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REFLECTIONS: Chatting with “The Freshmen” Creative Team

by  in Comic News Comment
REFLECTIONS: Chatting with “The Freshmen” Creative Team

Reflections, Volume 2 Number 10

This week I’m taking some time out to spotlight an already-finished limited series that has just been released in trade paperback. “Freshmen” is one of those absolutely amazing comics not enough people read when it was first published by Top Cow last year. Co-created by Hugh Sterbakov and Seth Green and illustrated by Leonard Kirk, “Freshmen” hit stands last summer with little fanfare, but the first few issues sold out and created a devoted following around it. Sadly, Top Cow’s scheduling problems left the book off the shelves for 10 weeks, and sales never bounced back.

Which is a damn shame because the last three issues are phenomenal. It made my “Top 10” list last year with good reason and issue #5 actually brought this jaded comic fan to tears. With the trade’s publication, the promise of another volume of the series is being tossed around like a carrot to fans, who are doing everything they can to make sure the trade sells well enough to merit another adventure. I’m one of those avid fans, and Seth Green, Hugh Sterbakov and Leonard Kirk were kind enough to sit down with me (despite the restraining orders) and talk up the series from inception to completion, plus what would be in store for the second volume.

The “Freshmen” team at CCI in 2005. In the back is Andrew Peopy and from left to right it’s Leonard Kirk, Seth Green and Hugh Sterbakov.

Robert Taylor: Hey guys, how’s it going?

Seth Green: Excellent, thanks.

Leonard Kirk: Pretty good.

Hugh Sterbakov: Going very well!

RT: Before we start talking about the origins of “Freshmen,” why don’t you tell me what the heck it’s about?

LK: Damned if I know. I just drew the thing, cashed my checks and didn’t ask any questions.

RT: Oh dear…this is going to go well…

SG: You’ve got these kids who are all away from home for the first time, dealing with being outcasts or misfits of one kind or another, and then you add the physical deformity of super powers.

RT: Okay, got it.

HS: It’s about a group of kids who face the impossible task of moving to college and making friends. The freshmen class has overflow, since so many kids drop out or fail, and our characters are temporarily housed in the school’s science building. They’re out of their elements and in uncomfortable surroundings with strangers who are so different from them – and then they’re maliciously humiliated by a fraternity.

While they’re in the darkest of moods, something amazing happens – a special machine in the building overloads, giving each of them superpowers based on exactly what they were thinking at that moment. Some of their powers are extraordinarily useful: One girl can make anyone fall in love with her. But others appear cursed: One guy’s… uhm… personal utility grows to 15 feet long.

RT: Much better. Now back to that whole origin thing. How’d you guys come up with it?

HS: It all happened one night while we were playing ping pong. Dan Milano and Matthew Huffman were there with us as well, and we all started talking about silly super powers. I think it started because I wished aloud that I had the mutant power to ripen bananas. Apparently, I really wanted a banana.

SG: So Hugh and I started talking for a while about developing a teenage-super powers story and thought the idea of seemingly useless powers was both funny and challenging for the characters.

RT: Personally, I’ve always wanted the power to make old socks smell like new. Now, Leonard, how’d you hop onboard with this motley crew?

LK: I got a call from Jim McLauchlin at Top Cow telling me that he might have some work for me. He couldn’t go into detail at the time, but he mentioned that Seth Green was involved. That was all I needed to know. I’ve been a fan of Seth for years. Not so big a fan that I’d be willing to undergo genetic reconstruction in order to grow a womb so that I could bear his child, but a fan nevertheless.

RT: Aww, come on Leonard, what’s fandom without sacrifices?

LK: (coughs) Anyway, I was ready to jump right in with “Freshmen.” However, there were one or two other guys on the short list of possible artists. So Jim sent me an outline of the project along with some brief descriptions of the characters and asked me to draw a few sketches.

I went bugnuts…

RT: Bugnuts?

LK: Bugnuts. Then I whipped up about a dozen character designs over the next couple of days. I also tossed in a few notes and ideas that I had for the characters’ backgrounds and some extra stuff about their costumes as well. This was all happening around the Christmas season of 2004 so between the holidays, my other work, Jim’s schedule, Hugh and Seth reviewing the sketches, etc. it was about three or four weeks before the final decision was made and I was tickled pink to learn I had been chosen.

