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Hell Yeah, Joe Keatinge is Primed for Glory!

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Joe Keatinge is finally living the dream. Ever since he was a kid and got a hold of his first comic books, he almost literally dropped everything and decided he wanted to make a living creating them. Now, the former Image Comics marketing whiz is standing on the other side of the fence, together with the creators whose press releases he pushed out the door and whose books he heavily promoted in his former position at the Big I. Now, Keatinge is ready for the big stage…

Readers are already taking notice, as Image Comics announced last week that Glory #23, Keatinge and Ross Campbell’s first issue, has already sold out at the distribution level even before it goes on sale this Wednesday. And the hype on his March-debuting book, Hell Yeah, continues to build too. High time to check in with Joe on both books!

BROKEN FRONTIER: You’ve been dying to break into comics writing for a good long while. When did your dream start?

JOE KEATINGE: I don't remember the date itself, but it was a specific day on my elementary school lunch period, when we were going over stacks of Image books. The one in question for me was Spawn #10, where I first fully realized what creator-owned comics was. It rained that night, a rare thing for LA, so my after-school care was in a classroom and I grabbed a notebook and just started drawing comics. It was then and there that I decided all I wanted to do with my future was create comics. That was twenty years ago.

BF: You’ve taken a different route than most writers, as you first worked for Erik Larsen and then held marketing and sales positions at Image. Did your experience dealing with the inner workings of the industry make it easier for you to get published, not in the least by Image itself?

KEATINGE: I think it trained me to be a better creator, so that I would produce work worthy of being published by a company like Image. If I made comics they didn't like, I doubt Eric Stephenson or whoever would publish them. We have a great relationship, but in the end he's running a business, not doing favors for friends.

I'm very appreciative he thinks my work deserves to be published by Image, especially in a year like this where they're pushing amazing new series written by huge talents like Ed Brubaker, Mark Millar and Brian K. Vaughan.

BF: I’m sure being in the position you were in, you must’ve picked up a lot of tips on scripting from the various writers you worked with at Image. What was the most valuable piece of advice you got?

KEATINGE: Matt Fraction once told me to 'write the comics you want to read.' That's become one of my most important rules. He's a smart dude.

           

BF: Speaking of tips for aspiring writers, one of the things you often hear is: put all your efforts into one idea and execute it as best as you can to wow publishers. And here you are, with two major books debuting at around the same time with Glory and Hell Yeah. How did that happen? Were you much further along on the production of one of them?

KEATINGE: Both of them happened in very different ways. Eric and Rob Liefeld are guys who have been around my entire career and both knew I wanted to write. Eric was always especially encouraging. He's known about Hell Yeah for longer than most people. However, while working at Image I felt it would be wrong to write in any capacity more than a short story every so often. I was the PR & Marketing Coordinator for the majority of my time there. How screwed up would it be if I had to tell a creator their press release wasn't going out because mine was? Not cool.

Anyway, Eric was always encouraging me to write, specifically Hell Yeah. When the time came where I was leaving Image to focus on writing, he was just as encouraging. So, almost two years later, here we are, on the verge of it becoming an actual, printed comic book.

As for Glory, like I said, those guys knew I wanted to write and gave me the opportunity to pitch. I gave Eric a quick pitch. He liked it and wanted more. So I gave him a longer pitch and he liked it and showed it to Rob. He liked that and, lo and behold, I'm writing Glory.

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.

BF: While growing up in the 90s, were you more partial to the Extreme Studios work than, say, Wildstorm or Top Cow? Or did you like WildC.A.Ts and Cyberforce as much as you did Youngblood?

KEATINGE: I was an Image kid, period. I didn't quite get the distinctions between the different studios until later. I loved Savage Dragon, Youngblood, WildC.A.Ts, Cyberforce, Spawn, Shadowhawk, Pitt, The Maxx, Wetworks -- the whole line. Each one showed me that superheroes didn't have to be the way I always read them. Their potential was infinite.

As their line evolved and diversified I got turned onto a lot of other types of comics, whether it was Bone, A Distant Soil, Kabuki and so on. It gave me a general love of creator-owned comics that carries today, regardless of publisher.

BF: Ross Campbell brings a very unique sensibility to the book – it’s a huge departure from what has come before, but so is Simon Roy’s work on Prophet, for example. Was that something Rob Liefeld wanted when revitalizing the Extreme stuff? Continuing the story, but visually setting a totally new tone?

KEATINGE: I get the impression Rob and Eric just wanted something 'new'. In specific, Eric mentioned being inspired by the start of runs like Walt Simonson's Thor and Frank Miller's Daredevil in that they were dramatic departures from what had gone on before without violating the core of the respective series. They didn't want to negate the past, but they didn't want us to wallow in it either. I'm personally happy with the results and am eager to find out if people agree.

BF: What was the process like for bringing Ross onto Glory and Andre Szymanowicz on Hell Yeah?

KEATINGE: Ross was suggested by Brandon Graham, so he put us in touch and we really hit it off right off the bat. Dude's body of work may not make one immediately make you think he's the person to draw a book like Glory, but he's actually the ideal collaborator for it.

Andre was suggested by Mark Andrew Smith after looking at his stuff in PopGun. He was also right. Andre and I really connect as friends and creators and he's pretty much the only person I know who I would want working on Hell Yeah with me.

BF: Hell Yeah to me is a bit like a statement book: “Here’s what you can do with superheroes if you’re allowed to cross the genre constraints. Hell yeah, they can suffer! Hell yeah, they can die!” Did I just perfectly describe what the story is all about?

KEATINGE: That's pretty accurate, yeah. I'd condense to, "Everything is possible with comics."

BF: Now that you’re actually living the dream, how much has your life changed since your wishes have come true?

KEATINGE: Day-to-day things are pretty much the same, but now my job is fucking awesome.

Glory #23 goes on sale February 15, Hell Yeah #1 hits March 7, both from Image Comics.

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