Interview: Arvid Nelson - Geek Smash
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Arvid Nelson Interview

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Today, Geek Smash was lucky enough to sit down with Rex Mundi and Zero Killer writer Arvid Nelson. In the truest fashion of two individuals with ADD we take turns interviewing each other, and approach the topics of martial arts, the future of the comics industry, and sleeping in warehouses.

GS: I understand congratulations are in order.

Yes, he is six weeks old. Thank you very much. I can’t believe how crazy I am about him.

Is he your guys first?

Yes, Number uno. Do you have kids?

I think the expression is “avoiding them like the plague.”

I did too, but I was surprised by how great it is. How long have you been working for Geek Smash?

I met the CEO at SDCC this year. (It was at this point I realized, Arvid was now interviewing me)

Cool, that’s actually where I met my original artist for Rex Mundi. Back in 1999. Loooong time ago.

So how is Northhampton treating you?

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Western Massachusetts, but it is terrific. It’s really nice out here. There’s beautiful farms, we live right on a river. Actually, are you familiar with HP Lovecraft? If you come here, you’ll see what I mean. There are haunted houses and every other day is like Halloween. And you said you were from Florida?

That’s right.

A lot of the death metal bands are from there, it’s really weird. Boybands and death metal.

I guess that’s something to be proud of. How do you feel about the omnibuses being collected and released?

I actually prefer them, it’s slightly smaller but the size is better. Scott, my editor at Dark Horse, suggested it when we started and I said no. And now I wish I hadn’t, it looks so much better now. I’m thrilled. And then another series I did called Zero Killer, and their in-house designers are so amazing. It looks so good and I can’t take any credit. Beautiful, beautiful stuff.

I need to read Zero Killer.

Yeah, you’d be about the fourth person to see it. But thank you.

I read Rex Mundi back in 2005, which is why i jumped at the chance to do this interview. Will Rex Mundi ever return in any form?

I’ve finished it. It’s done. There was the idea of doing something set during the first crusade. But It would literally have nothing to do with Rex Mundi, it would just be a thousand years earlier. So no, to answer your question. I feel like so many things that you once want tend to over stay their welcome. I wanted it to end gracefully. When it’s over, I hope the ending is pretty definitive. I feel like in order to be a story it has to have an end, to some extent.¬† No matter how good a character is, at some point there are only so many stories you can tell.

So what were the comics that made you want to write comics?

One of my favorite comics is called Martial Law. Pat Smith and Kevin O’Neil. It’s very similar to Watchmen, in some ways. I read that about ten times in ninth grade and it just changed my life. I don’t know if you remember when Image Comics debuted and blew up but I remember that. I was in high school and Image Comics had just come out. And even before that, Todd Macfarlane was drawing Spider-man and Rob Liefield was doing X-Men and that stuff was just, it’s hard to describe how amazing it was. Me and all my friends, it just blew our minds and we couldn’t wait for the next issues to come out. It was just pure joy. The glory days.

What are you currently reading?

Actually, I’m reading a collection of short stories (prose) by Thomas Ligotti. Highly recommended.

Are you reading any comics?

I probably should be, what would you recommend?

Saga, Brian K. Vaughn and Fionna Staples if I have to say just one.

Brian gave us a really nice quote for Rex Mundi, back in the early days, which was helpful to us. I always wanted to thank him. Very grateful for that. I will look it up!

How’d you break into the industry?

It’s funny. If I had known how hard it was going to be I might not have gotten started. But maybe that’s part of being young? I was in my twenties and I could never do it again I’ll tell you that much. I would literally have a nervous breakdown and become catatonic. I started my summer after college, I worked on a few movies, a Woody Allen movie. We shot live in New York City, I was working as a production assistant. Not even on the totem pole, the dirt beneath the totem pole.

You’re singing my song.

