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“Anyone But Virginia” interviews at Sequential Tart

January 3rd, 2013

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Our friends at Sequential Tart (who gave “Anyone But Virginia” a 10/10) interviewed both Zoe and myself about the book.
Check out my interview here about writing the book, or Zoe’s here, about drawing the book.
(or, full text of my interview below the jump)

Josh Eiserike
Writing Virginia
By Patti Martinson
December 31, 2012

I recently reviewed the graphic novel Anyone But Virginia and was so taken with it, that I had to contact the creators. Josh Eiserike and Zoe Crockett, both were kind enough to share there thoughts.

Sequential Tart: When did you start writing/drawing?

Josh Eiserike: To be honest I can’t remember not writing / drawing. I was always the kid in the back of the class drawing inappropriate caricatures of the teacher. I enjoyed my classmates’ reaction (less so my trips to the principal’s office).

ST: Who were your favorite comic writers or creators?

JE: Wow, a lot. Brian K. Vaughn. Brian Michael Bendis. Alex Robinson. Jim Mahfood. Aaron MacGruder. I’m sure I’ll remember a bunch more, but those are the names that immediately pop into my head.

ST: How did your family react to your cartoons/writing?

JE: They’ve been supportive. To be honest I’m not sure they really understand it (my mother always wonders why I can’t do “nice” cartoons and worries that she’ll have to walk around town with a bag over her head). But, yeah. They’ve never been anything but supportive. Although, to be fair, some of my cartoons they’re not allowed to read. (“Assholes” in particular).

ST: Did you have professional training/education?

JE: Yes and no. I worked as a newspaper reporter for a few years (and drew daily comic strips / editorial cartoons). This experience taught me to write on deadline, juggle many projects at once and be accountable for what I put into print. While not directly tied to comic books or cartooning, these experiences were invaluable.

ST: Who was the most important teacher / influence you’ve had in your career as a writer?

JE: That’s a tough question. Mr. Deitchman, my 11th grade English teacher was definitely one. He sponsored my comic endeavors, which allowed me to sell my comics at the school store. Now, being known as the kid who makes comic books (especially when the new issues were advertised to the entire school on the morning announcements) didn’t really help me become Mr. Popular, but it allowed me to explore a legitimate creative outlet that I wasn’t getting elsewhere, certainly not in my classes. Later I had a great journalism professor at the University of Missouri, Judy Bolch, who really pushed me in my writing and encouraged me to explore my voice. John Barber, who was an editor at Marvel I interned for, gave me some amazing advice and pointers in my writing. I’m sure there’s more, but those are the three that stick out.

ST: How did Volcano Girl come about?

JE: I was backpacking through Japan with a good friend of mine after college. He’s Italian, and used to joke that he was secretly (or not-so-secretly) a mafia don. This sparked something in me- what if he really was a mafia don? What if no one knew—and he came back for our 10-year reunion? Of course, that’s sort of the plot to Grosse Pointe Blank, one of my favorite movies (go rent it tonight if you’ve never seen it- it’s wonderful). So I tweaked it a bit. Played it straight—and in the superhero genre (I didn’t know too much about crime genre stories, but I’d read enough superhero books to know my way around tights and capes). But really all I did was resurrect the characters I’d written while selling comics in the school store in high school and brought them back for their reunion. Oh, and added a superhero to the mix. It’s interesting though- clearly if “Grosse Pointe Blank” is the obvious influence, John Hughes is the other. This is really a story where people sit around and talk about feelings- and that’s all the story was going to be. The fact that Virginia Patterson can shoot fire out of her hands was incidental to the story. Or, at least that was the original intention. About halfway through writing the book I landed an internship at Marvel. And that sort of changed the course of the whole story. If I had a story with people with fantastic powers, John Barber critiqued, I had a responsibility to show these powers—and how they complicate the plot.

ST: What did you learn with scripting the movie version of Volcano Girl?

