Once and a while a comic drops in my inbox that carries some distinct element that snags my interest. LP, by writer Curt Pires and artist Ramon Villalobos, focuses on the life of a musician named F and the LP he possesses, which has unique qualities -- far more unique than your average round piece of vinyl. The comic, which Pires is self-distributing, debuts Sept. 26 (it received a pre-release endorsement from guest Ed Brisson in this week's What Are You Reading?"). In anticipation of its release, Pires took some time to answer my questions regarding his new collaboration with Villalobos -- as well as to give me a chance to discuss music a smidge (something I always love to do).
Tim O'Shea: LP centers on a vinyl record (aka LP) -- could this story have ever worked for you if it had centered around a CD or an MP3 player?
Curt Pires: I definitely think this story only works on vinyl. There’s something romantic about vinyl — something tactile. Something that you don’t really get with CDs or MP3s. I think a lot of my thoughts as towards this are sort of folded into the story. Sometimes intentionally — other times maybe not so much.
Did you have the story already written when you teamed with Ramon Villalobos, or did you construct the story with his art style in mind?
I had the full script written by the time Ramon had hoped on board to draw the book. I was definitely looking for someone with a bit more of European clean line style to draw this book. I’m a huge fan of this style of art. So Ramon’s sort of Darrow/Grampa/Quitely-influenced style was perfect for this book.
Can you break down the collaborative effort between you and Villalobos? Are there aspects of the story that evolved beyond your original idea, thanks to his input?
Things definitely evolved due to Ramon. Even though I wrote a full script for the book, we decided pretty early on to be much more collaborative than that. If there were beats that needed to be added/subtracted to make the book flow better we would talk it out and figure out how we could change the page, what would elevate it, and I would tweak the dialogue for the pages afterwards.
It’s sort of a 50/50 hybrid of full script and Marvel style. I honestly couldn’t imagine working any other way with Ramon, because he’s such a strong storyteller.
In addition to Villalobos drawing the story, he also colored it. Did you give him free rein on coloring, or did you express a desire to set a certain tone with some scenes (when F is performing, there's a green hue to the pages for example)?
We talked pretty early on in regards to what we hoped to achieve color wise. We were both huge fans of the way John Higgins colored Watchmen with sort of that really dynamic yet almost flat style of coloring, so Ramon wanted to try his hand at channeling that. That sort of naturally evolved as Ramon started coloring the book and had this idea that each scene would have its own palette.
There's a meditation scene that nods to the George Harrison-written Beatles song, Within You Without You. That may be my favorite page in the story. What was your reaction when you first saw it?
I was blown away. That’s one of my favorite pages in the story, also. I think Ramon absolutely nailed the internal journey of the character meditating in that scene. It’s not just like he sits down and closes his eyes and everything he wants is his. There’s exploration , there’s depth, which was really important to me.
I also love the idea that people can load up the song and observe the page at the same time if they wish, and experience everything at once.
Another page references Jack Kirby, and I was curious how Kirby came to be mentioned?
That was a case of us deciding to add a beat to that page and make it a six panel grid. Nobody does six-panel grids like Jack . He owns the six-panel grid. No one can touch him on that. So it was sort of a must that I give the king a nod on the page.
On a deeper level, I’ve been delving and immersing myself in the back catalog of Jack Kirby -- reading through his Fourth World stuff, The Eternals, OMAC . The more I read it , the more painfully clear it becomes to me that Jack Kirby is still teaching us after all these years. We all can learn something from his work on both a craft level, and a human level. Read the letter in the back of the first issue of OMAC and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. I think that while Jack Kirby may no longer be alive in the mortal sense, the energy and knowledge contained in his work is so utterly boundless that he lives on. Forever.
Do you listen to music while you write? Do you have a turntable (I could not resist asking that question)?
I definitely listen to music while I write. It generally varies. Normally its whatever’s new out . Or whatever I can’t get out of my head (lately its been Passion Pit’s stellar record Gossamer). I do own a turntable, but its sort of one of those BS consumer electric store-bought ones. If I make any money at all off this book, I must find a proper unit.
Is the one story you want to tell with the lead character, F, or do you have more stories in mind with him?
I think I’m done with the character of F for now. Ramon and I have discussed the possibility of returning to this world, and this character, to explain more of the back story, but for now I have other stories I want to tell. I’m sure we’ll be back some day.
What made you decide to self distribute LP. What led to that decision and how challenging has that proven to be? Has word of mouth on the book began to pick up since retailers like Floating World Comics and Maximum Comics started carrying the book? For folks who have transitioned to digital, where can they pick up the book?
I decided to self-distribute LP largely after seeing how successful that method of delivery had been for creators such as Sam Humphries, Ian Brill and Matt Todd. I feel like Sam really blew the doors open on this method the way he handled Our Love Is Real and Sacrifice. It was like a shout out into the ether that there are ways beyond pitching books and waiting for someone to give you your shot, to make and put out amazing comics. I think it was industry changing to be honest.
Word of mouth has been LP’s best friend. The more people we put the book in front of , the more people that read it and rave about it , the more fuel we have in our tank. When you self distribute and publish your work, it lives or dies on the singular fact of whether or not it is a good comic that people want to read. So every single person who says good things about our book, whether there an established pro, a teenager sitting in their basement, a fellow up and coming creator, helps the book immeasurably. Getting the book into Floating World was huge. Jason is a great retailer and I look forward to working with him on this book, and my next ventures. Maximum Comics in Nevada have been another retailer who has really stepped up to the plate and supported this book, since day one. Retailers who are willing to work with creators like this are the future. Not only do they help us put out books we want to put out, they contribute to a healthier industry.
What's creatively on the horizon for you? Would you like to collaborate with Villalobos again? I read inthis interview that you have a sci-fi script -- are you looking to team with another artist on that story?
My next big project is a four-issue miniseries with Dalton Rose called Theremin. I’m going to be self distributing that book also. That is due out 2013. More announcements will be made in regards to that book in the near future. I really want to work with Ramon again when both our schedules permit. I have already started working on a script that I feel only he can draw. It’s a spiritual successor to LP, I guess. Another story I feel like needs to be told.