Andy Poole says that one of the reasons that attracted him about being a colorist is the satisfaction of “seeing black and white art brought to life with color, under your very hands.” In a previous interview, we have also learned he enjoys playing with conventions when it comes to coloring comics. But how did Andy face the Warlock 5 challenge?
Did you read Warlock 5 before joining this project?
I’d never even heard of Warlock 5 before joining the project, as comics were not an interest of mine up until maybe ten years ago, so a Canadian comic from the 1980’s was completely off my radar. I did get myself into gear and do some research on the series however, reading reviews and finding what books I could.
Did you discover a favorite issue?
Not a particular issue, no. The original Warlock 5 had a cliff hanger at the end of issue #3, which I won’t ruin here, but it’s a pretty good one. Unfortunately, it was never resolved in later issues, so despite the writing continuing to be good and fun, I kind of gravitated towards the artwork instead of the story. From that point of view, any issue from #4 onward is a favorite.
While the first three issues had great artwork, the later issues kick it into overdrive with some of the most incredible black and white paints and inks I’ve ever seen. A page in issue five is especially nice, with the Robot Warlock Argon’s ship moving through space in front of a rocky, crater marked planet, with bright sun and ethereal nebula behind it all. The lighting is fantastic and makes the entire scene both dark and mysterious and beautiful too.
How about a beloved character?
Tanith. I find that the other Warlocks know their positions, powers, responsibilities and conspiracies well, but Tanith has had a lot of growth as a messenger of peace and harmony realizing that her standing as one of the Warlock 5 means performing acts that are far from savory. She’s straddling the line between her personal views and philosophy, and the corruption and violence that dealing with The Grid and the other Warlocks is pushing on her. Personal conflict is the most human story, my favorite kind of story, and she fits the bill the most.
Warlock 5 is tied to this 80’s view of a dystopian multiverse. How is it to work on such a setting?
The setting is interesting because it’s not a single setting at all, it’s like being thrust into 80’s Horror, or Urban Fantasy, Cyberpunk and I even get a Masters of the Universe vibe every now and then. These are all different worlds that rather than make the book feel convoluted, they make it work. They’re defined as individual worlds, not a mish-mash of genres. Working on that is interesting, it gives me the opportunity to join in on defining those individual worlds and genres using the colors, which is quite obvious when you see the color theory in practice.
The series has a – quite large and – faithful fanbase. Did that put any different kind of pressure onto you?
Not at all, mostly because I’ve remained blissfully ignorant of the fan base. But now I know… I did put pressures on myself though. When I saw the artwork from after issue #4 of the original run, I assumed that anyone who saw the art would pretty much instantly fall in love with it the way I did. As a Colorist I have to live up to that standard, and that is not easy at all.
The greyscale art is detailed and rendered expertly, and is something I would personally love to see the new series of books rendered as. But I’ve been brought on to modernize the story along with Cullen, Jimmy and Jeff, the writers and artist respectively, so I had to color the thing in a more modern style. I wanted to keep an eighties vibe, so I limited the color palette to suit that, but it’s still obviously a modern take.
Warlock 5 has always stricken me as having these bright colors. There seems to be something nearly violent about that approach. Do you agree with that? Or is it a misconception?
I can certainly agree. The original four issues had a very, I guess you could call it a sharp style of inks. They felt very in place with a violent story. Denis Beauvais, the artist, could reel that style in when the story required a softer touch however. I’ve tried to live up to that myself.
The original work must have cast a heavy weight, but what other influences did you have when tackling this project?
I’ve tried not to be influenced by anything but the original source material and the creative team around me. If I feel I’m capturing the atmosphere of the original, I’m happy. If the Writers, Artist, Letter, Editor, Publisher and Creative Director are happy with it, I’m happy with it.
Are there any specific scenes that stand out?
Tanith using her magic stands out the most. It’s bloody brilliant, in the literal sense. Bright blue and white glowing power, taking the form of butterflies that Jeffrey Edwards must have killed his knuckles drawing. But he pulled it off excellently! I hope that I lived up to his efforts in those scenes, because he deserves nothing but the utmost praise for pulling them off.
Is it turning out the way you’ve envisioned it?
