This one has been a long time coming. Mitch Gerads was one of the earliest … and nicest … fans of this blog. Since then, I have followed his work on Comic TWART and waiting with baited breath to hear about the release of the second issue of Johnny Recon, a comic MItch created with his buddy Scott Dylan. You can learn more on their site, www.popgunpulp.com
So, it was inevitable. Mitch is a bad ass. And, he needed to be interviewed. So, now bask in the majesty that it Mitchworth Bellvedere Geralds. (Um … yeah … that’s totally not his name.)
The Man, The Mitch, The Legend …
Marvel Smartass (MSA): What’s the first comic you ever bought? What hooked ‘ya?
Mitch: Oh man, I never quite understood how the other guys answer this question. They always know a specific issue and what drug store they bought it at. Me? I couldn’t tell you what the first book I ever bought was, but I can tell you the first title I looked at and hooked me for life. I used to sneak into my older brother’s room when he was away and look at his issues of Nexus. My brothers were 14 years older than me and Nexus seemed so grown up yet classic. I guarantee I didn’t understand any of it at the time, but I was completely hooked and Nexus is still hands down one of my favorite books today.
MSA: Favorite comics character you didn’t create?
Mitch: Always and forever, Batman. When done right, Batman cannot be beat.
MSA: What’s the first comics character you remember making up?
Mitch: My friend, Brock Anderson, and I, spent a couple days making mini comics in my basement in elementary school. It was called “Night and Vegence.” It was only called that because neither of us knew how to spell “Vengeance” at the time.
MSA: Are you a Marvel Guy? A DC Guy? Or a “Shut up and read whatever’s good,” guy?
Mitch: Probably the latter for the most part, but the long answer is that, in my opinion, DC has the best characters, but Marvel has the best creators. I LOVE nearly all of DC’s heroes, but I buy 90% Marvel books because I really don’t dig much of the work being done on the DC side. I guess that means at this juncture in my life I buy for the creators far more than the characters.
MSA: When you told your parents you were going to draw/write comics when you grew up, they said …?
Mitch: They were pretty awesome about it. They’ve always supported my artistic endeavors even when they were bordering on crazy talk.
MSA: You are a founding member of Comic TWART. How important is it to have a good network of other artists/creators?
Mitch: I can’t stress how important it is to any young artist’s career to learn proper social skills. I’m generally a nice, competent and outgoing guy and it has paid off probably more than the actual talent. Making friends is a win/win situation and making the RIGHT friends/proper networking is invaluable. It’s always easier to open doors to new business if you have someone helping to turn the knob. (Let’s save the “That’s what she said’s” till the end of the interview.)
MSA: Biggest influences on your style?
Mitch: I wonder if Stuart Immonen and Chris Sprouse have to pay me every time I mention them in a question. I try to learn from just about everyone’s work that I follow. I don’t know if it comes through in my work at all, but the biggest influence on me as an illustrator is without a doubt, Norman Rockwell. The way that man could tell a story with a single image was uncanny and unparalleled. I stare at my Rockwell books daily.
MSA: If you want to be a great artist, you need to …
Mitch: This question has so many obvious answers and most people know them, BUT the answer I like to stress when I’m asked this question is that you have to be able to take, learn from, and use criticism. I mean that in a very real way. Art is so subjective and that’s great, but “illustrating” is a whole new ballgame. There’s a lot of honesty in this field, especially the comics side of it. Be honest with yourself if you are ready. My number one rule of advice, and I apply this to myself every time I sit down at my table with a new script: “Learn to draw what you can’t before you CHOOSE to draw what you can.”
MSA: What has Comic TWART done for you?
Mitch: First and foremost it has introduced me to 15 of my new best friends. Those guys are seriously the greatest bunch of guys you will find anywhere. It’s such a supportive crew and to be listed with those guys at this point in my career is beyond flattering and they definitely make me look better by association. In a more direct way, they got Johnny Recon on the map. Self publishing is a tiring and very overwhelming task and the biggest hurdle is getting new fans that don’t live within 15 miles of your home. It blows my mind how far Johnny Recon has come purely because of Comic TWART. Ed Brubaker gave us a quote for the back cover to issue #2 because he discovered the character through Comic TWART. That’s pretty damn cool. We’ve also got a lot of guest work by my fellow TWARTists in issue #2!
About Johnny Recon …
MSA: You got 15 words to pitch “Johnny Recon.” Make them count.
Mitch: “Johnny Recon is a science fiction pulp pie with an awesome Indiana Jones adventure filling.”
MSA: How did you meet Scott?
Mitch: Ha Ha! I’ve know that no-good-nik since Mrs. Rasch’s first grade elementary class, some 22 years ago.
MSA: If Johnny met Flash Gordon, he would …
Mitch: Steal his girl.
MSA: If Johnny met Buck Rogers, he would …
Mitch: Steal his wallet.
MSA: If Johnny met Barbarella, he would …
Mitch: Steal her virg…wait, is this a family show?
