Recently, Douglas met up with Jonathan Hodges – the founder, publisher, and editor in chief of Cleveland Heights-based Bad Place Productions for an interview and took a walk through the crowds at this year’s Motor City Comic Con, which is a yearly comic book convention held just outside Detroit, Michigan. This year Jon is showcasing several books published under his Bad Place moniker including one that he writes himself called “The Invisible World”, which is a tale about twp pioneer brothers in the 1840’s who happen to own a very interesting book. One brother is a scientist and the other is a priest, and they may need both of their very different minds to unlock the powers in the book. While walking past lines of fans awaiting autographs from Eric Estrada, Billy Dee Williams, and even Cleveland-based Movie Director Ted Sikora, Douglas had the chance to ask Jon a few questions about his life as a writer, editor, salesman, founder, boss, and this is what he had to say:
Douglas: Tell us your name and what you do?
Jonathan Hodges: My name is Jonathan Hodges and I am the founder, publisher, and editor in chief of Bad Place Productions. I am also the writer of one of our books, The Invisible World.
D.E.: How and why did you start Bad Place Productions?
J.H.: Well we originally started with Invisible World. I started to write it and a couple of folks said they thought it would make a cool comic book. So we thought “what the hell, let’s give it a shot”. We went out to a couple of shows and we found Dave Watt, and he came on board to do the artwork. Once we had him on board we decided to do an anthology book called SAFEWORDS. The main goal of that was to spread the word on the folks that helped us get The Invisible World out, help them get some of their work out and things have kind of snow balled from there. The piece that Dave Watt did for it about “WOODBOY” has turned into it’s own series, and Paul Schultz who we had met at a lot of shows was developing his own idea for “SERIAL SQUAD”, and we decided to publish that which we were really glad to do.
D.E.: What are some of the comics you grew up with and what are some of the comics you still read today?
J.H.: Growing up I was a big fan of the Harvey comics, Casper The Ghost, Hot Stuff, Spooky, and I still have all of them. Most don’t have covers anymore but, you know, I still got them. The first “hero” books I got into were the team books like The New Teen Titans, X-MEN, and I had a subscription to those back when they actually sent them to you in the mail with the plain brown wrapper. Really though I would read just about anything, I had a fairly sizable collection even when I was young. The stuff I read today is updated versions of what I was reading then. I still am reading the Teen Titans book. I also have a lot of historical books set in World War II and of course several indie books like the Misadventures of Clark and Jefferson.
D.E.: You mentioned Dave Watt earlier and that you met him out at a few comic book shows and of course now you work with him on The Invisible World and published his WOODBOY comic. What is the best part about working with Dave Watt?
J.H.: Dave and I seem to be on the same wavelength. We really have been since day one. I saw his portfolio at the Pittsburgh show, he is actually from Monroeville, and I flipped through his portfolio and he already had WOODBOY in it. I really liked the way he told a story, and enjoyed his panel layout. When we first sat down with The Invisible World it was just written out narrative style and we said take it, read it, and work with it a bit and when we saw how he had broken the pages down we pretty much cut him loose. I’d shoot him the narratives and he would work on the panels, and we had to tweak it very little. We seem to tell stories very similarly, he is really easy to work with and with all he brings to the table he really has had a lot to do with telling the story. Not just in his individual panels, but also in the way he flows the story and fleshes out the characters.
D.E.: In the first issue of The Invisible World we are shown a brief glimpse into a very large world and are told the start to a very big tale. The story takes place in the 1840’s and we meet two brothers in possession of an ancient book who also seem tied in with a mysterious murderous monster. Where did the story come from and where do you see it headed in the future?
J.H.: It is actually the back story to a piece I was working on which takes place at a college campus in present times and I was having a hard time trying to figure out how to tell the back story and give the right clues and information and finally I just said I would write out that story because it started to take on a life of it’s own. So that’s really where it started. I am planning on this part of the story being 4 issues, but may end up being a couple more if needed. And when that’s done it will jump to present times and all that happens will be affected by the story from the 1840’s.
D.E.: You try and keep busy and hit up as many comic book conventions as you can. How do you not only get a complete stranger’s attention at a show but also, in just a few brief seconds, sell them on your books as opposed to all the rest of the comics out there?
