GETTING TO KNOW THE INTIMATES
So…uh… there’s been something I’ve been meaning to ask you…. you wanna go to the Prom with me?
You know.. because… there’s this new book… THE INTIMATES, written by Joe Casey and drawn by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Jim Lee with inker Sandra Hope. It’s coming out this Wednesday, November 3rd… and… you know… Joe Casey is presenting an INTIMATES High School Prom at the Isotope… and you know… I just thought that we should go… y’know?
This exact conversation has been happening countless times this past week throughout the San Francisco Bay Area as we gear up for this exciting event. Comic fans who missed their Prom and those who don’t remember the one they attended alike are renting tuxes and trolling the bridal shops for that perfect dress and getting ready to read a truly original book.
I’m excited myself, with Joe Casey on the writing and Guiseppe Camuncoli on the art, and sporting very sexy covers by Jim Lee and one of the greatest designers to ever grace the world of comics Rian Hughes, THE INTIMATES is sure to stand out on the comic racks as a true one-of-a-kind book. In a thinly-veiled attempt to get a sneak-peak of this new series, I sat down for an interview with Joe Casey, Guiseppe Camuncoli, and Jim Lee.
Author Joe Casey and I spoke on the phone before I conducted this interview, and I asked him if he wanted me to throw him any easy pitches for him to knock out of the park. “Fuck no,” Joe replied, “I don’t want any of that soft pitch bullshit. Give me every curveball and knuckleball you got, Sime.”
Okay, I thought, and proceeded to conduct the following interview with Misters Joe Casey, and INTIMATES artists Giuseppe Camuncoli and Jim Lee. No soft pitches included, just everything you’ll need to know about THE INTIMATES and a whole lot more… enjoy!
Comic Pimp: Alright Joe, let’s get right down to it. You said you didn’t want any easy pitches, just curveballs and knuckleballs, so here’s a fastball right over home plate for you!
Now you’re known for writing some great bubble-gum superheroic icon books like ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, BATMAN: TENSES and the X-MEN: CHILDREN OF THE ATOM then turn around and do something that is obviously very personal and self-satisfying like AUTOMATIC KAFKA and then you’ll do something that’s just good old fashioned violent fun like CODEFLESH and then switch gears all over again and you’ll give us something profound and brain-matter stimulating like WILDCATS 3.0. In any other media you’d be lauded as a genius for being able to so effortlessly walk both sides of the mainstream and independent. For example, an artist like Eminem is applauded for being able to write catchy pop-radio jingles and then turn around and write something that is so brutally honest about how fucked up he is that it makes you feel ill. Even critics who hate the guy seem to have grudging respect for that. But in comics it seems like the more a creator like yourself refuses to be held back by preconceptions that fans place upon you the more you are chastized and criticized. What the fuck is up with that? Why do you think that is?
Joe Casey: Well, when it comes to that, I try to ignore the chastising and criticisms whenever possible. I’m just looking to either entertain myself… or try and live up to the examples set by my favorite comicbooks from when I was a fan. Either way, it’s all about following my own muse, wherever it takes me. At this point, I may have one of the least calculated careers in mainstream comics, but that’s fine with me. I don’t want to be pigeonholed and that kind of career is, quite frankly, sometimes difficult for a creator to maintain. Look at Howard Chaykin. The guy did phenomenal, groundbreaking work in the 80’s but his constant refusal to sacrifice his own sense of quality or make all the typical career moves made him something of an outcast in the Marvel-DC mainstream at the time, at least in the majority of the fans’ eyes. After awhile, he just went into TV. Now, I don’t have one-hundredth the talent that Chaykin has, but I’m just using him as an example. For some reason, American creators in the mainstream aren’t really allowed to be all that individualistic. It’s almost like we’re expected to fall in line and follow some British-spawned trend or try and emulate manga in some way. I say fuck all that. If I wanna’ check out a British trend, I’ll read a British writer. If I wanna’ check out something manga-esque, I’ll read fucking manga. We need diverse voices, even in the mainstream. I don’t care whether or not I’m being “lauded” for anything. It’s all about the work.
And, you know, even the bubblegum can be personal or emotionally resonant. I put as much blood, sweat and tears into EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES — out of a pure love of those characters from my childhood — as I do into any creator-owned work I’ve ever done.
