Embark with RANDY STONE on "Bullet Adventures"
Comic Book Yeti contributor Andrew Irvin welcomes Randy Stone into the Yeti Cave to talk about his newest Kickstarter campaign for Bullet Adventures, which goes live January 24th! Andrew and Randy dig deep into the series itself and the collaborative efforts that have brought this series to life.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Thanks for sitting down with us today here at Comic Book Yeti, Randy. How did the holidays treat you?
RANDY STONE: They were really good! Despite only crossing off about half of my to-do list, the R & R was great and I got to spend a ton of time with the family. One thing I did do was get the word out about the upcoming Kickstarter for Bullet Adventures, and sharing an advance copy of issue two’s story, which is free for Yeti fans here:
CBY: It seems like you’ve put together a team from various quarters - you also denoted the shift in the creative team over the four titles you’ve put together. Can you discuss the manner in which you and your colleagues came to work on this project? What can you share about your process of communication throughout, where the vision was collective, and where, perhaps, choices of preference were decided throughout the character/plot development process?
RS: It’s no secret that I’ve found the vast majority of my collaborators through Twitter (making the recent fear of losing that platform even scarier for me). The coolest thing about the global community is that there are no barriers to working with anyone. The funny thing is that our communication is almost entirely online. I had worked with Jordan for at least a year throughout Bullet and into the Bullet Adventures scripts before I had ever spoken to him in real time during the first Kickstarter campaign. I think that’s partly because I gravitate towards writing my thoughts out, but maybe also due to the strange hours I put in making comics after the kids go to bed!
With Jordan, I brought an initial draft to him and I think he had finished the revised script before we brought Kath in. For Bullet Adventures, there was a lot of back and forth between us and we had the first couple issues scripted by the time Lara started. We were finished with issue #4 by the time she stepped away, so again, Nico was working from completed scripts. I’m really hoping that moving forward, I can get some video calls involving the full creative team, where we can hash out future story ideas like a virtual creator summit and work in aspects that they’d like to include as well.
CBY: So you and Jordan have been consistent across Bullet Adventures (including the Bullet introductory title) in writing the story. Lucas Gattoni has been lettering for you throughout, and Kath Lobo has gotten a “created by” credit on the subsequent issues after the first installment. I would say the “house style” consistency delivered by Nicolás Carrizo, Francesca Cittarelli, and Lara Kane following Kath’s example is certainly worth noting - building upon my prior question around communication - what was the dialogue around visual consistency like, and what things have you learned through bringing additional people into the collaborative process?
RS: It’s interesting because on the surface, their styles are very distinct, but I think there’s a through line in their art with the way they all handle the characters interacting. There was never an attempt to have them draw like each other or anything, but I almost feel like Lara’s whimsical art and Nico’s manga influence are two sides of Kath’s coin (if that makes any sense).
It was bittersweet that Kath couldn’t return when we started putting the series together, but it was a great opportunity to work with Lara. Then when Lara wasn’t able to continue, I jumped at the chance to bring in Nico, who I had been discussing another project with. It was perfect timing too, as issue #2 had a natural shift in both time period and focus. It obviously wasn’t planned from the beginning, but the strengths of each artist was well suited to Dale and Joanna falling in love, Dale’s return to the Silver Age, and the modern introduction of Lainie.
As much as I love working with different artists, I know a revolving door of art teams isn’t ideal. Nico and Fran have finished issue #4 and have expressed interest in continuing, so if this next Kickstarter does well, we’ll jump into what will hopefully be a deep run! Also speaking of consistency, having Lucas lettering the whole thing ties it together quite beautifully.
CBY: I know we’re in early days for Bullet Adventures, but when we see Dale DeSouza put through his paces, we don’t yet get to explore any of the lab results. How does Bullet chart on the speedometer relative to other speedsters from the various comic canons? His supporting cast at the university doesn’t delve into it too much on the page, so can you speak a bit about his relative power usage and the impacts on his physiology (to whatever degree possible without spoiling the story)?
