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Interview: Vita Ayala & Danny Lore on Dynamite’s James Bond

James Bond #1
James Bond #1


Vita Ayala is the writer of such comics as Age of X-Man: Prisoner X, Livewire, and Morbius. Danny Lore is the writer of Queen of Bad Dreams and has worked with Vita as an editor. Now they’re joining forces as co-writers for Dynamite’s James Bond. They recently sat down with Westfield’s Roger Ash to discuss all things Bond.

Westfield: What is the appeal of Bond for you?

Danny Lore: I love characters that are super cool and super competent at what they do. There’s a slickness there, one that no other character really embodies for me. Even when he’s wrong, he’s right, you know? Style, no matter what side of the gun he’s on.

Vita Ayala: As a character, Bond is a combination of suave charm and an unrelenting force. He’s the Terminator in a tux, a mix of sharp observation and chameleon like adaptation. He isn’t perfect, but his flaws somehow manage to ingratiate him further rather than repel. He is The Coolest.

As a franchise, I think Bond represents an idealized version of espionage. (Maybe IDEALIZED is the wrong word, because, as stated above, Bond and the white hats in that universe are not at all perfect.) There is room for riddles and stretching intellectual muscles, but there is also a healthy dose of action and dynamic drama to keep folks on the edge of their seats, whether we are talking about the books, the various motion media versions, or the comics. I love a good spy story, and I love a good action adventure, and Bond is that perfect sweet spot that can engage my brain and get me thinking about the mystery, while fulfilling my desire to see cool fights, bonkers car chases, and explosions!

Westfield: How do you work together as co-writers? Who does what?

Ayala: Danny and I did a TON of development for this story, long before the scripting phase. We have broad outlines, issue breakdowns, and page by page breakdowns. That was the two of us in a room riffing, then bringing it to our editor who would poke and prod, until we got it right.

Usually, when Danny and I work together we take turns on first pass, but for Bond I was selfish and wanted to get to read all the first drafts as if I was fresh (even knowing the page by page, things change/evolve in the execution)! I love the way Danny writes, and they were born to write Bond. So Danny is doing first passes, and I am handling notes/revisions.

I think one of my strengths is looking at a piece and finding all the areas there might be questions/holes, and shoring it up. This has been a dream to work on, because Danny never takes any changes made personally, and we have a very good back and forth style creative process.

Lore: Vita and I have been working together on books for awhile now, from even before we were pitching anywhere! Like Vita said, we do a lot of pre-scripting work to make a story like Bond work. There’s always going to be twists and turns, foreshadowing and hinting– you can’t really do a story like that without putting in the detail work. Which is beautiful for co-writing, because you already kind of need to put in some of that work to make sure that the two writers don’t contradict each other!

While I do the first passes for Bond, Vita really is a lifesaver here– they are great at sharpening both scenes and dialog in a way that really matches the classic pacing of Bond!

Westfield: What can readers look forward to in the book?

Lore: We’ve got a really wild art world ride lined up for our readers! Forgery and mysterious money trails leading back to old friends and foes– all while introducing new characters that have their own sense of style and flare on the job! I Bond is going to be in a world that is both very much his (explosions! international crime! very good looking people looking good while doing very bad things!) and very much not. I love a good heist story, a good story about forgers, and theoretically, there are a lot of shared skill sets between those characters and a spy. But how they use them and when– that’s what really fuels this arc.

Plus some familiar faces will be making an appearance as well…

Ayala: I think the whole team wanted to make a book that had weight, while also being fun. We wanted to tap into stakes that weren’t universe ending, but that had urgency, while still leaving plenty of room for the quipping-charming-flirting aspect of Bond. So, folks can look forward to what Bond does best – cracking the mystery with fancy new toys while dodging bullets and romancing the pretty ladies.

Westfield: Aside from Bond, who are some of the other characters readers will meet?

Ayala: I know Danny will talk more at length here, but I wanted to say that I am very excited that we got to create new characters (with Brandi and Reese), and also bring back some old favorites (with [redacted] and [redacted])!

Lore: Adventures like this one always need some good forgers and thieves, right? I’m super excited for readers to meet Brandi and Reese! Brandi is, ostensibly, an art fraud investigator with a bit of a past, and Reese is her trusty ‘definitely not currently involved in cat burglary’ partner. What we wanted was to build a cast that complimented Bond while pushing him to not always go in the way that he’d want to. Brandi is a character that is used to being in charge, and while she can definitely hold her own when things get dicey, she’s a civilian, and is well aware that the rules for her and Bond are different. And Reese, well…he’s very good at what he does (and probably wishes he was good at what Bond does!)

Westfield: Bond villains are almost as well known as Bond. Was it fun/challenging to create an opponent for Bond?

Ayala: It was pure fun, honestly! The puzzle of figuring out not just the Big Boss, but of how to come at Bond sideways so that the mystery of it all is believable was like the best sort of exercise (like playing DDR but for your creative brain). And honestly, I am spoiled in that Danny is an endless well of knowledge about the universe, so there was never doubt about what and who would fit into the world – the process was so smooth.

I also have a love of creating villains in general, so to get to sharpen my claws on Bond was a treat.

Lore: Creating people for Bond to come against is really fun! There’s a little bit of a video game leveling mentality that I take to it (although a lot of it is simply going back and forth with Vita until we hit gold!). Every villain is part of a gauntlet here– every villain is both a level up on, and a reaction to the last. How do we switch it up, how do we make Bond and his crew have to constantly switch modes in order to come out on top?

Westfield: You’re working with artist Eric Gapstur. What can you say about your collaboration?

Ayala: Eric is an actual genius with the pen. Whatever we think we are doing in the script, Eric is on the next level.

Danny and I both tend to make it pretty clear that the scripts are more loose guides rather than anything else, and it brings me so much joy to work with Eric because he will take our suggestions and make actual magic. And I think he is PERFECT for Bond, style and sensibility wise. It has been an absolute honor and pleasure to get to work with him on this book!

