Sumner welcomes comics writer/illustrator John K Snyder III to this week’s Hard Agree. Possessed of a unique style that’s both ethereal and hyper-real, that lends itself to hardboiled noir and fantasy, John has spent 35 years super-delivering in both genres (and sometimes jamming them both together). Sumner & Snyder spend a couple of hours walking through John’s storied career, beginning with Fashion in Action and Matt Wagner’s Grendel and moving on to DC Comics’ Mr. E and Doctor Mid-Nite (again with Wagner) before discussing Snyder’s collaboration with John Ostrander on James Gunn’s favourite DC book, Suicide Squad. They close out with a deep-dive into the creation of one of Sumner’s favourite graphic novels, John’s critically-acclaimed adaptation of the great Lawrence Block’s classic Matt Scudder adventure Eight Million Ways to Die.
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John K Snyder III – HA Interview
Andrew Sumner: [00:00:00] Well,
John K Snyder III: actually I’m just taking care of a couple of commissioned pieces right now that I’m finishing up and getting those out of the way preparing to.
Work on a a little book with a character that I’ve been using recently called the littlest plague doctor. Oh yeah. I’ve seen
Andrew Sumner: those
John K Snyder III: illustrations. They’re great. Yeah. And so, I’m, I’m working with a writer, J D Fox. And what we’re going to be doing is, is a, a little bit of a storybook featuring a day in the life of the doctor.
And it’s just going to be like a little village. And it’s just a day of him making house calls, walking through the village and, you know, sort of a wind in the willows sort of thing. But but a little bit of our take on that sort of a thing. And it’s really actually kind of quaint, but but it’s something that I’m actually looking forward to.
I always enjoyed the you know, like the shepherd illustrations you know, for, for these, so something in that kind of a thing. So I’m kind of gearing up to get [00:01:00] started on that very shortly along with a host of other things. But but today that’s been kind of what I’ve been feeling.
Andrew Sumner: Okay. And where did the littlest play doctor come from?
What was your inspiration? Well, you know,
John K Snyder III: I’ve been working with Evelyn Cretes over at wild, a wild side press and her and I have been talking about working on a number of projects including with writer JT Fox, and who is writes a series of books called the Arora cycle which is just shorthand is a series of novels that involve like this, this group of vampires in like the late 18 hundreds around the Russian mountains, that sort of thing.
And it’s and it’s very, it’s very Oh, gosh, I don’t know the best way to describe it, but it’s very lavish and it’s it’s, it’s very opulent, I guess, is the best way to put it. And it’s these various kingdoms that are sequestered among this mountain range of between the Caspian sea and the black sea.
And so at any rate I’m going to be doing a graphic [00:02:00] novel adaptation of a chapter from the first book in the series, which involves a group of the vampires kind of on a hunt. And again, they’re quite elegant in their dress and their manner. And they’re kind of on a horseback ride through the snow and mountains chasing the Cylons, which are these kind of like half Wolf half human creatures that are, you know, extremely violent as opposed to this, this vampire group group that is much more sophisticated.
And so it’s a, it’s really an opportunity to, you know, to do some nice illustrative work, you know, with the snow and the horses and all that sort of thing. And I’m very excited about it and just a fantastic writer. But at any rate, as we were developing this graphic novel, which I’ll be actually starting on later this year we wanted to start doing some some things to get the whole process of the Kickstarters and crowdfunding and kind of get a sense of how we were going to work together in that sense.
And we came up with [00:03:00] the this littlest plagued doctor character as a as kind of like a, you know, like a little test project. And is it as it’s one of those things where it started out as a discussion, and then I did a sketch and then it started to take on a life of its own as these things tend to do.
And so the next thing, you know, we did the initial project with the the little, the little sticker and, and you know, a few, a few little mini prints using quotes from like Edgar Allen Poe and Emerson. Then we did a cloth patch and another cloth patch. And, and in the development of all this, we talked about doing an actual story.
And again, it’s interesting how things will start as a germ of an idea. And once given time, you know, it starts to actually, you know, it starts to grow and, and some things, you know, they’d go so far and then it’s kind of like, you’re, you know, it’s like, well, that’s not really going to go anywhere, but with something like this, it just kind of seems to, as we were doing these little projects and getting reactions from people that were, you know, wanting [00:04:00] the little prince and the patches and such and like, well, we want to see more of this character and we’d love to see a story about this character and then you start to, and it’s cut.
So that’s kind of an interesting process for me to have, like, you know, usually you’d come up with something with the editor and you, you know, and there’s a certain project that you’re assigned, and this is something that is kind of evolving in public, you know? So it’s a fun little, it’s a fun little project and that’s, and so that’s where that’s at at this point.
Andrew Sumner: it’s such a, it’s a, you’re actually right as a lover and observer of your work. And you know, you know, you and I urinate, you’re not connected in a number of ways, but I’ve observed as a result of that, the, the, the growth and the success of the play doctor and watching the character take on a life of its own over the last 18 months, it’s really been very fascinating to observe.
And as a creator, it must be interesting when you come up with something in, it comes from, it comes out of your, your cerebellum [00:05:00] like that, and it then takes on a life of its own quite beyond what you expected. I always think that must be a very interesting journey to go through as a creator. Yeah,
John K Snyder III: I, and I, and I’ve, I’ve been, and it’s interesting because you can come up, you can, you can work night and day to conceive of something that you, you know, and, and get pages of notes and designs and characters and such.
And, and then you, you know, you, you put all this intensity into it and, and then it’s, it’s almost like it’s, it’s almost like it’s almost a little too heavy, you know, for, for the person, you know, for the group that you want to, you want to get it out there for, and then you come up with something like, at least in my case, you come up with something that’s kind of light.
And you know, you, you have a little bit of affection for it and it’s a little bit light. And then that immediately registers with people. And it’s an interesting process. It’s not the first time that has happened. I think with, with various creators where, you know, they, they have something [00:06:00] that they do kind of on a whim.
And then, and then it’s the thing that registers with people, you know, this little globalist sketch or, or doodle or something like that. And it grows from there. So, I, you know, it’s it’s always good to learn and it’s always, for me, it’s a learning process. This particular little project has been a learning process because as you know, with my work, I’ll get involved with you know, some very, very labor intensive projects in terms of, you know, the content you get that stations, you know, the illustrations and all that sort of thing.
So, there’s something nice. I love doing things that are planned out and, and, and thought out, but it’s also nice to do something that’s kind of spontaneous, you know, and it has this kind of like quick, you know, deliver.
Andrew Sumner: And that must be a delight for you being, being, you know, somebody who is a very detailed creator and you really deep dive into those projects, which can take years to manifest and create having something else that you can mix up your [00:07:00] time with.
I can absolutely see the value in and how that must bring a level of balance and a sanity almost to your kind of perspective to your creativity.
John K Snyder III: Yeah. And, you know, I think what’s interesting too, is, is it’s something that that kind of spontaneity we are, we are, there was an outlet for that with, you know, the world of social media that I don’t think we really had access to before, you know, where it’s like, you know, in the case of being an artist, you know, you know, I think where you can kind of improvise creatively in public and, and you can form something in a way that in the past it would have to be, you know, come up with your designs, you’d get approved.
You find a publisher, you go to press and then you see how it goes from there. But, you know, again, you know, one of the positive uses, I think that people can find creatively in social media. I mean this for, for young people starting out and all that is, it is it’s, it’s almost like a, if you think of it, that in this way, the opportunities are so fast, you know, to [00:08:00] anyone, because you can, if you’ve got an idea one night, you can do that little doodle, you can post it online, a few catchphrases and you know, who knows you get five people interested, 10 people interested, and then it just starts to evolve.
And I think that part is, is new. I don’t think that is something that was really available. To to artists the way it is now, it’s artists and writers and creators and that sort of thing. I, I
Andrew Sumner: think that’s very well said. I think it’s the Supreme interactivity of the social media world in which we live now, which you know, men of our age, people of our age often have observed on the various downsides of that, but there are tremendous upsides to it.
And that level of interactivity and the dialogue you can have with fans of your work and people are interested in what you create. I think that’s on the it’s on an unparalleled level of, of interactivity that there’s never existed before. And I think most of that [00:09:00] is a very positive thing if you control
John K Snyder III: it properly.
Yes. Yeah. So it’s, it’s, it’s funny. I I have a real fondness, I guess, a romantic notion of what it was like in the early days of television and you know, where you’ve got a limited budget limited, a limited broadcast range. And and that people would improvise to create, to create material, to put on, on the air, you know, and it was just, and I’m a big fan of that kind of the kind of ingenuity that comes out of the restraints of, of, of having a very limited area to work with, but you’ve got this potential of reaching an audience, you know, and and I think sometimes it’s interesting to go back and look at the early days of television, especially in the early days of animated cartoons, specifically for television, you know, where they would come up with you know, like the original, like, this is, you know, the Crusader rabbits, one that comes to mind are the early Bullwinkle [00:10:00] cartoons where they were very limited in their abilities of what they could do with the animation.
But but they, but they balanced that out with having very, very solid writing and like great voice actors, for example. And I think that’s something, again that could carry over into in different levels in today’s and today’s internet, you know?
Andrew Sumner: Yeah. I think that’s very true. I mean, I think it’s fascinating the way that animation itself went on this journey from television animation.
So you get the limited animation of the, of the early fifties, mid fifties, early sixties with the reduced back frame rate and the huge India inclines that you would see around the characters, which look beautiful in and of themselves. But it would departure from, you know, the lush illustration of Hanna-Barbera as worker MGM or or, you know, the termite terrorist guys at Warner brothers, but there’s really heavy rendering.
There’s something beautiful about it to the point that as, as animation then progressed and then you get [00:11:00] into the Xerox Eve era of the, of the seventies where something was truly lost and the art of it was radically reduced, still some great voice actors. But for example, you know, what’s great about Scooby doo is the title sequence.
You know, if you watch the episode, you are seeing the same episode, 52 times over, right. It’s just the same thing again, with many of the same shots, you know, reused. But but I think then, then you get into the era of like the early two thousands and people like say they’re the creators of the Powerpuff girls to crisis Dexter’s laboratory Craig cracking Danica Tarkovsky.
They’re going back to that enduring cloak, which they’re rendering and creating a different way using modern technology, but they’re embracing the beauty of those early Katims and they truly are beautiful.
John K Snyder III: Yeah. Agreed. Agreed. So, so I, again, I, I guess, so I dunno, maybe in a year or so, maybe you’ll see some animated, a little plague doctor [00:12:00] online who
Andrew Sumner: knows, you know, John, I, I can’t wait and that is as good a point as any to say welcome to Hardegree.
My name is Andrew Sumner and I’m here with my friend, John K. Snyder, the third, the the incredible illustrator author comic book, artist storyteller that is John Case 90th third, a man whose work I’ve loved for actually a very long time. And I’m actually John, you and I are almost the same age. And and before we talk about, about your career, where you’ve created some books that, that I love, you know, suicide Scott, you’ve been involved in suicide squad.
You’ve been involved in that that beautiful version of Dr. Midnight. And funnily enough, the last person I spoke to for the show was your co-creator on that. And on granddaughter, Matt Wagner, and I spoke a couple of days ago. And and then of course, you’ve also created one of [00:13:00] my, my favorite graphic novel of the last 10 years, and one of my favorite graphic novels of all time, your adaptation of a, the great Lawrence box, 8 million ways to die, which had like to get into with you.
But before we talked about all that, how did you first encounter comics and comic book culture mate?
John K Snyder III: Oh boy, that’s a, that’s a great question. And it’s funny it, you be going back to like, when I was a kid. Yeah. Well, you know, like you said, we’re, we’re from the same, we’re from the same era and you know, we were we were in a very interesting time as a kids.
Because I was five years old and 1966. Yeah. And 1966 is kind of a watermark year for a number of things you had getting back to animation for a bit. That was when they first had in in America here, they had actual cartoons produced specifically for Saturday morning. And I think that was a, the guy at NBC Fred [00:14:00] Silverman’s idea.
I think it’s from what I’ve read and and the big lead usually space guides and which everybody knows from cartoon network coast to coast, but it was a, but it was like a serious show, you know, and it was designed by Alex Toth. And I didn’t know any of this at five years old, but I knew that space ghost was coming to Saturday morning.
I can still remember seeing the first, you know, the first commercial for it. I was like, it was a shocking cause there was nothing other than you know, which were great. The reruns of the old Tom and Jerry and bugs funny and all that. But there was nothing adventure. There was Johnny quest, but it was, and that was, that was unbelievable too, but it wasn’t like something like space goes, you know, in terms of appealing to a kid, you know, the guys flying around and spaceships and all that sort of thing, but it was, it was, you had space ghost and you had the Batman show Adam West and all those great characters you had start search.
