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EXCLUSIVE: Graphic Illusions Comics Interview

 GI COMICS, WHERE CREATIVITY MEETS COMMITMENT!  Correct?  Tell people out here who you are and what you do?

Alan:  That’s correct.  That’s our motto and we’re sticking too it!  Graphic Illusions Comics, better known as GI Comics to most, is what we like to call an American Manga publishing house.  Not necessarily because of the way in which our comics are drawn, but more so because of the approach in which we take when telling our stories and creating our characters.  We’ve tried to make our stories as character-driven and plot-heavy as possible.

Jose: So in a lot of ways you can think of GI Comics as an old school creative think tank.  We create.  We pull characters and scenarios out of thin air and mold them into something we think people will want to read.  That is what we do in the purest sense.  We are fans of fiction and creative storytelling who want to make a contribution to the art.  We LOVE telling stories!  We LOVE creating characters that people can care about.  “Events” come and go but the stories and the characters they revolve around are what matters and we LOVE creating both.

Alan: Not that we don’t enjoy “events” like those good ‘ol fashion planetary devastation or the ‘destruction of the universe’ style stories; it’s just that, for us, the fun isn’t in the event in-and-of itself, but in all of the separate character storylines and motivations that will eventually culminate into that one massive ‘event’.  And a surprising amount of time and effort has been put into, not creating these events, but like Jose said, into the characters, who in turn, create our events.  Our goal, and the creative meaning behind our motto, is when an event does occur in our universe, we want readers to really be affected by the repercussions of that event in how it’ll change our universe (the Second Wave Universe) and the characters within that universe.

Dave: Well said.  We are Alan Cole, Jose Loeri, and David Welcher.  Three guys doing their best to stay on the grind and get great quality, creative stories out there on a consistent basis.  We are committed to doing that.  As to what we do: any and everything it takes to make that happen.  We want to make sure people understand that we didn’t adopt that as our motto because we thought those were cool sounding words.  I mean that was part of the reason, but the other, more important part was that we really mean them.  That’s the standard we want to hold ourselves to.

You guys are based right outside of Washington D.C.  You all are pretty close to our base of operations here in Baltimore.  What is the comic book scene like in DC?

Alan:  I’m supposing it’s the same as it is anywhere else, but then, maybe it’s actually growing. 

Jose: You know I think that since the 2013 Awesome Con DC things got pretty interesting.  I remember back in the day when you needed to hire a detective to find the comic shops in the city.  Now that we have a major comic book convention the geeks, me included, feel they have a real voice, a real identity.  I see more people on the trains and buses reading graphic novels, there’s more chatter about local talent at clubs and bars, there’s just more of a buzz about the comic scene overall.

Alan: That’s true and then the Awesome Con returned this year in a much bigger venue with more creators, more guests, and more attendees.  So the DMV seems to be moving in the right direction with many, many untapped potential readers and future fans.

Since 1997, what has been your main goal as a publishing company and where do you go from here?

Alan:  What has been our main goal since 1997?  Hmm…I guess I’d have to say, finding our voice.  I mean, really coming to terms with the type of product that we’re going to produce and with that, how will GI Comics look in terms of its’ artistic presentation. 
 
Jose: I could see that.  And I think that a large part of that has been to develop ideas.  We have TONS of ideas and concepts, some connected, others not.  We’ve spent a few year fleshing out those ideas, working out the kinks by trial and error.  The majority of that work has been done behind the scenes but some of it is documented in earlier versions of our stories.

Alan: Here’s a little history to explain what we mean:  this version of Intrepid is actually our third attempt.  The first Intrepid was originally Jose’s baby only and once it was decided that we were going to undertake the task of combining our universes (Jose’s with me and David’s) became a slightly different story.  That’s version 1.  We then took our current story and we ran it through an art studio, which took care of everything from the pencils, inks, lettering, coloring, etc.  Now, even though we weren’t really happy with or proud of what this studio gave us, we took it and submitted to Diamond.  And behold, we were rejected.  And at that point, we made a decision that if what was suppose to be the industry standard was going to be turned down, then we’re going to do what makes us happy.   That was version 2.  We’ve always pictured our Second Wave Universe line of books being published in black and white first with colors being added after every 24 issues that could be released as a full color trade.  There were a lot of people that warned us that doing black and white comics don’t sell in America AND that Diamond would never carry it.  The opposite happened.  Diamond loved the new look of Intrepid and people that have bought the book, after reading it, appreciate the hard-edged and sharp black and whites. 
                                                                                              
Jose: In my opinion all of that time was well spent.  We’ve honed our craft to a reasonable degree, I believe. 

