Jesse Blaze Snider is a voice over actor, football player, rock musician, and comic writer whose work includes Dead Romeo, Toy Story, and Hulk: Let the Battle Begin. Now, along with artist Jason Craig, he is bringing back Brian Pulido and Steven Hughes’ creation, Evil Ernie, at Dynamite Entertainment. Westfield’s Roger Ash talked with Snider to learn more about his plans for the series.
Westfield: For those who may not be familiar with the character, who is Evil Ernie?
Jesse Blaze Snider: Evil Ernie is a destroyer of Evil. He’s not actually evil. He’s misunderstood. He genuinely believes that he can make the world a better place by killing evil people. He spent most of his life asking God to step in, make the world a better place and save him from his abusers, but after years of unanswered prayers and a torturous upbringing at the hands of his foster parents and neighbors…he snapped. It’s that old adage, “if you want something done right, you do it yourself.” Ernie is doing it himself. …with a little help from his “imaginary friend,” Smiley.
Not that you asked, but Smiley is a sort of a deranged “Jiminy Cricket” to Ernie. He’s not a reincarnated pet rat like last time around and while he is at times referred to as Ernie’s “imaginary friend”…he isn’t that either. Smiley is a way more fully formed character than he has been in past incarnations of the book and you’ll see him doing a lot more as the series goes on, often independently of Ernie. When you start to see some of Jason’s art from the book, you’ll almost immediately notice some subtle differences about Smiley. The new Smiley is…creepy and he’ll only get creepier.
Westfield: What appealed to you about this project?
Snider: Well, I always viewed Ernie & Smiley as Lobo with Deadpool’s head pinned to his chest! And, if I’m being honest, Lobo & Deadpool are why I read comics! They’re just fun! Fun, fun, fun. I mean, I love Batman and Daredevil as much as the next guy and you can really tell some meaningful stories with those characters, but Lobo, Deadpool, Evil Ernie and Smiley are these really special kind of characters that only exist in comics! They’re zany! Gratuitous! They’re almost a fourth wall breaking commentary on comic book characters, but I think that’s why we love them. They are just so… ridiculous! And I just felt that if I could take this ridiculousness and make it mean something, make it carry a modicum of sense, that it could transcend what it is now and become something really, kinda wonderful and unique.
I have a soft spot for legitimizing ridiculous & gratuitous characters. Some of my favorite comics ever are Joe Kelly’s Deadpool/Death Annual (Where he made everything that was stupid about Deadpool really cool & kinda sensical) and Grant Morrison’s Animal Man run (Where he broke the fourth wall and made me love a comic book character in the same way I love people). I wanna do that. I wanna make people fall in love with Ernie like Morrison made me fall in love with Animal Man. And I want to make sense of Ernie’s bizarreness and have it seem almost well thought out the same way Kelly made sense out of Deadpool for me.
Westfield: What can readers look forward to in Evil Ernie?
Snider: Revenge. Ernie will have his revenge on those directly responsible for his misery and then he’s gonna branch out and go after those responsible for the rest of the world’s misery. There’s always been something so romantic to me about “the Punisher.” The Mafioso’s who murdered Frank Castle’s family are long dead and yet he just keeps going. Trying to get his revenge. Maybe because he thinks he is making the world a better place, but mostly revenge, I think. Completely…selfish…revenge. Ernie is on a similar path, but there is a lot more to it than that.
This book asks the question, is it nature or nurture? I think we give a realistic answer, which is, given the right set of circumstances even the purest and most optimistic among us can be dragged down to the gutters. And unfortunately, nurture plays a much bigger part in the person we ultimately become. But knowing how good Ernie could have been, what he might have become naturally, makes him all the more interesting when you see him going against that nature.
We also try and explain why the good die young and why God seems to never come anywhere near Earth. The answer to the first question is, because God needs REALLY GOOD people for his armies! Heaven needs soldiers, the same way Hell does. The main difference is Heaven doesn’t have to recruit, because evil men send Heaven new recruits every day. Of course, that’s why Hell created Ernie. He’s basically a one man recruitment drive for Hell’s armies…but he doesn’t know that. Smiley does. I’ve said too much.
Westfield: You’re working with artist Jason Craig. What can you say about his contribution to the book?
Snider: Jason Craig is UNREAL! Honestly, I have never worked with anyone like him! He has put soooo many hours into making each and every character and set piece live and breathe! For whatever reason, my scripts and the characters in it spoke to him and he has been diligently crafting my ridiculous narrative into something that is bigger, scarier and more real than I’d ever imagined it would be. I’ve worked with people who go the extra mile, Jason Craig has gone the extra lightyear with every aspect of this book!
I was excited about my plans for Smiley. When Jason Craig heard what I was up to and started drawing him…well, let’s just say, I’m giddy. Jason already has amazing work under his belt, but I think his work on this book blows it all away. I keep waiting for him to cut some corners or settle into a more realistic work ethic, but the man just doesn’t quit. I make a small comment about a page that I love and that gives him an idea, so he redraws the entire page! This man is legitimately putting everything he has into this book and he has honestly shamed me on more than one occasion, to go back and take another pass on my scripts, so that they are on par with what he is delivering with the art.
His job is so much more difficult and time consuming than mine is and I can barely keep up. Truly.
Westfield: Any closing comments?
Snider: Forget what you know or think you know about Chaos! Comics and particularly Evil Ernie. You are NOT gonna be able to judge this book by its covers and you will be doing your pull-list a great disservice if you do. We are crafting a tale that everyone (with a strong stomach) can enjoy and I hope you will all give it a look come October. If not for me, then for my fabulous workaholic artist and new friend, Jason Craig, who is convinced that this book is worth killing himself over! I’m gonna feel terrible if he’s wrong. Fingers crossed.