Jim Gibbons spent two years working for Wizard before joining Dark Horse as their newest publicity coordinator. But what’s his history in comics really like? We found out.
Do you remember your first comic book or graphic novel?
Absolutely! I was a wee lad of 5 or 6 years old and was at my allergist's office. They had already figured out I had asthma and suspected I had some allergies, so I underwent a series of "scratch" tests to find out more. A "scratch" test is used to determine what someone is allergic to by pricking the skin with a sample of common allergies from molds and pollen to different kinds of nuts and foods on down to kinds of animal fur. It'd be a mildly uncomfortable situation if you tested negative on everything just due to the series of tiny needles pricking you and having to remain statue still for an extended period of time…but I tested positive to some degree on nearly everything and was therefore itching like crazy as numerous allergy samples brought out a series of tiny reactions on my arms. A nurse brought a comic in to keep me occupied, and as my arms were pinned down with sample trays causing me serious discomfort, my mom flipped through the pages for me. I probably read that issue, entitled "Captain America Versus the Asthma Monster," four or five times during that visit.
After that, any time I had to get other allergy testing done or something more serious, like when my tonsils were removed, my mom would always pick up some comics for me. I've been hooked ever since.
What do you love about the graphic novel as a format for storytelling?
While I think the clichéd "What's not to love?!" totally applies, the possibility to tell stories that are entirely original and unique is probably the reason I enjoy the format most. Most movies and TV shows usually have to follow certain preexisting "tried and true" outlines—I mean how many police procedurals litter television with shockingly similar formats? While comics occasionally fall into that trap with certain genres, the medium and community around comics also allows for so much variation and creative experimentation. It's one of the reasons working at Dark Horse has been a blast. Certainly we have books that play off old pulps or superhero comics or classic sci-fi, but I always feel like the take on these forms at Dark Horse is pretty darn unique. Even with all the pop culture I've saturated myself with throughout the years, I still always feel like I'm getting something new when I crack open one of our books.
Whose work do you admire?
This is one of those questions that has an ever-changing answer for me. Right now—and I'll presume we're talking comics professionals here, not peers in the field of PR—Graham Annable's Grickle cartoons have been blowing my mind. (Lucky for me, I've been able to sneak some peeks at his upcoming Book of Grickle. Great, great stuff!) I wanted to draw newspaper comic strips when I was a kid and still do the occasional doodle, so when I look at how much Graham does with so little and how simple and easy he makes it look, I am always amazed and entertained. It's kind of similar to how I feel about Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo. It seems so effortlessly done but is filled with an elegance and personality that make it impossible not to become completely engrossed in Stan's work.
I also reread the entirety of B.P.R.D. recently, and I think it's simply one of the best comics…well, ever. It's such an epic and coherent team book with such good, compelling small-scale business and fascinating overarching plots that it's hard not to sit in awe of its brilliance. I may be gushing a bit, but it's pretty exciting to get to be a small part of getting the word out on these great books.
Who do you read outside of the graphic novel format?
I really don't read as many books as I should. I'm always cracking open another trade instead. However, the one author I always find myself going back to is George Saunders. He writes these outlandish stories that are full of such hilarious satire that even when they're ridiculously silly or entirely depressing, they crack me up and make me think.
How many graphic novels do you read a month? How many of those are manga?
I'd say eight is a pretty good guesstimation; two a week sounds pretty right. Right now, my "to read" pile is pretty backlogged, so as soon as I finish one graphic novel, it's on to the next. I've been rotating between Hellboy, Usagi, old Marvel Conan comics, and the '60s Doctor Solar stuff of late.
How did you first get involved in the field professionally?
I was a journalism student who read comics. One day, I thought, "Why not do comics journalism?" I actually really enjoyed the little bit of local reporting I did in college, but it seemed like reporting on my hobby would be a lot more fun. So, I applied for an internship at Wizard, got the position, didn't foul it up and was offered a job there after I graduated.
What kind of reaction do you get when you tell people what you do?
It depends. People who know and read a lot of comics usually find the idea of getting to work alongside the many talented people who put together the products they see in comic shops on Wednesday to be a pretty exciting. As they usually have an understanding of how comics are made and how the business works, the general reaction is along the lines of "That sounds like a blast." For the record, they're entirely right.
Folks who are not familiar with comics are often a bit confused and sometimes seem to think comics just create themselves out of thin air, so they're surprised to hear anyone "works in comics." Usually a quick explanation of how my job is to take the product that our writers, artists, editors, and designers create and introduce people to it via interviews and art samples online, which involves working regularly with comics journalists and bloggers, puts a business angle on the explanation that people understand. Once people are brought up to speed, the reaction is pretty similar to that of the comics fan and people think it sounds pretty fun. Again, entirely right.
Do you collect comics? What is the most valuable piece of art, graphic novel, or comic book in your collection?
I do collect comics, but my focus has moved away from the long box and onto the bookshelf in recent years. Much as loads of single issues are fun to have, I'm really in collecting comics to have those stories on hand whenever I want to read them. A well-stocked bookshelf is my priority now.
As for the most valuable thing in my collection, I honestly couldn't say. I've been scouring conventions for the past two years looking for a copy of Captain America Versus the Asthma Monster. (No idea what happened to the issue I had all those years ago.) But I have yet to find it. In fact, most rare comic vendors I've asked have never even heard of it. I'll track that kooky PSA comic down one day, and then I'll have a good answer to this question, at least as far as sentimental value goes.
Is there something you covet adding to your collection?
You know how many folks have sketchbooks they bring to cons and get artists to draw Batman or something in them? Well, I've been planning on starting one for a while that would feature drawings of me eating with different comic book characters: Riding on Hulk's shoulders as we both eat ice cream cones, eating pancakes with Hellboy, sitting in a diner with The Thing, chowing down on a leg of lamb with Conan. Much as I'd love to think artists would swoon at the chance to draw my debonair personage, perhaps offering to do so for free or at a discounted rate, what I'm proposing would be some pricey commissions. Maybe this year I'll start shelling out the cash to make these puppies happen. One day…one day…