Troy Wilson on Panels for Primates

Panels for Primates

As often as possible here at the blog, I like to cover the creators and projects at ACT-I-VATE. This week, I focus upon Panels for Primates, which is “a charity anthology for the Primate Rescue Center, featuring an eclectic mix of primate stories by both well-known and up-and-coming creators”.  While the stories are free (like all of ACT-I-VATE webcomics), readers are encouraged to donate what they can to the Primate Rescue Center, making sure to credit the donations to Panels for Primates. To learn more about the ongoing project, I email interviewed the project’s editor, Troy Wilson. Be sure to visit ACT-I-VATE today, as Panels for Primates is updated every Wednesday. My thanks to Wilson for his time.

Tim O’Shea: You launched the project with a story by writer Stuart Moore and artist Rick Geary. How did you score those two unique creators for the first story?

Troy Wilson: Pretty simple. I just asked. Initially, I had Rick paired with a different creator entirely, but that person had to bow out, due to a) other commitments, and b) the fact that he just didn’t feel he was coming up with anything worthy of Rick. So then I asked Stuart if he wanted to work with Rick, and I asked Rick if he wanted to work with Stuart – and they both jumped at the chance. It’s a bit of an odd pairing, really, but the results are fantastic. They bounce off each other quite nicely.

O’Shea: When former editor John Schlim Jr began this project, it was a very different beast. Has he had chance to see what you’ve developed it into? And if so, what does he think of it?

Wilson: Well, it’s very important to note that without John, this project simply wouldn’t exist. Period. He initiated the whole thing. Way back in 2007, he recruited a number of lesser-known creators, myself included, to contribute to a 20-page pamphlet of monkey comics for kids.

As you say, it’s a very different beast now. More pages. Digital. For charity. Primates in general instead of monkeys in particular. Not strictly all-ages anymore. Etc, etc. But all those differences were either in place or under discussion when John had to leave, so the project’s present form certainly isn’t a shock to him. Awhile back, he was been kind enough to tell me that he was impressed with what I had done. Plus, the story that he’d written many moons ago for that proposed 20-page pamphlet was among the first that I posted (“Banana Cream Pie Fever”).

O’Shea: When readers are inspired to donate to the Primate Rescue Center, how important is it to note (via a comment at the end of the donation process) that it’s a Panels for Primates donation?

Wilson: This is huge. MASSIVE. If readers don’t label their donations as Panels for Primates donations, then the creators who have so generously contributed to this project won’t get any credit for raising the money.

So please, please, please label those donations, folks. Specifically type in the words “Panels for Primates”. The creators aren’t getting paid for this, so they should at least get credit for the dollars they help raise.

And while we’re on the subject of donations, I should also mention that the PayPal option on the Primate Rescue Center website is a great way to go for people who want to donate smaller amounts. And you don’t have to draw from a PayPal account to use this option; you can hit the PayPal button and still use your credit card.

O’Shea: A major creator recently turned in a script to you. Any chance you can share who that is?

Wilson: Nope, not yet. Big, though. A dream come true.

O’Shea: Also, how pleased are you to have a worldwide cast of creators to choose from–coming from Canada, Israel, Britain, and Mexico, as well as Germany and Indonesia?

Wilson: Being Canadian myself, I’m particularly proud of the rather large Canuck contingent. Beyond that, I’ve gotta say that the phrase “global effort” has a really nice ring to it.

O’Shea: How was it that you were able to get JAMES VINING to participate? I found his input of interest, considering in his bio “He wrote and drew First in Space (Oni Press), the story of Ham, one of the chimpanzees trained by the Air Force for the Mercury Program.”

Wilson: Yeah, I saw that and thought he’d be a natural fit. I did approach other creators known for their primate material, but James was the only one who said yes. And I’m certainly very glad that he did.

O’Shea: How much editing is involved with a project like this? Can you walk me through the editing process for something like DAVID PETERSEN’s unique installment? How did Petersen come to be involved?

Wilson: My approach has been to bring the right people on board and then, as much as possible, to stay the heck out of their way. When a piece is firing on all cylinders, I have no need whatsoever to get in there and suggest some inane change just to put my stamp on it. And given that these creators are doing the pieces free of charge, I’m even less likely to ask for alterations than I would normally be. Mind you, there have been a couple of cases where the creators and I spent more time going back and forth on certain details, resulting in what we all seem to agree are some great changes. But most often, I have no changes at all.

In David’s case, I spotted a typo or two, asked him to omit a word or two, and asked him to change the title from “Great Monkeys in History” to “Great Primates in History” (because not all of his characters are technically monkeys). And that’s it. He gave us a black-and-white option and a tinted option; I went with the tinted.

And how did David get involved? At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I asked, and he said yes. Most of the people involved are people that I approached directly. A far lesser number are involved because they answered a call for submissions from John (initially) or myself (later). One lesser-known-but-really-talented guy did approach me out of the blue at the end of last year about doing something, but that’s a rarity.

It goes without saying that I’ve been very impressed by the excellent work these creators have been turning in, but I’ve also been super-impressed by their generosity. Some of them came on board during the most harrowing moments of economic meltdown (and heck, the US economy is still in the tank). It’s tough enough to make a living as a creative person under normal conditions, and you’ve got these folks working for free on a project that isn’t their own during some very bad economic times. It speaks to the worthiness of the cause, but it also speaks to the worthiness of these individuals.

O’Shea: Some of the contributions are in black and white, while others are full color. Do you try to mix it up/alternate between when color and b&w installments are run?

Wilson: I do try to space out the color ones, but I’ve already run color stories back-to-back, and will probably do so again at some point. There are all kinds of factors at play regarding what I run and when – the profile of the creators, length, tone, subject matter, what’s ready and what’s not, and so on.

O’Shea: Have you had discussions with publishers about a potential collection being published?

Wilson: I would love it if a publisher put this out as a print collection. And if your readers feel the same, they should tell publishers exactly that. But right now my focus is to work like crazy to make Panels for Primates as successful as I can in the form that it’s in and at the home that it’s got. ACT-I-VATE is a great place to be, and I’m thrilled to be running Panels for Primates in such august company – and during the site’s fifth anniversary, to boot.

O’Shea: Have there been certain installments that really surprised you more than others (in terms of the creators approach or in some other element)?

Wilson: “Undercover Chimp” by Fred Van Lente and Colleen Coover. I’m sure that anyone who reads this story will have no trouble at all figuring out which elements surprised me. It’s a great piece. It’s also a great example of exactly why I run the disclaimer about our stories not necessarily reflecting the views of the Primate Rescue Center.

In fact, the Primate Rescue Center deserves an enormous amount of credit for trusting enough in that disclaimer firewall to give us such a wide berth with regards to content. Our anthology wouldn’t be nearly as eclectic if they’d been inclined to micro-manage the process. Of course, they’d have every right to micro-manage it; I’m just glad that they’re not.

O’Shea: Anything you’d like to discuss that I have neglected?

Wilson: Well, I’d like to thank the Panels for Primate creators, the ACT-I-VATE crew, the Primate Rescue Center, the readers, the donators, the commenters, the word-spreaders, the supporters (technical, moral, and otherwise), and whoever else I may have missed.

I’d also like to thank the many publishers that are going to approach me the second after this interview gets posted about taking on a print edition of Panels for Primates.

And, of course, I’d like to thank you, Tim. It’s been a blast.