Last month, while attending a Dare 2 Draw event, I noticed a man holding some comics in his hand. He was flipping through them, showing them to Jamal Igle. They caught my attention, nicely bound, attractive covers, bright colors…I wanted them. I walked over to the gentleman, he was slim, collared shirt peeking over his dark sweater. I can probably take him in a fight. However, I was going to acquire these comics honestly. I asked him, “What’cha reading?” (See how I worked that in there, Chuck?) He told me he wrote and drew these books. I thought to myself…Wow! This man has accomplished something! He wrote and drew three….THREE comic books. Not just your 32 page pamphlet but three fairly decent sized books. There is a story here, I must know more. He introduced himself as Jerome Walford and proudly handed over his comic books for me to peruse. I was impressed with them. I offered to buy them so I can review the comics for this very website you are beholding. I refused my money and let me take the books home. (I guess this gig sometimes has its perks.)
After reading them I talked with Jerome to try to get an idea of the man behind the books, perhaps there was something I can glean from him, some inspiration for my own graphic novels. Jerome was gracious enough to take some time out of his, surely busy schedule to answer some of my questions. Presented here along with my review of Nowhere Man: You Don’t Know Jack, Vol.1 – 3
Hi Jerome, the three volumes of comics look great, how long did it take you to produce, from writing, drawing and coloring to printing these comics?
Hi Juan, thanks. I originally began scripting “Nowhere Man” in the summer of 2004. A chance encounter with a financial advisor left me wondering what I really wanted to do if I had complete freedom to do what I wanted to do, if “making a living” wasn’t an issue. But the job market was good, so the concept stayed dormant till about 2008 when it all tanked. I dusted off the idea, and scripted for another two years, then began the line art in the fall of 2010. Most of the coloring happened during the summer of 2012.
So that is about nine years in the making! Incredible! Let’s start at the beginning with the first volume:
Nowhere Man: You Don’t Know Jack Vol. 01. – Book 01 – Prologue + Ch. 00-03
We meet the hero of the story Jack Maguire, a second generation cop, NYPD. He eats, breathes and sleeps being a cop. Actually he doesn’t sleep sleep, but he is sleeping with his partner Rose Yancey. Jack is so driven to being the best cop in New York, everything in his life is revolving around being a great police officer, greater than his father. Jack is obsessed with trying to break a big case with some tricks literally up his sleeve.
Jerome does a great job of introducing all the players in this story. He does not throw a lot at you by delivering an over developed plot line. It’s a complex story but not a complicated one. Some writers can’t tell the difference. Instead the story is free flowing and open like his artwork.
Who are your influences as a writer and artist?
I have a pretty wide range of tastes. But, I can distinctly recall receiving two separate copies of “Watchmen” from two different friends on my birthday in 2009. They heard I was working on a graphic novel and wanted to “inspire me”… yep. But seriously it was a great thing. I was both inspired and stumped for weeks by Alan Moore’s mastery of writing and the sheer scope of what Dave Gibbons was able to imagine and deliver. Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s partnership on “The Killing Joke” solidified my desire to create something with depth and grit. I was riding the subway with my wife, already decidedly tossing most of the existing script for “Nowhere Man”. She said to me “What if Rose wanted to leave Jack? What if she was about to break up with him before things really got out of hand?” That became the first scene in chapter one and from there amazingly things fell back into place. One of the biggest lessons from “The Killing Joke” was that the small moments matter just as much big ones, and sometimes even more.
The Killing Joke is one of my favorites. I think it has some of the best “acting” in comics.Your characters, like Jack and Rose, are well developed. Who and what are the inspirations behind the story and characters?
Jack and Rose are heavily influenced by New York City. The pressures of living in NYC produce certain kinds of personality extremes: blindly ambitious, overly self-conscious and so forth. The angle of Jack’s dad being a 9/11 first responder didn’t happen till much later in my rewrite, but made a lot of sense and brought a certain depth that he was missing until that point.
Here’s a few pages from Vol 1, sent to us from Jerome for us to peruse!
And now on with the interview! (- Chuck, The Man in the Editor Hat)
Vol.01 – Book 02 – Ch. 04-07
Now we meet Zade, the man who has a special relationship with Maguire. His better half so to speak. His actions ratchet up the storyline a notch. We also get to know the supporting players more, mostly Maguire’s fellow officers Chris Sanchez, Sgt. Roc and his boss Captain Whittaker. As the layers are peeled back the storyline grows more complex and the artwork denser, adding to the dramatic tension. So far, my favorite aspect of Walford’s storytelling is his artwork and the subtle nuances he gives the characters body language and facial expressions. As he mentioned before, the work of Bolland on The Killing Joke definitely left an impression on him.
Zade is a unique looking character, I especially like his little toe-boots, how did you design his outfit and gadgets?
