Nathan Edmondson: The Invisible Mind Behind Jake Ellis

A comics interview article by: Jason Sacks

 

The last year has been an exciting year for comics writer Nathan Edmondson. His first two comics series, The Light and Olympus, have been critical and popular hits, and his new series Who Is Jake Ellissaw its first issue sell out. Comics Bulletin’s editor-in-chief, Jason Sacks, sat down with Nathan at March’s Emerald City Comicon and conducted the following interview with a humbled and excited Edmondson.


Sacks: Jake Ellis is doing really well for you so far. How do you feel about the way it's been received my fans?

Edmondson: We're humbled and very excited. Having seen Tonci's art before the book came out, it wasn't much of a surprise to me that people would respond to it. He's a very talented guy and I'm glad to have him on the book. It's continuing to build buzz. Each issue builds more buzz.

Sacks: It's an interesting concept. An espionage book with a completely different kind of supernatural element to it. You have a real hook that grabs people. Was that intention; did you design the book to have both familiarity and mystery in it?

Edmondson: In a really half-conscious way, yes. I liked the idea of working in a space that seemed familiar. We've seen a number of books, stories, movies, comics that deal with these settings – the European alley, global spy world. And that's attractive to a lot of people. It's marketable. It sells well. So to take that and give it something fresh and add an element that hasn't been seen before was first and foremost attractive to write and to make a book about. But also in the sense of marketing. It was something to offer, something we thought would yield a lot of tension.

Sacks: You created a nice mystery for us, too. I was trying to figure out what Jake Ellis was. You do a good job to give us clues but not give us an answer. Are we going to find out the answer by the end of the mini-series?

Edmondson: Yes. You will know the answer. You will know many answers. There will only be a couple of aspects of the story with which we can still move forward and do a sequel. But everything that's being dealt with in the first arc will be answered and resolved in the final issue.

Sacks: Is this one of those stories where after we find out the answer, we'll want to reread it because our perspective will shift?

Edmondson: I would hope so. When you're writing and producing a story, particularly in comics where it's coming out part by part, issue by issue, chapter by chapter, it's difficult to know exactly what the response to the final revelation is going to be. You have something in mind all the way throughout, and you are using smoke and mirrors and driving the mystery all the way to the end. I certainly hope that people will be not only be excited, surprised and pleased, but will want to look back and see if their understanding of the mechanics of the book will have changed or improved since then.

Sacks: One of the things I really liked about Jake Ellis was that it really had specific locations throughout it. Was that also by design, to give a certain feeling of reality?

Edmondson: It is. When Tonci and I first discussed the book, we agreed wholeheartedly that we wanted it to not have a generic feel, not to feel like generic European streets. We wanted to use locations and specific elements in those locations, parts of those locations. And even if you're not familiar with the cities we're going to, the alleys we're running down, the churches we're inside, I think that we've heightened the setting of the book to be something more alive and engaging. This by contrast makes the drama that proceeds through it more visceral and exciting.

Sacks: That's one of the great things about Olympus. It had a firm grounding in a location, but it was almost more a metaphysical location than a physical location.

Edmondson: With Olympus, we constantly have hovering over the series Olympus, the other world that lives above and beyond and behind this world. Both artistically, with Christian's frenetic style, and also dramatically, in the storytelling and the plot. You have those things blending together , feeding one into the other. The main characters are, by their very definition, the bridge between those two worlds. Therefore they're walking the line where both worlds are going to, by at some point, blend. 



Sacks: How do you collaborate with your artists when their work is so different from each other?

Edmondson: It's different with every artist, but any artist I approach with every intention, and I offer every opportunity for, collaboration. For both of our minds to feed into the book, for each of us to look at elements of the plot and setting, and us to develop ideas together. This has certainly been true in the development of my new monthly series, which will come out this summer. The artist and I have a lot of time talking about the world. The story still ultimately falls to me, and the conceptualization of the book and the initialization of the concept is still mine, but when I find the artist who's going to become the artist on a book I do everything I can to make it become our book and not my book that he's illustrating. Or not his book that I'm writing.

Sacks: You have a strong vision for your stories, though, so it must be an interesting challenge to navigate between having a clear vision and having a collaborative approach to it.

Edmondson: Working in comics, I believe, requires a degree of compromise, and an openness and willingness to be receptive to your partner's ideas. You have to recognize that by virtue of this industry, the person you're working with on a book is an artistic creative mind and is going to have ideas. Not all artists are compelled or desire to contribute all that much to the story. But when you have the opportunity to put two creative minds together, I think it's valuable to what extent the ideas can combine and precipitate into something better than either individual.

Sacks: You've worked with creators who are very different from each other. That must be an interesting challenge as a writer.

Edmondson: It's a challenge, but it's also exciting to approach each book with a different artist and a different style and see in what way they are happy to collaborate, and to learn to what degree I need to, for example, write with specificity. Or to what degree I need to help the artist who likes a more detailed script or whether I should leave a script more open because he likes more flexibility and room to improve. Every artist is different.

Sacks: Can you talk about your ongoing?

Edmondson: I can't say very much at this point, except that it will be at Image Comics and the artist is a fantastically talented creator who was born for this job. He's fulfilling it in every way possible. While not being overly reminiscent of the Jake Ellis series, it will work somewhat in that space. So that I think a lot of the things that excite people in Jake Ellis, they will see in this ongoing series. Not in any way that's mimicking that book, but both were born out of my research into a number of areas. So both have kind of common parents in terms of the material I was researching. 

It's going to be very exciting. I've written twelve issues of it already. I'll be working very far ahead. We'll have multiple issues drawn before the first issue launches this year. So we'll hopefully be in a very good place to deliver the book on time and consistently. For an ongoing series of this sort, the frequency of the schedule in which people read it is going to be important. The series is going to be intricate.

Sacks: You've mostly been playing in your own playground. You've done most of your releases through Image. Any interest in working in the big publishers' playgrounds, with their characters?

Edmondson: I'm always interested in opportunities to write and opportunities to get paid for writing. I do have a few properties here and there that I'd really enjoy exploring. I've been approached by a number of other companies now to discuss work-for-hire opportunities. Nothing yet that I can really talk about, and I don't know to what degree some of those things will work out.

Sacks: Anything else you'd like us to know about you or your work?

Edmondson: I will be at a number of conventions this year. I'll be at three Wizard Cons – Anaheim, Austin and Atlanta. I'll be at Heroes Con. And I'll be doing some smaller signings.
You can find out more information on my site, nathanedmondson.com, or follow me on twitter at@nhedmondson.

 



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