From Different Walks Of Life
Tripwire’s contributing writer Scott Braden talks to JC Vaughn about bringing his debut comic series, McCandless & Company, back to life in print again…
It has been decades since comics scribe J.C. Vaughn brought his first comic book vision to vivid life by introducing armies of readers to his noir property, McCandless & Company. The acclaimed creator and Gemstone Publishing’s vice president of publishing now revisits this work with his newest offering, McCandless & Company: Crime Scenes.
What is the secret origin of this McCandless & Company collection?
J.C. Vaughn: Very early in my career I had put out one graphic novel called McCandless & Company: Dead Razor. I had a bunch of ideas for short tales and other graphic novel that filled out the early story of the characters. I was able to enlist the aid of some brilliant artists. A new (at the time) publisher offered to put it all in a trade paperback. I jumped at the chance. Despite lots of great intentions, the printing was horrible.
A few years ago, American Mythology published the stand-alone story, McCandless & Company: Insecurities. They gave it a really nice printing. That left only the short stories and some great pin-ups and concept pieces that still need their chance to shine, which brings us to McCandless & Company: Crime Scenes.
How and when did you first come up with the concept?
JCV: Early in college. The idea originally came from two girls I knew. They were having a bit of falling out over a guy. I wrote a short, short story about it and things just sort of grew from there. The characters have never left me, but the premise and my ability to tell a story matured.
I think the potential audience for the book might be more receptive now than when I created the characters, but that’s just lucky timing. There was no real agenda with them being strong, dynamic women. That’s just who they turned out to be.
For those unfamiliar with your comic, what is McCandless & Company about?
JCV: Carey McCandless and Jessica Williams are two private investigators from two very different walks of life. They’re best friends and have been known to drive each other crazy, but they are incredibly resourceful, insightful investigators. Their assistant is David Bradshaw, who is just hoping to save up enough money to take a year off and write.
You have some of the top talent in the comics industry portraying your characters. How did you enlist their services?
JCV: In this comic, I got both Ben Dale and Chris Chua very early in their careers, when all I could promise was that I’d tell people about them. The late Harry Roland, who some folks will remember for his Famous Monsters covers, was just getting back into comics at the time. I’d worked on several projects with Gene Gonzales, who is amazing, already by that point. Matt Busch had co-illustrated Dead Razor and a Battlestar Galactica project for me, and his work speaks for itself. Mark Wheatley (Mars, Breathtaker) simply offered to do a pin-up. Getting folks like Michael Avon Oeming (Powers), John K. Snyder III (Fashion In Action), and Billy Tucci (Shi: Return of the Warrior) just came down creators encouraging other creators. It’s sort of a dizzying team, isn’t it?
You’re launching this project on Indiegogo?
JCV: Yes, indeed. Everyone can find it at https://tinyurl.com/McCandlessIGG. It went live at 7 PM EDT on Tuesday, October 27. Like I said, my real goal here is the get a decent printing for these great artists who helped me out early in my career. Think about what Robert Hack alone has gone onto do on Sabrina for Archie and on so many great covers for a multitude of publishers. And here he was, doing a McCandless & Company pin-up? I knew at the time I was fortunate, but over the years it’s become even more clear.
We noticed that your preview images include a new cover for your previously published graphic novel McCandless & Company: Insecurities. What’s the story there?
JCV: Gene Gonzales and I did this 48-page complete story that we mentioned early, McCandless & Company: Insecurities. American Mythology did a great printing of it in 2016 and I was very happy, finally, with the results. We just wanted to add something extra to go along with the McCandless & Company: Crime Scenes issue, so my pal James Nelms (Bedtime Stories For Impressionable Children) cooked up one truly and seriously spectacular cover. The edition will be limited to our campaigns for Crime Scenes. It’ll have a cardstock cover, and it should be beautiful.
Who would you like to draw your comic or create a McCandless & Company pin-up? What would it take to make that happen?
JCV: I always have people I’d like to see do McCandless & Company stories or covers. The problem is getting the right story and script for the next one is, and there’s no sense in finding the artist until I have it down tight and ready to fly. I think we’re pretty close on the plot, but that’s as far as I can say right now. Of course I have a wish list of artists. You can look at the roster of folks I’ve worked with on the covers for The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide and get an idea of the directions I would lean.
Do you have a favourite McCandless & Company story?
JCV: No, not really. There’s something I like about all of them. The only ones I don’t like are the ones I haven’t written yet.
Do you have a shared comic book universe where McCandless & Company, Zombie-Proof, and Vampire, PA exist in?
JCV: I’ve really thought about it in terms of Zombie-Proof and Vampire, PA, but right now I’d have to say “No.” And if those two won’t work together, I think adding McCandless & Company would be even more forced.
I think we really pulled off something great in the short McCandless & Company story we did in Robert Tinnel, Todd Livingston and Neil Vokes’ The Wicked West 2 at Image Comics. We managed to crossover modern day and the 1930s and still have it work without violating either continuity. I’m really proud of that, and very happy to include that Gene Gonzales-illustrated tale, “End Credits,” in Crime Scenes.
There is talk that you may be writing a comic book crossover for the ages! Any chance that you can tell us about it . . . or at least give us a hint of what you have planned?
JCV: Nothing I can spill the beans about yet. I’m really looking forward to talking about it. It’s just not soup yet.
Anything else on the horizon?
JCV: Always! I just sent the final story for the Bedtime Stories For Impressionable Children King Size Special Giant Annual #1, a killer piece illustrated by Ed Catto (Captain Action) from a story by Art Holcomb (Dogs of War) off to letterer Marshall Dillon yesterday, so we’ll be putting that one on the schedule very soon. It’s a 48-pager, expanded from the original 32-page version Bedtime Stories For Impressionable Children #2 that was solicited right as the pandemic broke and things shut down. Jam-packed with content. No interior ads.
After that will come Second Wednesday, a prose novel. It’s my first novel, as least as far as anyone can prove. It’s a murder mystery set in my adopted home town, Hurst, Texas. More on that soon!
Support McCandless & Company on Indiegogo by visiting here