Picking Jason Becker

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Jason Becker is a 27-year-old writer whose Killing Pickman series from Archaia made an impression on many who read it. With the return of Archaia to regular publishing, Pickman returns.

Now the full tale can be told. A tale about New York detective William Zu, his hunt for murderer Richard Pickman and a cloud of darkness that descends upon Wu after Pickman’s arrest. With the excavation of Pickman’s basement, more bodies pile up and Wu decides he’s had enough. He decides to kill Pickman, but discovers that he’s no easy target. No simple homicide story, Becker, along with artist Jon Rea revealed a story with creepy supernatural elements and a unique approach.

BROKEN FRONTIER: Seeing as Pickman is your first book, do you have a ‘day job’ that also supports you?

JASON BECKER: Actually Killing Pickman is not my first book. In 2005 I wrote and self published a self-contained graphic novel called Hero Corps: The Rookie with artist Greg Moutafis. It was about a young guy who worked his entire life to join a big time superhero group only to find out about a week into actually being a superhero that it is kind of a crap job. It’s available through Amazon.com as well as Wowio if you're into the who digital comics thing.

I had a day job up until a while ago working in a Beauty Supply warehouse. I've had a couple of short-lived stints as a security guard. Right now I'm kind of stuck in limbo trying to find another 9 to 5 job to pay the bills and living in my parents’ garage. It’s a pretty sad existence really. I don't know if you watch the CNN or whatever but the economy isn't the best right now and jobs are scarce. It’s kind of crazy but with unemployment what it is there is actually a better chance of my making it in the comic book industry than finding another job in the "real world". Considering how tough this industry is that's a pretty insane prospect.

BF: Is Killing Pickman a reflection of your world view?

JB: If I say yes does that make me a psychopath? I'm not a serial killer. That's for sure. I don't care what Nick Tapalansky may have told you. That guy is a dirty, dirty liar. I don't go around shooting child molesters in the face either. I certainly think the world is a dark and scary place. I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm a nihilist but I do have a tendency toward misanthropy.

I was raised Southern Baptist and that has sort of warped me in a lot of ways. Richard Pickman is definitely a reaction to the way my rational mind wants to reject the things I was taught in church but something inside me really wants there to be something besides the world we live in. The whole point of the book beyond just being an entertaining horror/action type story is me looking at some of the darker aspects of Christian mythology and the "rules" of salvation and saying "Okay. This is literal. This is absolutely true blue the way it really is stuff... BUT even if all of this stuff is true can't it still be morally wrong?". I mean that is terribly pretentious and even if you have read the book maybe it still seems like the ramblings of an idiot. I don't know.

In the book I ask questions about the nature of guilt, repentance and forgiveness. Pickman is a guy who is a bad guy. He is a killer... but he believes in God. He understands that the things he was taught in church are true. You do bad things, have bad thoughts... if you are an evil person and you don't repent you go to hell when you die. Thing is... he's a sociopath. He can't feel guilty for the things he does... so without guilt, repentance means nothing. He can't be forgiven. He is going to hell. Nobody wants to go to hell. So he makes a deal with a demon. He's just trying to do whatever he can to keep his fat out of the fryer.

I never killed anybody and I don't consider myself an evil person but I'm an agnostic... try as I might I can't not be an agnostic... I can't accept The Bible as a literal representation of history. I can't follow a lot of the rules that book sets forth... and if the Baptists are right that means I'm going to hell. That's a pretty scary prospect. I don't know if that answers the question. It was a heck of a tangent though!

BF: You have mentioned that it’s somewhat influenced by Hong Kong action movies. Do you have any favourites and why?

JB: I have the standard favorites that everyone has I guess. Hard-Boiled was an influence certainly. The character of Bill Zhu is modeled on guys like Chow Yun-Fat and Simon Yam, Andy Lau, Anthony Wong... etc.

The major influences for the book as far as specific films go are the films of Johnnie To and Ringo Lam more than John Woo. Movies like The Mission, PTU, City on Fire, Full Alert... movies that most people haven't heard of. John Woo is all about running around with two guns in slow motion and killing dozens of guys that wear matching outfits.

The Hong Kong movies that I love are the police procedurals like Beast Cops or Bullets Over Summer. These movies are about world weary cops just sort of trying to get by and BAM! they are thrust into situations where guns are drawn and people die. Movies that play more like The French Connection than Die Hard. Though I love the hell out of some Die Hard.

