FanBros Originals – An Interview With The Creators of The Precious Few
Jamie Righetti sat down with Derek Fridolfs and Kenneth Elliot Jones, creators of the FanBros Originals: “The Precious Few,” to talk about their comic, their work on Batman, their inspirations and more.
Tell us a little bit about your individual roles in creating a comic. How do you take it from an idea to a finished project?
Derek Fridolfs: Ken and I get together at least once a week. Sometimes more. Just to hang out, talk about current events, and always about story ideas. So we’ll usually just grab lunch someplace where we can sit and jot down notes and chat ideas. It’s a lot of back and forth brainstorming. Almost like jazz. Riffing off of each other’s ideas or questions. And a story will start to take shape. Usually by this stage, then it’s a matter of writing down notes, so we don’t forget any pertinent details of our conversation, typing them up, and then starting to plan from there. For my part of this collaboration, I’ll usually plot it. Break down the story into pages and panels. Sometimes dialogue or the idea of what they might be talking about in any certain scene, and then pass it off to Ken. From there, he really starts forming the characters. Their speech patterns, their personalities, and how they act and live on the page. We’ll pass things back and forth a few times until we tighten it down. And for a story like this, Ken does the pencils and I’ll do the inks. So it’s pretty fun.
What inspired you to start writing/drawing? Any specific artist/comic/cartoon/etc?
Derek: I grew up reading comics of the cartoons I watched of the 80s (GIJOE, Transformers). That was my entry. From there, Batman: TAS was a huge influence in the early 90s. And really it wasn’t until midway through college that I thought I might want to pursue a job in comics. I was spending more time drawing/inking and writing, than I was going to classes. But I joined a local group of artists, and from there, we’d draw, work on samples, and go to conventions each year. I stubbornly stuck with it for about 5 years straight until I broke in.
But yeah, I was inspired by all the stuff I grew up with and the people whose stories I enjoyed. Larry Hama for GIJOE, J.M.Dematteis for his “Kraven’s Last Hunt” story in Spider-Man, Peter David on the Incredible Hulk, Jeff Smith on Bone, and Paul Dini on Batman.
Kenneth Elliot Jones: I’ve always been sort of artistically inclined. And I always liked cartoons and the funny pages, especially peanuts and Calvin & Hobbes. Then when I was about 8 or 9 my uncle gave me a bunch of comics, mostly Conan and Strange Tales. Anyway, something clicked. I was hooked. And from about 4th or 5th grade I knew comics was something I wanted to do.
We have to talk about your recent arc on Legends of the Dark Knight. What’s great about the “The Beautiful Ugly” is that it emphasizes that what makes Two-Face a dangerous and scary character is his unpredictability and warped sense of justice, rather than just his face.
What drew you guys to a Two-Face story?
Derek: This is the first I’ve talked specifically about this, but right after I finished working on Arkham City: End Game with artist Jason Shawn Alexander (who drew our Two-Face story), I was always interested in working with him again. He has a busy schedule with other comic and commercial jobs, and gallery art shows. But I thought, he did such a creepy take on Joker in “End Game”, if there were another character that he might do his take on, who might that be? And both he and Ken were fans of Two-Face. I as well. So then it was a matter of coming up with a story.
Kenneth: Two-Face is my favorite Bat-villain. Not by a lot, there are several I really enjoy, But I’m really just fascinated by Harvey’s story, his past, his persona, and the pathologies behind it. And I really like that his unpredictability stems from complexity as opposed to instability with the Joker. He’s complicated.
How did you collaborate on writing it?
Derek: Even before the idea was to pitch this together, Ken and I would always get into discussions on story ideas and things we enjoy writing and talking about. So out of these discussions came the idea for Two-Face revisiting the first case he lost as a District Attorney, and trying to set it right in his own twisted way. Out of that simple concept, we talked it out until we formulated the story. Ken really breathed life into the characters of Aiden and Marissa, as the sort of totem that the readers will follow.
Kenneth: Actually Derek came up with the story idea and a lot of the broad strokes. But yeah, we had talked a lot about Two-Face and how we’d like to see him done.
