Allen: How are you doing today, Caleb? I also want to personally thank you for taking time to participate in a Jazma Online interview.
Caleb: Youíre welcome, Allen. Iím doing well today.
Allen: Tell me something about yourself, your family life, where you live and what sort of schools you went to.
Caleb: Letís see... Iím married to a beautiful woman and we live in Los Angeles. Just a family of two right now. For a day job, I work at the renowned Meltdown Comics (http://meltcomics.com) on Sunset Blvd. I went to a little school in Lookout Mountain, GA called Covenant College. After two years there, I left to work on film sets for three years or so. Around the same time is when I started actively pursuing writing comic books.
Allen: Do you recall some of the first comic books you ever read? Tell me about childhood comic book shop you used to buy comic books at.
Caleb: I do. There was this little shop near where I lived in Greenville, SC. It was called New Dimension Comics and they had this big colorful mural in their front window that had Spider-Man, Captain America, Wolverine and the Punisher on it. Every time we drove past there that mural caught my eye. I didnít even fully understand what sort of stuff they sold there. But that mural was all the convincing I needed that there was something cool going on in there. I asked my dad if we could go, and finally one day he took me. It was wall-to-wall comic booksÖeven cooler than I had imagined! I ended up selecting a Spider-Man back issue. Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #16, to be precise. ďThe Beetle and the BadgeĒ. On my next trip I picked up #32 of the same series, and that led to me having to get #33 and #34, because it was a 3-part story featuring the Lizard and the Iguana. And it all just continued from there.
Allen: How did you get involved in the comic book industry? Did you have any formal training?
Caleb: When I left college two things were happening. 1) I was trying to figure out what, exactly, to do with my life, and 2) I was having a comic-reading renaissance. I hadnít been buying many comics while at school because I couldnít afford them. But now that I had income again I got back into the habit. Except this time I went through the transition I think most readers go through at some point where the characters started taking a back seat in my mind to the story, and therefore to the people who were writing the stories. It started with Warren Ellisís ďChange or DieĒ storyline in Stormwatch and Grant Morrisonís JLA. Books like Morrisonís The Invisibles and Garth Ennisís Preacher werenít far behind. I became aware of the writers behind the books who were creating these amazing pieces of pop culture, and realized I could be one of them if I wanted.
Training-wise, I had already been writing genre fiction and selling it to magazines and the like. I had sold my first two pieces of writing, a short story and a poem, to the local newspaper when I was 11 (that same year I bought my first comic book), and had kept writing all through high school and college. I attended a second school during my senior year of high school and got a Creative Writing diploma in addition to my high school one. I had helped edit the high school literary magazine, I had been an editor for the college newspaper and, like I said, Iíd sold a few stories. So I just started aiming all that energy into writing comics.
I did an Internet search to find an example of comic script format (I found an older Twilight Zone example) and a community where I could get feedback. The first forum like that I found was the Creatorís Corner of the old Top Cow boards. So I hung around there and critiqued other peopleís work and got my work critiqued and just generally made friends. A couple years later it was one of those friends, Jimmy Bott: http://jimmybott.blogspot.com/ who helped me get my first published work. He had become the penciller for an independent series called Government Bodies, and they wanted to do back-up stories. So he recommended me and I got to write the first one, which appeared in the second issue. Micah Gunnell was the artist. He later went on to compete in Comic Book Idol, where he was picked up by Aspen Comics.
After that I kept finding other creators of like minds, kept writing short stories (and even longer ones) and looking for artists to draw them, and eventually more and more of them began seeing print.
These early experiences also led to the creation of my Creator Help (http://calebmonroe.com/?page_id=6) resource for comic creators. It was the site I wish had existed when I was getting started, but since it didnít, I built it.
Allen: Who are some people that are your role models in the comic book industry?
Caleb: Ellis and Morrison, which I mentioned above. Gerard Way, Mark Waid, Joe Casey, Brian K. Vaughan, Alan Moore. I try to learn especially from the way these writers never approach a project the same way twice.
Allen: How did you become associated with Boom! Studios?
