Paul Dale: Tell us something personal about yourself, your family life, schools you went to, etc.
Jim: I come from a film making and animation background. I went to Columbia College in Chicago (grew up in the Chicago area) and got started in my professional career by co-writing and producing a super low budget horror/comedy called The Creature from Lake Michigan. Kind of a disaster, but I learned a lot about how stories work and don't work. After that, I started my own production company and ran it for about seven years before taking a job as an animation director at Will Vinton Studios in Portland, Oregon. I mostly directed television commercials (animated M&M's for example) but I also got to direct for the stop motion animated series Gary & Mike while my wife was producing on the Studio's other animated series, The PJ's. After a couple of years of that, I started another company called Character. We work on the stories for brand and entertainment characters. Everybody from the Jolly Green Giant to Popeye the Sailor. We also help brands that don't have characters with their stories--everybody from Chrysler to Pantene.
Paul Dale: What was the first comic book you ever read?
Jim: You know, it's been kind of a while and I'm not exactly sure, but it was probably Casper the Friendly Ghost. My parents were pretty strict about making sure we didn't see anything violent or racy. I remember my mom wouldn't let us go see that Disney movie Herbie the Love Bug because that sounded too racy to her.
Paul Dale: How did the concept of The Helm come about?
Jim: I originally came up with the idea as a concept for a film. Actually, it was kind of the collision between two ideas. I'd come up with this half baked concept of a guy who finds a powerful magic item at a garage sale and I'd been working for a while on a concept about a superhero whose super power hated him.
Paul Dale: Was there a Mathew in real life? The reason why I ask that, he seems like a guy I used to know in high school.
Jim: There is a real person who served as the inspiration for Mathew, but his identity must remain a secret. Also, I kind of wove together elements of a lot of folks I knew and some big pieces of my own life into the character--so he winds up being a composite built on the frame of a particular guy. What I was really interested in exploring with the character was the issue of heroism and will power and the ways in which we both disappoint and surprise ourselves.
Paul Dale: When Mathew stole the magical helmet, the guy that should have possessed it, missed it by a few seconds. Will Mathew run into the rightful owner of the Helm?
Jim: I have definite plans for that other guy, but don't expect to see him in this first series. If there's a good audience response, I hope to keep the story going. I've got several story arcs mapped out pretty thoroughly and I really enjoy writing the characters and the world.
Paul Dale: Do you have any thing else in the works?
Jim: Apart from further stories focused on Mathew, I'm just putting the finishing touches on a couple of pitches for Dark Horse and I've got a couple of pitches in at Cartoon Network. No telling where any of that might go, but writing comics is so much fun that I'll definitely give it another go if there's any interest.
Paul Dale: I must ask you an off-the-wall question. Have you ever had a paranormal experience and if you did, can you tell us about it?
Jim: I wish I could tell you that I've had a paranormal experience so vivid and unexplainable that I am completely convinced, but I've only had close calls. I consider myself an open minded skeptic. I'm an avid reader of the Fortean Times and have a brain that is particularly attracted to supernatural stories and ideas. With all that said, I did once have a pretty riveting experience at a hotel that was supposed to be haunted. I was working on a project for Character and we were staying at a hotel that had been converted from an old flour mill in the 1800's. I joked, as we were checking in, that lots of people used to die in those old mills and that the hotel was probably haunted. The guys working the front desk immediately started acting nervous and strange because it turned out that the hotel had a long established reputation for being haunted. To add to the atmosphere, we were among the last guests to ever stay there as the hotel was just about to be converted into condos. So, for the four nights we were there, I was the only guest on my floor.
Anyway, this story gets quite long, involves getting bitten on the arm in my sleep while having the most awful nightmare I've ever had...
Paul Dale: What conventions will you be attending or have attended?
Jim: I'll be doing a couple of signings at the San Diego Comic Con--Thursday and Friday I think. Other than that, I've only ever been to one other convention--the Stumptown Comic Con. I'm a newcomer to comics.
Paul Dale: How can someone contact you?
Jim: Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org . www.thehelmcomic.com for the Helm and www.characterweb.com for my character development work.
Paul Dale: What are your hobbies and recreational activities?
Jim: I play guitar and record music, I collect books and movies and I write all the time.
Paul Dale: If you could go into any time machine, what year would you stop at and tell us why.
Jim: I know it's boring, but I'm really fond of right now.
Paul Dale: What TV shows, movies, cartoons do you like?
Jim: Movies--I love Big Trouble in Little China, Monty Python and the Holy Grail (and the Monty Python TV show, too), The Thing (both versions), Star Wars, Excalibur, Miller's Crossing, Real Genius, City of Lost Children, Aliens, the Pick of Destiny, Galaxy Quest, Toy Story 1&2, Deep Rising, and on and on.
TV--Lost, Misfits of Science, Dr. Who, Chuck, Brisco County Junior, The Office, Extras, American Gothic, early X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, HR Puff 'n Stuff, Star Trek (original and Next Generation)Land of the Lost, and on and on.
Cartoons--Scooby Doo, Speed Racer, the Rocky and Bullwinkle show, Underdog, Popeye (the Fleischer ones), Yellow Submarine, The Simpsons, Johnny Quest (the old ones), Space Ghost Coast to Coast, and on and on.
Paul Dale: What books do you enjoy?
Jim: L.O.T.R., Asimov, Chronicles of Narnia, A Bridge of Birds, A Wizard of Earthsea, the Taran books by Lloyd Alexander, A Wrinkle in Time, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (or anything by Lovecraft), any of the Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser books by Fritz Leiber, anything by ERB (Edgar Rice Burroughs), The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Tao of Pooh, the Perlandra books by C.S. Lewis, Thomas Harris books, Saki, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Freakonomics, Fooled by Randomness, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, Pest Control, and on and on.
Paul Dale: What comic books do you read now?
Jim: I'm just starting to get my feet wet in comics. I just finished reading The Watchmen, R.I.P.D., the Secret, the Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath and Jack Hightower--and there are hundreds of titles I'm eager to check out.
Paul Dale: What gives you your creative energy?
Jim: Ideas. When an idea hits me, I can write all night. I don't know where they come from or why most of the time, but they totally get me going.
Paul Dale: If The Helm became a movie, who would play the main character parts and why?
Jim: I'd like to see Jack Black as Mathew--just seems perfect. I've got specific ideas for most of the other characters, but telling you might give away some upcoming plot points. Perhaps I can answer later?
Paul Dale: This ends the interview, any encouraging words of wisdom?
Jim: I wish I was wise, but I've never let my lack of wisdom stop me--so maybe that counts?