Yes and no. You come into projects like these, with very rich and detailed artwork, with a style in mind, but the work grows and changes all on its own, and you have to flow with it. I’ve found it both to be good and difficult for me to render, and it’s fallen away from my original vision, or perhaps my need to honor the original artwork. That aside, it looks quite nice, I’m pleased with how it’s turning out and can’t wait to see the printed pages. That’s when it all comes together, the experience of reading the finished product and holding those floppies or trades in your hands.
Thanks, Andy, for leading us through the colorful multiverse of Warlock 5!
Interview with Warlock 5 Writer Jimmy Z. Johnston
We’re excited to feature Jimmy Z. Johnston, writer for the Kickstarter-funded revival of Warlock 5!
What was your first contact with Warlock 5?
I picked them up new off the shelf in the late 80s. I remember seeing the cover to issue one and thinking it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.
Why did it capture you?
100% the cover. I bought it because that cover was one of the most incredible I had seen. Issues 2-6 had fully painted covers featuring the face of each Warlock. And they stand the test of time today as being some of the most striking covers of their time.
Did you have a favorite issue?
In many ways, the first issue holds that honor. It did such a wonderful job introducing the world.
How about a beloved character?
I have a ton of art I did through high school, and there is one montage I have of dozens of characters I loved from various works. Argon is in that montage, if I find it I will share it.
Did these change once you picked the books up to work on the project?
When I read them years ago, I never thought about the idea of where their story might go if I was writing it. It was a few years later that I began thinking about these things in earnest. But rereading the original series now is a tough thing to do. Because it is very much a product of the time. Storytelling was different back then. In issue 3 (I think) Zania sets off a nuke in Grid City. In issue 4 they don’t even acknowledge it. There is no way a writer could do something like that today, the fans would be all over it. They did resolve that eventually in the trade, but if you only get the issues you don’t see the resolution.
As for characters, when we started writing the series, I spent a lot of my time working on the new character Lycia, so my view of the original characters didn’t change much at all.
The original work must have cast a heavy weight, but what other influences did you have?
Clive Barker is my biggest influence. He tells stories in ways that no other writer I have ever read can compare to. I do find it interesting, having read comics spanning all eras, how storytelling in comics has changed. I worked on Micronauts with Cullen Bunn, a series that originated with Marvel in the 70s. I have talked to fans who wish we were writing stories like the ones Marvel did. But the reality is that nobody could write like that today. Readers wouldn’t be interested in it. There are many readers who seek out the older stories like that, but the nostalgia factor lets them be read without worrying about the storytelling. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series is one that stands the test of time. He did such a fantastic job telling the stories he told, that they will always be relevant examples of how to tell a story.
The writing process is a collaboration between you and Cullen Bunn. How is it to collaborate with other artists? Is there too much compromise?
In spite of what Cullen says, we work really well together.
But seriously, we sit down and talk out the idea. Then we write up a page by page outline. Sometimes that could be one line “FIGHT” or it could be a paragraph with dialogue we want to make sure we use. Through this process we make sure we don’t have too many scenes we are trying to fit in. In this case it was a 60 page script, so when we finished the outline, we talked about scenes we “wanted.” Cullen really wanted the Savashtar investigating scene, so we blocked that out for him. After we do that it is usually pretty close to an even split on the workload.
When we finish our parts, I combine it into one unified script and we both go over it. This part is fun because we get to revel in the genius of our parts and rewrite the stuff the other guy did. I joke about it. Usually it involves tweaking a few things here and there, but not too terribly much.
This is not the only project you two have partnered up for. Why did you start working together?
I met Cullen in 2003. He met me in 2004. There is a story there, but this isn’t the day for that. We were both at a horror convention for writers in New York (in 2004). Found out we lived very close to each other and when we got home started talking and hanging out more. He was working on writing prose, and I had discovered an innate talent for editing. I did an edit for him on a story and he really liked what I did. That was the start of working together.
Are there any specific scenes or narrative developments you want to include in this continuation of the 80’s comic?
We are looking at this as a continuation of the series. 30 years later, these 5 are still defending reality from threats. They have changed, but the dynamics amongst them are still pretty consistent. Zania and Argon are the “bad” pair, while Tanith and Savashtar are the “good” pair, leaving Doomidor in the middle as the balance between them.
The only thing I really pushed for was doing a cover based on the original issue 1. We are technically working on the fourth run of the series. The second run was a short mini series that did a new version of the issue one cover. The third run did not, but it deviated massively from the original concept. I am glad that we got to use a version of the original cover. Jeffrey Edwards did an amazing job on it, and on every page that will be between the covers.
