I had the amazing opportunity to interview the writer behind Titan Comics’ adaptation of Sea of Thieves. You may recognize his work on Raven: Pirate Princess, Princeless, IDW’s My Little Pony, Thor Vs. Hulk: Champions of the Universe, Unstoppable Wasp, Avengers, All New X-Men, Misty Knight, Iron Fist, Giant Man and Vampirella. Princeless has been nominated for two Eisners and has won three Glyph Awards. It has been a real pleasure to interview Jeremy Whitley.
A lot of times, for me, the biggest issue is pacing – both in the comic and in real life. When you’re working with an editorial team and inside of a giant universe, you have to submit everything you write to editorial and remain adaptable to the goings on of the rest of the universe. So you may want to jump right into the next story, but you may need to wait weeks to get the edits and the eventual green light on what you’re writing. In a case like Sea of Thieves, we got to create the characters from scratch, but the challenge has been to feed them into this existing universe and make everything make sense together.
How did your interests in comics begin?
Jeremy: I got into comics as a young kid. My dad was a comics fan from way back and his interest mixed with the rise of cartoons like the 90’s X-Men animated series and Batman: The Animated Series made it a wrap for me. I’ve been in love with comics to some degree ever since.
What is/was one of the first comic book series you began to follow on a regular basis?
Jeremy: Definitely X-Men in its varyingly adjectived forms.
Who are/were some of the writers and artists you have looked up to over the years?
Jeremy: When I was younger, I loved Chris Claremont’s work, though I’m not sure that I could have named him. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become a real fan of Brian K Vaughan, Kelly Sue Decconick, Matt Fraction, Gail Simone, Greg Rucka, and G. Willow Wilson. They’re all masters whose work has taught me something about comics it their own right.
Have you met anyone that you have looked up to? And if so, what is that experience like for you?
Jeremy: Oh, honestly my comics career is really a long string of those. Meeting great artists and chit chatting with them at conventions – or even crazier, meeting artists whose work I grew up with and loved and it turns out loved my work is really amazing. The first time I met Kelly Sue at Heroes Con years back, I hung around her table and must have talked to her for hours. I’d move to come let somebody get a signature and then slide back in and chat some more. I think Kelly Sue taught me more than anyone what a gift if can be to other people just to be generous with your time at conventions. I’ve noticed that no matter how popular she gets, she gives each person in her line the amount of time they need.
How did you become involved in the comic book industry?
Jeremy: Well, I went to the University of North Carolina for English and Creative Writing. The college, as with most colleges, is pretty intense with their dislike of what they refer to as “genre fiction” which essentially means anything that isn’t non-fiction or what’s broadly defined as “literary fiction” – which in practice tends to mean stories about teenage girls coming of age and novels about sad white boys. Once I graduated, it took a while for me to remember what kind of stuff I really loved reading and writing. The first few things I wrote have never seen the light of day, but eventually I wrote some books like Princeless that made it out into the real world. From there it’s been a long process of wriggling into one publisher after another.
Did/do you have any mentors that helped guide you to where you are today?
Jeremy: I don’t think I had any particular mentor that I worked closely with or proof read all of my stuff from a place of being a pro in comics. It’s been more a question of paying attention to other people who are working to get by in comics as well – be they my editors, other writers, or artists who could give me valuable information about what made my scripts easier or harder to draw.
What are some of the comics you have worked on over the years?
Jeremy: Well, there are my two original books with Action Lab – Princeless and Raven: Pirate Princess. With IDW I’ve worked a lot with My Little Pony in its various comic book forms. For Marvel I’ve worked on Unstoppable Wasp, Thor Vs. Hulk: Champions of the Universe, Avengers, All-New X-Men, Champions, Misty Knight, Iron Fist, and Giant Man. Over at Dynamite I’ve recently had the good luck to work on Vampirella. Currently I’m writing the Sea of Thieves comic at Titan.
Being a writer do you have to pick up a story for so many issues where another writer may have left off? (like continue an existing story line?)
Jeremy: Well, the answer to that is yes, but in two different senses. With a book like Vampirella, my story was coming directly off the end of another story, so I basically picked up the story mid-scene. But beyond that, any time you work in a construct like the Marvel Universe, you’re picking up the end of thousands of stories that thousands of other writers have been telling. I mean, in some very real ways, the story I’m writing in Unstoppable Wasp connects all the way back to the story Lee and Kirby are telling in Fantastic Four #1.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as a writer?
