Jason Inman finds himself deep within the Yeti Cave for a wonderful chat with Comic Book Yeti contributor Andrew about the current Kickstarter for Super Best Friends! Enjoy this hearty helping of Cryptid-Bits.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Jason, thanks for making time to join us today. How’s everything been going in Los Angeles? You made it through the holidays without getting washed away in the floods?
JASON INMAN: It's finally warm here again so it's lovely! And the floods weren't actually that serious in LA. If only our city would design actual drainage. "le sigh."
CBY: Kicking off with a discussion of location and positional value - you’ve mentioned your childhood in Kansas. I’m from Ohio, and you’ve given a nod to the “Middle America” roots of characters like Superman’s childhood in Smallville with the distinction in Super Best Friend between the settings of your fictitious Metropolis analog, Tomorrow City, and the very real Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Was Bartlesville a nod to a point of relation in your life, and how, as we get into the particulars of the book, do you think your Midwestern upbringing has shaped your gaze on the American media landscape and your relationship to comics, in particular?
JI: It is always a pleasure for me to give shout-outs to the states that we fly over. I like to give them a nod when I can because they're a beautiful place with great people. There is a simpler way of life there, and that is a perfect theme for all media to explore. The town of Bartlesville, OK was frequently on my route which is why I included it. Real-world connections make these stories more interesting to me. It gives the real a mythical feel. Growing up on a Kansas farm cannot help but influence my work. I aim to make you "the reader" look at your life differently with every story I write, especially Super Best Friend. Furthermore, if I can make you smile just once, then I've done my job. It's the simplicity of the Heartland.
CBY: You’ve cited the obvious nods to the Superman/Jimmy Olsen dynamic, which you’ve used as a frame of reference for Captain Terrific and Mattie Moore. You’ve also played with the evolutions in the media landscape, with livestreaming serving as both a crucial narrative device in-story and a framing device for the reader (with a number of panels presented as images within the bounds of a mobile phone screen). As someone who works in media more broadly, how would you characterize the envelopment of comic book characters and tropes by American popular culture at large? How has the reality of the media landscape that’s taken shape in the last 15 years conformed to, or varied from, the expectations and desires you may have had when growing up for seeing your favorite comic characters on-screen?
JI: Honestly, I think comics are a little behind the times in terms of their media landscape. Back in 2015, I pitched DC a "Jimmy Olsen has a Youtube Channel" series. That was one of the inspirations for this series. I can understand how something like that might date projects here and there, but I think flowing with the times is one of the greatest ways to capture new readers.
My use of mobile phone panels in Super Best Friend illustrates Mattie Moore's limited view. A world of possibilities awaits him if he looks beyond the borders of his videos. It's my way of subtly nudging my readers to look up at the sky after finishing an issue. It's beautiful and blue, and it's the best show on earth.
CBY: Now, with a better understanding of your perspective on comics, can you tell us a bit more about your collaborators and the creative team for Super Best Friend? How did you link up with George Kambadias and Taylor Esposito to kick things off, and how things shook out to bring on Jordi Perez and Alivon Ortiz for the third collection now being promoted on Kickstarter?
JI: I have worked with letterer Taylor Esposito on every project I've made. He's astounding, and I'm happy to say he's become a good friend. George was someone that I had always admired on Twitter so when he has an opening in his schedule, I hopped on it. Unfortunately, George is so talented that he got busy with high profile work, and that led me to having to find a replacement for him. This led to the astounding Jordi and Alivon. They have both taken the books into new areas that I have never considered, and have made the book so much better.
CBY: You’ve mentioned Captain Terrific is a character you conceptualized in high school, and you’ve certainly delivered a title appropriate for all ages. For a story so long in the making, what led you to decide to cap things off with #3 as a finale? You obviously have a number of other titles you’ve worked on and have in development, so does Super Best Friend represent a self-contained narrative you’re finally bringing to completion, or an open-ended entry into a broader world that you plan on continuing to build?
JI: Well, this story hasn't been brewing for years. Only the character of Captain Terrific comes from my high school days. This was one of those fun, one-time characters we can all imagine for our own stories. The character Terrific seemed like the perfect fit for this story when I designed Super Best Friend.
