When I first heard about the new Image Comics title, Hell Yeah!, I was vaguely interested. I figured if I liked Joe Keatinge’s Glory then I would check it out. Fortunately, I was able to snatch up an advance review and I’m glad I did. This has proven especially helpful since it motivated me to reserve my copy in advance and both isuses 1 & 2 have gone into multiple printings. Reading it wasn’t good enough, though. I had to delve deeper into the psyches of its creators! I posed some pivotal, life changing, NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN, questions to writer, Joe Keatinge, and artist, Andre Szymanowicz and received some deeply thought out answers. Or maybe I just asked them stuff off the top of my head. Regardless, this is the first half, and the second half will be here next Friday. Be thrilled or die!
Adam Messinger: So what is the tale of Joe and Andre? How did you two end up creative partners?
Andre Szymanowicz: As I recall, our eyes met across the convention floor and sparkled for a brief moment. Joe mouthed the words, “Do a comic with me”. It’s been a glorious marriage ever since.
Joe Keatinge: That’s one interpretation. As I recall I first saw his stuff when it was published in POPGUN Vol. 3 and enjoyed it quite a bit. A little while later POPGUN co-editor Mark Andrew Smith and I were discussing what projects to do next and who to team up with. I suggested he contact James Stokoe about Sullivan’s Sluggars. He suggested I contact Andre Szymanowicz about Hell Yeah!. Hell Yeah! was an idea I had for a very, very long time. I even teamed up with another artist for it at one point, but it was an inglorious disaster. So much so I had given up on the book ever happening. However, Andre turned out to be very much in-line with what I wanted to do. We shared a lot of the same inspirations. I sent him the outline, he dug it and we moved on from there.
Adam: For the three people reading this who have no idea why this interview is happening, what is Hell Yeah! about?
Joe: HELL YEAH! is about the first generation of people raised in a world where super-heroes exist. We start out by focusing on Ben Day, a guy who’s kind of a jerk and really just wants to live a normal life. However, the Super-Earth doesn’t really care what he wants. Versions of him throughout the multiverse are being murdered and he has to figure out why. Sh*t goes down from there.
Adam: What was the inspiration behind the series on both of your parts?
Andre: Since this is Joe’s baby, I took the design cues from his initial direction. He was saying to look at fashion magazines and DIY type of fare for the characters. I totally dig the concept. I love the idea that anyone could be a superhero, or even a regular hero and not go down the road of, “Well I guess its time for a trip to the spandex store!” So the characters in Hell Yeah! should have regular clothes with a hint of something cool or more exotic.
Joe: It was the end result of a lifetime reading comics. Or a partial-end result anyway. It’s more rooted in discovering Image Comics at their debut and being wildly inspired to create my own stuff, just as much as I wanted to work on Spider-Man, Batman, Nick Fury or whatever, possibly even more so. It’s the way I want to see superheroes done.
Adam: 3 Part question times! What is the soundtrack on both the writing end and the drawing end of Hell Yeah!, and what would the finish product soundtrack be?
Andre: I think of the stuff I listen to when I draw it. There is a big variety, but there’s mostly a lot of Bowie, Wu Tang, and lately, the Drive soundtrack in there.
Joe: I can’t listen to music in the actual writing process. It drives me nuts. For me, writing comics is so similar to writing music that anything really drives me nuts. Oddly enough, I seem to listen to all the same music as Andre. I’d throw the Dandy Warhols and The Spookies in there too. Also a specific shout out to GZA’s Liquid Swords.
Adam: Andre, what did you do to prepare for Hell Yeah!? What artistic weights did you get in shape with?
Andre: I do this thing to warm up where I print out anatomy drawings I find and practice copying them down. Just basic stuff like muscles and skeletons. Then, I have printouts where I practice drawing stuff from guys in comics that I like. I think it’s important not only to know the basics, but also to get an understanding of how real professionals convey drawing in comics. That being said, I have long way to go, but I am totally dedicated to getting it to come out better every time.
Adam: Joe, was there any “required reading” before scripting? Research, or anything like that?
Joe: There’s always research, but Hell Yeah! is such a personal book that a lot of it comes from my own life, in ways I’m sure no one other than me can see. But yeah, research is pretty essential. I was recently called out by another writer for something I flubbed up in GLORY and it really got me even more fired up to get my research going.
Adam: Alrighty, gentlemen. Time to pick favorites. What is your favorite character in the series?
Andre: There is a character named Die Die Die that we don’t know anything about. Joe has a story, but I’ve insisted I know nothing about her other than what I need to convey her visually. I’m just excited to see what she’s all about as I get bits and pieces from the scripts.
Joe: Oof. That’s tough. No comment!
Adam: Joe, since you’re working in Extreme Studios area of Image at the same time as Hell Yeah!, could we see a possible crossover?
Joe: Never say never, but both have pretty tight stories to tell over their first year. If a crossover happens, it’s going to be a while.
Adam: So what was the thought process behind making this an ongoing series out of the gate instead of a mini-series?
Andre: Yeah, this was all Joe. I have to admit, I much prefer this way. Keeping it going consistently has its share of pressures, but overall, an on-going series is much more rewarding and potentially something really special.
Joe: It’s hard to put into words exactly. Some stories call for it, others don’t. My next series is a mini, but that’s just what it necessitates.
Adam: To follow that up, do you feel there is added pressure to the book to keep it maintaining a solid schedule?
Andre: Yes, it’s not easy to draw a single comic, let alone draw it monthly. You figure out ways to do it, though. You just have to work at it every day. You try to get a little faster each time you do an issue.
Joe: Absolutely. It’s possibly more competitive than ever, especially for creator-owned. Maintaining a regular schedule is essential.
With that we leave the conversation for now! Come back next week as I talk more with the Hell Yeah! creative team about what comics fornicated to make theirs, the digital medium, and their favorite moments!