Beauology 101: My Creative Conversation With — Billy Tucci

Beau Smith-Wrangler Of Words.

Beau Smith-Wrangler Of Words.

by Beau Smith

Billy Tucci, we’ve been friends for over twenty years. The “friends” part, well, as far as Billy knows…we are.

Billy is filled with an almost unlimited amount of energy. He is easily stimulated, and when that happens, Billy creates things. At times it seems his creativity has no limits. Billy once decided he wanted to write, direct, and produce a film. Everyone else kinda shook their head and smiled. Billy didn’t. He went out and wrote, produced, and directed his own film. It got made. I have the DVD to prove it. Billy Tucci is the guy you want on your team, in your foxhole, and always at your back. If you are his friend, you have a loyal friend for life. If you’re his enemy…well, let’s just say he’ll be the nightmare you never wake up from.

Billy is blessed. He’s a writer with enthusiasm, an artist without peer with his own personal style, and an inner drive that’s only gear is full throttle. We should all be as blessed as Billy Tucci.

He is a perfect lesson for those that seek to be in the comic book business on a creative level. Billy and I have ridden the trail together, we’ve had beers, shared meals, helped friends, and kicked the living crap out of each other’s shins in epic Shin Kicking Contests, all because we’re comrades. You can learn from the “larger than life” of Billy Tucci. Today he and I have a serious, creative conversation on the topic of creating comic books. I hope that you read, enjoy, and learn from it. Maybe some of Billy’s energy and creativity will rub off on you.

Billy Tucci-Writer-Artist-Bon Vivant.

Billy Tucci-Writer-Artist-Bon Vivant.

Beau Smith: Billy, all creative people have different methods to capture and harness their creativity. Some writers fill legal pads and notebooks with jotted and cryptic words that only they understand. Artists sometimes fill sketchbooks with scribbles and scrawl that seem chaotic to the untrained eye, but make perfect sense to the person behind the pencil. Do you have moments where an idea, a design, or a plot “hits you” and you have to capture it in some form? How do you do harness it?

Billy Tucci: Absolutely it does and my wife likes to refer to it as “my husband’s pregnant again.” If it’s a really good idea then I do end up thinking of not much else for at least a week. Doing quick sketches in books, napkins, loose-leaf paper, anything. My moleskin journal (thanks to you Beau) is a giant mess, but to me it all makes sense. I’ll also talk to whomever amongst my friends, family, and peers whose opinion I appreciate while working it out. Funny thing is, and I believe I’ve done this to you Beau, is that I’ll be rambling on the phone and then work it out while my friends idle by as I jab away. If it has a historical content, I’ll start buying books on Amazon and then devour them when they come in. All the while, I’m waiting the day or two until they get there, driving myself a bit mad. But in the end, it works. Shi was like that back in the early 1990s, as were a few others that I’ve got locked away ready to put out there now that I’m publishing again. I’m working my butt off to get our first comic book crowdfunded book, “Zombie-Sama” (with my co-creator John Broglia), out in the next two weeks so I can begin working on “Shi: Return of the Warrior” in earnest and have that launch via crowdfunding in late June or early July.

Zombie Sama

Zombie Sama

Beau Smith: You’re blessed with creative experience on many levels, Billy, as a publisher, writer, artist, film director, screenplay writer, producer, and businessman. You’ve seen the industry change, trends develop, as well as fads crash and burn. Has your process with pitches on properties that you do not own changed with the ever changing technology landscape?

Billy Tucci: I did dabble in that with Marvel over a decade ago and thought of a fun project that was very in tune with the times. It revolved around Captain America disappearing after “Civil War” and it seemed like everyone loved it but for one reason or another, it never came to be. Most of the others however are set in the Golden Age (where I apparently seem to be trapped in myself) and love stories before and during WWII. I love the whole energy of the time and this beautiful budding industry that was comics. To recapture that whole spirit of adventure that was the Golden Age could really help our struggling industry today.

Beau Smith: Speaking of technology, do you work digital or on paper?

Billy Tucci: I use both. I start in my journal – notes, sketches, even poignant lines of dialogue and then move onto typing it in pitch-form on my laptop. But the computer really is the last stage. Again, I’ve got pages and sketches strewn all about my studio, in piles, folders, and push-pinned into corkboard.

Beau Smith: Your thoughts on working in either process…

Billy Tucci: Again, I’m a hand’s on type of fella, so I love scribbling and scratching into my journal. I only really go digital with research (on the web) or when I’m ready to write up the pitch. Of course I draw freehand, but then scan that art in and hire a colorist to work up a promo piece – which is fun. Again, I get “pregnant” with ideas and it becomes all-consuming. My son was complaining the other day that I was on my phone during his whole baseball game as I was researching a new property that I just can’t seem to get off my mind!