I’m a techie. I love gadgets. There was a great article in “Wired Magazine” while I was developing the script that made the case that technology was on the verge of enabling us to become superheroes, introducing stealth cloth and other ways science could grant us amazing abilities. Zade is able to use tech designed to enhance his natural ability. He cannot fly but the tech allows him to jump very long distances, having toe-boots gives him heighten sense of balance, especially while leaping with the help of the hover discs in mid air. He can walk through walls and block oncoming projectiles. Being able to hack computers and the human brain I thought was a nice way to round out a high-tech assassin skill-set.
I wish there was an app for that, flying on my iPad, hacking people’s brains…that would be awesome!
This feels like a police drama with an ensemble cast, like Law & Order. Sgt. Roc, Whittaker and Sanchez are great supporting characters from different ethnic backgrounds. Was it important to you to have a diverse cast?
I’m big fan of “Law & Order” as well as the “CSI” franchise. So I’m really glad to see that come across. I tried pretty hard to have just enough of that in the precinct experience without slowing the story down too much. But I felt it was the best environment to give a sense of what each supporting cast member’s roles were like. The diversity of background and life experience of the supporting characters has been pretty important to me. I think it will become more critical to the series in the future books because they see and understand more than Jack gives them credit for. Jack will need them just as much as they need him.
The backgrounds in the artwork look and feel like NYC, which I can appreciate. I grew up here and love this city. I can totally spot whenever a TV show is filmed in Vancouver when it is supposed to take place in New York City (I’m looking at you “Fringe!”) I was wondering if you can describe your creative process for creating the pages?
After the initial arc was created (and recreated) I had a good sense of where in the city the milestone events would take place. I would snap a lot of photos during my commute and our family outings, even as I was writing. I have a million photos and only a few with my wife and our three kids in them. My wife is very understanding. When I began working on the art I would go for really dynamic angles and compositions that brought out things about the characters and the city itself. The lighting in New York is strange too, especially around dusk, so I took a lot of photos to refer to during the coloring process as well.
It absolutely comes across! I can almost smell the city streets in your pages. For those readers who have never been to NYC, we have a smell of our own, trust me…I can’t describe it.
Vol.01 – Book 03
The most action-packed of all three issues! We see Maguire’s (and Zade’s) abilities in action as he and the 14th precinct face-off against a group of mysterious Federal Agents. There is a lot going on, some of which isn’t very clear at the present but I trust Jerome knows what is going on and will reveal in due time. The reader may feel a little lost but keep in mind this is Vol. 01 and there is more to come, besides we get the prerequisite cliffhanger ending.
Jerome handles action and human interactions well. The story plays out on a few different levels; psychological thriller, sci-fi, police drama and superhero action and we get some fine textured layers of each.
It is very ambitious and slickly produced as indie comics go. Walford peppers character pieces, pin-ups and tech drawings in- between chapters, but not just for filler, it actually serves the purpose to inform and add to the story.
I’m looking forward to more volumes, Jerome because I’d really like to find out what the heck is going on and what’s next for these characters. How many issues are you planning?
The scripts call for nine books of 40-50 pages each. The inks are just about done on number four and I have good progress on books five and six. I personally feel that my art has been improving a lot during this process and I am really excited to unveil images I have worked on this year pretty soon.
The books look really slick, these comics have a high production value, was that a challenge to make? How involved were you in the final look of the books?
Thanks, I have put a lot of time in vetting printers and designing the overall look of the books. I didn’t want to put a lot of time into the story and art, only to give someone a book they could just toss. It was a challenge but worth it. When fans pick it up at conventions I love seeing looks on their faces. Comic shops that are carrying them too, have been more than happy to put them on the shelf.
I noticed quite a few names in the credits. Who else helped work on the project and in what capacity?
I big thank you to my Kickstarter Backers. The production aspect of this project would not have been possible without their support. They have been credited in the back of the books and on our website, forwardcomix.com. A very special thank you to my editorial team Maya Rock, Russ Lane and Amy Walford. A close friend of mine since college, Dave Wu also jumped at the end. Dave would make a fine editor, if he wasn’t already such a talented programmer and project Manager.
Finally, you worked hard putting these books together, now we have to get them in the hands of people! How and where can we get your comics?
Yes, please. Let’s get them into the hands of all the people. Firstly I want to plug local comic stores because it is so important to me build some bond of community whenever possible. If you are local to Bergen Street Comics, Bullet Proof Comics or Galaxy Comics in Brooklyn, Comics Etc. in Rochester New York, Titan Comics in Dallas Texas, or Carmine Street Comics in Manhattan please stop in and pick up a copy of my books. When you buy locally it encourages local stores to carry more creator-owned material. This is a win-win for everybody.
Secondly, this is breaking news. Nowhere Man book one will be available on Comixology starting in early May 2013. This is a big break for Forward Comix and for me. I am really excited to see “Nowhere Man” arrive on this amazing platform. Thirdly, you can order the books through my on-line store, forwardcomixshop.com, where you can also order prints and other collectibles.
Thanks to Jerome for letting us peek behind the curtain. I’m always excited to see someone put their dream out there for us to enjoy!