Saturday, May 24, 2014

Interview Time: Mike Wolfer

About Mike Wolfer
I've been a fan of Mike Wolfer for some time now and when I saw he had an already-successful Kickstarter for his comic "Ragdoll" that finishes May 30th (Find it here and pledge!) I knew I had to do two things:

1. Become a backer so I could get the comic and the awesome stretch-goal bonsues
2.  Interview Mike Wolfer about Ragdoll so that I could discuss his past projects I've enjoyed and help spread the word about "Ragdoll"

Read below to learn more about Mike's past work, his current Kickstarter, and see his announcement for the next "Ragdoll" project titled, "Ragdoll: Orgy of the Vampires".

The Interview
1. For those of my readers who don’t know who you are, please share a little about yourself, such as how you got into comics, what you've done in the past, and what you’re currently working on.

The quick career recap is I started in comics in 1987, self-publishing DAIKAZU and WIDOW. When Avatar Press launched in 1996, they acquired WIDOW (and me) as one of their first published titles, and over the years with Avatar, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a slew of books, mostly in the realm of horror. Some of my more notable works has been writing/illustrating Warren Ellis’ GRAVEL and Garth Ennis
 STITCHED, co-writing LADY DEATH with Brian Pulido, and writing, illustrating or both on NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and FRIDAY THE 13THI've also had the opportunity to work with Alan Moore on YUGGOTH CREATURES and George R.R. Martin on SKIN TRADE. Currently, I’m writing and drawing a 6-issue arc of CROSSED: BADLANDS, and have just begun writing a new series for Zenescope Entertainment titled INFERNO: RINGS OF HELL.

2. Right now you are doing an already-successfully-funded Kickstarter for “Ragdoll”. Can you share a little bit about what makes the character of Ragdoll special to you and made you want to engage in a Kickstarter campaign for it?

RAGDOLL is something which has been near and dear to my heart for many, many years. It’s one of those books that I was able to pour my heart into, because it was created solely to please me. It’s everything I would ever want to do in a comic, and I was fortunate enough to have the backing of Avatar Press to do just that: Anything I wanted. I grew up reading Warren Mags (EERIE, CREEPY, VAMPIRELLA) and loving all of the Gothic horror films from Hammer Studios, so RAGDOLL is a culmination of all of those early influences, from the 18th Century setting of the story, to the fully gray-toned ink washes on the pages. It’s everything I loved as a kid. As for the Kickstarter, I've been wanting to see how viable that system is for someone like me, to see if it would be possible to publish more personal works on the side, outside of my company work. So far, we’re off to a great start, so I think I’ll be doing more Kickstarter-funded projects in the future.

3. It is interesting to see that Ragdoll was originally in an Avatar anthology comic known as “Raw Media Quarterly” and existed as more of an X-rated comic, yet your Kickstarter is going to remove the completely-graphic sexuality and instead go for more of a “Hard R” rating, as I've seen you describe it. Are you changing the format slightly because you think Ragdoll can stand on its own as a story without as much as the sex, and what makes you feel that way?

Yeah- The deal with that is it was a commissioned series for an adults only comic, so each 10-12 page chapter that saw print in each issue of RMQ had to have the prerequisite, explicit sex scenes. I think that I made it work, even though it kind of messed with the flow of the narrative, but that was the nature of the job, so I don’t have a problem with it. But very few people saw or have even heard of RAGDOLL, and I've always thought that was a shame, because I think it is one of my strongest stories, and one of the most interesting characters I've ever created. So now, 15 years later, I’m bringing her back, but I've retooled the story to take out the “X” material, which subsequently makes the story flow so much better and provided me the opportunity to add new pages of art, and make tweaks to the old art that I wasn't satisfied with. And the whole thing has been rewritten, and has been newly re-lettered by Natalie Jane. Still, it’s a pretty sexy story, and there are a lot of adult situations inherent in the tale. That hasn't changed. All I've done is taken out the in-your-face close-up shots.

4. I read a collection of your “Razor X” series you did for Avatar that originally appeared in “Threshold” and then was collected in various formats. It was extremely sexually charged to say the least (such as when that man had his penis cut off) but not necessarily pornographic. Is that basically the same sort of thing you’re going for with “Ragdoll”?

As far as the actual depictions, what’s drawn on the page, yes. But as for the story itself, nope, absolutely not. “Razor X” was designed as a total shock piece; it was meant to push everything right up to the edge, but not over it, and was really just straight-up exploitation. And I had a great time doing it, don’t get me wrong. But RAGDOLL is different, and has been from the start. It’s always been a multi-tiered character study, with all kinds of subtle statements, most importantly in support of feminism. But you know, everyone will see something different in it, and some of the more minute details might get lost, but it’s a dense read, and if you pay close attention, you’re going to see a specific agenda that goes deeper than the graphic violence and nudity.
5. What are the benefits of doing a Kickstarter as opposed to other more traditional methods? What are the downsides?

Don’t jinx me! So far, there have been no downsides! Ha! The benefits are as I mentioned earlier: This is giving me a chance to do whatever I’d like to do, and to do it specifically for my fans. Because of their backing of the project, they’re allowing me to create something specifically for them, and it’s been just incredible to know that I have that kind of support and interest in my work. What some people don’t understand is that just because you work for a publisher, they’re not going to just unleash you on whatever title you want to do. They’re not going to publish just anything. So while I've worked on several awesome projects for Avatar Press, it’s still not like doing a creator-owned book; they assign me something and I give it my all. But I have all kinds of personal series pitches which I have plotted out, and unfortunately they just don’t fit with Avatar’s line, or they don’t think there would be enough following (sales) for it to be a successful company release. With self-publishing, the overhead is much lower, and Kickstarter will hopefully allow me to get some of those creator-owned projects into print, which publishers have been leery about committing to.

