Wednesday, October 10, 2012

October's Peculiar Person of the Month: Writer and Editor Jorel Lonesome

 Jorel Lonesome is an American comic book writer and editor best known for his independent comic anthology series, Blackout 1 & 2 for Pronto Comics. In addition, he has featured stories in other Pronto Comics anthologies such as For a Price, Kicked and Pronto Goes to War. Born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx, he is the second of two children of a middle school teaching mother and a computer-engineering father. A student and scholar at Borough of Manhattan Community College working on his associate’s degree in English, Jorel is working on becoming a better writer. He first found his love of comics by drawing his own using familiar characters such as Spider-Man, Spawn, and Blade. His appreciation for writing developed by keeping a journal, where he would add physical objects, mementos, newspaper and magazine article photos, relating to most of his journal entries. A fan of everything from hard rock bands, WWE wrestlers, and spoken word poetry, helped to influence his writing. At 16, Jorel performed his spoken word poetry at numerous venues such as Deborah Gray throughout New York City. He had a signature piece, Town Crier, a poem that depicts the social issues of his community, which was well received by audiences. From 2004 to 2010, he was an MC known as Silent Thoughts, where he featured rap cyphers called, "Spit-N-Pass" before deciding to take a break from spoken word poetry to focus on comics. Jorel was kind enough to sit down it This Peculiar Life NYC to tell us all about how he got started and his creative process.

This Peculiar Life NYC: You are involved in comics; tell me how did you become a part of Pronto Comics?

Jorel Lonesome: It all started when I enrolled in Andy Schmidt's Comics Experience courses instructed by Mike Siglain, an editor at DC comics at the time. It was a hand’s on intensive 6-week program, learning how to create effective visual storytelling. It was quite a challenge, but it is one of the best courses to take if you want to learn how to draw and/or write comics.  When classes were over, I stuck around quick enough to keep in touch with colleagues. There I was introduced to the students who took the writing courses. Achilles Yeldell, a student from the comics experience writing course and the founder of Pronto Comics, had us all join him in what he called "The Breaking In Network,"  to discuss what comic book stories we can create as a group. The writers and artists, me included, networked together and decided to create a comic book anthology about bounty hunters. We scheduled monthly meetings at a pizza shop downtown near Times Square. The meeting consisted of finding out what stories that beginning writers want to tell, pitching their stories to artists and working together to develop a five- page comic for the anthology. So we collaborated and eventually released our first book titled For a Price: Bounty Hunters And Other Scum. It features ten stories from various writers and artists in addition to other talents that were not in the comics experience courses, but joined to show their magic on a page. More comfortable taking the position as writer, I wrote a short story that is featured called "Club Banger". It was about a hard-nosed, veteran bounty hunter named Conrad Buchanan. He must capture a shape shifting bail jumper, formally created by a secret US government experiment. After the anthology was released, everyone suggested we'd make up a name for ourselves as a collective?  We called ourselves Pronto Comics. I’ve been with the group three years now.

 T.P.L. NYC: What were you doing before Pronto?

J.L.: I was reciting poems and spoken word at little cozy cafe's, bars and clubs throughout New York City.

T.P.L. NYC: You are a writer for comics. How has your experience as a writer shaped your view of comics?

J.L.: I remember seeing my first comic in print. It was interesting to go back to memory lane and realize how it began and what it takes to make a decent story for readers. I remember having to edit my script 4-5 times to get it right within a 5-page limit. It was not easy work, but when you have a passion for writing comics and enjoy the process, there is no stopping you. Seeing my story told from script form to a visual narrative blew me away. Over the years, thus far, I continue learning more about how comics should be done for the sake of our audience.  I can look through a comic book and find the fundamental development that lies within each completed page, how it relates to my process of making a comic and comparing their work to mine, whether it’s good or bad. I take into consideration of how important it is to tell a visual story and the contents that need to be there for readers. The goal of making a comic book is to keep your audience turning from page to page using dynamic visuals and compelling storytelling. Whenever I make a comic, I make it my goal to meet the standards. It is also a great accomplishment to exceed our audience’s expectations.

T.P.L. NYC: Blackout is your signature book. Tell me what it is about?

