AIPT Comics Podcast Episode 270: Robin and Valiant return, and Dennis Hopeless talks ‘She’s Running on Fumes’


May 7, 2024

AIPT Comics Podcast Episode 270: Robin and Valiant return, and Dennis Hopeless talks ‘She’s Running on Fumes’ – Find the original here!

I had such a great time talking with Robin and Valiant about my newest series “She’s Running on Fumes”! I hope you all enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed speaking with them.


Calling all benders and non benders alike. Jump into the epic world of Avatar with your favorite podcast, Avatar, braving the elements, hosted by me, Janet Varney. And me, Dante Bosco. Each week, we’ll recap and discuss a new episode. So come join us and our amazing guests from creators to cast to super fans to chat about all things Avatarverse.

It’s fire nation time, Book of Fire. Let’s go. Listen to Avatar braving the elements wherever you get your podcasts. What is up, everybody? Welcome to Comic Book Club.

I’m Alex. I’m Justin. And we are coming to you live from a couple of places on the Internet. We are live on Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, x slash Twitter, Instagram. Maybe you’re listening later wherever you’re getting your podcasts.

It’s all good. We’ve got a great show for you tonight, but we don’t have do. We don’t have Pete, unfortunately. He is on Pete’s corporate retreat is I believe what he called it. Right?

The Pete retreat is what he’s called. Yes. Where he, rebonds with his backup Pete’s. And this is not a joke. He’s actually doing trivia with other people tonight, which is You believe that?

Right. Do you think they’re gonna find it as hard to parse as big people in our show? Yeah. I wonder if he’s gonna pay tribute to a dead celebrity and then, I don’t know, get fired or something, I guess. Or perhaps a dead coworker.

At. Oh my god. That’s terrifying. Well, I don’t think I can’t believe he’s in HR. Why don’t we bring in our guest for the show?

They’ve been waiting patiently here in the background. I’m very excited about this. This is a crime comics spectacular. We have 4 amazing creators for you who all work on different crime comics all coming out through ComiXology. They’re all awesome in very different ways, so why don’t we bring them in now?

Ladies and gentlemen, Rob Hart, Gary Phillips, Denless Hopeless, and Lee Lowridge. Hello. Welcome, guys. Yay. Hello.

How’s it going? Hooray. Wow. It’s a it’s a pile of dude heads. This is very exciting.

It’s yes. So let me just do a little bit of intro about everybody’s books. So Gary Phillips is the creator of Cold Hard Cash. A Martha Chaney escapade. Gary, correct me if I’m wrong, but this is, the first graphic novel that spun out of your prose novels.

Is that correct? That is correct. But I’ve also gone the other way where I’ve done some, comic stuff which became prose, but we we’ll get to that. Yeah. Oh, we’re gonna get there.

Don’t need to even worry. Dennis Hopeless, always good to see you. Always good to chat with you. You are the creator of she’s running on fumes, which can correct me if I’m wrong here, but this is at least in part inspired by stuff from your real family that you’re pulling on that obviously goes in very different directions. Yes.

It is a truest crime story about my real life parents. Yeah. Wow. Lee Lowridge is the creator of Midstate, which, Lee, this is also based on your real life where you have visions where you see terrifying things that happen. Is that correct?

Oh, I think you’re on mute. I think you’re on mute. Whatever you’re saying. That’s the vision he had. Oh, hello.

On mute. Hello. There you go. Oh, no. Nope.

Oh, no. Well, it’s a it’s alright. Lee, we’ll come back to you in a second. Nope. We can’t hear you yet.

Oh, but it but it’s very crackly. So that’s a good I think it’s Morse code. Yeah. He’s saying Please answer in Morse code if possible. That makes for good podcasting.

Yeah. Lee, just, speak up whatever you think maybe you could speak up. We’re gonna just very quickly move on to Rob Hart, who is the coauthor of Blood Oath, and the full collected volume of that is out now. Again, not actually based on your real life because there’s vampires here. But Woah.

That I I I I think you got that wrong. That’s an assumption. It’s very much based. Yeah. Yes.

You are currently in the prohibition with a bunch of vampires. So that’s very cool. I mean, yeah. Yeah. You know, you you you don’t know what I get up to in my spare time.

So as you might have gotten an inkling if you’re listening or watching this, these are all extremely, extremely different books that are still somewhat in varying ways characterized as a crime book. So why don’t we start there? What makes something a crime book other than there’s a crime happening in it, or is that literally the only thing for for anybody? Rob, you look like you might have an answer here. I mean, it’s it’s tough because, technically, I mean, if Metallo goes and starts, you know, messing up Metropolis, I mean, that’s a crime.

That’s destruction of property. He’s probably hurt a lot of people in the process. But I guess, you know, a crime comic is just sort of moving more into that sort of, like, that that that noir space or that hardboiled space. I think you’re getting a lot less of the obviously, you’re getting a lot less of costumes and the superhero stuff. You know?

And it can or cannot be a little bit more graphic. Love is kinda crime, but it’s also kinda horror because there are vampires. But it’s also got the mob and prohibition, which is much more of like a traditional crime story. So I think it’s like, as as as we get away from Superman and more towards Sam and Spade is is kind of the vibe, I guess. You know, and, no.

Go ahead. No, please. I was going to No. I was gonna say real quick. It’s also the question of a crime story.

A crime fiction is also often taught from the point of view of the criminal. The classic, I suppose, is is actually, you know, Darwin Cook. The late, great Darwin Cook, had adapted several of the, Westlake Parker novels. Right? And the Westlake Parker novels are writing as Richard Stark were a series of novels about a professional thief, an amoral thief in an amoral world.

And so that’s also the the the char terrain of a crime of a crime novel and a crime. Dennis? Yeah. I mean, I mean, I come from superhero comics, and the the major difference, I think, is like Gary was saying, you’re structuring it from the perspective of the criminal. Most of the times when we write superheroes, even if you can relate to the villain on some hand, you’re coming out from a black and white, sort of a place.

