Richard: How did you start in the comic book business?
Steve: This is sort of a roundabout way to do things, but I decided I wanted to write comics while I was in the Marine Corps in the late 90s. It was supposed to be my cousin and myself as writers, getting our superhero universe out there for people to love. I made the acquaintance of Paul Jenkins at an AOL chatroom (back when AOL still had Marvel chatrooms), and asked him to look at my stuff. We met up at SDCC, and he took a look at my script.
Looking back at that same script now, he was MUCH kinder than he should have been. Anyway, I was looking for a place to "be", and was hording my ideas for all kinds of things. I finally fell in with some like-minded individuals, and we started the extremely short lived, extremely unknown, never-produced-a-comic, Kingfinger Comics. I left there when it looked like it wasn't going anywhere, and that's a story for another time. But basically, I decided to make comics in the 90s, because everyone was making boatloads of money and it seemed cool to tell my own stories, and I haven't looked back since.
Richard: What was your time like as Editor-In-Chief at Storm Comics & Paper Dragons?
Steve: Well, to be more correct, I was assistant EIC at Storrm (two r's), and I was the second EIC at Paper Dragonz. The times at both were interesting. At Storrm, I learned to assess things quickly and to prioritize. Ray Mason, the EiC, put out a call for editors on Digital Webbing, and that position was open. I decided to go for it, and I'm very happy I did. I learned a lot there about production schedules, what was and wasn't ready for publishing, and communication. That's where I also met Cary Kelley. Paper Dragonz was also a great experience. I made some mistakes there, but it wasn't anything I haven't learned from. There, I really learned about communication, because the buck stopped with me.
Richard: What is "Warmadeddon Quarterly" and how are you involved with it?
Steve: Warmageddon Quarterly is a quarterly magazine about a world that is based on gladiatorial combat. It's got a rich history that's constantly unfolding, and I'm the copy editor of it. L Jamal Walton, the creator/publisher, put out a call for a copy editor, and I replied quickly. I think I did that entire first issue in about three hours, going so far as to talk about font sizes that looked a little off on the sound effects. Jamal was impressed, and kept me on. I've also written a couple of stories for it.
Richard: How did you get onboard "Fallen Justice"?
Steve: Cary sent me an e-mail one day, talking about how he was laying on his couch thinking about Superman and what he might do if he knew he was going to die. Knowing he could never use Superman for what he had planned, he came up with a generic superhero to start, and plotted out four issues that put him through some paces, and asked me to look it over. This was when we were still Paper Dragonz, and I was EIC, so I already had a lot on my plate.
But Cary was the co-boss, so of course, I looked at it. I thought the story had potential, but it wasn't having enough impact at only four issues. I then re-plotted the series, adding two issues to let the story breathe a little, and to really get into the depth of how far the character would be pushed. He had to be built up in order to be brought down. Cary saw what I did, loved it, and asked me to co-write it with him. I said sure, and presto!
Richard: In your own words what is "Fallen Justice" about?
Steve: Power and responsibility in the face of death. This isn't "what would Superman do if he knew he was going to die" anymore. We moved past that very quickly. This is a story that goes beyond that. This is a story that speaks to you at a real level, and makes you think about the reality of death, and what would you do if you had the power to effect real change before you died.
Richard: What is it like working with Cary Kelley?
Steve: Working with Cary is great, depending on the hat he's wearing. He's got a lot of Stan Lee's huckster to him, always hyping things well. When he was an editor at Storrm, he sent updates on his division regularly, painting them in a great light, but also letting me know when things weren't going well, and his plans to fix it. When he started Paper Dragonz, he asked me to come over with my stories, which I did. When I was tapped to be EIC, it was only a little strange in that I was editing the boss, but we got over that quickly.
Richard: What does a freelance editor do?
Steve: Heh. We do a LOT. Mostly, look for work. I can't speak for other freelance editors, I can only speak for me. When I'm hired, I look for story structure, pacing, character arc, voice, story integrity, dialogue... I look at all of that, and suggest if any changes need to be made. Sometimes they're big, sometimes they're little. All are done in service to the story. I'm known as Forby on Digital Webbing, and am known for not pulling my punches when I give critiques. I do the same when I edit. When I suggest a change, I also give the reason why I'm suggesting it, so that the writer can learn from it and not make that mistake again.
I believe that a good editor is also a teacher. I don't cheerlead. Cheerleading doesn't help a writer. However, when we're done with the script, or when I say good job, because I don't pull any punches, they know I mean it.
I also manage projects, from inception to print.
Richard: What aspect of the comic book business do you like the most?
Steve: C'mon! This is comics! What's not to love? There is no "like" here. But what I really love most are the people. There are just so many more than helpful people in comics, it's not even funny. Digital Webbing is just a great place to be. Think of it as the reverse of the Mos Eisley cantina.
Richard: What comic project do you have next?
