The GeeksverseJay Potts Brings a World of Hurt

Jay Potts Brings a World of Hurt
Published on Monday, May 23, 2011 by

He’s walked forty-seven miles of barbed wire, he’s got a cobra snake for a necktie, a brand new house on the road side, and it’s a-made out of rattlesnake hide, got a band new chimney put on top, and it’s a-made out of human skull…come on take a little walk with him and tell me why do you write. Why do you write? Why do you write?

Jay Potts is a down to earth guy who writes about a larger than life group of characters. That is not unusual in comicdom, but since his central character, Isiah “Pastor” Hurt, has that oozes coolness Jay needed a cooler than usual introduction. The above is how I think Jay would be introduced by George Thorogood. Jay would probably sing back about writing alone all by himself…or maybe not. Hyperbole aside, Jay Potts is a comic creator that has been praised by Warren Ellis.

“WORLD OF HURT, a webcomic you can find at http://worldofhurtonline.com, is kind of fun. It’s serialised newspaper-strip style, in black and white, in a classical art style of the form. It looks like blaxploitation, but it’s not homage so much as an attempt to find a pure tone in the sub-genre. Jay Potts is doing strong early work, and I see much potential.”

– Warren Ellis – comic book writer, excerpt from Bleeding Cool News

Jay Potts is a comic book and movie fan that began his web series, World of Hurt, a little over two years ago. The weekly newspaper style comic has been developing a growing fan base. Besides wowing some online spectators, Jay has caught the attention of Warren Ellis and the ECBACC winning the Best Artist Award, Best New Male Character, and a general recognition for awesomeness. Potts was also nominated in six categories of the 2010 Glyph Comics Awards: The categories include, Story Of The Year, Best Writer, Best Artist, Best Male Character, Rising Star and Best Comic Strip. Since his introduction in Newsorama, 2009, Potts has been coming on strong as a leading online comic producer. His online comic is finding its way to print later this year, most likely June, and should continue on from there.

Potts is a new face on the horizon to know.

Award winning Potts photo courtesy World of Hurt Facebook page

Jay Potts educational journey began at Bowling Green University in Ohio. His second degree was taken from Savannah College of Art and Design. Potts pencils each online strip on smooth finish bristol board, assemble the penciled panels on a light box to ink on Vellum. His digital comic has a very traditional beginning before being put into Adobe Illustrator and finished for addition to the blog.

Potts’ main man character, Isiah “Pastor” Hurt, has all of the key ingredients for a blaxploitation film hero. He is a Vietnam vet, a street detective, he has a strong moral drive, and he has fists of steel in a larger than life without super powers way. However, this love letter to the blaxploitation film has folded in a few new pieces to keep the reader guessing. Potts throws in a few new twists along the way. He wants this work to be in the spirit of blaxploitation without being redundant. With love to Shaft the plots were fairly predictable and copying their story lines too closely would leave little reason for the reader to continue reading week after week. For instance, he had considered adding a strong female lead worthy character or two but didn’t want to be openly compared to Daughters of the Dragon by Claremont and John Bryne who had already created a blaxploitation style foxy duo. Potts would like to create a character with a fun name like Suggah Browne to be able to work with in the future.

In previous interviews Jay Potts has called the online comic format a god-send because it allowed him to manage weekly amounts versus trying to produce a full comic. The feedback from his website and blog have allowed him to keep stoked about the project and use that energy to develop two years of material. The starting point, Thrill Seekers, was improvisational and will be collected into a print comic in June 2011. The second story arc, Black Fist, had a tighter script to help him develop more sub plots and characters.

As an online fan of the online comic, I expected to hold the neo-traditional email interview with creator Jay Potts. However, as a strange twist of the internet, I was able to meet up with him during Free Comic Book Day at Heroe’s Aren’t Hard to Find in Charlotte, NC. We chatted while he sketched me a biker bust. I did not want to hog his time, so I stepped aside so he could work the crowd. The bulk of the interview we conducted via email. Below is the culmination of the email interview. Unfortunately, I did leave Potts at FCBD without getting a button.

