The duo are no strangers to the comic book business having worked together on projects such as Menu, released by Trip City, and a backup story in the Image Comics' series Five Ghosts. The book itself is being released by the up-and-coming publisher, Black Mask Studios. Black Mask is headed by Bad Religion guitarist and Epitaph Records owner, Brett Gurewitz, alongside comic book industry veterans Steve Niles and Matt Pizzolo. Contributing editor, Armando Olivas, spoke with Patrick and Matthew about the latest project and more.
First off, I want to know how did you guys link up with Ghostface Killah?
Matt: Me and Patrick have a background in music. He plays in bands and I put out records so we transitioned into making comics as well. Someone from RZAís camp got in touch with us because we happened to be people who were familiar with music marketing and comics. So, they brought us in to consult and answer some questions early on in the project. Then the more we talked about it the more they were excited about what we had to say. They eventually offered us the chance to work on the project. I guess you could say it was the product and result of our expertise (laughs).
I know that Adrian and Ghostface originally came up with the story but you did guys both handle writing the script?
Patrick: We both co-wrote the story but it varies on which issue as to who-did-what but I would give most of the credit of this first issue to Matt.
Matt: The story was initially an idea Adrian imagined with his buddy Chris Garcia. They brought it to RZA - who brought it to Ghostface. It was originally a skeleton of an idea that people kept adding more and more to along the way. You know Ghost came in and did his own thing and we came in and did our own thing while still being respectful to Adrianís original idea but also do something that serves the medium well. Like there are things Ghost does on a record that wouldnít work great in a comic and there are things we do in a comic that wouldnít work great on a record. Itís very much our idea in the book but there is a lot of Adrian, a lot of RZA, and a lot of Ghost all fitted together.
So would you say you had a fair amount of leeway to craft and mold the story to your liking to get your own image out there?
Matt: Well yes, it is a job we are working to serve RZA, Ghost, and make sure the book looks good and is something theyíre happy with. The story is something that we put together that we think theyíll be happy with.
Patrick: I think there is more freedom on this than there would be on 90% of corporate properties - like some of the bigger books from the big two. There was editorial oversight, people had opinions and we took notes but I would say there was much less interference and we got a lot more freedom than anticipated.
Matt: Also, I think the thing with RZA, Ghost and all those guys is they know what they are talking about and have good ideas but are also really trusting of people around them. Once they knew we werenít trying to do anything fucked with the story and once they got where we were trying to go with it, they put a lot of trust into us which was pretty cool.
That is pretty cool they have that kind of trust with people they collaborate with. I feel like most artists wouldnít give that level of trust to someone they just met. Now letís talk about the story because I have a few questions after reading the issue. From what I gathered the story is based on 12 different LPs that are linked to the deaths of those who listen to them. Are there any specific genres related to each record or is it all random?
Matt: You know, we kind of donít talk about what the LPs are in the book and sometimes I think itís better if the readers just imagined it. Like, someone came up to us the other day and asked us if the record everyone is listening to Ghostfaceís actual record and passing around. That wasnít something that occurred to me but I like that so it's my answer now. The 12 LPs in the story are copies of the record which is in stores now.
I like that concept myself, actually. Originally I thought maybe one would be a punk record and another a jazz record, you know what I mean? But I honestly like how it ties back into Ghostface much more than my original perception.
Matt: I mean we wanted the strong music connection in the book but I think just spelling it out what the music is for readers wouldn't do it justice. Letting people imagine it and do what they want was my original idea.
Now going back to the records, are we going to learn more about their creation in the story or is it going to be kept a mystery and up to the interpretation of the reader?
Matt: Youíll learn the history of the records for sure. The way the book works is there are two stories going on and down the road you may find out that the stories are actually connected. The mystery of where the records come from is definitely a big part of the book and is a major plot point.
You actually partially answered one of my questions I had about the issue. It seems like the first story didnít really have too much to do with the second. Without giving too much away, could you share a little bit as to how they are connected?
Patrick: I wonít give too much away but I will say people who were paying attention will notice that some characters from the first story and the second story were similar and they definitely are connected in some way even though the stories takes place 20 years apart. There is a connection which will be made clear, but that is all I can say about it.
Good, I personally donít want to be spoiled as a reader. While I originally read it, I thought the first issue was only 16 pages because one of the pages said "end of story one." Then I realized there were two stories going on.
Patrick: That was actually one of the leaps of faith everybody we were collaborating with was willing to put into us and is something that Matt and I wrestle with all the time. This idea that comic book readers are progressively developing shorter attention spans. So now there is a real instinct to blow up the world on page two just to keep people around and itís something that Matt and I wrestle with a lot because it goes against good story telling. Itís not something you really want to see as a writer but many readers do need it. So we wrestle with it a lot but in this particular book it was decided the payoff was going to be well worth it if we were allowed to just go slow and show things at the pace that they should be. So stick around, it unfolds, youíll get it. Thatís all I can say about that (laughs)!
And I get that, the book was a fun read but I was just slightly confused at first. Especially because up until being assigned the interview and given the advanced copy I didnít really know what to expect as I didnít see the booked advertised in many places.
Patrick: Also, the thing is that we print on acid paper and so you were dosed (laughs).
