Interview conducted by Nick Couture
Cover Art by Kane LeFaive
There are a lot of comics being put out by a vast array of publishers these days. There are tons of storytellers and creators working hard on these books, yet often we only hear about a select few. Curt Pires is a dude on the come-up, or maybe he already came-up? Crowned by Marvel writer Matthew Rosenberg as “one of the best new writers in comics,” he’s definitely someone worthy of keeping an eye on, especially for anyone who might feel a little jaded about things. With books like: WYRD, POP, The Fiction, and Olympia, he’s run the gambit with independent publishers and genres alike, yet he could still be on the precipice of something even larger.
WYRD, which he wrote last year at Dark Horse with artist Antonio Fuso, colors by Stefano Simeone, and letters by Micah Myers, showcased his willingness to play with the form. The protagonist of the book can not die and therefore is used as a tool to get various tough, often violent, jobs done. He’s the fixer, the closer. Each issue functions as a new job, as we are pulled deeper into his world. It’s a world that’s filled with self-harm and regret.
His newest book Olympia which he worked on with artist Alex Dioitto, colorist Dee Cunniffe, and letters from Micah Myers, is the story of a superhero god that crashes to Earth. He’s found by a boy who is the one who needs to make sense of it all. It feels like a love/hate letter to comics and should amount to one of his most accomplished works when it’s all said and done. He came up with the concept for the book with his late father Tony Pires.
Curt was very gracious to chat with Black Hole creator and co-founder Nick Couture offer some of his insights and frustrations with his time in the industry.
Was WYRD always planned as a 4 issue mini?
Dark horse is only really doing 4 issue creator owned books right now with the exception being books like Black Hammer or Umbrella Academy. I don’t mean to speak out of turn but it seems to be some sort of policy and it seems to be based on how retailers order. You start to really hemorrhage money unless a book catches on by the time issue 5 rolls around. So WYRD was structured as a byproduct of the way they’re doing things. WYRD is quote unquote 4 issues but there’s all sorts of backups and all this extra stuff that basically makes it 6 issues of comics. So we found a way around it.
So WYRD was 6 issues in the planning phase?
No it was planned to be 5 at first. It’s kind of annoying to cut stuff down but pretty much working in anything, film or TV or whatever, very rarely do you get to do a project in exactly the format or with exactly the budget you want. You’re constantly compromising to get stuff made.
Looking at your credits on Diamond, POP looks to be your first credited work. Was that your first comic or did you come up making mini comics/self publishing?
Before that I did a one shot that was self published that was drawn by Ramon Villalobos who has gone on to do a bunch of stuff and become a prolifically voluminous tweeter. That came out in 2012. Then I did a digital only book from Monkey Brain with a really talented artist named Dalton Rose. And then after that Jason and I finally got POP green lit at Dark Horse. So it was a couple years of banging on the door. I think comics in a lot of ways are tougher to get into than a lot of entertainment industries. It really is a boys club. It’s all people who know each other. Pals who are giving each other work, that kind of stuff. So getting your foot in the door can certainly be very daunting.
Since 2014 when POP came out, you seem to put out about 1-2 books a year. How much of that is a conscience effort on your part vs what publishers want?
After I initially broke in I had a bunch of personal life stuff happen so I wasn't really focused on putting out a lot of comics. Now though, I’m the busiest I’ve ever been. I have half a dozen books unannounced and TV and film projects. I’m doing fine. A lot of the stuff takes quite a while to come out. Olympia, we started working on that in early 2017 and it’s just finally coming out. I think you’ll find, at least in the creator owned space, when people have gaps in their body of work it’s just the nature of the beast.
Sorry for the very basic question, but do you actually have any interest in Marvel or DC?
It’s kind of a complicated question to answer. Yes, I do have interest in some of that. Some people come in and it's all they want to do. It’s their endgame. It’s not really that for me. It would have to be a project that I thought would be cool and one one that I could bring my “A” game to and would work for them and is the type of content they want to put out. If I felt like I could tell a good story and the deal was good. So the answer is yes, if we can make it work for everyone. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with working at Marvel or DC. I’m not on some hipster bullshit where I’d never work at a big corporation. It’s not that at all. It’s just for me I’m really particular about the situations I put myself in because lifes too short to work on stuff that’s going to be unsatisfying or stressful. I’m lucky enough now where I have enough work going on in other spaces. I do have a lot of respect for other people who can work in that system. It can be really impressive. I tip my hat to those Marvel exclusive guys who can keep stuff imaginative and interesting because it’s really easy to get lost in the machinery. You’ve got to really know what you’re getting yourself into.
