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January 29, 2013

‘X-Files’ reopens in comics: Editor Chris Ryall expands IDW family

Posted in: Comics,Fans

The truth is still out there, and IDW is ready to search for it once more.

San Diego-based IDW Publishing is adding “The X-Files” to its already extensive lineup of comics based on beloved movie and television properties — a list that includes such major titles as “Star Trek,” “Transformers,” “Doctor Who” and “True Blood.” The comic will pick up after the landmark sci-fi TV series and the two feature films chronicling the adventures of intrepid agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson).

IDW will also reprint the “X-Files” comics published between 1995 and 2009.

The title is one of many that IDW editor in chief Chris Ryall was excited to discuss looking at what’s ahead for his operation in 2013. Ryall, of course, is the author whose own Eisner Award-nominated series “Zombies vs. Robots” was optioned in 2011 by Michael Bay, and he was eager to talk about a number of bigger initiatives —  among them, prepping for the end of longtime title “Locke & Key” by novelist Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez, concentrating on compilations of artwork and comic strips and launching “Countdown to Darkness” — a direct comic lead-in to the “Star Trek” movie sequel due from newly anointed “Star Wars: Episode VII” director J.J. Abrams this May.

He also spoke to his approach to curating the IDW release schedule, working with rising talent versus established stars and some of the greatest challenges facing comics writers today.

'The X-Files'

“The X-Files.” Cover by Sam Shearon (IDW Publishing)

HC: “Doctor Who,” “True Blood,” “G.I. Joe,” “Star Trek”  — you have some well-known titles in the stable. Because in some cases you’re continuing worlds long abandoned by TV, how collaborative are you with prior creators?

CR: It very much depends on the property, and also a few other factors — past creators’ willingness to continue on with a property, our desire to look backward instead of moving in a different direction and other things besides. With something like “Transformers,” we launched with a beloved “TF” writer, Simon Furman, and have worked with Simon throughout our run while also bringing in many new voices. Same scenario with “Star Trek.” With “True Blood” or “Doctor Who,” there wasn’t really any precedent in American comics — in “Who’s” case — or at all in “True Blood’s” case, so we developed new takes on those properties. On titles that tie in directly with a current project, like J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek,” we love to involve the creators—that not only makes for a more complete story line — like in the case of the “Countdown” projects and the “Trek” movies — but it also adds veracity to the project for fans. Similar to when we worked with Joss Whedon to continue his “Angel” series under his auspices.

HC: Who would you identify as some of the rising stars at IDW?

CR: I think he’s perennially rising, since he’s been in the business for over a decade, but Zach Howard, who I first worked with on a “Shaun of the Dead” comic in 2006, is doing some of the best artwork for his new “Wild Blue Yonder” series that I’ve ever seen from anyone, ever. It’s jaw-dropping stuff, and I think this will be the series that finally elevates Zach to the stratosphere.

Both writer and artist on our new “My Little Pony” book, Katie Cook and Andy Price, have instantly won over fans with what they’re doing on that title, and for very good reason. Both of them are only going to get better and better too.

There’s a new artist named Vic Malhotra who’s doing one of the Joe Hill projects with us that I’m excited to expose to the wider world too.

Nelson Daniel, the ongoing artist on “Judge Dredd,” started out with us as one of the best colorists I’ve ever seen, and has since gone on to do Stephen King and Joe Hill projects as full artist, and the things he’s doing penciling, inking and coloring “Dredd” are also setting him up as a premier talent.

HC: How do you balance bringing in new talent with managing more established comic creators?

CR: I tend to like to work with the same talented people as often as I can. I like the familial feel it gives the place, and once you’ve developed a good relationship with a creator, it’s nice to keep them working and keep developing new things. So my first inclination on many projects is to work with people who’ve not only done good work for us but done so reliably and enjoyably. I like also working with new talents, because that’s how this business keeps thriving, bringing in new voices and new artists, but I do temper that with trying to ensure that as many reliable, talented creators that have done work for us can continue to do so, while also growing the “family” along the way. There are some people — many who I listed above — that I would be happy to work with as long as they or I remain in this business.

'Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness' #1 (IDW Publishing)

‘Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness’ #1 (IDW Publishing)

HC: You worked at a few places as a writer before your EIC stint. What are the biggest hurdles that writers in today’s comics world face?

CR: Just getting read, if all you’ve got is a proposal or a script. The days of comic publishers having dedicated submissions editors who can focus only on pouring through script samples and proposals is likely gone for good. So that leaves your typical comic editor who is buried under current scripts, deadline issues and so many other things. So pitching blindly without having any relationship with that editor or without any idea if the publisher is even open to projects is rough. It can be nearly impossible even to find time to reply to all those queries. So the best thing to do to circumnavigate that challenge is to not rely on it — if you want to make comics, go make comics. It’s nearly impossible for a neophyte writer to start writing “TMNT” or “Spider-Man” or something else like that without a track record, so I recommend people go build that resume in the form of self-published books or online comics or anything else that can show in comic form what you can do. Coming to [publishers] can be tough and frustrating; better to build a name for yourself and then we’ll come to you. Nearly every writer at Marvel Comics now got their start doing their own thing, self-publishing or doing their own title at Image Comics or otherwise getting their name and work out there, and then getting that tap on the shoulder. It’s easy to get a “no” in this business, and there are, of course, exponentially more people who want in than there are spots. So if there aren’t current spots for you, go make your own spot. It’s harder, and can require patience, but like any creative pursuit, if you don’t love it enough to make a lengthy go at it, it might not be for you.

HC: Are plans already forming for Wondercon and Comic-Con International?

CR: God, they are … it’s depressing to me that even in mid-January, it feels like the clock is rapidly ticking on “con season.” But we’ve got some good creators lining up for those shows, and some exciting announcements and debuts at both too.

– Jevon Phillips

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