Scout Comics has been on the rise for a while now. With a truly diverse set of titles that range in all sorts of genres, the indie comics publisher has a title for just about anyone. One of their latest, Midnight Sky (check out our review of the book here!), is written by Scout Comics CCO and Publisher James Pruett, a life long veteran of the comics industry. James was kind enough to take time from his busy schedule writing comics and helping run a comics company to talk to us at Monkeys Fighting Robots about, well comics of course! Check out the interview and then make sure you check out Midnight Sky and all the great comics Scout has to offer!
Monkeys Fighting Robots: So, James, you’ve had quite an extensive career in comics! Can you fill our readers in on your career?
James Pruett: I started my career in July 1993 by co-creating the award-winning anthology series NEGATIVE BURN with my twin brother, Joe Pruett, and Charles Moore. This was my first professional writing credit, as well. From there I got to know the Publisher of Caliber Comics, Gary Reed, and by the next year, I went on staff at Caliber Comics as the Managing Editor/Associate Publisher.
While at Caliber, I created and wrote the APPARITION, BLACK MIST, SOJOURN, NEW WORLDS, CALIBER CORE, KAOS MOON (co-scripted) and STRAIT JACKET, among others (which later evolved into MINDBENDER for Scout) I stayed at Caliber until the end of 1999 and left to work for the family business back in GA and still continued to write and edit freelance. It was during this time that I was lucky enough to write an X-Men Unlimited story with Mike Deodato, which is still one of the highlights of my career.
MFR: How did you link up with Scout Comics?
Around 2015 or so, my brother Joe became one of the founding members of AfterShock Comics and I found my creative urges coming to the forefront again and decided that I wanted to get back into writing and pulled out a script I had written around 2003 and began shopping it around to various publishers in early 2016. I had read a little about this new company, Scout Comics, and met a creator that was writing ELASTICATOR for Scout at Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC and started asking him questions about them. We hit it off pretty well and he eventually put me in contact with Brendan Deneen and after our phone conversation the next thing you know I became the Publisher of Scout Comics.
MFR: What’s your role as CCO and Publisher at Scout Comics like?
Pruett: The easiest way to describe what I do at Scout is that I’m pretty much responsible for most of the day-to-day functions on the publishing side of the company. I deal directly with Diamond, the printers and most of the creators. I attend a large number of conventions for Scout and do a lot of face-to-face meetings with retailers trying to build the Scout brand awareness. I edit and review every single title before it goes to the printer. I’m one of 4-5 of the Scout Team members that review every single submission that comes to us. I’m responsible for scheduling all of Scout’s titles and making sure that everything comes in on time and gets sent to the printer. Basically, the entire publishing process falls into my lap. I’m sure there are other areas and responsibilities I’m not covering here, but you get the idea.
MFR: What do you think that smaller, more indie publishers offer the comic book market?
Pruett: I think that independent publishers bring variety and diversity to the market that the larger publishers are either unwilling or unable to do. Scout brings fresh voices and fresh ideas to the comic industry. Now, I’m not saying that other publishers don’t, but I really stand by the stories and the artistic visions that we’ve introduced over the last few years and feel that we have a unique approach that sets Scout apart.
MFR: What are some of your current titles?
Pruett: Some of our more successful current titles currently are ELECTRIC BLACK, STABBITY BUNNY, MIDNIGHT SKY, HEADLESS, THE MALL, RED WINTER, CRUCIFIED, SOLAR FLARE, GUTT GHOST, THE SOURCE and RISE.
MFR: What does Scout Comics have planned for 2020?
Pruett: Our plan is to continue to grow our market share and introduce new creative talent that should be the next wave of great comic talent. Some upcoming titles that I’m really excited about include GENETICAA, a new series from industry legend Paul Jenkins; DEVILREAUX, an upcoming new series from Walking Dead actor Vincent M. Ward making his comic writing debut; NORTH BEND; A TOWN CALLED ELSEWHERE; SAM AND HIS TALKING GUN; ASSASSINS AND SON, among others.
MFR: Okay so on to Midnight Sky! We reviewed the book earlier this summer and loved it. For those who might not know what the title is about, can you give us a synopsis?
Pruett: For a little over a decade, the world has been at war with an invisible, secret enemy that is undetectable because they look like everyone else. Changelings, inter-dimensional beings from a dying world, find themselves in need of a new home and have chosen Earth, but in order to do so, they must first transform the atmosphere and climate to one better suited to their own needs. Using the warming climate change as incentive, the First Changeling, who came to Earth through a dimensional portal that scientists had mistakenly opened to their world, is able to manipulate plans that scientists were using to attempt to reverse the warming process by cooling the atmosphere. What was hoped to be salvation turned into Armageddon as particles placed in the Earth’s atmosphere for cooling purposes were instead used to greatly block the sun’s rays from penetrating the Earth’s atmosphere resulting in an eternal Midnight Sky of darkness. This resulted in massive food shortages and brought on catastrophic weather patterns making much of the earth’s surface inhabitable. The humans that were left were forced to migrate to what were formally the more tropical climates as these areas still contained tolerable temperatures.