The five main characters are extremely different and layered. What was the biggest challenge bringing them to life?
Anytime you have an ensemble cast it takes time to develop the individuals. It is much easier to write a story with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman because you don’t need to establish who they are. You see the S, the Bat cowl, the lariat, and you instantly know who they are.
We have 5 main characters we are essentially introducing to readers. Along with a handful of new characters to the series. That takes time to develop. Being able to do a 60 page issue helps massively with the character development aspect.
Is it turning out the way you’ve envisioned it?
I am still pretty fresh in the comic world, so I am loving the process. Seeing thumbnails come in, then pencils, then inks, then colors. . . Seeing my words and scenes turned into comic pages is amazing. It is so much better than I envisioned it. I love it.
In these shaken times do you try to embed your work with some subliminal criticism or do you keep it detached from the outside world?
Oh, I am constantly putting Easter Eggs into things. Many of which go unnoticed. Cullen is always telling me not to worry about things like that because no one will notice. The secret is, I am putting them in for me. I am ok if no one else ever notices!
I am guessing though that your question is leaning more towards the current political and social climate in our country. And that is something I try and avoid. I don’t need to make enemies right now as I get started in writing. Many writers and artists are taking positions publicly about their support or lack of support for our current administration. I will leave that to them for now.
Anything you can tell us without giving out major spoilers?
We start out seeing the Warlock 5 fighting against an incursion into Grid City, but we will be showing them in their own worlds. And a portion of this first volume is going to take place on a new world in crisis. This will be creating a dilemma for them as they have to choose between helping an individual world or pulling back to Grid City and simply protecting the Grid. It goes towards the question of what are you protecting. It is all good standing guard over a forest and making sure it doesn’t succumb to a forest fire, but when you let a lumberjack in to cut down a tree. . . well, it sucks if you are that tree.
Thanks Jimmy for opening up about the future of Warlock 5!
About WARLOCK 5 KICKSTARTER
Five guardians protect the multiverse against the chaos that lurks outside the boundaries of reality. There’s only one problem: they hate each other.
A mystical nexus, a crossroads connecting all times, all realities. Along the ley lines of the Grid, the multiverse clusters. To move along the Grid is to move from one reality to the next. To harness the power of the Grid is to harness the awesome might of creation.Five touchstone realities exist at focal points along the Grid. From each of these realities, a Warlock is chosen to act as one of five Guardians.
Savasthar, a shapeshifting dragon-like being.
Doomidor, a warlord from the Dark Ages.Argon, an advanced cybernetic organism from a techno-hell.
Tanith, an ageless sorceress.
Zania, a power-mad, machine gun necromancer.
Together, the Warlocks protect the Grid, thereby protecting all of space and time. They are the last line of defense against the awful forces of chaos that lurk in the darkness outside the Grid.There’s only one problem.They hate each other.”
Originally created by Gordon Derry and Denis Beauvais, Warlock 5 was published by Barry Blair, a Canadian comic book publisher, artist and writer, known for launching Aircel Comics in the 1980s. A fierce advocate for innovation in the themes, genres, and types of illustrations, Blair helped to bring titles to life that broke the narrative and graphic boundaries at the time — including Warlock 5.
The new Warlock 5 Kickstarter funded this continuation of the Aircel Comics classic fantasy masterpiece. This 2017 reboot is written by CULLEN BUNN and JIMMY JOHNSTON, illustrated by JEFFREY EDWARDS with colors by ANDY POOLE, letters by ED DUKESHIRE, and designs by EDWARD LAVALLEE and SHAWN T. KING. This saga of rivalry, betrayal, magic, dragons, and killer robots is aiming for a 60-page full-color (hard cover) original graphic novel.
As I told you on the first article of this new segment, I Was a Comic Book Fan All Along and I Didn’t Know it for quite a while.
Things sort of slowly became clearer during my college days, but it wasn’t until starting to work in the biz that I truly began to dip my toes back in the dynamic comic book waters.
I still remember the moment of opening the folder with all the projects in the pipeline and flying through them all. One of the stories that was more developed at the time was Ithaca. I read it all in one go and was hungry for more.
At Outland Entertainment, I was presented a huge array of creatives each one with a very unique voice, be it as a writer or an illustrator. Mars 2577, Nightfell, Blacklands, Aegisteel, these are all projects that showed me the different facets of comic book creation.