RT: Give us, if you will, a rundown of the characters and their powers.

HS: Well, each issue is narrated from a different character’s perspective. We enter the series through the eyes of Annalee, a young, headstrong girl who is studying psychology. She becomes the Puppeteer, who can jump into anyone’s mind and look around or even control them. Then we’ve got Paula, the Seductress, who is an overweight, lovestruck girl who dreams of finding her knight in shining armor – she’s the one who has the ability to make anyone fall in love with her. She immediately takes an interest in Jacques, the ladies’ man exchange student who wouldn’t give her the time of day under normal circumstances, but he’s going through a trial of his own – when the Ax-Cell-Erator overloaded, he was frightened by a squirrel, and now he’s compulsively hoarding acorns.

SG: The Intoxicator is a favorite of mine: the formerly straight edge guy who gets the power to share his intoxication with anyone by burping at them.

HS: Then there are the Drama Twins, who are so-named by the group because they’re a bickering couple. Their names are Renee and Brady, and they have telekinesis, but only when they’re touching.

LK: Green Thumb can hear and understand what plants say. Quaker can make earthquakes by rubbing his belly. Long Dong has… well… an exceedingly long dong. Everything sticks to Post-It. Wannabe can’t do squat so, naturally, he becomes the leader… sort of.

SG: Yeah, Norrin is the poor bastard who left the building when everyone got their powers. The guy who reads all the comics and knows all of the archetypes of villains and heroes, and becomes a kind of leader in the beginning.

LK: As for the bad guys. Professor Tomlinson can make anyone super strong and powerful by touching them. The frat boys are his henchmen. He makes them powerful and they smash stuff… sort of like the Hulk, only less green.

RT: What did Leonard bring to the table that no one else could have done?

HS: I think Leonard had a sympathy for these characters that was very unique. You couldn’t just laugh at them, you had to feel for them. He added a lot of great details in the beginning stages and thought up a lot of great ways to simplify my storytelling – we owe Leonard everything from the Beaver’s hard hat to Liam’s stitched “F” inside his hat, but ultimately I think Leonard was the best choice for this story because he felt for the characters.

RT: Hugh, how did it feel writing your first comic script?

HS: It was exhilarating! I’ve been a comic fan my entire life, and I certainly understood the medium, but I’ve been writing screenplays for 10 years and it took some adjustment. Ultimately, my toughest concern was limiting my story to 22 pages. I also had some worries from the outline stage that there wasn’t enough action in the first issue and a lot of our early reviews reflected that, but by the third issue, I think I really caught my stride. It’s tough, because I’ve got 40 longboxes, including every appearance of Spider-Man, and I’ve probably read an average of a comic a day since I was 11 years old, so how do you sit down to write your first one? It can never be great enough.

RT: Leonard, dish the dirt on Hugh’s very first professional comic script. Was it any good or was it all you?

LK: In all fairness, I’ve had worse experiences…like that time I had to go into the hospital for surgery to fix a detached retina. (laughs)

Actually, I loved the story the first time I read it. However, as Hugh is the first to admit, that very first script was a tad…wordy. I knew I was in trouble when I saw that his script for a 22-page comic was 42 pages long. I imagine it is difficult to transition from writing prose and screenplays to writing comics, but Hugh worked really hard at tweaking what he had and learned how to trim the fat very quickly. What I appreciated most about Hugh was that he was willing to accept criticism and took all of my own ideas for the series very seriously.

The first issue had its fair share of bumps but, once we got moving, it was a blast.

RT: Let’s talk about fan reaction to the miniseries, which has been overwhelming. Did you ever expect it to be this big?

SG: I’ve been trying to introduce Hugh to the public for years. He’s one of the most talented, inventive writers I know. He really defines each of the characters completely, and let’s the reader get a feel for them.

HS: Definitely not. As Seth can certainly attest, the Hollywood process over the last 10 years has left some serious psychic scars on me. Even when I’m proud of my own work, I’m often convinced people are going to hate it. But it does seem like just about everyone who read “Freshmen” enjoyed it, or, at least, the positive was a heckuva lot louder than the negative, and that’s probably been the most rewarding experience of my life. And it reflected on the book, too, because as I grew more confident, the writing came easier and flowed better. I think issues #3 and #5 are our strongest two, and, honestly, in the outline they were probably the least well-defined.

