Talking with Tony McMillen

Interviewer: Anthony Andujar Jr Interviewee: Tony McMillen Bounce House Bazaar is the latest project that you’ve released. What was the inspiration for this anthology project ? T: The trick was […]

Interviewer: Anthony Andujar Jr

Interviewee: Tony McMillen

  1. Bounce House Bazaar is the latest project that you’ve released. What was the inspiration for this anthology project ?

T: The trick was making an anthology that I’d actually like to read. I think anthologies are by their nature a mixed bag and it’s the rare one that feels wholly satisfying. Usually there’s at least one weak link.  

But I had two stories I had written and co-plotted with different artists (Nicola Bonometto and Ben Granoff) both finished and looking for a home and since I wasn’t ready to publish a new limited series comic and use either of these collaborations as a backup I thought it might be an attractive package to my readers to pair these two stories with a couple more written and drawn by me.  I’m hoping that having me as a writer for all the pieces gives them some sort of connective tissue while still embracing the uniqueness that each piece has inherently.

  1. You’ve worked on other comic projects of your own such as Lumen, Serious Creatures, and Attaboy. What was the creative process like for Bounce House Bazaar?

T: For my two stories that I both wrote and drew the process remains pretty much the same: I retreat to my basement and try to have the most fun possible putting ink on Bristol Board while also telling a coherent story.

 With each comic I make I find I value fun more and more. Because I think it comes through to the reader that I’m having a good time and they’ll be more likely to as well. Even if I’m exploring some dark personal wounds like I did in Attaboy or Serious Creatures I’m still having a ball doing it through the medium of comics.

 Of course, with Grapeshot and my Batman story in Bounce House Bazaar they’re almost entirely straight up fun. Like my other stories are well-rounded meals, with some vegetables and lean proteins; these are pure dessert. And sometimes you want a bowl of sugar cereal for dinner and that’s okay.

 Working with Ben and Nicola was a lot of fun because both are true collaborators. I was open to what both brought to their respective stories. I wrote loose scripts and I think I showed some very rough thumbnails when asked but both guys did their own thing with my initial ideas and made the stories our stories.

 They both even added dialogue so it was a real mixture for everything.

 Hell, my favorite line in the whole comic is Nicola’s line he added to Sawn Off Shogun. “We will fuck you to death and then we will fuck your ghost.”

 I was pissed! I couldn’t improve that! It was vulgar poetry of the highest order.

  1. When writing and illustrating the first story in this anthology, Grapeshot: Man of Lethal Leisure was this intended to be a standalone book with this character of yours, or did you have future installments for this character in mind?

T: Oh, he’s coming back! I had a lot of fun with that guy and I’ve always wanted to make a Diabolik or Grendel Hunter Rose type super criminal character so I imagine he’ll be back for a couple more short stories and maybe even a crossover with some of my other characters. I think the next time we see Grapeshot he’ll be in another one-off story I’m going to call “Purple Pros” where he’ll face off with another purple clad character I’ve been cooking up called Shrinking Violent.

  1. Given that you primarily illustrate and write the majority of your comics, you invited two fellow creators, Ben Granoff and Nicola Bonometto to work with you on this book. How did you all meet?

T: Both Ben and Nicola independently harassed me into writing them a story to draw. Ben is someone who I first met via the Cartoonist Kayfabe Ringside Seats Facebook group and we’ve subsequently chatted a lot and appeared on one another’s podcasts and Youtube shows.

 Nicola is a fellow artist who I met through Facebook, I think via the Copra Press Club (I am a massive fan of Michel Fiffe’s work) and it’s easy to slag off social media for all the ills it has wrought BUT it’s also helped me out big time as a creator. Nicola is an Italian who lives in Spain and I don’t know how else we would have met and started creating together if not for the internet.

 So, technology might be tearing apart the world but it’s helping me make funny books too. So, you know, pluses and minuses.

  1. What was it like switching from illustrator to writer for two of the four stories featured in this book such as Sawn-Off Shogun with Bonometto and A Theater Near You with Ben Granoff?

 T: It was freeing in the sense that it’s much easier to write a comic script than it is to lay one out and draw it. And it was freeing to know that I was working with a different artist than myself in both circumstances because each has a different set of skills and strengths and weaknesses than myself. With both guys I tried to approach them the way I’d like to work with a writer by giving them as much freedom as they wanted and by tailoring the story to their interests and strengths. I asked them both before we started, what do you like to draw? What do you hate to draw?

