Interview - Captain Ultimate's Benjamin Bailey and Joey Esposito

The Business End:

How did your relationships with the rest of the Captain Ultimate creative team come about?

Ben: Well, Joey and I work together at IGN. We met Boy online and loved his artwork, so we reached out to him to see if he’d be interested in collaborating on a project. Ed, the colorist, found us on Twitter when we posted that we were looking for somebody to color the project. We adored the samples he sent in, so we brought him on board. Adam, who handles letters and production, had worked with Joey on previous projects - notably the Footprints miniseries - so we basically forced him to be involved.

Joey: Yeah. Adam didn’t have a say. Sorry, Adam.

You already have a "9 to 5" job with IGN, where comics and the associated culture are a big deal.  How do you go about separating that world from your creative world?

Joey: It’s no different than when I would come home home from my shift at Starbucks and sit down and write. The hardest part with this job, which wasn’t a problem at Starbucks, is the sitting. I have a bad back and I hate sitting in front of a computer all day. Hate. So I go for a walk after work and usually write my comics in notebooks so I don’t have to look at my damn monitor for 16 hours a day. 

Ben: If you make music, you listen to and study other musicians and their work. Comics aren’t any different. We’d be reading and discussing all this stuff whether somebody paid us to or not. 

How has your work on the IGN Assemble! podcast influenced your own written material?

Joey: I don’t think that it has, at least not in any way that I’m aware of or in any way more significant than any other part of the average week does. We’ve both been writing long before we did a podcast or wrote about pop culture or anything like that. It’s just another part of the day job. 

Ben: Really, the main benefit of the podcast is that Joey and I have become closer friends. We didn’t know each other before he hired me at IGN, so our weekly conversations on the podcast helped us become besties. 

Joey: Aw.

It is fairly obvious your work on Captain Ultimate is something of an outlet for your frustrations with the state of the comic industry today, is that going to be a reoccurring theme throughout the series?

Joey: I wouldn’t say that I’m frustrated with the industry or the state it’s in, just that the range of tone in mainstream comics needs expansion and awareness of younger audiences. Most of the people reading comics today are adults and that’s kind of telling. I’d also say that creator-owned comics and the rights of creators are more in the spotlight now than ever before, and that’s amazing. But in general, anything we do in Captain Ultimate, anything we poke fun at, is done out of love for the industry. If we didn’t believe in the comics medium or the industry, why would we bother being a part of it?

Ben: It’s really just about variety. There’s not enough all-ages stuff out there. I have kids and I wanted to make something I could share with them. I mean, I love the grim and gritty books as much as the next guy, but variety is the spice of life, or so I hear. 

How did your relationship with MonkeyBrain coming into being?

Joey: We’d met Chris and Allison just through following Chris’s work and then the Monkeybrain launch.  We’re huge fans of everything they were doing, and they were the first and only choice for Captain Ultimate. 

What's happening with your Kickstarter project, Pawn Shop?

Joey: Sean’s chipping away at it. The script’s been done for a long time but a series of unfortunate “life happens” events have caused it to be delayed a bit, regretfully, but what can you do? I’ve hired a colorist to help speed things up a little bit, which sucks, but it is what it is. The plan is still to have it printed up and shipping to backers before summer’s end. Or so I’m hoping. I’m really proud of the work we’ve done, so I’m anxious to get it out. That said, I’ve learned that if I ever do another Kickstarter it’s not going live until at least half of the art is totally finished. Live and learn, I guess.

What pre-existing property would you be most interested in working with, and why?

Joey: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, but a straight reboot. People think it’s cheesy and whatever (and it is), but there’s a lot of cool stuff to mine when you take it seriously or look at it in new ways. G.I. Joe, Transformers, all of that stuff is super cheesy and downright silly, but they’ve gotten their due in comics and such, so why not Power Rangers? I’ve got a pitch ready to go. 

I can see Ben rolling his eyes now. He had to listen to me blab about it all weekend at Comic-Con after they announced the new MMPR book.

Ben: I don’t really think too much about pre-existing stuff. I’m a big fan of Godzilla, so maybe a Godzilla book, although Half-Century War was the perfect Godzilla comic so I’m not sure I’d want to follow that up.  Or Ninjak over at Valiant, cause he’s a bad mofo ninja. I’m always trying convince people of the value of Ninjak. Really though, I’d rather just make my own stuff. Most of the stuff I’m a fan of I want to read more than I want to write. 

Any advice for the up-and-coming writers out there?

Joey: Just do it, man. Not to plug my own blog, but I posted something ( about this very topic last summer after an incident with a Twitter follower that complained they “couldn’t” make comics even though they wanted to.  That’s bullshit. If you want to do something, no matter what it is, you will find a way to do it if you want it bad enough. But for writing specifically, just write every day, ESPECIALLY when you don’t feel like it.

Ben: Stop aspiring and start doing. Just create because you want to create.

The Lighter Side:

Whose idea was the mustache?  Or was it always a given that it was there?

Joey: The mustache was there in the very first conversations about the book. Captain Ultimate is his mustache. If he ever shaves it, it’d basically be like Superman dying in the DC Universe.

Ben: It’s like the chicken and the egg question. Who can say what came first? 

Where did the idea for the Mighty Morphin' Power Ranger "Best Of" list come from?

Joey: Power Rangers nostalgia is at a high, so that was a list we had been planning for quite some time to capitalize on its renewed popularity surrounding the 20th anniversary. I was the natural choice to write it, because I talk about Power Rangers all the time in the office. I rewatched all 155 episodes of MMPR before writing a word, so you know it’s legit.

What is your favorite 90's summer jam?

Joey: LFO’s “Summer Girls,” obviously.

Ben: Strength Beyond Strength.


Follow Benjamin Bailey on Twitter - @616Earth
Follow Joey Esposito on Twitter - @JoeyEsposito
Check out the rest of their work at


stephengervais's picture
Nice interview Matthew! For those who don't follow Joey and Ben I highly suggest their podcast IGN Assemble. It's usual posted at some point on Fridays. It's a lot of fun. The guys usually have me laughing out loud throughout it!