Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pheaturing Matt Grant and Sebastian Piccione From Earthbound Comics

Hello, welcome to the the Phile, thanks for stopping by. Like last April, this April is Artist Month where I will be pheaturing different artists. Today we have two creative dudes from Earthbound Comics. Anyway, did you have a good Easter? I had to work, but my son Logan had a good Easter. He got a Lego set, a "Diary of A Wimpy Kid" book, a Nintendo DS game and the worst most annoying pain in the ass toy ever, an erector set. I had one when I was a kid and hated it. It was a big weekend for Apple, because the iPad came out, although its thunder was stolen when Ricky Martin did the same thing. This weekend the improved iPad comes out, which you will actually want to buy. Did you see Clash of the Titans? I am going to try and se it today. It does look pretty good because it’s based on Greek mythology and has the Greek icons: Zeus, Mount Olympus, the big fat weddings. A 7.2 earthquake originating in Mexico struck on Easter Sunday. There wasn’t much damage, which was good because I wouldn’t want to be killed wearing a pink pastel shirt. The Obamas hosted the Easter egg roll at the White House. Dozens of children gathered on the White House lawn to roll eggs toward a finish line as the president cheered them on and Republicans tried to block them. Tiger Woods gave a press conference ahead of his return to the Masters. I kept waiting for something to happen and nothing really did. It was a lot like watching golf. Okay, as it's Artist Month here I thought it would be fun to ask people at work to draw a picture of me. Here I present you the first one drawn by Jordan Raithel.

Okay, you know how I love inspirational posters, right? Take a look at this Easter poster I found.

Hey, comic book fans, did you know the secret about Batman and Robin? I found this panel from an old "Justice League" comic that tells the truth. Don't believe me? Check it out.


Mormon prophet Brigham Young marries 23-year-old Ann Eliza Webb. This is Young's 27th wife, 18 of which are still married to him.
Howard Hughes dies of health complications related to syphilis.
Police trace a series of obscene phone calls to the president's private White House telephone. The caller turns out to be the president of American University in Washington, Richard E. Berendzen, who was apparently hung up over some personal ad. He is later forced to resign his position but is never charged with any crime.
The presidents of Rwanda and Burundi are both killed in a mysterious plane crash near the Rwandan capital. Consequently, widespread violence erupts in Rwanda amidst rumors that the plane had been shot down.

John Forsythe
January 29, 1918 - April 1, 2010
Good night, Angels. Good night, Charlie.

The dragons are to be feared, of course. So you battle and kill them. Unless you're a misfit Viking boy who stumbles into saving and befriending one. What follows is a lesson in how to love the "other" by understanding them. What also follows is a lot of 3D action, battles and flying sequences, which is what you want from 3D, otherwise there's no point. Of course, nothing in this plot will come as a surprise to anyone whose age can be counted in double digits, but then, it's not necessarily what you invent that counts but what you do with well-worn themes. A song you've heard before can always be moving when sung with a fresh voice. The technology and trending that's forcing 3D onto all of us even when it's not always necessary needs a warm touch to avoid turning empty spectacle. It has that warm touch. Like Up, it knows when to be funny, when to lay on the action and when to be moving. It values sincerity over wannabe hipster chatter that will date faster than Robin Williams manic-riffing through a genie. And it never comes off as preachy, heavy or moralizing. If it were easy to pull off then every animated feature would feel this well cared for, but it must not be since it's always a joyful surprise when they get it right. It comes from the book by Cressida Cowell, but more importantly from Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, the creative partnership behind Disney's best (and underrated) 2D animated feature of the past decade, Lilo & Stitch. Like that film this one is idiosyncratic without feeling gimmicky, isn't afraid of emotion but never feels gooey, and make sure its humor is smart but not aimed too squarely at grown-ups. I give it a 6 and I probably won't be buying it on DVD or blu-ray.

