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Friday, August 24, 2018

Talking comics with indie comix creator and actor Tony Wolf

Tony Wolf first came to our attention via twitter -- or rather -- a few panels from Tony's brilliant autobiographal comic detailing his experiences with 1989's Batmania caught our attention on twitter:

Written and illustrated by Tony Wolf.

After a bit of internet sleuthing (hey, we wanted to see more) we discovered that: Tony grew up collecting and reading 80s comics, Tony has written and illustrated a few indie comics for various publications, and Tony is currently working on a new 'secret' project. He's also an accomplished actor (NBC's The Blacklist: Redemption) now living in Hoboken, NJ. (He spent 22 years in the same apartment in Brooklyn and just recently moved to Hoboken.)

We reached out to him and, thankfully, he agreed to an interview. 

There were a few ways we could approach this interview -- interview him as Tony the Actor? Interview him as Tony the Creator? Interview him as Tony the Comics Fan? Ultimately, we opted for the latter. (I mean, we ARE a site about DC comics from the eighties, and if the shoe fits...)


Justin: Emma Vince of gave a really fantastic interview about your transition from being a comic book illustrator to becoming an actor and then coming back to being a comic book illustrator again. You also give some great advice to aspiring comic book creators. What I really find inspiring about your story is that you were forty-something the first time one of your indie comics appeared in The New York Times (which is pretty much one of the highest achievements an indie comics creator could strive for) -- I think this is particularly encouraging because it reaffirms that new doors can open in the comic biz even after your mid-thirties (I realize it's a bit different since you had the skills growing up and never stopped working on them) -- but it shows that there's no 'plateau age' that prevents you from breaking new grounds.

Tony: Yeah, it's a crazy world out there ... the world of the arts! I always tell people that it's a world where anything goes, to a large degree. I drew and wrote my own comics for fun as a kid and as a teen, and back then I thought I'd become a professional comic book artist. Then I got more & more into acting, and found that I preferred acting since it was collaborative and social, whereas drawing means you sitting alone in a room for 8 hours a day, working at a desk. I needed that social component. But during a quiet year when there wasn't much going on with my acting career, I said to myself, "Well, I have a lot of free time (and I was not in a relationship at the time), so maybe now I can give myself the project of making my own comics and giving that a real go."

Three years of doing autobio comics (inspired by those of Harvey Pekar) for fun and for free, as passion projects and creative experiment, led to me getting some press for my comics, which then led to friendships which later led to a potential for my comics to be carried by the New York Times -- which I was extremely thankful for. But I also knew that there was just as much chance that the creative experiments and passion projects could not have gone anywhere substantive at all. The arts -- acting, comics, writing, a LOT of the arts --  are a world where you make things, you do projects you are passionate about, you have a lot of ambition and drive and hustle and networking, and you put your creations out there. You put yourself 'out there' continually, time and time again -- and you hope that the seeds you plant eventually bear some fruit that *might* lead to some success. Just like the scene in True Romance where Patricia Arquette gets relentlessly beat up by James Gandolfini and he gives her the compliment: "You got a lot of heart, kid." The arts will often require that kind of dogged determination from us -- that kind of relentless persistence, even in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds.

Tony's second published indie comic as it appears in a Feb 2018 edition of the New York Times.
Photo source: Tony Wolf

Tony: I have seen comics creators, actors, and artists go from obscure / producing very small indie stuff, to becoming very, VERY successful, over the course of about 6 years. You never know. You really never know. I have seen people rise to great heights and achieve great things because they just NEVER STOPPED making work and putting themselves out there, as creatives. That is very inspiring. When you see peers and friends and acquaintances "make it," that also reminds you that YOU can make it too. It is do-able. It is possible. It is not some unrealistic fantasy. It can actually happen if you put the consistent blood, sweat, and tears in. This usually means YEARS of effort -- during which no apparent results may be evident; certainly not any big results. But things add up over time.... and you never know who is watching & who might be keeping an eye on your work and development, especially in this social media age. That, to me, is inspiring.

Justin: We were browsing through your Instagram trying to find those aforementioned 1989 Batmania panels, and we found a lot of other neat DC sketches and illustrations instead. Based on the things we saw, I'm going to assume that Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing was particularly important to your formative years of comic reading? Same with Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns? Care to talk about what that was like -- growing up and seeing these for the first time on newsstands?

