Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Chat with James Ritchey, Writer/Artist of AC Comics Green Lama, Man of Strength

Although I am a child of the silver age, I am still a big fan of original golden age super-heroes and pulp-era characters, particularly those that were published by Better/Standard/Nedor.

In the Catacombs, during the month of March 2009, I ran an "Atomic Month" series of comics and other similarly themed features just for kicks. After my inhouse mini-event ended, I was contacted by writer/artist James Ritchey. It seems that I had inadvertently used an illustration of the golden age hero Atomic Thunderbolt, that Jim had drawn, as a "From the Dust Bin" post. After he politely set me straight, we had a few additional correspondences and Jim has now kindly consented to allow me to profile his "golden age-inspired" project from AC Comics:

Green Lama, Man of Strength #2 is written and penciled by James Ritchey, inked by Jeff Austin and Mark Stegbauer. The book is intended for all-ages fans of thoughtful, character-driven modern style super-heroics or golden age character revivals. It is a standard size comic book, 40 pages, black & white with color covers; retailing for $7.95 from AC Comics. The shipping date will be June 18, 2009. Synopsis: "REVELATIONS". Jethro Dumont remembers his previous incarnations as THE GREEN LAMA, in hidden Shambhala, in the Himalayas. Regaining his powers, he returns to civilization to defeat his ancient enemy, STOPWACH, and a brainwashed ATOMAN--all to restore the soul of his beloved Madeleine to her body- and to literally save humanity!!

Question: Jim, I love the old Nedor heroes like Black Terror, Doc Strange, Fighting Yank and Pyroman, since AC Comics uses them occasionally, what are your feelings on those golden oldies?

Jim Ritchey: I worship Mort Meskin, Alex Schomburg and Jerry Robinson as gods, so yer
preachin' to the choir! Mort's inks over Jerry Robinson [on Black Terror & Fighting Yank] inspired Steve Ditko's style to the point where he should pay both Jerry, and Mort's family royalties!

Question: Considering the apparent "availability" of those golden age heroes that are within the public domain, and after seeing several publishers jumping on that bandwagon over the last year (or so), do you have any opinion on some of that work, say like Dynamite’s Project: Superpowers [which the Catacombs particularly loathes]?

Jim Ritchey: I've read three issues of Superpowers, and as big a heretic towards established orders and traditions as I am, I see no love for the myths and archetypes these character represent to me. I find it amazing that someone could make something both PLOT-DRIVEN--with lazy research or any character development--AND boring.

Question: How does Green Lama, Man of Strength differ from how Dynamite, Image and others are handling their self-styled "revivals" of the golden age gang?

Jim Ritchey: Even in my excursion into 'rebooting'--my Lama is the reincarnation of the 1940's Lama--it all revolves around his remembering who he was--in a 'mash-up' universe that combines both the pulp and the Spark Publications versions--where he [Dumont] succeeds in his original mission after the last published story, to become a Guru of sorts, and spread the good news of Lamaism'. While it's only a footnote part of the saga, it's firmly explained that he's always been 'The Green Man' of myth, for countless incarnations, in an attempt to capture the feeling I got when I first saw him as a kid on the cover of Steranko's History of Comics.

Question: Besides the Green Lama, are you utilizing other golden age characters?

Jim Ritchey: I'm doing similar things with the Nedor, Spark and other regular AC characters--just fleshing them out, but keeping to the myth. People forget that authors like Mickey Spillane and Patricia Highsmith wrote comics in the 'Forties, or that Somerset Maugham's 'The Razor's Edge' could have been a retelling of The Green Lama! I’m just writing what I know, and approaching this stuff like real novels about realistically-motivated people, while keeping the 'myth' intact..

Question: Do you have any trepidation about going up against Alex Ross and company?

Jim Ritchey: Green Lama, Man of Strength is no more or less adult than what they're doing--just--smarter, and characterization-driven. I'm not doing Femforce "good girl' stuff at all, either--not that there's anything wrong with it. You can like Picasso and not draw like him. There was much to like once I got into their archives--a vast sea of material to distort for my different, 'Spark Universe'. The few people who have bothered to read the first issue [already released], and who've also kept track of Dynamite, have said the writing's better, but I'm the first to admit I can't outdraw Ross or Klauba. Issue two is out in June.

Question: You may have even had a "role" inspiring Project: Superpowers; wanna dish about that?

Jim Ritchey: In 2004 at Heroes Convention [in Charlotte, NC], a guy at my artist's alley table kept asking me questions about my new project--Green Lama for AC Comics--and my idea to set up a new universe within AC, where we would do straightforward, 'literary', modern reboots of public domain characters from the golden and atom ages. I was to find out later that his name was Jim Krueger. Needless to say, the announcement of Project Superpowers left me completely demoralized.

Question: It sounds like you guys could have been ahead of the curve - so to speak - on the golden age revival wave. What happened?

Jim Ritchey: For reasons beyond my control, my book was postponed--until Bill Black decided that he'd like to hold onto characters he'd been using for over twenty years --after Dynamite had made their announcement --then our book came out, and outsold everything else AC Comics put out last year; THEN Bill decided to allow me a regular series. True story, so I was pleased that Bill changed his mind.

Question: Good luck with your Green Lama series and thanks for the chance to profile it here in the Catacombs. Is there any last point you would like to add?

Jim Ritchey: Our promotion is purely grass roots--if you find anything I'm doing interesting, any help you can give would be appreciated– and there is more art and stuff on my link. Thanks.


cash_gorman said...

The cover looks awesome. Recognize Atoman and Magno, none of the others.

Chuck Wells said...

Lower left looks like Golden Lad, and I believe that a couple of them are Sentinels of Justice members Paragon and the Scarlet Scorpion (is that the right name?).

The others I am not sure about.

Jim Ritchey said...

Hey, Guys!

Clockwise from Title:
Da Lama
Magno (formerly Davey)
Scarlet Scorpion (right you were Chuck!)
Ms. Victory (Spark Universe version)
Don Secrease's Colt, The Weapons Mistress (Ron Fortier wrote a story--which will be in issue four)
Paragon (my costume redesign)
Golden Girl
Golden Lad.

Back to work, now!