Interviews

Round 5: Niccea interviewing SuperSymon (Writer) and MrHades (Artist) of Retake
skoolmunkee at 2:41AM, March 2, 2009
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This interview is of SympleSymon (Dave) and MrHades (Dan), whose comic is Retake!
(interview conducted by Niccea!)

1. Assume we are lazy and won't read your profiles, tell us a little bit about yourselves.

DAVE: Well, I'm 21-going-on-22, based in London. I've been writing for most of my life that I can remember (which differs from 15-10 years, depending on when you ask me. My memory ain't all that). I've only just decided to make the leap from novels/prose fiction to comics, and I haven't regretted it since. Retake was my first-ever foray into the comics world, but I now have plenty more ideas planned! Also, a little known fact about moi: I mastered Kung Fu at the age of two… I think it was the Way of the Stumbling Chimp, or something like that.

DAN: My name is Dan and I live in London, England. I'm 31 years old and have been reading/drawing comic books for as long as I can remember. I've worked on a few different web comics, including Reynard City and Awesome Storm Justice 41 (both of which are excellent books).

2. I did read your profiles and I noticed that MrHades is a graphic designer, what do you do for that job?

DAVE: … I'll just take a back seat on this one and drink some Coke…

DAN: I currently work on a weekly magazine called the Antiques Trade Gazette. In a nutshell, I design ads, page layouts and send completed pages to the printer. I really enjoy my work!

3. Did the two of you know each other before making the comic?

DAVE: I started brainstorming the idea around mid-2007, but I knew from the outset that I couldn't draw for beans (or even draw beans, but that's a different story), and I wouldn't be able to learn to draw to such a high standard that I thought a superhero story demanded, nor did I have the patience to wait off until I'd gotten better - if I hadn't by the time I was 19, would I ever anyway? Nah…so I just stuck with what I've always been best at (no trumpets here, honest!) and wrote as much of the story as I could. Then I asked some friends where I could get an artist to join me even though I couldn't pay and, eventually, I was pointed in the direction of a site called Penciljack. I'll let Dan take it from here…

DAN: I had no idea who Dave was at all. He posted up a bulletin on Penciljack and I wanted to do a hell of a lot more drawing, so looked into what he was proposing. I really liked the concept and jumped on board. We are now good friends, sharing the occasionally drink and a few games on Xbox LIVE.

4. How did you come up with the idea for this comic?

DAVE: To me, the starting point for Retake was always ‘If I want to tell a superhero comic then, as hard as it might be, I have to try and be original - starting with his origins.’ So, that got me onto thinking, naturally, about who he was and how he came to be who he is now. What background hadn't been tapped yet, as far as I knew…? Bruce Wayne had the millionaire playboy front, Kent and Parker the reporter angle. So, I knew I needed something different, something that would make him already stand-out in the crowd but at the same time make him want to take on his new role as a real superhero.

Then it hit me - why not make him an actor (no, not just any actor - the world's third highest-paid actor!) who's most famous for taking the lead role in a serious of heroic biopic movies based around one of the greatest real-life heroes from the past? From there, I had to think “well, if he's so well paid and popular, what would make him want to leave all that behind to risk his life as a superhero?” so I made him yearn to do more for the public than to simply donate most of his wages to different charities….

There are also other reasons why he took to the mantle of superhero so quickly, but I'll have to leave that for the comic to reveal!

Maybe Dan has some words on how Relik came into being, how he looks like he does…?

DAN: This was all Dave's doing! LOL I pitched in with ideas and concepts once I got the first script.

5. Though, SympleSymon is the writer for the comic, does MrHades help design the plot as well?

DAVE: Hah, nah! He just sits back, grunts and shrugs - I'm lucky if I ever get two words outta him!

…Only kidding. He has a surprising amount of input on the story - after all, two heads are better than one. And especially if that other head is a lot more level-headed and saner than mine! I'll start off by just going ahead and writing the issue, then I'll send it to him and he gives it a careful read-through. Then he gets back to me, and chips in with several ideas, variations of small plot-points that either turn out to be better suited for the overall story, or just a lot better when shown in comic-form. He's also helped craft the hero's secret origins a bit, too, and…well, I'll let him finish…

DAN: I will pipe in if I feel something needs clarifying or I think something could be elaborated more on. More often than not though, the script is fine to go as is.

