Rich: They say write what you know. Reality Check is a comic about a guy trying to create a comic book in the current marketplace, battling with loneliness, rejection, sexual inadequacy… and creating a really bad comic book. Is there a danger that people will read too much into this?
Glen: Well…loneliness, rejection and sexual inadequacy is definitely me. But when you start calling the comic within a comic bad, I gotta draw the line. Willard, the main character, thinks of the comic as a modern twist on an old idea–a Batman type character that's devoted his life to justice, but his loneliness has been bubbling up for so long that it's become his current driving focus for seeking love in all the wrong places–and Willard's comic picks up at height of his character's life changing moment. I'd actually characterize it as kind of an interesting character take from a marketing perspective. As far as people not being able to tell the difference between me and my character let me state for the record that I'm much better looking.
Rich: Do you often get slapped in coffee shops for drawing women? I have to say, in my bachelor days, it seemed to have the opposite effect…
Glen: You're probably a better artist than I am. In my younger days, I used to get slapped everywhere–LA can be a tough town. But that's another story–I'm a married man now.
Rich: Is there also a danger that readers will take Dark Hour at face value and judge the rest of the comic book by how bad it is?
Glen: Dark Hour, the comic within the comic, is what sets up the personality traits of Willard's hero character. Part of the fun is seeing those traits come back to haunt Willard and bite him in the rear end when his character enters his real world. It"s those things that actually fuel Dark Hour's demands upon Willard to do his bidding…or else he'll never return to the comic and Willard's new successful book will be null and void. The elements that you characterize as bad are going to be an engaging thorn in Willard's side that drives the action forward in the real world of the comic.
Rich: You mention Marvel and DC, but Blam! Seems to suggest Boom!… Is there a reason you fictionalised that particular publisher?
Glen: I thought it was a fun name for a fictional comic company since BLAM is the sound effect in every comic book where a gun is fired. It's not supposed to be a stand in for BOOM. But if you ever decide to start your own publishing empire, RIch, I hope you will consider BLAM–it's currently available.
Rich: You show us how bad the Dark Hour comic book is, but also tell us it's sold out, that publishers really want it, and that studios fight over it. Do you have any real life analogues in mind?
Glen: We'll have to agree to disagree on the value of Willard's comic. I think it's a clever marketing gimmick that in his fictional world strikes a chord with the public…and when that happens a film adaptation is soon to follow. It also adds pressure on Willard to get his main character back into the book. And when Devil-Inside, the homicidal maniac villain of the piece, arrives it puts him and the people he cares about in serious jeopardy.
Rich: I have to say, I thought it was a parody of a certain kind of book, akin to Bluntman And Chronic, that ends up with the lead in Chasing Amy moving on…. to play Batman. Sorry I think I lost my train of thought there. Put it this way, did you ever read Dan Pussey in Eightball at all?
Glen: I've read Ghost World, Daniel Boring and Ice Haven, but never Eightball. I'll get around to it one of these days as I'm a big Clowes fan. The thing about REALITY CHECK is it's not JUST a fun book about a writer whose creation comes to life and gets in his way at every turn. That's the high concept hook, but the humor in the book comes out of the real pain and tragedy that the characters have experienced in their lives. There is that old saying about humor that things become funny over time. I think the equation is actually tragedy plus time equals humor–that's true in this case. This is a story about loss–how that changes us–and the choices one makes to continue one's life when our world has caved in. I think its a story with real value that will be transformative in the best of ways. There are quite a few surprises that follow in the issues to come.
Rich: But few in this one… much of the publicity for this book seems to have rather spoiled the plot twists in the first issue. Even the cover. Is that a worry for you in the days when so much importance is given to that first Image Comics issue launch?
Glen: It's tough to promote a book without giving spoilers about your high concept. To me, the real fun of the piece is the dynamic and interaction between the characters once we get past the promotional idea. There is also a fair amount of back matter in issue one that allows readers to connect with Willard and understand why he's in his current predicament–this adds depth and layers to the story that gets under your skin despite the fact that you are in on the hook. I have to say that I've really enjoyed crafting this book. I'm ready for the comic to be judged on its merits, not just the log line.
Rich: Then do you fear being ostracised by anyone in the industry who believes you are mocking them, whether you are or not?
Glen: I'm not mocking anyone as far as I can tell. I never actually gave it a thought until you mentioned it. Should I be concerned about this? There still might be time for me to pull the book off the shelves. Ah, what the Hell–let's roll the dice and see what happens. I can always move to another country, right?
Rich: Mine is available. Your former collaborator John Romita Jr is looking to get back into working on more creator-owned titles. Is there a chance of Gray Area II?
Glen: Stay tuned! John and I may have some news on that front very soon. A possible film adaptation is moving steadily along as well.
Reality Check #1 is published today from Image. Do let us know what you thought…