 I think simple things like make a big difference in getting the best out of any collaboration.

  1. Were there any other stories that you had in the works that were initially meant to be included into the anthology but didn’t make the cut?

T: There was going to be a really cheeky story drawn by me that starts out as a return to my first comic Lumen. Esteban, the hero of that book, would open this story in the middle of an adventure and then, zat! Attaboy (another one of my characters) would appear: Tony team up!?

 But then the egg would keep rolling and suddenly someone off panel would  yell, “Cut!” and would be revealed to be Bobby Feckle, the teenage special FX artist and protagonist of my comic Serious Creatures. Which means the entire story is actually a movie set featuring my characters. It would have been a fun crossover with all three of my major comic creations but I just didn’t have time to draw it. I still might someday, if I do a follow up to Bounce House Bazaar at some point. Or it might just end up as a scene in the next batch of Serious Creatures comics coming out this October. We’ll see… 

  1. The final story that you wrote and illustrated for this four part anthology of stories  focused on your introduction to comics as a medium by means of Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and Frank Miller, Klaus Janson & Lynn Varley’s Dark Knight Returns (1986). What was the genesis for crafting this surrealist semi-autobiographical short story?

 T: Fellow Kayfabe Ringside member Manny Gomez is making a Batman ’89 zine and I created this four pager for that. Projects like zines always take forever to come out because there are so many people involved so I figured I’d just publish it first to show it off and then Manny and crew can republish it in the zine when that comes out.

 It was interesting to do a full-on autobiographic comic, I have never done that before. But luckily since it involved Batman and Tim Burton’s movie I wasn’t stuck drawing my boring life the entire time and there was room to make it visually interesting. I really like how it came out, the layouts for each page are playful and weird but the storytelling still works.

  1. You’re also a novelist with a trilogy of books known as The Bleeding Tree Trilogy. What are the pros and cons that come with writing and self publishing novels versus illustrating and writing comics?

T: It’s harder to get people to take a chance on a prose novel than a comic. Which makes sense; a comic is less of a time investment. I can read a trade paperback in an hour or two but a novel, even if I’m tearing through it, that’s a day or two at least. So, my comic work has been more successful in terms of number of readers and I thinkin loyalty of readers. I tend to get a lot of people who read one of my comics and then seek out the rest.

 My novels though I will say do seem to garner more reader reviews and ratings on sites like Amazon or Goodreads but that’s probably just because most comic readers don’t think to go to those sites to leave a review.

 I get lots of very flattering and thoughtful reviews on Etsy for my comics from the folks who buy them (thanks gang, you’re in a gang now!) but I know I have sold more comics than my novels and that’s including my novel An Augmented Fourth which was published through a small press and not self-published by me like everything else I do.

 And I’m just like my readers, I’m more likely to take a chance on a comic by an unknown creator than a novel.

  1. What do you enjoy most when dabbling with the two literary mediums

and what do you find difficult when crafting for both?

T: I like and dislike the isolation of both. At times it’s really freeing to be alone with my imagination, problem solving and playing with these stories and knowing that I don’t have to worry about anyone else disappointing me or not helping me the exact way I’d like in order to make these stories happen.

 But of course, that also means I have no one to bounce ideas off of either. And more than really wanting a collaborator it’s just the simple business of needing to be alone for so many hours a day to accomplish any of this. Which can be a little lonely.

 I think I prefer comics as a storytelling medium because it’s easier for me to understand how to utilize it for more creative and maybe just weird ways of telling a story.

 But I also think writing and reading a prose novel is a longer process and it might be  easier to forge a deeper connection with a reader because they spend more time in that world. And it’s a world where they as a reader provide more of themselves to fill in the puzzle since there is no visual element provided by me the author. So that might deepen their connection to the work as well.

  1. Are there any projects in the works that you want your readers to keep an eye out for?

 T: Oh yeah! Serious Creatures, my comic book series about a teenage special FX artist working in Hollywood in the 70s, 80s and 90s is returning with six more issues to complete the saga! I will be launching a crowdfunding campaign through Crowdfundr in June which will offer subscriptions to the new issues with the first issue of the new arc dropping in October just in time for Halloween. This arc is entitled “Now Leaving the Golden State” and picks up where we left off with everything falling apart for Bobby and Jack just as the special FX industry is booming in the early 80s.

 

Anthony Andujar Jr.

About Anthony Andujar Jr.