Lore: Eric is such a delight to work with! We’re trying to do a lot of different things in the script, from the more traditional Bond beats to things that I think are a little different from what expect to see. He’s been so great at not only engaging in what we put in the script, but pushing it into that kind of Bond-level slickness, really putting spins on concepts that we couldn’t possibly do in the script.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Ayala: I think that there is something for every Bond lover in this story, and things for people new to the franchise too! It is both approachable for the new folks, and familiar with a twist for old hats.

Lore: The whole team on this book is really pumped to show you this new series! It’s for classic Bond fans, it’s for people who miss shows like Burn Notice and White Collar, and it’s for people who are just craving a great adventure! Can’t wait for you all to see it!

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Interview: David Dastmalchian on Dark Horse’s Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter

Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter #1
Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter #1


You’ve seen actor David Dastmalchian in The Dark Knight, Ant-Man, MacGyver, The Flash, and much more. Now he comes to comics with Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter from Dark Horse. Dastmalchian recently shared the inside scoop on this fun new series with Westfield’s Roger Ash.

Westfield: What’s the genesis of the Count Crowley series?

David Dastmalchian: The first seeds of this story were planted back when I was a kid in Kansas City, sneaking downstairs to watch our local Creature Feature hostess, Crematia Mortem and the classic horror films that she would play on her show. I was enamored with monsters. The idea of monsters – both good and bad – filled my imagination. Around that same time I began my life-long passion for reading and collecting comic books. I was fascinated with mythology and creature lore, which led me to the creation of my own stories about monster hunters and the battle of good versus evil. As I grew up and began to study storytelling in many different forms I began to expand my understanding of “good” and “evil”. I began to really wrestle with questions that I had about the existence of evil in the world and the battles I was waging against my own demons of addiction and untreated depression. All of these ideas and stories began to connect to one another and I eventually came to the discovery of Jerri Bartman… aka Count Crowley!

David Dastmalchian, Svengoolie, and Crematia Mortem (photo)
David Dastmalchian, Svengoolie, and Crematia Mortem (photo)


Westfield: Are you a fan of the monster movie shows like Count Crowley?

Dastmalchian: I am a big fan of classic horror cinema and so the subculture of horror hosts and creature features is something that I have loved and appreciated since my childhood watching Crematia. When I moved to Chicago I discovered the incredible Svengoolie and I eventually began researching and learning about the hundreds of horror hosts that have entertained, frightened and introduced classic horror flicks to audiences. I love Vampira and the story behind Maila Nurmi’s journey with that character is both wonderful and sad. I have even created my own horror host persona and hope to some day have my own Creature Feature. And a side note that fills this horror geek with much joy – I have become friends with both Roberta Solomon (Crematia Mortem) and Rich Koz (Svengoolie) in recent years and they are important people in my life.


Westfield: What can readers look forward to in the book?

Dastmalchian: I’m so excited for readers to see and experience the monsters of Count Crowley. Jerri will come face to face with monsters that grow directly from the tradition of horror mythology that we are all familiar with… but there’s a twist! You see – all that we’ve been taught and told about monsters has been a lie. “Fake News”, if you will. A silver bullet isn’t going to stop a werewolf and wooden stakes won’t faze a vampire. In fact, killing or stopping the creatures of the night is MUCH more difficult than we’ve ever realized and they’ve been spinning false information into our society for generations. Lukas Ketner has brought my vision to such staggeringly stunning life! He has crafted creatures that look and move much like the monsters we know – and yet there is something new and terrifying about them that really leaps off the page. And I can’t wait for readers to meet Jerri. She is her own worst enemy. She’s filled with all of the emotions that make being a “grown-up” so difficult and yet there is a hero within. If she can just learn to overcome the darkness within herself she will be able to achieve her potential. I believe that’s true for all of us.

Westfield: Jerri Bartman is a fascinating character. What can you tell us about her?

Dastmalchian: Jerri is every person who ever had their dreams crushed. She’s everyone who struggled to hide their insecurity, their anxiety, their depression and shame. She’s riddled with pain and yet she’s a total and complete bad ass. She doesn’t realize that there is a warrior lurking within herself and her recklessly bad decision-making and self-destruction has kept that powerful person buried deep within. But fate has a way of revealing itself to us in the strangest of ways and, for Jerri, that comes when she reluctantly takes the job hosting a small TV station’s Friday night creature feature. Jerri’s passion has always been to work on television but as a respected, hard-hitting investigative journalist and news reporter. Putting on the cape and make-up of a local horror host is humiliating for her. Discovering that her predecessor was actually one of humanity’s last appointed monster hunters presents her with the knowledge that monsters aren’t only real but that she’s going to have to learn how to stop them if she wants to protect the people that she loves. Jerri has a lot of learning to do – just like me. I’ve been in recovery from addiction and treating my mental health for over seventeen years. I’ve known that monsters are real for much longer. And yet sometimes I feel like I’m just getting started on my path. I hope readers will care about Jerri as much as I do and come along with us on her journey.

Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter #2
Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter #2


Westfield: Who are some of the other characters readers will meet?

Dastmalchian: One of the most important characters in this world is the predecessor and mentor for Count Crowley, a man named Vincent Freis. Freis was a popular horror host in the 1950s and ‘60s who called himself “Vincent Frights” and, just like Count Crowley, was one of the Appointed. Vincent is now senile and living in a nursing home. When Jerri tracks him down for help she discovers that he’s also a male chauvinist who doesn’t believe that a woman could possibly be one of the Appointed. We will meet Jerri’s boss and best friend, Ben Bartman, who is struggling to keep believing in his unreliable and destructive sister. We’ll meet a werewolf named Steven, a mysterious cat named Marinus with a very specific agenda and a zombie named Dave… though in the world of Count Crowley, zombies are called “Billy’s” which is short for Bilatombia. Psychic Slaves. The walking corpses. They appear human but are far from it. We call them “Billy’s” for short.

Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter #3
Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter #3


Westfield: You’re working with artist Lukas Ketner on the book. What can you say about your collaboration?

