DCN Interview: Jim Krueger and Tom Bilyeu from Impact Theory Comics
Interviewer: Jeff Testanero at San Diego Comic-Con 2019
San Diego Comic-Con 2019 was full of exciting and memorable events. At SDCC, I had the honor to sit down with Eisner Award winner Jim Krueger and Impact Theory Comics CEO, Tom Bilyeu to discuss the formation of Impact Theory, their collaboration with DJ Steve Aoki on their Neon Future series and what the future holds for Impact Theory Comics.
I started my interview with some very direct questions for Tom Bilyeu, the founder and CEO of Impact Theory Comics.
What was the motivation behind the creation of Impact Theory Comics?
“I worked in the inner cities a lot and found their are extraordinary people who don’t believe in themselves and I tried teaching directly and it worked with 2% of the people and 98% of the people were uninterested in making changes and so I started thinking about how we can actually affect people at scale. The neuroscience backs up the way the human animal assimilates truly disruptive information is through narrative and that works perfectly for me because of my background as a filmmaker so I decided that bringing that all together and telling a story of empowerment through entertaining and emotional stores, so I went into comics. Comic are an amazing medium that forces you to create a specific IP and it’s gotta be very character and story driven but it also forces you to create a community out of it.”
What challenges do you think Impact Theory faces as an independent publisher in a medium where big companies are owned by giants like Warner Bros and Disney?
“The big challenge you face is not getting peoples attention. So when you come into a crowded market place even letting people know you are different is already hard enough so one of the things we’ve done is partner with celebrities that can get a lot of mainstream press. I learned in my last company that if you do not have a celebrity it’s hard getting sustained PR; you can tell a unique enough story but good luck getting anything sustained which is why on our first book I reached out to Steve Aoki. We’re about to announce another celebrity driven book at New York Comic-Con, hopefully we can announce two celebrity driven books there (NYCC) so I’m very excited about that”
How did your collaboration with Steve Aoki begin?
“I have an interview show called Impact Theory and I had him on the show and we really hit it offend and stayed friends since. I had this idea based on his Neon Future album series inspired by something I learned about him; which is he plans on being cryogenically frozen when he dies and I thought that was insane and thought that this was my kind of guy, he (Aoki) doesn’t even accept death. I thought ‘What would the world look like if someone with his level of compassion actually could use technology to resurrect people?’ So I pitched it to him and he (Aoki) loved the idea so I reached out to someone who could make this truly magical and we found this man here (Jim Krueger) who is a genius and knows everyone in the comic industry and knows how to keep the core of humanity alive no matter how science-y it gets and that was the magic piece.”
“The other element is that Steve Aoki is a comic book fan”. Jim Krueger added, “Steve Aoki loves comics and I’ve heard him express his love for Wolverine and have heard him express his love for comics in multiple interviews. So of course if Steve Aoki is involved he would want a comic book.”
I then turned my attention to Eisner Award winner Jim Krueger about the making of Neon Future.
Jim, you’re an Eisner Award winner and wrote ‘Justice’ for DC and spent some time with Marvel working on ‘Avengers’ and ‘Earth-X’. What drove you to work with Impact Theory?
“Tom and I sat down and had this whirlwind, hour and a half conversation about comics and the industry and it was just fun. I find myself motivated by fun quite a bit.”
Can you explain the creative process behind Neon Future?
“It began with Tom’s notes then we worked on creating more of the world and created a backstory and that went through Steve and he gave his thoughts and it became a sort of writers room. I write on the book, Tom writes on the book, I met with and taught TV writers the difference between a screenplay and a comic script. We checked each others and every script and we all had a go at it and rewrote everything two or three times.”
Whats new for Impact Theory Comics?
“We have more projects in development in 2020. Our goal is to have four or five projects running simultaneously. We’re doing a lot of the preproduction as we speak. We have one, possibly two big announcements for New York Comic-Con. We just need to ramp up production. I have very aggressive thoughts on distribution and how things should look in the industry and we look forward to moving on that.”