I had the honor of interviewing Zen comics creator and storyboard graphics founder Stephen L stern-
Me: So my first question is, for those that aren’t familiar with you, tell us some about you and your company
SS: I’m the writer/creator of the indie comic-book Zen: Intergalactic Ninja that was first published in 1987. Zen spawned two videogames, a line of action figures, and numerous other licensed products, and has since sold over 3 million comics. Our newest issue, now published by Devil’s Due/First Comics, is Zen: Hard Bounty #1, the first in a six-issue miniseries, that will arrive in comics shops in October. Devil’s Due/1First Comics is my exclusive publisher at the moment.
In 2011, I founded Storyboard Graphic Novels, which adapts screenplays into comics and graphic novels for screenwriters, producers, directors and actors.
Me: Awesome!, what is zen about?, and which projects has storyboard graphic got to work on?
SS: Zen was created in a test-tube, as part of a genetic experiment, but when the experiment was deemed a failure, he was to have been disposed of. However, a kindly female scientist realized he was very much alive, and jettisoned him into space in a waste pod. Fate brought the pod into the gravitational pull of the planet OM, where Zen was raised by the fabled mystic masters. He eventually became their greatest acolyte, and when he reached maturity, they presented him with a gleaming Hypership, so that he could return to space to find his true destiny. Thus far, his destiny has been to be a bounty-hunter, a mercenary, and a soldier-of-fortune.
Storyboard Graphic Novels has produced any number of comics series and graphic novels for our clients. They range from sci-fi and horror books to comedies, as well as superhero books. Many of our clients self-publish their books on Amazon…examples would be the GN’s Monkey Room and Eons, both by Louis Rosenberg, and the GN Eli, by Adrian Fuller. Readers can ‘Look Inside’ all of those books.
Me: Awesome!, and that’s been going on for almost 30 years in various incarnations?, there ever going to be a movie?, and for your company, you’ve adapted movies, such as Beowulf?
SS: Yes, Zen’s been around since 1987, first as a self-published book, then published by Archie Comics, to tie in with our videogames and action figures, and then by an independent publisher called Entity Comics. As I mentioned, we’re now published by Devil’s Due/1First Comics. Interesting that you ask about a possible Zen movie. There is some movement in that regard, but I’m not at liberty to talk about it as yet. Stay tuned!
The Beowulf GN was written by me and published by a leading British GN house called Markosia. The book had no relationship to the movie, other than that both were based upon the epic poem. Markosia also published my A Christmas Carol GN. Neither of these books were a Storyboard project.
Me: You’ll definitely have to let me know ASAP!, lol, what are your current/upcoming projects?
SS: Storyboard is currently working on several comic and GN projects for our clients.
On the personal side, I have two new books in addition to Zen. One of them is Frickin’ Butt-Kickin’ Zombie Ants, and the other is Serving Supes. Details on both books are available at the 1firstcomics.com website.
I also have a graphic novel coming out in 2016 called Majestic Comics. It’s a largely-autobiographical, 160-page GN about the inside workings of the comic-book industry.
Me: Definitely alot going on!, and your site offers help with publishing?, through first comics?
SS: Storyboard’s primary mandate is to create comics and graphic novels for our clients. We do offer suggestions as to publishing, and I personally have the option of presenting promising projects to my publisher.
Me: What excites you about a project?,
and how do you choose what you want to present for publishing?,
SS: Those projects that I personally feel would be a good fit with my publisher, I present to them for their consideration. We have a confidentiality clause in all of our contracts, so I won’t go so far as to indicate which projects I may have pitched to my publisher, and what ultimately happened with them…that’s a very small part of what we do, anyway.
What excites me personally about a project is a unique voice, in terms of the writing, and a great visual style. What constitutes these qualities is strictly a matter of what appeals to my particular set of sensibilities.
Me: The main part being storyboarding graphics for them?, and that’s separate from your own books?
SS: The first step in the process is, we write a graphic novel or comic-book script adaptation of the screenplay, which then is penciled. The client has complete approval of the book at all steps in the process…he/she approves the script adaptation, the pencils, and then the inks. If the book is in color, the next step is colorization, and the final step is lettering.(4-5 steps)script adaptation, pencils, inks, colors(If needed)and letters.
Me: So I heard you were on the daily show back in the show, tell us some about that
SS: We had pulled a fun publicity stunt back in 1999, conducting a boycott of the sitcom Third Rock From the Sun for portraying ET’s as essentially morons. The Daily Show picked up on it and interviewed me. Reporter Nancy Walls (who later married Steve Carrell) came with the crew to the apartment complex I was living in at the time in Studio City and taped the interview there.
Me: Nice publicity stunt!, thank you so much for this interview!
SS: My pleasure, Bryan!