AMBER LOVE 21-DEC-2012 After a couple failed attempts with Skype to get comic book creator RICH DOUEK on Vodka O’Clock, we had to resort to a good old fashioned written interview. Rich has been been working on drafts of his cross-genre title GUTTER MAGIC for quite some time. Everything came together and issue 1 is available.
AU: What’s the elevator pitch for GUTTER MAGIC?
RD: It changes a little every time I write it, but basically; In a world where WWII was fought with magic, a new civilization has arisen, where magical creatures and ordinary humans live side by side, in the shadow of the ruling class of wizards. Cinder Byrnes should be the heir to a powerful magical dynasty, except he can’t cast a spell to save his life. After years of searching, scheming, and outright stealing every bit of research he can find on the subject, he’s finally found a spell that can fix his connection to magic. The people he stole it from are out for his head, naturally… but even if he stays ahead of them, he still needs to figure out how to cast it in the first place. Hot on the trail of the one wizard who can help him, Cinder learns about the true nature of magic, and how its secrets could devastate his family, and the very foundations his society is built upon.
AU: GUTTER MAGIC is a crossover comic that bridges steampunk with fantasy, magic and sci-fi. What was the driving force that made you want to create this?
RD: Gutter Magic is kind of a distillation of a lot of things that I like from various genres. All these different ideas just crashing around in my head, and this is how I hammered them into something coherent.
I love fantasy – classic stories like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, up to more modern day stuff like Song of Ice and Fire, or Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series. At a certain point, though I realized that I just didn’t want to write another story about people travelling around a semi-medieval world trying to save it from some dark lord or something. That’s not to say I wouldn’t like to write a traditional epic fantasy someday, but I was definitely looking for things that would make this story a little bit different and help it stand out. There were also some larger issues I wanted to address that I felt would have more impact if the story was set in our world, albeit a strange version of it.
RD: Brett was recommended to me by a very talented artist named Dafu Yu. I met Dafu through Andy Schmidt’s Comics Experience Workshop, where he worked with several writer friends of mine. He gave me Brett’s contact info and a link to his work on DeviantArt, which just blew me away. I got in contact with him right away, and lucky for me, he really dug the concept and story. Meeting Donna also came about through a Comics Experience connection – Chris Sotomayor, who teaches the online coloring classes and is just an all around great guy. I asked him if he knew any colorists he thought would be a good fit, and Donna was among the names he passed along – a quick email conversation later and she was part of the team.
AU: With the coloring and art, how involved were you in making the decisions on those visuals with important things like the villain’s spell casting being bright fuscia? (Somewhere you mentioned that Brett wanted a very specific green for the sashes)
RD: It depends, really. There are some things that I had a specific image in my head for, that I would specifically note in the script. Like, when I pictured Shiver, I always thought of her key color being somewhere in that area. That being said, though, I left it up to Donna to pick the actual shade, since that’s her job, and she knows way more about what’s going to work than I do. As for the sashes, Brett and I went back and forth with a few shades, but ultimately, that was the one he wanted – and Donna was happy to oblige.
One of the best things about collaboration is that, when it works well, you can all bounce ideas off of each other, and in the end it doesn’t so much matter who had the original notion, it just blossoms into something that everyone can agree works well. It takes a lot of trust between the people you’re working with, and when it works, the result is so much better than it would have been if everyone involved was just acting like a drone and following a directive.
AU: There seem to be a gap in the comic book market regarding fantasy titles. Conan, Red Sonja, John Carter, D&D, and Warhammer have fan bases but aren’t exactly best selling comics; I haven’t heard anyone talk about them as much as their movie counterparts. Are there fantasy titles that you read?
Lady Death 9/2012, Avatar, 6990
Tarot 9/2012, Broadsword, 6955
Queen Sonja 9/2012, Dynamite, 5454
Skullkickers vol 3 tpb 10/2012 Image 991
** source: Icv2.com
RD: Well, its no surprise that superheroes (and zombies) pretty much rule the roost when it comes to the comics market. I think the gap isn’t so much between superheroes and fantasy specifically as it is between superheroes and everything else. I’m not exactly sure why fans of the movie version of John Carter, say, wouldn’t be a fan of the comic, but I think comics in general have trouble getting that crossover audience – for people that are even aware that comics exist outside of the superhero or Sunday paper variety, there’s still a pretty big barrier of entry.
I mean, even if they’re not fans of a specific film, pretty much everyone has seen a movie, or read a book in their life. It’s not a huge leap to get them to invest their time or money in another one – but for comics, you’re potentially asking someone to pick up a whole new medium – one that comes with a whole lot of baggage at times. It’s not to say that these people wouldn’t get into and love reading comics, its just that it will take that much more work to convince them to try.
