The following is an interview with Russell Nohelty, who is the creator of the Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter series from Viper Comics. In this interview, Fanboy Comics President Bryant Dillon talks with Nohelty about the anti-hero that is his title character, the future for Ichabod Jones, and why digital comics are here to stay.
This interview was conducted on July 4, 2012.
Bryant Dillon, Fanboy Comics President: For fans that may be unfamiliar with Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter, would you mind explaining the premise and how you came up with the idea?
Russell Nohelty: Absolutely. Ichabod Jones is a psychopath that escapes from a mental asylum and becomes a monster hunter during the Apocalypse. It’s pretty brutal. If you’re a fan of the disgusting, this book delivers in spades. But, what I really love about it is that you never know if he’s really in the Apocalypse, if it’s all in his head, or if he’s killing people but believes they are monsters. [Artist] Renzo Podestá does a great job of conveying that sense of altered reality.
BD: Were there any specific inspirations for the series?
RN: I wanted to tell a story with the most unlikely hero I could. Ichabod isn’t your normal hero. In fact he’s one of the most unlikely heroes you could imagine. This guy is a psychopath. He’s been interred at an asylum for the murder of countless people. Yet, he becomes humanity’s last hope for survival.
BD: Ichabod Jones plays a lot with perception and the idea of what is truly “real.” Do you feel that the sequential art medium lends itself to exploring these themes more than other mediums?
RN: I don’t know if it lends it more than all other mediums, but there’s something about comic books that allow you to experiment with reality. It would be difficult to convey Ichabod’s style in another medium.
BD: Can you describe your writing process and how it applies to your work on this series?
RN: I have a very simple writing philosophy. Take a character that you love and be a huge d— to him/her. Throw them in all sorts of terrible situations. Every time they get out of a situation, give them a second to breath, and then throw them in an even worse situation.
I liken a story to walking along a path with your main character. As you walk down the path, you push the main character off into the thicket. Every time they make it back onto the path, you push them harder and harder until you’re shoving them with all your might.
That translates perfectly to Ichabod, because he’s in constant peril. It’s almost sadistic how terrible I’ve been to him.
BD: What can you tell us about artist Renzo Podestá and your style of collaboration on Ichabod Jones?
RN: Renzo is amazing. Without him there wouldn’t be an Ichabod Jones. His art style brings Ichabod to another level. I spent six weeks looking for an artist, but the moment Renzo sent me his work, I knew it was something special. As for the collaboration, he’s got a lot of leeway. I send him a panel-by-panel breakdown of the script, but he has latitude to move things around for flow.
BD: What has been the most difficult aspect of the work? Were there any major hurdles that you had to overcome?
RN: Hands down it’s the cost associated with a book. Not just the production costs, but printing costs, merchandising costs, booth rentals, etc.
BD: Did you have any initial concepts for the book that just didn’t work or ended up completely different than you first planned?
RN: [SPOILERS] Actually, we completely rewrote an issue. The current Issue #3 was supposed to be Issue #5. Initially, the concept for Issue #3 was zombies roaming the desert instead of a giant slug monster, and the entire group of inmates fought them as a group.
BD: You gave me a peek at the 9-page epilogue included in the trade paperback, covering the first four issues of Ichabod Jones, and I have to say that my mind was blown. It was not what I predicted at all and that was perfect. It did leave me with one question: Will we be seeing the return of Ichabod Jones in the future? Are there more tales you plan to tell?
RN: I would absolutely love to do more Ichabod. I have so many more stories to tell in that world. It all depends on the fan reaction, though. If they support the book, there will be more issues.
I liken these four issues to the first act of a book wherein Ichabod takes up the mantle of a hero. There are at least two more arcs, and hopefully a lot more.
BD: What would you say to someone who has never read a comic book to get them to give Ichabod Jones a read?
RN: Most people think of comics as cheesy super heroes, but comics are so much more than that. I’ve actually given Ichabod to several non-comic readers who never knew comics had such range. Comics are just as viable a writing medium as traditional books, but most people have no idea.
I always have a copy of Ichabod with me, so when somebody doesn’t want to give Ichabod a read, I flip through and show them a couple pages. That generally turns them around.
BD: Crossovers are a staple of the comic genre. Just for fun, if you could have a crossover issue for Ichabod Jones, with which other comic book would it be?
RN: I do another book called KATRINA HATES DEAD S–T (www.katrinacomic.com) which is also set in the Apocalypse. It’s a much more traditional comic book. I would love to do a crossover book with both of those characters, with Juan (Frigeri, the artist for Katrina) doing half the issue and Renzo doing the other half. Of course, the Apocalypse might just be all in Ichabod’s mind, so it makes things harder in that respect.
BD: What are your feelings regarding the recent addition of digital comics to the comic book market? Do you see digital comics as a benefit to creators or another obstacle?
RN: You should never discount any way to get your books into somebody’s hands.
Digital books are a tool in a creator’s toolkit. Especially for somebody self publishing, it’s incredibly expensive to print books. Releasing a comic digitally is very cost effective.
Additionally, digital books are available worldwide and can be read immediately. They don’t have to be shipped to a store or anything. So, the audience expands exponentially.
BD: Great creators usually have great taste! Once our readers finish Ichabod Jones, what other geeky entertainment would you recommend? Any favorite books, comics, or movies?
RN: I’m a little late to the party, but I’ve been really into PREACHER and TRANSMETROPOLITAN lately. My all-time favorite is Y: THE LAST MAN and BKV’s new book SAGA is amazing.
My favorite movie this year is a small one you’ve probably never heard of called SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED with Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass.
BD: Where can our readers learn more about Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter and your other projects?
RN: The easiest way is through my website, www.russellnohelty.com. From there you can get to my Facebook, Twitter, pinterest, blog, etc., as well as the websites for all my comic book properties.