Tony: Yeah, I was an 80s kid .... the 80s were a HUGE era for comics. Lots of dynamic, fresh new voices coming in. I started buying Alan Moore's Swamp Thing around issue 46 (since the earlier issues somehow came off as a bit scary or overly dark / ponderous to my junior high school brain -- like I wasn't quite ready for them yet). But I'd heard so often from comics journalists (reading The Comics Journal, Amazing Heroes, and the weekly newsprint paper The Comics Buyers Guide) that Alan Moore was doing something incredible in the pages of Swamp Thing, so I gave it a try. This was just a few issues before Swamp Thing #50 where Moore makes this deep philosophical point about anger and Evil with a capital E .... plus, it had Batman and The Phantom Stranger guest-starring! I was fascinated. The art in Swamp Thing was also unlike anything I'd ever seen before. So then I went back and started buying the back issues, and made sure I eventually acquired everything back to and including Alan Moore's first issue on the title.

Tony Wolf sketches inspired by Alan Moore's Swamp Thing.

Tony: I was buying comics on a regular basis -- every week -- a few years before Frank Miller debuted the first issue of The Dark Knight Returns. It's hard to describe the feeling of what it felt like to buy that as a fresh new product on the stands -- it was something groundbreaking, fascinating, mind-blowing. Visually and in terms of the writing. It packed a visceral impact that we had rarely seen or felt in comics. I also remember the gut-punch of the ending of the first issue of Frank Miller & David Mazzucchelli's Daredevil: Born Again story. I remember telling my friends: "So the Kingpin ACTUALLY FINDS OUT Daredevil's secret identity, and frames him, empties his bank accounts, and then BLOWS UP HIS APARTMENT BUILDING?!? And the end of the first issue where all this happens is Matt Murdock standing in the rubble and realizing it has to be the Kingpin that did this to him?!? "It was a nice piece of work, Kingpin... you shouldn't have SIGNED it." " We all completely lost our minds reading that issue for the first time! The sheer guts in doing a story like that. Also, the fact that Marvel even approved a story like that. This was a new level of take-no-prisoners kind of comics storytelling. And Mazzuccelli's art was just sublime, and got even better as that story arc went on. Both creators were in their prime and firing on all cylinders.

Funny enough: I was one of those fans who, when I first started reading & collecting comics, I thought DC was "square" (ex: stories weren't that good, heroes (other than Batman) were too powerful, etc). The Trial of the Flash was happening (Barry Allen) and it looked somber and too depressing. Superman books were lame other than Alan Moore's Last Superman Story. But Crisis On Infinite Earths had exactly the effect on me that DC wanted -- it was really interesting to me, very moving, and cleaned up DC continuity. I immediately started reading George Perez's Wonder Woman, John Byrne's Superman, and Frank Miller's Batman: Year One -- and of course, they were all phenomenal.

Lightray of the New Gods illustrated by Tony Wolf

Other 80s comics that blew my mind: Walt Simonson's Thor run.... Claremont and a host of artists on X-Men -- Paul Smith, Rick Leonardi, and then the newcomer John Romita Jr. (who I took a while to warm up to, at first). John Byrne writing and drawing both X-Men and Alpha Flight -- I was obsessed with Byrne's output for Marvel at the time. Then Byrne went to DC and did Legends and then took over the Superman titles -- those were fantastic! Plus the burst of indie titles like Nexus, Mage, Concrete .... and I got the first issue (3rd printing, although it was still brand-new at the time) of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I loved that it was such a loving (and detailed) parody of the Frank Miller martial arts style of comics storytelling. So much love went into TMNT. Then you could watch as the creators, Eastman & Laird, realized they had to continue the story of these characters, and they start to experiment and branch out of the ninja stuff to wild wacky stuff like ... Fugitoid!! And alien monsters. haha.

A few DKR-influenced pieces illustrated by Tony Wolf. DKR Grover colored by SirGryphon.

