James Wayne Johnson is a writer, stand-up comedian, and ardent music fan. His ongoing comic, “Bloom Squad,” has appeared in installments in Oneshi Press Anthologies 9-11. Its third installment will debut in the Becoming Anthology! We talked to James about the difference between comics and comedy, his recent nuptials, and Iron Maiden, of course.
It’s been over a year since our last interview, James! How has this difficult time been for you, creatively?
I feel like I have been able to create at my normal pace throughout the pandemic. I think that living in such historic times has really affected my perspective towards my writing, especially the isolation experienced by so many in the past year plus. As I work towards my goals I am becoming more accepting of myself and the way I work, so I feel like I am growing in the right direction as an artist, despite these difficult times.
On a happy note, I married the love of my life in August, and planning for the wedding caused me to put my creative work on hold temporarily, but I am looking forward to getting back into it once we return from our honeymoon in exotic Iowa!
What should a new reader know about how Bloom Squad works going into Part 3 in the Becoming Anthology?
Bloom Squad is set in a world very much like our own, except that some people are spontaneously developing the ability to read other people’s thoughts. As our story begins, this is a new phenomenon, the general public is unaware that this is happening and the few people who have become telepathic are left to navigate this change on their own.
This new ability comes with a drawback: the use of telepathy also causes an endorphin rush, which is addictive and can lead to erratic behavior and mental instability. A person who frequently “sparks” becomes addicted to it. “Sparking” also increases a person’s metabolism and leads to a shortened life span. A powerful, secret organization known as “Hive Mind” is currently conducting research into mitigating these effects for their own nefarious ends.
Can you tell readers what’s happened so far when Part 3 begins?
Ed, our protagonist, is an elite MMA fighter who has been using his newfound telepathic abilities to win matches. Chapter one begins with Ed on the run from Sparrow, a powerful telepathic mafia boss. Ed is approached by Lennie, a brand new telepath who has detected him sparking. She asks him to explain her newfound ability and he reluctantly agrees. Meanwhile, Sparrow has dispatched his henchmen Stolas, Raine and Makay to apprehend Ed. Unbeknownst to Ed, his encounter with Lennie was observed by Bailey and Madison, members of the Bloom Squad, an underground operation whose purpose is to track down telepaths. Bloom Squad is bankrolled by the mercurial Diamond Dave LeStrange.
No spoilers, of course, but can you give us any hints about what might be coming next?
Chapter 3 ends with quite a cliffhanger! Marcelo Salaza has outdone himself with the art in this chapter, as usual, and I think page 8 is his best yet. With the introduction of Diamond Dave, mysteries will be solved, questions will be answered, secrets will be revealed. Or at least that is what Dave would want you to believe. The exact percentage of the trustworthiness of his jive is always in flux, but I think he is basically trustworthy. Don’t you?
You’re a stand-up comedian, too. Do “comics” and “comedy” work together for you?
I approach writing comics and writing stand-up comedy from opposite angles. When I’m writing comics I am very deliberate and focused to make sure that every detail is just right. I play the scenes in my head over and over to make sure that everything makes sense and the actions are all consistent and logical with the characters.
Writing stand-up is much more free flowing and inspiration driven. When something strikes me as funny I write it down, and if I can find a joke in there I decide if it is worth fleshing out to take to the stage.
Stand-up is different from a written work, in that a comic can be read over and over and it will be the same every time, but each stand-up performance is unique and can never be exactly duplicated.
What are you hard at work on now?
I am approaching the end of the latest draft of my novel, “Left.” It’s a science fiction novel based in a not-too-distant future where the survivors of a devastating hurricane work together to survive in an experimental self-sustaining structure. I’ve been working on it for several years now, and I’m happy to say that the end is within sight. Once we get back from our honeymoon, I will recommit to finishing it and begin the task of getting it published.
What media are you currently finding inspirational?
Two movies that have recently inspired me are “Candyman” and “David Byrne’s American Utopia.” Candyman was an amazing update of the original, and I really appreciated the fact that the main character is an artist and the way that the events of the story impacted his creative process. Also, Clive Barker is my all-time favorite writer/artist, so it gave me a good reason to re-read “The Forbidden” and other books of his.
Likewise, I am a huge fan of David Byrne and I was so thrilled to watch “American Utopia.” It was such a brilliant performance on so many levels, beyond the timeless music and the inspired dancing, just the statement the piece was able to make about our modern lives and the necessity that we unite amidst our differences rather than letting them continue to divide us.
Musically, I am really into the new St. Vincent and the new Iron Maiden album, Senjutsu. Maiden have been one of my favorites since I was a kid, and it is amazing that they are still getting better 40 years into their career.
Where else can our readers find you online?
My Facebook page is James Wayne Johnson! Writer! Comedian! That is where I post videos of my stand-up routines and updates about my writing. I hope to have a whole lot of exciting things to share there in the near future, so stay tuned!
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