Jim Terry is a Chicago comic book and commercial artist who's most recent work, The Crow: Skinning The Wolves (a collaboration with crow creator James O'Barr) is gaining national attention. Jim is also a huge film buff and has one of the most expansive DVD collections outside of Ry The Movie Guys living room. We were fortunate to get to talk to Jim for a full hour on a recent episode of the CinemaJaw podcast, and this is an exclusive follow up interview.
CinemaJaw: So what got you started in comics?
Jim Terry: It was probably the box of The Amazing Spider-Man books my cousin Matt gave me. I don't know if it was his idea, but they ended up with me, and I devoured them. The John Romita, Jr. early years, circa late ’70s. I'd read comics, as most kids my age did, but never got so invested as I did reading month after month of books without waiting, getting sucked into the drama — I was hooked.
CJ: Did any films or filmmakers inspire you to go into visual storytelling?
JT: You know, I just popped in Darkman again the other night — hadn't seen it in years — and was hit on the head with how much early Raimi influenced my visual take on things at a younger age. That dynamic, go-for-broke energy was contagious. As the years went on I would look at work by guys like Kubrick, Welles, and Lynch for visual aesthetic. They are, after all, masters. But film is very connected to my work; be it visual or the thematic influences I tend to veer toward, or even editing techniques.
CJ: In your latest book, The Crow, you got to work with Crow creator J. O’Barr. What was that process like?
Very fast, very easy. He sent me things to work off, and we had many discussions on the direction of the book. After that, it was me sending him pages, him responding, me resending, him responding in the same way because I'd stubbornly disagree and leave it, and me resending a final time with his changes intact and both of us agreeing it worked better. Ha ha! That, and toeing the line between [a] maudlin and cold, Sam Fuller vs. Kubrickian indifference.
CJ: Movies seem to be loved universally, while comics are a niche. Why do you suppose that is? What can movies do that comics can’t?
JT: We could talk about this for ages, and there are too many levels to that for an easy response. Let's just say this: Most people (I'm making a huge generalization here — one that includes myself) don't like to be challenged all the time. How many people don't watch a foreign film because they don't want to read or see an older film that's in black and white because they think it's "old and stupid?” I often draw while watching movies, and there is a place for Ingmar Bergman and a place for Michael Bay. Comics force you to connect dots, to read, to imagine more than a film does. Many folks don't even understand what panel order to read, and it seems like a waste of time to them, while it's in almost everyone's wheelhouse to sit back and be spoon-fed all sensory data by a film. Like I said, I'm in that crowd too. They are entirely separate medias, though they bear so many similarities. That's why I cringe at "big budget comics" that try to look like blockbuster films and use gimmicks such as a rack focus or blur effect. If you want to see a movie, go see one! Stop trying to make one in your comic. There are things you can do that movies cannot! Okay, off my soapbox now.
CJ: Reversing the last question: What can comics do that movies can’t?
Most basically, there are visual things that a movie cannot achieve. Go check out Eisner's Spirit stuff, and tell me you can do any of that in a film. There are editing tricks that would be difficult to emulate in film — from panel breakdowns to the time that passes between one frame to the next. It can be a millisecond or 12 billion years. And, as I discovered while watching DC's excellent animated adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns, it's a fine story but just a sliver of what it is when you can get inside the mind of these characters as Miller did on the page.
CJ: There have been tons of comic-inspired films. In your opinion, what are some of the best and why?
JT: Man, really? This could go on and on, and I feel we covered it pretty well in your CinemaJaw episode. Don't want to get into it again. Sorry. Just go see Dredd again; it is the most underappreciated [film] of them all.
CJ: Is there a comic book property that hasn't been adapted to the big screen that you’d like to see?
JT: Most of mine, I'd say. If we're not going there, I'd love to see a Sgt. Rock movie. I'd still like to see Preacher or 100 Bullets as HBO jobs… Most of the others that come to mind are beloved properties that got screwed by the films that were made of them. I'm talking The Spirit, Daredevil, Swamp Thing… I'm sure once I send this out I'll smack my head and say, "Why didn't I say ***?" But what the hell, I'm just a fella’.
CJ: Thanks for taking the time. What’s next for you?
JT: Lots of drawing, pounding my fists on the doors of THE MAN, and plenty of staring thoughtfully into the middle distance — most likely with glazed eyes and a thin strand of drool.
We highly encourage you to check out Jim's work especially the new The Crow: Skinning the Wolves graphic novel. Jim will also be signing The Crow at Third Coast Comics this Saturday, June 8 from Noon - 5pm.
Filed under: Interviews