We have reached the end of Mattie Moore and Captain Terrific's story. It's all in the title, and Issue #3 concludes the story of these best friends. In the end, these characters are placed in radically different places by death, rebirth, and a new job. The narratives of other supporting characters, however, are designed to be able to stand on their own. I'm not sure if I will continue with them, but for now, it's nice to have the option. It all depends on what the readers want!
CBY: Your post-military career has taken you in a variety of different directions. In addition to your non-fiction writing and comic titles like Jupiter Jet and fiction titles Science! the Elements of Dark Energy, you’ve got a youtube channel with over seventy thousand subscribers, produce the acclaimed Geek History Lesson podcast, while working on The Red Shirt Diaries web series and CBS legal drama The Code. For those creators out there trying to channel their energy and focus on creating content, can you delve into your process of keeping your various projects organized and on-track? What sort of prioritization exercises and procedures have you found best enable you to continue moving things along and keep producing the material on the schedule you (and your audience) expect?
JI: It's all about deadlines and setting them for yourself. If you can't meet your own deadlines, you will never meet someone else's. From there, it all becomes about prioritizing what needs to be done first for release and going from there. I don't think I have an effective method for keeping all these trains on track. I just go where the fun is, and keep moving forward.
CBY: I know your collaborator/spouse, Ashley Victoria Robinson, must play a large role in motivating your creative process, and providing a touchstone for accountability to another person definitely helps in meeting deadlines. From the title credits, she’s not involved in Super Best Friend, so it might be useful for readers to also understand - when working on various projects, how do you navigate partitioning parts of your life and keeping creative ideas from spilling over or crossing wires with the various other parties involved? This is a comic interview and not a relationship advice column, but I’m curious (as someone who also collaborates with my spouse on creative projects), do you have any lessons you’ve learned from building both creative brands and a shared livelihood alongside a partner whose role in your life extends beyond office hours?
JI: Ashley's great and amazing; which is why I love working with her! That's also why she's my wife. Working with a partner on a project teaches you the importance of boundaries. When you're working on a project, you are co-workers, you're not in a realtionship. If can keep that line straight, it will always go smoothly. Also, always give yourself a day off, and if you are out with your partner on a date -- never, never, never talk business.
CBY: With your Kansas upbringing and time in the service as clear influences on the subject matter of your work, what creative influences outside your direct, lived experience can you cite as defining elements of your aesthetic? Who did you look up to as creators, and what media has left an indelible impression on you?
JI: Since I come from the rural heartland and from an area that I think has been forgotten, a lot of my inspiration and writing comes from exploring the American Myth. Does it still exist? Can it still exist? And how does that affect our lives? Even Mattie Moore from Super Best Friend dives into that with his obsession with fame, and Captain Terrific's dream of a farmhouse and a family. My influences are rather simple actually. I love Westerns -- especially the novels of Larry McMurtry. I love all things Star Trek and the optimism it brings. And my biggest comics Influence is Kurt Busiek. No matter how fantastical the stories were, the heroes always felt like real people and that's something I love.
CBY: Since Super Best Friend is reaching its conclusion with this third installment, what comic project(s) are you looking forward to bringing to your audience next? Have you already begun working on your next title, or are all of your other projects keeping you occupied for the immediate future?
JI: I'm not certain what's next. I have some hush-hush television stuff that I can't talk about yet. So my head will be in that world for awhile. As for the next Kickstarter, I'm debating between a Super Best Friend deluxe hardcover or a new adventurous one-shot about a couple falling in love.
CBY: I always like to close with an opportunity for creators to make mention of their current inspirations. So Jason, what comics and other media (film, books, music, etc.) have captured your attention which you’d like to make sure Comic Book Yeti readers know to check out once they’ve given Super Best Friend their attention?
JI: Better Call Saul is one of the finest television shows ever made. So if you haven't checked it out -- do it now. For All Mankind is another show that I think deserves more attention than it receives. Plus, I've been loving re-reading the classic James Bond novels of Ian Fleming from the t950s.
CBY: Thanks for joining us today, Jason! While we’ve got the link to the Super Best Friend Kickstarter below, if you’ve got other material and social media links you’d like to share, this is the place for it!
SOCIAL MEDIA - www.twitter.com/Jawiin
And my podcast -- www.geekhistorylesson.com