Terminal Creators Ekstrom, Cooke, Brownfield Talk Starting a Studio, Punching Nazis, And Matt Brady's Sex Appeal

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Earlier this week, Steve Ekstrom wrote directly to Bleeding Cool's readers about Terminal, a 192 page pulp anthology out of which will be born Imminent Press, a new digital studio from which the creators will launch new projects and publish some existing ones. Terminal Pulp is currently up on Kickstarter with about a week to go, and still needs about $14,000 to reach its funding goal. Bleeding Cool spoke with Ekstrom, C.W. Cooke, and Troy Brownfield about the Kickstarter, the anthology, the studio, and a whole bunch of other topics including, of course, nazi-punching. We want you to read the interview, but we wouldn't be offended if you took a few minutes to check out the Kickstarter first, and consider pledging to secure a copy of it on there if you want. When you're done, check out the interview below.


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Former Newsarama mogul and Terminal Pulp contributor Matt Brady, inappropriately holding a palm tree.

The Terminal Pulp Anthology is described as "a 192-page hardcover pulp anthology featuring a collection of the comic book industry's hottest up-and-coming creators." When you say "industry's hottest up-and-coming creators," do you mean that you are all rising stars within the industry, or are you referring to how sexually attractive all of you are? Which one of you is the hottest? Is it Matt Brady?

CW Cooke: I think each of us wishes we were the hottest of the bunch, but for the most part, there are a number of us who are on the cusp (Eric, Vito, Mark, etc) and then there are others like Justin Gray who are well known creators with worldwide hit comics. Hottest up and coming creators mostly details how some of us see the others in the group. We believe that people need to know the others involved. That's why we're all working so hard to help the others out.

But have you seen Eric Palicki? He's gorgeous.

Steve Ekstrom: For the record, Brady's jaw line is so heroic that it could cut glass. A lot of the creators on this book are certainly "on the cusp" or "up-and-coming". When you're trying to sell a book, you tend to try to market yourselves in a way that entices potential backers/ customers as best you can. "Hottest" is no better or worse than any other descriptor.

An image from Broken Colossus, by
An image from Broken Colossus, by Mark Bertolini and Jerome Eyquem

There are ten stories in the book, each by a different creative team, and spanning different pulp genres. Can you give us a rundown, and tell us how these will all fit together?

Steve Ekstrom: Let's see…

We have "Fausto Colon" by Justin Gray and Larry Watts that I would describe as a Supernatural Crime Noir.

"Broken Colossus" by Mark Bertolini and Jerome Eyquem about a Doc Savage Adventure Hero type at the end of his life.

"Gemini XIV" is a Weird Sci Fi tale by Matt Brady and Nikola Čižmešija that has a really cool X-Files vibe.

CW Cooke and Aaron Pittman collaborated to create "A Ghost Among Us" is a Postmodern Noir/ Sci Fi mash-up about an alien superhero-type living a lonely life just outside of humanity.

"Oubliette" is a strange Crime Noir story about a hit man who only exists when no one is looking directly at him by Eric Palicki and Ande Rummel.

Troy Brownfield and Justin Washburn contributed "A Touch of the Past" which follows an archetypal gumshoe who has been mysteriously transformed into a child.

"The Dusk: Sins of the Father" byMarco Lopez, Gene Selassie, and David Landi is a Crime Noir Supernatural mash-up about a familial curse within a crime family.

Vito Delsante teamed-up with António Brandão to create a Crime Noir Thriller called "STEELTOWN: The King of the Dickheads".

Hunter Black creators Justin Peterson and William Orr came up with an interesting Sci Fi Horror concept called "The Brood Mare" that is probably the most exotic story of the bunch.

And I wrote a Hard Boiled Romance called "GRRzly + K!nX" about an unsuspecting con man who meets a serial killer on an e-dating website with artwork by Bob Rivard.

All of these stories take place in the same shared space–but there are layers to it. In my story, for example, Troy's protagonist sits next to one of my characters on the subway. In another story, a character may show up in the background of the story someone else wrote. Vito's lead character is reading a book about Justin's character that takes the book to a deeper, meta-fictional level.

