Vincent S. Moore Presents:
.10 Worlds Studio: What A Long, Strange Trip It Has Been, What A Fantastic Voyage Is To Come
Okay, so this one is personal.
By that I mean, the two gentlemen I’m about to speak with are not only my business partners, they are also two of my closest friends. They also put up with me acting as their editor and general sounding board.
10 Worlds Studio, both launching late last year and being in the birthing for more than 10 years, has achieved that first goal of any group aspiring to the comics game: our first book is about to be published.
Lazarus: Immortal Coils, published by AAM/Markosia and produced by 10 Worlds Studio, tells the story of a resurrected Lazarus and his ageless mission to rid the world of evil. The first issue hit stores in June. Written by Joseph Gauthier, with art by Carlos Rafael and Alexander Lugo, Lazarus has been a labor of love, blood, sweat, and tears.
But, that’s all part of the game and the men of 10WS are ready, at last, to play that game to win. Which you readers will learn during the course of this interview.
Given how intimate I am with these two guys (keep your thoughts clean, chums!), this conversation will be raw, raucous, and a bit more free form than is usual for interviews.
Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado or babbling by me, allow me to introduce you to 10 Worlds Studio. – Vincent S. Moore
VSM: Guys, let’s start off with the basics. Who are you? What are you doing here? What is 10WS?
JPG: I’m Joseph Gauthier, writer/creator of Lazarus: Immortal Coils and leader of our little band.
AL: And I'm Alex Lugo, artist/designer of Lazarus and other characters, and all around artist for-whatever-is-needed.
JPG: 10 Worlds was first founded as an answer to a lot of the darkness in comics nowadays. As a Buddhist, I see the industry as covered in Fundamental Darkness, what blinds us from seeing our self-worth, reaching Enlightenment, and attaining ultimate potential. We see ourselves and our works as an alternative to that darkness. I like to think we are in the company of those who, over the years, have shown what comics could really be and obtain. I know that’s a bit pompous, comics are doing good right now, but there are different kinds of success.
Civil War was successful, but Watchmen set a precedent.
Our name comes from the [Buddhist] idea of Ten Worlds or life conditions, six lower, four higher, existing within all of us simultaneously, switching back and forth. Ideally, we remain in the higher worlds, impervious to outward stimuli that would drag us down. Mostly, we’re in the lower realms. Even within those worlds exist ten more, and so on. Even in the lowest world of Hell, you can attain the highest world of Enlightenment.
VSM: Just to interject here, the concept mentioned is more fully known as Ichinen Sanzen. The Ten Worlds are an aspect of Ichinen Sanzen, or the Three Thousand Realms or Conditions In A Single Life Moment. The main point to be taken is that each individual has the opportunity and responsibility to choose the life condition out of which to operate at every moment of his or her life.
JPG: When we were looking for a name to call ourselves, based on what we all wanted and how we all differed in style and approach, yet clung to the same beliefs, the name Ten Worlds fit.
AL: What Joe said...and also three crazy guys who love comics and are pretty creative.
VSM:: I can agree with that, Alex. Now, let’s give the folks the pitch on Lazarus: Immortal Coils. What is it about? Why should the readers pick it up out of all the other choices they have in a very crowded comics marketplace?
JPG: It's about the Biblical character being resurrected, [finding himself now] immortal, and discovering demons are using humans as hosts to invade our world. He then starts a one-man war that starts in 33 AD and continues today.
It [Lazarus] uses the Bible as its foundation, a jumping off point for the story, but minus any of the spiritual message usually attached.
It deals with a character that has been largely ignored in media. Usually, when Lazarus pops up, he’s a supporting character. This is the first comic to have him as the main character and play around with his origins.
The Wandering Jew is also in the book, and the connection between him, Lazarus, and the demons is something different.
AL: Readers should pick this up because it's a unique story, dealing with a character type they haven't seen before. And yet, it is still packed with action and excitement and... tells a fantastically well written story.
