Checking out "The Bod:" John Heebink Interview

[THE BOD!]This February, a new title from Image will debut. While #1s are hardly something new for Image, this title is a bit different. Image will premiere Double Image, an anthology title featuring "The Bod" by writer Larry Young and artist John Heebink and on the flip side, "Codeflesh" by writer Joe Casey and artist Charlie Adlard. The Bod's John Heebink had a few moments to sit down and talk about the series and what he's been up to lately.

WILL ALLRED: What can you reveal about "The Bod"?

JOHN HEEBINK: It's about a young actress, Kelly Gordon, who goes to Hollywood seeking fame. She has a chemical accident that renders her invisible. The story concerns how her invisibility affects her dream of fame. Larry Young, the writer, consciously avoided the typical comic-book non-sequitir of "I've been given great powers; I must fight crime!" On the other hand, Kelly doesn't turn into an id-driven monster, like Kevin Bacon in that unfortunate "Hollow Man" movie. Her responses and choices are those of a real person. I want everybody to know that this comic was created before that stupid film came out!

WA: How long will it run in Double Image?

JH: It will run for four issues.

WA: Who are the other members of "The Bod" team?

JH: Writer and letterer Larry Young, who writes Astronauts in Trouble. Our editor is Mimi Rosenheim, who's also part of AIT. I'm doing the penciling and coloring. Our cover inker is Walden Wong. Walden is fast and neat, a true pro.

The interiors are inked by Andy Kuhn, whose work you know from Freak Force, Action Planet Comics, and Marvel Adventures.

We're working Marvel-style, from a simple plot. It's really been a good experience, because Larry doesn't over-write, unlike most comics guys. So I haven't gotten any shocks from the balloon placements, or the sizes of them. He's doing the lettering too, and he does it with an eye toward keeping the story clear and not messing with the art. That's the sort of thing a penciller can't take for granted. Some letterers are just going through the professional motions, and aren't aware of when they might be harming the sense of the story.

It was pretty thrilling reading the first issue after it was lettered because of how Larry made the characters come alive. He'd read more richness and complexity in the expressions than I had really put there. He thought he was just responding to the way I'd drawn it. But there's this one turn in the story near the end of the first issue that actually thrilled me and made me a little misty-eyed when I read it with the dialogue in place.

That's synergy, baby! Pictures and words really DO work together, you know!

WA: Is this your first work with Image?

JH: Not precisely: the third issue of Action Planet Comics came out through Image a few years back. I was in there with my strip "Wrathbone and Bitchula."

WA: You mention "Wrathbone and Bitchula"…what other comics work have you done?

JH: Well, Marvel Comics' Quasar: I penciled issues 51-58 and 60. For Marvel, I also drew the last several issues of Nick Fury, who was my favorite Marvel character. Since then I've drawn the Power Rangers, Link Yaco's Space Chicks and Businessmen, Elvira, "Wrathbone and Bitchula" in Action Planet Comics, and several other things.

Before Quasar, I drew "Ned and Irma" comics and T-shirts for filter manufacturer Gelman Sciences, "MetaCops!" with writer Link Yaco, some horror comics for Hamilton and various oddball things.

WA: Seems like "The Bod" is squarely taking aim at sexism. Do you expect any backlash, especially in this age of the "Bad Girl"?

JH: There IS a feminist vibe there, under the surface. I'd say it's more concerned with the American dream of fame, which runs deeper and weirder through the culture all the time. There's a lot about the power of beauty, sex and celebrity.

I wouldn't expect any backlash; "The Bod" isn't preachy. And even though the main character is invisible through most of the story, she's still a tangible physical presence. I mean, her clothes certainly show. I think one of the reasons Larry chose me for this job is because I draw women well -- a lot better than I did back in my Quasar days.

But no one is going to mistake this for a bad-girl book. Even if Image were still interested in that kind of book -- and they're not -- I don't draw that style anyway.

WA: One last question, what's a typical workday like for you?

JH: I get to work about noon. My studio is half a block from my house! I share the space with Kieron Dwyer, Rick Remender and John Estes who are working on this amazing Flash cartoon for http://www.wildbrain.com called "Swing Town." I squander the first part of day with e-mail and Internet and then settle in at the board and work till about midnight. This place is really a beehive of activity--noisy, lively and funny, often with every available workspace taken up with assistants or interns. It's a mixed blessing--I kinda miss the old days of listening to NPR and conversation, back when we were all comic-book artists. Now my mates are recording and editing sound, and coordinating the work of several small art teams. Sometimes there's music I can't stand, like gangsta rap, and I have to veto it. Makes the average office look like a mausoleum.

I have a web site http://www.heebink.com. Currently it consists of links, on-line comics and one simple, looping animation. I'd recommend that anybody who enjoys Internet animation or wants to work in the field visit the site. The links are really helpful and can lead you to a lot of entertaining stuff. A lot of junk too. I'm assuming people will want to see all that's out there. I'm not shy with my opinions about which is which, either.

Last year I taught storyboarding at the Academy of Art here in town, and may again this year. I tried to use my web site to help students. That's why I have those Flash links. I want to animate "Wrathbone and Bitchula" for my site this year. Fans of fun, unpretentious comics will want to see http://www.actionplanet.com if they haven't already. That 's the original web home of Wrathy and Bitchula. You can also see Mike Manley's G.I.R.L. Patrol" there, and other cool stuff.

Pretty soon Mike or I will be putting up the first few pages from our proposed comics/animation project "Doll and Creature." Rick Remender writes it. His imagination and dialoguing are just as vivid on this gloomy, melodramatic material as they are on the funny stuff he's known for. Mike's inking my pencils and they look incredible--I can't think of more than four or five inkers in the business that could work on my stuff at near that level.

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