Comic Book Yeti contributor Andrew Irvin welcomes Curt Pires into the Yeti Cave to talk all about his new comic New America, TECC, the business side of comics, and his influences.
This is a fantastic conversation that I know you are going to love.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Thanks for making time to share some of your perspective with our readers, Curt. Are you joining us from Calgary or California today?
CURT PIRES: Calgary today. Heading back to Los Angeles in the fall. Calgary is beautiful in the summer.
CBY: So, it looks as though New America is the latest in an impressive slate of releases since 2015 (e.g. Pop, Mayday, The Fiction, The Tommorrows, Olympia, Wyrd, Lost Falls, Youth, The Forevers, etc.). How long have you been working to bring this project to life and, more broadly, how do you prioritize the development and release schedule of
the range of titles you’re working on?
CP: I had the kernel of this idea late 2016 following the presidential election. Worked on it for a couple years and had an early version of the book almost picked up in 2018 for publication. That fell apart, and so we sort of went back to square one. It was one idea I kept coming back to and wanting to work on so I kept hammering away at it. Eventually, refining and bringing on Luca for the version you see today.
CBY: I noted you’d worked with Mark Dale as a colorist and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou as the letterer on Memoria prior to New America. Can you tell us a bit about how you
coordinate between the various artistic collaborators on concurrent titles, how you met
Mark and Hassan, and how Luca Casalanguida came into the mix for this new release?
CP: Mostly it’s just about balance. If I have the guys on a couple projects I’ve got to be flexible and work with them on deadlines. When the work is good, I don’t mind doing that. Conversely, I think the team understands that when we approach release there may be changes and revisions as we work to send things to print. It’s just about respecting
people and trusting people, really.
As for Luca, I loved his work on the image series he did. His work on Bond. He just was so good. I knew I had to work with him.
CBY: Apologies for not yet having the chance to dig through each of your books looking for Easter eggs by which I might answer this question myself (the impulse certainly arose once I saw your catalogue of recent work). Working on a variety of stories concurrently, how do you partition the narrative worlds in which they exist? Do some (or all) of your stories take place in the same universe at different locations and times, or are they all in their own distinct narrative spaces without unifying intra-title reference points and themes?
CP: It’s really case by case, some of the works occupy similar worlds and share space,
others like New America are entirely independent. I’m playing with the idea of some of
them crossing over more directly, so maybe you’ll see that soon.
CBY: New America definitely has some overarching political themes, and jumps ahead ten years along a very specific and divisive pathway. When giving yourself that sort of narrative lead time, what sort of key presumptions do you include in your hypothetical timeline to depart from the current political zeitgeist and arrive at the moment we pick up with the cast of characters?
CP: New America imagines a worst case scenario in a lot of ways. As you see in issue one it imagines a world where militia groups and radicalism has become more normalized and that alongside their ongoing conversations / conflict with the US Government they have to contend with.
CBY: Built upon another political element, let’s turn to the prevalence of the Confederate flag, red hats, brief Trump imagery, and the young Latina progressive politician evocative of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez which you employ (in a less heavy-handed manner, I should add, than the first instance of this trope I recall seeing in Space Force). Turning from the greater geopolitical assumptions upon which the story is built, can you speak a bit about how you approach voicing and the process of character design and creation? Does the motive for each character begin with the narrative function they play, or the motifs of their archetypical identity you’d like the reader to identify?
CP: It’s become sort of a buzzword for studios and corporations at this point, but I think
“diversity” was important in this story. Diversity of identity, and diversity of ideas. If
everyone in New America was white the story loses a lot of credence and frankly what
makes it interesting. Our world is composed of a wide variety of cultures and
inhabitants, that said it’s important to not make the characters mascots or single minded
arbiters of specific political viewpoints. A lot of the conflict we see in our story derives
from fundamental disagreements on the best way to move forward as a nation, and these
views of the characters are meant to echo and represent some of the key arguments
happening on the world stage today. Each character has valid points and suggestions,
and no one is right all the time. No character is fully representative of my political beliefs,
and I’m not interested in talking down to the readers, or shouting at them that I’m right -
despite what moronic anonymous talking heads on social media say when trying to write
off the book as some work of heavy handed propaganda.
