With an already impressive back catalogue of indie titles under his belt (Bust, Vessels, Killtopia) it’s fair to say that ANY title Dave Cook works on is worth a look and with his next book getting a physical release while it runs on Patreon I fired some questions his way about it…
What was the inspiration for BPM – Beatdowns Per Minute?
Mostly, the main inspiration was retro side-scrolling beat ‘em up games, which is my favourite genre by far. I had the idea for BPM back in 2017, where I knew I wanted to write my own take on games like Streets of Rage, Final Fight and Double Dragon.
I’m also a big fan of practical action movies, where the actors and stunt performers are doing the stunts for real. I’ve always been in awe of the real craft and talent that goes into those types of movies, like The Raid, John Wick and basically all of Jackie Chan’s output. So I thought about how I could mash those two things together into a fun story.
Naturally, the plot had to be set in 1993, which is when Streets of Rage 2 released. So it’s full of retro game and culture references, neon-lit techno clubs, garish ‘90s fashion and much more. The overall plot is about a pair of martial arts cops – Maya and Rick – fighting to take down an evil crime Syndicate and its dangerous new drug ‘BPM’ which reacts to music.
I won’t spoil what happens when people take BPM, but it leads to a night of action carnage across our setting of Stone City. Maya, Rick and their friends’ relationship will be stretched to the limit as they battle wave after wave of the Syndicate’s goons. It’s a lot of fun!
Given your experience as a gaming journalist, was this always a story or world you wanted to write about?
I don’t think it was inspired by my past career, but I do think my knowledge of games was certainly helped along by being a game writer. If anything, my journalist background was a key driver for my side-scrolling beat ‘em up history book, ‘Go Straight’ which is being published in February 2022 by the mega-talented team at Bitmap Books.
That said, I’ve always mentioned to fellow comic creatives and in interviews that games have always been the main source of inspiration for my comics, not actually comics themselves, as they’re my favourite pop culture hobby by a mile. So I do wonder if I hadn’t been a game writer back in the day, would I have written comics to begin with? It’s a weird one to think about!
How did you team-up with Steve for the art?
Like many comic folk, we first started chatting on Twitter and it was clear from the start that we’d be a good match for BPM. We like the same kind of games, are massive retro nerds and we’ve since become best mates, which is why we decided to form our own comic imprint, Team Beats.
We decided from the start that production of BPM should always be fun, and I wanted a script palette cleanser after the dense, complex structure of my other series, Killtopia. So literally, we set a ballpark page count – 140 pages – and I had the loosest of arcs and just started writing. It was almost like freestyling and making it up as I went along, and I just found that to be a fun, chilled and ultimately, mega-productive way to work.
I know it sounds totally random to just wing a big script like that, but I kept myself in check by always writing in service of getting to the next main plot point – which is why having the main foundation of the arc nailed down is so important. As long as you have those, everything else in between should be relatively easier to write.
Of course, the flip-side of that method is once the script was done, it was way over 140 pages, but I was able – with Steve’s help – to chop out some fat, rework scenes, tighten up the dialogue and so on. But that first draft was a breeze because we didn’t get so hung up on stuff, and as most comic writers will tell you, that first draft is almost always the hardest to complete. With BPM, it always felt like fun, so that’s now the Team Beats ethos, and we’re doing the same for our other projects too.
Do you have more planned for these characters after this opening arc/GN?
The four-issue BPM arc is a complete story with an end, but I can see ways I could do a follow-up. There are a few characters and things that are hinted at but never fully seen, and some parts of the world that could absolutely be fleshed out. I have an idea for what I’d do, but it’s totally spoiler-heavy so I wouldn’t want to reveal too much.
But rest assured, I’m thinking about it!
How has it been with the Patreon release of BPM?
It’s something I always wanted to try, after I started subscribing to YouTube channels and podcasts on Patreon. It’s been a big learning curve for us, and we’ve tweaked a few things post-launch but overall the experience has been good. I think it will really grow once our next Patreon comic launches and we can get into a great cadence of page drops and reveals.
As it was new to us we wanted to launch slowly with just weekly BPM pages, along with art drops, blogs and other extras, just to get a feel for how it all worked. We now have a really nice Discord server on the go, where our Patrons chat with us about movies, video games and anything they like. It’s nice to see them engaging with us, and really looking forward to what we’re working on next.
That said, I think it’s been a hard sell for a lot of people. Kickstarter was the same when it was a new concept. Patron has been around for a while of course, but I still feel it’ll take a while for potential subscribers to ‘get’ what it’s all about, and for creators like me and Steve to hone the format so it gives the best possible value.
We’re on our way now, though, and it’s slowly but surely building momentum.
What’s the plans for BPM outside of Patreon?
We’ll be funding all four parts on Kickstarter and I hope to sell them independently at comic cons and the likes. Beyond that, we did consider publishers, but we might look at this again when we compiled them all into a complete edition.
I think Kickstarter combined with Patron gives us good autonomy to stay independent as Team Beats, and given that my typical Kickstarter campaigns enjoy backers from all around the world now, the appeal of scoring a distribution deal via Diamond and the likes is losing its shine a bit. The industry is moving in new ways since COVID and I think the old ways of doing things are shifting, so It’ll be interesting to see how that all plays out.
Any other gaming genre/title you’d like to give the comic book treatment to?
I actually have an idea for another big comic series, on the level of Killtopia, but you definitely won’t see anything from it for a long, long time. It’s only at the lore bible and character bio phase. The working title is ‘Dirtrunners’ and it’s about a world where nature has aggressively reclaimed the planet to save it from humanity.
The soil levels rise, plant-life erupts and grows incredibly fast and anyone stepping on the soil is quickly consumed by plant-life. So the last humans build anti-grave settlements that float above the ground. They also travel and courier goods between settlements using anti-grav vehicles – like the videogame series Wipeout, which I love.
It might not come to anything, but I’d like to dream up lots of neat anti-grav rigs for the cast to ride, as well as abstract settlements full of interesting people for the cast to meet. Maybe one day!
What else are you working on just now?
I’m also working on the launch of Go Straight: The Ultimate Guide to Side-Scrolling Beat ‘em Ups, which is in the final design stages by the team at Bitmap Books. That’s out in February.
I’m also working with artist Donna Black on Deadliner, my psychological horror one-shot about the dangers of creative stress and burnout. That’ll be out in 2022 at some point via Kickstarter. Artist Chris O’Toole and I are a cover and two pages away from finishing Bust #4 – the penultimate issue of my very first comic series (after a big hiatus – sorry everyone!)
And there are two projects I haven’t announced yet, which are both being worked on by Team Beats. The first is my first licensed comic, which is an adaptation of one of my favouite arcade beat ‘em ups, which has a mega niche but growing cult following. It’s similar to BPM in that it’s got that retro, Saturday morning cartoon vibe. The script is almost done, so we should be able to announce it soon. As it’s a licensed comic, it won’t be part of the Team Beats Patreon, but we’ll find a way to give our Patrons something extra for it.
And last, is the second Team Beats weekly comic (which Patrons will receive). It’s a sci-fi story set in space, which is our tribute to the henshin/tonkusatsu genre of TV shows from Japan, which includes Super Sentai (AKA: Power Rangers here in the West), Kamen Rider and a little bit of the samurai movie series Lone Wolf and Cub. Unlike BPM, this one is going to be fully adult, with tons of core, lots of brutal combat and weird and wonderful alien planets to discover. Watch this space, everyone!
Thanks to Dave for sharing some insight into BPM as well as some of his future plans for more books to entertain us.
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