By Dan Horn
Apr 11, 2010 - 12:12
Dan Horn (CBB): Hey, Jeff, thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.
Jeff Loew (JL): No problem. I’m happy for any opportunity to talk about my comics.
CBB: Your new series The Regulators goes on sale this month from Visionary Comics (www.visionarycomics.com). What can you tell us about this comic?
JL: The Regulators came about when I was given the opportunity to write a straight science fiction story for a proposed anthology book. One of the editors suggested that the lead character be a bounty hunter or a space marshal. I tend to be a contrarian, so I decided to make the character something more boring, like the guy who checks your electric meter. A “functionary” is the word I used to describe him. Obviously the story is driven by action and suspense, but the root of the idea was that he’s literally just a regulator – with a play on the fact that Jesse James’ gang was also called the Regulators. The anthology never happened, but George Todorovski and I went ahead and finished the book and eventually submitted it to Visionary.
CBB: I just had the privilege of reading this one-shot debut. It really feels like a classic 2000 A.D. jaunt into the far-flung future. Was the book The Regulators influenced by the sci-fi stories in that British magazine, and what other stories have influenced this title?
JL: 2000 A.D. and Judge Dredd blew my mind when they were reprinted in the U.S. in the early 80s. Those stories have definitely influenced my writing. My proudest publication credit is probably a short story I had printed in the small press section of the Judge Dredd Megazine a few years back. I’d say that the Regulators is also influenced by the same 1950s and 1960s classic science fiction that influenced 2000 A.D., folks like Robert A. Heinlein. The structure of the story, with Pax Manfreddy, the lead character, hunting for another lost regulator on Mars, is pretty archetypal for a hard-boiled noir mystery. I even re-watched John Ford’s classic western, The Searchers, when thinking about the best way to tell the story – the Martian landscape stands in for the American West.
CBB: The main player in this story, Paxton Manfreddy, is such a cool character. How did Paxton’s persona come about?
JL: On the one hand I wanted Pax to be a very matter-of-fact, blue collar guy. Simply doing his job and getting into trouble along the way. But as I worked with George to develop the character, it became clear that he should be more active and effective in pursuing his goals. So some of Pax’s more cerebral qualities were transferred to Lyle Westin, the regulator who’s gone missing. And Pax became a character who’s got his own brand of intelligence, but one who uses his muscle to solve most problems. George’s illustrations brought even more personal details to Pax’s persona.
CBB: George Todorovoski’s artwork is absolutely brilliant and really fun to pore over. How did your collaboration with George come about?
JL: The group putting together the anthology sent me links to some artists’ work, and I immediately wanted to work with him. I’m a huge fan of Moebius, and a lot of George’s art is evocative of Moebius’s line work as well as his vast imagination. The Regulators is pretty restrained compared to some of George’s other work – he had a story published in Heavy Metal last year. But I think his portrayal of the Martian inhabitants and their culture is very distinctly Todorovski.
CBB: Is there a message you’re trying to relate through this politically charged future thriller?
JL: In creating Pax’s world, I wanted to explore the relationship between the Regulators and the colonial settlements, like the Martian settlement where much of the story takes place. This relationship is basically a caricature of the present relationship between industrialized nations and so-called “Third World” countries or developing nations. So if there’s any message, the story is a critique of neocolonialism, or more precisely, a study of one character’s realization that the situation is more complicated than he thought.
The Regulators follow the orders of the United Americas, one of the future super-continents the story envisions. The settlers receive support from the United Americas, but only enough to send back their natural resources. To the extent they become self-sufficient or threaten independence – such as developing their own unauthorized energy sources – the Regulators step in and enforce the status quo.
In the real world of the present, the relationship between some developed and developing countries has become more complicated now, with organizations like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and USAID providing investment if the developing countries continue to produce the resources the developed companies want. But China is developing a more classic neocolonial relationship with Africa, influencing the countries’ social and economic policies to better exploit their natural resources.
CBB: When can we expect to see more of The Regulators?
JL: George and I have talked for a while about doing some more Regulators stories. Right now he’s very busy with a hit comic up in Toronto called The Bear Stories, about a cuddly teddy bear who happens to be a profane, occasionally violent sociopath. It’s a good time, and fun for the whole family. I’ve been writing a graphic novel/memoir with a collaborator, that’s taken up quite a bit of time. But if The Regulators gets enough attention, we’ve got a lot more stories to tell.
CBB: Your last project was The Frog Princess. What can you tell us about that book?
JL: The Frog Princess is a full-length
graphic novel illustrated by Rie Ikaza, an Indonesian manga artist.
Its primary characters are Larissa Talcott, an amphibian biologist trying
to save her research pond from developers, and Liam O’Neill, a lawyer
who’s secretly working for the developers. They fall in love,
of course, and each of them has to recalibrate their view of the world
to adjust to the threats they’re facing. And they each team
up to save the frogs, along with a group of diverse and colorful allies.
The book was published in print by eigoMANGA in association with Visionary,
and reprinted online at Drive-Thru Comics and elsewhere. I believe
we’ve sold a few hundred copies at various conventions, and I’ve
been very happy with the response and attention it received.
CBB: It seems like quite a leap from The Frog Princess to The Regulators. How exactly did you go from that book to this current one?
JL: Believe it or not, there are a lot of thematic similarities to the stories, despite one being a hard-boiled science fiction thriller and the other being a light romantic comedy with fantasy elements. The characters of Liam and Pax in particular have a similar arc, as each is ordered to carry out a mission that ultimately comes into conflict with their core principles, which they’ve been ignoring as they pursue their careers. Each of them must essentially “go to war” to resolve that conflict.
CBB: I’ve spoken with some creators who have implied that they believe web comics and downloadable content would soon become the new circular rack. With Visionary Comics releasing The Regulators digitally, what’s your view of the downloadable comic medium, and how has being published digitally affected you as opposed to being printed and distributed to local comic shops?
JL: I would say that for the next few years, being published in print may still be the gold standard for most creators, both in terms of credibility and in generating income. But the print medium is shrinking, as evidenced by Diamond’s new policies shutting out even more small press books. So it’s inevitable that the shift to online content will continue. Technologies like the iPad will make this easier for users. Developing an economic model workable for small press creators will remain a real challenge, though.
CBB: Do you have any other upcoming projects that you can tell us about?
JL: Right now I’m collaborating with a colleague whose great uncle occupied an interesting place in history in the years before World War I. He was a British Jewish boxer who fought for the welterweight championship twice – once for England, and once for the British Empire. He lost both times, but in the mean time had a fascinating life spanning three continents. We’re still in the research and plotting stage, but I think it’s a very compelling story that will be a lot of fun to put together. And it should open up readers’ eyes to a part of history that’s been largely forgotten, when lower-class Jews made up more than a third of professional boxers in the United States and the United Kingdom.I also have a supernatural crime story that Visionary plans to release in the near future. We’ve had a colorist drop out, so there have been a few delays. Finally, I have a superhero comic that will likely see rebirth as a Web comic in the next year or so. So I’m definitely keeping busy!