PREVIEW & INTERVIEW with Creator of PHANTOM SQUAD

Comic Crusaders presents the five-page preview below on the upcoming comic series PHANTOM SQUAD! from artist Luke Stone and writer Cedbill. Check out the pages below and also the interview with Cedbill, co-creator of Phantom Squad! And founder of COAST COMICS, who was gracious enough to agreed to be interviewed on life as an Indie Publisher, Phantom Squad!, Y the Last Man, and more …

WHERE DID THE IDEA FOR PHANTOM SQUAD COME FROM AND WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GO AHEAD AND MAKE YOUR OWN INDEPENDENT COMIC?

Phantom Squad has been an idea I’ve bounced around for a while. It’s influenced by everything from superhero comics, to animated sitcoms, to really everything I enjoy. The principle concept lies in the idea of broken characters that can look at death and truly not see it as a horrible ending. I wanted to make a series, a potentially dark comedy, about two broken characters that unwittingly fix each other. It’s a long process for sure. One has lost the ability to care about other humans; the other is a PTSD-suffering alcoholic who uses sex and other methods of catharsis simply to get through the day. But it’s not about the darkness. It’s not about the battering life will put us through. It’s about the fight back against that darkness, against that battering, and I think the very first story arc (issues #1-5) will reflect that.

CAN YOU WALK ME THROUGH YOUR PROCESS? HOW DO YOU BREAK AN ISSUE AND HOW DO YOU WRITE THE SCRIPT? IS IT MARVEL STYLE OR FULL SCRIPT?

The script-writing process for Phantom Squad is not as hard as some of my other projects. First, I outline the story arc, breaking it down into issues. From there, I very loosely outline the issue, making sure I hit key points, but I try not to have too rigid of a structure. Then, I just jump in. Dialogue is the easiest to write for me, mostly because these characters are so well defined in my head that I know sarcasm goes here and sullenness goes there. It’s full script, but I always include a note to my artist that they can tweak or change anything if they think it will look better, because I am aware that I will not always know best in terms of artistic aesthetics.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR EXPERIENCE AS AN INDEPENDENT COMIC BOOK CREATOR?  WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU HAVE LEARNED OR PERHAPS A MISTAKE YOU MADE THAT YOU WOULD SUGGEST ANOTHER CREATOR ENTERING INTO INDEPENDENT COMICS DO DIFFERENTLY?

I’m not going to pretend it’s easy. A year or so ago now, I looked at the current comic market and felt really discouraged to see the same names over and over again, even in independent companies like Image or Dark Horse. So, I started my own company, Coast Comics, the publisher of Phantom Squad and other titles like Weaselmeizters and AntiChris. I may have made it much more difficult to achieve success for my title by not pitching it to a larger, more established company, but I realized that I wanted to build a universe and have no rules or limitations holding me back. So, I’ve learned that getting into comics is hard, but managing a publishing company is even harder. All in all, I would suggest not just finding creators to work with in the idea of a job, but to never give up on finding that one true collaborator who wants your project to succeed as much as you do. Because, as I’ve learned with my Squad co-creator Luke Stone, a collaborator who will bring your characters to life in a way you could have never imagined is a true prize indeed. And creating comics is the most enjoyable experience in the world for me, thanks in no small part to that.

WHERE DOES THE INSPIRATION FOR THE CHARACTERS COME FROM?

I cheat with these characters. Both of the protagonists, Cell (Harlan) and Outkast (Perry), are pieces of my personality. Cell is the dark character. He’s driven by almost Machiavellian principles, and his regard for human life is logical, not emotional. After all, any two thousand year old assassin who has seen everything and everyone he meets die is not going to be the kindest soul. Cell is easiest to write when I’m in a very-bad-don’t-talk-to-me mood, because he’s arrogant and proud and knows that practically no one, no army, no force, no anything is a threat to him. Outkast is different, and is much more of my core personality. He’s sarcastic, he’s hurt, and he’s just a guy trying to find a purpose to live after losing his best friends. Outkast is the easiest to write period, because he’s a reflection of my ideals and my feelings into a fictional character. And I’m excited for readers to see how these two characters interact and how they evolve. Because, at its core, this series is about two “broken” characters fixing each other, and the adventures along the way.

WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE COMIC BOOK CHARACTER?