Blackout 1
J.L.: Mischievous brothers, Chester and Preston Pemberton, arrive at a mysterious tree house in the outskirts of Vineville Town. Suddenly, the brothers are welcoming guests by the lonely being as it brings them inside of its realm for a treat. Hesitant to enter it, Chester and Preston peek through a room filled with art utensils, painting canvases and magical paraphernalia as if it were occupied by a wizard of some kind. They’re captivated by it and play as long as they please, until Chester mistakenly hits Preston with a magic wand, causing Preston to spill magic ink onto a mapped painting of Vineville. As the ink trickles down, the light bulb flickers in the room. Once the black ink covers the whole painting, the entire town is out of electrical power as all sources of light become scarce. A series of mishaps occur in the town, which most of our Vineville residents concurrently experience during the first night of this particular blackout.


T.P.L. NYC: How did you come up with the concept for it?

J.L.: It was a hot day in the summer of 2010.  In my neighborhood, everyone had their air conditioning on, in their homes and led to me thinking, what if all the power eventually goes out? Later that night, I said it too soon. I was packing up to go out of the country for vacation. During my destination from New York to the Caribbean Islands, I began to believe that it might be interesting to have a blackout themed comic book. I pitched it to the Pronto guys and they liked the idea, so we went with it.

 T.P.L. NYC: How many issues is it?

J.L.: There is issue one and two issue three will be released in the near future.

T.P.L. NYC: When can we see the new issue?

J.L.: Issue 2 will be ready October 2012. Blackout 3 is slated for release in 2013.

T.P.L. NYC: The format has changed from an anthology to a series of one-shots. Why the change?

J.L.: Pronto is heading towards a new direction, which is writing one-shots, so after Blackout issues #2 and #3, it will then become a series. We also want to focus on the town itself and get more in depth with our characters.

 T.P.L. NYC: What is the new one- shot about?

J.L.: Despite the continuation of the Blackout series still in development process, we know that it continues where the anthologies left off. Blackout will pay more attention to the town and its cryptic past, which the founders and authority of the town try burying to maintain control. We experience how this mysterious blackout begins to wear on the residents and how Vineville's scarcity of light effects their living standards. The characters will lead our way to getting deeper into the town’s origin and the cost for doing so.

Cover for Blackout 2

T.P.L. NYC: Aside from being a writer you are also an editor, how do you feel the two jobs are different from each other?

J.L.: As an editor, you have to build a creative bond with the writers and artists. Staying on the same page is very important. You have to make sure the people involved in the project are on tabs with their work and doing it properly for the story to be told as well. You have responsibility over the progress of each story for the sake of the comic book. You also need to look at a page and find out what works and what doesn't. You need to find what needs to be added, taken out or changed. You should also ask yourself, “What would make this page better? Does the art flow well with the story through the panels?  Are the characters engaging? Will the reader be entertained throughout the book? What enlightenment or feelings, emotions can we get out of the reader? What relationship does the characters and audience share? I look for character development in the story so we can put ourselves in the characters shoes and immerse ourselves in the story as we find ways we can interpret it from our viewpoint. As a beginning editor, I look out for these things.  I try to avoid dissatisfying the reader or audience. Comic book editors are like the producer or director of a film, managing the project creatively with guidance, support and appreciation for the people involved in the process. A comic book writer must make sure the story is clear, properly structured and entertaining. The writer’s should also be on the same page with their artists. These are some of the things to look out for. Through experience, another difference between writer and editor is that for writers, you are given deadlines and guidelines you must follow. There’s less responsibility or tasks given compared to an editor.

T.P.L. NYC: Is there one that you enjoy doing more?

J.L.: Both duties are essential to your practice of understanding the way comics are made. I learn something new from it after each story I finish thanks to the other people involved in the project.

T.P.L. NYC: What do you feel makes a good script and story from your point of view?

J.L.: A good story must have its beginning, middle and end. It must connect with audiences on an emotional level as well as riveting. The characters must be engaging and make us feel whether we dislike him/her or not. I like to feel enlightened by stories and before I forget, a good theme for the story is very important. I like stories that provide a message and give lessons that I can incorporate in everyday life. I also like to experience the worldview of characters that I have never tapped into. When I close a story at its ending, I want to get some sort of emotion and satisfaction from the journey I take with the character(s). I believe it is better to have an interesting character working a boring job, than an interesting job being performed by a boring character.

T.P.L. NYC: How long does it take you to put a book together?

