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No GravatarI recently had the chance to talk with one of the best comic creators working in the industry right now, Thom Zahler. We discussed his comics, his influences and his advice for new creators. have a read below.

 

 

 

 

 

JB: What were some of your favourite comics growing up?

TZ: I cut my teeth on Superman and the Justice League books. Especially when I was younger, the DC stories were 1-3 part stories that ended, which was kinder when you don’t have any control over when you buy your next book. Firestorm became my favorite because that was the first #1 I ever bought. In the world before reboots and constant renumbering, getting a #1 was special. Oddly, Firestorm was a very Marvel-style character.

 

JB: Who were your favourite artists and writers? Who had the most influence on you?

TZ: As a kid, Curt Swan and Kurt Schaffenberger. Curt drew Superman and he was everywhere. Kurt drew so slick and so perfect, his stuff was just gorgeous. Go back and find his stuff. Such a strong and smooth line, and he made simple look good. He wasn’t designed for everything, but his Shazam stuff was transcendent. And Perez took it to another level for me.

 

JB: You went to the Kubert school, what was that experience like?

TZ: I always describe it as boot camp for artists. We had two classes a day, five days a week. I did 100 assignments before I went home for Thanksgiving. Just the volume of work gets you better. I learned a bunch of new methods and materials, grew so much as an artist, and forged some of my closest friendships.

 

Ultimately, I appreciate that Joe was teaching us to be Will Eisner. I can create a book, top to bottom. It gives me a flexibility to produce books that are important to me. I don’t know how much I appreciated it when I was in school, but I’m so grateful for it now.

 

 

JB: Can you describe some of the major influences on Love and Capes?

 

TZ: Darwyn Cooke, Bruce Timm and the DC Animated art style were huge for the look of the book. A cartoony style was something I fought for a long time, but when I got on the right book and I started doing it, I realized it was my wheelhouse. All that time trying to draw like Curt Swan or George Perez and apparently my art brain doesn’t work that way. But cartoony animated stuff, that’s my jam.

 

Writing wise, Berke Brethed’s Bloom County was a giant influence. It may not seem like it, but Love and Capes had a four panel beat structure. Essentially, it was Bloom County comic strip style jokes stitched together. It was also a comedic metronome for me.

 

The banter comes from my love of TV and sitcoms. Aaron Sorkin, Friends, How I Met Your Mother all loomed large in my head. When writing. It’s hard, because words take room and you have to structure them so the cadence is right there, as opposed to delivered by an actor. But I thought I did well with it.

 

JB:  You mention in your books, some of your influences, and how you put one of your pre-professional creations into the comic. At what point did it hit you that you are a professional comic creator? That moment where you felt a sense of wow at the situation. Do you ever stop feeling like a fan, or do you just appreciate being a fan in new ways?

TZ: That’s a great question! I’m not sure. I felt like a professional artist for years, being a graphic designer for an ad agency. But feeling like I was a full-fledged cartoonist, whatever that means, probably not until IDW picked up Love and Capes. Self-publishing was awesome, but when someone else is putting their money into publishing your work, that’s a different level. And it’s been iterative. IDW made the trades, then started publishing new issues, and then hired me on My Little Pony which was my first non-creator owned writing gig. Ultimate Spider-Man was my first animated TV gig. There’s always another rung on the ladder.

 

I don’t think I’ll ever feel comfortable. But I think that keeps me hungry and growing.

 

JB:  Have you ever considered going back to Love and Capes? Maybe a spinoff featuring Charlotte?

 

TZ: I think about it all the time. Love and Capes is very special to me, but that’s also why it’s so hard to return to. The birth of their child was the planned ending for the series, and I really felt like I stuck that landing. I don’t want to overstay my welcome or go out on a false note. I think stories need to end.

 

That said, if I ever have the RIGHT story, I’ll come back in a heartbeat. It’s interesting you mention Charlotte, because she might be my favorite character. She never found a boyfriend in the series because I couldn’t manage to write anyone worthy of her. I’ve toyed around with shifting the focus to Darkblade and Amazonia, different love, different capes. But I haven’t felt that inner voice telling me “This story, right now.”

 

JB: Your comic Time and Vine is one of the most intriguing ideas I have ever seen. How did you come up with that idea? How long were you working on it before you made it a comic?

