HEY, AMATEUR!: An Interview with Shelly Bond

Award-winning former DC/Vertigo editor and Black Crown Publishing curator Shelly Bond is launching a new anthology, HEY, AMATEUR! on Kickstarter.

HEY, AMATEUR! is a collection of single-page, nine-panel stories, part personal “how-to,” part “how-so”, which promises to teach new skills or hone the ones you’ve got. Learn “how to” use a knife like a French chef, create a talisman (& then destroy it), ward off vampires or talk to a celebrity, as well as gather valuable pro tips from an impressive roster of 50+ writers and artists! Liz and Adam spoke to Shelly about the project.

HEY, AMATEUR! began as the final page in the BLACK CROWN QUARTERLY anthologies. Where did the idea come from originally?

I always loved the last page of those 90s music magazines that ran recurring one-page comics.  Select, iD, The Face. So, I thought it would be cool to continue that tradition in our own quarterly compendium. I chose the 9-panel grid because it’s such a classic comics convention. If we get funded I’m going to have someone write an essay on its rich and varied history.   

Your previous Kickstarter project, the Eisner-nominated FEMME MAGNIFIQUE, was a massive success. What did that teach you about crowd-funding, and what’s the experience of putting together a campaign been like this time around?

On FEMME MAGNIFIQUE, my fellow curators, Brian and Kristy Miller of HiFi Colour Design, did all the heavy-lifting on the campaign from page design and outreach to fulfillment. I picked up the slack on the curating and editing. FEMME MAGNIFIQUE had a built-in movement and a clear genre category. The lingering disappointment from the 2016 US  election powered the #MeToo movement. Kickstarting an anthology that saluted 50 magnificent women in pop, politics, arts and science felt imperative at that time. We funded at 243% and raised 96K for the hardcover and thanks to IDW I was able to release a softcover last year. Our plan with HEY, AMATEUR! was to duplicate the business model with an exclusive hardcover volume in February 2020 and a softcover release next year. We have a way to go to hit that funding goal but I’m committed to doing my best to make that happen. 

What are some of the hidden talents that have surprised you the most? 

Part of my strategy was to make sure this was not a collection of boring, pedantic tutorials. The comics pros I’ve invited in have a lot of trade secrets and secret hobbies. So part of this book involves getting these people to fess up — not only share the storytelling and art tips that have worked so well for them over the years, but also expose some of their eccentricities. It won’t surprise anyone that we have some amazing artists who are skilled in the kitchen. Elsa Charretier and Pierrick Colinet will show us “How to use a knife like a French Chef” and Dilraj Mann will share “How to Make a Curry,” something he sold me on when he explained that he learned it from his mom. I was definitely looking for backstory to include in these “how-tos” and not simple task-oriented subject. I was very impressed with John Allison’s decision to detail “How to Pack Groceries with Machine-like Efficiency” thanks to his love for Tetris among other games. Someone always yells at me to pick up the pace at the grocery stores so, yeah, this one might save a marriage.  

Are there any of these single-pagers I should probably NOT try at home? 

I guess that depends on who you are and where you live. “How to Kiss” can be a bit messy if your mate is away on business, but then again, so can decorating pastries.     

The list of creative talents involved here is staggering. How did you get so many big-name creators involved? 

I dusted off the old Roladex and somehow managed to trick some of my favorite creators like Paul Pope, Peter Bagge, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Becky Cloonan into working with me again. My longtime friend and Fables artist Mark Buckingham is teaming up with Matthew Howes to do “How to be the perfect party host” which can only be a blast, right? He’s also donated so much of his time and artistic excellence by way of beautiful sketch rewards and exclusive signed art prints of his one-pager. (We have ten different options available, from Jill Thompson’s “How to Carve a Pumpkin” to Gilbert Hernandez’s “How to make the perfect burrito.”)And, it’s equally important to be mindful about the new generation of talented comics pros. I’m thrilled to give upcoming writers Ollie Gerlach and Jarrod Jones their first break, and take pride in giving artists not well known for their writing skills the chance to show their stuff. Paulina Ganucheau, for instance, known for her exquisite covers and sequential art, will be writing and drawing “How to Daydream.” And here’s something that never gets old: Receiving an audacious pitch like “How to Train Your Dopppelganger” and picking the right moment to utter, “I can see Simon Bisley drawing it, what about you?” Writer Alex Paknadel’s response was priceless. Let’s just say it may have involved cartwheels and a visit to the ER.      

It’s great to see a project that’s explicitly teen / YA friendly featuring the talents of some young creators! 

Honestly, while most of the comics I edit have a darker tone, this one had such mass appeal.  FEMME MAGNIFIQUE was 13+ and I think we were able to reach more readers because of it. 

How did you get Lola The Illustrator involved? 

That’s all down to a personal introduction to Lola from sports stylist and skateboard champion Cindy Whitehead, who wrote the inaugural HEY, AMATEUR! “How to do an Ollie” for Black Crown Quarterly #1 and Street Angel artist Jim Rugg. At eleven years of age, Lola The Illustrator is the youngest artist in New York’s Bushwick collective. She’ll be showing us “How to Paint A Mural.”  

Some of these 1-pagers will focus on craft and the comic book storytelling process. What are some of the pro tips you can learn from these top-notch creators?

It seems that everyone wants in on comics these days so I invited some of the pros who have impressed me over the years to spread the knowledge. Gene Ha’s failsafe method of drawing likenesses is such a crowdpleaser and begged to be included in the rewards tier. So, one lucky person gets the chance to be Gene’s model and star in his story. It could be you, Liz! You can also find out how to crop art panels, letter a comic book page, and even herd cats.

If you were creating your own page, what hidden talent would you like to showcase? 

I thought I would have no choice but to offer “How to do a Tap Time Step” but fortunately for everyone, Eric Shanower came in at the last minute and proffered “How to perform an en dehors pirouette.” Between that and Sam Grinberg’s “How to Skank at a Ska Show,” I think our dance card is full. But never say never. If we crush the 100K mark, you might be able to twist my arm. Just not my ankle.      

Now that it’s Bond-approved with HEY, AMATEUR!, can we officially consider the 9-panel grid to be the optimal comics information delivery system? 

I’m not ready to go public with that definite article but I’ll sign my name to “an” optimal comics information delivery system. My favorite part of storytelling is revisiting the rules just long enough to obliterate them.