It wasn’t just sci-fi or violence: no, there was room for a multiplicity of genres and visual styles of every kind.
When some of our IPs started coming out as webcomics on a weekly basis, I had to do some market research of what was going on in this field. That led me to multiple webpages like HiveWorks. And there I was baffled by the choice! So many artists, so many genres and styles of writing and artwork.
It was a big turning point: no longer did I had to rely solely on my friends reviews, but I had first-hand overview of so many projects! I got to interview all the creators from O.E., here for the blog. I have always loved the backstage! How someone became who he is professionally? Where did the idea of the story come from? And I was lucky enough to ask all these questions. In return I dare to say that my knowledge of the comic book universe increased exponentially!
And where has that lead me? To a huge appetite for reading more and more comics, of course! It wasn’t instantaneously, but I found myself perusing the comics section of the bookstores not only “out of professional interest” but because I found them inspiring.
This must be obvious for most of you , but before starting at Outland Entertainment, I didn’t know how similar the cinematographic language was to the one used in comics. They remind me of a really fancy and detailed storyboard. I know, I know! They’re much more than that! They’re an artistic medium of their own. But through the eyes of someone who came from an audiovisual production background they really hit home.
I suppose that being a transmedia creative producer also feeds this need. I’m now itching to work up a universe where a comic book will help explore things even further. And if you ever attended a book fair, you’ll see that all of these artistic forms are connected nowadays. Take the London Book Fair, for example. They run the London Book and Screen Week simultaneously. You have professionals from game studios at the actual fair and lots of extra events that join this two worlds, once so further apart, of pages and screens. Comics are finally being increasingly recognized for the dynamic and expressive format they are.
But I’ll talk about these changes further along the line!
Now, take a moment and check out the interviews I mentioned! There are a lot of creatives: authors, illustrators, designers…whose stories will inspire you.
And if you haven’t read the first post of this series give it a go and learn how I Was a Comic Book Fan All Along and Didn’t Know .
A lot has changed since the last time we spoke. Matt Forbeck has worked closely with Robert Schwalb to finish the first draft of the S&S RPG manuscript. With around 180,000 words and a little over 300 pages long it seems it’ll be one of the biggest game books of the year.
Let’s find out what they’ve exactly been up to while working for the upcoming Roleplaying Game based on Forbeck’s IP Shotguns & Sorcery.
Matt, could you explain to us how it is to transform a universe you made famous in novel format into an RPG?
It’s fantastic fun. The world of Shotguns & Sorcery actually started out as an RPG setting in my head, although the world first got to see it in fiction, so it’s a real thrill to watch it develop into a full-blown RPG.
Was it an organic process?
As organic as anything can be that comes from people typing at each other. For me, it felt very natural. I started out as an RPG developer over two decades ago, so working on another RPG again felt like coming home.
What exactly was your job on this specific part of this big venture?
I wrote the background for the book and supplied all of the details about the world. My pal Rob Schwalb did all the heavy lifting with the rules, while Outland’s CEO Jeremy Mohler is creating all the art.
What was the biggest challenge or even obstacle you found?
It’s been a while since I wrote the Shotguns & Sorcery stories, so I actually had to back through and read them, taking notes as I went. This gave me all sorts of ideas for new material for the setting, but it’s kind of odd to study something you once wrote.
Did you have to compromise a lot? Did you feel like the S&S characters and universe had to change a lot to fit the RPG model?
Not much at all. As I mentioned, I originally developed Shotguns & Sorcery as an RPG setting, so bringing it back to its roots left it fairly well intact.
Did the results so far assume the form you wanted?
So far, I’ve been thrilled with every part of it. I can’t wait to see the finished book. There’s nothing quite like holding a book like that in your hands.
What is it that you’re most looking forward to show the audience as soon as the RPG is available?
Jeremy’s artwork. It’s really going to breathe new dimensions of life into the world and draw players right into it.
Can you give us any scoop on a favorite character, magic, cypher…?
I really like what Rob did with the cyphers overall. That’s something new to Shotguns & Sorcery, and he made it fit well.
Any future plans regarding this I.P.?
After re-reading all the books, I have ideas for lots more Shotguns & Sorcery stories. I don’t know when I’m going to get to writing them, but hopefully soon.
