Mark Waid & Joe Infurnari Talk "Jersey Gods"

I've known of Glen Brunswick's work for a while now and have been a fan, so when he asked me to come aboard his and Dan McDaid's new Image Comics series "Jersey Gods" with some backup stories, I didn't hesitate. One reason was that I liked the characters and the setup- - the Kirbyesque friction between the world of gods and the world of ordinary men is rife with potential. Another reason was that it's fun to rise to the challenge of telling, in six short pages, complete stories with a beginning, a middle and an end--not many places left in comics to stretch those muscles.

And when Glen showed me the work of Joe Infurnari, it was all engines go.

MARK WAID: Joe--you draw pretty damn well for someone that the mainstream isn't too familiar with. Let's fix that last part. How'd you start drawing comics and what appeals to you about the gig?

JOE INFURNARI: My good friend Jason Robert Bell asked me to develop a story idea for an anthology ("Caveman Robot Mega-Annual 2004") and I jumped at the opportunity. Comics had already been a strong influence in my painting and drawing so this was a fun challenge to do real sequential art. Those pages somehow landed me a spot as finalist for Comic Book Resources' COMIC BOOK IDOL 2. Although I didn't go far in the competition, it gave me pause and I started to think that maybe this was something that I should pursue.

I may not be well known, but I can't say that the comics industry hasn't embraced my work. I've been honored with winning the 2005 Oni Press Talent Search, an Eisner nomination for "The Process," an invitation to join the prestigious online collective, Act-i-vate (www.act-i-vate.com) and much more. One thing I'm really excited about is my recent Marvel short story for the recently announced "Uncanny X-Men First Class!"

Besides all of that, it's wonderful to be doing what I love. The appeal for me is the alchemy that takes place when drawing and art bring to life a story that existed only as words and ideas. How cool is that!?

MW: How'd you get hooked up with Glen?

JI: Glen approached my studiomate Dean Haspiel about doing these backup stories for "Jersey Gods." Dean was unable to work it into his schedule so he was generous enough to recommend me to Glen for the job. Glen took a look at some samples and after doing a pinup (now available in issue #2), I had the job!

MW: Am I giving you enough flexibility and freedom with these scripts?

JI: Well, let me see. For the first script, I added a panel to draw out a moment and it seemed to slip past you at the layout, pencil and inking stages. When it came to doing the second script, I was emboldened enough to add a few insert panels here and there. Those seemed to get past you, too! The way I see things going, I pretty much have carte blanche to do whatever I want. Here's an exclusive scoop: readers can expect to see Pirate Clown Centaurs invade the Jersey Gods Universe by part three! Part four!? The sky's the limit!

In all seriousness, the scripts have afforded me a lot of room to play. I get the pleasure of imagining and creating a lot of characters to populate this world and within that there is a fair amount of breadth. There are drunken pretty girls, titanic monsters and a host of Kirby-style heroes that I have had the pleasure of bringing to life. That also touches on another great thing about these scripts, their wonderful blend of supercharged action, humor and intergenerational family drama! They are a lot of fun.

MW: What are the challenges to cramming a world's worth of information into six-page installments?

JI: I was going to ask you the same thing! Your scripts are very efficient without lots of caption boxes or pages crammed with panels. I think there's a really nice, fast, breezy flow to them and I have been definitely caught up in that in drawing them. I can't remember the last time I had so much fun illustrating a story as I did doing this first installment.

Having this story set 10,000 years ago means I get to illustrate Neboron while it still exists as a planet. That probably sounds more daunting than it actually is. Since there is such a time difference between the primary narrative and this one, I have a fair amount of freedom with the environments and architecture and that makes it fun. The challenge is being sensitive to the world that Glen and Dan are creating while trying to create a story that is visually distinct in a way that conveys it's setting in the distant past. It's been important to me that the two stories complement each other visually.

MW: What characters, moments or specific drawings are you digging the most?

JI: I like most of the characters all for different reasons. Titanius is great because he's got that wonderful helmet that shades his eyes at key dramatic moments. He's also got that furry cape and beard to add interesting textures and dramatic flourishes. He's a very imposing and powerful character.

Avidus, on the other hand, is hilarious. He's all squishy, lascivious and drunk but I also get to draw him in a sobering moment, too.

Of course there's the action sequences with tons of creatures, heroes and explosions. That's always fun.

MW: Have you been in direct contact with McDaid?

JI: I remembered Dan's work from his submissions for COMIC BOOK IDOL 3. As many readers already know, Dan killed in that competition and so I was already a fan when I met him and Glen at this year's New York Comic Con. Dan's a great guy and he's been more than generous with character sketches, technical info and praise throughout this project. As far as I can tell, Dan is a force of nature, churning out his signature dynamic art with incredible speed and proficiency. Knowing I have to follow him in the book has forced me to raise my game just to keep up!

MW: Your storytelling skills are great. What the hell do you need me for?

JI: Thanks, Mark! Yeah, I've often asked myself that. I don't know. Working with an acclaimed veteran comics writer has its perks. I guess. What might make it worthwhile is if you could sign my copy of "Kingdom Come?"

Just kidding! Keep them awesome scripts coming, Mark!

"Jersey Gods" #3 goes on sale in April from Image Comics.

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