Here is the seventh book in the Peverett Phile Book Club. You can purchase it off from Lulu.com or MorgallaOnline.com. The author, Jon David, will be a guest on the Phile in a few weeks so look out for that.

Today's guests, yes, guests, are two of the the creative team behind Earthbound Comics. I met them at MegaCon and they were very cool guys. Anyway, please welcome to the Phile... Matt Grant and Sebastian Piccione.

Me: Hello, guys, how are you? So, how was MegaCon? Was that your best convention you've ever been to?

Sebastian: Well, since MegaCon was my first con as a creator, yes, yes it was the best I’ve been to. We sold about 20 or so comics, mostly "Lady Fight" issues, and some "Cat .5" prints I had pre-signed by the artists, Mike Dreher, Rob Nix, and Kristin Mokes. People seemed to respond well to our stuff, and I had some cool conversations about our stuff. It was a good time.

Me: Was that your first time to MegaCon?

Sebastian: As a creator, yes. As a dork, no. Usually I’m there covering things for www.Projectfanboy.com. This year I pulled double duty, peddling my wares and covering the con for PFB. We had our second annual awards ceremony there in a panel room. Our readers vote for their favorite comics, characters, and creators for the year, and we give out these nice plaques. MegaCon is always a great time, and they are very good to us. In fact, this year Earthbound Comics gave a special certificate of appreciation to Christine Alger, the Assistant Director at MegaCon, for all her help with getting us set up. She’s great.

Me: Did you get to do or go to anywhere fun while you were in Orlando?

Sebastian: I’ve lived in Florida for the past 7 or 8 years, so this was more of a business run than anything else. But, I did get to hang with my boys from Famous Faces & Funnies.

Me: So, where is Earthbound Comics based?

Sebastian: Online! LOL. Well the brains and the brawn, (Ben & Matt) are in California, while the beauty (myself) is in Florida. Our artists are scattered across the country. So, I guess we’re a California based company. Matt?

Matt: I actually tend to agree most with your "online" statement! There's no real brick and mortar home base, so even with Ben and I both in California, there's a few hundred miles between us. So, the way I work with him is no different than I work with Seb or anyone else involved with Earthbound across country. Lots and lots of emailing.

Me: How did the company come together and how long has it been around?

Sebastian: It was Ben’s baby, and then he hooked up with Matt. Matt and I knew each other from Project Fanboy, so he called me in for "LADY FIGHT: ESCALATION" last year. I brought my friend of 20 years, and "CAT. 5" coconspirator, Mike Dreher; and cover artist Rob Nix, whom I met at digitalwebbing.

Matt: Yep! Ben's carried around the name Earthbound for years. I had inked the "CACTA" story (found in the first "LADY FIGHT") for Ben that never saw the light of day, as he was focused on getting "Sleepbringer" finished, but I had kept in touch with him. I was publishing "Mastorism" on my own, and asked Ben to stop by my table at WonderCon in San Francisco last year-- he did-- two months later we had "LADY FIGHT" published! So we decided to keep going, and things have just grown exponentially over the last year. Lot's of thanks to Seb's help, too. And, yeah, it's been an amazing ride so far.

Me: I couldn't find any Earthbound comics in my local comic book stores, but read your stuff on-line. You only sell on-line, right?

Sebastian: For now, yes. Although, Famous Faces & Funnies in Melbourne, Florida, does carry our stuff.

Matt: Right now, IndyPlanet.com is your best bet for ordering online. Some of the comics are available as webcomics that can be read for free, too. "Mastorism" started out as a webcomic, "Sleepbringer" is doing its next run first as a webcomic. Its a fantastic way to reach a lot of people. Right now the webcomics are running more or less independently of Earthbound, but we're working to present them in a way that'a bit more cohesive in the future, and expand it to include other stuff, such as possibly Seb's stuff, if he's interested, "Winter War", etc.

Me: What about if a fan wants to read your comics but doesn't have a printer or a good computer?

