Jeffrey Kaufman is a writer and founder of Big City Comics and Resurrection Studios. In addition, he is a nationally recognized legal expert and defense attorney, currently licensed in 18 states, and been featured on CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, and truTV’s Disorder in the Court: The 20 Most Outrageous Courtroom Moments. As a writer, his credits include Terminal Alice (published through Zenescope), and Tainted (featuring Batwing artist Chris Cross).
Currently, Kaufman is actively filming and producing the documentary How to Fail in Comic Books, set for release in 2013. His upcoming projects include the graphic novels Angel Falling and Whore, on sale September 2012, from Zenescope Entertainment.
Jeffrey was kind enough to take time out of his schedule to sit with Michael Sacal, Senior Reporter for CBI.
Michael Sacal: Jeffrey, first, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Please tell us about yourself, and your start as a writer and a publisher.
JK: Ok, My whole life:
I was born in Miami. At seventeen, I dropped out of high school and entered the army. After three years as an Airborne Medic in the 82nd Airborne, I entered community college. I received my business degree from Florida State, my Telecom Degree from Univ. of Florida and my law degree from Univ. of Tulsa. After being dissatisfied working for a bank, I took a job as a Public Defender and then with two partners started my own firm. To satisfy a need to feed my creative side, I worked part time for nine years doing character work at Disney. While performing Pro Bono work in comic books, I started writing and then became my own publisher. After blowing a disgusting amount of money, I settled on writing and producing graphic novels.
MS: What is Big City Comics, and how did it get started?
JK: I was at a convention with artist Mario Gully and someone asked us where we were from. I said, “The Big City” and he said, “New York” and I said, “No, Orlando”. So being a wise-ass, I named the company “Big City Comics”. It was setup to produce comic books for other publishers, but eventually we made the mistake of becoming our own publisher. After publishing thirty-one single-issue books and losing a ridiculous amount of money, we changed our name to “Big City Comics Studio” and went back to only producing books. We currently produce two graphic novels a year for Zenescope.
MS: I’m sure that you’re saving the best for your documentary, but is there anything that you could tell us about your experiences as a publisher?, mainly advise on what to do and what not to do?
JK: Other than saying that winning Big Brother twice wouldn’t cover the money I blew creating single-issue comic books. I think simply put you need to plan, budget, evaluate and park your ego at the door. While being in comics is cool, it’s a business and has to be respected. Being a fanboy and respecting the business are not mutually exclusive. I wish I knew this going in.
MS: In the introduction, you speak at length about the inspiration behind the novel. Is there anything you’d like to add to that you were not able to due to space constraints?
JK: To be honest, other than deciding what I wanted the reader to see, I held nothing back. Jacob Mars is a great character to write for since he really has no constraints. No remorse…no moral compass…no problem!
MS: In the introduction, you credit the name of the character, Jacob Mars, to your son and daughter. Given his profession and affinity for weapons, his surname is also evocative of the Roman God of War, Mars. Did that inform the character in any way?
JK: I could lie to you and discuss my brilliance concerning multiple meanings and how I was inspired by mythology and classic literature. I just came to the realization that “Jacob Mary” didn’t seem as catchy or masculine as “Jacob Mars”.
MS: Whore is mostly an anthology that follows Mars as he performs multiple assignments. Was this because the story was originally designed to be published in single issue increments, and then collected? What was the reason behind going with an anthology format over following Mars across a single overreaching plot?
JK: I now write only graphic novels. It allows me to focus on surprise endings and work backwards instead of focusing on the future of the character. I prefer to write multiple insane scenarios which allow me to keep readers in a state of “what’s next?” instead of just running forwards.
MS: This question is more of an observation: one thing I noticed was the inclusion of real-world figures such as Barrack Obama and a mention of Steven Spielberg’s name, but the kennel club scene used the fictitious Eastminster kennel dog club instead of the real-world Westminster kennel dog club. Any reason for that?
JK: Well, I try to avoid the people who might sue me. The president, he’s not going to sue me. An offhand reference to Spielberg…I think I’m okay. The dog show scene, I don’t think they would forgive me for what I did. I like to make illogical scenes plausible, which is why I like to use real people and real events. I do understand the need to protect myself from possible lawsuits when my writing gets a little rough.
MS: Whore features an appearance by the female assassins from Terminal Alice, indicating the existence of a “Big City Comics Universe”. Can we expect to see more crossovers between the characters from your graphic novels?
JK: I like giving fans of past Big City Comics characters a little treat without confusing new readers. In our next book Angel Falling, done by artists Kevin West, Mark McKenna, and Tom Chu, I include characters from both Whore and Terminal Alice. Since I own the rights to all my characters, it’s just a fun thing to do.
MS: Given the resistance from retailers, if you had to do it again, would you still call the novel Whore?
JK: The answer today is “Yes, I would do it again”, but who knows how I will feel in the future. I try to learn and get better with each book, but I’m not certain if my artistic integrity will be overshadowed by the risk I have taken. My intention wasn’t to be controversial, but an attempt to make the most honest and complete book I had ever done.
MS: If you wanted to do a follow-up to Whore (sales notwithstanding), would you consider a new name?
JK: I’d like to think that I’m not an idiot. I love this character so much and if the future of “Jacob Mars” requires a title name change, then “A man has to do…What a man has to do”.
MS: Where can we find you promoting Whore? Do you have any convention appearances or store signings planned?
JK: I love going to conventions, talking to readers and seeing all the cosplayers. The next conventions I’m doing are Dragon-Con in Atlanta on Labor Day and New York Comic-Con in October with some others sprinkled in.
MS: What does the future hold for you and Big City Comics? Do you have any other projects in the works?
JK: The next project is our graphic novel “Angel Falling” with Kevin West, Mark McKenna and Tom Chu set for an early 2013 release then “Wildwood” set for a July Comic-Con preview and a September release. We also plan to be finished with our documentary “How to Fail in Comic Books” based on my earlier stupidity, with advice and stories from everyone, including Stan Lee. That should be ready for a Summer 2013 release.
MS: If you could write any of the major comic companies’ characters, which ones would they be and why?
JK: That’s easy! For Marvel Comics, controlling Peter Parker for five pages would be the dream and for DC, it would be Batman. I also have some unique ideas I would love to explore in Todd McFarlane’s “Spawn”.
MS: Lastly, for anyone that wants to be a writer, what can you tell them about the craft and tools you use in your work, like books and such?
JK: I think just to be a competent comic book writer; you need to write at least ten single-issue books or a couple graphic novels. You need to try to understand where your writing is weak and don’t let your ego get in the way of writing better. I was pretty hardheaded earlier in my career and I know it slowed my progress. I now attempt to take all criticism with an open mind and try to improve with every new book.
Everyone at ComicBookInterviews.com would like to thank Mr. Kaufman for taking the time to answer our questions. For more about Whore, please visit the Whore Facebook page, and for more about Big City Comics, click here. Whore, a 112-page original graphic novel by Jeffrey Kaufman and Marco Turini, goes on sale in September of 2012, from Zenescope Entertainment.
About the interviewer –
Michael Sacal is a freelance writer and archivist whose work has appeared in Faster Than Light, an anthology series published by Orang Utan Comics, and the Book of Geomancers, a Wikipedia-style online resource focused on the VALIANT Universe published by VALIANT Entertainment Inc.
Michael is a contributing writer for Surprising Comics and Red Leaf Comics who is in the process of developing multiple work-for-hire and creator-owned projects with different publishers in the United States.
Michael holds the post of Senior Reporter at Comic Book Interviews, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.