J.L.: For an anthology? It usually takes me 4 to 5 months because some collaborators fail to meet deadlines…It happens and it sucks.

For A Price

T.P.L. NYC: What are some challenges you have experienced as an independent creator? Do you have any advice on how to get through the challenges as an independent creator?

J.L.: Learn everything it takes to produce a self- published work. Create a goal and strategy before you even start working on the book. You'll have to network like there's no other day and be professional. Get hands on in the field that you're creatively involved with. As an independent creator, procrastination and writers block are my enemies. To break out of writers block, keep yourself busy doing something productive. Take a jog, exercise, watch a film, play music, clean or just hang out with someone. Two things that loosened me up from writer's block was exploring new places and keeping myself busy for inspiration. As for procrastination, you need to tell yourself that the more you hold something off the more it will bite you in the arse. Plan accordingly. Set dates and times when it should get done, even if you didn't get everything you wanted out of it, at least you tried to find your desire or need. It takes a dedicated disciplinary time and persistence to focus on that story or project you’re trying to get out.

T.P.L. NYC: How did you find your artists/ creative teams? What are some of the steps you take to find people to work with?

J.L.: Nonstop networking and building relationships. You have to be believable, professional and good to get along with. You might have to jump out of your shell and make friends to make connections and make connections to develop your product, unless you are a one man army.

T.P.L. NYC: You have another story in the works called Nunchuck Nancy. It is a cool title. What is it about and when will the book come out? 

J.L.: I'd rather not spoil anyone yet, but I plan on releasing it by 2014.

T.P.L. NYC: How did you come up with the idea for this book?

J.L.: Random thoughts and having a love for women that kick butt!

Splash Page Pronto Goes to War featuring Jorel Lonesome

T.P.L. NYC: Will you be using a lot of the same artists on it?

J.L.: If I can, I’ll stick with one artist. However working with more than one is a treat as well.

T.P.L. NYC: What are some of your other interests or hobbies?

J.L.: Writing, jump rope, jogging, exercise, Videogames, reading, and collecting comics in addition to  reading books.

 T.P.L. NYC: What do you feel readers get from your work?

J.L.: As of now, I’d say a creator who has the potential to make good comics.

T.P.L. NYC: What are some of your influences when it comes to other creators?

J.L.: In the comic book medium, I am a big fan of Frank Miller’s earlier works. Alan Moore always entertains me. I’m enjoying just about everything that Geoff Johns and Scott Snyder brings to the table in comics.  Stan “The Man,” Lee is another unforgettable storyteller. I enjoy Peter David’s work, especially his run on the Incredible Hulk. Anything Neil Gaiman is great. I always like the edginess and dark gritty crime stories from Chuck Dixon. There are many other writers/authors that I enjoy reading as well.

T.P.L. NYC: What is your creative process like? How do you best like to write and work?

J.L.: I start off with” what if’s?” I brainstorm and start with a character. Then, I set a world around them, come up with a problem they have with other characters and what characters support them. I write as much as I can to select what would work well for my interests and the reader’s interests simultaneously. I like to write and work when the other responsibilities are done and when an idea catches me during the night or day. I like to incorporate bits and pieces of what I learn in everyday life into my writing process as well.

 T.P.L. NYC: What kind of genre do you like to write the most?

J.L.: I'll go for science fiction, fantasy and horror. As of late I’ve been trying out different genres. I like all genres of film and comics. It's good to look for the best work in each genre.

T.P.L. NYC: This blog is about peculiar things. What is the most peculiar thing you’ve experienced in New York City?

J.L.: A gang of vampires in the subway station at about 3a.m. in the morning. It was the strangest, but coolest experience ever. It wasn't around Halloween either! It took place in the summer when my sister and I, along with her friends went to the movies. One leader of the whole pack was some short frail 20-24 year old with pale makeup, jumping from top of the subway steps to the bottom, showing his fangs. His friends, that were all vamps too were showing their teeth and moving around the station like actual vampires. It was the strangest thing and I feared it at first, but it just seemed like a way of life for them. In New York City, you'll see just about anything weird at night.

Check out a copy of the Blackout #2, available now from Pronto Comics at Collector’s Kingdom,and will be available online soon. His future projects include, Blackout#3 in 2013, his first graphic novel, Nunchuck Nancy , and a script that he will be producing for his first short film "The Great Soup," with director Charlton Ruddock.

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