Interview conducted by Joe Jimenez
It is with great excitement that we give you a sneak look at one of the latest projects added to the Viper publishing roster. Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter is the creative brain child of Russell Nohelty, and its slated for a 2011 release. We took a few moments from Russell’s busy day to get little more background on the person behind Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter.
Q: First of all Spider-Man or Superman?
Ha. Spider-Man all the way. While I like some of the things that DC’s done over the years – namely the original Bane storyline in Batman, the Death of Superman and Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns – I’ve always been a Marvel guy.
Q: When did you first decide that you wanted to create your own comics for a living?
It’s actually a kind of funny story. Back when I was in high school I wanted a career in comics, but I can’t draw to save my life. Seriously, I’m not even good enough to draw for XKCD. So, I kinda put that dream aside and tried my luck at film and TV.
Years later a buddy of mine told me that Stan Lee didn’t draw his own comics and I was floored. I always just thought you had to draw well in order to have a career in comics. I immediately started researching comic artists and a shortly after I was working on my first book.
Q: Who has had the biggest influence on you outside the comics industry, and how did they affect your life?
Man, that’s a crazy question. I’ve had the privilege of having so many people who affected and believed in me. I tend to collect influences in weird places. I got into film because of Kevin Smith. He launched his first movie at 24 so I thought I could do it too. Boy was I wrong. Then, I watched the Big Lebowski and realized that Joel Coen was 30 when Blood Simple was released. So, I had another goal. Those goals have evolved and warped over the years a bit. I suppose you could say I’m fueled by the success of others. Now I just hope that I can keep creating comics until I’m too old to read them – which will be once my eyesight goes and the dementia sets in.
As far as helping me out and believing in me I’ve been incredibly blessed that everyone from my friends to my parents to my amazing wife have all pushed me to go forward even when I didn’t even believe in myself.
Q: What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?
It might seem like a rote or standard answer but I like to think it’s that I look at every page of the book and really believe that I’ve never seen a book quite like it on the market. Sure it’s got elements of comics that I’ve admired over the years, but overall it’s a wholly unique take on the genre. I still can’t believe that I get to wake up every day and work on something that I love.
Q: Where did the inspirations for Ichabod Jones evolve from?
I don’t want to get into a diatribe but I was driving down the highway listening to the radio and a story came on about how one specific comic book company sold another project. Now this company has a history of producing comics not for the sake of the comics, but only to sell them into another medium. Frankly I’m not sure they even care what’s on the page as long as they make money from the sale of the rights. I won’t name names, but there’s no art in that to me.
That sort of thing really infuriates me. Just to be clear I have no problem with somebody selling a comic into a movie or TV show. What makes me mad is a comic that’s only made as a means to sell the rights. I love comics as a medium onto itself and think people should make a comic for the love of it. Anything more should be a happy coincidence.
So I got to thinking about making comics for comic’s sake. I was looking for a project so weird and off-kilter that it doesn’t fit into Hollywood’s definition of a movie or TV show. I wanted to do a comic that I would immediately gravitate toward when I saw it in a comic book shop or online.
I remember when I got the initial pitch pages back from Renzo (Podesta. The artist.) I thought the pages were phenomenal but there was no way that any publisher would take a risk on something like Ichabod. I actually assumed I would be self-publishing the book and selling it issue by issue out of my trunk. Luckily, Viper stepped up and saw something in our madness.
Q: How do you think your monster hunter tale differs from all those that have come before?
Well, most stories deal with a hero that the reader can clearly root for because he inhabits everything good in a morally corrupt world. Ichabod Jones flips that on its head by making Ichabod a psychopath who’s been institutionalized for murdering untold scores of people.
More importantly, the thing we deal with most in Ichabod is the perspective of reality. Throughout the run of the story we play with different ideas revolving around true reality. Is Ichabod REALLY a monster hunter at the end of the world? OR is he dreaming from panel one? OR has he escaped from the institution and is killing innocent people while his dementia convinces him they are monsters? We leave it really wide open and hope that the audience comes up with their own version of Ichabod’s reality.
Q: What is the first thing the reader is going to see on the first page, and why should that convince them to keep reading?
Well I think the art is really something that you don’t see a lot in comics these days. The surreal feel of every panel helps reinforce this feeling of altered perspective. Renzo understands the story in a way that no other artist could. I have on more than one occasion stated that without him there would be no Ichabod. He’s a rare find and raises this book to another level.
In fact, I knew the art style I wanted for Ichabod right off the bat. I placed a few ads but never actually thought that I would find an artist who could replicate the correct style. I found a few artists that I really liked, but their style wasn’t exactly right for the project. I was starting to feel like this book would never happen. I literally was a day or so away from shelving the project for a while and trying again later.
Then, Renzo sent me a test page and it was EXACTLY what I was looking for down to the detail in the eyes. I thought it was utterly amazing because outside of the pages I sent him I’d given him no direction. From that moment I knew Ichabod would be something special. In fact his initial test page remains in the finished product to this day completely unaltered.
Q: Can you share any highlights on the future with Ichabod Jones, what do you have planned so far?
Sure. Ichabod’s definitely going to meet some new characters, people will begin to depend on him, and that will truly test whether he can take the enormous responsibility of becoming a hero. One of my favorite moments in the entire series is when he meets Thomas, an old roommate of his that he beat to death with a lead pipe. Those types of surprises and complicated character relationships are what I love about Ichabod.
Q: What would you like the reader to take away after reading the series?
That perspective is only what we make of it. That even the weirdest and most put upon of us has the ability to rise up and become a hero. And of course, most importantly, that they’ve had a great time with a fun book and tell their friends to pick it up.
Q: Are there any plans for a sequel? The ending is a bit ambiguous, so it could go either way – we can be satisfied with it and fill in some blanks, or you’re just setting us up for another series.
Well, we’ve scripted the first four issues. Assuming we have a positive reaction there’s definitely a few more storylines. This could be the tip of a very deep Iceberg.
Q: What advice would you give to someone trying to break into comics?
If you love something you have to keep at it. Failure is not an option — it’s a reality. I’m a failed movie director who was a failed TV director who was a failed News cameraman who became a failed screenwriter who dabbled in becoming a failed TV writer before I found a medium that I connect with and truly love. This is the most fun that I’ve ever had working on any project in any medium. I just can’t believe it took this long to find it!
Q: What’s your all-time favorite movie?
Ha. I had someone ask me that question a while ago. When I told them that I had too many to name they said it was a copout answer. Still… I’m gonna go with that. Final Answer.
Q: Any final thoughts?
Make sure to visit www.ichabodjones.com to find wallpaper of the main characters, read the preview issue and like Ichabod Jones on Facebook. Stay tuned for an amazing ride!