Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: This March will see the release of All Time Comics, a project co-created by you and your brother, Samuel. What was the inspiration behind this endeavor, and how do you feel that your experiences as an art instructor and editor influenced your work on the project?
Josh Bayer: The inspiration behind this attempt to do 1979-style superhero comics, with both seasoned professionals and young indie artists, has been seeing this evolution, where kids who grew up loving Anne Nocenti love Jeffrey Brown equally. I believe that weird comics about crime-fighting outsiders can have some crossover and be as appealing, and as personal and inspiring as more literary comics. I’m part of a fragment of the comics community who feels the same way. How big that community is remains to be seen. Hopefully, it’s massive.
Being so invested in education -- I’m a teacher -- has made me more fluid and receptive to the process of learning new skills. Working with this many collaborators was new, but I had edited before yet I’ve never been able to do it all myself. I’m good with ideas and writing, but I’ve always needed editing collaborators to get anything done.
BD: The comic book series pairs together seasoned comic book creators with newer creators. What are you able to share with us regarding the creative team behind the series and their shared creative process?
JB: The creators all share an ability to get work done consistently, and all shared a willingness to enter unknown territory. I've been in a lucky position, because I’ve been able to gain real insight into how these creators think, visually communicate, and solve problems.
First, I should briefly explain all the characters to talk about why I chose the crew I gathered to work on the books. Every creator brought out some quality from the page that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. Bullwhip and Atlas are loud, flashy characters. Atlas is a blond flying guy with miraculous powers. He fights crime in Optic City. Bullwhip does the same, but she doesn’t have powers. Atlas has an aura of authoritarianism to him, but Bullwhip -- she’s a one-woman war on crime, and behaves like an agent of justice, but she’s not affiliated with any kind of federal organization. So, she’s not like like a cop, she’s sort of an everywoman. Atlas is sort of a superpowered cop. Visually and conceptually, I wanted them to appear like a slash across the page. That’s where Ben Marra was so instrumental. He makes Atlas’ feats of superpower and Bullwhip’s crime fighting adventures seem simultaneously, weirdly quirky, like an underground comic and legitimately super-heroey like a mainstream book.
Crime Destroyer is an operative who lives in Swan City. He drives around in a crazy TransAm with retractable machine guns on the hood. He’s a revenge-driven character. His family was slaughtered in front of him when he returned from an overseas war. Herb Trimpe is known for doing stories with real powerhouse characters, but he’s also really adept at showing characters’ inner motivations, their psychological states, and the tone of the world they live in. So, he brought a lot to Crime Destroyer that made it rich and solidly fleshed out.
Blind Justice is the punkest character. We have two stories by him, one with a mix of art by Rick Buckler Jr. and myself and Al Milgrom. Blind Justice is the most damaged character we write. He’s like a fragmented personality; he might be fully delusional. He’s like an outsider who gets in a weird, homemade battle armor. Someone like Steve Ditko would be great on this book, though I think he’d resent the idea of a hero who is so disturbed, but Noah has similar classical, seemingly straightforward storytelling. And Rick Buckler added a lot of grimy texture to the character. He was the one who designed his weapons and his hand gauntlets, which look so brutal and homemade. And I did my thinking, which I’m very happy with, especially with Al inking me!
Everything has been very eye opening, from the way that Noah Van Sciver (surprisingly) responded well to my storyboards, to the fact that Herb Trimpe was severely allergic to looking at anyone’s preliminary images. Equally, surprisingly educational is the way that Ben Marra generously offers a zillion different designs -- all equally amazing -- while Al Milgrom will offer to do paste up and edits and extra work, in addition to the beautiful inking we hired him for. At times, Al was really looking out for the project out of a sense of sheer professionalism. It was great to see the creators collaborate. You know, Crime Destroyer’s shoulder fists are ridiculous. And Herb wanted us to lose them. Ben explained that their ridiculousness, their impracticality, was part of their appeal.
Everyone showed me their absolute best selves. I hope that some of those attributes rub off on me.
BD: What do you hope that readers will take away from All Time Comics?
JB: I hope to bring back an experience when comics were sold on a spinner rack, done on a certain type of paper, by a certain type of writer, drawn by a certain type of artist, and were part of a whole sort of private world for fans where adult narratives were scaled down. Not to sound corny but, ideally, I want to bring back that magic for readers.
BD: Publisher Fantagraphics recently released four coloring book pages from the series as downloadable PDFs on their website. How can readers share their completed coloring book pages with the All Time Comics team?
JB: The pages can be downloaded from Fantagraphics here. We’d love if fans tweet out the pages after they colored them or post them on Facebook. Or maybe just hang em on their fridge, right?
BD: For our readers who may be interested in pre-ordering a copy of Issue #1 at their local comic book store, what is the best way for them to do so?
JB: That’s a great question. Comics is a confusing business sometimes. Orders for comics close weeks in advance, so if you want ALL TIME COMICS: CRIME DESTROYER Issue #1, the one with Herb Trimpe’s last art, you need to call your local comic shop today and hope they ordered one they can put aside for you. If you want CRIME DESTROYER: BULLWHIP Issue #1, orders are still open, so if you call your local shop today, they can order one for you.
If you don’t have a local store by you, just order ‘em from the Fantagraphics website.
BD: Are there any other projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?
JB: I’m usually working on something. I do have an anthology called BLACK HOOD that came out this year; it’s available from joshbayer.com. I’m at work on a long Theth graphic novel, people should buy Theth the Retrofit annual from 2015, if they haven’t yet read it. Also available from joshbayer.com.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find out more about All Time Comics and your work?
JB: Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, @alltimecomics. If you’re in LA, come to our event at Meltdown Comics in March 8. It’s gonna be a crazy night. These comics are a labor of love, and we are excited and a little nervous maybe to see what people think.