One of my all time favorite writers is JM DeMatteis. Besides writing some of the greatest tales in comics, he is always busy doing something. Whether he is engaged a new book project, holding virtual classes for aspiring writers, or writing screen plays for animated features, he is making it happen. Thus, it is no surprise that one of my favorite new writers also has that kind of work ethic. Writing books, contributing to anthologies, writing comic books, and even doing voice-overs. And if that isn’t enough, he also hosts his own podcasts. It’s apparent that Jay Sandlin is a man on a mission. Well today, his mission is to talk to us. So we welcome Jay Sandlin to GVN’s Talking Comics.

Jay Sandlin

GVN: Thanks for giving us some of your time Jay. Not sure where you found it. As I said in my open, you are one of the most diverse, and busy creators I know. Between books, comics, Podcasts, and Voiceovers you are non-stop. Where did you develop that kind of drive and willingness to tackle new challenges?

JS: When I was 16, I attended a scientific demonstration on productivity. No one noticed a spider dangling from a strand of webbing, doused in rays of productivity. After the productive spider bit me, I became determined to reach all my goals and dreams!

Tales of Terror Quarterly HH Holmes

GVN: That story sounds familiar. Did they work on a lazy spider too? Because if so I must have been bitten by THAT spider. (Laughs) So in conjunction, with your new productive powers,  you have your first book with Zenoscope coming up and Tales of Terror Quarterly HH Holmes looks great. What was the inspiration for the story?

JS: Working with Zenescope went down like a treat. The inspiration for this story was, of course, the real life HH Holmes and his years of murder and terror in Chicago during the late 1800s. I have a Masters in History, so researching Holmes was a blast! Pre-order and find out more on this upcoming title here.

The Zenoscope Way

GVN: You have worked with some great artists in your projects. For HH Holmes you are working with Al Barrionuevo whose art looks spectacular. How did your collaboration with Al effect your story?

JS: Sorry to burst any bubbles, but we’ve never actually spoken, much less collaborated. In fact, the three covers shown for this book were produced while I wrote the script. This doesn’t happen often, but Zenescope releases quality books in a shorter turnaround time than most other pubs. They’ve been at it for over fifteen years, so they’re clearly doing something right.

The artwork for the interiors of the book has been a unique process as well. The story takes place in two time periods: the present and Holmes’ time in the 1890s. Two different art teams divided up the script pages by time periods. When you read the book on 03.31.21, you’ll get to see a single product produced by two teams in their respective time periods. From what I’ve seen so far, I guarantee you’ll be blown away.

World Class

GVN: That is indeed a different process than I’ve ever heard of. But the results at least initially looks pretty impressive. By the way, that spider must have also had some of the super promotion genes. You do it well. So besides HH Holmes for Zenoscope, you also have a book coming up for the new Mad Cave YA Imprint ‘Maverick’ entitled World Class! How did this project come about and was this a story you wrote specifically for the Maverick imprint or was this one you had in the hopper for a while.

JS: World Class first came about while I was finishing up work on another Mad Cave title you’re already familiar with, Hellfighter Quin. While I was writing an ultra-gritty, ultra-violent tournament of clans and magicks, Chris Fernandez let me know they had something special in mind for me next. That special thing turned out to be Maverick!

Like Hellfighter, World Class does feature another tournament but the similarities end there. WC has more in common with the high school drama you catch on Cobra Kai than the tournament of annihilation set to techno music you flip on Mortal Kombat to watch. Writing World Class certainly wasn’t in my hopper beforehand. I wrote this story specifically for Maverick and it was their idea to make a story about European football with a diverse cast from around the globe. They provided a character list for many of the mains, including Adrian Molina, the protagonist and newcomer on the team. Other characters I contributed while drafting.

Character Creation

I think my favorite character who wasn’t originally on the line-up is a chap by the name of Nigel Tillenberry who serves as commentator for the matches. For him, I tried to come up with the most British-sounding name possible. Another of my favorite contributions was naming the teams, including Adrian’s team Regents United from London and the others they’d compete it against. I thought of the teams as houses in Hogwarts, but unique to the countries they represent. This turned into a major theme of the book: choose your team. Find out more in the Hollywood Reporter’s press release on Maverick here: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/publisher-mad-cave-studios-launches-ya-imprint

Lessons in Work for Hire

GVN: You are working with Patrick Mulholland on this title. Because I obviously have no idea how this works in all cases, who decides which artist you work with and do you have any input on the matter?

JS: Same answer as with Zenescope above. When working for hire in a studio, writers typically have little say in who is hired to work on a book. Especially when the project is write for hire. Editors make those decisions, typically before I’m hired for my job of making the scripts. If you wish to hire your own writers, colourists and letterers, then consider writing creator owned, self-publishing or crowd funding your project. This puts the control in your hands, but there’s quite a bit more responsibility. No matter what, always pay your artists!

When working with a studio like Zenescope or Mad Cave, the collaboration runs through the book’s editor. I never spoke to Patrick during the work on the book. The first time we shared a Zoom call was during the Mad Cave Showcase when the book was announced. Since then, however, we’ve talked more often. Remember what I said above about hiring your own artists for creator owned works? Stay tuned….

Scranta Claus

GVN: Look at Jay dropping the teasers. Quite frankly, I could see you doing a self-published work. We look forward to seeing what you might in the works. Well, I had mentioned your voiceover work. I would be remiss if I didn’t ask about your Scranta Claus. How did this come about and what inspired you to tackle voiceovers?

