The comics Professor answers all of my questions with ease
Sun, 10 April 2005
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He's the author of one of my favourite internet columns: "Comics 101" at Movie Poop Shoot (he also co-runs the site). I am most grateful to Scott Tipton for finding the time in his already over-loaded schedule to answer all my goofy questions. For those who also enjoy Scott's work I'm sure you'll find his answers fun and interesting to read. If you've never read Comics 101 before, I suggest you check this Q&A session out and then go and see for yourself how good his column really is.
Q. For those who aren’t familiar with your work at www.moviepoopshoot.com can you give us a description of what you do there and explain what your “Comics 101” column is about? How did your gig there come about?
The idea behind “COMICS 101” was to provide a primer, if you will, for many of the Movie Poop Shoot readers who wanted to get into comics but had no idea where to start. From there, the column evolved into what it is today: a long-winded, fully illustrated, meandering journey through the history of the American comic book, with a healthy emphasis on the capes-and-tights contingent and the occasional stopover to dwell on whatever I’m currently obsessing over.
I’ve been working on Movie Poop Shoot with my good friend Chris Ryall since the site was founded back in 2002, editing the site and doing the daily entertainment news, and after we’d had the site running pretty smooth for about six or eight months, I decided what I really needed was another long-term, never-ending project to eat up two or three more days’ worth of my free time each week.
Seriously, though, a common question we’d get was from people interested in comics but intimidated by their lack of knowledge about them. We also wanted to get some more coverage of mainstream comics at the site, and I decided to give the column a try for a week or two and see if anyone would read it. People seem to like it, so I guess I’ll stick around a bit longer.
Q. How and when did you get hooked on comic books and what is it about them that kept you as such a huge fan?
I’ve always read comics, as long as I can remember. My father was a comics fan, and my older brother read them, so growing up there were always big stacks of comics in the house. I remember reading an issue of SPIDEY SUPER STORIES (guest-starring Iceman, as I recall) when I was around three or so.
The combination of script and art is a totally unique method of storytelling that’s both immediately understandable and endlessly complex, with infinite potential. Plus, I likes me the superheroes.
Q. Not everyone might be aware of it, but you have a couple jobs on top of your work at the Poop. How do you find enough time to write such in depth “Comics 101” articles, as well as responding to large amounts of email- both personally and in the "mail shoot" section?
Dispensing of such niceties as sleep is the first step. After that, you have to get creative.
Q. Movie Poop Shoot features a “porn star quote of the week”. We actually have a quote of the week at Buttonhole for each section (I probably ripped it off from you guys), except a lot of times I forget to update them. But that is clearly not a question. So…umm, can you recall roughly how old were you when you saw your first porno and maybe what it was? If you can you’re doing better than me, because I honestly don’t remember.
Like a title? Geez, I’ve got no idea. I think it was freshman year of high school – I remember borrowing a videotape from a buddy in math class…
Q. Have comics become reasonably hip, or at least acceptable, due to things like the relatively large mainstream success of many recent comic book based movies? Or are comic books still considered “kid’s/nerds stuff” and their fans still perceived as socially inept virgins who most people look down on?
I think much of the social stigma around being a comics fan is only in a few overly sensitive fans’ minds these days. Between movies, animation, and video games, we’ve pretty much taken over the world already.
Q. Speaking of comic related movies, what’s your general opinion of them? Do you believe they do the books justice? Do they help attract new comic book readers?
Each movie is its own beast, for better or worse, so I can’t really generalize about the trend overall. For example, the BATMAN movie didn’t help comics sales at all, while sales on the SIN CITY trades are reportedly through the roof.
Q. Speaking of comic related movies…shit, I already said that! Nevertheless, what are your 10 favourite movies based on comics? Which do you reckon suck the most?
In no particular order:
1. SIN CITY
2. THE ROCKETEER
3. THE PHANTOM
4. SPIDER-MAN 2
6. THE INCREDIBLES
7. SUPERMAN II
8. BATMAN (1989)
9. ROAD TO PERDITION
The worst? There’s been quite a few new contenders lately (I’m looking at you, CATWOMAN), but nothing tops the king stinker, the 1990 CAPTAIN AMERICA.
Q. Speaking of comic related movies…yeah okay, sometimes I like to keep flogging these dead horses I call jokes to for my own amusement. Are there any comics yet to be made into movies that you think would translate especially well to the screen?
