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JONATHAN GILBERT
Writer and Editor of Mister Chameleon, Snowman and Mercury
Published by: CE Publishing

Interviewed by: Richard Vasseur - (Posted: 6/7/2008)

 

Jonathan Gilbert

Richard: How did you become involved with CE Publishing Group?

Jonathan: Actually I'm one of the two founders, the other one being my buddy Mike Rickaby who is the company's publisher. CE Publishing Group (with the "CE" standing for "Comics Enterprises", a tip-of-the-hat to Vincent Sullivan's "Magazine Enterprises" of the 40s and 50s which published a number of excellent comics including the original Ghost Rider, Cave Girl, Thun'da and Starr Flagg, Undercover Girl) came about as a direct result of the demise of Blue Moon Comics Group. Mike came onto the Blue Moon team during that company's final days and was involved with me in developing a number of new series including The Hooded Cobra, Neptina and Lance Steele.

When Blue Moon's publisher Lloyd Smith decided for personal reasons to close up shop in 2002 Mike and I-along with my long-time creative partner Dave Owens-were left with a bunch of material without a home. After looking at a number of options Mike came up with the idea of publishing the stuff ourselves plus reprinting some of my old material to send around to various comics companies in hopes of getting some of the stuff picked up. It sounded like a good idea to me so I agreed. I didn't though for a variety of reasons want to take on any publisher duties so I opted for the position of editor.

Since those early days however CE Publishing Group has evolved into something different entirely which not only publishes stuff developed by me and a variety of artists but also work by such creators as Don Perlin, Dick Ayers, Sam Glanzman and Steve Skeates. Oh, and Lloyd Smith is also a contributor which makes perfect sense as not only is he a great writer if not for him providing a place for me to develop stuff at Blue Moon Comics Group there wouldn't be anything of mine to publish at CE Publishing (if the company even existed at all).

Richard: What can you tell me about the comics you are involved with at CE Publishing?

Jonathan: Our first two books are available now (and ordering information along with previews of the material can be found at our website http://cepublishing.wetpaint.com ). They are the All-Smash Funnies black and white preview digest which features a story starring my 1930s pulp magazine-style mystery-man Mister Chameleon (with art by Seppo Makinen) and the origin of the late 1930s super-hero Mercury by me and Dick Giordano's assistant Rob Jones among other things. All-Smash Funnies by the way is our comic devoted to golden age style stuff. Also out now is Heroes Preview which is a U.S./Canadian Troop Benefit book that Mike developed. It features material from our various titles and all proceeds are to go to providing free copies of the comic to Canadian and American troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is entirely Mike's project and he's done an excellent job at setting up contacts to get the job done.

Our next comic in the lineup is All-Smash Funnies #1 which has a cover by Don Perlin, a prose piece by Lloyd Smith, Applejack by Sam Glanzman, Soup and Marbles by Steve Skeates and other neat stuff. After that we'll be releasing Perilous Adventures #1 which will include among other things Lloyd Smith and Ed Quinby's Toombora and a couple of sci-fi pieces that were plotted and drawn by Seppo Makinen and dialogued by yours truly. We have a few other things that are at the early stages of development which I really can't talk about at the moment unfortunately. Oh. There are some t-shirts in the works including one with our company logo. I have no release date on that project as yet but I'll let everyone know once things are finalized.

Richard: Why and when did you get involved with writing?

Jonathan: I got involved with writing at the age of 8 when I erroneously concluded that it would be easier to write comics than to draw them. LOL.

Actually; that's exactly how it happened. As far back as I can remember I've been in love with comics and the comics industry and have wanted to be a part of it even when I didn't have a clue as to what I wanted to be a part of. I'm sure I must have driven a lot of people nuts with my obsession with comics back in those days; particularly my parents who despite their misgivings over my dreams were none the less supportive of me.This may not sound out of the ordinary to many of your readers Richard but you and they have to remember that this was back in the early 60s-I'm 52-when comics were not as accepted by people as they are today.

Actually, I had more than a couple of teachers in public school who thought people who read comics were, shall we say, less than intelligent. They were different times to say the least and for parents to come out in full support of their son not only reading comics but also wanting to be a comic book writer; well, that was darn well progressive to say the least.

But I digress. At first I wanted to be a comic book artist and while I showed some skill it just took way too long in my eight-year-old brain to draw comics so I decided instead writing them would be easier. Boy, was I dumb but then I was, after all, 8. Comics writing-or any type of writing for that matter-is not easy; at least not if you do it properly.

Anyway; from that point on I tailored my education towards being a comics writer taking writing courses of all kinds and in the 70s taking Broadcast Arts so I could learn proper scripting techniques and how to "visualize" and frame sequences. I also tried to find areas where I could practice my craft beginning with my high school newspaper (I went to Westminster Secondary School in London Ontario Canada) and with Media 5, a fanzine published in London Ontario by a guy named Bill Paul who at the time was THE #1 comics fan in the city. After that I went to Fanshawe College in London where I wrote for the college newspaper. That actually was my first paying writing job. From there I took Broadcast Arts (at H.B. Beal Technical Institute; again in London) and after that I started working in a variety of mediums including fanzines, magazines, television, newspapers and of course comics (with my first published comics work appearing in 1989; it was an earlier version of the origin of my Mister Chameleon character which appeared in issue #3 of C&T Graphics' Ka-Blam! comics digest). But it all stemmed from my love of comics and my desire to work in the comics industry.