Justin: So, some of the comics that you've published so far are kind of an auto-biographical account of your experiences growing up with comics. You've got an 8-page comic about your memories of the whole 'Call this number to vote if Jason Todd lives or dies' thing, a memoir about your experiences with 1989 Batmania, and a new upcoming project recounting your experiences with collecting and reading comics in the eighties and nineties. I think a lot of us can relate, because comicdom was something we grew up reading and being excited for during the 80s -- while many of our other teen-aged peers may not have shared our interest. It's a bit like "wow, someone else out there who is just like me". You even went the extra step and participated -- especially going so far as to vote on the life or death of a character. What were the other 'big' moments of your comic-loving life?

Panels from "1-800-Dead-Robin". Illustrated by Tony Wolf, colored by Sirgryphon.

Tony: Ah, interesting question. Watching comics come out in the 80s that continually redefined what "comics" could be was just endlessly exciting. You thought you'd seen it all ... and then, here comes this wonderful oddball book called Nexus. THEN you thought you'd seen it all, and here comes the insane Monty Python-style comedy of ... Ambush Bug! Then you see crazy stuff like Boris The Bear from the then-brand new company Dark Horse .... which was a loving parody of all the indie black & white comics coming out back then, skewering and satirizing trends at the time.

I picked up issues 1 and 2 of Matt Wagner's Mage at a Long Island comic book convention. I think the two issues were actually sitting on a 'take these comics for free' table -- that's how NEW they were; they were so small and SO "indie" that they had to give them away for free, as samplers, because no one really knew or cared about Comico Comics (the then-tiny publisher) or who this Matt Wagner guy was. Mage made a HUGE impression on me. Another instance of incredibly bold, creative, innovative, and very personal storytelling, and presented in such a unique way. It grabbed me immediately, and I wrote in to the letters page, and got a signed postcard from Matt Wagner in the early 80s, where he drew Kevin Matchstick on it. I saved it, of course... I still have that postcard.

In the early / mid 80s, when the first Mage series started up from Comico Comics, Matt Wagner ran a really fun letters page. Once it had become clear that the lead character, Kevin Matchstick, was the reincarnation of some iconic hero, I wrote a letter in (an actual handwritten letter, of course! this was the 80s!) joking that maybe Kevin was the reincarnated Alice in Wonderland, since a few of the arcane fantasy and literary references Mirth made sounded (to me) vaguely like Wonderland characters.
Mage postcard from Matt Wagner. Posted with Tony Wolf's permission.

I also wrote a fan letter to Eastman & Laird right after Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 came out - - and they wrote me a HAND-WRITTEN letter back! They wrote to me right around the time when TMNT #2 had just been published and #3 was on the way to comics stores. I wrote to them when the comic had just debuted, and I'm sure they were just thrilled that anyone at all was writing to them. I think I lost that letter, and I'm pissed about not having it anymore!! haha.  They drew a sketch of Raphael for me and enclosed it with the letter. I may still be able to find it among old papers; but I think I may have to admit that it's lost at this point. Still, getting a personal handwritten letter from them was so cool -- both then and now. Even if I can't freakin' find it anymore in my possessions! haha.

Justin: I was there and living it, so you don't need to explain it to me -- but to everyone who was too young and totally missed out on 89 Batmania and the 'revival of Batman' to a mainstream audience -- what was that like? what was the long-lasting impact of that?

Tony Wolf as 'Jack Nicholson' Joker for Halloween. Circa 1994.

Tony: The announcement of the Batman movie directed by Tim Burton was really, really incredible --  when we started to see the preview photos coming out in magazine articles, we were all so thankful and stunned: it looked like they were REALLY doing a dramatic, dark version of Batman in live-action, FINALLY! It seemed like Burton and his chosen Batman, Michael Keaton, were pretty serious about the tone.

I remember when the very first trailer came out for the first Burton / Keaton Batman movie. We had a VCR, and I found out when the trailer would be airing (on something like Entertainment Tonight) and I taped it. I watched that trailer obsessively, repeatedly.... using slow-motion to see every scene in detail. I remember being struck by the edit / transition of Keaton saying (as Bruce): "Alfred... let's go shopping." and then it cuts to the wild new design of the Batmobile roaring through the streets. Also, I recall watching that trailer's introduction of Nicholson as the Joker many times... it just showed Nicholson emerging from the shadows with those famous lines, "Jack? Jack ... is DEAD, my friend. You can call me ... Joker!" I loved it. My anticipation for the movie was immense.