JE: A lot. What works in a comic won’t necessarily work on screen. Also, for better or worse the movie version was pitched as a comedy—which wasn’t as true to the original intent of the story. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of both the comic and the movie. But my challenge here was knowing people who watched the short would most likely have no prior knowledge of the characters or story. The original script actually picked up right where Anyone But Virginia left off. Which, I soon realized, wouldn’t work. Instead I decided to focus on one emotional relationship- I didn’t have the time to build a mythology or world that I did in the comic. Instead, it’s a movie about two sisters, which is more of a subplot in the book.

ST: How do you feel in general about movies vs comics as far as telling a story?

JE: Although both visual, they’re very, very different. Comics are meant to be read by a single reader, movies are a communal experience. So just that effects how they’re written and read/viewed. Comics have fewer creative restrictions- in the Volcano Girl movie I had envisioned a moment where Salis appears at the end, walking out of a helicopter. Well, we couldn’t exactly afford a helicopter. But in the comic? Zoe can easily draw that. Our only budgetary limitations are imagination and art supplies. However, this isn’t necessarily a good thing- I often do some of my best work when under creative limitations.

ST: Your graphic novel ‘Class of 99’ is about a prom. What is the appeal of proms or reunions to you?

JE: That’s a good question. I think high school is a fascinating time. It’s an institution that forces a group of people who otherwise would never interact with each other to spend every single day together.

ST: Does the business aspect of self-publishing detract from the creative process?

JE: Yes and no. I didn’t get into self-publishing for the money. I got into it because I love comics and felt I had a few stories to tell. But from a business perspective? The kind of stuff that I write and draw is incredibly foolish. Here’s what I mean: Walk into any comic book store. What’s selling? Superheroes. Horror. Sci-fi. Crime. On an independent level its slice of life, autobiographical, that sort of thing (and don’t get me wrong — I love all of these genres as a reader. But as a writer they’re not really my passion).

JE: What’s missing there? Comedy. Yeah, there are gag books and comic strips, but a long form narrative, something in the vein of a Judd Apatow or Woody Allen movie? These don’t really exist in comics. And I’ve learned this the hard way- these are the kind of stories I’m interested in telling. So in that sense the business detracts, because I love superheroes (see: Anyone But Virginia), but I can’t compete with Spider-Man or Batman. It’s foolish to try, but I’m happy I was able to tell my story exactly the way I wanted to tell it. Likewise for comedy and books like “Assholes”– I think there’s a potential market for long form comedy narratives in comic books, but no one is really doing that.

ST: What have you learned about the self-publishing process and how do you manage your time?

JE: I think I digressed into the first part of this above and as for the second, it’s a struggle. I try and write a little bit every day. I’m mostly focused on screenwriting these days, but am gearing up for my next comic.

ST: Is there any individual you would particular like to work with?

JE: This is going to be a weird answer, but Ben Folds or Amanda Palmer. Seriously- if you’ve never heard of them they’re brilliant piano players/singers/songwriters who often collaborate. They tell brilliant stories in their songs, these wonderful little character sketches. I’d love to work with either of them on a short comic, set to music (full disclosure: I have a musical graphic novel that I’ve been slowly chipping away at for years with a musician friend of mine. The intersection between song and story has always fascinated me).

ST: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?

JE: Keep writing, keep drawing. It never gets easier, but you’ll get better.

ST: Could you talk a bit about any projects or appearances you’ve got coming up in the near future?

JE: Sure, taking some of my advice from above (and being completely inspired by Cabin in the Woods), Zoe and I are collaborating on a horror comic. We’ve had some good news coming out of some preview pages she’s been posting to her DeviantArt, but it’s too soon to go into specifics. I’m also seeking an artist for another horror story I’ve written. I’m also drawing a sci-fi book for a friend of mine, we’ll get started on that early 2013. In addition to that I’ll be shooting my thesis film at USC this winter, so that’ll be fun- it’s a teen comedy along the lines of American Pie or Superbad. But above all else, I’m just writing, writing, writing (and drawing).

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