Hold on to your Indiana Jones hats: Shia LaBeouf wrote a comic. Actually, the actor – best known for his role in the Transformers movies – wrote three comics, that he drew himself. And then decided to sell in Artists Alley at C2E2 2012 this Friday, much to the surprise of… Well, everyone. You could almost hear the murmurs going up and down the aisle, excitement that the actor was present, and confusion as to what – exactly – he was doing.
Turns out, it’s exactly what it seemed: rather than getting a big booth, or a panel, LaBeouf wanted the chance to prove himself where every other struggling artist does, in the fighting pit of a comic convention’s Artist Alley. Granted, most starting artists don’t have a legion of movie fans wanting pictures and autographs, but the crowd was surprisingly calm and cool, chatting amicably with the star, and buying copies of his comics.
As we headed outside so he could take a much needed smoke break (and we could chat), he told me that Chicago was the Con he was told it would actually be “okay” to go to. He had wanted to go to New York Comic-Con, but heard it was too crowded, there would be no chance he wouldn’t be mobbed. Same with San Diego, particularly as it’s “all about the movies.” But Chicago? Just the right size, and just the right crowd to test the waters of being a struggling indie comic book creator, rather than major movie star Shia LaBeouf:
MTV Geek: What was the idea behind these books? How did you actually start writing – and drawing them?
Shia LaBeouf: I worked with a friend of mine named… Marilyn Manson, [laughs] on this thing called “Born Villain.” Shot a bunch of footage, took a bunch of his paintings, and started compiling it into this book. He was unhappy with the book, but I was very happy with compiling the book. He took his artwork away from me, he said, look, I’m going to do my own thing with my artwork, let’s share the artwork… We ended up doing this thing, a bombing Los Angeles book called “The Campaign Book,” where me, and Fred – his guitarist, and his bassist, and a bunch of his band went up putting up his f**king face everywhere. It was sort of like we were just prepping for the album to come out, the video to come out, it started off as just a fun thing to do at night.
Then we started taking pictures, and that became a fun thing to watch, with him in his living room on the scroll. And doing that, I found myself getting lost in the creation of books, compiling books, how to make the books. Then, a friend of mine named Ed Brubaker called me. Ed Brubaker said, “I’d like to make a short film,” and I had happened to be shooting a short film called Howard Cantour, which I did after working with Manson. Brubaker said, why don’t you try your hand at this? I had storyboarded my short films, I write my own short films, he said, “Why don’t you just embellish on your storyboard idea, and try this.
So I started doing that, and from that came these three books. It started with these things called “Cheek Ups.” A friend of mine named Alex Pardee and I started drawing like these Haiku poems with half a face, because there was this really iconic thing my father showed me in the Vietnam War, there was this Banksy type character who was painting these things all over, would write poetry… I started doing that and compiling a big group of free comics for this website. Alex was like, “You can’t give everything away, you have to make these other books.” I started making this book called “I Fucking Party…” It is that, the same kind of poetry with just the animations embellished upon.
I kept handing it out, and Manson said, “Your artwork is f**king horrible! My god!” [Laughs] Then I went back to the drawing board, and really started drawing a narrative to do this. I came up with this story called “Cyclical,” which is a nihilist Easy Rider comic… That’s where it started, and… I don’t know, man, there’s something kind of beautiful for a guy coming out of these big, big films that I make; you make art with fifty people. You get away from that, you make a music video, you’re making art with twenty people. When you can sing alone in the shower, there’s something f**king beautiful about that, and what I like about doing this is… I don’t get micromanaged.
Geek: “Let’s Fucking Party,” was particularly fun, it was poetry – like you said – but it was pretty funny, too.
SL: Yeah, it’s jokes too! It’s not a poem to say, “Hey I used to shit on myself until I was twelve years old.” That isn’t a poem! But sandwiched between a bunch of other poems, that actually have meaning, and do have gravitas, and come from somewhere deep in my feelings – my psyche. I’m friends with a guy named Ross Richie at BOOM! Comics, who encouraged me to fanatically switch it up. Comics sometimes are fun when they’re like classical music. The fun thing about classical music is, sometimes you don’t know where you stand, or where the sound is going next. It keeps you interested. If you change topics like a classic song, your book will reflect that same kind of fun.
