I know your book The Contingent has some pretty mainstream elements in it. Could you tell me a little about the series and where you find your inspiration?
Without question, Steve Ditko is my number one source of inspiration. Once I started working on this series and shaping the characters personalities, he became my primary source of inspiration. Steve created VERY distinct characters. You always knew where you stood with his heroes. Conversely, you never knew where you stood with his antagonists—it was commonly a grey area for them and the grey area is ultimately what led them to villainy. Those are fascinating story elements to deal with, I think, and Steve was a master at it.
Inspiration aside, really, I just wanted to write a story and create characters that I would enjoy reading. Doing that has really helped me create an emotional bond with each of the characters and that bond really fuels my writing.
Do you find it tough writing mainstream comics for the indie crowd?
Umm, I don’t know. Haha. To be perfectly honest, I never really ever factored that in. Really, my intent with the series was never to make it an indie book or a mainstream book.
I mean, like I had said before, I really just write stories that I know I would enjoy reading. I’m kind of the opinion that once your start creeping your way into that mode of “I’m writing for this crowd” or “I create comics that this appeal to this group of fans”, you can really pigeon hole yourself as a creator and you end up running the risk of creating just to please someone else. Ultimately that I can make people jaded and will lead to substandard work. At least that’s how I look at.
So I’ve always been a proponent of doing your own thing, because that’s what will make you the happiest. If you’re happy creating, you’ll create more, and you may just hit on something great.
How many issues do you have planned?
50. That’s how many are plotted out and I intend to completely end the series after that. As it stands, after issue 6 we’re going to put out the trade and then take a hiatus from the book to get some other projects rolling and knocked out. But we’ll be moving forward with the book again soon, hopefully some time in 2011.
What mainstream books are you enjoying right now?
There are a lot that I’ve really been enjoying; Incredible Hercules has been fantastic and so has DC’s R.E.B.E.L.S. There’s other consistently good titles like Jonah Hex, Agents of Atlas, Punisher, and Batman and Robin. Not mention all of the incredible titles that are coming out from DC’s Vertigo imprint.
But really, that’s just a handful of the mainstream books I read.
Any indies catch your eye lately?
Oh, yeah. TONS! I love reading indies, just for the simple fact that there is always something new and it’s almost always honest. Quite frankly, I don’t care who publishes a particular comic, I just want it to be good. And if it’s produced honestly, it’s more than likely going to be good. You can pretty much bet on the fact that the people behind those books are doing it for the love of the content and/or the medium.
Last year my two favorite books to come out were, by far and away, Skyscrapers of The Midwest and Asterios Polyp. Both are fantastic, emotionally resonating books that I think every comic fan should read. I’ve really been digging Chew and Phil Hester’s The Anchor and, of course RASL has just been great to read, too.
Indie/creator owned comics have sort of become my bread and butter over the past few years. There is some really great stuff out there that people NEED to read, but they don’t give it a second glance because it doesn’t have that big Marvel or DC logo in the upper left corner. One of the great things about comics, and indies in particular, is that there really is something for everyone. It’s just a matter of taking that first step.
Mystery Solved! Is shaping up to be a really great webstrip. What circumstances led you to decide on a rotating lineup of artists?
Rotating artists was born of necessity. The primary circumstance that led to the rotating team of artists is my own inability to draw. I can do some humorous doodles, but in order to bring the stories to life, I needed real talent. The bad news for me was a lot of the artists that I wanted to work with, you included, have other projects going and their own projects going.
So it occurred to me that by approaching all of these artists, whose work I admire, I’m able to work with some outstanding talent, get some really great looking stories, and (hopefully) able to work within each of their schedules as well. The bonus to all of that is that each story has its own personality.
Do you create your stories with certain artists in mind, or do you seek out artists after a story is written?
It’s sort of a mixed bag. There are some scripts that I have complete and ready to go and there are others that I don’t really start to put together until after an artist has signed on. For example, I’ll approach artist A and say I have these story ideas, do you think that you would enjoy working any of these? Once they sort of let me know their preference I’ll either start constructing a new script with them in mind. Or, if they choose a story where the script is already written, I’ll take that existing script and tweak it as necessary.
Mystery Solved! Is all about Colonel Winchester debunking urban legends and the supernatural. Will he ever come across a mystery he can’t solve?
Haha. Probably not. I am a pretty big skeptic and my primary goal with the series is to go about debunking each of these urban myths or bits of mysticism that the Colonel encounters. Skepticism is often confused with cynicism and I hope I’m able to diffuse that with Mystery Solved! and present readers with a more rational, empirical, outlook for the phenomenon that the Colonel encounters.
I make a pretty concerted effort with each strip to research the topic and find out what the real scientific consensus is, find actual stories, and so on, and then present that information in a humorous way.
I hate to put you on the spot, but other than me (ha!), who have you enjoyed working with the most?
Honestly, everyone who has turned in work to me so far has been nothing short of fantastic. I mean that with all sincerity. Jim Miller did some great character designs based on my descriptions, and really helped establish the world. You turned in a great looking story with some great work on the panel layouts, Andy Jewett has turned in some really nice looking preliminary work, and Dave Wachter…well wait’ll you get a load of Dave’s pages.
I’ve been very fortunate with the people I’ve been able to work with and I’m forever grateful to all of them. On the other hand, I feel at least a little bad for the people who have to follow them…
If you could pick one artist to work with on your dream project, who would it be?
Ditko. Doing a Blue Beetle/Question story with Steve Ditko is the dream that will never come true, but I fantasize about constantly.
What about Super Show are you looking forward to the most?
Getting together with friends. That’s always my favorite part…
For more information on all of Zack’s projects, visit www.mysterysolvedcomic.com, and be sure to drop by his table at the Super Show!
We’ll be back soon with another 100% Super Show Approved interview. Join us, won’t you?