Eric [00:15:00] was a, a little it was on later at night. It didn’t quite catch up, but you knew it was there. Green Hornet Oh boy. I’m, I’m kind of like,
Andrew Sumner: and there’s all the, there’s all the Irwin Allen shows from that period of time, as well as lost in space, landed the giants.
John K Snyder III: Yeah. A wild wild west. I mean, it was.
And you know, so, and you also, in the background, you had the the James Bond stuff, which again was, was, you know, for adults, but you had that spillover into television. So you had like the man from uncle. Yeah. And here we were getting Patrick McGoohan show danger man was it was called secret agent and,
Andrew Sumner: Yeah, that would that great.
Johnny Rivers, theme tune, you, you guys
John K Snyder III: have. Yeah. And but at the same time, even though I couldn’t even though in my early and, you know, like after five and this stuff was on, you know, you know, from, I’d say from five to 10, 10 years old, I mean, it was just like a an avalanche of this material and I, and again you know, things like danger man would come [00:16:00] on and syndication, so it’d pop up on Saturday afternoon on occasion was like, wow, what’s it.
And it was, it was, again, I couldn’t quite grasp what it was about, but I knew it was cool, you know? And so, so, you know, when I talk about my interests, a lot of them do tend to lean into you know, like animation movies television series, that sort of thing. As far as the comic books go I love them as well.
Of course, you know, because they were the most accessible thing, you know, cause the shows were on and very limited, but you could always get your hands on a comic book. And I was very fortunate in that my father’s younger brothers were only in their teens at the time. And they loved Marvel comics and they were picking up some of the original, you know, the original late sixties runs.
And I would get to go over and read them or get a few of them. But but if I was going to go like pinpoint certain books that I still remember to this day, I think the first comic that I remember having a huge [00:17:00] impact on me, again, because of the Batman craze, they were releasing so much Batman material at that time.
That there was there was a reissue I learned later this was a re-issue, but they put out a 3d Batman comic and and it was a three, it came with 3d glasses and it was reprinting some of the old fifties stories. So it was that very hard edged stylistic stylistic artwork. So sort of
Andrew Sumner: almost the Dick’s brand Gira kind of has the massive shoulders and
John K Snyder III: shoulder and bowls off, I
Andrew Sumner: think.
John K Snyder III: yeah. Yeah. So, and again, I didn’t know any of this as a kid, but I just knew that in 3d with the glasses, with that kind of hard-edged illustration, it was, it was really deep. I mean, it looked like the characters were just jumping off the page. Right. And I think that had it, I think looking back, I think that particular comic, my dad picked it up for me had a huge impact on me because [00:18:00] it just gave me the impression of characters leaping off of the page, you know?
And I think in my, I, I look at some of my work to this day, I’m always trying to get my characters outside of the borders. You know, I think to some degree it may have come from, from that initial exposure, but the
Andrew Sumner: can I ask you a question, some of your work? I think one of the things that’s kind of unique about your work or unique flavor that your work has is that some of it has this almost kind of spectral angularity about it, where on the one hand, there’s almost like a, it’s almost like it would be like watching, say a cameraman like Joe Geoffrey Unsworth, who shot the original Superman that Dick Donner Superman, that Donna May rest in peace.
And it would that sort of fantastic haziness to, I sometimes find with your work, particularly some of your covers, it’s got this brilliant kind of spectral haze while also being quite angular in its delivery. And I find it very, very hypnotic to look at. I might [00:19:00] not be using brilliant terms to describe my experience here, but you’re getting some flavor of what I’m talking about.
John K Snyder III: Yeah. I, I appreciate thank you for the summation of, of the look of my work. And I, you know, I, I, it’s not so much deliberate. It’s just kind of, it kind of developed that way, you know, and I think that it comes from it comes from a variety of of influences and it comes in, it’s a way that it’s interesting, cause it is kind of the juxtaposition of, you know, with kind of the haze and the mist and all that.
That’s kind of to give things kind of a depth, but then it’s countered by like these hard edge, like with the very square shoulders draws and that sort of thing. But I think that it on one level for me is to help create an immediate sense of dimension you know, and it, and it can be kind of jarring. I think that some people, because it comes across in a, in a highly stylistic way, but and I do love illustration.
I love, I love, you know, You know, a classic [00:20:00] illustration and I’m a big fan of that sort of thing. But for me, artistically, I think that I’ve, I’ve always, I’ve always had a strong strong reaction to stuff. That’s more, it’s almost like, I guess the best way to put it as, since it is two dimensional.
It is created on a two dimensional plane that that, that there’s no limit to representation. And sometimes I find that literal representation is almost like is almost repetitive in terms of, you know, you know, we’re, we, we see that in the real world, you know, so I, I like the idea of, of something that’s more stretched out and, and kind of surrealistic, because I think you can get, you can hit more of an emotional sense.
And I do think that part of that comes from, you know, even going back to when I was a kid having a reaction to, I was very lucky in that. You know, I had a lot of exposure to find our in, in my later teen years because at that point in my life, I was living in the [00:21:00] DC area and I was able to go down to the national mall or the national gallery and see like van Gogh and, and a number of a number of, of, of other artists like German expressionism, that sort of thing really appealed to me.
Also, but at the same time, I had exposure to that as a kid, too. Cause I would look at an issue of famous monsters of film and see it’s still in cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which had a huge, huge influence on me, you know? I can remember when I was a little kid, I had a in a music class, we had a we had a little book with the chords and all that sips and but they would have fine art paintings in them.
And I have very distinct memory of two in particular, which one. The three musicians by Picasso, which is literally just an, almost like it looks like cutouts, you know, but it’s bold and it’s bright. And then there was Chevelle painting of a Fiddler. He’s in green. You know, and, and, and I’m sorry, I can’t remember the name quite this moment, but, but again, Chicago, the same thing where he would [00:22:00] have, you know, these kinds of blurry backgrounds and then these kind of hard sharp images.
And I’m not trying to sound overly sophisticated or anything. I’m just saying that this is what appealed to me, you know, it was just,
Andrew Sumner: but I think you’re inherently sophisticated mate. That’s the thing. And it’s so interesting to you talk about this because now that I’ve heard you quote those references, it makes complete sense to me that they were among your inspirations, because I can see that through line and absolutely the German expressionism and also some of the some of the German propaganda art from the early thirties, you know, all of those elements I can see in your work.
John K Snyder III: It you know, it’s funny because you know, again, going back to when I was a kid, I mean, I was really responsive to all the, you know, I mean, all the fun, you know, the comics and, and you know, the stuff going on with the television, with TV and animation and all that sort of thing. But as I got into my teen years, I got a [00:23:00] it’s, I still loved comics very much, but at the same time, I found myself really wanting to get more into like I said, not so much fine art, but I was interested in illustration and you know, like, you know, Mondrian and, and you know, and, and again, I was more interested in art was kind of a theme, you know?
And and so, so the whole thing with the angular artwork and how it would, it would be in certain time periods, art deco was extremely appealing. But at the same time too, if you go back to the seventies as I was getting into my teen years, that was very popular in illustration and there were a lot of illustrators and I was very interested in illustration.
And you had guys from that period that were starting to, even though they were working in an illustration style, they were still doing things that were very very angular and they were going back to like line Decker, for example, I think what was the Ellis Cooper record cover? Welcome. Welcome to my nightmare.
Yeah. I mean, that was a huge, [00:24:00] that had a huge impact on me in terms of rendering, where you had him kind of photo realistically rendered in one sense. But in the other, you know, there was these cutting lines for like the highlights and the top hat, you know, the hands and all that sort of thing. And I loved all that kind of stuff too, you know, so I would try to incorporate a little bit of that as well.
Andrew Sumner: So kind of beautifully circular reference because one of one of Alice’s great inspirations was a famous monsters Femara film, and he’s a big fan of comic books. Yeah. Yeah. I, I interviewed him for forbidden planet TV about a year ago, and he’s a big fan. You know, everyone he’s ever is in London.
That’s the, that the store that the company I work for owns in the UK is really well-known comic book store, one of the biggest sellers in the world, but he, every time he comes to London, he visits. And one of the things he was talking about is absolutely his whole stage at, is directly influenced by Forrest Jackman by universal [00:25:00] movies and by comic books.
Yeah. So isn’t it interesting that you should reference that? Oh, that’s really
John K Snyder III: really well. Alice Cooper was a big, I mean, I loved Alice Cooper and still do, but, but, but I can’t I can’t talk about I can’t miss talking about Charles. Influences without mentioning something we both love, which is yellow submarine.
Yeah. So yellow submarine was a major influence on me as a kid. And it was funny because it didn’t actually get to see the movie. It, it was funny at that time. It just, it’s, it’s hard to understand now because you know, it wasn’t like every movie was, was accessible, you know, and but, but I had the gold key comic and I had I had the paperback, which had reprinted, there was a paperback, the reprinted stills from the movie and such.
And and I just, I was just absolutely just enamored [00:26:00] of the look of yellow submarine, the design the way the color was used. And I, you know, at the time I, I knew a little bit about Peter max. I had a Peter max paper airplane book, which I thought was great as a kid. Right. And that kind of look, I know Peter max, I don’t believe he is actually directly involved with yellow submarine.
It’s a different, different group, but it it had that similar kind of, kind of feel to it. But the thing about yellow submarine that I really liked was I loved the villains the way the bad guy, like the the, the guy, the one guy Jack, I can’t remember his full name, but his hands were like little snapping, like little snappy, like creatures at the end of his hands.
And you had this
Andrew Sumner: snapping turtle, Turk.
John K Snyder III: Thank you. Thank you very much. And you had the giant apple bonkers long top hats with the long top hats and the and the big, giant apples. They would drop on people [00:27:00] flying glove, you know, with his sneer and all that. So, you know, that was really cool to me because you had this kind of surrealist again, it looked like cotton.
It, it had a comic sense to it, but it also had this you had this kind of surrealism and, and it was the certain level, this depiction of of good and evil and, and you know, these bright colors and, and and that was, and that was kind of, again, it was that thing again, of no limit. There’s no limit.
If you want to draw a little creatures on the end of a guy’s hand, if you want to make a guy 20 feet tall with a 20 foot top hat, you know, that there’s no boundaries. And I, and I think I really loved that. And that was a big influence on me as well. I just, I’m a huge fan of it. I loved the comic, the gold key comic, and I, I still have it, it’s missing the cover and a couple of pages and the insert poster, but I still have it somewhere
Andrew Sumner: that that’s a, that’s another Powell Umi, both mate.
I’ve got mine as well. [00:28:00] Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Oh yeah.
John K Snyder III: So, so you know, all these things kind of contributed as a kid and, you know, again, getting to the comics, I, I really, I really kind of would love any con any comic I could get my hand on. I would, I would learn to love it one way or the other. And it was so funny because you know, like I said, my uncles had all the marbles, but over on my mom’s side of the family at my grandparents’ house, there, there was a stack of comics that were kind of the communal stack for visiting my visiting cousins.
And they would leave it there. And there were no marbles in that stack. It was all gold key Dell and Archie comics. And there was a classics illustrated in there, which was the moonstone. And that was my first, you know, I re-read that a gazillion times. And that was probably the first time I read anything that was like an adapt Taishan, you know, but I learned, but I loved you know, I loved the Archie comics.
I, I love the gold [00:29:00] key. I mean, I just, all the different stories they did not. So I didn’t have a specific love for superhero stuff. I mean, great. But but I always liked how DC stories were kind of self-contained and the marvels, you know, my uncles didn’t necessarily buy every single issue. Never. No, I always continued, you know, I wouldn’t find out it’s like, oh, I can finally figure out, you know, how the story ends, but.
But, you know, but it was, there was no doubt about it. And that time period of ours, Marvel was like very cool. You know, PC stuff was more restrained.
Andrew Sumner: It was indeed. But something you said that really rings a bell with me is a stomach. I used to say until I was probably into my mid to late twenties after I finished college, was that, well, you know, I’ve never read a comic book that I didn’t love.
And I would just read anything. I would read everything that came in in my, in my path, irrespective of comp of company. It didn’t [00:30:00] matter to me exactly what you’re saying. It didn’t have to be diesel or mobile. It could be classics illustrated. I used to love all the gold key lone Rangers, the ones or the photo covers of Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels.
