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DAVID AVALLONE
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DF Interview: David Avallone joins legend Kevin Eastman in the completely fictional true story of a comic book creator in ‘Drawing Blood’

 

By Byron Brewer

 

A look into the roller coaster life of a successful comic book creator. When you create a global franchise before you turn 20... what happens next? Welcome to the world of Shane Bookman, a cartoonist whose real life has become more absurd than any comic book!

 

From co-creators Kevin Eastman and David Avallone and artists Ben Bishop and Troy Little comes a 12-issue maxi-series set squarely in the collective world of comic books. All it took was to see this awesome creative team to have me sitting down with my old pal, scribe David Avallone, to discuss this unusual offering from Image Comics.

 

Byron Brewer: David, out of the gate (as we say hereabouts in Kentucky horse country), what is it like to work with the iconic co-creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Kevin Eastman? And – AND – as Drawing Blood’s CO-CREATOR along with Eastman?

 

David Avallone: Kevin is, famously, the nicest guy in comics, and he lives up to that reputation. We met at Emerald City Comic Con in 2015 and became fast friends. We’ve had very different lives – obviously – but we had a surprising number of mutual friends and overlap in our careers you wouldn’t expect.

 

When we’d known each other about a year, he brought up this old project he’d never quite been able to get off the ground, with the working title On The Shoulders of Giants (reflecting Kevin’s strong belief in honoring the creators who inspire us). He didn’t love the title, but he wanted to do a funny, dramatic story about a cartoonist with a career similar to himself, and he wanted to use it as a way to tell all the great crazy stories we share with each other when the fans aren’t around.

 

I loved the idea, and pitched him the new title as we were walking into the back door of the San Diego Convention Center on the way to a signing. It’s been a long road from there to here… but it’s been a great joy working with Kevin.

 

Byron: You have done Elvira, Bettie Page and a number of books for Dynamite Entertainment as well as others, and a lot of acclaimed out-of-comic activities as well. Talk a little about this BTS look at the life of a comic book creator readers will be seeing in April. Is some of it autobiographical? And if so, for Eastman, for you, or a combo thereof?

 

David Avallone: The bigger story points are mostly Eastman (I have never co-created a billion dollar global franchise), but inevitably a whole lot of my life gets in there as well. Every character ends up being an amalgam of many real-life people: there’s no one-to-one analogy. Fans may recognize some of the storylines from the real world, and we’re as honest as possible about the challenges of a life in what I like to call “the professional arts,” which is a fancy way of saying “show business.”

 

Byron: Introduce readers to Shane ‘Books’ Bookman. Who was he, who is he when we “meet him” in Drawing Blood, and what challenges does he face? Discuss his successes and the pleasures or penalties for same.

 

David Avallone: Books, with his brother Paul, created an indie comic in the early nineties called Radically Rearranged Ronin Ragdolls, about three girl cats who are experimented on and gain superpowers. They escape the lab, and they’re raised by an elderly Japanese couple who own a sushi restaurant in Queens. When we meet him, in the present day, Books has sold off the Ragdolls to “Kiddiescope” (our in-universe Nickelodeon), he’s struggling to keep his publishing company (Siberia Arts) afloat and also produce a Broadway show, and he hasn’t drawn a thing in years. As our story begins, he learns that his business partner at Siberia Arts has committed a gory suicide, possibly because he’s been embezzling money and owes a huge debt to Lithuanian Gangsters… who come calling on Books to collect. Meanwhile, a Hollywood “auteur” named Morgan Harbor is filming a “gritty” Ragdolls movie. Needless to say, he’s got a lot going on.

 

Byron: Without spoilers, can you let us in on some of the comic books / franchise properties Bookman (love the name, a Seinfeld ref perhaps?) has created in this world in addition to Ragdolls? What are his labors (of love?)?

 

David Avallone: His TMNT is the Ragdolls. They are named after anime directors (Tezuka, Otomo and Miyazaki) and they are adorable. We have actually created five Ragdolls comics (with artist Troy Little), which will be released along with the Drawing Blood issues. His publishing company, Siberia Arts, is an obvious nod to Kevin’s quixotic Tundra. Since it’s a comic book about comic book creators, we also have created a few other properties that are the work of our other characters. Books’ business partner Frank Forrest is the creator of a Batman/The Spirit-type character named Night Avenger, and Frank’s career has a lot of the triumphs and heartbreaks of men like Jack Kirby and Bill Finger. We also meet a teenager with a web comic named GTFO Girl. All of these will also have in-universe comics made for them.

