Scott Colby – Co-Writer of N0.1R

Scott Colby – Co-Writer of N0.1R

Finding a creative outlet in writing from a young age, Scott Colby is already releasing his 3rd novel later this Summer. However, N0.1R was his first comic book venture!

 

Where did you come up with the concept for N0.1R?

N0.1R was originally the idea of the book’s artist, Nic Giacondino. He had a heck of a world and an idea and just needed someone to help flesh it out a bit more. That turned out to be my job. His concept left me with a few questions about the world and the characters, so I got to work answering those myself and the final product was born.

How is it to collaborate in the creation of a story? Is there too much compromise?

I really like collaborating on a story. Sure, there’s compromise, but more often than not something really cool comes out of the combination of two disparate ideas about something. It’s rarely one side or the other coming out on top.

Did you always envisioned it as a webcomic?

That was what I was told it would be.  🙂

There’s a whole debate around comics becoming digital. Do you think webcomics are the gateway for this new digital world?

Definitely. The great thing about the internet is it’s a giant, never-ending rabbit hole. You never know what you’re going to find—or who’s going to find what you put there. Combine those traits and you’ve got a great platform for comics moving forward.

Do you find yourself more driven towards a specific genre(s)? Which one(s)?

A lot of what I write is fantasy, but I try not to get stuck on any one genre. I’ve done a little bit of everything.

Why?

I was just thinking about this the other day. I enjoyed the fantasy genre when I was younger, but lately I feel like it’s lacking depth. Working in that particular genre is a great chance to really challenge accepted norms and build something surprising and new—which are things I feel like a lot of fantasy authors just don’t do.

What was the first thing you ever wrote?

I was always that smart kid who finished his work first, so I needed a way to pass the time in school. I couldn’t draw at all, so I started writing. I can’t remember my first story, but I’m pretty sure it happened in third grade.

What was the first book you ever read (or was read to you)?

No idea.

And comics: which were your favorite ones?

I haven’t read a ton of comics, but I was always partial to the X-Men. Such a cool universe with a great cast of diverse characters.

Nowadays, what can we find you reading?

Lately I’ve been on a science fiction kick—Marko Kloos, John Scalzi, Iain M. Banks. And I read nerdy baseball websites like it’s going out of style. Not that it’s ever really been in style.

Are you a person of idols?

Not really.

Who were your childhood heroes?

Optimus Prime and Bret “The Hitman” Hart.

And today? Who do you look up to?

Anyone who can make a living writing his or her own stuff.

What made you enter the comic universe of storytelling?

I wrote some prose for Jeremy Mohler way back when, and he offered me the chance to write some comics, I decided it sounded like fun.

Of all the projects you’ve worked on, is there one that stands out from rest? Why?

Probably my first novel, Shotgun. That thing took forever. My style’s changed and improved (I hope) since then, but you can definitely catch a few glimpses of where I was going.

And now a peek into the Future. Can you tell us what project(s) are you most looking forward to?

I just finished the first draft of my third novel, Diary of a Fairy Princess. It’s the most absurd, ridiculous thing I’ve ever thought of. It’s great. It constantly makes me laugh while I’m revising it. Half of it’s written in a spoiled princess voice I had a ton of fun working with. I suspect readers are either going to love it or hate it with few opinions in between—and I really can’t wait to see which way it goes. Hopefully it’ll be available by the end of the summer.

Thanks Scott for giving us access to your creative universe!

S.G

P.S.: If you enjoyed reading this interview take a look at the other ones we have from illustrators to writers, passing through game-designers and authors.

Nicolás Giacondino – Creator & Artist (Mars2577, Nightfell, N0.1R, …)

Nicolás Giacondino – Creator & Artist (Mars2577, Nightfell, N0.1R, …)

Nicolás Giacondino is a talented Argentinean artist that has taken Outland Entertainment by storm. His unique style fits unseemingly into a vast array of projects without ever losing its authenticity.  

You’re working in several comics here at Outland Entertainment. From being the artist in Mars2577 to co-creator and illustrator of Nightfell and N0.1R.

How is it to collaborate in the creation of a story? Is there too much compromise?

Collaborating with other authors (be it writers, artists, colorists, etc.) has to be an organic and loose experience. You have to be open to the ideas sent your way and offer what you think are valid points to improve the story. And yes, there’s a level of compromise, but always to the work itself; you never have to become too attached to your own conceptions and ideas so much so that they’ll clash with the others’ or create tension. If it’s better for the story, then you have to incorporate it.

Speaking specifically of the projects I have here in OUTLAND, the back and forth between all the parts involved in the creation process has been amazing. Everyone’s extremely professional and at the top of their game in their respective areas, offering great advice and also knowing when to give the other the upper hand if something will work better for the saga. In my case, being the artist, I will provide visual cues and ideas for the writers to interpret and reimagine. They then send me their own takes and I’ll assess the suggestions and improve the material so that we’re all on the same page.

It’s my opinion that collaboration is the best experience when making comics. It forces you out of your comfort zones and exposes you to new and radical ideas, which help you to evolve your artwork.

Does it help or hurt knowing in advance that you’ll be the one giving a concept its visual life?

Definitely helps. I’ve dabbled a bit in writing (I have a published graphic novel penned by myself), but my primary concern has always been the artwork. So, being able to focus and work solely on the visual aspect lets me do my best knowing the other parts of the project are taken care of.