And I used to love the Charlton books. I used to really re I remember I was on holiday a couple of times when I was a teenager and I picked up some of the child and Phantoms, which are actually quite McCobb on, there’s a whole run of them with a brushed covers that are illustrated by Don Newton and illustrates by Jim a para.
And they just lived on in my mind. I might. And you took them out really minor comics in a sense, but there was, they did stuff with the Phantom. They often took him out of the jungle setting and these books, they did just feel quite ominous in their tone. And I remember the whole the whole experiments that they did with, oh, man, the name of the lines just popped up at the Atlas line in the, in the early mid seventies.
You know, when, when Goodman tried to do [00:31:00] some counseling, he came up with all those books, like, like target and the Phoenix and the scorpion and all that kind of stuff for a period of time and everything. If it was a comic book, I would consume it.
John K Snyder III: Yeah. Yeah. I agree. And it’s funny about the analysts, you know, So when I was at, when I was younger and I would, I would read those, you know, the, the, that period in the sixties that was one phase.
And then that period where the app, when the Atlas books came out. Yeah. That was when I was in my early teens. And I distinctly remember that’s when I first started learning about that was a completely different era, because then you got into the stuff that was to me, more, more like than it was like serious, you know?
And it was like and I think specifically all of a sudden, you know, DC had like Neal Adams, you know, the Greenland, Greenland and green arrows stuff. They had all this written by Denny O’Neil that had all the social you know, social issues in it. But also for me, what was really huge was discovering Howard shaken and Walter Simon’s work [00:32:00] because that’s when I first found I remember it was the chapter, because it was called cathedral perilous.
That was mine, but it wasn’t, it was in the back of a bat. I was in the back of a Batman detective
Andrew Sumner: comics, well, a hundred pages, a hundred pages shoes. Yeah.
John K Snyder III: And, you know, I get to look back and it’s like, this thing was only like what seven or eight pages. And it just, it just blew my mind. It was like, it was like, one of the most incredible things I had seen.
And it was a whole different thing. I couldn’t believe how much story Walter and Archie Goodwin, the writer had put into such a small segment. And then with Howard it was with those analysts books, I picked them all. There was a spinner rack at a, at a little drug store and I went and went in and they, and I, you know, I don’t know how they manage the distribution because I know they had some difficulties with it.
I didn’t know that at the time. They had all the Alice books. So I just picked up every single number one and it was kind of like, you know, it was like, they were interesting. Right. [00:33:00] And I loved there was one called the destructor,
Andrew Sumner: oh man. That was district Archie Goodwin, Archie Goodwin, Steve Ditko, and brilliantly while he would on the inks and come, where does amazing combination that you would never think would work.
Right. But it works
John K Snyder III: beautifully. Yeah. So that was great fun. But the scorpion me was like, this was like, this is like a whole new thing. You know, this is like something different. It was just like that Manhunter. And so, and what it was specifically to me was, was that both Walter and and Howard were integrating, you know, they were integrating all these things I’m talking about with the you know, the angular work the graphics, the sound effects.
And they, they really, I thought they, I, it just was something where I’m like, this is something I can relate to. I, you know, as a, as a younger, you know, as a younger person, I was like something that really clicked with me, strength, his work [00:34:00] had that had that vibe to me when I was a little bit younger as well.
And I remember it as a kid too further back, I mean, I loved Kirby and dead co very much. But the one that always kind of, I was always kinda like had a, of reality to me and I couldn’t understand how he did it was gene Colan also had, it was how gene Cohen was a regular comic artist is still it’s.
So unlike anything else. Yeah.
Andrew Sumner: Nobody, no, he, I mean, there’s a lot, really individual artists, but nobody has that colon look and feel, and it, that supremely kinetic art that he has, everything feels like it’s emotional the time, you know, you can really feel things moving on the page.
John K Snyder III: Yes. Yeah. So, so all these different things.
Yeah. You know, again, I, you know, looking back, I, I find it interesting how, you know, I’ll, I’ll, you know, see what other people are influenced by in comics and, and certain and certain mediums. And, and these were the things that [00:35:00] looking back, these are the things that really kind of, you know, leaped out at me, you know?
So, so these were like key moments and, and and, and all, and all that sort of thing. But as far as again from childhood on that mid sixties period was really, was really quite something, you know, and it was quite an interesting period and, and it was a neat period to be a kid in terms of, I think that there was a lot of stuff coming out all at once.
Yeah. And and then it, and then it kind of, and then it kind of dissipated, you know, by the early seventies, that initial push
Andrew Sumner: that’s very true. That was that huge pop culture, boom, that you’ve just referenced. And it was so very rich from essentially, you know, from Batman 66 onwards, I think it, the, you know, the pedal really got stamped down and, but it exists on a number of levels.
It’s not just the CPO camp Batman. It’s what you’ve touched upon. It’s those great spice shows. Cause it’s, you know, it’s mom, you’ve got mum from uncle, you got ice buy, [00:36:00] you’ve got the, the British spy shows that should just reference. Then you’ve got the early years of, of mission impossible, which are quite different to the latter years of the show.
You know, it’s, it’s there’s, there’s just, it’s such a rich period of time. I mean, you and I, as we talked about before having exactly the same pop culture references, identically, same and to, to, to jump forward, John, what I was, when I first became aware of your work, it was when fashion in action appeared in a Timothy two-man scout, which I reckon is the mid eighties.
Yeah. If I remember correctly. So how did fashion and action come about.
John K Snyder III: Well, well getting back to, you know, my career and its beginnings and such what happened was, was you know, as I, I was working at a graphic studio and again, you know, it’s a different era, you know, you really couldn’t, I really wasn’t quite sure what I was going to be doing.
You know, I knew I loved comics [00:37:00] and movies and television and all these different things, but I mean, the idea of actually breaking into any of this stuff was there really wasn’t any kind of a roadmap to it, you know, and it was, it was, you know, it was just it was just a very different era in terms of, you know, how are you going to make that connection?
And I would, I would read articles and, and books about like, you know, sending in submissions and all that sort of thing. And so I just kind of winged it and I got to a point in my life where I just decided that I was going to do one story where I was going to write draw ANC letter you know, one comic story.
And I had I just turned 20 and I, I went to, went to college for a little bit, got out, moved out on my own and I was like, I gotta do this. Right. So, so I was working, I was very fortunate. A friend of mine had got me a job at graphics studio. This was in the DC area and we were literally because of the lack of technology at the time we were doing [00:38:00] all this business work where we were hand inking bar charts and graphs, and, you know, cut and paste and all these things that are completely primitive, you know, by today’s standards.
It’s, it’s hard to describe, but what was really great about all that was it you know, we would get, you know, a certain amount of charts would have to be done in a very fast turnaround time. We had a job board in the hallway at the office. And it would just be full of all the pink receipts with the due dates.
I mean, just dozens of them. And and you know, my buddy and I, we were we’re the younger guys, so, you know, we’d get the late night shifts and, and, you know, we’d work on Saturdays, that sort of thing, and have to get the stuff out. So it was like, even though it wasn’t any kind of illustration work or anything, you know, glamorous in any no respect, it was, it was learning how to turn it turn around volume in a very short period of time.
So it gave me a sense of completion. I think looking back on it, I didn’t realize it, but it gave me a sense of completion that it was [00:39:00] possible to get something done, you know, and I think for a lot of when I talked to a lot of younger people, it’s like, what I try to emphasize to them is even if it’s only five pages or 10 pages, if you’re doing a story, you know, to start testing your abilities, make sure to get all the way to the end.
And that’s really tough for a lot of younger people. And I, and I understand that, you know, because it’s kind of hard to see things through all the way through, but, but it’s doable, you know, the one way or the other you can actually get there. And I, and I kinda got shown that with my work. So I would come home at night and at, you know, we’re talking about errands at this point, I have I’m fully indoctrinated into all the new music that was coming out at that time.
You know, not so much a punk but, but I was loving there was I was living in the DC area. There was a place called the nine 30 club down on F street and downtown DC. It was a small place. It’s only held about 200 people, but they were getting people from all over the world coming through.
And [00:40:00] I, I think one of the first bands I saw there was the river willows and what an amazing thing. It’s like, here’s a band from Scotland, what a wonderful and they were so, visually it was amazing. The shoulder pads and the lights. I mean, it was, so I was, you know, again, it was a major influence for me and it was really very motivating.
We had a wonderful alternative radio station w HFS in the area. So I was getting listened to a lot of this music. So this was kind of fueling my idea generation to do this one story. And it was called brick star Buster space mercenary. And it was a tongue in cheek, kind of a punk rock drawn like a I in what I thought was a Chester gold type style kind of, you know, dystopian thing of a guy that’s got no, no morals, you know, and, and, you know, just a lot of heavy black areas and all that.
Anyway, I drew this whole thing and it took me a dinner [00:41:00] over, you know, the first year I was out of the house and I got, I got went and made 10 photocopies of it. And I got, and I just, I just following all these little articles I’d read and such, you know, I, I go to the, go to the drug store, I’d look all the addresses or whatever I had at home.
And I got the address for heavy metal and epic illustrated. Yeah. That
Andrew Sumner: was great book yet. Yeah. Was a great magazine.
John K Snyder III: Yeah, it really was. And there was and also the, the small alternative world, the alternative world of comments had just started. So you had Pacific comics had just started up, which ended up putting out the Rocketeer.
So I got about and, and guys at the DS, I had found DC and Marvel’s general. Anyway, I remember I, I got 10 photocopies, 10 cover letters, 10 envelopes, and I just smelled them all out at the same time. And I knew who at the time. That they were probably all going to get rejected. I was pretty realistic about it, you know, at the time.
So I so, and I did, and I, and I actually kept those rejection letters and one of [00:42:00] them was Margie who ended up working with me on Dr. Midnight, over at epic. And they were all for the most part form letters. And so, you know, I kind of put her to the side and I was still working at the graphic place.
And I was starting to do artwork for local bands. I was trying to do something, you know, so that was one venue. And there was a local club down the street. I had moved to togs, Andrea Virginia. At this point, there was this little rundown place called the 704 club. And I was doing monthly calendars for them just getting giant poster board and like putting in like collages and drawings and stuff and stick.
In that time period, I got a letter finally from eclipse comics, from Dean Malaney. Yeah. And he explained to me, and it was the first person where it wasn’t a form letter. So he explained to me that that he thought the artwork was promising. I could work on the writing, but but the character was too much of a antihero creep and no one’s going to like, you know, a guy that’s just bad, you know, and it’s kind of funny in [00:43:00] retrospect, because it was just like, as a, you know, cause now so many shows are centered around, you know, real anti, anti anti hero types.
But but any respect, you know, that was really, that was really great to me. I took that as a huge positive, and I was still drawing all the time. I was drawing in my sketchbooks. I was still trying to do as much artwork as I could. I was trying to get involved a little bit in the local DCR scene but very peripherally, you know, I, I, again, I was really.
I was really not, I was never really part of any particular group. I was always kind of just wandering about, but but anyway I had actually ended up, went to a small show and I met Tim Truman and Tim was there with John Austria sander and I believe Michael and they had just started up first comics.
And I, I had still had copies of this brick star Buster thing, and I showed it to Tim and Tim got very, very enthusiastic about it. And he was like, this is it. It [00:44:00] appealed to Tim. Tim is, I later, later learned was into a lot of comic art overseas and was, you know, Tim’s got this really wonderful eye for an introduced me to a lot of terrific artists around the world.
So he saw something in my work, the live other people did not pick up on, and that was a break for me. So we ended up communicating via via postcards and letters. And about a year later, he was working on a graphic novel for first comm it’s called time beavers. And it was like a, like a funny animal space opera, which was kind of a thing at the time you had buggy air.
And I think rocket raccoon had just started, you know, and made his first appearance, but this was Tim’s own thing. And he wanted to get it out. So he offered for me to come up and stay with him and his wife and young son up in Wisconsin for about a month. And we were in a little room and he had a drawing table on one side and drawing table on the other.
And we literally sat back to back [00:45:00] and I would work on these really rough layouts. And then he would he would on the light table draw these really detailed pencils, you know, over the top and tighten up everything. And again, it was that production thing. I mean, we, we got in there and it was a real, we turned around, I think we walked into Michael’s office there in at first column.
With, you know, this 48 page stack of pencils, like within like six weeks. And so yeah, it was, but I was into it, you know, and it was exciting. It was really an exciting time because, you know, you turn on the TV. I remember right before he got ready to leave, we were looking at the TV and it was like a, a commercial for the Terminator, the first Terminator.
