Letterer on countless Marvel books, responsible for writing Marvel’s all-ages books, and now writing his own comic, Joe Caramagna is one to watch!  And today ComicsVerse are proud to present an exclusive interview!

Before we focus in on your upcoming comic ‘The Further Adventures of Wyatt Earp’, I’d like to just ask a few questions about your background – to help readers relate to you as a writer.

  1. I understand your career started out as an intern at Marvel. How did that work out, and what was it like being an intern at Marvel Comics?

In my second year at The Joe Kubert School, I was told that I was on a short list to interview for a Marvel summer lettering internship. Lettering was a mandatory class at Kubert, but I didn’t think I was very good at it and wasn’t very interested in it, but I interviewed for the job and got it! And I got paid an hourly rate because the school didn’t give me class credit for it. Because of that, the staff saw me as more of a peer than an intern. They made me feel comfortable. I reported directly to Dave Sharpe, who letters a bunch of DC and Valiant books today, and I met Chris Giarrusso of G-Man and Mini Marvels fame when he worked in the bullpen. It was fun times.

  1. Given you’d always wanted to write, was it initially quite frustrating to wind up in the lettering career?

Not at all! I was SO HAPPY to be there. It’s MARVEL, man! I was there early every morning and they had to beg me to go home at night because I never wanted to leave. Chris Claremont and John Romita were on staff at the time, it was crazy. Even though I was still at the Kubert School, I had already given up on the idea of becoming a penciler, but I was a pretty good inker, and I always wanted to write, but I would have done anything at Marvel. I would’ve washed the floors, I didn’t care.

  1. How did you make your break into writing comics?

I self-published a book called Model Operandi with my friend Dennis Budd, but I didn’t get any work-for-hire gigs until a few years into my lettering career. I had been pitching stories for a while, but nothing was happening. Finally one Friday evening Nate Cosby called and told me he was in a tough spot because he needed a script by Monday and Chris Eliopoulos recommended me for the job. I hung up the phone, and on Monday morning I sent him my first-ever Marvel script, a Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four story. After so many years of hard work and talking myself out of giving up, it finally happened. It was a giant gorilla off my back. My wife even got us an FF cake to celebrate. It was a big deal.

Thanks for that, Joe!  So, with those background questions asked, lets move on to your experience as a writer.

  1. How do you work through writing the all-age Marvel Universe books, and how does that differ to writing your own books?

When you write a Marvel book, the characters have already been established. The current Marvel Universe books are adaptations of episodes of the animated series, so the plots are even worked out, even though I have to rewrite much of the dialogue because so much of the episode has to be cut for it to fit into 20 pages of comic. When doing your own books, you’re building characters from scratch. Even in The Further Travels of Wyatt Earp when I’m dealing with a person who actually existed. He died 86 years ago, so I obviously never met the man. So I have to build a character based on what I think he might have been like. 

  1. Congratulations on the success of the Kickstarter campaign! What’s it like using Kickstarter to raise funds for a book?

Stressful! I thought there’d be freedom in crowdsourcing a book that’s all my own, but when you do work-for-hire, you answer to one boss: your editor. In doing the Wyatt Earp Kickstarter, I have two hundred bosses. That’s a lot of people that are disappointed when you explain why the book and the rewards are late. It kept me up some nights that I was letting so many people down. Luckily, they all understand the pressure of it all and have given me a pass while I put this book together. And I’m so grateful that they did because Scott Koblish and Andrew Edge and I have a product here that we’re so proud of that might not have been the case had we rushed it out just to satisfy impatient donors.