JPG: Going back to what I said earlier, we are about bringing some light back into comics. In our books, heroes are heroes. They are people we can aspire to be. They represent the best in all of us. No matter how dark the world gets, the light does shine.
It reads hokey, but it’s not, depending on how you present it.
I think to keep from being seen as corny or campy to the mainstream, we’ve darkened our heroes to the point of villainy. The gray area between right and wrong has become so wide the moral compass in comic books today is nonexistent. It’s not about who is righteous, but who wins. We want to join others in their work to undo that.
AL: Joe's right! The way some comics are made today (and mind you, not all) the line between hero and villain is blurred to the point of [there being no difference between the two]. If a hero deems it the right choice, then killing is an acceptable option. But, the hero is supposed to be above those types of things, he/she is supposed to guide the rest of us into the proverbial light. I believe that L:IM touches on that, especially in this first mini series. We see a gritty, cynical warrior turn into a hero of hope.
VSM:: Just to be devil's advocate for a second, isn't it fair to say that the heroes we see in most of today's comics what the fans want? Who are we to even want to buck the trend? And how do we do that and create great comics that sell to the audience?
JPG: Whether today's heroes, or their depictions, are what the fans want is unknown because seldom do the fans decide anything. It is more common today for someone to tell fans what they want. Whether it's the publishers, Diamond, the retailers, news source, or fan fave creator, the fans just buy what they're told is the "Next Big Thing." Sales do not determine popularity because books are bought more on habit and loyalty than interest. We buck the trends because that is what keeps this business alive. It's what generates new content and new creative perspectives that give rise to new trends. If not for Bendis' Fire we might not have the Daredevil we do today. Without Millar's take on The Authority post Ellis "widescreen" style, we might not have Civil War, The Ultimates, and War Heroes. How to introduce these new perspectives is the mystery. Unless you're one of the major four (Marvel, DC, Image, and Dark Horse) with people assuming what you produce to be good, the shock comes more from failures and successes; it has become increasingly harder to get regular fans to try new things. I think back on the whole femme hero movement of the mid to late nineties and wonder if that were to happen today would Vampirella, Lady Death, and Shi succeed.
AL: I think creating great comics also comes from especially NOT doing what one has seen before, as there are a lot of "cookie-cutter" characters that are really clones of classic characters. Let's see something new. Yes, there will be failures in doing this, but there will also be a fair amount of success as well.
VSM: Fair enough. Now, as the editor for this show, I’m in the know about some of the ideas we’re cooking up. But, is there a way we can give the readers a tease of what’s on the boil for 10WS?
JPG: Sure. We have a sequel to Immortal Coils called Suicidal Tendencies which picks up where L:IM leaves off and focuses more on The Wandering Jew and his role in things.
There’s your book with Alex, an African superhero story.
We also have another book in the works I like to refer to as our response to Spider-Man: One More Day and redefining a mature comic book.
AL: As Joe mentioned, we (Vince and I) are working on a book about a comic book hero called "Bwana Msaka". Our story is about a man and his journey from indifference to heroism in a modern day urban jungle. I'll stay away from the usual references of "it's THIS meets THAT", and I will say the readers can judge for themselves.
VSM: I'll drop my interviewer's voice for a moment to say that Alex is working his heart out on Bwana, as we call it. The idea has its origins in one Sunday watching a very bad superhero movie of a few summers back, and feeling that I could do the same basic story much better. That was the only way I could see getting my money and time back. I'm trying to tell a modern superhero story, influenced by Stan Lee and Alan Moore and by Bendis, Millar, and the like. I wanted to simply tell the story of how a broken man becomes a hero; Bwana does just that, with Alex's very able help.
VSM:: Okay, back to being the interviewer. What do you guys think of the comics industry as a whole?
JPG: I think it’s a really confusing time. On one hand the industry is at a high point, but what have we truly achieved. Yeah, we have movies every year, but how many of them result into [higher comics] sales?