JS: Thank you, thank you…I, uh, didn’t know Scranta was going to come up today so forgive me if I’m a little off-balance. (Takes a long sip of water) (Smacks lips) Ah, that’s better. Voice acting is acting all the same and I’ve been acting since I was eight years old, mostly in stage plays. I kept this up until 2015 when I decided I couldn’t spent every free moment in rehearsals anymore and miss my son growing up. That was also the time I decided to really give this writing dream a go. Whether I’m acting or writing, I’m telling a story. For years, I kept a creative outlet on stage as part of an improve troupe, doing Whose Line style shows for crowds as little as seven people or as much as 150.

Then Covid came. Our small theatre shuttered. The shows we’d done for years weren’t just impossible, they were potentially deadly. I’ve always been a big fan of voice actors, names like Jason Marsden, Billy West, Phil LaMarr and more. I sniffed around the Internet and found a casting call website and landed three roles within two months. Scranta was the first and there’s more to come.

Check out Jay’s performance as Santa Claus’ feral younger brother, Scranta, in this animated short: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxtoeBpW284

Giving Back

GVN: I believe I noticed you even offering some writing tips. Like you don’t have enough going on. Have you had any takers so you can spread your knowledge to the masses?

JS: I don’t know about that, but my website has always offered resources for writers and creative types. JaySandlin.com has writing resources for publishing submissions, comic book scripts and creator interviews. In addition, my podcast GeekOPedia regularly features industry professionals offering words of wisdom on being working artists.

Upcoming Projects

GVN: This I know first hand as I caught your interview with JM DeMatteis. So I know you have even more projects for 2021 upcoming. Anything you wish to share? Black Box Comics? Eerie River? The floor is yours…

JS: All of the above! My debut comic with Black Box is coming this year in July. The title was recently announced on a podcast so I believe I’m free to say the book is called: Djinn Hunter. What’s a Djinn Hunter? I’m glad you asked.

GVN: Did I ask? I must have…please do tell.

JS: The role of the Djinn Hunter is to seek and destroy all which threatens the balance in the magickal realms. Only Zara ever failed to obey the Council of Elders, who punished her severely. When an Elder Djinn goes rogue, convinced he’s got the right to become a god, the jailed hunter is offered a chance at parole. Will Zara step up, knowing that failure means not just herself, but all the realms? The cost may be more than she can imagine. Yet, you pay the price when you are a Djinn Hunter.

Eerie River

GVN: And Eerie River..?

JS: I’m glad you mentioned Eerie River, the horror pub out of Canada. They don’t publish graphic novels or comics. Instead, I get a chance to polish my prose skills. Their owner Michelle is an amazing person, churning out books and babies last year! In Oct of 2016, they featured my short story in their horror anthology It Calls from the Sky. Sky already hit the Amazon bestseller list and is on a list for consideration for a Stoker Award! We are currently working on a <SECRET> project for release later in the year.

There’s more, but that’s all I’ll give away for now. The signatures are barely wet on my contracts from {[[REDACTED]]} and I don’t dare mention the one from {[[FILE CORRUPTED@%&//]]}

GVN: Now you’re just being mean. So tell us once more about Zenescope’s Quarterly Tales of Terror: HH Holmes!

JS: With the blood of nine confirmed and 200 suspected victims on his hands, HH Holmes is not only America’s first serial killer but perhaps the most notorious murderer of all time. One hundred years after his final kill, his name remains synonymous with torture and death. But bodies are now being discovered in Chicago in circumstances chillingly familiar to those who know Holmes’ story.  Could a copycat killer be on the loose in the city? Or is something even more sinister about to come to light? HH Holmes is  a 72-page graphic novel for only $8.99 and arrives  3/31/21 from Zenoscope. Pre-Order Code: JAN211654

Possible Adaptations

GVN: I do look forward to reading it. Finally, I have made my reputation on closing with a hypothetical question. Ok…I just like doing it. So here is yours. You have a built up a nice library of work from Space Police Files, Over the Ropes, Hellfighter Quin, Hate Sky, and your new projects. You are approached to adapt one of your works for either and animated or live action project. Which of your works would you choose and why?

JS: From a financial point of view it’s going to have to be something from my sci-fi short story collection, Space Police Files, five sci-fi tales of Cops in space which Writers Digest book awards’ judge called “an action packed and entertaining read,” and I believe you Martin said, “Explore narratives that would make Rod Serling nod in approval…”

Aside from the enjoyment of seeing characters from a prose book in live action or animation, I completely own the work and characters. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see an Over the Ropes live action movie starring Tanner Buchanan (Robby Keene, Cobra Kai) as Jason Lynn, the Phoenix. But as I said above, when you write work for hire, it’s often for a paycheck and a credit. I’d love to see anything I wrote get adapted, because so few books or comics receive any adaptations. But if one of them does, the best case scenario in that situation is to hold equity in the intellectual property. Also, if anything gets adapted I’m voicing or playing a character, that’s just non-negotiable.

GVN: You sure you majored in History? Must have had a minor in contract negotiations. (laughs). Thanks so much for your time, Jay. We look forward to your upcoming projects and to share them with our readers.

JS: Yes, sir! I hope you’ll all keep track of my projects by following me on social media (@JaySandlin) or signing up for my website newsletter for all the latest in my podcasts, news, book release schedules and other freebies on JAYSANDLIN.COM

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