 

Byron: Wow! … I would imagine for any comic book creator, this book would bring up certain angsts but also fun memories. Can you talk about some of your own “fun” memories as a comics creator, and (again, without spoilers) will there be any of those darn amazing Avallone Easter eggs tucked amid the pages of this 12-issue maxi-series?

 

David Avallone: I think readers who are paying attention will catch plenty of Easter eggs, but the fun is letting the reader find them for themselves.  Kevin and I have poured a lot of our lives into these issues, and we’ve tried to create a story (and a world) that anyone involved in comics (and show business in general) will recognize. I don’t want to do specifics before the series drops… but there’s a lot of stuff in there about conventions, fans, seeing your work out in the world, the joy of creation, the pain of seeing your creation cheapened, meeting your heroes, etc.

 

Byron: Talk about the richness of talent you have working with Kevin and yourself.

 

David Avallone: Drawing Blood has a fairly unique format: the story takes place in three “spaces.” One space is flashbacks, one is fantasy/dream, and one is objective reality.  Our first decision was that a different artist should draw each one of these “spaces.” (Attentive readers – who might know that Drawing Blood was created first – will recognize some of this approach in Kevin’s super-successful The Last Ronin.) Kevin was the obvious choice to draw the flashbacks, since so much of them draw from his own life (highly fictionalized, but still). So those have the duo-shade sepia style that evokes the 1980s Mirage Comics. For the other two “spaces,” we put together an amazing team.

 

First on was Ben Bishop. Kevin and I were at his place in San Diego, talking about possible artists. Ben had sent Kevin his graphic novel The Aggregate for a blurb, and I believe Kevin’s wife Courtney initially suggested we look at Ben for Drawing Blood. Kevin handed me a copy and I flipped through it, instantly agreeing that Ben would be a great artist for “reality.” Kevin was concerned that the artist be able to convey “acting,” and Ben really delivers on that front.

 

For fantasy and dream… Kevin suggested Troy Little, who had recently done the extremely hallucinatory adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas for IDW, which I loved. This led pretty directly to Troy becoming the artist on the Ragdolls comics, since Books’ fantasies and dreams and hallucinations usually feature the Ragdolls coming to life and talking to him.

 

Starting with issue #6, the scheduling got a little tight with Ben also working on The Last Ronin, so for the second half of the series we’ve brought on Jason Moore, an amazing inker, to help. Jason is a terrific artist in his own right, but as an inker he is great at serving the vision of the penciller and he’s delivering work that matches the style of Ben-inking-Ben.

 

We’ve had a few colorists cycle in and out of the series, all great. Brittany Peer, Tomi Varga, Simon Gough and now Luis Delgado will be taking over for the rest of the series.  The letterer is the peerless Taylor Esposito, who has probably lettered like 90% of my career output in comics.

 

Byron: David, what other projects in which you are involved can you tell readers about?

 

David Avallone: Well, this year I’ve got Elvira Meets H.P. Lovecraft coming from Dynamite on February 21. That’s a five-issue series and I think the title speaks for itself. I had avoided having Lovecraft guest star because I didn’t want to deal with all of his issues… but I figured five issues was enough to cover it. It’s got a lot in there that will please both the Lovecraft reader and the Lovecraft hater: I believe I’ve done justice to all sides of his personality.

 

I have a couple of other secret projects coming from Dynamite that I can’t wait to talk about, including an OGN and another series starring another fun real-life person.

 

Outside of comics, the three episodes of Batwheels Season Two which I wrote should be premiering soon on MAX, and I’ve been pitching new stories to them for future episodes.

 

And then there’s a huge movie project that, in classic Hollywood terms, I can’t talk about and maybe it won’t happen… but then again, maybe it will. Money has changed hands and contracts have been signed, which is always a good indication. Stay tuned!

 

Dynamic Forces would like to thank David Avallone for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Drawing Blood #1 from Image Comics is slated to be on sale April 24!

  



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