We just got creative and unified a bunch of shorts stories together in a surreal way that imagines a very wild, unpredictable landscape.

 

An image from Broken Colossus
An image from Broken Colossus

You're seeking $20,000 in funding, and so far, you've raised just over $6,000.  What have you got planned for the final stretch of the campaign to carry you the rest of the way there?

Troy Brownfield: Casino heist.

CW Cooke: Anything and everything we can to get this funded. We're going to keep pushing and keep showing off the art everywhere we can. We're going to be doing more interviews and podcasts and sharing the word everywhere. Starting here and just telethoning this thing out into the world.

Steve Ekstrom: We have several "Milestone Rewards" and different types of incentives that we were playing with as "Stretch Rewards" but I'd like to keep those under wraps at this point so we can revisit them at a later date.

We're trying anything at this point within the realm of our collective social media audiences.  I'll be trying out Kickstarter Live, chatting people up who are interested in talking about Terminal or comics or wrestling or the best tacos they've ever had…whatever. I'm not shy; I love talking about comics with strangers…I like talking to strangers, in general. It's pretty amazing that I was never kidnapped as a kid.

If we don't make $14K over the next week, we'll be back. The reality is that we don't look like we're going to hit our goal. It sucks, for sure, but I think we've learned a lot and I don't see this as a death sentence for Terminal.

 

An image from Broken Colossus
An image from Broken Colossus

What sets this project apart from other anthologies available today? Why should people drop whatever they're doing right now, head over to the Kickstarter, and pledge to get a copy?

CW Cooke: Besides the up and coming creators and super-hot Matt Brady, we've all got stories to tell. We've all been pushing each other to be the best and to deliver the best product, and we believe that each of us is going to make a kick ass comic book out of this. Terminal is about pushing noir and pulp into the forefront again, sharing ideas and stories that don't get pushed out there as often as they used to.

Troy Brownfield: There's just an incredible range of talent involved, all unleashing their creativity on a huge variety of material. If I weren't involved, I'd want to buy it. I look at some of the other scripts and art, and I just say, Damn, I'm involved in this? Baseline: it's just really good.

Steve Ekstrom: Have you seen Matt Brady in a two piece? ::whistles::

I think that our line-up should speak for itself. I'm proud to be working with a crew that boasts CW Cooke, Vito Delsante and Justin Gray. As a consumer, I buy these guys' books whenever they hit the shelves! As a fan of the medium and as a creative person, it doesn't get any better than that–to get to work with contemporaries.

Plus, we've got our hands on artists from all over the world who have competed for spots in the MillarWorld Annual and for the Top Cow Talent Hunt who deserve wider recognition.

Jerome Eyquem has been featured by Heavy Metal! Larry Watts has worked on iconic stuff like Army of Darkness!

I'm not going to lie…a couple of these artists have never been seen by the US comic book audience-at-large; their work is destined to turn heads.

 

An image from Oubliette, by Eric Palicki and Ande Rummel
An image from Oubliette, by Eric Palicki and Ande Rummel

Forgive me if I'm misgendering anyone, but it looks like out of 21 creators on the anthology, all of them are men. Is this by design, or coincidence? Do you think you're missing opportunities by not including more women in the process?

Troy Brownfield: Mostly coincidence. Here's the thing. The project started for a tight circle of friends that got just a tiny bit bigger. We offered slots to some other friends, including female creators, that weren't able to join due to timing, other schedule commitments, etc. Terminal grew out of friends wanting to work together, and that's what it is. As more Imminent projects roll out, the wide array of talent from a variety of places will be very obvious.

Steve Ekstrom: Troy is exactly right. My desire to do an anthology format was inspired by Janelle Asselin's Fresh Romance. Hell, I wanted to submit a story to Rosy Press! I reached out to several female creators when we decided to expand our book past our original, smaller collection of creators who wanted to team-up and make a project together. I spent hours reaching out to female artists all over the world.

Timing was a factor. Everyone I reached out to was busy or they weren't interested. There's no harm in not being interested. I can't hold a gun to someone's head to work on my project.

