Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chad's Jackass Comic Creator Interviews from 2001: John Layman

[After this interview, there's only one more left from the archives. Anyway, this is another interview I conducted with a comic creator in late 2001 where the questions are a lovely mix of intelligence and "stories about chicks." What the fuck, man? What the fuck. Also, I don't know if any of the links John mentions here still work, but I've kept them just in case. Final post in this series will be up on Friday. Who will the final interview subject be? Start guessing now!]

Interview With . . . John Layman!
When the whole thing was going on with The Authority, people were talking shit about anyone and everyone at DC and Wildstorm. Well, everyone except for writer Mark Millar and this man, the title’s editor, John Layman. Okay, some people tried to talk shit about Layman, but they were quickly silenced. Layman, from what I’m told, has fought for the book harder than anyone. He is a fan first, and an editor/employee second. I respect this guy for that. And for the fact that I look at many of my favourite books and see his name attached. That must mean something. I don’t know how much input he has, but whatever is his must be great. And without further ramblings by me, here is my interview with John Layman.

Me: Tell us a little about yourself.

Layman: I was born and raised in Marysville, California, a little town 40 miles above Sacramento. Went to college at CSU Long Beach and graduated with an English degree from Chico State, emphasis on creative writing and Victorian literature.

Me: How did you get interested in writing?

Layman: When you're an only child living on the outskirts of a small town, prior to the advent of cable TV and video games, you read a lot, and after I while you try to write. I'd wanted to write comic books for as long as I can remember. Did little mini-comics before I could even write in cursive. All have since been destroyed, thank God.

Me: How did you become an editor?

Layman: Before coming on at WildStorm, I worked at the San Diego Union-Tribune. On the side I wrote freelance stories, and I would always pitch comic-book and sci-fi related stories. After covering the San Diego Con for a few years, I got to know some of the people from WildStorm. I jumped at the chance to be an assistant editor for Jonathan Peterson. After a few months, the paper lured me back with an offer of a monthly comic book column, and a year later Scott Dunbier called me up, this time with an offer of a full-editorship. Kinda a long, weird, story, but the bottom line is there is no ONE way to become an editor.

Me: What titles do you edit right now?

Layman: Astro City, The Authority, The Monarchy, Planetary, Steampunk. A LOT of upcoming projects, including: Batman/Deathblow, Wildcats version 3.0, Matador, a few top secret Warren Ellis projects, a “revamp” that some people have speculated about lately and a few other goodies and one-shots. I'm also quite involved with the Left Behind books for Tyndale House Publishers.

Me: What have you written?

Layman: I've written probably more than a 100 reviews, op-ed, features and interviews for the San Diego Union-Tribune and various web sites (most of the web sites have since imploded.) I've had fiction published a of couple magazines, Into the Darkness and Hot Lava. Most recently, I shared a by-line with my girlfriend, who is a reporter, writing on article on “TV Girls Who Kick Ass” for a magazine called Strong. I've also have three novels and a fantastic screenplay sitting in a drawer, but I'm kinda lazy when it comes to sending stuff out.

As far as comics go, my first published work was a DV8 short story in the WildStorm Thunderbook one-shot a couple summers ago. I did some Gen13 scripting and fill-in work. Of course, my favourite creative project was last year's Bay City Jive. It didn't get a lot of readership, presumably because of the oddball subject matter, but writing and lettering that was certainly the high point of many high points here at WildStorm.

Since then, I've adapted Left Behind for Tyndale House. Got a few things cooking on the distant horizon, but editing takes a pretty decent chunk of time, so creative projects are few and far between.

Me: Ever had to hunt down a creator and use physical force to get their work?

Layman: No, only because I'm a wuss. I have carried art literally across continents, and have driven more than 50 miles in the middle of the night to pick up or drop off stuff.

Me: Boxers or briefs?

Layman: Humility prevents me from answering this question, so I can only point you to the following link:

Me: Cats or dogs?

Layman: For more than you ever really wanted to know on that subject you can go here, here, and here.

Me: Summer or winter?

Layman: Both! Once per year.

Me: Got any cool stories involving you and a chick?

Layman: Again, propriety prevents me from answering that, and yet still I will refer you to this link:

Me: I just handed you a gun and a case full of 100 untraceable bullets. Who or what do you use them on?

Layman: Probably nothing. Unless I'd hire a hit man to do my dirty work.

Me: What are some of the comics you are currently digging?

Layman: Stray Bullets is my absolute favourite comic, 100 Bullets is my favourite things coming out of DC/Vertigo, The Establishment is my favourite WildStorm title which I don't edit. I'm reading more Marvel stuff than I have in the past; a couple years ago I'd scoff at the idea of picking up an X-Men title. I'm nuts over anything by Kyle Baker, and I've credit Cerebus for bringing me into comic book stores, month-in, month-out, for more than almost 240 months.

Me: Any cool titles coming up that you can share any info on?

Layman: Just that Batman/Deathblow is going to be phenomenal. And some of the Warren Ellis stuff we got cookin’.

Me: What creator has been the worst with deadlines in your experience?

Layman: A piece of advice I got when I first came on board here is: “All artists are liars.” I wouldn't go that far, but I would say many are clearly delusional and many of them are insane. However, some of the craziest ones I count among my best friends, so there is nobody I could clearly point out as “the worst.” Cracking the whip is part of my job.

Me: Do you know how Planetary's going to end?

Layman: No, and neither does John Cassaday. Part of the fun for us is getting the script, and finding out what Warren has up his sleeve. John and I go back and forth about it. I mean, I should clarify: we have a rough idea, but both like to be surprised to we try not to know more than we need to. However, I will say this, and with considerable relish: I KNOW MORE THAN YOU!

Me: What has been your favourite moment in comics?

Layman: It has to be when I get an advanced copy of a truly beautiful book, when a Planetary hardcover is hot of the presses and delivered into my hands. Or an issue of The Authority or Astro City. Moments like that make all the BS and frustrations melt away, and is the euphoric moments that really propel you in this job.

Me: What do you think of Bob Harras coming into Wildstorm and Chris Claremont doing Gen13?

Layman: I think Bob has a good track record, and I think while other editors are concentrating on other lines, like Cliffhanger, Homage and ABC, or new lines like Eye of the Storm, it's reassuring to have somebody to shore up the core WildStorm Universe. I look forward to seeing what he's got planned.

Me: The Authority . . . whatever you feel like saying on the subject.

Layman: The Authority was (and is) a phenomenal ride. I took over for departing editor Rachelle Brissenden as of issue #14, and while each and every issue was a challenge, I'm proud of the end result of all of it. I think Authority was groundbreaking, and in the years to come people will remember the “Authority era” like I look back on my senior year of high school, when Watchman and Dark Knight Returns were coming out. It's nice to be a part of something like that. I always compare making Authority to trying to create a gourmet meal with an ever-shifting assortment of ingredients. Still, I believe the end result was pretty tasty, which is what matters the most.

Me: Who do you love?

Layman: ebay, Alice Donut, Homer Simpson, Lego, designers the makers of Grand Theft Auto 3 for PS2,

Me: Any final words?

Layman: John McCrea threatened to punch me in the face because I kept insisting he, John Cassaday and myself ride the Stratosphere roller coaster at 8 in the morning. I don't remember much about that night, but I do remember John wanting to kill me by the time it was over. It was also one of the two wildest nights of the last decade for me. Oddly enough, Cassaday was involved in my other wild night. Mental note to self: Stay away from John Cassaday.