Kevin Paul Shaw Broden -Writer/Creator
AP: Tell us a little about yourself and your pulp interests.
KB: All my life I wanted to tell stories, and most of those stories were and are about masked mystery men and super heroes. From an early age I did what I could to make that my career. I began with the plan of being a comic book artist, though as I went through my education I discovered my passion was more about the story than the art.
I’m still an artist. My first professional comic assignment was drawing backgrounds and doing color comps for the early issues of SUPREME for Image Comics. I want to continue to draw more in comics, but I’m really a writer at heart. Maybe not the greatest of scribes, but I write the best stories I enjoy and hope others will too.
As a young kid I had trouble reading, but after starting to read comic books the teachers encouraged me to keep at it. It was helping. Yet it was even before comics that my love for the MASK began. Late at night our local news radio station would play their “old time radio theater” introducing me to the Green Hornet, The Shadow, Lone Ranger, and many others.
In comics I found myself far more interested in the Golden Age heroes that were then appearing in All Star Squadron, instead of their modern day counter parts. There was so much mystery in those heroes that had started it all.
I may not have regularly been reading the pulps, but I was drawn to them and I was drawing them far more than the current models.
Alan Scott is Green Lantern to me, not Hal Jordan.
AP: What does pulp mean to you?
KB: I suppose it was discovering the mysteries of what was in those pulp heroes that excited me, just as much as when I dug through the secrets hidden in my grandparents’ basement. It was the same magic. I remember the first time I bought a Comic Book Price Guide. The cost of the old books was staggering, but what I really got out of it was discovering the names of characters I had never heard of before; who was this Blue Beetle, Black Terror, Spy Smasher, Phantom Lady, Air Boy, and so on. I wanted to know each and every one of them.
On a more scholarly line, which the child in me would never have thought of, the pulp authors continued the thread of the pedestrian ‘dime novel’ going back to Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens with the same magic and mystery for less than a penny a word. Which in my mind makes the pulps and comics very much literature.
I didn’t begin to read the actual pulp novels until much later, but with that same childlike love for them.
Which led to about six months ago and an idea for a pulp style mystery man of my own.
AP: Tell us about your serialized pulp novel, Revenge of the Masked Ghost. Where readers can find it?
KB: My Masked Ghost character came out of a question I asked myself one day. How do the families of our heroes handle them putting on masks and running off into the night and to certain death? Which led to the next question: What happens when the family discovers what he’s been doing only upon his gruesome death?
That was the kernel of an idea that in the next few hours grew into a two-page outline and what I thought would turn into a pretty good story. Working from there I knew it had to take place in the “golden age” of the pulp heroes and not in modern day.
While I have been working on a novel, I didn’t want this new story to take a back seat and wait. So I decided to put it on the web chapter by chapter as I completed each one.
So the REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST began.
Our hero stumbles into the apartment of his sister and brother-in-law and dies in their arms of multiple gunshots. Shocked to discover he had been going about town as this masked vigilante, they must find out why and who killed him. It may require that Masked Ghost come back from the dead to do so. Someone must wear the mask.
I began posting the chapters once a week, but now because of employment I am posting them every other week. I have warned my readers that what they are reading is a first draft, with all the grammatical errors that go with it. I’ll be making corrections on the early chapters over the next few weeks.
You can follow the story at: http://revengeofthemaskedghost.blogspot.com/
This past week I also provided what I hope to be the first of many illustrations to go along with the story. This first image has the feel of an old movie serial.
AP: You’re the co-writer and artist for the webcomic, Flying Glory and the Hounds of Glory, which has been running for nearly ten years. Tell us about it.
KB: As stated earlier I fell in love with masked heroes from childhood and it isn’t surprising I came up with many of my own. As Marvel and DC had their own universes I soon had notebooks and three ring binders full of my own heroes and story ideas, which I labeled “My Universe”.
Later, I joined an online writers group, on the GEnie bulletin boards, that included writer workshops, and one focused on comic book scripts. So I grabbed one of the heroes from of my notebook and turned it into a full script.
This would be the first story about the wartime super heroine known as Flying Glory.
I was surprised by the positive responses I received, some from well-established professional writers. Because of that, a while later I assembled a pitch package and brought it to the San Diego Comic Convention with the hope that someone might be interested in publishing a FLYING GLORY comic. It was a long shot, being really impossible to have meaningful long conversations with anyone in that crowded arena. However, I did get to hand out a few copies of my pitch.
Surprised once again, a few months later I heard back from one of the publishers. We had a few phone conversations about the property and what could be done with it. Unfortunately the publisher eventually passed on it. They closed shop within the year, so maybe it was a good thing nothing came from it.
Yet Flying Glory refused to go back into the folder quietly.
About the same time I had met up with fellow animation writer Shannon Muir through GEnie, and she happened to be moving to the Los Angeles area. Together we began looking for a way to update Flying Glory for a ‘modern audience’ (whatever that really means), including development plans for a movie and animated TV series, as well as a comic.