Sebastian: If you can get to a crappy computer you can order them online. Otherwise, hit one of us up, or contact Famous Funnies & Facies at 321-259-3575. Of course, if your computer can’t get you online then you probably aren’t reading this blog interview, so I guess it’s a moot point! LOL

Me: How did you both start getting into comics?

Sebastian: In my high school yearbook it says that I’ll be writing and drawing the "Justice League" in 10 years. It’s been 20 years and still no League, but I’m getting there! I always wanted to do comics. Ever since my Dad and my Uncle Dan got me into them as a kid. My uncle always had a box of comics, he’d go to the local newsstand and just by a handful of whatever. He introduced me to the Perez era JLA. My dad took me to these little conventions the first Sunday of every month at the Coliseum Motor Inn, on Long Island. I was hooked. Going from reader to creator just made sense. I have a degree in art, and I tell people that I went to art school just long enough to discover that I was a writer. I have a million characters and stories in my head, and have only recently started getting them out and onto paper. It’s not just creative for me, it’s cathartic!

Matt: Well, I was somewhat enthralled by Superman as a child due to the movies and cartoons. My dad would get coffee at the 7-11 next to where we'd get our hair cut. They had spinner racks of comics there, which I never noticed until John Byrne's "Man of Steel" mini-series hit around 1986, and I got my dad to buy it for me... and from then on getting a comic book as a treat, whenever we were someplace that had them, became a thing. As for the concept of being a comic creator, it actually struck when I had read an article in "Boy's Life", of all publications, about Todd McFarlane. It was like a career profile. Totally one of those "I didn't know people did that" kinda moments for me. I immediately started making my own comics at that point, and have just continued ever since. Sure, my focus on art and has gotten me a career in graphic design and print, but the underlying drive has always been comics.

Me: And what do you like better... DC or Marvel? Me, myself, I am a Marvel fan. X-Men all the way!

Sebastian: I started out as a Marvel Zombie. Spidey was my favorite. "Booster Gold" #1 back in 1984 was my gateway to DC. In the past 15 years I’ve shifted to DC. I just enjoy their characters more. I also like a lot if Indie titles. "INVINCIBLE", "TERRY MOORE’S ECHO", Adam & Comfort Love’s "THE UNIQUES", "THE ANCHOR"... I’m really loving "BOOM!" Right now.

Matt: I've read my share of Marvel, but I'm DC to the core! I think I just have more invested in the characters and whatnot. Flash and GL have always been my faves. Lately, though, I have to admit, I've moved more toward the Vertigo/indie spectrum: "Savage Dragon", "BRPD", "RASL", "Sweet Tooth"... these are the things I'm mostly looking forward to when they come into the shop.

Me: What about comic book movies? Is there any you like or dislike?

Sebastian: Everyone yells at me for this, but I’m not a fan of the current Batman films. Christian Bale is a great Bruce Wayne, but his Batman is horrible. He’s supposed to be scary just with a look, not with all that growling and shouting. Plus, and I realize this is more a story issue than a comment on Bale’s performance, but Batman is supposed to be a brilliant detective. His original comic was "DETECTIVE COMICS", for cryin’ out loud. But the movie version, he couldn’t find a clue with Alfred and Lucius Fox handing it to him and explaining it.

Matt: But doesn't Bale do a great job with Wayne, though? Its almost as good as Chris Reeve's Clark Kent. Putting on that complete alter ego act. I agree that the follow through on Batman might leave something to be desired, Bats is a tough nut to crack. I mean, has anyone really nailed it yet? Superhero wise, there's a lot of good ones out there, but I tend to fall back on stuff like the original Superman flicks (1 and 2), and the animated stuff. I've been loving DC's animated films lately. Lots of really good non super hero comics flicks coming out, too.

Me: Okay, let's talk about your own comics. I like it you have a mix of stories and characters, and not a copy of superheroes. What was the first book Earthbound published?

