Hey everyone, I got a great interview for you guys to check out. I had the pleasure of talking to Christopher Condon & Jacob Phillips about their new crime book, THAT TEXAS BLOOD. From the minute I started seeing pages for this new book, I knew these guys had something great on their hands. They both were gracious enough to chat with me about their new book and really dive deep into the making of this book. Hope you guys enjoy and make sure you pick this up when it comes out in May.
COMIC LOUNGE: Hey guys, as a huge fan of crime comics/books, this book is right up my alley. Can you tell us more about your new book THAT TEXAS BLOOD?
CHRIS: Well, Texas has a sort of mystique to it. The Texas state travel guide advertises it as "like another country" and it feels like it - and it's in that way that it sort of feels like the final frontier (aside from space, I guess), a world where anything goes. People don't dress like they do elsewhere - there's cowboy hats and boots, guns on belts, and talk with a distinct accent. Of course this isn't everyone in Texas, but it exists. We tried to capture the essence of this in the comic - both in my scripts and in Jacob's phenomenal art. While capturing this essence we didn't want to mock it - we try to do it with reverence - and in so doing our comic revolves around a fictional county in Texas rather than a real county. THAT TEXAS BLOOD jumps off from there, exploring the various bad things that tend to happen in this place, and the weight that this puts onto Sheriff Joe Bob Coates' shoulders.
COMIC LOUNGE: I know that you said this originally started off as a script for a film so how did it turn into a comic book?
CHRIS: Yes, it started out as a screenplay initially, which is actually how Jacob got involved. He began his work on THAT TEXAS BLOOD - then called Past is Prologue - as a conceptual artist to help me pitch this idea. So in a way, the comic has always been there in some way. After about a year of floating the idea around as a film, I came back to Jacob and told him it isn't working as a screenplay - want to try it as a comic? He was excited to try it out and so we went from there. The idea blossomed and became something larger than that initial idea and I cannot imagine it as anything but a comic book at this point.
JACOB: Yeah I was hooked on the story when doing the concept art way before Chris even came to me with the idea of making it into a comic. So when the possibility of creating a comic came about I didn’t need very long to think about it.
COMIC LOUNGE: Since you guys both live in different countries, how did you guys hook up for this project?
CHRIS: Well, I first saw Jacob's work in the backups of his father's book KILL OR BE KILLED. I loved the work he was doing and reached out to him via email to see if he was interested in working with me on the concept art that I had mentioned previously. That's generally how we stay in touch now - via email - though we also connect via social media.
JACOB: Yeah what started as an email from Chris has turned into 100s of different email threads that we have to trawl through in order to find whatever we need to reread. But it’s still preferable to having to have hour long phone calls every day and then remember what was said.
COMIC LOUNGE: Chris, this ones for you. Before this book I wasn't familiar with your work. Is this your first comic? Who are some of the writers that inspired you to be a writer?
CHRIS: Yes, this is my first comic, but I've always had a deep love of comic books. I grew up in the 90s so my childhood was saturated with Marvel, DC, and, of course, Image Comics. Writers that inspire me? There's so many! Definitely would have to cite Ed Brubaker - his work is some of the best in the medium. I also really don't think that there is much better than Alan Moore. Standard answer, I know. I also have a fondness for the works of Denny O'Neil, Matt Fraction, the craziness of Kirby, Darwyn Cooke, Jeff Lemire, Tom King, Scott Snyder, Brian K. Vaughn, Chip Zdarsky, and - oh God, I probably missed a ton. But I go to the comic shop weekly and pickup as much as my wallet will let me. As for novelists - I love Michael Chabon, Jim Thompson, Thomas Pynchon, George Saunders, and Stephen King. But again, there's just so many - I'm probably forgetting a million or two authors that I love.
COMIC LOUNGE: Jacob, I have to admit your name was the initial draw for me to this hook. What's it's like going from coloring a book to doing all the art?
JACOB: Well before I even started coloring I was working as a freelance illustrator, which i am still doing alongside this book, and I had done a few smaller comics which I took as illustration jobs. I got the honor of working with Rachel Smith on a free comic called Jack & Lucy which was commissioned my Welcome Trust. But you’re right, this is the first longer-form comic I’ve worked on and it’s great fun but an lot more work than I’m used to when I’m coloring a book. It’s great to have full control over how the artwork comes out from start to finish, getting to try things out that I can’t really do when coloring somebody else’s work.
COMIC LOUNGE: Who are some of your artistic influences?
JACOB: I love mid-century illustrators like Bernie Fuchs and Robert McGunnis and I definitely try to pull some of that into my work. In terms of comic artists I’m a big fan of Cliff Chiang, Jaime Hernandez and Tonci Zonjic. We are also both massive fans of Duncan Fegredo’s work so we’re very excited about getting him to do a variant cover for us on issue 2.
COMIC LOUNGE: With the first couple pages of the book, you guys already have me hooked. How big is this Sheriff Joe Coates going to be?
CHRIS: Joe Bob is our anchor. When the world goes crazy, when the tornado rips across the landscape, we'll be able to hold onto him and remain steady.
COMIC LOUNGE: So he will be a main character, but each subsequent arc will focus on other townspeople? That almost feel like kind of a Fargo vibe.
CHRIS: I am a HUGE fan of the film Fargo but unfortunately have not seen the show (big fan of Noah Hawley though - Legion is excellent television). I am aware that it has a new story every season so I suppose that our comic series is like that. I sort of thought of this series as almost like condensing the universe building of Stephen King into a series, loosely episodic in structure with a more anthological bent with recurring locales and characters.
COMIC LOUNGE: What are the long-term ideas for the book? Could this potentially go on for a long time, or is there an end goal.
CHRIS: I have ideas for where it will go from here (craziness) and I have an ending in mind. I hope we don't get there for a long time though! But the series is built to end well on each and every story - each individual tale has (and should have!) a satisfying conclusion. I hate books that tell stories that could be told in one issue across six - I like them to end organically. There will be none of that here (I hope...).
JACOB: It’s as exciting for me as it will be the readers too as I have no idea what Chris has planned for future arcs. I much prefer to find out what is happening as the scripts come in so I’m really interested to how we go about building up this world we’re creating.
COMIC LOUNGE: Do you guys have any other projects you wanna develop together?
CHRIS: I would love to see where the future takes us - but we don't have any beyond THAT TEXAS BLOOD at this point.
JACOB: I think the great thing about this project is the world we are able to build in this fictional Texas county so there are so many different stories to explore within that. I think that will probably keep us going for quite a while so there’s no other projects for the two of us in the works at the moment.
COMIC LOUNGE: Are there any other projects you guys are working on?
CHRIS: I'm working on several things but this is my main focus at the moment.
JACOB: On completing this first arc of That Texas Blood we are taking a break and I am starting work on another new Image book with another writer. Can’t say too much at this point but should be really exciting
COMIC LOUNGE: Is there anything else you guys want to say about the book that will entice readers to get out there and buy the book?
CHRIS: I think that if you're looking for character, a shock, some laughs, and even a tug or two at those heart strings - this book is for you. Yeah, the book has Texas in the title, but it's for everyone. I love Texas. I hope you will too, grit and all.