When I asked for a biker, Potts produced this

This is the biker Potts sketched for me at FCBD.

Why comics? What about comics made you want to create them?

Potts: I’ve been reading comics since I was about four years old. My brother introduced me to them, and although he stopped reading them, I never did. ( I have a longbox at my parents home full of early 90s comics which can attest to that fact. If that period didn’t make me stop, nothing would.) It’s the art more than anything that appealed to me most in comics. I’m fond of saying that I never really followed characters or publishers, I followed artists. I will drop a book cold if the artist changes and I don’t like the replacement. Conversely, a solid or innovative new art team will make me pick a book I’ve never tried before. I wanted to become a part of that world.

What do you see as the importance of Free Comic Book Day?

Potts: Although Free Comic Book Day usually occurs on, or around a day that coincides with the release of a major comic book related movie, it’s really a day that’s purely about the celebration of the art, stories, and introducing new readers to something that deserves greater attention. Most of the time, the general media only pays attention to comic books during San Diego Comic-Con or when there’s some kind of character-killing stunt. On FCBD, the publishers put out some of their best material and invite people to try out all the flavors. Every year it grows a little more, with retailers learning what a powerful marketing tool it can be. It’s a fantastic way to bring more exposure to comic books themselves as an art form.

In an interview with Russell Dauterman earlier this year, he told me that he pulled together stills and TV clips to draw Adam West for the upcoming Blue Water project. What do you use as a reference when drawing Isaiah Hurt and your other characters?

Potts: I do use Sketch-Up as a tool for vehicles and backgrounds, but I really don’t use much reference for the faces or figures, as highly referenced faces and forms have a tendency to come off as too stiff. However, sometimes, I’ll have a real-life person in mind as a “type” when I’m creating a new character. The most recent example is a character known as “The Gentleman,” whom I imagined as an Adolf Caesar type. You might remember him as Sergeant Waters in “A Soldier’s Story.” Keeping his personality in mind helped me figure out “The Gentleman’s” body language and carriage.

Isaiah “Pastor” Hurt fills the @ss-kicker role in your comic. When I look at him, he seems to be the Richard Roundtree and Fred Williamson combined. Will you ever introduce a deadly female counterpart that could be the sexy protagonist for a while or aid Pastor for a more extended time?

Potts: With Pastor, I wanted someone with the powerful physicality of Jim Brown and the smoothness of Fred Williamson. Williamson had charm, while even at his most tender, Jim Brown seemed guarded.

I introduced Pastor’s attorney, Vonetta Foster, at the end of the first storyline, “The Thrill-Seekers,” and she played a big part at the beginning of my current storyline, “The Black Fist.” I named her after the late actress, Vonetta McGee. She’s tough, smart, and is the only person who can get away with calling Pastor by his first name. After “The Black Fist,” would like to focus on a female character or characters as a change of pace, but I haven’t decided if that will be Vonetta. I do have a couple stories in mind, though.
Right now, my friend John Aston owns the distaff portion of the Blaxploitation webcomic market with his creation, “Rachel Rage.”

I was looking at a few stills from Pam Grier from Coffy, so what do you think about her abs in that movie?

Potts: Pam Grier has a timeless sensuality and strength. Her characters were tough, clever, but not superhuman. She was built like a woman in every sense of the word. Curvy, supple, yet strong like a recurve bow. I could believe the violence she inflicted in her movies, because there was power in her bearing. Today’s actresses really can’t compare. I can’t believe a 90 lb. Maggie Q. taking out a contingent of Spetnatz officers, but Pam Grier looked physically capable enough to dish out and take punishment. I think her life experiences informed those performances.

That’s a beautiful description of Grier. She’s become a near timeless icon for the blaxploitation female lead.

In one of Pastor’s adventures, you had a young girl from South Carolina disappearing in the big city. Does this reflect your own fears and insecurities being from the Palmetto State?