6. MrHades, from idea to page, how long does it take and what process do you use?

DAVE: Oh, cool, more Coke-guzzling time! *sluuuuurp*

DAN: A page takes me a good few hours to do. Planning it correctly is half the battle. Pages that I just sit down and draw usually don't work that well. Once I have the thumbnail, I draw the image(s) out on standard A4 in red pencil, ink, scan and remove the red, then arrange the pieces in PS according to the thumbnail. Then come the colours and finally the lettering. I have uploaded a GIF with the process of how I made the cover for issue 4 here. It gives some insight to what process I use.

7. MrHades, do some of the characters you draw come from your real life?

DAVE: …I'm not gonna be able to sleep for days with all this fizzy caffiene…

DAN: In a way, yes. All the characters come from observing traits and looks of people around me. No one specific was used to model the characters on. I didn't want to get to the point where I had to use photo reference every time I drew a character.

8. Who are your favorite characters?

DAVE: Well, it sounds obvious, but first there's Brad Stone, aka Relik, our hero. He's always great fun to write, which is great because he's on almost every page, yapping about something or other as he's bringing the pain.

Secondly, definitely Coldcut and Killerton. Although the ‘rebirth’ introduction of Coldcut makes him out to be a sadistic, slaughtering madman (in Issue 3, folks!), he quickly shows how he likes to focus on the last word, cutting witty-oneliners no matter what the situation - even in the face of his own demise! This, of course, prompted me to write Killerton - the more brutish of the two bad-guys - as a surprisingly suave and well-spoken henchman (almost like Jaws if he'd just remove those silly teeth and said a damn word or two!). Instantly, these two hit it off with great chemistry in a banter sense, sniping and putting each other down as they go about doing their boss' commands. You'll see more from them when Retake ends and gives way to the continuous, ongoing Relik comic.

Dan…?

DAN: I enjoy drawing Relik, so that's pretty handy! J

If you check out how he is drawn in issue one compared to issue four, it's a massive change. I never really noticed till Dave pointed it out to me.

9. Will we find out more about who the PowerPatriot was?

DAVE: Definitely - there's a whole new world of characters and stories just lying there, waiting to be uncovered and retold, as it were. The PowerPatriot meant so much to the city he protected, so it seems only just that I cement that feeling by retelling some of his greatest adventures, rather than just showing a statue here and a plaque there. So expect plenty more issues of ‘PowerPatriot: The Golden Years’ to be intermittent between issues of Retake and Relik.

But that's not all! I like to keep my universe well-rounded and purposeful - not all characters are there to be told once and then cast aside. Many have much more to do with the overall story than you might, at first, suspect. Yes, the Patriot's from the past…but that doesn't mean that parts of his past have to remain dead and buried. Never say die - anyone could crop up again in Relik's world!

DAN: Again, Dave will have to field that one. I do know that PowerPatriot's story does tie into Reliks…

10. Are there any stereotypes for superhero comics that you are trying to avoid?

DAVE: Oh, yeah, like the plague! Just because you have a powerful hero who can fly and is incredibly strong, it can be all too easy to fall into the ‘Superman Trap’ and just have it taken as read that your guy is pure invincible. But readers don't want that - they want more than just punches that'll land the baddies into the next state, they want drama, conflict, to not know whether their hero is realy going to make it out of the fight in one piece. So yes, Relik can fly and is really powerful, but his suit has it's limits, and it can only protect him for so much… after a while, in a close, heated battle, he'll start to get seriously messed-up and injured which, naturally, makes you wonder if he'll have to chalk this battle up in the ‘L’ column - or worse!

Also, harking back to a previous answer - origins. Too many people say “There aren't any original ideas anymore”. Well, I like to say “You know what? I'll prove you wrong!” And, even if it takes weeks gruelling away at brainstorm after brainstorm, I'll work hard to come up with something that is as close to original as I can get - if not surprising, and making a great twist! So yeah, if you work hard to make your hero's origins as unique as possible, then I truly believe he'll not only stand-out from the crowd, but he'll be a stronger character for it, because you won't fall into the trap of reverting to the usual cliches.

