Talking comics with One Man War on Terror cartoonist Benjamin Marra

This interview presents a conversation with Grammy-nominated comic book creator, cartoonist and the future of comics history, Benjamin Marra (TERROR ASSAULTER: O.M.W.O.T. (One Man War On Terror), NIGHT BUSINESS, AMERICAN BLOOD, BLADES & LAZERS) about his work, comics, and new daily strip, WHAT WE MEAN BY YESTERDAY.

Jeffery Klaehn: For audiences new to you and your work, how might you describe your “brand” as a comic creator, Ben?

Benjamin Marra: It’s difficult for me to self-assess my own brand. Probably easier for an external set of eyes to make a more accurate accounting. But I’d describe myself as a creator focused on genre and manipulating or subverting genre tropes. The themes of my work revolve around ideas of America and American Pop Culture. As a brand I’m a bit of a provocateur and permanently stationed on the underground side of comics. I’d say my comics are Gonzo comics that stem from the creative, subversive attitudes of the 60s and 70s.

JK: When you think about your own passion for comics and comic art, what immediately comes to mind for you?

Ben Marra: Drawing with ink and telling stories. Those are two things that I obsess over practically every minute of the day.

JK: I was thinking today that mainstream comics should be available in magazine size format at 100-page each, on slick paper, maybe for a $7.99US or $8.99US price point. Some could perhaps be printed on lower quality paper and offered at cheaper prices. Read the rest

Talking Comics with Ignatz Award-Winning Cartoonist Noah Van Sciver

This interview presents a conversation with Ignatz award-winning cartoonist Noah Van Sciver (Fante Bukowski, Grateful Dead: Origins, Disquiet, Please Don’t Step On My JNCO Jeans, One Dirty Tree, Blammo, Saint Cole, More Mundane, Constant Companion, 1999, The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln) about his life, art and work. Read the rest

Talking BOWIE: Stardust, Rayguns & Moonage Daydreams with Eisner Award-Winning Comic Book Creator Michael Allred

This interview presents a conversation with Eisner Award-winning comic book creator Michael Allred (Madman, iZombie, Red Rocket 7, X-Ray Robot, Silver Surfer, X-Statix, Bug! The Adventures of Forager) about BOWIE: Stardust, Rayguns & Moonage Daydreams.

Jeffery Klaehn: Please tell me about BOWIE: Stardust, Rayguns & Moonage Daydreams.

Michael Allred: It's a visual biography about how David Bowie exploded into superstardom with the invention of his Ziggy Stardust persona.  His whole life is represented, but the bulk of it focuses on the amp up to "Ziggy-Mania" with the goal to make it as visually interesting as possible, using the music and visual iconography as inspiration.

JK: How would you say music has influenced your art and sensibilities over the course of your career to date?

Michael Allred: It's massive.  Music injects imagery into my head.  It keeps me loose, lights me up, and fuels me.

JK: What's Bowie and his music meant for you?

Michael Allred: Bowie was the first musical entity I discovered on my own.  Looking for comics at the local drugstore, a rock mag with Bowie on the cover jumped out at me.  It was so compelling I bought the just-released "Rebel Rebel" single, and I was hooked.  A crash course and lifetime addiction to all things Bowie followed.

JK: What are your favorite Bowie songs and albums?

Michael Allred: After buying that first single I started with the Diamond Dogs album and bought everything leading up to that with my paper route money all in a very short period of time.  Read the rest

Talking Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics with Visionary Comic Book Creator Tom Scioli

Visionary comic book creator Tom Scioli discusses his new work, Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics, set to be released July 14, 2020 from Ten Speed Press.

Tom Scioli won a Xeric Grant in 1999 for his creator-owned comic book series, The Myth of 8-Opus, and gained further prominence as co-creator (with Joe Casey) of the Eisner-award nominated comic book series Gødland (2005-2012) published by Image Comics.  More recently, Scioli wrote and drew a five issue Go-Bots mini-series (2018) published by IDW Comics, as well as his (very awesome) “Super Powers” (2017) back-up feature for DC Comics' Young Animal imprint.  Scioli also drew and co-scripted (with IDW editor-in-chief John Barber) the critically acclaimed Transformers vs. G.I. JOE maxi-series (2014-2016) published by IDW.  In 2020 he wrote and drew Fantastic Four: Grand Design, published by Marvel Comics.

Jeffery Klaehn: How might you elevator pitch Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics to audiences, especially new readers who may not yet be familiar with Jack Kirby or your own comics work?

Tom Scioli: Everybody’s knows Marvel, everybody knows Stan Lee, but there’s another guy who is at least as important in the creation of the Marvel Universe. Jack Kirby has been a big part of comics history from the very beginning and is a real life hero in his own right. If you’ve never heard of Jack Kirby, or just know the name and not much more, prepare to get your mind blown. Read the rest

Talking Adventure Games with Dave Gilbert

Game designer and publisher Dave Gilbert founded Wadjet Eye Games in 2006.  This interview features conversation about point and click adventure games; digital game development, marketing and publishing; and the relationship between art, passion and real world commerce.

Jeffery Klaehn: How did you first become interested in point and click adventure games?