Beau Smith: As a writer on a project working with an artist other than yourself, do you still see YOUR art in your head when writing the script, or do you see it in the form of the artist you’re working with?

Shi by Billy Tucci.

Shi by Billy Tucci.

Billy Tucci: My wife will have a different take on my answer (or tell you that I’m not being truthful) but really I don’t see MY art. I DO see my panel breakdowns and layouts though. I’m not a big fan of working “Marvel Style”. I like to work up full scripts and even prefer getting them myself. I love the “idea” of working “Marvel Style” but it always seems to add a lot of extra work for both the writer and artist. I think I drove you crazy with “Wolverine/Shi” because I wanted to work in that style, didn’t I? (Beau Smith: “Yes, You Did.”)

I also do love seeing the artist’s take on my scripts. I’m usually pretty easy, and just ask to be kept in the loop if they have ideas regarding how many panels or any change in direction. It is a collaboration after all.

Beau Smith: On occasions where you’re the artist on a project and not the writer, do you put yourself into a different state of mind when working off someone else’s script. Is it hard to shut off being in charge of the scripted story?

Billy Tucci: No, not at all. I love working with Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner as I’ll call them up with questions and ask if I could rework a panel or two on a page as it’s working better for me. Usually they say “sure”, but if not, I’ll respect the writer’s wishes and just bull through it and make sure I deliver what they had intended in their head while creating it in the first place.

Beau Smith: You’re known for being one of the most requested creators for conventions and signings. I think right now you are averaging at least two shows a month, if not more. What part of a convention is your favorite? The thing that has never stopped getting you amped up for the show?

Billy Tucci: It’s the fans. I’m taking a break from conventions because I’m loving staying home and writing/drawing and publishing again. I usually do about 20 shows a year, but that’ll be dropped drastically next year to around 10. There’s just not enough time in the day to do it all when you wear so many hats.

But I do love going to cons and seeing old friends and really speaking with the fans. Many have become dear friends over these past 25 years. And from all different walks and interests. I’ve made buddies because of Sgt. Rock and the same with Shi, but it’s not really the same crowd. I’ve tried having dinners/parties with them (since it seems I do all sorts of different types of books) and it’s interesting to see them staying in their corners initially but then all coming together due to their shared love of comics.

Meeting fans though really is the best part. Creating comics really is a solitary existence. You must stay focused and closeted away when creating, but on the other hand, I too am a fan so it’s wonderful to actually talk comics with fans – I get so inspired that (after a day or two of decompressing) I’m flooded with new ideas and energy. It’s also fantastically fun to hang out with my compadres after the show, to have a drink and listen to their ideas. There’s just so much talent in our industry these days.

The Rocketeer by Billy Tucci

The Rocketeer by Billy Tucci

Beau Smith: You do a lot of sketches at the conventions. You’re asked and paid to do a lot of characters, your own, such as Shi, as well as long time iconic characters like Wonder Woman and Captain America. Do you have a handful of personal favorites to draw?

Billy Tucci: I love to draw the Rocketeer. He’s my all-time favorite character alongside Sgt. Rock. I also love to draw Miss Fury. I’ve been mesmerized with June Tarpe’ Mills’ “Cat Woman” for over two decades and am so excited and honored to write her for the upcoming “Joy Division” graphic novel through Dynamite.

Beau Smith: My follow up on that same question is, after doing so many for so long, can you still be surprised by a request now and then? If so, can you tell us what character(s) they might be?

Billy Tucci: Oh yes. There’s always a surprise request and that’s a lot of fun. Trying new things. It’s also an honor when someone asks and says, “I’d love to see your take oh XXX”. Right now, I’m doing a commission on an Anime Character from Cowboy BeeBop. Really sexy and fun, nervous as all hell to do it, but “full speed ahead” as they say!

Beau Smith: As a writer, can you share a list of some of YOUR personal favorite comic book writers? I understand you can’t name them all and in order, the list would be too many, but if you can toss out a few for our readers, that would be great.

Billy Tucci: Oh man, Stan Lee and Frank Miller of course and as you know, I’m a huge fan of yours too. There is a handful of current writes that I’m just blown away by. I love Chuck Dixon and he’s been a huge influence on my own writing style. Those working for the big two would have to be Jimmy and Amanda, Donnie Cates and Scott Snyder. They’re just killing it and if I may, have heard some of what they really “want” to do with these iconic characters and if and hopefully “when” they can implement their ideas, readers will just be astonished. Again, there’s a lot of talent out there, and their track records have proved it so, so please let them RUN. Turn em’ loose. We’ll all be better for it.