  1. I understand Westerns aren’t really your ‘thing’, so why are you focusing in on Wyatt Earp?

I LOVE American history. I’m a first-generation America (my father was born in Sicily) but my grandfather on my mother’s side was an American soldier who met my grandmother while he was stationed in Italy during World War 2. And I mean, a true American. His mother’s family has been in the United States before it was the United States. And his great uncle, who he knew when he was a little boy, fought in the Civil War. So hearing all of the stories and looking through Grandpa’s scrapbooks made me fascinated with history. But in spite of that, I never got into westerns at all. I remember watching them on my other grandfather’s small black and white TV, and to me, that’s what they were. But because I loved reading about history, I was familiar with Wyatt Earp, and I forced myself to watch Tombstone, and that opened the door. It wasn’t until I saw The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly that I realized how great they are. Since then I’ve seen a bunch of them, but the spaghetti westerns are my favorite. Naturally, haha.

  1. I admit, doing a bit of background reading on Wyatt Earp has really surprised me. I thought I knew the character, but the more I read into him, the more I realised there were aspects of his story that I’d never even heard of.  How much is The Further Travels of Wyatt Earp’ based on history?

I had that moment too! I thought I knew enough about his life, but it wasn’t until after I watched Tombstone a bunch of times that I finally asked what he was doing in Los Angeles when he died. 1929 was in Hollywood’s Golden Age. They had been making westerns for a few years at that point. So I did a little digging and found a whole lot of gold! The gunfight at the OK Corral happened when he was 32 or so, and he lived for another 48 years in all different interesting places. He lived in Alaska for a few years. Alaska! Each chapter visits a different place where Wyatt lived after he left Tombstone. It’s not a biography, it’s historical fiction, but there are some real events and some real people in it, but also some not-so-real.

  1. Did you, like me, have any surprises when reading into Wyatt Earp’s background?

The Alaska thing really threw me for a loop. I knew about the Gold Rush but that climate isn’t what we associate with Wyatt Earp, so to find out he was there with people like Jack London and Rex Beach and Tex Rickard, who was a boxing promoter and founder of the New York Rangers hockey team, was mindblowing.

  1. So you’re working with Scott Koblish on this book! How did he get involved?

I begged him, and wouldn’t take no for an answer! I’d worked with Scott a few times on Marvel all ages books. He’s a master storyteller, has a style that’s adaptable to so many different genres, and has an elegant touch. He can draw anything and draw it very well. He was my guy from Day 1. He was a little bit reluctant, but I wore him down. It was easier to convince my buddy Andrew Edge to color it because we graduated from the Kubert School together. He probably owed me a favor, haha. And my close friend Melissa Horvath-Plyman designed our logo. We met way back in the 6th Grade! And I guilted Nate Cosby into editing it.

  1. Is the experience of writing comics different to your expectations?

I’ve been writing comics since I was a kid, so I know how it goes. Most of it unpublished, of course. It helped that as a letterer I got to letter the scripts of some of the best writers in the world.nWorking with an editor was a new experience for me, but I didn’t see that as a barrier, I saw it as an opportunity to learn. I asked a lot of questions and still do. When I turn in a script, I always press them to tell me what they don’t like about it.  Sure it feels good when they tell you you did a good job, but that doesn’t help you to get better. You learn from doing things wrong, you learn from rejection. I want to get better more than I want a pat on the head, haha. I think that surprises people. But I’m a big boy, I can take criticism.

And finally, a couple of more general questions!

  1. What would you say is your favourite comic book so far in 2015?

My top 3 favorite comics right now are Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, and Daredevil. G. Willow Wilson is brilliant. Same with Kelly Sue DeConnick. And Daredevil has been my favorite for a couple of years now. I’ve learned so much about making comics from Mark Waid and Chris Samnee. 

  1. What tips would you have for people who are trying to get into comics, whether as a letterer or as a writer?

Never stop improving, never stop trying, and never stop believing in yourself. Even when it’s hard to do. Especially when it’s hard to do, actually. I’m living proof that it works. You don’t always land where you had planned or hoped, but if you follow your passion, you’ll end up where you belong.

Thank you so much for your time!

The Further Travels of Wyatt Earp’ will be available on Comixology from April 15th, and is now available for preorder from the Kindle Store!

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