Alan: We found our voice and it makes it a lot easier moving forward, giving us the confidence and ability to not just enjoy our own products but to know that other people feel that way also.

Dave: I definitely think that has been one of our main goals.  Well that and to put out the best comics we absolutely can on a continuous basis.  And I agree with Alan and Jose in that you have to find your voice as creators by developing ideas in order to do that.  But we truly want to be a place, that’s right that was me setting up an opportunity to plug our slogan once again, where creativity meets commitment.  We want to be one of those small press publishers that are sort an exception to the rule.  We want to get out top quality stories on a regular basis.  We hope that we can nurture and develop a strong fan base for our product, and that, over time, it grows into something truly special.

Jose: So that’s where we go from here.  We unleash those concepts, characters, and commitment on the free world.  It’s only fair.
 
Tell us some of your past projects and where we can get them.

Alan:  Luckily for everybody that gives us a try, this is the jumping on point.  We’ve spent a lot of years trying to hone our craft and we’re just starting to actively promote our products and our brand.  Intrepid #1 and Shonen Double Feature #1 is pretty much the introduction to our Second Wave Universe and everything branches out of that.  The Intrepid: Heroes & Villains story arc is available directly from our website at www.gi-comics.com/store.html and they’re also available for digital download exclusively through Cloud 9 Comix via it’s FREE app on Apple and Android products.  Intrepid #1 is available for FREE with #2-6 priced at only .99 cent each.  Shonen Double Feature, a 52 page
book, is available for $1.99.

Dave: Like Alan said earlier, we have older iterations of Intrepid, so oddly enough our current project is our past project as confusing as that is.  Hopefully, though, we were able to burn all evidence it existed.  It was very disappointing, and again like Alan pointed out, it didn’t get us anywhere.  It felt like people just knew we weren’t happy with our own stuff.  So why should they be?  So we went back to the drawing board and started from scratch.

Building a Universe…One Character at a Time… It’s a pretty simple message, but what does it mean to you?

Jose:     To me the statement conveys the thought of progression.  For instance, there were a lot of ways we could have told the Intrepid story.  We could have started the reader off at a point in the series where the team is established with all members in the fold.  However, we chose to tell the story progressively.  The reader is introduced to each team member progressively by order of importance.  This way you get to see what their importance is to the unit as well as what they mean to each other.  We tell a lot of our stories in a progressive fashion.  We don’t crank out “events” and big ideas just to prove how smart we are.  We want to get you hooked on our titles “one character at a time.”  Our characters come first.  They’re the building blocks of our universe and our stories. 

Alan:  And that idea of progress has trickled out to our Second Wave Universe as a whole.  We decided that we’re going to not just promote Intrepid but we’re going to let people know that we have hundreds of characters and many, many storylines.  We want people to know that this isn’t going to be a fly-by-night organization and if people take a risk and pick up one of our titles, there’s going to be a lot of excitement to look forward too.  Case in point, Ren Tregal was one of our most well received characters so far during this campaign. He plays an integral part in our universe, but doesn’t enter the publishing scene until after Intrepid #24.  Starting with Intrepid #18 and running through #24, with a proper introduction coming with a 6-issue mini-series entitled, Guardian Supreme: First Contact.  This storyline is one of the first major ‘events’ to happen within the Second Wave Universe and it effectively changes its’ landscape and the direction of certain key characters.  A very exciting moment for us, but we have to get there first and to get there we need people to jump on board and pick up Intrepid.  So hopefully, by introducing our plethora of characters just a bit early, people won’t be as hesitant to give us a try.
 
The state of comic books is at an all-time high, BUT there are some things that need to be improved.  What would you change about Marvel Comics?  DC Comics?

