Interview: THE JOYNERS, Artistic Credit and the Backbone of Comics with R.J. Ryan

Interview: THE JOYNERS, Artistic Credit and the Backbone of Comics with R.J. Ryan

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Writer R.J. Ryan is trying to switch up the creator credits for his re-released project: The Joyners.

In 2014 Los Angeles-based writer R.J. Ryan (Syndrome) and illustrator David Marquez (Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man) did the unthinkable; they produced a full graphic novel in three dimensions: The Joyners in 3D. Marquez underwent a complicated conversion sequence to present his pencils in the third demension, but was discovered by Marvel in the process. Between the pages of Ultimate Spider-Man, Ryan and Marquez finished production.
Now with Marvel’s own Civil War II in development from Marquez, The Joyners is being released again via Comixology and in print with the comic book losing a dimension but gaining full color from artist Kelly Fitzpatrick (Bitch Planet). For Ryan, this isn’t just a story about promoting his book, this story is also about the creator championing the credits of collaborator David Marquez first. Ryan explained that while the script took him a few months to create, Marquez spent years fine-tuning the 3D process and with the above creator credits, Ryan seeks to have publisher BOOM! Studios reflect David Marquez’s artistic contributions by crediting him as the top-billed creator on the project.

The Beat: Hey, how’s it going? Are you going to be at WonderCon?

R.J. Ryan: Yes…unless I get hit by a bus

You might still be able to go, I think it depends on the injury.

I’ve seen people at cons with a lot worse problems.

I saw lots of ambulances at San Diego 2015, but let’s get right into it; tell me about the development process for The Joyners switching from 3D to 2D?

It was never something David Marquez, who I have now been working with for seven years, or I ever really planned on with this book. As I said when THE JOYNERS IN 3D came out, this graphic novel was always pitched as a 100% 3D experience. But we did dangle the idea in front of our editor at the time, Stephen Christy, of the possibility of doing a 2D version. We made sure with our contract that the 3D version had to come out first and be the “main” version. And as we made the actual book, the thinking was always that any 2D version would be in Black & White and be a Comixology-only digital release. We never anticipated bringing in a colorist or doing a whole new print edition until BOOM! Studios president Filip Sablik and Stephen raised the possibility several months ago, which surprised Dave and myself.

Of course the idea of opening the title up to Comixology allows for a bigger base of readers (and some who can’t see 3D or may be too jaded by the prospect of it all) does that excite you?

 “Number” of readers was never the big thing with this THE JOYNERS IN 3D. We wanted to do the best 3D comic ever and see if we could win people to our cause. There were skeptics at every step of the process, and the reality is, some people just hate 3D and some people can’t see 3D because their vision isn’t that great. It was about doing something that nobody else was really trying to do and at a scale nobody had ever attempted.
Does the addition of the color change anything about the themes or intent of the story? What does seeing this title in 2D mean to you as the writer?
The addition of color changed the team making the book first. With Stephen now running Boom/Archaia’s media development, THE JOYNERS (2D) is being edited by BOOM! Senior Editor Sierra Hahn and Assistant Editor Jasmine Amiri, who are extremely accomplished editors of comics that everybody has heard of. And we have left behind David’s wife Tara Rhymes, who assisted David with the 3D conversion and have brought aboard colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick, the sensationally talented colorist behind BITCH PLANET, which for my money is one of THE great comic books of the last year or so. 
I’m not rewriting anything but your emotional reaction to the comic and the story changes when you see it in color, and we are debuting a taste of Kelly’s amazing, animation-influenced colors with this interview so people can see. In 3D the characters and settings had an eerie depth and dimensionality, but in color they are made of flesh and red blood. It’s startling as hell.
Are there any additional bells or whistles that you are adding to the project for this new release?

We’re sitting on a ton of production material and back matter that has never been released anywhere but are undecided on how much of that will go in the print issues versus another collection down the road. The individual issues are around 28-pages each so they’re very meaty comics for your money.

The plan is to release the comic as individual issues?

Monthly starting in June, yes.
So they will run right along side David’s other series this summer, Civil War II, written by his other frequent writer collaborator Brian Michael Bendis (every Marvel comic ever). That’s pretty excellent timing. I think it is very cunning timing on Boom’s part. And THE JOYNERS IN 3D was a heartbreakingly expensive book to produce. This is about not leaving money on the table, too.

What was it like from a production standpoint to literally drop a dimension from the project? Did Marquez have to get involved again?

David had to get VERY involved again, and luckily his Marvel exclusive contract does make an allowance for him to work on this project. He personally introduced me to Kelly and her incredible work — they are good friends and both live in Portland OR.

The series will have new covers by David and Kelly.