Illustrated by Tony Wolf

Tony: I noticed that the movie was opening on June 23, 1989 -- which was a Friday. My graduation ceremony from high school was that exact same date. So I wrote & drew a short comic for my high school newspaper, about me tearing off my graduation robe and running straight from graduation to the movie theater in my home town of Rockville Centre, NY (on Long Island) to see the Batman movie. I made up invitations (as if it was a wedding invitation or something; my high school version of what a fancy invitation might look like) and invited a bunch of friends to go see the movie with me on opening night. Everyone agreed and accepted -- we would all see it on Friday night, together! All my nerdy friends.

The night before the opening of the movie, Thursday night, my friend Jason and I are walking around the small town ... and we pass by the movie theater. We see a sign that is advertising a special EARLY PREVIEW SCREENING of Batman -- this was almost unheard of back then! There was no internet to tell you about an advance screening. We had just stumbled onto it by walking past the theater. It didn't look mobbed, either... so I was severely tempted to just go in and watch it right then. (We walked past about an hour before this special advance screening was about to start.) Jason, ever the level-headed one, said: "Tony, you invited everyone to a big thing tomorrow night where we'll all see the movie *together* for the first time. People might be offended that you saw it a night before without telling anyone. They think we're all going to experience it for the first time together. Maybe you should wait." I saw his point -- but my impatience and sometimes-impulsive nature was too intense. I thought it over and I was like, "I've waited years for this kind of movie. Let's just go in and see it. I'll see it again with everyone tomorrow. I just have to see it now, since we have the opportunity to see it." I couldn't wait. Jason said: "Well, it's your call. I'll go in with you, since I want to see it too - but I want it clear that this was your decision, to go in and see it the night before we're seeing it with everyone. You're the impatient one here; this is on your head." haha. It was like "Let it be known through the ages that it was your impatience and inability to wait; not mine." And so we went in.

Tony Wolf illustration of classic Batman costume. Circa 1994.

Tony: I loved the movie; Jason was pretty entertained by it too.... but I was the far-more-comics-obsessed person, out of the two of us, so I went on a lot about how much I loved it. So the next night, we see it with the group, and as we walked into the official opening night showing, I fessed up and admitted that I had made the decision to see it the previous night. My friend Mark was like "What? You said you'd wait for us! Noooo!!" -- exactly what Jason had predicted the reaction would be. I was like "I'm happy to see it again; it's really good!" But my friends felt at least a little annoyed that I broke the 'code' by seeing it early and only telling them as we walked into the Graduation Day screening.

Years go by, and the same old friends -- Jason and Mark and I -- are going to see the opening night of the first Christopher Nolan / Christian Bale Batman movie, Batman Begins. We're talking and waiting on line at the Manhattan movie theater. Mark gets a gleam in his eye, looks at me, "You know what I love about Batman, as a character? It's about vengeance." We're looking at him, and I'm not sure where he's going with this. He said "It's about vengeance for a wrong that happened many years ago." I'm still not getting where he's going with this. Jason is just watching and sort of smiling. Mark then says: "Hey, remember how you saw the first Batman movie a night early, and how annoyed I was for years about that?" And I, sheepishly said, "Yeah." He says "Well, VENGEANCE is MINE!! Because I saw it last week at an advance screening! It took me 16 years, but I finally got you back!!" We all laughed - he was right. He got me good .... Vengeance was indeed his. A friend of his who I knew was in the entertainment industry, and had invited him to an early preview screening. "That was the longest grudge I ever held," Mark said. The circle was now complete.

Etrigan the Demon illustrated by Tony Wolf

Justin: I'm also seeing the influence of the Death of Superman in your instagram art. How did the Death of Superman impact you?

Tony: I totally loved the Superman stories of the 80s (post-Crisis), and once John Byrne left the books, I didn't follow them much. However, during college I picked up what was one of Dan Jurgens & Art Thibert's first issues of Adventures of Superman (where Hank Henshaw debuts), and I was hooked again. Over the next few years, I watched Dan Jurgens shape the Superman books --- along with Louise Simonson, Roger Stern, Butch Guide, Jon Bogdanove, Jerry Ordway, Marv Wolfman, and more talented creators -- into something truly special again.

illustrated by Tony Wolfcolored by SirGryphon

Tony: The Death of Superman storyline was handled so well -- I was buying every issue as they hit the stands. At first I was very leery about this whole "now there are 4 Supermen; which one - if any - is the real one?" storyline, but they handled it exceptionally. I always say that the actual death -- Doomsday showing up and bludgeoning Superman to death -- is actually the least interesting part, for me. The two months of comics *after* his death, where the writers got a chance to show how the death of The Man of Steel affected everyone in the entire world, and his supporting cast, were real magic. Quiet, reflective, truly sad books with not a lot of super-villainy or slugfests.