And, you know, the criminal in my book is my mother, so obviously, it’s not about this evil monster mustache twirling. It’s about someone stuck in a situation where they’re forced to do some amoral things in order to to deal with bigger problems. So I think that, to me, that was the the primary difference. Lee, I don’t know if you got the audio working again, but I’m curious because you do have a little bit of a different tact there where and there’s some questions about it, but you are coming a little more from the direction of the hero. So how do you take what we’ve been talking about here?

Nope. Still silent. Not not yet. I’m so sorry. Here, you would you should try, log out and log back in again.

There it is. Oh, yeah. Hello? No. I’m saying that that’s a good idea.

Yes. Here. Log out and log back in again. We’ll see if that works. It’s logged out, baby.

But it feels like I mean, to sort of answer your question, Alex, and pitch it back out, it feels like whether you’re following the hero or the criminal, like, bad things are happening to the main characters constantly. It feels like at least in in all of these books, it’s not not great things are happening. Do you feel like you have to be harder on your protagonist is because they’re sort of making these hard decisions or they’re committing crimes? Well, I I I would say this. I mean, only because I’m I’m actually right now writing a, a heist novel, but also then it it somewhat apply it applies to your question, particularly, I think, to Martha Chaney in the in the cold hard cash story, which is to say, you know, the best thing is always, to put your character, up against it, to hit them up, to put them in a corner, and see what they do.

It’s interesting because I I I read Dennis’ first issue and and, you know, it’s it’s really no more true than than that. I mean, that’s to me, it’s a very his mom is is still to me a very sympathetic character because she is really, it’s it’s it’s just a dire situation, and and you have to ask yourself and you and you’re forced to be that person to say, well, you know, I can’t really judge them because would I have the guts to do what they do if I were in that situation? So I think the more you can do that and walk that line, create a bit of empathy, but also create a bit of hardness to them and and and push them and make them do these hard things, these unrelenting things, I think all the better. Yeah. I would I would agree.

I think the humanity of the story is always makes what makes it relatable. Like, the the thing that brings you in is can you relate to characters? So if you have characters breaking laws that you yourself would hopefully never break, you have to put them in a situation where that is a reasonable action. And in in my case, it’s based on real life events where, like, the worst thing my parents went through, in real life. And so when I was structuring a crime story that’s a little more truncated and interesting than what really happened around that, I had to keep upping the ante of the terrible things so I could justify the behavior, you know, getting worse and worse and happening so quickly.

Lee, we’re gonna do one more test. Can we hear you? Can you hear me now? Yes. Here we go.

There we go. What a great voice. Alright. Just real quick. Answer all the questions that we asked you in.

Yeah. I hope you’ve been taking notes. I you had said yeah. Mine is a little different because my character is a pathetic, just, he is a clairvoyant that has been, disgraced in his hometown, and he’s kind of on a vindication journey. And it, everything aligns where this crazy doctor moves in town, and he suspects through his visions that this guy’s killing all these people that keep going missing at the through the, train station and whatnot.

So it’s a little it’s more from his perspective. Like, you root for Paul the whole time, but, you know, does he get validated? Sure. Does, you know, does it work out in the end? Maybe not.

You know, a loser’s a loser. Some it’s sometimes. Well, I I think, Lee, just to stay with yours and actually tie it to Rob’s a little bit, both of your books have supernatural elements to it. So at what point we touched on this a little bit, but at what point have you added enough supernatural elements that it’s a supernatural book, it’s a vampire book, or it’s a, guy with psychic powers versus a pure crime book? What tips it over?

Ram, do you have an answer for that one? You know, it’s it’s it’s an interesting balance. Because, yeah, you know, I I’ve spent a lot of time sort of, like, swimming in in multiple streams when it comes to genre. Like, I’d like my not my last novel is a, time travel murder mystery. And it’s always kind of a struggle to be like, you know, if you wanna find that balance between sort of satisfying both crowds without going too far to one side or the other.

But, you I mean, a lot of I I think, honestly, a lot of the success of the comic just comes out of my co writer, Alex Segura. Because this this is the first time I ever wrote a comic. I had no idea what I was doing. Like, he brought me to the end, and he’s like, let’s jam on this. And then I realized, like, wow.

I am someone over my head. But, yeah, I mean, that that was part of the fun process was being able to sort of, like, bounce these things off of him and and sort of have this back and forth where we can figure out, okay. Like, how do we have our vampire cake, but, like, eat the mob stuff too? Well, Alex is such a meticulous guy, so I will I imagine he was a pretty good Sherpa bringing you into the comics fold. Yeah.

Yeah. It was a blast. It was a blast. On a similar bent, Gary, just to throw it over to you, and I apologize if this spoils a big thing to eat your buck. But for the most time, it is, you know, this hard boiled, the crime mystery tricky things going on.

And then very late in the game, I think I wanna say it’s the 4th issue. You bring in what seems like a wild sci fi twist that completely floored me. Where did that come from, and how does that change the story when you bring in an element like that? I think, if as you as you say, Alex, there’s a well, there’s a there’s a, yeah, there’s a slight, yeah, turn to to that. But but really to to Rob’s point, I think and I think really, of course, that’s the beauty of of comics.

But even you see that you see this, of course, in in some, fiction as well, but the idea or crime fiction as well, the idea that you don’t have to be a purist. Right? That you can still, I mean, you can still listen to this. This is a story about human beings. This is a story about how whatever crazy situation they find themselves in, vampires or whatever it is, man, it’s still, you know, we still have to create these relatable characters, or they could be really despicable characters, but they have to be at least interesting enough that you want to stick with them.

So, yeah, to the extent that I like to sort of fool with that stuff. And by the way, of course, then my my instructions to Adriana, the the wonderful artist who realized this was to give me that kind of, you know, that WALL EWOOD kind of rocket ship. So, you know, it’s just I just think to have that kind of fun and, and also to say that, you know, this isn’t just this kind of story. This could be this there is other elements. Can these be melded together to still tell the one main story.

Mhmm. Talking about artists, How do you what goes into picking your artist for a story that you know is gonna be sort of crime? Are you playing into the expectation of it being like dark, moody, or do you wanna play against it in particular with these books? Lee, maybe you wanna go. I’m just curious because you do a fair amount of design, if I believe as well.