DAN: Art-wise, I'm trying to stay away from clichéd looks of characters by trying to imagine what someone would wear in real life. I.e. not wearing their underwear on the outside. Obviously for Powerpartiot, it was necessary to show the time period he came from.

11. I saw that you recommended several superhero webcomics on your comic, what are your favorites within the real world?

DAVE: Well, naturally there's always Spidey for me - a perfect example of unwavering heroic commitment in the face of vulnerability. He knows he could get his ass kicked and wind-up seriously injured, but that doesn't make him quit - if anything, it just spurs him on! Oh, and the witty banter he comes out with has always been something I've admired in the character - a great contrast to the dark, serious brooding of Batman. I've tried to mesh the two walks-of-life together in Relik; he can be deadly serious when he needs to be, but sometimes he just has to crack a joke or two - if only to stop himself going insane from the crazy situations he finds himself in!

In a similar vein - and lord knows, they've lacerated enough - there's Wolverine and Deadpool, a Marvel's Collector's Edition series we get over here in the UK. Can't get enough of the two of ‘em!

Superheroes aside, other comics and graphic novels that I love include the Sin City books, V for Vendetta, 100 Bullets, Watchmen, The Walking Dead, Judge Dredd/2000AD, Y: The Last Man - all the way to good old Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield and Peanuts!

If that ain’t an insight into my weird and wonderful mind, I dunno what is.

DAN: Personally, I pick up trades for my comic fix. I read Invincible, Punisher and anything that else that takes my interests. I enjoyed Weadon's run X-Men.

12. Any tips for anyone that wants to start up a superhero comic?

DAVE: As I said before - be careful when creating your main superhero; generic is good for generic's sake, it lets the readers know what to expect for the run of your comic. But what if that's all they'll expect, because that's all you planned to give them? There can be a million Superman clones floating around in cyberspace but, when the time comes, do you want your hero to be a part of that sea, or do you want them flying above it, standing out from the crowd? Again, take your time - patience and creativity are their own reward!

Likewise, when it comes to the action you have only to take care with one thing: Your hero's capabilities. If you've created a hero whose completely human with no superpowers whatsoever but he knows how to fight like a kung fu master and was a high school acrobatic champion, then you can't then run off and have him tearing up roads and smashing trees to pieces with a single punch - it just wouldn't make sense. No matter how badly you want to have scenes like that, if you haven't created a hero capable of logically being able to do those incredible actions, your readers probably won't buy it, or take it seriously. One way to get around this is to think of the type of superhero-comic you want to write, what sort of fights you want to layout, the set-pieces, etc, etc…then write your hero around that. That way, they'll always be capable because you crafted them around your goals, and everything will mesh. Other than that - go wild! The sky's the limit (and not, in a fair few cases)!

Maybe Dan wants to add something about how to go about laying-out a superhero comic…?

DAN: Have a strong idea where you are taking the story. Think of it like a chess game. Work three moves ahead. Apart from that, stick to deadlines. If you are not posting pages up for people to read often, you won't have people reading your stuff.

13. Any tantalizing hints you want to drop about anything happening in the future in your comic?

DAVE: As I said before - read more carefully! Any character you come across could have a deeper impact in the overall story, when Relik rolls around. There's much more to what you're reading than meets the eye, and when the really big revelation I have up my sleeve is revealed, you'll be blown away!

But for more immediate hints? Hmmm… okay, how about this, then? Expect the reappearance of some not-so-jolly green giants. But who are they coming for…? That I'm not saying.

DAN: Heh heh…Nope! I'll leave that to Dave!
  IT'S OLD BATMAN
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:42PM
Niccea at 6:18AM, March 2, 2009
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-.- Really tough being fair and interviewing two people equally.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:12PM
fukujinzuke at 3:18PM, March 2, 2009
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joined: 9-3-2008
So do you guys talk to each other in Brad Stone-esque banter when facing off over Xbox LIVE?
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:32PM
SympleSymon at 9:10AM, March 3, 2009
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joined: 11-28-2006
You did a great job, Niccea! Thanks for the experience.

fukujinzuke - I know I do, when I not spouting one of numerous new story ideas down his ear. I guess, in that respect, that Brad has a little bit of me in him after all.
Retake - What happens when a movie star goes from portraying a hero on the silverscreen to becoming one in real-life? Nothing good…

http://www.drunkduck.com/Retake
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:05PM

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