Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Emerald City Comic Con Preview: Q&A with Greg Smith

Hope you've enjoyed the Emerald City comic Con preview Q&A's. This last one before ECCC is a good one. We got in a chat with Greg Smith, the writer of one of the hottest graphic novels on the market today, Junior Braves Of The Apocalypse (Oni Press) Be sure to stop by the Oni booth at ECCC if you're attending and grab a copy to get signed, as this will be a rare occurrence that all the creators of Junior Braves will be in the same place at the same time. I'm bringing my copy. Enjoy the interview and learning more about the book!

TheSteveStrout: Let's get right to it and have you tell us about Junior Braves. Can you summarize what it's about?

Greg Smith: Short  - The Goonies meet The Walking Dead.

Long - Junior Braves of the Apocalypse Book 1: A Brave is Brave, by writers Greg Smith and Michael Tanner, and artist Zach Lehner is brought to you by Oni Press, Portland’s premier independent comic book publisher.

Junior Braves of the Apocalypse follows the young scouts of Tribe 65, returning from a camping trip to find swarms of bloodthirsty zombies have overrun their town, bringing death and destruction everywhere they go. With their families missing and their homes destroyed, these plucky kids must use of all their scouting talents, combined smarts, and teamwork to survive the end of the world. Junior Braves of the Apocalypse Book 1: A Brave is Brave is the beginning of an exciting new young adult graphic novel series that is one part Goonies and one part The Walking Dead. Full of zombies, adventure and handy tips for wilderness survival!

TheSteveStrout: I've gotten through the first part of the story, where (spoiler alert) the kids are being sent off to camp from their different backgrounds. So far I'm getting a really "80s horror" film vibe, with the kids gathering in time for it to "hit the fan"...Was it your intention to have the "movie" feel?

Greg Smith: It is awesome that you felt that! Mike and I really love that time frame and genre. We grew up watching stuff like the Monster Squad (Mike’s Favorite) and being general “80’s Horror Kids” so creating a horror story for kids made sense. Pacing wise we wanted to set up so you knew just enough about each kid to form an opinion get your feels ready for “hit the fan” moments.

TheSteveStrout: Junior Braves is one of the hottest selling indie selling graphic novels right now. Has the success opened any other doors for you and your team?

Greg Smith: It has been an interesting year, for three unknowns in comics to be so welcomed it is amazing. I can’t say it hasn’t come without a lot of door knocking and ground work prior. That is what is paying off, the name recognition is amazing. Having a publisher email you after seeing your book in a Barnes & Noble and tell you that they want to talk next time they see you is a great feeling! All the doors we knocked at in the past have opened a smidge for us in the wake of this past success. As anyone working in self-promotion knows there is no rest, there are no free lunches, and hustler never stops.

It great to be approached by stores, libraries, and schools to do visits and talk to readers. If you asked any of us 4 years ago we wouldn’t think that would be real.
The most surreal is that last year we were the back cover of the Free Comic Book Day offering from Oni Press. This year we are the Free Comic Book Day offering. That is crazy pants!

TheSteveStrout: Oni is one of the top up and coming publishers out there with popular titles like Invader Zim, Madman, and Scott Pilgrim and so many more. I'd assume it's pretty humbling (and rad too) to have your series in such company?

Greg Smith: It amazes me every day. I feel lucky to call these creators my family. But it is not just the creators that we are in line with in Previews; it’s the people that make these titles possible. They are honestly the best! I am lucky to call them my Oni Family! They make sure things happen.

TheSteveStrout: I personally love a good zombie story, and Junior Braves is wonderfully written, with excellent art filling the pages. I figure it was a no brainer for Oni Press to pick up the book. Was it a fast process getting it published? Howd that come to fruition?

Greg Smith: First off thank you! We are all glad that you like it! As for the process, well that was a process. We started this back in 2008 so it has been about 8 years in the making. A lot of things have happened to move this book out that were needed to make it the book you all have in your hands. Where to start, the whys or the hows? I think I will start with the how it happened and then go into the whys.

The initial idea came from a text message while I was laid up with back injury to Mike after watching movies with my Dad. Mike happened to be in the right car with the right guy who loved the idea.

Why did it take so long? The easy answer is it’s our first graphic novel. The long answer is that when we saw how amazing the art that Zach was producing and then he wanted to wash it green (all art and green wash was by hand) we said take your time. This all added 2 years on top of the 2 years we had into this. Then that put us into the lettering and overall calendar of projects and we slid due to production. Was it frustrating yes. Was it worth the wait, yes!

TheSteveStrout: We mentioned the popularity of the book. In a past conversation you mention it's on it's 3rd printing? 

Greg Smith: This has been the craziest part of the whole thing. The book keeps selling out. I suppose that is great problem to have. I thank Librarians and Teachers for finding this book and loving it! They have nominated and made it one of the 2016 YALSA Reluctant Reader Picks!

TheSteveStrout: You also mentioned it will be an on going series. What can you tell us about that?