6. You recently illustrated the adaptation of a George RR Martin story about werewolves titled “Skin Trade”. I enjoyed it quite a lot, but found it odd that it seemed so perfectly set up to have another mini-series and yet one still hasn't been announced. Is there possibly more “Skin Trade” in the works, and would you be the illustrator again?

I haven’t heard anything like that, and actually, I think that the deal with George for that property was just the adaptation of the short story. But you’re right- There are all kinds of directions that could take if there was a sequel!

7. I’m a big fan of the character of William Gravel, having read his adventures in various mini-series written by Warren Ellis and illustrated most of the time by you, and the new one written just by you. His earlier adventures had you as the illustrator most of the time, but I believe I recall you saying you often had plot input too. How is it different to now be exclusively writing about Gravel in his newest ongoing but not drawing it too?

I’m a big fan of Gravel, too! Yeah, you’re right- With the third black and white series, STRANGE KILLINGS, Warren had me “choreograph” some of the action sequences, and he figured that since I created them, I might as well write the corresponding dialog. And that continued on to where he would just supply me with detailed plots for each issue, along with some very specific dialog, and I would do the rest. I do miss drawing the book, but it’s been really fun working with other artists, to see their interpretations of the characters and action, and I've been pleasantly surprised the whole time.

8. What do you think makes Gravel such a good character that you and Warren have been able to tell so many stories with him? His personality, his mostly-mysterious origins, the way the magic he uses isn't cute and fluffy but raw and brutal?

I think you just hit the nail on the head. It’s not what people were expecting, and with each story we try to maintain that flow, and those expectations of “anything can happen.” I think you’ll see that very clearly with the concluding issue of GRAVEL: COMBAT MAGICIAN (#4)… Anything can happen!

9. I have to admit I have never read “Stitched”. I know it starts as a movie and then continued into a comic, and I haven’t seen the movie and fear I would be lost if I just picked up the trades. Is this the case, or would I be fine? Where could I and my readers acquire a copy of the movie?

Dude… You are absolutely missing it! STITCHED has been one of the greatest storytelling experiences of my career, and that’s backed up by incredible reviews. I did the art for the first arc, written by Garth, then I took over as writer and Fernando Furukawa was the artist on arcs 2 and 3. You wouldn't be missing a thing. Garth wrote a screenplay for a full-length movie, the adaptation of which is in issues #1-7 of the series. The short film which Garth directed is only the first 15 minutes of that screenplay, and it’s what we see in issue #1. I think you can find the DVD on eBay, or from Comic Cavalcade. I’d urge you to seek out the trades, because it was another of the things I wrote where readers were taken totally off-guard by the direction of the book. They were expecting a war story, and got solid, straight-up horror.

10. Your character “Widow” has appeared with various publishers, with her most recently having been at Avatar with series such as “Widow X” (which I would love to read but have had difficulty finding fairly-priced issues of). Can you share a little bit about the history of this character?

WIDOW began as a fluke in my self-publishing days, just a change of pace from my giant monster extravaganza, DAIKAZU. I was only going to do a little, three-issue series, then get back to the kaiju. But something about the character clicked, sales were great, and that’s all I did for probably the next 6 years. Other publishers were seeing that success and wanted to incorporate the title into their own comic lines, so I took the series to London Night Studios for a bit, then back to my own Ground Zero Comics, then over to Avatar Press, where she’s been ever since. The character was in hiatus for many, many years, but fans have continually asked for her return, so I was happily able to use her as a supporting character in WAR GODDESS, published by Avatar’s sister company, Boundless Comics. I’d say that WIDOW was what put me on the map, I guess you could say, and I really would like to do something else new with her. And you know, with Kickstarter, you never know what can happen!

11. Who is a creator you haven’t worked with (as either a writer or an artist) whom you would like to collaborate with?

Well, if it’s a “wish list,” I’d say Berni Wrightson, Richard Corben, or Carlos Magno. I've always been much more of a follower of artists than of writers, I guess.

12. What upcoming projects do you have that you can share some information with us about? You’ve made it no secret that with the already-happening success of your Kickstarter for “Ragdoll” a volume 2 might be on the way.

Right now, the only solid things on my agenda are arcs on Avatar’s CROSSED: BADLANDS and Zenescope’s INFERNO, but there will probably be more for both publishers. As for self-publishing, yes, I absolutely intend on doing a RAGDOLL sequel, RAGDOLL: ORGY OF THE VAMPIRES (that’s an exclusive for you, by the way). That Kickstarter will run a bit differently as the current one, because for Volume 1, the art is completed, so I’m going to press very shortly after the campaign ends. For Volume 2, there will be more like a 4 month wait time, while I draw the book and get it printed. But hopefully, it will all be worth the wait, and I’m very anxious to hear what people who follow my work think about the first installment.

13. Can you share a bit more about "Ragdoll: Orgy of the Vampires" and how it will continue the story started in this current Kickstarted volume, or will it be its own new story?

RAGDOLL: ORGY OF THE VAMPIRES will be an all-new tale, and a direct sequel to THE CURSE OF RAGDOLL. With each successive chapter, I'll do a "The Story So Far" recap for new readers, but I'm plotting Ragdoll's tale as one continuing story, and small plot details which might seem innocuous upon the first read will sometimes have major impacts on later stories. As readers will see in THE CURSE OF RAGDOLL, I've laid the groundwork for the sequel, and in fact, that's the reason why one of my Stretch Goal art prints is "The Vampiress." But I don't want to say too much and spoil any surprises!

Thanks for answering these questions, Mike!
Sure thing, and thanks for the promo push- I really appreciate it!

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