I can’t draw. Well that’s not true. I can draw a little bit, but nowhere near the level needed to produce comic book art. So, for me, someone who loves comics and making comics, but can only contribute on the writing side, I am always amazed at creators that can both draw and write their own comics. Jeremy Massie is one of those people. A fantastically talented artist and an awesome writer all rolled into one.
His project, ALL MY GHOSTS from ALTERNA COMICS, is an engaging story about a newspaper owned by the main character, Joe Hale, struggling to stay afloat, forcing Joe to make the hard choice to sell the company to a larger corporation. It is both a microcosm of the struggles of small business against corporate America and the impact it has on the neighboring community, as well as a psychological look at professional failure. How sometimes what looks to be a devastating loss of employment can free a person to explore aspects of their self they have kept buried for years.
I had the pleasure recently to sit down and chat with artist/writer Jeremy Massie about ALL MY GHOSTS as well as his other project, THE DEADBEAT, a graphic novel also published by ALTERNA, about a down-on-his-luck former Superhero struggling to reconnect with his estranged daughter.
I HAVE READ THAT YOU HAVE WORKED FOR A NEWS PAPER. IS THAT THE INSPIRATION FOR ALL MY GHOSTS AND HOW MUCH OF REAL LIFE IS REFLECTED IN THE STORY?
I did work at a small newspaper around Southwest Virginia. It was owned and operated by the same family for many years. Shortly after I started working there it was sold to a company out of Tennessee. The economy in my area is very bad and people are moving away in droves. I wanted to tell a story about what was going on and thought a newspaper made an interesting backdrop. There were rumors too of ghost sightings late at night at the paper and that captured my imagination. I spent many nights working late there and jumping at shadows. I do want to say that the owner of the newspaper that inspired my fictional one handled the sale of the real world paper with dignity and grace unlike my protagonist who made a spectacle of himself.
ALL MY GHOSTS IS A DEEP CHARACTER STUDY OF NEWS MAN JOE HALE DURING A MID LIFE CRISIS. WHERE DOES THAT CHARACTER COME FROM IN YOUR HEAD AND WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO TELL THAT UNIQUE STORY?
Joe is me. I’m not quite to the mid-life crisis thing yet but I was working for a family business when I was working on this book and watched it go under, so my feelings and observations about all of that went into the story. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with my hometown. I think it’s a beautiful place sometimes but I look around at the people here and every once in a while I’d like to spit on them. I guess when you love something, even a place, its faults really get to you. You expect more out of the things or people you love, I guess.
YOU HAVE SAID IN PREVIOUS INTERVIEWS THAT YOU GREW UP AN X-MEN FAN. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE X-MEN AND WHY?
Those were the first comics I got into. I loved them so much. A friend of mine inherited his father’s comic collection so he had all the Claremont, Cockrum, Byrne run. I got to read a lot of older classic superhero stuff. I was a huge Wolverine fan because he was short… I was too!!! I still am. I also loved Kitty Pryde. She was a real sort of gateway into that world because she was almost the same age as me when I was reading that stuff. My friend Matthew D. Smith and I had a conversation once about how it felt like Kitty Pryde was your sister or something. We probably need to seek professional help but, …too late now.
I ALWAYS FIND IT INTERESTING WHEN SOMEONE CAN WRITE AND DRAW THEIR OWN COMIC. THAT ELEMENT OF ONE UNIQUE VOICE CAN BE SOMETHING REALLY PERSONAL AND POWERFUL. CAN YOU WALK ME THROUGH YOUR PROCESS? HOW DO YOU BREAK AN ISSUE AND SCRIPT THE STORY KNOWING YOU ARE HANDLING ARTISTIC DUTIES AS WELL?
If I’m doing everything on a book I never write a script. It always starts as a very rough layout. It looks like stick figures with different haircuts talking… Then I refine from there. So it starts as a series of layouts to pin down pacing and things. This is the real creative part, when you’re actually figuring things out. By the time you sit down to pencil and ink it it’s work. Fun things though do happen at every stage of it. I letter my own stuff by hand and the final dialogue is always written in the margins on the finished pages at the last-minute. It seems more natural to me that way. If I really try to polish up what people say it seems forced, so I always keep it loose until I’m about to letter. It’s strange to me that people don’t do EVERYTHING. That to me is my favorite aspect of the medium. All of the cartoonists that really influenced me and made me want to do my own stuff did all the chores on their books. Robert Crumb, Clowes, Bagge, Brown, The Hernandez Bros. all those folks.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR EXPERIENCE AS AN INDEPENDENT COMIC BOOK CREATOR/ARTIST? 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 would work more. Do more. Not worry so much about what the work is or what it’s about… Just get on with it and fuck what people think of it.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR GOALS IN COMICS?
The ultimate goal is something I’ve wanted for years… I want comics to be my job. My only job. One day perhaps.
WHAT IS ON YOUR CURRENT “MUST READ” LIST?
Southern Bastards is my favorite book being made right now. I like Mind MGMT a lot. I read very random things… I really enjoy Squirrel Girl too
IS THERE ANY ADVICE YOU CAN OFFER TO A CREATOR/ARTIST LOOKING TO BREAK INTO COMICS IN TODAY’S MARKET?
Technology is your friend!!!!! Social Media is a GOOD IDEA!!!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CONVENTION STORY?
When my first graphic novel, The Deadbeat, came out, a friend of mine took it upon himself to dress as the main character that was a down on his luck pot-bellied superhero. He travelled with me to help promote the book. The first con I went to that year was SPX. I thought it would be funny to have him at that particular show because it’s a small press show and at the time it was all about mini comix and zines and stuff. I love SPX but will be the first to admit that there are some people who attend that show who may be a bit elitist and pretentious. Anyhoo I roll into that show with a 6’7 foot tall giant, in canary yellow spandex, who would not break character the whole time. I thought everyone would get the joke and we would all have a good laugh. Well, a lot of people thought it was funny but I got some of the snobbiest comments from some people. Months after the show there were photographs of him from a distance talking about the ‘clueless’ cosplay guy who was at the wrong con… All those pictures looked like pictures of Bigfoot all from a distance and out of focus. He wore the costume everywhere… Those were interesting elevator rides.
ARE THERE ANY UPCOMING CONVENTIONS OR EVENTS YOU WILL BE ATTENDING YOU WOULD LIKE OUR READERSHIP TO BE AWARE OF?
I’m doing RobCon in Bristol but that’s about it. Next year I plan on having ALL MY GHOSTS collected and printed up, so I’ll have to hit them hard.
OUTSIDE OF COMICS, WHAT INFLUENCES YOU?
I enjoy playing music in dive bars for chump change.
DEADBEAT LOOKS LIKE AN INTERESTING TITLE. CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT THAT STORY?
Sure, I did that book right before the birth of my first child. A lot of it is sort of about my own fears of becoming a father. It’s about a down on his luck superhero that tries to mend his relationship with his daughter. She has superpowers and tracks him down to learn more about him and how to use them. I was very inspired by Steve Ditko and 70’s Kirby at the time and wanted to do a superhero story my own way.