I also love to give the writers or collaborators in all the projects I tackle the utmost respect to their vision. I have a very unique style, but I’m open to it bending to the requirements of the story. You can never get something illustrated 100% as the writer imagined it; but I try to come to at least 99%.

Did you always envisioned these projects as webcomics?

Well, I always envisioned them as comics.With the climax of the digital age all around us, webcomics were the default option to get the project out there in the world. That said my intent is that we may be able to see these stories in print too.

Ours is such a strong medium, so full of possibilities that I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

 

There’s a whole debate around comics becoming digital. Do you think webcomics are the gateway for this new digital world?

Webcomics have taken things a step beyond in that they allow a larger number of artists and writers to express their vision without having to go through the filter of a major publisher or a ‘house style’. For me, personally, that’s been very advantageous and liberating. My style isn’t what you’ll usually find in the cover of the big companies, but published independently it has found a great audience that luckily grows larger every day.And I’ve seen the same happen to other artists and creators, who are able to reach a much more massive audience than they could’ve dreamed of.

Do you find yourself more driven towards a specific genre(s)? Which one(s)?

I’ve always been very passionate about science fiction and have been fortunate to be able to tackle projects related to it through the years.

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy working in other genres, such as Fantasy or Steampunk. I’m always curious and willing to try things out and my style is very adaptable to many different kinds of stories. Horror, for example, isn’t something I’d done. But through Outland, I was able to illustrate two tales in that genre that were very exciting!

Why Science Fiction?

Science Fiction, for me, allows you to contemplate very interesting, radical ideas and philosophical issues with more ‘purity’ than in any other genre. The far future or the dystopian near future peels our preconceptions on any given subject so that the message is carried across with more strength, allowing the reader to think about the implications of the narrative devoid of his personal stakes in it. For example, cloning is a very tricky subject in the contemporary world; there’s lots of ethical and moral questions being addressed and everyone has a political, human or religious view. If I transport them into a distant planet or time, cloning then becomes something abstract, an idea that can be dissected within the boundaries of that new world. Yet, the consequences and realizations that you bring back with you when the reading experience is over are carried into our contemporary world, hopefully giving people a new perspective on the matter.

When did you begin to show your artistic capabilities?

As I always say, I started drawing as soon as I was old enough to hold a pencil. And, asking my parents about my passion, they tell me it goes indeed that far back. I had a few other interests during my teenage years, but drawing is what’s always driven me.

What’s your favorite childhood moment related to comics or drawing?

Well, living in Argentina, sometimes we didn’t have access to all the latest material being published in the US. But there was a point in the 90s, when the arrival of comics would be almost instantaneous upon release, which caused me to open up to some major influences.

I remember a day in particular, when I was walking down a street from school and came across a newspaper stand and amongst the magazines and usual comics, there was the first issue of Jim Lee’s run on X-Men. I flipped quickly through the pages and dredged up whatever money I had in my pocket and bought it. Inside, there was an interview with Lee himself, talking about his process and whatnot and that’s when I decided I’d wanted to do this for a living. Up until that point, drawing comics was a hobby, but that issue of X-Men and Jim’s words changed my mind completely and set me on my path to become a professional.

Growing up, did you read a lot of comics or were there other activities that you preferred?

Like I said, there wasn’t a lot of material back when I was growing up. Mostly old DC paperbacks and some indie stuff. Argentina once had a huge comics industry and a lot of amazing talents came from here south into the international market, but after the dreaded dictatorship of ’76, it was all but dismantled. In fact, my hometown only had one comic-book store, which I discovered when I was 18 years old. But I was always interested in whatever I could find, so yes, I did read a lot of what was available.

As for other activities, I also enjoyed music passionately. I played the drums in bands all through high school and considered it a career option at some point, but as I said earlier, drawing always kept me coming back. Whenever I’d have to design a poster or CD cover, I’d remember why I loved it so much.

What about beloved artists? Any childhood idols?

Jim Lee was my absolute hero, as I mentioned before. But I also followed the work of other classic artists that helped me shape my style a lot, including Jack Kirby and Bruce Timm, two of my most important influences.

Later in life and as I found more and more material to read, I found the likes of Frank Miller, Neal Adams, John Romita and so many others. From my country, I also loved the work of Carlos Meglia and Enrique Breccia, both of whom I had the chance to meet personally. The latter became my mentor when I participated in one of his illustration and comics seminars.

Did you always want to work on this creative field?

At first, I didn’t even know that was possible. I’m not sure it is now either, haha!

I always sort of took comics for granted. I mean, I knew they had to be drawn and written by someone, but I never dug deeper into what professionals in the field actually did; I just enjoyed them and figured there were a few lucky fellows who were able to work on these amazing magazines. It wasn’t until the boom of Image Comics and artists making a big splash away from the major publishers that I realized this was something you could do for a living. So, upon that discovery, I started reading and studying more and more, trying to find ways to make it as a professional comic artist.

Going back to your own work: illustrating, coloring, lining,.. Do you have a favorite?

I enjoy the whole process, from pencils to colors. But inking has always been the part that I enjoy the most. In fact, Outland has given me the chance to work a lot in black and white and showcase my artwork as such, which has been a huge pleasure. Line weight, spotted blacks, crosshatching… those basics of inking make me truly happy when I’m doing a page.

 

And projects? Is there one that stands out from the rest?

They all have unique qualities that I think make them amazing, but if I had to choose one in particular I’d say Nightfell is the one that stands out the most.