Yeah. I think that’s going to be the
Andrew Sumner: good. Yeah, it was a glorious time though, because I mean, I really love though, the early years of eclipse and I really loved the earliest of the years of first I’ve really loved first app and civic comics, all that stuff. It was, it was a great time to be a [00:46:00] comics lover because it was, I felt it was there was so much glorious experimentation, but so much great stuff was coming out, which wasn’t, it wasn’t just, it was, it was coming from the DC and Marvel factory.
It was coming from elsewhere with a different sensibility, but it’s a sensibility that’s really informed a lot of what has happened in the comics medium in the 30, 40 years
John K Snyder III: since. Oh, I, I really do agree. I couldn’t agree with you more. And that’s when I felt like I had a chance because I didn’t really feel like, I mean, I was not a superhero artist and it’s something that I didn’t really try to do.
And so, you know, the idea of doing something for Marvel or DC, it didn’t even really ever crossed my mind. It was always like, maybe I can do something for epic illustrated. Maybe I could do something for heavy metal, but then when you see what you saw at first was doing and eclipse, then that opened things up.
So while I was with Tim working on time beavers, he said, I’ve got an idea for this new book called [00:47:00] scout. I’m going to do it over at eclipse and I’m going to need a backup feature. And I had brought my sketchbooks with me and he’s like, I like this. And I had, I had actually started drawing the fashion and action characters as a thought, you know, from coming home from the club.
Seeing all the different fashions and my love of the old spice stuff, you know, it all kind of Flint and I would be adverse not to not to mention that a huge part of the influence visually of this sort of thing was, again, as a kid, I absolutely loved the stuff that was coming out of that stuff was coming out.
Like the, the Avengers, you know, the actual, you know, Emma. Yeah, yeah, for sure. And
Andrew Sumner: if you will see those, my hair, there’s my pole hat. And there’s my umbrella, you know, from that place, I know exactly where you come from.
John K Snyder III: Yeah. So that whole, that whole era, and again, again, as a kid, it was, it’s not like now where you can go on Google search and see a million images.
They would, they [00:48:00] would, they would appear like blips on the radar. For me, you know, an episode of the Avengers would, it was never on the regular. It would come, it would pop on. And, and I would be like, what was that? You know? And it was almost an, and the prisoner huge because when I was a kid my dad and I would watch the Jackie Gleason show.
This was back in 68 and it was the summer replacement for Jackie Gleason. And so it was like
Andrew Sumner: that must’ve
John K Snyder III: Jackie Gleason with the, you know, doing his routines and the next week, it’s this guy in all black running from a giant white balloon, you know, and it was like, wow. I mean, I mean, you can’t, the imagery was so powerful that even as a kid, even though it was totally over my head, it was, it was, you know, fantastic.
You know, so, so there was, and I remember one time it was like Sunday night at the movies on ABC or whatever. They had a showing of the this movie with Diane rig called the assassin.
Andrew Sumner: Oh, the [00:49:00] assassination bureau. Yeah. Right.
John K Snyder III: Fantastic. It’s this kind of you know, before they called it steam pump, you had this kind of tough, you know, over read, I think was the bad guy.
Andrew Sumner: Yeah. But is he good? Is he bad? Kind of, and they have such great chemistry. The two of them.
John K Snyder III: Yeah. I’d love to see the movie again. I haven’t seen it. I can’t remember since wise,
Andrew Sumner: you know what, I, I don’t think I seen it more than once. And I think both of the times I saw it, I was under the age of 12. So, so it’s a, it’s, it’s, it’s very, very similar.
And by the way, mate, something I wanted to say is that I think some of you and I have in common and we we’ve talked about the prisoner on our own time, because I’m a big lover of that show. And I, in fact, I love all those ITC adventure shows that they put they’re produced by Lorde grade Lew grade over here in the UK show, like the big name studios, Pinewood Elstree whatever, but they were shot like American shows on big budgets on [00:50:00] 35 millimeter film, which a lot of most British TV drama at the time was shot on video tape.
Right. But these were shot with movie style budgets and up for sale to the American market, which is why very often the leads in those shows, not the prisoner, not the Avengers, but in all the other shows, most of the leads are American. Right. And. I love all of those. So, so you haven’t just got the prisoner and, you know, the Avengers was ATV and, but you’ve got the saints and we’ve got man in a suit case in the Baron and the champions and ramble not cooked deceased.
I don’t know how many of those shows you’ve actually seen yourself.
John K Snyder III: They wouldn’t pop up again. They would pop up every once in a while, you know, turn up, there was one with Robert Vaughn. What was that?
Andrew Sumner: That’s the protectors there, which has an amazing theme tune by the way. Yes,
John K Snyder III: Dave on. And it was like, oh cool.
What’s this. And then it was never on again, randomly. And I was like, again, we didn’t ha [00:51:00] you know, it was like a one-time deal. You would see these things. And so, I don’t know. I think, I think sometimes that made it resonate even more, you know? Yeah. So a lot of that stuff kind of it got into, you know, when, so Tim’s like develop fashion and action.
And so it’s all these things we’ve been talking about. I just kind of poured all of that into this, you know, and again, I was absolutely in love with at that time I was starting to learn more about comics from around the world and eclipse had just published strange days. And that was my introduction to Peter Milligan and Andrew McCarthy and all those.
And, and just the first issue of that was, you know, I know people talk, you know, I mean, watchman’s great and art night and all that, and like, you know, milestone books and then mentioning scorpion. But strange days visually was just like, I mean, it was, again, it was stretching the limits of what could be done.
And I was seeing what I was seeing was some of the stuff that was being done and [00:52:00] heavy metal and, and like the more, you know, slick, super slick, it was like, it was starting to integrate itself into the stuff that was at the comic shop. So I was like, you know, I felt like the world was, was opening up to be able to do these sorts of.
Also my introduction to judge Dredd. I mean, I just absolutely loved everybody that was working on judging all those big man and cam Kennedy. And I mean, all those guys are just so all this stuff was a big influence on me. So really, you know, and of course I’d seen blade runner and, and that, you know, it was a huge, a huge impact too.
So all that kind of filtered into fashion and action. And again, getting back to Manhunter, Tim told me that, you know, I was going to have a seven to eight issue slot to, to do fashion and action and it was going to be eight pages. So my idea was, well, I’m just going to, I’m not going to do eight, eight little stories.
I’m going to be one long extended story, just like they did a man hunter. So [00:53:00] that worked out really well. So, so anyway, that’s a little bit of the background of how all that came up now. Now
Andrew Sumner: that makes that, that is fascinating. And I am a huge, huge fan of man and to it’s one of my all time favorite comics.
And I was lucky enough to read it in real time. You know, we’re getting re us reading detective comics every month and I’ve read it in numerous collected additions ever since. I think what’s great about that piece of work is I don’t think that Walt art has dated in any way, because as an experience, yeah, it’s rooted it’s the sensibility is rooted in the seventies, in the seventies, but as a piece of entertainment, it’s still fresh and exciting.
Now when you read it, put together so beautifully, it’s way ahead of its time. I think
John K Snyder III: I, I, I really loved his work too and still do. And I thought it was, it was interesting. He had mentioned when he had mentioned that an influence on him was the artist for the comic strip modesty blaze, which again was a huge influence on me and I, and again, I had only seen a couple of, [00:54:00] of, of that.
I’m sorry, the artist’s name on that was
Andrew Sumner: Yeah, no, that’s man. That’s an excellent, that’s an excellent question.
John K Snyder III: But he his work his work again, I’d only seen a couple of strips in it and it was reprinted in the penguin book of comics. And and so that even just being able to look at those, I loved that style that he had.
Andrew Sumner: Yeah, he was wonderful. Wasn’t it? He was wonderful. I mean, it was such a fascinating, it was such a fascinating strip. Was it? Oh yeah. W w because the author created modesty, blaze just Pietro Donald, right? Yes. Jim Holdaway. Was that
John K Snyder III: all I was going to say holiday. I knew it was. Yeah. Yeah.
Andrew Sumner: It’s beautiful work.
Yeah. It’s really beautiful. So, so, so John, actually, the, the other thing I want to say about this era is, is I feel that when it comes to the prisoner, I think that you were sartorial inf sartorially influenced by that show in the same way that I was, because in [00:55:00] most it, whenever I see you, you liked myself.
You’re very fondness for a sort of black color palette with your clothing.
You’re like me, you’re a man who wears black amount of a certain age. You as black on black all the time. Yeah. I
John K Snyder III: can’t help it. I mean, it’s definitely, I’m always looking over my shoulder for for the Rover. Yeah. For
Andrew Sumner: the rovers. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Yeah. No, so true. So true. Have you ever been support Mariama.
John K Snyder III: No, I have not, but it was funny. I had just seen that I just saw that somebody there, I guess they have like a right alive cam, you know, it was projected here on a regular, I got a big laugh out of that. That, that there’s there. Have you been there? Yeah,
Andrew Sumner: I’ve been there a lot and a and B, because obviously I’m here in the UK, so I’m able to, and the first time I went was before I ever sold the show, but my mom had seen the show.
And, and, and I was captivated by the placement of her. So it was probably, I was [00:56:00] probably 10. And for some reason I hadn’t, maybe my mum and dad at the time thought thought that the, the prisoner itself was two adults. And I only came to, out of all those, I saw all of those ITC shows, but I didn’t see the prisoner until I was actually in college, but I saw I, so I went and went and put my own was captivated it captivated by before episode, the TV show.
But funnily enough, I, one of the many times since there’ve been there is when I got married to the lovely mother of my children to whom I’m no longer married, but she’s she’s one of my best friends is a great person, but we got, we got married at port Mary, and it was just a fantastic, fantastic moment in time.
And it was a such a fantastic weekend and I’d hardly recommend it to anybody. Who’s looking for a wedding venue that get married at port Marine. It’s an incredible place. Oh,
John K Snyder III: that’s neat. That is really neat. It looks quite. It was bright. It was a brilliant [00:57:00] choice.
Andrew Sumner: Inspired. Yeah. I, you, you, you would love it mate, but to flip back to you so you, you got fashion and action under your belt, and then Dan, you worked with, with the, other than the one that was naturally aware of your work, is that great arc you did with Matt Wagner and Grendel the God and the devil.
How did that come about?
John K Snyder III: I had, I had, you know, worked on fashion action. I actually followed up the the, the the one long installment with a couple of extra specials and then worked on some other work with the clips and then moved on to at the time I I had actually, again, getting back to my influences Camico had picked up Johnny quest, the licensor Johnny quest.
And I, you know, I was like, I, you know, again with the kind of work I was doing in fashion and action, I thought that would translate pretty well into Johnny quest. So I had sent him a couple of pages to try out and the editor on the book, Diana Schutz had said to, you know, she was like you know, we’ve already got some people lined up what’d you do a gallery piece.
So I [00:58:00] did a gallery piece with the characters. And then I believe, I believe when she returned the art, she, there was a little sticky note on there saying, would you be interested in working on with Matt Wagner on Grenville? And I knew of Matt’s work at the time. I knew about Grendel. I knew about nature, but I had actually, not really.
I was not that familiar with the books, so, yeah. And so, you know, I, I went to the store and I picked up a copy of Grendel, which is at that time. Was the, the run with Christine spar. Yeah. And I thought, oh, I get it. Cause I did fashion and action, and you’ve got a strong female lead and I get it there.
They want me to do a Christine sparring. I, it makes sense to me. And I’m like, yeah, this is really cool. It has a very lot of similar sensibilities with the fashion and, and all that sort of thing. And I can’t re I think maybe I’d had a brief phone call with Matt and I’ll, I’ll never forget it. It was so funny.
Cause I was like, so you want me to? I was like, yeah, this looks really cool. [00:59:00] And I’m really interested in it. And and I said you know, so I’ll be drawing Christine’s spark. Right. And he’s like, no, we’re going to kill her off. I got some, all different plans and immediately was like, I think I’m going to like working with this guy just absolutely like, you’re going to want, so obviously he’s a great character.
What are you what’s happening? You know? Yeah. But I loved that there was going to be that kind of unpredictability, you know, it right away was like, okay, this is not going to be like anything. This is not going to be run of the mill anything. Right. So, so I was definitely on board. And so then from there you know, I had some communication with Diana and and then we started figuring out how the book was going to be mapped out.
And Diana, you know, I was drinking my own stuff at the time, but with the, the, the workload and such 26 pages an issue on a monthly schedule, it was going to be like we was going to need an anchor. And I w I loved the way Jay was thinking the pander brothers at the time. So I was like, [01:00:00] well, can Jay come on board?