Comic Pimp: Absolutely! That’s why we get along so well, it’s all blood, sweat, tears and doin’ it for the love, my man! Most fans of your work might not be aware of this, but along with being one of the most iconic comic authors in the business, you’re a bit of a low-rent rockstar as well. I’ve listened to at least two of your bands, THE SELLOUTS and BEST OF SEVEN, and both were pretty damn good rock bands.
Joe Casey: I’ll be completely honest with you, brother… it’s absolutely as fun as you might imagine! The real crazy shit, I’d prefer to tell you in person. I think you nailed it with the “low-rent” classification, but I actually like it better that I’m not solely dependent on music to make my living. That in itself allows me to enjoy it more. And lately, we’ve been playing some pretty amazing shows like the Galaxy Theater in Santa Ana and we’ve got another very cool show coming up at the Whisky A-Go-Go in late November. For those interested, check out www.bestofsevenonline.com for all the pertinent info. Collectively, this band has its fair share of “dirt” but you’ll have to wait for the book on that. Maybe in twenty years…
Comic Pimp: C’mon, you can tell me… what do the groupies think about you writing funny books for a living? Is it a positive reaction or negative?
Joe Casey: They don’t really ask, but if they did, I’d be damn proud to bring that light out from under the bushel. Writing comicbooks is truly the greatest job in the world and I’ll tell anyone who bothers to listen. I’m livin’ the dream, James. What could possibly be at all negative about that?
Comic Pimp: Preach on brother Casey, preach on!
Your work on WILDCATS 3.0 was one of my favorite comics of recent memory and was like nothing else on the market, so I’ve got high expectations for your latest offering from the folks at Wildstorm, THE INTIMATES. The whole superheroes in high school shtick isn’t anything new to comic readers, it’s a formula that’s been mined by everyone from Stan Lee to Chris Claremont to Robert Kirkman. But if there’s one thing fans know about Joe Casey it’s that you aren’t going to just repeat something we’ve seen before. What are you doing with THE INTIMATES that is going to really set this book apart?
Joe Casey: This is a book about pure emotion. Which is exactly what the teenage experience is. That completely pure, heightened sense of supreme drama that seems to consume you as a teenager… that’s what we want to get across. Every day, you get up, go to school, and you’re inundated with potential tragedy, heartbreak, joy, social adversity… all of those epic emotions cranked up to eleven. That’s what being young is all about, letting yourself over-experience life to the point where your heart, your mind, your soul is about to fucking explode from it all. Adolescence is all about survival. But it’s rarely about life and death… it just feels like it. Combine that with a storytelling approach that’s anti-“writing for the trade”, piling on tons of information in every issue, all at once. A comicbook exploding with life and color. Exactly what comicbooks should do. We wanted to create a series that would literally separate the men from the boys. If readers in their 30’s and 40’s look at THE INTIMATES and end up scratching their heads, completely flummoxed when they try and decipher the storytelling languages we’re using, I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. Because an adult isn’t always supposed to understand art that’s geared toward a teenager’s sensibilities. That’s what’s ultimately so cool about the so-called “generation gap”. It absolutely exists, and for far too long, mainstream superhero comics have been too busy chasing the wrong side of the gap. Hopefully, that’ll change soon, and with THE INTIMATES, we’re just trying to do our part.
Comic Pimp: Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about! So let me ask you this, back in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s the majority of comic readers were teenagers, which makes sense that a book about teenage superheroes would be appealing. But let’s face it, comics dropped the ball somewhere along the line and pretty much skipped the generation that are teenagers right now. Today the majority of traditional comic readers are young kids and adults. As one of those adult comic readers myself, here’s your chance to really give me the hard sell. What are you and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli, inker Sandra Hope, and comic-with-the-comic artist Jim Lee going to be doing with THE INTIMATES to make reading a locker-room look at teenagers with superpowers appealing to today’s comic readers?
