Charles Satterlee of Agony Acres fame has developed two new comics debuting from Speakeasy Comics; Of Bitter Souls and Smoke & Mirror. He took some time away from his busy schedule to talk to First Comics News about them.
First Comics News: A few years ago you worked with Norm Breyfogle on Agony Acres, how did you get together with Norm?
Charles Satterlee: I was kind of an outside member of a group of people in the comic community who played volleyball and went out for drinks once a week in Chicago. I was still a wannabe, and never really felt comfortable in that game. The pros in the game were always looking at me with a kind of “go away” look. Maybe I was just imagining it. Alex Ross, Hillary Barta, Scott Beaderstadt, Buzz and a few others were part of the game. Len Strazewski, who wrote Primewas one of the guys there and he was always nice to me. I was a huge fan of Norm’s stuff and asked him to get me in contact with him so I could ask for the pin-up. I stayed in touch with Norm off and on for the next ten years.
1st: Why the 10 year gap between Agony Acres and of Bitter Souls?
Chuck: Man that is simple and hard to answer all at once. Agony Acres was well received by critics and pros alike. We had coverage in the magazines at the time. We had pros giving us nice blurbs. I’m talking pros like Joe Quesada, Peter Laird, Jim Shooter, and more. The problem is that we didn’t understand how to market a comic book. We didn’t understand who our target market was. We crashed and burned big time. My partner almost lost his house and the failure put my wife and I into a downward spiral that took years to recover from. I promised myself I would never do it again unless I knew what the hell I was doing. I mean, I am fairly certain I can write. I have great mentors like Brian Augustyn, Mike Gold and a guy nobody ever heard of named Bill Martin, but I needed to have the right stories, creative teams and backing. Ten years later and I have been working in sales for years. I have studied this industry and have a good idea of who I need to market to. I have a good idea of what stories work. I have great art teams. I have backing from my awesome Aunt Janise. The time is right to go again.
1st: Are Agony Acres, of Bitter Souls and Smoke & Mirror all part of a Relative Comics Universe?
Chuck: No. Agony Acres is owned by my ex-creative partner, Ronn Stern. He has a bad taste in his mouth from Agony Acres. He is some sort of paintball guru artist now. He doesn’t want to have anything to do with comics anymore. Maybe he’s smarter than I am. Who knows. I do know this. He is a rough guy to deal with. We have had conversations since and they just seemed forced. I don’t think I’ll ever be calling him again. Smoke & Mirror and of Bitter Soulsare not connected in a universe or something like that.
1st: Your comics are branded both Relative Comics and Speakeasy Comics, how does that work?
Chuck: Relative Comics is my studio with my Aunt. We own it. I own the properties. We contract with artists to produce our comics. We then go to a publisher, Speakeasy, to publish it. It’s as simple as that.
1st: Speakeasy hasn’t done superhero comics before, how did you convince them to expand into this market?
Chuck: Speakeasy is doing superheroes and in spades too.Mutation just came out on the market. George Singley is the writer for that one and he’s a good friend. That guy has a ton of books coming out under his Chimaera Studios banner. Look for Project Eon, Super Crazy TNT Blast, Lonebow, Wargod, and more. They are all superheroes. Erick Hogan has a superhero comedy coming out called Hero @ Large. That is wicked funny. Vito Delsante will probably kill me for this but I see his upcoming series The Mercury Chronicles as a somewhat superhero book too. Only a kind of Indiana Jones meets Buck Rogers type superhero. So, to answer the question, it wasn’t hard to convince them to do superheroes. I just had to hold my breath waiting to see if they wanted to do mine. I am very humbled by the talent at Speakeasy.
1st: What made you decide to make a Pastor the leader of a super team?
Chuck: I’m a Lutheran Christian. Some of the more positive influences on me in my life have been Pastors. If they’re great Pastors, they can guide you with great skill and you almost don’t even know it. I also think that Secord, The Pastor, is a strong character who is going to surprise a lot of people. He’s sort of a bad-ass.
1st: What exactly are Secord’s powers?
Chuck: Uh…powers? Who aid he had powers? Let’s step away from that one for a minute. No comment. Can we avoid that?
1st: Sure, how about this one, are Secord’s powers a gift from God?
Chuck: Let’s just say that he had the ability to give the characters powers. He had the ability to teleport away. I just do not want to go further than that as it is a big part of the story yet to be revealed.
1st: Why does Secord stop at four people instead of creating an Army of heroes?
Chuck: Man, you sure are intuitive. I have to plead the fifth on this question as well as these questions will be answered…all of them…by issue six. I promise. Now I am starting to feel like Vito from Speakeasy. Every time I ask him a question, he says something like, “you’ll have to wait to find out” and I get mad at him, a good, friendly mad. Now I’m doing the same thing. Sorry.
1st: As a Pastor why would Secord whose to give power to sinners instead of saints?