So, so, I remember Jay and Matt and I met at San Diego. I think it was 1987. And we took a break from the show and walk to separate. I think we walked down to like a little restaurant or something and, and that laid out the, had written the initial, like, here’s my basic idea. You know, I want it set in the future, you know, here’s the basic setting.
And he had come up with the idea of splitting up the different art chores, you know, where I would draw the majority of the the storyline. And then I would, I would pencil the majority of the sterile tennis shoes storyline. Did Jay would do the three issue in between spots between each issue that would spotlight the main Grendel character and then the other seven issues with deal with this whole universe that the, that this world that the characters were in.
And we both went home and, you know, I just get just off of this one little meeting started doing a bunch of little drawings, [01:01:00] just like basic ideas about what to do with the characters and that sort of thing. And Jay did some too, and it just started to all come together from there and we were off and running by fall.
Andrew Sumner: And that really exploded and got you a major amount of attention was my perception at the time. I think it certainly seemed to be an accelerant for your career. I think,
John K Snyder III: I think so too. And it was funny because, you know, from my point of view I was always busy. I mean, it was a really busy period. There was I was always working and it was like, I think, I think it was one of those things where things would just happen, you know, and it would be a timing thing.
Something new would come up and then it would be like, okay, I’ll work on this. And then, okay, I’ll work on this. And it didn’t really, I did not realize I knew Grendel had some popularity, but I did not realize until I started working on the series, just how popular it was, you know? And then it came, it became [01:02:00] very apparent.
Once I got involved in that, you know, I was involved in something that had, had already had a very big following. So yeah, so it was neat, you know, it was definitely a neat, a neat experience. And I was so happy that at this point, I think people are getting conditioned to the fact that Grendel, whoever was Grendel was only going to be Grendel a temporary period because I think they had pretty killed off on a rose and killed off Christine spar.
And there’s a character, I think after that Bernie Murrow had done a few issues of, so at that point, people were, I think, used to the fact that, you know, this was going to be temporary, whatever version, but it does. It, it it’s nice. I like the fact that to this day so many people are so enamored of specifically the epi Thatcher version.
Andrew Sumner: absolutely. It’s and, and of course it introduced a very fruitful, creative relationship between you and Matt Wagner.
John K Snyder III: Of course we had a lot of fun.
Andrew Sumner: Yeah. And I’ve had a lot of [01:03:00] fun reading your work. I mean, relatively recently, I really enjoyed what you did with ladies or at dynamite. But the thing that I’d like to get into a bit more detail on is I think my personal favorite of your collaborations is the Peter Krause.
Dr. Midnight. I think I really, again, I really loved that series. I bought it. I’ve still got my three press these issues and I’ve got my collected edition as well, but I, I really loved the execution of that book. And and it was one of the things I was talking to Matt about the other week. But when you look back on that, I I’m thinking it must have a lot of fondness for
John K Snyder III: it.
I, I do. And, and, you know, I think one of the things was, was that you were you know, again I was again that Matt and I are born just a few months apart, you know, we have very similar. There’s a lot of things that he and I can talk, you know, it’s finished pick up a sentence and he’ll finish it and that sort of thing.
So I think we had a lot [01:04:00] of creative sensibilities that were so similar that that I thought we worked together very, very well, you know? And, and he would come up with a basic idea and then I would, I would run with it and then he would go back and he would do his dialogue. And I, I thought that his writing on our run of Grendel was really fantastic.
I mean, I would, I would get the stuff back and I just loved the way he wrote it. I especially loved the way he wrote the last issue of our run. I thought it was just the last page is one of my, I still have the original, that, it’s one of the reasons I love having it so much as I love this writing on that page.
I think it’s so, it’s so good. And and I just thought that we really blended well together. So as we were winding down that run, I was like, I want to keep working with this guy, you know, and I had talked to him, I said, you know, and he had started doing stuff over at DC and I had through it through the conventions, had finally managed to talk to Archie good one, you know, [01:05:00] and, and Archie was moving over to DC.
And I was like, you know, I was like, Hey guys, you know, can we do something? And at this time again, the comics business was going through some changes where the, you know, with the popularity of dark Knight and Watchman and some of the stuff that was going on to DC and Marvel were opening up to doing painted stuff.
I, I want to say also that w what was a big breakthrough book that a lot of people, I don’t think realize was that Dave McCain did a black orchid,
Andrew Sumner: the Neil Gaiman, David McKean, a cool kid. Yeah. Flee illustrates it.
John K Snyder III: Yeah. And I remember when that came in and it was, again, I was, I don’t think a lot of people remember that because they remember Arkham asylum, but black orchid proceeded it.
Yeah. And there was, there was nothing like that before. There was one page in particular where it was like Lex Luther is a full page of him at a table and it was done in black and white. It was a, it was a main image of him, but then the left-hand [01:06:00] side of it was split up in sequential panels and it had a little bit of color in it.
Right. So, so the point is, is that there had never been a mainstream comic with a mainstream character like Lex Luther rendered in, in this kind of really artistic illustrated fashion and coming out from a company like DC comics. Right. So that was a really big deal. And I think that really opened us
Andrew Sumner: the depiction of Batman in that book as well.
The Batman scenes are incredible,
John K Snyder III: so it really opened up a it was like, wow, there’s potential here. And I had just, I also had done the the, before graphic novels. They call them prestige format, which were, you know, the kind of stiff covers with the, with the perfect binding. And I had done the adaptations of Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and yeah. On
Andrew Sumner: the secret agent. Right, right. That was great. That was that secret agent. I thought Jacqueline Hyde was great, but I I I did a thesis on secret agent [01:07:00] for my English degree, so yeah, I did. Yeah.
you have a look, you know, it’s yeah, for sure. But I I, I, I really responded to that to your adaptation. I thought it was lovely. Oh, thank
John K Snyder III: you. So, so I had had, you know, I’d had a precedent to be able to do something full color. And so anyway, you know, anyway, I had been able to talk to Archie and Matt, Matt was on board for it, and we went through a process of elimination because even back then, you know, it was difficult to get a character.
Approved, you know, to be able to. And so the whole thing is, is I, I kind of reached into characters that, you know, I, I knew it’d be difficult to try to do something with, you know, somebody like that, man, or Superman or something like that. But I thought, well, what if we get a character that’s not being used like a lot, like the same way they got, they did black orchid and and Dr.
Midnight, you know, going [01:08:00] back to work, wearing all black, personal favorite of mine since I was a kid specifically because of an Alex toss segment and justice society that had been reprinted in one of those a hundred page books. So, so, we managed to get the, okay from Archie, Archie managed to get the okay for us to do something with Dr.
Midnight and then it was, and then it was, again, it was the same thing where Matt would have a germ of an idea. And I would, I would just start drawing all these different ideas, like, you know, and then Matt would like, okay, let’s fine tune this. And, and, you know, again, we were on the same page because Matt and I both just love pulps, you know, the old thirties, pulp, all that sort of thing.
And it’s real funny because he grew up reading shadow reprints you know, the paperback reprints that were when I was, I was really into doc Savage. I thought the light and the shadow books were hard. I couldn’t find it when I was a kid, but doc Savage was everywhere. So, [01:09:00] you know, so it kind of blended, you know, again, doc Savage, you know, doctor midnight.
So it was kind of blending these various elements together. And it was, it was really an exciting time because there was nobody at that time, there was no, there was no holds barred. We could do whatever we wanted in terms of, you know, the character development. We came up with a whole bunch of new, like he would be in this inner city kind of, On the streets, doctor helping out people on the streets.
And, and he, you know, like doc Savage and shadow would have operatives. He would have operatives and they would be like people in the street. And the whole thing just had, you know, it just, it, just, to me, it was like, it was just a big playground, you know, and it just had limitless possibilities and it was so great to be able to you know, to work in all these different color mediums, as opposed to the straight pencil ink process color.
So it was, it was really an exciting time and, and, you know, I, I had suggested I [01:10:00] think I had suggested at the time that we use the terrible trio, because again, they were these obscure Batman villains that I remembered as a kid. And I, and again, getting back to even the littlest plague doctor thing and the wind in the willows, I just, I always loved the little creatures walking around gangsters with the shark head and the Fox and all that.
And it was very easy to turn them from being just, you know, regular crooks to like these big corporate, you know, creatures, you know, so it all seemed, and it all kind of tied in because Dr. Midnight, you know, has the owl and, you know, you have this kind of connection between the environment and and animals and science and it just in the pulps.
And it was just a great, it was great fun, you know,
Andrew Sumner: I can see that. And I think your playground analogy is very well, very well made. And I too, as you know, I’m a huge pop fan. So all of that resonated with me for a [01:11:00] similar time, you. Did that very memorable arc the Janice directive, right? With John Ostrander on suicides, God, which to this day that X is extremely well considered you very well remembered for that run.
And I would say that, you know, suicide’s got the four is, is a property that you’re always associated with. And that must be, that must be truly a pleasure at this moment in time, because I know you’ve done bits and pieces around the the suicide squad movie, the J the James Gunflint. That must be so great to be in the middle of that while it’s going
John K Snyder III: down.
It’s it’s really it’s really a pleasant surprise and you know, preceding Dr. Midnight. I I had gotten a call from John Ostrander and he had asked if I, he asked if I’d be interested in working on suicide squad. And he and his wife at the time Kim Yale were writing the book and Kim was a huge fan of fat, Kevin John also we’re big fans of fashion and [01:12:00] action.
And as I told you, I, I really was not a I didn’t consider myself a superhero artist, but at the same time there was John’s writing John Kim’s writing and the nature of the book with these kind of like third rate villains that were kind of doomed, you know, part of the suicide squad, you know, these, these missions, these, these impossible missions, you know, it all made sense.
Right. And if I felt a certain amount of freedom, because it was kind of like anything goes, you know, no, one’s going to be particularly concerned about how things work out for captain boomerang, you know, or, or at the time peacemaker, you know, or these various characters. So it was a lot of fun, you know, and John and Kim scripts where I, I mean, they were so good.
I mean, it was, they would send me these full scripts. It was so much fun because it had a strong sense of superhero, you know, the [01:13:00] superhero adventure, but it was very satirical, you know, but it was, it was still respectful of the characters and it was, and John is a, you know, John’s a really great writer, you know, and and, and, you know, John’s been involved with stage and, and, and, you know, you know, comedy and all that kind of thing.
He’s really, he’s really, really got a lot of depth and he was him and Kim both brought this. It was just a great amount of fun to work on. And so when they called me and said, we want you to work on this, the first thing I had to do out the gate was this Janice directive. Tie-in. So it was tied in with all these different books and it was going to be like all these different characters that I’d never heard of.
And DC comics sent me a pile of comp of who’s who, which was like a directory comic. And I’ll never forget. I just, I got this pile FedEx, cause they couldn’t email you, you know, like JPEGs or anything at the time. So I got this pile with all these different characters [01:14:00] from all the different books. And I went and made photocopies of all, it was like 30 different characters and I got a big mailing.
I got a big roll of brown mailing paper. And in my studio, I just, I just put the brown paper up on the wall and started like, you know, taping up all these different, like copies of all these different characters and just drawing lines to which book, you know, which characters, cause it was the only way to figure it all out, you know, so funny.
Cause it had to get done in a very short period of time. So it was a real, it was really intense, but, but but I was I was very lucky because there was four issues for a guy just starting out on something like that. I was very lucky because my editor at the time, Bob Greenberger assigned Pablo more costs and can Carl Keezel to do the finishes over my work.
And and Carl did a beautiful job. And Pablo I was a huge fan of, since I was a kid from sales as a zombie, you know, which was a Marvel horror comic. He did. [01:15:00] And and the whole thing came together and it was really neat, you know, it was really a neat process. And then, you know, John called me up after that and he’s like, Hey John, do you want to go to apocalypse?
Cause we’re going to like have all the characters and we’re going to have dark side female theories. And it was like, it was, again, it was a playground, you know, it was like getting them sandbox of the toys, you know, and it was all so much fun and I loved working on all of it and I, and it was so funny.
It’s so funny to me to see, I, I, if you had told me, I mean, this is 33 years ago that I did those first issues. If you had told me that there was not only one, but two suicide squad and that everybody was really excited about peacemaker, who at the time was had was from Charlton. You’re talking about girl in books.
It’s, it’s unfathomable. I mean, I can’t even kind of, but it’s, it’s great. You know, and, and I, and I think the thing that excites me the most about this new one [01:16:00] is when I, when I heard they were doing the sequel, it was like, oh, that’s cool. But when I heard they had James Gunn working on it, because I had seen super recently for the first time, what a
Andrew Sumner: great film, what a great film mate, brilliant sensibility.
