REFLECTIONS: Paul Jenkins, Part 1


Paul Jenkins was my first interview.

Paul Jenkins is still one of, if not my all-time, favorite interview.

Everyone knows who Jenkins is, of course. He's had a classic run on "Spider-Man," written "Wolverine: Origin" and "The End," created The Sentry and done many smaller projects that redefine the comic medium he is working in, most notably the amazing "Revelations" and "Sidekick." He takes his time with storytelling, takes the road less traveled more often than not and creates very real and dimensional characters that you don't get elsewhere.

Of course those things bring out the Internet trolls en masse to attack Jenkins' work. Jenkins is always frank and honest about that reaction to his work, but the surprising thing to me is that these attacks have never jaded him. He still loves the fans just as much as ever and will go out of his way to share a joke or a game of pool with them.

That's why I love interviewing him so much. He's not just a great talent, but a great guy as well.

The interview will be split into two, the first part focusing on Jenkins' work on his creator-owned "Sidekick" and "Front Line," with more comics and talk of his burgeoning movie career next week.

A little background on the publishing history of "Sidekick" for those unaware: After publishing the first four issues of the first initial "Sidekick" miniseries through Desperado Publishing & Image Comics, there was a huge publishing gap between the fourth and fifth issue that Jenkins got much of the blame for. A new two-issue "Super Summer Sidekick Spectacular" has just begun publication, this time through 12 Gauge Comics & Image Comics, so the references to issue five below are about the first miniseries and the references to issue one are the first issue of the new miniseries.

"Super Summer Sidekick Spectacular" #1

Robert Taylor: Paul! How's life?

Paul Jenkins: Pretty amazing right now.

RT: How's the baby? Well, he's not really a baby anymore, is he?

PJ: He's 17 months now. We are having as much fun as anyone could have with their kid right now. It's brilliant.

He laughs all the time, so even though he is teething right now and in pain, he is laughing at the pain.

RT: He can take the pain and transfer it into writing at some point, right?

PJ: I think he will.

RT: And Marvel has already contracted him for his first "Sentry" miniseries.

PJ: That's right.

RT: I loved the first issue of the "Super Summer Sidekick Spectacular." We are going to see the second issue before Christmas, right?

PJ: There is definitely one thing that needs to be put forward here.

Chris and I have every right to be upset about this situation. We finished our work (on the first miniseries) months ago. The rest of it is up to people to decide. But I'm a little frustrated taking the brunt of it all. I feel bad for Kevin Gardner, the publisher at 12 Gauge Comics, because his sales on the first issue (of the "Super Summer Sidekick Spectacular") were greatly affected by the lateness of issue #5. And it had absolutely nothing to do with the creation of the material.

What happens is that the creators are always put in a position where we should "take the high road." And I understand that, and we are put under pressure not to say anything publicly, but then we are put in the public. So basically people are free to speculate about us and say that I was too busy to finish the issue because I'm into films now and don't care about comics, which I've read a couple places. I'm infuriated to read that when Chris and I were finished so long ago with the material.

It took Kevin Gardner to the point where he had to intentionally put out the "Summer Special" a month late because he didn't want it to come out before the fifth issue. He could have put the collected edition out before the fifth issue, and that is very frustrating to us. It's not fair to us, but that is what people must do sometimes.

RT: I remember last summer when I interviewed you for Wizard and you guys were doing that sweepstakes for a reader to get into the fifth issue and you needed it to be done immediately because you were literally about to start work on the fifth issue.

PJ: That's right. Did you see the collected edition yet?

RT: Not yet.

PJ: We got a chance to do the shout-out page, where we showed everyone who entered the competition, and we basically ragged on every single fan. [laughs]

RT: Normally in comedy series that are more than one or two issues, the comedy starts to lag in later issues, but "Sidekick" got progressively funnier as it went along.

PJ: One of the things that we thought was really fun was to use The Council of American Superheroes, and we used all of these really stupid heroes and, low and behold, Chris draws a few and then we couldn't stop. Some of them were absolute crap, but it was fantastic.

Chris and I had been doing one of the books when golf was on, and every time someone was playing Chris would say, "Oh, Captain Fuck Up!" And we thought that would be a great character.

It's too much fun and the stuff almost makes itself because it is so goofy.

RT: Turning the main character into a bee hero in the summer special was hilarious!

PJ: It was an animal that no hero had really been before.

I also loved how everyone was talking about his "aunt" in airquotes the entire time, and then he gets there and she is a guy. [laughs]

RT: And what's coming up in the next issue?

PJ: You get to find out who makes the cut and there is a great scene where they do the final four and they have to do their trials. Mr. Excellent's trial, without giving too much away, seems more like a way to extract as much money from the candidates as possible.

RT: Are you a big fan of any trashy reality shows?

PJ: Oh no. The only reality show I've ever seen that I'm a fan of is "The Bachelor." It's so painfully, brilliantly bad.

RT: I feel the same way about "Hell's Kitchen." I know I should stop but I can't.

PJ: I'll walk by the TV when my wife has on "So You Think You Can Dance" and think that the contestants are actually really good at what they do. It's kind of cool.

Other than that, I fucking hate reality television.

RT: Is another "Sidekick" miniseries planned? Perhaps an ongoing?

PJ: It will never be an ongoing because of my schedule.

