Talking Comics with Tim: James Turner

Earlier this year, James Turner was one of the first creators to see his work (Warlord of IO) not to be published due to Diamond's increased order threshold for publishers policy. But in announcing that the miniseries would not be published, SLG instead chose to make the Warlord of IO miniseries be available for download (as noted back in May). The series, described by SLG as galactic politics, most recently released its third issue. I wanted to see how having one's work available for download instead of being published (and the PR surrounding this business decision) benefited and/or affected Turner, thus this email interview.

Tim O'Shea: Understandably it could not have been fun to be the poster child for Diamond's change in policy, but did the series benefit somewhat by an increased profile and getting more folks to be aware of your work?

James Turner: It was definitely the best possible moment to be canceled. I have always been known for my timing. The publicity certainly didn't hurt, even if It didn't help much with sales of the digital version. It may with the full GN. Who knows? You just gotta keep on truckin'.

One thing about the whole affair that's rather funny is that after Rex was canceled, I decided it would be wise to do a series that appealed to a larger audience. Something more mainstream, more accessible, and easier to read. I knew it was a tough challenge to launch a new series and I wanted to have the best chance possible of creating an ongoing work. I had two ideas in the works: Warlord of Io and Hell Lost. Warlord of Io, as a sci-fi comedy adventure, seemed to have longer legs and broader appeal than the more esoteric and possibly controversial Hell Lost, so that's the one I went with. Of course it pancaked into the pavement before the first official issue came out. There's a lesson in there somewhere but I haven't figured it out yet. It may be that I just need to harness the astonishing power of boobs more.

O'Shea: The original plan was for the project to be "perhaps 4 or 5 issues, depending"--with the online distribution approach, what is the plan at present?

Turner: The issue break down went out the window with the cancellation. Now I'm just aiming for about 180 pages. Coincidentally this is almost exactly 5 issues...

O'Shea: Sorry if you get this question too much, but how did you decide to create a comic in a vector graphics program? Creatively what benefits do you gain opting to go that route?

Turner: I do my illustration work in a vector graphic program, so when I decided to do a graphic novel (Nil: A Land Beyond Belief), it was the natural choice. An extension of my work (www.jtillustration.com) rather than a completely new direction. I may do something hand drawn eventually, but it will likely only be distributed digitally. I do have some hand done stuff decorating my Hermeneutic Press site, as well as Fridge Chess set I designed, a fetus bouncer, and characters I did in college (Grasshead, Argwhon, and Hyperfax). Not all in good taste, I'm afraid.

O'Shea: Where did you first develop your love of maps as part of your storytelling (such as this one)? And I have to ask, when Google first developed its Maps and Earth applications, how giddy were you?

Turner: I've always loved maps. I remember reading Lord of the Rings when I was a kid and my grandfather giving me a LOTR calendar painted by the Hildebrandt brothers. The centre piece was a map of Middle Earth in full colour and wonderfully detailed.

I'm afraid I wasn't very up on Google when they came out with their maps.

O'Shea: Your comedic sense shows in your work, and that makes me wonder--who makes you laugh?

Turner: A lot of the usual suspects: Douglas Adams, Monty Python, Steve Martin, the old (really old?) Mad Magazine, The Tick, South Park, Peter Sellers, Airplane!, Stephen Leacock, and lots more I can't remember off the top of my head. Depends on my mood, I suppose. Sometimes a joke or scene can be hilarious. Later, I wonder why I thought it was funny, until my mood changes and it's funny again.

O'Shea: If there was a soundtrack to WOI, given that the lead character is an aspiring rock star--is there anyone in the present day musically that would sound like what is considered rock music in the year 2853?

Turner: Rage Against the Machine. I like the idea of marrying their sound and revolutionary rhetoric with a privileged imperialist who inherits an empire. I'd love for them do a soundtrack for WOI, but they seem disinclined to get back together and make a new album. Drat.

O'Shea: What, if any, adjustments did you have to make to the visual layout of your story to work on the Comixology platform?

Turner: None whatsoever. They do all the legwork. It's wonderful. I hope they're willing to put Nil: A Land Beyond Belief up. I think it'd look spiffy on the iPhone.

O'Shea: Creatively, do you have any upcoming projects (or other aspects of WOI) that you'd like to discuss?

Turner: Hmm. Mostly just working on completing WOI, which I haven't had the chance to work on much lately. I've got about 130 pages done, and maybe another 50 to go, depending on how carried away I get. I don't have to mind my page count quite as much when it isn't coming out as printed floppies. I can also do more back and forth editing, such as going back into the earlier pages and putting in 3-D modelled space ships. I think they fit in pretty well with the overall look. They're very simple looking, kind of a combination between retro-future rocketships and WWII battleships. Only cuter.

I've been debating with myself (a sign of insanity no doubt) whether or not to include the 'commentary track' (solar encyclopedia) at the bottom of the pages. It usually generates very polarized reactions (it did in Rex Libris), and this time is no different. It's not something people have to read on the first go through. It can be safely skipped; it's there to provide more detail for those who want it and have nothing else about to read about while eating their cereal.

Readers feel obligated to read everything, so it can put off the flow of the book if they read the track. I'm thinking I'll put a warning panel in the beginning of the trade notifying people they don't have to read the dang thing if I do keep it in. It's a little call out to Isaac Asimov's Galactic Encyclopedia entries in the Foundation series.

I've given a bit of thought to doing some kind of online page-a-day comic, but not sure if I'm up for the commitment. It certainly seems to be the way to go.

The latest issue of WOI can be found here.

It features a spectacular space battle mixed with personal arguments, and reveals the kind of tactics needed to survive in 2853.

O'Shea: If there's anything about the project you'd like to discuss that I neglected to ask you about, please feel free to make suggestions.

Turner: I'm looking at promoting the series online more, through the website, the downloads, banners, and with some video promotions on Youtube. They (the YouTube videos) can be seen here and here.

And here's some of the banners I've got so far (banners one, two and three).

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