 

TZ: I blame Kurt Busiek. I seem to recall him tweeting something about a wine comic and the idea just came to me. It wasn’t the next story idea I had, but it quickly took over my writer’s brain. I was on a walk one day and the structure of the story just came to me and it was so right. Once that happened, I was committed.

 

The time travel aspect locked down pretty quickly. I knew what the story required and the rules worked pretty well. I don’t think there are any cheats or paradoxes. Magic helps a lot.

 

I hope it’s a powerful story. If I do it right, it’ll be my Up. And if you’ve heard me talk about how much I love that movie, you know what that means to me.

 

 

JB: What was it like working on the My Little Pony comic? That franchise has a very dedicated fanbase, so did that make working on the project any different?

 

TZ: I try to respect the fans for sure. I’m a huge Star Trek fan, so I know about loyal fanbases. But the best Trek movie was written by Nick Meyer, who wasn’t a huge fan. I hoped to bring that outside perspective to it when I started. Now, I am a fan of the show, and I am a fan of the fans. But, if I’m doing it right, I also have the distance from the property to write interesting stories. Using Trek as an example again, I’m not sure I would have been bold enough to write Kirk feeling old, having a child, or killing Spock. But those were all great choices… bold choices… by someone who knew what a good story was and not just what they wanted to see.

 

 

JB: What advice do you have to new writers and artists trying to break into the industry?

 

TZ: Keep learning and be persistent are the big ones. And make something. There are less middle range publishers who would pay you to do sample pages like when I broke in, so you’ve got to publish on the web, or Comixology, or self-publish.

 

But that’s the big thing to me. It’s never a static game board. The rules keep changing. I came out of Kubert with the skill of hand-lettering. But computer lettering was on the horizon. Which meant that I was riding a wave. I could get hand lettering work, but I had to decide if I wanted to adapt to keep getting more work. I’ve learned how to color on the computer, how to draw on the computer and so on. I never wanted to self-publish, but it became the solution to the problem in front of me.

 

Basically, your job isn’t being a cartoonist. Your job is being employed.

 

 

JB: What are some projects you would like to work on, licensed properties or otherwise?

 

TZ: Star Trek, Star Trek, Star Trek! I love Trek so much, and co-wrote a short story for Pocket Books. I’d love to do more.

 

And I’d love to do a traditional superhero book. I think my sensibilities are just enough off-center to do something quirky while still writing a standard superhero book. Superman, Iron Man, Firestorm… I’d love to take a shot at those.

 

 

JB:  Do you have anything you would like to say to the readers of Real Otaku Gamer?

 

TZ: I’ve got a new project that just dropped from Webtoons, too! It’s called Warning Label and it’s about a girl named Danielle who’s been cursed by her ex-boyfriend that anytime she gets asked out, they get a warning label of all the things they need to watch out for. You can check it out at:

http://www.webtoons.com/en/romance/warning-label/list?title_no=1051

 

Time and Vine is in Previews now. And I’ll have a couple more My Little Pony issues coming out this summer, too!

JB: Thank you again for doing this.

 

TZ: My pleasure!

 

 

You can follow Thom on Twitter @thomzahler

 

 

Love and Capes and Long Distance are both available at Amazon.

 

By Jonathan Balofsky On 13 Sep, 2016 At 05:21 AM | Categorized As Comics/Manga, Editorials, Featured, Reviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments

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I previously wrote about Love and Capes here, and now it is time for me to continue the discussion by talking about Love and Capes volume 2: Going to The Chapel.

We start off with Mark ( the crusader) planning to propose to his girlfriend Abby on Christmas ever. He is stopped, not by a villain but by her sister Charlotte who reveals that Abby would hate that type of proposal. What follows is one of the most amusing sequences in comics, as Mark comes up with idea after idea to try and propose.

Once that is done with, the volume really kicks into high gear. Abby and Mark grow closer than ever together while planning their wedding, Charlotte goes off to school in Paris ( thanks to Darkblade) and a new hire is made at Abby’s bookstore. The good times don’t last however as Mark and the rest of the super heroes are dragged off into a cosmic gladiator battle that leaves Abby alone….in more ways than one.  Thom Zahler does a really great job of breaking down the non super heroics parts of Super Hero tropes and ideas. Namely, if a super hero and their romantic partner fly off to another country, what happens when the partner becomes stranded in said country when the hero is pulled away. I thought it was excellent to show how the situation gets solved without Mark’s help. From their we deal with an evil clone that nearly destroys the romance between Mark and Abby and makes things awkward with his ex-girlfriend Amazonia. But you cannot keep a good hero down and Mark and his friends help put things right.

