Original short interviews with notable, rising or overlooked
figures from comics or the larger entertainment field by Bill Baker.
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BAKER'S DOZEN for 09/29/2004
The Brothers Goldman on Everyman: Be The People
Here's a first for me: An interview with three different creators, one of whom only exists when the other two work directly and closely together.
Confused? Well, it's actually pretty straight forward. See, there's Steve Goldman [an exceptionally fine writer who I've previously spoken with in this column concerning his exceedingly fine Styx Taxi series], his brother Dan Goldman [an ex-DC pr department employee, he's an extraordinarily gifted graphic designer, artist and thinker with an outlook so-cutting-edge it bleeds], and then there's what happens when the two of them sit down and start... Well, calling it "writing" almost does an injustice to the results on display in Everyman: Be The People, which is about to be released under their own FWDbooks imprint. A better term might be "thinking together", although even that doesn't fully capture the intoxicating joy of seeing a high concept idea like "the governed are driven to chose to govern themselves" executed with nearly flawless precision and brio, nor does it even begin to plumb just how entertaining the result of their collaboration is to experience.
Huh. Who woulda thunk that a serious political thriller could work so well as comic book reading?
Bill Baker: There's so many topics to address with this book that it's a pretty daunting task to even guess where to begin, so why don't we start with the obvious: How would you describe this particular volume of the Everyman project, and it's place in that larger work?
Brothers Goldman: Be The People is quite simply, Volume 1 of the story. We are introduced to most of the main players, even if you don't realize the roles they're to play in the larger story. This volume shows the creation and ascension of OneLove, a new political movement based on humanist principles of treating each other as equals and expecting the same from a government that calls itself a democracy.
BB: So where'd this all come from, and what lead to it's taking form in the Everyman project? What was the initial spark and the larger, initial vision that it lead to ... and how different is the final product from that original design?
Dan Goldman: The initial spark is actually a combination of two nuggets; one was laying in bed freezing and thinking about the old DC comic PREZ, the other, an idea I had in eighth grade biology class (and relayed to a flabbergasted still-best-friend Noah Kuttler) about a government lottery to be a superhero for a week, called Everyman.
At the time, Steve and I were planning a completely different graphic novel for this year after visiting our grandmother in a nursing in Florida, but as our usual Saturday session began, I asked Steve to pause while I read him the contents of a scribbled post-it with the "A+B=C" of above on it and watched his eyes go wide. Needless to say, stay tuned for Tibor (the aforementioned graphic novel) sometime in 2008; it'll be worth the wait, promise.
We were both working in gigantic law firms at the time, Steve as a legal secretary and my work as a graphic designer, for firms handling the Carlyle Group and Enron, etc. We'd seen lots of things for internal eyes only, read things days and weeks before they hit the news, when investors had already gotten the drop on everyone else. It was insider trading for contractors for the military-industrial complex, with American lives on the line. Needless to say, we felt powerless and disgusted and angry, angry enough to scream at the top of our lungs in a totally new voice neither of us had ever used before.
Bros. Goldman: Looking over the make-readies of the final book last week as we were going to press, we were laughing about how close it was to our original intention back in December of last year. It's uncanny how focused we've been.
Steve Goldman: The initial difference I can spot is that the final book is much less guns-in-the-air than our notes would indicate. Consulting with a friend in Air Force Intelligence helped us reign in our fictional ambitions, ground them, and render a book that is much more plausible that what we'd have turned out otherwise.
BB: Well, what did the process of moving it from that abstract concept to the actual page entail? How'd the work on the book itself proceed? How much, and what kind of, research did you have to do, and how hard was it to incorporate organically into the script in a meaningful, dramatic manner? And how did the actual story and script get built? Did you sit down and do a first version of the script before you passed it on to Steve and Joe, who then did their rewrites or made their suggestions, or were they more involved from the start ... or perhaps was the creative process much more complex than that?
Bros. Goldman: Lots of research, reading and note-taking. We communicated constantly via email, AIM and text-messaging as Everyman began to take shape. There were constant weekend sessions of caffeine and long walks while we figured out how to hijack the Inauguration ceremony... that alone took about a month of talking before it was even scripted.
In addition to the story, there was the OneLove political platform, and the speechwriting involved to sell it, which neither of us has had any experience doing. This has certainly been one of the hardest projects we've ever tried to tackle, separately or together.
The script was first-drafted, passed between us and editor Leslie Augenbraun in chunks as we finished them for input/rewriting, then cobbled together, streamlined and reference-checked before being passed to Joe to draw. The whole process, while kept really organic, definitely kept the scripting and the illustration realms very separate. All told, the script for Be The People was created from February to August.
BB: What was it like working so closely with your brother? What were some of the better or perhaps unexpected benefits that appeared due to your mutual experiences? How about drawbacks or ... differences of opinion, especially concerning the scripting? How did you settle those conflicts amicably? And does this foreshadow the Bros. Goldman hitting the road as a down and dirty pair of battling brothers in the WWF?
DG: Steve is still the only person I have ever been able to collaborate with on writing that understands what I am trying to do and has a completely different set of strengths to pour into the work. There's a reason we're doing all this comic work together.