Why is that one different?

Because it flips a common trope which we all know: that zombies eat the living. In Nightfell, the undead actually protect us and are our last line of defense against darker, more sinister creatures from below. That basic premise brings about uniqueness to the work that I think makes it truly original.

Also, it has deep roots in the Sword and Sorcery genre and it was conceived to be read as either a regular comic-book or a strip (which is how it’s being released in the website). That is also something that hasn’t been seen for quite a while and a format that both Jeremy Tolbert the writer and myself enjoy enormously.

From making the pencil sketch to applying the last smear of color what is your process?

My take on a page usually starts with reading the script and making a mental image of how the composition should work. I visualize the panels and what the writer’s vision is and then I map that out in panels across the page.

Once the panels are laid out, I go in very quickly and sketch out the basic perspective and character interaction and make sure everything works and is where it should be. When I’m satisfied with the storytelling, I tighten up the pencils and send them to the Editor and writer for approval.

If approved, then I move onto the final inks. With Outland, this has been the final stage in many projects and so once it’s done, I send it as a hi-resolution scan for it to be colored and lettered.

If I’m illustrating the whole, then I take special care to not outline certain things I will leave specifically for color to define. I then go in and add the volumes with grayscale and once that’s done I’ll put in the colors and details.

Do you follow a painfully strict plan or is it a more of organic process?

I’m very strict in the process. I found out that it is the best way to meet the deadlines and focus properly on every step.

So… can you tell us what project(s) are you most looking forward in the short run?

I’m very much looking forward to showing audiences the projects we’ve been working on so hard. Especially Nightfell and N0.1R, a crime story set in a world where organic life is nonexistent and robots rule in a mimicry of our 1940s.

There’s always something else in the pipeline, but I can’t really reveal much other than there’s exciting times ahead!

 

Thanks Nicolás for giving us a small peek into your creative world!

Thank you and I hope you enjoy the stories we’re working on!

 

S.G.

Gabe Schmidt – Creator & Writer of “Mars2577”

Gabe Schmidt – Creator & Writer of “Mars2577”

Gabe Schmidt love for Greek gods and science-fiction from an early age may have propelled this talented author into his writing path. Let’s find out a bit more of his history.

Where did you come up with the concept for Mars2577?

10 years ago, I was traveling on a trip with my parents to visit my older sister in Washington, D.C.  It grew off of the fact that there’s a place on Mars called Mount Olympus, and I began to think of a sci-fi setting where Greek gods are simply rulers over different areas of life.  On the long drive, I wrote down in my notebook the different roles that could be played by Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, and Hera.  While I liked the setting idea, when I thought of stories, I wanted them to be about the heroes of Greek mythology living in this world created by the gods.

Did you always envision it as a webcomic?

Definitely not.  It started off as a regular book.  Back then, there were only three other people who read any of it.  One of them, Shamus, suggested it as a comic book instead.  He hooked me up with an artist he knew, but the artist was not consistent enough to get any work done beyond the slightest glimpse of concept arts.  It was for the best anyway; the story has evolved a lot since then, in both my writing ability and the plot itself.  I did keep my eyes open for other ways to tell the story, though, and when the chance to work with Outland Entertainment presented itself, I leapt at the opportunity.

There’s a whole debate around comics becoming digital. Do you think webcomics are the gateway for this new digital world?

I am honestly not familiar with the debate around digital comics.  However, I have been reading webcomics for a very long time.  While the first ones I read were basically daily jokes (Penny Arcade, PVP), some of them were long and developed plots with plenty of jokes so it was easy to transition from the normal webcomic group (Order of the Stick is my favorite of these, Goblins is also good).  While the former had the feel of newspaper comics (with material you would never find in so public a forum), the latter felt more like normal comic books that knew how to crack a joke.  I think it is inevitable that digital comics are a core part of the comic community, whether or not anyone decides to debate it along the way.

Do you find yourself more driven towards a specific genre? Which one?

Why?

Science Fiction has always been my absolute favorite, in both writing and reading, but I try to diversify my interests as much as I can.  Vonnegut has had a lot to do with my love of science fiction, and I was reading a lot of his works when I first started getting back in to writing in high school.  The ability to use science fiction as a vehicle to discuss any topic you want without the restraints of modern-day technology or world situations is something I’ve always found liberating.

What was the first thing you ever wrote?

When I was in elementary school, there was a standardized writing essay for the state or the federal standards.  Don’t remember all of the details for sure, but I remember the topic was “What I Did Over Summer”.  I asked the teacher if it had to be real or if it could be fake, and she said it shouldn’t matter.  I wrote about how I was abducted by aliens and kept in some alien zoo.  (This may explain my later attachment to Vonnegut, as something similar happens in Slaughterhouse Five.)  The essays were sent away and processed by someone or some committee I’ve never met, and I received a low grade, closer to a C or C- in normal standards.  The negative reinforcement discouraged me from writing for years, until I got in to high school, when I restarted my old passion.  Now, of course, I realize that negative criticism is essential for becoming a better writer; when someone reads my work, I’d always rather hear what they didn’t like than just a general, “It was good!” with no further explanation.

What was the first book you ever read (or was read to you)?

I’m sure the very first book ever read to me was something along the lines of Dr. Seuss, and I know Goosebumps was some of my early reading.  However, the first book that I specifically remember reading was Jurassic Park, after seeing the movie many times in theaters, when I was eight.  I didn’t understand a lot of the scientific mumbo-jumbo, but it put me on the path to pursue that understanding, and it also gave me a good introduction to science fiction.

