Archive for the ‘Dynamite Entertainment’ tag
Green Hornet. The Shadow. Zorro. The Spider. Kato. They — and other classic pulp heroes — are joining forces this November in Dynamite Entertainment’s Masks, a new ongoing series from Chris Roberson and Alex Ross.
Need to get caught up on who’s who? As part of our special “Behind the Masks” promotion, we’re offering character bios on these iconic heroes, starting with the Green Hornet!
The original Green Hornet, who is starring in Masks, is a — ahem — masked crime fighter created by George W. Trendle and Fran Striker for an American radio program in the 1930s, who has gone on to star in film serials in the 1940s, a network television program in the 1960s, and multiple comic book series from the 1940s to the 1990s.
Britt Reid is a newspaper publisher by day who goes out by night in his masked “Green Hornet” identity to fight crime as a vigilante, accompanied by his trusted associate Kato, driving a car equipped with advanced technology called “Black Beauty.” The Green Hornet is often portrayed as possessing fair to above average hand-to-hand combat skills and is often armed with a gun that sprays knock-out gas (a sonic blast weapon called the “Hornet’s Sting” was added to his arsenal for the TV series).
One intriguing aspect of the character that tends to be given limited exposure is his blood relationship to The Lone Ranger, another character created by Striker. The Lone Ranger’s nephew was Dan Reid. In the Green Hornet radio shows, the Hornet’s father was likewise named Dan Reid, making the hero the Ranger’s grand-nephew!
From the radio series: With his faithful valet Kato, Britt Reid, daring young publisher, matches wits with the Underworld, risking his life so that criminal and racketeers within the law may feel its weight by the sting of the Green Hornet!
Masks #1 will feature fully painted interiors by Alex Ross — his first since 2003! Make sure to pre-order Masks #1 today and save 35%. To read more adventures of the original Green Hornet, check out Green Hornet Year One. Or, read all about Britt Reid Jr., and his (female) Kato, Mulan, in Dynamite’s ongoing Green Hornet series!
Millions of players can’t be wrong: Pathfinder, the award-winning, best-selling fantasy RPG, is one of the most popular games in the world. Released in 2009 by Paizo Publishing, Pathfinder has gained a legion of fans who are passionate about its exciting adventure paths, dynamic characters, and multiple expansions.
Speaking of “expansions,” the next step toward total world domination takes place this week, with the debut of Pathfinder comics from Dynamite Entertainment! We had the chance to interview writer Jim Zub and Paizo Publisher Erik Mona about this exciting new series and what it holds for fans.
Make sure to check out our five-page preview of Pathfinder #1, out this Wednesday. Plus, make sure to “Like” TFAW on Facebook and take part in our contest, beginning at 9 a.m. PST August 15, to win an amazing prize package including a copy of the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path Anniversary Edition hardcover, signed by the entire Paizo staff, a copy of their newest release, the Pathfinder RPG: Ultimate Equipment hardcover, and two copies of Pathfinder #1 signed by the series’ creative team! Plus, three runners’ up will receive signed issues of Pathfinder #1. Make sure to visit us on Facebook August 15 to enter our contest.
TFAW: How did you become involved with the Pathfinder comics?
Jeff Zub: I’ve known Erik Mona, Publisher at Paizo, for years and did some work with him and the Paizo gang back when they were publishing the Dungeons & Dragons magazines. As their company grew and they started Pathfinder around five years ago we stayed in contact, would see each other at conventions and would talk about comics, gaming, and entertainment.
Last year at Gen Con in Indianapolis, Erik mentioned to me that a Pathfinder comic was a possibility and I told him to keep me in mind for writing. Good to his word, when Dynamite Entertainment licensed Pathfinder for comics, he put my name forward as a possible writer for the series. I put together a pitch package and it impressed both Paizo and Dynamite enough that they put me on board.
TFAW: I read in a previous interview that you started playing Dungeons & Dragons when you were 8; did you also play Pathfinder when it debuted?
JZ: I did play Pathfinder when it launched and, although I’m too busy to maintain a regular campaign right now, I do try to find time to play. Tabletop role-playing games are a wonderful source of creativity and I always enjoy collaborating with friends over a gaming session.
TFAW: Can you talk about the process behind and challenges of taking an RPG and turning it into an ongoing comic book series?
JZ: When you’re adapting between any two mediums I think it’s really important to understand what makes each one tick. You want to maintain the strengths of each medium in the adaptation process. Fantasy role-playing games focus on creating an in-depth and compelling setting players can use as the canvas for their story and character ideas. At first glance it might be tempting to show tons of world-setting material right off the bat, but the actual focus of game sessions is on interesting character stories, so that’s what we’re building from for the comic. We get to use the comic medium to its full advantage, telling a visual character-centric story, while slowly widening the view of Golarion with each adventure.
TFAW: How involved was Paizo Publishing?
JZ: Paizo’s been heavily involved, but not in a bad way. They’re obviously the Pathfinder experts and it’s been wonderful bouncing ideas off of the staff there. They’ve been really good about allowing me to build the characters and overall plot for the comic, while making great suggestions about setting, rules elements that can be incorporated seamlessly, and tiny details fans of Pathfinder will be thrilled to see.
TFAW: Can you introduce us to your debut storyline? What characters are featured?
JZ: The goblin clans of Varisia, Pathfinder fan-favorite antagonists, are being controlled by a strange evil force that’s motivating and organizing them. The adventurers are drawn in thinking they’re dealing with a regular goblin raiding band, but quickly realize something much larger is at stake. The mystic forces being called upon by the cult at the heart of this dark plan are creating something much more dangerous, a horrifying creature that will threaten the whole region if it’s not stopped.
Valeros is a mercenary fighter who has disobeyed orders so many times he’s not quite sure how to be loyal to anything or anyone. His courage and temper make him a formidable and dangerous warrior.
Seoni is a mysterious sorcerer whose tattooed body and mystical dreams make those who first meet her wary of her power. Strangers may call her a barbarian based on appearance, but her keen strategic mind gives her a distinctive edge in battle.
Merisiel is an elven rogue whose glib banter and flashing smile lead people to assume that she’s unintelligent and shallow. Her fears and long-lived life drive her in ways few will ever understand.
Harsk is a quiet and contemplative dwarven ranger with deeply-sown seeds of vengeance and anger buried under the surface.
Kyra is a battle-hardened cleric of Sarenrae who will stop at nothing to destroy evil, constantly testing her faith and will against those around her.
TFAW: Your creator-owned book, Skullkickers, also a fantasy book, contains quite a bit of sly humor that pokes fun at the genre. Is there any of that in Pathfinder?
JZ: Pathfinder is far more character-focused, with a larger cast and more involved plot. There is some humor in Pathfinder, but it’s more character personality-driven rather than the overarching sarcastic and over-the-top tone of Skullkickers. I think even the most serious and dramatic stories need a bit of levity to help create highs and lows in the story.
TFAW: What is it about fantasy that attracts you, as a writer?
JZ: Good question! There’s something primal and wonderful about myth and fantasy stories. The genre seems very open to massive scale creation and expansion, wielding larger-than-life forces and creating situations that reflect on our common ideas about heroism, sacrifice and belief. The lack of modern conveniences infuses these stories with a greater sense of survival and self reliance, which I also find really intriguing as a writer.
TFAW: Are you tempted to write for the games themselves?
JZ: Hmmm . . . I’m not sure if my story building would lend itself to game adventures. I love gaming and have created adventures for friends over the years, but it would be tough coming up with an “official” game scenario that has to be able encompass just about any group plugged into it. The Paizo crew is really good at what they do, so I’d definitely need their guidance. If they asked me I’d definitely have to consider it.
TFAW: What’s next on your wishlist: what type of comics do you want to tackle next?
JZ: I have a horror mini-series I’m slowly developing, as well as a supernatural thriller with a neat story hook I’m excited about exploring. I also have concepts for a dystopian super-soldier story and a fantasy graphic novel for kids. It’s hard to know which one will gain traction based on artist availability and publisher interest, so I try to keep each one slowly moving forward until one of them really heats up. My fingers are crossed that they all happen at some point down the road.
TFAW: Erik, what is it about Pathfinder that’s made it so incredibly popular, in your opinion?
