Barbra Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: Your graphic novel, Footprints, tells the story of mythical characters as private investigators on a murder case wrapped in conspiracy. What inspired you to write this story and will fans of both the sci-fi and noir genres find refuge in this book?
Joey Esposito: My hope is that whether you’re just a fan of crime stories or just a fan of sci-fi that you’ll be able to enjoy this book. To me, it’s a noir tale first and foremost, with the more fantastical elements being incidental to a degree. Of course, the actual plot hinges on those ideas, so it’s important. I always fall in love with books that blend genres, so I wanted to see if I could do it myself.
As for the inception of the story, it all goes back to an old idea I had way back when, about what would happen if you hit and killed Bigfoot by accident? What if you hit and killed him and didn’t look back? I imagined that a Justice League of Cryptids would get together to try and hunt down the killer. So, that was the nugget that got Footprints rolling. Sometime later, I returned to the idea and began talking about it with Jonathan, and it evolved from there.
BD: The graphic novel features black-and-white art by Jonathan Moore, which perfectly grasps the noir aspects of the P.I. story. What can you tell us about the creative process in working with Moore to develop the book?
JE: Jonathan and I had done a pitch together before we started work on Footprints, so I think that got the awkward kinks out of our working relationship ahead of time. By the time we had finished the pitch, we had become friends and began talking about what was next, which is when I presented him with the Footprints idea. From there, I gave him the script for Issue #1, and he started designing the characters. Jonathan’s got a background in anatomy, and I really think his realistic sensibilities help to sell this world, despite it being utterly ridiculous. And, I like to think that I’m really open with the artists that I work with – it’s their job to find the best way to tell the story visually, so who am I to challenge them? Jonathan contributed some of my favorite moments to the book – like Nessy’s “flea flicker” move and Choop’s breaking of the fourth wall. He’s a great collaborator.
BD: One of the amazing extra features of the Footprints trade paperback is the inclusion of the step-by-step process by which the story was written, drawn, and inked. Is there a thrill to sharing a behind-the-scenes account of the book’s creation with your readers?
JE: Totally. I love that stuff. I hate when all a collection offers is a cover gallery or something simplistic like that. I know how helpful creative insight can be to writers and artists just starting out, because I used all of that stuff. I’m not saying Footprints is a template for storytelling success and so you should study it or whatever, but I think it’s interesting to get a look at the creative process, whether it’s a book you love or hate. I also started doing a blog series on the opening pages of Footprints #1 to do an in-depth comparison between the script and the final art – showing off what a difference the art and letters make to telling your story. You can find that at joeyesposito.com!
BD: Like many independent creators, you initiated a Kickstarter campaign for your project. Why do you feel that this method of fundraising has become such a dramatic force in the indie publishing world, and do you feel that it will continue to play such a large role in the comic book industry?
JE: I think it’s just going to grow. You can see it happening already. More and more established creators are turning to crowdfunding to get their passion projects off the ground. And, I think that’s great – passionate fans want passionate projects, and this is the best way to show off your support. From a creative standpoint, it allows the creators to tell the story they want to tell, for better or for worse, without the restraints of a publisher. Of course, there are instances of a publisher picking up a Kickstarted book anyway (like Footprints); it takes the risk of financial loss away from the creator – most readers don’t realize that a creator-owned book is funded out of pocket for most creators. So, literally everybody wins – the readers essentially pay up front for a book and usually get more than whatever they’d get for the same price at retail value, the creators get their book made, and if a publisher does distribute it, they’ve got a portion of the up-front costs accounted for.
BD: While the trade paperback of Footprints is now available in stores, readers can find the digital version of the first issue online. What are your thoughts on the emergence of digital comics in the comic book industry, and do you foresee yourself gearing your work more towards the digital medium?
JE: Oh, absolutely. I made the mistake of wanting to have print floppies of Footprints. Ultimately, that did nothing but make me extremely poor and put me in the hole on the book, Kickstarter be damned. Print is just too expensive and not worth it. Never again will I do a small book like this and make floppies, only collected editions. But hey, you learn from your mistakes, right? But, digital makes that periodical experience possible at a truncated cost. I’m a firm believer in giving stuff away for free in order to promote yourself and your work. Footprints was my first real comic, so why the hell would anyone want to pay for something from some dude they don’t know? And, that’s fine, I totally get it. That’s why I made Issue #1 available for free – you can read it and decide for yourself if it’s worth investing in.
