A few years ago, while I was the 2012 San Diego Comic Con, I picked up a book from the Top Shelf Books Booth called Wizzywig. While I was there, I talked to the creator, Ed Piskor. Ed was a great guy and when I got back to the hotel room, I read his book from cover to cover. Since then I followed his work to Hip Hop Family Tree and even tracked down his previous collaborations with Harvey Pekar, Macedonia and The Beats. His latest work is X-Men: Grand Design which he writes, illustrates, colors, and letters. I had the opportunity to speak with Ed about this cool new project. This conversation took place two days after Christmas, December 27, 2017.
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FOG!: Hi Ed! Thank you for talking with us today here at Forces of Geek! The first question is, what was the impetus and inspiration for this project?
Ed Piskor: In a lot of ways it’s because Axel Alonso called a bluff of mine. I put a tweet out there into the ether. I just simply said in that tweet “Why don’t you let me make whatever kind of X-Men comic I want.”
Axel responded, “Well why don’t you pitch something, goddammit!”
And I couldn’t refuse. If this is the only Marvel thing I ever do, then I want to draw all of it. All of X-Men. I said, let me take this whole convoluted history and try to make a story out of it. Make a story with an honest to goodness beginning, middle, and an ending. And that is what I am trying to accomplish with X-Men: Grand Design.
That’s great. How long is it projected from start to finish to get this project done?
Well, the first issue that came out last week, I finished a year and a half ago.
You see, it takes me six months to do an issue. This is one of the only Marvel Comics in history all done by a single person. Penciling, inking, lettering, coloring. Every line you see on the page is me. That and trying to put the history in a cohesive order takes a lot of time. So the last couple of issues you won’t see for a bit.
What’s going to happen is, issue number two comes out next week (today, January 3, 2018). Then there’s going to be a trade paperback in April.
And then in the summer, there will be another wave of two issues. That wave will be called X-Men Grand Design: Second Genesis.
And that’s going to be the primo stuff with Wolverine and the Dark Phoenix Saga and all of that stuff.
There’s going to be the Dark Phoenix movie coming out at the end of the year and that’s when the second trade is going to come out.
Wow, that’s perfect timing for you!
(laughing) Totally, man! I’m fortunate. There’s also going to be a third wave coming out in 2019. I’m not sure when that will be.
I heard that you are taking the X-Men history in this series up to issue 300 if I am not mistaken?
I think I’m going to about issue 280? I might not even get that far. It will be most of the Claremont stuff.
Yeah, that’s about when I quit reading X-Men as a teenager. Once we got past the X-Tinction Agenda, which I liked as a kid, it started going downhill for me. A few issues after that, I said: “At this point I’m done. I’m tapping out.”
(laughing) It’s very funny because I was in third grade when X-tinction Agenda came out. And that was like primo stuff to me then. I still have those issues. I was eight years old.
(laughing) I do, too. I loved Brandon Peterson on it.
Yeah, man. When Scott Lobdell and those other guys took over from Claremont? I jacked out almost immediately. The tone and difference between Claremont’s writing and theirs was so drastic that it was very easy to pull the ripcord and say “Yup. I’m done with that. Let me see what else is out there.”
I think we left the X-Men at the same time with the same set of emotions! (laughing) I think a lot of us reading comics at that time felt the same thing and decided to over and try Image at that point.
Because of the X-books, I was a Jim Lee fan. I was a Rob Liefeld fan. So when they split, I split. I went right along with them.
I read an interview with you from a few years back, that I believe you said that reading Image books opened up the door to other independent books as well?
Yeah, my interests in comics are a little different than the current comics interests of fans of the Big Two. I like to see a fully realized vision created by a single person. That’s what I like. Those are the kinds of comics that I read. Give me a Dan Clowes comic over any of the nonsense that the Big Two publishes on any given day.
You mentioning Dan Clowes. I’ve read as far back as your collaborations with Harvey Pekar. You started off before that with a self published comic. Is there anything like that in the future? I do think that all of your comics are personal. Hip Hop Family Tree and Wizzywig are. But is there an Ed Piskor comic in the future akin to something that somebody like Joe Matt does? or Seth? Or Chester Brown?
Yes, perhaps. At this very moment, I want to stick to landing with this X-Men comic. It’s at the front of my thoughts completely. Seven days a week. Man, I have dreams about this comic. I think it’s the only way to make good comics.
