“It’s The Incredibles meets The OC with an added dash of Invincible” Joe Glass and Vince Underwood discuss the Kickstarter for new comic The Miracles
When it comes to Small Press, few names are as big as Joe Glass and his superhero team comic, the Pride. However, in the last couple of years, while Joe has continued to build the Pride up, he has also moved on to other ideas, such as Acceptable Losses and Glitter Vipers. Now though, Joe has teamed up with the artist of Elk Mountain, Vince Underwood, to bring a new idea to Kickstarter, the Miracles. With this new campaign just around the corner, we sat down to have a quick chat with both Joe and Vince to find more about this new project. (The Miracles Kickstarter begins in the first week of February. Go to kickstarter.com/projects/joeglass/the-miracles and click to keep yourself updated.)
Gentlemen, thank you for taking the time to talk with us. How are you both? Well? How is Lockdown/Quarantining treating you both respectively?
Joe Glass: I’m good, thanks for asking. I had a brief stint in furlough from my day job, but as an essential worker I’m back to it. Thankfully, I live at home with my family, so I haven’t been alone. However, the time hasn’t been without difficulties and anxiety, to be sure. All my plans for 2020 basically got thrown out, which as a new creator is tough. But I’m safe, I’m well, my loved ones are too, so I really can’t complain.
Vince Underwood: I’m doing pretty well, thanks for asking and for taking the time to talk with us. All things considered, the last year has treated me well. I got married right at the start of the pandemic, so as far as getting to spend time together as newlyweds, being quarantined really helps that happen. Similar to what Joe said, it hasn’t been without its emotional stresses and difficulties, but we’ve managed to stay safe and relatively sane, so for that I am super thankful. 2020 was a year to really appreciate what you have because for so many, it was so much worse.
Well, I’m glad to hear that you are both doing well. So, we’ve been seeing references about it for sometime on your Twitter feeds but now that we’re finally here, tell us, what is The Miracles? Where did the idea come from? What can you tell us about this new story, world and it’s characters?
Joe: The Miracles follows an average teenager named Elliot Morgan, who’s a bit of a comic geek and obsessed with one in particular. He suddenly discovers that he has superpowers which leads to the next big revelation of his life – his parents are the comic book superheroes he loved so much, and they’re refugees in the real world.
Imagine finding that out. You live in a mundane world where super-heroic abilities and characters only exist in comics and movies, but then you find out you’re actually one of them. You escaped this fictional world and now live in the real world and now you get to use this new truth you’ve learned to make that world better. Or at least, how you think you can make it better.
I’ve actually been working on this idea for pretty much as long as I’ve been working on The Pride. It comes from not just my love of superhero comics and superhero action, but also teen dramas and soap operas as I was growing up. I think the first draft of this I wrote when I was in my early 20s and was obsessed with The OC.
Think of it as being like The Incredibles meets The OC with an added dash of Invincible in there.
Vince: As Joe mentioned, he’s been developing this for some time and I was a late edition to it. So as far as the story beats, the basic DNA of the thing, I wasn’t really a part of developing that. However, if I were to answer what The Miracles is to me, beyond what Joe described, it is a story about finding yourself and your place in the world. And to me personally, the guiding light through my life has always been superheroes. And superheroes are best when we see ourselves in them, because then we see that what they are– these ideals– are obtainable. That we can be the best versions of ourselves.
To that point, early in the process, when Joe and I first started working together, I was doing design sheets for the characters (See above and below). This was back in late 2018, and I was still working as a high school music teacher and my students were always asking what I was working on, or if they could see art, and I showed them the early concept art for Elliot and told them the basic gist as Joe described and they freaked out and one just started flat out crying. They were seeing someone they could relate to, someone they felt connected to as a superhero and it was an absolutely beautiful moment. It’s one of the oldest, most powerful moves in superhero comics. It goes all the way back to Robin. From Peter Parker to Miles Morales. And now as comics start to understand, thanks to creators like Joe, that the audience is, and always was, far more diverse and interesting, we continue that proud tradition of bringing the reader into the panel.
That’s The Miracles to me and my number one goal for it.
That sounds like a cool concept and an incredibly inspirational one! What are your plans for this series? Is this a single story or are more in the pipeline if this Kickstarter is successful? And what is the appeal of kickstarter for you both?
Joe: Generally, this story is pretty self contained, but we do set up greater mysteries that, should the book be successful we can continue. I’ve planned the ideas for a triptych of books, this one starting off with Secrets. We’ll see how it goes, I’m happy if we can just tell this story, but if we get to keep it going even better.
At any rate, people will get one big, gorgeous book in The Miracles and that’s what we’re looking to make happen for now.
Kickstarter works well for me. It’s a great way for people to get in on the ground floor and help make entertainment that they really want happen. For me, coming from a working class background, it’s also pretty much the only way I can keep financially making books, so it’s been a great field leveller giving anyone the access to potentially tell their stories.
