“Joe Keatinge has established himself as the latest new writer I want to undermine and destroy. It’s just top class stuff.”
- Mark Millar (Kick-Ass, Civil War, Wanted, Ultimates)

"I think Joe is definitely one to watch."
- Robert Kirkman (Walking Dead, Invincible)

"My Grandmother Could Beat The Shit Out Of Wonder Woman": The Complete Slate Interview

Like I linked to earlier, Slate did a pretty in-depth profile on all things Extreme with Rob Liefeld, Brandon Graham and myself. However, the interviews with us were individually much, much longer. Inspired by Rob posting his third, I’m posting mine, complete and uncut.

Huge thanks to David Weigel for conducting the interview. Easily one of the best interviewers I’ve ever dealt with.

SLATE: My bias: I’m one of those people sad that the arc is ending so soon. I wanted 70 issues!
JOE KEATINGE: A lot of people seem to be hung up on that 70 issues comment, but I can’t stress enough, it was pretty early stages that we nixed the idea, specifically on #25. There were a few things. First, I’ll admit, GLORY was my first big work-for-hire ongoing series, so the initial instinct I found was to hold on for dear life because oh-my-god-this-might-be-it. Second, while I had a lot of ideas for where it could go, it quickly became obvious I was making outlines for what essentially were different comics. Each arc idea was a radically different take than the last. It was pretty obvious from the get go I would probably scrap a lot of those and, if anything, turn them into different comics. The last thing was in the process of writing #25, it became clear what this book was. It wasn’t this massive epic that went on for years. At its core, it’s the story about two drastically different people — Gloriana Demeter, a warrior so powerful some think she’s a deity and Riley Barnes, someone who doesn’t really even know what she’s doing with her life at first. They’re both thrust into a situation by circumstances beyond their control they have to get through and deal with. It’s their story. The story about Glory and Riley. This comes to a pretty definitive conclusion in #34, so it seemed best to stop there and not wear out our welcome with a wildly different direction.

So, I’m fascinated, as it seems a lot of other people are, by the reinvention of these old Liefeld characters. How did you get the book, and what research did you do on the Extreme/Liefeldverse before starting to write? How were you approached, what was the pitch, what was the reaction?
If you really dig in and look back, the seeds for this were planted almost a decade ago now, back when I first started working professionally. Both Rob Liefeld and Eric Stephenson have been supporters from the get-go and I got to know Eric in particular fairly well over the years. When I went freelance, it happened to coincide with their early development of the line. Eric gave me the opportunity to pitch for Glory, so I did. He liked it, so I pitched something more extensive, which Rob liked and then we went about finding Ross.
People have a really skewed perspective of Rob. A lot of them act relieved that he seemingly stayed hands off from the books, but the truth is he’s been our biggest champions when it comes to doing wildly different stuff with the characters. For instance, when the books were announced at New York Comic Con, Ross, Rob and I were doing a signing and Ross showed Rob he’s ‘out there’ sketches for the future Glory shown in #25. Rob enthusiastically encouraged Ross to go all the way with it — to do what he wanted to do. Brandon Graham will tell you the same thing with Prophet. 

What advice/rules were you given when you took over? (Liefeld had said that “the Extreme catalogue of characters has been patiently standing on the sidelines waiting for creators of this caliber to emerge and make great comics with them,” which seems awfully nice, and true.) Is there any kind of series bible?
Not so much a bible, but the edict I was given was to essentially do what Walt Simonson did on Thor or Frank Miller did on Daredevil (no pressure) — don’t negate past continuity, just take it into a completely new direction. Other than that, Rob and Eric were pretty clear they wanted us to do whatever. So, once the pitches were approved, we were free to do just that. Rob and Eric still see everything and if I do something drastic, I run it by Rob, but he’s never turned anything down. 

Were you reading these original comics when they arrived in the 1990s?
Yeah, absolutely. I was ten years old when Image started, so I was pretty much the exact right age to lose my shit over Violator tearing Spawn’s heart out his chest, Savage Dragon getting his arm cut off or Shaft throwing a pen in a dude’s eye. I was loving what those guys were doing over at Marvel in New Mutants, Spider-Man and so on, but Image is where I completely lost my shit. 
I gained an even greater love for Extreme (which I think quickly turned into Maximum, then Awesome) once Alan Moore came on board with Supreme and reinvented everything. Those Supreme comics of his are pretty much some of the best Superman comics of the last thirty years or so. 

