Thursday, October 21, 2010

Questions 9: Jamie S Rich

Jamie S Rich has broad experience as an editor, writer and reviewer of different genres of pop culture.
Before writing full time he was an editor for 4 years at Dark Horse and editor-in-chief of Oni for six years. He was the writer of SpellCheckers, Twelve Reasons Why I Love Her, You Have Killed Me and many others. He has had his short stories in several anthologies such as Popgun, Four Letter Worlds, Dark Horse Book of the Dead, and This is a Souvenir. He has several prose novels, Cut My Hair, I Was Someone Dead, The Everlasting, and Have You Seen the Horizon Lately? He has also rewritten several manga and is a music and movie journalist. Jamie also reviews movies for and is a member of the Online Film Critics Society

He is a frequent collaborator with artist Joëlle Jones.

Read his great blog about pop culture at Confessions of a Pop Fan, and his DVD reviews at Criterion Confessions.

Doug Dorr: What projects are you working on currently?

Jamie S Rich: Whatever I am working on is usually too far ahead of the public schedule to talk about. I have various things in differing states of development with artists like Natalie Nourigat and Stephen DeStefano, but those cats are still tied up in their bags. The next two thing that people will likely see with my name on it will be the second volume of Spell Checkers next summer, with art once again by Nicolas Hitori de and Joëlle Jones. Joëlle and I are also about to start production on the follow-up to You Have Killed Me, which I actually wrote quite some time ago. Actually, Mike Allred and I have a short story in the upcoming Yo Gabba Gabba! comic from Oni Press, and I've also been working with Mike in an editorial capacity on a couple of Madman specials. So, a few things will be trickling out here and there.

DD: What is your writing Process?

It's a lot like sculpture. I have a big granite block made of blank screens and paper that I just chip away at until the words emerge. How I go about that fluctuates, honestly. Some projects inspire more planning, where I go around and around eyeballing the situation until I can't stand it anymore and dive in, and others just hit the ground running. I let the material dictate the method.

DD: What Comic/ Trade would you recommend?

A recent book that really knocked my socks off is Koko Be Good, Jen Wang's debut, a kind of adult coming-of-age tale. Like a second coming of age, the sort of thing that happens when your 20s aren't exactly paying off. Matt Wagner's epic Mage: The Hero Discovered is about to come back into print via Image Comics, and that is a true cornerstone of independent comics. Matt really set the standard for what a creative individual should aspire to in this field. He's the model of successful creator ownership.

DD: What Comic/ Trade would you recommend to someone new to comics?

The first Madman volume is a good place to start. Mike Allred bridges the gap between what most people perceive to be comics (superheroes) and what the art form really can be. I've had various retail jobs in different areas of entertainment, though--comic books, records, video--and I know there is no one thing that fits everybody. In a field as varied as this one, there is a book to suit any interest, it's a matter of finding out what that person is into and putting something neat in their hands. Scott Pilgrim has a mass appeal, but so does something like American Vampire. I'm really looking forward to Scott Chantler's Two Generals, and I think his historical adventures, like Northwest Passage, could turn anyone on to sequential art, wheeras 12 Days by June Kim has an emotional resonance competitive with any other media. I am still surprised that more people don't know about that book. I hope to get my copy back from Joëlle one day, but it's been like four or five years so I am probably screwed.

DD: How involved are you with the illustration, the look and feel, of the books you write?

It's a tough question to answer. In a way, I am very involved, as I choose who I will work with and that alone really establishes the timbre of the finished product. I like to write for a specific artist and think about things they like to draw. Sometimes I make suggestions for a specific motif or layout, but always with the caveat that if there is a better way, I want to see that instead. It also comes down to the artist, some prefer to be left alone to do what they do, some like a more open dialogue. I hate asking for revisions, I find it very intrusive, and so I choose carefully if I think there is something already drawn that maybe could go a different way. I like a relationship where there is mutual respect. Respect my words, I'll respect your ink line.

DD: What skill would you like to learn?

Sometimes I think if I could draw, it would make things infinitely more easier. Is "patience" a skill? I'd like to talk to the animals like Dr. Doolittle.

DD: What's the most important thing you've learned?

That as much as you really should sweat the small stuff in your comics, you should also cut yourself some slack. The things that drive us crazy in production are likely things that only we will notice, the readers have no idea.

DD: Do you have a collection? If so, what is one of the items you're most proud of?

