In this interview, Chris gives us a look into the world of April’s Le Tout Burlesque, as well as April herself, and his beginnings in comics.
-Alex Rodrik, Editor of Features and Interviews
Alex Rodrik: Tell us a bit about yourself. How’d you get involved with comics?
Chris J. Cole: I loved comics as a kid, as a teen. I always wanted to have a comic strip syndicated in the newspaper. After I became an adult I all but forgot about comics, but I still always liked them. I did art for Hollywood, eventually going over to Disney. When that happened that was the first and closest thing to getting back into the comic world. Simultaneously I was goofing around on the Internet doing manips of comic book heroines, Batgirl mainly. A fan-girl with like interest found my work there and urged me to join Heromorph, the comics fan site. This was a good move because you are in a close-knit community of comic fans and you can get terrific feedback from its members. Once there I was encouraged to do more art, even though I eventually quit with the manips and crossed over into line art. I felt I wanted to draw comic characters instead of manipping them. At first I drew a few bogus covers, I suppose out of wish fulfillment. Then it went to pinups and on to pages. Before I knew it I was writing my own stories and drawing them out. I was enjoying again a medium as I’d always had, but never did, or never thought I’d do.
AR: Who are some of your biggest influences?
CJC: I always loved the early Bronze Age style, or late Silver. Bernie Wrightson, Gene Colan, Wallace Wood, and just about anything Mad Magazine. There are many other artists too numerous to mention, of course. Recently I got a copy of the DC’s Showcase: Batgirl with art by Gil Kane and the beautiful brushwork by Murphy Anderson. This is a terrific resource because all the art is printed in black and white and you can see the brushwork clearly.
AR: Tell us about April’s Le Tout Burlesque.
CJC: It’s a 28-plus page comic showcasing some of April’s comic performances. The franglais title suggests the character is of dubious origin. Burlesque is enjoying a revival and the character, April Fewells, is a performer who has become part of that world, as a cover for her true motives. If you’re a fan of the art of Dave Stevens or Adam Hughes, then you should love the vibrant, funny, and physically luscious April.
AR: Tell us a bit about April herself.
CJC: April was originally a supervillain. I created a comic called Miss V Showgirl From Hell, and Miss V, the heroine, needed a colorful adversary. At first I used Harley Quinn, but since she was a copyrighted property I had to drop her if I was to continue with the story. Besides, my villainess didn’t really resemble Harley Quinn at all, so she became “April Fewells”. You know how stage performers, especially in burlesque, use bogus stage names. The story took place in Vegas so it all fit in. Despite her disarming, girlish pranksterism, April is actually quite calculating and manipulative, even deadly. No one knows who she is for sure, but she may have ties with the mob since she bumped off several crime bosses. And she did it during one of her stage shows using hand puppets!
AR: What is your plan for the future of April’s Le Tout Burlesque?
CJC: At the moment I am Internetworking to see if she will generate any interest from comic readers, fanboys, fan girls… I have also started on her second book and I need to get her back into Miss V Showgirl From Hell and continue with that story. As it is April seems to be taking on a life of her own, and I may continue with this format if all goes well, or if I don’t get bored with it.
CJC: Part of my idea was that April’s stage performances became so popular with audiences that producers offered the sultry Ms. Fewells her own television show. As a subplot, this would give the reader a glimpse of her true talent. She portrays all her own characters and interacts with no other players but for her assortment of plushy puppets or a magic mirror, or maybe an off-stage stage hand. It also clues you into how domineering she really is, how she totally controls a situation on her own — in this case the stage — and how those characteristics could cross over into crime. I drew the entire comic out as if you were watching her television show, to make the pages “read like television” as it were. So, not only do you have April’s comedy sketches, there are also vignettes, blackouts, and even graphics as a comedy show would have. If anyone wanted, they could easily transpose April from the comic to live action, frame by frame.
AR: Which do you find yourself more comfortable within, the writing or the drawing? Why?
CJC: I’m not sure I really know. Sometimes I just get the pencils out and go. I suppose the hard part for me about writing is making sure the plot holes are covered. Other than that…
AR: Do you have any scheduled projects coming in 2010 that our readers should look out for?
CJC: I will be continuing with April’s second comic, and the current comic — already available in print from IndyPlanet — will also be available for download, most likely through DriveThru Comics. By the way I am a little new to the biz, so if anyone has any suggestions how to get published elsewhere, I am open to suggestions.
AR: If you could work with any character from the Big Two, who would it be? Why?
CJC: The Barbara Gordon Batgirl most likely. There’s a humor to her that other heroines just don’t have, plus she looks great in tights. On the Marvel side, it would probably be She-Hulk. I like to take a rough-and-tumble green gal like Shulkie and make her over into a complete glamour-puss. You can see my deviantART account for examples of what I mean.
AR: Thanks for taking the time to do chat with us!
CJC: It’s been a pleasure, Alex.