Aspen Comics has a big year ahead of them and already did some incredible things: They finished the re-release of Legends of Oz: The Wicked West, we saw the end of Lola XOXO: Wasteland Madam and the momentus announcement that Fathom and Soulfire will cross over. Add it to the new talent hunt, Aspen is clearly looking to make 2016 a banner year for the company. I got to talk with Assistant Editor Gabe Carrasco about the future plans of Aspen moving forward.
BI: Gabe, I want to thank you for this interview. I want to say that there is a lot coming from Aspen this year. Let’s start with one of the biggest things. You are currently having a talent search for artists to do the covers of Santeria: The Goddess Kiss # 4. How did that come about and what are the main plans for the talent search?
Gabe: Of course! Thanks for reaching out! Well, the talent search came from just chatting with Editor-in-Chief, Vince Hernandez and Aspen owner, Frank Mastromauro at the studio, trying to continue doing what Aspen does best: communicating with fans. We felt it was a great way to give our awesome fans a chance to show their creativity, talent, and passion for all things Aspen, it gives exposure to a brand new book, and it gives artists trying to break into the industry a real shot, which I know can be both difficult and intimidating. It was a win-win-win idea!
BI: How’s the response been to the talent search?
Gabe: Initially, pretty overwhelming! For the first few days, my inbox was filled with artists requesting more information. On our Facebook and Twitter, we’ve had tons of people tagging their artist friends, and sharing the post; it’s great to see how encouraging our Aspen fans are with one another. Now that we’re down to the last few days, I’m getting some awesome art pieces that I can’t wait to look through with the rest of the studio.
BI: With the response you are getting, are you going to do another talent search down the line? Are you doing anything similar for writers?
Gabe: I’d definitely like to do another one, but with as small a studio as we are, it’s hard to say if we’ll revisit this talent hunt any time soon. With so many huge things happening in the coming months, I feel everyone here at Aspen will be too busy with the day-to-day to coordinate something like this in the immediate future. As for writers, I don’t think something like a talent hunt translates well to writing; it’s just a different set of skills that takes much longer to evaluate than a piece of art. Sorry, writers!
BI: Switching gears, let’s go over to the next big thing Aspen has coming: the upcoming crossover between Fathom and Soulfire. How did this crossover come to be?
Gabe: This was definitely a long time coming. I’ve heard the guys around the studio always toying with the idea of bringing our two flagship titles together, but nothing very definite. Eventually I think with all the casual conversation, and the new logo, and the general new direction Aspen MLT is heading for, we knew we needed to do something big that says “We’re a brand new Aspen Comics! Come check us out!” and the answer is giving the fans what they want, a single Aspen Universe that all our diverse characters inhabit, interact with one another, protect, and in some cases, try to destroy… It’s some exciting stuff!
BI: Fathom and Soulfire are such distinct worlds with very distinct characters. How excited are the creators and yourself about this crossover? What do you feel, without spoilers, makes it work?
Gabe: Oh I’m extremely excited! This is like the Aspen version of Batman and Superman meeting for the first time! And to get a fantastic writer like Joshua Hale Fialkov to bring his take on the characters, teaming up with Aspen veteran writer J.T. Krul who knows these characters like the back of his hand? Then add probably the most sought-after colorist in comics, Peter Steigerwald working on Jordan Gunderson’s beautiful pencils? This couldn’t be a better creative team! What makes this story work is, it’s an introduction. It’s Fathom meeting Soulfire and vice-versa. If you’re a new reader, or a long-time Aspen fan, just seeing these characters show one another who they are, and what they’re really capable of is literally like meeting them all over again, for the first time.
BI: It must be such a wonderful experience getting to be part of the crossover and all of the Aspen books. How did you end up becoming Assistant Editor?
It’s a dream job. I literally wake up every morning, and get paid to make comic books. I still can’t believe it! I started off as a Digital Production Intern, working under Mark Roslan as I finished up my degree. Just by chance, the person who had the Assistant Editor position before me had moved to another company just as I was ending my internship, and Mark recommended that Vince consider me for the position. So, a quick interview and a few e-mails later I’m sitting in the studio, fresh out of college, making comics for a living!