Joe Casey: First of all, my collaborators on this series… they fucking rule. What else can I say? I’m working with the cream of the crop. We all know what we’re aiming for here. These days, teenagers can maneuver the mediascape better than anyone alive. Hell, they were born into it. They’re used to multi-tasking as naturally as they’re used to breathing. It’s in their blood. Given that, it’s no wonder that most modern American comicbooks bore them to tears. Give them 22 pages that proudly proclaims itself, “Part 1 of 6” and watch their eyes glaze over. On my better days, I still think comicbooks can be a populist medium. Hell, they call poetry a niche medium, but when you set a rhyme to music, it becomes pop and everybody seems to dig it. Comicbooks need to take their rhymes and set them to music again. That’s where the future lies. Give teenagers a product that does compete on the level of their video games, Internet surfing and channel hopping and I’m betting that some of them will respond. Now, will THE INTIMATES be the book that proves that? Hell if I know. But it’s much more interesting to swing for the fences than to play it safe with the latest decompressed story that takes six months to wade through, only to reach an ending that, nine times out of ten, is a let-down anyway. If there’s going to even be a new wave of comicbooks that attract that elusive audience, that’s exactly where I want to be. And, in terms of creative ambition, that’s exactly where THE INTIMATES is.
Comic Pimp: Okay, okay, I’m convinced! (Laugh) I really like that the INTIMATES team isn’t afraid to try some innovative things with this book, one look at the preview pages I’ve seen and it’s pretty apparent the THE INTIMATES is going to look, and read, like nothing else on the market. Aside from a successful series, what are your long-term hopes for this series?
Joe Casey: Readers really have no idea what to expect from this series, since it’s 1) all-new characters, 2) not really dependent on existing continuity (even the admittedly-flimsy continuity of the Wildstorm Universe, although it is set in that world) and 3) a fairly classic, time-worn premise: teen superheroes in school. But I think, for those who pick up the first issue (out the first week in November), they’re going to be really surprised at how different the book is on numerous levels. Long-term? That’s not really a word we use in conjunction with launching new series. I know better. However, if we can somehow show that an American comicbook can speak to teenage readers again — which is what this book is specifically designed to try and do — then we’ve accomplished something huge. Of course, it takes an Italian artist, a superstar-in-the-making, to help us pull it off…
Cammo, I loved your work on VERTIGO POP BANGKOK and Brian Vaughan’s run on SWAMP THING, and I’ve got a feeling that I’m going to like what you’re doing on THE INTIMATES even more… tell me a little bit about how you evolved your style for working on THE INTIMATES.
Giuseppe Camuncoli: Well, first of all thank you very much for your praise! I usually tend not to think too much about the style I’m using, although I definitely try everytime to adapt the style to the kind of story and writer I’m working on/with. For example, when I did those 2 Hellblazer issues with Brian Azzarello, I tried to find a style that would match with Marcelo Frusin’s one, that was at the time the regular artist on the book.
For THE INTIMATES, I was of course influenced by Jim Lee, the man responsible for the design of the core characters, even though he told me I could feel free to change whatever I wanted on them, since I would’ve been the main artist on the book. Then I got to design the other characters, the teachers, the school and desks and stuff (following Joe Casey’s fantastic suggestions), and there I definitely followed my own intuitions. So, to sum it all up, I tried to use a clean, simple and strong (but detailed) style, focusing a lot on facial expressions (it’s one of my favourite things to draw!) and body language, in order to give the book a cool visual atmosphere.
Comic Pimp: One look at all the work you’re putting into THE INTIMATES and it’s pretty obvious you really care about what you, Joe, Sandra, and Jim are doing here. I’m sure everyone wants to know what you think is so special about this project that you’d throw yourself feet first into it. What convinced you that THE INTIMATES was the right step for you to take next? What about the book really grabbed you and made you say to yourself, “I have to be a part of this?”
Giuseppe Camuncoli: First of all, I have to admit that when Jim offered me to work on it, there was absolutely no reason in my mind for me to even think for a second not to accept the gig. Especially because I always love WildStorm books and creators and attitude, and this would’ve been the chance for me to be a part of it. Of course, the creators involved (Jim, Joe, Sandra and Randy Mayor, the colorist) were part of the fascination I had in the first time. Then, when I began reading Joe’s pitch for the series, I immediately got deep with the whole concept for the series, I started loving the characters immediately and I was hooked. In fact, I love enormously the fact that I can contribute with my own ideas (not only visually) for the series. Everytime I’m done with an issue, I can’t wait to get the next script and find out what Joe conceived for the book! We had a small brainstorming with Joe about the direction he wants to give to the book (he also asked me to tell him what I love the most drawing or seeing in a comic book, so to be ablo to suit me more in terms of storytelling and such), and there’s so many cool things to come I really can’t wait to get to draw them! As Joe said, it’s a labour of love, and I really hope it shows!