And comics: which were your favorite ones?

I didn’t actually start reading comics by issue until I was 16, and I’ve since gone back to reading comics by the trade instead.  My top five trades, in no particular order, are Green ArrowArcher’s Quest, Maus, Saga Vol. 1, Criminal Vol. 1 and 2, and Habibi.  As far as superhero comics, in addition to Green Arrow, my favorites were the Punisher MAX series and Marvel’s 1602.

Nowadays, what can we find you reading?

My four favorite authors are Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and I inevitably go back to reading a book by one of these four between other books.  Recently I’ve been trying to diversify my reading list across different subjects, from The Elegant Universe to Heart of Darkness, from The Journey to the West to Snow Crash.

Are you a person of idols?

I am.  I love the gods of mythology, the heroes of stories, and the protagonists of real life.  I have a tattoo of Anansi, a god of storytelling and trickery, the very type of idol that sings to my soul.

Who were your childhood heroes?

Definitely Batman, from Batman: Animated Series, and Joker, from the same.  Han Solo of Star Wars and Jack Burton of Big Trouble in Little China.Beast from X-Men and Donatello from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  (There’s a chance I was always destined to be a nerd.)

And today? Who do you look up to?

It may be generic, but my parents.  My dad is the embodiment of a hard worker, and he would do absolutely anything for his family.  My mom was one of the first strong women (of many) that I’ve known, and helped establish that from the beginning of my life, so I’ve never struggled to write female characters with depth who are more than just a Damsel in Distress.  (Or, at least if they start that way, they evolve out of that state.)  My sister, Rachel Schmidt, is also on the list, as she is a successful artist out of Washington, D.C., proof that if you work hard and have an amazing amount of talent, you can go far in the creative world.

What made you enter the comic universe of storytelling?

I practically grew up out of my local comic book shop.  While I didn’t start my own pull list until I was 16, all of my other hobbies (card games, miniature games, roleplaying games) were played at Gatekeeper Hobbies from the age of 10 on up.  I wasn’t the first one to think of putting Mars 2577 in a comic form, but I feel like the medium is both natural for the material as well as something I had been familiar with for years.

Of all the projects you’ve worked on, is there one that stands out from rest? Why?

Mars 2577 is my first big project to get published, so it will always have a special place in my heart.  Hopefully other projects of mine will show up before too long, but we’ll just have to see.

And now a peek into the Future. Can you tell us what project(s) are you most looking forward to?

I always end up working on more than just one project at a time, but there is one I’m trying to channel most of my writing energy in to.  The project that I am focusing on writing the most right now is called Shattered Worldsoul.  It is a post-apocalyptic novel revolving around eight different characters, in a town being harassed and eventually attacked by bandits.  It started as two linked short stories.  The first tells the story of a man waking up in the back of a van, not remembering anything of his life from before that moment, and immediately falling in love with the woman driving the van.  The second tells the story of the woman, who had lived a hard life, and who met the man when he was in love with a different woman half the world away.  When he was having surgery that would cure his amnesia at the cost of triggering it one final time, she broke in and burnt all of his notebooks about the woman he originally loved, so she would be the world for him.  From there it’s evolved a whole cast of characters and outlines for 66 chapters (although significantly less than that is written so far).  Hopefully, when that’s finished, readers familiar with Mars 2577 will have another fun setting from me to read.

Thanks Gabe for letting us get a glimpse of your creative world!

 

S.G.

Mat Nastos – Artist & Author Interview

Mat Nastos – Artist & Author Interview

Mat Nastos is a versatile artist who always manages to infuse his unique sense of humor into the countless projects he is involved with. He is known by his work as an artist in the cult-classic independent comic book, “ElfQuest”, and as a writer for film & TV as well as for his own novels. Fan of action packed stories with a sci-fi or steampunk twist, you won’t be surprised that from all the children shows out there, he worked for Disney Channel‘s “Phineas & Ferb”.

 

Mat, the big question: what did you want to be when you grow up?

My goal in life, from as early as I can remember, was to be a comic book artist when I grew up. Comics in general were my life: I read them, collected (read: horded) them, drew them…I started and ran the first comic book conventions in Hawaii in the 80s back when I was 11. Comics were my life and my driving goal had been to draw them. That spurred me to go to comic book school out in the middle of New Jersey when I graduated from High School.

I drew comics for a lot of years before transitioning over to film/TV and, eventually, to writing.

 

What was the first book you ever read (or was read to you)?

I remember my mom reading a lot of Dr. Seuss to me as a child, but nothing specific. I still have the very first comic I was given – “The Power of Warlock” #14. The first real book I remember reading was “The Hobbit” when I was about 6 or 7. That really stuck with me and opened the door to fantasy/sci-fi fiction for me. After I read that any the “Lord of the Rings” series, I went nuts and started reading everything I could get my hands on. Luckily, I had an older brother and mom who were also into that material and I’d read a lot of things they were.

Right around the same time, my family discovered the early Dungeons & Dragons game (late 70s) and I’ve been playing ever since.

 

And comics: which were your favorite ones?

I read EVERYTHING as a kid. Pretty quickly my collection of comics bloomed up into the thousands and then tens of thousands (now it rests at somewhere around 150,000 comics). When I was younger, my favorites were Elfquest, X-men, 2000AD, and Legion of Super-Heroes, but I wasn’t picky beyond that.

