This Saturday, June 6th, was the start of 2015’s Special Edition NYC. The comics, art, and culture event by Reed Pop is the second year it has taken place, but the first at Pier 94. One of the most exciting and busiest of times for What’cha Reading is convention season, especially New York Comic Con. However, Special Edition has provided the opportunity for many fans to come together and celebrate the industry that provides so much optimism and enjoyment to them, while also providing a fun weekend for many during the (almost) summer month of June, as opposed to NYCC’s October event.
One of the first stops at this year’s Special Edition was, none other, than the Man of Action booth featuring Joe Kelly and Steven T. Seagle. Both accomplished and acclaimed in their respective fields, they saw crowds of people from all over, only serving to validate the impact of their work on those that continually make shows such as Special Edition such a hit. While I prepared for the interview, I had the chance to revisit not only one of my favorite chapters in my favorite super-hero’s life, but to acknowledge that I was about to sit with two creators that have added so much to the mainstream and independent aspects of comic-books and storytelling. Arriving a little before 1 pm, I was graciously escorted behind the Man of Action table (Booth) and began a conversation that not only continues to flourish inside my head, but has also added an extra layer of respect and admiration for Joe Kelly and Steven T. Seagle. Without further ado, here is the complete, candid, entertaining, and special talk from Special Edition.
Joe Kelly: Hello.
Steven T. Seagle: Hello.
What’cha Reading: How are you doing?
Joe Kelly: Very well. Thank you. We’re having a great time.
Steven T. Seagle: I love shows in New York because there are people that love comic books here.
What’cha Reading: [laughs]It’s evident today that the booth is alive and people are coming by. It’s always great to see people coming out to pay respect to the creators that make all this possible [if it weren’t for your creations/drawings/stories, there would be no conventions to celebrate these said creations/drawings/stories.]
Joe Kelly: I think it’s the opposite. I think it’s for us to come out pay respect to the fans that make all of this possible.
What’cha Reading: That’s actually an excellent way to look at it.
Steven T. Seagle: That’s the only way to look at it.
Joe Kelly: We have a job because of the people that come here and it’s something that we remind ourselves of all the time. I mean we’re very lucky to get to work in this industry, both in animation and in comics, so we love meeting fans, we love hanging out and talking to people and it’s also a way to introduce them to other things that we do.
What’cha Reading: Do you have anything to add to that?
Steven T. Seagle: How could you add to that? Just like all Joe Kelly’s writing, it was perfect.
What’cha Reading: [laughs] I’d agree with that very much. I like that you said that you have the opportunity to “introduce them to other things” that you do. Is there anything today that you’re looking forward to presenting to the public? Anything you have lined up that you’re particularly proud about?
Joe Kelly: Well I’ve been happy to present Steve Seagle because he lives in L.A. and so I’m glad he’s out here. Other than Steve, some of my Image books were a little slow to get to trade so I’m happy people are finding Bang!Tango, a reprint of the Vertigo book I did, which is like a crime book which is cool for people to find. And Bad Dog, to have that out as a trade as well. The newer stuff that I have coming out is still a few months away so it’s mostly things that have been sitting in my garage that I’m very happy to share with people.
Steven T. Seagle: I was excited that Matt Chin dressed up as Golden Age Wesley Dodd Sandman this morning so that made my day. I was excited that we have our first Man of Action satellite booth across the aisle with young Jason Adam Katzenstein who’s a Brooklyner that I’m doing a mini-comic with called “The Bus.” He keeps doing sketches all day for people which is really cool and then with “Mega Man” – the t.v. show was announced yesterday so a lot of people are stopping by and going “WHAAAT!?!” so it’s very exciting. We just started working on it. People are like “What are you doing?” and we can’t even say because we haven’t done anything with it yet.
What’cha Reading: I’m glad that you mentioned “Mega Man” as it’s something that I grew up with. I had in my notes that it’s something of a reboot aiming to be more relevant for today’s audiences. Is there anything that you could speak to of that?
Joe Kelly: I think all we could really say is it’s a 30 year old property, a character that’s beloved by video game fans and we want to make sure we do something that appeals to fans and also attracts a new audience. That’s always our thing when coming on to a property that preexists; we want to bring our spin to it, but we always want to build off of what we love so that‘ll be the case with “Mega Man.”
Steven T. Seagle: There have been cartoon shows for it, there have been comic books for it, there have been video games for it. Right now we’re just in “What has everybody done? What have you loved and what can you do new?” mode.
What’cha Reading: Well, I’m very much looking forward to it. I wish you all the best with [Mega Man] and I can’t wait to hopefully see you at one of the next con’s to tell you how much I really loved it. “Mega Man” is definitely one of those iconic characters that is recognizable just upon first sight. That leads me to speak a little about Superman. We know that you’ve worked on Superman, and Action #775, and Superman vs. The Elite. There’s something very interesting about “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way” that I feel that each version of Superman, be it in animation, in comic books through The New 52, or Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, they’re always attempting to address that. What were your thoughts on the Superman of today post your time with the character?