Dave: Ummm, how much time do we have?

Alan:  If you would’ve asked me this question back in ’97 or maybe sometime in the early 2000’s, I would’ve given you a laundry list of complaints and fixes.  But that’s one of the benefits of struggling in the Small Press Industry and actually combining the practical business aspects of the industry with the pure creative bliss of self-publishing.  Enlightenment.  We all decided at some point that we could do this better than the professionals, but until you actually jump in that ring and take a few hits, everything looks easy.  I respect what Marvel and DC do, but we can’t do it their way.  It benefits Marvel and DC to have multiple creators interpreting the same characters over and over and over.  It benefits Marvel and DC to keep restarting their universes because in a way, their characters are shackled.  Any and everybody can get into a debate as to the ‘perfect’ Wolverine or the ‘perfect’ Batman.  But you can’t do that with our characters.  Batman’s never going to die.  We all know that.  We all accept that.  Ren Tregal on the other hand, or any of our characters, can die.  Might die.  And some even will die.  We control our characters and they control the stories and their stories are finite.  We know the ultimate fate of Ren Tregal.  You and the readers don’t, and there’s not much that can be done to change his fate.  So no matter how popular he gets or how much money he ends up making us, his story, just like all of our characters, is finite.  Just like many Japanese stories, take Naruto for example, his story begins, we’re along for the ride but it’s building toward some finality.  I think that makes people connect with us, our characters and our stories more than anything else.

Dave: Well unlike my partner here, I’m not going to take the politically correct road.  I love DC and Marvel, and like most, they’re the reason I got into comics.  Not to outdo them, but ultimately to get to a point where I could take a crack at one of those great characters.  However, I grew up, and my taste evolved.  The weird thing was that those characters I had come to love so much didn’t grow with me.  Like Alan said as I grew I began to appreciate a sense of finality more.  I think more than it gives an ultimate resolution to whatever book you’re reading, it serves as an impetus for evolution.  Batman isn’t going to die, but Batman doesn’t necessarily need to die either for there to be growth.  Bruce Wayne may die or retire, and that’s what should be fine.  Dick Grayson should be able to take on the “cape and cowl,”   and that change should be an allowable evolution of Batman.  It isn’t.  Dick Grayson becomes Batman, and you know somewhere along the way Bruce Wayne will come back to the mantle.  Wally West can replace Barry Allen, but who’s Flash now?  Kyle Rayner can be the new Green Lantern, but how long was it before Hal Jordan came back?  Characters remaining virtually unchanged for over 50 years isn’t progressive.  Having a character in every major title isn’t great either.  It’s disrespectful to your other, equally great characters.  Yeah he may be the “most popular”, but you have a goldmine of awesome characters at your disposal.  Use them.  And that finally brings me to those damn events. 
 
Jose: I got that… Stop pushing “events” and get back to telling stories.  I like DC and Marvel characters but I can’t stand their stories because they’re not going anywhere.  They’re no direction.  Everything is static.  It’s sickening in a way.  Even if you go in a bad direction at least you’ve made an attempt.  That’s why I can’t get mad at something like “The Clone Sage.”  At least it was an honest attempt at moving a concept forward.  Disavowing it was spineless, in my opinion.  There’s too much bull (crap) in comics right now.  Big announcements about killing characters off just to bringing them back.  Starting story arcs you never finish.  There’s no direction and no purpose to the stories.  It just reminds you that these characters are nothing but brands that can never change in any significant way which makes the “creative teams” brand overseers not creators.  So there’s no real reason to buy into an “event” nowadays.  Everything is nullified and recycled within a two to five year period.  I find that pretty sad.  So the major change I would make is I’d get some editors and writers with guts and tell them to take the characters somewhere.

Alan: Really?

Jose: I’m fine… had to be said.

Dave: My bad, you know I love Marvel and DC so when I start talking about them, I can get a little carried away.  All I’m trying to say is that they’re screwing up a good thing and it pisses…

Alan: Why don’t you save just a little for the next time?

Dave: Fine, but they did ask.


What does your comic-con schedule look like this year?  We would love to see you at Underground Comic-Con in November.

