Some of you will remember my review of the frankly stunning ‘Twisted Dark’ volume 1 a couple of weeks ago. If not, take a moment to read it before coming back. Don’t worry, I’ll wait here.
Okay. Well, I’ve been fortunate enough not only to be able to read and review the next two volumes in the series (watch this space!) but to conduct an interview with the series’ writer and creator, Neil Gibson.
Here’s what he had to say;
Okay, let’s start at the beginning. You started off as a Management Consultant, I believe? So what inspired you to first get into the comic business, and how did the formation of ‘T-Pub’ come about?
Well I have loved good comics for a while – I do think that in every medium there is a lot of mediocre content, but when comics are done well I think they are a spectacular format for telling a story. I was on a project in Qatar and unlike most projects it was quite easy. I was done for the day by 7:00 pm and not used to having so much free time. Rather than just read or watch TV, I thought I would try writing a comic book. The response from people was fantastic so I made the first book. Some publishers were interested in working together, but I looked at what they were offering and I realised that it was a bit exploitative and I would be better off forming my own company. Hence TPub, where we give royalties to the creators.
One of the most exciting aspects of the Twisted Dark series is the different styles brought to the table by the wide variety of artists. How did you guys go about matching the artists to the individual stories? Did you have specific artists in mind that you felt would hit the right ‘tone’, or did you just give the story to an artist and trust that they would do it justice?
A bit of both really. When the subject matter is quite serious from a psychological aspect, it helps to have the art more realistic. When there is violence involved I prefer to have it a bit more cartoony because it reduces the intensity for the reader and they can follow a story which if too realistic might be too much to take. Some stories I know instantly which artist I want, others I don’t know. Some stories have to be just right and I had to go through several artists till I found the right one. I don’t really like it when that happens but it’s sometimes necessary.
It’s always a difficult question for comic creators, but is there a story you’ve written that you’d consider to be a personal favourite or one that you would recommend to readers to say “yeah, this is what Twisted Dark is all about”?
Of the ones so far in print, I like Peace and Quiet in vol 3, but I am constantly trying to tell better stories. The ones that I am proudest of tend to have twists which are very logical, but not at all obvious.
What about your writing process? How do you go about sitting down to write a ‘Twisted Dark’ story? Do the ideas just come to you, or is there something you can use to draw inspiration from?
I tend to take an everyday situation and think how could this be taken in a darker way. I guess it is similar to a scientist, entrepreneur or a criminal – you see something which is interesting and think ‘how can I use this in a new direction’. I once saw a sweet old man carrying his shopping and that was the basis of a story I wrote for vol 4 called ‘Accepting Help’. I won’t give away the ending but all I did was think how people might choose to abuse perceptions.
You’ve made no secret of being on a mission to get comics taken more seriously and become more of a mainstream medium. Where does this desire come from, and how have you gone about it so far?
IT CAME OUT OF FRUSTRATION!!!! Really! I get so sick of people having intellectual snobbery about a medium I love and value, without them even having read the greats. As I said before there are a lot of mediocre comics out there and people new to the medium may pick up a second rate superhero title and think “This isn’t very good. I guess comics aren’t for me”. I totally understand that thought process but it is SUCH a shame. To put it in perspective, imagine someone turning on a TV for the very first time, watching some rubbish reality/daytime TV and then thinking ‘This isn’t very good. I guess TV isn’t for me’.
Every medium has good and bad content. But someone listening to a bad musician wouldn’t assume that ALL music was bad, yet a lot of people read a few comics and assume that all comics are bad. It drives me MAD!
There are good books, good music, good TV and good comics. For anyone to enjoy comics, all it takes is for the consumer to pick the RIGHT comic for their tastes.
Other countries like France and Japan get this, but in the English speaking world there is a lot of snobbery and prejudice that we still need to overcome.
You mentioned about people not having read “the greats” before passing judgment on the comic genre. As a writer, what would you consider to be “the greats” that anyone looking at the world of comics for the first time should be made aware of?
Good question. We have a list on our website which lists Thirteen Top Tales To Try (a bit of T alliteration there because we are TPub after all). I suggest EVERYONE read those books. But for those too lazy to go to the website, I highly recommend MAUS, Sandman, Watchmen, Persepolis and if you want good old-fashioned superhero fun, try The Ultimates.
Scotland – Glasgow in particular – has a thriving comic book scene, with some extremely talented writers coming up through the ranks. What advice would you give to someone wanting to break into this ultra-competitive industry?
Never give up and never stop learning/improving. It is a competitive world, but you can have so much fun and provide so much joy to people by doing what you love. So it’s worth the risk.
And finally, what else can we expect to see from the guys at T-Pub in the future? More Twisted Dark, I hope ;)
We have VERY ambitious plans. We are currently remastering all of the first 3 volumes of Twisted Dark with better art and lettering and then we are releasing vol 4 and 5.
In terms of titles we have in the pipeline, I am currently going a bit nuts and am involved in about a dozen different titles at veracious stages. Remember the TPub name because we will be releasing a lot of new content soon!
Thanks for taking the time to speak to us, Neil, and we’ll be looking forward with baited breath to the next few installments in the Twisted Dark series.
The Author of this piece was:
Craig Neilson aka (Ceej)
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