The next part of the comic is the best part for me. We get to see the fallout of such an event and what other characters do for support. Abby decides that the only way she will ever understand Mark is to get super powers of her own. This is accomplished thanks to Doc Karma ( who can read anyone’s mind but Abby’s), who can help her because Abby is doing this for love. It does have a warning though, as she will keep the powers until she decides she no longer wants them.  We then see Mark and Abby begin to understand each other better while working together ( and getting in some excellent jokes at the same time), while Amazonia begins to confide in Darkblade due to needing support. Abby excels for a time but Doc Karma’s warning proves true and she decide that powers are not for her. The circumstances surrounding Abby losing her powers show Zahler’s ability to write emotional scenes that really get to you, and you will feel deeply for Abby and what she is going through.

After that it is time for the wedding, but Zahler isn’t done yet. What follows is a time travel storyline, that while confusing ( and later issues joke about how confusing it is), show the depth of Abby and Mark’s relationship, as she will do anything she can to save him from an enemy. It is even pointed out in this issue that Abby has gone from being a bystander to being a badass in her own right. She is able to save Mark and foil the villain’s plan and Doc Karma then helps her return and get to the chapel for her wedding. Sorry for the lack of details but I am trying to cut down on spoilers.

Love and Capes volume 2 is a comic with excellent humor, drama and emotion. It takes the super hero concept and without trying, deconstructs then reconstructs the entire genre. It looks at what would realistically happen, then reminds us why we love these comics in the first place.

If you have not yet checked out Love and Capes, then I recommend you do so!

 

 

By Jonathan Balofsky On 21 Jan, 2016 At 03:38 PM | Categorized As Comics/Manga, Featured, Reviews, Reviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments

No GravatarSuperheroes are awesome. We can all agree on that, but sometimes we need to look beyond the super heroics. What if I told you there was a comic book that was essentially a super hero sitcom? And that there are 4 volumes out that you can read now?

Love and Capes was created by Thom Zahler, an extremely talented cartoonist, who applied TV sitcom writing to comic book superheroes. The result was an amazing comic book that will provide hours upon hours of entertainment.

Volume 1.

 

We begin the comic by seeing bookstore owner Abby Tennyson on a date with her boyfriend, accountant Mark Spencer. They’ve been dating for a few months and Abby thinks Mark is a great guy. But Mark has a secret. He is the most powerful super hero on the planet, The Crusader. Mark decides to reveal his secret to Abby after talking with his friend Darkblade (a Batman analogue with some of the wittiest lines) but really should have thought of a better way and he learns you should really catch people when they faint.

 

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After getting over the initial shock, Abby starts enjoying the perks of being a superhero’s girlfriend

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….and the downsides, like Super Ex-Girlfriends in the form of Amazonia, one of the top heroes, as well as the fact that Mark will constantly be in danger and on call, thus interrupting dates as well as leaving her worried.

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Fortunately Abby has her sister to rely on for support…and vice versa as we see later. Love and Capes is an amazing exercise in showing a supporting cast. Yes there are awesome characters like Doc Karma (and his love of TV shows that haven’t been released on DVD stateside) who perfectly captures the kookiness and awesomeness of the Ditko era Doctor Strange and Arachnerd (3 guesses who he is based on and the first 2 don’t count).

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However, we also have excellent supporting characters like the aforementioned Charlotte, Mark’s parents and the rest of Abby’s family.  The superheroics are off panel and the focus is on the human side. We see Mark get jealous of other heroes and the reason why become a plot point. We see Abby grow more and not just as a superhero’s girlfriend but also as her own character with her own interests, as does Charlotte and Darkblade whom we learn more about. The last part of volume 1 deals with Mark and Amazonia’s former relationship and its at the end w see why Mark and Abby go so well together. That they are a good couple. If that sounds sappy I’m sorry because the comic is also incredibly funny and witty.  The drawings are excellent and evoke both classic and new TV cartoons.

 

If you like comics you owe it to yourself to get this.