Monday, February 9, 2015

Engaging the Enemy: An Interview With Alex Woolfson

I have been a huge fan of Alex Woolfson's comics since my pal turned me on to the gay sci-fi web series Artifice. Then, The Young Protectors came out and my admiration for Alex Woolfson went from like to love overnight - finally, a well written superhero comic series made for a gay audience where the main character's sexuality is treated with the dignity and respect. Being gay is just one facet of the protagonist's identity, not the defining characteristic.

According to Woolfson's self-written bio info, "Alex is a Bay Area filmmaker who has written, produced and directed his stories since high school. He likes speculative fiction, meditation and men who fight monsters and then want to make out."

In 2013, he told The Comic Beat's Hannah Means-Shannon:
"As a gay kid growing up, I loved science-fiction and action films and comics, but I never got to see what I really wanted to see and that’s kick-ass genre fiction with heroes, real heroes, who just happened to like other guys. And it didn’t take long before I realised that if I wanted to see those stories in the world, that I’d have to make them myself. Originally, I thought I might create films like that and so I became a filmmaker (which is still my day job)—but I soon realized speculative fiction films are so incredibly expensive that it’d be extremely unlikely I’d ever be able to fund them myself. And it was even more unlikely that Hollywood would want to fund a big-budget actioner with a gay hero. But you can make a “feature-length” comic for the price of a short film. And in comics, you essentially have an unlimited special effects budget. So by deciding to tell visual stories in comics form, it let me tell exactly the kinds of stories I want to tell."
As wonderful as Alex's earlier projects are, especially Artifice, the gay sci-fi collaboration with artist Winona Nelson, nothing could have prepared Woolfson for the run away success of The Young Protectors. For The Young Protectors, Alex teamed up with Marvel/DC penciler Adam DeKraker and Harvey-award nominated colorist Veronica Gandini. When it was time to do a print run of Vol. 1 of The Young Protectors, Alex turned to Kickstarter asking for $14,000 and offering some pretty wonderful perks for those that chose to donate. He wound up with a staggering $133,000 in donations. Also, his Patreon campaign (Patreon is a website where artists can ask Patrons for small monthly donations to help allow them to work on their art) has more than 375 monthly donors making it possible for Alex to spend more time working on the projects we all love.

With all the excitement going on, we are kind of shocked that Alex Woolfson had time for us! But, thankfully, he agreed to do this interview and answer some of our burning questions. If you want to explore more about Alex on your own, we suggest his Tumblr,, Facebook, and Twitter!


Q: I am still reeling from the fact that The Annihilator's interest in Kyle was all just an evil ploy. Why have you done this to us?
Alex: Everything I do is because I love you.

Q:  Do you envision a future in which Kyle and Spooky might get together? Or is that just pipe dream readers like me have concocted in their minds?
Alex: It's definitely a possibility. I haven't foreclosed on that at all. Kyle likes Spooky a lot. Spooky is clearly interested in women, but Kyle is one of his closest friends and I haven't given any reason to think he couldn't be interested in guys as well.

And come to think of it, there are a few scenes coming up in the Engaging the Enemy arc that will very likely add yet more fuel to that pipe dream. Stay tuned. :)

Q: Your Kickstarter for a printed Vol. 1 of The Young Protectors brought in nearly 10 times the amount of money you requested. How mind blowing was that show of support?
Alex: I was totally blown away by the backers' amazing generosity. I really do have the most awesome readers in the world—and I'm not just saying that, hang out in our comments section for a while and you'll find an exceptionally thoughtful and warm community.

But in order to hit $130,000+ in 30 days, that meant also bringing in folks who had never heard of me or my comics. So, I think it also says good things about there being a real audience out there for compelling genre stories with heroes, real heroes, who just happen to like other guys. Hollywood take note.

Q: While stalking you online, I came across a short film you made called Pitch. Have you considered making a live action version of one of your comics?
Alex: Well, I'd love to have live action versions of my comics. I started as a filmmaker and my day job is as a video editor. Animated, live-action film, mini-series -- having my work interpreted that way would be a dream come true. Especially, if someone else did it, because there would necessarily have to be changes and it would give me enough distance to allow me to enjoy the story as a regular audience member. I've actually gotten some interest from Hollywood types about Artifice, but nothing solid yet.