There are three main protagonists, Jennifer, an immigrant mother originally hailing from Panama, and her two children, Elita, who is half human and half Changeling as Jennifer’s husband had been replaced unknowingly and they conceived her, and Alejandro, a Changeling that replaced her birth son as an infant and whom she has raised for the past 15 years. They are on a quest to Cape Canaveral hoping to find the permanent portal to the Changeling’s dimensional world in an attempt to recover the child that was taken from her as an infant by the Changelings. The main problem is that in order to do this, she would have to sacrifice the Changeling child that she has raised since infancy and that calls her mother. Jennifer has a nearly impossible task of deciding whether motherhood is limited to just giving birth to a child? Will she be able to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to save her natural child?
MFR: What was the genesis of this idea?
Pruett: Dreams. Seriously.
MFR: Which character is your favorite to write? Which one proved most difficult?
Pruett: I’d have to say Elita is my favorite character to write. She’s a lot of fun. She’s a 13-year-old girl born into this crazy world of despair and thrust into a role as a possible savior, something she never wanted or prepared for, and she’s still just a big kid at heart. She’s so pleasant and personable she makes me smile even as I put her into some of the darkest and most dangerous situations of all the characters She gives me hope.
MFR: What led you to work with Scott Van Domelen on this title?
Pruett: Scott Van Domelen was introduced to me by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, the writer of the Scout Comics series, SMOKETOWN. It’s no secret to anyone that knows me, but SMOKETOWN is one of my favorite all-time comic series. I didn’t know Scott before SMOKETOWN, but as the series developed, I just fell in love with the raw emotion that Scott was able to bring to each story. He is excellent in portraying character’s emotions just through subtle facial expressions or body language. I just knew I had to work with him someday. So, when I was looking for an artist for MIDNIGHT SKY I thought of Scott. He’s a true talent and has a bright future in the industry.
MFR: What’s the day to day or week to week creative process for you with Scott?
Pruett: Scott’s a dream to work with. Due to all the demands on my time, both from my day job and from being the Publisher of Scout, I tend to write most of my scripts by scenes (3-5 pages at a time). I have an outline of each issue of things I want to touch on and address as I write, but Scott’s enthusiasm sometimes derails that, but in a good way. Scott will constantly send me emails with his thoughts and some really interesting suggestions as to what might be cool and ideas of where our creations could go. I love his interaction and the fact that he is relating to these characters as much as I am. You couldn’t ask for a better collaborator. That being said, I’ll usually send him 3-5 pages at a time. He’ll break my scripts down into thumbnails and share with me. I’ll either say “good to go” or “let’s make some changes here” and then he’ll touch those up and send me pencil pages for review before finalizing the inks. Then it’s on to the colorist, Ilaria Fella, who’s great, and we start over with a new scene.
MFR: How long of a story do you have to tell?
Pruett: That’s a trick question. Like all the comic series I create, I always have multiple storylines in my head just dying to get out onto paper. Because of the difficultness of doing ongoing series for independent publishers, I write in story arcs of 4-8 issues with every intention of continuing each series as long as the readers and retailers want to read more. So, MIDNIGHT SKY is envisioned as an ongoing series with multiple story-arcs, but, ultimately, that will be up to the reading audience. I would love to write 100 issues of MIDNIGHT SKY and keep it going forever. We have enough material to go on for years.
MFR: Who are your biggest creative influences, both in general and on ‘Midnight Sky’?
Pruett: I have a lot of creative influences and I don’t want to leave anyone off, but probably will. Of course, I think every writer is influenced by Alan Moore in some regards, and I’m no exception. Not comparing myself to him, but acknowledging my respect for his works. I’m a little old school in some regards so I find some of my characterization probably comes from a little of Chris Claremont from his early X-MEN days. Don McGregor showed me that comics didn’t have to just be about action and fights from his stories on Black Panther in JUNGLE ACTION, Killraven in AMAZING ADVENTURES, and SABRE from Eclipse Comics, which was the comic that truly made me realize that there was another world outside of Marvel and DC in the early 1980s.
As for MIDNIGHT SKY, I think the obvious influence would be the 1970’s movie version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In fact, for issue 2 we did a special homage cover to this movie poster, just for fun.
MFR: What do you hope readers take away from ‘Midnight Sky’ as a series?
Pruett: At its core, MIDNIGHT SKY is a story about survival, hope, desperation, trust, and most importantly, defining the true definition of family. Is it blood or does it go much deeper than that? Nothing is more important than family, but how you choose to define family is left to many interpretations and realizing that the classic definition isn’t always the only option available.
MFR: Can you tease any future story developments?
Pruett: I think I already gave away a large part of the storyline in some of the answers previously. Probably should have kept some closer to my chest. Oops!
MFR: Anything else you would like to let our readers know about? What are you working on next?
Pruett: I always have some things percolating. I’m helping to script the upcoming DEVILREAUX series, but that’s more so just to get things rolling. I’m developing a new series called TOXIC with Raymond Estrada, an extremely talented new artist. I’m also in the very rough beginning outline process of co-writing with my son, Alex Pruett, a historical comic based on the life of Alexander the Great since we’re both huge Greek history fanatics.