With so many amazing comics and stories out there, this is a tough question, so I’m going to cop out and provide two answers. In terms of simply superhero characters then it is Roy Harper. From his days as Speedy, to his Red Arrow and later Arsenal moments, I don’t think any one character in either of the Big 2 has ever been as demolished as he has. It’s really incredible, from that famous drug issue in 1971 (Green Lantern #85) to the New 52, just an amazingly resilient character. In terms of all comics, though, I would have to say it would be Yorick Brown from Y: The Last Man. While I think we can all agree that Ampersand was probably the most enjoyable character in that series, the sheer reliability that Brian K. Vaughan provided with Yorick was, and still is, astounding to me.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR GOALS IN COMICS?

In terms of storytelling, my goal is pretty simple. All I’ve ever wanted in Phantom Squad is to have a series that I would want to read, that would have me frantically checking online to see when the next issue came in. I don’t want it to be a solely action-based series, and I don’t really want it to just be like a sitcom or a drama, but a series that feels real, filled with characters that act in ways that are real. And that doesn’t mean disregarding fantastical ideas. I can assure you, that won’t ever happen. But I want this series to be something that blends real-life ideas with fun and emotional situations.

WHAT IS ON YOUR CURRENT “MUST READ” LIST?

This is an easy one. Obviously, at the forefront is SagaSaga is the comic I recommend to people who call the medium childish or immature. I got the deluxe hardcover for Christmas, and so I lend it out to all my friends who want to read some non-superhero comics. And I have yet to find someone who didn’t enjoy it (the gorgeous art by Fiona Staples doesn’t hurt). Really, anything BKV is amazing. Y: The Last Man will forever by my favorite story, so that is a must-read. Ex Machina and Pride of Baghdad were both great. Also, I’m currently reading and loving Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky. Seriously, that series is strangely deep for a comedy about glowing genitals and time-stopping orgasms.

IS THERE ANY ADVICE YOU CAN OFFER TO A CREATOR LOOKING TO BREAK INTO COMICS IN TODAY’S MARKET?

Well, ignoring the cliché stuff that every creator from Los Angeles to Paris will tell you, I mostly want to focus on the thing that makes Phantom Squad so special to me. If you can look at your series, and tell where each of the influences and ideas came from, but not name one that will convey the message or thought you have put into the comic as well as your title can, then you have succeeded. Because in a world where everyone has an idea for a straight white male superhero with multiple powers whose parents are dead, only an idea that truly makes a spot for itself can be appreciated by the general public.

DO YOU HAVE ANY PROJECTS PLANNED FOR THE FUTURE?

Ooh, a bunch. Less than a month after Phantom Squad #1 drops, another Coast publication, co-written by myself and a friend of mine named Eli Stephens, with art by Brenda Salazar, is going to be released, called Poetic Comics #1. It’s the debut issue of a comedic series starring the Poet, who is essentially God. It’s my take on what life would be like as a being worshiped across the planet, and the Poet will actually make a cameo in Phantom Squad in the future! Also, I’m writing a four-issue miniseries that can serve as a prequel to Phantom Squad, entitled Janeiro’s Royal Hell. It breaks down the mission that went so wrong that Outkast became who he is in Phantom Squad. Hendra Kapoh is the artist on that, and issue #1 should be hitting IndyPlanet shelves this summer.

In the non-Coast realm, I’m writing a detective one-shot called Mars Leighton: Private Eye about a detective who solves crimes with the hallucination of a childhood cartoon helping him. It’s a fun story, and it’s being produced by Evan Wucher (of Weaselmeizters fame), with art by Dima Derzhavin. That should drop before the end of the year, so look forward to it. Oh, and I’m hoping to have a compilation book of short stories and poetry, titled Unsolicited, released by the end of the year. More info on that to come in the future.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE MOMENT THAT HAS RESULTED FROM PHANTOM SQUAD!?

I think my favorite moment was seeing the cover to the first issue. Luke did it right before completing the inks for the issue, and it was truly an emotional moment for me. I’d seen these characters brought to life numerous times in the sequence of the pages, but just receiving it and knowing that in the near future it would be the symbol for a comic I’ve devoted so much time and thought into made me genuinely tear up. I’m looking forward to having more of these moments!

ARE THERE ANY UPCOMING CONVENTIONS OR EVENTS YOU WILL BE ATTENDING YOU WOULD LIKE OUR READERSHIP TO BE AWARE OF?

Currently, I’m not booked at any conventions or events or such, but Luke and I are probably going to on a small tour promoting Phantom Squad within a year or so, so maybe I’ll be coming into towns of some readers!

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