Dastmalchian: My editor, Megan Walker, has done many incredible things for this comic. She’s brought in our incredible letterer (Frank Cvetkovic), our amazing colorist (Lauren Affe), has given me the kinds of notes that took my scripts to much deeper and greater levels of storytelling… but it was her suggestion of Lukas as our artist that really changed everything. He is the perfect artist for this series. His mastery of the tone and genre and nostalgic qualities that I wanted to be captured here is stunning. His ability to reflect Jerri’s complex emotional and psychological journey through expression and art is captivating. Working with Lukas on this series has been one of the great joys of my career in storytelling. Every new file he sends me is a gift. I can’t wait for readers to see this magic first-hand.

Svengoolie and David Dastmalchian
Svengoolie and David Dastmalchian


Westfield: Any closing comments?

Dastmalchian: I wandered into a comics shop called Clint’s in Kansas City when I was a kid and it changed my life. The opportunity to bring Jerri’s story to the pages of a comic with the support of Dark Horse and the incredible collaborators working on the series has been a dream and I hope that my gratitude for this opportunity will shine through on every page. I want my readers to experience a story that is totally new and unexpected while still tapping all of that joy and nostalgia we feel from classic comics and movies. I want you to know that these characters come from a real place within me and I’m proud and excited to share all of that with you. I want you to know and believe that the world is filled monsters – both good and bad – and that we can ally ourselves with the good monsters while defeating the bad ones. And most importantly, I want you to have an absolute blast entering and exploring the world of Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter!

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Interview: Matt Kindt on BOOM! Studios’ Folklords

Folklords #1 Matt Smith cover
Folklords #1 Matt Smith cover


Matt Kindt is the popular writer/artist of Mind MGMT and Dept. H,  and writer of X-O Manowar, Black Badge, and much more. Now he invites you to explore a new world of fantasy in Folklords from BOOM! Studios. Kindt gives Westfield’s Roger Ash the inside scoop on this upcoming series.

Folklords #1 Duncan Fegredo cover
Folklords #1 Duncan Fegredo cover


Westfield: What is the genesis of Folklords?

Matt Kindt: It was one of those situations where the title came first. That’s happened to me a few times in my career. I’ve had editors suggest a title. Dept. H was another one. I had the title for a couple years and was in search of a book to put it on. I’d forgotten the title idea and then a friend of mine reminded me of it when I was asking for title help. So that worked out. Divinity for Valiant was another title where the editor had a title in need of a story. I really sometimes like those prompts. The idea can sometimes just hit you like lightning if you have a title. Other books, like Super Spy – end up being called that because it was the working title for so long that it just became familiar. I never intended for it to be called that.

I’d been trying to come up with an idea specifically for Matt Smith – because I really wanted to work with him. I’d come up with a few different pitches and they weren’t really the kind of thing he was interested in drawing so I kind of stopped thinking about it. The paranoid part of me thought Matt just wasn’t interested in working with me…! But that wasn’t the case. I think he just wanted something more fun – something with some crazier things to draw and more fun characters. Something less grounded. So in a way this idea grew from the title and into what I thought Matt might like drawing. The main character, Ansel, in a way is the most grounded – he’s wearing a suit and tie. He’s the sort of grounded part of the story that I always start with before I ask the big “what if?” question – like…we have this kid…and then what if…? He’s living in a world populated by every kind of folk tale idea and characters.

Ansel and friends. Designs by Matt Smith
Ansel and friends. Designs by Matt Smith


Westfield: What can you tell us about Ansel?

Kindt: He’s a mystery – to himself and to us as readers. He has these kind of crazy visions of another world and begins dressing to match his fantasy world. But his fantasy world? Looks a lot like ours. He wears a suit and tie inspired by his visions. He begins “inventing” things that he’s seen in his fantasy world – lighters and walkie-talkies. But these visions kind of torture him – it’s why he’s gone on a quest to find the Folklords – who he thinks hold the answers to his problems.

The “quest” that he goes on was always kind of a cliché with these kinds of fantasy stories. It’s in every one you’ve ever read. I was working with another friend of mine, Brian Hurtt, on a collaboration story and he said he didn’t want to do a “quest” story. It made me laugh…we were working on a kind of Conan sword and sorcery tale and it got me to thinking of stories that aren’t quests. When I started writing this book – I thought it would be funny – a joke between me and him – if I made every character…when they turn eighteen – they have to go on a mandatory quest. So every character in the book is either going on a quest, planning a quest, or they’ve already gone on their mandatory test. It’s like graduating from high school. It’s just something you do. Sometimes instead of avoiding cliché, I think it’s fun to just run headlong into it and really overdo it. In a lot of ways, that’s what this series is about. We’ve seen the quests, and I think movies like Shrek and the Disney films have already picked apart a lot of the traditional folktales and done a meta-version of them. So the fun was trying to do a story that sort of threads that needle – it’s true to the tradition of folk tales but also aware of itself but not in a way that takes it less seriously.

Hanz, Greta, and more. Designs by Matt Smith
Hanz, Greta, and more. Designs by Matt Smith


Westfield: Who are some of the other characters readers will meet?

Kindt: There’s a big barbarian woman named Ugly, who is full of surprises…Hanz and Greta, a serial-killing duo who live in the woods and may have spent way too much time eating some old witches’ poisoned candy…it’s made them…very strange. There’s Demure, who’s anything but – and Ansel’s companion who’s completed her quest already and now has a kind of secret agenda. And the Librarians. Oh boy. The Librarians are a kind of mysterious warrior class that holds all knowledge in the world and closely monitors all quests. And they’re constantly demanding absolute silence. They’re…intimidating.

Librarian design by Matt Smith
Librarian design by Matt Smith


Westfield: What can you tell us about your collaboration with artist Matt Smith?