Cyborg Superman illustrated by Tony Wolf

Tony: I remember one of Roger Stern's issues was especially moving and very simple / poignant. The funeral of Superman being patterned after the funeral of JFK was genius. And young people like me saw the title of the story arc: "Funeral For A Friend" -- and may been inspired, as I was, to seek out the very cool Elton Song the arc was named after. :) It wasn't an easy thing to dangle the "Which of these 4 Supermen is our Clark?" storyline and pull it off / make it work, but they really did. And once the real Superman *did* come back, it felt like a truly satisfying ending. Satisfying endings are NOT easy to pull off, especially when you've built your story up so much.

Superman illustrated by Tony Wolf

Tony: Also, speaking as an artist, for a long time, it felt like the art team of Dan Jurgens penciling and Brett Breeding inking was an amazing art team comparable to John Byrne and Terry Austin. Just perfectly matched. It was amazing to see their work come in each month.

As Superman Red / Superman Blue, it was a silly story idea that DC and the team did their best to do a more "legitimate" version of. You've probably heard the jokes (all true) that the colorist used to say at each annual creators' summit meeting "Let's do Superman Red / Superman Blue!" and they would all laugh and say to him "Maybe next year." Then they eventually felt they should actually do it -- based on the absurd 1950s storyline. Starting off with the now-infamous Electric Blue Superman was a good move -- and I find myself still not sure whether I hate or love Electric Blue Supes. But one thing is for sure: they did their best to tell a strong story with that version of Superman, and one of my writing heroes, Grant Morrison, managed to make him work really feel in his JLA run.

Superman Blue by Tony Wolf

Tony: I remember thinking at the time, "I see that they're kind of writing Superman Red as the more impulsive one, and Superman Blue as the more logical / cool-headed one" (once he split into 2), but they didn't really take that far enough in the writing. Anyone remember the Millenium Giants storyline, which ended with Superman Red & Blue being fused back into one Superman? Not many people remember it or talk about it, because it was a mostly forgettable popcorn-movie storyline which had, as its sole focus, the goal of getting us back to Regular-Flavor- (Classic) Superman.

Justin: I saw a few LoSH commissions in your instagram. Every DC fan I've ever met either loves the LoSH or hates em. Where do you stand?

Andromeda and Triplicate Girl illustrations by Tony Wolf, colored by SirGryphon.

Tony: I do love The Legion of Super-Heroes .... I really dug the Legion comics of the mid-80s, especially the ones that introduced us to the art of Chris Sprouse, Jeff Moy, and the amazing Stuart Immonen! Steve Lightle also had some terrific art, as well as Greg LaRocque. John Byrne's Superman / Superboy Legion story when he first took over the Superman titles helped ease me into it, although I certainly knew who the Legion characters were. I also really enjoyed Mark Waid & Barry Kitson's Legion reboot in the 90s, until it ran out of steam.

Early Lightning Lad origin illustrated by Tony Wolf and colored by Tom Gryphon.

Tony: I was asked to do some Legion commission art by a friend a few years ago, and had a blast doing it. I even ended up doing a bonus free gift where I did an homage to the Curt Swan origin of Lightning Lad. And a few years before that, I did a drawing for the late Seth Kushner which was an homage to the first appearance of the Legion (the cover where they are evaluating Superboy, as to whether they let him into the Legion), for his autobio collection of stories about his dating life, called SCHMUCK. That was a lot of fun to do.

illustrated by Tony Wolf, colored by the late Seth Kushner

Tony: LONG LIVE THE LEGION! Also, as a kid, I read a lot of the 1970s DC digests reprinting a bunch of old 60s and 70s Legion stories, which were fun (and often bizarre). And it was fun when Geoff Johns wrote a Legion episode for the Smallville TV show a while back.

