Meet a Local Comics Writer: A Chat With Mike Imboden
Mike Imboden's indie superhero book Fist of Justice first caught my eye in 2005, when one of its covers quoted a classic Jack Kirby/Vince Colleta Hercules vs. Thor battle (Thor No. 126, for those keeping score). Oddly enough, superheroes are under-represented in small press comics, perhaps because they are so over-represented in mainstream ones. Imboden agreed to answer some questions about FOJ when I re-encountered him as he was selling his comic at this year's Baltimore Comic Con.
Washington City Paper: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?
Mike Imboden: I am a writer.
WCP: When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?
WCP: Why are you in Washington now? What neighborhood or area do you live in?
MI: I'm actually roughly 50 miles North-ish up in Frederick County, Maryland. As much as I like large cities, I don't think I could live in one for too long. I enjoy the relative peace and quiet of rural Maryland too much.
WCP: What is your training and/or education in cartooning?
MI: Nothing official aside from some creative writing classes in college.
WCP:Who are your influences?
MI: No one in particular, honestly. My writing style has been compared to old "Bronze Age" Marvel comics, which is a compliment (I hope!). So I suppose on some level those old stories are the biggest influence on me.
WCP: If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?
MI: I'd be a bit more aggressive and more of a "go-getter." I sort of took my time and hoping for a bolt of lightening to strike. I realize now that that was a rather poor plan of action, so I've got some time and ground to make up.
WCP: What work are you best-known for?
WCP: You've written that long-running superhero comic for years. Can you describe the book, and your experiences in writing it, finding artists, and how you've kept it going?
MI: Fist of Justice was born from the fact that there just don't seem to be many superheroes who do the right thing because it's the right thing to do, anymore. I grew up reading Marvel comics starting in the mid-70s and comics weren't as steeped in politics and so forth. Maybe I'm more jaded or cynical now that I'm older, but it seems like it was more black and white back then. Of course, it could also just be a case of looking through the eyes of a child at that time, too.
Originally it was just an eight-page short for an anthology comic called Digital Webbing Presents. The look and feel of the character must have struck a chord with people because we got a lot of requests to see more Fist of Justice. He took over the lead spot in the anthology for a few issues before spinning out into his own title.
The hardest part about getting the book together and into people's hands was and is getting an artist who sticks around. It's not that they hate working on the book or anything—it's just that after doing an issue or two they seem to get snatched up by Image or Marvel and there's certainly no way we can compete with what those companies can pay.
We hit a rough patch a year and a half ago or so. Digital Webbing, the publisher, who also does the lettering and pre-press work on the book, had gotten a lot of lettering jobs through Marvel and since everyone has bills to pay, working on FoJ had to take a back seat. We've got about four issues in one step of the production process or another. Hopefully we can get something out soon and then wrap up the original storyline before too much longer. I think we're going to need to put out a special recap issue at this point before we do anything else.
WCP: What work are you most proud of?
MI: The last thing I wrote. That might sound a bit trite or cliche, but I honestly feel that way. That's not to say I think it's my BEST work, but I always have a sense of pride and accomplishment when I finish making that last pass over a script to check for errors and silly mistakes.
MI: I'd like a crack at Moon Knight. I've got an interesting idea in my head for that character.
WCP: What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?
MI: I watch a movie or play a video game to get my mind focused on one thing. I've found that helps to chase all of the distracting thoughts away that tend to cause the majority of any writer's block that I run into.
WCP: What do you think will be the future of your field?
MI: We're seeing it happen now. While I will always be a printed comic kind of guy, there's no denying or escaping the fact that single issue comics are heading toward, and soon will be, primarily a digital beast with printed collections being the norm. Build a wide audience via the digital format and then hope a sizable portion of those fans want the collected edition for future reading and a more detailed look at the artwork.
WCP: Why didn't you set up at the Small Press Expo this month? Have you ever been there? If so, can you share your impressions of it?
MI: The price to set up is a little out of my range and the usual crowd is not really into superheroes, which is what make up the majority of my credits so far. I do remember the first two expos way back in the mid to late '90s and it's certainly turned into a much larger and, for a lack of a better word, "official," type of show. Whether that is good or bad isn't my call to make. Maybe next year I'll have some stuff that will hold more of an appeal to the crowds that have made that show so successful.
WCP: Do you have a website or blog?
MI: I do, but because I am lazy and lead a relatively boring life, I don't update it too often. But for the record, it's www.imboden.org.