Erik Mona: The Pathfinder RPG lets you create any kind of fantasy adventurer you can imagine, with robust rules for different character races and classes, and tons of special abilities that let you pull off in tabletop combat the sort of spells and combat moves that you imagine in your head. That’s a hugely compelling experience for gamers, and as Pathfinder games go on and on, players have lots of chances to develop their characters in any way they want. The game is very flexible and very fun, with diverse elements like tactical combat and even a touch of improvisational play-acting, so there’s a little something to keep everyone interested.
TFAW: Why was now the right time to launch a Pathfinder comic?
EM: We launched the Pathfinder brand about five years ago, and in that time it’s managed to overtake the previous industry flagship game to become the best-selling tabletop RPG on the market. More gamers are aware of Pathfinder now than at any time in the past, and even those who have never played it have certainly heard of it. Since many gamers are also comics fans, now seemed like the right time to launch a Pathfinder comic to show everyone what all the fuss is about.
TFAW: Can you describe your vision for the comic?
EM: Ever since the beginning, we’ve included a party of “iconic adventurers” in the illustrations of all of our Pathfinder products. Folks like Valeros the fighter and Seoni the sorcerer have been around since the first day of Pathfinder, but I’ve always been holding back on telling their back stories and establishing their personalities, as I felt from day one that a comic book would be the best medium for that type of story.
In our game books, the iconic characters are stand-ins for the adventurers that the players will create to tell their own stories, so it’s not really appropriate to put too much detail into these guys there. But fans have been wanting to know more about them since they first came on the scene, and I’m thrilled that the comic finally gives us the opportunity to do it right.
TFAW: What made Dynamite the right publisher?
EM: Dynamite has a great track record with licensed properties, and their books always look absolutely great. Over the years I’ve gotten to know the core Dynamite team from conventions both of our companies attend, and I’m impressed by their knowledge and love of comics, their ability to create great-looking books based on existing properties, and their commitment to quality art and story. We spoke in general terms about working together for about a year before both companies decided (pretty much at the same time) that the time was right to move forward with a cooperative project.
A better question than what made Dynamite the right publisher, though, is what makes Dynamite the right publisher. In the months since we signed on with them, they’ve gone above and beyond to assemble a fantastic creative team for the book, and the cool variant and incentive covers they’ve put together continue to blow us away. Working with their editors and production people has been a joy, and everyone at Dynamite has been great about incorporating our feedback and thoughts (and game content, of course!) into each issue. I knew Dynamite would be a great partner before we gave them the license, and now I am absolutely sure of it.
TFAW: How involved were you in the creation of the comic, and selecting the creative team?
EM: I have been pretty heavily involved in the decision-making regarding just about every creative element of the book. I have a long history with Jim Zub, as he was one of our most important contacts on the art side of Dragon and Dungeon magazines, which we used to publish. Jim coordinated all of the artists at Udon Studios and often did art for us himself, so I knew he had a lot of knowledge and passion for tabletop gaming that would serve him well on this project. Plus, his comic Skullkickers perfectly captures the zanier side of the sorts of things that happen in a Pathfinder game, so I knew he could handle the somewhat more serious subject matter we’d be covering in the comic in a way that still rang true for gamers.
I decided which of our six iconic characters would star in the series, where the series would be set (in the town of Sandpoint in the frontier nation of Varisia, home base to many Pathfinder adventures), and what sort of game content will be included in each issue. I also decide what images to put on the flip-side of the poster map included in each issue, and once Jim was in place I helped him and series editor Rich Young decide on Andrew Huerta as our penciller. I also lead the team here at Paizo that reads, comments on, and approves all of Jim’s scripts, and I sign off on every page of art as it is finished. I’d say I’ve been relatively “hands on” with the project so far.
TFAW: What specific aspects of Pathfinder did you want to feature in the comic?
EM: I want to show how our iconic characters met, what their personalities are like, and how they relate to one another, things that are almost impossible to show in our RPG books, where they stand in as proxies for the player characters of the readers. I want to use the comics medium to show off the broad vistas and weird creatures that inhabit the Pathfinder world, and I want to produce an accessible story that reveals the excitement and awesomeness of the Pathfinder world to folks who haven’t yet given the game a try.
TFAW: What’s the next big thing coming up from Paizo?
EM: Next week we head to Gen Con, the biggest convention in the game business, where we’ll be formally debuting the comic with both Jim Zub and Andrew Huerta on hand to meet with Pathfinder fans, draw character sketches, and autograph comics. At the show we’ll also launch lots of brand-new products like Ultimate Equipment, a 400-page hardcover magic item catalog, a 65-figure set of Pathfinder Battles pre-painted miniatures designed to support our Rise of the Runelords campaign, and the first installment of our new Shattered Star Adventure Path. It’s going to be great!
We want to thank Jim Zub and Erik Mona for taking the time to answer all of our questions. You still have time to pre-order Pathfinder #1-3 and save 20%. Plus, remember to enter our Pathfinder contest on our Facebook page August 15 starting at 9 a.m. PST to win sweet swag from Paizo and Dynamite!
Are you a Pathfinder fan? Are you looking forward to the comics? Post your comments below!
Dynamite Entertainment has kept the sneak peeks coming with a look at these titles! We have comic book previews of four new comics: Garth Ennis Jennifer Blood TPB Vol. 02 #5, Jim Butchers Dresden Files Fool Moon #7, Pantha #3, Red Sonja Atlantis Rises #3, Thun’da #3 , Vampirella #3 , Vampirella Annual #2 , Vampirella #20 , and Warriors Of Mars #4 . Do you want to see the first four or five pages? Just click one of the covers.
Are you a Dynamite fan? Which books look good to you? Post your comments below!
George R. R. Martin’s epic Game of Thrones has never been more popular, with millions of fans breathlessly awaiting the premiere of Season 2 of the HBO show on April 1. This dark medieval fantasy has ignited demand for collectibles–make sure to let your visitors know about the comics, merchandise, games, and more at TFAW.
Dynamite Entertainment’s Game of Thrones comic-book series has been extremely popular, and Game of Thrones HC Vol. 01, collecting the first six issues, is out March 14. We’ve got a behind-the-scenes interview with preview art here!
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg: Dark Horse Deluxe is releasing a full line of amazing Game of Thrones merchandise, including mugs, journals, playing cards, magnets, and more this spring, emblazoned with images from the popular TV series.
Don’t forget about the Game of Thrones board and card games, too!
Are you looking forward to Season 2 of Game of Thrones on HBO? Post your comments below!
Sit down and enjoy this week’s comic book reviews! We take a look at Batman #6, Army of Darkness #1, Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi #1, and the Astonishing X-Men Whedon Cassaday Ultimate Collection Vol. 1 TPB.
Check out the video, below. SPOILER ALERT! We try not to go into too much detail in our reviews, but a few mild spoilers might slip through the cracks!
What did you think about this week’s comics? What should we review next week? Post your comments below!
Dynamite Month has been an amazing event chock-full of great interviews, exciting previews, and excellent contests–hope you enjoyed reading them as much as we enjoyed putting it all together! We’re closing out the month with an inside look at the She-Devil With a Sword, Red Sonja! We talked with writer Eric Trautmann and artist Walter Geovani about strong women, period weaponry, and what’s next for Sonja. Plus, we’ve got a five-page preview of Red Sonja #58, with art by Noah Salonga–Walter will return with issue #62.
[UPDATE]: We have some exclusive character designs from Walter Geovani, below–make sure to check them out!
TFAW.com: Eric, what drew you to Red Sonja, as a writer?
Eric Trautmann: I have a weakness for tough, determined, skilled female protagonists. A touch of larceny and mischief never hurts, either.
TFAW.com: Red Sonja is often characterized as the “female Conan”–do you think that’s accurate? How do you see her?
EST: I can certainly see that comparison being made but I think, despite those similarities (and sure, there are many), I view them as quite distinct. Conan’s initial motivation to leave his homeland was restlessness: he’s an action junkie. Sonja’s own origins are considerably darker and nastier, and to an extent, I think she’s definitely more motivated by anger, and perhaps a touch of survivor’s guilt. Over the course of the Red Sonja issues I’ve written, I have tried to bring a sense of consequence to her actions–that it isn’t just lighthearted, swashbuckling adventure, and when the sword is drawn, there’s definitely a price to be paid.
TFAW.com: There’s been a lot of controversy recently about the depiction of “sexy” women in comics. In your book, Red Sonja is attractive, but she’s also a warrior and a strong, assertive woman. How difficult is it to avoid the trap of writing her as just eye candy?
