Ambidextrous: Talking to Lazarus' Joseph Patrick Gauthier

Lazarus #1 by Liam Sharpe

People will tell you that breaking into comics as a writer is damn near impossible, but really, that word isn’t quite strong enough…

Even the most talented aspiring writers have to spend years fighting their way into the business, and even more difficult than breaking in is somehow staying in, amongst competition from both within comics and outside of it. It’s simple math really, there just aren’t enough projects to go around and the differences in writing styles and approaches are often razor-thin, leaving many to wonder---what is the magic bullet that ensures success? Unfortunately, there is none, but most would say that a delicate combination of talent, patience, luck, and connections goes a long way. But nearly all of them would say that your primary goal is to get published at any and all costs. Actually writing comic books provides true separation from all the other people that simply claim to want to write comic books.

Enter writer Joseph Patrick Gauthier, who’s actually writing comic books, and has a regular column to shed additional light on his personal creative process, and expose people to his unique perspective on the comics industry. He’s got an independent title called Lazarus: Immortal Coils launching this Wednesday from AAM/Markosia Enterprises, and in the first of two Ambi installments, you’ll get to know him and his new project that sees the Biblical figure resurrected, discovering he’s an immortal, and that demons are on earth plotting to take us over. For more information, we go directly to the source…

Ambidextrous: Who is Joseph Patrick Gauthier and why has he come here?

Joseph Patrick Gauthier: I am a husband, father of two, and unit assistant at a children’s hospital in Los Angeles, California. I’m the nerd who married the hot chick from high school. I’m such a geek, I named my son Lazarus. I’m so oblivious it took six months before I knew my wife was pregnant with my daughter. For the record, she didn’t know either, but it’s still my fault. I don’t know how that works, but she assures me it does.

I’m here because I believe everyone has a destiny and mine is to write. Whether or not it is writing comics remains to be seen. I love comics. I love the imagination and traditions behind them. A lot of the writers I admire are from comics and I want to follow in their footsteps.

Ambi: Who are your biggest influences in and out of comics? Also, when was the moment that you decided you’d become a comic book writer and nothing was going to stop you?

JPG: Inside comics, my biggest influences are Chris Claremont, Chuck Dixon, David Quinn, and Grant Morrison. Outside comics, there's Steven Barnes and Hunter S. Thompson (R.I.P.).

I don’t think I ever had that moment. What keeps me going isn’t resolve, but fear. I’ve invested too much of my life into this. My wife is invested. My kids are invested. What happens if I fail? I have to face a lot of people who believed in me and say, “Sorry, but you backed the wrong horse.”

I know this may not be the most popular answer, but it is an honest one. I’m thirty-six years old. I’ve been working to bust into comics since I was twenty-one. I’m in, and I have seen ugly things from unexpected people. Aspects of this industry I never thought would exist. Business is dirty and ruthless. We know this. But, there’s something “extra” when you find it in an industry that mostly promotes heroism, the belief good will triumph over evil, and with great power comes great responsibility.

I’m here to win because no one likes a loser, and I love comics. I admire the writers and artists who wrote the books I remember as a child that taught me about loyalty, friendship, and how to always aspire to be better.

Ambi: Did you ever hit a point where it felt things would just never work out for you? This is something I like asking people for obvious reasons, but was there a situation that almost made you quit, and what stopped you?

JPG: Definitely. I had one of those moments just last week. I never stop having them. Life could be easier. I could settle into my job at the hospital, work my forty, pay into my 401k, collect my checks, and live life like everyone else. But, what would I tell my kids when they have their dreams and want to pursue them? How would I feel ten or twenty years from now when I find my old notebook of stories that never saw print? It’s like Mel’s speech in Braveheart

“Aye, fight and you may die, run, and you'll live...at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take...OUR FREEDOM!”

Succeed or fail, I don’t want to be on my death bed wondering about what could have been.

Ambi: What has been the biggest challenge of getting Lazarus: Immortal Coils published?

JPG: Money and communication. You need money to create and publish a comic book. The barter system that existed in the nineties is dying out unless you’ve got a background of work to show you can break someone in. Then, maybe, the backend deal still works for you. For everyone else, money talks or you get ignored.

Once you have the money, the next big climb throughout production and continuing into publication, marketing, etc. is communication. Poor communication will destroy a comic just as quickly as bad art or writing.

Ambi: What should people expect from reading the first six issues of Lazarus, and are there anymore stories to be told after this initial run?

JPG: Lazarus: Immortal Coils is just part one of a trilogy. Lazarus is on a journey to finding his destiny and becoming a hero. Immortal Coils sets everything up. I wrote it back when Marvel was doing Epic and Jemas said submissions should follow a television pilot style. I liked that idea and ran with it.