Greg Smith: We have been working on creating a world for readers to get wrapped up in and take a hike with us. The series is 5 books and is a step up series. It follows the formula that J.K. Rowling laid out with the Harry Potter books, that as the readers grow the characters will grow. The stories will mature and the characters will face challenges and learn lessons that are appropriate for the age that books a geared to. There will be new characters and for the people who have been wondering, yes there will be girls! Mike and I have had all 5 books outlined for the past 5 years. Currently Zach is drawing Book 2 and Mike and writing Book 3.

TheSteveStrout: Your appearing at Emerald City Comic Con next weekend? What table can you be found at?

Greg Smith: Emerald City Comic Con is going to be a treat for people if they have a copy of the book already or want to pick one up because Mike, Zach, and I will all be there! This is rare as we all live across the US. Mike is in LA, Zach is in Chicago, and I am here in the Pacific Northwest. We honestly only see each other in person three times a year. We will be taking over a majority of the O Row in Artist Alley O-3A, O-3B, and O-4A. We will have books and merch! If you come buy a book get a cool Zombie Backpack and a Zombie Attack Photo!

TheSteveStrout: Are there any special Junior Braves "happenings" (like panels or signings in the publishers booth)

Greg Smith: For happenings there will be singings at the Oni Press Booth #216 4/9 at 10:30-11:30 and a “Monster Battle!” on 4/9 where Zach Lehner (Junior Braves Artist) will be in an all-out art battle with 4 other Oni Press artist. Free Comics will be given to all attendees of the battle! Rumor also has it that all attendees will be part of live Podcast event for "Pages of All Ages/Out of the Fridge" so come one show and be part of another!

TheSteveStrout: What are you looking forward to at ECCC?

Greg Smith: Honestly seeing people I don’t get to see on the regular. Don’t take that as other the creators. I am talking about the person that DM’s me on Twitter or on Facebook. The person that follows me Instagram and then tells me they like Zombies, survival, horror movies, or just digs cools stuff. I am looking forward to making those real life connections and breaking that digital wall. 

TheSteveStrout: You'll also be hitting the Comic Book Swap Meet at the end of the month. How will your approach to that show differ from the big show in ECCC?

Greg Smith: Honestly I am not slowing my roll. I am bringing the same “A Game” I just won’t have Mike and Zach. My thing is to make it an experience for each person. I have been super fortunate in my life to have people make my day, the least I can do is pay that forward. When I come out to the Comic Book Swap Meet people are getting the full experience and then some! We are doing photos, getting swag, and having a time!

TheSteveStrout: Your wife will also be vending at the Comic Book Swap Meet. Care to plug her venture here? What is she going to be offering?

Greg Smith: My wife Anne is the proprietor of “SweetGyrl Designs” She deals in 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s Collectables and Toys AKA Random Fandom for Girls and Guys. She has retro fun for everyone. I am going to have provide a link to her Etsy shop as me trying to talk about it does none of it justice. Go find her athttps://www.etsy.com/shop/SweetgyrlDesigns

She also has a background in graphic design and created all the merch and the Junior Braves website – www.juniorbraves.com
Greg and Anne

TheSteveStrout:  for readers not making any upcoming cons, where can we find a copy of Junior Braves of The Apocalypse?

Greg Smith: If you can’t make it to a con People can find their local comic shops at findacomicshop.com or comicshoplocator.com. If their shop doesn't have it, it's available for retailers to order with this Diamond order code: MAR151456. It is also at Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, and Amazon! Lot’s of options!

TheSteveStrout: You have any other projects in the works?

Greg Smith: I am currently working on a few projects -
I am working on new comic pitches with my writing partner Mike Tanner.
I am working on a podcast called Around Seattle focusing on just about anything and everything in and around Seattle and it’s surrounding communities with my friend Nick Lindsey.
I am working on few comic and story ideas with artist Meescha Dare.
Lastly I am working on a few of my own poetry and prose pieces. 
For future announcements all of these please keep dibs on me @thatamazingtwit or @juniorbraves65 on Twitter and THATAMAZINGTWIT on Instagram.
Hey friends! As always , thanks for eading and showing support for this site. Don't forget to come find me at ECCC. I should have some www.thestevestrout.com buttons for ya!!! Don't forget, if you want to cover a genre convention in your area for thestevestrout.com , get in touch and lets make it happen! -Steve!

Steve Strout is the media mastermind behind this site, host of the Comic Book Swap Meet, nerd, terrible artist, gamer, convention goer and comic book reader who spends more time rescuing toys from thrift shops than a normal adult should. He is also known around the northwest for his promotion of live music and stand-up comedy events and is the creator/producer of the Comic Book Swap Meet mini convention, and Olympic Peninsula Comedy Competition (which will make it's big return in 2015). Follow him on Instagram at http://instagram.com/thestevestrout, and  He can be reached for comments at ptcomedy@yahoo.com on twitter at @thestevestrout