Reflections, Volume 2 Number 9
Joshua Ortega is one of those up-and-coming comic writers who you may not have heard of yet, but will hear from in the very near future. His work on the excellent "Necromancer" for Top Cow put him on that list, and now, even though a fractured release schedule has caused the book to be cancelled, Ortega remains hopeful about his upcoming project in the business and took a few minutes to sit down and talk about the possibility of saving "Necromancer," losing another new book to publisher troubles, and more.
Robert Taylor: Hey Joshua, how's life?
Joshua Ortega: Going good, Robert, thanks.
RT: You are welcome.
JO: I'm keeping real busy, but having a lot of fun. I'm currently working on projects for Dark Horse, Lucasfilm, Microsoft Game Studios, Tokyopop, DC Comics, Top Cow, and Platinum Studios, plus I have a few new pitches in at Marvel, Dynamic Forces, and Vertigo...so I'm keeping real busy, but in a good way!
RT: To begin with, you had just started writing "Beowulf" for Speakeasy, but with that publisher closing its doors, things have changed rather dramatically haven't they?
JO: Yeah, Considering that Speakeasy Comics has closed up shop and I have no guarantee that more than one issue, number seven, will be coming out, there's really no point in hyping something that may not last more than an issue!
RT: But what an issue it is!
JO: True. Issue seven did ship to stores this month, and it'll probably be the most collectible comic I ever write, in terms of scarcity anyway.
"Beowulf" is a wild, hallucinogenic trip through modern-day America with the epic hero of legend as your guide. The book features some great artwork by Jim Mahfood, Atilla Adorjany, and Jeff Lemire, plus a cool backup story, "Fallout," drawn by the talented Dean Haspiel, who has drawn "American Splendor" and "The Quitter" and written by Vito Delsante.
The feedback on the issue has been great, so it's too bad people won't be able to read my full six-issue run on the book...but hey, that's the biz.
So fans of my work and collectors of all things rare: make sure to check out "Beowulf" while you still can!
RT: Moving onto another comic that won't be sticking around much longer, "Necromancer" started off very strong. Now, four issues later, we learn it's cancelled with issue 6. What happened?
JO: Yeah, "Necromancer" has received some amazing reviews from critics, and the reader response has been fantastic as well. As far as why "Necromancer Volume 1" is ending with issue 6? It's a combination of things, actually.
First, as many have said before, it's generally just a tough time in the industry right now if you're doing a book aimed at the mainstream comic buyer and the cover doesn't say Marvel or DC on it.
It's also a tough time to put out a Top Cow book. Though former Top Cow Editor-In-Chief Jim McLauchlin really did a nice job at bringing in some quality titles to the line, like "Freshmen," "Common Grounds," a much-improved "Witchblade," and more.
RT: These are the books that made me start reading Top Cow in the first place.
JO: Yes, but many mainstream comic buyers had been burned by previous Top Cow offerings so they didn't want to check out the new stuff. Completely understandable, but it made it tough for a book like "Necromancer" to not be judged by its imprint.
Second, I think a new title by the Cow or any other non-NY publisher needs time to grow and develop its fanbase, but it's hard for a lot of smaller publishers to stick it out for 12 issues or more. This then leads to retailers under-ordering a Top Cow book because they know they rarely last past six issues, and then the Cow will cancel the book early based on those pre-orders...kind of a Catch-22 type of situation.
Someone has to break the cycle, and it's probably not gonna be the retailers.
RT: But aside from all that, "Necromancer" did start out strong before three month gaps started to happen between issues.
JO: Third, shipping on time never hurts!
RT: I know you are a big fan of long-term planning on books. Do you feel like you've said what you wanted to say with the book?
JO: Yeah, overall, I think we did a real nice origin story for Abby, and she's now a solid character for Top Cow to add to their stable, plus the character and concept have some fantastic multimedia possibilities, some of which are already being pursued by the Cow and Platinum Studios.
Francis Manapul also produced the most amazing work of his career on this book, so I think when people see all of the issues collected, read the story in one burst, they'll really be able to see all of the cool things we've been doing on "Necromancer."
I think it's a book that people will only appreciate more and more as time goes on and that's the beauty of the trade collections...they really allow a book to have a whole new life, and reach a whole new audience.
RT: You've said before that you've plotted out at least 50 issues. Any hints as to what we might have seen?