John K Snyder III: So I just thought the guy that’s doing super is doing suicide squad. I’m like, that is a match made in heaven
Andrew Sumner: 1000%. And not only that, but, but the guy is actually. Undoubtedly and very vocally, I’m a massive fan of, of John’s work and a massive fan of your respective run on the book. So, you know, he, he frequently named checks, you know, yours in John’s work on suicide squad and Kim’s work on suicide squad.
And I, I’ve got to tell you, mate, I was a huge fan of the book and actually my, my, my personal suicide squad story is that years ago, one of the first [01:17:00] journalism gigs I had, this is way before I ever worked for the enemy. And all those titles was I used to, I used to contribute to speakeasy, which is a British magazine about comic books published by John Brown, who also published a great comedy.
Yeah. And very, very early on in my involvement, I was asked to do a top 10 comics of the moment thing. And and I did my top 10 comics was I used all of the page length to one comic book, which was yours and John’s run on suicides squad, which at the time I described it. Absolutely perfect. Like the movie comics, you know, to me, I thought you guys were just you guys and Kim just doing something else that nobody was doing in comics in that time.
And the fact that you just lurching through the DC back catalog, but giving it this very pole P sensibility, this real sense of pace and humor, I really thought it was an exceptional book. [01:18:00] And so, and so I wrote, I, instead of doing this top 10, I just wrote it all up this, this rave about suicide squad.
And as a result of that, I got hired by that magazine and I’ve got a full-time job out of it. Yeah. So my entire career as a journalist, basically you can almost almost time back to that rave review of your run on suicide squad. And I edited, as you just mentioned by by our mutual friend, Bob Greenberger.
So Bobby, we’re listening to this, thanks to you as well, mate. You know, so, so yeah, I, I mean, it’s wonderful hearing you talk about that time, because I could see just by reading and absorbing the book to the green that I did, that you must have been loving creating that an Ostrander and chemists been loving writing it.
And it just looked like there was so much creative alchemy in it.
John K Snyder III: It’s and I, and it’s, I, I saw I saw that James Gunn posted a [01:19:00] photo of him and John possibly they’re on the set for suicide squad and that he had John in his role, I guess he’s the doctor that injects them with the explosive device so they can’t get away.
And I think that’s been pretty much my favorite moment of watching the production of this movie so far. I mean, it was just so great to see John getting getting the acknowledgement he deserves. And I just think that it’s wonderful that he’s in the movie, but not only in the movie, but there’s this acknowledgement of his work on the movie.
I mean, work on the series because, you know, it’s, it’s just really a nice thing to see and it’s, and it’s just really a pleasant. It’s a pleasant kind of synchronicity you know, between the comics and movies to have that kind of, you know, respect for and acknowledgement of, of the, the original source.
Even though, even though the, the creative people, making the movies are going in their own direction and making their thing. But it’s great to acknowledge [01:20:00] that that original source too. I’m very excited for the movie. I think it’s going to be great. And I was really a pleasure to yeah, I did a couple of variant covers for think it was for infinite frontier.
There is a series of covers that are coming out in August the month. The book comes out, the movie comes out. So it was really a thrill to go back and revisit these characters after all these years. And I was really I was really it was really nice to be brought back on board to do that. So it really is a very, it is a lot of fun.
Andrew Sumner: I know I was very pleased. See you back on it. And I’m very impressed just from what I’ve seen from the trailers loaner, but how much of, you know yours and John’s DNA is in the project? I think I it’s, I’m very excited about it. I don’t really get excited about it. I mean, I love superhero movies, but there are so many of them, even to a massive fan, like me, it’s almost impossible to get excited about them before they come out.
Some of them are great experiences, but you know, I’ll go and see them and have a good time. But this [01:21:00] one for, for all of that, having, having that history of being such a fan of yours, your work on the book on that period of time, and to see so much of it reflected in the bits and pieces I’ve seen, I can only imagine what it’s like for you guys.
I, you know, waiting to see that film. I w if I was you, I’d be like, man, roll it now. I want to see it. Oh, I’m,
John K Snyder III: I’m pretty excited about it. It’s funny. I took one of my daughters with me to see the first movie and and we had a lot of fun watching it, but it was really fun because we were wa we’re watching it.
And then when they got to the end, when they had their big fight, you know, it has on the front end is written the Austrian underbuilding for my daughter. I said, that’s, that’s my friend who wrote the book. You know, he used to write the comic, you know, it was like, it’s really kind of fun to have that. So you’re hoping to grab hopefully both of my daughters to come with me to see the.
See the movie when it comes
Andrew Sumner: out. Yeah, mate, you’ve got to do that. That will be a wonderful family moment. Right. So John, where [01:22:00] I’d like to, where I’d like to sort of wind up our conversation for today, because there’s other things that we could talk about if you, as that, that, that I love, you know, I, I really loved your mystery book.
I thought that was great. And I, I love the work you did on Phoenix, that ashes, which is holding Alison’s when he originally published that as a book. Cause it was originally his star last pilot, wasn’t it, right? Yes. I bought and read that at the time and loved it. I also love what you did on that, but of course, what I want to talk to you about is like one of the other many things we have in common is that we’re huge fans of the, of the great Lawrence block and his PI character, Matt Scudder.
And and as you know, one of the things I do on, on, on the side is is edit nor fiction. And you know, I’ll work on the Mike hammer books with max Alan Collins. When I say work on them, I’m his editor. He writes he does a spectacularly good job. But I’m a huge Lawrence spot block fan as a you and I would love to hear about your [01:23:00] particular ride with your fantastic adaptation of 8 million ways to die and how that came about and how long it took you to do and where it came from.
John K Snyder III: Well, let’s see I’m trying to think of good starting point. Well, I’ve, I because it’s such a big story. I’m not like how I got from there to from here to there on it, but but I I’ve always been a big fan of You know, I guess you would call it film new our, before, you know, before these things really started getting classified that way.
And it just, I loved mystery stuff. I mean, as a kid going back to when I was a kid, I think the first thing that I really, one of my verse loves was the original Dick Tracy comic strip, you know, and I had a collection of the original 1930s and 40 stories. I think Bonanza books had put it out of the early Chester gold stuff, which was unbelievably intense and violent, you know, and that really appealed to me as a kid.
It, you know, again, you know, when I was a kid, it was, there was still, there was like this [01:24:00] nostalgia for like, old gangster movies and, and you know, Cagney and Bogart. And you had the Dick Tracy and, and the sting had come out, you know, there is all this kind of, but anyway, to get anyway, I had all that kind of in the background.
But but I’ve always had a love for you know, this noir sort of thing. And it would start Mike as a kid and we’d go through my twenties and thirties and such. And I really wanted to do, I had gotten to a point in my career where I wanted to do it like Dr. Midnight. I wanted to do another large body of work.
And I wanted it and, and it was kind of like, I wanted to pull a little bit of what I had done on Dr. Midnight and what I had done on classics illustrated, which was adapt, you know, I wanted to do an adapt Taishan and I wanted to stick with that kind of north thing. And so it just seemed like I was like, I want to do like a Nore adoptation of some sort.
And I knew to, to Adams that w at the time was running IDD. [01:25:00] And he, I had started doing work for them doing covers and like Phoenix, that ashes with Harlan and a number of other licensed products. And at the bar at the bottom of it all, I wanted to eventually do a long, you know, like a full-size graphic novel.
Yeah. And they had had a great success with the Parker books with Darren amaz. Yeah. And and you know, I think it’s important to note here. A lot of people, I mean, Darwin was a phenomenal talent and and and those books were amazing, but what was really amazing, what, I guess, I don’t know if people realize this now, but what’s so remarkable about in addition to so many other things about Darwin’s work was that first Parker book is really in my mind.
I think it’s one of the first hardcover mainstream popular, like mainstream popular graphic novels in terms of the accessibility it had, that was based on just just a genre, you [01:26:00] know, you know, where it wasn’t a biographical or, or where it was like something, something genre related. And it was, it, it, it was a mainstream breakout and it was a hardcover format.
And so I think Darwin really is one of the original pioneers of the modern, modern mainstream graphic novel format. You know, when you go to the library and you see all these rows of graphic hardback novels, I really think Parker is one of the, one of the key focal points that started all this, you know,
Andrew Sumner: so well, can I complete, I hardly agree with you on that point mate.
John K Snyder III: Yeah. And so I think that he really deserves a lot of credit for. Him and Scott done beer and, and the guys that, you know, and Ted and all those guys and Chris Royal and all of them, but they got all together and made this thing happen. So, so, you know, Darwin had done a number of them at that point.
And I had spoken with Ted about doing something new are related and Ted had suggested I, I had suggested [01:27:00] Lawrence block to me, he had had the ability, he had the ability to get the rights to it. And he had mentioned Matthew Scutter and I had, I was familiar with scoter since the eighties and because that’s when he first became very well known and and I thought and he was like, well, that’s something I can do.
And I thought, yeah, that’s something I’d like to try, you know? And so they kind of, they kind of left it to me, my editor Tom waltz and Chris, and they kind of left it to me to pick which book to do. And so I looked at all the books and I, I just, you know, I think Tom was under the neutral initial impression.
I would just start with the first one, but my thought was, you know, I wanted to, I wanted to make sure that, you know, just in case we do, we just one of these, at least for starters to start with the book. And I just kept coming back to 8 million ways to die, which was actually the fifth in the series.
And I just was like, I just don’t see any way. I just, we ha I have to [01:28:00] do this book. I mean, this one has to be the one of the series. And then, you know, I can adapt the others, you know, work around and all that. But to me, this was the starting point was, was the
Andrew Sumner: 8 million ways. Cause it’s a transformative moment in scooter’s life.
John K Snyder III: Yeah. Yeah. And it’s so funny because so, you know, I was like, well, this is the one I want to do. And they were like, you know, they, I did some sample pages to show the Lawrence’s agent and Lawrence. And I was like, oh boy, you know, this all works out. And they came back and said, great.
And could cause
Andrew Sumner: block was a graphic, novel skeptic before you did this book. Yeah. I mean, you’ve achieved something absolutely major. Cause I’ve seen him write numerous words about how he doesn’t really get graphic novels prior to working with you on this. It was funny.
John K Snyder III: Cause I read some interviews with them before online, you know, and I was like, well, one thing I’m not going to do is bother Lawrence.
You know, you know, and I, and [01:29:00] I was, yeah, I was, I was fairly intimidated to be honest, you know?
Andrew Sumner: Cause I don’t think he even, I think he might be the one person who on the face of the earth, he didn’t particularly like Darwin’s books. I mean, you know, he’s an army of one in that respect because everybody thinks they’re like at work.
I did not know. It might be not that I’ve seen him say I don’t like it. I think I might’ve seen him say, I just don’t give a toss about this. It’s not my thing.
John K Snyder III: He I, I think initially he had a great skepticism about it until, until I was finally finished with this and he saw it as it turned out that that all changed.
So, so, you know, I got the go ahead and it was real fun. It was funny. I remember I got the go ahead. We had a little meeting on the phone and it was like, okay. You know, and I was like, great. You know, cause I was so eager to do, like I wanted to do like, yeah, you know, I wanted to like take everything I’ve learned and you know, put it into this and I’ll never forget I remember, I went for a walk and I got halfway [01:30:00] around the block and I stopped right in the middle of the sidewalk.
And I was like, what if I tell him?
I was like, cause you know, the enormous yeah. That suddenly it. And then I followed that up with I remember reading it was, I was working on something else at the time and it was real late at night. And I was like, I got to start reading this, rereading this. And I start, I read the first 20 pages of the book and I went and set.
I went and laid down and then I got back up again. I’m like, I can’t stop reading, you know? And I was like, oh my I, and it just dawned on me as I got deeper and deeper into it. I’m like, and it was, it was a, it was a great, it was a great feeling because it was like, this is not going to be like adapting a caper book or, you know, a tough guy book or, you know, people getting punched through your walls or anything like that.
This is a book about everything. This is about like life death, you know, addiction struggle, you know, you know, the human [01:31:00] condition, the whole everything, you know, it’s cold. It’s it just, it just struck me that, that this, I know everybody, I know people love the Lawrence block Scutter series and it’s, it’s great.
There’s no doubt about it, but there is something I feel about this book, as you said, that it’s transformative. I feel like it’s a standalone piece. And I feel like it is just there is something about it that I think is, is it’s just a, it’s just, it’s something different. And so, and so that being said.
You know, it definitely, it definitely tuned me in a different direction on, you know, what I was going to be doing with it, but it was really a blessing because again, I keep coming back to that writing is everything. I mean, you can have great art movies can have great sets, but it’s like, you gotta have solid writing.