 

Nowadays, what can we find you reading?

I don’t read much in comics these days, and when I do they are generally trade paperbacks versus singles. The art of writing comics to actually be read as singles has become a bit of a lost art over the past 20 years or so and I find it a waste to attempt to follow series in that format. I pick up a lot of omnibus collections of material I was a fan of as a kid.

Outside of comics, I read an insane amount of things – tons of non-fiction, and at least 3-4 novels a week. Still a lot of sci-fi/fantasy more than anything else, although thrillers and any sort of action stories are finding their way onto my reading list as I begin to write more and more in those genres.

 

Who were your childhood heroes?

Most of my heroes were the men (and women) creating the material I was a fan of: George Lucas, Wendy Pini, John Byrne, George Perez, Stan Lee, Piers Anthony, Jim Kelly, Gary Gygax, Ed Greenwood, Chris Claremont…my dad.

 

And today? Who do you look up to? 

I’ve been lucky enough that I still have a lot of the same heroes I did as a kid. I still have most of that sense of wonder and love I had as a kid.

 

Your first published work was in “The Big Book of Urban Legends” from Paradox Press in 1993. But what was the first thing you ever wrote?

My first published writing was a short fantasy story I wrote back in high school. I had an English teacher who was truly a terrible human being who went out of her way to put me down. Her abuse turned out to be a driving factor for me and I submitted a story I’d written in her class (and been given a “C” on!) to Fantasy Digest Magazine. They bought it and I was on my way!

After that, my writing was for my own comics – things like the Cadre, Elfsong, and Fionn.

My first “real” gig as a writer was the screenplay for the low-budget horror flick, “Stinger,” in 2002. Since then I’ve had 8 films produced.

 

Your writing spans from comic books to novels, video games to film and TV. Do you have a favorite?

Writing, in general, for me is a lot of fun. The most satisfying for me as a creator is probably novels because I have complete control over there. Good or bad, with a novel every aspect of it falls onto my shoulders. If it succeeds or fails, things are all on me.

The rest of the mediums all have their own positives, though, and comics will always be my first love. Working with a fantastic art as a collaborator is an incredibly fulfilling experience.

 

You have done the artwork, including the cover art for all your own books. Why?

I think it all goes back to control. So far, I’ve had very specific ideas of what I wanted on the novel covers and the easiest way to get those ideas out was to do them myself.

Does it ever backfire?

Not yet, knock on wood!

 

Your work in the comic world started with “Elfquest” comics for Warp Graphics, right? What made you enter this new universe of storytelling?

Well, my first comic work was on “The Big Book of Urban Legends,” and I had done quite a bit of indy comic work before Elfquest, including working as an assistant to Joe Orlando at the DC Offices while I was in art school.

Comics were my life-long love. Elfquest specifically was my favorite comics. Funnily enough, my biggest goal in going to art school was to draw Elfquest. I had always figured it would take me years (5, 10, or more!) to get a chance to work with the Pinis on Elfquest – they had never let anyone else draw the comic back when I was reading it, so my goal was a crazy fantasy at the time. It was mind-blowing to get a call from Barry Blair asking me if I wanted to work on Elfquest. I was still at the School of Visual Arts when he contacted me and it was easily one of the best days of my life.

There was never a doubt in my mind that I wasn’t going to work in comics.

 

“The Cestus Concern”, your first novel, was the #1 best selling Cyberpunk & Sci-Fi Adventure novel on Amazon for 7 consecutive months in 2013. How does it feel to have your work on the spotlight?

It was pretty crazy. Novel writing wasn’t something I had ever set out to do…in fact, when I started writing “The Cestus Concern” I’d never written more than a couple of short prose stories. Sure, I had written a bunch of material for TV/film and comics, but prose was so alien to me I wasn’t convinced I could even do it.

My whole goal with the book (and each once that’s followed) was to write something that I wanted to read. To write something fast, fun, and crazy. It’s been a great to see that so many other people have enjoyed the work as much as they have. As a storyteller, nothing is better than connecting with fans the way the Cestus books have.

 

Of all the projects you’ve worked on, is there one that stands out from rest? Why?

I’ve been lucky to work on a huge number of fun projects, so it’s hard to pick. Right now, the thing I’m the most in love with my Donner Grimm books. The first, “Man With The Iron Heart,” came out at the end of 2014 and I am finishing up the sequel, “The Unweaving,” right now. I love the action-adventure/pulp/weird war universe I’ve created for it and the characters are a lot of fun.

In comics, it’s the new Elflord series I’m working on. The artist, Tony Vassallo, is insanely good and the material we’re putting together isn’t like anything else being done in fantasy comics right now. The series is crazy good.

 

You own the license from Barry Blair’s projects. What made you take that leap?

Barry himself was the reason behind me picking up the rights to all of the material. We had been friends since the early 90s when he hired me to work for Warp Graphics on the Elfquest material, and we had very similar sensibilities . We started talking in 2007 about working together again and one of the things that came up was my love for so many of the characters he’d created, especially things like Elflord, Dragonforce, and Samurai. He said he was done telling those stories, but asked if I wanted to carrying on with their tales on my own. He turned over the rights to all the material to me in exchange for my promise to treat them like my own children.

We had been well on our way to doing a ton of new material together when he passed in early 2010. It was a crushing blow for me and it took almost 5 years for me to get back to the point where I felt like I was ready to start again. To be able to put the work out FOR Barry since I couldn’t do it WITH him.