Thank you, Matt! We can’t wait to delve even further into the Shotguns & Sorcery‘s Universe!
Stay tuned for Robert Schwalb’s interview comming to you on April 27th!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last time we got to know a little bit about who Matt is. Today, were looking to get a further insight into “Matt the writer”.
What was the first thing you ever wrote? Was it a school assignment or something you did on your free time?
Do you mean as a story? It was probably “Food Wars”, a Star Wars parody I wrote in 4th grade. I won a prize for it, and it was, I think, the first time I realized that there might be something to this writing well thing.
You told us you always wanted to be a writer. But when the moment came, did you need someone else uttering “You are a writer.” or did you know it already?
I don’t think that being a writer is a matter of knowing it so much as wanting to do it. I never needed anyone to tell me to write or create or whatever. It’s wonderful to have validation for it after the fact, but the fun of it comes in the work itself.
In 1989, you edited and wrote selections of White Dwarf Magazine (issues #119-123), with emphasis on the two Space Hulk articles. Until then you hadn’t had anything published.
Seeing your words printed for the public to read was an incentive to write more outside the game world?
Actually, the first thing I had in print was a short piece in Polyhedron #9, the newsletter for TSR’s Roleplaying Gamers Association (RPGA). I’d submitted this gadget for a contest for their Top Secret spies roleplaying game, and it came in as first runner-up.
This came out way back in 1982, when I was fourteen years old. I didn’t get paid a dime for it, but it thrilled me to my core. It’s probably the reason I took up writing for RPGs long before I turned my hand to fiction.
In most places the short story “Crocodilopolis”, which was part of the “Strange Tales From the Nile Empire”anthology, from West End Books in 1992, appears as your first published fiction piece.
Would you change anything about it?
Probably, but I wouldn’t. I’m a different person now than when I wrote that story, and I had a wonderful time working on it. Legendary game designer Greg Gorden was my editor on that, and he taught me a lot about the differences between great fiction and great games as I wrote it. I still treasure that lesson to this day.
You now have a more than 25 books available online and these are just the ones on your website, not even counting your participations in anthologies.
Between the fiction and nonfiction do the numbers speak for themselves or would you like to venture more into the nonfiction genre?
I’m probably a bad self-promoter in this way, but I haven’t gotten around to listing all of my books on my site. I’m usually more concerned with doing the work than telling people about it. At the moment, I have 27 novels published, several nonfiction books, and countless games and gaming books.
I enjoy writing nonfiction, as it scratches a different creative itch for me. I had a ball revising The Marvel Encyclopedia for 2014, for instance, and I’m proud of how well it’s selling. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, it hit #5 in all books on Amazon, and just this week, it became my first book to ever crack a Best Sellers list in the New York Times.
The majority of your work has been deemed YA. Do you believe in genres to describe books or do you think we could ditch those labels?
Actually, most of my work is for adults, although I try to write things that people of many ages can read. I’ve written five or six books for younger readers, but the vast majority of my fiction—especially my own original material—fits into the genre category and is mostly read by adults.
All that said, I think J. K. Rowling obliterated the meaning of the YA label, and bully for her. We shouldn’t be afraid to read good stories, no matter if they’re meant for people younger than us or not. As for other genre labels, they serve a purpose for marketing, but creators shouldn’t feel constrained by them. Great stories transcend such things.
There seems to be a dystopian quality to the stories you tell. Do you agree with that?
Maybe. I tend to favor stories with a dark streak through them, and that’s most obvious in books like my Brave New World dystopian superheroes series. Partly that’s because my tastes run that way, but I also find it easier to produce dramatic situations in darker worlds—or at least ones that I find most interesting.
Your work has been translated into 13 languages, which obviously means you have a global fan base. Does that influence your writing in any way?
Not really. I don’t have any control over the translations in the sense that I can’t read them once they’re published. I can’t tell the translator that they’re doing it wrong. I can only cheer them on and hope for the best.
Your body of work has inspired many to approach you to adapt your narratives into other mediums.
Your book series Brave New World: Revolution is being adapted into a TV series. What are most looking for in this project?
Actually, that’s been optioned for a film, but it’s in limbo at the moment while the producers pursue other projects and try to ramp up for the kind of budget a dark supers film needs. I’ve also sold film options for both Amortals and Vegas Knights, though, and I have high hopes for those. I’ve even read a first draft of the script for Amortals, and I’d love to see that book on the silver screen.