In terms of making comics specifically for digital, it’s something I’d like to explore at some point. Mark Waid’s doing a great job over at Thrillbent (and Marvel Infinite Comics) exploring the possibilities of the digital canvas. So yeah, I’d definitely love to try that out at some point.
BD: This may be, by far, the most important question that I must ask...do you think that Strickland ever had hair?
JE: Ha! In the fan-fiction I wrote in 8th grade (I wrote BTTF Part 4 when I was 13), I actually confirmed that he did indeed have hair, but lost it very early in his 20s. So, that’s my answer!
BD: Being that we focus on all things “geek” at Fanboy Comics, would you care to geek out with us about your favorite comic books and graphic novels?
JE: Oh man, broad question! My favorite comic of all time is probably Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware. The man’s a beast; no one does comics like him. Some other favorites are I Killed Adolf Hitler by Jason, Tom Strong by Alan Moore and Chris Sprouse, The Crow by James O’Barr, Grant Morrison’s Batman work, DV8: Gods and Monsters by Brian Wood and Rebekah Isaacs, and pretty much everything that Brian K. Vaughan has ever done. My current favorite comics are (of course) Saga, Rachel Rising, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman, The Unwritten, and I’m really excited for Superman Family Adventures from the Tiny Titans guys. Also can’t wait for Brian Wood’s new book The Massive.
BD: What is the most important piece of advice that you can offer to comic book fans, young and old, who aspire to work in the comic book industry?
JE: I always feel weird offering advice, because I’m still clawing my way into the industry myself. My only real advice is that if you want to create, then create. There are no excuses. Write what you want to write, draw what you want to draw. Making comics isn’t easy. They are a huge investment – financially, emotionally, personally, mentally – and they also offer very little reward other than however you measure your personal success. People make comics because they love comics, not to get rich or be recognized for their outstanding works of art. Have creators reached that level? Of course, but they are the exceptions. Be passionate and fight hard.
BD: On that same note, which creators have inspired your work?
JE: First and foremost, I’d say Grant Morrison as a writer was the first to really open my eyes about the potential of the medium – viewing the story not as just a story but a commentary on the medium of comics themselves. Stuff like Final Crisis – which a lot of fans hate – isn’t even really about the characters themselves, but the nature of their existence. Or his recent Action Comics #9; the same thing. I love that kind of stuff.
Not only that, but just his approach to longform storytelling – not spelling everything out, layering your narrative, and letting the reader put the pieces together themselves. I love the idea of a story demanding to be read more than once, or studied even. To me that’s what separates art from something that’s disposable. To be honest, while I love superhero comics, they struggle with that idea. Superhero comics are typically about getting to the NEXT thing; the NEXT big story. But, Morrison’s work on Batman, for example, requires multiple reads to fully appreciate the intricate nature of the story.
But pretty much everyone that I mentioned earlier when rattling off the comics I love, all of those creators’ work on every book they’ve done has been an influence to me.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Footprints?
JE: Well, first, it’s available on the 215 Ink iPad app for a measly $3!! But, you can order the print trade directly from 215 Ink here: www.215ink.com/catalog/footprints-collected-edition.html. Also, stay tuned to joeyesposito.com or find me on Twitter at @JoeyEsposito for more info on stuff I have coming up.
And, on that note, I always just want to plug my new Zenescope mini-series called Grimm Fairy Tales: Bad Girls, which launches in July. You can tell your local shop to order it now! If you’ve never read a Grimm book before, I promise I’m doing my best to make this be the one that will hook you. Also, I’ve got a back-up story in this week’s Grim Leaper #1 from Image Comics (on sale May 30th), so snag that, too!
I’ve got a lot more stuff coming up, I’m very excited.
Interested to find out more about Footprints? Mr. Esposito was very generous to provide us with a preview copy of Footprints #1 for all of the Fanboy Comics readers to enjoy.