As a independent comic writer and editor at IGN, Joey Esposito has a unique perspective on the comic industry. His approach of submerging yourself into the industry is something we are huge supporters of at Panel Bound and have found through most of our interviews that this is a common tactic amongst most creators. Joey is the writer of the independently published 4 issue miniseries Footprints published with 215 Ink that also recently got funded for additional publication with Kickstarter. Here is what Joey describes Footprints as at his website
When Bigfoot discovers his brother brutally murdered, he assembles his old detection team to unravel a conspiracy that spans decades. FOOTPRINTS is a creator-owned comic about a cast of cryptozoological deviants placed inside hard-boiled noir. It’s a fun trip through a unique modern setting that will appeal to fans of noir, comedy, and huge freaking sharks.
I asked Joey about his inspiration behind Footprints as well as his career as an editor at IGN. This is a great interview for anyone looking to get into comics in several different aspects. I hope you all enjoy it
How did you first get involved as a comic creator?
I’ve always wanted to write in some capacity and have been writing in various mediums as long as I can recall. But I’ve always loved comics; I used to trace Dan Jurgens’ Superman comics when I was a kid. But it wasn’t until film school that I really wanted to get serious about wanting to tell stories in comics. I was taking some comics courses that really helped me recognize the absolute potential of the medium, and that was that. I love movies, but when you’re in a school like that and trying to think of the cheapest ways to tell your stories because you’re on a budget, it kind of puts a damper on your creativity in a lot of ways. So with comics, it’s free reign, and that was exciting for me.
What inspired you to release Footprints as an indie title?
Well, it’s not like I had an option to release it as anything else! [laughs] I mean unless you’re working for Marvel or DC, you’re an indie book. That said, independent comics in general offer a great variety of genres and freedom that just isn’t available in the kind of stories that Marvel and DC’s characters tell. That’s not to say that I don’t LOVE those characters, but I think a lot of creators will tell you that working independently is freeing.
Kickstarter has helped fund countless great indie titles, was using KS a good experience for you?
Kickstarter was great. What I always tell people that ask me about it is that Kickstarter, as a company, only make money if you reach your goal. So by that logic, they WANT you to succeed, which means they’ll do what they can to help promote you. They blog and tweet about their favorite projects, sometimes you’ll find yourself on their homepage, and the employees are very active on Twitter and promoting their personal favorites as well. We were even backed by some of them. It’s very much a community. I had the pleasure of being on their panel at NYCC this year, and the room was packed — there’s a definite interest in funding comics in this way, and it’s extremely encouraging. I’d definitely use it again.
Many writers find it difficult to find an artist they can work with, how did you first begin working with Jonathan Moore?
I found him on a creator forum called Digital Webbing. I was looking for an artist for a Zuda pitch, before they closed down, and I sifted through hundreds of e-mails and found Jonathan’s. At the time he was working on a webcomic called New Holland Days that was very stark black-and-white noir, which wasn’t what that Zuda pitch was going to be at all, but I loved his style. After the pitch was done and went no place, we started talking about working on something else and I recalled New Holland Days, and suggested we do a detective story, which eventually evolved into Footprints.
Jonathan is a fantastic artist; he’s most known for Footprints I guess, but he’s actually very skilled in a variety of techniques. If you remember the Star Wars vs. Marvel feature we did at IGN (http://comics.ign.com/articles/118/1187420p1.html), he did all of those digital paintings. And for our next project, a graphic novel, he’s doing something even more radically different. I love his sense of exploration.
As a comics editor at IGN and a comic writer have you gained any insights that the two exclusively create?
I mean, my thing is that I love comics and I want to explore it from all angles. Working on the press side of things has informed me of the way that the marketing of the industry works, trends, and all of that. And of course, as a creator you obviously get the creative side of things dealing with editors, publishers, readers, and all that. I think the only way you can be the best you can be at something — whether it’s comics or anything else — is just by immersing yourself in it and approaching it from all angles. I’m (very) slowly learning how to letter and I’d like to get more involved in learning the production side of things, and eventually, start dabbling in color too. No matter what role you take in comics, it’s essential to at least understand everyone else’s role so you can make the whole machine run smoothly.
How did you first get started as a comics editor at IGN?
What comics have inspired you recently?
Oh man. So many. I guess most recently are two works from Brian Wood, New York Five and DV8: Gods and Monsters. New York Five (sequel to New York Four) is just a fantastic look at a couple of girls enduring their freshmen year of college. The premise is so simple, but so endearing. I love real life that’s depicted in this grandiose fashion. Looking back on their story, it’s something many of us have gone through in our journey to adulthood and that we now recognize as a miniscule piece of drama. But it’s not. It shapes the way we grow and at the time, it’s the center of our entire world. Against the background of New York City, the book is just a wonderful love letter to youth, city life, and relationships. And though DV8 is heavy on the science fiction, the characters and their relationships feel incredibly real.
Reading stuff like that is incredible inspiring to me. Footprints is obviously about monsters and is extremely heavy on fantasy, but I think — or at least hope — that the relationships of the characters have something very real to them.
What can people expect when they read Footprints?
Hopefully a lot of fun. Footprints is a hardboiled murder mystery about Bigfoot and his old crew of private dicks (Jersey Devil, Chupacabra, Nessy, and Megalodon) as they try and solve the murder of Foot’s estranged brother Yeti. It’s a lot of fun and I think you’ll be surprised at the heart of these characters and how exactly the noir element and our presumptions of these creatures plays into the story as a whole. But, I’m biased.
Any last advice for aspiring comic writers, and those who would like to work in comic journalism?
In terms of making comics, if you want to do it, then do it. Especially with things like Kickstarter, webcomics and digital distribution, it’s more possible than ever. I always see people talking about how they can’t find an artist or can’t afford to pay one. The internet is an invaluable tool, but so is going to conventions and talking to people. As for paying an artist, you’re shit without them, so don’t ever forget that. They deserve a fair page rate. If you can’t afford an artist but are buying video games and iPads and apps and blu-rays and other shit you don’t REALLY need, then your priorities are out of whack. It’s a lot of hard work and devotion to get a project off the ground, it just takes a bit of focus.
As for writing about comics for a living, it’s the same deal, really. It’s a job, and don’t ever forget it. Treat it like one. It’s a lot of work for very little reward at first. You’ve got to be passionate about it, because you’re likely not going to get paid for it for a long time. And I don’t want this to come off the wrong way, but it’s still work. Believe me, I’m not complaining that my day job consists of reading and talking about comics, but especially at a place like IGN, it’s a 24-hour job. If something breaks at midnight, you have to be on top of it, because someone is relying on you to do so.
It’s a great job to have and I’m very fortunate, but it takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice to make it work. And to get to that point, for two years straight I worked two full-time jobs, including weekends, after a long time of doing it all for free. Again, that’s just my experience. But I guess I would also say don’t be beholden to the big websites that cover comics. If they don’t want your work, show them why they should. It’s the 21st century. If you’re good enough and you start your own blog or whatever, you’ll find a place. If anything, you’re building a body of work that you can show off on a resume. I know if I’m looking for freelancers, I find their blog entries on MyIGN (IGN’s blog system) or their own wordpress sites just as viable as something they’ve had published for a top site. I don’t think we live in a world anymore where it’s about the outlet so much as it is the quality of the work and the way we consume it.
I want to thank Joey again for taking the time to speak with me about his experience in comics. You can check out artwork and sample pages from Footprints at Joey’s blog as well as read issue #1 for free. Links below