While e-mail and text messaging may be the new communication crazes sweeping the world, the idea of the postcard still carries quite a powerful nostalgic power for those familiar with these bite sized messages. Many of us imagine epic loves kept alive during wartimes through these carefully worded messages, and some know postcards as their first indication that their family members might just be vacationing in Florida. No matter what memories first surface when you see a postcard, there's no denying the mystique these little pieces of history have acquired over time. With that in mind, Jason Rodriguez has collected a unique assortment of postcards, added in some acclaimed creators, and assembled a 168-page hardcover anthology entitled "Postcards," set to debut in 2007, as a self-published original graphic novel. Rodriguez took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss "Postcards" with CBR News and answered the first question on the mind of people who have seen the book's gorgeous art: what's "Postcards" all about?
"'Postcards' is a book about the pieces of our lives we leave behind - these little mysteries that strangers stumble upon," Rodriguez told CBR News. "For this project, we'll be dealing with actual postcards that were sent out during the early 20th century. People writing home to mom from the warfront, talks of quarantines, secret admirers, and updates on sick mothers accompanied with birthday wishes. The creators involved with 'Postcards' have been assigned to create the story behind a card of my choice. They have to tell what they believe happened."
While Rodriguez isn't going to reveal all 16 creative teams involved with the anthology quite yet, he is happy to reveal a few of the major players who will bring their gravitas and skill to the project. "Phil Hester, for instance, was one of the first guys to sign on. Pitched him the concept and got an 'I'm in' rather quickly. He'll be writing and illustrating a rather dark tale of motherly love - gave me chills the first time I read it.
"Tom Beland from the Eisner nominated 'True Story, Swear To God' will be lending his talents to the book, as well, writing and illustrating a story about desire and perfection.
"And then we have Harvey Pekar and his wife, Joyce Brabner, who'll be teaming up with Matt Kindt. Staying true to Harvey's style, the couple wrote a story of their lives together, told through 'Postcards' they've received or sent out over the years. Harvey and Joyce first met over a postcard; they were perfect for this book."
If that list of names doesn't convince you that both recognizing and luring talent aren't Rodriguez's hidden mutant power, then you might at least be impressed by his ambition and persistence in assembling this team of creators. Like many successful editors, Rodriguez's ambition didn't allow him to wait for creators to come calling - he showed up at their front doors with flowers, wine, and anything else needed to assemble his dream team. "It was a pretty calculated process. I first went after friends of mine who are respected in the industry to give me a couple of creators to throw out with the pitch. Then it was on to folks I've worked with when I was editing 'Western Tales Of Terror' (like Phil Hester). With half the book filled, I started getting introduced to people and, in some cases, just writing emails to people off of their website. I wrote Tom Beland through his website and he called me back that day to talk it up some more - I've never spoken to him before. It turns out that the book is something people are willing to get behind. Made it an easier pitch. With 14 teams attached to the book I went for Harvey. My friend Chris Stevens hooked us up - Chris is the kind of guy who just finds ways to get in touch with people I'd never dream of approaching. He calls me on a Monday night, I was at a bar down here in DC, and tells me Harvey wants to talk to me. Couple of phone calls later and he's in the book."
The idea of using postcards purchased over the years as the framework for a story is definitely a unique storytelling concept, and one that came from a place of passion. And like many stories, it all starts with a woman, as Rodriguez explains, "I was out in Hershey, Pennsylvania with Robin, my girlfriend - took her to the spa out there for her birthday. She drags me to some antique store and I'm my usual grouchy self when she points out to me that some postcards she's looking at that have been written on.
"I'm curious, so I start rifling through these cards and the idea just jumped out at me. These are stories, you know? It may be only two sentences, but these two sentences are a window into someone's life. Someone who lived over a hundred years ago and, for all I know, left nothing behind except this one paragraph. I became obsessed with it - started going to antique stores and flea markets all over the East Coast looking for good stories for this book.
"The creators get a card - what they do with the card is up to them. They can tell the story leading up to it, what happens afterwards, or fast-forward twenty years into the future and catch up with the people behind the card. And we're getting all kinds of genres. Comedies, romances, adventures, mysteries - it's been a great experience so far seeing what folks see when they look at these cards."
For Rodriguez, self-publishing "Postcards" was a no-brainer, as it allowed him to fully embrace the ambition and passion that this project represents. Despite the volatile nature of the comic book market, he wasn't deterred and welcomed the potential obstacles. "I want to take some chances in the marketing of it and in order to do that; I need to make sure it's my book all the way through. Some of the things I want to do to sell this book - I don't see a lot of publishers taking these chances. A lot of publishers will say, "Pekar? We got the book market, let's roll with it." I know we have the book market. That's why I wanted Pekar. But I also want the antique market, you know? I want the American history crowd and the folks that collect postcards, but never bought a comic in their lives. I think in order to bring it to these people, I need to make sure there's no-one telling me that they won't buy it.
"The plan is to have it hit the shelves early next year. Depending on when New York Comic-Con is, I'd like to launch it there. I'd like to do a presale/digital distribution before the book goes to market just to drum up some reserve cash, as well, but even that won't be until January if I go through with it. There's some time left - which is fine because there's still plenty of creators to talk up and there'll soon be plenty of amazing artwork to tease with.
"I will also be acting as creative director and coeditor. I brought James Powell on the book to help me out - originally he was going to edit half of the book, but it's looking more like 75% of the book. I'm working primarily with the people I've worked with in the past and Harvey because, well, how often does someone get to work with Harvey?
"James is great though - he was the one who recommended Kindt for Harvey's story. I pitched about five artists to Harvey and Joyce and they instantly fell in love with Matt's work. James has a great eye for it, turns out.
"I'll also be writing a story as well. Co-writing it, really, with my cousin RJ. We honestly don't even know what we're doing yet. We're the only ones. James keeps writing me and saying, 'Hey, boss, I know you're paying for the book and all, but you're the only one without a story in.' It's embarrassing."
If you've never heard of Rodriguez before, we won't hold it against you, but don't assume that he's new to industry. He's made a name for himself with a variety of projects and "Postcards" represents the natural evolution of his craft. "I started out as submissions editor for 'Western Tales Of Terror,' eventually moved to editor - it was a great learning experience. Got to work with guys like Phil Hester, Stuart Moore, Tony Moore, Tom Mandrake, Scott Mills, Steven Niles - great talents that taught me a lot about the art form. Edited 'Elk's Run,' greatest comic of all time. Working with Josh, Noel, Scott, Datsun and Jaco on that has been amazing. I'll be re-teaming with Josh and Scott for the upcoming 'World's End.'
"I have a story in 'Western Tales Of Terror' #5 that I did with Marco Magallanes and a back-up story in 'Elk's Run' #2 that I did with Chris Fabulous and Paul Maybury. A back-up story for 'Redchapel' #1 with Jacob Warrenfeltz. Jacob also inked Chris Piers' pencils on a Poe-inspired short I did for the 'Shear Terror Anthology,' an 80-page oversized horror book where every story centers on a pair of a scissors. I'm currently working on a short about hip-hop's drastic 1988 change for an '80s anthology with Evan Keeling and I just had my first editorial meeting for a choose-your-own adventure style comic I'll be co-creating with various members of the DC Conspiracy, my local comic creator group.
"But if 'Postcards' takes off, and it will, I'm ready to focus on publishing. I've been having a great time and it's nice to have complete control over a project."
With the buzz already surrounding "Postcards," there's a good chance Rodriguez's wish may just come true. Stay tuned to CBR News for more on this project.
CBR Staff Writer Arune Singh contributed to this story.