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[ECCC ’14 Interview] Frank J Barbiere – The Pulp King

Frank J Barbiere emerged into the comics scene last year with an incredible creator owned series called “Five Ghosts.” The pulp sensibilities of the series have created strong sales and a fan base willing to walk into hell for Fabian Grey. Despite magnetic characters, it’s been a sense of tribute and pulpy originality that creates the major draw for the series.

Frank has a certain voice that channels the pulpy adventure comics of old. His work is exciting, limitless, and face paced. It has garnered a lot of positive press, and lead to a variety of new projects.

Now, after an incredibly successful year, Frank was kind enough to sit down with Bloody-Disgusting to talk about his unique voice, his multitude of projects on the go, and what’s next for “Five Ghosts.”

Bloody Disgusting: Let’s Talk About The Current Arc of “Five Ghosts,” Lost Coastlines.

Frank J Barbiere: We’re excited to be wrapping up. The collection will be out in June, and it’ll have issue six. Which is the standalone where Fabian goes to Japan. Then “Lost Coastlines” is the six-issue arc. Ten just came out, eleven hits in April, twelve in May, and the trade in June. I’m really happy with these final issues. It’s really cohesive. I mean, the end of the first arc was great. I have no regrets in that, but at the end of issue five we didn’t know the final fate of the series. So now I’ve become really obsessed with keeping pacing, having each issue feel like a whole arc. With this I felt like we really achieved that. It’s been real fun, especially now with the trippy stuff on the island. Issue eleven delves into the horrific side of things. We’re not going to do anything that’s difficult to read but now that we know the fanbase is there we can take some chances.

BD: Fabian is a roguish character who seems like a shining beacon, but he’s not motivated by the right things at all.

FJB: That’s the nice thing about having twenty-five issues to tell your story. We don’t have to make him take that turn, and say “oh I’m a good guy now!” As we dig more and more into his past you’ll learn that he’s been a pretty big bastard. We’re going to learn a lot more about who he was in the past. The big conceit of the series is his quest for Silvia, and his love for his sister. He’s starting to change, but we’re not going hit a button and make him a good guy.

You never know when you write something. It all feels like equations when you first write his character drive, and figure out his arc. It’s really cool to see the notes on the page evolve into something more dynamic and something you couldn’t have foresaw.

I joke, but it’s the one book we could do forever because we have so much to draw from, and so much room to breathe. We have a fun character with a great hook where we can do anything.

BD: What’s the main framing story for Five Ghosts?

FJB: Definitely Fabian’s quest to get Silvia back. No spoilers. That’s probably not going to happen anytime soon. There are going to be twists and turns as we go. It’s a redemption story. The final redeeming action will be a long road away. It’s been a story where we’ve found some natural merit. The opposition aren’t just mustache twirling bad-guys, either.

BD: The book is taking a break after Lost Coastlines?

FJB: We’re taking two months to get back on schedule. So July, and August “Five Ghosts” won’t be on the shelves but we’ll be back in September with issue thirteen that begins a horror arc. It’s a three-issue story; I don’t want to say what’s happening because it really depends on a cliffhanger from issue twelve. But it’s an set in Eastern Europe, and the really robust cast from Lost Coastlines are going to sit out. This one’s all about Fabian.

Then out of that we’re going to do five before we go to trade. The last two issues that make up volume three are going to delve into the past. Year One is the wrong term but we’ll deal with who Fabian was. The plan is then to go straight through to issue 25 after another 2-month break. That would be the end of the first storyline.

BD: Twenty Five issues?

FJB: And we still want to keep going after that. But we’ll see where people are. They get tired, get bored, but we love doing the book. Thankfully we can do it quickly and everyone is happy. So we’ll do it as long as we can. Our trades are doing well, and we don’t need to re-launch.

BD: What can you tell me about your creator owned series with Dark Horse, The White Suits?

FJB: That book actually landed with Dark Horse before Five Ghosts. Now that it’s coming out, I’m so happy with it. Toby Cypress has totally brought his A-game. It’s been a ton of fun. Issue two came out two weeks ago. Then we’re going through monthly. It’s been a story we’ve been working on for a very long time, and having Toby involved is amazing. He’s just getting crazier and crazier. One was good, two got a little more crazy, but trying to speak objectively the stuff he’s done in three and four is just apeshit. He’s quick too! The fact that he’s doing the book monthly contributes to this nervous energy of doing it. When you know you have to turn something in and ship it, you just push it out there. I’m personally an impulsive creator like that. I’m just very used to pumping things out.

BD: I think that comes across in your writing. It seems like any time a story is boring you force it into a hard left turn.

FJB: I try to. It’s definitely one of those things where you have to entertain yourself first. I try to approach my work, not in a totally narcissistic way like would I read this? Do I think this is exciting? I think comics are awesome because you get to see someone draw your work. You get to see it be executed and that’s really the moment when it all comes together. Doing my own lettering helps too. I get to steer the narrative again after the art comes back. It’s a breakneck pace, but I love the craziness. Always being busy, but in a good way.

BD: What else are you working on?

FJB: “Five Ghosts” will always be my baby but I’m doing the “Solar: Man of the Atom” reboot, now Woman of the Atom. We do have male Solar as well but you’ll find out around issue three what exactly is going on. We’ve been sitting on this one a while now. It was in the original pitch and the original outline. I think people are ready to roll with it. The character becomes Solar, in a much more interesting story. She’s more than a scientist in a lab who just blows up. She’s been great. We’ve added some diversity into the book. It’s cool to read, because it feels a lot more like a creator owned book.

I’m doing “Black Market” with BOOM! Studios. Victor Santos of “Polar” and “Mice Templar” is doing it with me. It looks ridiculous. It’s about a guy, Ray Willis who used to be a medical examiner. His life starts to fall apart. He’s stuck in a funeral home preparing corpses for wakes until his estranged brother Denny reappears in his life. A criminal, Denny has a plan to cure all disease, which happens to rest in the very genetic makeup of superheroes — known as Supers — who literally float above humanity. So he turns to harvesting the organs out of dead superheroes to make a living. It’s out in July. It’s something I’ve had and wanted to do for quite some time, but haven’t had a platform to do it on.

A lot of people say why not Image? Listen, I will do books with Image until I die. But, BOOM! Has a real great editorial staff with them. They took something that really was just a concept and helped build it with me. They have a little more development there. They worked with me, and they got me Victor.

I did the New Avengers Annual with Marco Rudy. He is absurd. This is a total Dr. Strange story. He just got super powered up in the Marvel Universe. We’ve got fifteen page Strange fight scene that was a total blast to write.

It’s been a good year. Now it’s all about keeping momentum.



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