I thought it was a slow day on this particular internet, until I made the mistake of visiting Warren Ellis’s The Engine.
Which is now Chip Zdarsky’s The Engine.
Here’s the skinny, the straight dope.
My name is Chip Zdarsky. I woke up today with my face stuck to the pillow, a byproduct of my strangely mucousy tears and/or my mischieviously sexual roommate. I flossed my face and combed my hair over the four bald spots and stepped out into the world.
A.J. (Arson Junkie), the homeless lady who lives just outside my apartment, greeted my arrival into the bustling world with fire, as she always does. The refuse container across from us had smoke billowing out of its orifices and I just turned to her and smiled. “It’s going to be a good day, A.J,” I said. She responded with her charcoal grin and told me to go fuck myself, as she always does.
What does this have to do with The Engine? Not much I suppose. Just that life is good and my home is always seconds away from burning down and while I have places I visit online, nothing feels quite like MY home. One where I can do whatever I want while my real home goes up in flames.
So, I decided to make The Engine my home.
It was surprisingly easy. A few simple emails to the Enforcers, demanding they block Warren and put me in charge was met with the enthusiasm one might expect from children being untied from the woodstove.
So, welcome to CHIP ZDARSKY’S ENGINE. All the normal rules are gonegonegone and random rule shall fill the void as the day goes on.
(Okay, it may also have something to do with this…)
One of the first thing Mr. Zdarsky does is post some really really creepy pictures of himself as Warren Ellis. Then he asks some questions to interesting persons. For example, to Heidi MacDonald:
Why do you do it? What is it about this industry and comics that prompts you to go to San Diego, like, 20 years in a row? ESPECIALLY since you worked at DC once upon a time. I figured something like that would have soured you on comics forever.
I’m curious, that’s all. The comics comversation seems so repetitive. Even with this place, the intention was good and noble, but there’s only so many times people can talk about the same issues, yeah?
Aren’t you going crazy?
There seems to be two stages of paying your dues in comics. First, you self-publish or work with smaller publishers and make little-to-no money. Then, you get into one of the big companies and do what they tell you because they own the characters.
What’s easier? The former has almost total creative freedom, but you still have to work at Taco Bell. The latter gives you a cheque but your name might end up attached to something you’re not 100% sold on. For example, do you have any veto power over what artist will be attached to a project? I can think of no greater hell than an artist fucking up a story I’ve written. I’m sure you’re quite happy with your current artists and situation, but is it a concern down the line?
When the world is watching and an editor is making you change your words, how do you get past that and get to the point where they’ll leave you alone?
Your DC exclusive is amazing news. Do you feel a sense of ease now, knowing you have some career stability? My greatest concern has always been that without the “freelance mindset” I’d end up getitng lazy, y’know? Is that a concern for you?
Are there any weird bits to the contract? Like, will you have to do four Green Lantern stories a year in addition to your creator-owned work?
A couple of years ago you were on the west coast. Do you think moving back to New York sped up the process for you? The internet clearly makes it easier to work from anywhere, but I still get most of my work from the city I reside in.
Do you remember how we met?
A couple of years ago you and Cameron were signing at the DC booth in San Diego, when he and I had a humorous plan. I came up to the table, pretending I didn’t know him, with camera in hand. The PLAN was for me to take his picture and Cameron would become enraged and take my camera from me, admonishing me for my poor social behaviour.
But, when I lifted the camera to rudely take his photo, you reached over and broke my arm in three places.
That day I learned to not fuck with Ed Brubaker.
Anyhoo, I was wondering something.
You’ve had a pretty good run of things. Indy boy goes mainstream but keeps his toes in creator-owned works. Have there been any big missteps along the way? With Criminal coming out are you looking back on past efforts and decisions and trying anything different? Any regrets? Internet shenanigans that backfired? Editors that wanted to eat your head? Artists that spit fore at you?
Also, do you have any worries that with you doing a huge promotional push on Criminal that the average superhero fan will think that you don’t care as much about the mainstream stuff? Is there a fear of a backlash? Does it drive you nuts that someone picking up Captain America won’t give Sleeper or Criminal a shot?
There’re others – Sean Philips, Doug Rushkoff and others are also questioned. Elsewhere, artists on the site are encouraged to draw Chip, and his Monster Cops gets a plug. The Engine may never have had a greater day than this. Go and check it out.