Was the creative process any different for the digital medium?
Derek: Not too much. It’s just a matter of knowing that you’re working in short 10 page chapters and how the art is presented on the page. But I’d been doing it for awhile now, so that comes pretty easy. And since our story is 30 pages long, it fit a perfect 3-act (3 chapter) structure.
What was your favorite project(s) you’ve worked on so far?
Derek: Growing up a fan of DC, I’ve been very lucky to have worked on so many for them. My sort of animation writing idols, having working with Paul Dini and Alan Burnett on runs of Detective Comics, Streets Of Gotham, and Superman/Batman. All of those are very special, as an art collaborator. And even more special now getting the chance to write this characters and co-write this Two-Face story with Ken. We’ve had a friendship for almost 20 years, and it’s nice that all those years spent drawing and going to convention portfolio review lines, have finally paid off for us.
Kenneth: Definitely “The Beautiful Ugly.”
What inspired your Fan Bros Original comic “The Precious Few?”
Derek: It all came down to being approached with the idea of what “Fearless Future” meant to us. It probably says a lot about me that I immediately went with a dystopian and depressing view of the future. That over time, we’ve ruined the planet, and now the earth has figured a way to survive in spite of all of us pitiful humans. But there is a ray of hope in the story, which is nice. That all is not entirely lost.
Kenneth: The premise of a future world without fear really got me thinking about how we box fear up as a negative. I guess we relate it too closely to cowardice or weakness. But fear is just a type of anxiety that comes from wanting to avoid things we believe are unpleasant. On a basic level it’s a survival technique. But it can also be this sort of fulcrum between progress and regress. Facing, overcoming and even embracing fear can be the difference between ignorance and enlightenment, bigotry and tolerance, compassion and apathy. I think that’s a really interesting connection to explore. A world without fear might also be a world without a lot of things we think are pretty great.
Okay, the typical geek stuff we just have to know:
1. Star Wars or Star Trek?
Derek: Star Wars, because it was introduced to me first, although I love both.
Kenneth: Star Wars…but I’ve been trending the other way lately for obvious reasons.
2. Favorite comic and/or superhero?
Derek: No surprise that it’s Batman. But also the Hulk and Hellboy.
Kenneth: Favorite comic is a toss-up between Scalped, Garth Ennis’ run on PunisherMAX, Bendis’ run on Daredevil, and Death: The High Cost of Living. Favorite superhero is Spider-man.
3. Most underrated comic book character?
Derek: Hmm…that’s tough. I’ve always enjoyed Lobo, and he’s only underrated in that you don’t see him being used as much anymore. Guest starring or one-shots. But I’d fight to bring him back as a monthly title. We need to have that crazy lug back.
Kenneth: I’m gonna say Wonder Woman.
Any advice for aspiring comic book writers/artists?
Derek: You have to be passionate about it and extremely determined to make it. To eat, breathe, and live it; and that’s before you have a shot to break in. It’s part skill, part persistence, and who you know/networking. If you’re serious about it, you should be spending hours upon hours each day working on your craft. It shouldn’t be a chore to find the time to do it, if you really want to. Even if it means skipping out doing other things like hitting a movie or watching a game. Because there are so many others in the same boat trying to make it, and you’re going up against them (not to mention all the current working professionals too). It’s a bit daunting when you think of it that way, but it’s a nice reality check. But yes…go to as many conventions as you can, talk with other artists and writers at those shows, talk to editors, and get a lay of the land of what the industry is about.
Kenneth: Be persistent, always work your craft, always work to improve, and always try to get your work in front of editors and fans.
Finally, anything cool you’re currently working on that we can look for soon?
Derek: I’m still on Batman Li’l Gotham currently, and also having stories coming up for “Villains Month” at DC (Detective Comics Poison Ivy issue), and a story for Adventures Of Superman. And from there, Ken and I are working on various pitches and personal projects. Those that want to keep updated can check out my blog for info on the latest… http://dfridolfs.blogspot.com
Kenneth: Nothing I can speak on yet. Irons in the fire and all. I don’t want to jinx it.