Caleb: I knew several of the guys at BOOM! because theyíre an LA-based company and I live in LA and work in LAís largest comic shop. Then one of the managers at the shop moved over to BOOM! as an editor. He was familiar with my work and liked it and that gave me an opportunity when the right project came across his plate.
Allen: Tell me about your work on The Remnant comic book.
Caleb: Working on the Remnant has been extremely rewarding. Itís my first longer work (4 issues), so Iíve had the opportunity to fit a lot more details than usual into the character development, action, etc. without it getting cramped, to let ideas unfold at their own pace. I couldnít ask for a better story to develop, I couldnít ask for a better editor than Matt Gagnon to help me stay on course and I couldnít ask for a better artist than Julian Totino Tedesco (http://totinotedesco.blogspot.com) to bring my scripts to life.
Allen: What kind of story is The Remnant? I am also curious if itís based on real life situations or is pure fiction?
Caleb: Itís a counter-terrorism story set against the backdrop of the end of the world. Our main character is fighting for the sake of the love of his life and fighting to understand whatís happening to them. Itís a story about the nature and power of events that are beyond our control and how we choose to react in the face of the situations they create.
So itís fiction. But at the same time itís based on real life in the same way every good fiction is. Characters still need to act believably human. Still need to have motivations, problems, pain and triumphs we can understand.
Allen: How did the concept of The Remnant come about?
Caleb: Stephen Baldwin had the original idea for this series. He met with the guys at BOOM! and they really liked what they were hearing and wanted to turn it into a comic book. So Stephen teamed up with Andrew Cosby (creator of Eureka for the Sci-Fi Channel) and they hammered out a treatment. Itís been my job to take that treatment and turn it into four great issues worth of comics.
Allen: How hard has it been for you to take Stephen Baldwin and Andrew Cosbyís idea and turn it into script?
Caleb: Not hard at all, really. When the original concept youíre handed is an imaginative, entertaining conceptÖthen youíve already halfway won the battle. Because itís a strong idea, you want to bring your own strongest ideas to the table to do it justice. You donít want to mess with the treatment too much, because itís already a great read. Instead, you want to serve it and crystallize it and amplify it.
Allen: Tell me about the characters in The Remnant.
Caleb: Our main character is David Sacker. Heís in his 40ís, heís worked for the CIA for a long time. But now heís married and heís retiring from the life. Until both him and his wife find themselves caught up in a terrorist attack. He starts digging a little deeper and discovers the terrorists may be the least of his worries, that thereís something else much larger and more important happening behind the scenes. Other than David, we follow his wife, Sarah, two DHS agents and a mysterious stranger who has a knack for appearing all over the world during the absolutely worst disasters.
Allen: How do you think artist Julian Totino Todesco did on art for The Remnant? How would you describe his art style?
Caleb: I think Julian has done an amazing job. Iím really blessed to be scripting his U.S. debut. I think comic readers will be seeing a lot more of his work in coming years. When Matt first sent me a link to Julianís work, my response was, ďYes, please.Ē His style has elements of South American artists in it, of European artists and of US artists like James Jean. But all these influences have sunk into the background of his mind to the point where what he grows out of them is 100% his own.
Allen: When can we find this comic book on the stands? Also, will this be a mini series or a longer series?
Caleb: The Remnant is a 4-issue miniseries. The first issue comes out on Christmas Eve, then it will continue once a month after that for the next three months. Eventually it will be collected into a trade.
Allen: What conventions will you be attending or have attended?
Caleb: I attend WWLA and SDCC every year. In addition to those two mainstays, this year I hope to also make it to NYCC, WonderCon and possibly even Emerald City Con. Weíll see.
Allen: How can someone contact you? What is your website URL address?
Caleb: I can be contacted at any time through the contact page on my website, which is http://calebmonroe.com . The Creator Help page I mentioned earlier can also be found there, as well as all the latest news on my current and upcoming projects.
Allen: What are your hobbies and recreational activities?
Caleb: Writing is my recreational activity. For now, at least, while Iím doing it around a day job. My time basically breaks down into wife, work and writing. Those three keep my schedule pretty full. Throw in reading for fun and profit and the occasional outing with friends and I have just enough time left over for sleep.