LK: In this business, I don’t know what the heck to expect anymore. I always had hopes that “Freshmen” would do well and I knew that Seth’s involvement would help the first few issues to sell well. However, I was thrilled with the reviews and very pleased by the positive reaction of the fans. San Diego 2005 was the real killer. I knew there would be a big turnout for the “Freshmen” panel, but when I saw that huge frickin’ room filled to the brim and heard the cheering, I was blown away.

RT: Tell us a little bit about those message boards you guys run, which have been the center for much of the fan craziness.

HS: It’s really unbelievable. We have an army of about a dozen regular posters who are there every day. We’re closing in on 7,000 posts as I type this. I’ve run some fun contests over there that have enabled the members to get to know each other and interact, and now they’re like a little family, they don’t even need me. We also sent a batch of the “Freshmen Yearbooks” around to all of the regulars, so everyone could sign them as a little memory of our time together. Now that the series is over and we’re in a holding period, they’re still as chatty as ever, too. If you’ve enjoyed the series, please stop by – we’d love to hear from you.

RT: Seth, how has Hugh interpreted the original vision, and are you happy with the final product?

SG: I love our comic. It’s been such a blast getting to do this, especially with Hugh. He really is the only one to tell this story.

RT: Was the publishing schedule for the miniseries troubling? Why?

HS: We rushed so hard to get the first issue ready for San Diego that we were behind the gun through the entire cycle. The plan was put in place to take a month off so Leonard could catch up, and that month was going to be filled by the “Freshmen Yearbook.” But the Yearbook slipped an entire month, and wound up shipping on the same day as issue #4, something like 10 weeks after issue #3 (which ended on a cliffhanger, of all things). Our sales just never recovered from that, partially because in that 10-week period “Infinite Crisis” took over the comic book world. It was really unfortunate, but you never know how things would’ve worked out otherwise.

LK: I don’t know if troubling is the right word. However, I was working on two and, for a few weeks, three series at the same time. Sometimes schedules overlap and it can be a hassle. However, Jim and Top Cow always stayed on top of me and kept me rolling. There were some rough deadlines, but once Hugh and I got our “groove” going, a lot of the pages just came flying off my table.

RT: Tell us a little about how you procured those hilarious quotes on the covers of the individual issues. Whose idea was it?

HS: It was my idea.

RT: Well, that was easy.

HS: I didn’t realize that Top Cow used cover quotes on every issue. When I saw the first quote, it just struck me as very abstract. It didn’t say anything that people would necessarily believe. We see positive quotes for everything nowadays – and we’re all cynical and aware of the marketing aspect of it. And who are these people giving the quotes? Can they be trusted? So I got an idea to take a shot with something a little sillier, something that better fit the snarky nature of the book. I’m blessed enough that I know some folks who I thought would turn heads in the comic book world.

I met Sarah Michelle Gellar a few years ago, since Seth worked with her on “Buffy” and “Scooby Doo 2…”

RT: A personal favorite of mine.

HS: “Buffy?”

RT: Uh…no…”Scooby Doo 2,” of course.

HS: (groans) When she was promoting “The Grudge,” I went with her to San Diego to try and be her window to this world. I was on crutches after ACL surgery, so it was a chore for me to keep up, but it worked out great. And she also brought me as her date to the world premiere of “Spider-Man 2.” Can you imagine that?

RT: uuhh…

HS: Robert?

RT: Sorry, fan orgasm.

HS: Understandable.

So I asked her if she wanted to get silly with me, and she said, “Yes, of course, anything you want.”

RT: Ooohhh…

HS: About the comic, you perv! So I pitched her that line, “If I ever were to read a comic, it might be this one.” It was snarky, cynical and, best of all, didn’t really require an endorsement. Because the truth of the matter is that she doesn’t read comics and I didn’t want to put an endorsement in her mouth. Anyway, we were at a restaurant at the time, and everyone laughed, so we went with it.

