EXCLUSIVE! Frank Mastromauro & J.T. Krul talk OVERTAKEN, JIRNI and All Things ASPEN

While attending this year’s Comic-Con International I was able to sit down with two literary maestros Frank Mastromauro and J.T. Krul. They rocked Aspen Comics as we chatted about familiar and exciting prospects in regard to the company’s future.

UTF: My first question is going be for you, J.T. The second chapter of Jirni is going right now. How’s it shaping up so far?

J. T. Krul: It’s going great. We were really excited with the reception that the first volume received. Everybody seemed to like it and it was actually one of the bestselling titles in [Aspen‘s] 10 for 10.

It’s great because that was just the catalyst to get things going. I’ve always envisioned it as this long epic quest story for Ara as she encounters people, villains and creatures in these new lands. Very much a hearkening back to that classic Conan-type of storytelling where it’s more about this lone figure charting a path through this strange world that she’s never really encountered before.

The second volume launched a few months ago. It’s great. It’s a much bigger story in the sense that we get to see a lot of new places. It’s been a lot of fun.

UTF: So there were pirates in that first issue. How did you decide to bring buccaneers into this?

J. T. Krul: The thing with Ara that I really liked was that, in trying to create that sense of going into uncharted territory, I realized that she had never seen an ocean before. In our world we have all the elements of travel. We have planes and trains and we can see everything if we want to.

Whereas in this one, it’s not as developed. I like that notion of having the first issue really expand the horizon. I like pirates. What’s not to like about pirates? It just goes with it. She’s got a sword. Pirates have swords. And She’ll be with them for the better part of the volume. They’re her ride in a sense and how she either lines up or differs from them in a moralistic standpoint will matter.

It’s going to just be something that intertwines through these stories and adventures that we go on through in the second volume.

Jirni vol.2 1_C Widescreen

UTF: Sounds great.

Frank, it’s your turn. I want to talk about what title or titles you’ll be working on next?

Frank Mastromauro: For me personally, I’m focused on completing Overtaken from our 10 for 10. I also have the last two issues of Shrugged and that’s what’s on my plate. I do have something coming up for next year, but without overextending myself, I’ll make sure I get that stuff done first.

In regards to Aspen Comics, it’s definitely been the year of getting our schedule back on track. Last year we had ten brand new books over ten months. It seriously killed us. And we were so burnt out. Even though we felt we put out a lot of great comics it was pretty tough.

In 2014 we’ve scaled back. Jirni (vol.2) is running and Damsels in Excess debuted here at Comic Con. We’ve had a great reception to that. Everybody’s really given us a lot of positive feedback. In the next couple months, we have Peter Steigerwald‘s The ZooHunters, which, honestly, we could not be more happy to finally see that coming out. It’s been a long time in the making.

We do have a few new projects planned for early next year. The good thing is, aside from just the comics, we’re building our brand. It’s been eleven years now and we’ve always tried to do a lot of really cool products, but there’s only so many hours in the day. All of us always want to be involved with everything, and we can’t.

10 for 10 Poster Widescreen

I love having our own shirts, but we haven’t made any in a long time. When I see people here at the convention walking around with other shirts, I’m like, “They should be wearing ours.” Well we finally signed off on our apparel deal. We will have new t-shirts, hoodies, wallets, a whole bunch of cool new things coming in early 2015. We do have a few video game projects in the works that we signed with. Once again, 2015 there should be full of some pretty cool announcements.

Overall, 2014 has been great because after the 10 for 10, we had a lot of new projects coming out. We have the retailers back in good awareness of all our books. When we first came out, it was all Michael Turner. Obviously Mike‘s been gone six years now, which is just baffling to think that we’ve been around longer than he’s been gone. That’s crazy, but it’s a testament to all the people that work within this company.

He brought together a really great family. We all have the same drive to put through books that honor Mike‘s vision and there’s a lot of cool stuff on the way.

J.T. Krul: You haven’t even mentioned Lola yet.

Frank Mastromauro: Yeah, oh my God, you’re right. Poor Siya [Oum]. She’s going kill me.

J.T. Krul: The star of Comic Con this year.

