December’s issue #27 of “Nailbiter” by Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson offers a number of surprises within its serial-killing pages — but one which is sure to have people talking is the inclusion of a back-up story from the creative team of Tee Franklin and Juan Ferreyra. “The Outfit” is a story about a woman looking for the right clothes to wear for a special night — one which ends in a horrifying way.
Franklin is best known as a comics critic and commentator, and the founder of BlackComicsMonth, which has sought to seek out and showcase the work of Black writers, artists and editors within the comics industry. This will be her first mainstream comics credit, and she’s paired with Ferreyra, who’ll be familiar to readers of “Colder” and “Green Arrow.” So how did their story come about, and what prompted Franklin to enter the world of comics writing? CBR News spoke to the team, as well as “Nailbiter” series writer Joshua Williamson, to find out more.
CBR News: How did you come to join issue #27 of “Nailbiter”?
Tee Franklin: It was the most random thing ever. I was interviewing Josh Williamson, writer of “Nailbiter”, during NYCC 2015. During the interview, Josh interrupted me and offered me 4 pages… needless to say that interview was over and I was in shock!
Eventually I said yes as tears flowed; it was cathartic.
Joshua Williamson: There was a time last year where Mike Henderson and I were debating on doing a “Nailbiter” anthology magazine one-shot. A collection of short stories that would take place in the “Nailbiter” world. And they would all be done my new creators. But it was not to be. We were both too busy to curate it and the logistics would have been a nightmare. So we put it on the back burner for a bit…
But at New York Comic-Con 2015 one of the creators I had approached about it was Tee Franklin. It was a surprise to her but something that had been on my mind for a long time. I told what we had planned and asked if she would be interested. She was excited about the prospect of it.
After we put the Nailbiter anthology aside we kept talking about her doing something else… a back-up story that she would create and write that was wholly original. Tee kept working on it and her and Juan started to develop the pages.
Was she someone you’ve been aware of for a while? What was it about her particular voice that interested you in bringing her onboard for her first published comics writing work?
Williamson: Tee is so passionate about comics. It’s clear when you talk to her, hear her speak about comics on her panels at NYCC or read her online. We met because of that, how outspoken she was about her love of comics.
I knew Tee enjoyed horror as much as I do. And I felt like she’d do well there. When you see her write online she’s so excited about horror and again comics that I thought… let’s see what you can do.
We talk a lot in comics about new voices and getting new creators in the mix, but the reality is it can be hard if you don’t have credits… and how do you get credits if no one will hire you? If no one is willingly to give you a chance? We wanted to help Tee get some credits under her belt. That was the goal of the original anthology we had planned, and it stayed true here.
And then you see that Tee’s already working on a bunch of anthologies that she’s been putting together. It’s awesome to see her grow as a creator.
Did it take time to convince you it was something you wanted to do — how did you feel about moving from being a comics commentator to a comics creator?
Franklin: I remember saying to Josh “how do you know that I can write?” and he just gave me this “are you serious?” look and laughed. I’ve had creators as well as fans asking me when is my book coming out, via Twitter and during conventions. I never wanted to write comics, but peer pressure is something else. Ha!
I knew that cape comics were something that I wouldn’t be interested in and that the stories I wanted to tell wouldn’t make it past an editor’s desk. So I figured I’d just continue to talk about and promote comics. Funny how things have changed.
How did Juan Ferreyra come to join you as the artist for the story?
Franklin: First off, I just want to shout out Juan. This man’s art is phenomenal and I’m truly blessed to have this man as my artist. As a huge fan of “Colder”, I just knew he’d be perfect for a story that I wanted to do. I initially wanted Juan for another series and he told me that his schedule was busy, but he could possible do a few pages or a cover for me.
Juan Ferreyra: I was in an airport waiting for my lane to take me to comic convention in Europe (I live in Argentina) and I got some messages from Tee wanting me to work with her in a short story. I said I didn’t have time at the moment but I will be kind of free in the future, It seems she remembered, and a year later she asked me to help her out on her short story ‘The Outfit’.
Franklin: When Josh offered me those pages, I went right down to Artist Alley at NYCC, introduced myself to Juan and then asked if he would be interested in doing a few pages in the back of “Nailbiter”. When he said yes without hesitation, I gotta say it was such a beautiful thing.
