If any of you are like me, you grew up watching the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, playing with the brand’s action figures, and reading the comics. But have you ever wondered what it was like for the creators of TMNT — or any other popular franchise for that matter — to hit it big in the comic book industry? What kind of stories do these guys have to tell from behind the scenes?
In Drawing Blood — a graphic novel written by one of TMNT‘s co-creators, Kevin Eastman, and that is currently running on Kickstarter — you’ll get to learn about some of these true stories, only set in a fictionalized world. Joined by comic creators David Avallone and Ben Bishop, Eastman’s Kickstarter for Drawing Blood has passed its goal of $75,000, and with only has a few days left, is now reach for some awesome stretch goals!
I was able to chat with both Avallone and Bishop about the project, and am excited to share their experiences with all of you! Check out the interview here below, along with their video for Drawing Blood!
In 1992, Shane “Books” Bookman, and his brother Paul, released their scrappy indie creation on the unsuspecting comic book universe: The Radically Rearranged Ronin Ragdolls. To their great surprise, everyone went wild for the adventures of three feline Katana wielding mutant cats, and a multi-million dollar franchise was born.
After more than a decade and a half of global success — comics/action figures/movies and just about anything else you could sell with a Ragdoll on it — the creators imploded. Too young and too naive to know how to handle the sudden pressures of wealth and fame, they split up, and the franchise eventually sold.
Now “Books” is hitting his forties (hard), his money all gone, his artistic inspiration tapped out, and his very life in danger from some business deals gone horribly bad. It’s hard enough to recover from a catastrophic encounter with the hit and run driver called “early success,” without having to worry about killers chasing you all over town.
Geeks of Doom: First of all, thanks for joining us here at Geeks of Doom to talk about your project, Drawing Blood!
Ben Bishop: Thank you!
David Avallone: Thanks for the interest.
GoD: Where did the idea for Drawing Blood initially come from?
DA: That all starts with Kevin. I don’t want to speak for him, but I can say that any life in show business”¦ comic books, movies, TV, theater, music, etc”¦ has a lot of crazy and extraordinary experiences. For me, one of the best things about that life is that you end up with all these amazing, unbelievable stories. The ones that happened to you, and the ones your friends told you. When Kevin and I first met, we bonded over cracking each other up telling these kinds of “war stories.” Drawing Blood is an attempt, I think, to synthesize all those war stories into something fresh and funny and absorbing. Kevin has great reverence and respect for all the cartoonists who showed him the way, and he had the working title On The Shoulders of Giants, but he knew that wasn’t quite right, and challenged me to come up with something else. On a walk from the Bayfront Hilton Hotel bar to a signing at the [San Diego] Convention Center in 2015, I came up with the title Drawing Blood, and we were off to the races.
GoD: As it’s stated on the Kickstarter page, Drawing Blood tells “the story behind the stories.” Can you tell us your personal story? How did you all meet, and ultimately, decide to work on this book together?
DA: I was introduced to Kevin at Emerald City Comic Con in 2015, and we became fast friends. Over time we kicked around the idea of doing something together, and by SDCC 2015, Kevin had told me the story he called On The Shoulders of Giants (as above) which he’d been tinkering with for years. Kevin and I beat out the characters and the story arc and the “world” together. We initially were developing it as a TV show, and most of the concepts you see in the story came from that process”¦ but we eventually realized that it would be better and smarter to launch the IP in the format it grew out of: comics. I wrote a few scripts, and earlier this year we were trying to decide on an artist when Kevin showed me Ben’s book, The Aggregate. I think I only needed to look at about three or four pages before I was on board with hiring Ben to draw the book.
