- Monte Nero, writer
- Death Sentence (Titan)
- The X-Men (Marvel)
- The Hulk (Marvel)
- Frenemies (available now through Kickstarter!)
With a Kickstarter campaign rolling to a close within the next few days, I had the chance to talk to comic writer Monty Nero about some things, in particular his new sci fi action outing titled Frenemies. I had questions, he had answers. We did a thing. So instead of listening to me talk about it, let’s just get on with it, yeah?
thePullbox: There seems to really be a lot going on in Frenemies, much of it even before we’ve had the chance to flip to the first page. A group of people who have the look of a party from World of Warcraft and act like a class on a high school field trip appear on a frozen world in front of a huge unidentified structure. Chaos ensues. Backed into a corner… or maybe more appropriately an elevator, what would be your immediate “elevator pitch”? What kind of story summary would you give to someone by way of encouragement to pick up your book?
Monty Nero: It’s about seven rivals trying to locate a missing planet before it destroys the solar system.
thePullbox: In the preview I’ve seen, this group of characters seems to be pretty much all over the board. There’s a lot of yelling, an outbreak of selfie taking, and mass panic when they’re attacked by a horde of fur clad barbarians. What can you tell us about this eclectic group of people? Maybe most importantly, who’s Teddy?
Monty Nero: Teddy is Carlton’s son. Carlton is an astrophysicist leading the team. His son disintegrated in 1992 so all his research positing a universe hidden within our own is inspired by that. All our characters have an arc and distinct voices so it’s fun to drop them into this intense situation – a 3 way space battle – and watch them react.
thePullbox: I love stories that don’t feed the reader every piece of information right away. Based on that bit of Carlton’s history, it looks like Frenemies is going to be right in that ballpark. Do you have whole notebooks filled with similar backstories on every character? How long will readers wait to see your world filled in?
Monty Nero: Not long. I’ve got it all worked out. But it’s a drip drip of revelations. Plenty to keep you interested, but not so much it gets annoying.
thePullbox: The most impressive character introduced in these preview pages is the mysterious, ruthless, & incredibly polite Marchioness. She lays waste to the barbarian horde, all the while preaching the benefits of manners & etiquette. What can you tell us about her?
Monty Nero: She’s amazing. Every pulp sci-fi needs a charismatic villain and she nails it. The cloak and the tendrils crossed with the hi-tech battle suit make for a formidable opponent. The tendrils have talons at the end with a mouth in the palm too which is disgusting. She’s terrifying in combat wielding six laser swords but also her interrogation techniques are extremely disturbing.
thePullbox: There’s a pretty impressive list of titles and accomplishments you’ve got under your belt as a writer and worked with multiple publishers. As a writer who’s already written for a high-profile A-List title (X-Men), as well as your own very well received original (Death Sentence), what’s an existing property that you’d love to be able to write for, and how would you do it different from what’s already been done?
Monty Nero: I’d do it all differently. So many of the big titles are stuck with themes and tropes that are irrelevant to this post-Covid world . They can’t move forward as characters due to the weight of their chronology. I tend to reflect the real world, real attitudes, real humour, behaviour in my work – usually exploring that through some intriguing and fantastical central dilemma. With the big characters the clue is always in the early issues, which are always significanltly different to how people imagine them now. Superman, Spider-man, Hulk. I like writing women too – She-Hulk should be an action packed expression of feminine rage, for instance. But no one has the swagger to take that on. They’re all too timid.
thePullbox: Okay, so there’s a new spin on She-Hulk (and kind of a badass perpetually relevant take at that). On the subject of where the big name publishers seem to be bogged down in continuity, it sounds like there’s also a tendency to play it safe. Do you think that the larger the publisher, the deeper the continuity, the more cumbersome the creative weight? With this foray into crowd funded books and taking a step away from higher profile work, do you see indie publishing as a logical step for creators?
Monty Nero: There are a couple of writers that integrate years of continuity skilfully, and when you do it cleverly it can be delicious, but it’s often still a drag on the story. Exposition becomes burdensome, people contort themselves to explain how a) reconciles with b) and c) and so on. It alienates new readers, stifles new stories. But there’s no need why it should. It’s easy to write established characters so they’re immediately accessible and still true to their conception, their history – AND do exciting new things. There’s no need to look back constantly It’s just bad scripts, generally, that’s the problem.
I think people should create what they’re passionate about and get paid properly. I pay everyone I commission handsomely, and our sales make that possible. Unfortunately, while there are some great indie publishers a lot of publishers don’t do that. But there are so many other options now. Whatever works for creators is good, so they can make a decent living. No one’s path is identical.
thePullbox: How might some of those bigger titles get to where they could benefit from some creative elbow room? Are line-wide reboots the answer, or do you think it could be done within the current storylines?
Monty Nero: Within the titles. It should all work within the parameters of the universe, but that’s among the first problem a good writer solves. That’s in the pitch. Just hire great people telling fresh stories and trust their vision. You can reset a title in one page, or you can spend issues just shifting pieces around into a new formation while keeping readers gripped. Both can work, if you’re a good storyteller. Line wide resets, that’s often been marketing driving creatives. Writers and artists should always drive marketing. The huskies lead the sledge, y’know? If a great idea derives from story, from character, then embrace it and figure out how to build on it and sell it.
And there we go… A big ol’ thank you to Monty for taking a breath while he’s no doubt busy in the final stretch of the Frenemies Kickstarter. Also, a big ol’ congratulations, as they’ve hit their funding target pretty handily. Take a look over at the campaign page, as there are still a couple days to get on board.
Stay healthy, folks!– Paul