So you probably have a I mean, when I wrote this, I had Mac chatter in mind because I did a book with him, Briggsland, years ago. And, I just when I when I was coming up with this, I just every scene I wrote, I just had his art in mind. And I don’t think he necessarily has he’s not noir by any means. I think he’s pretty realistic in the way he draws. But he just the way he draws small towns and he he he creates atmosphere really well.

So I thought he’d be the perfect guy, but I definitely didn’t go with a guy who does heavy blacks or, you know, that’s a real noir type guy. But I don’t I don’t think my story is noir. I don’t know that it’s necessarily murder or or horror or supernatural. It’s kind of a combination of all of them. And I kinda keep the reader guessing if there’s anything supernatural at all happening.

Is everyone full of shit? You know, you start you you start to find out issue 3, and you really find out what’s going on in issue 4. You there’s still a lot of questions because a lot of that is I I never believed in clairvoyance. I don’t believe in any of it. I’ve been to a lot of them.

I try to call them out. I’m that asshole. So yeah, tarot cards. I’ll make him read my cards, and I’ll make him reread it again because it should come out exactly the same. Wow.

You’re a heckler. You’re a tarot heckler. Yeah. I’m a yeah. Yeah.

Look, yes. Some sort of terrorist. No. So that’s that’s about it for that. Dennis, what about you?

Like you said, we certainly have talked to you a lot about your superhero work over the years. This is not just a very different moon for you story wise, but also visually, it looks very different from a lot of the work that you’ve done. So same question Justin was asking in terms of casting the artist here. Yeah. But because it’s a story that, you know, it’s obviously based on my parents, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to write it for about a decade.

I always had it in the back of my head. And when I first saw Grass Kings was the day that I met Tyler Jenkins. And it it’s when I realized, like, oh, this can work. This, like, sun baked, everything is rusting and falling apart, super poverty stricken, eighties, rural Missouri. That’s what GrassKings felt like to me.

I’m not based in Canada, but it’s a similar sort of thing. So I always sort of had Tyler in mind, but I was afraid to ask him. But we’re friends, so when I got the pitch done, I sent it to him just because I knew it would be up his alley, and I was curious what he thought of it. And then when he called me, he’s like, did you send me this because you know I’d like it or because I’m the perfect person to draw it? So I never even had to ask the man, which was really nice.

That’s even asked. From the beginning. Yeah. The person you have a crush on just proposes to you. I don’t know what it is.

And then, yeah, we got Hillary to come on and do the watercolors. It it looks exactly like I needed it to look without me having to do much work. So I have a hard time imagining it in any other way because it was in the pitch stage whenever whenever that happened. But it it definitely is a departure from from most of my superhero work in terms of story and art, and I and I love that. I I think it looks like the kind of, I don’t know, like, crime seventies, eighties crime movie slash indie film that we needed we needed for.

Now so are you saying that seeing Tyler’s work sort of got you to finish it finish the pitch, like, drove you, like, gave you that ticking clock on it? Yeah. It it made me realize what, like, what it could look like, how it could work. I’m not super prolific. So when Marvel was keeping me fed for years, my creator on work was always on some backburners, percolating.

I came up with, just a crime, you know, and I can do a genre. But, yeah, I can definitely get into the I think. Cool. I wanted to ask you guys about setting because something that I was really struck by with all of these books is not that they all had very different settings, but they all had very specific settings. I know that’s important anyway for writing, for creating a tale, for creating a story, but it almost feels uber important in terms of creating a crime, novel, comic, etcetera, that you gotta be like, I have a very specific place.

These people exist at this place. Here’s why this crime is important here. Rob, just over to you for no particular reason. Is that something that you think about when you’re approaching a tale like this? For the most part, yeah.

I mean, I think kinda, you know, we we never even really had a conversation about it. We were gonna set this in the because it’s prohibition. It’s the sort of, like, the birth. So it’s, you know, where it’s kinda like we we thought maybe for a second, we would do Chicago, but we were both, like, even spent some time in Chicago. I don’t understand that city.

I think I did get to do, was so so I’m I’m born and raised on Staten Island, in New York. I live here. We have open at a a stash house far out there, which was kinda cool. And I got to for research. And that there you be probate that.

It’s it’s dot net because remote. Is hard to get to. It just seemed fun place without. And, that was me to set the mob story in New York. I have to, but I’m gonna put, like, a bit of on it.

I have to dig a little bit into the place. Gary, what about you? How important is place and maybe time as well to you? Well, you know, a lot of my novels are, like, at least a lot of my original novels, invariably because I was I was born and raised in LA and and so used LA as a setting, but also then the idea was to always show that LA that’s not the LAUC in countless, film and TV shows. In countless film and TV shows.

Although maybe it’s at LA you might see, you know, in in the shield, even though they created a kind of fictional setting, but still it was kind of, the sort of parts of Silver Lake and Echo Park and Highland Park, which you normally would see on TV or in collateral where, you know, Tom Cruise’s hitman character affords Jamie Foxx’s driver to take him to all these different parts of LA, Southeast LA, those kind of place of appointment etcetera, that you normally don’t see. So the idea that, yeah, I get to explore other parts of the Southland that don’t normally get looked at is always kind of interesting to me. And it’s always a learning experience for myself. Right? Because even though I I think I know the city and these greater environments invariably because things have changed, demographics have changed, the actual physical buildings have changed.

You know, I need to go back out there. I need to go hang around. I need to go find out what’s happening. I mean, I was born and raised in South Central, but the South Central of of my time, of my youth, is way different, much different now. So anyway, all that to say is that I I try to keep, abreast of all that’s happening and and sort of, you know, bring that bring that to the to the page.

And then even when the character is particularly when the character is in some place else, invariably, my characters are, you know, out of place so that so kind of as they learn about a place, the the reader learns about a place or the viewer learns about a place. So I I always kind of like that as well, which is to say, you know, I it it makes me go immerse myself in some new area or some place in South Dakota, you know, where I where I ain’t never been or something like that. But it’s I just find it interesting to to try to then, yeah, give that feel, and and then bring that, you know, bring that to the page. Dennis, for you, I mean, I know we keep kind of hitting on the same thing, but the time and place is kinda set for you because it is about your Bob. So then going back and trying to capture that, what kind of research did you do?