I think Jeph Loeb will do a great job on THE SPIRIT, and SHAZAM is just waiting to be made into the perfect fairy-tale adventure if handled with the correct, light touch.
Q. What are some of your interests outside of comics? Are you as passionate (and/or knowledgeable) about any of them as you are about comics?
I’d like to think so – if you enjoy anything, you should endeavour to know as much about it as you can. I’m a rabid toy collector, an avid film buff and animation fan, a steady video gamer, and thanks to overexposure to my friend and fellow Poop Shoot columnist Scott Bowden, quite the mark for wrestling.
Q. I’m assuming you answered the previous question with at least one of the following: video games, wrestling, music, anime, books and/or movies. If you didn’t mention any of those… well, I’ll look like a dick (won’t be the first time) but if you did, why do you believe there is such a cross section of fans when it comes to those things?
I think an affinity for many of the above requires an active imagination and a willing suspension of disbelief, so it makes sense they tend to intertwine.
Q. How many fingers am I holding up?
Oh, yeah? Well, guess what finger I’m holding up, pal.
Q: While drunk I’ve had girls paint my nails several times. You ever done that?
That’d be a negative, Houston.
Q. If somebody was considering getting into comics, or you just wanted to show a person the best examples of the medium, which books would you recommend for them to start with? Is there one book (including those collected in trade paperback form or whatever) you consider to be the very best?
Impossible to pick out a single book, but A CONTRACT WITH GOD, WATCHMEN and THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS would be a good place to start.
Q. Obviously it takes both to make a truly great comic but, if you had to choose, which do you think matters the most: the story/writing or the art? If one is brilliant enough can it, to a reasonable degree, make up for the shortcomings of the other?
Let’s put it this way: bad art can derail a great story, while a crappy story can at least still look great in the hands of a great artist. Still, I’d rather not waste my time on either.
Q. Are there any songs that you really like, despite the fact that you know they are considered to be uncool or just plain bad?
It’s rumored that you might find “99 Luftballoons” on my iPod, but I can’t confirm it.
Q. Movie Poop Shoot has quite a strong connection to Kevin Smith in various ways, most notably due to being the name of a website in Smith’s movie Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. I assume he’d really dig your column. Which of his movies is your favourite? What do you think of his writing ability when it comes to his work with comics?
CLERKS is still my favorite, although I think JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK is the laugh-out-loud funniest. Kevin’s been very good to all of us at the site, and has kindly complimented my column and the occasional news headline from time to time. I think it’s a shame he’s too busy to devote much attention to comics, as his books are as good as any on the market, with his GREEN ARROW run being a particular favorite of mine,
Q. Ever considered writing comics (or any type of books for that matter) yourself? Why do I keep asking more than one question at a time?
The notion has come up from time to time, but it’s never been anything I’ve pursued seriously; I’m strictly a historian. Ask me again in a month.
Q. What’s the deal with you having something to do with designing action figures? Exactly how were/are you involved with that?
Indeed, I do some product design consulting as well as package design and copy for Toynami, a manufacturer of action figures and collectibles. Check out our stuff at www.toynami.com. I’ve been good friends with the company’s president for years, and when he founded the company, he brought me in to help out. Like most good opportunities in life, it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time, but also being prepared to meet that opportunity when it arrives.
Q. Which characters/books can we expect you to cover in the immediate future in Comics 101?
I’m still working on my enormous Justice League retrospective, which will most likely carry me into next month. After that, look for SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, SUICIDE SQUAD, DEFENDERS, maybe a little FANTASTIC FOUR and BATMAN coverage to go with the movies, and hopefully the long-promised WATCHMEN, BONE, UNCLE SCROOGE and STARMAN pieces.
Q. What does the future have in store for comics in general in your opinion? Will the books ever be replaced by something else, like web comics? Will trade paperbacks become the main format?
I don’t think Webcomics will ever become the norm (both for ease of reading and because for many of us, comics will always be something of a tactile experience. Just not the same without ink and paper), but I wouldn’t be surprised to see trades replace monthly periodicals in my lifetime.
Q. I intend to ask everyone I interview or send questions to this one, regardless of the context (though in this case it actually makes sense); Batman or Daredevil, who’d win that fight?
Batman, no question. Batman cheats.
Thank you very much for your time.
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