Interview: John K. Snyder III on Bedside Press and Renegade Arts’ Fashion In Action

Fashion In Action

Fashion In Action


Fashion In Action was created in 1985 by John K. Snyder III and featured Frances Knight and her team of celebrity bodyguards. The series ran as a backup in the first eight issues of Scout, spawned two specials, and then unfortunately disappeared. Now, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, Fashion In Action is back in a fully restored, complete collection from Bedside Press and Renegade Arts. Snyder III recently sat down with Westfield’s Roger Ash to talk Fashion In Action and this stunning new collection.

Westfield: Where did the initial idea for Fashion in Action come from?

John K. Snyder III: I had a number of highly stylized line drawings of women in my sketchbooks, inspired by my love of art deco/early vogue covers and the new wave/punk fashion of the time. I would also write down story/series ideas and in the summer of 1983, after reading about a mass of gangs attacking crowds at a Diana Ross concert in Central Park, got the idea of an all-female celebrity protection agency. I kept drawing more of these detective/militant/deco kinds of women, and eventually wrote down “Fashion In Action–F.I.A.” next to one of the drawings. In late 1984, when I was working with Tim Truman on his graphic novel Time Beavers, he expressed an interest in having me develop a backup feature for his new series, Scout. I had brought these sketchbooks along, and when he saw the women, notes, and the phrase “Fashion In Action”, he said, “develop that.”

A normal day for Fashion In Action

A normal day for Fashion In Action


Westfield: You once told me the Archie Goodwin and Walter Simonson’s Manhunter was an influence on the initial Fashion in Action story. How so?

Snyder III: When I got the go ahead to develop Fashion In Action, it was decided I would get eight pages for each issue, Scout being the lead feature. Inspired by Manhunter, where Archie and Walter told this far-ranging and beautifully written and illustrated full-length story in a series of eight page installments, I thought rather than have a series of eight-page vignettes, why not have one continuous story in chapters? I knew we were going to have eight issues to work with, so that would allow for at least one full-length 64 page story (including an epilogue).

Westfield: Were you inspired by any of Truman’s work?

Snyder III: I was inspired by Tim’s absolute determination to get the job done. Once started, there was no question, it was going to happen, and in great detail. When we first met, my first exposure to his work was StarslayerGrimjack, and the early designs for Time Beavers, it was all pretty intimidating. Though our styles are different, it did inspire me that my work needed to be taken up to a higher level of finish, texture, detail, from what I had been doing in my own work up to that point.

Roxanne makes her presence known.

Roxanne makes her presence known.


Westfield: Reading the early chapters of Fashion In Action, the visuals and style reminded me of the film Blade Runner. Was that an influence?

Snyder III: Who from that era wasn’t inspired by Blade Runner? I saw it in 1982, opening night, midnight show, and it was exactly what you might think, a complete step up and beyond anything previously seen in movies up to that time. There were familiar elements, but never combined in such a fashion on such a spectacular and visually realized level.

Frances goes undercover.

Frances goes undercover.


Westfield: There is a huge mix of genres in the opening story – pulp, science fiction, a spy-movie vibe, etc. What appeals to you about this mix of ideas?

Snyder III: This gets back to Blade Runner, the mixing of genres from different periods of time to create a vision of the future. Here’s Rachel in an art-deco hairstyle and dress, next scene, a flying car. Harrison Ford is wearing a Sam Spade trench coat, but if you look carefully, the styling is nothing like a trench coat at all, and he’s operating a table-top portable machine that tells if you’re a replicant or human. I loved all of that genre-mixing. Also, I had grown up during the Spy craze of the ‘60s, was a fan of the Shadow and Doc Savage through paperback reprints, and treasured huge, hardcover collections of old comic strips like Dick Tracy and Buck Rogers, late night movies like Robot Monster, and so much more–I just wanted to throw it all in there, in the future of Fashion In Action, it’s all genres at once. The “Fashion” in the title didn’t refer specifically just to the clothing, it applied to everything.

The team prepares for battle.

The team prepares for battle.


Westfield: The characters in the series are introduced to readers as they’re swept along in the story. What appealed to you about diving head first into the action instead of introducing all the characters before the action began?

Snyder III: This was not unusual for the time, characters were often introduced within the context of the plot and action moving forward. You would get to know more about them as you went along, often learning about who they were through their actions rather than words, and some defined by their design as well. I had only eight pages per installment, so things had to move fast.

The Men in Black arrive.

The Men in Black arrive.


Westfield: The “Fashion” part of the title really came into the light in the Summer Special. What fascinates you about the fashion industry?

Snyder III: The fashion industry as I see it in the series is an international catwalk to the world, leading to all walks and levels of celebrity, art, even government, a connection that can take you anywhere and everywhere. It is a portal to an endless number of storylines and adventures. In the case of the Fashion In Action Summer Special, Berlin, competing fashion designers, Antje and her team of mercenaries, and the Men in Black, the international shape-shifting diplomats. (Which precedes the Men in Black comic by several years)

Westfield: There is a European Union of sorts in the story though vastly different than what exists today. Was it odd seeing a story idea actually happen?