EST: Not terribly. It doesn’t really matter if the character is male, female, or unspecified alien other; if you’re writing the character as honestly as possible, then the character should (if I do my job properly) read as a real person, not just exposed flesh.
TFAW.com: You’re also the writer behind Vampirella, another classic femme fatale. How does she compare to Red Sonja?
EST: There are definitely some similarities, sure. I’ve taken Vampirella down a darker path than she’s been down in a long while, and she, like Sonja, is coping with issues of guilt and loss, in addition to the more overt, external threats of monsters, ancient gods, and so on. I think they do read rather differently, as the two women cope with this “baggage” much differently.
Where Vampirella is prone to brooding, and hurls herself into dangerous situations specifically to occupy herself and not dwell on her demons, Sonja is much more able to access her emotions. Vampirella will go find a horrible monster to fight; Sonja will dance on tables, drink a tavern’s worth of ale, sing bawdy songs.
TFAW.com: The comic-book character of Red Sonja is loosely based on Robert E. Howard’s Red Sonya of Rogatino, but there isn’t a lot of “canon” to draw on, as there is with Conan. Where do you find inspiration for your stories?
EST: I must confess that the first arc, “War Season” (which ran from issues #51-54, with an epilogue in #55) is a love letter to a Conan the Barbarian arc written by James Owsley, which I read when I was in high school. It was a terrific run (with art by Val Semeiks and Geoff Isherwood), huge in scope, with armies clashing and Conan as a mercenary general.
After that, inspiration comes mostly from Sonja herself. I’m not one of those writers who says the character “tells me the story, and I just write it down,” but I find her so fascinating and compelling that I’m eager to see what new, crazed situation I can put her in to see how she prevails.
TFAW.com: Were you a fan of the original Marvel Red Sonja comics?
EST: I was. And Conan the Barbarian, and King Kull, and Savage Sword of Conan, and . . .
TFAW.com: What’s next for Red Sonja?
EST: Once the current arc wraps up with issue #59–where Sonja has a pivotal role in the politics of the nation, Koth–there’s a done-in-one “anniversary” #60th issue. We’ll see Sonja have an encounter with a sort of opposite number, as she moves away from Argos, Shem and Koth (where I’ve kept her for most of my run) and into the ancient, mysterious kingdom of Stygia.
Issue #60 features the return of artist Patrick Berkenkotter, who did a magnificent job following Walter Geovani, with the self-contained issue #55, and as a guest artist on issue #59. It’s just lovely, muscular work that reminds me of Ernie Chan’s line, which is a perfect fit.
We’ll be in Stygia for several issues, starting with issue #61. Walter returns to the art chores, and he continues to wow me with his excellent action and character work. The new arc finds Sonja and a new group of allies being pulled into an ancient grudge match between religious and political factions in Stygia, and all tying back into the aftermath of “War Season.”
TFAW.com: There’s been many rumors about a Red Sonja movie by Robert Rodriguez. What advice would you have for him?
EST: I’m not sure I’d presume to give him advice, but as a fan, I’d like to see a Sonja movie played seriously, and focusing on the things I admire in the character: strength, determination, cunning. She’s a thief and a bit of an opportunist, so a medieval caper film would be a treat.
TFAW.com: What other projects do you have coming up?
EST: You’ve mentioned Vampirella, of course. And in November, my first issue of Dynamite’s Flash Gordon hits store shelves. The serial, entitled “Zeitgeist,” is set in the 1930s, and has benefited tremendously from story and art direction from Alex Ross, and will be illustrated by the incredibly talented Daniel Indro. Very different from the blood, thunder, and death I typically end up writing.
TFAW.com: Walter, were you always a fan of the sword and sorcery genre?
Walter Geovani: I’ll be honest, I never liked this genre. And it caused me some problems in the beginning, because I had to learn and adapt to that medieval world.
I never liked it until I started working on it. You know when you don’t like something just because you don’t know it? That was it. The more I worked on Red Sonja, the more I found how cool it was to be drawing all that stuff.
TFAW.com: Who were your influences, growing up?
WG: I could write a lot of names here, but there’s one name that’s the most powerful influence in my work: Marc Silvestri. And my inspiration to do medieval stuff: Frank Frazetta (of course), and Barry Windsor Smith.
TFAW.com: I’ve noticed your Red Sonja is a bit more covered up than she has been, traditionally. Was that your idea, or Dynamite’s?
WG: It was Dynamite’s idea. Or Eric’s idea. Or both. The fact is, that idea came at the right time in my career. I decided to focus on storytelling and set aside my pinup style and sexy poses. So, covering her up, it helps me to call the readers’ attention to that and make them stop thinking that I was only an “artist of sexy girls.” I’m glad it worked.
TFAW.com: How difficult is it to depict a “barbarian age” while keeping modern readers in mind?
WG: I think that if the story is good, it doesn’t matter the genre, or the age. But I know a lot of people who don’t give a chance to this kind of book (or movie, or cartoon) just because they think it’s impossible that a good story can come from it. It’s the “you don’t like something just because you don’t know it” thing, I think.
So what I try to keep in mind is to work hard to make a great book, so when a new reader gives it a chance, maybe he’ll change his mind and end up enjoying it. And I work hard to not disappoint the fans who do like these kind of stories.
TFAW.com: What kind of research did you have to do to draw all of those fight scenes? Do you draw period weapons, or do you design your own?
WG: I draw period weapons, I design my own–I do a mix. That’s the good thing about this genre, you can use your imagination and play with stuff, and nobody can say it’s wrong. It just needs to be cool. My action scenes are inspired movies, cartoons, and comic books I like.
TFAW.com: Do you have a favorite character or type of scene to draw?
WG: There are three characters I loved to draw: Rogatino, Valkos (Red Sonja: War Season), and Sofia (Vampirella). I like to draw scenes with emotion. I like to draw the characters laughing, or angry, or crying. If I do it it right, if I capture the emotion of the story, that makes me happy.
TFAW.com: What comics are you reading right now?
WG: I’m reading Scalped, American Vampire, Joe the Barbarian, and New Avengers. Unfortunately, Dynamite’s books are not published here in Brazil, because they [Dynamite] have a lot of good stuff.
TFAW.com: If you could choose another comic to draw, what would you pick and why?
WG: Vampirella. Because I love the character. She’s sexy, she’s badass, and the book is dark. I’d like to draw Flash Gordon. One of the few male characters I’d really like to draw. Masquerade would be great to draw, too.
TFAW.com: What else do you have coming up?
WG: I’m back to Red Sonja monthly. She has new allies and we’ll be in Stygia. Eric is writing a great story that I’m having a lot of fun drawing. It’s getting darker and more mysterious each issue. Stay tuned!
Our thanks to Eric and Walter for a fantastic interview. Make sure to check out our selection of Red Sonja comics and graphic novels and save 10-35%.
Have you been enjoying Dynamite’s Red Sonja? Post your comments below!
We’re coming to the end of Dynamite Month, but we still have some excellent interviews up our sleeves. Today we’ve got an in-depth interview with Todd Herman, the artist for Dynamite’s upcoming revamp of the Patricia Briggs’ Alpha & Omega: Cry Wolf comics!
He talked with us about the difficulties of learning wolf anatomy, what advice he’d offer to aspiring artists, and what he used as inspiration for the book. Plus, take an exclusive peek at his Cry Wolf character designs, including his original “Anna,” which he changed dramatically after reading the book!
TFAW.com: How did you become involved with Alpha & Omega: Cry Wolf?
Todd Herman: I became involved with Cry Wolf because of editor Rich Young. I had been doing pencils for Rich on Warriors: Jailbreak at Dabel Brothers, which I got involved with because Rich and I go way back from his days at Dark Horse. When Dabel acquired the rights to Warriors, Rich had heard me vocalize my interest in doing Warriors material enough times that he approached me (and my collaborators Erik Henriksen and Herb Apon) to make a pitch. Fast forward a few years later when Dynamite Entertainment acquired Dabel’s properties, including Jailbreak, and Rich (who was now editing for Dynamite) said he thought I’d be appropriate for a new book they were doing called Cry Wolf and asked if I would be interested in sending them a few tryout pages. I did, and the author of Cry Wolf [Patricia Briggs] chose me out of the handful of artists they were considering for the book!
TFAW.com: Have you read the books at all?
TH: I had not read the books before embarking on the material. I had heard of Patricia Briggs and the character Mercy Thompson, but Cry Wolf and Anna and Charles were new to me. Since I started the book I’ve read Cry Wolf and Hunting Ground, they’re great!
