Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Ex and Future Files of Stefan Petrucha

He has written perhaps the one single comic book most read by non-comic book readers -- the X-Files comic by Topps that ran in TV Guide back in 1995.

A few years later, around the early 2000s, I had the luxury of having him write a story for the indie publisher I was working for as a partner and EIC at the time, Shooting Star Comics.

It was like having Apollo step down from Olympus to like a candle in your kitchen. Needless to say, we've kept in touch, off and on, and I was glad Stefan had a break to spare a few minutes for some questions from Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

That would be Ripper, a young adult thriller set in 1895 from Philomel Books. I like to describe it as sort of like Harry Potter, but without magic and with a serial killer.

Basically, a series of Jack the Ripper-like slayings take place in NYC (where, btw, six of the real-life Ripper suspects spent time). 14-year-old orphan and wannabe detective, Carver Young, searching for his father, comes to believe he may be related to the killer.

Aside from being the most page-turning piece I’ve ever produced, physically the book is gorgeous, with a truly great cover design. There’s also a fantastic promo video (about to break 10k views on YouTube). Reaction from reviewers and readers have been, thus far, amazing.

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

Going back to The X-Files comic for Topps, on up to co-writing Paranormal State: My Journey into the Unknown, with series star Ryan Buell, I’ve always had a fondness for the paranormal. For me, the paranormal lends itself to some really interesting ways of looking at the nature of reality, and the self.

Past that, I like genre in general; zombies, vampires, werewolves, detectives, ghosts – that sort of thing. I prefer to work on the edges of genre, trying to shake up the rules a bit in interesting ways. Ripper, for instance, is a mystery/thriller with some steampunk elements. There, I mostly use technology actually around at the time, though most people may not realize it, such as electric taxis and the Alfred Beach Pneumatic Subway System.

What would be your dream project?

Honestly, I’ve been doing dream projects from the beginning of my career. My first comic book works were original concepts, like Squalor back in the late eighties with Tom Sutton, which later became a series of Young Adult novels.

Rather than a new dream project, I would like one of my existing projects to “break out” so I could more easily pay my mortgage. Content-wise, I’ve been pretty happy. Perhaps I’d like to do something more literary on the one hand, but I’d also love to write for TV or have a screenplay produced.

Oh, and I’d love to write a novel or comic for Dark Shadows. It’s the last thing in the media world that has my unconditional love.

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

Tough question – on the one hand, anything can always be improved, but right now I’m in a place where I prefer to forge ahead.

That said, the rights for two of my properties, Timetripper and Wicked Dead (with co-writer Lee Thomas) have recently reverted, and I’m planning to release them as e-books as soon as I find the time. So there is an opportunity to go back and clean things up a bit. I enjoy the editing process a lot – it’s less angst-ridden than creation itself, so I’m looking forward to it!

What inspires you to write?

I’ve been doing it so long, I really can’t remember. Great writing, when I can find it, always inspires me to try to do better, both in life and in writing. On a deeper level, entertaining as it is, the writing process can be spiritual for me, an effort to forge connections between myself, other people and the world.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

So many! A short lost would include, Stan Lee, Alan Moore, Herman Hesse, Shakespeare, Robert Pirsig, Rumi, Vonnegut, Emily Dickinson, Douglas Adams, Steinbeck, MT Anderson and Joss Whedon.

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

I understand that people like to separate art and science for a variety of reasons but I don’t like the distinction. Art can be a science, and science an art. In writing, I flip between the two, sometimes focusing on the mechanical, sometimes the muse, and I find both invaluable. Ultimately, I rank my work as the best I can make it.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

I’m doing a number of fun graphic novels with Papercutz these days, including our latest Slices with Rick Parker -- The Hunger Pains, a parody of you-know-what. The rest of the year will see Power Rangers Super Samurai (a lot of fun), a new Nancy Drew series (with my wife, Sarah Kinney) and The Three Stooges.

Past that, this September will see the second in my zombie detective series, which began with Dead Mann Walking, called Dead Mann Running. And I’m currently working on the sequel to…. Ripper.

(What is that? Six projects? No wonder I’ve forgotten what inspires me. But I figure that’s okay, as long as I don’t forget to be inspired.)

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For more information about Stehan and his work, visit his website at www.petrucha.com.