How do you typically find the artists you work with?
A lot of it is through social media and keeping up with books. At this point I have this group of people I like to work with. Like with Olympia, Alex and I have done a bunch of stuff together and have another book with 3 issues done that is coming out. I just want to work with people who I trust and are talented and are not going to give me headaches. It’s just comic books. It’s not worth the stress.
Any thoughts on the internet echo chamber?
Social media, I just find it really annoying and people's behavior on it is just terrible. I only really keep my twitter account around to tweet out when I have a new issue coming out, just to do my do diligence in promoting the books my teams work so hard on. Everyone thinks they know everything on the internet and it’s just a nightmare. Let’s just leave it at that.
What are your main inspirations right now? Are you looking at other comics, films, music?
Well now I don’t really look at other comic books that much at all. I don’t really try to be inspired by too much of anything. It’s almost the opposite. I’m trying to cut out as much outside influences as I can and think of what’s the most unique way I can tell stories. I’m not interested in being a second rate version of someone else. I’m more interested in being a first rate version of myself. All that being said, I watch a lot of films. One of my great love affairs is with the cinema. It’s always been a really special place for me. Moviemaking is something that’s really romantic to me. As I get older I’m more influenced by Scorese and Spielberg more than anyone else. The breath of their material tonal is so wide but there's still a throughline through it. I really like Gaspar Noe. I like his films a lot. You never leave one of his films thinking it was anything other than a Gaspar Noe film. I think that guy is just a genius. It’s definitely not for everyone. I just love filmmakers that have their own voice and let it shine through.
As far as comics go, when I was first coming into comics I was most influenced by creators like Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Brian Bendis, and some of Alan Moore’s work.
I definitely feel the film influences your work. I don’t think it’s just the decompressed pages or big tonal splash pages. It’s almost just the mood and feeling.
One of the things I’m most proud about in my work is having developed the confidence to shut the fuck and let the artist tell the story. I think that’s the sign of a good comic book writer. 90% of writers working in the comic medium are scared to let the art do the talking. I like long silent takes in film, I think that’s some of the best stuff, so I’m trying to bring that to comics. I’m sure some people fucking hate it because there are some comic readers that need a certain amount of words per page but I’m always trying to balance it out. It’s like music, it's about finding a rhythm.
Jumping back to WYRD, it feels structured perfectly to be a TV show. Was that intentional on your part?
It was definitely intentional. I just like episodic storytelling. I think Warren Ellis really came up with the idea of single issue espionage stories in comics. Everyone doing it since has been doing it in the shadow of the work he created. I certainly don’t want to give him too much credit. I don’t think he created the episodic story, but Fell and Global Frequency are tremendous works and contributed so much to the medium. You got to acknowledge it.
Do you ever want to tell stories without an overarching narrative working in the background?
No, I like having an ongoing narrative. I think it can get a bit silly if there’s no endgame. It’s like a sitcom. It’s comfort food but I don’t know how interested I am in making it.
Moving on to Olympia, is it your most personal work yet?
Ya definitely. I feel really protective of it just because of the backstory behind it and the nature of it.
Was Olympia a story you guys had cooked up for a while or was it something that came together more recently?
My Dad would always pitch me story ideas. I think you’ll find most writers have family members like that. My Dad was just a hilarious guy. He’d always say he had the next big thing. When he first got sick he told me he had this idea of a warrior crashing to Earth and this boy finds him, and I was like “well this is kind of the best idea you’ve ever pitched me.” At the time we could both use something to work on, so we developed it while he was in the hospital a lot. We’d talk about ideas while we were walking laps.
Does it feel weird promoting the backstory of the book when it is so personal to you or is it something you fully embrace at this point?
I kind of have to talk about it. It’s between not talking about it and denying him credit on the book, or talk about it and give him his due credit. It’s the right thing to do but it can be pretty exhausting.
- Curt’s most recent work, OLYMPIA is published by Image Comics. You can get the single issues at your local comic shop and pre-order the trade at your shop or on Amazon.