Your Other Friendly Neighborhood Hero: Gully Talks "Ant"

Sure, Spider-Man makes it look glamorous, but for young Hannah Washington, insect powers aren't all they're cracked up to be. The young girl tried to escape her torturous reality by writing in her diary about her own adventures as an adult superhero. Fast forward into adulthood and an older Hannah has a larger problem -- she's been committed to a mental institution, though she soon learns that Ant may not be as much of a dream as she thinks. With the release of "Ant" #9 in mid-December, the Image Comics series will be undergoing a drastic overhaul, spearheaded by creator Mario Gully. CBR News spoke with Gully to learn about these changes and how the world of "Ant" may never be the same.

"First off, I consider 'Ant' #9 a re-launch of the series," Gully told CBR News. "The book is totally redone. We have a staff now and we are producing the books the way the big two are producing comic books. We have a new writer, Jeffery Kaufman; a new Colorist, Edward 'KING' Bola; inker: Rob Hunter, who is a seasoned pro in this biz; and a new letterer, Jason Arthur. The quality of the new issues is jumped up a few notches."

As Gully mentioned, Jeffrey Kaufman, a newcomer to the industry, is taking over the writing chores on the series. "He's been a friend or mine for quite some time," said Gully. "He's my business manager and attorney for our studio Big City Comics. Jeff came aboard the series to solve all the issues I was having with the book. We had to rethink the way I was doing things and he saw how much of a difficult time I was having trying to balance all but a couple chores on the book alone."

Readers shouldn't worry that Kaufman is going to leave "Ant" any time soon, as Gully would love to have the scribe in tow for the long haul. As one might imagine, it's not easy for the creator of a character to let someone else script their adventures, but with "Ant" Gully said he couldn't have made a better choice. "'Ant' is my baby and it's not easy to share your baby with someone. Jeff has found a way to tap into exactly what I wanted. I guess it's because he knows me so well. It also doesn't hurt that he is an attorney and he has the ability to sympathize with you and relate to people on a different level.

"For the new 'Ant' books, Jeff brings a lot to the table. First off, we decided to solve all the problems with the book. From the editing to the lateness all the way to going to retailers across the country and getting thoughts on not only Ant but comics in general. What works and what doesn't work. Also, Jeff is writing the story that brings depth and excitement to the character. Before he signed on to do the book. He wrote a few issues to see how I felt about them. Once I read them I knew this was the real deal."

Collaborating with someone new can seem like a daunting task in the comic book industry, where the penciller and writer need to be in synch, and "Ant" is no different. But as Gully explained, working with Kaufman is effortless. "When I and Jeff got together, we talked for hours on end about the story and what we both wanted to do," said Gully. "When I was writing 'Ant,' I actually drew the issue out and later went back to script it. Now, Jeff writes the book in advance and I pencil out the issue. It's easier for me that way. I don't have to spend time thinking what's next on panel or page.

"It's great working with Jeff because the man has no ego," continued Gully. "If I feel like tackling a panel or a page in a different manor he is fine with that. But, I really respect his writing and I try to enhance the scene he is describing. We are working together as a team to present the best 'Ant' we can. He does guide me on the layouts and I have the freedom to layout the page how ever I like. The end result is nice."

Things are still changing at "Ant" central. It was announced recently that Joe Keatinge would be joining Gully as co-writer , but that is no longer the case. "Joe and I worked on the plot for [the '1992' storyline]," Gully explained. "Jeff [Kaufman] took over the writing chores from 'Ant' issue 9 and forward. Joe's a fantastic guy and a talented writer. He has some projects coming

out soon and believe me, they will turn heads!"

Gully says that the change in creative roster doesn't mean fans should expect more delays in the book. "First of all, in the past I was the only reason why this book is as late as it was. But I felt that it wasn't with out some merit. The fans deserve the best book I could produce on a monthly basis. I was trying my very best to give them that. Unfortunately, one guy can't do it. I was trying to pencil, ink, write and edit a book on a monthly basis while trying to raise three kids and now me and my wife just had our fourth child this year. It's a ton of work, plus I would always try to draw better and better pages. Sometimes spending three days on a single page. I'm surprised that the books came out at all. I never wanted to back off from the level of detail I was putting in the pages.

"But now things are different. Jeff and I have a team and they do their respective jobs. All I have to focus on is penciling. I'm actually enjoying this now! Before I was always exhausted and frustrated. The new system is like night and day. Like I said earlier, we are doing 'Ant' and our other books just like Marvel and DC operate. Also our team gets paid on a weekly basis. Not the back-end pay that most independent companies and my previous team had to suffer through. Let me tell ya, a weekly paid crew works much more efficient then guys that have to wait for back-end money. That one aspect alone got our pages in earlier."

When readers check out issue #9, they can expect not only to learn about the new characters from issue #8, but also, "Ant confronts Coldburn the guy that froze and broke off her hand! But the best stuff is that you find out some of the motivations why these guys are doing what they are doing," revealed Gully. "'Ant' #9 has heart and emotion and it's a well written book. If you liked 'Ant' before, you will love it now. And if you weren't a fan of the series before, I would encourage you to take a peek at the new issues. Sometimes we have to listen to comic fans and give them what they want. I think sometimes we loose sight of that. Fans make or break any comic. If it wasn't for the fans and the retailers we wouldn't be able to do this."

Staff writer Arune Singh contributed to this story.

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