The Captain Ultimate Kickstarter is in full swing. The creators, Joey Esposito, Ben Bailey, and Boy Akkerman are working on getting the first volume of their awesome all-ages comic out in physical form after initially being released digitally via Monkeybrain Comics.
We had a chance to chat with the team and now we’re bringing you a little interview with Joey and Ben, featuring some inside info on Captain Ultimate, what it was like working on the book and more… just read on and you’ll see everything for yourself!
Working on a script with another person is obviously a bit different than going solo. What are some of the pros and cons of co-writing a comic?
Joey: I love it. Comics in general is great because it’s such a collaboration. Writing is usually a solitary experience, so working with someone else, including a co-writer, is a blast. With Ben specifically, he’s one of my best friends, so it’s really no different than just hanging out and talking ideas the same as you would hanging out in the basement. Even what some might consider cons aren’t really cons — for example, forgetting who came up with what joke or whatever… if it all blends together, it’s working.
Ben: Yeah, I think from a writing aspect, we really make each other better. We’re always trying to make the other person laugh or cry or puke, and that really drives us to make great things.
Ben, how much did having children of your own affect how you approached the script?
Ben: I run a lot of things through my kids. I ask them about characters, what they think of names. I show them Boy’s designs. My son, Milo, was about 6 when he told us that Captain Ultimate should fight “an evil alphabet.” We didn’t really know what that meant, but I told Joey about it and like a week later he called me and said “I have an idea of an evil alphabet.” We ended up giving Milo credit in the issue.
Now that issues 1-6 are complete, is there anything you would change, if you could?
Joey: The great thing is that in building the book for print, we sort of have the chance to go back and fix stuff if we wanted. But honestly, we took a look at all the issues and didn’t find anything that we really wanted to change. There’s always “oh, we should fix that line” or for Boy, “oh, I should fix the perspective in that panel” or something, but then you ask yourself: where does it end? That’s a rabbit hole that is never ending, you know? And I like the idea of preserving your growth as a writer or artist, even if it makes you shudder when you go back to read something.
Ben: I don’t look back, too much. I think we have a lot of story we still want to tell and that’s sort of what consumes me.
What did working on Captain Ultimate help teach you as creators?
Joey: I think it definitely helped me with pacing and packing more story onto one page. I tend to like lots of space and quiet beats and all of that, like a three page sequence to show a character leaving a house and going onto the street or something. Comic pages are precious real estate, and because Captain Ultimate is basically structured as a series of done-in-ones, I had to learn pretty quickly how to put more story into a small space.
Ben: I think we all learned a lot about writing humor into books as well. Translating jokes into comic book form isn’t always easy, it’s an evolving process. We might have an idea, give it to Boy, who gives is back and it’s completely different and even better, so we rewrite the joke to match.
Are there any easter eggs to look out for?
Joey: Oh yeah, tons! Boy peppers them in every single issue. There are also story-related Easter eggs that, hopefully, we get to touch on down the line.
Ben: There’s an insane level of easter eggs, and we haven’t even gotten to our Easter issue. Boy jams them into every issue. I spot new ones every time I read through it.
How did you decide on Boy as the artist for Captain Ultimate?
Joey: I’d worked with him as an editor on an anthology I helped put together at Northwest Press called Rise, a bullying awareness book done in conjunction with GLAAD. We’d known him from the online comics community, but Rise was the first time we really saw his sequential work, and it was just perfect for what Ben and I had been talking about with Captain Ultimate.
How did you connect with Monkeybrain at first to release the comic digitally?
Joey: They were our first choice, really. We loved what Allison and Chris were doing and are huge fans of the books they were putting out. It was actually a surprisingly simple process: We emailed them the early pages for issue #1 and they said they were on board. It actually kind of ruined my expectations for pitching later on, stupidly thinking every publisher would be that quick and responsive. Oops.
Ben: Yeah, when we were putting it together, we were only thinking of them. If they hadn’t gone for it, we probably would have pitched elsewhere, but in our minds this was a Monkeybrain book from day one.
What merits are there to working with a publisher like Monkeybrain vs. publishing on your own through a platform like ComiXology Submit?
Joey: Well, Submit didn’t exist at the time, so there was that. But more importantly, there’s a sense of prestige with Monkeybrain considering the kind of creators they work with. Plus, that means someone else gets to handle the financial end and marketing, which is incredibly helpful and a huge stress relief.
Ben: It also puts you into a category. Somebody might read Bandette and decide to see what else Monkeybrain publishes. It helps with the audience, for sure.
What are three words you would use to describe Captain Ultimate (the comic, not just the character)?
Joey: Fun, optimistic, insane.
Ben: Friendship, action, YOLO
What is one thing you want readers to take away after reading Captain Ultimate?
Joey: Hopefully just that they want to read more. Not even just more Captain Ultimate, but more comics in general. I just want them to have that unquenchable desire for MORE.
Ben, this was the first comic you ever wrote. What were some of the tools that you utilized to learn the craft?
Ben: I read all the comic scripts I could get my hands on, studied the books I loved, especially the all-ages ones. Books like DC: The New Frontier and Mark Waid’s Incredibles. A lifetime of reading comics certainly helped, as well.
Joey, this was NOT your first comic, so in what ways did this help you hone your craft?
Joey: It’s been really helpful in terms of collaboration, including compromise. Working with Ben in particular was my first time working with a co-writer at length, which as I said is really easy while still being a learning experience. I think it’s really helped in exploring comedy, too, as Ben said earlier, because as an all-ages book it needs to be funny on multiple different levels. It needs to appeal to young readers and have jokes that are appropriate for them, but be funny or clever enough to entertain the adults too. And, it’s helped me in planning and dialoguing action for superhero comics. This is really the first proper superhero series I’ve worked on, so that’s been a huge learning experience as well.
What’s next for Captain Ultimate?
Joey: Hopefully just more. We have a few new issues in the can and ready to go, but we’re trying to get this print volume out into the world first.
Ben: So much. We have big plans and big stories we want to tell.
There you have it! Joey and Ben are awesome humans who wrote a super awesome comic. Make sure you head over to the Kickstarter page and support their book.