While the doors should be opening up to allow more diversity, characters and books with different ethnicities and ideas are having a harder time.
Within the Ten Worlds ideology, there is a world called Humanity. This is a place of false happiness, when you think you’re doing great, never been better, but it’s a lie. Your happiness is based on outward stimuli. All it takes is something or someone to do or say something and it all goes away. True happiness is constant [and internal]. No matter what happens, it remains with you.
That is where comics are now. In this false state only sustained because Hollywood is using us for ideas and making money.
What happens when Hollywood finishes with us?
AL: As a whole, the comics biz is probably the most widely accepted as it's ever been. And as ridiculous as it sounds, all the movies coming out have given comics a validity that it's never had before. It's funny how one medium, film (which is younger than comics [when taking the longer view of what constitutes comics]) has helped wider audiences "see" the worth of comic books, which were once relegated by the ignorant as just "children's books." On another note, I also feel that we are just cannibalizing ourselves to a large extent.
It drives me crazy to see all of these big comics events taking place almost bi-yearly at the "big two". Identity Crisis, Infinity Crisis, Civil War, Secret Invasion, etc... I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade, but it just drives me nuts to see so many of these types of story lines going on so often. Every time I turn around the respective universes of these characters are changing drastically. One minute there is a multiverse, then it's gone, then it's back, then it's gone again...We make our heroes fight, make up, fight, make up, die, come back from the dead, fight again, then make up...what the...??? I just want to see a good storyline with no universe changing crossover event gimmick - call me old fashioned.
VSM: A side question for Alex. Since Joe and I are both Buddhists and our name reflects that practice, what do you think as the non-Buddhist in the group at the moment? Or do you not even think about that, that we are just storytellers at heart?
AL: Well, if you would have asked me that question a few weeks ago I might have said we are just storytellers at heart, but I've come to understand the concept of the group and its Buddhist meaning. I believe, whether you are a Buddhist or not, the idea behind 10 Worlds is a concept that makes sense for everyone. At any point in time a person can go from good to bad and everything in between very quickly. It's really how you deal with it all and trying to keep oneself somewhere in the middle to maintain focus and wisdom. Does that sound pretty Buddhist for a non-Buddhist? I hope I answered your question...
VSM: Yes, that's fine. If Marvel or DC came to us, looking for a studio to package a project, would we do it and what would we hope the project would be?
JPG: Yes, we would, but our message would still hold true and we’d express it through our work.
Right now, I would love to do Spider-Man, undo OMD, and write the Peter/MJ marriage the way it should have been done, continuing [from] where Kraven's Last Hunt left off.
For DC, I would love to give Wildcat his own book. He’s my favorite DC character and I’ve had ideas in mind for years. I dig that he is this old boxer in a cat suit kicking ass against villains who can stop time or change the universe with a thought. He deserves his own book.
Robin is another DC book I’d like a crack at. A teen vigilante hero in high school and there is so much he hasn’t dealt with, things that were rampant even as far back as my high school days.
AL: I'd love a chance to work on the JSA. I love our original founding heroes in the Justice Society, they are my all time favorites. You can thank Roy Thomas for that. Reading issues of the All Star Squadron and Infinity Inc as an adolescent really enamored me to the heroes that I discovered when I read "All Star Comics" from the 70's. I think that they offer a unique perspective from which to tell a story as they have been around for so long fighting the good fight.
An Invaders story would also be great to do. Telling the story of superheroes caught up in a catastrophic world war and how they deal with it offers a lot of great opportunities.
VSM: As our first book hits the stands this month, do you have any final words to share with the CWR readers? Any websites to pimp, etc.?
AL: Check out Lazarus: Immortal Coils, it's a great book! Let your friends and family know about it, hell, let everyone know about it!! Also go and visit the sites Joe has mentioned, and if you aren't too tired after that, you can check out my myspace page. Thanks!!
VSM: And thank you guys so much for doing this interview. Namaste.
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