As for me, myself, making that happen. I'll probably make some more films in time, but one of the main reasons I'm working in comics instead of film is that I am a visual story-teller with a big budget imagination. And turning The Young Protectors into a film would require more money that either Hollywood or Visa/AMEX are likely to put into my hands. But in comics, even after paying for professional artists, you can tell a "feature-length" story for the price of a short film, and you have an unlimited "special effects budget." For now, comics are the best way for me to tell the kinds of stories I want to tell without compromise.

Q: Artifice kind of ended on a cliffhanger...when can we expect more?
Alex: There will be a short 5-10 page coda comic that Winona and I will work on when our schedules align. But will there be an Artifice 2? Well, I'd love there to be, and I have a good idea of what would happen in that story, but I wouldn't do it without Winona, and not surprisingly, she's become quite a rock star in the art world. So I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon.

Q: Do you remember the subject/plot of the first comic/story you ever wrote? Would you share it with us?
Alex: Well, you can read the first comic I ever wrote by signing up for my mailing list at It's called "A Shot in the Dark," it's how I taught myself how to make a comic, and it's one of the comic PDFs that you get to download for free from the Welcome Email you get when you sign up.

But the first story I ever came up with was dictated to my mother when I was 5. It was called "Detective Dan and Super-Detective Sandy" and was pretty much about exactly what it says on the tin, except that I'm embarrassed to note that "Sandy" was my nickname as a kid (it's a Scottish form of Alex) and Dan was my neighbor. Clearly, modesty was a virtue I chose to cultivate later in life.

Q: Alex, after reading your free download of "No Kissing" which is chapter two of your comic series Tough, I am seriously concerned that you are giving away the secret to our time honored tradition of back rub seduction. What have you got to say for yourself?
Alex: Straight, gay, what have you -- every high school boy knows the secret of back rub seduction. "Canadian Lip Massage", on the other hand, that's my gift to the world.

Q: What comics/graphics novels stick with you from when you were a teen?
Alex: The "God Loves/Man Kills" arc of X-Men had a profound effect on me. It was so clearly a metaphor for the plight of gay Americans at that time (including the reveal that the loyal staff of the mutie-hating fundamentalist minister were closet mutants themselves). It showed me that genre entertainment could be used quite effectively to say important things about real people's lives and often to people who would otherwise not be receptive. I was very pleased to see that arc used as the basis for one of the X-Men movies.

Q: What artists/illustrators do you currently follow?
Alex: If you read my comic, you should definitely be reading Buying Time by Casey J. -- good sci-fi, good romance, good art, hot (yet tasteful) gay sex. A finished webcomic you should definitely read is The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ & Amal by EK Weaver -- it's like a great indie film with cute gay guys (and hot/tasteful gay sex). I don't have much time to read other webcomics, but As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman, about a a queer 13 year old girl who finds herself stranded at an all-white Christian youth backpacking camp starts very strong and I'm looking forward to reading more. "Dumbing of Age" by David Willis isn't queer per se, but he's tremendously inclusive and his comics are both insightful and funny.

As for my own personal reading tastes, I'll buy anything written by Ed Brubaker (and Sleeper Seasons 1 & 2 comes pretty close to what I consider to be a perfect genre graphic novel.) I'm enjoying Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. I'm also a big fan of Greg Rucka and Darwyn Cooke. Mentaiko is a bara artist whose work is quite popular on Tumblr, and I like a lot of what he's doing.

Q:  Who would win in a fight? Unicorns....or narwhals?
Alex: I had to resort to Wikipedia to find out what a narwhal is, so unicorns clearly have the PR war sewn up. My research revealed that a narwhal is a whale with a horn, and that horn does indeed look intimidating. But in addition to a horn, unicorns have hooves and freaking magic. According to Wikipedia, the narwahl can't even break through the sea ice when it freezes over (and thus suffocation is a frequent cause of death).

I'd put my money on the unicorns.

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  1. This is a great interview and shows exactly how warm, thoughtful, smart and funny both Alex and his work is. I discovered it all last year and worked my way through ARTIFICE and every bit of every offered comic. Such fun. THE YOUNG PROTECTORS is just pure great and so ahead of it's time. Yep... gay super heroes who are pretty damn adorbs and also just regular guys. Go figure. Love it. Thank you both for the great interview!

  2. Nice interview :D
    Though I've gotta defend the narwhales, they're so awesome yet noone knows them ^^
    I found out about TYP in 2012 through a certain Yaoi and BL related forum I frequent where someone was recommanding it and I love it ever since!
    In fact I never knew what a "webcomic" is before and it was my first ever webcomic I read and led me to jump into that media genre! I'm not easily addicted to anything either :D