Western Misadventures with Writer Jay Carvajal

A comics interview article by: Tim O'Shea
Back at HeroesCon, I met some of the folks at Ape Entertainment. I resolved at that time to make sure to cover some of their upcoming projects. This interview with Jay Carvajal, writer of The Misadventures of Clark & Jefferson (a four-issue limited-series scheduled to launch this November) is the first evidence of that resolution. Here’s a brief rundown of the book (a quirky Western period piece from around the 1870s) before starting the actual interview: “Wild times in the ol’ wild west as Sheriff Clark and Deputy Jefferson embark on the biggest misadventure of their lives. The ‘creatures from the sky’ have arrived…and they’re mighty hungry.”

Tim O’Shea (TOS): How did you decide to mix a Western tale with aliens?

Jay Carvajal (JC): Basically, the way I came up with the story was as simple as taking polar opposites in the genre category and combining them. I wrote the first draft of this story, which originally was a screenplay, a little over ten years ago. After making the rounds at screenplay writing contests I pretty much just put the script in a drawer and continued working on other projects. Flash forward several years to when I started planning to produce comic books and Misadventures was pulled out of the drawer and reworked into a comic book script.

TOS: And in terms of balancing adventure versus comedy, how do you avoid crossing the line into doing two much comedy?

JC: Originally, in the beginning, it had a more serious tone when I was working on the outline and overall story. But, early in the scripting process a bit of comedy and lowbrow humor jumped out at me. It was a few pages in and Clark and Jefferson are walking down main street heading for the saloon to confront the gang of outlaws - both men serious as they walk to the classic shootout scene- when the idea of Clark stepping in horse droppings just popped into my head. When I was young I grew up on a ranch type of setting around horses and anyone who has been around horses knows that they poo a lot - anytime, anywhere. And whenever you see any western movies you never see anything left behind by a horse in the middle of the street which I always found odd being around horses so much and seeing what they do. So honestly, once I had that image of Clark stepping in it in my mind, any chance of a serious story flew out the window. Once the comedic aspect worked its way into the story it really felt right to me and the script started to flow quickly which I’ve found is always a good sign that you are on the right track. But, I also didn’t want to turn it into a full blown comedy so I set out to strike a balance through several rewrites and eventually got it to the point where I was happy with the final script. Once I got familiar with these characters the dialogue for each of them came quickly to me and when all was said and done they have become my favorite to write. The majority of other projects I work on tend to be dark so these characters and their universe are a place I visit once in a while to lighten up and have a good time. It’s got the action, the thrills, the chills, and also a dose of comedy including some lowbrow stuff, but at the end of the day what I really want the reader to have is fun. Pure, simple fun.

TOS: In terms of the characters themselves, what writers of the Western (or other) genres influenced your approach on the series? What movies or directors influenced you? Was I wrong to sense a tinge of Kasdan's Silverado influencing the tale?

JC: Congrats! You are the first person to mention Silverado! There is definitely a healthy pinch of Silverado in this. It’s one of the greats that for some reason doesn’t get mentioned often with a lot of the others. Lawrence Kasdan is definitely an influence especially with my screenplays. As far as movies that have influenced me, I could probably write a novel length response to that but I’ll just boil it down to Clint Eastwood, Sergio Leone, Unforgiven, The Magnificent Seven. Now, Misadventures is completely different than a film like Unforgiven or The Magnificent Seven, but I can’t help but have those influences seep in here and there. This story also has that last stand at the Alamo type of feel to it starting in issue two with everyone holed up at a fort trying to survive the onslaught of “the creatures from the sky”.

TOS: How long have you and Borstel been working together?

JC: Boy, it’s been a few years now. This is our third fully completed project together and we’ve worked on well over 400 pages total now. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Marc is really an amazing talent. I know we live in an age of hype, but he is the real deal. He’s a true professional in every sense of the word. We’ve started the next mini series for Misadventures, due out hopefully by next summer, and this guy just keeps getting better and better with each page. It’s like Christmas morning each time I open a file he emails me.

TOS: How did the book land at Ape?

JC: In addition to eventually publishing a project here and there through my company Cinemacomics, I wanted to also have some projects at other higher profile publishers and Ape Entertainment was definitely on my short list based on their lineup and some good feedback I’d heard from some people. I shopped Misadventures around the list I had of publishers and had a few to chose from pretty quickly. Ape Entertainment was one of them. They were so enthused about the project and wanted to know what other stories I had planned after the first mini series for the gang, which showed to me that they wanted to commit to my project for the long haul. They also had a great creator owned contract and they are creators themselves so they really know how to give just the right amount of advice to help make your project better but not so much that you feel like it’s not your project anymore. Plus, they’re some of the nicest guys you’ll ever want to meet which is always a plus when working with people.

TOS: What else would you like to discuss that I did not ask you about?

JC: Just that we have started production on the next Misadventures of Clark & Jefferson mini series which is tentatively titled: The Misadventures of Clark & Jefferson: Hairy Things. We’re hoping for a summer of ‘08 release for it.

The first mini series comes out in November of this year and will be monthly during its four issues. All four are completed and ready to go so there shouldn’t be any late books. Each comic also has between 30-32 pages of story and art so you get more content than most comics out there.

We also will be announcing some exciting things shortly regarding some projects at Cinemacomics. We’ll be sure to let you know as soon as we’re allowed to announce them!

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