I think you have to fully immerse yourself. I have a lot of friends who are good artists and good writers. But they’re not necessarily fully invested and the results are as such. I really want to make something great and I don’t want to dilute my thoughts with what comes next…just yet.
You just focus on what’s in front of you. Good for you. I wish more creators were like that in the field.
I do too. I find it to be a dubious proposition when you’re doing five monthly books or something.
So I see that you colored the original X-Men #1. I just saw it and it’s amazing.
Yeah, that’s for the trade paperback.
For my money, it’s going to the best color Kirby reprint in the history of comics. I think that a lot of readers don’t necessarily pay attention to it. I hate most of the Kirby color reprints sort of with a passion. It just feels like it’s kind of slapped together. No consideration for the presentation.
So, this is what happens when somebody actually gives a crap! (laughter)
Yeah, you see the color in all of those reprints and you can’t help but feel that way. Even those Marvel Masterworks. So, I guess this is what happens when somebody puts love into it.
Yeah. I’m just trying to restore the Kirby in Kirby when it comes to that stuff. You can’t put computer bells and whistles on top of Kirby and retain, his magic.
If you remember, way back, for a couple of months in old Marvel, the little corner box said “”Pop Art Comics.” That’s what the art was built for. The four color process. To be honest, I’m just trying to make the color as good as the initial issue. You know for readers, it came out in 1963 and like them, I don’t have access to that original anymore. You know, that thing costs 50 thousand dollars or something. So people can actually read it here in this format and it’s accessible.
I haven’t picked up an X-Men comic in years. In reading this, it all came rushing back to me how exciting it was. Even from the very beginning. Switching gears, let’s talk about Hip Hop Family Tree. Any more of those coming out? Any news about the animated series?
There’s nothing much to say about the animated series right now. One thing I can say, is that I am really happy I didn’t sell it to Russell Simmons. (chuckles) He has a lot of stuff he’s dealing with right now. It would have been a bad look.
In terms of the Hip Hop Family Tree comic, yeah, it could very well be my life’s work. I do have a lot of other ideas besides it. X-Men is my focus right now. Over the course of this year, I might just die a horrible death, so I can’t predict what may happen.
I remember hearing you say you wanted to take it as far as Tupac? Or Wu Tang Clan?
You know, If I was blessed with eternal life or something, it would be a forty volume series.
Yeah, eternal life and an extra 8 hours added on to each day.
That’s it right there, man.
So, I’ll start wrapping this up. But first: What are your guilty pleasures? When you’re done looking are X-Men all day, what do you do to relax? Something that nobody would expect?
(laughing) So, it’s funny, so first off I absolutely do not believe in guilty pleasures. I indulge in everything!(laughing) If I’m into it, I’m into it. But I will say, and I’m not trying to sound crazy, but there’s very little relaxation. I work on this thing from day to night and every single night I absolutely earn my bedtime. You know what I’m saying? Like when I hit the sheets man, I die. I literally cannot do or accomplish another thing for that day. All creative capital is spent. And maybe I’ll watch a half hour of something on Netflix. That’s it, man. I’m fully invested. I’ve sacrificed my social life for this thing. I sacrificed a whole lot to try to make this X-Men comic the best that it can be.
Is that why you stopped doing the mini comics for Image Plus Magazine?
Yes. I only did three of them. And they would certainly be happy to have me do more. I just got into this space of completely getting obsessive with this X-Men comic. So I’m not really doing anything else. Everything else had to be put to the side. I could do 1000 pages of the Image Plus style comics because I do have a lot to say about the value of Image Comics and the Image founding fathers. And maybe that will be the thing that I do next, you know? Maybe I’ll do Batman next. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll do Spider-Man next.
But right now I’m just focused on this one thing.
Very cool. Anything else you would like to let our readers know?
Well this thing is an enormous investment of time. It was created inside a vacuum. I had no idea what the response would be. But when it hit shelves, it absolutely let me know that the fans are into it and excited about it. For that, I’m very grateful.
Well, I’m a forty year old man. You made me feel like I was 13 again. (laughing) Thank you again for doing what you do.
Thank you, man. Thanks for helping spread the word.
X-Men: Grand Design #1 & #2 by Ed Piskor
are available now from Marvel Comics!