Richard: What about writing attracts you now?

Jonathan: The same thing that attracted me when I was 8-years-old; my love of comics and writing comics. Don't get me wrong; I enjoy other areas of writing and I especially enjoyed writing my newspaper column ("Did you know about...?") which ran in the Middlesex Banner for two and a half years and I have a lot of fun writing articles about comics history. But it just isn't the same as writing a comics script. Other forms of writing, while fun, don't give me the same thrill as writing a comic.

Richard: What is "E-Dispatches from the Great White North!" and where can it be found?

Jonathan: "E-Dispatches from the Great White North!" is my comics review column which began in 2000 at www.jazmaonline.com as an off-shoot of my "Dispatches from the Great White North!" column which was running in Jazma's People's Comic Book Newsletter. Basically how it operates is people send me comics and I review them. Since my health problems-I have a condition called peripheral neuropathy-I have kind of let the column slide but now that I've got a lot of the doctor stuff out of the way I am in the process of revitalizing it starting with a new number one and expanded exposure.

Currently the column is appearing at www.warrenmontgomery.com/edispatch but come May when I revive it E-Dispatches will be returning to Jazmaonline. As before I'll be reviewing comics that folks send to me along with other comics related products. I'm not making any money from E-Dispatches but it does give me a chance to get my hands on comics that are available these days because otherwise I wouldn't be able to read all the stuff that's out there due to there being no place to buy comics where I live (Port Stanley, Ontario Canada) with the exception of Archie digests. Don't get me wrong. I'm a big Archie fan-and would love to one day be given an opportunity to write an Archie script or two as well as some stories featuring some of Archie Comic Publications' ultra-heroes-but one needs variety.

Richard: You have also worked for various newspapers. How has this made you a better comics writer.

Jonathan: As other writers will tell you the more one writes the better one gets no matter what medium he or she works in. I can't really put my finger exactly on how working in the newspaper biz made me a better comics writer outside the fact that it helped me fine tune my various skills both as a writer and a researcher. Made me less wordy perhaps? I'm not sure. I have though noticed a difference in my work that's for sure. I've looked back at some old scripts from say ten or so years ago recently and wondered how the heck I even got them published. So I guess it helped me grow as a writer.

One thing I did learn working as a newspaper reporter and columnist is that there is a time for work and a time for living one's life. Before I used to basically be all about work but working in newspapers one realizes-or at least I realized as I can't speak for other reporters-that once the work is due it's time to set everything aside and enjoy the world around you. One can't be obsessive about their career no matter how much you enjoy what you do. To be honest with you too though I think being in my 50s now has something to do with my realizations, too. Hard to say. Did I answer your question? I'm not sure.

Richard: You have been associated with Jazmaonline for a long time. How did you first join them?

Jonathan: Hmm. You're right. It was, what, 9...10 years ago when I first got involved? A lot of water sure has passed under the bridge for me since those days, I tell ya.

Anyway, as I said it was 9 or 10 years ago that I joined and it was upon the suggestion of Lloyd Smith who, if I'm not mistaken, heard about Jazmaonline and The People's Comic Book Newsletter (PCBN) from Steve Skeates. I started out by writing stuff-including my "Dispatches from the Great White North!" column-for PCBN and then after I moved from my home town London Ontario to where I live now (Port Stanley Ontario) in early 2000 I got involved with the Jazmaonline website doing among other things my E-Dispatches column. Eventually I took on the VP position that you now hold taking on such duties of doing special issues of PCBN. The two I'm most proud of are the MLJ/ARCHIE ADVENTURE SERIES/MIGHTY COMICS GROUP/RED CIRCLE COMICS GROUP heroes special and the funny animals super-heroes special issue which my buddy Dave Owens helped me with. I held the VP position for about 18-months or so I think-maybe longer; Paul Dale Roberts would probably know better than I do-and then resigned due to so much else going on with my career.

I continued my E-Dispatches column at www.warrenmontgomery.com/edispatch on a periodic basis though as some of my friends-including Gary Carlson of Big Bang Comics and the folks at Girasol Collectables-were still sending me stuff to review. And while I was no longer involved with Jazmaonline I continued to make use of the website for news and information. It's an excellent site for comics and comics-related news.

Richard: Comics-wise, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Jonathan: Well, the fact that I write comics, get published and have worked with and/or gotten to know so many talented people during my twenty or so years in the business is something I'm pretty darn pleased with. Having said that though there are two particular periods in my comics career I am especially pleased with. The first period is actually the two periods-1988 to 1990 and 1998 to 2002-I was involved with Lloyd Smith's Blue Moon Comics Group as a writer and editor. At Blue Moon Lloyd provided the right environment and encouragement that I-and many others-needed to produce some pretty darn good comics. Series of mine such as Captain Sentinel and the Lads of Liberty, Young Immortals, Mister Chameleon and Solomon Wyrd all came into being during the years I was involved with Lloyd's company. My only regret is that Blue Moon-and Lloyd-didn't and don't get the attention and praise that they deserve. Some pretty fantastic stuff came out of that company and I am proud that I was a part of it.

