Reprinted from the intro for the Melissa DeJesus interview, “I’ve read My Cage on GoComics off and on, so I was familiar with the names Melissa DeJesus and Ed Power. When the GoComics editors announced that Ed and Melissa’s graphic novel, Santa versus Dracula was going to run a couple pages a week, I was interested to see what was going to unfold. Eventually, I bought the ebook for SvD, and it’s a good read. The idea is that Dracula wants Santa’s ability to enter people’s houses without needing an invitation, so he collects a bunch of other monsters and makes a raid on the North Pole. The artwork is anime-influenced, but there’s a lot of western cultural references, including Twilight, and Teen Wolf. My Cage is more of a gag-a-day strip where humans have been replaced by anthropomorphic animals that are now doing all the office work. Completely different [approaches], but both are good in their own ways.” Today I’m pleased to be talking with Ed, the writer side of the duo.
BC: Who are you?
EP: My name is Ed Power. Mostly, I’m a dad and husband, but for this I’m sure you mean the fact I’m the writer and co-creator of the formerly syndicated comic strip My Cage (now on gocomics) and the graphic novel Santa vs Dracula, which I pray every night gets made into a movie. 😀
EP: My Cage was a comic about a world of anthropomorphic animals and a platypus living in it with a mundane job he hates while trying to become a writer. It ran from 2007 – 2010 for King Features, and is now in reruns on gocomics, with new strips on patreon.
EP: Santa vs Dracula is a suburban coming of age story of…jk…its Dracula invading the North Pole. Chaos ensues.
BC: What personal details do you think are relevant to readers to know about you?
EP: I’m from New Jersey. When I was in the Army I found out most people think 2 things about NJ: 1. It is a city in NY (it is not) and 2. It is a series of small cities built on toxic waste dumps. This is also not true. I come from a lovely, little, idyllic suburb built on a toxic waste dump.
EP: When I was a kid, my grandfather lived with us and he was my hero. He read the comics to me out of something called a “nooz paypar”. This turned into a lifelong love of comics, superheroes, etc., as well as the reason why I didn’t date until several years later than most kids start to. Thanks Grandpa!
BC: Do you consider yourself cartoon writer, an illustration writer, an art writer, or something else?
EP: A writer. Although I always loved in the comic strip Bloom County when Opus became a cartoonist and called himself a “stripper”, so I rip that off a lot. Oddly, I love writing, but have no inclination to write anything that wouldn’t have drawings with it. Is that weird?
BC: How did you get your start as a writer?
EP: Hmm. Jeez. I mean, I read comics and comic books from an early age and hence I was writing and drawing my own stuff since shortly after that. I broke off more into writing because in High School I had a supportive writing teacher who sent me to an ‘Arts High School’ program for playwrights, where as my art teacher banned me from the school’s art show. 🙂
EP: When I was a teenager though, my mom died and I decided after all the drama of such an awful event that I wanted a ‘normal life’ so I never pursued writing professionally… then I realized normal lives with no creative outlets suck so I submitted a very badly drawn (I used MS paint) proposal for a comic strip and submitted to all the comic syndicates that were around at the time (6-8 back in those heady days!)
EP: When I researched comic strip submissions I noticed a lot of people who posted their rejection letters online had the same basic theme to the rejections: “Your art is great! Work on your writing.” I was hoping to get a rejection letter saying “Your writing is good. Your drawings look like something that was banned from a High School art show” and use that to coax an artist into working with me.
EP: Then King Features Syndicate called back and said they liked the proposal enough they’d team me with an artist.
BC: How long have you been at it, and what do you think your biggest breaks were?
EP: Wow. Hmmm. I sent the proposal out in…2005? (adds number in his head) Yep. 2005. Wow. Holy shit!
EP: The biggest break was the fact the legendary Jay Kennedy was the editor at King Features at the time. He really took to My Cage and was INSANELY supportive. He also teamed me up with my artist/collaborator, Melissa DeJesus.
EP: Sadly, Jay drowned while on vacation a month before the strip premiered in newspapers. We lost a truly great person, and the real champion of the strip. 😦
BC: What led up to your starting My Cage, then moving to Santa vs. Dracula, etc., and do you have any other pokers in the fire right now?
EP: I hated working in an office, and it got even worse when I got a job doing programming for automation programs that the company I worked for was putting in place to replace actual workers. So, my job was to go to all these different sites, meet all these people, learn their jobs, and create a program to get rid of them. And they knew it. It was REALLY depressing.
EP: Oddly, when I started the job, I had a boss who hated anyone taking vacations and then the project was switched to a boss who insisted everyone use all their vacation days. I had a backlog of a month of vacation days, so I spent all of one December putting together the pitch for My Cage because I knew I had to try something big to get out of that job.
EP: Once My Cage got cancelled, Melissa and I decided to work on something else together. I pitched her a million different ideas, and Santa vs Dracula was the one she liked.
EP: As for ‘pokers in the fire’, I’m always working on something (still plotting my escape from Planet 9-5). Hopefully if all goes well, there will be an announcement soon. But then again, that’s always the case. 😀 😀 😀
BC: What do you do now?
