Monday, May 31, 2010

The Surfing the Bleed Interview - The Rejects Creator, Anthony Ferrante

Surfing The Bleed: Hey Anthony. Welcome to Surfing the Bleed. Let's get started. For those readers who aren't familiar with your fairly prolific internet presence, give us a little backstory. Who is Anthony Ferrante? What does Anthony Ferrante do?

Anthony Ferrante: Anthony Ferrante is a guy with delusions of grandeur. A mover, a shaker, a candlestick maker. I'm a man who has a lot of irons on the fire all the time, and just enough ADD to exponentially add more and never enough sense to take some off. I always wanted to be a writer in some capacity, but also fearful of the financial uncertainty. So I became a writer... of code. Totally not the same thing, I regret to inform you and your readers. I do that by day. By night I tend to the irons.

STB: Let's start with a little bit about how you came to love comics. Do you recall the first comic you owned and what was it about comics, as a child, that resonated so powerfully with you?

Anthony Ferrante: I would go to the local card/smoke shop and read the comics, not buy them. I'd read mostly Hulk, Iron Man and Green Lantern. I'd read until I'd get kicked out. This was a weekly occurrence, until I had noticed an issue of X-Men with Jim Lee's art. I bought that one, I think it was issue 19, with Colossus raging on the cover. I had to have it so I could look at the amazing pictures for more than the 15 minutes the card shop owner would give me. I bought that book every month, and branched out from there. Jim Lee singlehandedly dragged me into this world of fantastical nonsense, and I would like to shake his hand for doing so.

STB: Your career is software design but your passion is making comics. Did you always know that comics was the goal or was there a specific moment where you realized that making a career in that industry was possible and decided to pursue it?

Anthony Ferrante: It was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to make comics. It was pushing down on my brain throughout college, but as you probably know, making comics without a publisher takes a fair amount of financial backing. I just didn't have the funds to pay the people necessary to make a comic book, and make it right. Once I graduated and found employment, the funds appeared. It was honestly one of the first things I did with my first bit of saved money. Most people want to buy a car or get an apartment, the first thing I did was find an artist to collaborate with.

It's hard to "break into" comics, it really is. There's a lot of rejection, I've found. Some disappointment, too. But if you really love the medium as much as you say you do, you keep going. You keep creating and you do it for yourself, and you have enough confidence in your work that someone out there will like it who isn't related to you or sleeping with you.

STB: Your contribution to the collaborative process is story. Can you speak for a bit about being the writing half of a creative team? What is your scripting process?

Anthony Ferrante: It usually starts with a small idea with grasping tendrils, a short blurb just jotted down one day. Then, on the drive to work, or on a lunch break, or while trying to sleep more ideas materialize from the ether and are gripped by the tendrils until a story takes form. Then I plot, writing in some garbled prose asking questions to myself about the story and answering them on the next line until an infrastructure is built. Then I outline the entire story, from beginning to end. Only then can you really start scripting, knowing where you need to be with the ending and several other major plot points in mind. When I actually script, I go for the screenplay style, heavy on visual direction. I tell the artists that I work with that I have an idea of how I'd like the book to look, but for them to suggest changes whenever they think they're needed. They are, after all, the ones who know best how visual elements would work together and how transitions can flow better aesthetically.

STB: You know as well as I do that finding quality artists to work with, who aren't already employed in the business, is very difficult. How did you find your current collaborators and how has that collaboration helped you learn more about the medium and your approach to it?

Anthony Ferrante: Finding a good collaborator is one of the hardest parts about making a comic book. Not only does the person need to be talented and able to tell a story visually, but they need to be receptive, open to communication, trustworthy and reliable. It's not easy finding someone with all of those traits without actually knowing them in person beforehand.
I've gone the Digital Webbing route multiple times, and I've gotten great collaborations out of it a few times, and struck out more than a few times. The artist for The Rejects, Noah Barrett, was found through Digital Webbing's forums. The same can be said for both of the artists being used for a couple of other projects I have going on right now.

Through mistakes, you learn. So learn from my mistakes and ALWAYS have a contract in place with anyone you collaborate before the collaboration begins. ALWAYS discuss payment up front, and ALWAYS clearly and concisely layout your expectations of your partner's work. It seems cold and so very business for such a creative organism but they are essential if you want anything more than frustration from the comic book making process.

STB: Your first published work is a project called The Rejects. Can you give us some information on the title?

Anthony Ferrante: The Rejects is a book trying to emulate my favorite period of the traditional superhero comic book niche, and that would be the late-90's, early-00's Wildstorm line... Stormwatch, The Authority, etc. wherein there would be elements of classic superhero stories amalgamated with gritty, near-future, dystopian back-drop. It's a book about abduction, experimentation, betrayal, murder, suspicion and ultimately vengeance. Only the first book is finished, with the second book very near completion, but the entire thing is six books. It's something that will probably end up working really well as a collected piece, but that's down the line.

STB: You've decided to self-publish The Rejects through your website. Did you pitch it to any publishers or was it always your intent to release it on your own?

Anthony Ferrante: I did pitch to a few publishers. It was my original intention to create a comic book, from soup to nuts, and in the end hold a tangible comic book in my hands that I can say I created. Ultimately I would like to create for a living, and have it be my bread-winner as well as my passion, so I pitched it to a handful of publishers. They had their reasons for not wanting to pick up The Rejects, and that's fine. I still believe in this story and believe it's a good one to tell, so I will. I think there will be regrets from some publishers who decided to pass, when it's all said and done.

STB: Can you talk for a bit about the benefits and the difficulties of self-publishing your comic?