Some of the folks at Top Cow were a little reluctant, but we put it on there and it really got us some attention. People talked about it – for better or worse, mostly for better – but a couple folks honestly didn’t think any of us were quick enough on the uptake to realize that it was cynical. That, I thought, was absolutely hysterical. The next issue, #3, had a standard cover quote. While it was very gracious and warm and a great endorsement, it just didn’t turn heads and, frankly, it didn’t capture the spirit of the book. So I decided there was no turning back. Geoff Johns is a friend of both mine and Seth’s, and he sometimes writes with Seth’s “Robot Chicken” partner, Matt Senreich. And I think we’ll still be talking about Geoff 20 years from now – this is a guy who is on the cusp of becoming a legend. So I turned to him for a quote for issue #4. Issue #5 was a no-brainer, because it was a Puppeteer cover and we’d designed that character after our friend Mila Kunis, from “That 70’s Show.” That was another one that some people thought was serious. The quote for issue #6 had quite a dramatic gestation period though – it was really down to the wire.

SG: I called Joss when he was in the middle of some hectic deadlines, and some heavy personal stuff. He was in and out of town, and super busy. In the midst of all that, he gave us a quote and some nice compliments for me to relay to Hugh about the book.

HS: I asked our editor, Jim McLauchlin, if we could delay the book for Joss’ quote, and he said there was no way. We almost had to go with another endorsement quote, for our big finale. It really would have broken my heart. But the quote, and the compliments especially, were one of the high points of the entire experience. I’ve been a fan of Joss’ since I was an intern for a producer who bought one of his scripts in 1994. I literally talked Seth into taking the “Buffy” role. That’s right, dammit – I was a Joss fan before all you latecomers.

RT: Uh, excuse me, I was there from episode 1 too!

LK: I had nothing to do with them…unless there’s money involved. If that’s the case, then they were all my idea.

RT: Fan reaction to the Seductress, in particular, especially with her spotlight in issue #5, has been phenomenal. Did you ever think the character would be such a breakthrough?

LK: I thought she would be. Of all the characters, I felt that she and Norrin would be the ones that most readers would identify with.

HS: Not in a million years. I didn’t see her breaking out like this. I thought she’d be a great opportunity for me to say some things I’ve always wanted a forum to say, but I didn’t realize how much the readers would latch onto her. I literally got fan mail about her before the first issue came out. One of the regular gals on our message boards had really never read comics, but the Seductress appealed to her so much that she not only became a Freshmen devotee, but she made her own Seductress Halloween costume. That kinda blows you away, as a creator, when you realize you’ve touched someone. I think Paula has some very important, difficult lessons to learn, and if her journey can make even one person feel like they’re not alone, then – boom – we’re a hit.

SG: I just don’t think there have been many empowered characters to tell her type of story. She’s a common archetype, but not in this venue. I love Paula, and have been so touched by the reaction from girls and guys alike.

RT: Has there been a call for a second volume? If so (and please say yes), how soon? Next week perhaps? [Editor’s Note: This interview was completed before Sterbakov announced on the Freshmen Message Board that a “Freshmen II” series has been green lit by Top Cow. Few details were revealed, although with Leonard Kirk now exclusive to Marvel, a new artist will need to be signed for the second series.]

HS: I’m optimistic, but the hard truth is that the book didn’t sell as well as it could have. Honestly, it didn’t sell as well as it should have, considering everything we have going for us, and I don’t know how to reconcile that – what do we have to do to get readers to pick us up? What didn’t we do? What can we do better next time? I mean, we’re in good company – well-liked work sells poorly all the time. There’s no justice, and far better people than me have suffered for it, but if we can turn people’s heads – if we can get people to take a look and see if these character speak to them – we have to figure out how really, really quickly.

We’re in a holding pattern while we see how the trade paperback sells, and then Top Cow will make a decision from there. If they pass, it’ll be heartbreaking, but we’ll certainly take the sequel to other publishers. I’m optimistic that we’ll be back on shelves by the end of the year… but some of those folks who’ve been waiting for the trade are going to have to concede and buy the monthly if they want to see more.

