Saturday, April 26, 2008

Jorge Vega - Interview - Author of Gunplay

When I reviewed the Gunplay preview book I was harsh on it and it landed at the bottom of my list one week. Jorge contacted me and we started to e-mail back and forth and I become more interested in Gunplay and Jorge as a result. Jorge is going to send a copy of the graphic novel to me and I'm going to review it and hopefully having my opinion changed. Jorge was also nice enough to allow us to do an interview with him and personally I always find that my appreciation of someones work increases the more I know of them. It helps to frame their work and sometimes the insight gained opens up the material itself.

Jim: What is your secret origin? In others words who is Jorge Vega?
Jorge: I’m a pretty low-key guy. I grew up in Queens, NY. Went to college in Connecticut. Taught theater in Long Island and then wound up buying a house and raising kids in Massachusetts. I’ve bounced around quite a bit in the last few years—but family and writing have been my anchor. I’ve always been a storyteller, or tried to be. Graduated with a degree in playwriting—which is maybe why I tend to start with the dialogue in most of my comic projects. That’s a little ass backwards, I know, but I always hear a character’s voice well before I have a grasp of their situation.

Jim: You won the contest to get your book published. Was this you first attempt?
Jorge: At getting published? No. Far from it. I’d been submitting work to everyone and anyone who’d consider me. Sometimes at their request but mostly not.
Have you had any other published work?
I’ve had some plays picked up by small theater companies. But, in terms of comics, my publishing credits prior to Gunplay were limited to webcomics and anthologies mostly. Things like Warmageddon (

Jim: What exactly did you have to write to win the contest (full script, premise)?
Jorge: They’ve changed the rules a bit this year. I like to believe the adjustments are the result of some of my conversations with the Platinum Studios crew. You see, all I had to write for last year’s Comic Book Challenge was a half page synopsis. Not even a true synopsis, really. It was more like a print “trailer”. We sent that out along with one page of fully finished art and it was enough to get them interested. They invited me out to San Diego, along with 50 other creators, and I made a live pitch to them. From there… well, we won. But the hysterical thing was that they still had no idea of whether or not I could write! I mean, all they knew was that my artist, Dominic Vivona, kicked ass and that, when placed before a panel of strangers, I was an effective communicator.

This year, the rules are a little different. They’ll be looking for three finished pages, with dialogue, along with a lengthier synopsis.

Jim: Are you writing this as a full script or are you working with the artist in design and layout?
Jorge: Well, though we’ve produced a graphic novel, Dom and I approached the work as four 22-page chapters or issues. Our process was a pretty straight forward series of conversations; each conversation preceded me writing a new chapter. I’d go write it, hand it off to Dom, he’d churn out thumbs of the whole chapter, we’d talk about them, modify the script or the images depending on what felt best and, then, Dom made magic happen.

Jim: Who would you count as your influences?
Jorge: August Wilson, Mark Twain, Richard Wright, Octavia Butler… American masters like that.

Jim: Is this a paying job – or does the book have to sell so many units before you see a payday?
Jorge: Both Dom and I received a pretty substantial page rate as well as a percentage of unit sales and anything else that may or may not happen with the property.

Jim: What is the hardest part of writing a graphic novel for you?
Jorge: The ending. Heh. Even when you have a crystal clear picture of how your story ends, getting from point A to point B or C can be a little tricky. As a writer, you want to give you characters and your story room to breathe and stretch out. That creative elbow room leaves space for the reader to really connect with the story and to see things through a different set of eyes. Then you suddenly realize you’re three-quarters of the way through your total page count and you need to bring resolution or, at the very least, a sense of closure to things. I tend to get a little panicky in the home stretch, wondering if I haven’t rushed things and forced the reader down a very narrow tunnel in the final quarter.

Jim: Do you have any other proposals in the works?
Jorge: A bunch. Several of them are already looking like they’re going to happen, too. I’ve got a pretty frightening story about child soldiers in the Congo. There’s also this other story about a pregnant teenage crime lord and one about spontaneous combustion. How’s that for variety? As WuTang Financial suggests, I like to “diversify my bonds, ninja.”

Jim: What are your aspirations? All creator owned material, work for the big two, screenplays?
Jorge: Any, all or none of those things are fine with me. Essentially, I’m interested in making writing my nine to five. Gunplay’s opened the door to that possibility but there’s still a ways to go toward making it my reality. There’s no part of me that’s feels I must write for the big two or I must be an indie star. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be happy if either of those things happened but I’m not actively looking for that. I love to write, plain and simple, and in my perfect world writing would be paying for some new aluminum siding.

Jim: What mainstream character (Marvel or DC) would you love to write?
Jorge: I’d be down to do something with the Hulk, especially a Defenders book. Oh, the stories I’d tell with that crew. Aside from him, the characters that I think’d be fun to play with aren’t that mainstream. Marvel’s Brother Voodoo is a character I already have a clear vision for and, in a completely different direction, I’ve got this Doc Samson story I’d love to tell. But who’d want to read that, right?
Well… me.

Thanks again to Jorge for taking time to "talk" to us and give us an interview. I'm looking forward to reading the graphic novel now. Which is coming out this Wednesday April 30 I believe.

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