The other period I am proud of is the time-mid 1990s-when Dave Owens and I were working as art director and editor-in-chief respectively for Silver Griffin Comics Group. Again, we did some pretty great stuff there and got to work with a some extremely talented people. Unfortunately, the publisher didn't have a clue as to what he was doing resulting in the whole line going belly-up before it really got started. We did though manage to get an issue of Young Immortals (with art by Scott Chandler and letters by Susan Dorne) before everything collapsed but there were so much that never saw the light of day (particularly The Aquanauts and two Mister Chameleon stories); at least not until Blue Moon was revived in 1998.

Richard: What do you think is the next step in the evolution of comics?

Jonathan: I don't think you can put your figure on any one thing as the industry continues to be in such a flux. There's always going to be a spot for the standard 32-page comic I believe though I think-or maybe it is just wishful thinking-that the companies are going to have to start looking at ways to bring out a less expensive product. At current prices the standard comic isn't an impulse buy like it was when I was a kid and there is no real jumping on point for future comics fans. Well, that's not quite true. There are comics digests but only Archie seems interested in taking advantage of that format. Personally I think the other larger publishers are making a mistake at not bringing out digests featuring new and reprint material to sell in grocery stores, drug stores and other places because it brings in new fans plus provides a very inexpensive format for people who just want to sit around and read a few comics stories during a lazy afternoon.

Graphic novels and trade paperbacks are going to continue to play a major role in the comics industry as they have helped bring the medium to a more mainstream audience. I don't think there's much of a future for online comics, at least not short term. The biggest problem there is trying to find a way to make money from them. Also too reading comics on a computer screen just isn't the same as holding a book or comics magazine in hand. At least to me it isn't but then I am a bit of a Luddite. (I can hear all my friends saying as they read that last sentence; "A BIT of a Luddite? lol".).

Richard: What future projects do you have?

Jonathan: Besides writing E-Dispatches and the CE Publishing stuff I'm working on a comics history book with Lloyd Smith, a book based on my old trivia facts newspaper column "Did you know about...?" and I am talking with Dave Owens about putting together a Solomon Wyrd trade paperback that will feature reprints plus an unpublished SW tale. None of these projects though will be earning me an income any time soon so I am keeping my eyes open for paying comics writing work.

Richard: How would you describe the type of comics you like to read?

Jonathan: I'm not sure what you mean by your question. If you mean what types of comics do I read and enjoy there's no real specific genre I prefer.

I'd have to say first and foremost I absolutely love the MLJ/ARCHIE ADVENTURE SERIES/MIGHTY COMICS GROUP/RED CIRCLE COMICS GROUP comics and heroes and I am also a big fan of golden age comics. I also love a number of silver age comics including T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, the Charlton Action Heroes, the 60s Doom Patrol and JLA (especially the annual JLA/JSA team-ups) and the 60s Challengers of the Unknown. I'm a big fan of Steve Skeates' work and most of Roy Thomas' stuff. I re-read my All-Star Squadron collection at least once a year believe it or not.

I like the 70s Kull series from Marvel and am a big fan of a lot of 70s titles including All-Star Comics, The Defenders, Blackhawk (written by Steve Skeates), E-Man and Ant-Man's run in Marvel Feature. I like Kris Silver's Silverwolf/Greater Mercury comics (not so much the stories themselves but the characters which I've always felt has a lot of untapped potential), ThunderGirls from Pin! & Ink, Justice Machine, Big Bang Comics, Chimera Arts' titles, Trekker,...I could go on and on. Oh. And I'm a big Archie fan. To me there's nothing more relaxing than spending a lazy, sunny Saturday afternoon sitting on my front porch and reading Archie digests.

As for the current crop of comics that are out there, as there's no place to buy comics here in Port Stanley (except for Archie digests) I'm really not familiar with what's out there except for what people send me to review. A short while ago Lloyd Smith sent me Jonah Hex and All-Star Superman which I enjoyed. Not sure I'd read either of them on a regular basis, though. Not a lot of comics have come my way of late so I can't really comment on them.

Richard: How can someone contact you?

Jonathan: If someone wants to email me I can be reached at JonAllanGilbert@yahoo.ca . If someone wants to write me a snail mail or wants to send me a comic to review in my E-Dispatches column they can reach me at...Jonathan A. Gilbert/2-225 Colborne St./Box 10/Port Stanley, Ontario/N5L 1C2/Canada.

Richard: Any final words?

Jonathan: Nothing too profound except that comics are as much fun for me now as they were for me when I was a kid. Maybe even more fun as I've gotten to mean some great people over the years including some of my idols in the business. All in all, I think I made a pretty darn good career choice.


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