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AICN COMICS C2E2 2011 Q&A: Ambush Bug talks with Jesse Blaze Snider about the return of EVIL ERNIE!!!


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Q’s by Ambush Bug!

@’s by Jesse Blaze Snider
Writer of Dynamite’s new EVIL ERNIE series!

Hey folks, Ambush Bug here. with another interview from this year’s C2E2 Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo. I had a chance to catch up with my pal, Jesse Blaze Snider, writer of DC’s vampire miniseries DEAD ROMEO and BOOM!’s TOY STORY at the con. I’ve known Jesse for years and it’s always great to see him at the cons. He’s a genuinely great guy and a blast to talk with. This year, he had a big announcement with Dynamite Entertainment, but I’ll him tell us all about it in the interview. Special thanks to Muldoon for transcribing the interview.

AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Okay, I’m here at C2B2. I’m here with Jesse Blaze Snider and he’s got a new project that’s pretty exciting. I’ll let him tell us what it is.

JESSE BLAZE SNIDER (JBS): Yeah, I’m relaunching the Chaos Universe with EVIL ERNIE at Dynamite Entertainment. It’s pretty cool. It’s all on my shoulders, so if it fails it’s my fault, but if it succeeds, it’s my fault too. I’m hoping for the latter. (Laughs) But I’m really excited about it. When I started in the business years ago, I started hitting the cons before I was writing… I was friendly with Brian Pulido and the Chaos Comics people, because they had put out a little STRANGELAND comic for the STRANGELAND film my dad (TWISTED SISTER’s Dee Snider) did years ago and because of that I had a little relationship with them and they were nice enough to let me leave my bag there and stuff, because I used to take a bus for sixteen hours here because it was cheaper. Back then I didn’t have any money and my parents didn’t have any money. It was not a good time in the lives of the Sniders and I would bus it out there and I would stay in a hotel for one night, so I could be at the con for two days. I would be dragging my suitcases around and the Chaos people used to let me leave all of my stuff in their booth. I love Brian and the whole Chaos line and I’m really familiar with them and as soon as I heard Dynamite announce EVIL ERNIE, or Chaos comics and they had EVIL ERNIE, I just sat in front of my computer and started typing and I sent them the pitch. A few months later they were going through all of the stuff and they said “You are our guy” and I said, “How many books are you putting out?” They said “Just yours.” So it’s pretty cool.

BUG: Yeah, that sounds awesome. You hinted at in the panel that I just saw, but can you tell us the basic premise?

JBS: The basic premise of the new Chaos Universe and EVIL ERNIE is that “good people die young” and that’s true in real life. The reason why that is, is because that suits heaven’s needs. Heaven needs all of the souls it can get so that they can stay strong against hell and as long as the good die young, that keeps heaven strong and hell weak, but hell has been secretly moving to tip the scales back the other way and they have done this by turning Ernie into their instrument of recruitment essentially and now Ernie is going to be out there killing the worst of the worst, heading towards Megadeth which is not the end of all life, but a million deaths. It’s actually a military term. And he’s going to kill a million of the worst the world has to offer and that is going to upset the balance in theory between heaven and hell and then hell will be able to overtake heaven, so while we are routing for Ernie to kill these horrible people who deserve it, we really shouldn’t because he’s bringing us towards Armageddon rapidly, so…

BUG: I really like that twist on that. That’s pretty cool.

JBS: Thanks. It’s one of those great little mindfucks. I just love things that kind of contradict themselves with that little bit of irony where you know “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” Somebody asked me the other day how do I go from writing all of these kid’s books to writing these adult books and how it’s all so different and I said “I kind of write everything like it’s a comedy.” Whether it’s very stark serious or not, I tend to… Everything that I approach I try to approach it from the humorous or interesting kind of angle. I can see a little bit of humor in something and I think there’s a little bit of humor in “The good die young, because heaven likes it that way.” There’s a little bit of dark humor to these things and that’s kind of how I approach all of my books. It’s going to be a lot of fun. We have a really good high concept behind the baseline of the Chaos Universe and what Ernie is really about and then at the end of the day Evil Ernie and Smiley are essentially Lobo and Deadpool you know which are like my two dream characters to write, so I’m really happy to be writing EVIL ERNIE and having him do all sorts of crazy shit and writing Smiley and having him say all kinds of crazy shit. So I’m happy.

BUG: It seems like an amazing concept. Congratulations for getting that. Has there been an artist attached to it yet?

