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  • Writer's pictureBrad Gullickson

"I'm the most self-indulgent artist I know!" Jim Starlin Offers a New 'Breed'

We chat with the legendary comic book creator about resurrecting his demonic hero for a new era.

Jim Starlin Breed Zoop Interview

Welcome to Creator Corner, our recurring interview series in which we chat with the coolest and most thought-provoking creators in the industry. In this entry, we're conversing with Jim Starlin about Breed, which is currently seeking funding through Zoop. Listen to the unedited audio HERE.

 

Having steered characters like Silver Surfer, Warlock, Thanos, and Dreadstar through the spaceways, Jim Starlin has claimed comics' cosmic crown. However, the creation he's most proud of these days began as an anti-heroic plunge into Hell's twisted realm before he couldn't help himself and eventually go full cosmic with it, anyway.


Breed started in the nineties under the Malibu Comics banner. The first six issues launched just after the speculator boom burst, and comics were suddenly dying (again). Jim Starlin returned to the character and concept in 2011, publishing Breed III with Image Comics. He pulled in numerous Starlin creations into this saga: Dreadstar, Wyrd, Kid Kosmos, etc. If Breed was going out, he would go out with a BIG bang.

But Breed's not over. It's returning to its former glory. In partnership with Zoop, Monkey Wrench Press has launched a crowdfunding campaign to resurrect the classic Breed comics in one massive 550-page tome. It also comes jammed with backmatter, illustrations from the aborted Breed novel, and so many character designs.


We spoke with Jim Starlin about Breed, discussing why this character still means so much to him, why he thinks it might be some of his best work as an artist, and how its survival mimics the medium's survival. Comics are constantly dying, blah, blah, blah. And, yeah, we may break a little publishing news in the process.


This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

 

Breed: Jim Starlin's Best Work?


Brad: What was going on in your imagination when the Breed idea formed initially?


Jim Starlin: Well, originally at the time, my ex-wife and I, Daina Graziunas, were writing horror novels together, and I had this notion that the illustrated novel would be coming back. I was going to bring it back. And so Breed originally started off in that format. It was a completely different character. He's basically a human who was fighting demons, who were his parents, and it was the same story, but he wasn't monstrous-looking. And once I realized that illustrated novels were not going to be selling anywhere, at that time - I think there's a little bit better market for it now - Malibu came along and asked me if I wanted to do a comic book for them.


We worked out a deal where Peter David did a run on Dreadstar, at that same time, and I worked up Breed. And was quite happy with it, especially the first run. I was still working with the Crow Quill Pen at that point. And I think some of the best inking I ever did was on that book to start. Later on we changed things around because of the computers coming in, and there were so many different things we did, and I was experimenting with felt tips and stuff like that. The Crow Quill went away, and I regret that in looking back at it now. But the book took on a life of its own. It started off pretty much horror and gradually went into the cosmic, where I always seem to be heading. "The Metamorphosis Odyssey" was supposed to be a fairy tale, and that didn't work out. That lasted about three stories before it became a cosmic story.


Brad: Yeah?


Jim Starlin: It was a fun book. I'm rather proud of it, looking back. I hadn't looked at it in a while until we started putting this new book together. And what we're going to include in the book when it comes out is some of the original drawings for the illustrated novel. We're going to put them in the back. And a little essay on the book and a few other little things here. It's going to be a nice little package. Monkey Wrench does beautiful books. I mean, they're the best productions I've had on anything I've worked on.


Brad: I'm really excited to see what it ultimately ends up looking like as a collection. Breed, without going into spoilers too much, I do feel like there's an opportunity to grab a new audience with this collection. But Breed eventually does incorporate a lot of other characters and ideas that you had previously noodled on. That was a really interesting evolution with the book.


Jim Starlin: Well, I was onto the third book. Breed III, I brought in the rest of the Starlin universe, I guess you'd call it.


Brad: Yeah. I am interested in the compulsion to solidify a Starlin universe, really at the end of Breed.


Jim Starlin: We had the flexibility of doing an extra book, originally it wasn't planned.


Brad: Mm-hmm.


Jim Starlin: All the other series had been six issues, and this one, there was an option, the seventh one. And so I thought, "Well, just before this story ends, let's have this little bit of fun." I'm the most self-indulgent artist I know. So when I get an idea, everything else gets thrown out until I incorporate this new idea into things. And that was basically what happened there.


Jim Starlin, Breed, and the 90s


Brad: Breed happens at such a unique moment within the Comics' Industry. It's the moment, in which I entered the comics as a reader. That Malibu/Image transition - wow. Breed starts off at Malibu, it does go to Image. You just mentioned the technology changes, the revolution that was happening with digital coloring. It was a little rocky.


Jim Starlin: It was a little rocky at times because it was early computers. And we'd go along sometimes and work on something for a couple of hours, and the computer would crash, and you would lose everything if we hadn't been saving every 15 minutes. So it was a tricky time. And the computers, those early Mac towers were a little bit on the quirky side. I mean, they were so much better than what was going on on the Window side of things, at least for graphics. And it was a fun time. We were learning as we were going. Bob Denver's daughter, Megan, was the one who taught us about computers.


Brad: Crazy.


Jim Starlin: She just happened to be living in the area, and she was a friend of my partner, Jeff Moran. It was a bunch of people all learning about computers at the same time and having a great time with it. A lot of fun.


Brad: I know what it was like as a reader during that time, with the speculator boom and all of that stuff. But what was it like for you, as a creator, watching all this outside excitement suddenly turn its attention to comics? And then of course, that only lasted for a little bit. Comics imploded for a moment or two. Maybe a decade.


Jim Starlin: They do that occasionally.