EP: I work as a telecommunications engineer. That’s not what Norm does though. Had the strip run 10 years like I wanted, I would’ve revealed what McGuffin, inc. does in one of the final strips.
BC: Which of your works are you most happy with, or proud of?
EP: I am very proud of Santa vs Dracula. I wanted it to be the Evil Dead 2 of Christmas stories, and I think we succeeded.
EP: Also, after watching Melissa cram her art into tiny panels for three and a half years of syndication, it was great to see her be able to really go to town and blow the roof off the place with SvD.
EP: I’m also very proud of several of the arcs we did in My Cage, the ‘Norm and Bridget break-up’ (pictured here) and the series where our lead, Norm Platypus, gets replaced by a plant at work and no one notices are 2 of my faves.
BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of white paper when you decide to start your next strip?
EP: I heard this story that when asked how long it took to write the screenplay for ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’, the writer, William Goldman, said something like “I thought about it for 8 years and typed it in 3 months. You tell me”.
EP: That’s how I write.
EP: The characters of whatever I’m working on are constantly chattering in my head. When I have enough chatter for a strip, I sit down to write it. With longer narratives, I write when I feel scenes are done, and when there are enough scenes I begin ‘writing to them’. i.e. I start writing scenes or dialogue that bridge those larger scenes together.
BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be?
EP: For My Cage? Fountains of Wayne’s “Bright Future in Sales” and “Hey Julie”. Dated? Yes. But I brought both songs with me to a meeting with King Features Syndicate back in the day to help explain the tone I wanted for the strip. That seems kind of weird as I type it now. 🙂
EP: Santa vs Dracula? Weird Al Yankovic’s “The Night Santa went Crazy”. Santa doesn’t go crazy in our story, but if SvD could be a movie with Weird Al doing the soundtrack and Bruce Campbell as Santa, Nic Cage as Dracula, I could die a happy man. 😀
BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers? Have you met any of them? Got any dirt on them?
EP: LOL! I have dirt on 2 cartoonists, and it will go to the grave with me. 😀 My favorite writer is the comic book writer Grant Morrison. I love how nuts and over the top his stuff is, while never forgetting to add character moments. My favorite ‘non-illustrated’ writer is John Updike, although my favorite book is ‘A Confederacy of Dunces‘. I love stand-up comedy, and consider them some of my favorite writers, too. My favorites are George Carlin, Bill Hicks, and Chris Rock out of that group.
BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
EP: So many…I’m actually afraid of forgetting something. My head is swimming.
EP: I will say this, my favorite comic of the past several years was one called Gentle Creatures by Mel Henze. It was the first strip I read and immediately wrote the writer a fan letter (well, ‘fan e-mail’). The fact he isn’t doing it right now makes me very sad, but things happen. I think it had the potential to be the next Pearls Before Swine. Check it out, then bother Mel. 😀 Tell him Ed Power sent you. 😀 😀 😀
EP: There was also a great webcomic from Superfogeys creator Brock Heasley called Monsterplex that I swear if I ever become famous I will make into a movie! It was set to run on DC Comic’s old Zuda Comics website before that sadly shut down. Still, bother Brock about it and tell him I sent you, too. 😀 😀 😀
BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
EP: A combination of bizarre going’s-on/happenings, but with real characterization.
BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
EP: I don’t think there is a formula. Although, Bloom County creator Berkeley Breathed wrote this AMAZING essay in the front of one of his compilation books about how ‘Truth of character’ is the most important thing for a comic. It’s one of those things that has stuck with me my entire life and changed both how I write and how I read… how I watch TV… you name it. I couldn’t answer it better, so I guess my answer is find that essay and read it. 😀 😀 😀
EP: Am I the first interview to assign homework? 😀 But seriously, anyone who finds it, I’d love to hear your opinions on it. If I could find it I’d provide a link.
BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter? Do you want to plug your site?
EP: We used kickstarter for Santa vs Dracula, but that’s long past. Currently we create the new My Cage strip on patreon. The site is: www.patreon.com/mycage
BC: Do you have any projects coming up? Appearances scheduled for conventions?
EP: Again, I always have something that seems to be on the verge of its tipping point. One thing in particular is pretty far along. If all goes right, you should hear about it by summer. If it doesn’t…well, you won’t hear about it, I suppose.
EP: I’m too poor to go to conventions. 😀 If you see me at one, you’ll know things are picking up for me.
BC: Do you have any strips or artwork you’d want to accompany the interview?
EP: Does it have to be mine? I love this. I saw it waiting for my parents in a store as a kid once and then spent decades trying to find it again: link to desired pictures.
BC: What kind of copyright statement do you want to use to protect the artwork? (“All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright ______ (c) 2017.”?)
EP: DAMN IT! Aw well. Worth a shot. 😉
EP: In closing: READ SUPERFOGEYS AND ANYTHING BY NORM FEUTI!!!
(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the writer. Copyright Melissa DeJesus and Ed Power (c) 2017.)
(This interview is the copyright (c) of Curtis H. Hoffmann 2017. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.)