Chuck: Ah…a question I can answer. I don’t mean to go all Christian on you here but it is in direct relation to the answer for your question. The J Man (Jesus) hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors, criminals and more. One must be broken down before they can rise up and these four characters are just about as broken as they can get. What better folks to build up?
1st: Winston Fontenot particularly seems unrepentant, is part of the story the road to redemption?
Chuck: You really did read the books. I hope you liked them.
1st: I did.
Chuck: Winston is a very very bad man. He is a criminal of the worst kind. He is violent. He has a temper. He is a lost cause in certain circles. Yes, his and the other characters paths are on a road to redemption. It will not be easy though. The powers they are given make it very easy to go back to their old life. We are all given gifts. I write, Norm draws, George Bush…er…sort of governs…we are all given gifts. It’s just a question of what do we do with the gifts we are given? Are we using our gifts for the glory of all or are we self-serving? Believe me when I tell you that these characters are on a very long road to redemption. It isn’t just going to happen. In fact, in issues two-five, I focus on a character per issue, explaining their own personal demons in detail. It is sort of fun to write these characters using their powers for selfish or evil reasons. Will they ultimately be redeemed? Maybe. I just do not know anyone at all who has it al together all the time. Why should a superhero?
1st: With one cop and three criminals, what is the team dynamic like?
Chuck: I would call Winston a cop in name only. He’s a bad dude. The dynamic in the group starts out like anything else, not so good. It gets better with time and these four people have a lot of growing to do, so there are troubles from time to time. They will have to learn that they are now family. But what family do you know that gets along all the time?
1st: In issue #2 George Parker passes up the temptation of returning to a life of drugs, is this going to be a reoccurring theme that the heroes will have to constantly battle their own vices?
Chuck: Yeah. I’m just trying to do something a little more with the times. I wish I could do a superhero book about teens, but Mr. Robert Kirkman, and I use Mr. out of deep respect, has that covered; as do the Hero Camp guys and I just read Grounded…good stuff. I’d love to do something like that but it is being done and done well. So I thought about what would happen to me if I were given a power. Believe me, I wouldn’t go out and fight crime right away. In issue five, I have my addicted gambler going into a casino and turning back time at the Carps table. That was some fun writing!
1st: Moving on to Smoke & Mirror. What made you decide to tell both a golden age and modern story at the same time?
Chuck: Smoke & Mirror is a fun story. I love the Golden Age books as well as the Golden Age creators. I love comics coming out now and their creators. I had a great writing teacher named Bill Martin who taught me that one cannot truly become a master of a thing unless one knew the history of that thing. Therefore, I studied the history of comics while studying under Bill. Studying under Bill is a topic of a whole other interview. I just thought it would be cool to bring the past together with the modern. It works really well, I hope.
1st: There were humorous moments in Smoke & Mirror, is this going to me a more like hearted comic?
Chuck: Oh absolutely. You can’t write something like of Bitter Souls and be very cheerful. Smoke & Mirror lets me smile again. I literally write an issue of Smoke & Mirror after every of Bitter Souls script. This is a comic I am just having fun with. There will be time travel, lots of cool villains and cool storylines. It is a blast. It takes a while longer to write Smoke & Mirror than it does to writeof Bitter Souls, but I think it will be worth it.
1st: When is the modern Mirror joining the story?
Chuck: Issue two! I just wanted to give her a grand entrance. I’ll send it to you since we are done now.
1st: I have a little trouble understanding the relationship between Luke Gabriel and Silas Binder, do they live together?
Chuck: This gets explained as we go. I am not a big fan of full-on origin stories unless it is absolutely necessary. I’ll jump ahead a bit to issues two and three. Basically, Luke is a not-too-altruistic lawyer concerned with only the almighty dollar. He is assigned a case representing Silas. Through his association with Silas, he will learn that maybe there is more to life than acquiring stuff. He ends up buying the building Silas lives in and taking on the mantle of Smoke, with a few modern day costume adjustments.
1st: I enjoyed the coloring effect used for the golden age segments, as well as the retro style. Was this originally planned or was this Claude St.Aubin’s idea?
Chuck: No, this was absolutely my idea. It was part of the original pitch. Claude just happens to be super-talented and can pull it off. He is a master. Lovern Kindzierski basically invented computer coloring and so I got lucky twice with that team. Not to mention Kevion Breyfogle’s inks that are right one for both time periods. It’ll be like that every issue.
1st: Silas Binder was still active until Luke Gabriel becameSmoke; in what decade are the Original Smoke & Mirror stories set?
Chuck: No, Silas hung up the cape a long time ago. I know what you are eluding to. The fact is that I wrote that scene with the hand offering help intentionally. Readers will find out that he was prepared to be Smoke again to defend Luke, but that’s it. Miss Mirrors dies in 1949 and that is when Silas hangs it up. That is a major part of the first six issues. It will include time travel. Yeah!
1st: Are there any plans for a Smoke & Mirrors crossover with of Bitter Souls?
Chuck: Nope. I am not going to let these two ever cross paths. They are completely separate from each other.
1st: Thank you for your time and good luck with both series.