 

Outland Entertainment is working closely with you not only to bring several of Barry Blair’s titles into digital format but to actually reboot some of them.

What are you most excited about this endeavor? 

The most exciting part of working with Outland is having the chance to bring Barry’s work back out into the public eye. Barry was a creative dynamo who generated a ton of fun material in a dizzying array of genres. He worked in every possible genre you can image: sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, horror, satire, action/adventure, erotica…you name it and he produced work in it.

It’s been a shame that his work has disappeared from the comic industry, especially since his work and company (AIRCEL) was such a huge force in the 80s and early 90s.

Having the opportunity to make that work available once more is a thrill and an honor for me because I was a huge fan of Barry’s work, as well as having been his friend for more than two decades.

 

And now a peek into the Future. Can you tell us what project(s) are you most looking forward to?

I’ve got a lot of work coming out this year. Right now I’m finishing off sequels to both my prose series with “The Cestus Corruption” and “The Unweaving.”

In comics, I’m writing Rob Liefeld’s new “Brigade” series for Image and “Blindside” for Marat Mychaels. For Outland, I’m writing a series based on my Aegisteel fantasy stories with Alan Gallo as the artist; Elflord with Tony Vassallo, and a brand new Dragonforce series that will be drawn by Richard Pace (you heard it here first!).

It’s going to be a fantastic year!

It sure looks like it! Thanks Mat for taking time to let us get a glimpse of your vast creative work!

S.G.

Director of Marketing Interview: Susana Grilo

Director of Marketing Interview: Susana Grilo

Experienced digital marketer, Susana Grilo joined Outland in 2014 as our Director of Marketing. She has been involved in a variety of really cool companies, such as Cartoon Saloon and Noble Beast, both of which have produced award winning material. She is also a talented project manager, film producer, and screenwriter. Like everybody at Outland, she wears many different hats, and we’re very lucky to have somebody of her experience working with us!

You’ve worked in production, marketing, and writing across a number of storytelling mediums. What got you interested in storytelling?

I guess I’ve been exposed to it since a very young age. First it was my Grandmother telling me all sorts of stories she invented on the spot. We then started reading to each other and that made me quite the story addict. Then I would reenact the favorite bits of the latest book or film with Playmobile. And when the plastic smiles wouldn’t do it for me anymore I started writing stories down: from fanfiction to original short stories.

Can you remember one of the first stories you wrote?

I believe it was a (supposedly) scary story for a Halloween party. I don’t think it was even two paragraphs long.

Your education is in cinema and audiovisual production. What made you choose film as a medium?

I’d loved TV and film for a long time, but here in Portugal it’s not something that is presented to you as a career choice. However I was lucky enough to run into a course brochure, in one of those work fairs, that was exactly that: Sound and Image. I still remember realizing in awe that “this is a profession. There are people who do this for a living.” Since then, being part of this world has been my focus.

You have worked on several projects as a producer. For those outside the theatre/film industry the duties of a producer can seem nebulous. Can you talk a little about what the duties of a producer entail?

What a producer does is always kind of a mystery. They say you’re supposed to be a kind of parent, a friend, and a boss. What you really do is take care of everything logistical and think about what anyone might come to need. Schedule and prepare your budget in detail.

When the time comes, you’ll be grateful that you had a plan that you could stick to, even if you (so many times) find yourself walking on the opposite direction. If you’re prepared, you can handle all those curve balls that always (yes, always!) come hurtling at you.

Do you prefer working as screenwriter or in production?

Production is a more active job: you’re out there, you have to solve problems quickly, deal with the demands and needs of a lot of people. Screenwriting is more quite: you can choose the pace you want to work at – unless the story gains life and propels you at full speed (which is also great).

I would have to say that producing something you’ve written is the most fulfilling of the options. You get the best (and worst, don’t get me wrong) of both worlds and a unique rush of adrenaline, because it’s your idea, it’s your story that is closest to become something tangible.

What film project in your career are you the most proud of?

I would have to say the short film “Entropia”. It was the final project of my MA, the team we assembled was working exactly on the roles they liked and on a sci-fi time traveling story—a genre we all loved. It still feels like a student film, but having it screened across more than 6 countries, in different capitals all over the world really makes me proud.

What projects outside of film are you most proud of?

I’d have to say promoting the Delicious the Event. I put it together by myself. There was a screening of the film “Delicious” directed by Tammy Riley-Smith, starring Louise Brealey (‘Sherlock’) and Nico Rogner (‘Séraphine’), followed by a Q&A with the director, the protagonist and the composer of the film score, Michael Price (‘Sherlock’ [BBC], ‘Lord of the Rings’, ‘Love Actually’). It finished with an instrumental concert by Michael Price, accompanied by cellist Peter Gregson.

It was really fun (yet stressful!) to make everything from scratch: from contacting managers to film producers, getting the right venue, and making sure everyone felt comfortable. But getting it all done, seeing how positively the audience reacted made it all worth it.

You also work in media marketing. How did that start?

I did an internship at the Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon, having the pleasure of working on the recently Oscar nominated feature film “Song of The Sea” – their second Academy nomination following “The Secret of Kells”. I worked on several departments during my time there and one of my jobs was revitalizing the social media pages. There were hundreds of fans waiting for updates and just talking about the film, but they didn’t have a proper outlet. So I started focusing on that and I’m pleased to see that the work I began 3 years ago is not only active, but prospering.

