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Superhero Stories Still Matter – An Interview with ISAAC WILLBANKS about THE SENTINEL

Alright, Folks, the Cryptid-Bits keep on coming and I have Isaac Willbanks in the Yeti Cave to discuss The Sentinel, now on Kickstarter through September 8th. This is truly Isaac's passion project, as you can tell once you read the interview, and we chat the relevancy of superheroes, capitalism versus artistic integrity, lettering, and the joy felt when you read a comic like All-Star Superman for the first time.


COMIC BOOK YETI: Isaac, thank you so much for joining me in the Yeti Cave to talk about The Sentinel, which is currently on Kickstarter until September 8, 2022. What’s The Sentinel all about?

ISAAC WILLBANKS: Thank you for having me! The Sentinel is my love letter to superhero comics, and a concept I have been working on since 2017. I created it with artist Matteo Meloni who is simply an incredible co-creator to have. His concepts have really brought my ideas to life. The first issue is about the main character, who crash lands on Earth. He has crazy cosmic powers, and no memory of his past, and he is thrown immediately into the world of Earth’s superheroes as he tries to figure out why he is here. And then from there, I have all kinds of superhero craziness planned.

CBY: What’s your comic creator origin story? Meaning when did you first get into comics and what was it that made you want to create comics?

IW: When I was about 10, my dad brought home a long box of '90s foil covers, and Image Comics Number 1s that he had collected and stored at my grandma’s house. I read those books until they were falling apart, but I stopped reading by the time I was in high school. My freshman year, I was given a trade of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullos' New 52 Batman, and I was pulled right back in. At first, I wanted to make short films, but after a short and unimpressive tenure as a director, I started writing comic scripts for fun, and as I delved deeper into the fundamentals of comic books, and really narrative at large, I felt my passion for the first time. Of course, I wanted to be a comic book artist as a kid, but I always felt it was impossible.

CBY: Is there a comic (single issue, trade, or OGN) that made you feel the way you hope readers of The Sentinel will feel after reading it?

IW: The first time I read All-Star Superman, it all clicked for me. There was this wave of jubilant, and bulletproof positivity that washed over me, and after that, comics became a high art form for me. I began to read books with a deeper eye, and through my love of All-Star, I kind of taught myself the fundamentals of comic book writing, and I learned that I could make the same magic that Grant Morrison was making. That love is what I am trying to put into The Sentinel. This is My Book, the book I want to write until I am washed up, and booed out of the room. So, my goal is to give the readers something that will make them think deeper about comics, and hopefully how they consume narrative media as a whole.

CBY: You are working with artist Matteo Meloni and editor Devin Arscott. How did the creative team come together and what do you appreciate most about the collaborative nature of comics?

IW: I met Matt on Instagram after falling in love with his art, and chatting with him a bit. We both had a mutual love for superhero books, and I had the early idea for what The Sentinel would become, so I sent him the script. He was super happy to have this kind of open toy box that we were sharing and took to art concepts, and even story plot points, like a duck to water. Devin and I met on Twitter through a friend of a friend of a friend, and we just hit it off from the beginning. We both have this really deep love for comics that allow us to remove our insecurities and dig into the kind of books we want to make, and what we can do to help the comic book industry evolve. I appreciate that this team is one made of creators who love comic books, and that is why we are doing this. There is an understanding of team roles, and the process of creation, but there is a respect there that allows for each member to step in and use their knowledge to help reinforce the story. It is like magic.

CBY: There are so many different superhero comics, why are superhero stories still relevant today?

IW: We are in a very interesting time where more and more people who have been excluded from the front of the nerd zeitgeist are now emerging as creators in the comic book industry. These are creators who are showing up with incredibly fresh and interesting takes on our favorite heroes that are outside of the straight, white default that genre fiction is still stuck in. Because these creators are able to capture their very specific and real human experience and translate through these characters, they are reminding readers as to why these mythic tales really do stand the test of time. And they are important.

CBY: You’ve said on Twitter that your goal with The Sentinel “ to create a new canon of superhero books that aren't tied to 80 years of content and can be pushed into the future in ways a Big 2 book can't.” Do you think being tied to continuity is too limited for modern storytelling?

"The first time I read All-Star Superman, it all clicked for me. There was this wave of jubilant, and bulletproof positivity that washed over me, and after that, comics became a high art form for me."

IW: Continuity is great! I love continuity! But, I think we are at a point in comics where things are getting expensive for the consumer, and that is because we have 13 Batman titles out, and an Event Comic every month. I think the corporate desire to make money is getting in the way of artistic integrity. Because of that lack of cohesion, we are seeing companies that are doing little more than confuse and upset their readers. I don’t claim to have a solution to this problem, but one of my biggest goals with The Sentinel is avoid it by having everything take place in one, non-rebooted title that is made with the purpose of being easy to pick up and start.

CBY: You are also lettering the comic and the lettering is great on the preview pages I read. How long have you been lettering comics and what first got you into lettering, the (unfortunately) often unsung art of the comics world?

IW: Thank you! I have been lettering for about 2 and half years, and it has become something I really love doing. It started as a necessity, as I had high, high hopes for some of my earlier books, and when it came to completing the title, or losing another project to development issues, I taught myself how to letter. Looking back on it, I am very glad that I took the time to pick up another trade within the industry. It has given me time to look at comics from a completely different perspective than what I am used to, and I am able to use both sides of my brain to problem solve, and it is great.

CBY: What are the comics, books, tv shows, and movies that you are currently enjoying?

IW: I am really bad about keeping up with the current stuff, but every once in a while, I get a wild hair and I’ll want to read something. Right now, I am checking out some Marvel books from the Early 00’s, which is an era I am not super familiar with. Lots of cool stuff! I am really liking titles like Exiles, and Waid’s Fantastic Four. On TV, I am learning about how to write complex human emotion during my watch of King of the Hill.

CBY: Tell me about any upcoming projects or friends’ projects that CBY readers should check out.

IW: Check out anything and everything my editor, Devin Arscott has going on. That man works harder than anyone else I know, and his work should be seen by everyone. I am always working on a handful of concepts that are close to a scripting phase, but my biggest now are the books I am working on with Epic Fantasy, an Imprint that Devin and I are running. That title is another superhero book, but not one aimed at being an ongoing. And then I am currently knee deep in the script for a super secret horror project I am working on with CJ Hudson, who is another creator you need to check out. He just signed on to a four book deal with Band of Bards.

CBY: I saw that! Huge congrats to CJ. Where can you be found online?

IW: On most things, I am @eyezick_13, but I do most of my promoting on Twitter. I have a linktree there with links to all my books and current Kickstarter campaign for Issue 1 of The Sentinel.

CBY: Thank you so much, Isaac, and good luck with the rest of the campaign.

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