Joe Kelly: I would definitely admit to not being completely versed on what’s going on. I just have to say there’s a lot of really great creators who I like a lot, like Greg Pak is a guy who I like a lot and I know he’s doing “Batman Superman” right now, he’s been doing “Action” so there’s a lot of stuff in the comics that I’m just not familiar with at the moment. Superman was a character that I actually didn’t love when I started working on him. I just kind of knew him and as a kid I liked the movies and I had a couple of Superman comic books. I grew to love the character while working on it and I just love that he’s a pure character. For me, that “truth, justice, and the American way” and all that stuff he’s supposed to represent, I like having that as part of his DNA, I like having that as something that’s sort of untouchable and that he’s always trying to aspire to something greater so there was a lot in “Man of Steel” that I liked. I did not like chiropractor Superman as I like to call him. [laughs] That would not have been my choice, but that’s what they wound up doing, but that was sort of the whole point of that issue that I do think the character is still relevant. Those roots of the character are still relevant, especially in a world that’s very cynical.
What’cha Reading: Were there any ideas that were circulating around the time that you wrote the issue that you were able to revisit within the film? Maybe something that you didn’t get to fully flesh out or touch on so much?
Joe Kelly: What’s funny is I had written it a while back so A) it was like looking at somebody else’s writing, it was like adapting somebody else’s work. B) I realized how very little we showed, like we talked about “The Elite did this and they cracked the moon” and all this stuff and we didn’t show it and so it was a chance to actually put more action into it which was cool. What was neat in that adaptation because those movies are in part for comic fans, but also for just fans of animation or maybe people that haven’t read that stuff. #775 is very comic-centric. It’s really easy to identify what the things are if you were reading “The Authority” at the time and all of that Grant Morrison stuff so the film version had to be accessible in a different way; it’s much more about current events, putting politics into it and that sort of stuff so that was really fun to explore in the animated medium.
What’cha Reading: I loved it and I’m actually a huge fan of Superman, myself and I loved your work on that and actually have the copy [Action #775] on me today that I walk around with proudly.
Joe Kelly: Thank you and then, of course, there’s “It’s A Bird” which is Steve’s take on Superman… and putting an axe through the character.
Steven T. Seagle: My dislike of the character. Joe was on the Superman books and we worked together on “X-Men” and about every year Eddie Berganza would say “Why don’t you do Superman for me?” and I’d be like “Because I don’t get him, I don’t get him, I don’t get him, I don’t get him.” So then I decided to write a book about not getting him and in doing that I really didn’t get him and then it made me get him. And then I wrote the Superman book after that. It’s 20 short stories about Superman as a mythic figure and how I think I could punch holes in all of that and then one story about me punching holes in Joe Kelly.
Joe Kelly: I do get punched.
Steven T. Seagle: But in the end, Superman wins as he always does and because he is relevant and he is an important, symbolic figure in the world and I wanted to do the kind of abstract version of Joe’s literal version.
What’cha Reading: I think that’s a great way to look at it and that leads me to ask “When you’re dealing with such iconic characters versus creator owned characters, is there a particular side that you lean closer towards?”
Steven T. Seagle: They’re different jobs. You write the X-Men because you want to write the X-Men. You write Spider-Man because you love Spider-Man and want to put your mark on it. But when you make something that you get to chart the course on, you make “Ben 10” or you do a book at Image so you could really have your visuals come to life the way you want without a giant committee directing it. The committees are great if you know you’re going into committee work so we do both because we like both aspects of the job.
Joe Kelly: Yeah, it totally the same. I approach, for myself, the writing of those types of projects in the same way. We’ve talked about this a lot lately – that the plots of those characters and stories are fun, the company owned characters, but it’s all about what the character is about, what themes do you care about, just like what we were talking about with Superman. As long as I could find my way into that, I’m happy. It’s when all of a sudden I’m just worried about plot stuff and who’s punching who, then I know it’s not the right job for me and so as long as I find that, I’m happy in either one. But like Steve said, having the control of your own characters, there’s more pressure in a way, but I don’t know, you kind of walk going “Great, I created something” and then give it birth and then send it out into the world so there different emotions for me.
What’cha Reading: I’d like to ask if there’s anything you’d like fans to take particular interest in and/or look for?
Joe Kelly: Well, for myself, if people haven’t read “I Kill Giants” it’s a book I’m very proud of and I love it because it’s a very personal story for me and a lot of folks have come to the booth, which has been great, and have said it’s impacted their life in some way, so if they haven’t checked it out, it’s one I always recommend.
Steven T. Seagle: I think people are still shocked by my “Red Diary” book for Image, which is two graphic novels in one. It’s a flip-book and one side with Teddy Kristiansen’s Danish graphic novel “The Red Diary” which I decided to translate not knowing speaking Danish or understanding what it’s about and I kept all the captions the same place and used all the words I recognized and wrote a script and tried to guess what the book was about and got a totally different book out of it with the same sequence of images so you get both books.
What’cha Reading: Well, again, thank you so much for your time and I hope you enjoy Special Edition.
Steven T. Seagle: Thank you.
Walking away from Saturday (6/6th) at Special Edition: NYC 2015, I immediately understood that I was no longer the same kind of fan (of comics and of Superman) that I was before. In speaking with Joe Kelly and Steven T. Seagle of Man of Action, it’d be hard not to feel changed. For the better, I now greatly look forward to having some time to sit down with Steven T. Seagle’s “It’s a Bird” (Vertigo) and adding to my library of Superman titles. And laughing while thinking of two extraordinarily gracious, humble, and fun creators that elevate the comic industry to a higher level.
I’d like to thank Brenda, Mr. Kelly, Mr. Seagle and Man of Action for making this What’cha Reading conversation possible. For more information on Man of Action, please visit: