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AICN COMICS SDCC Q&@ (4 of 15): Bug talks with Jesse Labbe & Anthony Coffey, the creators of Archaia'a excellent BERONA'S WAR!!!

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AICN COMICS: Q&@ is our new semi-weekly interview column where some of your favorite @$$Holes interview comic bookdom’s biggest, brightest, newest, and oldest stars. Enjoy this latest in-depth interview filled with @$$y goodness and be sure to look for more AICN COMICS as we gaze into the future of comics every week with AICN COMICS: SPINNER RACK PREVIEWS every Monday and then join the rest of your favorite @$$Holes for their opinions on the weekly pull every Wednesday with AICN COMICS REVIEWS!

Q’s by Ambush Bug!

@’s by BERONA’S WAR creators Jesse Labbe & Anthony Coffey!

Hey folks, Ambush Bug here with the fourth of fifteen mighty interviews I conducted at this year’s San Diego Comic Con. This time around, I had a chance to talk with the creators of an exciting new hardcover graphic novel from Archaia called BERONA’S WAR FIELD GUIDE, Jesse Labbe and Anthony Coffey. At first glance, this looks like your typical MARVEL UNIVERSE style info stat book, but read a little closer and it’s much, much more. The more I found out about this book in the interview, the cooler it sounded. I’ll be reviewing the book in a future AICN COMICS REVIEWS column. Check out the preview pages included in this interview that show how these two artists collaborated on the book. I’ll let the guys behind the amazing new book explain it to you more…
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): OK, I’m here at the Archaia booth talking with Jesse and Anthony. Hi, guys.


BUG: You guys have a new book coming out called BERONA’S WAR. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

JL: It’s about two races. One’s on one side of an island called Berona and the other is on the other side of the island. One side has all mountains and rocks and the other is all forests and greenery. And right in the center is a place called Amity where it has rock and green, so both of these groups are fighting for this middle land. Anthony is responsible for all of the Ele-Alta, which is the rock army and I’m responsible for all of the Cropones which are the characters in the forest. The hook is that he [Anthony] draws anything from the Ele-Alta, whether it’s the animals from there, the environment, or the characters and I do the same for the Cropones, so it’s a collaboration. So even if the drawing has both of the characters interacting, fighting, you know, whatever the case is, one of us will come up with the layout, which is usually Anthony. And he’ll draw his character here and maybe do x’s in the place where he is going to be. And then he’ll send me the pictures and I’ll add in my side of the piece.

BUG: So you guys are literally at war here.

JL: That’s how it started. He’s out of Texas and I’m out of Mississippi. So there’s a whole bunch of skyping and frequent visits to make it all work. But it did start off just like that. I was like, “If you’ve got a recon, I’ll draw a sniper.” “If you’ve got a sniper, I’ve got flight.” And that’s how literally it worked with us one upping each other.
AC: Always one upping.
JL: And we realized, wait, we’ve got something here and it turned out to be BERONA’S WAR.

BUG: Sounds like a lot of fun. Mel described it as Looney Tunes vs. Disney characters on crack. Is that an accurate description?

JL: The description we’ve heard is BAND OF BROTHERS, but furry. Uhm, LEMMINGS meets GI JOE. And “furry and bloody” is one of the best comments we’ve got.

BUG: Hah! So it’s called a FIELD GUIDE. So what is this, like a MARVEL UNIVERSE style description entry book?

JL: OK, the original idea was to put out a book and the book is disguised as a field guide. Instead of making it look like a comic book or a novel, we said we wanted it to look like a field guide, but it is a story. It’s disguised as if it’s clipping and artwork that’s been gathered together to make this…
AC: It’s collected by this one character who saw the whole war first hand.
JL: So the story is there. Don’t let the fact that its called a field guide fool you. It is a story of Berona’s War. Book two is called THE FIGHT FOR AMITY and that’s coming out this winter. And in that book, it’s very comic style.
AC: It’s got short stories from the war.
JL: Yeah, it runs parallel. People ask us all the time if this is Part Two and I say, “No, no, no. The FIELD GUIDE will talk about a sniper who waited five days for a perfect shot. And in BOOK TWO it was what he was doing during those five days and who he was shooting at. And we purposely set it up so that you do not have to read one without the other. We wanted them to stand alone. Now, the better you know the characters the more you’re going to enjoy it. But we don’t want you to jump into this long saga and have no idea what’s happening. We literally want people to pick it up and say, “OK, this is great.” But if you do pick up both stories, there will be those “ah ha” moments, like “Oh that’s where he got that weapon or that scar.” So there are a lot of those moments in there.

BUG: So how did this whole collaboration come together?

AC: Well, we went to art school together at the Art Institute in Dallas and after that we barely talked. We didn’t talk for about seven years after school and then one day out of the blue he [Jesse] called me and asked me if I wanted to do a convention with him. So we had stuff for Marvel and DC. And he had stuff we would sketch and sell and we would sit together because we didn’t want to do it alone.
JL: We were scared.
AC: Hah! Yeah! So we ended up building a small following. And they would constantly ask us at our table, “Are you guys ever going to do anything together?”
JL: Because our styles are so similar. They said, “Y’all need to do something together.” And we heard it over and over and over. And Anthony leans over and says, “We need to do something.” And we were at Wizard World Chicago and we said we were going to do a book. And so, it was Chicago where we said that we were going to do a book and by the next year, we had a book in hand and I’m going to name drop because he did so much for us the year we put out the book. We sold out T-shirts, bookmarks, anything we brought with us. Our table was wiped clean and Scottie Young got one of our books. And everyone who would come to his table he was reading our book and he would say, “You need to go check these guys out.” And it was in no small part that Scottie enjoying our book and giving us a shout out. And we were so thrilled that he actually did our foreword in the FIELD GUIDE.
AC: We’re also huge fans of Scottie so it was like a geek moment for us.
JL: A total geek moment. He walked up to the table and we were like two giddy schoolgirls. We were like “Oh my god! It’s Scottie Young!” And then he walked up, and we were like “Hey Scottie.” [in a deep voice], trying to act professional like we weren’t star struck. So he did our foreword and we were absolutely blessed. And then on top of that Ramos and Herrera, who we are big fans of…they gave us quotes for the back of the book. And so literally, it was one of those things, where we were like “Man, one year ago this didn’t exist, and now…” But we don’t know where this thing’s going to go. It could come out and fall off the face of the earth. But the fact is, at this point, if it was to end, we have forewords and quotes in this book by some of our heroes. So if this is it, that’s cool. We’re done.
AC: We’d be happy to retire. (laughing)

BUG: So do you see this war coming to a close or is this a never ending war?

JL: I hate saying it, but the joke to the FIELD GUIDE, and there have been changes made. When we came out with this book, the joke to it is that when you are holding BERONA’S WAR, this is the only thing that made it. So you know, both races, over their ignorance and stubbornness, fought themselves to extinction. They were that greedy. So you’re like, oh my god, you realize that the character putting these clippings together is now dead along with everyone else. And we were literally just finishing up the book, and we were like, “We’ve got something here. This is stupid. We can’t kill them off.” But we were fortunate enough, you know you draw something for a year, you have a chance to look back, mostly on my stuff, I was almost embarrassed at some of my original Cropone drawings. So we were fortunate enough that when we get with Archaia, we had that moment to go back to our first book and make changes and updating them and making it work at a much longer run. So we were fortunate enough to do that. We had no intention…this was going to be a one shot thing and we were going to go on to a monster book or something. But it just fell into place.
The two questions we get asked the most is “So who won?” and “Who’s the good guys and who’s the bad guys?” Those are the most frequently asked questions and the best way to answer it is that the Cropones have good guys and bad guys and so do the Ele-Alta. So there’s no way to say…in World War Two, there’s no way to ask…the Germans would say that not all Germans were bad. It just depends. We kind of established that if there was going to be a bad army, it might be Anthony’s Ele-Alta, but the problem is the bad guys are the cool guys. You wear shirts with the stormtrooper on it, not freakin’ Luke Skywalker. If someone were to say, who’s the bad guy, we both would raise our hands and say “ME!” But I think Anthony’s got more…he has more powerhouses. They’re workhorses, they’re strong. My characters are the problem solvers and the thinkers. So as it works out, it kind of falls that he’s the brutes and I’m the weak farmers.

BUG: So when is BERONA’S WAR FIELD GUIDE coming out?

JL: August.
AC: Yeah, it should be out in August.
JL: And BOOK TWO, we’ve got a deadline in October and it should be out this winter. We completely put everything on hold for these cons. We’ve got this show and Chicago and Austin and Dallas and…

BUG: I see you guys are busy sketching away here.

JL: Yep, we’re working on it.

BUG: Well, thanks a lot for taking the time to chat. I’m picking up a copy of the book now.

JL: Thank you!
AC: Thanks!

BUG: BERONA’S WAR FIELD GUIDE comes out at the end of the month. Jesse and Anthony also wanted me to mention that writer Opie Cooper was a major collaborator with the guys for BERONA’S WAR II: THE FIGHT FOR AMITY and an important part of Team Berona. Be sure to pick up BERONA’S WAR FIELD GUIDE, a truly unique book from Archaia. And check out their website too for all kinds of fun stuff about the island of Berona and the war that destroyed it’s inhabitants.

Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole / wordslinger / reviewer / co-editor of AICN Comics for over nine years. Check out his ComicSpace page for his entries the MUSCLES & FIGHTS VOL.3 & MUSCLES & FRIGHTS VOL.1 anthologies. Bug was interviewed here & here (about AICN Comics) & here & here (on VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS: THE TINGLER #1-2). Bug’s latest comic is VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS #21: WITCHFINDER GENERAL (available in June’s Previews Order # JUN10 0825) on sale in late August. Bug was also interviewed here & here about his upcoming original vampire miniseries NANNY & HANK (available in June's Previews Order #JUN10 0824) due out in late August. Bug also has a 10 pg story in Zenescope’s upcoming WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010 (in July Previews Order # JUL10 1200). Support a Bug by checking out his comics!

Interested in more SDCC 2010 coverage? Check out these previous reports from AICN COMICS!
Bug's Post-SDCC Wrap-Up!
Bug hosts Horror Filmmakers Discuss the Art of Fear Panel at SDCC!
superhero's Pics from SDCC 2010!
SDCC Q&@ (1/15): Bug with LOSERS artist Jock!
Bug Moderates HALO-8's SDCC Panel + GODKILLER review!
SDCC Q&@ (2/15): Bug chats with BALLS OF FURY’s Dan Fogler about his new comic MOON LAKE & movie HYSTERICAL PSYCHO!
SDCC Q&@ (3/15): Bug talks with Radical Comics Publisher Barry Levine on Raimi’s EARP, Kosinski’s OBLIVION, Worthington’s LAST DAYS, Fuqua & Snipes AFTER DARK, and more!

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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