BI: What are some of the most interesting parts about your position? Does your position, since you work so closely with creators, color your opinions about books and/or the characters that Aspen has? Why or why not?
Well, I was a big comic book fan since I was a kid. So one thing I’m still getting used to in my position is working with creators that I had basically viewed as celebrities. A huge reality check for me was, two years prior to working at Aspen, I had been in line at San Diego Comic Con to get Scott Lobdell’s autograph, flash forward to my third week as Assistant Editor, he just showed up to the studio like it was nothing. It’s like having a perpetual backstage pass to the comic industry! As for my opinions, I still try not to let it affect me. All of these creators are people with their own personality and opinions, but both as a fan, and as an editor, I try to focus on their work. I can think the creator is a great dude, but dislike his art, or think this writer is generally rude, but own all his books. Sometimes it can be difficult to separate the two, but I think it’s only fair.
BI: Take us though a typical day in the life of Gabe Carrasco, Assistant Editor.
Well, after I spend 45 minutes in LA traffic every morning, I get in and check any e-mails that need my immediate attention. Editing scripts, sending them to artists, correcting colors, proofing letters—anything that is pertinent to getting a book out on time is my top priority. Then, I take care of all the scheduled press e-mails; I’m the one who sends the review copies of books to critics, and the preview jpegs for your first-look at our titles. Then I make all the Facebook cover photos, aspenstore.com graphics, and any other graphic design elements the studio may need. On top of that is anything else Vince, Mark, Peter, or Frank are too busy to do. Then it’s the hour drive back home!
BI: Did you read comics growing up? What were some of your favorite comic books and favorite books?
Constantly. My favorite by far is Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner specifically. I grew up in the 90’s, so he was always Green Lantern for me. When Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern: Rebirth hit shelves, and DC came out with around 10 Green Lantern spin-off titles, my wallet was emptied out every Wednesday. I’m also a big fan of the Batman villains! Batman as a character is okay, but he’s honestly the most boring part about any Batman story. I love a good villain arc, and nothing beats the Joker when it comes to true evil.
BI: Aspen has such a diverse line of books and creators. How does Aspen feel about such diversity?
Gabe: We celebrate it, of course! As a smaller publisher, we really have to be careful about each book we set out to print, but at the same time, we don’t want to have a bunch of the same kind of book out every week. At the end of the day, we’re here to tell some awesome stories, with some fantastic art, and we really hope that having such a diverse line of titles and creators will catch the attention of the most readers possible! Maybe if you love our Executive Assistant: Iris series, you’ll give BubbleGun, Charismagic, or even Santeria: The Goddess Kiss a chance and also love it! We spend equal time and effort on putting together each book to create the best possible product despite the genre or style, so our diversity is an invitation to give any of our titles a chance!
BI: What can you tell us about some of the books we can expect in 2016 from Aspen besides the crossover? I know Oniba: Swords of the Demon has started, Santeria: The Goddess Kiss is already done. Overtaken has returned, but tell us more about what we can expect this year.
Gabe: Well, I can’t tell you much beyond the big crossover event since that will be what launches our new universe, but I can definitely say keep an eye on all our social media, as well as here at the Broken Infinite for any updates! We have a HUGE July planned for all you Aspen fans out there, and trust me when I say, things are only going to keep getting better!
BI: Last question. What is your advance to creators and possible wannabe editors who want to work in comics?
Gabe: Submerse yourself with your craft. If you’re an artist, draw every day. Draw from the pages of your favorite artists, draw from movies, draw the people in crowded cafés, draw your cluttered empty room. Build a portfolio, take them to reviews at conventions! Look out for things like this Santeria Talent Hunt, and actually submit your work! If you’re determined and willing to work hard, you’ll get work eventually. Same goes for writers! Always practice your craft! Team up with an aspiring artist, help-them-help-you tell your story! And for aspiring editors/production, shake hands at cons, get to know the industry, and keep an eye out for job postings on publishers’ websites. Work as literally anything at a publisher and work your butt off until you get where you want to be. It’s a tough business to break into, but if you love comics, it’s more than worth it! Good luck!
Thank you so much again, Gabe. Pick up any of the current Aspen Books like Santeria: The Goddess Kiss to see his name on them. Santeria: The Goddess Kiss # 1 is in stores right now.