MSA: What cons will you be attending this year?
Mitch: We’re waiting to hear back from the New York Comic Con (Fingers crossed!) but if we can’t get a table there it looks like we’ll be hitting Fallcon (MN) and then a long break till Emerald City Comic Con (WA) in 2011. Hopefully we’ll be getting some more shows into that mix as well, but no definite plans yet. Like always, stay tuned to our website for all that noise.http://www.popgunpulp.com
MSA: I want to buy Johnny Recon. How do I buy it?
Mitch: This is a fantastic question that you would think has an easy answer. Self publishing is fun, but it’s daunting. Johnny Recon has gained a lot of success and while that’s the best news ever, it also is making the business side of Johnny insanely tough. But we’ve got some news that should definitely be making Johnny Recon much more widely available, but we can’t say anything just yet.
For right now we’re selling it at cons we’re attending, local stores in the Twin Cities area (Minnesota), and very soon, through our website (http://www.popgunpulp.com) directly. We’re also currently in talks with some different people about full on national distribution on an indie level. So stay tuned for more news on that!
MSA: How important is Kickstarter.com to independent creators?
Mitch: Kickstarter was, and is, an amazing tool for anyone who needs to turn their creative spark into a roaring fire, but they don’t have the money for lighter fluid. It’s such a grand simple concept. I kick myself daily for not thinking of it first.
Mitchy the Geek …
MSA: Star Wars or Star Trek?
Mitch: Wars. I’m a rarity in the comic world. Until the JJ Abram’s 2009 Trek movie (Which was incredible by the way!) I had never actually seen an episode or a movie of any incarnation of Star Trek.
MSA: New Who or Who Who? Or, Who is Who?
Mitch: I’m a giant Doctor Who fan and I know it’s cooler to say the old stuff is better, but the new seasons have been absolutely out of this world (pun intended). Eccleston hooked me all over again, Tennant made me a fan for life, and honestly, Matt Smith might be the best Doctor yet. He’s certainly the best actor yet, he’s really made it all his own, but familiar.
MSA: If you could resurrect one comics series, it would be …
Mitch: Nexus! It breaks my heart that Rude and Baron had to put the book on a long hiatus and now an indefinite hiatus because of sales.
MSA: If you could take over a successful comics series, it would be …
Mitch: Batman. I could talk your ears off with what is wrong with Batman these days. The way I see it, Batman has been around the block, he’s been living life, the thing with his parents? He’s not crying over it anymore! He’s not a tortured soul. He’s the world’s greatest detective, he’s smart as hell, he’s trained to be the tip of the spear in every situation. I want to work on THAT Batman book. My dream project is to write and illustrate a Batman arc with the Riddler. I can guarantee you I won’t have an origin flashback on any of the pages and at some point Batman WILL grin.
MSA: If you had to build your own super team pulling from ANY company’s properties, who would be on it?
Mitch: These questions are brilliant! Um, let’s see… Doctor Who, Batman, Tom Strong, and Doc Savage. They would put Reed Richards out of a job overnight.
MSA: Who’s the coolest imp … Bat-Mite, Mr. Myxlplyx, The Impossible Man or the Great Gazoo?
Mitch: Gonna go Great Gazoo on this one. I remember liking when he showed up on the Flintstones and I generally hate when all those other guys show up in my books.
MSA: Favorite comics “Hell yeah!” moment.
Mitch: It was from the Grant Morrison/Howard Porter run on JLA. Some aliens had enslaved the Earth and captured the entire Justice League except Batman. The aliens gloat to a battered and bloody Superman that they’ve captured them all except the “lowly human” on the team, and Superman starts laughing hysterically. Superman looks them in the eye and just says something like “You have no idea what you’re in for. He’s the most dangerous human on Earth.” Then Batman, a lowly human, brings down the entire alien invasion Die-Hard style, over the course of the next couple issues. That was probably the exact moment I knew how “my” Batman would be portrayed.
MSA: What’s on the top of your pull list?
Mitch: Whatever Stuart Immonen and Chris Sprouse are doing, I’m the first in line. Also anything Agents of Atlas. That book is everything good comics should be.
MSA: Who are your favorite artists?
Mitch: Stuart Immonen, Chris Sprouse, Adam Hughes, Bryan Hitch, and at the risk of showing all my cards to people I actually know, I’m a MEGA fan of everything Mitch Breitweiser and Chris Samnee.
MSA: What’s the vital ingredient in the writer/artist relationship?
Mitch: Each person has to let the other do their thing. The artist has to let go and let the writer write their vision and the writer has to be able to let go and let the artist interpret that vision. It’s harder than it sounds.
MSA: Which comics character is in dire need of a makeover?
Mitch: Is Frank Castle still a Frankencastle? Yeah, let’s undo that.
MSA: “If I ever meet [Insert Comics Legend], I will faint. Or, throw up, then faint.”
Mitch: Alex Toth, for all sorts of reasons.