It’s not every day I get to interview a friend and colleague about an exciting crowdfunding project. But that’s exactly what happened today! I got to interview Christian Angeles and artist Jameson Matunas about their inclusion in a new horror anthology on Kickstarter called The Tomb of Baalberith V2. The following is a transcription of our conversation.
The Workprint: First and most important, how cool has it been working with Mark McKenna and Virtual Inks Inc. (VII) to contribute a story to The Tomb of Baalberith V2?
Christian Angeles: Mark has been an amazing friend and mentor so I’m excited to be working with him, to say the least. One of the original members of John Romita SR’s Romita’s Raiders, the man has more publications with his name than most professionals in the industry, with over 2000 titles.
Not only is Mark the coolest in my book, but in 2017, I won a comics writing contest with my story, Paperless. It was a contest to make a comic book in a day where Mark McKenna was one of the judges, and he absolutely loved my story I made about a tree come to life who effectively became a CEO, replacing a human labor force with anthropomorphic trees. That said, Mark got me my start both there and with this comics anthology. We’ve been good friends ever since.
Jameson Matunas: When you pull back and look at Mark’s overwhelming tower of contributions, it is humbling. When I first got to sit down and speak with Mark, he was warm and welcoming. Mark’s passion for storytelling runs deep and it shows in his conversation, collaboration, and creation. He has a way of passing on his creative fire.
TWP: Tell us a little about yourself. What comics specifically got you excited about creating your own stories?
CA: In 2011 I tore my Achilles tendon and was bed ridden in recovery for 9 months. While in recovery, that was when I read Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. A story which changed the course of my life. Before that, I was pursuing a career in academic psychology and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a series of prospects in my future. But reading that comic book, seeing the world from the perspectives of the Endless, these anthropomorphic larger than life entities encompassing life’s deepest intricacies – I was hooked.
That’s when I realized everything in my life up until then was a lie. I knew there and then I wanted to be a writer, and soon after, read everything by Gaiman and the legendary Alan Moore, who was sort of Gaiman’s mentor in comics. I wanted to make larger than life stories to change the world for the better. That’s my mission in life whether it be through fiction or random acts of kindness.
JM: Being able to express your experiences, your innermost feelings, your burdens and your dreams.. is healing. I first felt the flicker of reflection, in comics specifically over any other medium. Reading panels, you can reread or linger, sequentially or not. You tell the story chosen through how you enjoy interacting. Finding myself in each read, each character, supplied endless moments of self discovery – of knowing who and what I needed to become.
My first love was X-Men #23 by Clairmont/Lee. I remember Cyclops is being influenced by Mr. Sinister. Tension between Scott and his love was palpable. Scott never dons his blue and yellow armor, instead wearing a trenchcoat and scarf, all the while being hunted by a gang of ruthless mercenaries. Which struck me as beautiful, because I realized the magic of storytelling – that I was hanging on the words of an underhanded discussion between villain and hero as they quietly walked through a chilly winter forest, I was more concerned about a guy with relationship turbulence and gray moral conversations. There was no victory, just more complications when trying to navigate the choices before you.
TWP: What are you hoping to bring to your tale of terror in Tomb of Baalberith V2?
CA: I wrote about it extensively in a previous post, but ideally, I wanted to take something I found toxic in today’s culture, in this case the be-all-end-all chase for fame and commentary on it. I did so with an examination of beauty influencer culture and Instagram celebrities. People selling their looks for a dream of being famous, with the intention of portraying a character who would absolutely do anything within her power to be famous through her good looks. Sort of that dream taken too far.
The idea was never to shame people pursuing this as a career, but rather, to stress that there are indeed toxic people who will do anything to get that level of success and fame they feel entitled toward. My character, Brandi, is exactly that type of character. What results… isn’t so much a foreboding tale as much as it is… sort of acknowledging a truth we take for granted.
That some people only care about themselves. That there are those willing to sell what’s theirs in order to conquer the world. Way I see it, there’s a toxic nature in the be all end all type of thinking that I think is in some ways, is a terrible influence on youth of today. I wanted to showcase this type of monster.
JM: I was hoping to infuse the tale with a sense of self awareness. A sense that while we may not be Brandi, or even live her life, her choices are our choices. Her desires are human and her choices are what define the character and perhaps the mirror in which we can see ourselves more clearly.
For approaching the illustration, making certain her emotions, specifically pain, was genuine. Allowing for a deep and lasting moments of empathy and self reflection.
TWP: Tomb of Baalberith V1 had creators doing double duty as artist and writer. How has it been teaming up with someone else to create a story for this volume?
CA: Sometimes in life, you find moments of serendipity and Jameson and I meeting has been that for me this past year. We have similar visions of wanting to wake up modern culture and media from what I call, THE GREAT DISTRACTION. We both want to make stories that say something about the times, rather than create more escapist entertainment that so proliferates our culture today. His art style and vision absolutely sees my strange dreams become reality so it’s been amazing for me to say the least. I also give him a lot of free rein to be himself, as I do think comics are a partnership between art and story. An agreement of saying something important done to the best of our ability, using the tools available to us… Because it’s both our art, but also, our life story, and it’s been thrilling to grow with him to say the least.
JM: It’s been a dream. Christian and I are parallels. We have the same fire for self growth and expression. We have built ourselves in similar ways with different tools. Communication and creativity are free flowing. Adjusting from conversation to conversation to serve our dreams. We help each other best we can, which makes even the most strenuous moments fun and memorable.
The best part has been making something beautiful that could not have existed without our combined energy.
TWP: I’ve backed a lot of videogames, but not as many graphic novels. What sort of exciting rewards is this project using to incentivize backers?
CA: There are a lot of tiers for the Kickstarter but the biggest one is the both the digital and physical books themselves, including signed copies of everything. There’s also commissioned art and original pieces from all of our artists and a wrap around variant cover from Shawn McManus. We also have T-shirts and bottle openers too, along with prints that Mark’s been gracious to share with backers, taken from his personal portfolio.
TWP: This question is for your artist, Jameson. I find artwork is often what first draws me to comics. How did you get your start drawing, and what are some of your inspirations?
JM: I think.. Static imagery. Still photography, illustration, painting.. are ways to hold onto a feeling.. Forever. I’ve never been able to separate from the endless energy a single image can provide. Alphonse Mucha and Rembrandt classically and Bachalo, Coipel, JRR, Kuberts, Murphy, Ramos, Lee, Kirby, Scalera, Nihei, Mora, and DiMeo contemporarily.
TWP: Also for Jameson – Do you enjoy horror? What’s your favorite genre to illustrate?
JM: I do love horror! I love Noir imagery, striking uses of shadow and composition. Horror allows for freedom to play on the subtle and subconscious. The shadows, deep blacks, loose or obscured lines. The imagination does the heavy lifting when viewing horror. I think any story can hold calm, still moments that matter. I find that fitting those moments in any genre make it exciting.
Though, slice of life has to be my favorite to illustrate. Making the mundane extraordinary will always be my daily effort.
TWP: If Tomb of Baalberith V2 does well, are there any plans for a third volume down the line?
CA: That’s entirely up to Mark but I will say this is the beginning of Jameson and my partnership on the comics journey. My bet is yes. Though, if so, I’d like to do an entirely new story about the trying times of today. That was always the mission. To say the things we’re too afraid of addressing kind of like the series Black Mirror or the Twilight Zone.
Many thanks to Christian and Jameson for their time. And if you like what you’ve heard, be sure and check out The Tomb of Baalberith V2 on Kickstarter!