TFAW.com: What was the most challenging part of designing the different characters?
TH: Ha! Well . . . designing the characters was a lot of fun, I think the only real incongruity was that the tryout pages I did were based on the covers of the novels, other than that I was going on very little knowledge of the characters. However, once I got the job, read the script, and read the first novel, I realized that Anna was a much more subtle character than the one portrayed on the cover of the books, I love those covers, but she looks like a larger-than-life superhero on them, and that wasn’t really going to work for the very human aspect of the story we were trying to tell inside the book.
Also, I had to pay special attention to the height and size of the characters. Patty is pretty specific that Charles and Sam are very tall in the books, while Asil, Anna, and Bran are considerably shorter. Dressing them all in Western wear that said more Montana then Texas was a fun challenge! Oh, and also I had to sync up some of my character designs with that of artist Amelia Woo, who is drawing the Mercy Thompson comics. Certain characters cross over, and I had to make sure I was on the same page as she was.
TFAW.com: Was it difficult to draw all of the wolves? How did you prepare for that?
TH: Drawing animals is definitely not my forte–it took me a long time just to learn human anatomy–and previously, when I’d had to draw dogs or horses or birds in a comic or animation, it was usually just for a panel, if that, so it was easy to Google an image that I could crib from. But with this book, the wolf counterparts of the characters are a major part of the book, so I had to really break down wolf/dog anatomy, not to mention learn how in the world to draw fur, and make sure it didn’t look like I was just copying a photograph.
In particular, it made me really admire all over again guys like Arthur Adams who can draw any animal on the planet just as expertly as his best drawings of Batman, She Hulk, or Wolverine. In fact I remember one of the very first conventions I went to when I was trying to break in, I’d shown Arthur a pin-up of the Challengers of the Unknown that I’d drawn, where one of them was riding an elephant. I was really, really proud of that drawing, and the first thing out of his mouth was, “You really don’t know anything about drawing elephants, do you?” Ha! He was right!
TFAW.com: How do you differentiate between all of the wolves, to make them recognizable?
TH: Mostly it’s through size and color. Most of the wolves are a variation on the same basic structure but have specific markings or eye color, according to Patty’s books. I made up a list of the wolves for my editor to give to the colorist early on, being specific, for instance, that this one has a silver tail, or black paws, or that when they’re using their magic their eyes are blue, or yellow. And then I’ll usually send a diagram of a page for my editor to forward to the colorist, labeling who each wolf on each page is so the colorist can keep track!
TFAW.com: Did you draw inspiration from any other artists for this?
TH: Well, I initially looked real carefully at Mike Mignola’s Wolves of St. August, mostly just to see how he drew his werewolves. But Mike’s so iconic and stylized that it’s good to study him and then step away–if I tried to draw like him I’d just make a fool out of myself. After that my inspiration was Alex Toth’s romance stories from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, which I’m fanatical for. This book, despite having werewolves, is primarily a romance, and nobody but nobody did romance like Toth.
In particular, I looked at the way he drew facial expressions and body language, the way he could draw a look of longing for another on a person’s face, the subtlety when their hands would touch, and of course, the way he drew a kiss. Best kisses in comics, hands down. I love how the man would place his hands on a woman’s face as he kissed them, almost holding her head counterclockwise and upside down. Really, deeply moving stuff. Toth could upstage Klimpt when it came to drawing an embrace, in my opinion.
Oddly enough, my other inspiration was Jim Steranko, who I’m in the process of rediscovering. When Marvel reprinted his graphically innovative Nick Fury books in the ’80s I snapped ’em up, and included among the reprints was a rarely seen gem, a romance story he did with Stan Lee called My Heart Broke in Hollywood, which I’ve always loved. When I got assigned Cry Wolf, I remembered that story, which I hadn’t seen in years, and I dug it out and fell in love all over again. In particular, the flat line approach of the drawing, the graphic design-inspired stylization of the women, and the very dreamy quality of the page layouts . . . Steranko, baby!!! Do yourselves a favor and look him up if you’ve never seen his work, his influence is more pervasive than ever in modern comics. Plus Stan’s dialogue on My Heart Broke in Hollywood is so corny and hilarious even for him, it’s gotta be read to be believed!
TFAW.com: Why do you think people love werewolves so much right now?
TH: Do people love werewolves right now? I’d assumed the enduring fad was and always will be vampires! Good question, I think that werewolves are a classic. Like Dracula, Godzilla, and Frankenstein, they’re probably the most easily recognized and most enduring of monsters, and can be interpreted any number of ways, and I’m sure that the romantic interpretation of them is always going to be popular, plus if you’re going to have the power to turn into any animal, well . . . a dog is probably too much of a pet, horses are generally too big and limited in an emotional setting, and fish, lizards, and birds have less emotional range.
I don’t know, wolves are sexy and slightly dangerous, they have an edge! My own view on the enduring human fascination with werewolves is that it boils down to a evolutionary fear of predatory animals, despite being at the top of the food chain, coupled with our own human fear deep down psychologically that we’re animals, too. That’s a concept that in my opinion many humans have trouble coming to grips with, especially considering how we’ve treated animals historically as well as in our everyday lives.
TFAW.com: You’ve done several horror comics in the past, including The Fog and Cut, but this is more like a horror-romance comic. What changes to your style did that require, if any?
TH: Considering that the bulk of my work so far has been horror, Westerns, fantasy/adventure, or something along those lines, this book wasn’t too much of a stretch, coupled with my aforementioned love of romance comics!
TFAW.com: What were your favorite comics, growing up?
TH: All of them. Seriously. Charles Schultz, newspaper comics, Spider-Man, anything by Gil Kane, Curt Swan’s Superman. Anything by Bill Mantlo, his and Michael Golden’s Micronauts were pretty huge. I know everyone likes to cite EC and Warren, but when I was a kid I loved going to the barber shop because they had copies of The Witching Hour, House of Mystery, The Unexpected, Secrets of Sinister House, etc. I have enduring fond memories of discovering Frank Miller’s Daredevil, and Matt Murdoch’s heroism despite his ever-disastrous love life.
TFAW.com: You’ve been involved with comics and animation for years now. Do you have any advice for fledgling artists?
TH: Oof. That’s an interview in and of itself. If you show your work to a professional, try to keep your mouth shut and really listen, and take criticism well, which can really be hard, but it’s an essential part of the territory. You don’t have to agree with every bit of advice they give you, but if they’re working and you’re not, then they know something you don’t, therefore you have something to learn from them. Try to develop a simplified, pared-down style for your layouts, so that you can really get the storytelling down and firing on all cylinders before you dig in with the fun dessert part of the drawing. There’s nothing more frustrating than working really hard on a finished drawing that you’re patting yourself on the back for, but then realizing the structure of the storytelling is unsound.
If you work in mainstream comics, your editor will make you fix it, no matter how pretty your rendering is in any given panel. Beyond that, I’d say learn to draw the figure, you’ll never regret it. Try to be versatile in your style approach: different stories require varied ways of thinking. One aspect of comics that’s super cool and not to be taken for granted is that if there’s a cartoonist out there who inspires you, there’s a good chance they’re accessible, and you’ll get at least a minute or two to meet them at a signing or convention. Use that time to pick their brain, find out how they did what they did and got to be where they are, and read any and all interviews that are available. Experience life, get out of your safety zone both as a person and an artist, learn to at least appreciate the work that is diametrically opposed to yours, and it will only enrich what you are already trying to do. There’s a great Alan Moore quote I once read, “Don’t be cool. Like everything.”
TFAW.com: If you could do a creator-owned book, what would it be?
TH: Oh gosh! I’d like to do at least one original supernatural horror graphic novel in my lifetime, and one comedy graphic novel as well. My two favorite genres are comedy and horror, and I love that, to a certain extent, you can gauge their success very simply: Is it scary? Did the audience scream? Was it funny? Did the audience laugh? I’d also like to do an anthology of horror short stories, that sounds like a lot of fun. When I was growing up it seemed like superheroes were the only option for paying comics work, now it seems like the field’s more accepting to diversity, which is a dream come true! I remember thinking as a kid, wouldn’t it be cool to just draw horror comics for a living, which seemed about as realistic as flying to the moon with a jet pack that runs on Jell-O! Nowadays the field has changed, and that doesn’t seem so unrealistic. I don’t know, we’ll see!
TFAW.com: What other projects are you working on?
