Interviewed: JEREMY BARLOW

Jeremy Barlow writes a diverse range of original and licensed graphic novels, including the horror series KULT, the death metal comedy Metalocalypse, and the Eurocentric western “They’ll Bury You Where You Stand!” (with artist Dustin Weaver). He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and a house full of cats.

What comics or art projects are you working on right now?

I just wrapped KULT for Dark Horse Comics — a four-issue miniseries set in the world of the horror RPG. I’m currently writing The Sonora Kid as a semi-ongoing feature in the Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword anthology, also from Dark Horse, and have a few different original projects in various states of development.

What other artists in your field inspire you?

I’ll read anything by Darwyn Cooke. I don’t know how he does it, but he chooses exactly the right images to convey whatever information or emotion his stories require. He’s always in the back of my mind when I’m writing panel descriptions; it’s hard not to write ‘do it like Darwyn Cooke would’ into my scripts sometimes.
Few can match Alejandro Jodorowski’s ability to tell an epic narrative in a short space — I love his work so much I have to be careful not to become discouraged with my own talent, which always pales in comparison. Two of his books, The Saga of the Metabarons and The White Lama are about as perfect as graphic storytelling gets, and I view encountering both of those as mileposts in my own creative evolution.
A few years back the Wachowski Brothers self-published a fantastic series called Doc Frankenstein. It followed an action movie form, but it was an exercise in pure imagination — using the medium to its fullest, throwing in one crazy, exciting idea after another, and I want to run with that baton. I wish the brothers would produce more, but all’s quiet on that front.
Man, I could go on and on here. Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’ Locke and Key series is really solid and makes me work harder to keep up. Naoki Uraswa’s Monster; and Ohba/Obata’s series Death Note and Bakuman are all wonderful manga series. Everything I’ve read by Osamu Tezuka has moved me.
Do you work out of your home or do you have an office/studio space?
Both. Most of my work gets done either at my dining room table, or on long meandering walks around my neighborhood, but I’m also a member of a freelance artist collective called Periscope Studio  — a shared studio space filled with other comics professionals in downtown Portland, Oregon. It’s a bit of a commute from my side of town, but I try to get down there a couple days a week. Not only does it get me out of the house, out of my own head, and gives me the illusion of ‘going to work,’ but being around other talented and enthusiastic artists and writers influences, inspires, and challenges me to improve my craft.
It’s also nice to have other people in the room with whom you can bounce ideas around. So often when I’m stuck on a script or story point, I can turn to someone like Dustin Weaver or Ben Bates, both of whom sit nearby, and run whatever’s hanging me up by them. Often simply verbalizing the problem is enough to see a solution, but when things are a bit more stuck than that they’re both good at asking the right questions and helping to nudge things loose. It’s invaluable.
Bigger than that, before joining Periscope I’d hit a point where I wasn’t sure where things were going professionally and the isolation of being home all the time was getting to me. I was spiraling. I don’t want to overstate it, but being offered a work space and place in that family saved my life.
What upcoming projects are you most excited about and why?
To this point, scripting licensed comic series has sustained my professional career, but I’m moving away from that for a while to focus on the creator-owned material. I respond most to character-driven stories that present new and unique worlds, interesting perspectives, and have strong endings, and I’m seeing what I have to say about that.
Right now I’m working on what I’m calling a Pixar horror story tentatively titled “Alive in Deathridge” with artist Ben Bates. Also in the hopper are a ’70s sci-fi sex adventure-comedy called Love Gun; a subversive super-spy adventure; and a retro-post-apocalyptic muscle car spaghetti western, also set in the 1970s. Taking pretty much everything everything I love and rolling it together into the kinds of books I wish already existed.
That’s whole point of what we do, isn’t it — to create the works we want to read and, we hope, to connect with other people along the way?
Where do you see comics heading in the next 5 years?

Digital excites me. I’ve been reading comics on the iPad lately, and I love it. I’m tired of buying, owning, and having ‘stuff’ and being able to keep my comics library on a hard drive rather than on overflowing bookcases or taking up an entire closet space is appealing. Going digital blows up the old distribution models, too, and helps deliver your work to readers who might not otherwise be exposed to it (while, I hope, giving you a greater slice of the profits).

It’s all very new and I understand why digital threatens some people. It will probably put some shop owners out of business, and I don’t wish that on anyone, but overall I see it bringing only good things to comics.

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