I don't have a collection so much as the collection has me. Comics and DVDs and the like tend to accumulate in my home. It's a neverending battle for shelf space, and my cat does her level best to shed hair in amounts competitive with the depth of junk littering our apartment. I've become less enamored of special editions and books as objects over time; a rare book is no better than a less rare version, it's about the enjoyment of it. That said, having the recent IDW Rocketeer releases--the oversized deluxe reprint of the stories in both the traditional form and also the black-and-white reproductions of Dave Stevens' art--are pretty damn fantastic. I also got the fancy version of the Dave Stevens bio/art book Brush with Passion. Those mean a lot to me since Dave is no longer with us. That said, my original 1986 hardcover signed and personalized by Dave, along with the signed promo poster, those are priceless. I think I might have gotten that autograph at my first San Diego Comic Con. Comparable to that is my copy of my first novel, Cut My Hair, signed by all the people who worked on it.

DD: What is your favorite genre of Comics?

I don't know that I have a favorite genre in terms of comics. Any genre I think of seems limited in the field. Like, how many crime comics are there, for instance, compared to everything else? I'd say "creator-owned," really, the sort of thing where the person is passionate and they own the material and they aren't doing it for anyone but themselves. Those books resonate with me more.

DD: Do you have an Ipad? If so what do use it for the most.

I do have one. I probably use it most for goofing off. I only tend to read on it when I am out of the house, though I sometimes read comics in bed in the dark now. I'm about to travel with it long distance for the first time and leave the laptop at home, which should be interesting. Honestly, I am still exploring with it. I do a lot of notetaking on it, and that may end up being one of its primary functions.

DD: What is your favorite TV show/ movie?

I am currently most obsessed with Mad Men, without a doubt. And when the season ends, I am sure Boardwalk Empire will take pole position. I see more movies than most people I know so that's hard to nail down. I always say I think the movie I've seen more than any other is The Maltese Falcon. I'm also obsessed with the Criterion Collection, a boutique DVD label. Hence

DD: How does the Portland comics culture shapes your work

I don't really know that it does. I keep to myself a lot, and when I go out, it's to walk Joëlle's dogs or something. Things have been a little more active since Mike Allred came to town, and I am in a book club with a bunch of comics types, like Laura Allred and Matt Wagner and Craig Thompson. I think less than influencing the work, the communication with like-minded individuals who understand what may be ailing you keeps a body sane. Then there are the youngsters like Natalie Nourigat and Emi Lenox and they just make me roll my old-man eyes. ;)

DD: What was your first comic convention?

A Creation Con in Los Angeles in maybe 1984 or thereabouts. Guests were Howard Chaykin, Jo Duffy, and John Romita Jr.

DD: What is your favorite part of comic conventions?


DD: If you weren’t doing comics what would you do?

More novels, maybe. Teaching was the only thing I ever remotely considered besides writing. I wasn't made to do anything else. Fate dropped on my head like a helmet.

DD: Do you have a favorite restaurant that you would recommend?

I love Thai Orchid. I like to get the pad thai blazing hot. It's not a restaurant, it's more of a shop, but Pudding on the Rice is to die for.

DD: How long have you lived in Portland, what made you choose Portland?

I moved here in 1994 to work for Dark Horse Comics. That was really it. It was either sit in California and continue doing phone surveys or come to the Northwest and make funnybooks. Honestly, it could have been anywhere, it just happened to be here.

DD: What is your favorite part of Portland?

I like that people here are receptive to the creative lifestyle. It's assumed that whatever other menial job you might have, you likely are an artist of some kind and whatever is currently paying your bills won't be your life's vocation. The city embraces that and makes it easier to get by. It once had the reputation that Portland was where books and records went to die, but alas a lot of that has passed. We still have Powell's, but either the city as a whole is not the Treasure Island it once was or I've gotten too lazy to explore it properly.

DD: Where in Portland/ Oregon would you most like to visit?

Well, there's this girl and I watch her apartment from the bushes across the street...and one day, I hope to go inside.


DD: Would you like to write/Illustrate for another media? or conversely, how would you feel about writing a comic of a character from a different media, for example, Dr. Who, James Bond? What would you explore?

Well, I already write novels. 3 1/2 by last count (I Was Someone Dead is a novella). Actually, 4 1/2, because there is one as of yet unpublished. So, other media is already a done deal for me.

If I could revamp anything it would be an old radio show about a writer who solves personal interest cases and mysteries called Box 13. It starred Alan Ladd. Unfortunately, some other guys beat me to it, but they've gone way off the concept and it's virtually unrecognizable. It's not bad, but it's not the Box 13 that I got hooked on when I was a teenager. Which makes me sound really old. All the older fellas were coming back from fighting the Nazis, and I was tuning in to Dan Holliday on the wireless....

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