All that negativity out of the way, I can tell you this: I’m saying this in early April and the TPB sales are already good enough to warrant a sequel. Some of those are returnable, though, so we have to see how much the books sell-through. It’s down to the wire, which is why we went all-out to make the TPB feel like a special edition DVD that’ll be valuable even to fans who already bought the single issues.

RT: Hugh, what would be coming up in that sequel?

HS: So much stuff that I don’t know if we’ll have room. There are, of course, the plots we set into motion in the first series: The hole in the wall of the dorm in issue #1, and Annalee’s father’s sinister doings. Then we have a major, major new villain: our first true supervillain. This is a much more sinister, much darker character than we’ve seen thus far in the series, whose abilities will interact with our characters’ powers in really fantastic ways. When Annalee attacks this character, the result is going to be… well, frightening. If “Freshmen” was a teen comedy story at heart, then “Freshmen II” will be a horror story at heart. No kidding – someone might even die. Then we have several new relationship developments coming up… a couple of our kids are going to fall in love in the second series, and, true to “Freshmen” form, it’s going to cause some serious emotional upheaval.

We also have some personal developments for the characters: Norrin’s new direction really begins in the 10-page bonus story in the trade paperback, and others are going to go through similar life changes (as we all did at that age). And, beyond the emotional aspects… for those of you who read the original series and saw how, for example, Jacques’ powers evolved in the sixth issue…? Well, you’re in for a lot more of that. The kids will learn new things about themselves and new ways to use what they’ve got.

We’re also talking about doing a “subplot series” on the Internet, using photographs in comic book panels to tell one of the minor storylines. It’s a subplot where the destination is more important than the telling, so I can convey what you’ve missed in the catch-up page in the next issue of the comic. But I think our fans are who looking for something a little deeper will be interested in that storyline too, and so they’ll want to check out the ‘Net story as well. With photos and Photoshop, I’ll tell a story between two characters that isn’t necessarily action-packed, but it will emotionally resonate through the series and everything to come.

RT: Phew…do you want to breath for a while now?

HS: (huffs)…that was…taxing.

RT: Guys, who is your personal favorite character? Why don’t we start with you, Seth.

SG: Like I said, I love Paula. But I am really interested to see Norrin evolve after the first six issues. He’s grown so much in the mini series- I’m looking forward to seeing him come into his own.

LK: I really have a hard time picking out a single character as a favorite. I think Seductress would have to be at the top of the list, just edging out the Intoxicator. I loved drawing both of them. The one thing that really stood out with Seductress was how easily her design came to me. The costume that you see her in is the one and only costume I ever designed for her. I changed nothing between my initial sketch and the finished comic.

HS: That’s tough – I tend to like the characters that offer the most story potential, and that’s Norrin and Annalee. But I really, really love Paula. I love the way she’s starting to become brave-there’s so much more to explore with her. And the Beaver and Elwood are the most fun to write. A lot of our characters were overlooked, considering that we have 14 members and only six issues, and I think Elwood-The Intoxicator – suffered the most. I expected him to be our breakout character, our Wolverine, and he wasn’t. But what’s great is that I still have a character with that much potential just boiling in a pot.

RT: Leonard, tell us a little bit about the difficulties in drawing such a big and diverse cast.

LK: Just keeping everything straight is tough enough. Remembering all of the regular and superhero names of everyone as well as every detail on their costumes can be quite daunting. Luckily, this was not the first time I’ve drawn a “team book”. I drew “JSA” for DC for a couple of years and I also drew “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” for a few years for Malibu. Oh, and the group scenes can be a tad annoying, especially when three or four people are speaking in the same panel.

RT: Tell us a little about who fills out the creative team.

LK: Andrew Pepoy inked the series. He and I had worked on a handful of projects before “Freshmen” and I was happy he was available. “Freshmen” is one of only two series where the editor actually picked the inker I asked for. The other was “Bloodhound” with DC.

Tyson Wengler handled the coloring and did a snappy job of it.

And Rodolfo Migliari painted the fantastic covers.

I would say something nice about the editors as well but, since they spent most of their time yelling at me, I won’t (laughs)

HS: I want to take a moment to single out Troy Peteri, who did a phenomenal job with the lettering on the series. I wrote some very, very dense passages and he crammed them in there without ever overwhelming Leonard’s artwork. He also did an 11th hour edit on an overly-dense issue #5 for me that saved me from looking, quite honestly, unprofessional. A lot of those cuts should have been made at the script stage and I’m just not experienced enough to have visualized it beforehand. And he never complained, and regularly sent me stuff to approve.