There’s a lot that happens, as we’re dealing with characters that have lived in one form or another since 33AD. I want the readers to feel that. Readers will feel like they’ve walked in on the middle of a really good story. But this is the beginning of the end, a major battle is coming, and they’ll want to find out how things got to this point.

The series tells you who Lazarus is, what happened to him, and why he is this non-feeling killing machine in the present. It introduces who the demons are and what they can do. They don’t just possess bodies. They can also shape-shift, ripping the human host into shreds when they do.

You also meet The Wandering Jew, Ahasverus, who goes by “Verus” today. He is Lazarus’ opposite number. Yeshua blessed Lazarus and cursed Ahasverus. They are two characters, both immortal, harboring the same pain, but dealing with it in different ways. As the title implies, you read how Lazarus, the demons, and Verus are all connected.

Mixed with all that character is over the top action. Car chases, sword and knife fights, martial arts, body parts flying, people being ripped open, and an ending boss battle that has everything---guns, explosions, and mid-air collisions. And that’s just the first book.

Ambi: What do you want to say about the concept of immortality in the series that you feel isn’t being said not just in comics, but in much of contemporary fiction at large?

JPG: Simply put, what we think of as immortality isn’t, and I want to show what is. I want to question if anything should be allowed to live forever. I want to show what kind of effect that would have on a person and who they would become.

For some, death is a blessing. It is an end to all the bull___ life throws at us. We call these people crazy, but have no idea what it is like for them to carry tremendous pain from one day to the next. In L:IC, Lazarus died, went to hell, came back to see his best friend crucified, his family murdered, and discovers the demons who tormented him in hell are on Earth riding humans like horses. He lives with this for over a thousand years.

Lazarus is dead at the beginning of L:IC. The story is about how he is resurrected for a second time, reconnects with humanity, and learns to live again.

I also want to push the envelope with what we’ve seen immortals go through physically. What we’ve had so far is limited. Scenes of Wolverine being shot, stabbed, and burned alive in the eighties amazed us. In the new millennium, he’s still being shot and burned. Man’s depravity to man has devised too many ways to kill and dismember for us to be so repetitious with these characters.

Ambi: Who are the artists contributing to the series and what have they brought to the project? Also, how did you find them, as I know this is always a huge concern to people trying to break in or get their own stories published.

JPG: Alex Lugo is the designer and penciler of the prologue. Carlos Rafael is the penciler on the main story, Immortal Coils. Ian Sharman colored the prologue. Frank Martin Jr. and Vinicious Andrade are the colorists on the main story. Casey Edwards is the cover artist, along with Kevin Sharpe, and Liam Sharp did the trade cover.

Alex is my friend, partner, and studio-mate in 10 Worlds, our three-man production crew. He was with me on day one when Lazarus was just an idea I had and was finally developing. I think Alex brings reverence and realism to the book. His art is very classic and mature. I think of it, as I would jazz music. You’re drawn in and don’t know you’re hooked until it stops.

Carlos, Frank, and Vinicious all came to me through Dave Campti, Klebs Junior, and Impacto Studios in association with Glasshouse Graphics. All of them are terrific and brought amazing talent to the book.

Carlos was able to make a lot of action scenes work that I was uncertain about, especially the car chase in issue two. They were all able to catch the subtleties I was going for in the characters and situations. Facial expressions were crucial and Carlos nailed them. The Japanese film, Casshern, inspired the coloring and both Frank and Vinicious did a beautiful job of bringing that style to the book.

Casey Edwards I found online. I think I was surfing the Gaijin message boards and followed a link to his page. Great guy. Great artist. The covers tell a tale just as the pages do. They’re not just eye candy. Line them up and they have something to say. The same goes for Kevin Sharpe.

I can’t say enough about Liam Sharp, an amazing artist and the coolest guy to work with. I gave him a small idea of what I wanted, he ran with it, and blew me away. I still can’t stop looking at his cover and I’ve had it for three years.

I thank everyone who worked on this book. They all believe in it and it shows on the pages. I know a lot of people say that, and it’s true, but L:IC is an independent book with major production value.

Ambi: Anything else you want people to know before heading out to the shops this week and see your title sharing shelf with books and characters that have existed for decades?

JPG: Look, everyone, I know how hard it is. I’m like you, a comic book fan who busts his ass eight, sometimes twelve, hours a day. One of the few bright sides to life is going to the comic shop Wednesdays to pick up the new batch of books. I thought of that when I put Lazarus: Immortal Coils together. Everyone who reads the book asks the same thing, “Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?” Lazarus: Immortal Coils is a six issue series and the first issue has 36 pages for $3.99.