Kindt: Matt is one of those guys that are really an “artist’s artist.” Everyone that’s drawing in comics – they know and love him. And what gives him that artist’s artist status is the fact that he isn’t super flash and “look at me.” His talent lies in storytelling – in conveying the action and the character and panel flow. He’s not an illustrator – he’s what I call a “cartoonist” who really uses the medium of comic books in all the best ways. His pacing…his camera angles. He’s this generation’s Alex Toth and Jeff Smith rolled into one. Economy of line and impeccable storytelling.

Troll design by Matt Smith
Troll design by Matt Smith


Westfield: How much work went into developing a new fantasy world?

Kindt: A lot – I know that Matt Smith has spent a lot of time on the look of all of these characters – and there is still more to come. This first arc – we just start to branch out from Ansel’s hometown. We’re introduced to the troll that guards the bridge and the Librarians with their amazing armor and weapons. But there is an entire rogue’s gallery of misfits that Ansel is going to run into. The idea is to have the inside covers of the comic show a map of the known world. Every great fantasy book has a great series of maps in it. But the twist with this book is – every issue – as Ansel ventures further into the unknown – the map will expand with him. And this world is a big place – so the map is just going to grow and grow as the series progresses.

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Interview: Dan Abnett on Valiant’s Rai

Rai #1 Juan José Ryp Cover A
Rai #1 Juan José Ryp Cover A


Dan Abnett is the popular writer of Guardians of the Galaxy (with Andy Lanning), Aquaman, Fallen World, Justice League Odyssey, and much more. Now he tells the continuing adventures of Valiant’s future hero, Rai. Abnett sits down with Westfield’s Roger Ash for a closer look at this exciting new series.

Rai #1 preview page 1
Rai #1 preview page 1


Westfield: For people who haven’t read Rai before, what should they know going in?

Dan Abnett: The series is set in Valiant’s “future,” which is 4002 AD. Rai is a semi-synthetic (half-human) warrior built by Father, the A.I. that runs the orbital paradise called New Japan. He’s meant to be the protector, but when he realizes that Father is a tyrannical despot, he moves against the A.I. to free the people.

Where our series picks up, he is now on the strange “post post-apocalypse” Earth, trying to help the liberated population he saved…and trying to hunt down any last trace of the murderous Father A.I.

Rai #1 preview page 2
Rai #1 preview page 2


Westfield: There’s a good deal of exposition in the first issue, but there’s also a lot going on. Is it difficult to balance the two?

Abnett: There is, but I hope I’ve smoothed it into the flow of the story. I want the series—and the first issue—to urgently progress the ongoing backstory of Rai and New Japan for experienced readers, but also to be a great jumping-on point for new readers. I certainly don’t want any “Well, as you know…” moments. But I think it pays to explain. Hopefully, I’ve made those explanations an organic part of the dialogue and the ongoing world-building.

Rai #1 preview page 3
Rai #1 preview page 3


Westfield: What can you tell us about your collaboration with artist Juan José Ryp?

Abnett: Juan José “JuanJo” Ryp is an extraordinary artist. I couldn’t have been more pleased with the art as he started to go with it. He captures the detail, the fascination, and the cinematic style I was hoping for—and the action is amazing. It’s great to work with a talented artist who exceeds your expectations, and I know JuanJo has really bought into the series and the world-building, going out of his way to add all those brilliant details.

Rai #1 preview page 4
Rai #1 preview page 4


Westfield: The dialog between Rai and Raijin hooked me right away. Is that relationship enjoyable for you to explore?

Abnett: Absolutely. It’s the core of the series: The solemn Rai (who’s a great hero, but can be a little taciturn and dry) interacting with Raijin…who is his older brother. Raijin is an “older model Rai,” an earlier prototype. He looks like a child, but he’s actually Rai’s older brother. The dynamic is great. Raijin is wise, sardonic, but is very new to this world (he’s been in cold storage for a long time), so he makes a great character to examine and unfold the world through…and to observe Rai’s awkward and sometimes contradictory efforts to grow and balance his human and non-human sides.

Rai #1 preview page 5
Rai #1 preview page 5


Westfield: Who are some of the other characters readers will encounter?

Abnett: The start of the series is a run of individual adventures as they move on to their quest, showcasing the bizarre range of locations and characters this new world has to offer. But in the background, the threat of the big bad and his minions is building. The series villain is the Red King, a.k.a. Bloodfather, who is a fragment of the old Father A.I. searching for other parts of himself. It’s a treasure hunt. Rai and Raijin are hunting for the missing parts of Father (called “Off-spring”) to destroy them and prevent Father from coming back, and Bloodfather is trying to get to them first so he can be reborn. Bloodfather is using an artificial body to host himself—it happens to be the body of Bloodshot, still around in 4002! We’ll also catch up with Rai’s tech-savant human ally, Lula (aka Spylocke), and before long we’ll meet some very familiar faces from the Valiant Universe who are immortal (should I say “eternal”) enough to still be around…

Rai #1 preview page 6
Rai #1 preview page 6


Westfield: What are some of your influences for this future world?

Abnett: Wow, that’s hard…so many things. Oddly, one of the key ones would be the Star Wars Universe…it’s NOTHING like that at all! But the thing I’ve always loved about Star Wars is that it presents this detailed, complex, real, lived-in world that you believe, yet the story is simple. They don’t explain or describe every last curious detail; you just follow the story and the characters, and embrace the detail as atmosphere. That’s something we’re trying to do, too, in our own modest way. A realized, wonderful, lived-in world.

Rai #1 Juan José Ryp Cover B
Rai #1 Juan José Ryp Cover B


Westfield: Any closing comments?

Abnett: I think Rai is an awesome book! I’m proud of the story, but JuanJo’s art is simply amazing. I urge people to track it down, and I hope they like it!

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Interview: Jeff Loveness on BOOM! Studios’ Strange Skies Over East Berlin

Strange Skies Over East Berlin #1
Strange Skies Over East Berlin #1


Jeff Loveness has written for TV shows including Rick & Morty and Jimmy Kimmel Live. He has also written comics including Groot, World Reader, and Judas. Now he brings you a gripping tale of aliens and Cold War intrigue in Strange Skies Over East Berlin from BOOM! Studios.

