Published on May 29th, 2018 | by Dana Folkard
B.J. MENDELSON INTERVIEW – VENGEANCE, NEVADA
B.J. Mendelson, the author behind the highly successful book, Social Media is Bullshit, recently released his first comic: Vengeance, Nevada. Mendelson took the time to chat to Impulse Gamer about his exciting new comic, where he talks about it’s key players, his inspiration and much more!
Without revealing any spoilers, can you tell us a little bit about the story and key players?
Vengeance, Nevada is (I hope) similar to the 1960s Marvel comics in that it has a very basic premise that we can all relate to: “What if you suddenly got everything you ever wanted?” In most cases, people always tell you they’d do something for good, or for charity. But this book is about what happens when someone gets everything they ever wanted and becomes a villain. Or at least, an antagonist for a while.
The story follows three groups. Kristen Jacobs, our main character, and then a group of heroes who are trying to help Kristen and a group of villains who want to control her. So we’ll bounce back and forth between the three groups and watch as they intersect with each other and how Kristen reacts to their attempts. The book is really Kristen’s story and what the consequences are for her after she gets everything she ever wanted. The Kingdom is the group of villains, Open Grave and Porter Industries are the group of heroes.
Also, we have Sherlock Holmes, whose mind is trapped in the body of a giant gorilla. So that alone is worth the price of admission I think.
Did you encounter any challenges when writing this story?
Not really, in terms of the story itself. I have a pretty comprehensive outline I wrote a while back that I’m following. I do go and tweak it occasionally but I know exactly where it’s going, how it ends, and what I need to do to get there and hopefully tell a fun story while doing so.
The biggest challenge for VN is that I’m self-publishing and self-financing. So my goal is to get all 24 or so issues out in a reasonable amount of time, but we’ll see if I can swing it. Issue #2 will be out in August, and then #3 around Christmas or just after New Year’s.
We are introduced to quite a number of characters and side stories in the first issue. Has this been a world you’ve been creating and building for quite a while?
So, I’ve been at this (Liberty / Vengeance, Nevada) since 2015. The Liberty comic might actually be a year older than that, but I knew I wanted to do something fun with a big cast of characters because I’m really into miniseries. So I knew that Kristen’s story in Vengeance was a finite story and didn’t want to be left with nothing to do after her story ends. So the idea is that Kristen exists as part of a larger universe, and when her story is done, I’ll do a limited series with another character, and keep hopping from character to character until I’m dead.
I don’t really have any ambition to write or work for another comic publisher. If the phone rings tomorrow and it’s Marvel asking if I wanted to write She-Hulk, I would take that in a second, but I’m not doing all this to get to somewhere else. I’m doing all this because I love comics, I love the medium, and I want to be doing this for the rest of my life. So in order to do that I’ve populated this world with a lot of characters and side stories that I can later go back to.
That said, you don’t need to know anything for Vengeance, Nevada. Kristen’s story is entirely self-contained, and while the other characters show up, they’re really there in service of telling Kristen’s story and bringing it to its conclusion.
How many issues are we looking at for this arc?
There are 24 issues total. 1-12 is the first “season” which is where we see Kristen’s quest to get everything she ever wanted. And then 13-24 covers what happens once she gets it and the consequences of doing so.
Piotr Czaplarski is the artist for this series. Can you tell us a little bit about him and what his art brings to helping visualise this world?
I’ve been really fortunate to work with two great artists. Francisco Trebuxet on Liberty and Piotr on both Vengeance, Nevada and the self-help comic I’m doing, “A National Story of Minor Significance.” Both of them are wonderful and fortunately for the comics world, and unfortunately for me, everyone is starting to take notice of how good they are, meaning they have less and less time to do this stuff with me. I am very happy for them.
With Piotr, I was looking for a way to make these characters stand out, and his style really allows for that to happen. Especially since it’s a black and white series (for the most part) it’s important that whoever is at the helm can make the characters compelling to look at and he just does that so expertly. There’s a fun Wizard of Oz thing that’s going on in this comic and he pulls off that presentation expertly.
I have a really simple writing style, and I think Piotr’s art compliments that where his stuff looks deceptively simple at first glance but then you really look at what he’s doing and it captures your attention.
So, this is your first foray into comics. What made you decide to take the plunge?
I’ve been doing webcomics online since 2002. Some of them were featured on places like Boing Boing, The Daily Jolt, and CBS College Sport’s former U-Wire service. But I never felt really comfortable with the medium until over a decade later. In 2014 I made a point to read every book I could on writing comics, distributing comics, and examining how they’re scripted. After I did that I felt like I was ready to get active in the community. So I’ve been around for a while but Vengeance, Nevada is the first actual comic for me.
I found after my first book came out, Social Media Is Bullshit (St. Martin’s Press), that I didn’t want that to be the thing I was known for. It’s a good book and I’m proud of it but I don’t want to be writing marketing books for the rest of my life. I much rather be writing comics, and so that’s what lead to me committing to comics in 2014 and doing the research. A year later I came across Piotr’s work and here we are today.
Finally, did you grow up reading comics as a kid? And, are there any comic industry legends that have inspired or influenced you?
I did! I started reading comics in the early ’90s when the anti-heroes were big, so you can definitely see that influence in Vengeance, Nevada. Jim Valentino’s Guardians of the Galaxy was my first comic, and the Infinity Gauntlet was my first major crossover event. I was definitely a Marvel kid, but not because of any real preference. I didn’t have a local comic shop for a while and so I was dependent on whatever the local convenience story was carrying. It was always Marvel and Archie, and I didn’t take to Archie. So definitely Valentino and Jim Starlin. But in terms of writing, the biggest influence over time for me was Chris Claremont and his run on X-Men. It was so deep and nuanced, and sometimes you had issues where NOTHING happened and they were just playing football with each other and that blew my mind. Like I was that invested in the characters emotionally that I didn’t care I just got an issue where nothing happened.
That’s my goal with these comics. I want them to be deep and soap opera-like so that you really buy into the characters as people and want to follow them along on their adventures.
Vengeance, Nevada is available to purchase for digital download via Comixology.