My crew and I will be at The Comic Bug this Wednesday (today, June 11th) from 6-9 pm in Manhattan Beach, California signing books with exclusive trading cards. The Bug is at---

1807 ½ Manhattan Beach Boulevard

Manhattan Beach, California 90266.

You can call them at (310) 372-6704 or check out their website at www.thecomicbug.com. We’re also planning an appearance at Frank & Son Collectibles Show in the City of Industry. Check out our MySpace page at

www.myspace.com/10_Worlds_Studio for additional details.

Next: Gauthier’s thoughts following launch day, how religion played a heavy role in the creation of his series, what Speaking in Tongues really means, and organizing boycotts. Until then, we close out this week with the Five…

5. Buffy, the Vampire Slayer #15 (Drew Goddard/Georges Jeanty/Andy Owens)

“No prisoners. Seal off the streets. Cut them down as they flee. Kill every single one of them.”

Classic, classic Buffy. In what feels like something of a mid-season finale, everything you love about these characters and this world is well represented in 22 action-packed, budget unconscious pages. Everyone has a “moment” or two as the story concludes, and typical of Buffy, the emotional ones are just as powerful and memorable as the more physical ones. Xander’s revenge and what happens after is definitely a contender for the best scene in the book, though easily rivaled by the short conversation between him and Dracula at the close. Poor guy never catches a break, but damned if it isn’t always compelling to watch…

4. Amazing Spider-Man #561 (Dan Slott/Marcos Martin/Javier Rodriguez)

“We made a pretty good team.”

Man, get Martin back on this book as soon as humanly possible. He delivers the third in a series of brilliant artistic showings in Spidey’s world, and though everybody is going to be talking about the return of MJ this week, what they should be talkin’ about is Marcos Martin. No offense intended, and Slott does come up with a very clever way for her to “assist” Spidey in his final brawl with Paper Doll, but this entire storyline has been about welcoming the next great Spider-Man artist into the fold. A number of storylines do converge in this one, and I think it’s safe to say that the first official act of Brand New Day has come to a close. Hopefully, people stuck with it long enough to ease the emotional pain of OMD and discover Martin’s fantastic work…

3. Trinity #1 (Kurt Busiek & Fabian Nicieza/Mark Bagley & Scott McDaniel/Art Thibert & Andy Owens)

Show yourself, whoever you are. Let’s get started.”

Have I mentioned yet that I love Mark Bagley? That he was one of the artists that I immediately latched onto upon discovering comics? Yeah. So I’ve been waiting for this to start with an intensity that just couldn’t be matched by DC’s previous weekly efforts. Take an artist who excels at drawing damn near everything, and partner him with one of the most accomplished storytellers in the biz? There is literally no way possible that this series drifts out of this section for most of the year, so please get used to hearing about it. Bagley even drawing half of the series seems unimaginable, but name one other guy who’d have a chance of doing it? A whole new universe of characters for him to put his visual stamp on, and we’re all along for the ride. This first one is good, and it’s pretty. You were expecting something else?

2. Invincible Iron Man #2 (Matt Fraction/Salvador Larroca)

“---we’re piloting neutron bombs with facemasks---did you really expect anything less?”

Now this is a comic book. Everything that makes our medium fresh and vibrant, and the kind of thing that Hollywood wants to repeatedly emulate for millions of dollars is on full display here. Ideas are the only limits and Fraction is quickly turning this into one of Marvel’s best titles by embracing that notion on every page. He’s taking us into the suit and showing us a hero that always has seven or eight things on his mind at once, who listens to music while beating the hell out of the bad guys, and whose flawed relationships are only made worse by his overbearing personality. There isn’t a thing about this book that isn’t working just right, and in the wake of Civil War, Tony Stark is suddenly cool again…go figure…

1. Secret Invasion #3 (Brian Michael Bendis/Leinil Francis Yu/Mark Morales)

“This will not stand. There are others who will come here to stop you. You will not win.”

There’s probably been more “action” in three issues of SI than there was in the entire House of M series. Bendis keeps the pedal to the floor and anyone of consequence in the MU gets screwed pretty effectively. Despite the pyrotechnics, there’s a lot of meaty character stuff throughout, but obviously, the one most people will be interested in features the two characters on the cover. Though I’m convinced it’s a complete and total feint, it’s an exceptionally clever one, which really sells just how bad the Skrulls want to win this time. Their attacks here are physical, psychological, and perhaps even ideological, as the back story in the two criss-crossing Avengers titles suggests. That’s also another great strength of this event too, because Bendis is able to set up reveals and intro characters in those titles, and then have them pay off here. Well written, incredibly well drawn, and keeps gettin’ better…

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll see you next week.

B

Twitter activity