Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of your graphic novel, Scoop: Buried Leads! For readers who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the premise of the book, and what was its inspiration?
Richard Ashley Hamilton: Thank you! The quick elevator pitch is Veronica Mars meets The X-Files. But if we shared a slightly longer elevator ride together — like, say, in Dubai — I’d tell you that Scoop is about Sophie Cooper, a fifteen-year-old Cuban American girl whose dad has been vilified in the media for a crime he didn’t commit. Only Sophie believes he’s innocent. And since the news has convinced everyone her dad is a bad guy, she figures she’ll use the news to clear his name. That’s why Sophie starts an internship at Miami’s absolute worst TV news station. In between making copies and fetching coffee for the reporters, she accidentally uncovers a secret sci-fi conspiracy in South Florida. UFOs, ghosts, time travel, alligator people, you name it, it’s all true. Crazier still, these supernatural phenomena are somehow tied to the case against Sophie’s dad. So, Sophie investigates the paranormal mysteries in the hopes of exonerating her dad, but winds up uncovering an even bigger truth at the heart of this conspiracy. All while navigating a love triangle, dealing with mean girls at school, and planning a Quinceñera Sophie really doesn’t want to have!
As for the inspiration, other than Sophie as a character and the sci-fi stuff, Scoop: Buried Leads is very much based on my own life. My hometown is Miami, I’m half-Cuban on my mother’s side and, when I was in college, I interned at CNN. My first day on the job also happened to be the day the famous fashion designer, Gianni Versace, was murdered in front of his home in South Beach. Aside from being a great tragedy, the reporting around Versace’s death and the ensuing manhunt for his killer, Andrew Cunanan, was a real eye-opening education for me. I got a front row seat to how news is reported, all of the personalities and politics that play out behind the scenes, and how these stories impact the communities in which they take place.
I guess all I did was add my family’s abiding love for Veronica Mars and some aliens and phantoms and junk.
BD: How would you describe your shared creative experience in working with artist Pablo Andrés and colorist Kike Diaz to bring this story to life?
RAH: All I can say is that I wish Pablo and Kike could illustrate and color this answer, because my words simply can’t do justice to their talents. If that makes any sense. I had not met either of them prior to Scoop: Buried Leads. Insight put us all together. But as soon as I saw Pablo’s sample pages, I knew he was the only artist for this story. Those samples are in the actual book, by the way, one in the beginning, and one at the end, but I won’t say which they are.
As for Kike, I had a very specific color story and tone in mind, as I wanted Scoop to feel like it really takes place in Miami. Both Kike and Pablo were able to take my pathetic attempts at describing what I wanted and all the photo reference I sent them and animate it with their acting and storytelling and palette. In fact, I noticed this weird thing where they’d sometimes use the reference photos as inspiration, but create their own version of Miami. And strangely, those were the moments that felt the most like Miami to me. The guys really captured the vibe of South Florida, and people say that our teenage characters actually look and behave like teens. So, I will take both of those as big wins and give all the credit to Pablo and Kike!
BD: Would you recommend the graphic novel for a certain age group of young readers?
RAH: I guess the sweet spot would be kids 9-14, but we really go to great effort to make every volume of Scoop appealing to readers of all ages. I’m a dad and I hate it when some story my sons are reading or watching something that condescends to the audience or treats characters like punchline machines. So, Scoop always has real peril and real stakes for Sophie and the other young characters and never, ever talks down to our readers. We also try to balance the mysteries with real humor and heart, meaning there’s something for everyone. I always say my hope is that any member of any family can open a copy and find everything they need for a fun, twisty story between the covers. And they can either do this on their own or with other members of their family. Kids and grown-ups might like the story for different reasons, but as long as they’re liking it together, I feel like we’ve done our job.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Sophie’s story will connect with and impact readers?
RAH: Well, on top of hopefully providing some entertainment during a pretty trying time for all of us, I really hope that Sophie’s journey as an reporter encourages at least some of our readers to consider a career in journalism. Obviously, things like the news and facts and the truth, in general, have been called into question. And journalists, who were once held in high regard as principled and impartial messengers upon which our society relies, have been made out to be, like, public enemy #1.
