Comics BOOM! Meet James Moore and Joel Jackson, Columbus' restless genre-mashing super-nerds
Joel Jackson's first comics company was called Crap In a Hat. He started the company in high school, where he'd carry a top hat with him and collect money in it for pre-orders of his 200-page, spiral-bound graphic novel.
"It was ridiculous," Jackson said, laughing.
The company was short-lived though. After "a really shitty critique" from a famous comics creator - a critique Jackson admits he probably deserved - he was deterred from making any more.
Until, that is, he met a girl. A girl he'd one day marry. For their wedding favors, Jackson made a comic telling the couple's origin story ("the story of how my wife and I met and got to know each other is pretty novel and weird," he said).
To make the comic look more official, Jackson drew a logo for a company he'd just made up. Its name was 2 Headed Monster Comics. He didn't know it then, but it was the perfect name for a real comic company he was about to launch with a guy he barely knew.
Jackson had been talking to James Moore about comics for some time by this point. Moore, then an OSU student, would stop in regularly at the Discount Paperback Center on Chittenden, where Jackson worked. They'd talk for hours and make vague plans to start making comics together, but nothing came of it until after Jackson's honeymoon with his wife.
"I hadn't published anything in a while, and the wedding book got me back on the horse," Jackson said.
When Moore saw the wedding book, he was captivated.
"You could sort of see we were already on the same page in a certain way," Moore said. "A lot of things spring out of that moment. I consider it a big turning point in my life because a lot of people I got to know through this.
"We were friends kinda before, but only in the vaguest sense of, 'Here's a person I talk to occasionally in this certain context," Moore continued.
"And he's Uncle James now to my daughter," Jackson said.
"Now, we're like best friends," Moore said.
The duo's first comic as 2 Headed Monster came out in 2009; it was called "Radio Free Gahanna," and is sort of a slice-of-life romantic-comedy that utilizes music not just to show how people connect through the art form, but also as inspiration for the comic's pacing. Chapters (called "tracks" in the comic and named after indie rock songs in the early 2000s) mostly stand alone, with emotional closure at the end of each, but they also still tie in to the work's larger themes. Much like songs often do in albums.
The comic is experimental in other ways, too. There are text-based elements, like email messages, IMs, essays about bands, records and CD101. All elements Moore found, to some extent, in Jackson's wedding comic.
Moore continues the band analogy to describe their working relationship, the chemistry that exists between them, chemistry you can read and see on the page, and also hear when talking to them. They'll complete each other's sentences and geek out together over "He-Man" comics. In fact, they share many of the same influences, aside from, maybe, Moore's love of WB TV shows ("'Gilmore Girls' is straight up amazing," Moore said).
Some of those wide-ranging influences can also be found in other Moore and Jackson collaborations, like "The Toyetic Adventures of Coco Fiasco," a one-shot filled with magical girls, kaiju monsters with too many eyes, martial arts and a flying pig, and an all-ages mini-comic called "It's Candy Time!"
In fact, their love of most things pop culture is one reason they're eager to finish the final two issues of "Radio Free Gahanna." They're looking forward to more projects, like "SuperDracula," a horror splatterpunk thing they've been talking about lately, in addition to working more closely with Katie Valeska, creator of "Next Year's Girl" and the newest member of 2 Headed Monster Comics.
And if that working relationship moves forward like Moore and Jackson's did, perhaps another name change will be in order.
Photo by Meghan Ralston
Neighborhood: North Campus
Influences: Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison, Bryan Lee O'Malley, "The Simpsons," Wes Anderson, George Romero, music in general.
Describe your work in one sentence: "We're accessible but experimental."
Neighborhood: Upper Arlington
Hometown: Scottdale, Pennsylvania
Influences: Early Nickelodeon, "He-Man," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"