Last month, I had the pleasure of reading the 451 comic, Humbug, for Comicbooked. I recently was able to do an interview with Anthony and John, the brothers who write Humbug under their penname, A.J. Gentile. I’m thankful that I was able to get this interview and I hope you enjoy it!
BB: I love the concept of Humbug. First off, who’s idea was it to place Ebenezer Scrooge in the role of a paranormal investigator?
A CHRISTMAS CAROL is one of our favorites books and even though there’s been countless film versions of the story we never felt there was a faithful rendition of what Dickens envisioned when he wrote his book. When we set about seeing how we could tell A CHRISTMAS CAROL the way we always envisioned it, we decided to pick up the story where Dickens left off and said, “if Dickens were to write A CHRISTMAS CAROL as a graphic novel what would happen to Scrooge the day after Christmas?”. Voila – HUMBUG was born.
BB: Along with Humbug, have you written other comics? Is 451 Comics your first publishing house for comics or have you worked under other companies? Self-publishing?
We did a limited series of titles with Marvel based on a toy brands we created and sold to toy companies like Hasbro. We created the storylines and the brands but we did not write the actual comics themselves. MICRONAUTS went on to almost 175 issues and VISIONARIES was a limited series we did in conjunction with Hasbro + Marvel.
BB: Do you write short stories and novels as well?
Plenty on both fronts. And screenplays as well. Our first book THE JUDAS SEED was published by Dell and we followed with THE DEAD SEASON. In between books we actually wrote the first film adaption of GI JOE for Hasbro and we’ve written almost all of the scripts on the animated series we produced for our toy brands we created. Shows like VISIONARIES, DRAGONFLYZ, VANPIRES that astoundingly have built these huge fan bases over the years since the toys + series first rolled out. Writing those very concise ½ hour shows were a great training ground for the long form stuff to come in terms of structure + pacing.
BB: As writers, do you mostly write fiction dealing with paranormal subject matter, or do you mostly gravitate towards other subjects?
Fiction almost exclusively and the majority of what we love to write is very genre specific. We have adapted several no-fiction books like Phil Carlo’s THE BUTCHER based on the true life story of notorious mob serial killer, Tony Pitera, as screenplays but for our original stuff be it books, screenplays or graphic novels it’s almost all fiction based and genre driven.
BB: There is a lot of fun comedy in Humbug. There’s that weird fiction aspect but the humor gives it a light-hearted feel, even with monsters and ghosts. What is it like balancing humor with this comic, keeping it action driven, yet giving it a slight horror edge as well?
That makes us happy you picked that up. We always thought that the character of Scrooge as Dickens’s imagined him was inherently funny. We always thought of him as the Don Rickles of the Victorian era, always quick with a snappy rank out. One of our favorite films where the balance of comedy and horror was so expertly handled was ABBOTT + COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTIEN. If the characters have funny bones in their DNA and they’re played straight and true along with making no compromise on lessening the dosage of the thrills + chills, we felt that was the ideal high wire act we had to balance in writing HUMBUG.
BB: Who are your biggest inspirations as writers?
Dickens is obviously at the top of the list. Herman Melville is a close second. If we’re talking living vs. Dave Morrell, Ira Levin, Clive Barker,
BB: I love the art that you have in Humbug, the colors and designs. Cosmo White, your line artist, and the colors, Jason Candy and James Statye, did a brilliant job. What is it like collaborating with them in the creative process of the comic?
Cosmo is The Man. The instant we saw Cosmo’s work we knew he was the illustrator to get behind the driver’s seat for HUMBUG. His line work and panel compositions were the perfect balancing act between the energy + humor we wanted to underscore Also since the concept was a fresh new re-boot we wanted the color palette to reflect that this wasn’t out granddaddy’s CHRISTMAS CAROL and Jason + James juts took that direction and ran with it – right across the finish line.
BB: Do you have any future artists you would love to work with in the industry?
Neal Adams. We’ve worked with Neal on other projects but never our own. That would definitely be one of many dreams come true. Other top talent we’d love to collaborate with is Joe Benitez, Ben Templeton, Andy Kubert, Ashley Wood, and we can keep going. You want to cast the right illustrator that matches the heart + sprit of the material. And if you do it right, like we did with Cosmo, Jason + James, you just sit back and see the magic happen.
BB: What is it like working for 451 Comics?
Not only are we a member of the Hair Club of America we’re also the owners. So working for our selves is nice work if you can get it. But working with great partners like Doug Nunes our CEO and Mike Bay with all his terrific creative input is incredible. And what makes it even better is the tremendous team of our in-house staff of producers, animators. Those guys can really do anything + everything we throw at them and we are continually amazed + astounded at the incredible stuff they produce for 451.
BB: Any advice you can give to writers that want to work in the comic book industry?
The advice we have to give is to writers in general. A default may be the comic industry but any writer has to down one thing everyday besides breathing + eating – that’s writing. And not necessarily in that order. Unless you’re the writer, illustrator + publisher all wrapped up in one you do need to foster the relationships with other creatives to pull off creating a book but it all starts with the writing. And the actual act of writing is really the mechanical part that comes from the imagining of the story you want to tell. Build the world in your mind; tell the story with your hands.
BB: Thank you for letting me read Humbug. I think it would make a fun and entertaining movie myself, or even a television series. Any final words for readers?
Thank you for reading HUMBUG. We’re already deep into the second volume of the HUMBUG series that picks up where the first story arc ends with Scrooge and the Humbuggers heading to America by invitation to the White House that’s become spectrally infested and is now nicknamed the Fight House. If your readers thought Scrooge had his work cut out for him back in jolly ole’ London just wait to they see what’s in store in Washington, DC.