Comic Pimp: The design on each page of THE INTIMATES is simply stunning. It strikes me as a kind of post-AMERICAN FLAGG information overload to how you create the page layout and design, particularly the hypertext-esque pop outs and gutter notes. For comics this is a very unique look, which I’ve only seen a few times before (most notably in Masamune Shirow’s work and in the aforementioned AMERICAN FLAGG by Howard Chaykin). How do you approach the visual design on THE INTIMATES?
Giuseppe Camuncoli: You’re right when you talk about AMERICAN FLAGG (a wonderful piece of art, in my opinion, we got lucky enough to get it translated here in Italy in the nineties), because that was one of Joe’s influences when we first talked about the book. I was really intrigued by this, especially because it allows the writer to put so much into a comic book, which recently has a standard reading time of 5 to 10 minutes, after which you really feel it was too fast. Reading what Joe puts in the “info scroll” (the CNN-esque scroll at the bottom of the page) is really unique, and this goes along pretty well with the different designs that Joe comes up with for the pages. He’s always sending me faxes with designs for some particular pages (like the double-spread or page 18 on issue 1), which he calls “his wacky layouts”, and that are absolutely fundamental. I really enjoy the interaction that Joe, Jim, Rian (Hughes, the top-class designer who worked on the logo and designs for the covers) and I are having on every level when approaching to every issue of the book. It’s just one of the things that make you feel luck to be a creator in an industry like this. Priceless.
Comic Pimp: Alright let’s talk about the coloring on this book, because good god THE INTIMATES is a colorful book! That’s all you, right? You’re throwing color everywhere, even in the gutters between panels. That’s not something you see very often. I honestly can’t think of seeing preview pages online that screamed “LOOK AT ME!” as loudly as the three preview pages that you released to Newsarama a month or so back. What effects are you trying to achieve by go all-out on the color on THE INTIMATES?
Giuseppe Camuncoli: That’s a tough question, James… I am a huge fan of black and white (just to name a few examples, Eduardo Risso, Frank Miller, Mike Mignola, José Munoz and many many other artists had and still have a huge impact and influence on the way I put blacks on a page… I really love the big contrast that black and white have and the strenght they give the page…), and this maybe showed more in other works I did like VERTIGO POP: BANGKOK or HELLBLAZER. But I also love pop, and this maybe shows more in the first book I did, called BONEREST: A WORLD’S END, that should probably get translated for the US market pretty soon, and of course in THE INTIMATES. I think that color is fundamental in a book that deals with kids in a school, learning to become superheroes. But since the book is gonna have his weird and dramatic moments, it’s then that I feel my mood for ‘noir’ and black and white kicks in, and I really feel this mix is working a lot. THE INTIMATES is such an intriguing and multi-faceted book that allows me to change pace and mood so often, but still managing (or at least trying) to keep it together.
Comic Pimp: Sure looks to me like you’re keeping it together, my man! And everywhere I look I keep reading people calling you a superstar on the rise, and once people see this book popping off store shelves, we’re only going to start seeing it more. How does it feel to hear that? And career wise, where do you hope to see yourself in five years?
So, I really hope that in five years I’ll still be able to do this, possibly working and having worked on interesting books and characters and with a lot of fantastic creators, and still feeling enthusiastic about it. The day I’ll feel bored or simply “normal” when working on a comic book, I’ll probably change and do something else. For example, since I have a boot fetish, maybe working as a clerk in a shoe shop!
Comic Pimp: You rock Cammo!
Giuseppe Camuncoli: But only if my girlfriend allows me to…
Comic Pimp: (laugh)!
Moving back to Mister Casey. Joe, I understand that each issue of THE INTIMATES is going to be self-contained stories, which weave together to make a greater picture for those who read more than one. A customer can just pick up any random issue and get a full comic worth of reading out of it, or they can go in for the long haul and see the full picture, “sit com” style I think is what you referred to it as. Tell me a little about this. Was this decision a result of the density of WILDCATS 3.0, which may have made it difficult for new readers to jump on board, or were you just wanting to do something new?