Westfield: Where did the idea of Strange Skies Over East Berlin come from?

Jeff Loveness: I’ve always been a huge fan of Cold War intrigue – like John Le Carre novels or The Lives of Others. And I also love Cold War sci-fi, especially the more bleak, atmospheric stuff Solaris and Stalker from Tarkovsky. I thought it would be fun to fuse those atmospheres together and throw some paranoid body-horror like Alien or The Thing into the mix and see what came out. Comics allow you to swirl so many genres and emotions together, and I think we’ve got something really cool for people.

It’s also about secrets and the power of truth and guilt. We’re living in a time where truth is fundamentally broken, and I’m not sure how we recover from this. But the Cold War was also a time of deep, deep division. Truth and Secrets were absolute currently. So if I was a spy, I can’t imagine a worse nightmare than running across an alien threat that could enter your mind and turn all your secrets against you. Suddenly, your flags and walls don’t matter so much anymore. It’s a story about both sides of the Cold War realizing just how utterly useless and broken they’ve become in the shadow of a much larger threat.

Strange Skies Over East Berlin #1 Preview page 1
Strange Skies Over East Berlin #1 Preview page 1


Westfield: What can you tell us about the spy Herring?

Loveness: Herring is an American spy within the Iron Curtain, posing as a member of the East German secret police – or STASI. He’s a spy trapped within a world of spies. And when an alien threat comes down and starts unleashing everyone’s secrets and trauma, Herring finds himself in the most dangerous position possible. He needs to get to the bottom of what the GDR and Soviets have found… but also keep himself hidden and alive against this telepathic force he can’t defend against. It’s a really fun dichotomy.

And as he gets closer and closer to his goal, we’ll start to learn more about Herring and the deep secrets he’s been trying to bury – even from himself. He’s a good vessel to explore American sin and hubris – both during the Cold War and today. Plus there’s an Inspector Javert type Stasi man after him, who is absolutely one of my favorite people to write. I love Javert types. Not sure why. That probably says something revealing about me.

Strange Skies Over East Berlin #1 Preview page 2
Strange Skies Over East Berlin #1 Preview page 2


Westfield: While this is a fantastic story, it is rooted in a real time and place. How much research did you do for the series?

Loveness: Tons. I read several books on Cold War Germany and the Soviet Union, traveled to Berlin to get some firsthand historical research – especially on The Stasi. Also watched some documentaries and German films to get a better sense of the ambience of the time. The story is by no means a historical account, but I wanted it to feel authentic and human. It’s a truly fascinating time in history. East Germany was one of the most harsh security states in the world… but it’s also shocking how familiar yet slightly different so much of it feels. Back then, men would come into your home and bug everything for the state… but now we pay Amazon to put a smart speaker in our home that records everything for them so hundreds of outside companies can harvest our information… and I guess we’re fine with that as long as it can also tell us the weather. Things change. Things stay the same.

Strange Skies Over East Berlin #1 Preview page 3
Strange Skies Over East Berlin #1 Preview page 3


Westfield: What was fun or challenging about creating a new alien species?

Loveness: I can’t say too much… but part of the fun of horror and sci-fi is letting the mystery be greater than the facts. We don’t know a ton about the Alien in Alien or The Thing in The Thing. So our characters should know even less than we do. Ha! Maybe that’s a cheat, but I liked writing the alien presence as something unknowable. They operate on a completely different spectrum than we do. They’ve evolved to be thought based. So we are open books to them. All of our secrets and lies are laid bare in brutal detail, and we have to deal with the fact that we are no longer the dominant species in the fight. Our spies are holding onto the world they know… and it doesn’t matter anymore. Perhaps it never did.

Westfield: You’re working with artist Lisandro Estherren on the book. What can you tell us about your collaboration?

Loveness: Lisandro is a miracle worker. He’s brought such a distinct look to this book. Parts of it look like a watercolor painting. Parts of it remind me of a European-style comic. He’s elevated the story in ways I couldn’t imagine. And just wait until you see his creature design. The man is brilliant.

Strange Skies Over East Berlin #2
Strange Skies Over East Berlin #2


Westfield: Any closing comments?

Loveness: I love challenging myself with every new original comic I write. World Reader was an existential space opera. Judas was a dark religious epic. This is a cerebral Cold War sci-fi thriller. And for all the high concept stuff, it’s actually a rather intimate story about guilt, forgiveness, and empathy – especially for people who may not deserve it. I really love what Lisandro has been cooking up. The art is going to be beautiful and horrifying. If you love sad men in rooms, trying to save themselves from being broken by the overwhelming brutality of absolute truth – give this a look!

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Interview: Tom Sniegoski on Dynamite’s Vengeance of Vampirella

Vengeance of Vampirella # 1 Joshua Middleton cover
Vengeance of Vampirella # 1 Joshua Middleton cover


Tom Sniegoski has written comics featuring adventures of Bone, the Punisher, Hellboy, as well as numerous novels including the popular The Fallen series. Now he returns to one of his most popular comics, Vengeance of Vampirella, for an all-new series at Dynamite. Sniegoski reveals more about the comic to Westfield’s Roger Ash.

Westfield: It’s been 25 years in story time and 23 years since your last Vampirella story, Death and Destruction. What are the challenges and joys of picking up the story again?

Tom Sniegoski: Memory or lack thereof, was my biggest enemy! HA! 23 years is an awful lot of time to forget all sorts of things, but I went back and re-read a bunch of stuff and I was surprised by how quickly things came back to me. Revisiting the old material, I was reminded of how exciting this character and her supporting cast were to me and it ignited the fire all over again. I’m really having an amazing time.

Vengeance of Vampirella #1 Frank Cho cover
Vengeance of Vampirella #1 Frank Cho cover


Westfield: What should readers know going in?

Sniegoski: All readers need to know is that during my last miniseries (written with Christopher Golden) Vampirella: Death & Destruction, Vampirella and friends were fighting a seemingly winless battle against Mistress Nyx, the living personification of Chaos. Things were not looking good for Vampirella at the end of the series, and she was killed—pinned to the door of a church by a spear thrown by Nyx. The end. That was my big finish with the character . . . until now!