I certainly don't want to cram someone onto our line-up for the sole purpose of having a female creator to satisfy potential customers. That's really fucking disingenuous and counterproductive, ultimately.

 

An image from Oubliette
An image from Oubliette

You're billing The Terminal Pulp Anthology as the "beginning." Specifically, the beginning of Imminent Press, a new studio. What's next? What's the long term plan?

CW Cooke: Each of us has our own voice and our own ideas, and we're going to develop projects on our own and use the Imminent Press as a digital studio home for some of these projects. I have a number of stories and pitches that I plan to brand as Imminent Press. I know most of the others involved do too. We see it as a brand, an umbrella, a way to tell people that these are voices people need to hear and seek out. My story, A Ghost Among Us, will blow people away. And Aaron Pittman, my artist, is going to be on everyone's radar.

Steve Ekstrom: Strength in numbers. Most creators who are trying to become viable commercial artists drown in a sea of competition as singular voices. This was our "Marvel Team-Up". I knew most of the people on the book personally prior to putting it together. I knew we all liked each others' work. It was a no brainer to suggest that we organize ourselves under a masthead. I've definitely made some new friends too. The comic book industry thrives when we all work together to lift ourselves up collectively.

Essentially, we're going to unify our individual web comics under one portal. We're going to cross promote one another easily across social media as we'd promote ourselves. There's enough room at the table for everyone to make comics and try to further their careers together.

I'll say it right here, right now: This group of creators gets along so well that we could probably work with just about anyone who wanted to join us. There's no fee to put IMMINENT on your book. It's still self-publishing. We're just publishing together so you recognize that we're hungry and we want to tell you a solid story or two. People who like my web comic, Cannibal Island, can then be easily linked to Hunter Black and Sparkshooter as well. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.

And all of these comics are online for FREE, folks.

 

An image from Oubliette
An image from Oubliette

Are there more projects already lined up for Imminent Press?

CW Cooke: Definitely. Besides our own branded projects and housed projects, we see ourselves doing a second volume or more volumes along the way, as well as opening it up a bit in the future.

Steve Ekstrom:  Several but I don't think we're ready to talk about those projects beyond superficial titles or conceptualized ideas. I know that we have 4-5 webcomics that will be unified under our banner. We have at least 2-3 Kickstarter print projects that will happen later this year. Terminal may be repackaged for easier funding and printing costs. The sky is the limit here. We're just getting warmed up.

Troy Brownfield: I plan to move Sparkshooter, my weekly webcomic by me and artist Enkaru, under Imminent branding. We have more than 200 pages of story online right now, but future digital and print iterations will likely be under Imminent.

 

An image from A Ghost Among Us, by
An image from A Ghost Among Us, by CW Cooke and Aaron Pittman

The comic book industry is relatively small, with a lot of competitors fighting for the attention of readers. Which competing publishers and studios would you take out, if given the opportunity, to clear the way for this new one?

CW Cooke: I believe in giving peace a chance and working together. Unless it involves Nazis. I hate Nazis.

 Troy Brownfield: No one. There's plenty of room for everyone to be successful. I'd rather grow the audience than wish doom on another publisher.

Steve Ekstrom: What kind of question is that?! (laughs)

None of us want to "take out" any publishers or creators. We want the opportunity to tell stories. You either read them or you don't. They're still getting told. We're all still getting to pursue our love of creating comics. We're just doing it together.

I think it's silly to think you have to remove people to do what you want to do.

Comics are a bake sale. We make cookies and brownies like everyone else. You can try our cookies and brownies. You might LIKE our cookies and brownies. You tell your friends, "CW Cooke makes really good fucking brownies." People then come back and consume more of our brownies.

We stand alone. Together. If we fail, we fail on our own merit…not because we pushed someone else out of the way to get your attention.

 

An image from A Ghost Among Us
An image from A Ghost Among Us

Will any other former Newsarama writers be coming on board in the future? Does Imminent Press prove once and for all that the best way to break into comics is through comics journalism?

CW Cooke: I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing. I wonder if Jude Terror wants to write comics?

