Dave Cook talks Kaiju Cola, Toothbrushes and KILLTOPIA #2! [Interview]

What’s that? Another exclusive BCP interview with the team behind 2018’s breakout smash ‘Killtopia’?

The highest-rated, award-winning-est, bloodgutsgoreandmachineparts soaking-est comic of last year? With the inside scoop on the comic’s future?

Sure is amazing what comes out of Edinburgh these days.

Yes folks, we’re sitting down with Dave Cook of Card Shark Comics, the brains (and possibly other squishy bits) behind the robot-hunting wreck-fest that’s the contemporary TransMet-2000AD carnage of Neo-Tokyo.

BIG COMIC PAGE: Well hello again Dave! Thanks for coming back to chat us once again!

DAVE COOK: My pleasure guys!

BCP: It’s been quite a hectic 6 months for you!

DC: Yeah it’s been absolutely crazy, I’m still trying to process life in a post-Killtopia world.

BCP: And it’s fair to say between pretty successful, from BHP’s involvement through to awards?

DC: Yeah for sure. Scooping the Creative Edinburgh award was just a mind-blowing moment, as we had convinced ourselves we had a snowball’s chance in hell. BHP have been amazing to work with too, and they’ve really helped us get the book out there further.

BCP: So, for newcomers, can you tell us a little about the background to ‘Killtopia’, and maybe a little synopsis of issue #1?

DC: Sure thing. Killtopia #1 is a cyberpunk series set in a metropolis in future Japan. Ten years ago, the city was infested by a swarm of robots called Mechs, which have terraformed the city’s Sector K district into  hostile jungle warzone.

Fast forward to today, and Sector K is now known as Killtopia, the hottest bloodsport on the planet. Soliders of fortune called Wreckers enter Killtopua to hunt Mechs and salvage their tech for money, fame and glory.

The series is about the discovery of the world’s first sentient Mech – called Crash – and follows all the different people and factions trying to get their hands on him for various different reasons. Our hero, Shinji, teams up with him to cure a nano disease killing humanity.

But then things get crazy from there, as Wreckers, Yakuza gangs and all sorts of crazy individuals try to claim Crash for their own nefarious means.

BCP: What can we expect in terms of the characters old and new in this issue?

DC: While we were crowdfunding Killtopia #1, I think a lot of people assumed Wrecker champion Stiletto was the main character, but Shinji was actually the focus. I can happily say that Stiletto is firmly the star of our second issue. We get to learn more about her life away from the cameras and fame, and get a little glimpse of who she was before Sector K went boom.

We also meet the members of hacker group  Koshiro-23, who were mentioned by Saitoh briefly in Killtopia #1. One of their members is Blaze, who is Shinji’s ex-girlfriend, a genius hacker and something of a hot-head. She’s going to be a big part of the whole arc, and I think people are going to enjoy her character.

Lastly, there’s King Kaiju, a corporate mascot for the Kaiju Cola corporation. He’s basically a child slave fused inside a giant Gundam style suit. He picks up Crash’s trail and tries to capture him, leading to some pretty explosive scenes across the city.

There’s also another character we’ll learn more about, who has more knowledge of what’s going on that first appears. I won’t say who just yet, or I’ll ruin the surprise.

BCP: We talked before about world-building. How does issue #2 develop the wider world of KT?

DC: We get to see more of how the everyday civilians themselves respond to and worship the Killtopia bloodsport. The issue really is about the fickle nature of fame, and how quickly your fans can turn on you if they don’t like what they see. Stiletto ends up getting involved in something that causes her legions of die-hard fans to suddenly turn on her, so there’s a lot of fallout from that.

I think that part is applicable to today, especially in the wake of celebrity scandals and certain actors saying controversial things without realising the consequences. So we’ll see first-hand how the Killtopia audience responds to what Stiletto’s up to.

