FCBD18 Interview: SBI Press Brings a Critical and Comedic Eye to Comics

Heroes and clear-cut visions of justice characterize the traditional superhero comic. But SBI Press is going for something a little less traditional…

Their compilation comic, Starburns Presents, challenges notions of heroism and narrative across variety of comic samples. In Gregory Graves, Eric Esquivel and Dan Harmon toy with the fine line between hero and villain. In Comic’s Comics, stand-up comedians are partnered with comic industry artists to tell stories of humor, tragedy, fantasy, and more, all infused with their signature, comedic wit.

Gregory Graves co-writer, Eric Esquivel, teamed up with a representative from publisher, SBI Press, to give us more details about what to expect in their Free Comic Book Day compilation title, Starburns Presents. Then, Eric stuck around to tell us more about what inspires him, and what he’s looking forward to on Free Comic Day!

After you’re done reading through the interview, click over here to look through a PREVIEWS Prevue of the comic! 


Free Comic Book Day (FCBD): For those who might be new to your comic book, give us a quick rundown of the story! Free Comic Book Day, FCBD, Starburns Presents, SBI Press

Eric Esquivel: Gregory Graves is a classic superhero story-- only told from the perspective of a Lex Luthor/Dr. Sivana/Wilson Fisk “antagonist”, instead of the guy who can “leap tall buildings in a single bound.” It's about Hero Worship, The Cult of Celebrity, and how fragile our concepts of “Hero” and “Villain” are.

SBI Press: We also have Comics Comics, which will be an anthology which will team up known stand-up comedians with comic industry artists to tell stories of humor, tragedy, fantasy, and more.  The sample in Starburns Presents is written by Patton Oswalt and illustrated by Troy Nixey.  We will also include shorter previews of some of our upcoming comic series.  A special sneak peek into a fantasy adventure Odwell The Frog of War will flesh out our FCBD offering along with a glimpse into Hellicious, our family comedy set in the Underworld.

FCBD: What genre is your title?

SBI Press: Comics Comics is a humor anthology, but not everything in the final book will be straight ahead comedy.  The goal was to create a playground for stand-up comedy personalities to get real, tragic, poetic, or whatever but you can count on every story being told through each comic's signature wit.  Odwell and Hellicious are both fantasy stories in their own right, but from very different points of view. Hellicious is Calvin and Hobbes meets The Addams Family, whereas Odwell is an anthropomorphic medieval fantasy about good vs. evil and the power of healing.

Eric Esquivel: Graves is a Superhero book, and completely unashamed of that. There's a fair amount of humor in Gregory Graves too-- but none of it comes at the expense of the genre. There's nothing more hacky and embarrassing than writers who think they're a genius for pointing out that Clark Kent's glasses are a flimsy disguise, for example. I hate those people, and actively wish them harm.

FCBD: What has been your favorite part of the book or main character(s) to tackle?

Eric Esquivel: As the most popular writer of the bunch, it has been an honor giving these baby-faced upstarts, Dan Harmon and Patton Oswalt, a leg up in the industry. They are both talented young men who deserve a wider audience, and I hope this helps them get their names out there.

SBI Press: We are all about stories that blend genres, funny is good, but something funny and lightly tragic that makes you think, is better.  Finding the places where these characters can make you laugh when you want to cry or make you angry because you think you shouldn't be laughing is really just the best.

FCBD: What other titles would you compare to yours? “If a comic reader likes _______ , they should pick up my title?”

Eric Esquivel: People have said that Gregory Graves is basically Rick and Morty meets Superman. Those people are all me. I am saying that right now. Older fans might also compare us to Marshall Law or The Boys.

SBI Press: Comics Comics, as an anthology book, will be harder to identify, but it will be similar in tone and spirit to some of the work done by McSweeny's or companies like Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly.  We're going for honest, true, and hilarious storytelling from the funniest people we know. 

FCBD: Looking to the future, is there anything you can tease about what's upcoming for the title and its characters?

Eric Esquivel: Gregory Graves is mine and Dan’s venue for dissecting all of the major superhero archetypes, and talking about what makes these “problematic faves” so enduring.  Each subsequent volume will tackle another genre of hero, from “Billionaire Vigilante”, to “4th-Wall-Breaking Assassin”, and beyond.

SBI Press: Comics Comics will be an ongoing anthology with a lot of names and faces readers will recognize from some of their favorite stand up specials and TV shows.  For our other two books, they're just getting started, look for high stakes action and hilarious underworldly shenanigans this summer.  We have some amazing new creators and can't wait to see what they do with animal warriors, starry-eyed kids playing on the shores of the River Styxx, flying dolphins, short-lived messenger flies, misplaced goth rockers wandering the afterlife, and so much more!

FCBD: What initially got you interested in comics? (or What is your favorite thing about working in comics?)

Eric Esquivel: Without getting too “after school special” about it, I grew up without a dad-- so I treated superhero comics (particularly “superMAN”) as my manual for how to be a dude. That question, “what is a man, and how should he behave?” drives my work to this day, and is the central idea behind Gregory Graves.

FCBD: Many newcomers will pick up comics for the first time on FCBD—what was the first comic you remember reading?

Eric Esquivel: Batman #433, by John Byrne and Jim Aparo–chapter one of the “The Many Deaths of Batman” saga. Every page featured a different dude in a Batman costume-- all pretenders to the throne-- meeting his grisly end.  It was the first time I understood that superheroes were more symbols than individuals.

FCBD: Tell us why everyone should read comic books!

Eric Esquivel: Can I be a jerky contrarian and say that I don't think everyone should read comic books? Comic books have a tradition of being the absolute coolest thing on planet Earth-- Film, Fine Art, Video Games, literally every other artistic discipline around wants to be us SO BADLY IT HURTS-- and I like that our readership reflects that. Comic Book Fans don't look like anything-- we're every gender, every age, every ethnicity and nationality-- but we're tethered together by the fact that we're cooler than everyone else.  Don't @ me on this.

FCBD: What is your favorite part about Free Comic Book Day? What do you think is the best part of Free Comic Book Day?

Eric Esquivel: Comic book shops are the heart and soul of this industry. Related to my answer to the previous question (“comic book fans are cooler than everyone else”), I am so proud that we're the one group who has resisted having our art form being conquered and sanitized by a giant chain. There's no “Starbucks” of Comics. Every comic shop is a unique, locally owned, community-oriented little miracle. Please, when you're picking up your free comics this year, buy something too. Support your local scene.

FCBD: Where do you plan to spend Free Comic Book Day?

Eric Esquivel: I'll be at Meltdown Comics, in Hollywood California. Stop by and say “Hey”! I'll sign your book for free (obviously).

 

Free Comic Book Day, FCBD, Starburns Presents, SBI Press

Free Comic Book Day, FCBD, Starburns Presents, SBI Press

Free Comic Book Day, FCBD, Starburns Presents, SBI Press

 

Find a comic shop near you to celebrate Free Comic Book Day 2018!
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