Eisner-winning artist Dave Johnson has made his name in the past two decades drawing iconic covers for virtually every major modern comic book series, and has also kept busy in animation - co-creating, among other things, Nickelodeon's original Ben10 series. For the past few months, however, he's been experimenting with something new: writing comics.
Johnson is co-writing the current Pop Kill limited series (with Jimmy Palmiotti), which is about to wrap up a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the final two issues. And with his writing on the project complete, he's in promotion mode for these final issues, but also thinking about what's next for himself as a writer.
Newsarama spoke with Johnson about breaking in as a writer, learning this new business model that is Kickstarter-funded comics, and his ambitions going forward.
Newsarama: Dave, you're halfway through the release of Pop Kill and you've seen every issue be a huge success on Kickstarter. How does it feel co-writing a successful comic book series, and doing it through crowdfunding?
Dave Johnson: It feels great! Especially for a non-superhero book. When I came up with the idea I knew it would have a limited audience, but I hoped the fun aspect of the story would come through. And so far so good.
Nrama: How was your first experience writing comic books?
Johnson: It was an eye-opener. And something I'll be doing again. I've got quite a few story ideas in the works. Although I never see myself as the type of writer who would take on a monthly book. At least not at this time.
Nrama: creator-owned, solo, and/or work-for-hire?
Johnson: I will be at some point. I'm already doing some co-creating with other writers. Like Stephanie Phillips.
Nrama: The recently-announced OGN Averee is written by Phillips, but I noticed you conceived the idea with her.
But getting around to your big project right now, it's co-writing (and drawing covers) for the Kickstarter-first series Pop Kill. The hook of this series is espionage between two soda companies. Once I read it, however, it became more about the romance between Dina Delux and Jon Pyle. What have you found the most challenging - the espionage or the romance part?
Johnson: To be honest, Jimmy was more of the driving force behind the romance stuff. The espionage stuff was mostly figured out before Jimmy came aboard.
Nrama: Some artists/writers I know draw out their scripts, even if someone else is drawing it. When you're writing (or co-writing for instance, with Jimmy), do you still think visually and sketch out ideas for what you'll ask of the artist in the script?
Johnson: It was pure writing. Juan SantaCruz knows what he's doing and didn't need me butting in. [Laughs]
Nrama: You've been self-publishing for years with your sketchbooks - I remember buying one off you in the early '00s. Has being part of these three successful Kickstarters opened your eyes more to this new way of funding comics? Or any kind of art projects?
Johnson: It was a big education as to what it REALLY takes to do one of these. The hidden expenses, that I think most people doing a Kickstarter for the first time aren't completely aware of starting out. Thankfully Jimmy and Patrick Wedge are old pros at this stuff and took care of all the boring stuff.
Nrama: Assuming the writing end of Pop Kill is finished, what's next for Dave Johnson, comic writer?
Johnson: Like I said earlier, I'm working on a few other projects with other creatives. I don't want to jinx them by talking about them yet. But as soon as I can, you'll be the first to know.
Nrama: What kind of stories, or formats, are you interested in?
Johnson: I like stories that actually have an ending. That's how I see stories in my head. It should always be leading to a satisfying conclusion even if it's serialized.
Nrama: Last question - I was fortunate enough to read new Dave Johnson drawn comics in my younger days. I know you're really busy, but could you picture perhaps writing-and-drawing your own series, one-shot, or OGN?
Johnson: It's possible. ;)
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