JBS: You know what? I think we are looking at a few people right now. I still have a few friends who kind of want to do the thing and I think Dynamite was kind of thinking they’d announce it and see who shows up. I think there’s going to be a few people going “Hey, I heard… Can I…” It’s going to go be a smaller book. I think we are going to end up doing a lot better than people think and you know Evil Ernie is a funny character, because a lot of people really like him and kind of have an innate kind of brings a smile to your face when you think of Evil Ernie, he’s just one of those characters like a Lobo, that’s just kind of like “Yay, Evil Ernie!” But nobody really expects much from the character and I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised by what we are doing and what I’m bringing to the table as far as the story goes and you tend to get a lot more mileage when people are expecting it to not be anything and then they are like “Whoa” and then all of the sudden people are like “It’s really good” and they are all surprised. (Laughs) I’m going to take advantage of that surprise.

BUG: Great, so as far as the rest of the characters are concerned, like Creamator and Purgatory and those guys, are they going to show up or are you just going to focus on Evil Ernie right now?

JBS: The first arch is going to be focusing on Evil Ernie. I’m toying with the idea of possibly bringing in Purgatory and maybe somebody else in a second arc although I might want to wait until we get to like issue #13 or something like that to get to that place, so I can really establish Ernie and I don’t color it too much, but I mean everything and it was nice that Nick said this in our panel that we just did that everybody who is coming to do anything after me is going to be following what I’m doing.

BUG: So you’re writing the new bible for Evil Ernie.

JBS: Yeah, I’m really writing the bible for the Chaos Universe and it’s a really cool thing, but it’s very nerve-wracking and time consuming, because I’m really… I’ve got to set up these building blocks very well so that everything else can kind of rest upon it and you got to see… If Ernie is the person who is bringing us towards Armageddon by raising the death toll for the evil people, where does Purgatory fall into that? Where does Lady Demon fall into that? Where does Creamator end up? You know all of those pieces and all with the new status quo there’s going to be a lot of new characters who are going to be integral parts of this new system that we are creating. I want to make sure that all of those old Evil Ernie staples and Chaos Comics staples have their place and it’s going to be relatively easy to find where they sit once we establish this correctly, so right now I’m just worrying about getting it all out there in the proper way so that people understand where Ernie’s at and then start bringing in the other people so you can see how many layers and levels this really has, which is a whole universe.

BUG: Are you going to start from scratch and just start over with the tale of Evil Ernie? I remember I read the first issue of EVIL ERNIE way back in the 80’s. I was way too young to be reading it, but I loved it at the same time. He started out as a kid that died in the electric chair…right? Is that how it goes? How are you going to catch people up with the character?

JBS: This book has a couple of flashbacks at the opening that start it up which I wont get into, but right after we get through that introduction the book essentially opens on Ernie in the electric chair about to be the youngest person ever to be put to death in the United States. He’s a mass murderer. He’s killed 665 people and tried to kill 666, but didn’t quite make it there and he’s about to be put to death and that’s kind of where we start. The last person that he tried to kill was his foster father and he visited him in prison and tried to stab him to death with a broken shard of glass and was restrained before he could kill his dad and the first arch is basically him trying to kill his father, so that he can consolidate his power, because he needs 666 souls to fully become “Evil Ernie” and have all of that power that he’s been waiting to have. So I’m really much…

[A person dressed up as Juggernaut walks by.]

JBS: Oh my God, look at that Juggernaut costume. Awesome!

BUG: Holy crap, that is awesome.

JBS: Sorry tape recorder, there’s a guy in a Juggernaut costume and it’s really awesome. I lost my train of thought; what was I saying before Juggernaut?

BUG: I don’t know.

JBS: Damn it, Juggernaut! Wait, there’s a thing and he’s got the power and he’s going to have the power…

BUG: He was going to kill his father.

JBS: Yeah…ahh, dammit…it’s gone.

BUG: Lost it? Ahh, well, let’s switch gears. How is Brian Pulido with all of this? Have you guys talked with him about using the character?

JBS: You know the situation with Brian Pulido is a little awkward unfortunately. Brian’s a very good friend of mine and like I said Chaos was a very integral part of my fledgling comic book career. I didn’t actually know how the characters ended up leaving him or whatever. I thought he chose to sell them or he was licensing them out or whatever and I reached out to him during this process to see if I could get a hold of any of the old things, if I could borrow them so I could more closely tie in… I have some stuff, but I don’t have everything.

BUG: It’s really hard, since it’s out of print.

JBS: Yeah and I wanted to kind of be able to tie in and give as many little Easter eggs for those old school fans as I could and Brian kind of respectfully declined and he said “You know, I’m really sorry, but these things were taken from me. I’m really happy for you and I love you Jesse and I’m glad that you got the gig and somebody’s got to get the gig, so…”

BUG: He seems like a really good guy too.