J.H.: Well I don’t see it as a tough sell because I am confident that our stuff is good, and I think that people get a lot for their money from us. We put not only a lot of effort in the quality of writing and the art, but also in the production quality of the books. We don’t want people feeling cheated when they pick up our books. The other thing is at a comic book convention the people are their ’cause they want to be exposed to new things, of course you may be there to find a few things, but you know that you’re going to see books that you won’t find at your local comic book store. So when someone comes up to the booth I already know they are looking for something new I just need to show them this is what they are looking for.
D.E.: What’s one thing you love about the comic book industry? What is one thing you hate about it?
J.H.: Well I love how easy it is to get involved in the industry at least on an independent level, but I’m not too crazy at how difficult it is to be successful at it. There seem to be several roadblocks along the way. One of which is it is very difficult to get distribution and get your product out to a wider audience. The Internet has come along and made some things easier and some things a lot harder. There’s so many people out there that it is tough to be heard, and to stand out from all these books coming out. And I guess that’s kind of the same struggle that independents have always been going through.
D.E.: What are your goals for Bad Place Productions in 2008?
J.H.: We are hoping to get our books onto more shelves and in more stores. We have a few stores in West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and we even just added a store in Texas to carry our books. We are doing a lot of shows, as we have always done a lot of shows, but we want to get our books onto some more shelves and retail shops.
D.E.: We are introduced to a very unique character in Woodboy issue one. Is this a one-shot or might this be an ongoing series?
J.H.: I am hoping it will be an ongoing title. Dave is pretty busy with his band (www.myspace.com/girlfightband) plus the workload I am putting on him for The Invisible World 2 and work for SAFEWORDS 2 so, though I know he has an idea for WOODBOY 2, I also know he is busy. His band was recently signed and will be going into the studio so it’s a struggle for his time.
D.E.: Well I want to read it so tell him to take his blank pages with him to the studio!
J.H.: Well yeah and he does that; Dave is constantly drawing whether in the studio or even at restaurants he is always doodling. Anywhere he is, he is drawing something.
D.E.: What is one comic you think everyone should be required to read?
J.H.: Hmm, that is a tough one. For older comics I would say go out and pick up an issue of a Curt Swan Superman from the late 70’s. That’s what really got me into superhero comics. Of course the early George Perez Teen Titans was a great showcase on how to do a team book – the book had a lot of characterization, but also had a lot of action. Those books had a lot of things that I think get lost in comics today. The newer books are expected to be so flashy and action driven, and I look at a lot of comics today and I don’t see much story going on. It takes 4 or 5 issues to feel like you have read any kind of story line.
D.E.: What’s next from Bad Place Productions?
J.H.: Well Paul is working on the second 48 page issue for The Serial Squad, though it may turn into two 48 page issues because he keeps expanding it and it just may turn into a serial. We are working on The Invisible World 2 and on Safe Words 2 for 2008 I am hoping – although we are working on a few cool things that if it means we have to wait until 2009 we will. We have a horror writer who has given us the rights to adapt one of his short stories into a comic. I will just hint at that, but I won’t say anymore right now. We have heard that the same short story has been optioned for adaptation as a movie so we are hoping to release our book around the same time as that is released. We also have a fairly well known guy who has done some mainstream and bigger indie books that may do the cover, which will be fun. Paul is also working on another secret project with another writer that we hope will see the light of day later this year so we do have a lot happening right now.
D.E.: What’s the best way to reach you guys at Bad Place Productions?
J.H.: The website is the easiest way it’s www.badplaceproductions.com – we try and update about every two weeks with any news, if we will be at any shows, reviews, and what we have coming out. All of our merch is available on our site through Paypal, or if you want to pay another way just shoot me an email and we can work it out.
D.E.: Finally, how do you think the Browns will do next year?
J.H.: I’m hoping they will do well. I will guardedly say that they might make it to the playoffs.
D.E.: I think it comes with the territory of living in Cleveland that you always want to be guarded when talking about sports.
J.H.: Yeah, stay positive, but always guarded. We have enough jinxes; Cleveland definitely doesn’t need any more jinxes. So quietly we will say that they should do well and hope that it all works out.