Jeremy: A lot of times, for me, the biggest issue is pacing – both in the comic and in real life. When you’re working with an editorial team and inside of a giant universe, you have to submit everything you write to editorial and remain adaptable to the goings on of the rest of the universe. So you may want to jump right into the next story, but you may need to wait weeks to get the edits and the eventual green light on what you’re writing. In a case like Sea of Thieves, we got to create the characters from scratch, but the challenge has been to feed them into this existing universe and make everything make sense together.
What are some of your favorite things about being able to write? (example; story creation, or creating role models etc?)
Jeremy: I love writing characters. I really love nailing a unique voice that feels good and right and being able to see the rough outline of a character transition quickly through that voice to becoming a fully realized character.
When you write do you collaborate with other writers or comic book artists?
Jeremy: I’t honestly pretty rare for me to collaborate with other writers, though I have done it before. I cowrote three issues of Avengers with Mark Waid over the last year or two and that was really fun, but usually I write completely on my own. I will do my best to consult with the artist and see both what they want to drawn and what they want to avoid. Every artist has skills and interests and I think playing into those can be a very important part of making the elements of a story really come alive.
How did you become involved in the Sea of Thieves comic? (I just picked up 4 copies of issue #1 – the extras for my daughter and friends. I can’t wait to start it. My comic store is already sold out of issue #2 in advance.)
Jeremy: Wow! That’s great! Well, I was approached by Titan (the publisher) about working on the comic. They had read some of my other work and thought I would be a good fit for the book. I suspect it might have something to do with the fact that I was writing a comic about a group of pirates already (Raven: Pirate Princess) or just that I tend to write with much the same sense of humor as Rare games often have. I don’t think that’s an accident, I’ve been playing Rare games for most of my life..
What is it like to work on a comic book based on a video game?
Jeremy: It’s for sure a unique experience and I suspect my experience with Sea of Thieves is probably different than most people in the position of writing a comic to accompany a video game. Many of those stories happen in the gaps of the existing game story, trying to find places to work with the property that slot into what’s already there. Due to the nature of Sea of Thieves as a MMO game, there is no central character in the game. So rather than slotting a smaller story into a larger narrative, we got to create our own narrative in much the same way people playing the game do – just with a little more control of the environment.
Like I said earlier, character creation is one of my favorite parts of writing, so getting to jump in to the Sea of Thieves environment and mythos and also get to create two different crews full of characters to jump into the quest was a dream. In a lot of ways, it’s the best of both worlds. I get to work in an existing fiction where the rules and environment are already determined, but I also get to create this gang of rowdy ne’er do wells to make it shine.
Do you have set guidelines or any creative control as a writer on Sea of Thieves?
Jeremy: I’m not 100% sure how to answer that. Of course there are guidelines and there is an existing world and map to work with. It’s my responsibility not to attempt to rewrite the game, which already exists. But as for the comic, I’ve been given really wide creative control as long as it fits into their universe.
Have you gotten to speak to anyone at Rare or received any feedback on your work on the series?
Jeremy: Absolutely. Every draft of the comic goes through multiple folks at Rare. They’ve been great to work with, both in that they’ve done their best to make it easy for us to make the comic, but they’ve also been ready for suggestions whenever we need a device or location from within the game to use in a scene.
Is Sea of Thieves a set number of issues?
Jeremy: That all depends. This initial run is a four issue miniseries, but I think everyone involved would love to do more. If this run is successful enough, I’m sure you’ll be seeing more of us.
Do you have any upcoming projects you can announce?
Jeremy: Nothing at the moment, issue 3 and 4 of Sea of Thieves are set to come out in May and June, Princeless and Raven are both continuing pretty regularly. As a matter of fact, anybody looking for more pirate adventures can grab Raven: Pirate Princess from their local comic shop or from Comixology right now. Hulk Vs Thor and Vampirella are both recently available in print. Do keep your eyes out for more announcements coming up soon though.
Do you have any messages that you would like to say to all of your fans out there?
Jeremy: I’ll stick with the classics “thank you” and “you keep reading them and I’ll keep writing them”
Today's Sea of Thieves comic contains the following rebuttal to @griffinmcelroy re: the proper method of eating bananas. Make sure you get all of the nutrition tips in today's new issue! pic.twitter.com/669mPz4CkA
— Jeremy Whitley @ Universal FanCon (@jrome58) April 11, 2018
I would like to take the time and thank Jeremy Whitley for allowing us to do the interview with him. I am a big fan of his writing and how he brings life to his characters. Jeremy as long as you keep writing, I’ll keep buying! You can find Sea of Thieves #2 at your local comic shop right now and while you are there you may be able to find some of his other work or check out ComiXology.com to purchase his work digitally.
Find Jeremy on the web at: