With the release of Glitterbomb Vol1: Red Carpet just on the horizon, I got to chat with fan favourite Jim Zub and talented newcomer Djibril Morissette-Phan about their latest creator-owned title with Image Comics! Glitterbomb hit the shelves last year and immediately sold out of its first print run. It’s a disquieting Hollywood horror story that follows Farrah Durante, a middle-aged actress who’s been chewed up and spit out by an unforgiving industry. She’s now past the days of being a relevant, young starlet and Farrah is staring down an abyss of fear and insecurity as her life slowly collapses around her. Farrah’s despair draws out some dark thing lurking below the surface that drags her down the bloody and violent path of revenge. Glitterbomb Vol1: Red Carpet is available to pre-order and will be in comic shops on March 1, 2017.
Stories about fame/failure in Hollywood and the industry’s fickle nature aren’t new, in fact I’d say it’s a pretty common angle. What made you turn to horror for Glitterbomb, and how has it helped you delve deeper into this narrative?
ZUB: Fame is a pretty common subject matter when it comes to talking about the business of Hollywood, but going for a more horrifying angle gave us some darker consequences and a more visceral payoff for the emotional turmoil Farrah is going through in the story.
Though men do experience bias in the entertainment industry, it’s largely women who deal with the “invisible age” and growing more insignificant as they lose their youth and beauty. The very first scene has Farrah’s agent mansplaining her dwindling relevance and appeal. How do you reconcile being a male writer in giving her a voice and speaking to her experiences as a woman in a male dominated industry?
ZUB: I’ve never experienced the kind of sexism that Farrah deals with in our story, but I’ve heard first-hand the things men say when they think they can get away with it and the disregard some $#@%heads have for female co-workers. I channeled that into the abusers and then tried to make sure that Farrah was sympathetic without being perfect. She’s flawed and messed up in her own ways and the jealousy and frustration she feels fuels everything to come.
Storytelling is about empathy. I’ve found that building characters outside my own immediate experiences is an effective way to help me understand what other people are going through.
Even if there is a long way to go, there’s a paradigm shift happening in Hollywood today — a kind of forceful reaction to the status quo. How does Glitterbomb tap into that?
ZUB: Viewers have more choices than ever before for where to spend their entertainment dollars and so the industry has to make sure it’s continually innovating if it doesn’t want to get left behind a more global and diverse market. Comics are in much the same boat. I didn’t intentionally create Glitterbomb to reflect that, but there are some aspects of that in there, so it’s worked out well.
All artists have dealt the type of rejection and frustration that Farrah goes through. How much of it draws on your own experiences?
ZUB: The original inspiration for the series was that exact thing – wondering about my own failures and how much I might be deluding myself about what I could accomplish. If that kind of success is the classic “one in a million”, then what happens to me or anyone else in that vast majority who fall outside of that? I wrote down material around those thoughts and emotions, then thought about what kind of situation would exemplify that for the story. Hollywood, with its fame factory and egos felt like a really good fit.
The essays by Holly Raychelle Hughes in the back pages are certainly powerful additions that provide some real-world examples of what Glitterbomb is getting at. Where did this idea come from, and what surprised you the most about her experiences?
ZUB: When I was doing research I compiled a bunch of articles digging into the ugliness that happens off camera, and Holly’s original article from XO Jane (that we reprinted in Glitterbomb #1) really stood out to me. I kept coming back to it and finally, on a bit of a whim I reached out to her on Twitter to ask if I could send her the completed issue 31 and a synopsis of the rest of the arc. Thankfully she checked it out and really liked it. From there we worked out a deal to reprint that first essay and for her to put together three more essays for subsequent issues.
After all the research and reading I did about Hollywood I wasn’t as much surprised by her essays, but they did a wonderful job of driving home some of the things I was exploring in the story. In order to work in the entertainment business and thrive you either develop very specific defensive behaviours or it seems like you end up indulging some really bad habits.
The monster doesn’t really seem to be the focus of the story, more like the vehicle for Farrah’s anger, frustration, and vengeance. Can you elaborate on what you think is the true horror in Glitterbomb?
ZUB: I actually don’t want to spell it all out, especially if someone is only discovering the series for the first time through this interview. It’s character drama with punctuations of horror. The rest is up for readers to decide.
How did you guys come up with the visual concept for the monster?
ZUB: I gave Djibril some broad notes and thoughts to work with, but the vast majority of it was him, so I’ll let him explain his take.
MORISSETTE-PHAN: We wanted something that would really distinguish itself from what we’re used to see. Jim gave me a bunch of different possible ideas and concepts and I just started sketching from there. I quickly gravitated towards insect-like imagery because it was so creepily familiar. My main focus while designing the creature was to keep it adaptable to the situation, so that it could manifest itself in various ways depending on what the script was calling for.
The opening chapter has great pacing, using the first scene as a bookend creates a wonderful buildup. How does getting tension across on the page translate from the writing to the artwork?
ZUB: My job as the writer is to create a really strong impression with the artist, to give them a sense of what’s important to show, but also what feelings and expressions they might use to create that. I find that a good comic script is descriptive, but leaves a lot for the artist to fill in and bring themselves into it with. It’s a pep talk and plot guide, dialogue and feelings that they can use to build the pages with.
MORISSETTE-PHAN: As Jim said, his scripts really give a strong impression of feelings and mood. That makes my job very easy since I can really be instinctive in my approach.