Was it just going back through your memory doing, like, a whole memento thing? Or how did you tackle it? Well, fortunately, I had, all of our old photo albums from the time period. We Oh, wow. Were stuck in southern Missouri for this period of time and with no money or anything to do.

And my mom’s a photographer, so she took a lot of pictures of, you know, like, us kids doing things, but it was, like, these desolate, sort of beautiful in their way, but also, like, clearly, you’re in the middle of the nowhere surrounded by poverty. So I I was able to send Tyler a lot of, like, photo reference for that. The weirdest thing about the book is that, like, Tyler’s version of my parents, he’s he wasn’t drawing, like, on model. So it was, like, realizing, okay, these are the character versions of them. This is what they’re gonna look like.

And that was helpful when it came to writing intense scenes because I really didn’t think about how difficult it was gonna be to write the worst experiences in my parents’ lives, emotionally. So that was nice to have that little bit of disconnect. But, yeah, I had plenty of my mom had photo album photo album after photo album after photo album. All of the glue is now ruined because I pulled the photos up, and they’re 40 years old. But, yeah, we have a lot of pictures.

Lee, what about you? I just wanna just to wrap this up, then I’ll kick it over to you, Justin. I know you did the design for 6 fingers in one hand, and I assume other things. So I have to imagine you have a very, like, intricate design mind. Do you lay out the geography of the place for something like Midstates, or how do you approach it?

I’m I it had to be a small town. So I placed it in West Virginia. It needed to be one of those towns that, like, if the train station ceased to exist, so would the town. And a story like this could only exist in a small town like that. So and I grew up in a small lake town.

So and I I know how catty people can be and, you know, how insular a small town can be. Like, I picture this town might have 3,000 people, 4,000 people. So, you know, when you’re ostracized in a town like that, you’re fucked. You know? Like, there’s there’s there’s no saving your your reputation.

It’s so true. I I have the the smallest example that I was visiting home, the small town I grew up in, also Lake Town. I dropped a watermelon at the checkout in the grocery store. Right. And that’s what everyone talked about the anytime I bumped into zone, they’re like, oh, shame about that watermelon.

Watermelon. I was like, what the fuck? Yeah. Yeah. No.

It had everything to do with it. Now let’s go around and just name some crimes we’ve all committed to really get ourselves into that space. Yeah. Can I just say that I asked my kids beforehand because always before the show, I’m like, do you have any questions for these guests? And I was like, well, I have all crime comics people, and that was the question they came up with.

Yeah. Exactly. You gotta get familiar with the the area. But I guess more seriously, do you feel do you feel yourself This is a sting operation. So just A very low stakes sting operation.

Do you feel yourself, like, thinking about crime in your regular life as you’re immersed in a story like this? Like, any of these. Do you become more of a criminal? I’ve always felt like I was raised with a different moral compass than everybody else, and I never understood why until it became apparent my dad was a criminal when I was a little kid. So especially when I was writing superhero comics, the idea of, like, black and white, good and evil, didn’t never made sense with me to me, and it never really tracked.

And as I was writing this, I understood that, like, oh, that gray area is where we existed in whenever I was a toddler and developing all of these things, which isn’t to say that I, like, commit a lot of crimes or anything. But when I think back to even, like, the stuff I got up to in high school that I I didn’t think was that big a deal because I never got caught, definitely, there were there were crimes. There were petty misdemeanors happening all the time when I was growing up because I I did I wasn’t aware of the consequences, and I didn’t have that strong moral compass. You know, it’s it’s interesting that Dennis mentions that. I’m gonna circle back that, you know, I I I have been influenced, like I said, to a degree by the by the the Westlake, the Parker novels.

And so this so in particular, the novel I’m writing now, although even Chaney’s character, Martha Chaney in in Cold Hard Cash. I mean, she’s a in the books, and I mean, it’s alluded to here in this story, but this story, she’s looking for some stolen cash, although that’s kind of a the template for all the books of the novels as well. She’s a courier for the buttoned down mob. So she already has this job where her her her goal is to move a certain amount of cash, cash that is not to be reported, not, you know, not not show up on the IRS ledger, not to show up in any kind of ledger for that matter, and move a certain amount of cash, millions from 1 point a to point b. And invariably, of course, something happens in between or something happens by the time she gets to point b.

Right? And that’s the nature of the story. And so she has a good goal. She has to go then get the still gotten gains back, which have been stolen. And in this case, the the cash has already been stolen or has been moved electronically, but but still there’s an understanding that the trail is that it’s been converted to cash.

So all all that to say is that, yeah, I mean, I think you you you I’m fascinated, of course, by by that kind of stuff. Like, recently out here in, in in Sylmar, which is out in the valley here in LA, there was a robbery, but it’s, like, right out of movie. It was a $30,000,000 robbery. It’s a store it was a storage, facility for this, armored car service. And the thieves, broke in from the ceiling and bypassed the alarms and and went right into the vault.

But also, they clearly knew it was clearly inside job because, first of all, they knew where to cut the hole in the ceiling right above, you know, get down to the vault and then get all that money out. And by the way, $30,000,000 in cash is not not you know, it’s not insignificant. It’s like £600. So you gotta really divvy that. That’s that’s some that’s some heavy stuff.

So every time you always see those movies where the criminals are running with 2 double bags full of cash, that’s horseshit, man. That’s that’s that weighs a lot. I don’t care how much it worked out. That’s a lot. Anyway, all I have to say is that I think about those kind of details when I’m writing crime stories that I try to I just go into the weeds on that shit just so I can say, oh, okay.

If I’m gonna steal $30,000,000, how many people do I need? How much do you put in each duffel bag? Because then how do we move it quickly and efficiently? And the name of your novel is money sure is heavy that’s coming? That’s it.

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I I wanted to ask you guys a question that we ask a lot with mystery stuff, and I think I know the answer to this because it’s pretty consistent, but I’m always curious anyway. What do you what? Great setup. Here’s your question. I Here’s a bad question that I wanna ask.

