REFLECTIONS: Talking with Paul Jenkins

Reflections, Volume 2, Number 13

Oh dear.

Back when I first started the first volume of this column, I thought it was cursed. One out of three creators I interviewed got sick before, during or directly after the interview. Ear infections, vomiting whilst on the phone with me, "the spins," temporary blindness, green flem and more were almost a weekly occurrence for me.

I thought I had that curse beat when I moved to Comic Book Resources.

However, my recent in-depth with Paul Jenkins, the guy behind "The Sentry," "Sidekicks," "Generation M," "Civil War: Front Line," and the excellent "Revelations" miniseries, I found out that a tornado wreaked havoc in his life just after he agreed to doing the interview. Way back when I did my first interview with Paul, he found out he needed knee surgery just before doing the interview. Oh crap…

Has the curse returned?

Perhaps I should start interviewing creators I don't like, just in case. I mean, I don't want my favorite artists going blind, or my favorite writers loosing fingers again!

I've split the interview I did with Paul in to two parts. This week the interview will be concentrating more on his current body of work, while next week gets personal (with a chaser where he discusses "Sidekicks").

Plus, if he gets hit by a bus between now and then because of the curse, I'll get one heck of a lot of publicity for a posthumous interview, right? Let's all hope that doesn't transpire.

Robert Taylor: How's life?

Paul Jenkins: Life is good. I have loads of interesting things going on. Plus we have this new baby.

RT: And what a cute baby he is.

PJ: He's not bad. We're gonna keep him on the trial period for a few more weeks.

RT: I would hope so! OK, switching from babies to comics, are you satisfied with what you've done on "The Sentry?"

PJ: When the miniseries began coming out, people started asking me about doing an ongoing. I like the character very much and think he's got some legs, so I'd like to do the ongoing series very much. I think there is plenty of stuff I can work with within the Marvel universe.

RT: How'd you like working with John Romita?

PJ: Johnny is really brilliant. We worked together on "The Hulk" before and he's such a really good "big" actiony storyteller. But people underestimate John's ability to tell a story in the small moments as well. People don't recognize that kind of thing, though. People react to John as a "big" artist. He's done Spider-Man and The Hulk, but here he is doing the Sentry and doing it wonderfully. People complain that it's going to be Johnny, but in the end, who else would it be?

RT: Let's talk about Senty's role in "New Avengers." Are you happy with the way it's being integrated into the main story? And how did you like your cameo?

PJ: I'm really happy with what Brian [Bendis] does, no matter what he's doing, because he's such a good writer. The cameo thing was funny. I almost gave myself a cameo in the last issue of the miniseries: The Void imagined there was a comic book writer living somewhere in Atlanta who was coming around and the Void was going to have to take care of it.

The buzzword seems to be decompression these days. I didn't even know what it was until I started reading a few posts about it, but apparently he does it and I do it.

If you think "The Sentry" is decompressed, you are crazy! We put tons of new concepts every time you turn the page. Brian might disagree but he's doing some really solid stuff without decompression over on "New Avengers."

If readers want it any quicker, it would be like a fast food restaurant.

RT: I think a lot of it is that fans mistake decompression for characterization: They think the writer is just being lazy and writing pages of dialogue when it's actually essential to the story.

PJ: Oh my God, yes! But doing pages of dialogue is really hard! You have to be pretty bold to do a story where people just walk through a mall and talk to set up the action stuff that comes up later.

RT: How are you enjoying your exclusivity to Marvel?

PJ: It's pretty damned good for me, isn't it? Obviously, I did it with Marvel instead of DC because I haven't been doing as much work for DC lately. I've had a lot of good success with Marvel lately. Basically, it meant nothing that I chose Marvel over DC, I just needed to do an exclusive because I had a little baby coming and needed security for the next three years. But it's been working out great.

RT: What's up with "Civil War: Front Line" and why did you decide to do that instead of just continuing "The Pulse?"

PJ: You almost answered your own question there. "The Pulse" is a great book, but I think that when it was announced we were going to do "The Pulse," the "Civil War" idea was swirling around. So I took the idea of using some of the characters from "The Pulse" and using them in a way that never had been done before. Obviously it's a bigger type of story, plus it will obviously outsell "The Pulse."

And if it's popular enough, I can always go back and revisit those characters. I have hundreds of stories in my mind, and the great thing is that with books like this, I can pretty much do anything I want with any character I choose.

RT: Well, if you can use any character you want, which characters do you want to use?

PJ: Typeface is in there. He's been universally panned as one of the worst characters of all time. Solo and Thunderclap are in there, because they'll all be in the situation in one way or another.

RT: Do you miss working on a Spider-Man book?

PJ: Not really. I'm writing Spider-Man occasionally anyway and get to use him like that.

For the sake of being clear, there was a lot of discussion about whether or not I was being forced to write stories and plot developments. It wasn't really being forced. The original concept for "Spectacular Spider-Man" was to reexamine old-style stories and characters from new angles. The focus changed editorially in Marvel. I found myself writing for the trade and that wasn't fitting me.

They didn't tell me to write stories; they just asked me things like including organic web shooters. That was very different from the original concept of the book. I agreed with Joe that maybe I should move on from the book, but I got to write a couple of great single-issue stories before I moved on.

RT: Let's talk "Revelations."

PJ: I'm really happy with the way it turned out. That one got a lot of positive interest. That last issue wrapped up in a way people didn't expect.

People really thought it was a murder mystery. We set it up, then set it up some more, and it ends up being something similar, but not quite the same.

You try to do the unexpected with the ends of stories. Going back to "The Sentry." I began to see people writing what they wanted the end of the miniseries should be. And in doing that they were gearing up not to like it because I was going to do something different. That can be really frustrating.

And it was different. I didn't see a single person online guess it. Because those people didn't guess it they are pissed and I've seen some people complain about it.

There's a little frustration when you write something you know is good, but you see people gearing themselves up to hate it, for some reason.

"Revelations" was a quiet story that ended with a bang whereas "The Sentry" was a madcap story that didn't end with a massive bang but a logical conclusion.

If it was the Watcher or Galactus showed up, where could you go from there? You can't go anywhere from there because you have a massive object in the way.

Next Week: Jenkins on "Sidekicks," the books that changed his life, his family, and much more!

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