Interview: J. D. Arnold on BB Wolf and the 3 LP’s


This Wednesday Top Shelf Comix is releasing a book from an old pro artist and a brand new writer about the trials and tribulations of a noteworthy wolf. The book is BB Wolf and the 3 LP’s, the old pro artist is Rich Koslowski of Three Fingers, The King and more, and the writer is Johnnie Arnold. Arnold is a man who is passionate about comics. He’s actually the primary driving force that brought me back into comics as a true fan of the genre, whereas before I’d wallowed in the occasional superhero trade. So I owe him, and have decided to repay that debt by interviewing him for the glory of his book, his ego, and the awareness of the iFanbase to a cool project worthy of your attention.


Ryan Haupt (RH): Just who the hell do you think you are?

Johnnie D. Arnold (JDA): Well, my driver’s license says I am Johnnie D (nope, not gonna tell you what the ‘D’ stands for) Arnold, born in Santa Cruz, CA., but if there is one thing I’ve learned in my…considerable number of years on this Earth, it is not to trust the DMV. It also says I’m an organ donor, but I’ll fight to my dying breath anyone who comes to collect. I guess the real question here is, “Just who the hell do YOU think I am?"


BB Wolf CoverRH: Some guy I can use to get an interview since Rich said he was busy. Now that introductions are out of the way, what can you tell us about your upcoming book BB Wolf and the Three LPs

JDA: BB Wolf and the Three LPs is a 96-page Hardcover Graphic Novel being published by Top Shelf Productions and is scheduled to release in late June of 2010. In a nutshell, the book is a re-telling of the classic Three Little Pigs fairy tale, with more than one or two twists. Our story is set in the American south of 1920. Our hero, BB Wolf, is a poor black farmer and blues musician trying to scrape a living for himself and his family from the fertile, but unforgiving, Mississippi River Delta. His harsh yet peaceful existence is shattered when the villainous Littlepig family threatens to take his farm. I’ll not give too much of the story away her, but as you can tell I play the Wolf as the victim of the tale, a turnaround from the original. I’ve used the framework of a well known children’s story as a vehicle to discuss heavier issues such as racism, all set against the period backdrop of the 1920’s, a time when The Blues, a uniquely American art form, was being born. The story is superbly illustrated by Rich Koslowski of 3 Geeks, The King, and Three Fingers fame.


RH: How did you get paired up with that rapscallion good for nothing ingrate of an artist?

JDA: And don’t forget sexy! (He makes me say that in every interview! That’ll teach me to read the fine print!). So, I met Rich at San Diego Comic-Con in 2007. To my shame I had only just read Three Fingers a few months earlier (it was published in 2002 after all), but had thoroughly enjoyed it. I instantly became a huge fan of his work. Meanwhile, I was busily working away, writing scripts, concocting ideas for comics, TV, movies, generally letting imagination run wild and writing it all down. I had developed some pretty good ideas, had even worked with a few artists on BB Wolf, but had not found someone who could commit to any project. My wife, Katie, found Rich at Comic-Con first. She then found me and dragged me to his booth. I nervously stammered on about how I was a big fan, bought everything he had to offer, got the autographs, and left without a single word about my writing or how I would love to work with him. Katie was very disappointed in me. Months later, after a nightly barrage of ‘Have you contacted Rich yet? Have you contacted Rich yet?’, I finally screwed up the courage to email him, and to ask if he would consider taking a look at a script. He did, and the rest, as they say, is comic book history.

RH: What was it about his art and/or previous projects that made you think he’d be the right artist for this book?

JDA: From inception I had intended to use anthropomorphic characters in telling this tale. Rich’s work on Three Fingers was brilliant and he showed he had the prowess to pull off those types of characters. And in contrast to other examples of his work, there is grittiness to Three Fingers that I felt would serve BB Wolf well. And though I believe Rich has never done bad work, his art for BB is by far his finest.


Rarr! Splash page.RH: Koslowski is also an accomplished story-teller in his own right. Did that come into play with the collaboration? Did he have more than just pictures to contribute?