Jim, I heard you say how excited you were to launch Glitterbomb at FanExpo in Toronto. What did the experience mean to you, and how has the Canadian comics industry evolved in your eyes?
ZUB: Djibril and I are both Canadian, so it was really nice to launch the book here at home and get such a great response. Glitterbomb is very different from the other comics I’ve done so far and I was worried how readers might take it, but thankfully the risk has paid off.
Canadian comic creators are plentiful. In Montreal and Toronto alone there must be 40 comic creators working for Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, IDW, and every other major publisher in North America. Canadian-specific comic publishers are not as common, but there are a few. I’m actually co-writing Freelance with Andrew Wheeler for Chapterhouse, a Toronto-based publisher. Our fingers are crossed that people enjoy it.
As a writer and an artist, what’s the importance of creator-owned work in expanding the industry and moving beyond work-for-hire models and traditional monthlies where titles are passed off?
ZUB: That’s an entire interview in and of itself, so it’s hard to sum up. Let me try to be brief – The biggest unexpected hits in comics over the past twenty years have almost entirely come from creator-owned comics: Bone, Scott Pilgrim, Walking Dead, Saga, Hellboy, and so many more. Giving creators the space to develop their own original ideas and to engage their passions is the best way to innovate and blaze new trails.
MORISSETTE-PHAN: Not only that, but I think the rise of creator-owned work has given many creators a chance to break in an industry that might not have had a place for them several years ago. From my understanding, the success of creator-owned titles that are vastly different from your typical mainstream superhero comic has led to a big diversification in style and in substance all across the industry, making it possible for creators with very unique artistic voices to find a place working for big publishers.
Similar to Hollywood, it’s difficult to break into the comics industry in any capacity. It’s a pretty small community. Do any of the criticisms of Hollywood in Glitterbomb translate to the comics industry (especially considering that more and more comics are being turned into blockbusters)?
ZUB: I think almost every entertainment “community” is hard to break into to, it’s just that Hollywood has a much, much bigger reach and far bigger budgets. If people want to go through the traditional publishing model, yes, it can be quite hard to break in, but it’s all changing. Just as we’re seeing in Hollywood, the internet is changing the model for everyone in comics too. It opens up a more global audience and gives creators from all corners a chance to showcase their work. I think that some traditional publishers can be just as close-minded and nasty as Hollywood but, again, it’s on a much smaller scale so it doesn’t feel like the stakes are quite as high.
What other horror comics would you recommend, and did any of them influence your work on Glitterbomb? What’s on your pull list right now?
ZUB: I don’t read a ton of horror, but I love Emily Carroll’s work because it’s so quirky and moody. I’ve also been reading Harrow County, Revival, Outcast and The Beauty. I read tons and tons of comics, some of them are books I have to read to keep up with superhero continuity stuff and others are because I genuinely enjoy them. I probably read 50 comics a month. It‘s ridiculous.
MORISSETTE-PHAN: One of my favorite horror comics is Wes Craig’s Black Hand Comics, it’s pure storytelling genius. In terms of influence though, I’d have to say America Vampire has been a big one for me. It’s actually one of the series that got me into comics in general. Unfortunately, I’m not reading many comics lately, simply because I don’t have the time, being in school and working in comics at the same times has its downsides I guess.
What are some unusual or quirky habits you have that are part of your creative process?
ZUB: I don’t think this is quirky per se, but during the summer I travel quite a bit for conventions and I’ve gotten used to writing wherever I am just because it needs to get done. On planes, in hotels, by the pool, you name it. I just have to focus on that page and make it happen.
MORISSETTE-PHAN: I’m the complete opposite of Jim, I can’t draw anywhere else than at my drawing desk when it comes to work. But that’s probably just laziness, I’ll never bring work outside of my place.
Without spoiling the story, I was surprised at the finality of the last issue, it was quite violently abrupt. Was this always the plan, or was it because you to didn’t know if Glitterbomb would be an on-going title?
ZUB: It was the plan. I wanted to make sure the first four issues held together as a complete story just in case, but I was hopeful we’d get the chance to keep going and thankfully we are. Some small elements changed along the way but most of it holds to my original story plan.
Can you tell us anything about where Glitterbomb goes from here?
ZUB: The second mini-series follows Kaydon, the babysitter. Her small part in this tragedy has given her a measure of fame and now she’s being pulled into the same fame machine that caused Farrah so much despair.
Djibril, the quality of your work is simply amazing for someone of your age. How does it feel being a young artist with so many opportunities and avenues open to you? Where do you see yourself going next, or have you made yourself a home at Image?
MORISSETTE-PHAN: Thank you very much! It is surreal for me, being presented with so many different opportunities. I have so many different projects, inside and outside of comics, but for now I guess, my goal is to keep a steady presence in the comic world until I finish school. Then, I’ll go crazy with everything I want to do.
Do either of you have future projects you’d like to mention?
ZUB: I’ve got a full slate right now, but I’m having a blast. In addition to GLITTERBOMB, I’m writing WAYWARD at Image, THUNDERBOLTS for Marvel, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: FROST GIANT’S FURY for IDW, and have other projects in development to be announced later this year. If people want to keep up with my work they can check out www.jimzub.com.
MORISSETTE-PHAN: My schedule is currently saturated as well. I’m currently in school studying philosophy and I’m working on a Marvel book as well as a personal graphic novel project, none of which have been announced yet. If people want to keep up to date with my work, they can follow me on twitter @DjibrilMP or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/djibmp/.