Dave Gilbert: I played King’s Quest at a very impressionable age! I typed the word “jump” and I saw Graham actually jump, and I was so blown away that I’ve been playing them ever since.

JK: You founded Wadjet Eye Games in 2006 to sell your game, The Shivah, commercially, then moved to pursue game design on a full-time basis and released The Blackwell Legacy, the first in what would become a series of five games.  What are your thoughts on these games and on the market then compared to now?

Dave Gilbert: I am Blackwell Legacy’s biggest critic. It was the first game I wrote with the intention of selling commercially – The Shivah was originally freeware, so I don’t count it – and it shows every inch of my inexperience. The gameplay is clunky, the story is told in three giant infodumps, and the main characters weren’t very likable. But that said, I know with absolute certainty that it was the very best game I could have made with the experience, resources and time I had available. So I stand by it.

As for the market, everything is different. Back in 2006, indie games in general were a very new thing. Read the rest

Creator of Stardew Valley: "It’s important to me not to just entertain, but to delight"

Eric Barone is the creator and lead developer of Stardew Valley, the indie farming and life sim RPG that’s enchanted millions around the world.  He’s a 32-year old game developer based in Seattle, Washington, who grew up in a semi-rural area of the Pacific Northwest with dreams of one day being a musician.

A digital meditation on what’s truly important in life, Stardew Valley resonates with themes of joy, magic and connection.  This interview, undertaken on Friday, March 20, 2020, began with a single question on the theme of communicating, encouraging and sharing happiness.   

Jeffery Klaehn: La dolce vita.  How is “the sweet life” or “the good life” represented within Stardew Valley, and what does it mean for you?  Is it the same as success, or different?

Eric Barone: For me, a good life involves self-actualization (finding my own purpose and fulfilling it), contributing positively to others (family, friends, community), and feeling like I’m part of something important that is bigger than myself. I guess I’d call achieving those things “success”!

 JK: Stardew Valley released to universal critical acclaim in 2016 and since then you’ve continuously given players free content updates, providing new content and features, improvements and experiences.  Why has this been important for you?

Eric Barone: I am very grateful that I’m able to make a career of this, but I’d say the most meaningful thing to me is that people love the game and are finding happiness, peace and magic in it. I've always wanted to capture a special magic with Stardew Valley.  Read the rest

Talking adventure games with Olivia Wood

Olivia Wood is a video game writer, narrative designer, and editor, specializing in interactive narrative. She works for Failbetter Games in London, UK. Her credits include Sunless Skies (writer, narrative designer and editor), Sunless Sea: Zubmariner (writer, narrative designer and editor), Sunless Sea (writer and editor), Fallen London (writer, narrative designer and editor), Where the Water Tastes Like Wine (contributing writer), The Mystery of Kalkomey Isle (design consultant and editor), Cheaper than Therapy (writer, designer and developer), and Lethophobia (writer and designer). She first worked in the video game industry at the age of 18 as a quality assurance technician for games including Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver and Timesplitters 2.  Her work in writing and editing (narrative) in the video game industry was recognised by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in 2017. She strives to share her knowledge of video game writing, narrative design and interactive narrative through giving talks and interviews and also via narrative consultancy and writing services.

This interview features conversation about her favorite adventure games, narrative, and writing.

Jeffery Klaehn: What about adventure games most interests you, as a writer and also as a player?

Olivia Wood: There's been a history of puzzles in adventure games feeling at odds with the narrative. I actually don't love calling them 'puzzles' in this context. Puzzles to me are more about something with its own set of internal constraints and rules that gets progressively complicated and iterated upon. I prefer to think of what are traditionally called 'puzzles' in adventure games as 'problems.'  Read the rest

Talking Adventure Games with Mark Yohalem

As a game design hobbyist, Mark Yohalem has worked both on his own projects and as an offsite senior or lead writer for BioWare, inXile Entertainment, TimeGate Studios, S2 Games, Nikitova Games, and Affinix Software. As co-founder of Wormwood Studios with two friends (artist Victor Pflug and programmer James Spanos) in 2010, he developed Primordia, a classical point-and-click adventure game that has sold about a quarter million copies and was, for years, the highest-rated adventure game on Steam. The same trio is currently working on Strangeland, another adventure game. Mark is also developing Fallen Gods, a role-playing game inspired by the Icelandic sagas and folklore, the board game Barbarian Prince, and game books like Lone Wolf. By profession, Mark is an attorney. In 2018, he was recognized in the Daily Journal as one of the top 40 lawyers under the age of 40 in California.

This interview features conversation about the aesthetics of point-and-click adventure games, classic and modern adventure games, game writing and design, and ways in which stories connect with both learning and play.

Jeffery Klaehn: [Imagine] you’re addressing an audience comprised primarily of non-gamers, and your talk is entitled, “The aesthetics of classic point-and-click adventure games.”  You begin …

Mark Yohalem: The wonder of the classics is that they don’t just let us hear the voice of the past, they also allow us to listen with the ears of the past. We commune not only with those who created the art but also those who consumed it -- not just Beethoven but Beethoven’s audience. Read the rest