Alan:  Aside from your Underground Comic-Con, we aren’t going to be attending any conventions this year, at least not as exhibitors.  Starting 2015, we’ll be exhibiting at the Awesome Comic Con, the Baltimore Comic Con, the ANS Sci-Fi and Comic Con, Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con and, if we’re lucky, our first appearance at the New York Comic Con.  We decided not to exhibit at any conventions this year because we really wanted to focus on production and until we start bringing in a little bit of revenue, sadly, it’s always going to be a decision that dictates whether we can or can not attend shows.
 
The art you guys put up is amazing.  Tell us about your artists briefly.

Alan:  Our artists are simply AMAZING and we’ve truly been blessed to have had and continue to have, the opportunity to work with many of them. 

Dave: That’s real.  They’ve all been phenomenal. 

Alan: To run through the list:  MONTOS’ very sharp and eclectic style really did Intrepid justice and essentially put us on the map.

Dave: You know what, I agree with you on that one.  Montos’ gritty style is a major selling point for Intrepid: Heroes & Villains and it lends itself beautifully to the black & white format of the book.

Alan: Luis Arturo Palacios will be taking over the penciling, inking and possibly lettering duties of Intrepid starting with issue #7 and running through #12, the Pandora’s Cage story arc. 

Dave: And hopefully beyond.

Alan: Luis has also done more than a few character designs for us and has also done a few colors too.  He is currently working on a new, non-Second Wave Universe related project entitled, IV: Armageddon #51 one shot.  That will be available sometime in July and will introduce something a bit more sinister than anything the SWU has to offer. 

Dave: I don’t know about sinister per se, but I will say that it is definitely darker than the SWU that’s for sure.

Alan: Well it’s safe to say that we have much, much more than what you’ve seen.  The creative team on that book starting with issue #50 (it counts backwards) is Robert Spencer doing the pencils, inks and letters with Timothy Craggette putting everything in beautiful colors.  Andrew Froedge has helped us with a multitude of character designs; Rob Richardson and Jorge Correa Jr. did the artwork for Shonen Double Feature #1 with Jeremy Treece and Bernardo Moreno wrapping up the artistic duties on SDF #2.  There are a few more like Caanan White and Jean-Paul Mavinga who have been instrumental in defining the look and feel of many of our characters and advertisements.  And many of our logos, including the GI Comics logo, and those Wanted Flyers were designed by the very talented graphic designer and website designer Andrew LoVuolo. 

Dave: And we can’t forget the newest addition to our team, Angela Consol.  She is an amazing colorist we just started working with and everything she’s touched so far has completely blown us away.

We hope to work with you guys soon.  Do you have any acknowledgements? 

Alan:  Too many to list here.  Some are listed in your previous question but there are many more people that we’ve interacted with in some form or another over these past 15 years, and regardless of whether those experiences were positive or whether they ended up being negative, we’re all the same grateful.  Every experience and all lessons learned stand culminated before you right now and, hopefully, it’s helped us to become a stronger unit…a better, more successful company.

Jose:     Outside of my GI Comics family, Alan and David, my main acknowledgements have to go to my sister Jovita Loeri-Sebbe, my older brother Adolf Loeri, my little brother Ernesto Comba and my nephew Tokunbo Adedeinde.  Those are the people who have encouraged me to create from the womb until this day and I love ‘em for it!   

Dave: I too would like to acknowledge our wonderful wives who’ve put up with us spending a lot time trying to make our dreams come true, my amazing kids who have never once complained about their father being a bigger kid than they are, the family members that have given their unending support, the friends who’ve lent a hand whenever they could, and most importantly the fans who have and continue to buy our books.     

Thank you guys for taking out some time for United Fanboyz, we hope to link up with you soon and continued success.  How can everyone reach you?

Alan:  Either via our website at www.gi-comics.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GIComics.   I can also be contacted directly via email at alancole@gi-comics.com.  Our Editor-in-Chief, David Welcher, can be reached via email at davidwelcher@gi-comics.com and our Operations Manager, Jose Loeri, can be reached via email at joseloeri@gi-comics.com


Thank you guys at United Fanboyz for this wonderful opportunity to give your readers a chance to get to know us and what GI Comics is all about.
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