Webcomic Adventures in Pulp, takes classic pulp stories of the 40s and 50s featuring private eyes and alien invasions and gives them a slick 21st century presentation (but without ever losing their vintage charm!). Published online and now available via ComiXology we caught up with writer Brett Harris, co-creator of this 5 star rated series, to find out what inspired him to get pulpy!
How did you and artist Matthew Childers come to work on Adventures in Pulp? Have you worked together before and what are your backgrounds in comics?
BH: Our wives were good friends in high school and reconnected several years ago. Surprise! Matt wanted to draw for comics and I wanted to write for comics and television. We did Jigsaw World [one of the series available on AdventuresinPulp.com] as a pitch and, while waiting to hear back, we agreed to do a web comic as a kind of an online portfolio. “Look what we can do!” was the attitude, which is one reason I tried to change up my writing style from story to story and tried to experiment a little bit. Of course, experimenting can bite you in the butt if it doesn’t work and the weekly cliffhanger things moved at such a pace that I frequently didn’t get much time to develop characters more or infuse a little humor.
Tell us a bit about the inspiration and back story for Adventures in Pulp? I’m guessing you’re both big fans of the genre and so wanted to make your own offering?
BH: I don’t know if I’ve always been a fan of the Pulp genre. I love sci-fi and there are a lot of great old pulp comics and novels that are sci-fi. I don’t look at Pulp as a genre as much as a style. You can have pulp sci-fi (Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers), pulp fantasy (Conan), pulp super-heroes (The Shadow, The Phantom), pulp spy (James Bond), or simple pulp adventure (Tarzan). As a style, it’s historically subversive. A lot of cheap, quick items pumped out to adolescents for a profit. The publishers were usually pushing sex and violence to sell it but the creators put some real imagination and substance in there. Sometimes it was carefully hidden in the depths beneath the superficiality, but it was there. The same thing happened again with the exploitation films of the 70s, similar approach, different styles and genres.
Were there any books or comics or writers/artists which inspired you when creating Adventures in Pulp?
BH: Not specifically, perhaps some of the old Flash Gordon stuff by Alex Raymond or Mac Raboy. I have been head over heels for comics in general since I was a kid watching “Super Friends” on Saturday mornings. I think when Marv Wolfman and George Perez did “Teen Titans,” I realized THAT’S what I want to do with my life. Since then, it only got more intense when I would see someone like Peter David or Mark Waid writing consistently great stories.
Which of the stories was published first and was that the order it was created and written? Which of the 4 chapters are you proudest of and which did you enjoy writing the most?
BH: First we did Jigsaw World to shop as an ongoing series. Then, when we launched the site, Dick Ruby was the first one written and posted. I might be misremembering but I think the idea for Ashes of the Immortals was next but we didn’t want to put two detective stories out back to back so, Hawk and a Handsaw was next to go up. Then, The Four Horsemen. After that, Matt got some work from Dynamite (“Army of Darkness“) and a UK publisher, so rather than sit idle we put up Jigsaw World, chapter 1. The publishers didn’t bite and it fit the pulp feel, just with more breathing room since it was not set up with a cliffhanger every page. Finally, we put Ashes of the Immortals up.
My favorite short was Dick Ruby, hands down, no contest. I just fell in love with his potential and the story was the smoothest from start to finish. I could write him for the rest of my life.
Will be be seeing more offerings from recurring characters like Dick Ruby in the future? Or are they intended to just be one-shots?
BH: The short stories were intended to be done-in-one (Jigsaw World was part 1 of a 4 part “pilot” arc) and that was it but, as I said, I fell in love with the intrepid Mr. Ruby and worked out a timeline for his whole life. In the process, I came up with over 20 more story ideas and a spin-off. I have other stories for the Hawk and a Handsaw universe pretty much scripted 5 pager titled “Split Second” and a 23 pager called “God is a Bullet” (which is for the record my favorite script I have ever written). I have ideas for the others as well. I hope they see the light of day eventually in one form or another.
I think that’s why I’m drawn to comics and television. I just can’t do the single story even when it’s my intention to do so. My brain doesn’t work that way, I like playing with characters over the long haul with multiple tales. I’m always thinking, “and then what happened next.” One of my Dick Ruby stories is set in a retirement community in Florida in the ’80s. That’s not a joke.
What people don’t understand is that we (writers) live with these people in our heads and it hurts to let them go. A story has to conclude but there is always another story. So those once done-in-one tales are now “pilots” in my mind. Things are really up in the air as to what’s next, probably Jigsaw World, Chapter 2 if I were to guess.
You’ve released the stories via your website first (and now via ComiXology) how important was that digital publishing idea for getting your work out there, and why did you choose digital first rather than print?
BH: I wish I could give you some brilliant answer here about the glory of digital self-publishing but the truth is, we chose digital because none of the publishers would buy our stuff. Strike that, they wouldn’t even LOOK at our stuff. Without the digital market, our work would be sitting in a drawer unseen by anyone but our friends and family. Sad but true. Truthfully, I would rather focus on the writing and not have to worry with the self-publishing part. On the other hand, there is complete creative freedom and people get to see my work, so I guess it evens out.
You’re about to embark on a Kickstarter campaign to produce a print version, will that include any bonus material for fans of the digital versions?
BH: We are still working out the details but, yes, that’s the plan. Bonus pages, unused characters, scripts. Probably as stretch goals. Matt’s taking the lead on that one. I just try to show up and not be an ass. I’m good at the showing up part.
Finally, there are a lot of other pulp wannabes out there, what to you is the quintessential element of ‘pulp’ that you think makes a story work in this genre?
BH: As I said, I feel like pulp is more of a style than a genre. You can do any genre in the pulp style, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, you name it. A lot of people confuse pulp with being exclusively noir. We started with that with Dick Ruby and then broke free pretty quickly. The question is REALLY subjective, but my opinion is pulp needs two things: First: Pacing. Keep it moving. Don’t let the character (and by extension the reader) have time to breath, only to react. Second: Fun. People know if you enjoy what you are doing. It’s there, all over the page, for all to see. If the creators are enjoying doing the work, it will come through in the finished piece.