That’s sort of what I did. I took my cheek ups idea, and applied his classical music idea, and came up with “Let’s Fucking Party.”
Geek: “Cyclical,” on the other hand, has narrative elements, but also very dreamlike elements… What was the inspiration there?
SL: I love Charles Bronson… And I f**king love motorcycles. [Laughs] You look at most Charles Bronson movies, it’s thematically where I took cyclical. It’s more nihilist, my version, the ending. Also… I’m not very spiritual, but it’s as spiritual as I get.
Geek: Obviously you don’t need to do comics, but clearly you like to do them… Where do you see this going?
SL: I don’t know man! If you asked me ten years ago about my acting career, I would have said I hope I get another job. I still feel that same way, I hope I get another job. I think the big difference between me and most guys who come into comics from the world that I come from, they’re looking for a way to extend their career. The fans don’t accept them anymore, and they want to get that comic book cool rub, so they can extend their acting career.
I don’t come here for my acting career. This actually comes to me, in my business… I could meet Brian K. Vaughan at a Y The Last Man meeting, or I could just meet Brian K. Vaughan at his table, picking up stickers. Sometimes that’s cool. For me at least. I had opportunities to be on the big stage, or in the big panel… I’m not there yet. I should be with the dudes who I’m with, and maybe not even there. I’m lucky to be in the Artists Alley, I appreciate being there, and I appreciate people coming and looking at the books. It’s been a really cool opportunity for me.
Geek: The fan reaction has been really interesting, I think… It could have gone crazy, but people have actually been really nice.
SL: Everyone’s been really respectful. This is a crowd that I think would hate me. For Indiana Jones, for Transformers, and some of the flack those movies have gotten. Though I love those movies, and worked hard on those movies, and everybody worked hard on those movies. I think the way those films were received was not necessarily positive. Especially by this crowd. So to come in here, and be in the center of this crowd and feel love, and nobody’s shitting on me, nobody is throwing shit at me… It’s kind of cool. It’s something that I don’t know if I expected or not, but I came here waiting for bullets. The reception is… Much nicer than I expected. [Laughs]
Geek: Can you think a particularly great fan reaction you’ve gotten today?
SL: I had a dude come up to me today – and it’s kind of a shitty thing for me to say to you, now, because it’ll go everywhere – but it meant a lot to me. He goes, “A lot of dudes shit on you, and I just want you to know I defend you, and I defend you because you do things that make me feel like it’s me doing them.” I asked him to embellish on that, and he said, “You’re honest.” For me, to hear from a dude who otherwise said, I don’t like this, this, and this, but I like you… It’s cool to hear that.
I’m also not here fishing. I’m not like, hey, please f**king be nice to me. I came out here with my girl to set up a lemonade stand because it’s fun. It’s an adventure. My girl loves it, and I love it, and it’s fun thing for both of us to come – she’s never been to Chicago. But the guy who comes up to me with the Batman gear, and he’s like super-dude here, he’s a king here… He comes up to me and to show me love in even the most minimal way, “Not all your shit is cool, but I think you’re cool,” I thought was very cool.
Geek: I’m curious, what other comics have you read? What have you been into? I know you said Ed Brubaker…
SL: All his Criminal stuff, everything he’s doing with Captain America, he’s a genius. He’s also trying to direct. He’s done some short films, things that he writes… He’s doing screenplays now. That dude is on another level, he’s one of the sages, I think.
Geek: What’s next? What comic are you going to work on next?
SL: I don’t know. I’ve talked to Neil Gaiman about comics… What you find with these dudes, which is amazing to me, guys who are these master storytellers in this medium want to direct. Neil Gaiman, Brian K. Vaughan, Ed Brubaker… I become sort of this strange conduit to a world that isn’t necessarily shying away from them, they’re actually being accepted in a major f**king way in Hollywood. But nobodies going to spend money on Brubaker’s short film, unless it’s Brubaker. Whereas, I don’t buy Lambroghinis. I spend money on art. So if I can get a short film out of Brubaker that he wrote for me, giving him money for a short film he wrote for himself, that’s a cool trade for me. And it’s a cool way of doing that… I’m not Andy Warhol, but the guys I love, I like to keep close, and Brubaker is one of those dudes. So however we can help each other… There’s something beautiful about that.
You can check out more about Shia LaBeouf’s comics at TheCampaignBook.com!