I hate it. It’s terrible, but here we go. I don’t know. I feel bad about asking it, but, like, what do you do you start with the end when you’re crafting a mystery? Because I know a lot of people do, but sometimes we hear a different answer in terms of, like, no.

I’m kind of wigging it or I have a fair idea or anything like that. So not that these books are strictly mystery books. They’re more crime books. But when you’re tackling that sort of thing, what do you start with? Rob, curious to hear from you.

That’s I don’t know. That that that’s most of the one in the sense that, like, it’s it’s it’s not even really like a linear linear process of, like, I start with this, and then I do this, and I do this. I feel like I get, like, a little of an idea, and then it sits in a corner for, like, 6 months because I don’t know what to do with it. And then I get another idea, and I throw it in the corner. And then finally, I’ve got, like, this big giant pile that I’m like, well, there’s a book in there somewhere.

And if I dig through it, I’m gonna find it. And, you know, I I do know when I actually do sit through it, I do need to know the ending. Like, if I don’t know the ending, then I’m just gonna write for a 1000000 years, and I’m never gonna get to where I need to be. But, Lost style story as it was. Alright.

Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. But, yeah, the development process is always this weird thing that, like, people are people ask me to describe it. Now I I literally can’t.

Like, it’s just the nightmare, and then you have a book at the end, and you’re just thankful that you can keep doing it. Lee, what about you? What do you what do you start with when you’re crafting a crime story? For for this, I had, like, the the high concept, and then I wanted to figure out the ending so I could work back a little ways from that because I have, like, a bunch of twists in the end. Like, my whole thing is deceiving the reader in this.

Like, at first, I wanna confuse the reader, then I want you to think you have it, like you figured me out. And then I turn it on its head, and then I do it once more one more time at the end. So it’s frustrating. So I had I had to work back on this one. I definitely it was enjoyable to get to that place.

Yeah. Are you saying you prefer that? Well, on this this one, I did. Yeah. I I think I had to have the ending first.

Like, Rob was saying, it’d just go on forever if not. Dennis, it feels like it’s sort of the opposite situation for you writing about something from your life. It’s like what parts aren’t you gonna tell? It’s an editing issue rather than, working backwards. Yeah.

When I because I like I said, I spent a decade trying to figure out how to write this story. My original pitch was a page that was just turned out to just be the backstory. And when I would show it to people, they’re like, this is great, but what happens? Because to me, what was interesting was all of the characters and how we got to where we were in that at that moment. Also, I come from Marvel, which is kind of seedier pants.

Do you have a pitch for this? Okay. The artist needs pages in 3 days. Go. So a lot of times, you don’t have the you have, like, a loose ending figured out and then, like, an emotional arc, but you don’t know exactly where you’re going, and they’ve trained me to write that way.

So with this, once I figured out the basic beats of the crime story and how I was gonna work in the real life stuff, I knew the emotional beat at the end and, like like, the basic idea of what was gonna happen. But, like, my antagonist happened in the scripting. Like, she jumped out and, like, oh, she’s more interesting. I’m gonna I’m gonna head in this direction with it. So that changed a lot of the stuff, like, get the things around.

So but as long as I know what the character arc is and, like, what the important that, like, beat at the end is gonna be, I can kinda garden it in and around because I spent 10 years having to do that on Supercom books. I need just, one more question, and then we’ll move on to other folks. But while we’re talking about this, how much of your Spider Woman run was inspired by the stuff with your mom? Because, obviously, Spider Woman is being a hero, but I was really struck reading this book that it’s a very similar, like, single mom at the end of her rope dealing with too many things at the same time. So what I found in therapy at being in the years since I wrote Spider Woman is that my natural parenting style is based on my mother and how I was raised, because my dad was around, but my mom was the primary caregiver.

And it is a very, like, I’m overwhelmed because I’m awake stress style that, you you kinda have to work through to be a good parent. So I think a lot of what Spider Woman was was me projecting the early days of me myself becoming a parent and having babies and feeling really overwhelmed, and then, yeah, like, putting it through a female perspective. So there’s a lot of my mom in there for sure, but that is the most autobiographical superhero book I ever did for sure because it is about, Oh, God, I’m how do I do this? How do I continue to be what I was before? But I I do think this mirrors that in a lot of ways where it is about a person prioritizing their children to the point of if I fail at this, we’re like, I’m gonna go away forever or be killed, which is similar in a weird way to my Spider Woman run for sure.

Yeah. Gary, what about you? I don’t think we’ve, talked to you about the whole ending thing unless we did, and I forgot. No. And I forgot to.

No. Invariably, as you know, as is mentioned, I once I’m writing the script, characters, they do take on a kind of, they do take on a kind of life with their own or their or beats of their own. So you or you’re following this character who you fought with somewhat of a tertiary character? And then somewhere in the middle of that, you know, writing and cocking the story, they take on a different perspective or or or or suddenly it seems, oh, wait a minute. If they did this, then this helps to ship the store.

This helps to put other things in gear. But if if they do this, then therefore I have to go back and adjust, you know, earlier on, maybe when I introduced them and you just kind of, you know, brought them on stage and took them off stage. So I I think that’s always wonderful. I mean, to me, I always find it great, which is to say, I have a bit of a blueprint that I follow, but then invariably, some of that gets jettisoned, and some of that gets reworked. And I I think I kind of know the ending or there’s an ending there.

And I I I suppose usually to some degree I get to that ending, but invariably some a lot of the middle gets gets shifted and changed around. But, yeah, I I tend to know what the ending is or I think I have an idea what ending is. But even now, I’m thinking, for instance, I’m working on this new novel. I’m thinking there’s gonna be a sort of greater loss. I think actually from the Parker novels, there’s gonna be a loss to this character, this professional thief character, who I’ve written about before, just to kinda ground him and to and to bring him a bit more into reality and not make him so aloof and not make him so much the mastermind.