SG: Dan needs air-conditioning at his place, but maybe this book'll change all that. Seriously, we've been writing together since 1999 and know each other's strengths and weaknesses pretty well by now. Dan reminds me just many words can fit into a comic panel, and I remind him when to rear back to make the dramatic punches hit harder.
BB: Why did you choose Joe Bucco to illustrate Be The People? What about him or his work made him the artist to realize your story?
Bros. Goldman: Joe answered our ad with a kick-ass portfolio and personality. Working with him on such a complex script and nitpicky overprotective writers, Joe has been an absolute dream. His art is gorgeous, his storytelling perfect suited to real-world drama, and his enthusiasm has made him forever a part of the FWDbooks family.
BB: While the book does succeed quiet well as an entertaining political thriller, I get the feeling that there's a lot more than mere entertainment on your minds with this one, although you make sure to keep the reader interested and entertained. Nor does it strike me as simply an attack on the current -- or any particular -- administration, but rather a larger commentary and indictment of both the current state of political affairs and the complacency inherent to it. True?
Bros. Goldman: True.
SG: When we started working on Everyman, we started from the conscious decision that this wasn't going to be a bash-Bush book, though there's certainly a few well-chosen punches in there. Simple criticism (or flat-out attacking) is a waste of everyone's time. The media's done a good enough job of laying out the President's sins, but what isn't their job -- it can't be because, y'know, they're not doing it -- is to point out how much better we could be doing for ourselves. So we thought, as the dreamers, that it fell to us.
DG: The political movement outlined in this book is the result of many hours of thinking and discussing over many cups of coffee in the cold and trying to figure out ways out of the mess the state of the union is in. Be The People finds us just on the outskirts of Our Dream, from Volume 2 on you'll see many of these ideas coming to fruition.
BB: I've got to play the Devil's Advocate here, and wonder aloud if you honestly expect to effect the current Presidential campaign ... or even any real change in the general populace? Or is this more along the lines of a "Shine a light rather than curse the darkness" idea, almost like you're all playing postmodern political Johnny Appleseeds who are planting the seeds of a revolutionary idea in a small part of the populace for the good of the future?
Bros. Goldman: Hee.
BB: Thought that might be the case.
So what's next? Were can you go after this first volume of the Everyman saga? How about for Fwd generally?
Bros. Goldman: Without spoiling the ending of Be The People, let's say that the OneLove party platform will stand terrible tests both foreign and domestic, and our beloved Mack and Dita have a lot of hard work ahead of them. Future volumes of Everyman will deal with the quagmire of Iraq and the war on terror, some fresh ideas to improve things on the homefront, and some serious nastiness as a response to a black man with the title President.
As for FWDbooks, 2005 is going to be a real kicker. In addition to Everyman Vol. 2, next year will see Steve's first book-length Styx Taxi (two 64 page stories in a flip-book format) as well as Dan's long-awaited color graphic novel Red Light Properties, which he is writing and illustrating. And of course, there may be some other surprises in there, too.
BB: Let's say that tomorrow one of the Big 2 or the bigger indy houses called you and told you that you could pick any title or character in their stable and work on it--would you? Why or why not ... and if you would, what company owned books or characters would you like to work on someday?
Bros. Goldman: That's easy: Cloak and Dagger for Marvel. We'd love to turn them into something beautiful that I think only we can see at the moment.
BB: What do you get out of doing comics, generally, and what did Be The People give you that you might not normally receive from working on a project?
Bros. Goldman: Comics is our music, FWDbooks our record label. Everyman, Styx Taxi, Red Light Properties, are all in their way intensely personal and thus incredibly satisfying. So far, the most rewarding thing is explaining the premise of Everyman to non-comics readers and watching their eyes go wide as they ask "they do that in comics?!" We smile and say "they do now..."
BB: What do you want your readers to get from Everyman, both the project and its first installment?
Bros. Goldman: A sense of hope and a sense of curiosity, and to take away the idea that anyone can be a part of this system, they just have to try. In an age when people are encouraged to isolate themselves whenever possible, we'd be damn proud to inspire someone to aspire to public service.
BB: Anything else you'd like to say before I let you get back to the Everyman campaign?
DG: Steve and I will be premiering Be The People at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, MD on October 1 through 3; if you're planning on attending, come by and say hello. We're at Table M-18 in the Montgomery Room. Meanwhile, back in New York City, we'll also be having a signing at our hometown comic store, Jim Hanley's Universe--www.jhuniverse.com--on Oct. 13 and an after-party at East Village comic spot/gallery Jigsaw--www.jigsawnyc.com--after 9 pm and on into the night.
Other than the pluggage, keep an eye on www.onelove.us, the official OneLove site. There are upcoming OneLove spots being delivered all the time from a variety of comics creators, appearing only on the OneLove site. The site will also feature links to order the book via Amazon as well as links to resources and information for people who want to know more about the election that is nearly upon us.
Bill and the rest of WFC urge each and every one of you to get out there and vote in this and every election.
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