JO: I'd actually be willing to give more hints about the future if we weren't already talking about a NECROMANCER Vol. 2 relaunch!
Top Cow editorial has mentioned that they'd like to follow a "Runaways"-like model with "Necromancer"-relaunch a second series after the trade is released and has gotten a chance to get out there-and if that's the case, I'm definitely down for telling the rest of Abby's story...it's an epic tale and I've promised Marc Silvestri that I'd finish the story for them when they're ready.
It's a great title to write, so I'll be looking forward to getting back into Abby's world at some point in the near future!
RT: So there is some chance of saving the book then…
JO: Yeah, if you enjoy "Necromancer," now's the time to tell your friends about the book, post on the message boards, buy a copy for a friend, whatever. If the Cow sees a jump in sales on #5 or #6, as well as the trade collection, then that'll solidify their decision to relaunch "Necromancer" as a new series.
So feel free to start telling retailers and fellow readers how much you enjoy "Necromancer"...there's nothing better than word-of-mouth buzz!
Plus, Francis and I both have some very high-profile projects coming out in the next year or two and those projects will undoubtedly funnel a lot of readers back into "Necromancer," since readers of the Big Two will wonder, "What did these guys do before they were at Marvel or DC?"
RT: Any hints about what those are?
RT: Not even a little one?
JO: Well, okay. I'm working on (CENSORED).
RT: Wow, that's amazing. I can't wait to read what you do with (CENSORED)! Moving on to something we can talk about, what's up with you writing "Star Trek?"
JO: I'll be contributing a story, "Anything But Alone," to the upcoming "Star Trek: The Original Series" graphic novel. It'll be published by Tokyopop and it'll be released in September to coincide with the Original Series' 40th Anniversary...it should be a great book, and I'm really looking forward to seeing it in print!
RT: Any more "Star Trek" projects coming up?
JO: It won't be a monthly, but Tokyopop will doing other "Trek" graphic novels in the near future. I may be writing one of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" stories, but we're still a ways away from any official announcements on the new projects.
RT: How big of a Trekkie are you?
JO: I probably wouldn't qualify as a Trekkie...just a fan!
RT: Favorite series?
JO: The Original, hands-down.
RT: Least favorite series?
JO: I really don't dislike any of them...I suppose "Enterprise" is the one I've seen the least of, though.
RT: Favorite movie?
RT: Least favorite movie?
JO: "Nemesis"...when Picard started shooting creatures from the back of that ATV vehicle like he was a Marine gunner, I knew it was time for the franchise to take a rest for a bit...
RT: Okay, based on the above I think we can say you aren't just a fan, you are a full-out Trekkie! What do you want to bring to the universe and what characters will you be dealing with?
JO: Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are the focus, and I'd like to bring an intriguing, entertaining story with classic themes and one that also manages to spring a few surprises on the reader. I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel with this story. "Star Trek" already rolls along just fine, so I'd like to recapture some of that magic that I felt when I first watched the show.
RT: How's the sequel to your novel "Frequencies" coming along?
JO: Excellent, thanks. I'm actually talking with a few different publishers right now about it, so I should have more news on "Vibrations" soon. I'd like to do some innovative things with the book, so it's going to require a publisher who's ready to try something new.
RT: What is your favorite comic book of all time?
JO: Those early "Silver Surfer" issues would be right up there, along with "Sandman," the Sci-Fi and horror EC Comics, "Watchmen," and "Maus." What can I say? I like the classics!
RT: If you could only write one book for the rest of your career, what would it be?
JO: That's a tough one. Even if it was only one title, I'd still strive for some diversity, so I'd say either a relaunch of the old "Twilight Zone" comics or a "What If?" or "Elseworlds" ongoing series. That way, I'd still be able to work with different characters and genres.
RT: What's the best comic book movie ever made?
JO: So far, I'd say "X2," but I think "Superman Returns" may end up being the best one of them all.
However, I think the best superhero movie ever made is "The Incredibles." That movie is perfect in every way.
RT: If you were remembered for only one thing in your career, what would you want it to be?
JO: As a writer whose work inspired others. If my work was remembered as art that moved people - whether that means it made them smile, made them angry, shocked them or inspired them, showed them something new or reminded them of an experience or emotion that they'd forgotten - then I'd say I did my job as a writer and an artist.