Now while we’ve been talking, Darwin Cook has come up a bunch of times, and, of course, he’s a huge influence on crime comics. But I wanted to ask you guys about Brubaker and Phillips in particular because they are a pair that I do think that looms over modern crime comics. You’ve all written very different tales that I don’t feel I look at it. I’m like, oh, well, you’re just doing what they’re doing. But how much are they an influence, or how much are they on your mind when you’re tackling something specifically with crime comics or not at all?

Yeah. Who are those guys? Yeah. They’re 2 friends of Bob that hagged out by the, 70 No. No.

I mean, I no. Evidently no. I I wouldn’t I wouldn’t disagree with that at all. I mean, man. I mean, come on, man.

That that run on on criminal and and, it was the Fade In, right, which I really dug. I mean, anyway, Fade In. Fade In was pretty pretty damaged, I thought. Anyway, no. Absolutely.

Because you’re right. I mean, I think if it and I don’t know this. I’m I’d be curious. I mean, the the great minds at at at the comic book companies, maybe they know this. I’m always very curious to see if those kind of comics, who who are the fan you know, who are the superhero fans that maybe will take a chance on that kind of material?

And but even more so, I mean, from from from Rob and I’s world, are there pros are there crime mystery prose readers who will now, crossover, who will now read The Collected Criminal, read The Collected Fate In, and and because it’s it’s it’s a crime comic where it’s crime comic and and also something more, will they, you know, will will they come to to to the material? And I don’t I don’t know if that’s happening. I don’t I don’t, you know, I have no idea. But I’m I’m curious in that way too to see is is that audience being broadened in terms of the pros audience coming more to at least crime comics. Has anybody had that experience?

Rob, I know you write a bit. Are you are you seeing any crossover there between the comics crime audience and the prose crimes audience? I’m I’m seeing a little bit of that, in the sense that I know people who have picked up my novels have gone and picked up Leto. So but but but that’s that’s, like, such a a small sample because it’s, like, it’s someone I follow on Twitter. So, like, you know, it’s, no.

And and it’s funny though. It it it is, like, thinking in terms of crossover. I mean, look, I’ll be honest, you know, and and that was the part where I started to feel a little bit like fraud is, you know, my my I tend to do my crime reading and prose and my comic my superhero reading in comics. Like, I tend to gravitate more toward the superhero stuff in comics, but that’s also kinda what I grew up reading. Mhmm.

I do I did just pick up, Criminal, because, my buddy Jordan Harper is, with Brew Vicarious, the co showrunner on that. So I wanna read that. And I just picked up the big, sex criminals compendium, which I’m really excited to read. But, hard boiled. Super hard boiled sex criminals.

So, like, I’m I’m kind of in a place where I’m trying to actively expand my horizons a little bit. But, I also think there’s a way in which a lot of readers kinda, like, stick with the lanes that they’re comfortable with. You know, it’s kinda hard just to get someone to to read something a little bit different like a fan will. But, you know, an average reader, maybe it’s not always the case. It’s really funny the idea that, like, yeah, I read crime comics.

The 2 books I picked up are are criminal and sex criminals. They seem pretty similar. It’s gonna be I’m I’m easing my way in. I I went for the really obvious ones. Yeah.

6th grade levels, starts with crimes, but it goes right there. You’ll see. Yeah. This has absolutely nothing to do with what we’re discussing, but our 3rd cohost, Pete is not here. So I feel obligated to ask about this.

Lee, behind you, there are 2 very cool Batman drawings. What’s going on there? What could you tell us about those? Let’s see. I think that Tim Sale, John Delaney.

I have more. You go up the wall. Yo. Yeah. Yeah.

Years ago, I just went, I think it was in San Diego. I was just asking guys that I knew to draw me heads because I had this big wall in this house I was in, and I wanted 8 heads. Oh, that’s awesome. All Batman. All Batman.

Yeah. So they’re old. They’re from 98. Oh, awesome. Yeah.

Got them a while. Thank you, Lee. I appreciate it. Just to get back to the comics for a second. So one other aspect of this is you’re all putting out these books through ComiXology.

I think at this point, it’s all kind of the same thing is the impression that I get. But is there any difference for you in terms of creating a comic for a digital platform like ComiXology versus creating something for print even though I know down the road these maybe probably will end up in print? You’re supposed to not do splash pages or double page splash tips. We did not follow that. But there’s some technical things you’re supposed to do if they’re different.

But, yeah, the process other than we got a budget and I could pay the collaborators just, like, real rates to do it, that was a positive. But, yeah, it was similar otherwise. Yeah. I think the only thing, to show with Dennis, I I we just did new double page spreads. You know, you’re supposed to panel a certain way, but I was like, they’ll they’ll figure it out.

You know? I’m not gonna because, like, knowing I’m gonna say knowing these will come out in print, I don’t wanna, you know, make it look shitty Mhmm. In print just so it’ll work on the viewer. I was Right. That’s my romantic version.

Well, awesome. Before we start to wrap up here, I would love to just get plugs from you guys. I know we sort of ted gentually talked about the books here, but, why don’t we go around 1 by 1? Rob, as I mentioned earlier, the full collected volume of Blood Oath is out now. What do you wanna plug about that?

Anything else people should check out from you? Yeah. Sure. So, Dark Horse just put out the collected Blood Oath edition, the 5 issues. It looks beautiful.

It is Boardwalk Empire with Vampires. It is super fun. I also know we’re coming out in about a month and a half called Assassin’s Anonymous, which is basically if John Wick got into a recovery program for killers. And, that’s been super fun to work on. Spielberg and Amblin optioned it for a movie franchise, which, you know, sounds great, and we’ll see if anything happens.

And Nice. It’s kinda what I’m working on. Awesome. Gary, cold hard cash. Three issues are out now.

We’re not done with the series. So what else can we expect from it? Yeah. There’s, 2 more, books to drop or 2 more episodes to drop. And then, hopefully, we’ll see, I I believe I was told that in June, they, comics I’d say goes to talk with Dark Horse to see what, if anything, they will be, bringing up to, bringing over to print.

Hopefully, that happens there. If not, then I’ll hustle it somewhere. And then, my latest novel was out, As Dark as Night, which is set, in early in mid sixties in Los Angeles. And this is something that nobody here is old enough to remember, hardly even I am old enough to remember. But there was a thing called the Watts Riots in 65, which is kind of a pivotal moment in the history of the city.