Vengeance of Vampirella #1 Ben Oliver cover
Vengeance of Vampirella #1 Ben Oliver cover


Westfield: Aside from Vampirella, who are some of the other characters readers will meet?

Sniegoski: Mistress Nyx is still kicking around having basically taken over the planet, and plunged it into total chaos. Vampirella’s friend, and magician, Pendragon is still around . . . but with a serious difference. The villain Hemorrhage shows up by Issue 3. There are all sorts of surprises in store for old time readers, and new.

Vengeance of Vampirella #1 Lucio Parrillo cover
Vengeance of Vampirella #1 Lucio Parrillo cover


Westfield: You’re working with artist Michael Sta. Maria on the series. What can you tell us about your collaboration?

Sniegoski: I knew Michael was right for the job the minute I saw his sample pages. When I saw them I immediately reached out to my editor at Dynamite and asked, “You’ve hired this guy, right?” I was incredibly happy to hear that they had. Michael is a dream to work with. His interpretations of my scripts couldn’t be more dead on. Really amazing. He’s taken what I’m seeing in my head and making it even better on paper. He’s great and I would be honored to keep working with him.

Vengeance of Vampirella #1 Cosplay cover
Vengeance of Vampirella #1 Cosplay cover


Westfield: Any closing comments?

Sniegoski: Please check out my newest issues of Vengeance of Vampirella. If you’re a horror fan, or a fan of 70’s Marvel comics like Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf by Night, and Son of Satan, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. It’s the most fun I’ve had writing comics in a very long time.

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Interview: Carlos Guzman-Verdugo & Alejandro Verdugo on IDW’s Napoleon Dynamite

Napoleon Dynamite #1 Sara Richard cover
Napoleon Dynamite #1 Sara Richard cover


Brothers Carlos Guzman-Verdugo and Alejandro Verdugo are best known for their online comic, Time Cheetah. Now they’re working on their writing skills with the Napoleon Dynamite comic from IDW. They took time out from eating tots to talk with Westfield’s Roger Ash about this awesome new comic. Gosh!

Westfield: How did you become involved with the Napoleon Dynamite comic?

Carlos Guzman-Verdugo: While working in the editorial department at IDW Publishing, my brother and I co-wrote an action-comedy webcomic called Time Cheetah. We must have made a good impression because when our editor, Tom Waltz, began searching for writers to work on Napoleon Dynamite, we were the top of the list! After a short conversation discussing initial ideas, we agreed to give it a shot.

Alejandro Verdugo: Lots of people at IDW were incredibly supportive of our webcomic and even backed both of our Kickstarters. Tom must have really liked our dumb jokes because, soon enough, he asked us if we’d be interested. As big fans of the movie, we couldn’t say “yes” fast enough!

Westfield: What can readers look forward to in the book?

Carlos: When we first discussed the project with Tom, he suggested a few pitches, but one seemed like the clear winner: Impeach Pedro! From that idea, the full story took shape: it’s Napoleon’s senior year, Pedro is accused of stealing the election, and a mysterious death in town might actually be a murder. It was a chance to mix in some whodunit suspense with the offbeat slice-of-life comedy fans want to see.

Alejandro: We watched both the movie and the animated TV series and wanted to combine the best of both: the great characterization of the movie with the more heightened scenarios of the show. Hopefully with some new catchphrases, too!

Westfield: Will you be introducing any new characters?

Carlos: There’s the owner of a new dojo, Brock Montana, who wants to give Rex (of Rex Kwon Do fame) a run for his money. There’s also Joana Gato, a student detective who wants to get to the bottom of Pedro’s alleged election stealing, and some visiting murder podcast hosts.

Westfield: How do you two work together? Who does what?

Alejandro: We always outline the plot together but, since I write fast, I hammer out the first draft ASAP. We take turns revising the full script after that, and this is where my brother’s experiences as a comic book editor and a comedy improviser really shine. If a line of dialogue gives you a belly laugh, it’s probably his doing.

Westfield: You’re working with artist Jorge Monlongo on the series. What can you say about your collaboration?

Carlos: I’ve been a fan of Jorge’s work since I first saw him on the Peabody and Sherman series at IDW. When Tom was initially reaching out to artists, I suggested Jorge for his completely unconventional style and solid storytelling sense. I’m happy to say it worked out and Jorge’s artwork on the covers and interior pages has been everything I wanted!

Westfield: These characters are closely associated with the actors who played them. Was it challenging getting the character’s voices right?

Alejandro: Yeah, it was a challenge for sure. It was strange to rewatch the movie closely, with the intent of studying the tone and characters, but we had to do it. With a character like Deb, for example, Tina Majorino brings a strong earnestness that’s really important to bring that character to life. We had to get that right!

Carlos: We’re also lucky Jon Heder, who portrayed Napoleon, and director Jared Hess have talked about the making of the film at length. Without that, we may never have peeked into the mysterious mind of Napoleon Dynamite.

Westfield: Is there any character you’re especially enjoying writing?

Carlos: Honestly, Napoleon Dynamite is the lead and super fun to write… but Uncle Rico might be my favorite so far. He’s just the right amount of goofy and self-serious. And he can throw a pigskin a quarter-mile!

Alejandro: Writing Pedro and his cousins is a joy, we never struggle with them. Grandma is a ton of fun, too. It’s great to have someone that can boss everyone around.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Alejandro: I’m honestly very curious to see how people react to it. Napoleon Dynamite is a movie with a super strong cult following and I just want to know that we did the movie justice.

Carlos: If you pick up Napoleon Dynamite #1 in September, all of your wildest dreams will come true. Also, you’ll get some good laughs out of it!

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Interview: Paul Allor on IDW’s G.I. Joe

G.I. Joe #1
G.I. Joe #1


Paul Allor is the popular writer of comics including Clue, G.I. Joe, Monstro Mechanica, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and more. Now, he’s part of a team taking G.I. Joe in a direction you’ve never seen before. Allor tells Westfield’s Roger Ash what’s in store for this exciting new series.

