This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Comic Burst: You've had a VERY exciting 2019 so far. You have multiple credits on a number of projects this year and the release of your debut series The Dusk County Chronicles. Can you tell us a bit about these projects?
Joel Rodriguez: Of course! I am currently working on 8 different projects. There are a few that are still in early production, so I can’t give too many details about them. I’m going to be the credited letterer for Psychosis, Vol. 5 (w: Adam Atkinson / a: Pete Davies & Siefl Strife), The Goode Girls and the Ghosts of Lockeridge Academy (w: Todd H. Latoski / a: Cristian Navarro), as well as multiple unannounced projects by Supercilious Comics.
One project that I can talk about is Kooper, an upcoming horror/mystery book by Riccardo Faccini. Riccardo’s plot is about a journalist from the U.S. that goes to Ukraine to find a millionaire novelist that has gone missing. While on his search, he winds up being hunted by a werewolf! I’m really excited for Kooper’s Kickstarter campaign, which starts soon, so be on the lookout for that! I’m credited as co-scripter, editor, and letterer.
Those are all projects I am freelancing for, but the majority of my time is spent working on projects for my studio, Metal Ninja Studios. I’m spending a lot of time prepping for the launch of The Dusk County Chronicles #1 on March 1st. I’ve tried to be pretty public about the progress of that one, but I’ve already started production on issue #2 behind the scenes.
Finally, I’ve teamed up with an amazing art team to start art production on the next series from MNS, Before My Eyes.
CB: What they can readers expect from your debut series The Dusk County Chronicles?
JR: The Dusk County Chronicles is a horror-parody mini-anthology that takes classic stories that we all know and love and twists them into something completely dark, new, and horrifying.
The [premise] is simple. Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Toy Story was a slasher; or if Peter Pan required a sacrifice to enter Neverland? Those are the types of questions that I try to answer in my own way. I wanted to write some quick and fun stories that also had a lot of heart and meaning behind them.
The biggest through-line in all of the stories is that things aren’t always what they seem. Although it looks like something that should be on Saturday morning cartoons, they are horror stories through and through. There is death, kidnapping, betrayal, and even some torture. However, the stories are not gore fests by any means. Every story has a deep philosophical question that I try and answer, all of which have been inspired by events from my own life.
[Let’s take “Forever Young” for example, where Jenny has an opportunity to be reunited with deceased loved ones, but at a cost. Almost everyone has lost someone--for me, it was my mom back in 2011--and can relate with Jenny’s desire to be with them again.] That’s where the follow-up question comes in: would it be worth the cost?
In terms of the future of Dusk County, as I mentioned previously, I’m already working on number two. The benefit of having these self-contained shorts all take place in the same area is that there are countless stories that I can tell. I can keep coming back to Dusk County whenever I have a new idea. Plus, there’s the added bonus of being able to craft a full limited or ongoing series that ties all of the shorts together...which may or may not be starting soon.
CB: Tell us a little about what made you feel like “you know what? I got something here…”?
JR: The first part of the DCC that I wrote was “A Friend in Me”, which was originally going to be a submission for an anthology. I connected with Roman [Gubsky] for the art and we got the just kind of hit it off. He’s a great guy to work with and an amazing artist. Unfortunately (or not, depending on perspective), the anthology didn’t want it.
The rejection definitely had me second guessing myself, but I decided that I loved “A Friend in Me” too much to just shelve it, so I came up with the concept of DCC and we made more stories. The eye-opening “Woah” moment came when I made a 50 copy print run of an ashcan that featured two of the four stories.I took the ashcan to a small convention at Acme Superstore in Longwood, FL and started selling it. I was shocked when I sold out in three days!
CB: What work do you have on the horizon?
JR: I see it clear as day! Creating comics scratches an itch that I’ve never been able to scratch before. Now that I’ve started creating, I’m going to keep going as long as I possibly can. I’ve already started working on a couple more things from Metal Ninja Studios.
First and Foremost, I’m working on the second issue of The Dusk County Chronicles. Roman will be starting art for the first couple of stories this month. However; I’m kind of limited on how far I can go because of a pledge option that I’m offering on the Kickstarter. Backers of a higher tier reward have the option of being the main character within their own Dusk County story. I don’t like making generic stories that I can just put “cookie cutter character A” into, so I’m waiting a bit to see what comes from the Kickstarter.
Outside of Dusk County though, production for another project is ramping up this month. It is called Before My Eyes and it’s a story about a father searching for his family in a post-apocalyptic, monster-infested United States. The catch is that he has been cornered after 20 years of searching and is seconds away from dying without finding them. We relive his 20-year journey from the perspective of a dying man as his life flashes before his eyes.
CB: Is there anything else at all you would like our readers know?
JR: Well, to be honest... There’s no hiding the fact that I am a new creator. I don’t have a huge track record or credit list to prove that I’m worth investing in by checking out my stories. I don’t have years of experience in the industry or a name that everyone will recognize.
What I do have is a lifetime of experiences, good and bad, that I pour into every story regardless of the length. Every short story within Dusk County is inspired by those experiences and I believe that those experiences, combined with the passion that I invest in every story, can truly turn your childhood dreams into nightmares.
Want to keep up with Joel Rodriguez's The Dusk County Chronicles and Metal Ninja Studios? Check out: