Five Questions about Pawn Shop with Joey Esposito

This week, I had an opportunity to chat with IGN Editor and independent comic creator Joey Esposito about his upcoming project Pawn Shop
Pawn Shop is the second project that Esposito has funded using Kickstarter. The platform has rapidly risen from scrappy startup to the go-to option for many hoping to break into comics or other creative mediums, as well as a host of non-creative projects. 
I wanted to find out from Joey what it’s like to take advantage of this new way of launching a comic but also what it was that made him decide to do a story like Pawn Shop.

Josh: You describe Pawn Shop as a story about personal tales that wind up intertwining through the shop that they all share. What is it about this type of personal, grounded, story that drove you to write it? Joey: I’m just fascinated by life, I guess is all there is to it. In comics we’re always so involved with genre elements, whatever they may be, but sometimes it’s at the expense of what we’re experiencing in everyday life. I get that comics can be escapism just like any other entertainment medium, but it’s also an art form that is capable of exploring human nature in the same way that the best visual art or films or novels can. I’m not saying what we’re doing is high art or anything, but I certainly hope it’s an engaging exploration of characters that you feel like you could’ve bumped into on the streets of New York.Josh: Pawn Shop is very much a book with a New York state of mind. You mention in the Kickstarter materials that you often regret leaving the city and heading west. Now that you’re based in LA, would you say that there is some part of this project that is you writing a bit of a love letter to your old hometown?
Joey: It’s interesting, because I’m actually from New England. I went to school in New York and lived there for some time afterward until I wound up in LA for work. But—and this is kind of what some of this book is about—you don’t always appreciate something until it’s gone, you know? New York is like that for me. I admit that I wasn’t quite fond of it at the time, but looking back it feels like such a missed opportunity that I didn’t take full advantage of. I had some amazing times, though—playing shows with my band, for example—and those are the things I miss most. Ideally my goal is to wind up as a hermit writing ferociously from a cabin in the woods, but there’s something so lovely about New York City that it’s impossible not to have immense affection for it. Sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder, as they say, so yes, I would argue that Pawn Shop is very much a love letter to NYC.Josh: Pawn Shop is your second independent project. How would you say your approach has changed or evolved since you started with your first project, Footprints?

Joey: Well, Footprints definitely taught me a lot. About producing an independent project, about marketing yourself, about the technicalities of physical production, about Kickstarter, all of that stuff. Footprints was a very, very expensive lesson, basically, that I’m still paying for. So in that respect, I’ve learned the hard way how to budget better. In terms of the creative process, I’ve found my groove more or less, at least in terms of how I like to work.Footprints was done mostly on the computer, with notes in one giant master document that was constantly updated and then broken out into scripts. The way I’ve done every project post-Footprints including Pawn Shop is with a pen and paper first in a rough draft (which you can see in the Pawn Shop Script Book we’re offering to backers) and then a typed first draft with subsequent edits done on the computer. Handwriting allows not only greater mobility—I can write by the pool!—but it’s easier for me to just get thoughts and ideas down and sort through them and organize them later. It’s an approach that works for me, at least right now.

Josh: You talk and write about comics for a living. That has to make creating your own a bit more of a daunting proposition, since you probably have a pretty good idea of what the critiques will be. How do you find the right balance between the desire for perfection and the need to simply complete the project?

Joey: I mean, I don’t approach my creative projects with a critical eye. You can’t, otherwise nothing would ever get done. So to that end, I don’t worry much about bad reviews or anything like that. Obviously it feels great when you get something positive said about you, and it’s equally disappointing when someone hates what you do, but that comes with the territory. If anything, I think covering comics as my day job has allowed me to distance myself from reviews, just because I wholeheartedly understand that it’s someone’s opinion and they’re entitled to it. At the end of the day, all that matters to me is that it’s a work that I’m happy with and that my collaborators are happy with. And that should go for all creators, I think—I know I’ve given some bad reviews in my time, but really, what does it matter? If the creator is proud of the work, that’s all they should care about, my review be damned.

Josh: With two independent projects now under your belt, what are you hoping to do next? Do you have any brilliant ideas you hope to have a chance to do at one of the “Big Two”?

Joey: Oh, I have plenty of “brilliant” ideas for obscure characters at the Big Two that would never have a chance, haha. But sure, I’d obviously love to write for them, but it’s not what I’m focused on. My real focus is on creator-owned work and telling the best stories I can with characters I’ve created. As much as I love superheroes and such, I think you’re starting to see that the future of comics as an art is in creator-owned IP, not these corporate characters. Superheroes, by requirement, often remain stagnant for decades. But with original works, literally anything goes, and that’s awesome and freeing. But I do have some freelance work at the moment—I’m writing a mini-series for Zenescope called Grimm Fairy Tales: Bad Girls, which is my first real experience in dealing with company-owned characters, and that’s been a lot of fun. It’s creatively rewarding in a whole different way. I’ve got another project elsewhere that I unfortunately can’t talk about yet, but it’s in a similar vein. Other than that, I’ve got a bunch of short stories coming up in various comic anthologies, and I’ve got a few pitches in the works that will hopefully see the light of day somewhere.

Josh Epstein

Josh Epstein is the Publisher for the Capeless Crusader website. He’s a lifelong comic nerd, and “Superman” is the first word he ever read aloud. He is also an actor, singer, and resident of a real-world Smallville.

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