And I think everything kind of it’s the foundation that everything can be built on. And the writing and this was so great. And the dialogue was so [01:32:00] fantastic that, you know, it was a different kind of playground, so to speak, you know, it was so, it was so challenging and in such a positive way in terms of how do I interpret this stuff into the comic format.
So there were just, it just was the beginning of a long path of figuring out how I was going to tell the story in a comic format so much like the as I told you before it was, and again, the, at this point I was living in a very large old apartment with high ceilings and I had all these big blank walls.
So it was out what the brown mailing paper, again, copied. I photocopied the whole book and I know this sounds funny, but it’s like, I photocopied the whole book and I had a huge chunks of it up in sections, up on the wall, like all four walls. And, and what I was trying to do was I was trying to get to the heart of what would come out visually or what would come out of looking at all the writing, what would come out visually as the direction to go [01:33:00] to and telling the story.
And I would underline in red, I would take a ruler and red Prismacolor and underline what I thought were key points. Well, I started underlining every single sentence. I like this is going to be a 400 page graphic. I had 130 pages to work with. So, you know, it got to be very cheap. But, but as funny as it sounds, as I had all these, all these pages up on the wall and I kept looking at them, certain paragraphs started pulling themselves out apart from others.
And and then I started to be able to like connect sections. And I actually started reading up and studying a little bit about like movie adaptations of novels and how they would cut certain characters and certain scenes and, and and it was a great learning process. And I really learned to respect the art of adaptation.
Again, I’d done it with the classics illustrated, but with, but in this it’s like, there’s, it’s really funny. I I’ve gotten to the point where, when I watch a movie that’s been [01:34:00] adapted from a book there’s, adoptation where it’s where it works off of the original material. And then there are people trying to duplicate scenes from the book and it, it, it’s funny.
Cause you can tell because there’ll be a moment in the movie and you’re like, why is this happening? It doesn’t quite flow with the rest of the movie, but it’s because they’re trying to do something that’s in the book, you know, and it’s, it’s not a criticism. It it’s people trying to be faithful, but there are times where this is a, it’s kind of funny to say this, but by being faithful, sometimes leaving things out.
Andrew Sumner: And that makes a little sense. Yeah.
John K Snyder III: So, so there was a lot of that process. So really the, the really the biggest challenge was initially was really getting, getting the actual script put together, you know, getting it to where within the 130 pages and also, you know, certain, certain scenes had to be cut.
Certain characters had to be cut and [01:35:00] getting it all to where I felt like it had a flow and how I was going to tell the story. And I had the idea to do it in parts, sequentially. And part combination of large images and then large large blocks of text because I wanted it to be not just a comic, but like, like a book, like where it was like, you actually, you couldn’t just read it in an hour, you know, just through it because I felt like, you know, it’s going to cost, you know, a certain amount of money and it’s hardcover and it’s, you know, I wanted people to get their money’s worth, you know, I wanted to get them to have something that they could, they could read over a period of time.
So, so I felt like I did not feel constrained in that somebody needs to flip through this, you know, I figured it would be something you’d want to take time with, so we want
Andrew Sumner: to save her. Yeah.
John K Snyder III: Yeah. So, oh, I thought I thought about the whole concept of, you know, of, of trying to stretch out of of the, of the format [01:36:00] to try to work out the way that the time would pass between the panels.
The way time would pass between those blocks of copy with the single illustrations and, and, but at the same time, give it all kind of a flow. And it sounds a little bit I guess it sounds a little bit they, but it is kind of a way of trying to merge pictures and and pictures and words.
And it’s not like a movie, you know, I know a lot of people, a lot of people now that I run into, I noticed there’s a lot of habits. Sometimes people are like, they try to write a comic scripts as though they’re for movies or it’s like a movie, but movie time. And, and book time are two different times. Yeah,
Andrew Sumner: absolutely.
Absolutely. I was really struck by with 8 million ways today is I think specifically about this point, I think that your handling of time and the temporal element telling that story [01:37:00] are highly resonant to me of, I think the only other person that I’ve seen do as well as you do it is in fact, the master of that, which is Eisner at his peak between like 46 and 50 during that period of time where it Sam and it’s, it’s a, Canik seven on the letters.
There’s some brilliant enact experiments about time compression and the pacing that he does. And, and what you achieved on that level felt very eyes near to me. And yeah, it was very resonant of that kind of work, if that makes sense to you, John. Well, I
John K Snyder III: appreciate that. That’s a very kind thing to say.
I was gonna say going back to my childhood, one of the watermark moments along with discovering like Walter and Howard’s work was was when I saw the first issue of the warrant spirit. Yeah, brilliant. I picked that up and I took, I first off again, back then, you didn’t know these things were coming out.
It [01:38:00] just happened to be up on the stands. And I was shocked because I knew about the spirit from the great comic book heroes by Jules Feiffer and strengthens history of the comics. So to see an actual spirit comic was a shocker and it was all in black and white. And and I took that. I took that home and I must have re-read.
I just re-read it all night. I mean, I, it was, I was just electrified and I thought it was one of the greatest it’s still one of the greatest number one comics I ever picked up though. So, so to me it was like, yeah, I mean, this is how it’s done, you know? And it’s funny because there was only one other time I had kind of an experience like that was again, I was actually not interested in comics all that much.
I was, I had just moved out of the house. I was working at the graphic studio and I was going out to, you know, see the bands and such, and you know, this idea of doing this, this comic was still kind of fulminating in the back of my head, but I remember stopping by a seven [01:39:00] 11 on the way back from going out.
And it was late at night and there was still spinner acts at that time. And again, I wasn’t buying any comics. I would pick up an occasional heavy metal, but I wasn’t buying any Marvel or DC, but I saw this Daredevil comic in the rack and it was like, it was called the king pen must die. And, you know, and I was like, what’s, this is not, again, this is not normal.
What is this? Right. And I opened it up and it was a cutaway shot of Daredevil, like tied up in a sewer line, you know, below the city. And it looked exactly, it looked like a new wave will Eisner splash page. And I just bought it on the spot and it was, and again, it was this moment of this like, wow, this guy.
And that was my first experience of Frank Miller. And at that moment it was like, wow. Again, if Frank had that same thing, you know, where he had that sense of time and layout and all that sort of thing. So, yeah, that was a big influence on me. And and definitely when I was working [01:40:00] on this as well that was another moment.
But but the thing about working on Lawrence’s book is is that Lawrence there’s such a delicacy of, of, of human, the human. Again, I not to be repetitive, but the human condition and again, and life, and, and it really hit home to me. The book the way it was written, it really, I spent a lot of time in, in the DC area and around cities.
And I’d actually spent a little time in New York and and you know, it’s, it really kinda, it really kinda, I thought hit a nerve about how the city has got a funny poll on people where it has a tendency to make you feel like you can’t be anywhere else. You have to stay in the city no matter what, no matter how desperate your situation becomes, no matter how hard it is, you cannot leave the city.
It is like, it is like all that matters. If you leave the city, somehow you’ll, you’ll, you’ll disappear, you’ll you won’t survive. You know, so, [01:41:00] you know, to survive in the city, it’s like, it’s like anything goes, you know, like by any means necessary, survive the city. So there’s this complete moral detachment that comes with surviving in the city to make the ends meet, to stay in the city, you know, and I thought that the book in the most extreme manner touched on that.
And I, and I thought, again, that’s again where this book has so many different levels. And and I wanted to kind of get through that too. And I, and I thought it was so, and again, you’ve got the, this, this the main character is he’s completely focused on how dangerous the city is and he’s completely focused on, you know, he’s obsessed with reading the newspaper and you know, about how everybody’s dying and various crimes and freak accidents and such yeah.
And yet he is completely oblivious to the fact that he’s slowly dying from his addiction. You know, I mean, he he’s aware of it, but there’s this kind of thing where he kind of feels like, [01:42:00] you know, it’s like somehow by reading these stories, you know, about all these other people’s like problems, you know, and again, it’s that whole thing of like, well, it’s the city, this is how we survive in the city.
And I just thought that that was, that was so brilliant. And again, that’s my interpretation that might not be exactly what Lawrence had in mind, but that was that was another element that really appealed. In telling the story and all these different characters and
Andrew Sumner: such, I think that’s fascinating because I think I’m really glad you shared that because that really comes through, I think, in your adaptation of the novel.
And and I think what, one of the many things I love about it and it it’s really illuminating you go through that because it explains a lot. It explains a lot to me about, you know, the, the final version of the tale that you tell. One of the things that one of the many things I love about the book is your physical representation of Scudder.
[01:43:00] Because the minute I saw your version of Scudder on the page, I thought that’s Matt, Scutter straight away having been somebody who’s read as, you know, run all the books. And and I think you really coalesced in my mind how he looked and, and it’s so rare that you see an adaptation of something. And somebody manages to come up with all my star recognizable archetype of who this character is of who a character is because many, many PI characters are framed in such a way that it’s open to the visual imagination of the reader.
That’s why, you know, say hammer for example, and having all this never gets facially described. Many of these guys never get scrubbed away, but you’re your skirt. As soon as I saw Emma, I thought, man, you’ve totally nailed him visually. It was amazing to him. It was kind of a rose. It was kind of a revelation when I opened the book up.
John K Snyder III: Well, thank you. Thanks. Thanks. I appreciate that. It was yeah, it was funny. You know, when I [01:44:00] started the process you know, Lawrence does not go into a lot of deep description of some of the characters appearances, you know, so it was open for that. So, you know, I kind of had the cat. You know, the characters and I had various various you know, little bits and pieces of, of actors and people that I’ve known.
And, and just like, I would just kind of put it in a blender visually to come up with it. And scatter was really a challenge. Scutter was a real challenge to me because there is something about this character where he is not necessarily a hard as nails, you know, like a, like a Mike hammer. He is, he’s almost kind of, kinda, I don’t know if this is the right way to put it, but kind of a, almost like, kind of a cipher, he kind of a, is he’s kind of this, this character that’s there, you know, it’s almost like that’s, that’s in the city, it’s almost like he’s part of the city, you know, and, and as Lawrence has said, the city is very much one of the main characters of the book.
Yeah. And scoter is part of the [01:45:00] city. And and, but he is not a moral, you know, so, but he’s not, but he’s not necessarily somebody who’s going to be knocking people through, you know, through glass, you know, glass bar walls or are glass windows or whatever. So, you know, I was trying to figure out a way to make him look somewhat stern, but at the same time vulnerable, you know, and I think one of my visual references at the time was again, I was thinking of various movie actors from different time periods and such, and I’ve always kinda liked Richard Widmark because Richard Widmark has that kind of vulnerability.
You know, I mean, you got to start off playing these, you know, scary, the scary guy and kiss the death or whatever, but as his career went on, you know, tell me you, Doug. Yes. Thank you. And but as his career went on, you know, he became, I’m thinking specifically of a, when he played the cop Madigan and you know, he’s, he’s got an edge to him, but he’s got a vulnerability to him as well.
[01:46:00] And so, you know, maybe I touched a little bit on that, you know, but the thing I like about, about the Scutter character is, is that he’s kind of in a Nick, he’s very much an enigma, you know? And I think that’s one of the things I like about him is that I think that Lawrence keeps his character so kind of open that the reader is able to kind of fill in, you know, what they get out of the character.
And I appreciate that you, that you liked my representation of him because I was definitely trying to get a distinctive him to be distinctive. But at the same time, somewhat distant.
Andrew Sumner: Yeah. Well, and I think you achieved that I could see from, from the nature of your illustrations, how hard you’d work on getting up on, on walking that, that knife blade and getting him in space that you did.
I, that this might seem like a very small detail. Well, it might somebody listening to this, but it was key for me. I thought you got is her line just right, because he’s a man of a certain age. He’s [01:47:00] not a kid, you know, so he’s not got a full head of her, but he’s not bald. You know, he’s, he’s kind of, it’s her life felt just right to me.
I thought that really was, for me, it was the key to how you’d take the framed his face so well, because like, man, you know, he doesn’t look too young and virile, but he doesn’t look too old and knackered either. He looks confused. You know, he looks convincingly weathered by his experience while still being somebody who can take care of him.
John K Snyder III: Well, thanks. I really appreciate that. I know what you’re saying about the detail, but it is funny because again, he’s, I think the character is in his early forties and this particular, the Scutter for people that are not aware of the series Matthew Scutter ages in real time. So he’s in his forties, in the eighties the last and he ages, you know, through the nineties, two thousands, et cetera.