Vince: That’s the big appeal of this book to me. It stands alone. Using Kickstarter to tell a multi-part story can be difficult and may lead to things being stuck in limbo or unfinished. Which happens to stories backed by publishers too, but the challenges become unique on Kickstarter. So I’m very happy we have this contained story. And honestly, I’d love to see more of this in direct market comics. The way Sean Phillips and Ed Brubaker have been delivering their stories like Reckless and Pulp has been amazing! And yet, The Miracles also opens the door to a whole world of stories and I hope that readers are interested in more down the road.
And to Joe’s point, Kickstarter enables creators like us to put out a full beautiful graphic novel without going bankrupt. I love this book and I want to see it out in the world so badly, but dumping my life savings into it, probably isn’t the best move.
This is your first time collaborating together. How did this team come about? And what was it like to work together? Was it difficult being on different sides of the world?
Joe: I first became aware of Vince’s work I think around the time of the Elk Mountain Kickstarter campaign, and that was a book I really loved. I think we just started talking around then, and somewhere along the line I brought up The Miracles, this idea that’s gone through a ton of iterations with various artists over the years before I really had a nail on the format I felt this story worked best in. Vince put his spin on it, and it finally felt like it was the absolute right direction to take it in, and since then, honestly, The Miracles has never been better. He’s inspired me to push the story higher and make it work to his skills, and he’s turning out some of the best artwork I’ve ever seen from him.
Vince: Yeah, that timeline seems about right. I was really starting to explore the social media scene for other creators as we attempted to launch Elk Mountain the first time and I found Joe and instantly was drawn to The Pride. It felt bold and pure. I very clearly remember Joe posting he was looking for an artist and I replied with some stupid GIF, assuming he’d never want to work with ME. And to my surprise, I got a DM shortly after. I’ve expressed this a lot on social media and to Joe directly, but I can’t say it enough; I am so blessed Joe brought me in on this project. It is an absolute honor to bring this story and these characters to life. My hope is that my work is an adequate show of my appreciation for this opportunity.
As far as being on opposite sides of the globe, IF I sleep, it’s usually while the sun is up, so we’re actually able to communicate pretty directly most of the time. Joe has been such a respectful and appreciative, warm collaborator that I feel very safe expressing my ideas, exploring the page and just generally very free to do what I feel is the best in bringing The Miracles to life.
Can you both name three comic books/TV shows/films/novels that three best describe The Miracles to potential readers? So, “You’ll like the Miracles if you like … “
Joe: I kinda did earlier, so let me elaborate a bit more. It’s great for fans of The Incredibles because it’s a family of superheroes, which people haven’t seen from me yet, so if they like Incredibles or Fantastic Four, then this will be for them.
It’s great for fans of The OC, because it takes the family drama and ages it up a bit and tackles more mature elements with a grounding of emotional soap opera around it. Expect angst and shocks throughout.
Finally, it’s got that dash of Invincible. Let’s just say that like that series, this graphic novel has a ton of surprises we haven’t even mentioned and will look at the roof of expectation and blow right through it.
Vince: I have to agree with Joe’s picks 100% there. Maybe add on Young Avengers or Runaways a bit. I really love the youth of the whole thing. I think that’s a great energy for super-heroics. Miles is more fun than Peter and we all know it.
Joe, you once said that The Pride is Gay Pride while Glitter Vipers is Gay Wrath. In that case, where does the Miracles come from? Is it at either of those extremes or somewhere along the spectrum?
Joe: Well, it’s me, so there is definitely some queer representation in this book, to say otherwise would be daft, because everyone expects that of me. But to be honest, The Miracles is more a focus on family and the idea of secrets that families keep from each other. That’s not to say there isn’t representation or there isn’t some plot points involving what some may think of as queer issues, in that it will certainly deal with concerns that queer people have when it comes to family. But I’d say it’s its own thing and neither sitting on the Pride or Wrath aspects…perhaps on the spectrum, maybe.
Vince, you’ve treated us to a sneak peak of your art for the Miracles and, to put it mildly, it looks awesome!! Were there any titles or artists works which were big influences in the visual styles you used here? Did any of yours or Joe’s prior works contribute to how you thought the Miracles would look?
Vince: Thanks for saying so! I’m so happy with how everything is turning out. I feel I’ve grown a lot since Elk Mountain. I think a lot of people will be surprised when they see it. As far as my influences, there’s far too many to mention. I’m two things; a giant fanboy and a firm believer in studying the work of every artist I see. I consume A LOT of comics and always as an enthusiastic student. I have a dozen teachers each Wednesday.
If I had to narrow it down a bit, I’d say Jamie McKelvie’s work, particularly Young Avengers, really helped me feel confident in my own voice. I’ve become a new level of secure in what I do.