Joe Casey: Look, if there’s a trend out there, I’m probably the first guy to run in the opposite direction and try something completely at odds with what’s popular at the time. Remember, we launched AUTOMATIC KAFKA — a book as densely written as anything I’ve ever done — right in the thick of NuMarvel’s “Decompression Now”-phase. Hence my current cult status… but, hey, it’s the price you pay for trying to be somewhat original in what you do.
Comic Pimp: Yeah, that’s the truth! There’s always a price for forging your own path…
So what’s the deal with Jim Lee’s contribution to THE INTIMATES? I know he’s drawing the “comic within the comic” but what does that mean exactly?
Joe Casey: One of the characters in the series can often be found reading his favorite comicbook series, SUPERSONIC ESPIONAGE BOOM, starring that suave, sophisticated super-spy, Agent Boss Tempo. That series just happens to be drawn by fan-favorite, über-artist Jim Lee and, during the course of any given story, there are times when we cut to panels from that comicbook. It’s very cool to see Agent Tempo in action. The guy gets tons of pussy, too. But that’s just a small part of Jim’s contribution to THE INTIMATES. His designs of the main cast members are my favorite things that he’s ever designed. They’re fan-fucking-tastic, okay? Even beyond him drawing the covers and the comic within, he’s really been a cheerleader for the series for everyone. Jim’s the guy that runs interference with us at DC to make sure our book doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. With the magnitude of DC’s output, it’s certainly easy to get lost. But, thanks to Jim and his commitment to what we’re doing here, I think the series has a real fighting chance to find its audience in an obviously crowded marketplace.
But, on the personal tip, it is cool on a pure geek pro level that Jim is drawing a few panels that I’ve written. Hell, I never thought I’d ever work with the guy in that capacity so it’s been an unexpected pleasure that he even agreed to do it. And, seeing random panels from SUPERSONIC ESPIONAGE BOOM as yet another layer of storytelling information truly adds to the overall feel of the book.
I’d be interested in hearing more about this, and specifically, what Mister Lee has to say about his contribution to THE INTIMATES. So let’s move over to the himself…
Jim, tell me more about this comic-within-a-comic, I heard a rumor you were doing a bit of a Steranko riff, which sounds pretty awesome to me. Seriously?
Jim Lee: Well, I don’t think anyone will be mistaking my work for Steranko’s cause he is one the all time kung fu masters of comics…but the character Boss Tempo is supposed to evoke the spirit of what Steranko was doing with Nick Fury, Agent of Shield. His version of Fury remains my favorite take on the old warhorse, and I presume, Joe’s as well. Agent Tempo stars in a comic called Supersonic Espionage Boom, which happens to be Punchy’s favorite comics…Punchy being one of the main characters of the Intimates. It’s been awesome being able to work with Joe in this unique and very cool way.
Comic Pimp: It’s certainly sounding pretty cool. I’m interested in how it’s going to read. What can readers like me expect? Are we talking one-off panels from SUPERSONIC ESPIONAGE BOOM or is it going to be several sequential panels?
Jim Lee: Depends, so far it’s been a panel here, a panel there, but I imagine there will be more extended sequences as we start to see how important the comic is to the inner life of Punchy…or not. There are a zillion ways you can go with this and I know that Joe will bring his usual creative slant to things. Stay tuned…
Comic Pimp: Definitely. Thanks, Jim!
Speaking of Mister Casey, regular readers of this column will know Joe and I are doing a launch event for THE INTIMATES together this up-coming Wednesday. And that Joe came up with a truly excellent theme for the event; a prom themed launch party! Spiked punch, yearbook photos, 80’s DJs… yeah, that’s going to fun. It’s been a blast watching people asking each other to go to prom together, Honestly can’t even begin to express how well the idea has gone over with everyone at the Isotope, especially our female customers.
But really, Joe. I know the reason you wanted to do a prom theme. You just wanted an excuse to wear your powder blue tux and that ruffly shirt didn’t you?