TH: Right now, I pretty much only have time for Cry Wolf, and I’ll be doing that book up until the spring, far as I know. I finished Warriors: Jailbreak not long ago, and hopefully that’ll be out soon, that book’s been a dream come true. Beyond that, I’d be up for more Cry Wolf if the opportunity arises. I have no idea what Dynamite’s plans are for further material, but that seems like a natural next step I’d be open to. Looks like I might be squeezing in some commercial stop-action animation work some time after the holidays, but we’ll see. Beyond that, depending on my schedule, I’ve been batting around ideas with one of my oldest partners in crime for an original horror graphic novel, or an adaptation of a very old classic horror story that is now in the public domain, but I don’t want to say any more than that for fear of jinxing it! Stay tuned!
We want to thank Todd Herman for taking a break from drawing to answer all of our questions. Make sure to pre-order Patricia Briggs’ Alpha & Omega: Cry Wolf comics here and save 20%!
Are Herman’s character designs for Cry Wolf on the nose? Post your comments below!
We first spoke with writer David Lawrence about Patricia Briggs’ Alpha & Omega: Cry Wolf back in 2009. An adaptation of Briggs’ popular werewolf series, the comic book was scheduled to be released by Dabel Brothers, the publisher that had also released adaptations of Briggs’ Mercy Thompson books. Plans hit a snag when Dabel Brothers ceased production, but the project was picked up by Dynamite Entertainment, which released issue #1 back in 2010.
Since then, fans have been eagerly awaiting the next installment of the adventures of werewolves (and mates) Anna and Charles, and their patience is about to pay off! The revamped series returns with issue #2 (titled, fittingly enough, “Second Chances”) next month, featuring longtime Patricia Briggs collaborator David Lawrence and a brand-new artist, Todd Herman. We interviewed Lawrence as part of Dynamite Month, and he explained why the series went on hiatus, whether new readers will be able to jump right in, and why it’s now better than ever. Plus, we have a five-page preview of Alpha & Omega: Cry Wolf #2 to enjoy!
TFAW.com: It’s been quite awhile since the first issue of Alpha & Omega: Cry Wolf was released.
David Lawrence: It sure has. Long enough to have a baby, I think. And sometimes it seemed like giving birth might have been simpler. But I think it was worth the wait.
TFAW.com: Will new readers be able to jump right in?
DL: God, I hope so. I’ve certainly done my best to structure the story that way. It’s a fine line, giving the reader the essential information while not bogging things down with a long recap. I’ve tried to be creative about it. I’d say if you haven’t seen the first issue, don’t be afraid, come on in. And if you have seen the first issue, the extra time and work has resulted in a much better, more entertaining comic.
TFAW.com: a specific reason for the long delay?
DL: Nobody likes to admit this about their work, but that first issue was not very good. More than anybody else I have to take responsibility for that. I can give you a lot of reasons. It was published by Dynamite, but the book was produced in the dying days of Dabel Brothers Publishing, and there was a lot going on. I was spending a lot of time trying to get business matters straightened out, for myself and other creators. I think, unfortunately, the book reflected that.
I’m grateful that instead of simply killing the project, or continuing down the wrong road, the nice folks at Dynamite chose a different path. They took a lot of time and spent a lot of money to get it right.
The scripts are 100% better because I got to focus on this instead of the business problems at DBP. The art is really wonderful and really unique. Todd Herman has this kind of Mike Ploog-Mike Mignola type of vibe that is perfect for this book. He wasn’t the safe choice, but he was the right choice, in my opinion. I feel bad for the original artist and I’m not saying the problems with the book were his fault. But this is comics, and part of starting over is inevitably giving the book a different look.
We’ve even done a new issue #1, by the way, but for a variety of complicated, contractual types of reasons, it will only appear in the graphic novel, not as a single issue.
Whew! You still awake after that answer?
TFAW.com: How much input does Patricia Briggs have with these adaptations?
DL: I hope it doesn’t sound flip if I say “As much as she wants,” but that really is the answer. First, these are Patty’s stories and Patty’s characters. I’m adapting them pretty faithfully and what Patty says goes. She reads everything. She looks at all the artwork. Patty and I have worked together for about three years now. Cry Wolf is our third trip to the park together. She understands very well the difference between telling a story in words and telling it with pictures, and I appreciate and am touched that she has a great deal of trust in me both as a writer and as a person who has the best interests of her characters at heart.
TFAW.com: One of your previous adaptations, Mercy Thompson: Moon Called has been collected in graphic novel form. What was the most memorable part of working on that project?
DL: From a selfish point of view, it might have been the moment Patty told me she liked my ending to the story better than hers. Coming from a writer of her ability that’s quite a compliment.
But in reality I’d say it was working with Amelia and watching her grow as an artist and a storyteller. I always felt that our first Mercy series, Homecoming, wasn’t really a fair reflection of her ability. She jumped on board halfway through with no time to prepare, and the artist switch left her facing just impossible deadlines. I’m glad she got a fair chance to show what she can do.
And what she can do is just gorgeous. I can give her descriptions like “the wolf looks confused” and she just nails it. What the hell does a confused wolf look like? I have no idea when I write that down. But time and again Amelia figures it out.
TFAW.com: What resonates with you about her books?
DL: I’m really a character guy more than a detailed plotter. For me, the story flows from the characters, not vice-versa. So it’s really her characterizations that most appeal to me. I have a reaction to her characters. Some of them I like very much. Mercy, of course. Zee, the metal-working gremlin, is another favorite. But even her villains are real enough to me that I understand them. Usually I pity them more than I hate them.
TFAW.com: So many of the characters in Mercy Thompson’s world aren’t quite what they seem: they have hidden sides and personas. Even Mercy herself is a bit of a dichotomy! How do you keep track of these complex characters?
DL: Part of the answer is that I keep it simple. I don’t look too far ahead. People are surprised when I tell them I read the novels one at a time. At this point Moon Called is the only novel in the Mercy series I’ve read. Cry Wolf is the only novel in the Alpha & Omega series I’ve read, and the opening novella, of course. Characters grow and change over time. If I’ve got the Mercy and Adam of book four in my head it’s tough to go back and write the Mercy of book one.
But the bigger part of the answer is that Patty creates well-rounded, compelling characters who are easy to keep straight in my head. Even the walk on parts are distinctive enough that you remember them.
TFAW.com: Patricia’s Alpha & Omega books have a lot more romance than her Mercy Thompson books, which you’ve also adapted for comics. How does that affect your creative process?
DL: I don’t think my work is affected so much by the presence of a love story at the core as it is by the fact that this is a story with two co-equal lead characters. In Moon Called and the Mercy books, Mercy Thompson is the star. Here I have to give roughly equal weight to two characters and two points of view. That can be tricky. But on the other hand, it’s easier sometimes when you have two characters who can talk to each other instead of one operating alone.
But even beyond that, I think this is more of an ensemble book than the Mercy series. I’m not saying it’s the Justice Society of Werewolves, but there are several other characters who play very large, key roles in the story.
TFAW.com: Can you introduce Cry Wolf‘s Anna and Charles?
DL: Anna and Charles are really polar opposites. Charles was born a werewolf, which makes him a one-of-a-kind creature in Patty’s world. Werewolves are made, not born. It took a great deal of love and magic to make it happen. Everything about being a wolf comes very naturally to him and he is very good at it all. He’s powerful and dominating, but maybe because of his uniqueness he’s always stood just a bit apart from everybody else.
Anna was changed to a werewolf against her will, a major no-no among the wolves of Patty’s world. It’s a crime comparable to rape to change someone without their permission. And that was only the beginning of the abuse she faced in a renegade wolf pack. She was rescued by Charles and is just beginning to learn about herself. As a wolf and as a woman.
TFAW.com: How well do they function as a couple, and how does their relationship affect the flow of the story?
DL: Not very well at all, at least at first. They’ve kind of been thrown together. Charles is a loner. Anna is scarred and scared. It will take them some time to grow accustomed to each other. Even to the idea of each other. But this being good drama, in the end their fate, and the fates of others, will depend on their ability to do so.
TFAW.com: What are the differences between an Alpha and an Omega wolf?
DL: An Alpha is territorial, aggressive if threatened, used to being in command. An Omega is not really the opposite of an Alpha. That would be a submissive. An Omega more, and it seems like I keep coming back to this, stands apart. She doesn’t take orders. She doesn’t give orders. She has strong protective instincts without an appetite for aggression.
TFAW.com: What makes an Omega wolf so valuable?