Frank Mastromauro:Lola XOXO has just been through the roof. That debuted earlier this year. People can’t get enough of it. We announced at the panel a second volume and Lola XOXO: Wasteland Madam. That one happens in between the two main volumes and there’s just a bunch of great stuff coming from that world.

Lola XOXO 3_Aspen Store Exclusive Widescreen

J.T. Krul: She’s been doing a ton of commissions at the show here. The reception just from fans coming up and looking at the art, you can just tell when a book hits and captures attention. It’s really hard to get a comic out there and to have it stick really makes a statement.

You have your sales, which is great, but sometimes when you come to the shows you can tell that there’s a lot of activity. The copies of it sell and they’re after the artist. They want to get sketches which is really good for her because she’s such a sweetheart and cool person.

Frank Mastromauro: Yeah, we’ve known her for years and years and years. Since back in the Top Cow days. This has been a long time coming, and I’m just happy for her. She was cool to bring it and I’m just excited because it’s going to be awesome.

UTF: Next up I want to talk about All New Soulfire.

Recently J.T., you had Gabriel with his robotic wings fall from grace, so to speak. There was a symbolic moment where Malikai literally took people’s faith and ripped it from them and I was wondering what does that mean for the character moving forward?

J.T. Krul: It’s funny because it’s never been an easy road for him. He was destined to be the catalyst to bring magic back and now in this volume, as you say, we worked on what does that mean going forward. Is it just a matter of flipping that switch, and he’s done? Can Malikai go off and just be a happy teenager with his buds?

It just doesn’t work because he essentially died and came back. And seeing the way the world is even though that magic is here now, we really just wanted to explore it as not only as a power but a source of hope. Because that’s what the light of magic is supposed to be and what Mike [Turner] always envisioned it as .

All New Soulfire Widescreen

That’s literally what our hero’s grappling with. He has no interest in being a messiah or some sort of cult leader and so Gabriel worked great as a person who could appear and fill that void. He gave all the people a sense of wonder and validation for their religion and then  Malikai literally exposed the truth, but, in doing so he caused damage.

Is it better for them to have their faith even though it’s basically built on a lie? Or is the truth more important? To me, that one’s been a really interesting avenue to explore and it’s a philosophical tone that I wanted to inject into this volume.

UTF: One final question.

Frank, this is for you. It’s been awhile since the first issue of Overtaken arrived, any teasers for the future of that series?

J.T. Krul: I want to know, too.

Frank Mastromauro: I am behind, but in that initial story, at the end the wife got taken. You don’t know what’s going on. For the husband, as an investigative reporter, he just can’t accept the fact that his wife was abducted by aliens. The next couple issues wind up following him and his attempts to discover what happened to her.

Overtaken Widescreen

In the meantime, she’s on a different world. Spoiler alert, spoiler alert. He’ll end up finding his way there while she has an almost Ripley-esque type moment. By all means, Alien is one of my favorite movies and I don’t want to rip it off at all but I am taking a few inspirations from it.

J.T. Krul: She changes her name to Lipley.

Frank Mastromauro: In that respect, it will be the two of them caught in the crossfire of this alien civil war. I will say that the first issue is nothing compared to what’s going to happen in the book. It’s going to be a blast. I have a strong ending that I think people will really be happy with.

It will probably be out later this year. I’ll let people know because I am working on all the issues. That way we can get them done and out on time. I just had a meeting with Diamond [Comic Distributors, Inc.], and we spoke about it. They’re waiting. I know a lot of people have asked. It’s all been on me, but I will be getting it done within the next couple months.

Because the goal is for those to finish up and lead directly into my new project which is launching early next summer and I’m super excited about that. I cannot tell you what it is because we haven’t announced it but I think it will be something people haven’t seen before. Which I know everybody says, but I’m really looking forward to it.

I want to take the time to thank Mr. Frank Mastromauro and J.T. Krul for chatting with me. It was a great pleasure to talk about Overtaken, Jirni, Soulfire and just all things Aspen. I for one am excited and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish in 2015 and beyond!

So what did you think of the interview my fellow fanboys and fangirls?

Sound off with your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.