And what I mean by that is, for example, I love Mitch Gerards, I’m sitting next to a Mister Miracle cover hanging on the wall right now. But what Mitch does, it’s just a very different thing than what I do. It has this loose quality to it. Splatters and rough edges. And I’d look at someone like him, that I love so much and go, well I’m not doing anything like that, therefore what I’m doing is bad, because he’s so good and beloved. But then I look at Jamie McKelvie and see something that is more like what I do, and it is so spectacular. One of the absolute best, and it makes me go, yeah, this thing I’m doing works. Right before I dove into The Miracles in its current form, I read the Gillan and McKelvie Young Avengers and it just gave me that feeling that my voice has a place in comics. So I’ve taken a lot of inspiration and comfort from those creators out there doing a more clean line like I do. And that isn’t to say I want to BE McKelvie or Stephen Byrne, Jen Bartel or someone, but they’ve made me feel like I can BE ME.
And lastly, the greatest of all time Jack “The King” Kirby is a HUGE influence on this book. As Joe mentions, Elliot is a comic book fan and his comic of choice (our comic within the comic) is all drawn Kirby style, and in some instances straight homages to specific works, and I have had the time of my life doing it. A childhood on the floor recreating Kirby art on printer paper has finally paid off.
This is your second superhero comic after the issue 1 release of Elk Mountain a couple of years back. Have you found a difference between working on that title compared to the Miracles? Also, what difference (if there is any) is there in working with your own idea (like Page Turn) compared to working on someone else’s?
Vince: Beyond working with two different writers, the process has been very similar. Because despite their different goals or perspectives, both are generous and supportive creators. I mentioned before, I love that The Miracles is contained. I know we get to reach our ending. I’d love to finish the story of Valor some day, but we will have to see. Jordan has recently come off of a brief stint on Aquaman and is conquering the world. But hopefully those stars align again.
As far as Page Turn, that had ZERO structure. It came right after my first interior gig, which was a movie prequel comic that never saw an official release. After some personal tragedy and upheaval, I was deep in the darkest time of my life and making that movie comic was kind of the light at the end of the tunnel in its way. As I started to, for the first time in my life, work at my dream job, it helped me to face and confront a lot of what I was going through. So Page Turn was me working through that. It was going to be a three page short, just jotting down some of my feelings. I had no plan to release it. Then three became nine. And nine became fifteen and so on until it was a full issue. That process was really really loose. There’s a double page spread in the issue that I added the weekend before release. It is something very stream of consciousness and any structure is an editorial afterthought. So it was a very different experience and I’ll probably never do that again, even with my own stories.
Do you both have anything else in the pipeline (either separately or together) that you can tell us about?
Joe: I have plenty of ideas and pitches out there, but nothing yet that’s safe to talk about, or that has been given the green light. I’m hoping 2021 will be better to me than 2020 in that regard.
That being said, for fans of The Pride or new readers, The Pride will be being collected as an Omnibus and coming out from Dark Horse Comics in June so that’s going to be awesome.
Vince: Not any time soon. I will be drawing The Miracles for the next several months. It really is currently my whole creative life. But I do hope that on the other side of it, people see the work I am doing and others want to collaborate. I’m ready for it and hungry for it. I do have a handful of creator owned one shots that I’ve developed to some degree. My wife, Hannah Redd-Hallman, and I co-wrote a surrealist murder mystery comic that’s best described as part classic film noir, part Twin Peaks with a Luther aesthetic, that I’d love to put out some day. Maybe that’s what will be next, post The Miracles. We’ll see. Right now I’m just focused on bringing Elliot to life.
Finally, what are your favourite comics (besides your own of course)?
Joe: We talking of all time, or at the moment?
At the moment, I’m loving The Immortal Hulk, Far Sector, Home Sick Pilots and The Department of Truth a great deal.
Of all time, I’d say Miracleman is a big fave of mine that may surprise some people, and may have inspired this book too. Take from that what you will.
Vince: Of all time? All-Star Superman, New X-Men (I am a huge Morrison fan in general), Mr. Miracle and Watchmen, of course.
At the moment, I can’t get enough of this era of X-Men. I devoured X of Swords. Donny Cates’ Crossover is very exciting too. I read so much over the last year it was insane. So much stuff I missed the first time through. I finally read East of West and also Lady Killer recently. Joelle Jones’ art just kills me. Also was VERY blown away by how delightful the Wave Blue World anthology Maybe Someday… (which features Joe!) was. I buy everything from both Toms, King and Taylor and I’m a super DC Fan. So lots of DC Books all the time. I could talk about comics I love all day, everyday.
The Miracles Kickstarter begins in the first week of February. Go to kickstarter.com/projects/joeglass/the-miracles and click to keep yourself updated.