That said – there’s also a lot of crap “writers” working who have no business in the business. They don’t seem to care about storytelling or the history and lore of these icons. Some have even admitted to not even liking comics and wanting to add their own take or brand to these characters they do not or in my humble opinion, want not to care about or care for the past. The numbers industry-wide are showing that they’re not only failing themselves but the publishers, artists, and most importantly, the fans.

Beau Smith: On the other side, can you share the names of some of your favorite comic book artists?

Billy Tucci: Wow. There’s just so many. Of course, Joe Kubert is first and foremost to me. But there are just so many! I love Graham Nolan (funny that’s how we became friends as I was all fanboying over him. lol), Frank Frazetta, Greg Capullo, Mark Schultz, George Perez, David Finch, Adam Hughes, Mike Allred, and of course, the late Darwyn Cooke. Come to think of it, I think I fanboyed over all of them and they thought me sane enough to hang out with. lol. I do however really, really LOVE cartoonists. Guys with a more free and simple style. Guys like Stan Sakai and Jeff Smith astound me. How free and fluid they can be with their animation-influenced confidence is just wonderful.

I’m also a huge fan of the true greats like Milton Caniff, Noel Sickles, Steve Ditko, Alex Toth and of course Will Eisner!

Wonder Woman by Billy Tucci.

Wonder Woman by Billy Tucci.

Beau Smith: Billy, as a creator, how important is it to be able to market yourself in this technologically savvy world we live in? It’s not like it used to be, where as a writer/artist, you can sit in a studio, alone, and just create. There seems to be a lot more to creating comics than there used to be.

Billy Tucci: Today you have to wear so many hats. Even when you work for the “Big Two” it’s best to promote your work. Today, and especially if you’re doing creator-owned, you have to hold three or four fulltime jobs. Marketer, writer, artist, editor, publisher, convention guest – it goes on and on and it’s a ton of work. But it does pay off. When I launch a crowdfunded project, I’m on social media everyday while it’s running. Doing live videos is a big thing, but you know what? I love it. I’m engaging directly with fans who literally take their hard-earned dollars and support you with it personally – and that’s exactly what it it, a very personal relationship with the consumer and it’s inspiring.

Beau Smith: Do you keep late hours with your work or are you one that works best early?

Billy Tucci:I like to work 9-5 but usually do work late into the night. Love that it’s baseball season, because drawing while “watching” a baseball game is easy and comforting. You really don’t have to watch every minute of it like hockey and it really helps pass the time. Perhaps that’s why it’s called “America’s Past Time.” Lol.

Sgt. Rock by Billy Tucci.

Sgt. Rock by Billy Tucci.

Beau Smith: Billy, are there any creators, writers, or artists that you would like to work with?

Billy Tucci: Yes. I’d love to draw for Scott Snyder and Donnie Cates. I’ve had conversations with them and listened to their ideas and was like “I need to do that!” lol. On the other hand one of my biggest regrets is never getting the chance to work with my pal, Darwyn Cooke who always wanted to draw a Sgt. Rock story written by me.

Beau Smith: You’re well known for your work on war and superhero books, but we’ve yet to see you on a romance, western, or science fiction book. Do you have any desire for these genres or is there one in particular that you’d jump on in a minute if given the opportunity?

Billy Tucci: I really, really enjoyed telling the Christmas story, in “A Child Is Born”. I’m planning for 2021 to do a sequel, “Blessed Are They” which is about the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. I also love the war comics genre, more so than superheroes. I think I’m just drawn to historical stories with real personal aspects and relationships.

Beau Smith: For folks that are coming to a convention to meet you and either buy some original art or get a commission done by you, how can they best prepare? Especially if it’s a commission, do they need to bring anything?

Billy Tucci: Reference for a commission is good and of course, a fistful of cash for my manager, Beau Smith! Seriously though, just stop by and say hello. I do not charge for signatures but occasionally have a bucket for the American Legion to raise money for our veterans.

Billy Tucci Studio.

Billy Tucci Studio.

Beau Smith: What are your tools for creativity in writing and art? Computer, pens, pencils, colors, paper, equipment?

Billy Tucci: All the above, but as always it’s starts with a simple idea, a ballpoint pen and a napkin.

Beau Smith: Thanks for your time, Billy. How can folks follow you on social media?

Billy Tucci: I’m new to it all but please follow me on twitter, Instagram @billytucci. I also have a youtube channel, “Billy Tucci” and a new one with my partner, Nile Scala titled crowdfunding comics. It’s a great show where we have several guests per week discussing how to make your own comic via Kickstarter or Indiegogo but we also have discussions about comics, movies, and entertainment. This week, I’m really excited as Friday night we have the one and only Joe Sinnott as a guest!

Billy Tucci is creative, energetic, charismatic, but most of all, he’s a friend.

Beau Smith

The Flying Fist Ranch

Find me on Twitter and Instagram @BeauSmithRanch



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