Interview BY JENNIFER M. CONTINO
The Avengers, they ain’t! But Rocket Rabbit and the Professor are just as cool as Emma Peel and John Steed! The cartoony dynamic duo go on secret missions in James S. Baker’s eclectic new comic series, Nerve Bomb.
THE PULSE: The first thing I notice about your work is the eclectic mix of art styles throughout the issue – from Mad Magazine to Mike Mignola to, perhaps, a little Masamune Shirow – why did you want to have a mix of art styles instead of just drawing in one way throughout the book? What does the variety offer you as creator that the “same” wouldn’t have?
JAMES BAKER: Well, the variety of styles from story to story is just because I have
a bunch of different things I want to try out. Within each story I try to keep the art consistent but sometimes I don’t pull that off… especially if the pages were done over a long period of time. On the other hand I’ve always been impressed with the fact that in comics a character can be drawn
differently and still be accepted as the same character, which allows the drawing style itself to shift to accent action or emotion. I think that is fantastic. So I don’t want to give that up entirely. I have a background in animation where drawing the character the same day in day out is a given.
THE PULSE: Who were some of your creative influences on this comic?
I have a big list on the last page of folks who have inspired me, the list includes DENIS BODART, HARVEY KURTZMAN, MIKE MIGNOLA, OSAMU TEZUKA and a whole bunch of others. I wasn’t consciously aping any of them but they are bound to have influenced me anyhow.
THE PULSE: Why call the work Nerve Bomb? What inspired the name?
Yes it is a pretty stupid name isn’t it? I get quite a few people asking me what it is supposed to mean… The original point was that it wasn’t supposed to mean anything at all. I don’t remember where I got it from. The other possible title was “Gourmet Gruel” but I used that someplace else.
THE PULSE: How does the name of the comic reflect your goals for the series?
Most people suggested that I call it “Rocket Rabbit comics” but I wanted to be free to do other things down the line so I wanted a non-specific non-sequitur name. That will hopefully leave me free to try different stuff…
THE PULSE: What inspired the creation of Rocket Rabbit?
I had a job once where I had to design a bunch of cartoony robots and one of the designs that didn’t get submitted appealed to me so I kept it and later refined it until he became the current design. Then I started to wonder who he was, and what other characters he might work with and so on. So Rocket just grew over time. In hindsight looking at Rocket Rabbit and the Professor,
it looks like some combination of Emma Peel and Astroboy was cooking away in my brain at some point.
THE PULSE: What made you want to lead off the series with his adventures?
I have a backlog of stories and I am putting them out in the order of oldest first. Plus I wanted to start with something light and goofy as I felt those kind of stories would be more forgiving as I grope my way around the comics medium. Later on I want to try more sophisticated stuff, but I gotta get my story telling chops up first.
THE PULSE: Who is The Professor? How did she come to work with Rocket Rabbit?
The Professor is Rocket Rabbit’s inventor and she teams up with him on his missions as he isn’t bright enough to run a mission by himself. Apart from that she is a mysterious figure, but it is rumored that she was raised by circus bears.
THE PULSE: If you had to compare issue zero with some instantly recognizable TV or cartoons, what would you compare the story to?
Those kind of comparisons are difficult for me to make, but others have mentioned Powerpuff Girls and stuff like that, you know; cartoon-action or cartoon sci-fi stuff. There’s probably elements of the Get Smart, Austin Powers and any other goofy hero stuff that you’ve ever seen. The back-up story is totally different though… that’s more like…. “Arzarch” for kids.
THE PULSE: How long did it take you to create the first issue?
I did everything myself, and consequentially it took a while… maybe 10 to 12 weeks stretched out over a period of a year or two. At first I wasn’t thinking of making a book, I was just playing around, and ended up with about 4-6 pages of action. Once I decided to follow through and actually print a book it was about two months.
THE PULSE: What were some of the biggest challenges to working on this?
Just staying focused, not getting distracted. The toughest thing so far has just been maintaining momentum. I had only paced myself to get the stuff printed first. So then that felt great, but there was a big let down when the stuff doesn’t IMMEDIATELY go anyplace.
THE PULSE: How tough was this business wise to get off the ground? What are some of the perils of self publishing?
BAKER: The big obvious peril is hosing money away while you are paying to print the stuff, paying for ads etc, and yet nobody is interested in the thing yet, and there is no way of covering costs. So managing the time and money it takes to produce this stuff consistently while working other jobs that pay the rent is the difficult thing.
THE PULSE: Who helped you learn some of the ins and outs of the business to get things going?
Well without a doubt Rhode Montijo (Pablo’s Inferno) was the guy who pointed me in the right direction. He was the ONLY guy I had ever met who had actually published a comic, and he had been through all of it. So he pointed me showed me how to prep a book and hooked me up with the printers that he used. Once the book was in print and I sold some at cons I started getting feedback from other artists and self-publishers who had picked it up such as John Heebink and E.T. Bryan. They gave me more advice. Lately I have been getting advice on how to market the book from James Sime at the Isotope in San Francisco.
THE PULSE: After having an issue in print, what have you learned now that will help you with all your future projects?
BAKER: I will spend a bit more time thumb nailing an issue at a smaller size from now on. Logistically I am going to try to wait for orders before I go to print and I am going to spend more time promoting the title with retailers.
THE PULSE: What are future issues going to focus on?
I want to put out enough Rocket Rabbit stories to collect into a paperback. There is a multi-issue “story-arc” figured out. Nothing profound, just goofball stuff. Then I have a big sci-fi epic I want to tackle, but I will start off with some short stories set in that world. There is also another goofy story about a battle-hardened warrior dog from outer space that crashes and gets stranded on earth where he suffers the daily indignities of a house-pet dog’s life. There is also a series of stories about an obnoxious little character called HellKat who is actually a cat from Hell that comes to earth via a cat-flap in the gates of Hades.
THE PULSE: What other projects are you working on?
BAKER: Well the comic is the main thing apart from the work I do to make a living which is in animation mostly.
You can read reviews of Nerve Bomb comics here.