EXCLUSIVE: General Manager For Double Take Comics Bill Jemas Talks NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, Marvel & More

<span style="color:red">EXCLUSIVE:</span> General Manager For Double Take Comics Bill Jemas Talks NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, Marvel & More

Bill Jemas is the former president of Marvel Comics. In his latest venture as the GM for Double Take Comics, Bill has found the cure for the dearth of talent in the comic book world - Moth Storytellers.

 A man who is ahead of the curve, he led Marvel during its dramatic turnaround in the late 90's and early 2000's  - launching the likes of Ultimate Spider-Man and X-Men, Black Captain America, Wolverine Origins, Spider-Man at Ground Zero and much more. Even while launching all of these groundbreaking books, Bill always lamented the lack of writing talent in the comic book industry.

Bill and his wife are huge fans of the Moth and have spent countless hours listening to slams on NPR. In a case of incorporating what you love in your work, the first books that Double Take has published are 10 comics based in the Night of the Living Dead Universe. The books not only utilize Moth Storytellers as some of the writers, but actual Moth stories are incorporated throughout the books. It is an all-new comic book style. 

CBM: Can you tell us about Moth Storytellers, and How it has influenced your work?

Bill: It really got us of the ground we have a good in house staff of editors and layout artist and storytellers and most of us think in textures and are pretty good at plots. We were stuck on dialogue and we bring in screenwriters, playwrights and comic book writers to write dialogue at least enough to get the reader engaged into the story. For the most part the stuff was just horrible we typed the back story in the secrets of the universe into a creative way for the writer and they would find a way to type all the back story into dialogue. You want reveal the secret of the universe over time and you want to define characters by what they do and the writers are just constantly writing the characters attributes in the dialogue. Your typical screenwriter and playwright comic write, writers in all the those fields are pretty crappy which is why so many movies and tv shows are crappy. We were stuck we spent 8 miserable months not making any comments looking at pretty pictures on the walls and on our computers and mock up books and we just didn’t have the soundtrack to go with it. There is about half of us in the office that are big  into oral stories,  fans like the Moth Story hour and stories like that,  that are on the radio , we felt that if we found a good way to integrate those stories and with comics we can get some traction that the reader could see visually, and  that is interesting to  hear a story that they would want to hear the rest of, and not feel like we were jamming back story into word balloons. The first times we did it it was surprisingly good and we feel we are getting better and better at it as we do more. So I would say that the oral stories took us from not being a comic book publisher to being a comic book publisher so we are very pleased with the way that that worked out.

CBM: Do The Moth StoryTellers tell true stories?

I wonder, I can tell that there is tremendous heart and soul and I even imagine that the writers would pass a lie detector test that it actually happened but the more you understand eye witness testimony and the difference between stories that people actually think are true. When I talk to my friends about old days at marvel we all have different stories.  I think that there is a good faith intent to actually make the story true, but there are certain points where I scratch my head.

CBM: What made you want to do night of The Night Of The Living Dead?

Bill: We had a miserable first 8 months.  The first problem was the dialogue was coming out crappy and the second was that it’s not that hard to find a freelance writer to write about a character they have grown up with and has loved since they were a kid, they can put they’re heart and soul into it. When you are starting from scratch and you ask a writer to put their heart and soul into something that they are not going to own or control it is very very hard to do, and you don’t get first hand work.  When our senior editor noticed that Night Of The Living Dead was in public domain we started to make calls. Night Of The Living Dead  has a good following that it was easy to get people on board that would put there heat and soul into it. It was just a wonderful  happy accident  I think we would have been ok without it but it got thing going faster.

CBM: What was the decision to release all ten issues at once?

Bill: It felt right, and I am a victim of this there is this wonderful Netflix phenomenon of bing watching so this is bing reading. Each of the comic books alone is pretty good but together its gets real good , we knew that reading the books together you get a better seen of the universe. We also felt that retailers would not be able to open ten slots for each book this way the only have to open one. We were all happily surprised to see how fast they were going. Now I think we got good solid readers from selling the ten packs.

CBM: You were at Marvel for one of the most important and yet tumultuous times in their history – from that experience, what do you bring to Double Take?

Bill: We developed a trade craft that worked really well for creating stories that hit two demos that were hard to hit with the same stone. We wanted and needed to reach  teen readers because we had lost a generation of teens. Comic books went from every cornor shop and kids had piles of them, to virtually no teenagers reading comic books and certainly not buying them. We needed to get that audience back by publishing good teen stuff into the adult market. That meant we needed to tell stories that still was traditional enough and still had the classic back story that appealed to the old time readers and also appeal to teens. We developed this ultimate story telling style. Lots of thing happening in real time, and lots of things that we visually interesting to read, and dialogue that was not back story heavy and was very interesting to read in itself, which usually is very funny.
 I brought that trade craft here but honestly I didn’t really know how to make comics I had written a bunch of plots .I complained about a bunch of comics I torn up a lot of pages. The difference between being the president of the company that writes a plot occasionally and being the GM who has to get books out the door is night and day difference. As much as the Marvel experience was great and learning how to speak to and market to teens that was all fun. All the stuff we do here at double take I learn here on the job
CBM: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?

Bill: I would like people to know that you can read for free the first 2 issues of the ten on doubletakeuniverse.com
We also have a format were you can read them on your phone , and that is unique in the industry we wanted to adapt our digital publishing to peoples lifestyles, you just have more time with your phone in your hand then you do in front of your computer screen.

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