What is “The Outfit” about? What can readers expect from it?
Williamson: Horror. I’m a big fan of one-in-done short horror stories so for me this hit the spot. It’s a very grounded and visceral story.
Ferreyra: I do all the art on it, from pencils, inks, watercolors to digital coloring. People can expect to be entertained, shocked and disgusted a bit. If they vomit, then I’ll know I’ve done my job!
Franklin: Since this backup is in “Nailbiter”, you can definitely expect some horror, blood, and even some guts. ‘The Outfit’ is about a woman finding the perfect outfit and looking good for her date. Do you know how hard it is for a woman to find the perfect outfit when you go on a date with someone you like? It’s stressful!
What made you want to tell this story, in particular?
Franklin: When I got back into reading comics, an employee at my local comic book store – The Jokers Child in NJ – introduced me to “Nailbiter”. I was smitten. I made sure to pick up all the first issues and by the time I got into the series, it was seven issues deep. Picking up “Nailbiter” was the best decision I ever made. I sung praises about Josh and artist Mike Henderson all the time online and to my friends.
There’s something about horror comics that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I knew that I had to bring my style of horror to this book and this story was something that was far left and artist Juan Ferreyra was grossed out and asked what was wrong with me. Once he said that I knew it was perfect!
Ferreyra: And I wanted to work with Tee because of all the energy she puts on the work and all the endeavors she’s involved in. When I read the script I was happily impressed by it. It was my kind of story!
Tee, people often say it’s hardest to write a short comic, and ‘The Outfit’ is four pages — was it difficult to take your idea and filter it into that short space?
Franklin: I was nervous and didn’t know what to write for the backup. I had three stories so I asked Gail Simone for her advice — she was on board with “The Outfit” story and offered to be the editor. Gail gave some amazing tips and was a fantastic editor!
Once the story was chosen, it wasn’t that hard to write. When the script was finished, Gail said that the story was “creepy AF”. Do you understand how that feels to have someone you look up to as a writer tell you that your story creeped them out? Ack!
And how’ve you found working with Juan on the project? What was it about his style which made him the right fit for ‘The Outfit’?
Franklin: Juan is the best! Juan told me that he’d take care of everything and I believed him, have you seen the fantastic art of “Colder” written Paul Tobin? I knew that he’d kill the story and he didn’t let me down.
I never knew about “Colder” until Josh tweeted a cover for “Colder: The Bad Seed”. Juan destroyed this book and I knew I’d want to work with him at some point. Who knew a few years later I’d be writing something for Juan to draw thanks to Josh?
Juan, what kind of approach did you take toward drawing the story? What did you want to emphasise most about the script?
Ferreyra: I wanted to try to tell and give a lot of info to the reader in such small space we had. And through the color palette and their expressions I was trying to communicate all of our characters’ feelings and motivations.
And Joshua — how important do you think it is that established creators work, like you have in this case, to bring in creative talent and give them opportunities like these?
Williamson: It’s on us to create spaces for new talent to have an opportunity to make comics. They’ll do the rest.
I’m lucky and privileged to have the gigs that I have. I love making comics. And any time I can help others do that same thing, I will. Comics are for everyone and I hope that I can do more like this to make sure it feels welcoming.
Really this is just a baby step. A small act. I know we can do more. This is all about Tee and Juan – it’s their turn to show off their work and their perspective, and it’s their story and their voice that should be heard right now
Would you be interested in working on further stories within this world you’ve created? Could you see there being a second “The Outfit” story, down the line?
Franklin:We could definitely expand on this world, I could even see this story fitting in the “Nailbiter” world. Although Juan is busy and killing it on “Green Arrow,” I’m very hopeful that Juan could make some time to play in the world of “The Outfit.”
Ferreyra: Yeah, definitely! I had a blast doing it and off course I see a lot of room to expand these ideas!
Franklin: Biggest thanks to Josh and Mike for giving me this opportunity. I’m truly blessed to have Juan Ferreyra, Gail Simone and the superb letterer Taylor Esposito on my first mainstream story.
“Nailbiter” #27 is scheduled for release from Image Comics on Dec. 7.