Do you talk much with Liefeld about the character? I ask because you take Glory into these eras (like 1920s France) that are terrific, but were never suggested in the original book.
I talk to Rob a lot, but again, he’s encouraged us to do new things with them. Like, with the 1920s France sequence, I wanted to suggest Glory had been around a bit longer than people thought and linking her with the Lost Generation in particular seemed like an apt way of conveying just what she’s going through. That particular mentality in Europe — having just survived World War I, the tension building up to World War II — I feel is reflected in Glory. I get more into this with #34, our final issue, which also shows one last look at her in 1920s France, with guest appearances by Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Zelda & F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The original character was always portrayed as a classic, 90s, pose-striking supermodel. (I don’t know if you’ve seen that site at which artists draw Hawkeye in the poses of various 90s sexy-superhero-ladies, but it’s very funny.) Your Glory looks that way, a bit, in the flashbacks, but in the contemporary and future portrayals she’s increasingly massive and monstrous. Is that Ross Campbell’s doing, or are you also trying to do something different with the look of the superhero female?
Ross and I see very much in line and eye-to-eye when it comes to our opinion on how women are portrayed in comics. In my original proposal, even before he was on board, a big thing was to portray Glory visually even more than a superhero — this is a warrior, born and bred. Perhaps the greatest to ever exist. She’s built to lead in times of peace and devastate in times of war. With Ross on board, we took this vision even further. I don’t give a crap about what someone pees with, who they sleep with, where their ancestors are from and so on. I don’t see why Mainstream American comics historically has — and I’m a fan of those comics. I think portraying women the way we portray Glory shouldn’t be some weird exception. The props we get for doing are kind of stinging — yeah, it’s cool people dig what we’re doing there, but it seems messed up to me that it’s 2012 AD and we’re still hung up on this. Yeah, things have gotten better, but it won’t be where I want it until people are judging characters just on that, their character, not their gentials, sexual orientation, race or whatever other qualifiers there are. 

What other sort of books/stories/comics/material have you read that informed Glory?
Only a few comics consciously inspired Glory. Cosey’s In Search of Peter Pan was a massive influence on the first issue. Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese is basically my bible when it comes to world-spanning adventure comics. Moebius’ entire oeuvre, but specifically the Aednea books, influence how I worked in sci-fi. Those first few Beta Ray Bill Thor issues Walt Simonson did are certainly floating around in there. Filter the old Extreme comics through those and you get a lot of Glory. As I mentioned before, world history from 1900-1945 was a massive influence on the entire thing, which I think will be even clearer when people read the last issue. Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms and A Moveable Feast was up there, book wise. 
I think the biggest influence more than any book, comic or historical event have been the women in my life. I was raised by a mom, stepmom and grandmother who were all amazing examples of what it means to be a human being, period. Said grandmother was (and still is) such a bad ass that during the 1940s she won first place in a shooting contest at the police station she worked at — and she worked as a dispatcher. Women I’ve known like them are a much larger influence on this book than, say, Wonder Woman. My grandmother could beat the shit out of Wonder Woman.

INTERVIEW ABOUT EVERYTHING

Earlier this morning Comic Book Resources posted an interview with me spotlighting Hell Yeah and Glory, wherein I debuted Hell Yeah’s new series cover artist, Ricken, and discuss building toward the ending of Glory. I also get into my thoughts on Dave Sim’s Cerebus and even drop a few announcements.

A few things have changed since this interview was conducted:

1) Obviously, my Marvel work got announced - an issue of Amazing Spider-Man, leading into writing an ongoing Morbius: The Living Vampire series. 

2) The Madman/Hell Yeah crosso
ver illustrated by Michael Allred/Madman isn’t going to make it in the CBLDF Liberty Comics anthology, but will happen after he gets ahead on his Marvel work. That being said, I do have a NEW story with another artist I’ve long admired. More on that soon.