RT: What’s special about this trade paperback?

LK: The trade paperback is much heavier than the individual issues and will inflict more damage when thrown at someone’s head.

HS: I’m most excited, of course, about the 10-page bonus story, which chronicles Norrin’s Christmas vacation. It guest-stars the Beaver, who tags along with him to keep an eye on him after that major emotional break at the end of the series. Just imagine the Beaver contained in a cage during a 10-hour drive to Pittsburgh, with country music playing nonstop, and you’ve set the scene for the Beaver’s disposition in the story. This story also sets into motion some of the events for the sequel series, and features the debut of Norrin’s new self-declared code-name, “The Scarlet Knight.” One of our forum members, Spudman, came up with “Scarlet Knight” for a contest. He won some signed books.

RT: Aren’t you signing somewhere in the Southern California area shortly?

SG: We’ll be at DJ’s Universal Comics in Studio City April 19th.

HS: I’m really excited about this, because it’s our first major signing together since the series hit the shelves. When last we signed together, the first issue was one day old and no one had read it. Now I’m hoping we’ll get some insights into how the series struck people. I mean, look – I know these signings are very much about Seth and his other work, and I don’t mind using that to get the book into interested people’s hands. But I’ve done some personal signings – with far fewer fans, but folks who were genuinely interested in what we’d done, and that meant a lot to me.

RT: What was your first comic book?

LK: I’m not really sure about the first comic I read. I do remember one of the first I bought with my own money. It was an issue of “Adventure Comics.” I can’t tell you the number but it included a story about the Spectre and that he dealt with the bad guy by turning him into a hunk of wood and slicing him up with a giant saw in a lumber yard. It cost me 20 cents.

HS: I learned to read from the Marvel Treasury Edition of “Star Wars,” but I had a pile of “Amazing Spider-Man,” “Peter Parker” and “Marvel Team-Up” that dated back to before I was born.

SG: I bought a “Fantastic Four” from a guy on the street in NY.

RT: Well, that sounds dangerous.

SG: (groans) It was the story where Franklin Richards had been kidnapped or turned into some crazy super powered weapon. It was a cliffhanger and I got hooked.

RT: What is your favorite comic book of all time?

HS: Hands-down, “Amazing Spider-Man #238” – the origin and first appearance of the Hobgoblin. That was the book that turned me onto the bag and board life, and I never turned back. That dark, sinister, mysterious character really grabbed a hold of my imagination. I’d like to weave a mystery like that into “Freshmen” one day, but I’d need more room.

SG: There have been a bunch of stories that affected me, probably all Spider-Man. I still have a very special place in my heart for the “Dark Knight Returns.”

HS: I remember that I was collecting “Amazing Spider-Man” in reverse order when I was a kid (not only do I have every issue now, but I have every single appearance of Spider-Man), and Seth had “ASM #135,” which I hadn’t gotten yet. I was so jealous – Harry Osborn discovered Spidey’s identity. We were in the schoolyard at Lamberton, up near the trees, and he took it out of the bag and let me read it.

LK: I have absolutely no idea how to pick just one. “Watchmen” sounds like something that everyone else would pick but I have to say that sucker was pretty damn cool. I also love every edition of “Lone Wolf and Cub” that I have ever read. Not a single bad one in the bunch.

RT: Has there ever been a comic book that touched/changed your life? What was it?

LK: I can’t really say that any comic has changed my life. But I can think of three series that I found to be quite touching. “Strangers in Paradise” by Terry Moore, “Bone” by Jeff Smith and “A Distant Soil” by Colleen Doran.

HS: Beyond the standards like “Watchmen” and “Dark Knight,” which showed a whole new aspect to the medium, I’ve always been struck by storylines that carried heavy emotions. There was an arc in “Peter Parker,” circa issue #80, by Bill Mantlo, where Peter was in a relationship with Felicia Hardy (the Black Cat), and about to face off against a new and improved Doctor Octopus to save Felicia’s life. Peter thought there was a good chance he was going to die in this battle, and he went and said goodbye to everyone he loves. It was absolutely fantastic, and not a story that people talk much about, and it really taught me a lot about what a story can mean.