Matt: We were even able to get that on a digital copy (laughs). So youíre gonna have a bad freaky loop. You know one of the other things about the book that I think was really cool is there is a record that tells a story and itís out now. So for the sake of the book to be interesting that canít be the exact same story otherwise people are already going to know what happens. So, our book is actually kind of different from the record in some way but they also complement each other and they work off each other. We needed to tell a story that shifts peopleís perceptions. These two separate stories and these two separate timelines and how they are connected, we wanted it to be a mystery and have people not really know whatís really going on until it hits them in the face.
So youíre saying there is a direct relation to the record? While writing, did you guys have to listen to it to get inspiration for the story or how were you guys inspired by the record that was out?
Matt: Well actually, when we started working on the book the record wasnít written at all. Adrian had ideas for music and plot and we were working on story ideas and Ghost was working on story ideas too. So we couldnít really listen to the record for inspiration but I would go out to the studio sometimes and listen to tracks before Ghost had laid down vocals or anything. You know, to get a feel of what Adrian was doing with this sort of Daniel Marconi meets Portishead orchestral type project but other than that we couldnít listen to the record for inspiration because it didnít exist. As it has come out, I think it changed things later on. Iíve definitely looked at what Ghost does and tweaked things here and there in the script but the book was just written of the basic story idea and where get our inspiration from is as much a mystery to us as wherever Ghost gets his inspiration from.
Cool, without giving too much away what are some things we can expect to see in the upcoming issues?
Matt: Well we have the two timelines with different stories and with the story about the record collector is interesting because we have a lot of different artists coming in to do a few pages for us. In issue two we have Nate Powell and Tim Seeley who are some of my favorite artists in comics. Tyler Crook and Toby Cypress come on in issue 3 so if you know people in comics there are a lot of cool people coming in to do guest spots. In terms of story youíre going to find out more about the rise of the Anthony Starks character and youíre going to find out more about the mystery of the records and see how theyíre if at all connected and see what it all means.
Cool. I know one of the main characters in the book is Anthony Starks, is that a nod to Iron Man or is it not related at all?
Patrick: This is actually a funny subject; Ghost has been calling himself Tony Stark. You know, hip hop artists have multiple aliases and thatís what heís been referring to himself for over a decade. So when it came to writing this book we had to make it clear to Ghostís team there was no way we could get away with using Tony Starkís name. We just couldnít do it because of the intellectual property rights and we donít want to go to jail for five years. So the Anthony Starks thing is a nod to a nod (laughs).So there has to be some separation otherwise people get in trouble. I mean me and Patrick love Iron Man and Ghost loves Iron Man but itís just an allusion to a reference.
Now before we wrap this up I actually didnít see how many issues the book is solicited for but I assume itís a limited series and not ongoing so how many issues is the book slated for?
Matt: Itís six issues but a lot of people have been reporting that itís 12 issues since itís called 12 Reasons to Die and there are 12 tracks on the record but I surely would have a stroke before I get to 12 issues. Also, itís a monthly series so weíll see one issue a month starting with the first issue on May 8th. When weíre done it will be collected later in the year. There are some rumors that some cool Ghost stuff is coming out with the collected edition but weíre not supposed to talk about that.
Now before I let you guys go, did you want to talk about some upcoming projects you have? I saw some solicits in the back of the issue so if there are any you want to talk about you are more than welcome to.
Patrick: I didnít see the PDF you were sent but I assume those were the other Black Mask books. Theyíre the publishers weíre working with on this project and theyíre doing some bold stuff and some good stuff - so we wish them luck with that. Matt can tell you more about the teams behind those books but theyíre good. But for us, the thing we want to push right now is our friendís book Five Ghosts which is an image book. Our friend Frank has a backup we are currently doing, starting with issue two which is currently on shelves now. Thatíll run for the next few issues and itís a lot of visibility for us because even though itís just a backup, Frankís book is doing really well and lots of people have eyes on it. So we are very grateful to him and with the story we took the opportunity to really go with a rather dark story. It is fulfilling project for both of us and we got an opportunity to work with artists who we think are fantastic. Itís been great because in these small increments weíve been able to do something weíve wanted to do for quite some time. So everyone should pick that up.
Matt: I was just going to say our publisher for this project is awesome, Mr. Brett, Steve Niles, and Matt Pizzolo have been really cool to us and we also were huge fans of their book Occupy Comics anthology. The first issue is out this month. We have a story in issue two about dealing with home foreclosures and things like that.
Patrick: You know, we make home foreclosures pretty interesting. I just wanna put that out there.
Matt: Yeah. We put a put a human face on home foreclosure. Then we also do a monthly book on Trip City called Menu which is a series of short stories about a boy and a dog wandering in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of America. They are funny, sad, gross, really violent, and weird. You never know what youíre going to get. But if you go to welcometotripcity.com there is a new one for free every month because we like to give people stuff for free.
Thatís cool; I donít have any questions left. Do you guys have any final statements for the readers?
Matt: Thanks for the interview. I know a Wu-Tang book might not appeal to everyone but we worked hard to make a book that I think is something that even if youíre not a fan of Ghostface, a fan of RZA, or a hip hop person itís still a cool book. I mean we have an all-star lineup of artists, some of the best in the business for sure. Itís a pretty real, wild story and I would hope that people will head to their local comic book shop and pick it up and I think youíd be surprised at what we do with it. Pat, you want to plug your record.
Patrick: New Self Defense Record and a new Drug Church record both coming out in 2013. So yeah - buy those records.
Matt: Yeah, give Patrick some money and buy those records.
Thanks for your time guys. Take care.