Steve: Currently, I'm working on webcomics. I have one titled Group that should be hitting the net sometime in March, with an outstanding artist from Italy named Sara Cappoli. It'll be debuting with four other stories from four other writers that I somehow managed to get together to form something of a safe haven of ideas, news, and just to let our hair down. Group is about a support group for survivors. You lived through Freddy? Join the Group. You killed Jason? Find support at Group. You get the idea. Sure, there's a twist, but that'd be telling...
I'm also working with an artist from South America named Cristhian Zamora on a story called Annie O.N.E. Think Sybil (did I just date myself?!) meets Deathlok meets UltraViolet. That doesn't have a home as yet, but if it can't find one, it'll be on the web.
I also have one more story in the pipes. The rough title is My Life, and it's about superheroes. I wouldn't call it standard fare at all, though. I'm just waiting on my artist, Chris Bradbury, to get free, and then we'll start that project.
I'd also love to complete Bullet Time, which is a love story about a woman haunted by her husband, and must kill those who killed him to give him rest. One part Ghost, one part The Brave One, three parts Steve Forbes, a dash of lime, hold the tabasco, and serve over ice. It's got Dave Simons on art (he of current Army of Darkness by Dynamite Entertainment fame), and V Shane on colors (who was a featured artist of Heavy Metal), but it's got no home. So, if you're a publisher looking for a great story and can afford Dave, get in contact with me. (I work for peanuts.)
But the big one is still under wraps for now. It's something I'm working with Lee Nordling on. The setup work on it is done, now it's just about finding a publisher. When that happens, I'll be crowing from the rooftops about it.
Those are the projects that I'm writing. I'm also editing Hollow, written and drawn (as of the second issue) by award winning playwright Larime Taylor. This is coming out through Archaia Studios Press, so be on the lookout.
Richard: Which comic professionals would you most like to meet?
Steve: Most? Most?! You don't make it easy. Most...most... I don't know. There are a TON of professionals I'd love to meet. I'd love to meet Denny O'Niel and thank him for his most excellent book; Quesada, just because; I'd probably give my left big toe to meet Neil Gaiman, because he was friends with the most influential writer of my life, Roger Zelazny; I'd love to chat with Alan Moore about magick (note the "k", folks!); I'd love to pick Quesada's brain when it comes to character direction (and to pitch, of course!); I'd love to have Bendis, Johns, Ellis, DeMatties, McDuffie, Priest, and Morrison in a room, and just watch the ideas fly. (And before anyone scrunches up their face, there's a reason why this would be a great idea: idea men and editors to help steer the ship.)
In a very long winded manner, I guess I'm saying that I don't do the whole star struck thing. The closest would be Zelazny, and that's because he's the reason why I currently write. Other than that, I'd love to meet everyone in the world, but each for a different reason.
Richard: What comic books would you recommend outside of the ones you worked on?
Steve: This is a hard one. Do I go with seminal works, or just those I enjoy? Decisions, decisions.
I'm a Marvel guy, through and through. I just love that universe. DC has its points, of course, but really, I'm a Marvel. There are some I'd go with before others, but if I had the money, I'd collect the entire line. I love what Brubaker's doing with Captain America; Dark Avengers has an interesting premise; put Kelley (Joe, not Cary) back on Deadpool... I'm looking forward to Hickman's Fantastic Four. Outside of Marvel, we swing to Wildstorm: Wildcats (however it's being spelled now), Ex Machina, and The Authority. Vertigo: Fables and Jack of Fables. DC: Green Lantern and Justice League of America. ABC: Top Ten. Yes, my wife cringes at the amount of money I can spend on comics on a weekly basis.
Richard: How can someone contact you?
Steve: Easily! I'm at Stevedforbes@gmail.com . If you're on Digital Webbing, I'm Forby, so don't be shy about sending me a private message. I also run a couple of columns over at Project Fanboy, and can be reached there at Stevedforbes@projectfanboy.com . I'm all over the place! Find me! Hire me! I've got stories to tell, people!
Richard: What advice do you have for people wanting to get into the comic business?
Steve: GO IN WITH YOUR EYES OPEN! That's really no joke. There is a LOT of research to do and things to learn outside of the bailiwick of writing or art. There's the whole business side, and knowing why things are done the way they are. It's great to have a pie in the sky dream, but back that up with knowledge of what goes on. When I started out, my ultimate dream was to write for Marvel. Well, guess what? The only way Marvel's going to call is if you do work at other places first. This is especially true for writers, because we're a nickel a baker's dozen. There are SO many of us trying to break in with the Big Two, but there are only limited jobs at both houses. Besides writing, learn to do something else, as well. Seriously. I'm learning to letter because I can't draw. Your talent may lie elsewhere.
In my column Bolts & Nuts, I give a lot of advice to writers about a lot of different things. The ultimate piece, though, for everyone, is to know that comics is a business. It's a business, and we're all privileged to be in it. We get paid to tell stories, to entertain! But if we don't understand it, we're not going to go far. Learn the business. It's not just drawing, writing and then selling to get instant fame, millions, and groupies. There is so much to learn that it's staggering. I'm still learning, and when I make it to the big leagues, I'll be learning all over again.