JDA: Not really. In terms of story, it stands largely as I first wrote it. Rich believed in the story and no major changes were made. Rich added a few panels here and there, even a splash page or two, to help the story flow better, as well as some sound effects. But overall he let me have free reign as a writer. I don’t have much reference to pull from, as this is my first major published work, but working with Rich was a joy. I cannot imagine a more affable artist to work with. Did I mention his sexiness?


RH: So which came first, the idea to redo the nursery rhyme or the desire to tell a story about the heavier topics and themes you manage to cover?

JDA: The idea to re-tell the fairy tale came first. Again I have to credit Katie here. I was writing away, words of brilliance and tales of wonder flowing from my head like water (hint hint to all the editors and publishers out there reading this…There’s much more where this came from!), when one day, as does happen, I hit a wall. Nothing, no inspiration, no ideas, for days! So I says to Katie, “Katie”, I says, “Give me a writing assignment.” She says, without missing a beat, “Why don’t you do a re-telling of The Three Little Pigs story?” Within minutes the idea had come to me. I plotted the entire three chapter story by night’s end. Within a week the first draft was done.


RH: What does using an allegory give you the chance to do that using humans, like the similarly themed book Nat Turner did, wouldn’t allow?

JDA: Nat Turner is a story based on actual events. An amazing read for all of you who have not yet read it. I think to have used allegorical characters in that story would have cheapened the memory of what occurred. In my tale I start with a fictional children’s story, and though I am using it as a way to address much more mature themes like racism, the social inequality of the time period, murder, and the ramifications of, it felt right to stay true to at least one aspect of the original tale; that being the use of anthropomorphic players. And though the characters are playing very human roles, the fact that they are wolves and pigs provided some fun use of language, which you will no doubt notice as you read the book. In addition, I hope, the connection with the original tale, society’s familiarity with the source material, will cause more people to read it. Maybe, just maybe, a book addressing a very ugly period in our history will be more approachable dressed in fairy tale’s clothing.


It's page 16!RH: BB Wolf is a blues singer. Are his influences ones we would recognize (i.e. human) or more lupine in nature?

JDA: Good question. For more background on BB Wolf the pioneering Delta Blues Musician, please see our website. But briefly, what I have done here is create an alternate history that proposes BB Wolf was the forefather of what we know today to be Delta Blues. Through the discovery of The Lost Tapes of BB Wolf (yes, we have written some blues tunes and are headed to the recording studio. A limited edition CD will be available as a convention exclusive in a sweet little gift box which will also include; The book, a coaster set, a set of shot glasses, and an original sketch) we realize that BB Wolf was the first in the region to record the distinctive sound of Mississippi Delta Blues. His music influenced such artists as Big Dog Williams, Garfield Barkers, Snoopy Pryor, Hound Dog Taylor, and Howlin’ Wolf.

RH: So you’re setting up some continuity in this world, does that mean there will be more coming?

JDA: A sequel to BB Wolf, you say? Well, it just so happens I am working on that. I had not originally planned to do a sequel. The story, as you know, ends quite definitively for BB. But I soon realized that his story, his family's story, was far from over. The sequel will deal with his son and grandson, and the struggle for equality that the Wolf, even today, still endures.

RH: What other projects are coming out of your brain and onto our shelves?

JDA: Glad you asked! I am currently working on a horror story with Eisner Nominated artist and writer Jon 'Bean' Hastings. Details for publishing are still being hammered out but the graphic novel should see life sometime in early 2011. In addition I have literally hundreds of scripts for dozens of comic book/graphic novel ideas finished and awaiting the right artist and publisher to bring them to life. I've also been working on developing a couple of these ideas into TV shows, and am working on rewriting one graphic novel script as a movie screenplay. You'll understand if I don't divulge too many story details, but a few of the stories work along the same lines as BB Wolf, being a modern re-imagining of classic fairy tales.

Ryan Haupt plays softball with J.D. Arnold and Rich Koslowski, therefore any insulting statements in the above interview are more than justified. But he will admit that Rich is the best of the three of them. And is damn sexy. Really got to read those contracts, people.


  1. I really want to read this book now.