The Shotguns & Sorcery book series is going to be turned into an RPG by us, here at Outland Entertainment.
What can you tell new readers about this series?
It’s a fantasy noir series in the sense of what maybe Raymond Chandler or James Ellroy would write if they’d been inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien. It’s set in Dragon City, a metropolis ruled over by the Dragon Emperor, an autocrat who protects his people from the ravening hordes of zombies roaming outside the city’s walls—but at a price.
Is there a favorite character you really enjoyed writing?
Max Gibson is the hero of the story, and he’s my favorite by far, which is good because I spent a lot of time in his head. I love a lot of the others too: Yabair (the sneering elf captain of the Imperial Dragon’s Guard), Kai (the gun-toting orc pal with poor impulse control), Moira (the addicted halfling who can’t ever seem to keep out of trouble), and many more.
And how about a special scene or chapter?
I think the opening chapter of “Friends Like These” nails the feeling of the world like a stake through a vampire’s heart. It’s full of world-weary heroes, treachery among friends, and jackbooted thugs, and it’s just what I wanted.
It’s also the first fiction I ever wrote for Shotguns & Sorcery, so it has a special place in my heart.
Perhaps not coincidentally, all backers of the Shotguns & Sorcery RPG Kickstarter get this story for free.
The whole world is set in this fantasy noir environment. What led you to that creative choice?
I grew up reading both Chandler and Tolkien. I love epic fantasy and its amazing worlds, but the grittiness of noir always grabbed me harder. This was my chance to come up with my own cocktail from two of my favorite ingredients. I did my best to make sure it packs a punch.
Besides the series of projects already mentioned on your website, can you give us a small peek at the writing ones under the cryptic slot “all sorts of secret things in various stages of conception or completion”?…
I have lots of projects in the works at any given time, but I also sign many non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with the people and publishers I’m working with. Giving details about those projects before they’re ready to go would be cheating them of their chance to make the biggest splashes.
That said, I do have a science-fiction tie-in novel I’ve been working on that should be announced soon. Stay tuned.
Thank you! And we will talk to you soon to find out a little bit more about your work on the games industry!
Experienced illustrator and colorist, Jeremy Mohler founded Outland Entertainment in 2008. He has been project manager at the Platinum Studios, colored for Marvel Comics, and art directed numerous projects, including an exhibit for the History Colorado Museum. He’s phenomenal at drawing personality into his characters and creating epic settings.
When did you begin to show your artistic capabilities?
It’s hard to remember just when I started drawing. I have some fuzzy memories of sitting at my grandmother’s table with my cousins drawing, but nothing really came into focus until I got to junior high and was introduced to comic books while in the Boy Scouts. From that point forward, this is all I’ve ever wanted to do.
What’s your favorite childhood moment related to comics or drawing?
This isn’t exactly a childhood memory, but getting a chance to visit the Frank Frazetta museum out in Pennsylvania while I was attending the Joe Kubert School is definitely a favorite memory. Frank has always been a huge inspiration and influence on me. I came this close to meeting Frank – we just missed him that day. But still, seeing his paintings up close was amazing.
Growing up, did you read a lot of comics or were there other activities that you preferred?
I started reading comics when I was 13 or 14 and have pretty much read comics ever since. Before that I was a voracious reader and remain that way to this day.
What about beloved artists? Any childhood idols?
As I mentioned previous, Frank Frazetta was a big influence. Larry Elmore, Barry Windsor-Smith, Moebius, Charles Vess, John Cassaday, Brom – all are favorites. There are a lot of artists I love and adore, but these popped to mind first.
I actually had the good luck to get a great portfolio review from Charles Vess and John Cassaday. Both of which were very kind and gracious. I received 3rd in show at Gen Con some years back that Larry Elmore judged. So I’ve had the good fortune to meet a few of the artists I grew up admiring.
Did you always want to work on this creative field?
Absolutely. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, and I freely admit, it’s not always been easy. There have been times it’s really caused a lot of problems, but there’s nothing else I’ve ever wanted to do.
You’ve worked in mainstream comics as well as indie projects. Which of these lines of work do you prefer?
There are certainly advantages to both. And if the stars align and a cool project comes along that is mainstream, I probably won’t turn it down. With that said, however, I’ve always wanted to create and own my own projects. This is a big part of why we’ve been pushing Outland toward publishing.
