Matthew Rosenberg On Saving Comics, Journo Deathmatches, And The Eagerly Anticipated 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank #3
Next week, the third issue of 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank, by Matthew Rosenberg, Tyler Boss, and Thomas Mauer will finally hit stores after an unexpected delay. Rising superstar writer Rosenberg was, for some reason, willing to talk to Bleeding Cool about the delay, as well as some current hot topics facing the comic book industry. Check out our interview below, click on the preview images to read them full size, and stick around for a trailer at the end. Then head to your local comic shop and pick up the comic that Kieron Gillen accurately calls "excellent" and Brian K. Vaughan alarmingly calls "exploding."
4 Kids Walk Into a Bank. It sounds familiar. Is this a revival of a Golden Age series? Refresh our memory on what this classic property is all about.
Oh, I see what you did there. Because it's really late. I get it. No, 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank isn't a Golden Age revival, although that would be awesome.
It is the creator owned book I make with Tyler Boss, Thomas Mauer, and Black Mask. It's about 4 children who decide to rob a bank. It's either a very dark comedy or a mildly funny crime story, depending on what is more likely to make you buy it. If you will excuse me while I name drop a little, Kieron Gillen said it's like "Quentin Tarantino directed Goonies." And he meant it in a nice way, not in the "you totally rip off Tarantino and Goonies" way. Which we do.
Ah, now we remember! So why such a long delay?
It's not something I love talking about, but I let a bunch of folks down so I feel like I owe some answers. Long story short, I had a sort of family health emergency that meant that I had to drop everything and help and support my family. That meant my day job too, which is writing 4 Kids. So right as we wrapped issue #2 my life sort of came to a screeching halt for a long while. I cancelled some projects, I cancelled appearances and jobs, etc. And, worst of all, I had to put 4 Kids on hold for a bit. I feel pretty awful because not only were a lot of readers really supportive of the book, but so were press and comic shops. It's never fun to not follow through on something, but it's even worse when you had people in your corner.
I also left my collaborators and Black Mask in the lurch. They were all super supportive, but it still sucks. I just didn't have the hours in the day, or the emotional fortitude, to make the book at the time. But after a really long and scary period, things turned around for my family and I once again threw myself into the book.
You've added some extra material to the final issues to make up for the delays. Can you tell us about that?
Yeah, we really wanted to thank the readers who stick with us, and help the stores who ordered the books. We made sure all the issues are returnable by retailers if they don't sell, but we went and added a bunch of pages to each issue at no extra cost to help them sell. We wanted to make sure people who came back to the book really felt like they were getting their money's worth after the delay. So each issue is extra long, mostly with jokes and weird stuff that we thought we wouldn't have the space to do originally. I think it does read much better now, but if you found the book annoying before you're going to find it extra fucking annoying now. It's really fun, as creators, to just have some more space to do what we want. The confines of comics is part of the fun and the challenge of the medium, but every once in a while it's nice to stretch our legs a little.
And it makes Black Mask annoyed at us. Which is funny.
Back in November, after the shocking results of the presidential elections, a lot of creators were making statements about how they intended to respond to Donald Trump's victory, often as related to convention appearances. You said that you would attend any cons in 2017 as long as they support progressive causes, and that you would use your platform there to start a dialogue. Over the past month, have you had time to develop those ideas any further, and is there anything else you want to say about it?
Not to be nitpicky, but I said I'd only go to cons that support charities OR progressive causes. It's a small distinction, but I know someone in the comments section is going to call me an asshole anyway, I at least want them to do it for the right reasons.
But yeah, it's a weird thing. I know a few folks said they don't want to go to states that went for Trump. I am supportive of that if that's what they want to do. They aren't required to go anywhere. Yes, it sucks for their fans who wanted to see them, but a fan's right to see a creator doesn't outweigh a creator's right to live their life the way they want. At the end of the day, my support doesn't really matter though. Adults can do whatever they want with their free time. I want George Lucas to come to my house and talk to me about Star Wars, but I'm not mad at him when he doesn't.
For me, and again I can't comment except to say that there are obvious differences between my situation and that of Mr. Ramos or Mr. Perez, but I really like traveling to different places and talking to people. I get that some folks on either side of the political divide are too angry or too hurt to have a dialogue right now. That's very valid. But I'm not, so I will go out and talk to whoever about whatever. I think a lot of the really deep divides in this country are only going to be fixed by dialogue on a person to person level. So I want to do my part and hear people out if they have something to get off their chest, and talk if they want to hear some other perspectives. I know that liberal folks and conservative folks read my books, in the same way I read books by liberal and conservative writers. I trust my readers are smart enough to be able to entertain and discuss ideas contrary to their own if they feel so inclined. I'm pretty sure nobody cares what I think, but I just want to deal with people on a human level when I can. But whatever, I'll happy to just talk about Howard The Duck, Werner Herzog, or milkshakes for an hour with you too.
As for the charity thing, I think people blew it out of proportion for a few reasons. First of all, some folks felt attacked. I get that. I'm a liberal dude, I talk about that sometimes. But I don't think charity is a liberal issue. I think helping people is bipartisan. I hope it is. So to people who felt attacked- this wasn't an attack. It wasn't about you at all.
