies etc. He said he only had ten minutes, but we got on so well that we talked for an hour and a half and I ended up bringing JAn into the discussion. So I started working for Space Dog.
PB: What sort of jobs?
JB: A number of short stories for the anthology Proximity Effect. I also did ads for Top Cow and eventually ended up with my own book Zero G [which premiered in Sepetember 2008].
PB: How did your work on the Heroes comic come about?
JB: I was doing a lot of art direction for Roger on various books. One of these was drawn by another Australian, Andy Finlayson, and written by Aron Coleite. At some point Aron contacted us and said that he was going to have to give the book away because his TV show had taken off. We said fine, sure, and that was that. But a few months later I was watching Heroes on TV, saw his name and realised this had been what he was talking about. So I sent him a congratulatory email and we got talking. I showed him some of the work I’d been doing, he liked it, and asked if I was interested in doing some issues of the Heroes web comics. I said sure, so he passed my name over to Frank Mastromauro one of the editors at Aspen Comics, who handle the Heroes web comic, and within two hours I had my first script. It was great because I was just getting into the show. To be able to work on something that I really enjoyed and which was becoming a part of the cultural consciousness at the time was a huge kick. People say to me “You’re so lucky”, but there were plenty of people who had his contact details and didn’t follow him up. It was just an example of making your own luck.

The rest of the interview can be found in Word Balloons 8.

My Life in Comics Part VI– Minotaur: the early years 1977-80
by Philip Bentley

This is the sixth of a series of articles chronicling my path as a comics aficionado in Australia over the past forty years. In this chapter I move onto detailing the steps taken to set up what has become one of Australia’s largest comic shops Minotaur. In this instalment I deal with its establishment phase as a mail-order concern.

In previous instalments I have detailed how a friendship between myself and fellow Melbourne comic fans Greg Gates and Colin Paraskevas, in the 1970s, led to the publication of the comic anthology Inkspots. The other fruit of this friendship was the establishment of the retail business Minotaur (initially Minotaur Imports, then Minotaur Books, now just Minotaur).

In the second chapter (WB 2) I described the importance of Space Age Books to Melbourne comic aficionados in the 1970s. Space Age, though, was first and foremost a retailer of science fiction books that dabbled in comics on the side. Consequently there was never much system about what the shop stocked, leading many local comic fans to having something of a love/hate relationship with the place.

This prompted Colin Paraskevas to float the idea, in September 1976, that the three of us should set up a comic shop to ‘do things properly’. But it wasn’t until the middle of 1977 that we were ready to commit to the project and it was the end of the year before we started officially trading.

Rather than launch out immediately into a shopfront with its associated overheads we decided to take the simpler option of establishing ourselves as a mail order company. We acquired a post office box in Doncaster (near Colin), but the nerve-centre of the operation was located in a newly-built room at the back of my parent’s house. Deliveries were largely sent here and Colin would phone through the orders for me to fill. The business name was my invention seeking to evoke a fantasy-tinged mood that still carried some punch.

In the next instalment I will reveal details of the transition from mail order to shop in the early 1980s and the rise and rise of the venture thereafter.

The rest of the article can be found in Word Balloons 8.

Also reviews of Bobby Nenadovic’s Digested 01“his artwork has developed nicely and is now operating at a professional-looking level”, Sawbones Vol. 1 by Jen Breach & Trevor Wood “owes much to comedic elements found in American situation comedy and newspaper cartoons”, Caanan Grall’s The Middle Ages 1 “a clean, clear, pleasant style” and Crimes to the Face 1 by Ive Sorocuk “has an appealing goofiness”.