Personally, I love fantasy comics. I think it’s a genre perfectly suited for comics to bring to life. As for my own habits, I read Skullkickers regularly, and Jim Zub’s other series, Pathfinder. I’m also a big fan of Brian Wood’s Conan, and I thought Valen the Outcast from Michael Alan Nelson and Matteo Scalera was awesome. I read plenty of non-fantasy stuff too, but those are the ones I check out regularly.
AU: Are you trying to be metaphoric with your class / caste economics as a reflection of our times in modern America or is something you’re utilizing strictly as a storytelling device?
RD: It’s not a strict 1-1 metaphor, but yeah, there’s definitely something I’m trying to show through the disparity between the magic-using class and the other people of the city. I’m not so much taking a side as trying to illustrate something about how the class divide affects the people trying to break through it, and the people trying to maintain it. I don’t want to go too much into that right now, but suffice to say, it’s definitely an intentional theme.
AU: When you create non-human characters like Blacktooth, what is the reason for doing making a new species when the humans already have problems living peacefully?
RD: Well, there’s the purely visual appeal of having so much variety, but it also lets me explore some themes from a bit of a distance. Take Blacktooth, for instance. Goblins in this world, as in many fantasy worlds have a pretty bad reputation – they’re viewed as untrustworthy criminals for the most part – but as in real life, there’s so much more to them as individuals, and as a culture, than the stereotypes would lead you to believe. Exploring stereotypes and prejudice with a fantasy race makes it more about the issue in general, rather than the specific experiences of a real-world culture. I haven’t based my goblins on any one specific culture – as with a lot of things in the story, I’ve pulled together bits and pieces from many sources. My hope is that will help a broader range of people find something in Blacktooth, and all the non-human characters to identify with.
RD: I don’t want to give anything away, but there’s a lot more to Shiver’s story than we get into in the first issue. You’ll learn quite a bit more as the series pans out, and I even have a backup story delving a little deeper into her origin that’s being worked on right now, and will be released either in one of the issues, or online.
AU: I won’t assume that you’re looking to break into comics with GUTTER MAGIC in order to eventually land at a big publisher. Right now, what are your ambitions? Are looking to build your own brand, an empire, break into indie/small press, medium press (like Dynamite, Avatar) or go big?
RD: I love writing comics. More than I’ve loved writing anything in my life. I went through a period where I was trying to write a prose novel, and while I’d like to revisit it someday, it got to the point where I was banging my head against the wall. Comics are the first medium I’ve tried where I’ve actually been able to finish stories, consistently – to actually be a writer, instead of someone who says they are but never really writes anything. So my ambitions are to do whatever it takes that will enable me to continue to tell these stories. I would love to work with a small or mid-tier publisher to get Gutter Magic out to a wider audience, but if I have to do it all by myself, I will.
Long term, I’d love to be given the chance to do my take on some established characters, but my heart is firmly set in telling my own stories. No matter what degree of success or failure I reach, my main goal is to just keep doing that for as long as I’m able to.
AU: Where is GUTTER MAGIC being sold and marketed?
RD: Right now I am selling print copies at shows and in person, and online at drivethrucomics.com (http://comics.drivethrustuff.com/product/107201/) . Not exactly a distribution powerhouse, but I’m learning a lot about what works and what doesn’t. As far as marketing, I do my best to stay really active on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. I’m always looking to talk to new people, and I do my best to promote projects from friends of mine, or things I come across that I like, and many people have been gracious enough to reciprocate when I have new stuff to talk about. For Gutter Magic specifically, I’ve got a seven page preview of the story available for online reading, or download here – http://issuu.com/richarddouek/docs/gutter_magic_issue_1_preview
RD: Brett, Donna and I all have day jobs, families, and other freelance work that makes it hard to pin an exact timeframe down. Brett’s making a lot of headway with Issue 2 right now, so we’re focused on that. That’s another reason why I’m still feeling out things as far as selling and marketing go. What I’d like to do is use what we have now as a way to build a bit of a core audience, and then do a bigger push once we have some more issues ready to go.
AU: Where can people find you at conventions and online?
RD: I’m in NYC, so most of the conventions I’m able to hit will be on the eastern seaboard. I’ll definitely be at NYCC, MoCCA, and other NY-based events. I’m also going to try and make it down to Baltimore and up to Boston for those respective cons. Online, you can find me on twitter @rdouek, at facebook.com/guttermagic, and at sixguncomics.com. Come by and say hi!