Joe Casey: Again with the powder blue tux…! That seems to be everyone’s baseline cliché for what to wear to this event. I hope it’ll end up more colorful than that. I know for my part, I’m out to “out-Sime” Mr. Sime himself (well-known throughout hipper circles as the best-dressed cat in the comicbook industry).
Comic Pimp: Kick ass! I’m definitely looking forward to being “out-Simed” but you’re going to have to bring your A-game, Mister Casey!
Comic Pimp: Nice! Alright, so while we’re on the subject of Joe Casey fashion… you’re known for wearing sunglasses all the time, it’s part of the Joe Casey mystique. But they’re not something you just put on for show to impress and intimidate the comic book geeks, you seriously like sporting the shades. I heard you even wore sunglasses at your wedding! I gotta know, has wearing those things fucked up your eyes?
Joe Casey: Hold on… it takes a minute for me to properly read the questions here… the ol’ eyesight’s failing me these days…
Comic Pimp: (laugh)!
Joe Casey: Actually, Roy Orbison has always been a hero of mine, and it’s just my way of paying proper tribute to one of the greatest rock n’ roll singers that ever lived.
Comic Pimp: Now that’s cool. Well here’s to November 3rd, when we kick out the craziest comic book launch of the entire year! I’m not sure, but I think we might be partying with Comic Book Resources own Jonah Weiland that night too, and you know if Jonah’s going to fly up for an event we’re going to be kicking it out in high style! THE INTIMATES HIGH SCHOOL PROM is definitely going to be a launch event for the history books!
Joe Casey: Yeah!
Comic Pimp: So Joe, you know the Isotope has that wall-sized digital projector now, right? Any good prom flicks you want us to screen on the front window while couples dance, our dueling DJ’s spin their hottest one-hit-wonders 80’s tunes, uncle Larry Young spikes the big bowl of punch, and we hand out corsages to the ladies?
Joe Casey: Oh, PROM flicks. For a minute, I thought you said “porn flicks”. In that case, I think someone should spend a little time and splice together all the famous dance scenes from the great 80’s teen flicks. FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, SIXTEEN CANDLES, PRETTY IN PINK, FOOTLOOSE, PRIVATE SCHOOL, JUST ONE OF THE GUYS, etc. and run them all night on a continuous loop. And don’t forget the chaperones! We need someone in authority watching over us…
Comic Pimp: (laugh) I got nothing to say about that, except I’m told that Ian and Larry have got something up their collective sleeves. Yeah, it’s going to be a damn fun part. I’m definitely looking forward to it!
Joe Casey: YOU’RE looking forward to it?! I can’t wait to get my ass up to Frisco for this! This is going to be such a fucking blast. We need to throw down the gauntlet once and for all, James, and raise the bar even higher than the spectacular in-stores you’ve already done at the Isotope. This has got to be the mother of all in-stores. We’re gonna’ make the myth this time.
Comic Pimp: Oh hell yes.
Thanks to Joe, Jim and Cammo for the great interview!
For those who still need more convincing that they need to pick up a copy of THE IMTIMATES next Wednesday, check out these excellent interviews with the creative team for more insight on this unique book at the following links:
- Fellow CBR columnist Matt Fraction interviews Joe Casey here
- Three CBR News articles with members of the creative team: Joe Casey, Jim Lee and Alex Sinclair.
- Silver Bullet Comicbooks’ pride and joy Brandon Thomas turns in a glorious Casey interview here
- Pop Culture Shock INTIMATES preview here
- Variety’s multi-part spotlight on Casey by the awesome Tom McLean here
And for those in the San Francisco Bay Area who know how to have a good time, I highly recommend coming into the Isotope and joining us as we launch THE INTIMATES in high style with a 12 hour bash of truly epic proportions. Meet Joe Casey? You bet. Get your books signed? Yep, that too. Surround yourself with glorious prom themed ambiance and good looking people dressed to the nines? Definitely. Indulge in some great spiked punch? Sure, if you’re over 21. Have an excuse to boogie down with your sweetheart? Uh huh… that, too. Get your picture taken for THE INTIMATES yearbook? Yep, that’s happening too. Buy yourself a brand new copy of the hot-off-the-presses INTIMATES #1? Of course.
Have one of the greatest fucking times you will ever have at a comic book store in your entire life? Oh yeah… no doubt about it.