Welcome to Self-Published Spotlight, a regular interview column where I will be highlighting self-published comics and the creators and small print publishers who make them.
This week I’m chatting with Jonathan Thompson, writer, and self-publisher of TALES FROM THE DEAD ASTRONAUT.
Monkey’s Fighting Robots: For those who aren’t privy to Tales From The Dead Astronaut, can you briefly describe the book to our readers?
Jonathan Thompson: TALES FROM THE DEAD ASTRONAUT is a sci-fi anthology told from the perspective of a dead astronaut drifting through space retelling stories of things he’s seen as he slowly decomposes in the great wonder of the universe. The book features 3 stories. ANOTHER WORLD is about a living space ship that births and is inhabited by Monks searching for a place to dig in its roots. THE STAR features an egotistical shapeshifting rockstar giving a press conference for the ages. Then finally, THE PRINCE OF STEEL is about the megalomaniac son of a steel baron, encased in his own steel suit of armor, explaining to the board of directors why they will no longer be needed.
MFR: I always ask this. How did you get into comics?
JT: I have loved comics since the first time I was exposed to them. My childhood was filled with Superman, Batman, and X-Men comics. It was the kind of escapism that was built on wonder and the possibilities that we all had deep inside of us to be better people. When I was in fourth grade I needed glasses, so naturally, I thought that meant I was about to find out that I was really Superman.
MFR: So what made you want to create your own comics?
JT: I think I first started creating my own comics when I was around 12. I would draw out the panels and create little storylines that really only I ever saw. There are creators out there like Grant Morrison and Brian Michael Bendis that pushed me with their own work to explore the medium for real. In my core, I am a writer. I can’t help but have notebooks filled with dozens of ideas at a time. I mostly work in screenwriting but I always had that notebook sitting on the side for comic stories. Earlier this year I was going through that notebook and decided that it was time to find an artist and see these stories come to life.
MFR: How did TALES FROM THE DEAD ASTRONAUT come together? And why did you choose a smaller size?
JT: When I first met Jorge I was just looking to do a short two-page story. (Which is the story SEEK/REPAIR found in the back of the book). We clicked as a team and I wanted to explore more stories with him. From there we did ANOTHER WORLD. Once I saw how beautifully that story turned out I talked to Jorge about putting together two more and packaging it as an anthology. It’s hard to find what to do with short stories so I figured I would make my own opportunity and put together a book I would really love. As for the size that was a late-game decision. I had gotten CANKOR by Mathew Allison and was really thrown off but attracted to the smaller size. I felt that as an anthology I wanted this book to be something you could slip into your pocket and take anywhere. I wanted it to sit apart from everything else that was out there in the indie market.
MFR: You’re only credited in Tales as a writer. Are you also an artist?
JT: I wish I honed those skills as a kid. These days any attempt I make to draw looks like I’m doing it with my left hand (I’m right-handed). The dream for me would to be able to draw my own comics. But, then I would never get anything else done and I would flood the market. I think Bendis once said that all comic writers are failed or frustrated artists…I can attest to that.
MFR: Jorge Luis Gabotto’s art is fantastic in this. It reminds me of Moebius. How did you guys come together as a creative team?
JT: Jorge’s work here is absolutely amazing. I had put out an ad looking for an artist for that first short story and his style (very Moebius which is what I was looking for) called to me.
MFR: What’s the process between you and Jorge like?
JT: We work extremely well together. There is a very great trust between us. There are a few projects we are putting together now where I can just send him a message and he’s in right away pumping out character designs to me. It is a real dream to work with someone who is that fast and good at the same time. I’ve said many times that what I learned from Jorge is that when I send a script I am going to get back something I never expected and that is a wonderful thing.
MFR: My favorite story was PRINCE OF STEEL the one about Alexander and his mech suit. I loved the way that one flowed, how the art unfolded. The line “Alexander 16 when he first built the suit. He never built another. He kept adding to it. Everyone started to worry when added the guns” really resonated with me. Do you have a favorite TALES FROM THE DEAD ASTRONAUT?
JT: It would be hard to call anyone of my babies a favorite but I think the story that meant the most to me was The Star. It was a story that had been in my notebook for a very long time and it was something that could only really work in comic form. I was really happy with how it turned out and how it flowed.
MFR: Your book is self-published. We’re seeing a lot more self-publishing and Kickstarting in comics. As a creator, why do you think this is on the rise?
JT: I think it’s because it jumps over the gatekeepers. You’re not putting out a pitch to sit in a slush pile or at the bottom of an email inbox that will maybe get a response or probably nothing at all. It puts the power back in the creator’s hands and lets them market right to their audience.
MFR: Do you see yourself ever going with a publisher or some other form of getting your work out?
JT: Two projects that I am working on now will be sent out to publishers. We’ll see how that goes. If they don’t go anywhere there then I will self-publish or take them to Kickstarter so they can get in the hands of people that I know will enjoy them.
MFR: What are you going to work on next? What’s on your horizon?
JT: I have three major projects that are in various stages right now.
My crime comic BURN RESIDUE is in the art stage with artist Rossano Piccioni. The book will be released in Italy and we will be sending out to publishers next week to hopefully secure an American release. (I hope someone at IMAGE or DARKHORSE is reading right now and prepping themselves…) That one should leave people talking.
SATELLITE EON is a robot story in the vein of We3. The artist on that project is Sam Blanchard, @shlepzig.comics on Instagram, his style is unique and there really is something special with this story. We are in the character design stage with this book which will probably take the form of a graphic novel. Then finally Jorge and I are developing a sci-fi superhero comic (more X-Men than Avengers) for teens. That I need to get scripting!
MFR: What comics are you currently reading or re-reading?
JT: I just finished binge-reading Matt Fraction’s HAWKEYE run. Pretty fantastic. Been making my way through all of the Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips team-ups CRIMINAL, FADE OUT, PULP. THAT TEXAS BLOOD has been good so far. Ed Piskor’s RED ROOM. HEDRA by Jesse Lonergan. A lot of really great stuff that I would just be listing into infinity.
MFR: Where can our readers find your work?