3) I finished Cerebus. Now reading Ostrander’s Suicide Squad. Holy crap.

I talked with the dudes at Savage FINcast in the most comprehensive, in-depth interview I’ve ever done about how I started reading comics,  how I ‘broke into comics’, adventures in color flatting, my time at Image Comics, why I love Savage Dragon so much, the issue of Savage Dragon that made me a fan for life, why I started writing full-time, the people who do the best Todd McFarlane impression (Rob Liefeld, Erik Larsen and Jim Valentino), meeting Emi Lenox at a video store nine years ago, working on Glory, working on Hell Yeah and, yeah, pretty much everything. Over two hours of me yapping with cool guys.

  • Track: Episode 4: "Hell Yeah! It's Joe Keatinge"
  • Artist: Savage FINcast
  • Plays: 60

TALKING WITH BROKEN FRONTIER

I talked with the Broken Frontier dudes about all things GLORY & HELL YEAH.

Here’s an excerpt:

BF: Glory as a creation was influenced by Wonder Woman. How do you go about making her as different from the Amazon Princess as you can?

KEATINGE: Regardless of her origins, our Glory isn’t a Wonder Woman pastiche. I would love to write Wonder Woman someday. I’m not doing my B-version of her now because the opportunity isn’t there. I want to write Glory. As the series goes on, I hope readers will see more and more of the distinction between both characters as they exist now.

Going For The Glory With CBR

I had a long talk with CBR’s TJ Dietsch about everything I’m working on. Well, the announced stuff anyway

Here’s an excerpt:

Campbell’s art and your take on the character seem to take her pretty far away from Glory’s bad girl roots — was that on purpose?

Yes, very much so. I don’t like repeating the past. Like I said before, the potential for comics is without limit. Why keep repeating the same types of stories? The Glory conceived in the ’90s wouldn’t be as relevant in the present, just like the Superman of 1938. Things get reinvented for the time.

Plus, we saw a great opportunity to bring in the kinds of characters we wanted to see in comics in general. I’m pretty disturbed by the term “strong women” as a compliment to characters — it suggests most women are weak. It’s bullshit. The women in my life are all “strong.” I have a mother, a stepmother, a couple of grandmothers and a bunch of aunts who kick a lot of ass. My maternal grandmother alone is in her late 80s and could probably outrun most people I know.

There’s a whole lot more, but it’s exclusive to CBR!

ME ON 1992

I set aside tonight to do a ton of interviews, but I thought I’d share this snippet from one of them where the interviewer was particularly harsh on Image Comics, circa 1992 and kinda sums up my feelings on comics in general:

I also don’t think as harshly as you do about the early Image stuff. Were they revealing truths about the human condition and making me reexamine my life? Not at all, but man, they were fun to read. They got me excited to create comics. I think that counts as ‘mission accomplished.’
I don’t expect every movie to be Wild Strawberries or every book to be Ulysses. Sometimes I want to get insight to the inner working of a soul, but sometimes I just want a couple of robots to beat the shit out of each other. I listen to classical music, I listen to Wu-Tang Clan, I listen to the Dandy Warhols, I listen to The Spookies, I listen to the Drive soundtrack, I listen to Serge Gainsbourg. I’m a dude who likes variety. I don’t want the same thing over and over. I just bought the third hardcover volume of Rob Liefeld’s X-Force in the same week I got Cosey’s new Jonathan tome. There’s a place for it all. I don’t think the early Image books promised something they weren’t.
  • I talked comics with Tim O'Shea. Here's an excerpt.

  • O’Shea:

    Will you concede that when you say lines like “Hell Yeah is the direct result of almost thirty years of comics passion put into one book.” that you may be putting some pressure on yourself?

  • Keatinge:

    Absolutely not.

  • I’ve been reading comics in many different forms in many different genres my whole life. Every life experience I’ve ever had somehow informs the work I’m doing today. It’s not hype, it’s fact.

  • Besides, I think pressure’s a good thing. Poor work comes out when you’re comfortable. I am extremely hard on myself with everything I do. A small part of it is psychological condition. Most of it is never wanting to be boring.