Allen: If you could have any super powers for day which ones would you like to have?
Caleb: Hmmm. You left me a loophole there by saying ďpowersĒ, plural. But Iíll try to keep it concise.
Iíd kind of like to have Gladiatorís belief-based powers, the ability to do just about anything for the sake of what he believes in. Other than that, I can imagine few things cooler than being able to fly under my own power...
Allen: If you can have 6 dinner guests, 3 fictional and 3 real-life from any time period, who would those 6 people be and why?
Caleb: Real-life guests would be Louis Armstrong (because he was not just a musical genius, but a genius of entertainment and by all accounts a very fun person to be with), Lafayette (probably my favorite historical figure, someone who truly lived his life based on the principles he believed in) and Harlan Ellison (who is one of my favorite writers, a true character, and has lived a 20th century life like few others).
Fictional guests would be Charlie Brown (who I think we can all identify with), Aslan (a character I love as much now as when I was a child) and Superman (because Iíd want to meet a real live superhero, and Superman is the preeminent, quintessential superhero).
Allen: If you could go into any time machine, what year would you stop at and tell me why?
Caleb: I think Iíd go all the way back, like Garden of Eden back. Thatís a place and an idea that has always fascinated me, and I think we can learn about our future there. Iíve written several stories for an upcoming anthology series called Parable, and my story for the second volume takes place in Eden and is one of my most favorite short stories to date.
Allen: What TV shows, movies, cartoons do you like?
Caleb: I donít watch much. I donít even have television. Everything I watch is on DVD or the Internet. My wife and I love to unwind to an episode or two of Scrubs, 30 Rock or I Love Lucy. Iím looking forward to John Rogersís Leverage, which I believe started airing this past week. Movie-wise, my favorites this year have been Iron Man and Speed Racer.
Allen: What books or authors do you enjoy reading?
Caleb: Harlan Ellison, which I mentioned earlier. Jack McDevitt, Michael Connelly, Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, Dan Simmons, Dean Koontz. These are the writers from whom Iíll pick up a book just because their nameís one it. Iíve also recently been reading the novellas of Stephen King, because the novella is a form Iíve always been interested by and heís written quite a few of them.
Also, for the first time in my life, Iíve been doing more nonfiction reading than fiction. Iíve been gobbling up anything I can get my hands on about publishing and monetizing online content and things like Creative Commons. I think weíre in the beginnings of a real sea change in all the story-telling media and I want to understand it as it happens, and hopefully even see parts of it coming.
Allen: What comic books do you read now?
Caleb: Scalped, Criminal, Phonogram, Hack/Slash and most anything by Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis or Jason Aaron. Those are the cream of the crop.
Allen: What gives you your creative energy?
Caleb: Boy, if only I could figure that out and sell it! Iím not entirely sure, really. Something in my makeup doesnít let me stop creating or working on stories. Having the right music helps. Iíve been listening to a lot of Sleepbot (http://sleepbot.com) lately while I write. Reading the right books help. See my previous answers about what I read.
Allen: Is there any talk about turning The Remnant into television series?
Caleb: I think the comic industryís in a place where the potential for film or television adaptation is something that companies consider for every project, however briefly. But I certainly donít think itís the goal, it hasnít been the goal for The Remnant. We wanted to make a smashing good comic. Anything else would just be extra frosting on the cake. As far as I know, no oneís discussing anything yet.
Allen: What future projects are you working on?
Caleb: There are the Parable anthologies which I mentioned, which should hopefully see the light of day sometime in 2009. There are a couple back-up stories that will run in a DDP book in the coming months. Other than that, Iím really buckling down at the moment and working on launching some creator-owned work. Hopefully Iíll be able to make all sorts of neat announcements in the coming year.
Allen: This ends the interview. Do you have encouraging words of wisdom?
Caleb: Lifeís short. Pursue the person you love, pursue the thing you love to do. For me, itís my wife and writing comics.
As for writing advice... well, start small. Short stories are much easier to get drawn and get published and are the best way to get experience. For any more than that, I say visit my Creator Help page for far better advice from far more experienced writers. http://calebmonroe.com/?page_id=6