Bluewater editor Aaron Stueve was recently interviewed by CBI publisher John Michael Helmer about his career in comics...
JMH: Where were you born and raised?
AARON: I was born in Quincy, IL and raised mostly in Davenport, IA. Right now I live in Omaha, NE and wouldn't have it any other way . . . except maybe someplace warmer during the winter months.
JMH: Tell CBI about yourself…
AARON: Well, I'm a Midwest boy, born and raised. Love reading and writing. I teach. I write. I live. I have a wife, two kids, two dogs, and a cat. There really isn't a lot to tell about me. I'm just an average guy. I do have a book totally separate from Bluewater, published by WSC Press, coming out soon, called The ABCs of Dinkolgy that mixes straight prose writing with comic book writing, music, poetry . . . it's a literary mashup. I'm also the yearbook and video yearbook adviser at the school where I work. I stay pretty busy, which is just the way I like it.
JMH: Have you had any formal training in writing?
AARON: Yes. I one of my undergrad degrees is in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing, which I earned at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. An recently I graduated from the University of Nebraska with an MFA (master of fine arts) in Creative Writing (fiction). I also read A LOT of craft books and teach creative writing, so I'm constantly learning and honing my craft. Or so I like to believe.
JMH: Who are your writing influences?
AARON: This is a long list. I will tell you I really like Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, The Odyssey by Homer, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. As far as comics go, I'm a big fan of Grant Morrison . . . . I don't know man. There are so, so many.
JMH: How did you break into writing comic books?
AARON: It's funny, because this company called "Unknown Comics" hired me to write a bunch of scripts, which I did, and, sadly ironic as it is, the company went under before any of the comics saw the light of day. About a year later, Gregg was working for Bluewater, gave them my name as a writer, and Bluewater hired me. I've written an ongoing Legend of Isis series that made it to like 14 issues and a Legend of Isis one-shot co-starring Black Scorpion! I've honestly had more luck outside of the comics field with short stories, poetry, and essays published in a variety of places.
JMH: What is the first comic you remember reading?
AARON: I honestly don't know. I read a lot when I was really little, like 4, so there isn't one that sticks out to me. However, I stopped reading them for a few years and came back to them in like 3rd grade. I remember an issue of Thor and an issue of Iron Man my dad got me because we had just moved and I was all upset. That was it. I was hooked. It was like magic.
JMH: Do you read any of the new comic books that are being published today?
AARON: I'm a big fan of what DC is doing. It is a ballsy move that I support. I don't read all of the new books, but I read my fair share and I am loving Superman, Animal Man, Stormwatch, and All Star Western in particular. I'm also a sucker for a good mutant book. X-Factor for instance is consistently blowing my mind, consistently. The way Peter David weaves a crazy noir/fantasy/sci-fi/drama mix seamlessly is just enviable.
JMH: Print versus Digital. Your thoughts…
AARON: Oh God, this is a big one. I don't know. I like the feel of a comic book in my hand, you know? I like having them to go back to whenever I want. I like them, that's that. However, the idea of the prices going down combined with the ability to take 100s of them wherever I want to go . . . it is appealing. I have to be honest, for me, there has to be a happy medium where comic books in print form can stay alive, at least to some degree, and comic books in digital form can also be available. Why can't we all just get along? Am I right?
JMH: Writer’s block. How do you get around that creature?
AARON: I get around writer's block by always having more than one project going on. It helps me to always have something that needs to be finished.
JMH: What is The Wave?
AARON: The Wave is a line of superhero comic books that asks some questions about faith, old ones really. What happens to the god when no one believes anymore? Well, this might be a bit of a spoiler, but in our little mythos, they die. However, if you know anything about the Greek gods, it may not come as a surprise to you that some of these gods have planned ways around this. After the "Twilight of the Gods" #0 special, readers learn that Poseidon, Artemis, and Persephone have survived this (through various machinations) and along with them, the heroes Heracles and Orion reappear. There will be four, four issue mini series to start the line--Artemis, Heracles, Orion, and Trident: The Power of Poseidon. Our goal is to create and develop a close-knit universe and keep our line's number of comics down to no more than four or five comics per month so everyone can get the whole story without a huge dent in their pocket books!