Justin: What kind of impact did Vertigo comics have on your formative comics reading years?

Tony: Vertigo was a big deal for me in the 80s; at first I was a little wary of it and didn't quite understand the concept. I remember seeing early Grant Morrison Invisibles covers by Brian Bolland and thinking "those are really well-drawn, but it seems like they're just trying to be so weird and avant-garde for the sake of being avant-garde." It was too much for my junior high school brain to comprehend at that point, haha. But I kept hearing how great The Invisibles was -- I just felt innately that I wasn't ready for it yet. The first Vertigo series that hooked me in was Neil Gaiman's Sandman -- I'd been hearing for months about how great this new Sandman series was, but again, the weird Dave McKean covers just seemed to bizarre to Young Tony. Eventually, DC was touting issue 8 of Sandman as a convenient jumping-on point for new readers, and I tried it out. It was indeed very good. It had a special insert section about Death of The Endless teaching you how to use a condom. haha. I was a pretty geeky / square kid, but at the same time I wasn't really in need of sex ed at that point. Still, I remember thinking "This Dave McKean guy (he drew the condom / sex ed insert) can really draw well! He doesn't just do weird photo collage covers!" haha. Once Sandman hooked me into that story tone and sensibility, I then started looking into other fare that was either literally Vertigo or DC Comics that were effectively Vertigo, like Alan Moore's Swamp Thing and Grant Morrison's Animal Man. Eventually they made Swamp Thing into a Vertigo title -- same thing with Doom Patrol, I believe.

Neil Gaiman illustrated by Tony Wolf.
Tony: I got into Animal Man by Grant Morrison and that was another HUGE gateway for me into another kind of comics storytelling. I then scooped up every single Grant Morrison Doom Patrol that existed -- this was when I was in college, and I loved it. It was crazy, but yet it worked. It was so experimental, and yet actually formed coherent, truly entertaining stories. Grant Morrison became my favorite comics writer, and I got to interview him at Midtown Comics in NYC for a podcast I co-hosted years ago, called The Action Room. Here's that video -- it was great to meet him.

I also remember being really impressed with the art of Duncan Fegredo, in early Vertigo titles, and I still follow his work. Ditto John Paul Leon.

Note Negative Spirit/Rebus on the drawing board.
Self portrait (à la Jack Kirby) illustrated by Tony Wolf, colored by George Folz

Justin: Did you or are you currently writing a comic about dealing with anxiety? How did comics help with coping with anxiety (if at all)?

Tony: Yes, I was asked a few years ago by some indie creators I admire & respect to do a short story comic for an all-autobio anthology called Sweaty Palms --  I have (as many creatives do) a history of some clinical depression and anxiety, and at first I was nervous or hesitant about doing a story about it. But I realized it was life giving me an opportunity to express myself and it was a good creative / writing challenge.... so I decided to take on the challenge. I figured a short 6-page story should be a good length. I went through a few drafts in terms of how to tell it, and the editors of Sweaty Palms were helpful in guiding me through it. I decided to try to tell it like 'the bullet points of the experience', like a Powerpoint presentation, but not nearly as boring as that, hopefully. haha. I'd certainly read a ton of auto-bio comics about depression and anxiety, and one of my goals was to not tread the same ground as many creators had done already. It was a good challenge and I feel happy with the result. The comic was also run online by Heidi MacDonald at The Beat.

illustrated by Tony Wolf

Tony: As clich√© as it sounds, I figured if my comic can help one person feel a little less alone, it's worth it. I didn't get into the methods and means I used to get better in the comic, because that's a lot more personal and it would take another several pages to do that justice. (The short answer to that is: many years of therapy, and some medication to help me through the worst of it.) In the comic itself, I played a bit with the idea of using certain comic book moments as metaphor for what I was going through: Steve Ditko's Dr. Strange exploring the magical realms, Matt Murdock spending "Endless stolen hours at the bag" from the MillerMazzuccelli's Born Again Daredevil story, and Neal Adams' 70s Superman cover of Superman breaking through Kryptonite chains on his chest. And the final page of my story is a tribute of sorts to the iconic Norman Rockwell portrait of himself drawing, with the 'camera' at his back, as we see him at his drawing table. I drew the Greenpoint apartment I was living in at the time I did the story.

illustrated by Tony Wolf

Justin: What are you allowed to tell us about your new auto-bio indie comic on your memories of growing up with eighties and nineties comics?