BF: Did you structure Killing Pickman to be read as a complete trade rather than 6 individual issues?

JB: Believe or not... No. I wrote the scripts to be read as six individual issues. Issues 1-5 all end on cliffhangers. If I had written it specifically to be read in TPB and TPB alone I would not have done that. I think it seems like I'm writing for the trade because we all read so many comic books that its hard to keep track of what happened in a previous issue... especially when there are long stretches in between issues... but even if a book comes out monthly it can be hard. Comics for the longest time were written to be read in ten minutes and forgotten.

Jon Rea and I crafted something that requires more attention than that. We wanted to make something that you could kind of look at more closely and really give it a think. Most people making comics these days are doing that... even in mainstream superhero comics. Comic fans aren't really used to that yet... so we kind of feel in instances when we are asked to really pay attention to something that it would be better in trade... and maybe we aren't wrong.

I think that IS the way things are going. I know I've switched to TPBs. I can't read single issues anymore. The artform is changing. The readers are changing. The format needs to evolve with the readers. So I wrote Killing Pickman to be read as six individual issues but I'm not sure if I would do that given the chance to do things over again.

BF: How did the series end up at Archaia?

JB: Mark Smylie came up to artist alley table at a con where I was pushing Hero Corps: The Rookie. Jon Rea did the cover to that book, so he was there with me. He and Mark knew each other. I think Mark had been Jon's teachers in college or something... Mark looked at Jon's portfolio. It had pages from Killing Pickman (then called Bloody Wulf) in it and Mark was sort of interested in them. I gave Mark and his original partner Aki some copies of Hero Corps... which had a 7 page preview of Killing Pickman in it.

A couple months later Mark contacted me about Archaia publishing Killing Pickman. He never read Hero Corps (he still hasn't) but I guess he remembered Jon's portfolio and Aki really loved the preview he saw in the back of Hero Corps. We had sent submission packets for Killing Pickman to every other publisher and been turned down... Jon and I had pretty much given up on it. Mark really swooped in and saved the day.


BF: Now that the series has returned to print, do you hope to work with Archaia, or other publishers, again? Do you have other scripts you’re working on at the moment?

JB: I try not to hope for things. My motto is "Expect the worst... because that is probably what you are going to get."

Having said that I have another horror comic that I'm working on with an artist named Dustin d'Arnault. That's in the early stages... and I'm doing another superhero comic with LeadSlinger Studios called Captain Bludgeon HATES His Amazing Friends that should be coming out later this year or early in 2010.

I would work with Archaia again in a second. Maybe there will be a demand for some sort of sequel to Killing Pickman. I don't know. I think of Mark Smylie as a friend so I would like to continue to work with him in some capacity just so I have some excuse to call him up every other week to talk about Billy Drago in Delta Force 2 or how Van Helsing would actually be the greatest movie ever made if it were a musical.

Like every wanna be comic book writer I have lots of notebooks filled with log-lines and treatments. I have scripts collecting dust on my hard drive... BUT I don't draw and it’s hard to find an artist that will do a pitch on spec... and no-one has ever heard of me so publishers aren't exactly beating down my door. I'm not one of these cats who can sort of pretend like I'm the next big thing... like I'm on the cusp of stardom with an Inbox full of fanmail.

I kind of stink at self-promotion because I can't ignore the idea that most people don't get to do the job that they want to do. I know Killing Pickman is a great comic book because its drawn by Jon Rea and Jon Rea makes it a great comic book. I mean I feel like I have a certain degree of talent... and I'd like to think that I have things to say. Will I get the chance to say them? I don't know. I finally read Charles Burns' Black Hole and I can't imagine writing anything half as good as that. Comic Books is a tough racket and it like to chew guys like me up and spit us out.

If there is a publisher out there who wants to work with me... I would be more than happy to work with them. I'm not going to throw away my class D Security Officer's license just yet, that's for sure.

BF: Have your writing style, or interests, changed, since creating Killing Pickman?

JB: I haven't done enough writing to have a style yet. I'm still a little baby writer and I need time to grow into a style before I can change it. As far as interests go... the more time I spend in the world of Indie comics I find that I gravitate towards reading more indie comics as opposed to mainstream superhero comics. I have changed as a person. I know that much. I think anyone who reads this interview will probably suspect I've become more of a pompous douchebag. It’s hard to deny that.

The double-sized Killing Pickman #3 and #4 (of 6) is available in September.

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