Justin Gray Talks Sex & Violence Volume 2: Creating a Generation of Comic Readers Who Want Something Else

Justin Gray has quietly become one of the most prolific and respected writers in comics, working for years with his Paperfilms collaborator Jimmy Palmiotti on a number of projects that range from the Big Two (Jonah Hex was a favorite for years) to independent creations, where their work together really shines.

While they occasionally work with Image, Icon or some other publisher who handles the heavy lifting on behalf of creators for that kind of comics, mostly their recent creator-owned work has been funded through Kickstarter, with Palmiotti, Gray and company overseeing it.

One such effort, Sex & Violence, has a second volume currently in the funding stage (you can see the video below or visit the Kickstarter page here to pledge).

Gray joined ComicBook.com to discuss the project, and we put to him the same questions we asked Jimmy Palmiotti about it yesterday, to see how the longtime collaborators' approach to the same project might differ...

Is it tough, explaining this series to people? I mean, it's easy enough to dismiss it as a bit like the little boy who swears just to upset his parents, right?

A funny thing happens when you put the word sex on something, there's a much greater reaction to it than if you use the word Taxes or Root Canal, which I realize is two words, but you get the point.

Do you think that the goodwill you guys have generated by being so prolific across such a wide range of comics has helped fight that fight for you a little?

I would like to think we have and continue to earn the interest of readers across a broad spectrum and from different backgrounds. Obviously we have a wide array of interests between us and Jimmy and I both love having the opportunity and support to do our own projects in addition to working with industry leading publishers.

Did you approach the other creators for this volume or did they approach you on the strength of vol. 1?

I am a big believer in putting the right people together for a project. I think that is an overlooked, but very important part of any creative endeavor. I worked for years and years as a chef. One thing you have to learn immediately is blending flavors, finding harmony in them and how to combine flavors to bring out the best in an entre. It might sound goofy but in a collaborative art form like comics the same applies. I knew Rafa would bring the organic and surreal horror of war to life and that's why I wanted to work with him.

You guys have Kickstarted a lot of graphic novels. Is there potential for more sequels/follow-ups down the line for other books?

I'm almost done writing a story that would be perfect for S&V volume 3 if we choose to return to it.

It strikes me as interesting that you guys never have any problem blowing away your funding goals but the terrific "Creator-Owned Heroes" didn't last very long at all. Is that just a matter of having to pay for an overprint or is it something more?

I think it is safe to say the experience with Creator-Owned Heroes changed the game for us both creatively and more importantly from a business standpoint. We needed to reach our audience and the established channels weren't working for us so that's where Kickstarter became a game changer.

How do you guys put something like this project together? Do you have some short stories and you look through and go, "These would fit," or do you start knowing what the anthology is and create material to match?

If you're a writer you write regardless of the money or if you have an assignment. When I write for myself I tend to write stories about adults involving crime, horror and science fiction.

Obviously the levels of notoriety enjoyed by the artists in this volume vary from person to person. How did you assemble this particular team of artists?

Do you think it's fair to say this is a book that just couldn't be profitable in today's comics market if you had to rely on the direct market to break even?

I believe that ultimately there will be market expansion and stories like these and our previous Kickstarters will become welcome. I am seeing encouraging signs that the monopoly the superhero genre has in mainstream American comics is going to facilitate a generation of readers that want something else. I think the term direct market will become more literal, because in effect that's what we're doing, marketing our comics directly to our audience.

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Do you guys already have your next Kickstarter project in the works or does working on so many projects at a time give you a bit of tunnel vision?

JG: I'm really excited about the next project that Jimmy mentioned it is a story we are in love with, an artist that is doing staggeringly great work and I think it is something a lot of people are going to have an interest in reading.