Anthony Ferrante: When you self-publish and the original idea is yours, you become more than just the writer. You're also the editor, publisher, and sometimes spot-letterer or colorist or inker. It would be nice to just dream up an idea, plot it out and then script it... send it off to the editor and wipe my hands of it, but in self-publishing you are babying this project from day one to day 150. This is not a complaint, mind you, but rather an idea of the process and what can be seen as difficulties for those interested in going down this path.

On the other hand, you have complete and utter creative control. You have final say in any and every thing and it should be exercised as such. You have permission to go batshit crazy if you want, and in the end you will still have a 22-page comic book, just as much as the guy who has to write about a shape-shifting race invading Earth, no matter how out of place it might be and how divergent from an original story idea he might have had. Sure, the second guy gets money while you lose it, but creatively you're miles ahead of him.

STB: Tell us, if you would, a bit about your next project, Seven Sunsets.

Anthony Ferrante: Seven Sunsets is another book I'm working on, but right now as a comic book, it's in its infancy. We are working on putting it together as a pitch only, initially. The story itself is fleshed out immensely, I have a friend that is helping me with this one and we have a lot of even minute details present. We have a wiki set up to put all of the information together, and to keep relationships obvious. I am very excited about telling this story, as it was something that I had in the back of my mind for a long time now, and it burst out pretty nicely.

STB: You work and live in NYC. How has living in the capital of the world influenced you as a creator? Does it give you a richer tapestry to play with?

Anthony Ferrante: It's something that certainly inspires me, knowing Marvel and DC have headquarters right over there is a neat motivation. Technically I live right outside of NYC... I say that because I do own a car and I do have to drive everywhere. Ideas usually come to me while I'm driving. Also in the shower, I get a lot of thinking done in the shower... where was I going with this? Anyway it's good to know so much creative energy is next door and that maybe I can siphon some of it for my own selfish use.

STB: Admittedly, you are a big video game fan. What are some of the games you're playing right now?

Anthony Ferrante: Right now I just finished the co-op multiplayer for Splinter Cell: Conviction. The ride to the ending was great but boy did I hate that ending. I played the multiplayer beta for Blur last night, that was fantastic. A combination of Burnout and Mario Kart... play it if you can. Other than that I'm patiently waiting for both the Halo: Reach beta and Red Dead Redemption. Comics and video games in one interview, man I'm a dork.

STB: What do you think about the growing number of comics professionals working in the field of game design? Is that something you've considered pursuing?

Anthony Ferrante: I think it's great. They are similar fields, when you break them down to their basic components, so a transition only makes sense. Being a programmer, I think when maybe 80% of us start out in school, we have aspirations of working in video games. It's about as easy as breaking into comics to get into that field, and as an entry level coder you're just a grunt... no creativity, you just do what you're told. If I were to get the opportunity to design a game based on my comic book work, there would be no way I would ever turn that down.

STB: You and I met and bonded through the social networking service Twitter. As I'm sure you've noticed, many comic book professionals use the service to communicate with one another. How important do you feel that social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are to young creators trying to make connections in the industry?

Anthony Ferrante: We are a very, very lucky generation. I can open a tab right now and ask Tom Brevoort or Jim Lee a question, and GET AN ANSWER. Usually within hours. Could you imagine that 15 years ago? Everyone was going into the comic book industry blind, vague ideas on how to get into it. Now, if you just follow the right guy, you get freakin' instruction manuals for both writers and artists. It's an invaluable source for young creators like you and I.

On the other hand, in self-publishing it's an amazing way to push your book. Your fan page on Facebook or your Twitter account is just as good as Marvel's or DC's. It has just as much of a voice as long as you can get the fans/followers. Another dynamic tool that if implemented properly puts today's young creators on the outside looking in lightyears ahead of their counterparts as little as five years ago.

STB: In closing, how are your Mets going to be this year?

Anthony Ferrante: As of this writing, they are alone in first place about to start a series with the second place Phillies. Listen, I love the Mets more than I should, but they need another pitcher badly. With that, I can see a definite wild card berth with 87 wins. Once you're in the playoffs, anything goes baby.

STB: Thanks a lot Anthony and best of luck. Surfing the Bleed will be keeping an eye on you.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Return

I have been gone for a while. I hope that this hiatus hasn't quelled your interest in my blog. I've been adjusting to a new schedule at work (I now work five nights a week, and in my business that's a lot of exhausting work), and a flooded city. Luckily, the Nashville Floods didn't touch me directly, but they did affect quite a few of my friends. We still need help, money and donations of every sort, so if you live in the Middle Tennessee area, give time, food, etc. If you're out of the area and want to help out, you can donate to Hands On Nashville or the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. I ask that you do not donate to the Red Cross simply because the Red Cross puts all that money into a pool and there is no guarantee that it will get to flood victims here in Tennessee. Not that I am opposed to helping people everywhere people need help (I wouldn't be much of a superhero fan if I was), but if you want to specifically help the greater Nashville area, then use one of the links above.

There has been a lot of self-reflection and a lot of time wasted on trying to catch up on sleep lately, so my mind has been pretty far out of the game. But I'm redoubling my efforts and getting back to work. I've also got a couple of projects on the horizon that I'm very excited about, one of which is destined for publication if I can just stay diligent and do the work. But it's a life-consuming sort of thing, so I have to be willing to commit a lot of time and effort to it.

But that's what this is going to be about from here on out. Commitment. That's the word going forward. Commitment to this medium, to this blog, to this career. I'm driven, but moving forward you'll see me add a great deal more focus to that drive.


So get ready fans. This year, we are going to seriously surf the bleed.