Answering this week we have a creator who has worked on a variety of books for a variety of publishers and recently a Kickstarter success story, Earthruler, and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Darrin O’Toole answers 7 questions.
What was the first comic work you did that was published?
The first work published was Tales from the Void with A. Kaviraj.
What is the biggest thing you have learned since that book?
The power of the panel. Cramming 5 stories into a 22 page book made me scrutinise each and every panel. I layered about a dozen Easter Eggs and nods into the book along with crafting stories that had to build an exciting narrative, interesting characters and left field twists, all within a 5 page window, so there was no room for waste. Comics are this amazing medium, where if you work hard at it, you really can work wonders in those small boxes.
What’s your process for writing a comic book?
Firstly, I come up with an idea. The idea could start anywhere, it could be “I want to write about family struggles”, “Wouldn’t a story centred around a ticking clock be cool” or even just the initial name of some book, but it all blossoms from that original idea.
From there, I need to decide how I want to tell this story. Should it be a standalone or ongoing? Web or print?
Next up, the tone and themes. These are vital to the books, and must be your anchor whilst writing to stop you going off track.
When it comes to the nitty gritty, I sit down with a pad and pen or my macbook open and list down the amount of pages, say 1 to 22. I’ll then write on each number what I want to see happen on that page. This may or may not be done in sequence, so I may even know what my ending is and start from page 22 and work from there. It’ll be something basic like “John tells Mary about Indonesia” or ” Supremo fights the Andromedans”.
Once all 22 pages are listed like this, I will start on page 1, and start doing panel descriptions, thinking visually about how to convey what I need to the best on one page. I may stick a random phrase or thought on a panel as I go, but mostly don’t touch dialogue until I’ve done panel descriptions for all 22 pages. This allows me to control pacing plus use recurring themes etc. Finally, once all pages have panel layouts done, I’ll go back and start writing the dialogue for every panel, focusing on characters and giving each one their own voice. Once it’s all done, I’ll pop it over to someone I trust to read and critique,basically to pick it apart and be judgemental. This may be an established writer, a playwright or a movie buff…it really depends on the project and who it’s aimed towards, but it’s generally someone familiar with the target audience.
What is the biggest influence on your work?
Life. I am fascinated by the whole thing. We all have such a small time to exist here, yet are so opinionated about the most trivial aspects of it. We are governed by emotions that make us act in ways that make no sense, we add importance to trinkets and situations that in the grand scheme of things will bare no relevance on history, yet to the individual they are reasons to exist. If one work was to sum up my fascination it would be “Ozymandias”, which spells out how irrelevant the individual ultimately is. Yet in saying all of that, it is mankinds’ ability to care about this minutiae that makes us do great things, so this fascinates me.
Then, running parallel to this, is the concept of myth. I’ve been fascinated by them since childhood, every thing from the Greek Myths to The Brothers Grimm. I’ve always loved a tale that had a lesson to be learnt at its core.
TV and movie wise it was anything that had a twist to make you think about it, rather than just spell out a story. As a kid it was The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone, Planet of the Apes and Night of the Living Dead. I still love a movie with a good twist. Even awful movies can deliver a worthwhile punch to the gut in the final scene; Terminator 3 comes to mind. I’ve loved recent shows like Lost, Surface, Jericho and even Walking Dead. Writers that have inspired me would be William Goulding, Philip K. Dick, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Chris Claremont, Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza during their X-Men work and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.
What are you working on right now?
My immediate workload is finishing work on Earthruler Book One at the production end. This week I finish scripting issue 2 of The Glimmer Man for Atomic Diner, then I hope to spend a few weeks working on some pitches for Vertigo as well as a prose project for a well known horror property. I’ll also be spending time working with artist Alan Hurley who has replaced Juha Veltti on Lady Babylon: An Occult Romance, which will be DOT Comics next release after Earthruler.
What do you out now or coming out next?
I’ve a story, “Pristine” in Arcana’s Steampunk Originals: Vol 2 which is launching at San Diego Comic Con. Earthruler: Book One will be a 72 page full colour graphic novel, comprising the first 3 chapters of the story and it will be launching at DICE in Sept. I’ve also written The Glimmer Man for Atomic Diner alongside Rob Curley which should hopefully hit stores in August, and I’ve also got a story, “Singularity” with Amrit Birdi in Markosia’s British Steampunk Anthology which launches end of Oct. Lady Bablyon will also be out as soon as possible, so there’s plenty of books coming soon.
What is your favourite Irish comic?
“Waterproof Watch” by John Currivan was a great read. I really liked the dialogue between the two characters, it really is a neat little story. I really, really enjoyed the latest League of Volunteers book, which again had great characterisation and great use of grey tones by Stephen Byrne.