SDCC '08 - Caleb Munroe on Boom's The Remnant

SDCC 08 - Caleb Munroe on The Remnant

This week in at San Diego Comic-Con, Boom! Studios will be offering a look at one of their new projects: The Remnant, a new mini-series from the minds of Stephen Baldwin (yes, that Stephen Baldwin) and Eureka TV creator, Andrew Cosby created for Boom! Studios. Working on the project, with direction from Baldwin and Cosby, are two young creators who are on the rise: Caleb Munroe and Julian Totino Tedesco. The Remnant is a supernatural thriller similar to 24 in approach, with themes centering on human existence and perceived reality.

Newsarama contacted Caleb Munroe, whose work has graced both Negative Burn and Parable, to talk about his work on the upcoming mini-series from Boom! Studios and to talk about the rigors of being an up-and-coming writer trying to get a start in the comic book industry.

Newsarama: Tell readers about The Remnant. What is the story about?

Caleb Munroe: A lot of the stuff I work on takes a paragraph or two to explain, but The Remnant is one of those dream projects with an easy-sell high-concept: 24 meets the end times.

Counterterrorism, romance and the supernatural set against an apocalyptic backdrop.

Stephen Baldwin is a very talented and creative guy and a lot people will be blown away by just how good this book is.

NRAMA: How did you become involved with the project and Boom! Studios?

CM: Boom!’s been on my radar for a couple years. I live in LA, they’re one of the few comic companies based out here and they’ve been putting out interesting books and making interesting moves.

The book’s editor (and new Boom! managing editor), Matt Gagnon, was familiar with my work and knew this project fit my sensibilities so, for once, I was on their radar too!

NRAMA: How much of the process are you involved in beyond scripting? Did you have any creative input or has this project already been fairly developed?

CM: It all began when Stephen Baldwin came up with an idea too great to miss. He brought it to Boom! and he and Andrew Cosby ran with it, writing a detailed treatment, which was then my starting point. There’s plenty of room for me to bring some of my own ideas to the project and experiment with the execution, but at the same time I wouldn’t want to stray from what is already a very powerful story. Kind of a perfect working combination, really.

NRAMA: I’ve done some work-for-hire stuff before where I was definitely a better writer than the editor, and their somewhat arbitrary contributions made the job a real chore. But this project has been the exact opposite of that. I’m getting notes from Andrew Cosby and Mark Waid, who are some of the smartest writers in the industry; plus my editor, Matt Gagnon, is one of the most intelligent guys I know when it comes to comics.

CM: I remember interviewing Andrew Cosby about a year and a half ago for my column at Scryptic Studios and being struck by how knowledgeable he was as a writer. Now I have the opportunity to work with him on a story and it’s been a amazing opportunity so far. Zero regrets.

NRAMA: What's your background in comics? Have you been a lifelong reader? How much formal training do you have as a writer?

CM: I’ve been both reading and writing since age 11. There was a comic shop about a mile from my house. They had this big colorful mural in the front window of Wolverine, Spider-Man, Punisher and Captain America. It always caught my eye and I asked my dad if we could go there. We did, and I bought Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #16, “The Beetle and the Badge.” That was it. I was hooked.

At the same time my mom, who’s an author, was working on her first book and my writing teacher at school sent some of my projects in to the local newspaper. They ended up buying two of them, one for $10 and one for $15. I thought, “Someone’s willing to pay me for this stuff I’m doing for fun anyway?” So that was it. I was hooked.

From then on, I’ve constantly been writing, which is one of the best ways to learn. As for formal training, I was the chief reader for my high school’s literary journal and senior year I attended a second arts school for two hours a day and got a creative writing diploma. In late high school and college I was writing mostly prose and sold several short stories to various speculative fiction magazines and anthologies. My major at college was English until I left school to work on film sets for several years. During that time I studied acting at a scene study class in Atlanta, where I learned more about writing than acting. They had this great philosophy that the best way to get yourself work as an actor was to make it, so they would only perform scenes written by someone in the class. I learned a lot about what works on the page versus what works in a performance. Here in LA, I worked for two years for screenwriter Zach Helm (Stranger Than Fiction, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium). He’s one of the best writers I’ve ever known in person and I learned a ton during those years.

NRAMA: What other kinds of work have you had published in the industry to date?

CM: The Remnant is my biggest project to date. I have several similar-length (and even longer) creator-owned projects in the works, but most of my published work has been of a shorter variety. I self-published a full issue of a book called Redchapel, done with artist Noel Tuazon (Elk’s Run), and have three stories in the past two issues of Negative Burn as well as many other anthology stories and back-ups.

NRAMA: Could you tell readers who might be aspiring writers how you've come to your modicum of success?