Yeah, (laughing) yeah, you feel me? So we were shooting in NYC, we had permits and everything, and it was my job to tell ornery New York pedestrians they couldn’t walk down this street. I was nearly killed once. That was awesome. And then I worked on a Troma film, you know The Toxic Avenger? that was like the polar opposite of the Woody Allen experience. It was like, sleeping in a rat infested warehouse and stuff. We shot it in Poughkeepsie, NY and it was our job to make it look like a post apocalyptic wasteland. Which Poughkeepsie, NY kind of already does. I still feel terrible about this. We took public trash cans and just threw the trash all over the ground. I picked everything up though, I promise. Anyway, that was so much fun that I decided to start writing comics.

And from there how did you first meet with Image?

It was about a year or so, as you know Rex Mundi is a little unusual. And especially the first issue are a little rough around the edges. But for me, that’s what I love about comics. A comic like Poison Elves or Strangehaven (I love, love Strangehaven.) I love seeing comics grow from where they start out like almost quasi-neandethal, but then you know, the creators kind of find their footing and they get so much better. So we showed it to Image and it took them about a year to want to publish it. I lost all my hair that year. I think that was my first nervous breakdown. I pulled it right out, or it fell out, I don’t really remember. It was just a haze of nervousness. But all’s well that ends well!

This was probably the third greatest day of my life, now that I’m married and have a son those are the top two. But for a long time, it was the greatest day. I was in New York City and went to Forbidden Planet at 2am. I know Jeff, the buyer there, a really great guy and I asked him “How’s Rex Mundi doing?” It had been out for about a week. And he said, “I can’t get a copy of one, it’s all sold out.” I’ll never forget it.

In talking about comics and what they’ve evolved into now, do you see the industry going a particular way with digital vs print comics?

I think it’s great, I mean honestly I find it totally bewildering. I’d love to say I know where everything is going. I have absolutely no idea where anything is going. I want to say “oh, comics are going to be around forever,” but I don’t know. Technology is just so crazy, chaotic, and scary right now, that I don’t have the slightest idea what the future holds. But yeah, that’s how I feel. (laughing) I feel terrified.

For future releases and anything you might work on, is digital something you’re looking it? Do you prefer having it in print before digital?

I am amazed, I have the iPhone 4 and the screen is really easy to read. A lot of my reservations about reading on-screen are kind of gone. I guess, for me I don’t care about the medium it’s being delivered in. As long as people want to read my stories. When someone buys one of my comics, it’s just the highest compliment you can give me. Rex Mundi is available through digital download with Dark Horse now. We’ll see where it goes. Piracy is definitely scary.

Last update I saw about the Rex Mundi movie was the previous spring. Is their any news on that?

It’s hard to know. It’s a lot like bomber pilots in world war two. They said it was hours of boredom punctuated by moments of extreme terror. That’s sort of what it is with the movie. Things will be dormant for a long time and then all of a sudden something will happen. I’ve seen the screenplay, I think it’s really good. So I’m happy with that. I don’t know what the status with that is. I try to bother the film producers as little as possible. It’s weird, I understand Hollywood so much better than before I was dealing with the Rex Mundi stuff. It’s just so difficult to make a good movie.

How do you feel about the trend of comics being mined for movie stories? What are some of your favorites or some you’d like to see?

I think it’s great, I’m for it. I would love to see Strangehaven. It’s a terrific British comic. That would make a great TV series, I think.

What are your thoughts on big event books?

It’s fun, you have a cohesive universe and comic book publishers know people want to read it. It’s a way for a big company that has a large stable of characters to create that epic, kind of fun story. I guess people get a little mad because they feel they have to buy a bunch of comics to figure out what’s going on, but then again on the other hand it’s a lot of fun to just dive into it! So it’s fun, yeah.

Are there release dates for the Rex Mundi Omnibus Pt.2? What are you working on now?

Volume one is out now and two should be in the next 6 months to a year. What I’m working on now is actually a prose novel. And I just started doing Jujitsu and it’s so similar. Both are so humiliating and invigorating. But I soldier on!

 Thanks for taking the time to talk with us.

Thank you!