CBY: Moving from the process to the product - the TECC site says TECC specializes in “vertically integrated development and production of narratives with a variety of forms and products in mind.” With your work on adaptations for Youth and The Forevers, can you tell us how you’re shifting the structure to meet the new format, and the structure of the creative arrangements between different aspects of vertically integrated businesses (e.g. - the Comixology platform and Amazon Studios)? Also, can you provide some insight into multimedia development process as opposed to working with less integrated publishers and studios (i.e. - FX, Dark Horse, Image, etc.)?
CP: The structure of TECC is geared mostly to protect myself and my collaborators. A lot of publishing companies these days make their money at being third-rate producers that
exploit the ideas of creators. I don’t need to name anyone, you already have them in your head probably. As someone with a god given talent for creation and a mind for business (mostly thanks to my father, who clawed his way up from nothing and became a very successful mortgage broker. My hero) I made it my goal to protect myself and my teams and try to use my talents to the apex of their abilities.
CBY: Additionally, can you speak a bit about management, agency, and business
representation in your development and publishing process; how did you begin building a support structure for your career that helps you successfully juggle the demands of each title, and balance your creative and administrative demands? And currently, how do they come into play in negotiating and organizing the different arrangements across your various titles and format adaptations?
CP: I’m still figuring it out to be honest. I wear a lot of hats at TECC, as it’s essentially a startup. We’ve recently secured some significant investment so I’ve started bringing strategic help in, in ways that I can be sure won’t compromise the voice or quality behind the content. A big part too is bringing on and working with people who can help promote the books, and maybe understand the marketing and sales a bit better than I do. I try to keep things fluid though, and have every decision grounded in delivering innovative and second-to-none storytelling.
CBY: David Mamet said the producers always believe the writer is stealing from them, in
that they should be biddable to an endless litany of revisions - when you’ve got a slate of
projects and various deadlines, where do you draw the line in your involvement in any
given project? When do you pass the torch and let an illustrating partner (or casting
directors, set designers, etc.) carry things forward and allow you to shift your focus?
CP: Having a lot of projects in various states of development and a sort of growing library of intellectual property behind the TECC umbrella it comes to a point where I can’t write or directly create every show/film/version of adaptation. In those contexts it’s important to shepherd the projects as best I can, find the best talent to work on the projects, and
work with people I feel I can trust. That last part, the trust thing, is the hardest condition to satisfy when working in the entertainment industry.
CBY: With the range of subject matter you cover in your work, can you speak to the formative media influences that have resonated and stuck with you over the years? I’ve seen you mention Ed Brubaker, Brian Bendis and Garth Ennis, as well as filmmakers David Fincher, Denis Villeneuve, and Michael Mann in other interview responses, but are there other comics, films, music, publications, etc. serving as anchor points for your
aesthetic and narrative foundation that you’d like to cite as inspirations? Which creators would you most like to collaborate with on future projects?
CP: Steve Jobs and YE really influence the way I work. I think I’m an idea guy first and
foremost and that’s sort of my superpower. I can see stories and twists and even
products and ideas in ways and at a volume that most people can’t. Both those figures
were individuals who commanded / command teams of people to serve a larger vision.
With Steve it’s the whole company at Apple, and with YE it’s all the producers and
collaborators on his albums, fashion, etc. As TECC grows I really see it becoming like
this Apple or Yeezy type idea where, while I’m the central figure, it needs to be able to grow and really become a storytelling brand in and of itself that’s bigger than one person.
I try to really have a childlike enthusiasm about collaboration. I just want to make cool things with talented people. I’d love Deniz Camp to do a book for TECC. Ram V. I’d like to co-write something with Matt Rosenberg. I wanna work with Todd McFarlane (we almost did an adaptation of one of my books together at one point). I want Nic Pizzolatto to work on a TECC project. There’s so many cool artists I want to do books with.
I love stories. I love amazing creators.
CBY: Building on your foundational inspirations and moving beyond your own work - what new/upcoming comics or other media are you most excited to check out? Anything you’ve recently come across that readers shouldn’t let slip by?
CP: Like I said in the last question, all Deniz Camp’s new books. Ram V’s DC stuff has been cool. Scott’s Comixology books have been amazing. I love Canary. All the new books I’m cooking right now. Three Worlds Three Moons is cool too.
CBY: Thanks for making time to chat with Comic Book Yeti today, Curt. Please share with us any social media details and links to your titles you’d like your readers to check out, and we’ll be sure to include them.
CP: Follow me on Twitter: @CurtPires
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