DL: Omegas are very rare. A werewolf could live centuries without encountering one. They are natural peacemakers. They have a sort of mystical ability to smooth discord. This could be a very valuable gift in the violent world of a wolfpack. Despite being functionally immortal, by human standards, most werewolves don’t live very long because they have the nasty habit of fighting and killing each other. Someone like Anna could bring that to an end.
TFAW.com: Why do you think no one recognized Anna’s status before Charles?
DL: Actually, her status was recognized. She was transformed precisely because the Alpha of her first pack had use for her special abilities. But he also found it useful to keep Anna in the dark.
TFAW.com: Anna is different than a lot of take-charge heroines; she’d been victimized for years by her pack before being rescued by Charles. How do you prepare to write a character like that?
DL: Anna is no pushover. Just because she’s not spoiling for a fight doesn’t mean she won’t stand up for herself. Or others. She’s been through a lot, but there is a spine of iron in that girl. It’s just going to take her a while to discover it.
TFAW.com: What are the major differences between writing for Mercy and Anna?
DL: The biggest difference goes back to something I already mentioned. Mercy is a solo act. For all of the strong supporting cast she is the single star of the show. With Anna and Charles we’ve got two characters sharing the spotlight. Their interaction takes center stage more than either of them as a lone character does.
TFAW.com: In Cry Wolf, a rogue werewolf is slaughtering humans. Do human know about werewolves in this world? If so, how do they typically relate to each other?
DL: Humans don’t know about werewolves. Yet. One of the underpinnings of Cry Wolf and Moon Called is that the Alpha of the whole North American continent realizes they can’t keep the secret much longer. He knows he has to go public but it’s a matter of when and how.
TFAW.com: First vampires had a pop-culture resurgence, thanks to books like Twilight, and now it seems like werewolves are more popular than ever. What do you think people find so appealing about werewolves?
DL: Seems like in troubled times humans often turn to monsters. Consider that the whole classic Universal cycle of Frankenstein, Wolfman, and Dracula began in some of the darkest days of the Great Depression.
It’s almost a cliche to say that we are drawn to the monsters not because they are different, but because of what they reveal about ourselves. Werewolves are really sort of a Jekyll and Hyde story on steroids. We all have that stuff that we try to keep bottled up, and we fear that it might explode sometimes. We fear the loss of control. Maybe these stories help us to understand and embrace it.
Or maybe I just talk too much. Never dismiss that possibility.
TFAW.com: Are you and Patricia planning to bring the other books in her Alpha & Omega series to comics?
DL: I have a hard time imagining not working with Patty. She’s a great writer and a better person. I can’t imagine her characters not having a bright future in comic books and I hope to be a part of that for a long time.
We want to thank David for taking the time to answer all of our questions. You can pre-order Patricia Briggs’ Alpha & Omega: Cry Wolf comics here at TFAW.com and save 20%! Plus, stay tuned to our exclusive interview with Cry Wolf artist Todd Herman this Friday, in which he shares some behind-the-scenes details, including his original character designs!
Are you a Patricia Briggs fan? Are you excited to see Cry Wolf in comic-book form? Post your comments below!
Take a look at recent popular vampire epics, like Twilight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Vampire Diaries, and ponder their essential elements. Conflicted vampires? Check. Steamy human-vampire romance? Check. Ancestors who conveniently look just like their modern-day counterparts? Check. (Well, maybe just The Vampire Diaries.) You might never have watched the seminal 1960s vampire soap opera, Dark Shadows, but if you love any of today’s vampire tales, you’re already a fan and just don’t know it yet.
Dark Shadows started out as a fairly conventional gothic soap opera, but it caught fire with the introduction of mysterious vampire Barnabas Collins. Debuting as a scary, menacing monster, Collins fell in love and was slowly redeemed, eventually becoming a heroic figure. With its wide cast of characters, jumps through time, and high drama, Dark Shadows directly influenced every vampire tale that came after. However, after 1,200-plus episodes, the show was cancelled by ABC, because it appealed to a younger audience that wasn’t as valuable to advertisers in the ’60s and ’70s (my, how times have changed!).
However, fandom simply didn’t allow Dark Shadows to die out. Much like with cult hits like Star Trek, fans have been busy putting together conventions, festivals, and websites devoted to their favorite show, keeping interest alive and recruiting new fans. Now it’s paying off: not only is there an upcoming movie starring Johnny Depp, but Dynamite Entertainment is launching an original Dark Shadows comic book series, helmed by Dark Shadows New Page editor and writer Stuart Manning and Green Hornet Year One artist Aaron Campbell. Not only did we get to interview them for Dynamite Month, below, but they threw in an exclusive five-page preview of Dark Shadows #1! Plus, enter our Dark Shadows Contest for your chance to win one of 10 sets of Dark Shadows #1, including the standard, variant, and rare incentive covers!
TFAW.com: Stuart, as editor of the Dark Shadows News Page, you’re uniquely qualified to be writing the new Dark Shadows comics. How did you originally become interested in the show?
Stuart Manning: I first discovered Dark Shadows as a teenager in the 1990s, initially through magazine articles and the old tie-in paperbacks. At that point, it had never been broadcast here in England, but the concept seemed endlessly fascinating to me, to the point where I felt like I was a fan without ever having seen the show. I always liked spooky things and this just seemed like my ideal television series . . . with the small complication of not being able to actually see it!
In 1995, when Sci-Fi Channel launched a European version, Dark Shadows was one of their launch shows, and for this viewer, it was like a dream come true–all those characters, who I’d read so much about, on screen and alive and real. I was hooked pretty much immediately.
TFAW.com: When did you start the Dark Shadows News Page, and what does editing it involve?
SM: My association with Dark Shadows fandom goes back over 15 years, starting with editing a fanzine, the Dark Shadows Journal, produced with scissors and glue, photocopied and hand-stapled. That eventually evolved into a website, at www.collinwood.net and lately, the Dark Shadows News Page, a blog that I’ve written over the last few years.
The focus is news from the Dark Shadows world, but really it’s just a general platform for me to celebrate all things Dark Shadows. That can encompass anything from reviews to interviews, to commentary to rare photographs . . . Anything related to the show that I think other fans will enjoy. Pay a visit at darkshadowsnews.blogspot.com
TFAW.com: What would you say to comics readers who have never watched Dark Shadows? Why should they pick up the comics?
SM: If you like classic horror and mystery stories, then this series is tremendous fun. It’s good old-fashioned intrigue, with thrills and spills, a big spooky old house, a tortured vampire, a dangerous witch, ghosts and more besides. Dark Shadows, at its heart, is a very potent distillation of that whole gothic genre, mixed up with some ’60s retro charm.
TFAW.com: Vampires are more popular than ever these days, with Twilight, Buffy, and The Vampire Diaries. Where does Dark Shadows fit in?
SM: Dark Shadows is really the primary text where those shows are concerned. It was the first successful vampire series on television, and Barnabas Collins was the first enduring vampire character created for the small screen. He was also the first real exploration of the reluctant vampire concept, which all those shows have drawn upon.
Even after all these years, I think Dark Shadows stands as one of the most high-concept shows ever made. They really did do everything in those five years–vampires, werewolves, witches, time travel, parallel universes . . . you name it. Kevin Williamson, the creator of The Vampire Diaries, has cited the influence of Dark Shadows many times, so there’s a very definite lineage between those shows.
TFAW.com: The show aired for a relatively short time, but it has lived on through its fans for years–much like other genre shows like Star Trek. What do you think appeals to fans the most?
SM: That’s difficult to say, really. Dark Shadows fans are incredibly staunch, and perhaps that’s down to its original soap opera format. That first generation of fans really did live with those characters day-to-day, for years in some cases. So even though the shows themselves were sometimes primitive, those characters truly did become real people in real situations. The storylines were often outlandish, but somehow those characters had an integrity and depth that anchored the whole thing.
At its best, it was a brilliant fusion of personalities and performance with great vivid plotlines. I never had the chance to experience the show as a child, but I dearly would have loved to have done so. Discovering it in my teens in the 1990s, Dark Shadows fired my imagination like nothing else . . . to an impressionable eight-year-old, it must have simply been mind blowing.
TFAW.com: Is your series based on the original show or the upcoming movie with Johnny Depp?
SM: It’s based on the original series, set a short while after the original episodes ended. So it’s summer 1971, and in a remote fishing village on the Maine coast, dark forces are once again stirring in the house of Collinwood . . .