But at this point in the series, he’s in his early forties. So I was trying to visualize where he would be at, in his life. You know, he did, he [01:48:00] does have a sense of physicality. He does have some strength and I was trying to get it. So he didn’t look too young, you know, but I didn’t want him to look too Haggard either, you know?
And so, you know, a lot of times when people are doing detective characters, they have like, you know, this, this, you know, huge head of hair. Yeah, right. Exactly. Down the widow’s peak, jutting down, it’s a bridge. Right. So, so, but I thinks, and, and you know, that, that went on with all the other characters. I was definitely trying to be like, again, it’s, it’s a comic, it’s a comic book at its heart, but at the same time, I did want a sensory reality to how the characters would look, you know, the men and women.
And and I would, and I was trying to visualize, you know, that through little details, like though, and it’s funny with the scouter, for example, with the way he dressed. Because again, it wasn’t something that was very specific in in Lawrence, his [01:49:00] writing, what I was trying to visualize with his, with how he dressed and his hat and his trench coat and all that.
What I was trying to get was was that he is, you know, he’s broken at this point in his life and his is, you know, is what he’s got going on. He’s, he’s, he’s broken, you know, he’s really in bad shape. And he’s, he’s he’s kind of working off of kind of a broken past. You was you know, it was a police detective and he’s, he’s had an accident where, you know, a young girl got killed in a crossfire.
You know, why he’s left his wife and kids, you know, and he’s gone from this kind of like just outside of the city, family life to this, you know, living in hell’s kitchen and kind of broken down. And he’s really kind of on its last legs. But at this point in the book series so I was kind of visualizing that at this point he was wearing like what he would use to wear when he was a detective on the force in the late seventies.
So he’s wearing like his police outfit, you know, they have the coat [01:50:00] because it’s almost like he’s, it’s all that he’s got left is this memory. And, and actually, and again, talking about hairlines and details and such if you’ll notice when you get to the end of the book and he has his, his moment of clarity he, and he the case and when the case is over and he has his moment of clarity, he’s not wearing the hat anymore for the rest of the book.
It’s like, the hat is off and it’s like, it’s, and I know it’s like a little thing, but it’s like, it’s like it, you know, my hope is to eventually do more books in the series, but he would not be wearing the hat anymore after that. And again, it’s a little thing, but it’s just like, that was part of his past.
And he’s realized that it’s far, far past him and to let go, you know,
Andrew Sumner: aye, aye, aye, aye, aye, aye. I love the D the amount of detail that you’ve put into that. And I, I really feel it as well. I really, as a, as a big fan of the character as I say, your adaptation really, really spoke to me in terms of, if you would like to adapt other SCADA novels, what would be at the top of your [01:51:00] list?
John K Snyder III: my, my idea would be, and I’ve had this for some time now is I would like to do the adaptations. I mean, you know, it’d be great to do all of them, you know, but, but I had a specific idea to do that in sets of three. Yeah. And the first set would be to, I would really like to follow him through different periods in his life and not just him, but New York city.
Yeah. So, so this book 8 million ways to die, you know, it was 1982, it’s scattered in 1982 in New York. And then I would like to follow that up with everybody dies year behind the eight New York. Yeah. And this is where, you know, he’s and, and that is, you know, there’s a lot of things about there’s a, he is just entering his sixties.
Yeah. And he is coming to terms with he feels like he has, you know, gone from this incredible and chaotic life. He had an 8 million ways to die. He’s now [01:52:00] he’s settled down. He’s, he’s still working all these incredibly violent cases as, you know, cause that’s his job, but, but he was married, you know, he’s, he feels like a sense of you know of, I don’t know if complacency is the right word, but everything’s kind of settled, you know, he’s he’s he’s instead of being unlicensed, he’s got his detective license, so everything is kind of set in place and it’s all like kind of, it also hooks into, you know, his recovery that he’s come from from this, this first book.
So it, what I find interesting about it, everybody dies is, is all that is taken away. You know, he loses some major characters in his life. I don’t want to give it all away. It loses a lot of major characters in life and he is challenged with whether or not he is going to keep his license in order to continue forward and his, and his mission as it were.
And if that’s an assessment. And I love that. I love the idea. And again, I love this about Lawrence’s work is, is that it’s [01:53:00] got a moral base to it, but the moral based sometimes goes outside of the lines of, you know, the law. And I, I, you know, this is the thing that you know, it’s, this is a, you know, it’s a, it’s a really interesting area to tread.
So I liked that that conflict is in there and then drop it. The hard stuff would be the third book. So the drop was the last full novel that he’s Scutter, and that’s an, and that’s post nine 11. And it’s, it’s him coming into his seventies. And it was like seventies at that time. And it’s got a lot and it, actually, most of that book is a is a flashback to the first year anniversary after.
So to me it would be like a full circle and it would come. So those, so that those, I hadn’t really thought about that. And I thought they would make a great trilogy, the three books together. So you would have 8 million ways to die. Everybody dies and then a drop of the hard stuff. So I do have [01:54:00] a specific.
Andrew Sumner: I love that outline and I CA I can actually understand why you’ve put that together. I think you’re thinking creatively is very clear there, and I really hope that you, you get the chance to do it because I was thinking in my mind, I, what would I like to see you do and came up with two completely different answers?
Which ones are you interested in? I, in terms of, I think books that I think might be a challenge to adapt, but if you’ve got it right, I think with your style and your take on the current, you could do really well is I would like to see you. I would like to see you adapt when the sacred Jim mill closes, which is a very interesting, that’s a, that’s an immediate flashback novel after he sobers up to Australia and it goes back to his drinking days, just cause it’s such an interesting story about the pernicious effect of alcohol and drinking culture and all that kind of stuff in the middle of violence and the, the, the Metta it’s going on.
I really love that, but I also really love a long line of dead, man. I think that’s a, [01:55:00] that’s a very interesting story, but I, I mean, I can’t be your, I can’t be your plan. I think your plan is absolutely right. But at the point where you, you know, before you stopped, but that thing, these normals, if I was going to be self show go, yeah, I’d love to do when the sacred Jim mill closes and along one dead, man, I’ll have both of those
John K Snyder III: books.
I I I’ll have in the long line at dead and sacred, Jenn mill is like right there. You know what I mean? I that’s in fact that is somewhere in between, maybe that would be one of the first three, or that would be the first of the second set of three. So it’s like, believe me.
Andrew Sumner: It’s it’s a great book.
I think if you’ve not read it, you’ll really enjoy it.
John K Snyder III: I think it’s again, just like 8 million ways to die. And I, again, I love, I have not read long life dead. I have read, I will check that out, but again, when the sacred GMO closes that is a deep book to make [01:56:00] a lot of things in there. And I think that and I think you’ll agree with me.
You really get into that book really gets into I thought that book was really a deep thing about friendships and, and how friendships go bad. And and I thought it was very, very personal. And again, it’s, it’s real. I mean, it’s like, that is a real, that book feels very real. Those people feel very real and the interactions they have with each other feel very real and very, very much particular to that environment New York city in that period.
So I agree. That would be a, that would be a great one to do. Definitely
Andrew Sumner: look up this other one too. Oh, long line, dead manual. Enjoy that mate. And you know, it’s a, it’s it’s got a very, very interesting plot and one that one that kind of affects Scott life kind of moving forward and in a particular kind of way.
Yeah, I think, [01:57:00] I think you’ll enjoy it and to close out on this discussion of you know, your beautiful adaptation of 8 million ways to die, so have to do all that work and then to have it to be, to be so positively received with, you know, almost wall-to-wall rave reviews and for it to be embraced by block himself, and then to partner up with block during your signings and what have you, that must have felt amazing.
John K Snyder III: Yeah, it’s indescribable. I mean, it really was, it was I’ll tell you, it was funny. I really didn’t want to bother Lauren. So I was working on this. I was like, you know, I had felt like I’ve got to do what I can on this. And I really, I was, and I felt like I had, I had done the book fairly well, but I was like, you know, he, you know, he’s busy with what it is he’s doing.
I’m going to work on this. And I got it all done and we got it through the letter and I’ll never forget this. It was really funny. My editor was like it was a Friday and he contacted me and he’s like, well, we’ve sent it off to [01:58:00] Lawrence. And I was like, oh great. And you know, it was really excited. And about 15 minutes later, I was like, oh my God, what if he does it?
Like it, you know, I was like, it never even occurred to me. Right. And I thought, and I got this huge dread, like, oh my God. You know? And it just, it just was the funniest feeling because I had gotten so caught up in the adaptation, you know, and I thought, oh yeah, Lawrence is gonna like, you know, you know, what’s he gonna think?
You know? And it was a long weekend, man. I, you know, cause it was like Friday and you know, I tried not to think about it, but then Sunday morning, I’ll never forget this. It was Sunday morning. And and I got a friend request from Lawrence and it was just, you know, my heart kind of jumped a little bit.
And and then, you know, he, you know, Lawrence speaks very, very briefly, you know, it was very short sentence. And I was like, well, I hope you enjoyed it. And he said something along the lines. I thought it was brilliant. And it was just the [01:59:00] biggest exhale, just kind of like, oh, and then, you know, he he suggested the the signing of mysterious bookshop.
And then set up the thing with Midtown. And so, yeah, I mean, I mean, going and actually what was so funny about it was, is I hadn’t been to New York in a long time. I had spent a good amount of time there around 2000, 1999, 2000. And I had only been up there once or twice, and I had not been up there for almost a decade.
I think I had been. So, you know, I drove up there and I realized it was so funny because I had spent, I had gotten so deep into the research and reference and drawing New York city, that it was almost eerie to be walking on the streets of the city because I’ve been drawing it for so long, you know, but the fact is, is that to not only be walking the streets in New York, again, after finishing the book, but actually going to the [02:00:00] mysterious auto Kensler store you know, which is a surly world, renowned bookstore and then, and Lawrence showed up and was so, Lawrence was there.
His daughters were there and they were so, nice and gracious and Lawrence was so, kind that it really was it really was an amazing experience. It really was on there. Forget after we did the signing. I was, we were going to, let’s see, I can’t remember. I was getting where I was getting to, I needed to ride the subway and Lawrence is like, well, that’s my, the same line I’m going on.
And so I ended up on the subway with Lawrence, which was just, you know, we’re standing together and there’s a photo, actually, a buddy that was with us, took the photo, but it was so funny because I had spent so much time drawing. Scutter sitting in the subway, you know, down and out and like 1982 in New York.
And it never occurred to me that Lawrence and I would be together, you know, talking a little bit, you know, about the project literally on the New York subway. So it was really. [02:01:00] It was really a neat moment. So, so, so all of that has been really great and I’ve been very fortunate because you know, I’ve met a couple of really neat people through this through the mystery, you know, like mystery writers, like Wal strobi was there that night.
Yeah, and there’s a fantastic writer and he’s talked to me about doing some things with his character and also I did a Gogo’s murder, a Gogo’s benefit mystery book with Holly west was the editor on that. And I’ve, you know, we’ve gotten to know each other and, and I, and I have to say it’s really opened up a world of, of, of new friends and acquaintances.
So I’m very, very grateful and really a lot of it has to do with the fact that Lawrence embraced it so much and talks about it so well, and then invited me back on board with subterranean press to do the cover for the L for the Scutter short story collection night and the music, which is coming out in the
Andrew Sumner: fall, which looks, which just looks so beautiful, mate.
It really does.
John K Snyder III: Thanks. Thanks. So, so I, you know, I feel really blessed in [02:02:00] all of this and I’m really grateful to the guys at IDW you know, my editor and Ted and her and Chris and everyone, you know, for giving me the opportunity, you know, to do this book. Right. You know, so, so I am eternally grateful and, you know, I have to say I’m so grateful that we were able to get this out.
Promote it, you know, you know, and all that. So, so it’s all been a very, very good experience for sure.
Andrew Sumner: That’s wonderful and no better place to close out. Actually, John the, the non on all the positive impact that, that amazing piece of work said, I can’t wait for that addition of nights in the music, which I already own in its original version, but I’ve I have undoubtedly pre-ordered the the new version.
I can’t wait. And I, I’m just so glad you’re in this space. I can’t wait to see what you do with Lawrence has a material next. And can’t wait to see what you’re working on next, then. Thanks so much for giving up this time for our conversation. I’ve really enjoyed it, mate. [02:03:00]
John K Snyder III: Oh, thank you. It’s a absolute pleasure.
I’m flattered to be a part of your show and, and I just really, it’s. It’s great to be able to talk about all this and, and thank you for having me on much
Andrew Sumner: appreciated.