The AsiaPOP Comicon Manila 2016 Press Conference was held at the Conrad Hotel on August 24, 2016. The guests gracing the media community were all artists in their own right, namely: Whilce Portacio, Mike Zeck, Ken Lashley, Devil Robots, and Alodia Gosiengfiao.
Our media correspondent, Mark, spent a brief time with Canadian comic book artist, Ken Lashley. He carries with him an extensive portfolio of over 300 comic books done in both DC (Superman, Action Comics, The Flash to name a few), and Marvel Comics (X-Men, Exiles, Deadpool, and Black Panther). He’s currently affiliated with Marvel as the penciller for the post-Secret Wars run of Uncanny X-Men led by Magneto. Here’s how the conversation went.
Mark (OTK): First question off the bat: how do you feel about all these retcons? All these big events, has a means for these big comic book companies, to do things with these characters. I mean is this the best way, is this a necessary evil? Is this the best way to evolve these characters? Especially with Rebirth and Marvel now?
Ken Lashley: The problem with comic book is it’s almost like it’s not accessible to people who are buying comics today like, so you’re gonna buy a book so the number’s 750. And you realize, “Aw, I gotta buy 750 issues to get caught up? That’s impossible. I can’t do that.” Why would you want to do that? So Rebirth, and re-branding and starting from zero, gives access to new readers who are saying “Oh okay. I can start here. And that’s good for me.”
It also gives guys who are older who said “Oh I’ve had enough of this stuff.” So it works for two reasons. And also, if you’re also very respectful of the source material, I think that’s what you are responding to. “Oh Rebirth is awesome because it reminds me of blah-blah-blah.” And “it’s about blah-blah-blah.” And new readers go “I don’t know anything about blah-blah-blah but I like this new idea.” And I think that’s what works the best, and I think the more people have eyes to it, the more people that are looking at it, the more people are interested in it, the better it is for everybody is for comic books. I work at Marvel now, and the (DC) Rebirth stuff is going so well, and good for them. So I enjoy it. I enjoy all kinds of comic books. I enjoy the competitors, I love all the interplay, because when Marvel does their Inhumans thing that’s gonna sell. It’s exciting! It’s an exciting time to be in comics.
OTK: Yes! I always look forward to Wednesdays!
Ken: Wednesdays are awesome! I love it! And it’s also good for me. People laugh when I tell them this, but it’s true. I don’t wanna see my book in production while it’s being made. I don’t wanna see colors, I don’t wanna see a letter. I just wanna go to the store on Wednesday, and buy my book, and go through the pages and see what they did with it. Like anybody else.
OTK: And that sense of surprise.
Ken: Yeah! “Oh that’s cool! Oh that’s wicked! Oh that’s cool!” Because if you see it along the way, it ruins the experience of going on Wednesday and buying my book and opening it up, you know I love that. So I never see my work. And funny, Marvel and DC they always say, “Hey Ken! We sent you the colors!” and I’ll just go “I am not gonna look at them.” And they’re like “Why?” and I just “I wanna go and enjoy it. The colors are professional. They’re gonna do a good job.” I trust them! So I’m just gonna enjoy it, you know?
OTK: That’s awesome! When was the last time you were surprised by a comic book? Whether or not, if it was something made by you or with you?
Ken: I’m old. I’m kind of jaded. I’m always excited. Every Wednesday there’s something cool! I love the Empress book by Marvel. I love that book. I am always excited about something! There’s always something to be excited about, every time I go on Wednesday. So it doesn’t even matter if it’s your book or nothing came out this week. No, there are always books! I buy all kinds of stuff that are not on the beaten track, because I love all kinds. I spend a hundred dollars. Sometime I don’t even buy anything, because nothing strikes me. Sometimes I go and buy fifteen books. Every Wednesday is a different experience for me. So, I enjoy it. For all the beauty and the variety and stuff. If you’re only into superhero stuff that’ll be kind of boring. You have to broaden your horizon. That’s like saying I only like one genre of movies. I only go see Romantic comedies! That’s ridiculous! You see it all, right? So that’s a thing about comic books. You have to be open. And also, it’s just five dollars, it’s not bad into your pocket, you can get in there and then move on.
OTK: Going back to Rebirth and Marvel now, is it a bad indication that they have to keep doing it every two to three years?