Sebastian: "Sleepbringer" was the first. Yeah, we’re a very mixed bag. I mean, it’s not like we just throw things at the wall to see what sticks. We do what we like, and as a small company, we have the freedom to try things. If we want superheroes, we do superheroes. If we want sci-fi stuff, we do sci-fi stuff. it’s fun.

Me: Do both of you write and draw? What do you like better to do?

Sebastian: I write. As I said earlier, I used to draw, I still draw, but not on a level that warrants publishing. I’ve known Mike Dreher for 20 years, now. He’s always been good. Sometimes, he even knows this. When Matt asked me to write for "Lady Fight", I immediately asked if I could bring Mike onboard with me. The first "CAT. 5" story involved a villain called The Bull-Shark. He’s a big man-shark with horns and one of those bovine nose-rings. I knew in my head how the character would look with Mike at the pencil before Mike even did a single sketch. So, as long as Mike is willing to put up with me, I’ll stick to my keyboard and he can handle the pencils and inks.

MATT: Its a tough call, because in both cases you're doing the same thing, which is telling a story. Plus one really flows into the other for me. When I write a page, I'm also drawing thumbnails for said page, and when I'm drawing, I'm really focusing on one part of the story, and I might find something I didn't see before and fix/change/tweak. If I had to pick one, though, I would pick drawing. I think its the most immediately satisfying. I can write something and no be sure if I did it right or not... did that work? I don't know! I'll find out once its drawn, published, and read through. Conversely, if something goes wrong in a drawing, I pretty much know right away.

Me: Let's talk about "Lady Flight". That's a series of one-offs, am I right?

Sebastian: Sort of. We’re kinda amending that. The idea was that each story would work both as a stand-alone, but could connect to make a bigger picture. So each issue got its own tag-line “LF: AGGRESSION", "LF: ESCALATION", but for clarities sake, we’re going to renumber them, so they go in order. You can read any issue on it’s own, but if you read them all the "CAT. 5" stories go together to form a larger story. The "EXPLOSION PROOF" stories go together, the "SOUVERAIN" stories do the same, and so on.

Me: I, myself, like "Mastorism" the best. Matt, you created that book, right? How did you come up with the character and concept?

Matt: I tend to describe Mastorism to folks as a space opera somewhere in between Green Lantern and Star Wars. That wasn't the source of ideas, but after taking a step back, that's kind of what I see. It's the story of one guy, the Phantom Lord, who rules the universe with his police force, called Mastors. While the universe seems at peace and, well, unified, there's plenty of corruption and deceit to go around, and some of our core character Mastors sniff it out. So then you've got these guys working to uncover the corruption from above, while also maintaining their jobs. As for the origin of the concept, there's a long story about it starting with an impromptu comic I drew in a middle school classroom to insult my good friend and "Mastorism" co-creator Jeff Blanchard. To save you the gory details, suffice it to say it spawned a whole universe of storylines that Jeff and I lovingly tended to until he moved away sometime during high school. I had always felt that it was something I had wanted complete, and now as an adult, I've revamped/rebooted the universe (the old stuff is, admittedly, fairly childish), in an effort to finish what we'd started.

Me: Do you ever watch a TV show or movie and wish you came up with that story line?

Sebastian: I would have loved to have created "Psyche". I swear I’ve lived aspects of it. Not the solving crimes part, but the constant quips and the 80’s pop-culture references. No, more often I find myself watching something and going “Dammit, I had written something like that…oh well, time to delete another gem!”

Matt: I hate that. That happens a lot. That brilliant idea you've had tucked away, waiting to someday execute, instantly trashed! I've resolved that its a thinning of the herd, as far as ideas go.

Me: Last year I interviewed the guys from Fierce Comics and they were saying they are always looking for new talent. What about Earthbound? Are you looking for new talent?

