Card Shark Comics have already impressed enough people with titles like Bust & Vessels but their newest release Killtopia has an amazing buzz and expectation around it. Up steps the writer/artist combo of Dave Cook & Craig Paton and with the initial glimpse at the style & feel of the book……it looks like they could well exceed everyone’s hopes in hitting new heights in the indie comic world. What better time to fire some questions their way??
Writer – Dave Cook
What can we expect from the Killtopia series?
Killtopia is by far the most anarchic thing I’ve ever written – comics or otherwise. I think the first influence I can trace it back to is the sublime Warren Ellis comic series Transmetropolitan, which just struck such a massive chord with me many years ago. That series in many ways predicted so many aspects of culture today – our obsession with celebrity, how easily we all jump onto viral trends, and our addiction to tech, YouTube and social media. It was like Ellis had access to a crystal ball filled with rancid piss that had only showed you the worst gutters of future society.
So I wanted to do something like that, but while Ellis tapped into journalism, I’ve pulled from my love of video games. It’s about larger than life bounty hunters thinning out an infestation of killer robots in future Japan. That means explosive action, brash personas, ultra-violence and cultural satire. One comparison that keeps popping up is Robocop, and in many ways there’s crossover with Paul Verhoeven’s flick. It’s hyper-reality, where the culture is incredibly weird and frightening, but not far removed from where we are today.
I still can’t believe just how much this series has blown up in such a short time. As an indie comic writer you’re always going to fight constantly to stand out from the pack, but this is the first time where a portion of the fan base has just sort of found us, whether that’s word of mouth, or people seeing our posts online. It almost feels like you’re on the verge of something bigger than what went before – but we’ve got no illusions that this will be a hit, we’re just a little excited and a wee bit terrified at how this has been received. Craig and I are humble guys, so this response is all very new to us.
You’ve established Card Shark Comics with Bust & Vessels but has that success shaped this series?
I’m a firm believer that you will never know it all. You are always learning, always pulling influence from the things and experiences you absorb on a daily basis. Bust and Vessels are still incredibly dear to me (and you can expect more info on the next issues this year), and I do feel the process of writing them has helped me learn and improve along the way. It’s not just the process of writing those books – its the great critical feedback of readers and other creators, and the experience of touring the comic con circuit as well. All of it shapes what you do next, and helps you grow as a creator.
One thing specifically stands out above all that though – it’s that Killtopia seems to be the first genuinely funny thing I’ve written. I’m a nervous, socially awkward guy who cannot crack jokes off the cuff, but I wanted to do things I’d never managed before with Killtopia – in this case, write comedy. I made a point of watching more comedy, reading more funny books and reiterating the book’s funnier moments until they kept feeling funny after repeat readings. I’ve heard from our test readers that they found it to be a blast, and one guy admitted spitting his drink on his laptop (you know who you are, sorry mate!) So yeah, I think the comedy experiment worked? We’ll see.
What’s it been like working with Craig again?
Craig and I are similar in so many ways, in that we’re both a bit nervous about our own work, but we’re also open and honest about what we like and dislike about each other’s work. We made a pact going into Killtopia that none of it, not even a page, would see the light of day unless we were 100% happy with it. No half measures, even if it meant scrapping the entire book and starting over – which I did over 15 times in just over a year.
We don’t ever write a book with the aim of ‘making it’ or getting signed – that’s just not a good reason to do this in my opinion. But we agreed to make Killtopia as if it as gong to a big publisher, and I won’t lie, it’s been noticeably harder and more involved than anything that’s gone before – but we knew we were on to something when it didn’t stop being fun.
Have you been working on Killtopia for a while?
It’s been in active production for over a year, so I must have started the first draft about Spring 2016. I had the idea while writing Vessels #1 though, so it must have been 2015 when the notepad came out and the early scribbles began. I knew I had to get a few issues of Bust and Vessels out the door first before committing to something new, and Killtopia will be the last series I make until either Bust or Vessels is complete – three series is enough for now!
What else can we expect from Card Shark Comics in 2018?
We’re currently working on the first page of Vessels #3, and we’re looking to launch a summer Kickstarter for that one, which we’re all mega excited about. Rafael is back on art, Dennis is on colours and Micah’s up for returning on letters, and we can’t wait to get the gang together and launch back into Cairnthala together.
You won’t see Bust #4 until 2019, but that is going to be an absolute monster of an issue. I’m a little nervous about it because it’s something I haven’t seen done in comic before. In short: it’s no secret the series is a tribute to Mad Max, and we all know what happens towards the climax of those films – a long and violent car chase. Now image that but an entire 40-page comic. Fans might love it, they may hate it, but Chris and I can’t wait to get that one into production either way.
