Interview with the Leader of the Phantom Squad – Cedbill

With issue four of The Phantom Squad hitting the racks, we decided to catch up with writer/creator Cedbill to discuss why the arc is called Broken, collaboration’s, influences and in doing so we see the passion that Cedbill has for the Squad:-

 CC: Hey Cedbill, let’s start at the top.  How did you get started writing comics?

Cedbill: Well I’ve always had these stories kicking up a storm in the back of my mind, but I never knew how I wanted to tell them. I’m a lover of basically all forms of written media, but I also wanted a visual component. When I started reading comics back in 2013, something just clicked, and I began to write my very first one (Phantom Squad #1) over the course of 2014. Since then, I’ve begun work on a weekly webcomic I want to launch this summer, as well as a graphic novel down the line, all the while continuing this series, which just had issue four come out this week. The next two issues, which round out the first volume, will be coming out in the first half of this year, and I’m very proud of the work so many people have put into this little ol’ idea of mine.

 CC: Who would you say are your inspirations and influences?

Cedbill: In terms of overall storytelling and writing, I would say the classics are the big influences. I mean, Homer’s The Odyssey and Virgil’s The Aeneid are the bookends that I base all my storytelling in between. In terms of just comics & just comic writers, my biggest influence is definitely Brian K. Vaughan. BKV, to me, is the best writer working in comics today. Nobody gets characterization and dialogue like him, and I can definitely say that he’s greatly influenced the way I write characters and character interactions.

 CC: About The Phantom Squad, what is the overall drive for Perry?  How was he created?

Cedbill: Perry, in terms of drive, is an interesting character to write, because he serves to reflect on the question whether someone who’s broken can be “fixed,” so to speak, or whether they’re permanently damaged. It’s why I named this first story arc what I did. It’s also why I enjoy writing his dynamic with the other protagonist, Cell, for example: while one is this put-together immortal always in control of everything, Perry is a very real, very pained character that has to deal with his own self-loathing every day. I cheated with his creation, honestly, because while I tried to project Cell as this superhuman, too self-realized and frankly arrogant to concern himself with trite ideas like doubt and depression, Perry is simply a dramatized version of myself, translated into the series (I say dramatized because I’m not quite the crack-shot ex-Marine he is). It makes him easy to write in terms of dialogue, I’ll admit, but also a hell of a lot harder to break down than Cell.

 CC: Genre wise, where would you see Phantom Squad fits on the comic rack?

Cedbill: I always pitch Phantom Squad as an action-comedy, even though certain issues (#4, for example) are less action-packed and perhaps more introspective in nature than comedic. This is largely because I realize that, as a reader, I would rather get deeper, darker moments in a comedic series than I would a slurry of fast-paced action and sarcasm in a drama. Overall, though, this series is a character-driven one, so the action and comedy are admittedly fronts for the darker and more absurdist nature of the series. And I can promise the readers that there is a guarantee I hold myself to when writing that each issue will keep that core balance of black comedy and thematic character building.

 CC: What problems do you and the art team face working on the book? What challenges are there for those wanting to start creating and putting out their books?

Cedbill: Teddy Roosevelt said “Nothing worth having comes easy,” to be cliché as hell, and that is not false regarding comics at all. In addition to writing the series, I spearhead the whole thing, editing, producing, being the centrepiece that communicates with every collaborator – it’s a lot of work, especially because I’m usually working on two-three issues at a time, excluding my scripting time. Generally the process runs smoother because I work with some champs of the indie comic realm, people who have taken my jumbled mess of ideas and characters and created the comic series readers (hopefully) come back for. There are times where an unprofessional collaborator can slow the whole process down, or times where once the issue is out I’ll look at it and think of all the things we have to remember for the next issue, but that’s just a part of creation. As it is, every issue (in my eyes) gets better and better, and I’m so very proud of the fantastic work some of my collaborators have been doing on a series that’s so personal and important to me.

Overall, though, I think that most creators will run into the same challenges when debuting series. Crippling self-doubt is my biggest one, as I learn to share my work with others who may not necessarily like the series, but there are plenty of others. Finding the right artists, a team that works with you because they feel the characters as opposed to doing work for a pay-check, that’s a challenge that’s plenty rewarding to overcome. And budget is also huge, as I’m not going to lie, I invest so much of my own money into a series that nets me very, very little profit, and I understand that’s not feasible to everyone. For me, it’s all worth it, just to hold my own comic in my hands, but I can’t speak for all people, especially not those who have significantly more responsibilities than an 18-year old college student. All I can say to others in the same boat as me is, throw your all into it. If you’ve got $10/month left over after everything, throw those $10 in. If you’ve got $500, throw those in. Invest your money, invest your time, and sure as hell invest your interest into it, and that feeling of self-realization will soften the blow when it comes time to gaze a spread that your artist and colourist wrecked or a particularly dialogue-heavy page that your letterer handled like a champ (shout-out to Nikki, by the way, who had to deal with a few pages like this in issue four).

 CC: If you could write one book, any character, who would it be?

Cedbill: My dream is to write a solo Arsenal series for DC, a dream only amplified by the lovely opportunity Rebirth is currently bringing the character. I already have about five volumes planned, because Roy Harper is my favourite superhero and the fact that he’s never gotten his own solo ongoing series is insane to me. So, DC, hit me up when you’re ready to bring your most underrated character to his rightful glory. Or at least, exposure to the wider general public.

 CC: What’s next for the Squad?

Cedbill: Well, issue five is up next, and it’s the big conclusion to the very first Phantom Squad arc, so that’s exciting. Perry and Cell are going to be fighting their way out of Ourias Bouraz’s fortress, and it’s a very action-packed issue, with Marcos Lima & Dylan Hicks returning from issue four to deliver what I think is a very satisfying conclusion to Broken. Following on the heels of that, special guest artist Francisco Mauriz is joining me for an extra-sized issue 6, which slows things down a bit, and sees Perry heading to Vegas for a friend’s birthday party while Cell does Cell things in Algeria. Following that, I imagine a short hiatus while I compile the Volume 1 TPB and rest a bit (this production schedule can take its toll), and then we’ll be back in the latter half of 2017 with the beginning of Volume 2!

Well after all that, I am sure that you will have earned that rest.  Thanks for taking the time to chat with me and good luck on the rest of the series.

If you are interested in Perry and Cell issue 4 of this series is out now!

Follow Gabe on Twitter: @CedbillTweet

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