Sebastian: Yeah. We can only do so much at a time, so with more people we can get things really rolling. Plus, we’re not just a company, we’re like a conglomerate of self-publishers under a single banner. Safety in numbers.

Matt: That's really an accurate description. We're not a company about farming intellectual properties, or scoring hoards of money off of other peoples ideas. We're about helping people get their ideas into print. Check out our site to see what we're about if you're interested in submissions and whatnot.

Me: Have you heard about Fierce?

Sebastian: Good guys. I’ve met them at a few cons. I usually have their calendar in my office. I don’t have a 2010 one. If you see them, tell them I’m looking for one!

Me: Anyway, "Mastorism" won something called a Drunk Duck Award. What the hell is that? Was that a huge honor?

Sebastian: C’mon, tell me you wouldn’t kill to list “DRUNK DUCK AWARD WINNER” on something you do! That’s just awesome!

Matt: Ha! Did someone say party fowl? Oh yeah... I went there! The truth is DrunkDuck.com is a webcomics hosting site with a strong community of creators and fans alike. Every year volunteers from the DD community put on the Drunk Duck Awards to pick the best comics out of literally tens of thousands of active comics. Nominations are voted on by everyone, and then the noms are passed on to a panel of judges for each category. The top comics on the site are all really good, so just by getting nominated for three awards in 2009 (Best Sci-Fi, Best B&W Art, and Best Antagonist), was a huge honor for me, let alone having the "Phantom Lord" win as Best Antagonist. That was really cool.

Me: Another comic you have is "Sleepbringer". What is the concept behind that book?

Matt: "Sleepbringer" is Ben's brain child, and really shows the diversity of what Earthbound does. Ben calls it "frontier comics," its the story of Tom Straw, a man born in 19th century America. He's a white man, but raised by the Shawnee, and spends his life searching for his identity between the two worlds. The character is actually well traveled man, and there will eventually be stories about his adventures abroad, but the book that's currently out focuses on his time in the North American wilderness as a longhunter.

Me: Are there any new projects coming out from Earthbound? How many titles do you guys have anyway?

Sebastian: Well, we have Kurt Belcher’s "Winter War" just out. We’re working on a sci-fi anthology, I’ll let Matt get more into that one. I know Ben has some things coming up. Mike and I are working on "CAT. 5" #0, leading into her own series. "CAT. 5" is just a part of a larger superhero universe and we have some serious plans for her. We figure, a superhero with the power of a category 5 hurricane can’t be contained in 8-10 pages, so we’re gonna bust her out of the "Lady Fight" anthology and into her own series. But not before we do a crossover with Sam Johnson’s "Cabra Cini" in an upcoming issue.

Matt: The sci-fi anthology is called "Spacebound" and is the science fiction answer to "Lady Fight". With this book we're going to try going with longer stories, about 15 pages each, and push the serialization a little more. This will be the home of new "Mastorism" stories, a comics version of Mike Luoma's "Alibi Jones", and something Seb's got cooking with Rob Nix. Also in the works we're collecting the Souverain stories from "Lady Fight" into a one shot, and Ben and Buck Weiss are working to put together some new "Sleepbringer" stories.

Me: Alright, if a Phile reader wants to buy your books, where should they go to?

Sebastian: IndyPlanet.com, earthboundcomics.com, or Famous Faces & Funnies. If retailers are interested, they can contact Matt. That OK, Matt?

Matt: That works for me.

Me: Thanks so much, guys, and I love your stuff and wish you a lot of luck. Keep doing what you do.

Sebastian: Oh, we will. Just try and stop us! LOL Thanks for talking to us, Jason.

Matt: Yeah, thanks, Jason, its been a pleasure!

There you have it, the first entry for Artist Month 2010. Thanks to Sebastian and Matt for a great interview and also to Wikipedia. Okay, the Phile will be back next Sunday with artist Robert Turk from Goblin Road, which is something very different. So, spread the word, not the turd. Bye love you bye.

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