G.I. Joe #1 preview page 1
G.I. Joe #1 preview page 1


Westfield: This is a pretty major change in the world of G.I. Joe. What can you tell us about its origins?

Paul Allor: Yes, this is definitely a big change and an exciting new chapter for G.I. Joe! Hasbro and IDW were looking for a fresh take on the G.I. Joe comics, focused on ordinary people pushed into extraordinary circumstances. From that core concept, editor Bobby Curnow, artist Chris Evenhuis, colorist Brittany Peer and I ran with it, creating a world where Cobra has conquered most of the planet and G.I. Joe is doing all it can to strike back and restore some sense of sanity to an increasingly broken world.

G.I. Joe is still run by the best the military and espionage forces have to offer, but now they’re recruiting everyday people living behind enemy lines, and training them to be spies, assassins, and saboteurs who will strike back against Cobra in any way they can.

G.I. Joe #1 preview page 2
G.I. Joe #1 preview page 2


Westfield: How much world-building did you do for the series?

Allor: I would say that we did exactly the right amount of world-building, haha. I’m not a big fan of world-building for its own sake, and I feel like writers often focus on it to the detriment of their characters, leading to comics that are front-loaded with exposition. So, yes, there’s obviously a lot of world-building in this story — we know how everything fits together, and how the world of G.I. Joe came to be where it is. We know what brought this world one minute closer to midnight, and how G.I. Joe ended up on the unfamiliar side of an asymmetrical war against a far more powerful opponent. But that’s all in service of a great story, with compelling characters and thrilling action.

G.I. Joe #1 preview page 3
G.I. Joe #1 preview page 3


Westfield: What can readers look forward to in the series?

Allor: Practically speaking, our first couple of arcs are going to focus on one-shot missions, with each issue serving as its own exciting and exquisitely well-crafted story, focused on the men and women on the frontlines of the battle against Cobra (or, in a few cases, focused on the Cobra operatives on the frontlines of the battle against G.I. Joe).

Like all the best G.I. Joe stories, this book is also going to be deeply character-centered, with something to say about heroism, about duty, about camaraderie and about the high cost of fighting back against tyranny. But if that sounds heavy or preachy, don’t worry: we’re more interested in asking questions than answering them. We’re more interested in making readers think and feel than in telling them what to think and feel. And above all, we’re more interested in delivering fantastic, compelling stories, month after month.

G.I. Joe #1 preview page 4
G.I. Joe #1 preview page 4


Westfield: Can you tell us anything about the new recruits?

Allor: Not a lot, just yet! Some of them (like Roadblock, Jinx, and Cover Girl) have familiar names from past iterations of G.I. Joe, while others (like Tiger and Fadeaway) are brand new. But they’re all just ordinary people who are new to the espionage game. That means they’re going to make mistakes — sometimes very big, sometimes very relatable mistakes. It also means they’re going to show extraordinary bravery and incredible resilience. I think readers will see a lot of themselves in these characters.

G.I. Joe #1 preview page 5
G.I. Joe #1 preview page 5


Westfield: You’re working with artist Chris Evenhuis on the series. What can you say about your collaboration?

Allor: I could talk for hours about working with Chris, and it still wouldn’t be enough. Chris is both a real-deal superstar in the making, and an extraordinary collaborator. His action storytelling is impeccable, his designs are delightful, and his character work is sublime. We’ve worked incredibly closely on this book, building the look and feel of the world from the ground up. And I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention colorist Brittany Peer, who is raising Chris’ storytelling to a whole new level, with gorgeous palettes and storytelling-driven coloring choices that complement Chris’ clean-line art style just perfectly.

Because of them, and because of editor Bobby Curnow’s always-incisive feedback and unflagging support, working on G.I. Joe often feels like working on a bespoke creator-owned book, despite being one of the biggest and most enduring properties of the last thirty-seven years.

G.I. Joe #1 back cover
G.I. Joe #1 back cover


Westfield: Any closing comments?

Allor: Yes: this book is going to be so much fun! I truly believe that the entire creative team is doing some of the best work of their career, and it shows on every page.

I know that over-the-top, hyperbolic marketing is really common in comics, but I tend to be a lot more low-key when discussing my own work. But with that in mind: I truly believe that G.I. Joe will be one of the best books on the stands this Fall. We’re making something special, here, and if you like action, if you like great character work, if you like books that make you think and make you feel and make you smile with every turn of the page, then I absolutely urge you to check it out. You will be so glad you did.

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Interview: Derek Hunter on Image’s Pretty Violent

Pretty Violent #1 Derek Hunter cover
Pretty Violent #1 Derek Hunter cover


Derek Hunter is an artist, animation designer (DuckTales, Adventure Time, Bravest Warriors), and draws mini-comics (Skid Marks). Now he introduces you to Gamma Rae, a hero new to the game, in Pretty Violent from Image Comics. Derek sits down with Westfield’s Roger Ash for an inside look at this comic filled with tons of carnage and humor.

Westfield: What’s the origin of Pretty Violent?

Derek Hunter: I grew up in a super conservative, fundamentalist Christian household, but was always a bit of a black sheep; listening to punk rock, skateboarding on weekends, making weird comics, zines, and concert flyers while my family went to church 4 times a week. What I wanted to explore in Pretty Violent is what I experienced as a kid… being a weirdo outsider within a family unit that loves you and supports you, even though they may not understand you.

Thinking about the best way to explore this sort of story, my mind kept going back to superheroes. A hero born into a family of villains. A hero who desperately wants to be a force for good in the world even though she has no real frame of reference for what that looks like, and a supportive (yet mystified) family that wants to help her achieve her dreams despite thinking she’s completely lost her mind.

A hero born into a world of grey trying to navigate the very black and white world of superheroics was the starting off point, and everything sort of fell into place as I started thinking of ways our hero, Gamma Rae, would unwittingly screw things up and struggle to find her place.