Secondly, I think folks don't understand how conventions work. They are a business. Often they pay for me to come to them and put me up. I appreciate it a huge amount, but they do this because they think, in some small way, that my presence there will generate them money. So I am taking my weekend to help support someone else's business. Yes, I have the opportunity to hopefully make money myself, but I was invited because the con thought I was "worth it." The other important factor is that there are a lot of them. Nobody can go to all of them. So I set criteria for how I would decide where I go on my free time. My criteria was "does my going here help someone besides me and the con owner?" Seemed pretty simple to me. No con is required to have me, I'm not some famous, crucial guest. There are thousands of comics pros more famous than me who they can get. I'm not asking anybody to do anything they wouldn't normally do. I'm just stating my criteria for how I spend my weekends.
Anyway, that was all a bit of a rant. Sorry. My point is just that people should be nicer to each other and try and help each other more. Have at me comments section!
On Bleeding Cool, we've been talking a lot lately about comics sales, and reports around the web seem to indicate they're in kind of a slump, and this is already resulting in some store closings or stores getting out of the comics retail business. You're involved at a lot of different levels in the industry. What are you seeing out there?
I know I'm not qualified to speak on a lot of what is going on. Everyone's circumstances are going to be different and unique to them. I am sure that things are tough for some shops, but I also know others who are thriving. I've seen a few shops who are having a rough time have kickstarters and gofundme's set up. I'd encourage folks to give if they can. Comic shops are so crucial for so many communities. But if I say I think people are being a little hyperbolic with their predictions of the end times, I don't mean to dismiss the shops that are having a rough time right now. Yeah, we are at the end of a growth cycle, and those things end in a small retraction. It sucks for sure, but I don't think it's more than that.
The problem is not the small retraction, it's the lack of growth. There are so many books each week, an unsustainable amount. There are too many pros, too many publishers, not enough readers. I don't want that to be the case, but that's the truth out there. I used to work in a shop a few years ago and when I started there we were getting 80ish new comic books a week, by the time I left a few years later it was 130ish. And when I started pitching my work there were so few options of where to go with it. In the last few years we've had Black Mask, Valiant, Aftershock, Heavy Metal, Action Lab, Magnetic, Z2, Vault, and a ton more. And they are all doing great work. Fans are spoiled for choices. But nobody is doing a good enough job of putting new people in stores. There was an amazing period of books like Walking Dead, Saga, The Wicked + The Divine, Sex Criminals, Lumberjanes, Deadpool, Hawkeye, Squirrel Girl, Bitch Planet, Batgirl, and on an on. Those books made new readers step into comic shops for the first time. That is crucial for our survival as an industry and a medium. And I just don't see those books doing that right now. Maybe I'm missing them. I know that some of the Black Mask books like Kim & Kim, Black, and Young Terrorists do it to an extent, but not enough. Obviously there are big moments- Rebirth, Black Panther, Star Wars, the movies and tv shows, but they aren't working on the scale we need.
And the problem is it is literally everybody's fault. Publishers are all fighting for slices of the same pie, not looking outside the existing reader pool. Creators are all fighting to steal a few readers from any other title, not looking to step outside the established comfort zones to challenge and excite new readers. Press aren't doing enough to promote new voices and our court new audiences. And without that many shops are left selling to the same people every week.
The thing we need to step away from, what will continue to kill comics, is the perception that comics is a genre, a hobby, or some niche thing. Nobody ever says "I don't like movies" or "I don't like music" but we shrug off people saying "I don't like comics" all the time. And while that perception that comics is not for everyone exists, stores will continue to struggle, publishers will continue to collapse, and creators will continue to flee. It is fixable but it requires everyone, shop owners, creators, and fans, to be good ambassadors of the medium. Make people feel welcome. Make people want to go to a comic shop or con. Don't shame people for not knowing something or make fun of their taste. If you told someone you liked The Flash TV show and they laughed at you and said you were a nerd and you should watch The Wire, that person would be an asshole. Doubly so if their goal was to get you to never turn your TV back on. Don't be that person about comics. But seriously, you should watch The Wire.
Give comics as gifts to everyone this holiday season. Leave comics for people to read at your local coffee shop. Donate comics to your local library. Help other people fall in love with comics. If you want to be reading comics in 10 years then that is what you need to do now.
Thanks Matt. Before you go, can you tell me something nobody else knows so that I can put "SCOOP" in the headline of this article? Research shows that clicks are boosted by 20% or more if a headline has "SCOOP" in it.
Umm… If 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank #3 sells out at Diamond I will do everything in my power to get Jude and Rich to box each other for all of our enjoyment at some comic convention next year. Also, my money is on Rich.
For some reason, our editors are telling us a boxing matching between us and Rich Johnston doesn't meet the Bleeding Cool standards for a "SCOOP." Now, if Matthew had predicted that Jude Terror would win, that would be another story.
Ah well! 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank #3 is in stores next week! You can read Bleeding Cool's advance review right here, and check out a trailer below:
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