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Hello once again boys and girls!
Welcome to our third installment in our ALL NEW feature here on the Moonstone website:
Monthly interviews with some of our creators!

This month we have gifted writer Justin Gray stopping by! Justin Gray is writing the new -Vengeance of the MUMMY-
book for us here at Moonstone, which of course, we think is THE it book! You may remember his work on 21DOWN, MONOLITH, and our very own MR. KEEN.

Justin is the current writer of HAWKMAN!

Bio

Justin Gray
Justin has held various jobs including, fossil hunting, microphotography of 20 million year old insects and plants trapped in amber, seminars and exhibitions on the cleaning, mining and identification of said prehistoric insects for the American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian.
He traveled to the mountains of the Dominican Republic and mined amber.
Along with eccentric inventor Roy Larimer, Justin has delivered previously undiscovered species of insects to the curator of entomology at AMNH.
He also writes comic books and screenplays.

Lori G: Justin, you have written one of our favorite noir titles here at Moonstone, Mr. Keen, and now you are back at the ol’ Moon with your newest sizzling creation: Vengeance of the Mummy! So, please give our readers an overview of this hot new title.

JG: Joe approached me with the idea of taking on a classic monster and it just so happened that I’d been thinking about the Mummy and how I would remix the concept for a 21st century audience. As much as I loved the original and as good as the most recent remake was I still felt that the past weighed too heavily on the concept. I wanted the story to be modern and yet still retain the pulp atmosphere of the original.

Lori G: How did you conceive of the idea for “Vengeance of the Mummy”? Have you always been attracted to the “classic” monster prototype?

JG: Yes, the classic creations have always had a special place in my childhood memories. The concept of the Mummy I envisioned began with the signature bandages, the Egyptian idea of wrapping the dead in bandages as they prepared for the afterlife struck me as the right place to develop a new Mummy concept. The spin on that is to make the bandages the catalyst for the monster and still incorporate the aspect of lovers being separated by death.

Lori G: Your character in “V of the Mummy” is a breath of fresh air in this comic book medium that is filled with rather flat, one-dimensional female stereotypes. She has a strong personality and can kick some serious ass! In fact, you seem to be drawn to strong female characters; I recall another strong female you wrote about in 21 Down. What is that compels you to write these types of characters?

JG: I’ve always been attracted to strong women in my personal life and I suppose that carries over into what I write. Women are infinitely complex, at least to me they are. Trying to understand them takes a lot of work and even then you’ll never fully grasp the way they think or how they’ll react in a situation. Being male I feel men are far more predictable in most cases. There was a time when I was intimidated by the idea of writing from a female perspective and if I’m being completely honest I still am to some degree. That’s the challenge.

Lori G: Justin, tell us how you hooked up with the amazing Kalman Andrasofszky, cover artist on V of the Mummy and Zeu, the talented interior artist of Mummy?

JG: I was introduced to Kalman through Maureen McTigue who was editing a Vampirella/Witchblade crossover I’d been hired to write. I immediately wanted to work with him on something else. When the Mummy was coming together as a female character Kalman was the perfect fit. I met Zeu through Jimmy Palmiotti and we worked together on a graphic novel called Cloudburst. Zeu has a great eye for cinematography and absolutely loves drawing women as you can tell from his work in the Mummy. Both guys are extremely talented and deserving of wider recognition.

Lori G: Justin has made an excellent point here: Kalman AND Zeu have a lot of talent and it shows in this book! Just wait to you people see “Vengeance of the Mummy” #1, everyone involved in the book did a STELLAR job, top-notch all the way, and I am NOT just saying that, I believe it! I’ve included the covers to the first two issues here, and some of the interior art, so you can see what I’m talking about, I think you guys will agree. (Now, back to our regularly scheduled interview…)

Lori G: So, tell me Justin, is this your first “horror” comic? I know you write Hawkman for DC, and you wrote 21 Down for Wildstorm and Twilight Experiment for Wildstorm also. What else have you done for the comics medium? (Oh, I can’t forget MR. KEEN here at Moonstone, in fact, you can order it right here for a special price on the Moonstone site. Quite the undiscovered gem.)


JG: I tend to incorporate horrific elements into what I write on some level. Even Hawkman, which is primarily a straightforward superhero book, has touches of horror. You can see it in 21Down in dealing with possession, Mr. Keen has cannibalism, Cloudburst has monsters…I like using terror as a means of building tension. Naturally with the few Vampirella books I’ve written there is horror as well, but the term horror is not what it used to be in the early eighties. The mummy isn’t driven by horror in the classic or even marketed sense; it has a certain pulp fun to it that makes it less about inspiring dread and more about reinforcing the character development and visuals.

Lori G: I know you write a lot of your comics with your partner-in-crime, Jimmy Palmiotti. What is that like, writing with a partner? How did your partnership come about, have you always been pals?

JG: I met Jimmy through Joe Quesada back in 1997 when I was trying to break into the business of writing comics. There was always a comfortable atmosphere between us and we shared a lot of the same sensibilities when it comes to story construction. We’ve been friends since that initial meeting, although admittedly I’m not a very approachable person by nature so that tells you how outgoing and understanding Jimmy is. I guess the story is a funny one but we stayed in touch after I left Marvel Knights. One night I’m drinking and eating nachos in a Fridays and my cell phone rings. Jimmy asks me if I’d be interested in co-writing a comic with him for Wildstorm. That comic was 21Down.

Lori G: How is writing with a partner different that writing a comic book script on your own, like you have done for us lucky folks here at Moonstone?