We’ll also see that there’s actually many group dedicated to protesting and bringing down the Killtopia bloodsport altogether. Their rationale is – why is the Japanese Government spending trillions on Killtopia, instead of researching a cure for the Rot? It’s a valid point that could be applied to any number of politicians and government policies today.

BCP: One of my favourite things in Issue #1 was all the nods to gamer culture, with Craig Paton’s art like a Weird Where’s Wally (or should that be Waldo?) Anything you can tease us with there?

DC: Absolutely yeah. In my original script, Blaze was supposed to be wearing a real Nintendo Power Glove, but then I remembered how much Nintendo loves to lawyer up, so that idea was canned sadly. Off the top of my head we have some very subtle nods to the likes of Bayonetta, the classic Arnie movie Commando, and even a tribute to Charlie Brooker’s series Nathan Barley in there. There’s s lot in there to discover.

BCP: Obviously, you and Craig have a good thing going. What has the collaborative process been like between the pair of you when it came to fleshing out the style and aesthetic of the KT world?

DC: We both add so much to the world. We are both firm believers that the world itself needs to feel like a character in its own right, and that’s where our dedication to detail comes from. With my scripts, it’s definitely not a case of doing them in isolation, far from it actually.

Craig reads over what I’ve got periodically as I work through it, and offers feedback, or areas of expansion, and likewise with the art when page roughs come through. We’ve just found the kind of flow that works for us.

BCP: Issue #1 struck a note, I think, with its classic mix of very British irreverence and dark sci-fi themes. If anything, these seem more pronounced in Issue #2 – not that that’s a bad thing, but why did you decide to go that way? Was it even a conscious decision?

DC: There were some conscious decisions made around the tone of Killtopia #2, but not quite in that way. Largely my approach going into it was – ‘okay, you’ve introduced this world, now let’s have some chaos, fun and anarchy with it.’ So I’d say this issue is the one I’d most regard as a dark comedy, but you also get the moments of emotion and character development that are so very important too. But yeah, out of the whole five-part run, this is the one I just wanted to let rip with. I hope the readers find it to be a blast too.

BCP: You’ve been making Spotify playlists to accompany Issue #2. Can you fill us in on this?

DC: Tone is a big deal for us. When we made the Spotify mixtapes for issue #1, we did so with the aim of letting readers get inside our heads a little. We listened to all those tracks a lot while making issue #1, and they really helped shape the tone of scenes. I always write to music as well, so sometimes a particular track will get me into the right vibe to come up with the ideal scene – so the mixtapes (and the issue #2 mixes too) were a wee bonus for us to share with the fans.

BCP: What sort of exclusives and goodies can we expect from the KS? If I don’t get a Kaiju Cola T-Shirt, I’m going to be unimpressed…

DC: I can confirm that there will be Kaiju Cola T-shirts on offer during the campaign, so we’ve got you covered there! We’re also making Kaiju Cola beermats with the logo an character art, prints of King Kaiju and Blaze, as well as a sticker pack, brand new video game cover art cards, and a crazy top tier reward I won’t share just yet. It’s mega limited edition, only five will ever be made, but they’re going to be so worth it!

BCP: That all sounds amazing, but come on, you gotta give us something.
DC: Okay, so one of the stretch goal artists is from cyberpunk artist Alexander Gioiosa. Check him out on Instagram. He’s got a huge following and his style is insane,

BCP: Tell us about the Toothbrush, Dave.

DC: Haha! Ah yes, well… the toothbrush thing came about when I jokingly mentioned that we WOULDN’T be offering Killtopia toothbrushes as a reward for backing issue #1. But weirdly, so many people are still asking us to make them a real bit of merch to this day. I honestly have tried to get a merch company to make them for me, but the two companies I contacted never replied to my request for a quote – they must have thought I was taking the p**s!

BCP: We’ve talked before about the challenges of crowd-sourced funding models. Some seem to be moving away from them, whilst some (e.g. Blake Northcott) are moving towards them if anything more keenly across multiple platforms (KS, Indiegogo, Patreon). What do you think is the future of the model, from a small-press perspective?