TFAW.com: Will readers who have never watched the show be able to catch on right away?
SM: Yes, absolutely. The first issue is very much a jumping-on point. We meet all the characters and discover what’s going on in their lives as the story unfolds.
With a show like Dark Shadows, plus over 1,200 episodes worth of backstory to contend with, when starting out, it’s pretty essential to make things inclusive. We have a rich history and characters, and though there are little details that will have special resonance for long-term fans, hopefully first-time readers can pick up the threads and enjoy it as something new, without feeling left behind.
TFAW.com: There are so many characters from so many different time periods in the original Dark Shadows. Which characters will you focus on at the start?
SM: We’re trying to focus on the characters who will feature in the movie, as that makes obvious commercial sense. So that’s the classic line-up of the Collins family, plus Barnabas Collins, our vampire, and his confidante and would-be love interest Dr. Julia Hoffman. I think it’s great that the new film is focusing on that strange, functionally dysfunctional family with all their secrets and shared history. So we’ll be concentrating on these characters to begin with, hopefully expanding to include additional faces as things progress.
I didn’t want to feature everyone from the offset–it’s nice to have room to let things grow, and introduce readers gradually to our community of personalities. Already, even though it’s early days, I can think of plenty of ways to include the broader cast as things progress.
TFAW.com: Which characters are your personal favorites?
SM: Barnabas Collins, our vampire, obviously. People have often referred to Barnabas as a reluctant vampire, but I actually think of him more as a neurotic vampire. Whether it’s dealing with the latest supernatural onslaught or looking for love, very little in Barnabas’ life doesn’t end in angst and self doubt.
It’s great having a lead character who isn’t necessarily a nice guy, and his never-ending will-they-won’t-they relationship with Dr. Julia Hoffman is great fun to write. That’s a very curious, co-dependent dynamic, blurring the lines between doctor, patient, friend and more besides. Of our wider cast, I’m also very fond of Carolyn Stoddard, our younger female lead. She’s an interesting personality . . . when we join her she’s somewhere between a little girl lost and wild child. Growing up with her odd family with all their baggage, she’s emerged headstrong and a little spoiled, but still tries to be normal and grounded in spite of everything.
TFAW.com: Do you have a special episode?
SM: It’s a bit of an obvious one, but I’m very fond of Barnabas’ first proper appearance . . . episode 212, since you asked. Even 40 years on, I find it has a really intriguing atmosphere all of its own. Barnabas arrives at Collinwood, and with the combination of writing and Jonathan Frid’s performance, it genuinely does feel as if he’s stepped in from another world. I watch that today and I can totally see why that character made such an immediate impact.
TFAW.com: There was an attempted reboot of Dark Shadows back in the 1990s that was short-lived–why do you think it didn’t catch on?
SM: The NBC remake of Dark Shadows was dealt a real blow by debuting on the cusp of the Gulf War conflict. Between widespread news pre-emptions and other factors, it was a very chaotic environment in which to launch any show, let alone a serial with a dense ongoing plot and a large cast of characters. In different circumstances, it might have really caught on.
That said, even in its short lifespan, the revival series developed its own identity and produced some strong episodes. The finale instalment is genuinely thrilling in places. Had it survived into a second season, I think it really would have spread its wings.
TFAW.com: How did you come to work with Dynamite Entertainment?
SM: I’d done a lot of work for Dark Shadows, both as a fan and on a professional basis, so when the possibility of doing comic books was mentioned, I was really interested to get involved. Here was an opportunity to create a new series using the classic cast exactly how they appeared on television and potentially take them into whole new realms. That was immensely exciting, from both a professional and fan perspective, and after writing some treatments we were up-and-running.
TFAW.com: How far ahead have you plotted the Dark Shadows comics?
SM: So far, we’ve plotted the initial story, which will play out over four issues, and have just started looking beyond that. I don’t want to jinx things by thinking too far ahead, but I’ve included some details on the sidelines in the opening chapters, which may well be explored in the future. We have such a great cast of characters–any one of them could be the lead for a story, and once they’re established, we can really take this series any place we want to.
TFAW.com: What other projects are you working on right now?
SM: My day job as a designer keeps me pretty busy, working on the art desk of the BBC’s Radio Times magazine. I also do various bits and pieces for the world of Doctor Who, along with other Dark Shadows stuff, so lots of stuff going on. It’s a very exciting time!
TFAW.com: Aaron, there’s a fantastic moody, noir aesthetic to your work. Who were your influences?
Aaron Campbell: My influences are all over the place. From comics there are artists such as John Paul Leon, Tommy Lee Edwards, Sean Phillips, Kirby, and Bernie Wrightson. From the mainstream of illustration I was always drawn to the classical illustrators from the first part the of the 20th century, people like N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle, Robert Fawcett, Leyendecker, Dore, etc. And then there are great painters like Velasquez, Manet, Rembrandt, Thomas Eakins, Waterhouse, Sargent, and Vermeer.
TFAW.com: Can you take us through your process as an artist?
AC: I have a pretty complex process but I’ll try to keep it brief. I start with little rough thumbnails. These give the basic idea of what’s happening on a page. From here I shoot reference for all the characters first and use that to draw to a pretty tight, finalized, layout. Once my layouts are ready to go I just continue drawing over those to create my pencils. This way there’s no backtracking or redrawing. At this stage It’s somewhat of a mixed media process as I draw parts freehand and also work on the computer in Photoshop, typically on the backgrounds. The finished pencils is then a digital image that I print out in blue line on heaving stock paper and ink directly over for the finish. From my inks I use a #4 Kolinsky sable brush and India ink.
TFAW.com: Had you been a fan of the original Dark Shadows show before you took on this project?
AC: I’d never really seen the original series before now, but I was actually a big fan of the series from 1991, with Ben Cross as Barnabas. I was about 13 years old and I’d never seen anything like it. It only lasted one season but it stuck in my mind ever since. It was a long time before I found out that it was based on a series from the ’60s. Nonetheless, it’s really cool to be working on a property that I liked so much as a kid.
TFAW.com: What specific elements are you bringing from the show to the comics, if any?
AC: Everything. The characters, the sets, the continuity, are all directly taken from the original show. I think the last episode was 1245, so it’s almost like this is episode 1246.
TFAW.com: Have you had to update anything major for a modern audience?
AC: I think my way of drawing does the trick. I have everything there for the faithful fan, but my own particular sensibilities, hopefully, make it relevant for a new audience.
TFAW.com: Are you modeling the characters after the original actors?
AC: Right down to the dimples and warts! Every character is absolutely based directly on the original actors.
TFAW.com: On the surface, Green Hornet Year One and Dark Shadows seem pretty different, but they both have roots in classic pulp serials. Have you found a lot of common ground while creating the art?
AC: There’s actually a lot in common. Both series are rooted more in reality, with plain-clothed heroes and villains. The places are real world and the mood is dark and gritty. In truth I haven’t had to rethink my style at all.
TFAW.com: There is a lot of vampire stories out there today. Are you doing anything specific to set Dark Shadows apart, visually?
AC: Well, I think the source material takes the brunt of that responsibility. Dark Shadows must have been one of the first to bring monsters into the mainstream, right into the home on afternoon TV. It has a flair that is already distinctly its own. It’s just a matter of me getting it right.
TFAW.com: What are the advantages of working with Dynamite Entertainment?
AC: The advantage is, I get to do this stuff full time for a living! Ha ha. Actually I’ve built up a great relationship with the guys at Dynamite by now, at least I hope so, and they seem to have a good deal of faith in my abilities, so I have quite a bit of freedom to create the images I envision. Can’t ask for much more than that.
TFAW.com: What kind of comics did you read when you were growing up?
AC: X-Men, Wolverine, Spawn, the usual superhero stuff. I had a few outliers like Preacher and Sandman, but for the most part I had a pretty narrow view of what makes a good comic. I stopped collecting, though, once I got to college (couldn’t afford it anymore). Now that I’m back in it I’ve found that my tastes have totally changed. I don’t really go for the mainstream superhero genre, and I’m drawn to a more realistic style of art much more.
TFAW.com: If you could time travel, like in Dark Shadows, what advice would you give your younger self?
AC: Even if I could, any advice I might be able to offer I wouldn’t have listened to.
TFAW.com: What types of comics would you like to work on in the future? What’s next?
AC: Even though I’m not a big fan of superhero stuff now, I would actually really like to try my hand at some. Other than that, I’ll just take it as it comes and see what happens.