Potts: It’s less fear and insecurity than frustration at a painfully regressive and willfully stubborn frame of mind that permeates the state’s consciousness. There’s a dogmatic adherence to policies and ideas that inflict the most harm on the citizens of the state, the majority of whom continue to vote against their own interests, despite the overwhelming evidence that those policies have failed them. The notion that South Carolina schoolchildren are only entitled to a “minimally adequate education” is actually enshrined in the state’s constitution! When we should be doing everything to guarantee a better future, the best we can promise is “minimally adequate.” That’s shameful. There was one line in “The Thrill-Seekers” from the girl’s mother, Mrs. Patterson which speaks to that.

However, when you look at the general theme of “The Thrill-Seekers” it actually works as a parable for the slave experience in America, with Pastor, yes, in a bit of wish fulfillment, extracting “reparations” in the most painful way imaginable. The pimp, Duke, echoes the complicity of African chieftains who helped sell other Black people into slavery. Also, the victim, Alicia Patterson, endured a horrifying “Middle Passage” aboard a boat. In the end, she was brutally used and discarded.

None of it is blatantly political, but the subtext is there if one wishes to dive further into, what on the surface, is a detective/action story.

In the more recent comics I was struck by similarities between one of your characters and Charlie Manson. The physical similarity didn’t immediately catch my attention, but the more I read his speeches the closer his rhetoric sounded to Manson’s plan. So first, is that as much Manson as I think he is meant to be, and secondly, why include Manson in this homage to 70s cinema?

Potts: You’re exactly right. I think Manson’s insane quest to ignite a race war fits in perfectly with the urban crime genre of Blaxploitation.

It absolutely does fit the crime genre. I suppose the original blaxploitation films did not have the hindsight of history to know the details of Manson’s full plot. Using the history that we know now about his time in the desert and looking back it does seem like it should be included.

Potts: The excellent film “The Spook Who Sat By The Door” dealt with a Black man’s singular quest to spark a revolution, and Black “radicals” were sprinkled throughout films like “Super Fly” and “Shaft.” Such a revolution represented hope for many of “a brighter day” in the words of Gil Scott Heron, but it was also a source of dread. In “The Black Fist,” the Manson analogue exploits that fear and unease.

The social message in soul cinema sometimes was subtle and more often was blatant and bold. However, I cannot remember Manson being referenced in any of the movies I have watched. Have you seen a movie including him before?

Potts: The closest I can think of is the plot by the White supremacists in “Three The Hard Way” poison the U.S. water supply system with a drug that will only kill Black people. It was a wild, far-fetched story, but it was great to see Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, and Jim Kelly in the same movie.

How many conventions do you hit a year to interact with the fans? Do you go to the cinema or movie conventions or just hang out at comic shows?

Potts: I’ve only started attending as an exhibitor since last year. Then I did three (HeroesCon, The East Coast Black Age of Comics, and Wizard World Atlanta), but with the book coming out in a month or so, I’ll definitely be planning to attend more shows.

In your blog, you have mentioned Cadillac Jones and their concept album that was a blaxploitation sound track without the film. Your knowledge of film comes through in chatting with you, emailing you, or reading your comic. So, have you worked on a movie script yet?

Potts: Not yet. The interesting thing about WORLD OF HURT, is that although it’s based on a cinematic movement, it’s probably not very Hollywood-friendly for a myriad of reasons.

Arguably, blaxploitation was never very Hollywood friendly, except for when they wanted to cash the checks.

Potts: However, in an ideal world, Rockstar Games would create a “Grand Theft Auto” style video game based on WORLD OF HURT.

If Rockstar is listening, Jay Potts is ready to bring a World of Hurt. Get some.

Notice that Potts is sporting the stylish T shirt available from his website store.

I’d like to take a moment and thank Jay for being accessible during FCBD and taking time to email us. I’ll also warm him that when I catch up with him at Heroes Con, in Charlotte in June, I’ll have to get myself a button this time to show my love of this comic. Hopefully, by then the comic will be in print too and I can get a copy signed. This is a comic I hope you’ll join me in supporting.

Check out all the news and episodes of Isiah Hurt online. Discuss World of Hurt on the Pryde Forum.

The design for the print version cover.

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