Which is ironic because Civil War II will not have covers by David, although he is doing some variants. Marko Djurdjević (Thor) is doing the main covers on that one.

Very cool. The solicitation image is already stunningly beautiful. I understand that you wanted to include David Marquez’s name before yours in the credits of the new title– in this writer-driven medium, that’s a huge shift. What you can say about that decision?

I’ve undergone a philosophical shift. Comics is a visual medium and as far as we are concerned, we just decided the artist’s name on this one should go before the writer’s name. It’s weird and it’s not fully approved by BOOM yet at all — just something we formally requested in writing for all future editions.

Do you think the medium of comics naturally shifted away from the importance of artists after the ’90s boom?

I really believe in my heart that the artist’s name should go before the writer’s. I wrote this in three months and it took Dave more than three years to draw and 3D-ize, working every day. He has the harder and more important storytelling job, and I imagine that is true on a lot of comics.

As comics started getting adapted into movies and shows and became “intellectual property,” the cultural emphasis certainly shifted to the writer. People on the street consider Robert Kirkman the sole creator of The Walking Dead. That seems backwards to me and I have told this to Tony Moore‘s (Deadpool) face. No knock against either of them, this is just me trying to be intellectually honest about what a comic book actually IS. 

I was a fan in the 90’s and thought it was really appropriate and cool that when Jim Lee (Justice League) left Marvel, he took it upon himself, as did a lot of those Image guys, to cast himself as the number one name on the cover. It made perfect sense to me.

The divide seems to be more pronounced because writers are able to work on multiple comics a month, but most artists can only draw one series a month with the high standards of art expected of comics creators. 

Labor is TIME, that’s all it is. I can juggle five or six writing projects at once, a comic book artist has to focus on one thing at a time. And I can write a page of comic book script in an hour and that page can take two or three days to draw. 

That said David and I are equal financial partners on THE JOYNERS. 

Would you like to see other creators follow suit? Also, what about the credit of inkers, colorists and other comics talent?
I would like to see other writers take a long hard look in the mirror and ask themselves who is doing the heavy lifting on a project. Having your name first sure LOOKS cool, but what are the real reasons for it? For me it made no sense that David was working for years on his pages and not being the first name on the cover. It’s a lie we tell ourselves that the writer is more important when sequential art is really an illustrated ADAPTATION of a written script. David is the prime “artist” of everything he does. And I’m embarrassed that I only came to this recently. I like that we might disrupt some other people’s ways of thinking on this. 

What about the idea of inkers and colorists– fortunately, they can balance multiple projects at once, but they have a reduced page rate.

I think if a colorist wants to have his or her name on the cover, he or she should very clearly ask for that. I have never worked with an inker. 

Which makes Marquez’ work all the more impressive.
The guy has been blowing me away for years and I am very lucky to have him as a friend and partner but nobody in the solar system thinks I am more talented or work harder than him, and rightly so.
Can you tease any future projects?
Next year will be an extremely long book with an artist who has never been published before but who has been working on this one 500+ page project for a few years now. It’s very exciting because he and David have become friends and David has taken a bit of a mentorship role in his career. The idea is to introduce people to a radical new voice on the biggest scale and size possible.
That’s a pretty massive way to hype up a new comic, after The Joyners in 3D I’m inclined to take your word very seriously.
I am ONLY attracted to projects that seem foolish in their difficulty. I hate “easy.” HATE IT.
Finally, any last words on these projects, the industry or anything else?
I think people have to remember that beyond the “creators” of a comic, there is often a large number of unsung heroes behind the scenes — editors, executives, letterers, publicity people — people who work in this business every day and get very little attention or glory. In my earliest days as a creator I was ignorant and dismissive, and sometimes even outright rude to some of these people, and the reality is they are the BACKBONE of popular comics. At Boom/Archaia, at Marvel, wherever. We need to appreciate those people too because they get the comics on the shelves.
Thanks for your time.
The first issue debuts in June in-store and in Comixology and the full 3D graphic novel is available here – take a look at the following exclusive artwork and the solicit fresh from CBR:
BEFORE2AFTER2
THE JOYNERS #1 (of 4)
Retail Price: $3.99
Writer: R.J. Ryan
Artist: David Marquez
Cover Artist: David Marquez
What’s to love:  The story Comic Book Resources called “a game changer” returns in an all-new, full-color serialized format! A landmark work by Invincible Iron Man & Civil War II artist David Marquez and longtime collaborator R.J. Ryan, featuring new color art by Bitch Planet’s Kelly Fitzpatrick.
What it is: In 2062 Northern California, technology mogul George Joyner stands on the brink of revolutionizing American life (again) with his latest high-flying creation. Unfortunately, his family life is a mess, and his wife Sonya has had enough. Can George pull it together before she decides to leave him for good?

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