But I think there’s hope. During the Coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci became kinda like a rockstar in the media, and medical and nursing schools are posting record numbers of applications in 2020 and 2021, way more than they’ve seen in decades. Some people are calling this the “Fauci Effect.” Could Scoop cause a similar “Sophie Cooper Effect” at journalism schools? I don’t know, but I sure hope so. The whole world needs a lot less talking heads and a lot more unbiased, formally-trained reporters, if you ask me.
BD: What makes Insight Editions the perfect home for this graphic novel?
RAH: A couple of reasons, really. First, Insight actually stays true to the creator-owned ethos that many other publishers preach, but don’t truly practice. The stories that you read in any volume of Scoop are the ones I wanted to tell, for better or worse, and Insight has given me absolute freedom in telling them. And any suggestions made by the staff there have only improved the stories. One of our editors in particular, Holly Fisher, had an outsized influence on Buried Leads. Holly’s notes really elevated Sophie’s emotional arc and the ending in major, major ways.
And then there’s the look of the books themselves. Aside from hiring astoundingly talented artists like Pablo and Kike, Insight pays such close attention to the actual publishing. If you hold any of their books, you’ll see that the colors are always vivid and the paper quality is always top notch. We have spot varnish on the covers, and none of our two-page spreads get lost in the gutters, since Insight uses this special binding on their books that allows them to lay flat. I can’t speak to the story because I’m a little biased, but I can say that all of our volumes of Scoop are physically beautiful books.
I also want to highlight something else Insight has done on just a really practical level. While the cost of most things in life seems to keep going up, Insight has actually lowered the price on Scoop: Buried Leads. It’s only $12.99 for 92 pages of full-color story and art. They’re also running a steep online discount on our previous volume, Breaking News, so even those of us on a budget can pick up one or both of these books.
Finally, if I can give any aspiring comic creators out there a little peek behind the curtain, Insight also advertises their books, which is such a huge game-changer when you’re trying to promote an indie comic in a really competitive market. For Scoop, Insight’s marketing team also brought on Melissa Meszaros of Don’t Hide PR, who has done a superheroic job of promoting our series, including arranging this lovely interview with Fanbase Press!
BD: Are there any other projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
RAH: Absolutely! Thank you for asking! On the animation side, I’ve developed and written a sci-fi comedy animated series for girls five and up called Tinker Crew. We are still actively pitching the show to potential partners, but I am really, really proud of it and optimistic for its future. Tinker Crew also shares a little DNA with Scoop in that has that mix of humor, heroics, and heart and will hopefully inspire a whole new generation of girls and boys to take chances, make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes to blaze their own trails in the sciences, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics.
On the publishing side, I’ve written a graphic novel called The Ascension Chronicles, which is almost like a biopic comic based on the testimony of Corey Goode. Corey is a prominent figure in the worlds of UFOlogy and contactee culture, and this graphic novel is based on his life and recollected experiences with extraterrestrials. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of belief in alien life, I found Corey’s story to be really moving and, ultimately, really uplifting. I think it makes an interesting companion piece to the UFO stuff happening. Plus, it has some insanely unique and detailed digitally painted art from Stephen Cefalo and my old pal, Ulises Carpintero. You can find out more on DisclosureComics.com.
And I have two more projects that I really, really want to mention, but am not allowed to. Yet. One is an all-ages horror series at another creator-owned publisher you’ve definitely heard of, and one is a thriller at a well-known webcomics and novel publisher that you’ve also definitely heard of!
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Scoop and your other work?
RAH: Well, you can always find me on Twitter at @RegardsRichard and a little less frequently on Facebook under my full name, Richard Ashley Hamilton. I know it’s a little pretentious, but I have to use my middle name to disambiguate from other authors named Richard Hamilton. Besides, it makes my mom happy. And you can also use that full name to look up the How to Train Your Dragon and Trollhunters and 3Below comics and novels I’ve written in the past.
But to bring it back to Scoop one last time, Scoop: Buried Leads is out now and available for purchase at your LCS, Bookshop.org, Barnes and Noble, and, like everything else in the world, Amazon.
By the way, each volume of Scoop is written to be super new-reader friendly, so you do not — I repeat, DO NOT — need to read the previous book, Breaking News, to understand this one! But hopefully, you’ll like one enough to then go back and try the other and get a greater sense of the bigger mystery that is Sophie’s life.