We soon learned that we needed more exposure on our own first, and decided after exploring several options (including the more traditional ‘ashcan’ sampler format), the best way for us both time and money wise was to tell the story as a webcomic. Our initial release only ran as a full color four-page mini-comic, at that point we didn’t envision posting a page a week coming up on a decade.
With that, the granddaughter of the original heroine put on the mask and FLYNG GLORY AND THE HOUNDS OF GLORY began their musical entry on to the stage.
Shannon and I co-write every issue; she provides song lyrics included in each tale, and I draw every page of art using my computer, Corel Painter, and a Wacom tablet. I also do fully painted color covers for each issue.
The webcomic is about teenager Debra Clay who already has dreams of becoming a rock star when she discovers she has inherited the super powers of her grandmother the wartime super heroine Flying Glory. Convinced that it will help her celebrity status; Debra puts on the mask and gets her fellow high school band mates to also become super heroes as they perform on the stage. But they soon discover that they must become real heroes in and out of the mask.
AP: What’s the secret to keeping the webcomic going for nearly ten years and keeping it fresh?
KB: After the first story, we soon learned to listen to what our characters wanted to do. There was a plan of course, an outline of where we intended the stories to go, but that wasn’t always where they ended up.
We also decided to shorten the stories so that they could be published in single issues or collected together.
With each issue we tried something new and the characters went where they wanted.
In issue five we had our band of heroes meet a Japanese schoolgirl heroine. I attempted to switch back and forth between my own “western” art style to a manga style. As an artist, I will be the first to admit that it was a failed experiment. However, the story still told us a lot about our characters. Several secondary characters in the story have made their presence known.
As we were working on that Shannon pitched a story for Issue 6. She had recently returned from a convention in Las Vegas. Her experiences there gave her an idea for a far more serious story. I wasn’t too keen on the idea at the start. After bouncing it back and forth we found a story we both liked and could work with. It involved the pull and temptation of the celebrity life, which our heroine was already falling for, and the terrible things that could happen. It involved a potential date rape, which her friends save her from. We discovered that the best way to expand and grow our characters was to force our lead to her lowest point and shake her to the core and then follow her journey as she re-emerges as a stronger woman and hero. We also worked hard to make sure every page was done right carefully in both story and visuals. Even with my earlier reservations, we are both very proud of this story, and the resulting consequences are still affecting our characters now over half a dozen issues later.
We have a lot planned for FLYING GLORY AND THE HOUND OF GLORY, and even TALES OF FLYING GLORY about the original patriotic heroine and other characters around her. These characters have a lot more to tell us, and they could for years to come. Am looking forward to people following along whether it’s on the web or in printed form.
AP: In addition to pulp and comics, you’ve also worked in animation and film. Creatively, how different did you find each medium?
KB: Creatively, they all begin at the same point: with an idea that becomes a story. The medium has its own rules, but if you can’t start off with the story it doesn’t matter if there are pictures, sounds, or cave paintings. There are some animators who believe they can do great cartoons without a writer, but they don’t realize they themselves are writers with their art. We are all storytellers first, no matter the media used.
I certain wouldn’t say that either a prose story or a script is easier to write. With a script you rely on an artist to draw the comic or storyboards and the writer sets the stage on which they work. But they still need to understand the scene and the story they’re drawing. So the writer better have a good idea of what the artist is expected to draw because if they don’t understand you’re either going to get tons of e-mail questions, or the final production is going to be miles off from originally intended.
AP: Where do you (or would you) like to see the publishing industry in the next five years?
KB: Publishing more of my work from the previous five. Is that a good answer?
Truthfully, I don’t know where publishing will be in five years or in one year.
A lot of people are concerned for the future of book publishing, especially when reports are being made that Amazon now sells more e-books than actual hardback or paperbacks. But isn’t that an answer into itself, there are hardback books, paperback books, and e-books, what is important there is that they are all books. Books are being published in one form or another.
In the last two years that I have been on Twitter I found more and more authors online to network with. I’ve followed as many of them have published, some even their first books. Some go the traditional way, others through online companies doing print on demand, and still others go directly to the e-book form. Because of the computer and the Internet we are now in an age that anyone can publish his or her own stories. I know that my webcomic and my serial aren’t making me any money, but I do it out of pure joy knowing that even a few people will see what I have created. I would warn people however of the so-called ‘vanity presses’ out there, which you have to pay to publish, or take more rights from you than they should.
I don’t think the book, or even the comic book, will completely go away, someone will publish them, but now we just have more ways to get our creations out there.
As to digital comics, I have two concerns. The first out of ego: what happens to the collector? Maybe that’s a good thing, and we won’t have a speculator’s market again. What does it do to Comic Conventions? The second concern is; do I really own my copy of the comic when it’s just out there in the ‘cloud’ and I have access to look at it when I want but not really hold?
AP: What, if any, existing pulp, comic book, or other media characters would you like to try your hand at writing?
KB: I’d love to sink my creative teeth in to a whole assortment of characters, but most of all as mentioned earlier; would love to write the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott. The mystical magic lantern holds a close connection to many other pulp fantasies of the time, and I think there is still a lot there to be mined, both in the magic as well the man.