I really enjoyed switching places between being a fan and working for a company, trying to find out what each of these sides want and what are the best ways to deliver that. Since then I got the social media bug and continue to work with theatre companies, award winning publishers (Noble Beast), and now here at Outland Entertainment.

You have been involved in most, if not all of the steps in the creative process. What, in your opinion, is the hardest step in taking a concept and delivering it to an audience?

I believe it depends on the project at hand. However, I think that the financial aspects of it have become an integral part of the actual creative process. Most of the time what I’ve found is that – in spite of all the new resourceful ways to be funded – getting your budget is the most difficult part. If this takes too long or becomes too overwhelming. It can suck out the fun of any project, no matter how much you love it.

Do you have a favorite screenwriter or director? What draws you to that person’s work?

David S. Goyer has been a favorite of mine for quite some time. I’m addicted to all things that deal with time travel or the many-worlds theory, so his series “Flash Forward” was one that I really enjoyed.

Steven Moffat is another one for the high ranks. “Jekyll” and “Sherlock”, not to mention his early days in “Doctor Who” have been a great inspiration. There’s an episode in “Jekyll” that’s brilliantly structured. It meddles with all your screenwriting preconceptions. When you think you got it, he throws you another clue and you find yourself craving for answers: he completely plays with the audience’s minds.
Their writing, themes, and the entangled way in which they deliver their stories is what makes these works stand out.

Film recommendations?

It kind of comes and goes, but there are those films that stick with you like “The fountain” by Darren Aronofsky and “Jump” by Kieron J. Walsh.
And definitely “Before Sunrise” by Richard Linklater. The easiness of the flowing dialogue, allied to the simplicity and current relevancy of what is discussed turn what could be easily seen as a romantic “talkie” into an essay about love, youth, and life in general.

The whole rise of superheroes movies has its pros & cons, but I do enjoy a good blockbuster such as “The Avengers” by Joss Whedon.
Oh! And I may or may not know the lines from the 1st Pirates of the Caribbean by heart…and watched Nolan’s “Inception” a tad too many times… So you might say I’d recommend them.

Short films?

The animation short film “Thought of You” by Ryan Woodward: it has beautiful fluid movements that resemble Glen Keane’s latest short “The Duet”.

What about the future? What projects are you looking towards in the future.

I have some projects lined up, but right now, apart from all the exciting announcements here at Outland Entertainment, I’m really interested in giving shape to a personal cross media project: “Next Stop”. It’s a fantasy world that provides an entertaining non-religious view on reincarnation.

Matt Forbeck & the Games Universe

Matt Forbeck & the Games Universe

And how about “Matt Forbeck & the Games Universe”? From collectible card games to RPGs, passing through miniatures and board games Matt Forbeck has done it all.

 

Your love for games started when you were very young, as you’ve shared with us. Could tell us what gave you the definite push towards working on the gaming industry?

I grew up in southern Wisconsin, which meant that I got to meet a lot of the people behind Dungeons & Dragons and other games at an early age. I first met Gary Gygax at a convention in back in 1982, and I went to my first Gen Con —which was at UW-Parkside in those days—later that year. That helped me fall in with the right crowd of people: folks that love games and want to make a living by creating them for other people.

 

You started working at the Games Workshop, in England, and then continued non-stop, from co-founding your own company – Pinnacle Entertainment Group – to working for Ubisoft last year.

In this journey through the gaming world what obstacles did you face?

In the beginning, I didn’t make much money at it, but I kept going at it anyhow. My girlfriend at the time paid my rent for my birthday and Christmas in my first year of freelancing. But each year it got better and better, and eventually it turned into a career. I kept waiting for it to all wash away, but it never did.

 

What led you to co-found Pinnacle Entertainment Group?

My pal Shane Hensley flew me and Greg Gorden down to his place in Blackburg, Virginia, to show us Deadlands. He wanted us both on board, whole hog. Greg wasn’t able to join up, but I said that if I went in, I wanted to own part of the company too.

I loved the game from the start, and I had a lot of faith in Shane and the rest of the crew he had built up around him. I had a bit more experience with things like layout and production and sales, and that came in handy too. We made for a fine team from the start.

 

There’s a big discussion about the lack of women on this particular industry. Do you agree?

I think it’s a problem in many industries, and gaming—whether you’re talking tabletop or video games—is no exception. Part of it stems from the fact that the games industries we know today stem from the war games hobby of the ‘50s and ‘60s, which was dominated almost exclusively by men.

 

Have you felt any shift in the numbers of female colleagues during the years?

Oh, yes, and I’ve been thrilled to see it happen. We have lots of wonderful women working in games today, in just about every aspect of the industry. When I started out, women were rare at any convention, for instance, but their numbers have grown steadily over the years. We’re still nowhere near parity yet, but I’m pleased to see that when I bring my daughter to shows she feels like she fits right in.

 

From all the different areas in gaming you have worked so far, can you pick a favorite?

That’s hard to say. They’re all lots of fun, each in their own way. I keep returning to RPGs for some reason, so that probably says something. If there was more money in it, I might never have pursued things like collectible games or toys or fiction. I must love it.

 

What is harder: creating a game world from scratch or contributing to someone else’s work?

It’s much harder to create a world of any kind from scratch. There’s a whole nother layer of work involved, and when I say “layer” I don’t mean “like a cake,” but “like the earth’s crust.”

