Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of your superhero / horror comic book, Vengeance, Nevada! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the series’ premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
B.J. Mendelson: Thank you so much! It has been three years since Peter and I first started talking about the project and working on character sketches, so I’m thrilled (and relieved) that issue one is now out for people to enjoy. So far, the feedback has been almost universally great.
The inspiration for Vengeance, Nevada came from a couple of different places. First, I don’t have much interest in writing for DC or Marvel. I used to, but I think between Rob Liefeld, Robert Kirkman, Mark Millar, and a whole raft of creators at Image, economically, it makes way more sense to put out a book of your own that you own all the rights to. (One exception: I have a Fantastic Four pitch that I want to do for Marvel, because it’s the only way I’ll get to play with those characters.) So, that said, I grew up reading books from the Big Two and always found myself asking, “What If?” One of those questions that came up a lot was, “Can you make Ghost Rider interesting?” And that was the first inspiration for Vengeance, Nevada.
The second was that I’m a big fan of The Venture Brothers, but I have two problems with the series. First, it takes FOREVER between seasons. Season one debuted in 2004 and season six debuted in 2016. It’s kind of ridiculous, especially because the later seasons are only eight episodes and then the show vanishes again. The other problem is that, as much as I love the show, the women are the weakest part of the cast. They’re not as well written as the men, with the exception of Dr. Mrs. The Monarch, and they’re usually treated more like objects than people. (How much do fans of the show really know about Molotov beyond her relationship with Brock?)
So I wanted to flip that dynamic around and do something that was, hopefully, just as sharp and funny as The Venture Brothers, but had a largely female cast where the women were as well written as the guys.
The premise for Vengeance, Nevada, beyond “Funny, or Interesting, Ghost Rider” is that we’re doing Breaking Bad. We’re taking a character who is suddenly given everything she ever wanted and the consequences of that. Put another way, I ask people, “What if you suddenly got everything you ever wanted?” And the book is meant to explore what happens when someone does. As we find out, they don’t necessarily become a hero.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in working with artist Piotr Czaplarski, and what have been some of your creative influences?
BJM: I write a full script for Peter. It’s highly detailed (there’s a whole bunch of little things in every issue that you can only catch by reading through it a second or third time.) But at the same time, once he has the script, I’m totally hands off. So my attitude is that I’ll give him all the crayons in the box and sharpen them a bit, but after that it’s up to him with how he wants to interpret the work. Comics are a collaborative medium, and it’s a lot of fun watching someone put their spin on your stuff in a way you might not have even imagined. So, everything with Peter is done by email since he’s in Poland and English isn’t his first language (even though I’ve been an English speaker all my life, I like to tell people it’s barely mine too.) We’ve both had a great time working with each other. Like I said, it’s been three-years now, so I’m hopeful he and I will work together throughout the run of this series.
As far as influences go, The Venture Brothers is definitely one. The Tick (both animated and live action.), Chris Claremont’s run on X-Men, Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men, and Scott Snyder’s Batman. Kate Leth’s run on Patsy Walker was wonderful. Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Marvel and Image stuff. I really like Leah Williams and Dan Slott's stuff, and especially Alex de Campi’s work. I think you can see a little of all of them in my comics. The big idea. The large cast of characters. The sharp wit. The silliness. It’s all there.
If I had to compare Vengeance, Nevada to a single series, it would be Archie vs. Predator. It’s both horror and kind of dark, but at the same time you’re laughing your ass off.
BD: What do you hope that readers will take away from the series?
BJM: I’m a big Alan Watts and George Carlin fan. So for me, the takeaway from Vengeance, Nevada is that we constantly want things. Or we want the NEXT thing and not what’s right in front of us in life. I almost died a few years back and came back with a very different outlook on things. What you have is often pretty great, if not perfect. And humans have a tendency to adapt to even the worst environments and thrive (according to Viktor Frankl, who survived multiple concentration camps during the second World War.) But sometimes … we fall into that trap of chasing the next thing, and that can lead us down some pretty bad paths, like the one Kristen finds herself on.
BD: Do you have a certain number of issues planned for Vengeance, Nevada, and when can readers anticipate the release of issue #2?
BJM: Okay, so the good news is that Issue #2 is going to come out in August, but I’ll upload it in July with the assumption that it’ll go live in August some time.
The bad news is that Peter is an incredibly talented artist, and people are starting to discover his work. So, between his schedule and my own schedule (I just put out an audiobook that I have to promote as well as write the next one to pitch to publishers this Fall), we’re going to likely release two issues a year. One in the Winter and one in the late Summer.
Issues one through four are already done, but I’m deliberately holding them until we can get the next few issues ready so there’s no break in that schedule for readers.
The series is not meant to be an ongoing. I think we’ll finish at 24 (which … as I write this, makes me realize I’m no better than the guys at The Venture Brothers for taking forever between seasons. D’oh.), but it won’t go past that. Kristen’s story is a very finite story, and I don’t want to stretch it out.
In the lull between issues of Vengeance, Nevada, I’ll be putting out other books with other artists. Mostly one-shots, but just stuff to let people know I’m still out there and working on the series. (You can see some of those comic books here.
BD: If given the opportunity to expand your series into other entertainment mediums, in what format do you hope to see it adapted?
BJM: So, the preview comic for Vengeance, Nevada (also found here) was designed in such a way that it could be shot as a short film. I don’t write comics because I want to make movies. I write comics because I love the medium and want to do this for as long as I’m above ground. But that said, once things settle down for me in terms of the (non-comic) books and public speaking, I’m going to make a short film based on those eight pages and submit it to all the festivals out there. I’d like to see Vengeance, Nevada someday exist as a television series, and that could be a nice way for people outside of comics to meet Kristen.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
BJM: I always have something in the works. You have to if you’re a content creator. Right now, there’s a book and audio book out about why people should get paid for their data. I wrote an earlier book called Social Media Is Bullshit which might be getting a second edition. This fall I’m going to put out Don’t Be Evil: A Short Guide to Being a Successful Human in addition to the second issue for Vengeance, Nevada. And I’m also hopeful that my graphic novel, A National Story of Minor Significance, gets picked up by a publisher and then put out as well. So, there’s always something in the works from me.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Vengeance, Nevada?
BJM: To check out the book on ComiXology, all they have to do is go to VengeanceNevada.com which I set up as a nice shortcut to the book’s page there. I highly recommend subscribing to the series because of the odd release window the series is going to have. Hopefully, Peter and I can speed it up to four issues a year (the original plan) but we will see. He’s very popular these days.
For more on me, people can visit BJMendelson.com or follow me on Twitter at @BJMendelson. My cell phone number is also on my site and people can text me to (Don’t call. I’m afraid of strangers and probably won’t answer.) If they text me the word SHEETROCK, I will send them a free .pdf copy of my first book, Social Media Is Bullshit. That number is 646-331-8341. (Yes, it’s my actual number.)