An Interview with Joey Esposito, Writer of ‘Captain Ultimate’ and ‘Footprints’

Earlier this month, Marcus hyped Joey Esposito’s and Jonathan Moore’s Kickstarter campaign for their new comic, Footprints: Bad Luck Charm in Get Psyched On It! Now, Marcus chats one-on-one with Joey about the new full-color one-shot, his background in comics, and what inspires him to be involved with the comic industry. Take it away, Marcus!

joey-esposito-footprintsTo start off, could you describe your personal connection to comics in general? What comics inspired you to become a writer both in the sense of reviews and on the creative side? What else has driven you to devote your time to create books like Footprints and Captain Ultimate?

I’ve been “reading” comics since before I could read. My parents were both comic book fans and gave them to me at a very young age, so comics are the fabric of my entire life. A lot of my fondest memories of growing up are tied to comics in one way or another, whether it’s going to my first comic book show and getting a copy of the polybagged Adventures of Superman #500 or getting loaded up on Archie digests from the supermarket checkout. I was always into writing stories, but the closest I got to creating comics was tracing Dan Jurgens’ Superman comics and redoing the dialogue.

Until college, I was extremely interested in telling stories visually so I went to film school, not realizing that making comics was something that people could do as a career. But in school I took some comics courses, making comics, and my mind was blown and that really refocused my creativity. I guess the most inspirational comics that led me to focus on this medium is stuff like Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware, Y: The Last Man by Bryan K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra, and the work of Jason.

As for Footprints, that was driven by my love for crime fiction and film noir, coupled with an interest in cryptozoology. Captain Ultimate, which I do with co-writer Ben Bailey, artist Boy Akkerman, colorist Ed Ryzowski, and letterer Adam Pruett, really stems from an overwhelming desire to do an all-ages book, something that we wanted to read ourselves but didn’t see existing in the current market.

Would you take a second and just describe your motivation to create the world of cryptids that are presented in Footprints Vol. 1 and the upcoming one-shot, Footprints: Bad Luck Charm?

Sure! Like I mentioned, it really stems from our love of film noir and cryptozoology. We saw an opportunity to create interesting parallels between the tropes of noir and these urban legends and so we took advantage of it. At the same time, we wanted to play it completely straight. The world of Footprints has plots that could only be possible with the usage of characters like Bigfoot and Nessy, but the way they interact with one another and the world around them is played straight.

I think that’s helped by Jonathan’s art in a really significant way. He’s got a background in anatomy and traditional illustration and I think that helps ground these characters in a way that some other styles would struggle to do.

Are the ideas for Footprints: Bad Luck Charm ideas that you had as you were creating the first volume, or did you have to take a step back, digest what you had written, and start fresh?

To some degree it’s stuff that we’d talked about during Volume 1. Jonathan is from South Carolina, and as we’d go back and forth on what we could potentially do for future Footprints stories, he mentioned wanting to use The Lizard Man, a sort of hometown urban legend for him. So when we decided to do a one-shot, that was the first thing we went for. But there are tons of ideas that we’ve had, and I would say we’ve had the broad strokes of what could be Volumes 2-4 for quite a while. Bad Luck Charm is kind of an interlude; it has ties to Volume 1 but is more standalone than the next volume might be.

footprintspreview_p21The first volume of Footprints was presented in black and white. Why did you and Jonathan decide to go with a full color layout for your new project?

We figured that we couldn’t stay black and white if we were going to send the characters to Las Vegas. The atmosphere and tone of Vegas relies so heavily on bright colors that it wouldn’t have been true to the story. So we opted to go with color. I love black and white comics a great deal, but for these particular stories we simply thought that color would be more appropriate.

In what ways do you feel that you and Jonathan have grown as a creative team since the first volume?

Oh, I think we’ve grown significantly. When we did the first Footprints, we were still getting to know each other as creators and as friends. Building trust, learning strengths and weaknesses, that sort of thing. But now we’ve become good friends, done multiple projects together, and really gotten a handle on how one another works. I’m very open to him changing things up as he sees fit and I think he understands and trusts my opinion on how the story should be told. But we’re both very open and honest with each other in terms of feedback, I think, which is necessary for any creative partnership and really strengthens the final product even if it differs slightly from what you thought it might be at the beginning.

By using the legendary characters of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and Chupacabra the story has clear connections to horror/science fiction, but it also mixes a classic hard-boiled detective tone into it. Did you know when you first started writing these stories that you wanted to blend these genres or did it just organically occur as you were putting the pieces together?