RT: If you could only write/draw one book for the rest of your career, what would it be?

LK: That’s a tough one. I enjoyed the heck out of drawing four issues of “Detective Comics” so if I could only pick one, I guess it would be something involving Batman.

HS: Spider-Man. Probably “Amazing Spider-Man.” That’s the big one.

RT: What’s the best comic book movie ever made?

HS: It’s a toss-up for me between “Superman” and “X2.” I’m reluctant to admit it, because “Superman” was such a fundamental part of my childhood, but I think “X2” is a better movie. Every time I watch it, I can’t believe how many awesome sequences are in it.

SG: I totally agree. Hugh and I wind up seeing all of these movies together and geeking out when cool stuff happens. I did love “Spider-Man 2,” though.

LK: For me, it would have to be a toss up between “Spiderman 2” and “Batman Begins.”

HS: Yeah, “Spider-Man 2” was fantastic. I thought it was far better than the first one. Who would have thought they could ever put Spider-Man onscreen and actually live up to our imagination? I hope they make 50 Spider-Man movies in my lifetime. Man, I’ll totally be first in line for “Spider-Man 14” where he fights the Prowler, Rocket Racer and Paste Pot Pete.

RT: What is your weirdest convention experience?

SG: I got recognized while wearing a mask. A very disguising mask. Then I got followed and approached all day by kids who wanted me to admit I was me. Super weird and embarrassing.

HS: The dude recognized Seth from his freaking arm. His arm! It was nuts. That was San Diego three years ago.

LK: My weird convention experiences have been embarrassingly tame, so I will only mention one. It happened at San Diego about six or seven years ago. I was asked to take a turn doing portfolio reviews for Friends of Lulu which is an organization focused on getting more women and girls into comics both as readers and creators as well as championing the positive portrayal of female characters in comics, getting away from the busty sex object stereotype.

A guy who looked to be in his fifties sat down at my table and I began to flip through his portfolio. I was a little surprised to find myself looking at the most incredibly graphic “furry” porn I have ever seen in my life. Actually, at that time, it was the only furry material I had ever seen. [Editor’s Note: For the uninitiated, “furries” are comics featuring anthropomorphized animal characters, often depicted in stories with very “adult” themes] In any case, I asked the man if he knew what Friends of Lulu was and he said he didn’t. He just wanted to have his portfolio reviewed. I went ahead and looked at his work, pointing out areas that needed improvement in terms of drawing skill and storytelling. I also kindly suggested that, in the future, he pick and choose who sees his material very carefully. I can only imagine what might have happened to the guy if someone else from Friends of Lulu had been at that table. I can think of at least a couple of ladies who would have torn him a new one.

HS: I tagged along with Seth to a signing with the entire “Buffy” cast a few years ago in San Diego and a security guard tackled me. I guess he though I was trying to hurt Seth. In many ways, this is the epitome of my existence. Maybe I should just give in to expectations and start hurting Seth.

RT: If you were remembered for only one thing in your career, what would you want it to be?

LK: I would want to be remembered as the first comic book penciler to be crowned emperor of the known universe. And it wouldn’t be one of those “figurehead” appointments either. I would have the power of life and death over all of creation and, just to remind everyone how powerful I am, I would blow up one world every year.

Aside from that, I’d also like to be remembered as an artist who told a story very well, visually. Good storytelling through pictures is the heart and soul of a good comic book artist. If that is what I’m remembered for, I’ll be very happy.

Although that emperor thing still sounds pretty frickin’ sweet.

HS: I hope I’ve got a lot more in me still, though. I have a couple screenplays that I’d really like to share with the world. One in particular, called “The Writers’ Room,” is something I’m determined to see filmed. It’s got a lot of the same themes from “Freshmen,” which is that you have to find the right people in life to understand you, and you can’t get beaten down by others. It’s taken me all of my life to understand that and feel better about myself, and if I can make some other people feel understood, or help them come to this conclusion on their own, then I guess I’ll have done some good.

SG: I hope I’m not remembered as the guy Hugh hurt.

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