'If You're Writing Anything And Not Including Female Characters, You're Doing It Wrong' – A Gigantic Interview With Eric Grissom

By Julz Hendricks

Action Lab's Planet Gigantic is a story larger than life. Eric Grissom has loaded it with plenty of action, adventure, and a spectacular world to captivate all minds. With only one more issue to go, it's easy to see why this comic should be in the hands of everyone.

Today we're sitting down with Eric talking Planet Gigantic!

IMG_0025Julz Hendricks: What is your favorite part of working on a comic as epic as Planet Gigantic?

Eric Grissom: Everything. If I could, I'd write the book forever. It's a world of magic and technology. Of monsters and robots. Anything that I can think of is possible. There's also a great deal of freedom writing a book like Planet Gigantic that I don't have with the other titles I do. That's not to say that I am under any editorial restrictions with the other comics I write, they're all creator owned works that I publish under my own imprint Frankenstein's Daughter, but what I mean is in those other worlds there are definite rules in place as to what can and can't exist. Planet Gigantic was always the book I could turn to when I just wanted to let loose. Anything went. If decided that there was a castle of elves that ate time next to a spaceport, that would be totally normal.

JH: You and David Halvorson make such beautiful comics together, not just on Planet Gigantic, but also Deadhorse. How did you two decided to go on this creative adventure?

EG: Thank you. David is a great artist. As you mentioned, David was the original colorist on another comic I do with artist Phil Sloan called Deadhorse. David was the original colorist on the first 7 issues before Marissa Louise took over with our last. Aside from his great color work, David had been doing a web comic called Tales of Armstrong that I really loved. The web site is no longer running unfortunately, but I'm sure it will return in some form soon. Anyway, I really dug David's style and design sense and knew he was someone I wanted to work with more. In 2012, I took a chance and sent Planet Gigantic to him and fortunately for me he liked what he read. The two of us decided to put together a pitch and I went out and tried to find it a home.

JH: Two of the main characters, Lyana and Valentina, are strong female leads, as well as the villain, Queen Neva. What is your opinion on the importance of female characters in comics?

EG: Well, if you're writing anything and not including female characters you're doing it wrong. I say this as someone who did it wrong for a long time and I think a lot of that comes from the notion that we're supposed to write what we know. The truth is, when we start out, or at least when I started out, I didn't know much. So what you end up with is a lot characters that are either various aspects of the writers own personality and worldview, or a regurgitation of some other author's style who we want to be. Now I know for myself, I still don't know a lot. I just know more than I did yesterday. It's important that we write what we don't know, because it forces us to learn. So write outside your gender, your race, your species. Write outside yourself. You can't grow if you don't change.

In Planet Gigantic particularly, I wanted to create a world that was a matriarchy. There are some men in positions of importance, but for the most part power is passed down through the female line. All in all, it's a pretty gender balanced makeup. That sort of just happened as I was writing it. As to the strength of the characters, I try to make all of them, female or male, well developed. Hopefully I succeed more than I fail.

IMG_0021 (1)JH: You mentioned a trade coming in February, which is superb! Will there be any more surprises coming our way? Any other merchandise?

EG: Thanks, I can't wait to see the collected edition myself. Our last issue (#4) is due in stores on January 14th and the trade (which is called New World Home) will be available sometime in February. So if you'd like a copy, I'd encourage people to head to their local comic shop and pre-order it.  Plus in each issue of Planet Gigantic there is an ad for a secret Astro-Spies fan club. If you send in $2 to the PO BOX listed you get some cool stuff and access to this site. If you'd like to join, you'll have to buy one of the books!

JH: The mini stories are really fascinating. Just when you think you are done reading, BAM…a charming little story that relates to the story as a whole. Was it always the plan to have those stories, or did they come to you while writing the main story?

EG: Thank you. Those were always part of the plan. I give a lot of props to our publisher Action Lab for allowing me to include those. They were great and let us pack each issue with 28 pages of story. Planet Gigantic isn't a 20 page comic. Each issue (with the exception of #4 which is ALL the main story) comes with two tales: a 20 pp. continuing story with Valentina & Yuri and a self contained 8 pp. back up concerning some aspect of Planet Gigantic. The backups were great too because it allowed me to really build up some of the mythology of the planet, to flesh out characters more, or elaborate on plot elements from the main story. I also got to work with some other artists. Will Perkins and Phil Sloan took art duties on two of the stories.

IMG_0020JH: I am a huge advocate for all ages comics. The magic and nostalgia stays with kids their whole life. What is one thing you would change about the way comics are marketed to kids?

EG: I would love to see more marketing in general of all ages stuff outside the usual spaces. I've talked at length (probably too much) about wanted to create colorful iTunes-like gift cards and place them at checkout counters at supermarkets and department stores. You buy a card for $2 go home and download the thing on your tablet. Why I think this is so important is because it recreates what worked about the spinner racks, and that is putting comics in front of kids indirectly. The kid sees the item in the supermarket, the same way I saw comics at the Rise 'n Shine luncheonette in Eatontown, NJ, and they buy it. Having an app is great, but it requires an active parent bringing the comic to the kid and not the other way around. I think if the audience is going to grow it needs to reach beyond the comic shops and the dedicated digital comics spaces that we have today, especially with all ages stuff.

JH: Are there any new projects in the works for you?

EG: Right now I am almost exclusively working on Deadhorse. That comic is a massive action adventure mystery told in two six chapter books. I am nearing the end now and have just started scripting the fifth chapter of the second book. It's hard to believe there will only be one issue left. I started that book with Phil Sloan in 2009 so it's been a long time coming.

I'm also finishing a comic anthology called Animals with Claire Connelly. I love working with Claire and the two of us have put out two of the four stories already. The best way I could describe Animals is it's like a Richard Scarey comic if the animals ate people. The stories are mostly quiet tales that deal with relationships and family, but it also confronts the way we treat animals and the meat industry.

JH: Is there anything else you would like Bleeding Cool readers to know about Planet Gigantic?

EG: Only that they give the book a chance. I'm very proud of the work we did and I think it's something people of all ages can get behind. If you have someone in your life that likes giant monsters and smoke ninjas this is the book for them. If you do end up becoming a reader, please consider telling people about it. We're a small book in a large pond and now our pages are wet and stuck together. So please get the biggest hair dryer you can find and tell everyone you know about Planet Gigantic.

IMG_0024JH: Thank you so much for doing this interview with me! Before we go, one last question. What are you currently reading that you just can't put down?

EG: Right now I'm reading Confederacy of Dunces which I am ashamed to admit I've owned for almost 20 years. I love it too, and knew I would like it, but like so many great books it just sits on my shelf mocking me. As far as comics, I last finished Jim Starlin's Warlock: The Complete Collection which I LOVED. It's been a huge influence on me already. I love his panel layouts and use of color. It's really crazy wild 70s Marvel at its best. I'd recommend that to anyone. I actually want to read it again now.

EG: Thanks so much for talking to me!

JH: It's been such a pleasure!

Don't be the only one on Earth without a copy of Planet Gigantic. Ask Your Comic shop to carry it, or you can get it digitally.

Julz Hendricks is a co-host of the all female podcast Chickcast, as well as the We Be Geeks podcast (www.webegeeks.net)She is a huge advocate of kids' comics but reads a lot of different titles. You can find her on Twitter as @JulzHendricks.

About Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.

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