Our thanks to Stuart and Aaron for taking the time to answer all of our questions! You can pre-order the new Dark Shadows comics right here on our site. Plus, don’t forget to enter to win one of 10 sets of Dark Shadows #1. Each set includes the standard, variant, and rare incentive covers, so visit our Dark Shadows Contest Page now!
Are you a Dark Shadows fan? Will you be checking out the new comic book series? Post your comments below!
It’s Kirby: Genesis week here on the blog, with interviews with writer Kurt Busiek and artist Alex Ross, and today’s excellent interview with Sterling Gates, writer of Dynamite Entertainment’s upcoming Kirby: Genesis Captain Victory series. Based on the legendary Jack Kirby’s original creations, Captain Victory tells the story of a rebel captain determined to overthrow an evil overlord–who just happens to be his own grandfather!
Gates is a natural choice for a large-scale superhero epic: he’s been soaking in comics since he was young, first at his father’s comic shop, then as a comic shop employee, and later as Geoff Johns’ personal assistant and protegee. After well-received stints on Kid Flash and Supergirl, Gates is now heading up two high-profile superhero gigs: not only is he writing Captain Victory, but he’s also the pen behind DC’s new Hawk & Dove series.
We chatted Gates up as part of Dynamite Month and got the inside scoop on what it’s like to walk in Jack Kirby’s footsteps, the essential elements of a great superhero story, and what he’s tackling next! Plus, enjoy an exclusive five-page preview of Kirby: Genesis Captain Victory #1, out this November!
TFAW.com: Can you introduce us to Kirby: Genesis Captain Victory?
Sterling Gates: Kirby Genesis: Captain Victory is the first series spinning off of Dynamite’s hugely successful series Kirby: Genesis! Our series focuses on characters Jack Kirby actually wrote and drew in his own lifetime, a crew of Galactic Rangers that are lead by an enigmatic captain named Victory. Kirby’s book lasted for 13 issues in the early 1980s before he put it to bed, and we’re taking Victory’s story and reloading it for a modern audience while still retaining the characters and flavors of Kirby’s work.
TFAW.com: Who is Captain Victory? Where does he come from, and what does he want?
SG: Captain Victory is the grandson of the most malevolent and horrible character in the galaxy, a despot named Blackmass. Victory was raised to take over the family business, but–for reasons unknown–Victory opted to leave Blackmass and join the Galactic Rangers in an effort to train them to fight his grandfather.
Imagine if the grandson of Hitler decided to join the US Army to train them to fight the Nazis. Victory knows all of Blackmass’ tricks and tactics, and he’s been quietly showing them to the Galactic Rangers for years. Victory thinks of himself as the frontline against his grandfather, and it’s up to him to destroy Blackmass once and for all. So, lots of big action and family politics in this book!
TFAW.com: What’s it like bringing a Jack Kirby character to life?
SG: It’s pretty damn exciting, to be honest. Dynamite has been great in that they’ve let me sort of take my own approach to these characters, so I’m really working on fleshing out all of the characters in the book in new and exciting ways. Kirby was really great at presenting his characters on a large-scale canvas, but he left a lot of details wide open. We’re hoping to fill in those details even as we present a new, modern canvas. To stretch that analogy! [laughs]
TFAW.com: What do you think readers are going to be surprised by?
SG: I think they’re going to be surprised by just how far Victory is willing to go to stop Blackmass and his forces. Victory’s a hero, yes, but since he knows what his grandfather is capable of and he’s not bound by a personal moral code, he will oftentimes cross lines most heroes wouldn’t. Which usually gets him in trouble with Galactic Command. Think of Mal Reynolds from Firefly. He does his best to be a good man, but he’s willing to kick guys into the engines if it suits the greater good of his crew. Victory is similar, but he’s dealing with things on a much bigger scale. He’s willing to kill if it will save a planet, and he’s willing to kill a planet if it will save the galaxy.
TFAW.com: There are three Kirby: Genesis books in the works now–are they standalone series, or is it a crossover?
SG: They’re meant to be standalone. Victory certainly is, though at some point we’ll be picking up some threads from Kirby: Genesis and running with them. I haven’t had a chance to talk to editorial or Jai Nitz or Robert Rodi yet, but I wouldn’t rule an eventual big crossover out. It seems like if we’re going to be moving forward in this universe, a crossover would help get people interested in all of the books. I think it’d be fun to do one. When I wrote Supergirl for DC Comics, I was part of a mega-crossover called New Krypton. It was always a lot of fun figuring out how all the books intertwined and making everything in all of our stories relevant to the big picture across two years.
I’m not suggesting we do anything on that scale for the Kirby-verse, but I think it’d be fun to see what all of these different characters do when thrown back together after Kirby: Genesis is over!
TFAW.com: You literally grew up with comics, since your dad owned a comic shop. How does this affect your perspective of the comic book industry?
SG: Hm. I’m not entirely sure, actually. I’ve always been around comics or been a part of a comics “scene.” I honestly don’t know what it would be like for me to not be involved with comics in some way. We had the store when I was a kid, I was the weekend manager for a store called Speeding Bullet Books and Comics when I was in college, and my second job in Hollywood was as Geoff Johns’ personal assistant. So there’s always been a big connection to comics in my life one way or another. I think it helps a creator to have an idea what the retail side is like, and I think it helps a retailer to have some insight on what the creative side is like. The two sides support and feed one another in a (for the most part) perfect symbiosis.
TFAW.com: What were your favorite comics growing up?
SG: The Flash, Batman, Uncanny X-Men (or any book with Marvel character, Longshot), New Mutants/X-Force, Spider-Man, JLA, Starman, Pitt, Superman, New Teen Titans (which then became New Titans!), and D.P.7.
TFAW.com: You’ve exclusively written superhero comics thus far–what are your must-have elements for a great superhero series?
SG: Relatable characters readers can sympathize with that possess honest emotions. You can have all the superheroic, over-the-top action in the world, but the emotional core has to be true or else readers won’t care.
TFAW.com: With Kirby: Genesis Captain Victory and Hawk & Dove, you’re involved in the birth (or rebirth) of TWO superhero universes. How are they different for you?
SG: Well, the Kirby-verse was populated by Kirby, so it’s full of these crazy big ideas. Kirby was way, way ahead of his time, and we’re only just now catching up to him. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to look at the iPhone, which is essentially a Motherboxx. It just doesn’t have healing capabilities. Yet.
A lot of the ideas Kirby put down on paper haven’t been fleshed out, either, so we’re just now getting to fill in his worlds and present them to readers who might not have heard of Captain Victory or Silver Star. That’s one of the many things I really liked about this project, we’re getting a peek into Kirby’s unused concepts and ideas and bringing them out for modern audiences. That’s what sold me on getting involved with this book.
The DC Universe is still the same universe it’s been, more or less, but with some tweaks here and there. It’s still the same place Batman and Green Lantern have been living for all of these years, it’s just that some things are slightly different. The DC Universe has been around since before I was born, and it’ll be around long after I’m gone.
TFAW.com: This is your debut title for Dynamite Entertainment–how has the experience been, thus far?
SG: Fantastic! The guys at Dynamite–especially Nick Barrucci and Joe Rybandt–have been extremely supportive and helpful.
Alex Ross and Kurt Busiek have both been directly involved with the Kirby stuff, and getting notes and emails back from them has been really, really exciting for me. I admire their work so much, and it’s really gratifying to be able to work closely with them.
TFAW.com: What other projects are you excited about?
SG: Well I’m knee-deep in Hawk & Dove at DC right now, working with one of my childhood heroes, Rob Liefeld. I’m doing a couple little side-projects here and there, too. I wrote a story for an anthology called “The Gathering,” which is on sale on the Grayhaven Comics website, and it was drawn by this phenomenal artist named Cassandra James. I also did a story in the comic anthology Unite and Take Over, which is a bunch of stories inspired by the music of The Smiths. That’s debuting at Tucson Comic-Con in November, I believe. And then I’ve got a couple other projects that I can’t talk about just yet, so please stay tuned.
Our thanks to Sterling Gates for finding the time to answer all of our questions–while he was at NYCC, to boot! You can pre-order Kirby: Genesis Captain Victory comics right here at TFAW.com. Plus, remember that during October, you’ll save 35% on all of Dynamite’s October-catalog pre-order comics and graphic novels!
Were you a fan of Kirby’s original Captain Victory series? Are you looking forward to the update? Comment below!