BB: For me, I was at the hotel bar Saturday evening at Heroes Con in NC. When I got the email from Kevin (who I had only met once before), “Hey Ben, Kevin Eastman here”¦ I am sitting here looking at The Aggregate, which is F*$@ing awesome, and was wondering what you’ve got going on for the next year”¦ I have a project I think you’d be perfect for.” So I, of course, stepped outside and called him immediately. What’s funny is I had just spent the day at the con repeatedly answering the same question over and over again from fans, “When is IDW going to let you draw the interiors of a TMNT book?” “I don’t know, I guess I’m not good enough.” I’d say, and then THAT night, the guy who created the damn Turtles calls me up and tells me I’m good enough. So that was pretty awesome.
GoD: You each have your own unique experiences working in the comic book industry, as well as different styles in creating comics. How would you say your individual backgrounds and approaches to the book influence the story?
DA: I’m a relative newcomer to comics, only starting in the last three years”¦ but I’ve been bouncing around various jobs in movies/TV since the late eighties, so I bring all that show business experience to the table. Kevin and I have run into a lot of the same characters over the years, so we have an easy time bringing that stuff into Drawing Blood.
BB: I wouldn’t say this influenced the story so much, but my background in self-publishing, and being very DIY making my own books, and especially putting together and working Kickstarter campaigns has really helped I think. Story-wise, I see what Kevin and David are putting in the scripts and what they are looking for, draw that and inevitably put my own spin, and take on it and so far they haven’t disliked anything that I’ve come up with. It’s really been crazy how supportive and into any choices I’ve made they are. We’re a good team.
GoD: What about Drawing Blood, to you, makes it new and exciting to work on?
DA: There’s a lot of “show business” stories on the market, but almost nothing set in the world of comic books. There is a whole genre of autobiographical comics (like American Splendor), but I can’t think of a comic that does for comics what All That Jazz does for Broadway or Fellini’s 8Â½ does for movies or for that matter, what 30 Rock did for sketch shows. That’s uncharted territory, and for me, that’s always exciting.
BB: What David said, but also, on a personal level, ummm”¦ It’s a story about a guy who co-created a billion dollar franchise at a young age (The Radically Rearranged Ronin Ragdolls), co-created by THE GUY who co-created a billion dollar franchise at a young age (The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). I obviously couldn’t pass up the opportunity to draw that story. David mentioned earlier Kevin’s respect and reverence for the great cartoonists and creators that showed him the way, and I feel like that’s what’s happening for me right now, I’m quite literally standing “On The Shoulders Of Giants.” In addition to that, the book contains a lot of very cool and challenging things for me to draw, which I like. I’m used to writing comics for myself, so it’s nice to step out of my comfort zone and grow.
GoD: What do you hope to accomplish with the creation of this book?
DA: The number one hope is always to entertain, and maybe to inform a little bit along the way. People have some funny ideas about the lives of comic creators, and in the course of an absorbing fictional story we can still get across some honest truth about the realities of that life.
BB: Fame and fortune.
GoD: How can the Geeks of Doom community help support you in this awesome endeavor?
DA: We’d love it if you can direct the attention of comic book and pop culture fans toward the Kickstarter campaign (www.drawingbloodcomic.com) and share our excitement (and hopefully yours) about Drawing Blood Vol. 1, and her companion comic, the Radically Rearranged Ronin Ragdolls Issue #1 one-shot.
BB: People aren’t going to want to miss this book. It truly is a fresh unique story, set in the world we love: the comic book world. The Kickstarter only has a few days left, but there are still a ton of awesome rewards like original pages from me or Kevin! Yeah, did we mention Kevin will be drawing some scenes as well? So will Troy Little! Troy will be drawing all the hallucination sequences where the Radically Rearranged Ronin Ragdolls come to life, Space Jam style, and haunt their creator, Shane Bookman!
Lastly, I should mention there are three different covers, all exclusive to Kickstarter, never to be printed again, one by me, another by Kevin, and a third that we JUST revealed by ROBERT RODRIGUEZ! YES, the director of Sin City and From Dusk Till Dawn actually draws! So you should go get all three of those”¦ Now.