My Love (of Comics) Must Be a Kind of Blind Love – An Interview with JUSTIN RICHARDS
Jimmy Gaspero is joined by Justin Richards, who swings by the Yeti Cave and takes a seat by the fire to discuss his current Kickstarter*, influential creators, and coffee.
*Since completing this interview, Justin and artist Jimmy Kucaj decided to cancel the Kickstarter campaign. But have no fear, Justin stated that they are going to continue to work on the book, so keep an eye out for I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU on Kickstarter in March 2022!
COMIC BOOK YETI: Justin, thank you so much for joining me here in the Yeti Cave to discuss I Only Have Eyes For You, currently on Kickstarter. We are, unbelievably, nearing two years of a global pandemic. How have you been doing?
JUSTIN RICHARDS: Thanks for asking! I've definitely had my share of pandemic struggles as everyone has, but I've been trying to stay positive and productive as best I can.
CBY: What is your comic book origin story? When did comics come into your life and what made you want to write comics?
JR: My true comic book origin started in 2014. I moved to a new town and decided to check out my local comic shop (shout out to Geek Geek Nerd Nerd!) and quickly started getting hooked on indie comics. From there I started to review comics with some new friends I made. Through interviews with creators and studying the craft, I grew to have the desire to make my own worlds and stories like the ones I grew to love from reading.
CBY: I Only Have Eyes For You is described, right at the top of the Kickstarter page, as a truly original, modern superhero story. I think it has to be daunting to write any superhero story, especially to say it's something original. What influenced you to write this story, and were you apprehensive at all about tackling a superhero story?
JR: I was absolutely apprehensive. It's the most popular and longest-running genre in comics with the largest readership. There's almost nothing the genre hasn't done or invented itself. I even once told myself I would never write an original superhero book (never say never, kids!) because it seemed like what everyone wanted to do. Sometimes, regardless of plans, a story just hits you and unfolds itself to you all at once. That's what happened with this book for me. It was something I felt I had to write. It was something I couldn't ignore. I truly believe this story brings something we haven't seen in superheroes before. That, combined with my intent to break all the rules I can, makes this a story I'm truly excited to share!
CBY: If you had to recommend to someone that has never read a comic book before a superhero story, other than your own, which one comic would you hand them?
JR: I'd say anything Grant Morrison has written. He knows how to break the rules without losing what makes these stories great. Batman RIP by him is a particular favorite of mine. It shows off how wild, ridiculous and out there superheroes can be while still being original and paying homage to the past without repeating it.
CBY: Generally speaking, what’s your writing process like from idea/concept to completed script? At what point do you start looking for collaborators to bring the story to life?
JR: I usually come up with a concept first and start outlining it and really working out what kind of story I want it to be, who the characters are, etc. Once I feel like I have a really good grasp on those things, that's when I'll start thinking about what kind of art I think would serve that story and who matches that style among my peers.
CBY: Jimmy Kucaj is co-creator/artist and the line art for the preview pages is bursting with dynamic action. How did the two of you come together to work on this project?
JR: Jimmy and I met on a group chat during the pandemic. We hit it off and started hanging out 1-on-1 shortly after. I was telling him about some of my pitches and this book came up. Jimmy really liked the concept. His level of excitement matched mine, and I could tell this was fate! He's really bringing the fire on this book!
CBY: One of the reward tiers comes with a bag of Rootless Coffee “I Only Have Beans For You.” As someone whose blood is roughly 72% black coffee, I love that. How did that come about? Are you a coffee drinker? Do you have a favorite fancy coffee drink?
JR: I love coffee. I drink at least 2 cups a day on most days. My good friend Jono Diener is a co-owner of Rootless and was kind enough to let us partner with them on our own exclusive roast! Jimmy and I were so excited by the idea that we knew we had to do it! I like anything with chocolate, so mochas are a go-to for me.
CBY: With Finger Guns, A Silent Night, and now I Only Have Eyes For You, there’s a strong theme of mental health, whether it’s characters struggling with issues or working to find ways to cope with depression or anxiety. It’s clear in your writing that these topics are important to you. As someone that lives with anxiety, they’re important topics to me, too. It’s not that writing is therapy, because only therapy is therapy, but is there some catharsis for you that comes with writing these stories?
JR: You've nailed that one on the head. Mental health is extremely important to me because I suffer from it myself. You're right that it's no replacement for professional help, but writing about my experiences and sharing them in my stories allows me to work through some of it and, most of all, share with the others out there like me, that they're not alone.
CBY: What is it you do when you aren’t writing comic books?
JR: Aside from being a family man with an 8-year-old who loves going to the lake, I usually play video games, watch lots of movies (especially horror), and play guitar. I recently got a OneWheel and have been trying my best not to embarrass myself too much on it, lol.
CBY: Which comic creators working today inspire you?
JR: TONS! Daniel Warren Johnson is the best artist working in comics today in my opinion. Everything he does is electric and full of energy. Mark Russell gives me new heights to reach for with how original he makes everything. Christopher Sebela is a writer I like to try my best to emulate as far as keeping things fresh and authentic to myself (have you seen his bee-crime Kickstarter?!). And finally my friend Liana Kangas is a true inspiration. Their hustle and how much they keep leveling up their work never ceases to amaze me.
CBY: Those are some great folk to be inspired by. Do you have a long-term comics goal? Are there other particular genres for which you have stories to tell?
JR: Long-term, I mostly hope to become a familiar enough name in the industry that I can tell the weird stories I want to tell. I also hope to tell some licensed stories as well! Particularly Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. That would be a dream!
CBY: The question I ask everyone that I think some folks dread: if you were the curator for a comics museum, which 3 books do you want to make absolutely sure are included?
JR: Saga is an easy first choice, it's a generational story. Second, God Country. This story moves me every time I read it. And last...probably a copy of TMNT #1 just so I could be within reach of a copy. Haha!
CBY: I recommend God Country to everyone. It’s so good. What other projects/anthologies are you working on that CBY readers should check out?
JR: I'm on the editorial team for a new anthology launching on Kickstarter this December! It's called The Color of Always! It's a collection of heartwarming and tear-jerking LGBTQ+ stories. True stories. Our stories. You can find out more at ColorOfAlways.com
CBY: Where can you be found online?
JR: You can find me on Twitter mostly. I'm @EmiComicWriter. It's a great place for comics and horror movie talk!
CBY: Thank you so much, Justin!
JR: Thank YOU!