The First Gentleman of the Apocalypse is available in volumes 5, 7, 10, 12, and the series is ongoing. Can you describe it? How long will it be?
My “elevator pitch” for 1st Gent is “Mad Max meets GQ.” The basic story is this: It is twenty years since “The Incident”– a world-changing event that was the catalyst for the government to expand its reach to benefit a frightened and confused society by administrating control over every social endeavor. While most of the population works for the state there still remains many enterprising citizens who fly under the federal radar by bartering. One such individual is Madison Dane, a particularly well-dressed trader who travels the country in a double-decker bus with his valet, a strong arm named Mr. Abraham. Madison arrives in a southern California town at the request of a single mom to retrieve a trunk that belonged to her grandfather, the contents of which are quite valuable to her. She agrees to share the contents with Madison as payment. But there are some obstacles Madison has to overcome on the way to getting that trunk, not the least some gang-bangers and biker hijackers . . . as well as an endless stream of officious state clerks!
There might be one or two more installments after the current one. Not sure at this point! I have an outline for the entire first story, all the plot points, from A to Z. But I’m still developing the series (it’s my first new creator-owned feature since Supernatural Law) and am finding nuances in the characters and the environment of Madison Dane’s world each time I go to write the finished script for a new episode. That tends to extend the story with character bits and foreshadowing. I’m learning what’s around the corner in each episode along with the reader!
How would you characterize your drawing style? What kind of effect are you aiming for?
I think I have a cartoony style. People tell me it’s “old school”– but I don’t know if they mean it as a compliment! I aim for a light-hearted, easy-on-the-eyes approach to comics.
You studied at the School of Visual Arts with teachers such as Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman: what is the main thing you learned from each?
The most important thing: Tell the story! Don’t get consumed with technique (over-rendering a drawing) or indulge in “pretty pictures” (pin-up poses).
Sometimes I try to draw a funny comic, and I’m ashamed of the result. How does one produce humor? What’s the process like?
Boy, that’s a tough question because humor—and what people find funny—is so subjective (maybe even generational). My rule of thumb is that if you find it funny, someone else is likely to find it funny, too!
The First Gentleman of the Apocalypse attacks big government, and you drew Obama Nation (a weekly political cartoon, written by James Hudnall, for breitbart.com’s Big Government), so:
a) Can you say five good things about Barack Obama, without being sarcastic?
b) What do you think is wrong with US policy in 2014, and what do you advocate?
c) Your work has sometimes been said to be influenced by Ayn Rand. What do you have to say about that?
d) What is your vision of the ideal society?
You nailed the raison d’être of 1st Gent, Phat—it’s a denunciation of intrusive government and stifling bureaucracy; it’s not really criticizing a particular administration (I came up with the 1st Gent concept and began developing it when George W. Bush was in office).
As for your questions:
b) Domestic: Small businesses are overregulated and underappreciated. Foreign: No leadership. I advocate a smaller, limited government domestically and to “lead from the front” in foreign affairs.
c) I’m very flattered you ask this, since Rand was a proponent of the individual and said that “your life belongs to you and the good is to live it.”
d) Live and let live, baby!
You wrote in this very blog: “very often, usually on a bike ride to and from my studio, I’d think of ideas that, on consideration, might warrant its own series. The First Gentleman of the Apocalypse is one such idea.” What is the typical Batton Lash day like? Where do you work? What is your office like?
I get up at 8 am, have coffee while reading the various news sites and checking email. I do some work at my home studio until 1 pm, then bike ride to my studio in the Gaslamp district of San Diego and stay there until 6:30 or 7:30, depending on whatever I’m working on. I then ride home through Balboa Park– clears the head! That’s always a good time to think of plot points, bits of dialogue, etc. I’m constantly pulling over to write down any brainstorm! Once home, and depending on a deadline, I go back to work at the home studio during the evening. If the schedule is flexible enough, I spend “quality time” with my lovely wife Jackie Estrada and our two cats, Sirius and Swengen. I’m in bed by 1 or 2 . . . or 3 am! It all depends what I’m working on.
Are you funny in real life? What do people close to you think?
You’re going to have to ask people close to me!
Are we closer to truth when sad or happy?
I always believed that the truth is the truth– whether it’s seen through the veil of laughter or tears. . . or both!
What current comic books blow your mind today?
I don’t really keep up with many current comics . . . but I like Dark Horse Presents and I’ll check out anything by Paul Pope. Michael Cho’s Shoplifter looks sensational and I can’t wait to dig into it. And I love Steve Ditko’s current work, published by Robin Snyder. I believe we’re in a Golden Age of comics reprints and comics history, so I read things like Jerry Robinson’s Jet Scott, Leonard Starr’s Mary Perkins: On Stage, and Grandenetti & Mercer’s Secret Files of Dr. Drew. Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell’s three-volume biography of Alex Toth is incredible. I also enjoyed such books as Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story and Grant Geissman’s Al Feldstein biography . . . plus I try to keep up with Roy Thomas’s informative Alter Ego!
Do you have special projects that you’ve been thinking about for years? What direction do you envision for your career in the future?
For quite a while, I’ve been jotting down notes on a romantic graphic novel I’d like to do . . . but still need to find the best plot “hook” to hang everything on! Meanwhile, once I finish the current 1st Gent storyline, I want to return to my beloved Wolff & Byrd on supernaturallaw.com . . . I have a couple of stories I’ve been itching to get to. And I just finished a Betty & Veronica Christmas story that should appear in one of the Archie digests around Christmas (appropriate, yes?). As for the future direction for my career . . . well, it’s difficult to prognosticate! Opportunities (and pitfalls!) have a way of showing up when I least expect it. My attitude has always been: head down, keep working, and move forward!