Chris has got a story that he came up with that is really fun. It has to do with Eddie and a kung-fu mentor. If he keeps this up I'm going to let him do a series and, you know how it says "Paul Jenkins' Sidekick" at the top, we'll cross it out and put "Chris Moreno's Sidekick" instead. [laughs]

RT: How much of any given issue is you and how much is Chris?

PJ: It's a collaborative thing. It's all me and Chris. I find that the artists I do well with are the people I have a real laugh with.

One thing that is pretty amazing to behold is Chris and I flogging copies of "Sidekick" at conventions. We have this ongoing fun fest where we actually sell copies of "Sidekick" to people we think would never buy a copy. In the history of us doing this, we are at something like 520 and 3. Only three people have rejected us!

We have so much fun when we do it. He plays the straight guy. We do a spiel where I go "You sir seem like a likely candidate for 'Sidekick'!" And he'll say he's not. And then we go "We'd love to explain to you the benefits of owning your own copy." We go into something like "It makes a handy radiation shield!" or "It stays crunchy in milk" or, one of my favorites is "Buying a copy of 'Sidekick' is much more advantageous than buying a new car. If you buy a new car, it's going to be much more expensive and when you drive it off the lot and crash it, it will be damaged greatly and you will probably be hurt. On the other hand, if you buy a new copy of 'Sidekick' and run into a wall, damage to the comic would be minimal and only cost you three bucks, and you wouldn't be as badly hurt."

People think that is funny as hell, and buy a copy.

RT: If I'm ever at a convention with you guys, you can totally use me as a plant.

PJ: With all due respect, I don't think we need you as a plant! [laughs]

When we are at conventions and get a sale on number one, Chris and I look at each other and say "He'll be back." And lo and behold, they come back and buy all the other issues because they love them so much. It's one of the most successful reads I've ever created.

RT: It's lightning in a bottle. And I love how you are poking fun at superheroes, but not in a nasty way.

PJ: We are doing this old riff on Superman being responsible for so much property damage, like smashing $70 million worth of property to save a cat from a tree!

I love reading those types of comics, but comic readers take it so seriously sometimes. But I've never seen someone attack "Sidekick" because they don't think it's enough fun, which is amazingly cool.

RT: Are you ever writing a serious superhero comic and realize the hero's predicament would be perfect in "Sidekick?"

PJ: I've got this old book that has a bunch of stuff that I didn't do in "Spider-Man" that I'm now bringing out.

In the back of "Front Line," Chris and I are doing little backup stories making fun of the event and our favorite is Captain Rectitude. Who was the crack smoker who made this up!? I mean, I've done Typeface so I can't talk [laughs], but Chris and I have done this massive revival of him, and we just keep killing him.

RT: It's this miniseries' Speedball.

PJ: It's basically like that.

RT: I actually like this "Frontline" better than the first. It seems like you are having more fun and are more comfortable with the characters and event.

PJ: All characters take awhile to get used to. I like it, and feel that we have found a stride because we can tie into as much as we want to, but the main thing we do is comment on it.

We found our metaphor. This is a metaphor for Katrina.

When I go to conventions, the difference between a convention fan and an internet poster is that the poster is more likely to say something negative about anything. My wife was very upset one day because she was reading through these posts of anger about something in "Front Line." I told her to do a search on Bendis, and if you read the stuff, you would think that Brian is the most hated man in the universe. But we all know that he is not. He has a massive audience and does really good work.

I recently read a post that was as amusing as it gets. It had to do with my appearance at Chicago where I played pool against fans for charity. You would figure someone would applaud it and say I put a lot of effort into it, right? But the only post I saw was a guy that said that it is good to know that Paul Jenkins' ability at pool is directly proportionate to his suckiness as a writer. I don't even know what that was! It takes some effort to say something that unpleasant.

What's actually happening is that there is less scrutiny now, so when I make a parallel, I have five times less people yelling at me because it got made. It was very frustrating to see people yelling about the Japanese internment camp story we did that was historically valid and accurate because they just said we got it wrong. What morons!

RT: What I'm loving right now about "Front Line" - and I say this speaking as someone who is about to graduate from a Newspaper Journalism program at Kent State - what your characters are doing is what we are taught to do for four years, which is to look at the story from new angles.

PJ: This is always the source of frustration for us if we chose to listen to the online community. There was one poster whose screen name was, basically, Iamaneditor. He has made post after post on how I'd gotten it all wrong.

I didn't even know what to say. Sally Floyd is a pretty bad reporter, just so you know. She's supposed to be. If someone is going to piss and moan that my description of what reporters do isn't as strong as what it should be, you need to sit back and have fun with the book! She's an alcoholic, for pete's sake, she's not supposed to be a perfect human being.

I talked with Bendis about this in San Diego and what he told me is that the character is pretty good. People are paying attention, and the characters do mean something. The character has meaning.

We've got something coming out in issue #5, and it's "Ten Reasons We Hate Sally Floyd."

RT: Oh, that's good. [laughs]

How are you liking "World War Hulk," by the way?

PJ: It's really good. I feel like we've had two very interesting events full of substance.

RT: I love it. I think it had the perfect mix of storytelling and characterization that this type of event needs, but it also has bunches of fights that action fans love too.

PJ: And if you look back at Greg Pak's earlier work, that's what you would find there, too. His "Planet Hulk" was great. The battle, the intrigues and the space soap opera, so I'm sure the internet fans hate it! [laughs]

Next Week: Paul on his film career, the trials and tribulations of Hollywood, the final chapter in his Wolverine trilogy, and more Sentry. It's gonna be big!

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