And, my character, a crime photographer, Harry Ingram is, the book jumps off right smack dab in the middle of the Watts Riots, and my character’s out taking photos and about to get his head cracked in by the cops as he as usually happens. Awesome. Dennis, 3 issues of she’s running on fumes are out now. The 4th one is out May 7th. What can you tease or plug about that?

Yeah. Just download it when it comes out. I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. My Spider Woman fans will love it. Like you said, it’s like a emotional successor to that.

I’m focusing on one project at a time right now, so this is what I’m doing. I’m currently cooking up Kickstarter with, like, a middle grade Kickstarter with, the illustrator Chris Grine that I’m really excited about. You’ll be able to find out about that on hopelesscomics.com sometime soon. But yeah, for right now, just check out this book. It’s really personal to me and I think it’s great.

And Tyler Jenkins and Hillary Jenkins and everyone has to work on the book is fantastic, so it it’s worth a look. Awesome. And Lee, last but not least, Midstage issue 3 is also coming out on May 7th. There is a wild ending to the second issue. What, if anything, can you tease about issue 3 and what’s coming up?

There’s a wild ending to issue 3. Nice. And 4 and 5. And we know we got a couple twists that you’re really screwing us over with. You’re gonna I hope I hope it it translates where you feel properly screwed.

Awesome. That’s what I love. That’s why I read comics, man. Me too. Read comics.

Yeah. For all of you guys, thank you so much for coming on. Thank you for talking about crime comics. You can check out all this stuff on ComiXology and or in print either now or eventually. Appreciate it.

And, the police will be knocking at all of your doors very soon. Thank you so much for coming on. Yeah. Thank you, guys. Great talking to you.

The book’s a great guy. Thanks so much, guys. Thanks. Very nice. Thank you.

Alright. There we go. Once again, just to give those plugs. I know I just said it, but I’ll run down it again. Gary Phillips, you can check out cold hard cash on Comixology.

Dennis Hopeless. She’s running on fumes. Lee Lowridge, Midstate, Rob Hart, Blood Oath, all that we’re on now. All of them are awesome, awesome books. And we are gonna move on with our next section, which is my favorite section because you all make it up.

It is your audience question. Yeah. And for audience questions, all you got to do is drop a question in the comments section. It could be about absolutely anything. I guess I’m losing my voice.

I don’t know what’s going on here. But Alex, you gotta take care of yourself. I do. I haven’t been sleeping. Oh my god.

Anyway, yes. Throw your questions in the comments there. I will mention there was a great drink that was curated as usual by our CBC chef, Brett Macris. I did not make it because I forgot to get limes and grapefruit juice. So I made a Negroni again instead tonight.

What about you, Justin? What are you drinking? I’m drinking, Music City Light Beer from, Nashville. I was in Nashville, last week and, picked up some beer there. Excellent.

Alright. Here we go. This is from all in the game. Y’all caught up on Shogun? I’ll tell you.

I love Shogun, but it’s such a sit down appointment television that you can’t be doing anything else. Yeah. So I have it. Instead, I watched fallout, and that’s easy to not quite pay attention to. Yes.

Particularly during certain sections. I don’t wanna call it out. But, the Ella Purnell stuff is great. The Walton Goggin stuff is fun. And then there’s the other guy.

Yeah. But I did actually watch all the show good. I did sit down and force not force myself, but I was like, I definitely do a lot of, like, cooking watching right now. Like, I’m very slowly watching Anyone But You, which sucks. But it’s a perfect perfect, like, okay.

I’m cooking for 20 to 30 minutes right now. I barely have to concentrate on this stupid movie. It’s happening in the background. But Shogut is definitely not just because of the subtitles, but just because it’s so rich Yeah. And the texture.

But I did watch all of it. Fantastic. I won’t spoil anything for anybody who hasn’t checked out the whole thing. But one thing that I had, like, this memory come back while I was watching it, and I checked it out. I was like, oh, yeah.

That’s 100% correct. About halfway through the show, I was like, John Blackthorn in Marico, that’s Wolverine in Marico. Right? And then I looked it up at 100%. This is not a shocking news story or anything.

But back in the day when John Bird and Chris were working on Smed, John Bird was like, yeah. I read and I thought it was great, so I wanted to do that. So we created Marico. And the Wolverine Marico story in the comics is 100% just like John Bird and Glisca would be like, yes. We also wanted to do a show gun.

Wow. That’s hilarious. Yeah. It’s so funny to think how much of that happened back then. We’re like, this is a disposable medium.

No one’s gonna know. Let’s just do that. And I was like, literally, that’s all we talk about. Yeah. Oh, it’s wild.

I say that to my kids all the time when they ask questions like, why did Superman do that? Why is that part of his Instagram? Like, listen, man. They were on deadline, and they had to turn in a book. That’s literally the only reason.

Superman shot tiny Supermans out of his hand for a while. Like, yeah, man. Well, and I love I love when people are not slavish to that, but that was the example that Krat Boris had used all the time, that specific one, including when we were interviewing about it them about it. And I love when a writer will be like, that’s ridiculous. Let me figure out a way to bring that back and treat that in a fun, maybe kind of serious way.

So Yeah. Well, it’s vish all those weird warts and stuff on comics history is what makes comics, I gotta think. When the danger is when I think when we smooth all those things out, I don’t like that. I’d rather things be a little wrong and weird than too clean. Yeah.

Don’t explain everything. Without spoiling anything, there’s a book we’re gonna be talking about on the stack where I was like, you don’t need to explain all that. That’s too much. Glad to hear that. Easy reader says, are you guys watching Knuckles?

Have you been, checking out any Knuckles? I got a lot of Knuckles content in my time with Adam Palley on the road. So, I know. I I will say it is genuinely funny. Like Yeah.

Especially, like, you know, it’s it’d be it’s a kid’s show, technically, you could say, but it’s legit. It’s a legit show. It’s definitely, a a good watch. I really love the show. I laughed out loud a bunch at it.