RS: Well, we’ve seen Dale break the sound barrier and use enough momentum to zip up the side of a building, so you know he can move, but we’ll try to keep it reined in a little. It struck me during issue #3’s scripting that when characters can move that fast, there would be few problems that couldn’t be handled in the blink of an eye. That can be challenging, so we almost have to set that aside. My kids ask me if Bullet is faster than The Flash and I concede to DC’s Fastest Man Alive.
It was subtle, but after some of those tests you mentioned, we did have Dale hit up a convenience store. We figured even a super speedster would work up an appetite under those conditions. Then of course there’s the obvious impact that using his powers has, which is a big part of that original one-shot. Your readers should do themselves a favour and pick up a copy of that and experience it for themselves.
CBY: Without further spoilers - are you able to get into the theories that underpin your approach to time travel? How would you like to ease new readers into the world you’re building before they get an opportunity to dig through the comics?
RS: I had young Michael’s “tree” image from issue one in my head long before Bullet was conceived. It just made sense to me that all futures could trace back to a single line, but travelling to the future was much riskier because of the infinite number of possibilities you could branch off to.
Strangely enough, time travel wasn’t a part of the initial concept for Bullet when I recruited Jordan, but he names Back to the Future as his favourite film (with Sonic the Hedgehog being the comic that inspired him to create, so is there a writer more perfectly suited to work on a title than him?), so he kind of ran with it. We bounced a few ground rules around, but felt as long as we’re consistent, we didn’t have to be explicit about them within the book.
CBY: You’ve noted the homage paid with Bullet Adventures to the Silver Age - can you speak to any specific influences that have helped cultivate the “house style” that comes across so clearly? What do you think produces this aesthetic, and how do you perceive opportunities to play with the visual style to evoke certain eras in the history of comics?
RS: It’s always been a modern approach to classic superhero stories. With respect to what I saw in the artists’ work, it was definitely the way they handled their characters. None of them are photo realistic, but they made the people they drew “real” in the same way that Dale and the rest were alive inside my head. Handling romance, action, and everything else was secondary, but they could each pull that off just as well!
As much as early Marvel and Spidey in particular influenced the tone, I should point out that Invincible also had an impact. I loved the book from beginning to end, but I always wished for something that maintained the tone of those early issues so I could share it with my young boys. Bullet Adventures, particularly starting with issue two, is very much “Invincible before all the blood and guts.”
CBY: Having mentioned movement across the coasts, you’ve also covered decades in the scope of the story for Bullet Adventures. This raises the question around the scale of the story - do you have an idea of the full scope of the story to come, including additional story arcs, and over how many issues you’d like to cover the current arc?
RS: I have stories in mind for at least a dozen more issues, and I’m sure that will double once we start plotting things out further. We’re planting seeds along the way, but also pride ourselves on making each issue accessible on its own. The first volume will collect the one-shot and Bullet Adventures 1-4, which is a logical point with a B-plot coming to a head. I’d like to see trades every five or six issues with maybe some common themes, but essentially the characters will continue to grow issue by issue rather than basing the series on collections of decompressed stories.
CBY: Turning from the narrative world to our daily reality - Bullet Adventures is released through Altruist Comics, with a focus on equitable representation in the medium. Can you speak a bit to the ethos and practices unpinning how Altruist Comics is structured and operates? In my own comic development process here in the Pacific, I’ve been researching some issues of equity and intellectual property development to enable indigenous communities to strengthen claims on traditional visual motifs and cultural imagery, and this investigation of new attribution and revenue generation models has me wondering - what novel ways may Altruist Comics be pursuing altruistic outcomes with its publications?
RS: While I don’t think we’ll touch on any indigenous IP within Bullet, I would love to work with indigenous creators to tell their stories through Altruist at some point. If you noticed the land acknowledgement on the credits page, I just figured that was literally the least I could do as a white Canadian.
