The following is an interview with Jody Susskind, the creator, writer, and artist of the webcomic, Gods of the Game. In this interview, Fanboy Comics Contributor Madeleine Holly-Rosing chats with Susskind about her creative process in adapting work to various mediums, the inspiration for her work, and more!
Jody Susskind and I met through a mutual friend and was kind enough to beta read my novellas. For that alone, she’s earned a special place in my heart. She is the writer and artist for the webcomic, Gods of the Game (GOTG), which is a fun throwback to the ‘80s with a heavy dose of fantasy and D&D.
Fanboy Comics Contributor Madeleine Holly-Rosing: Having scoured the internet for any tidbits about you, I discovered that you’ve done a good job of keeping yourself hidden (which is an art unto itself); however, I did learn that you had the crap scared out of you when you were a kid while watching an opera with your parents called The Consul. What was that all about?
Jody Susskind: My parents had always been pretty strict about what we were allowed to watch on TV, so when I was little, my exposure to “grown-up” entertainment was limited to bits and pieces that I’d catch in passing. I guess they thought The Consul would be safe, because it was on PBS. I don’t even know why I was watching it with them; I must have been bored and just wandered in. Anyway, it was the first time I’d seen themes of madness, hallucination, and suicide on TV, which might not have been so bad, but the fact that the characters were singing about it was horrifying. It made a very strong impression on me.
MHR: I understand that you adapted GOTG from a screenplay that you wrote. Having gone through the adaptation process myself for my own comic, can you tell me what it was like for you? Which structural changes did you make, if any? Did you have to eliminate any characters to keep the story tight? Any head banging involved?
JS: The thing that hit me the hardest while adapting it to comic form was the incredible amount of Fridge Logic in the story, which I hadn’t even noticed before. You can get away with that stuff with a movie, and it probably would have been okay in a graphic novel, if I had finished the whole thing first and then put it online. But, the way I’m doing it, releasing a page at a time, invites way too much scrutiny, and I’ve had to fill in a bunch of plot holes. There are some that will have to go unfilled, and I hope nobody notices.
MHR: Unlike many comic creators/writers, you can draw. Do you have any formal background in art, or were you just a doodler who evolved?
JS: I went to art school for a couple of years, and these days I work freelance. Comics are a hobby that I’ve enjoyed on and off since high school.
MHR: What do you love most about writing?
JS: Being able to create whatever I want, even if it makes no immediate sense!
MHR: I love the relationships between the characters in GOTG. You did a great job of setting up them up so quickly. (I love Nancy, though Eric is hysterical.) Who are your favorite characters and why?
JS: Hard to say, because I like them all! Each character is an amalgam of various people I’ve known throughout my life, with a little bit of myself thrown in. I guess Jane is the one I relate to the most, although Duane is the one who usually says what I’m thinking.
MHR: You’re up to Chapter 4 so far. How many chapters do you anticipate the entire story being, or do you have several volumes planned out?
JS: It will be approximately ten chapters. I intended it to be a self-contained story, with no additional volumes. Occasionally, I do entertain the notion of a sequel that would bring the characters into the 21st century, mostly because the idea of a bunch of middle-aged Gen X-ers going on a magical adventure would be hilarious. But, as it’s taking so long to get this first story out, I may never do that.
MHR: I’m assuming that you used to play RPGs (and maybe still do). Which are your favorites? Any recommendations or a wish list?
JS: Believe it or not, I’ve never really cared for RPGs. I put it down to me being a huge control freak; if I’m involving myself in a story I want to be able to decide everything that happens. Movies are different – when I watch them, I’m just along for the ride, but I can’t engage my imagination and cede control at the same time. My brain just can’t bridge that gap. I used an RPG as a plot device, because I needed a medium where each of the kids would contribute something to the world they were building, hence their godly powers. If it was just a story that Mark made up, the rest of the cast would be spectators and not co-creators.
MHR: Setting a story, especially a comic, in the 1980s seems a little quirky. What drew you to writing a story based in the ’80s?
JS: Partly because I wanted to pay tribute to everything that kept me sane in the ’80s. It wasn’t a very happy time in my life. I read tons of fantasy novels and comic books, and I must have watched every sci-fi or fantasy movie that came out in that decade. And, MTV. I loved old-school MTV. I wanted to recapture all that good-natured, campy fun. There’s also the fact that I don’t have a good grip on what kids today get up to, and I wanted to put the characters in a context I was familiar with. Computers and smartphones and texting would have gotten in the way of storytelling, so I kept it simple and low-tech.
MHR: Once you’re done, have you considered launching a Kickstarter to print the entire story?
JS: It’s on the table, but I haven’t made any decisions yet. Right now, I’m trying to stay focused on just finishing.
MHR: Last question . . . If you were stranded on an island, which six graphic novels would you want to have with you?
JS: I’m tempted to say The Complete Little Orphan Annie, because that’s what I’m dying to get right now, but there are about 11 volumes and that’s 5 too many. So, The Incal by Jodorowsky and Moebius (original Volumes 1 and 2), Art Spiegelman’s Maus 1 and 2, and, to lighten the mood, Derek Kirk Kim’s Tune 1 and 2, though I really hope he eventually makes more.