Brad: What were your emotions at that time?


Jim Starlin: At that time, it was a lot of trying to stay alive. I mean, basically, I had a mother and a mother-in-Law who was in assisted-living situation. So there was always a need to get more money.


Brad: Yeah.


Jim Starlin: To pay for rent and stuff like that. So it was tricky. And I didn't want to be working for the big two, because I'd been done with that. And it was a little restraining, it was getting much more restraining. When I first started off working with Roy Thomas up at Marvel. Roy would just let you run with whatever you did, whatever you wanted, as long as it was selling.


Brad: Mm-hmm.


Jim Starlin: And I remember going in for one story conference, and he said, "Which character are you going to use for a villain?" As I walked in the door and I said, "Well, I think the Super Skrull. And he said, okay. And I went, that's it. And so Captain Marvel was pretty much whatever I wanted to do. And then the same thing happened with Warlock. And as time has gone on, editors have wanted more of a detailed synopsis, as there become more editors. And I always humor and do up a synopsis, but I never stick with it. And that always drove me crazy. So, basically, working for myself now, I can do what I want and I'm much happier.


Jim Starlin, Breed, and a Little Thanos for Luck


Brad: Although I do have to say, I was really happy when you came back and you were able to tell your massive Thanos saga, in those original graphic novels, not too long ago. I actually have them right here. I was looking through them as I was preparing to chat with you earlier today, and I thought that was a tremendous feat to accomplish at the moment in time that you had to accomplish them.


Jim Starlin: Well, that was interesting time too, because they had thrown Thanos into the first Avengers movie.


Brad: Right.


Jim Starlin: And Disney realized after they bought Marvel that they didn't have a lot of the paperwork. And I had been on the outs with Marvel editorial, for a long time at that point. And so we had to get together to do this thing, but they didn't want me doing any of the regular comic books.


Brad: Mm-hmm.


Jim Starlin: Especially Thanos, because they wanted to handle Thanos. They didn't trust me to handle Thanos. Kind of funny saying, I was the only one that touched him there for two decades.


Brad: Yeah, and in my opinion, just to put it out there, your Thanos is the Thanos. And anything that's outside of your Thanos, feels like, well, I don't want to say a pretend Thanos. But just feels a little off.


Jim Starlin: It might be.


Brad: I won't force you to comment on that. I'm just putting that out there.


Jim Starlin: I made a point of not reading anything that somebody else does on a character that I've done after I get off it because of a couple of reasons. I don't want them to think I'm looking over their shoulder and disapproving, and I don't want my sphincter tightened if they're doing something wrong.


Brad: Sure.


Jim Starlin: I mean, folks like Donny Cates I've talked to about this, and they're cool with it. They understand. So basically, I remember what I had, and now it's somebody else's turn to play with it.


Brad: And I do feel like those Thanos books are your ultimate statement on the characters.


Jim Starlin: Yeah, I mean it was a long run. I mean, Marvel kept hiring me to do Captain Marvel, or Warlock, or Silver Surfer, but I was basically coming back just to do another Thanos story. And they all seemed to be good with that. It worked along pretty well for the longest time.


Brad: And so now, with bringing Breed back into the universe, into a physical copy here with Zoop, what does that mean for you? What is it like to have this older creation get some new life breathed into it?


Jim Starlin: It's making me want to go back and do some more Breed. I'm going to be tied up for the time being, with doing Dreadstar. Drawing and writing that. But I've worked with this other artist who I won't name at this point, on a job. I want to do an anthology book of Dreadstar things. Where after I get done with my five stories. I am going to do a book where I'm going to have some other artists come in and draw some of the characters for 20-page stories and do a book. I've worked up one with this one artist, and I think this particular artist would be really good on Breed, but I haven't talked to the artist about it yet. So I'm going to keep my mouth shut about who that is at this point. Though they will figure it out all by themselves if they see this interview.


Jim Starlin, Breed, and the Zoop of it All


Brad: And what's your experience been like working with Zoop? It's a particular way to go through the publishing game.


Jim Starlin: Well, I'll be honest with you, most of the fundraising stuff is done by the publisher.


Brad: Mm-hmm.


Jim Starlin: This case would be Chris over at Monkey Wrench. I come in and I basically write the stories, and then I do the interviews, and all the business stuff Chris handles. So Zoop, I understand it is going to be different because they're going to be handling, what do they call it, where you send out the books afterwards?


Brad: Yeah, fulfillment and that kind of thing.


Jim Starlin: Fulfillment.


Brad: Yeah, the annoying stuff.


Jim Starlin: Yeah, all the stuff that has to be done. I mean, basically this is a setup, so we get the money to pay for the printing and distribution. We worked out some other deals, too. I think this is out in the public and if not, I may be breaking the story here.


Brad: All right.


Jim Starlin: Dark Horse Comics is going to start distributing our stuff through Monkey Wrench. They're going to start off with the Dreadstar omnibus, and I'm pretty sure the Breed one will be going through there also. Som this gets us in the comic book stores.


Brad: Oh man, I love that. And I think collaborating with Dark Horse is a great idea. They make some great collections. So, you're getting your older stories back into the hands of your audience that you've already built, but also, again, like I said, I think there's a potential new audience for your stories. How do you feel about new people finding Breed? Finding Dreadstar?


Jim Starlin: It's fun. I have folks come up at these conventions and talk to me, and you get the young and the older guys, and the older guys are pretty much coming at it from the same place I am. But the newer ones have a perspective on it, and their lack of history is interesting, in the fact that some of them have conceptions that I would've never thought of along those lines. As far as the characters go. It's a learning experience. Also, it's nice to be making some money off this guy again.

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