It is sometimes tiring to always be creating artwork for other people to realize their vision. And don’t get me wrong – one of the great joys of this business is working with other creative people and I really love that aspect. But I also want to have projects and stories that I feel passionately about out there – material that I had creative control to bring to life and leave my touch on.
What made co-found your own company, Outland Entertainment?
Let’s be honest – I’m not the fastest artist out there. I found myself, at one point, in a position where I had multiple projects coming in that I found really interesting and I wanted to work on all of them. I’d managed to build some relationships with some really great artists as well and it occurred to me that I might be able connect those artists with some of these projects and help manage them – that way I can be involved without being spread too thin.
Has Outland Entertainment grown at the same pace as you artistically speaking?
I think so. A lot of the projects that Outland acquires come to us based on my reputation and my artwork. So I think it has.
What’s the best thing of having your own company?
I love working with all the different creative – the artists, writers, designers, and everything in-between. Helping coordinate these different projects and chasing down new ones is a lot of fun. And I love it when a project comes together.
Going back to your own work: illustrating, coloring, drawing,… Do you have a favorite?
It varies a lot. I like each aspect – sometimes it’s a lot of fun to color the work of other artists. Something about that collaboration can be thrilling. I also like drawing too – especially when it all comes together and the piece turns out good.
And projects? Is there one that stands out from the countless amount of work you’ve been involved with?
Probably the Old Bent’s Fort project for the History Colorado Museum. I spent a year working on that project and I think it not only turned out great, but I’m immensely proud of the work.
Why is that one different?
It might have something to do with the museum. I’m a huge fan of historical material and it was so exciting to be able to go to the museum and see, literally, life-size blow up’s of the characters I drew staring back at me. And to think that so many people have been through the museum and learned something about Old Bent’s Fort from the work we created is really cool.
From making the pencil sketch to applying the last smear of color what is your process?
No big surprises here! It begins with several layouts/sketches. These vary – sometimes it only takes one try to nail a composition, other times it takes ten.
It’s at this point I usually start looking for any reference material or images to take inspiration from.
Once the composition is sorted out in the thumbnail, then comes the drawing. This is the slog and admittedly, I’m not always the biggest fan of this part of the process. For me, it’s always more about the end product than the process and if I could skip the process, I would, haha.
After the drawing is complete (many hours later, and in some cases, weeks), I scan the image, clean it up in Photoshop. The image usually goes out to a flatter first – somebody to separate all the shapes in the image in color. Once I get the flats back, it’s a matter of figuring out the color scheme and lighting.
Do you follow a painfully strict plan or is it a more of organic process?
What I outlined above is pretty much the plan. Each step itself can be more organic though – I don’t approach color the same way every time, though the end result may look similar.
So… can you tell us what project(s) are you most looking forward in the short run?
I’m definitely looking forward to illustrating Shotguns & Sorcery. This is going to be one of the biggest projects of my life. I plan to fully illustrate the book myself and I want to go the extra mile and pull out all the stops to make this the most lavishly illustrated book I possibly can. I’m looking forward to being able to sit down and dive into it all!
Thanks Jeremy for sharing a little bit of your creative world with us!
My pleasure! Thank you Susana!
Who is Matt Forbeck after all?
We know you as a man of all trades: from writer to game designer and entrepreneur. But let’s rewind a little bit and find some curiosities that might have escaped us.
What did you want to be when you grow up?
I always wanted to be either an astronaut or a writer. I had terrible asthma as a kid, though, and poor eyesight, and that took me out of the running for a job with NASA. Fortunately, I had writing to fall back on.
What was the first book you ever read (or was read to you)?
I’m sure I was too young to remember. My parents read to me from an early age and claim that I was reading on my own from age two or three. At that age, my favorites were Where the Wild Things Are, Go Dog Go!, and anything by Dr. Seuss.
I read all of those to my kids as well. Even though my youngest ones are now 12, I can still recite Where the Wild Things Are by heart.
Did you enjoy bedtime stories?
Of course! The bedtime stories we read to kids (or for ourselves) are the gateway toward bigger and more complex fantasy stories, and that deep connection to our childlike wonder is what makes them so magical for us.
And comics: which were your favorite ones?
