Writer or scientist: Jeremy Tolbert joined both on his science fiction works. Now venturing into fantasy and time travel, Tolbert is writing for a range of different audiences.
Where did you come up with the concept for Nightfell?
The core of this project from the beginning was a handful of concept sketches that Nic had prepared, along with a title. They had some general ideas about something involving the undead, and Nic had some great sketches of undead warriors. This was our starting point, and from there, it was up to me to build a larger concept.
For me, the main thing I wanted was to do somewhere where the undead weren’t the bad guys. Traditionally, bunch of rotting corpses, you think, okay, yeah clearly these are the evil dudes. This time, I wanted a story where it made sense that the zombies and what-not were fighting for the side you could get behind, at least at first.
But as I thought about that further, I realized I don’t really like the typical black/white morality of the old school epic fantasy. In the post-Game of Thrones era, you can’t just paint one side all good or evil, so I started thinking about my other side, the berunmen, and from there, a lot of the other concepts of the world, such as the Nightfell itself, developed.
How is it to collaborate in the creation of a story? Is there too much compromise?
My ideas are not that precious, and I basically saw my role on this project as a collaborator who brought a certain expertise with story to the table, but beyond that, I was willing to listen to any feedback. Nic’s made changes here and there to page layouts and so on, but in my opinion, he’s improved the project every single time from whatever my lesser vision was.
Collaboration for me has been a wonderful experience, overall. I really hope to work with everyone involved more in the future. As a short story writer, I spend a lot of time in my own head. I find working with others to be refreshing.
Did you always envisioned it as a webcomic?
I wrote it to be structurally flexible. The 9 panel grid we used lended itself well to the webcomic format, but I also structured it in 10 12 page chapters so that it could either be collected as a single graphic novel or broken into 2-chapter issues. Our goal was have some flexibility there.
There’s a whole debate around comics becoming digital. Do you think webcomics are the gateway for this new digital world?
I’ve been reading webcomics since the early days of Sluggy Freelance back at the dawn of the internet. I think comics don’t care what the medium is; sequential art can tell a story on a cave wall or a digital screen equally well. The medium might present some interesting challenges here and there, or even some new tools or advantages, but fundamentally, I think comics can survive and thrive on anything.
Do you find yourself more driven towards a specific genre(s)? Which one(s)?
I’m more of a science fiction guy than just about anything else. I’m a pretty logical thinker so even in my more fantasy-ish worlds like Nightfell, I tend to think in very scientific ways about the world-building and so on.
What was the first thing you ever wrote?
I wrote a 20 page “book” of the adventures of a elf wizard and his sentient cougar sidekick in the 1st grade. I’ve wanted to be a writer for about as long as I can remember. I also wanted to be a scientist. So science fiction was a natural choice.
What was the first book you ever read (or was read to you)?
I honestly can’t recall the first. It was probably something by Dr. Seuss. I do know the very first science fiction book I read –Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey.
And comics: which were your favorite ones?
I was late getting into comics. Most of my reading growing up was via the library, as we were very poor and didn’t have a lot of money. So I was in my late 20s before I started actively reading comics. My gateway drugs were Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis – pretty much anything by that guy floats my boat. Y: the Last Man was another big deal for me early on.
Nowadays, what can we find you reading?
I get a handful of comics every week – I’m the kind of guy who likes to pick up the first issue of just about any series with a concept I find interesting, so a lot of Image books. I am also reading 365 short stories this year, mostly science fiction and fantasy, so you’re likely to find my nose in the pages of a science fiction magazine. Figuratively speaking – I read everything that’s not comics in electronic formats these days.
Are you a person of idols?
Who were your childhood heroes?
Charles Darwin, Arthur C. Clarke, Anne McCaffrey, Gary Gygax, and so many others.
And today? Who do you look up to?
Anybody who works for a living, honestly.
What made you enter the comic universe of storytelling?
I was fascinated by the opportunity to have an artist interpret the pictures in my head and draw them. Collaboration between different artists is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I really love the more cinematic storytelling style of comics, as compared to regular prose work like I usually do.
Of all the projects you’ve worked on, is there one that stands out from rest? Why?
Well, as my first comics project, Nightfell stands out for sure. Working with everyone, watching as each new page from Nic has come in, has been a dream come true. I hope my story work can live up to the amazing artwork!
And now a peek into the Future. Can you tell us what project(s) are you most looking forward to?
I’m really looking forward to a young adult time travel novel I’ve been working on for several years. It’s kind of like Jurassic Park meets Treasure Island.
Thanks Jeremy for letting us get to know you a little better!
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.