DC: My take has always been, if people still want to back comics on a platform, then the platform is still viable. I think we’ll keep using Kickstarter for as long as people want to keep supporting us, but I am worried about how the whole Brexit thing is going to hammer indies – specifically on postage costs and print prices. It might not, but it’s definitely got me thinking recently. But for now, Kickstarter is still awesome in my book.

BCP: In the longer term, how do you see KT spinning out as story: an enclosed arc, a branching world, or something else entirely?

DC: It’s a five-part series, which is all finally arced out now. There will be ways I could expand the universe down the line if I ever find more time. I toyed with the idea of doing a one-shot about the first Wreck-Fest champion, Bloody Mary. She’s long dead bu the time Killtopia #1 takes place, but I think the idea of a story set during year one of Killtopia is very interesting to me. There are other ways we could expand, but those would be spoilers for now.

BCP: How about other Card Shark Comics creations, such as Vessels? What can we expect from them in the future?

DC: I took a year away from our other titles Vessels and Bust, for my own sanity more than anything and Vessels artist Rafael has stepped back from comics. We’ve got someone new in who is working on Vessels #3 now for a 2019 release (watch this space), an Chris is charging on with pages for Bust #4: Steel and Blood, which should hit Kickstarter this summer. It feels good to bring both of them back, and apologies to anyone out there who has been waiting patiently for them to continue.

BCP: There seems to be more fluidity between creator-owned and big-name comics these days. Are there any particular titles you’d like to work on, or creatives you’d want to work with? Go on, wishlist.

DC: I’d love to do a game tie in at Titan, specifically Streets of Rage to tie in with the new fourth instalment. I’d also love to write something in the Dark Souls universe, or some sort of Bayonetta 3 tie-in when that drops on Nintendo Switch. Art-wise, I’d love to work with Greg Tocchini, who currently draws Rick Remender’s series Low. His style is off the charts.

BCP: Anything new on your read pile? Manage to read Saga Vol 8 yet?

DC: Sadly I’ve not read Saga 8 yet, haha. I did just finish the last volume of Kill or Be Killed, which was sublime stuff. Recently I’m making my way through the Dark Nights: Metal collected editions. I’m just about to finish The Road to Metal, then move on to the next one. I’m not much of a ‘big two’ reader, but I’m really enjoying Metal.

BCP: On a scale of one to ten, how excited are you about the new Dark Souls? And any other games really grabbing your attention?

DC: Ah Sekiro, I cannot begin to express my excitement for that one. It’s like a little bit Dark Souls, a little big Bloodborne, a little bit Tenchu: Stealth Assassins. Absolutely hyped for it!

I’m also mostly looking forward to Devil May Cry 5, Bayonetta 3 and Doom Eternal. I’m struggling to think of many beyond Sekiro to be honest because I’m just THAT obsessed.

BCP: Final question, because we love a pun over here at BCP. What comics (or creators) do you think are under-appreciated at the moment – the real dark horses (sorry) of indie comics?

DC: Fraser Campbell and Iain Laurie are two indie pals I think everyone should check out. Their first team up The Edge Off was incredible, and their follow-up House of Sweets should be equally as good if not better. As always, I have to give a shout to my mate Joey Oliveira, creator of Ghost Island, Wendigo Wood and more. He’s one of the hardest working, nicest guys on the circuit. Go seek him out.

BCP: Thanks, as always, for your time.

DC: Thank you so much for having me, it really means a lot.

You can (and should) grab yourself a copy of KILLTOPIA #1 from the BHP Comics Online Store (CLICK HERE), and make sure to keep your eye out for the Kickstarter for KILLTOPIA #2 which is set to go live on March 1st.

SAMDAVThe Writer of this piece was: Sam Graven
Article Archive: Geeking Out
You can follow Sam on Twitter

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