I read all sorts of comics, both then and now. My favorite character has always been Spider-Man, and I often tell people I learned to read with the Spidey comics, a kids’ title made in conjunction with The Electric Company. That was a show that came on after Sesame Street in those days and featured Morgan Freeman playing Easy Reader!
Do you still read comics regularly or prefer novels now?
I read both and love them each for their own strengths. I wrote the 2009 and 2014 editions of The Marvel Encyclopedia and wrote the 1960s chapter of Batman: A Visual Encyclopedia, which hits stores on September 29. That gave me a good excuse to gorge myself on comics.
I also co-designed the WildStorms collectible card game for Jim Lee back when WildStorm was still a division of Image Comics. And I designed the Marvel Battle Dice and DC Battle Dice games for Playmates Toys. On top of that, I’ve written a number of comics over the years, including twelve issues of the Magic: The Gathering comic for IDW.
In the other direction, I’ve had twenty-seven novels published to date, including the Shotguns & Sorcery trilogy. I read voraciously, in many different genres and on all sorts of topics. It’s all grist for the creative mill, and it gives me the chance to tear apart the writing in my head and examine how it all ticks.
What are you reading right now?
I’m finally getting around to reading Lauren Beukes’s The Shining Girl. I’ve known Lauren for years and loved her Moxyland and Zoo City, so I have every expectation it’ll be excellent.
Growing up were you outdoorsy or did always prefer reading/gaming?
My asthma kept me inside some days, but my parents liked to push us outside. They often took us camping and fishing too, and I played baseball, basketball, and soccer both in school and just for fun.
All that said, I loved games and played them a lot. When I six, I was hospitalized with pneumonia, and a priest came in to give me Last Rites, which isn’t nearly as serious as it sounds. Afterward, he taught me how to play chess while I lay there in bed.
What kind of games did you play?
I played anything I could get my hands on. When I was very young, there weren’t many great options, but I enjoyed anything from Trivial Pursuit to Stratego. When I was twelve, I started playing Dungeons & Dragons, and I got hooked good.
That broadened my horizons, and I dug into games like Squad Leader and Boot Hill and whatever else I could find. As I got older, it grew into a career.
And how about tv series and movies: are there any that had a deeply impact on you?
Lots. Star Wars blew my mind. My parents took me to see it in a theater seven different times, which was the only way to manage it in the pre-home-video days. I also got a lot out of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Blade Runner and, later, Apocalypse Now.
And, yeah, there’s a Harrison Ford thread running through all of those—even Apocalypse Now if you know where to look.
Most TV from that era is forgettable, but it’s gotten much better over the years. I loved Twin Peaks back in the days, and I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation religiously.
Have you watched anything recently that you’d recommend?
For TV, be sure to check out Breaking Bad and True Detective. They’re fantastic from one end to the other, and they highlight the kind of excellent shows you can do when you have a strong story arc taking you from one end to the other.
For something more episodic, check out Leverage, which was co-created by my friend John Rogers. I helped set up a book deal for that show and even wrote the first novel, The Con Job, which is set at San Diego Comic-Con.
For film, I loved Guardians of the Galaxy. It was funny, fast, and fun. I also really enjoyed Her. It does a great job of tackling all sorts of intriguing issues, and I found myself thinking about it even weeks later.
Are you a person of idols?
Not really. I’ve met lots of famous people, and the one thing you learn is that we’re all human and fueled by many of the same hopes and fears. Some of us have fantastic talents that bring us to a wider audience, but that doesn’t change our basic humanity—just the tools we have for dealing with it.
Who were your childhood heroes?
Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Hank Aaron. Stan and Jack took comics and reinvented them for the latter half of the twentieth century. They gave me some of my favorite characters in stories so rich that Marvel and DC are still mining them to this day.
Hank was not only a fantastic athlete but also played baseball in a less-open era when becoming the home-run king as a black man brought him a unique set of challenges. He bore up through it all like a true hero and never lost his transcendent joy for the game.
And today? Who do you look up to? Why?
You wouldn’t know my heroes. They’re not famous. They’re people I deal with every day, the ones I can really watch struggle with and triumph over life: my parents, my wife, and my kids.
Seeing how they handle their lives with as much grace as they can muster inspires me. The fact that they also depend on me to be the best son, father, and husband I can manage keeps me going through even the darkest days. And sharing with them the joys I can find only makes them that much better. //
Thank you, Matt for letting us get to know you a little bit better!
(Psst!… Stay tuned for more interviews!)