Pretty Violent #1 preview page 1
Pretty Violent #1 preview page 1


Westfield: Reading the first couple issues, it feels like this takes place on a very complete world. How much world building did you do for the series?

Hunter: I think most of the time was spent creating a character with very specific goals, very specific hopes and fears and weaknesses, then creating a world that would best serve to challenge her, to frustrate her, to give her places to question her reality, and grow from these experiences. Once the character was created, I had to figure out what the chaotic world around her would look like… and I realized that a world of superheroes and villains, of black and white thinking was the best place to put her.

Pretty Violent #1 preview page 2
Pretty Violent #1 preview page 2


Westfield: What can you tell us about the book’s hero, Gamma Rae?

Hunter: She’s actually based on my eight year old daughter. She loves getting dirty, being rowdy, being a loudmouth, and being in charge of as many situations as she can get away with. But at the same time, she loves pink and princesses and trying her best (and often failing) to be good and kind. Watching her evolve as a person, witnessing these little incremental moments of growth in her social and emotional maturity (and the frustrations that come when she feels she falls short) started to get me thinking that it would be really fun to watch a superhero with a near complete lack of maturity and social grace try to insert herself in an utterly foreign world; and see how the world reacts to her and her unorthodox approach to heroics.

Pretty Violent #1 preview page 3
Pretty Violent #1 preview page 3


Westfield: Who are some of the other characters readers will meet?

Hunter: Gamma Rae (of course) and her siblings, Merc, Necrosis, and Sludge are the main focuses of the book. Gamma Rae is horribly unprepared to be a hero, but her loving siblings are there to help… but being super villains, their help is rarely useful. Misty Meadows, a hero that can control animals, is her unwitting partner and best friend. Brodie Perron is the mayors son, a total asshole, and Gamma Rae’s unfortunate crush. And most of the other characters you meet suffer horrible, gruesome deaths, so I won’t bother going into much detail about them.

Westfield: What can you say about your collaboration with co-writer Jason Young?

Hunter: Jason and I have been writing comics together off and on since 2008 and there’s not much to say other than we work really well together. Over the years, we’ve each written things on our own, but I feel like we do some of our best work together… and that’s true in the case of Pretty Violent as well. I had written the first 2 issues without him, but after toiling away on the story and art for months, I knew it would be more fun to have him on board; and give us a good excuse to have weekly skype writing/hang-out sessions. We like to make each other laugh as we escalate our stupid ideas to idiotic heights and then make stories about them.

Pretty Violent #1 Ryan Ottley cover
Pretty Violent #1 Ryan Ottley cover


Westfield: Aside from being Pretty Violent, the book is also pretty funny. Why was it important to you to make humor a part of the comic?

Hunter: I’ve always written funny comics. And even in the case of an over the top gory and profanity-laden comic, I think the humor adds a spark of reality to even the darkest of subject matter. Humor is a great way to cope with uncertainty and fear…and Gamma Rae encounters her fair share of both.

Westfield: A theme for the book seems to be the difficulty of being a hero. What intrigues you about that idea?

Hunter: Because I think we all go through life envisioning the perfect outcome of every day before we even live it. We set up impossible expectations of ourselves, partly because that’s what the world shows us on TV, in movies, on social media, and I think following a character as she encounters those daily frustrations (and often fails to deal with them in a healthy manner) is rewarding. We all stumble through life trying to figure out the rules as we go, and it’s no different for a superhero coming up through the ranks… Gamma Rae has a lot to learn and I hope you have fun watching her deal with the outcome of her missteps.

Pretty Violent #2
Pretty Violent #2


Westfield: Any closing comments?

Hunter: I just want to thank everyone who gives this book a chance. It was a lot of fun to make, and a very personal project… even though it’s dressed to the nines in blood and guts and irreverent superhero antics. Thanks for the interview, and feel free to check me out on twitter and instagram (derekdraws) where I post random doodles, sneek peeks and information about future releases.

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Interview: Tim Seeley on Valiant’s Bloodshot

Bloodshot #1 Declan Shalvey cover
Bloodshot #1 Declan Shalvey cover


Tim Seeley is known to comics fans for his work on Grayson, Green Lanterns, Hack/Slash, Revival, and much more. Now he and artist Brett Booth take on one of Valiant’s core characters in Bloodshot #1. Seeley recently shared a peek at the series with Westfield’s Roger Ash.

Bloodshot #1 preview page 1
Bloodshot #1 preview page 1


Westfield: For readers who are unfamiliar with Bloodshot, what should they know going in?

Tim Seeley: He’s a genetically engineered superweapon gone rogue, who’s doing his best to make up for the body count he was responsible for while under government control! And he looks really cool!

Bloodshot #1 preview page 2
Bloodshot #1 preview page 2


Westfield: What can readers look forward to in the book?

Seeley: ACTION! EMOTION! GRUESOME GORE! HEART! ACTION! And some of the best art in all of comics!

Bloodshot #1 preview page 3
Bloodshot #1 preview page 3


Westfield: Bloodshot faces the new threat of Black Bar. Anything you can tell us about this group?

Seeley: They’re so deep state they don’t even know their own name or who they work for. They’re the elite of the elite, and they have all of the cool toys.

Bloodshot #1 preview page 4
Bloodshot #1 preview page 4


Westfield: There’s a lot going on in this first issue. How do you balance action with more dialog driven sections?

Seeley: The magic of comics! The job is to give readers an even pace, and plenty to come back for, so I make sure to give the reader stuff to read and care about while also giving them plenty of Brett Booth/Adelso Corona/Andrew Dalhouse beauty!

Bloodshot #1 preview page 5
Bloodshot #1 preview page 5


Westfield: You’re working with artist Brett Booth on the series. What can you say about your collaboration?

Seeley: It’s pretty cool for me, a teenager in the ’90s, to work with an artist whom I followed from the beginning. I write things I think he’ll draw the hell out of and then he does it!

Bloodshot #1 Dave Johnson cover
Bloodshot #1 Dave Johnson cover