We knew we wanted to do a hardboiled story. The first art I had seen from Jonathan was this noir story he was working on. Our first project together didn’t go anywhere, so when we wanted to do something new we decided we should put his talents in that arena to good use. Eventually that combined with a different story I was cooking up about Bigfoot and it just sort of became what Footprints is now. But I always look at Footprints as crime fiction first, monster stuff second.

Where does your inspiration to write in these two genres come from?

It’s just what I’m interested in, really. I love the way crime fiction challenges the reader’s moral and ethical center. And horror challenges the reader in a wholly different way, so mixing the two creates something really unique and sometimes terrifying. Books like Fatale or shows like True Detective do it really well. By nature Footprints has a lot more levity than either of those examples, but I think they probably all come from the same place.

footprints-bad-luck-charmFootprints: Bad Luck Charm has a decidedly different direction to it than your work on Captain Ultimate. Is it challenging to switch back and forth between two different worlds? Does the change between creative genres help you maintain your passion for one story over the other?

Yeah, I don’t know that it’s challenging as much as it’s reinvigorating to switch up genres. I get bored really easily if I do the same thing for too long, whether that’s in writing or a regular job or whatever. So in order to keep things fresh for myself and keep myself engaged I need to change it up. I couldn’t write in one genre or on one set of characters forever, not unless I was doing other stuff that’s totally different. So Captain Ultimate is definitely that for me, both because it’s a more light-hearted affair than everything else I’m doing and because I co-write it with Ben. Writing is usually lonely and solitary, so it’s a blast to bounce ideas off someone and just generally have a lot of fun with it.

Both Footprints and Captain Ultimate have received pretty high praise amongst your readers and in mainstream media. Does one type of praise influence you more than the other?

Thanks! I don’t think either influences me other than it’s always nice to hear good things about what you’ve done. But you can’t let it influence you because if the good influences you, so does the bad. And either way is toxic, just in different ways. At the end of the day, you have to do what you do for yourself and nobody else. If people have a reaction to it, good or bad, that’s awesome to hear. But it can’t affect how you approach a story, otherwise you’re done for.

Having been entrenched in the mainstream comic industry for a some time, has your experience with Kickstarter campaigns changed the way you view the mainstream industry versus the independent scene?

I think it’s interesting to see the “mainstream” creators using platforms like Kickstarter to make their pet projects happen. Regardless of what it may seem like from the outside, it’s still incredibly difficult for even successful creators to make particular projects happen exactly as they envision, and I think Kickstarter is a great solution to circumventing that. That said, it has proven more difficult to get attention on projects from new or up-and-coming creators, simply because of the sheer volume of Kickstarters that exist now. It’s a great platform for anyone, but it does require one to be a bit more creative when you’re going up against creators with a built-in fan base.

But even since 2011, when we ran our first Kickstarter, it’s amazing to see how much more ingrained in comics culture Kickstarter has become. When we did our first one, Kickstarter was still sort of on the fringes and was this unknown entity. In 2014, it’s as much a part of the industry as anything else. It’s awesome to see.

After the Kickstarter for Footprints: Bad Luck Charm is completed do you have any plans for anymore projects?

Definitely! There’s some work that hasn’t been announced yet in addition to more Captain Ultimate at Monkeybrain Comics. I’ve also got some new creator-owned stuff that will hopefully be hitting toward the end of the year, but nothing I’m ready to talk about at length quite yet. My graphic novel with Sean Von Gorman, Pawn Shop, also hit recently and is available in print at my store or digitally on Comixology.

What comics currently garner the attention of such a busy man as yourself?

I’ve really been enjoying Afterlife with Archie, Burn the Orphanage, Pretty Deadly, Rat Queens, Batman: Eternal, Daredevil, and pretty much every book from Valiant.

A big THANK YOU to Joey Esposito for talking with us. You can check out six pages from the upcoming Footprints: Bad Luck Charm below, and if you like what you read then by all means check out the Kickstarter and donate!







About Marcus Hammond

Marcus is a proofreader with an obsession for comic books, movies, and if he's honest with himself, all things pop culture. He embraces his dorky, analytical side and finds nothing wrong with wearing a superhero t-shirt everyday, even if it's underneath a collared shirt. He finds Twitter fascinating so if one is so compelled, however, you can reach him at @BoomGalactus.

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