Tony: This new comic is due to debut (hopefully) by November 2018. My buddy and frequent collaborator Tom Gryphon aka SirGryphon will be coloring it, and I'm so excited to work with him again. He colored my 1-800-DEAD-ROBIN comic about my voting to kill Jason Todd, and he's done cover colors for my 'Greenpoint of View' comics (and also colored my New York Times comic about squab earlier this year , as well as the 4-page comic history I did about The Secret Origin of Midtown Comics).

panels from Tony's upcoming 'secret' project, illustrated by Tony Wolf and colored by SirGryphon

Tony: This comic is set to be 16 pages, and I'm on page 11 right now. I'm keeping the contents of this story very secret, but we can say that it is in the tradition of 1-800-DEAD-ROBIN in that it's part autobio, part comics history, about iconic and historic moments in 80s comics, with some 90s stuff thrown in there as well. It's also told through the lens of me being a comics fan in junior high school and high school.

I've had this story in mind for years -- ever since I did "Dead Robin" -- and it's very personal / a crazy labor of love. I've got a topic to cover that I have never really seen written about much, outside of geeky blogs, and as with "Dead Robin," I am writing it like a documentary: geeks will hopefully appreciate it, but I am writing it in such a way that even if you don't give a crap about comics, you will find this interesting and educational. I like writing about how specific moments in pop culture are indicative of social change or somehow mark trends in society. Maybe I was a little too into how Adrian Veidt (in Watchmen) felt he could predict and analyze social trends by watching all those televisions at once. haha. The other goal with this comic is inform a wider audience about key moments and design elements in comics I feel are underappreciated and never discussed outside of our geeky world.

illustrated by Tony Wolf

Tony: One thing I have learned from my 5 years making comics in earnest attempting to be a pro: Do your weird passion project and then trust that it will find a home. Don't wait for a publisher, or a book deal, or for someone to buy your art -- make the art that you are passionate about, and trust that it will find a home. I did a weird, random comic about my favorite ice cream, and was lucky enough that -- as a result of my doing my autobio Harvey Pekar-esque comics for free, for fun, as a passion project and a creative experiment, for 2 1/2 years -- my comics up til that point had gotten enough press and ended up leading to relationships, connections, and geek friendships, that this oddball comic about my favorite ice cream dessert was published by The New York Times. Here it is -- free to read online: about the Italian ice cream dessert the tartufo.  (This piece was colored by Jeremy Nguyen, who I met when I was starting to do comics, and who is now a regular New Yorker cartoonist.)

I'm also working on another short story comic -- a 7-page history comic (with only a tiny element of auto-bio in it) about an underappreciated, unsung moment in New York City history, which also doesn't have a home yet, but which I spent months researching and which I think could find a home somewhere like The Atlantic or The New Yorker. I plan on having it water-colored by a terrific New Jersey / Hoboken painter named Morgan McCue.

Justin: Tony, I absolutely adore your work and your 'auto-bio indie comix' vibe really resonates with me. (I was always a Harvey Pekar fan, and fans reminiscing about comic book memories is my kryptonite.) I noticed some mock-up covers for a Tales from the Wolf collected edition. Is that happening? I'd totally buy into that...

illustrated by Tony Wolf, colored by SirGryphon

Tony: This is the cover for a planned eventual paperback collection of all my comics thus far. There is no publisher yet, and no kickstarter - - I did the cover because it's something I'd like to manifest / materialize, either through one of the indie publishers I've worked with, or a larger publisher. I trust that a collection of my work will happen in it's due time; in its right time, when the stars align. Tom Gryphon (aka SirGryphon) did an excellent job on the colors for this cover. I had the idea to do the homage to the famous Tales From The Crypt cover layouts, and had a blast drawing it.

Justin: Thanks so much for chatting with us, Tony.

Do you want to see more of Tony's work? Does he sound familiar to you? Maybe you recognized his name from a film? Or maybe you just want to find out when his next project is seeing publication? Find more of Tony Wolf at  

Superman and E.T. illustrated by Tony Wolf


  1. I needed to thank you for this fantastic read!! I definitely enjoyed every little
    bit of it. I have you bookmarked to look at new things you post...

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