Jay Reiter of Satyrn Studios was a special guest at Clearwater Con back in July. Star reporter Caitlin Holcomb sat down with him afterwards for an interview...
Jay Reiter is an Eau Claire comic book artist, musician, and soon-to-be screenplay director. Following his appearance at the 2016 Clearwater Con, he agreed to meet for an interview.
Jay went to art school. Like most people, he changed his mind while in college.
“When I first went to college, my first goal was to be a drawer. And I was terrified of coloring; I just didn’t understand it well. Pencil and inking is very time consuming. If you’re trying to produce comics quickly, you need to have someone else do part of it at some point. Once I learned the techniques for coloring, it makes a lot more sense for me to do it. College demystified the whole coloring process for me. Once I started becoming more comfortable with coloring, with the software and hardware, I color and letter, get it prepped and ready to go.”However, he had a plan before he went. Jay talks passionately about his future franchises of characters and the themes that are available to be explored with them.
“Well, I went to art school specifically to start up my own franchise of characters and (…) I knew before I started school that I had stories to tell. While I was in college I realized that I had a lot of stories with a lot of characters running around in my head, and college sort of helped me to compartmentalize these characters. That’s how my first franchise, Arise, was born. I’ve always had recurring nightmares since I was a child about zombies and the apocalypse.”
The first three issues of Arise are out and available for purchase at Clearwater Comics and other local retailers, as well as from Jay himself.
“For me, I wanted to have a character that was an ass-kicking guy from day one, right out of the door. A lot of stories that have zombies in them are about normal guys thrust into an extraordinary situation. I wanted an extraordinary person that feels that the zombie apocalypse is a normal thing. I wanted a guy that’s not afraid of them right off the bat. (…) That’s where this Thanatos character got created. I wanted the notion of a guy who’s been prepping, kind of a conspiracy theorist, someone who thinks something’s going to happen any day.
“I’ve got some ideas for other franchises that I want to develop and create over time. Arise and zombies aren't exclusively what I want to do; they’re just a starting point. It’s ironic that it all started off during the zombie craze. That was unintentional, and in some instances good timing. Some people are sick of zombies, so it’s good and bad at the same time. Some people are saying, 'You’re riding the coattails of The Walking Dead'. It just happened that I was interested in zombies and that’s what was happening at the time.”
Currently, Jay is self-publishing with the Arise series, but will be looking to go through a publishing company with his arsenal of other ideas.
“It’s going to be my sci-fi fantasy franchise. There are six franchises I want to develop. Arise is available for sale. Descendants of Cain is going to be coming out soon; that will be about vampires, with a more adult story; Skullhunters is sci-fi fantasy, more like PG 13. I have two more, Techno Mecs and the Stone Warriors—they’re going to be really dependent on each other. You can do Techno Mecs without the Stone Warriors, but to get the full story, you’re going to need both. And I’m really into the Transformers, so if I’m going to have my own storytelling vehicle, my own franchise, then I’m going to have my own Transformers line. The Techno Mecs is that. Transformers is about robots coming from a different planet to Earth, bringing their war to Earth. I don’t want Earth to be a part of that equation. It’s not anti-human, really, there just aren’t going to be humans in the story. It’s going to be about the mechanoids and their political system. I’m very interested in politics, so with these two I’d focus a lot more on the politics present in the story, the way their political systems work, and how to rule a civilization. The Techno Mecs would be a lot more civilized. Terrorism is going to be a big theme. Stone Warriors is going to be the opposite of that, kind of. Communism and “How do you live in that society?” Which is better, which is worse, that kind of thing. That’s going to be the theme, with robots and rockets and things that beat each other up.
“Skullhunters is more simplistic, but more morally complex. Skullhunters is a group of people, like pirates. Pirates meets Star Wars. It’s this group of pirates that go around and hunt things, right? So
imagine you’re a queen in a faraway land and you have a dragon problem. It’s killing your crops, eating your people, burning your villages. This dragon needs to be exterminated. So you put a bounty on it. They’ll come to your land and kill the dragon to claim the bounty. And they’ll kill it, cut its head off, and clean off all the meat and the tissue and everything, leaving a nice, beautiful, polished white skull. And they’ll present it to you, kind of as proof to say, “We killed it, now give us our bounty.” And you’ll have a nice trophy that you can now mount on your wall. So in that storyline, there are complex dynamics of friendships, relationships; you have this group of strange people together that are always on the road, and maybe they’ll get irritated with each other. How much of a home life do you have? Maybe the ship is your home life. Maybe some people don’t like that. Maybe there are many skullhunters. Maybe they don’t all get along. Maybe they’re all fighting over the bounty. Meanwhile, while you’re trying to claim the bounty, you’re trying to calm down your teammates.
“The last one is Dream Phaser. This is the superhero book, guy with tights and a cape. I’ve always had very lucid, memorable, vivid dreams. Have you had the flying dream, where you can’t quite control it? I have memories in my dreams and so I learn each time; my dreams are progressive. I thought it would be cool to have this guy with a boring day life, but has these awesome dreams, and maybe he’s a superhero in his dreams; maybe it’s everything that his day life isn’t. With Dream Phaser, I wanted these powers that he’s learning in the dream world to manifest in the real world, and as this is happening there’s a lot of drama involved and all that. But as his powers manifest, his dream world is becoming more boring and bleak, and he’s not getting the sleep that he needs. It’s kind of like his kryptonite. If you’re not sleeping, you’re not able to function in reality.”
Jay writes the script, does the lettering, and colors the pages for his comics. But he needs someone to draw to make the process go more quickly.
“At the convention, there was a guy named Dann Phillips. He and I started talking and connecting; he’s got some great work and he’s a great artist. He’s interested in possibly working on one of the storylines that I have outside of Arise. He’s interested in a concept called Skullhunters, which is actually the first storyline that I thought of before going into college.”
Currently, Jay is working on producing and directing a movie. The script is heavy and the first few pages read well.
“The movie is called the Telemarketer and it’s a story about my life and my experiences working at various telemarketing firms. Telemarketing is a strange job. You’re calling people you’ve never met and you’re begging them for money for this or that service. You don’t know who I am. You don’t know that I am who I say I am. My job is to convince you to give me your credit card information. Is that ethical? Is that okay? That in itself is a story to tell. At the time, I was madly in love with a friend of mine. She wasn’t that interested in me. How do we meet in the middle? Do we meet in the middle? The fodder for telling stories is crazy situations that aren’t normal.”