Artist – Craig Paton
What’s it been like working on Killtopia?
It’s been great. It’s also been quite intense at points, and a lot of work has gone into the project so far, but most importantly it’s been a lot of fun. Dave and I share a lot of the same influences and interests so for both of us Killtopia has been something of a passion project, the kind of thing that we’ve always wanted to work on.
I’m still very new to comics, and Killtopia is my first big full project, so for it to have gotten the level of hype and expectation it has so far has been a pretty cool experience.
Did you work closely with Dave on how the book would look?
We’ve both been working away on Killtopia for over a year now, and a lot of that time has been a back-and-forth of descriptions, sketches, style ideas and concept art. Coming up with and refining our ideas for the visual look of the characters, world and presentation style of Killtopia.
Killtopia is kind of like our love-letter to all the media that we love and are inspired by, from within retro-games, 90’s anime, 80s action movies. We hope to give a visual reference to all of these things while still giving Killtopia its own recognisable unique style.
Within the next few weeks Dave and I are hoping to make some posts taking people through some of the work in progress stages of Killtopia. Showing people from scratch how we’ve created our character visuals and how a Killtopia page comes together.
There’s an iconic look & feel to the visuals we’ve seen so far – what was the biggest influence on the art?
I have my favourite comic artists whose work is an influence and inspiration on all my comics work, Moebius, Geof Darrow, Frank Quitely & Katshuhiro Otomo. These artists work will likely always be a noticeable influence on my drawing and comic style.
For Killtopia specifically though we’ve cast a pretty wide net, influence-wise when it comes to the visuals. We’ve spent a lot of time looking into architectural styles, fashion and graphic design, taking cues and ideas from places one might not tend to usually look for visual influence on a comic book project.
Another big influence has been some, perhaps, lesser known artists and illustrators. People I guess I look up to as inspirational peers in the professional artist and illustrator fields. Fans of Josan Gonzales, Dan Luvisi and Dave Rapoza might recognise how some of these great artists have had a big influence of the visual style of Killtopia.
What’s been your favourite element to draw in this series?
I really enjoy coming up with the character designs for Killtopia. I’m of the opinion that character design is its own form of storytelling, that you should be able to take a look at a character and tell a lot about that persons history, their personality and their likes and dislikes. It’s always great to see an artist who can create a compelling story just from a single image, and I think a lot of that can come down to a lot of the small visual cues that indicate narrative or personality. This can even hold true for an image with no characters in it, one where the environment or inanimate object has a story or personality of its own.
Was this a challenging book to work on?
I’m still quite new to comics, Killtopia is the first project I’ve done interior sequential art pages on. I’m coming from a background as a professional illustrator, which I’ve been doing for the better part of the past decade. And, the transition from working as an illustrator, with a single image focus, to a comics artist with a sequential focus, has presented its own unique and unexpected challenges.
The composition planning of a single comics page is much more complex than the composition of a single illustration. While there are things you can do that crossover the different disciplines, there is a much stronger focus on movement, flow and directing the eye within the page of a comic. I’ve already found myself redrawing some panels and pages over and over until I could properly avoid a static or poorly flowing page.
What else are you working on just now?
At the moment, aside from Killtopia, I’m working on a collection of short horror stories, with writer and narrative designer Phil Harris, called Lakeside. Kind of harkening back to the old EC horror comics with a bit of a Bernie Wrightson meets Lovecraft kind of vibe. We’re trying out different art styles and looks for each story, so it’s been a lot of fun to work on, and a great way for me to work on my comics drawing muscles. There will be an announcement on Lakeside within the next few weeks or months.
I’ve also got a few exciting comics projects coming up later in the year, which I’m not allowed to talk about yet, but should prove to be very awesome.
Big thanks to Dave & Craig for taking the time to catch-up with me and give us a bit more insight into the Killtopia title’s evolution. The writing from Dave & art from Craig is looking amazing and with Robin Jones joining the campaign to do lettering it’s looking like this could be an early entry in my highlights list…..and that’s before getting a read…..ok…..I’m hyped 🙂
The new campaign is underway now and you can jump on-board over on the link below:
You can also check out the Card Shark Comics website for details on this & their other titles as well as on their Facebook page. You can get hold of their titles over on Comichaus & in the Comichaus app
Killtopia also has its own Facebook page too that’s worth following & checking out.