But yeah, I’m a straight white male in comics. I’ve seen myself in the medium I love, my entire life, which isn’t the case for many fans. I made Lainie half-Asian because my kids are mixed Chinese. We pushed Dale’s skin tone. Jo has a prosthetic leg, not just to check a box, but because her battle with cancer developed her as a character.
A few years ago, I went for drinks after a convention where I sat with at least a dozen established creators. For the most part, the only thing that distinguished me from them visually was the amount of hair on their faces (and lack of it on my head). There were two people of colour and one woman (the partner of another white guy) in the group.
If I can make the cross-section of creators involved in my books more representational than that table, at least I’m nudging the industry in the right direction. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not bringing Lucas on just because he’s gay, it’s because he’s literally one of the top three letterers in the industry and I expect to be advertising an Eisner win on a future cover. It pained me to replace Lara with a dude, but Nico is an unmatched talent that I’m lucky enough to unleash on the comic industry with Bullet Adventures. It’s just that I’m looking through those databases and hashtags first.
Other than representation, I’m trying to be responsible with the environmental impact of our books. Cutting down trees to print funny books isn’t ideal, so last year I started an initiative to plant a tree for every 100 Altruist Comics books sold.
CBY: The inclusion of The Backdoor Pilots, letters, and other promotional material at the end of the issues certainly merits note - can you tell us a bit more about why you decided to include features beyond the main issue content, and how you sourced it? What additional background or supplemental content can readers expect you to provide?
RS: Circling back to that last question, one other thing I’m mindful of is giving opportunities to new voices. This isn’t just for marginalized groups, but emerging creators as well. I’m honoured to have published the very first work by some creators in an anthology I did called Crime Pays, which also included a story that directly lead to the writer getting work. I figured backup stories would be a good opportunity to give other creators some space to get their work out there. The Backdoor Pilots continues, along with an additional short lined up for each of the next issues.
It also gives readers more value for their money. I want to use the letters page to build a bit of a community within the book too. I really hope more people will write in, send fan art, or photos of them in Bullet cosplay! Social media gives us all access to creators and immediate feedback on books, but there’s something unique about the letters column.
CBY: Back to influences - family comes up as a motivating factor for the actions of characters in Bullet Adventures. You’ve got a creative team from a few continents, obviously with a diverse array of cultural and familial backgrounds. What family members, if any, have factored into the characterization and depiction of the cast of the comic?
RS: You would have to ask Jordan about some of the people he’s based various characteristics on, but I can’t say I have any examples. These characters are their own real people in my mind, so my contribution to anything they say or do is kind of just me visualizing what they are actually like.
I do, however, have my own little focus group with my two sons at home. They don’t pull punches with things they don’t like, and I know we’re on the right track when things land with them. They’ve also contributed a few things along the way, so maybe a credit is in order down the road.
CBY: As is customary, now we’ve reached an opportunity for you to share any media, in terms of other comics, or films, music, books, etc., which you’d like Comic Book Yeti readers to ensure they don’t miss out upon. What has been inspiring and entertaining you lately?
RS: I recently started reading Stillwater, which is a cool concept with great execution. I’m two trades in and something that stuck with me on a craft level is that the pages go full bleed, which is something I want to try on a project. I’m so far behind on media, but just watched Everything Everywhere All at Once, which was amazing. I also just started Wednesday, which is probably the most current I’ve been on anything in ages!
CBY: Randy, thanks for joining us today, and please feel free to share any and all links you’d like our readers to check out from here to learn more about Bullet Adventures, its creative team, and Altruist Comics!
RS: You can follow @AltruistComics on social media and www.altruistcomics.com
Of course, your readers should grab a free download of the full story from Bullet Adventures #2 at www.altruistcomics.com/bulletadventures02story
Finally, if they enjoyed that (I know they’ll love it!), check out the Kickstarter for issues #2 AND #3 HERE. There will be more Bullet Adventures regardless, but this campaign’s success will decide whether we can move full-steam ahead on issue #5 and beyond.