Scan the racks at your local comic shop and most books will sport either a DC or Marvel Comics logo. Interspersed throughout these offerings are the occasional titles from the powerhouses of independent comic publishing: Image and Dark Horse. But how often do readers get a chance to really go off the beaten path of mainstream comics and look at some equally compelling comics that represent some of the best independent comics have to offer? This semi-regular column will be dedicated to shining a little light on those creators and some of the works they are publishing that can offer comic readers a welcome break from the mainstream by “going indie.” The first creator spotlight will be on Jeremy Holt and his recent comic, Cobble Hill.
Debuting at the 2012 New York Comic Con, Jeremy Holt’s Cobble Hill provided readers with a mystery story centered on the life of Samantha Charles—a high school senior whose well-to-do parent died in an accident one year before the day in which the comic takes place. Although the comic is marketed to a young adult (YA) audience, its appeal is much broader than this. It does incorporate some elements of teen angst and themes of the desire to fit in with one’s peers, but the focus on character development helps this book steer clear of the stereotypical fare one might expect from a supernatural-infused, young adult narrative.
Jeremy sheds some light on his work on Cobble Hill both as the writer and creator of this independently published comic.
Forrest Helvie (FH): As I read through Cobble Hill #1, I was struck by the rich orphan with the caretaking butler—very Bruce Wayne-esque. I’m also picking up on some vibes from troubled boarding schools—something a title like Morning Glories uses for its backdrop. What were some of the influences for you in developing this story?
Jeremy Holt (JH): I’d be lying if I said Batman and Morning Glories haven’t influenced this story at all, but the much stronger influences for me are the short-lived TV shows Wonderfalls and Twin Peaks. As a huge David Lynch fan, I have always wanted to and continue to write stories influenced by his style of filmmaking. Originally conceiving Cobble Hill as a dark twisted horror-esque story, it wasn’t until I saw Selena Goulding’s art when I decided to dynamically alter the tone of the series.
FH: What do you think the biggest draw to this story is for potential readers on the fence trying to decide between an unknown series like Cobble Hill and, say, some of the more familiar, mainstream comics being published by Marvel or DC?
JH: I’d like the think the biggest draw for new readers deciding on trying a new series is the fact that this is an engaging enough story that not only appeals to its targeted YA demographic, but for anyone that enjoys a well thought out mystery.
The advantages to creator-owned comics is that a reader does not have to invest in years of continuity in order to enjoy a current story line, and the creators have complete freedom to take their stories/characters in any direction they see fit. I believe this model is the best way to usher in a new generation of potential comic book fans.
FH: What has been the overall response from readers, critics, and fellow creators to Cobble Hill?
JH: The overall response to Cobble Hill has been surprisingly positive. Considering the story does not contain blood, sex, and rock’n’roll, I’m flattered that people are connecting with the characters and the town itself. Most notably, the Vodka’o’Clock podcast named it best new series of the year for 2012, and Comixtribe’s review site “Point of Impact” used it as an instructional tool on how to craft various comic book plot mechanics. It’s certainly gratifying to see all the hard work that we’ve put into this book is paying off.
FH: So what does the future have in store for Samantha, Jared, and the rest of the cast?
JH: Samantha’s future holds redemption and some much needed closure on the disappearance of her beloved parents. In the process, a dark secret within the town will eventually be exposed, redefining relationships for the entire cast.
FH: Are you currently envisioning this as an on-going series or a mini-series?
JH: I’ve always envisioned this as a five issue mini-series. It certainly has potential for an ongoing, but we’ll cross that bridge if we get to it.
FH: Shifting gears a bit, how did you hook up with your team—Selena Goulding, Adam Metcalfe, Ed Brisson, & Tim Daniel?
JH: I was put in contact with Selena through a mutual friend. They both happen to be a part of an artist collective based in Toronto, Canada. As for the colorist Adam Metcalfe, he happened to go to art school with Selena, and she highly recommended him for the job. The letterer Ed Brisson is a very good friend of mine, and when he isn’t lettering full time, he’s writing his own series of amazing comics for Image. I met Tim Daniel at ImageExpo last year, and he fell in love with the cover art for Cobble Hill. We’ve become close friends ever since, and he designs all my logos for my projects.
FH: In terms of the creation process, how much creative control over the various elements did you exercise and how much was left to each member of the team? For example, one element of the book that really seems to stand out in terms of the way it affects and conveys the overall tone of the book is Adam Metcalfe’s muted color palette. How much of this was you?
JH: That’s a great question. Outside of the script, I tend to be very hands off creatively. I believe that once I finalize a script, that is all the artist and colorist need from me. I certainly review completed pages, and provide small notes here and there, but I trust Selena. Knowing her work and artistic sensibility, I had complete faith when she recommended Adam. I make it a point to be fairly brief but extremely descriptive in my scripts in order to establish tone and pacing for an artist. I’m of the mindset that if you don’t think an artist is capturing these elements from your script, you haven’t written a very good one.
I exercise this amount of creative freedom with my team(s) because this is what creator-owned comics are all about. I value my artist’s feedback, and often times when they make changes for whatever reason–visually speaking–they’re almost always right. I think people who prohibit this type co-creatorship in exchange for a page rate, negatively impacts the working relationship. By empowering the artist with a stake in the intellectual property, this positively reinforces their commitment to the project. This is paramount considering there is often little to no money in creator-owned comics, and people like to feel included in the creative process.
FH: Where can readers find copies of Cobble Hill #1?
JH: Right now, you can download a digital copy of the first issue directly from the publisher’s website at www.215ink.com. If you’re attending Emerald City Comic Con, Boston Comic Con, HeroesCon, and/or New York Comic Con, I will have print copies available at those shows for direct purchase.
FH: The last word is yours: Is there anything else you would like to share?
JH: I’d like to thank you for your time, and really appreciate the solid questions concerning Cobble Hill.