Snyder III: Not completely. What I did not anticipate was the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, which still exists in the Summer Special. But you know, someone’s always trying to build a wall somewhere.

Things don't look good for the team.

Things don’t look good for the team.


Westfield: The story in the Summer Special is more straight forward than the initial story, but it felt more personal and had many layers to it. Were you intentionally doing something different than the readers had seen before?

Snyder III: The first storyline was big, flashy, bombastic, had a number of locations, and was serialized over months. In this case there was a full stand alone issue to work with and it could be read in one sitting. So it felt right to keep it more centralized, and yes, to get more personal. I wanted to start developing the characters a bit more, and had hoped to keep moving in this path had the series continued.

An ad for the Winter Special

An ad for the Winter Special


Westfield: With each story, we learn more about the world Fashion In Action inhabits. How much of the world did was planned vs. created for the story you wanted to tell?

Snyder III: I had a basic idea of the state of the world of 2087, but left it very open to fill in as the series (and current events) developed.

Frances confronts Dr. Cruel.

Frances confronts Dr. Cruel.


Frances’ background is a good example. Clearly to be running an organization such as the FIA she would have to have had experience throughout her life involving international travel, and interaction with governments and the military. And that past was something I wanted to build as the series progressed.

Westfield: You have a number of special features in the collection as well and I’d first like to look at a few things not done by you. There are text pieces by John Ostrander, Martha Thomases, and Trina Robbins. How did they become involved with the project?

Snyder III: Editor and publisher Hope Nicholson wanted to add an additional sense of history to the project and we were very fortunate to have both Trina and Martha on board to supply the text features. I asked John to come on board for the introduction, having worked with him and Kim Yale on Suicide Squad, both of whom were always very supportive of my work and the Fashion In Action series.

Two of the guest pinups (left to right):: Kelly by Rahzzah and Frances by Sara Richard.

Two of the guest pinups (left to right):: Kelly by Rahzzah and Frances by Sara Richard.


Westfield: There are also pinups of the Fashion In Action characters by other artists. How did you decide which artists to approach about doing the pinups? Is it fun seeing others interpret your characters?

Snyder III: Again, this was Hope’s work, she put together this amazing team of artists, Kevin Wada, Rahzzah, Jen Bartel, and three pieces from Sara Richard, and it was just wonderful to see the beautiful interpretations of the characters, they were all fantastic, a real highlight of the collection.

The Talia paper doll

The Talia paper doll


Westfield: There are paper dolls of the characters as well. Where did that idea come from?

Snyder III: I think it was a suggestion from cat yronwode, the original series editor. I thought it was a great idea, also thinking it would be an opportunity to spotlight the individual characters since we were working with limited space in the eight-page installments. Looking back, what was even better was that Tim Truman didn’t even blink to have them on the back cover, he thought it was a terrific idea, too. So you had guns blazing, exploding helicopters, all kinds of hardware on the front cover of Scout, then on the back, your latest Fashion In Action paper doll–collect ’em all!

A few of the Women In Historical Action (left to right): Jackie Ormes, Helen Keller, and Shirley Muldowney.

A few of the Women In Historical Action (left to right): Jackie Ormes, Helen Keller, and Shirley Muldowney.


Westfield: You also include some artwork for things that were created for the Kickstarter campaign such as the Pong Punk art which we’ve talked about before. Something that I find interesting is the Women in Historical Action pieces. Why did you decide to do portraits of women from history and how did you choose the subjects?

Snyder III: I thought it would be a nice touch to also include real women of action throughout history, and that list goes on forever. Those were just the ones I had to time to do for the book, that could be a lifetime project.

Westfield: The look of the series brought me right back to the 1980s. How do you think modern readers will respond to that?

Snyder III: Since the Kickstarter and release of the first edition of the collection, we’ve had a very positive response to the look of the series, it’s somehow more contemporary than it may have been just a decade ago. I have to sometimes remind readers it’s work from over thirty years ago, so perhaps we’re right on time.

Frances and Roxanne get down to business

Frances and Roxanne get down to business


Westfield: The one character who baffles me in the series is the villain Roxanne. We know that she can be quite nasty and has an unhealthy fascination with Frances, but not much beyond that. Can you shed any light on this enigmatic character?

Snyder III: I wanted her to remain an enigma, a mystery. The point was that she had no personal character other than being manic, and had no sense of self. Her obsession with a public figure, in this case Frances, was all that defined her. At the time, that was enough for the readers. Perhaps in the future, I could get into more of her backstory and how she became involved with Dr. Cruel. We were just getting started with these initial stories, there was much more to come, more of the FIA to be introduced, so much of it was left open for further adventures. So maybe I’ll get to all of that, but for now, we have this collection, a time capsule that I’m very happy to see back in print courtesy of our Kickstarter funders, Bedside Press, and Renegade Arts!

Frances reflects on life.

Frances reflects on life.


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