CM: First: Do good work. Hone your craft, learn all you can, fill your toolbox and write, write, write. Then do good work.

Second: Time=friends=success. I’ve been working at writing comics for something like eight years. I’ve made a lot of friends on the internet through e-mail and message boards. I attend as many conventions as I can get to, where I’ve made even more friends. I’ve also worked at two of the biggest comic shops in the US (Meltdown Comics in LA and Jim Hanley’s Universe in NY), where a lot of industry folks and other aspiring creators shop and work. I’ve probably made the most friends that way. And when I say friends, I mean honest-to-goodness friends I’ll know for years to come. Not “people I’ve networked”. I do everything I can to help my friends break in, and find it’s a two-way street. Friends are important because they take a genuine interest in your work and it really helps to have people out there who know how good your work is, as opposed to people who you hope will discover how good your work is. Assuming, of course, that you’re doing good work.

(I think I may have just set some record for using the word “friend” the most times in a paragraph)

NRAMA: Who are some other writers and artists that you consider your "contemporaries" in the trenches who are going to be break-out talents?

CM: Well, there’s Mark Sable (Two-Face: Year One, Cyborg, Grounded). He’s a bit ahead of me in the game, but he’s a friend and I consider him a contemporary. Matt Gagnon is definitely going places. Vito Delsante (Superman, Savage Tales, Before They Were Famous: Albert Einstein) is a fantastic writer I met through Jim Hanley’s when I was in New York. He and I have been co-writing a lot of stuff in addition to pursuing our individual projects. We have a real natural synergy with complimentary strengths and weaknesses. Elton Pruitt (Negative Burn) is an even younger writer than me, but he’s made more progress since starting than I did, and he’s done it in about half the time. Josha Hale Fialkov (Elk’s Run, Cyblade), Drew Melbourne (ArchEnemies), David Gallaher (High Moon) and Jason Rodriguez (Postcards) are also all talents to watch from my “generation”.

Artist-wise, there’s Julian Totino Tedesco. He’s making his U.S. debut with , but his work is excellent and I predict it won’t be long before you see him all over the comic shelves. I’ve done more stories with Noel Tuazon than anyone else and he’s absolutely one of the best artists I know. I’m constantly shocked that he’s not a bigger star. Reilly Brown (Cable & Deadpool, Hulk vs. Hercules) is a super-talented artist. We’re putting a pretty wild book together. I’ve done several things with Daniel Lafrance (Zombie Tales, Fablewood), who was also one of this past year’s Comic Book Idol finalists. Someone to keep an eye on. Wes Bernick, Ryan “Sarge” Sergeant, Michael Nigro, Ashleigh Firth, Michael L. Peters and Rachel Freire are also all artists to watch. If you haven’t heard of them yet, you will soon (hopefully partnered with me)!

NRAMA: Who are sources for your inspiration within the industry?

CM: The guys I just mentioned, plus Brian K. Vaughan, Harlan Ellison, Alan Moore, Mark Millar, Brian Wood, Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction. The usual rogue’s gallery.

I spend a lot of time reading interviews with these writers, as well as columns and blogs written by them and listening/talking to them when possible. I make it a point to study, not the way they execute their craft so much as the way they think about their craft before the execution. Why is it that when you give a B-list character to one of these guys you get Animal Man or Swamp Thing instead of another forgettable B-list story? I think our natural tendency is to dismiss it as just being how they’re made, or give it the nebulous title of “genius” and move on, but I believe ways of thinking can be learned like anything else. It involves learning on both the conscious and sub-conscious levels, but I hope ultimately my work will benefit from it.

NRAMA: Any other projects you can talk about after you finish The Remnant?

CM: Nothing ready to mention yet, but there’s lots in the works. Everything from crime to science fiction to fantasy to superheroes to stuff that defies easy description. Anyone who’s interested can keep up with my doings at

NRAMA: How can readers become more familiar with The Remnant?

CM: The best way will be to come by the Boom! booth (#2543) this weekend in San Diego and pick up the 16-page Remnant Preview Book. It has the story’s opening pages as well as all sorts of behind-the-scenes goodies. Stephen Baldwin will be there singing Friday and Saturday mornings. The Boom! panel is at 3:30 on Friday afternoon. And keep your eyes on the Boom! website, as well as my own, and on news sites like Newsarama.

NRAMA: What are some things you plan on checking out this week at Comic-Con?

CM: I try not to plan too far or too hard in advance, because Comic-Con is the rock upon which all those ships break. But I’m looking forward to catching up with all the friends from across the country I only see in person at cons, and don’t want to miss Grant Morrison and Gerard Way’s “Born Under a Black Sun” panel on Saturday or the new Pixu mini-comic from Gabriel Bá/ Fábio Moon/Becky Cloonan/ Vasilis Lolos.

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