It’s so goofy and ridiculous. I like the Sonic movies. Like, I’m not a big Sonic fan or anything, but they’re very funny and fun. Yeah. This is way goofier.

I will say for my day job, I interviewed the executive producer, and they say he said that all came from them having Adam Pali as one of the stars of the show. Like, it partially came from Idris Elba and his dead pad delivery is knuckles. Yeah. But it’s very much they’re like, we have Adam Pali. He’s a comedy star.

Let’s make this a goofy comedy. And it’s great. It’s Yeah. Super ridiculous. There is a the 3rd episode, mild spoiler here, but it’s just Knuckles coming over to Adam Talley’s house for Shabbat dinner, and it’s I could not believe I was watching that in the middle of a Knuckles, the Echidna TV show.

It’s wild. It’s great. Schreckler says, discuss all superheroes should be villains. Interesting. What do you think about that?

Well, is that it’s hard to parse the exact intent of the question. Are you saying in reality, like, anyone with that kind of power would just impose their will on the rest of the world. Yeah. That’s put a potentially true. And I think that’s what makes superhero stories fun.

That’s what makes them more of that escape into the these people that have, morals and wanna do good with their powers. Or is the question more about, like, wouldn’t it be cool if everybody was a villain? Like, I like the theme of our episode, the crime let’s do crimes. Yeah. It definitely makes me think of some discussions we’ve been having in the Patreon Slack about X Men stuff, which is really bringing back a lot of memories of a lot of these characters just move back and forth, particularly in the X Men world between being like, I was a villain.

Now I’m a hero. Now I’m a villain again. Now I’m a hero. Now I’m a villain. And, like, for anybody who was checking out x men right now, Xavier is in this place of the current x men books where he’s just like, nah.

I don’t know. Kill all humans. It’s okay. And he clearly has a big plan that they haven’t unfolded yet, but everybody is like, nope. He’s gone too far.

We have to kill Charles Xavier. That’s what we need to do right now. This is the worst. And he’ll come back from it. They all come back from it.

You know? So, like, I don’t know. I don’t think all superheroes should be villains, but we all have the capacity for good and bad, and the best comics play off of that in different ways. Yeah. And I think, like, the Professor X example is he’s been sort of a bad mentor, that card, that game that’s been played with him.

I think we’ve done it too much. And I actually think the way the X men books are going, everyone’s saying it a little too much that Charles Xavier is bad and a liar. I think it’s actually gonna flip in this story. Absolutely. As opposed to them having to punish him and then he comes back.

I think he actually is going to be good by the end of it. It’s just been a messy path to get there. Totally. Michael Tillman says y’all caught up on baby reindeer latest hit on Netflix if you watch this one. Oh, the TV show.

I thought you meant just, like, what they’re up to. Yeah. I haven’t caught up to the baby reindeer yet. It’s very fast. Yeah.

Very fast. Even of those tiny legs. I have not watched this yet, but, I actually just heard it was, very good. A standalone series, based on a stage show. Mhmm.

It is harrowing. Just get ready for that. It is a really rough watch. There’s some funny parts, but it’s very tough at the same time. I do think it goes on like an episode an episode and a half too long or something like that.

But it definitely has the rhythms of a one person stage show, which I don’t mind at all. But definitely worth a watch. Probably the biggest not maybe the biggest, like, audience wise, but the biggest breakout hit that Netflix has had in a while. So worth checking out for adults only. Let’s see.

What else? Schweickler says, should my next episode of DayWatch be f, g, or l? I don’t know what this means. I don’t know what this means either. Another head scratcher there.

Well, anyway, that was a weird place to end on. Why don’t we end with that and not move on to trivia because Pete isn’t here and he’s, cheating on us with his coworkers. Instead, why don’t we talk about what’s coming out this week? Justin, what are you looking forward to that is in comic book stores? Well, there is, as we always say, a lot of stuff coming out.

I, there’s, DC. There’s a bunch of annuals coming out from DC, that were some good reads in there. I enjoyed the Nightwing annual despite the fact that you barely see the guy. You know? Mhmm.

But it was really good. Bloodhunt number 1 is coming out. My guy, Jed McKay, big event. I guess the biggest event that, he’s worked on so far. Feeling pretty good about it.

I like the, idea. The preview pages look pretty cool getting into some, some sun death. Sun death. So that’s fun. Everybody loves a good sun death for sure.

I I on the annual event, really looking forward to Harley Quinn 2024 annual number 1. That’s by Erica Henderson. It’s Erica Henderson doing Harley Quinn in Zetenna on a cruise ship. That’s out now, but, fun stuff. Also, new eps new episode.

New issue of minor threats, the fastest way down. Always very excited about that. And what else? Oh, toxic summer, number 1, from OD Press by Derek Charme. That was one I know we’re not supposed to judge books by the cover, but I saw that.

It’s Derek Charmart. It’s 2 dudes dancing in front of, like, a greed toxic background. I was like, yeah, man. That sounds good. That looks like some fun.

Yes. Looks like a good time. And, folks, hope you had a good time on this week’s show. Couple of people we wanna thank. We wanna thank Gary Phillips.

Check out Cold Hard Cash. Dennis Hopeless. She’s running on fumes. Leigh Lowridge, check out Midstate and Rob Hart, check out Blood Oath. All those books are out with various numbers of issues and volumes on codexology.

Now next week on the show, we’re gonna have Matthew Scofield is gonna be here talking about Steamroller Man. Also, Eric Powell, Lucky Yates, and Gideon Kendall are gonna be here to talk about Dark Horse Comics, a Lester of the Lesser Gods which is out tomorrow. So check that out and then head back next week to see us chat with the creative team about that. Comic book club news, our daily news podcast Monday through Friday every day at 6 AM. Marvel Vision and Marvel podcast, talking about x men 97 every week.

That’s what we do. Patreon.com/comicbookclub to support the show and all the shows we do. Don’t forget to subscribe on Apple, Android, Spotify, or the app of your choice at comic book live on twitter/x, comic book club live on Instagram and TikTok, comic book club live dot com for this podcast and many more. Until next time. Do crimes.

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