Ken: Do you understand that 90% of the people who buy comics have a three to five year cycle. And people think that, “Oh no! It’s twenty years! That’s not the average collective.” The average collective is three to five years, and then they move on to other things. So when you re-tell a story or the origin of Flash, you’d be surprised how many people have never heard the Flash before? And then they read it and put in their collection and move on. No, you’re not selling the same books to the same people. Those people have their books and move on. Most people, three to five years, and then they come back to it, sometimes they don’t. But it’s usually that window. But with Rebirth, we have people buying Rebirth now,
who have no idea about new 52, who never bought any of those books. And there’s people who bought new 52 have no idea about what happened five years before that. There are people that have bought my X-men run now and say “you’re an amazing new artist!” and I go “Wow! I’ve been working for twenty five years!” but that’s what happens. Because they have no idea, that I worked for DC and they don’t buy DC. So, going for Marvel now. So if you were only into comics for five years, you wouldn’t know that I worked on Excalibur in the 90s. So you just said “Oh this guy is awesome! He’s really good!” and they go “You know, I worked—really what’s that?” and that’s what I need. You know, it’s a new cycle that’s why artists have to re-invent themselves all the time. Just like everything else.
OTK: The movies have not really paid off for the profits, in times of awareness probably? But financially?
Ken: Here’s what I’ll say, it may not directly change the numbers in selling the actual units, but awareness is hyped. So I’m selling way more toys than they did before. Apparel! It’s another aspect, I’ve seen more wear Deadpool shirts than I’ve ever seen before. You know it’s funny every time I see a guy wearing a Deadpool shirt, I say “You know the artist who drew that?” and 90% of them say “I have no idea.” So I educate them on what they wear. Some people, they wear my own shirt. And I’ve seen people wear my Suicide Squad from Hot Topic. And I go “my shirt.” And he goes “Yeah I got this on Hot Topic.” I go “Yeah the artist on that is really good.” And they go “Yeah he’s awesome!” Sometimes I tell them it’s me, sometimes I don’t. But that’s what I mean people buying my work, they have no idea where it came from. That’s what Suicide Squad has done, that’s what Deadpool has done. More people buying without going to a comic book store, but they’re supporting it in another ways.
OTK: But in no means, is that a bad indication for comic books? I’m always afraid that comic books are gonna go away eventually.
Ken: You know eventually, that’s the end result. They tryin’ to do digital. I don’t think it has the same feel when you do digital as it does holding it in your hand. But that’s the nature of the business, we’re moving towards electronic devices, my kids would rather download than read a book. But my oldest is starting to be a reader. And my youngest is a big reader. So you can see it! But if I take them to a comic book store to buy something they’re buying toys. They’re buying candy. Things that are not comic-related. My older one she’ll buy graphic novels, she’d buy the Smile books and the Sisters’ books. My daughter buys that. My younger one is not really into yet. We’ll she what she becomes, see if she gets it.
OTK: How many kids you got?
Ken: Two girls. Thirteen and eleven.
OTK: Anybody want to be an artist like daddy?
Ken: Not so much. I don’t think so. They’ve been to comic con twice. They’ve seen it from the other side. So I really enjoy it. My eldest is more of a crafter, she makes things, she sculpts things. She’s a creator, but not in the same way. But she’ll make great things and that’s great.
OTK: One last question. What does the DC Cinematic Universe doing now?
Ken: I don’t think it doesn’t look too serious. I think when I saw Superman on-screen he wasn’t Superman. Batman was pretty close, but Superman wasn’t Superman to me. And I think why they work so well together, is because Superman is so different from Batman, the beliefs are the same but they go by it totally different. It also has to reflect in what they look like, Superman’s costume is too dark. It just is. It has to be red, and blue. It has to be that way, and that’s just part of his character. And Batman is dark for a reason. So when their standing beside each other, you know this character thinks differently from this character. And when you see Batman and Superman on the same shot, you think “Yeah, they’re part of the same dark team.” That’s what I think they missed at. When you work in the two companies, there’s just difference between the two. Working with Marvel, they sort of understand that it’s about fun. DC takes themselves serious. So it reflects in their products. That’s why their movies are darker and a little bit more serious. And then you see Marvel, a little bit more fun. That’s just the way they are.
OTK: All along, I just thought they just didn’t want to aim the treatment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Ken: Maybe that’s part of it too. That’s taking yourself a little too serious.
OTK: What would’ve been wrong with it?
Ken: But it’s not definitely who they are. They’re a little bit more serious. I think Suicide Squad was an attempt a little bit more light themed. And it’s lighter.
OTK: I enjoyed Suicide Squad more during my second time to watch it. I watched it three times. I’ve seen it thrice.
Ken: I got on set for the Harley scene when she jumped and she’s rolling off the helicopter. So it’s pretty cool. But it was a fun set they were laughing and joking around. But it didn’t come across as much on the screen.
OTK: Do you have higher hopes with Geoff Johns taking over?
Ken: Absolutely! Geoff Johns a comic book guy. It’s gonna translate. He’s a nice guy too. Geoff Johns is a good guy.
Otakultura would like to thank Mark Christian Parladé for his APCC 2016 press con coverage.
Top photo courtesy of Paul Vincent Cheng.