JMH: Do you research your story ideas? If so, how?
AARON: Yes, absolutely I research. Research is such a huge part of good writing and I don't think enough people understand this. I guess the greatest tool for this now is the internet. I have some accounts with some databases that have academic essays and papers I can search through for information on the topic I need (for instance with this series, I've had to look up some stuff about the stars and the cycles of the moon, Greece--the country, the landscape, etc . . . the list goes on and on). I also read a lot of books, like Edith Hamilton's Mythology and some Joseph Campbell. I can't say there is one way that I do any research, but when I know I need to write about something I know little about, I ALWAYS research.
JMH: What is your writing process like?
AARON: I try to hammer out a first draft as quickly as I can, particularly when working in a short story or comic book issue format, and then I spend weeks reworking, editing, critiquing. I also have a few writer friends who edit my work for me. That is usually the last step in my process. Once another writer critiques it and I do my final rewrites, then I send a script on to the artist!
JMH: Do your stories carry a message?
AARON: Yes. All of them do, even the ones I don't intentionally place in my stories are there. A good writer always has something to say with his work, always.
JMH: Do you feel more comfortable with writing prose or comic book sequential storytelling?
AARON: I don't think there is one that I feel "more comfortable" with. I just like writing!
JMH: What are your thoughts on the DC Reboot/Relaunch?
AARON: I'm a big fan, big. Do I like every book? No. But every book isn't meant for me. I do read more DC books now than I ever have and I have to applaud them on their balls to do something like this. It is a bold move in an industry where a good chunk of the fanbase is made up of people who don't like the change and get angry over the littlest things. I think sales though are telling the world that this is a success, right? Last I heard they were up.
JMH: What do you think Marvel's response will be?
AARON: If Marvel's got any sense they will suck it up and admit it is a brilliant idea and just do the exact same thing, except maybe go one up and don't offer themselves a "way out" in the form of a mysterious red, hooded lady. You know, really "commit." It feels like DCnU is a one up on Ultimate Marvel. So Marvel is going to have to one up DC now and the only way to do it is to start the line over, just like DC, but make it feel like it has more sticking power. I hope they do it. I think the Ultimate universe kind of lost its way. It became too dark, trying so hard not to be Marvel 616. But what DC did was kind of combine the ideas of a new universe with the old one into the DCnU, giving it a sense of modernity while at the same time keeping it based in a world familiar enough with the old one so that there is a balance. Obviously I'm pretty passionate about this . . . .
JMH: What future projects are in the works?
AARON: Right now I don't have a lot in the works for comics. Our goal is for these four mini-series to lead into a team book that runs 4-6 issues then go from there. We've really got to see how sales go before we get to that point though, because frankly, if they aren't going to sell, I’m not going to write them. But outside of the comic book world, I do have my novel coming out soon, The ABCs of Dinkology, which combines sequential art pages with prose, poetry, music, and endnotes, into some kind of crazy mishmash of writing. I'm also working on a zombie novel based on my short story that appears in Dark Moon Presents: Zombies! an anthology of short zombie stories. Finally, I'm the adviser for a high school yearbook that is going to blow the roof off of the concept of high school yearbooks. So, you know, the sky is the limit right now
JMH: Where can fans get a hold of your books?
AARON: All of them are or will be available at Amazon, plus comic book stores, book stores, etc. In short, where books are sold, you should be able to find them.
JMH: Anything else you'd like to mention that we haven't covered yet?
AARON: I don't think so--just that this line, "The Wave" is a well done, smart, fun creation and I recommend it to everyone who like superhero comic books.
JMH: Aaron, CBI appreciates your time! All the best!
AARON: Thanks for having me! It's been a pleasure.
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