Thursday, June 27, 2013


I thought I'd change things up and interview my good friend and co-writer Ken Jones. We worked together on a three-part Batman: Legends Of The Dark Knight story that comes out today (digital issue #56). It's Ken's first big pro work, having done some published and unpublished small press work beforehand. So I thought I'd take this chance to ask him questions. To get to know the man behind the writing, while sprinkling in some fantastic art from Jason Shawn Alexander who is drawing our story and painted the cover. Let's get started...

Tell us a little about yourself. The history of Ken Jones. Where did you grow up?

Ha! The History of Ken Jones-a mundane tragedy.  But seriously, I grew up all over the place, mainly New York, Omaha, Nebraska, and Fresno California.  We bounced around quite a bit, for a variety of reasons.

I guess I would call Fresno my hometown as I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else, even though I haven’t lived here the majority of my life.  I’m not sure there’s a narrative there, except to say that I’ve learned that people everywhere are mostly the same.  The differences that we think are so profound are mostly just dressing.  I think that perspective has helped me considerably as a writer.

What were some of your earliest memories reading comics that captured your mind?

Conan and Spider-man.  That’s where it all began.  My uncle used to collect comics and at some point he just gave me a bunch of them.  The stuff he was into was pretty much horror—which helps explain a lot for anyone who knows me—and classic Conan, that great Ernie Chan stuff.  Understand I was about 8 or 9 at the time.  And these books were not necessarily kids’ fare, but they set my imagination alight.  Reading stories about unnamable horrors lurking in swamps and a barbarian wandering an ancient fantasy world made things possible in my mind that I never conceived of before. It was so lush and detailed compared to the cheesy movies and TV shows at the time.  I was unaware of the pulps at the time. So my little mind was blown.  The Conan stuff is actually what got me into drawing comics.  I started writing to have something to draw.  And that was my introduction to comic books.

Prior to that and for a long time afterwards, I didn’t really collect comics.  From time to time, I’d buy a book off the grocery store rack, but that was about it.  It wasn’t until my teens that I started collecting regularly.  So early on, comics were a treat.

When I did I get into collecting comics, it was pretty much just Spider-man at first.  I’m not sure how.  I liked Superman a lot, too, but for whatever reason, Spider-man just did it for me.  He was the bee’s knees.  From there, I started getting into the Hulk, X-men, Silver Surfer, and Superman. I don’t know what started it.  But thinking about it now, I probably got into comics from cartoons. Super-friends, Mighty Mouse, Space Ghost, Herculoids, Thundar the Barbarian-my favorite, He-man, G.I. Joe, Transformers, Bugs Bunny, Scooby-doo, the gamut;  I was a cartoon junkie.  I’m talking Kung-Fu Louie and Grape Ape.  And I read a lot of print books.

I miss the grocery store and magazine racks. Those are some of my earliest memories of picking up comics as well. A sign of the times we lived in back then.

You've worked a lot of odd jobs in-between writing. What were some of them and how did any of your experiences help inform your writing?

Since most of my jobs were menial jobs, the main thing I learned is that getting to work in comics—or whatever your dream job might be—is a blessing.   I think I read about a survey recently that said 70% of people hate their jobs.  Hate them.  Think about that.  So if you get to do something you love, you’re definitely one of the lucky ones.  The politics, the pressure, the editorial interference that you might come across that’s nothing compared to, say, coal mining.  There are people out there for whom coal mining is the only option.  So overall my storied work history has given me perspective.

Otherwise, two jobs stand out specifically.  I had a job at Blockbuster Video that taught me how important the audience is.  Not just that they’re our bread and butter, but that we really need to be mindful of what they’re picking up our product for.  As creators, we can sometimes get caught up in the idea that a story or project is ours and chafe at any compromise of our vision.  But having a story is pointless.  We’re in the business of telling stories.  That takes two (though hopefully a whole hell of a lot more than two) to tango.  Having something to say is only as important as how it is received.  Outside input can give a creator a clue to that.  Comic book fans are different that television fans.  Comics serve a slightly different function for them.  It’s important to be aware of that.

The other job was as a manufacturing supervisor.  I did reports and presentations for executives, marketing people, even customers and it gave me good perspective on the business side of things.  The product is largely irrelevant.  You can be selling warships, health services, or entertainment; the principles of business, particularly good business remain the same; challenging but attainable expectations, good communication, effective organization, and acknowledgement of achievement.  You know you’re with a good employer if all those things are in place.  If not, you tend to have people who are disgruntled, or at least uneasy, and it’ll show in your turnover.  If you work people to death, or they don’t know who’s responsible for what, or if they’re even doing a good job, it will make people miserable and probably affect your product.  I think knowing that will help me be a better team player, regardless of the setting.

Why does this suddenly feel like a job interview?

You're hired! Congratulations.

It's weird to think I've known you now almost half my life. Close to 20 years. When did we first meet and what were we involved in that first brought us together creatively?

Well you ran that guy over with your car and were looking for a place to stash the body.  No.  I kid. That…that would be wrong…

We were working for an independent comic book publisher (read: we drew some guy’s unpublished comics for free).  You were somewhat of a late comer to the thing.  I think your first tracing inking job with us was a piece that I penciled.

Yes, you were my first. Makes me all gooey just thinking about it. Also, it lets me know who to be angry at and to blame for my tracing career. Kevin Smith is now off the hook.

I believe you inked it with a sharpie, so now it’s probably brown and curled up like a scroll.  Thinking back, it’s probably best that it never sees the light of day anyway.  But I thought it was great at the time.  Even though we were on different projects we all became one big group of friends.  Lifelong friends at this point.

Eventually, we broke away from the Hive—literally; that was the name of the publisher—and started working on our own creator-owned stuff.  You started inking me on a project of mine.  We got 3 issues in and…yeah.  Still, those years were the fondest of my life.  Everything didn’t just seem possible, it seemed inevitable.  Of course, life’s what happens between your plans.


I know you both as a writer and as an artist. What has been your experience going to conventions, the submission process, and trying to break-in?

Impenetrable, really.  Of course, this is back when access to publishers was limited.  You could go to portfolio reviews at conventions, but unless you were the next Jim Lee, it was an exercise in futility.  You could mail in submissions, but that was a roll of the dice.  Editors don’t have time to pour over submissions.  And getting work is really about being at the right place at the right time, meaning you have to be in editors’ faces a lot (without pissing them off too much) so that you can be there when they have something they need done.  And as hard as it is for an artist, it’s even harder for a writer. Writing is more time consuming to review and requires more projection.  I don’t say this because it’s sad; I say it because it’s important to note: the best way to get into comics is to know someone.  At least, that’s the most reliable way.

That said, with the complex series of tubes known as the interwebs, there is more access to editor’s eyes nowadays.  In fact, editors and art directors will often peruse sights like Deviant Art as a way of scouting.  So ostensibly, it’s better.

Nevertheless, I think it’s a system flaw for the entertainment industry to be so inaccessible for new talent.  Whether you do comic books, video games, television, or movies, you’re basically in the idea business.  Why then don’t any of these industries invest more time and energy into finding—and developing—new ideas?  They’re notorious for diving back into the same small pool of talent over and over again.  It’s gotten worse now with cross-contamination; comic artists doing storyboards and designing video game characters and vices versa, script writers writing comics, J.J. Abrams directing every movie made, and so on.  Many of these companies would rather troll the established talent for a crack in their schedule than give a new creator a shot.

Persistence and networking seem key in the entertainment business. And of course, talent is an ingredient in there somewhere. And if you have all three, then you might just get your shot.

Do you remember your first experience working on Batman? This is going back to those sample sequential art pages you drew when you were going to conventions to show your work. It's funny to think back at those compared to you working on a Batman story now. What do you remember from that time?

Stairs.  And stairs.  And more stairs.  Then we get to the stairs.

For some reason, I had written a story with Batman being the detective, and searching through a house. I got hung up on a lot of visual scenes of Batman in a dark staircase. Panel after panel of him walking up or down stairs.  I wish I can say, my writing has improved since that time.

I actually liked it though.  It was a cool little story.  Batman going after Mr. Freeze in this snowed-in cabin/castle.  At least I got to draw Batman walking up and down those stairs.  More importantly, I think that was the first collaborative project we did.  It probably started laying the groundwork for how we work together now, even if at a rudimentary level.  It was definitely consistent with our character-centric themes. And we learned a little something about the benefit of 2nd drafts.

Funny to think we’ve kinda come full circle now.

Give us a little summary about the story in Legends Of The Dark Knight. What is it about and what interested you in writing it?

It’s a story about Two-Face revisiting his past and the collateral damage that brings.  If you want to know more you’re going to have to check out The Beautiful Ugly at Comixology.  But I do think we use some interesting perspectives to tell the story.  And it’s definitely a different kind of ending.


Couldn't have said it better myself. The first part of our story in Batman: Legends Of The Dark Knight "The Beautiful Ugly"debuts digitally at Comixology TODAY! 

And come back here next week for the second part of our conversation, where we begin breaking down the process of working together and some of the characters and ideas in the story.


  1. This is pretty awesome, I literally just finished reading the comic and was wondering who your co-writer was and I came here, and presto! Now I know.

    I assume it will be covered in the second part, but just in case it's not; other than this Batman story what piece of Ken's prior work should we, as readers, search out if we'd like a better look into his style?

    1. How's that for timing :)

      There's one unpublished project that will be debuting online, I believe next month. Once I have more information about that, I'll post it. And I'll get him to come over here and answer what other stuff he's worked on.

    2. Hey Bill, I'm stoked that you like our story! We really had a lot of fun working on it.

      As for other works, this is really the 1st official thing I've done. I had been trying to get into comics a long time ago(in the 1990's, man--imagine that). Back then, I was trying to get hired as an artist not a writer. I did some pin-ups for a small press book called Bloodletting by Chynna Clugston--now of Blue Monday fame over at Oni Press. And I did a couple of short stories in an Anthology book that I can't remember the name of. It's lost to obscurity anyway, especially since Kaare Andrews did the lead story. That's about it.

      I got away from comics when I moved to Southern California. Then about a year ago, Derek suggested I give it another go and thankfully I did. And here we are. So if you want to get better acquainted with my style it's probably gonna be a better idea to look forward rather than back sad to say. But I hope we can regale you with our kooky stories!

  2. Excellent, I look forward to hearing more about him and this current story in Legends of the Dark Knight.

    I have to say this was a pleasant surprise, I don't follow solicitations much so I had no idea you were doing a LODK story so I was pumped when I saw your name on the cover. I love a good two-face story so I'm excited to see where this goes.

    1. I know in the past, DC has solicited upcoming creators on LODK over on their website. But I don't think they've updated that in awhile. So yeah, this would be a surprise to most, since digital announcements are less frequent than diamond solicitations. We've had this one done for a few months now, so it's nice it finally made it's way up the list to release.

      And plenty more Two-Face action in the next two chapters.