Writing the Shadow would be fun, I think, though in my mind he exists as this voice from the radio than from the pulps. Recently I thought about taking a crack at a Flash Gordon type character. I found it interesting that the ‘present day’ world existed while he fought on Mongo as well. I’d love to do something with that. Do it in the time of the original comic strips and pulps, not like the poor TV series from a few years ago.
AP: Who are some of your creative influences?
KB: My influences began in comics with artists Jerry Ordway and George Perez. Their art was perfect to show the difference between the Golden Age magical based stories on Earth 2 and the modern scientific stories on Earth 1. So they became a perfect pair on CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS when Ordway inked Perez, the combining of the worlds and the art.
In writing it started the same with Roy Thomas on ALL STAR SQAUDRON, and Marv Wolfman on THE NEW TEEN TITANS. Everything else was compared to the measuring stick these men handed me as a child.
In prose writing, my first and major influence comes from Ray Bradbury. For many years I saw myself as him while I read his stories and about how he got started. Mr. Bradbury once wrote me about a story of mine, and took the time to point out what I had done wrong and how to improve it. Harlan Ellison is also a big influence on my work, but more so in my non-fiction, even my blogs.
During college, I was also influenced by Douglas Adams, but I found that my humor was overpowering the story when I attempted to emulate him.
So there’s this melting pot of influences in my mind and what comes out is me. Maybe not the greatest artist or writer, but it’s me and I’m pretty happy with everything I write and draw. Hope people like it too.
AP: What does Kevin Paul Shaw Broden do when he’s not writing?
KB: What do I do when I’m not writing? The answer is I write.
Currently I am working for my local community college writing and designing their alumni newsletter. Starting in the next week or so, I maybe writing and designing two other projects for them. So I’ve been blessed to have a nice “day job” for a few months. Though I continue pursuing an ongoing job in the entertainment industry at one of the animation or television studios. The important thing is that this gives me the opportunity to write. Maybe writing will be my career after all.
AP: Where can readers find and learn more about you and your work?
KB: Much of my work can best be found here on the internet.
FLYING GLORY AND THE HOUNDS OF GLORY:www.flying-glory.com
REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST: http://revengeofthemaskedghost.blogspot.com/
FOUR NAMES OF PROFESSIONAL CREATIVITY is my blog on writing, comics, and employment, can be found: http://kevinpsbroden.blogspot.com/
The online comic news site www.ComicBooked.com did an article on me at the new-year.
Suppose if you’re ever in Japan you might find a DVD of the series MIDNIGHT HORROR SCHOOL, which I co-wrote several episode of. Unfortunately it never aired here in the U.S. I’ve been told it’s shown up in Europe. (http://www.milkycartoon.co.jp/official/mhs/eng/op.html)
Other samples of my writing and art can be found in GARDNER'S GUIDE TO WRITING AND PRODUCING ANIMATION and GARDNER'S GUIDE TO PITCHING AND SELLING ANIMATION both books written by my partner and now fiancée Shannon Muir. You can find information about her books here: http://www.duelingmodems.com/~shan/books.htm
AP: Any upcoming projects you would like to mention?
KB: I wish there was something I could shout out and say to keep an eye on in the future, but right now there isn’t. Am currently finishing up a contemporary fantasy novel, but it doesn’t have a publisher yet, and I don’t have an agent. Soon, I pray, soon.
FLYING GLORY AND THE HOUNDS OF GLORY which will be celebrating its 10th anniversary starting this summer with a special year-long ‘annual’ style story that will let us in on the background of several of our main characters and give hints of our future stories, preceded this Spring by as a mini Issue 0 showing a bit of Debra and her friends before the powers awaken. We are looking at ways of publishing the early issues as a trade.
Am also pitching a new comic about pulp style mystery men existing in the current economic recession.
AP: Are there any convention appearances or signings coming up where fans can meet you?
KB: That would be nice. Years ago I got to participate at the signing booth for Image Comics, back when Image and the ATM were the longest lines at Comic-Con. Seen nothing like it since; maybe soon.
AP: You have served as a writer and an artist. Are there any creative areas you’ve not worked in that you would like to try your hand at doing?
KB: Besides being a writer and artist, not much. Doubt I’d make a very good actor.
I’m a storyteller. I’m looking forward to writing for television someday (would love to write for Castle), but no more so than writing a book, comic, or animation. Just give me the opportunity to write. Paying me would be nice too.
AP: And finally, what advice would you give to anyone wanting to be a writer?
KB: The best advice is also the simplest, but a lot of writers don’t want to hear it. The advice is write and write all the time.
Write about anything, even if you don’t have a story yet.
Several months ago, when I began my blog about writing (http://kevinpsbroden.blogspot.com/), I made the suggestion to look around you and find something, anything, and write about it and discover the story in it. At the time, over ripe fruit was falling from a tree outside my window. So I wrote about the sound it made rolling down off the roof as an example for the blog. The resulting story, which I posted to the blog the next week, was about a woman being stalked by an ex-boyfriend, it doesn’t end well for either of them.
So write, write every day. It doesn’t have to be good. That will come later. Just write.
Now I need to go write about more masked mystery men.
AP: Thanks, Kevin.