Interview with ‘Identity Stunt’ Joe Khachadourian (EXCLUSIVE)

Interviewer:  Joe thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today. Looking forward to talking ‘Identity Stunt’.

Tell us a little about yourself? How long have you been a fan of comics?

Joe: I’ve been a fan of comic books as long as I can remember. I spent most of my early childhood in the sunny Saudi Arabia of the 1980s (a whole story in and of itself), and my dad would bring home European reprints of American comics for me — Green Lantern, Batman, Spider-Man. It’s primarily how I learned to read and write, and comic books sort of became my “language” going forward.

The first one I remember owning is Green Lantern #175. The “event” that turned me into a fanboy was Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman. The first comic book I “collected” was 1991’s X-Men #1. Yeah, I’ve been in this for a while…

Growing up did you enjoy Marvel or DC more?

Joe: I choose not to side! Ha ha…

In all seriousness, it was DC Comics. For whatever reason, I had more exposure to DC’s characters, even the more obscure characters at the time, like Blue Devil. Outside of comics, you had Super Friends on TV and The Super Powers Collection action figures at Toys “R” Us (R.I.P.).

How do you feel about the current state of comics?

Joe: I feel like we’re currently in a state of evolution, like the X-Men’s secondary mutations, as is much of the world. I’ve never seen so much excitement about comics before, but I’m also seeing a lot of negativity towards the industry, from the inside and out. Technology and social media have changed the landscape of just about everything, including comics.

I’m optimistic. I think people have more access to read comics than ever before, thanks to technology, and it’s also much easier to get your own work out there than ever before, as long as you’re willing to put in the work. I’m seeing hundreds of young creators posting their work on social media, getting it circulated, forming collectives, support networks, creating brands, generating voices. Despite some claims, the industry is far less insular than ever before.

The mechanisms of delivery may change, but the fire behind the creators, the love of the characters and their adventures, that’s not going away. It’s only getting stronger.

How long have you been writing and was comics something you always wanted to get into?

Joe: When I was really young, maybe 8 or 9, I would trace Garfield comics to create my own strips called “Batcat.” It was Garfield…in a Batman costume! Genius, right? Odie was obviously Robin, and Jon was the Joker because both are insane. I then attempted to sell these copyright-infringing mini-comics at my aunt’s pharmacy. It wasn’t a terribly lucrative endeavor, but I had caught the bug and was “all in” at that point.  From there, I was a journalist in high school, I studied playwriting and screenwriting in college, dabbled in journalism again later in life, and here we are now. Joe Khachadourian – Writin’ Comics since Reagan!

I’ve had the desire to get into comics as long as I’ve been collecting, but earlier on I was wanting to be an artist…

How did Identity Stunt come to be? Was it a group idea or did you come up with it on your own?

Joe: Identity Stunt was born of a “spider-web” approach. The concept came up on a drive to Big Wow Comic Con in 2014. I put together most of the story myself, with some amazing input from my friend Sam Moyerman on issue #1. And of course, every artist I’ve worked with brought their own story ideas to the table, making the action and drama that much stronger. Artist J. Briscoe Allison’s eye for page layout and pacing is amazing. He approaches things scientifically and artistically, bringing up elements I’d never even considered.

So, story-wise, I baked the cake, but the icing and what you put in your mouth are a solid team effort. (Sorry for that analogy.)

What was your motivation behind the story?

Identity Stunt was motivated by my burning desire to be the man who sends a shock through the system of the indie comics industry and brings back that element of over-the-top, grindhouse action! The story is primarily, and in many ways obviously, my love letter to ’80s and ’90s action cinema. It was very important to me to tell a story that featured a Middle-Eastern American lead as a hero, versus as a villain or supporting character (“Effendi!”). And finally, despite being advised otherwise, I had to include a street-level, costumed vigilante, because the real-world psychology behind that sort of off-tilt drive fascinates me (I’m of the belief that a costumed vigilante actually appearing on our streets is a matter of “when”, not “if”). And hey, I’m also a sucker for the “ordinary person thrown into an extraordinary situation” narrative. Relentless action, Kevin Smith-like dialogue, masked lunatic supporting character — toss those ingredients together in a copper mixer and you’ve got the Identity Stunt cocktail.

Do you do any of the artwork as well or are you solely a writer?

Joe: It’s like “Dirty” Harry Callahan says in Magnum Force, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

I am solely writer on the final book.

That said, I did “design” the main characters and pass my doodles on to far more capable artists. Here are some examples:

We’ll be posting up a few more of these “character evolution” images on real soon. People seem to enjoy process articles. I’m also currently working on a pin-up for the tradepaperback.

How long does it usually take to plan out and deliver a comic book?

Joe: That’s a hard question to answer due to the collaborative process. I can only speak for myself here from a “part time” scripting process. I can plot, outline and breakdown an arc in a week. From there, probably about 21 days to complete multiple drafts of a script for a 22-24 page comic book.

Is this your first comic publication?

Joe: Yup, Identity Stunt is my first major, published work. Though, a one-pager I wrote and drew for IDW’s Transformers MOSAIC project was published…10 years ago (yeesh).

Have you considered writing a screenplay or taking your comic to a studio to be turned into a feature film?

Joe: Yes.

And I can’t say anything more than that at this time. (Smiley face.)

I noticed you were on Fatman on Batman, How did that happen? Do you stay in touch with Kevin Smith?

Joe: If by “stay in touch” you mean “stalk incessantly on social media in the hopes that he and Marc Bernardin will recognize and remember your name,” then yes, sure, ha, ha.

Yeah, I was fortunate enough to have a few minutes with Kevin and Marc on episode 212 of “Fatman on Batman.” Not only is FMoBM one of the best genre podcasts out there, but Kevin is arguably my biggest creative influence, so being on his show as a creator was a very, very big deal for me, a bucket list moment. And I’ve taken all of his and Marc’s advice to heart and have been implementing it. How’d it happen? Luck, determination, and as I understand it, a few too many vodka tonics before getting on stage…The “As seen on ‘Fatman on Batman’” part of our press releases are somewhat of a tongue-in-cheek joke, but not untrue!

Is there anything you have upcoming that you would like to promote?

Joe: Story-wise, nothing too concrete as of yet, but if all goes to plan, my hope is to put out an Identity Stunt mini-series every year or two. I currently have volumes two and three planned out. Outside of “The Beatdownverse,” I’m working on a sub-aquatic adventure mini-series and putting together a one-shot I plan on writing and drawing in 2020.

I also collect Twitter followers, so if you want to help me out, feel free to @ me at @Joe_Kach.

If you’re digging the book, my only ask of you, our readers, is to spread the word. Leave us a rating on ComiXology, a review on DriveThruComics, or a review on our Facebook Page. ONE positive review can lead to dozens of new readers, please keep that in mind. Or, hey, pick up some Identity Stunt gear and show-off your love around town and make all your friends jealous! Don’t forget that Identity Stunt #3 is out now, and #4 will debut in August, followed by the trade paperback in September! Identity Stunt is available digitally on ComiXology and DriveThruComics, and in print at The Identity Stunt Store.

Markosia Publishing has quite a few other titles that are worth your time, so please take a look at books like Geek-Girl, The Vampires of Lower Bennett Street, and Mycelium Sleep.

Thank you!