Troy Brownfield: Comics journalism is a great way to meet people, but it's absolutely no guarantee of publication. In fact, that background can frequently work against you. I don't know what Rich's experience was with "Flying Friar", but a few people will tell you that it actually make things a little harder, depending on the kinds of things you wrote in the past.

Steve Ekstrom:  Rule Number One of Comic Book Club:

There is only one TRUE path to making comics. You have to physically MAKE COMICS.

I know plenty of people who thought they were going to coast into making comics at the Big 2 without having actually made a damn pamphlet and those people are still NOT making comics.

My entire perception of the industry changed once I started making the sausage on my own. I've taught myself about the production of comics and I think I'm a better creator for it. I letter my own stuff. I'm teaching myself how to digitally color now. I want to be a student of the game. Learning to make comics actually made me a better journalist in the industry as well.

My friendships with Troy Brownfield and Matt Brady are the two biggest rewards I came away from Newsarama with, hands down.

 

An image from A Touch of the Past, by Troy Brownfield and
An image from A Touch of the Past, by Troy Brownfield and Justin Washburn

The t-shirt rewards on the Kickstarter only go up to size 5XL. What do you have against people who wear 6XL or larger t-shirts?

CW Cooke: I think if necessary, we can get some 6x shirts made. I just know most websites only go up to 5xl as well. So blame the internet, mostly.

Steve Ekstrom: I drift between a 3X and a 5X (homeostasis and weight loss are a bitch) so, when I was looking at shirt vendors, I looked for the most cost effective shirt provider with plus sizes. Most of the cheaper vendors only went as high as a 3XL. That doesn't work for me.

I have a friend who owns a print shop. He carried a up to 5XL and he gave me a competitive rate. I think plus-sized folks deserve cool comic shirts too. I'm a plus-sized creator. I'd wear the fuck outta both of these shirts with pride.

 

It's now time for closing arguments. Give Bleeding Cool's readers one last pitch, for anyone still on the fence.

CW Cooke: If you like great comics made by passionate people, you will love Terminal. If you love superheroes or pulp or noir or detective tales, you will love Terminal. If you want more bang for your buck and want to pay for a gorgeous hardcover with cover art by Phil Hester and Ande Parks, you will love Terminal. If you want a comic book universe where the creators all work together to push themselves to be the best, you will love Terminal and Imminent.

An image from A Touch of the Past
An image from A Touch of the Past

Steve Ekstrom: Remember the last time you discovered something off the beaten path at the comic shop and it felt like it was "your" secret treasure find?

I remember every profound indie comic that pushed me to want to create comics. It's that mind blowing moment when you started watching Black Mirror. "15,000,000 Merits", anyone?

This is one of those Black Mirror moments, folks. We're telling you TEN strangely unique tales that show off our love for the craft of making comics and we want to be able to tell you more tales in the future. I sincerely hope you'll let us.

Troy Brownfield: It's a bunch of solid stories from a bunch of great people. If you like comics from the pulp tradition and are interested in helping a number of hard-working creators level-up, this is a great thing for you to back.

 

Bonus question: is it okay to punch a Nazi?

CW Cooke: I'm sure I'll speak for the team on this, but yes, it is always okay to punch a Nazi. Indiana Jones did it. Captain America did it. The "Greatest Generation" was all about fighting the Nazi every step of the way. Warren Ellis says it's okay, I say it's okay, my grandfather who fought in WWII would say it's okay, and Aldo Raine would always say it was okay. So punch a Nazi. Make them cry. It's totally okay.


Check out Terminal on Kickstarter here.

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An image from STEELTOWN: The King of the Dickheads, by Vito Delsante and António Brandão
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An image from GRRzly + K!nX, by Steve Ekstrom and Bob Rivard
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An image from GRRzly + K!nX
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An image from GRRzly + K!nX

 

About Jude Terror

A prophecy once said that in the comic book industry's darkest days, a hero would come to lead the people through a plague of overpriced floppies, incentive variant covers, #1 issue reboots, and super-mega-crossover events.

Sadly, that prophecy was wrong. Oh, Jude Terror was right. For ten years. About everything. But nobody listened. And so, Jude Terror has moved on to a more important mission: turning Bleeding Cool into a pro wrestling dirt sheet!

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