JG: Stop flattering me dammit! Writing with a partner poses a different set of challenges and calls for an egoless atmosphere from which to develop ideas. For me it isn’t much of a problem since my ego is usually on vacation. When I work on my own material I tend to get a little crazier with the story and characters. When you work with someone else they have more than just a say in the story they put their reputation on the line. I have to respect that element of a partnership. When I work alone, I worry less about that and just throw my brain into the skillet and cook up whatever insane thing I can think of.

Lori G: As a writer, where and how do you find your inspiration?

JG: all over, everything, life in general.

Lori G: For example, did you do any “research” for “V of the Mummy”? Did you re-watch the recent movies or did you re-watch the classic movies, or was there something else you did to prepare, since you weren’t exactly looking to copy the old stories?

JG: What I researched was the scientific possibilities of the bandages, skin grafts and artificial skin used on burn victims.

Lori G:Have you always been a writer by profession?

JG: No, I was a chef for years, I worked for a fossil company, an art store, a liquor store, a fish processing company, a not for profit victims assistance program…I’ve had a lot of jobs.

Lori G: What is it about the funny book business that has drawn you in to this wonderful world? Have you always been a comic fan?

JG: I’ve always loved comics and at various times in my life I’ve wanted to write them, but I spent a number of years penning short stories, poetry and some really bad first novels.

Lori G: What other exiting projects do you have coming up, both comic book and non-comic book related? I know you are writing a new Jonah Hex series at DC, how did that come about? Have you always been a Hex fan?

JG: At this point in time I am extremely lucky in that I have a number of projects in the works. Aside from Vengeance of the Mummy I’m co-writing Jonah Hex, Hawkman and Daughters of the Dragon with Jimmy Palmiotti. I’ve always been a fan of westerns and Jonah Hex so that book is something of a dream come true. It also happens to be the most work, time and effort I’ve ever put into 22 pages. That’s not to say I don’t put 100% into everything I write, but Hex is a completely different kind of book based on the idea of telling a complete story in 22 pages.

Lori G: If you had ONE super power, what would it be and why?

JG: I have all the superpowers I need.

Lori G: You do? Do tell! I know, I know, we should all be happy with our god-given talents, blah, blah, blah…BUT there must be some power that would be cool to have, don’t ya think? I’m talking one of the classic “powers” that we see in comic books every day: flight, speed, super-intelligence, invisibility, super-strength, etc. Justin, you gotta work with me here!

JG: I’d like to have telekinesis/telepathy. The problem is I know I would use it for evil purposes, like trying to lure Natalie Portman and Keira Knightly into a threesome.

Lori G: What is your dream gig in the comic book industry? You know, have you always wanted to write….Batman, or Spidey or have you always dreamed of writing the “it” book of the moment?

JG: There are corporate characters that appeal to me but my goals have changed over the years. There are many characters I would enjoy the opportunity to write at both Marvel and DC, but I also enjoy the creative freedom of writing my own characters. I’ve been fortunate that the opportunity to do both has come my way.

Lori G: What is it with all you comic “professionals”? None of you guys want to come right out and SAY what you would LOVE to do! Come on, think back to when you were a teenager, and you were reading comic books,what character appealed to you the most and why? I mean, I know you have some damn fine gigs right now, but wouldn’t it be fun if DC or Marvel called you up and said: “hey, we want you to totally rework/revamp…”? Who would that character be for you?

JG: The reason I don’t like to say it publicly anymore is because I think it is rude especially if someone is already writing the character. It happened to me once, where a writer said he wished a company gave him Hawkman and it bothered me quite a bit. I decided not to do it to someone else. If Marvel or DC called me up, which hasn’t happened since the Hawkman gig came along two years ago, then it would be a different story. I’m competitive but I’m not going to say what books I want to write or even consider taking work away from someone.

Lori G: I see where you’re coming from, and again that is very noble of you.  Out of respect for you thoughts on this matter, I will leave well enough alone.(So, you are getting off easy this time, mister!)

Lori G: Have you aspired to be #1 on Wizard’s list of top ten writers, are you content to just “do your thang”? Come on Justin, curious readers NEED to know the answers to these questions!

JG: I have never aspired to be anything other than the best writer I can be. I don’t have an interest in winning awards or topping any lists. To be painfully honest I rarely agree with any kind of award presentation in film, music and so on. The judging of work is so subjective and prone to political nonsense, trends and a million other things. I’m perfectly content in not being famous as long as I still have the opportunity to write and support myself. Of course the problem is that entertainment media favors branding and unfortunately comics have adopted the same policy.

Lori G: Justin, I couldn’t agree with you more,I think it is VERY unfortunate that comics have adopted the whole idea of “branding”, and I think it is very noble of you to take the high road as far as fame goes. For that very reason, we hope you DO become the #1 Wizard writer! Thanks SO much for taking the time to give our readers a little insight into one our favorite writers here at Moonstone!

Honestly, we would like to see ALL of the fine folks that have worked with us over the years to get the recognition they deserve, damn it!  We think that every one of our freelance artists and writers are just AMAZING, and hopefully all of YOU out there, will agree, especially after reading these interviews.I hope to get to as many of our creators as possible in the coming months, so check back once a month to see who I managed to convince to take some time out to answer my thought-provoking questions.

And YOU, loyal readers, you need to order a copy of Vengeance of the Mummy #1 and #2 from your local comic book store NOW! #1 will be shipping at the end of September and #2 will be shipping in October, so get on that. And, don’t forget, you can always order direct from our website here too! Justin’s other title for Moonstone is “Mr. Keen” and that is available RIGHT now for a very special price; check out our “shopping cart” section for pricing, and we ship ANYWHERE!

Until next time,

Moonstone Gal…out!

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Friday, December 19, 2014
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