JBS: He’s a great guy and so he said “I’m happy for you and stuff, but at the same time I can’t participate in this, because it’s a real sore spot for me.” He lost his characters, so it’s really sad that it went down that way and it’s an unfortunate situation. I really didn’t find out actually until I was into the process, but the best I can do is just try to do a really good job for him and make the characters something he can be proud of and proud of what we are doing. So I’m hopeful that he will end up being able to check it out and enjoy it, but unfortunately how that went down for Brian it’s a rough patch of his history and you’ve got to understand that.

BUG: Sure. Well as far as Lady Death is concerned, how are you going to work around that since she’s owned by Avatar and you guys are doing this through Dynamite?

JBS: Lady Death was such an integral part of Evil Ernie, who he was as a character that without her I really had to make him a new character, so the setup of this universe is really based around the fact that Evil Ernie is the one who is going to bring us to Armageddon where as Lady Death had wanted him to kill the world, which was Armageddon or whatever else… I don’t think he actually knows that he is working towards Megadeath, he’s just killing bad people, so the character really changed a lot, because he’s not driven by his love of Lady Death like he was before. Now he’s driven by hate and in my book the concept behind Ernie is really that he is a good guy and he should have been a good guy, but hell had other plans and they twisted him and twisted him and twisted him and he kept asking God for help and he kept asking heaven to help and to come intervene on his behalf and take him out of a bad situation and punish his foster parents who were abusing him and the town that was turning a blind eye and somebody to come save him and finally when hell said, “We’ll help you,” he went “Fuck it” and really in the flashbacks of the first arch you are going to see the slow transformation from a child… Really any child where you start out hopeful and you might ask God to “enlighten” those around you, but then you get a little angry and then you start to ask God to take you away. “These people don’t deserve to be enlightened” and then you get even angrier and then you ask God to punish them and then if God won’t do that, then you ask God, “God give me the power to punish them” and if he won’t do that, you go to who will. If hell is offering salvation in whatever form, you are going to take it and that’s really what the book is, a good person who turns dark, but at the same time Evil Ernie is now going to be a character that I think people can get behind. He is going to be punishing evil people and he’s going to be doing some evil things and you might not be able to get behind everything he does, but ultimately he’s going after the bad guys and ultimately that’s a bad idea for us.

BUG: Great, so you said he’s going after bad people. Is he going to go after jaywalkers? What does he consider bad?

JBS: It you want to talk philosophy, you know I base a fair amount of my stuff on DANTE’S INFERNO just because I like the structure that DANTE’S INFERNO kind of sets up, though I’m pulling from a lot of different mythology type places with religion, but when you look at DANTE’S INFERNO I would say 99.9% of the people in this room are going to hell and it’s a really difficult thing. I mean I’m still not exactly sure how I’m going to work it out, because Ernie is supposed to be delivering 111,111 souls for every level of hell and he first level of hell are virtuous nonbelievers and I’m like “At what point do I go ‘You don’t believe in anything, but you are a good person…die!” I mean it’s really hard to get behind that, like “Yes, you may have healed the sick” and all of these scientists and stuff who were like curing starvation in Rwanda and everything, it’s like they don’t really deserve to die.

BUG: Is Smiley going to be a part of that? What’s his role in all of this?

JBS: Well…. Should I reveal a little secret?

BUG: Sure. It’s Ain’t It Cool News, you’ve got to…

JBS: (Laughs) It is Ain’t It Cool News, so the thing with Smiley is that Ernie doesn’t really know what he’s doing. Ernie thinks he’s a good guy. In his mind he’s the hero, he’s just a very bloody and dangerous hero, but he’s doing something good; he’s ridding the world of bad people, he’s making the world a better place. He doesn’t know that what he is doing is ultimately going to harm everybody by taking out heaven and somebody needs to guide the young and immature Ernie along the way, somebody from hell needs to keep tabs on him. Smiley is a demon and he is just whispering in Ernie’s ear and has been whispering in Ernie’s ear the whole way, so Smiley, his best friend, who is funny and happy go lucky and whatever else is just manipulating him the whole way. In our book Ernie’s best buddy is not really Ernie’s best buddy, so it just adds a lot of layers to everything that’s going on in the book, so it will be pretty cool when it all shakes out.

BUG: That sounds awesome. Thanks a lot for taking the time to talk to me. I appreciate it. I know you are busy at the Con.

JBS: Yeah, now that I have something to talk about thank goodness.

BUG: Well thanks for talking to me. Good luck on the book, I can’t wait to read it.

JBS: I think it’s going to be good, so I’m hopeful. Fingers crossed.

BUG: Thanks a lot.

JBS: Take care.

BUG: Look for EVIL ERNIE from Dynamite Entertainment later this year. I was a huge fan of the original and can’t wait to see Jesse’s take on it.

Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole / wordslinger / reviewer / co-editor of AICN Comics for over nine years. Support a Bug by checking out his comics (click on the covers to purchase)!

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