That said, it’s tremendous fun, especially if you enjoy a fulfilling challenge. I’ve worked on lots of other peoples’ games too, and I’ve loved doing it, but there’s something amazing about stepping up to that blank sheet yourself and putting your own unique mark on it, as daunting as it may seem.

 

If you were talking to someone who knew nothing about these creative fields, what would you say were the major differences between writing a screenplay and a computer game script?

Physically, they can resemble each other, but structurally they’re nothing alike. For one, a film usually only runs about two hours, whereas games can literally give you hundreds of hours of play. Games often also feature branching storylines—or at least ones engineered to seem to branch and go off in different directions.

For some reason, I often wind up writing game scripts in Excel rather than Word, too, and as any writer can tell you, that’s just not a natural act.

 

How was it like to take up the role of director with voiceover actors?

I loved it. It’s one thing to write a script and hear the words in your head, and it’s something else entirely to work with an actor to get them in the same mental space to produce work that sounds reasonably close to what you had in mind.

The best part, of course, is how fantastic actors can surprise you. They bring their own interpretations to every line, and seeing how they differ from what you had in mind can be inspiring far more often than frustrating.

 

Did it make think of maybe moving into directing more audiovisual content?

I’d be happy to. I just don’t have much time to pursue it among all the other work I’m doing. All that said, when the right project comes along, I’ll jump at it.

 

You’ve won several awards, not just for your work on games, but also for your writing. It might be cliché, but what was the one award you are more happy to have sitting on your shelf?

Honestly, I don’t do it for the awards, and I never have. I don’t do it for any sense of acclaim or fame. I create games, fiction, toys, films, and so on to entertain people.

Now, I don’t mind getting awards for my work—not at all! I’m happy to have them, and the statues that come with them have a proud place on my mantle. If you’re working for recognition, though, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. For me, the work itself is enough. Being able to enjoy that every day means far more to me than collecting a trophy every year or so.

 

As we’ve talked about before, your Shotguns & Sorcery book series is going to be turned into an RPG by us here at Outland Entertainment.

You first developed S&S as a roleplaying game. How close to that very first version (nearly 14 years ago) do you want the game to be?

I don’t care one bit. That game never got beyond the notes stage, and it represents something I would have written in 2002. It’s a dozen years later, and the world has changed. Tabletop games have changed. Hell, I’ve changed.

This game needs to be a game of its own moment created by this new crew I’m lucky to be working with, not a resuscitated corpse of an idea I had over a decade ago. I actually can’t wait to see what we come up with when we finally get to hold that finished book in our hands.

 

Now that you have written the short stories and novels, how much has changed on your approach to this I.P.?

I wouldn’t say I’m done with Shotguns & Sorcery, but I’ve told the stories there I wanted to tell most. I have several others in mind, but working on the RPG gives me an excellent chance to step back and firm up the worldbuilding a bit. It’s an opportunity to shine a light into a few corners I might otherwise ignore, and see what turns up there.

I often say that writing is an act of discovery. I may have a solid sense of the story I’m going to tell when I sit down at my keyboard and start to type, but I don’t actually know what it’s going to be until I get those words down. It turns out that the idea and the actuality rarely match up well, but that’s at least half the fun.

 

Has your connection with the characters changed?

Sure. At first, I only had an inkling of who they were. By now, they’re old friends with whom I’ve had an intense experience, and honestly, I miss them. I’m looking forward to checking back in with them and seeing how Dragon City’s been treating them.

 

You will be writing the game’s background material. Is there something in specific that you want to add to the setting that wasn’t present in the books?

I have a slew of ideas for the history of Dragon City that doesn’t come out in the books. I regularly wind up on worldbuilding panels at various conventions, and I tell people that it’s doesn’t matter how cool your word is or how much work you put into creating it. If what you’re going on about isn’t pertinent to the story, then you’re just showing off and wasting your readers’ time.

I try to stick to that with my own work, of course, only revealing as much as a story requires. An RPG demands a whole different level of detail, though, and I’m looking forward to building out the parts of the setting that have remained off-camera so far.

 

What type of stories do you expect gamers will play out with The Shotguns & Sorcery RPG?

I lean toward noirish detective stories myself, but it’s really up to them. I don’t tell people how to have fun. I just point them in a good direction and give them all the tools they need to succeed. It’s up to them from there.

 

What story would you play out if you could play the game right now?

I’d explore what happens in the wake of End Times in Dragon City, the last of the stories I’ve written for the setting. I leave it wide open from that point on, after a near-apocalypse event, and I’m curious to see what emerges from the city’s rubble.

 

In the game department, what can we expect to see from you in the near future?

Besides the Shotguns & Sorcery RPG? I actually have a few different things in the works. The one I can talk about is the Titan line from Calliope Games. Ray Wehrs over there asked some of the best tabletop game designers around to create new gateway games from scratch. Besides myself, there’s Rob Daviau, Michael Elliott, James Ernest, Richard Garfield, Seth Johnson, Eric Lang, Mike Mulvihill, Paul Peterson, Mike Selinker, Jordan Weisman, and Zach Weisman.

I’m flattered all to hell just to be on that list. Those folks have made some of my favorite games over the years, and I’ve spend countless hours playing their designs. Calliope is planning a Kickstarter for the series sometime in early 2015, and I’m looking forward to digging into it soon after that.

 

Thanks, Matt, for taking us on this brief journey to get to know more about you.

 

S.G.