Randy Queen Talks About Starfall & His Comic Book Influences
Randy Queen is the creator of Darkchylde and of the-soon-to-debut Starfall. More importantly, he is quite possibly the coolest creator in the Comic Book industry. How do I know this to be true? Because I just wrote it in his Wikipedia entry.
Nicholas Yanes: As someone who studies Comic Books in an academic environment, I’m surrounded by people who believe that all comic book creators are formally educated. So I’m curious, did you go to college? What did you do before getting into the industry?
Randy Queen: And Wikipedia is always right, right?
I figured if I went to college, I’d also be working to pay for it. When would I ever have time to develop my craft? That was the big question, and I thought it would take longer. So I removed college from the equation and worked retail during the day, and art studies at night. Retail helped me understand salesmanship and presentation, and that’s an important asset in any industry.
Yanes: When you first started reading comics, what titles where your absolute favorites?
Queen: John Byrne’s run on Alpha Flight was about as much as I’ll ever care about fictional comic book characters.
I don’t think he fully understood what he had there, in that they were so much more than a group created to go toe to toe with the X-men. He created a team, to my mind, that were just as interesting. I thought Bill Willingham’s initial Elementals books were ground breaking. They were as adult as Watchmen, and that was still new soil at the time. Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing was wonderful. Then the artist in me got dazzled by the flash of Silvestri, McFarlane, and Lee and the launch of Image of course, pretty much rocked the industry. That was when being a comic artist could be like being a rock star. Currently I’m floored by the craftsmanship of Al Williamson’s body of work, and what Mark Schultz is doing makes my jaw drop. Those guys are masters, they are plugged in. It’s a tough place to get to.
Yanes: Prior to Darkchylde, what did you work on?
Queen: I only did one full comic, Cyberforce Origins: Impact. The first sequential work I did was Cybeforce Origins: Stryker, which was also Michael Turner’s first sequential work. The first major work I ever had published was a Winky pin up in Spawn # 7. That was a sci-fi character I created in middle school that was my passion. I was self publishing Winky comics in seventh grade, so I guess I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up! I never questioned it.
Yanes: What where some of the key influences that shaped Darkchylde’s character and story? Whenever I re-read Darkchylde stories I can’t help but think of Stephen King’s Carrie; did this or any other horror movie inspire you?
Queen: The main influence is I wanted to draw and write what inspired me, and that was girls and monsters, every boy’s passion, right? But play it straight and produce something with pathos and depth. And I wasn’t really seeing that on the comics rack, and I wanted to read it. The supernatural undercurrents of Alan Parker’s Angel Heart was an influence in that someone’s soul was bartered, but I spun that on it’s head in that what if your soul was bartered and you had no say in the matter? What if it happened before you were born, but like the classic Wolf Man, your heart was pure? What if you were essentially a hijacked angel before you got your wings? These were compelling questions for a writer, so I set about answering them. When you hear that call, you gotta go. It’s rare, and it’s a beautiful thing. I was fortunate to be able to get it out there, and have it perform.
Yanes: Darkchylde debuted a year before Buffy the Vampire Slayer become a TV show. Did you ever notice any similarities between the two? Also, is it true you had a minor appearance on the show?
Queen: The only similarities was that before Buffy, the “girls and monsters” equation in pop culture had gone cold, and Buffy had fortunate timing in popularizing it. I was a fan of the show, and was in two episodes as an extra just to meet people and have fun. It was great to come from essentially a farm and have Sarah Michelle Gellar offer you an animal cracker. I’ll never forget the security guard named Wendell had a Darkchylde card in his pocket and asked me to sign it. You have to understand, comic book pros aren’t movie stars or celebrities, so to get recognized out in the world, when it happens, takes you by surprise.
Yanes: “Point Pleasant” was television show that lasted for less than a season and featured an attractive blond with a connection to the Devil. I couldn’t help but think of Darkchylde. Did you ever come across a story and thought that the creator was plagiarizing your idea?
Queen: Candidly, yes but I won’t say who or what they are. Why throw good after bad?
Yanes: Given that Ariel Chylde was drawn in a manner some have called “hyper sexualized,” were you surprised by your large female fan base?
Queen: No because the story had heart and a poetic sensibility that I believe fans, and not just female fans, responded to. For lack of a better word, it was genuine. I may not be the best artist or writer, but it was still an earnest statement, and I think people got that. I mean, here we are still talking about it. It wasn’t assembly line and processed by committee, and I think readers understood that. When you just cut through all the crap and pretense and speak what’s in your heart, sometimes you can arrive at a purity that’s pretty awesome and pretty rare. And I was fortunate to work with talented people.
Yanes: I’m curious to know what you think about comic books being criticized for the over sexualized portrayal of women in contrast to women in television and film? Additionally, why do you think people attack the way women are drawn, but never how men are unrealistically portrayed?
Queen: Here’s my answer to both. The idealized portrayal of heroic men and women is a pop culture staple, not just in comics. These are not pedestrian stories, they are mythic and iconic in nature, and that portrayal is just another personification and extension of the fantastic. It’s not meant to be real. I don’t think people read comics or go see event films to see what they can see outside the window every day. In retrospect, and in all objectivity, I would approach Ariel Chylde differently when you see her again. But Darkchylde was very successful and people took it to heart, so I don’t wish to slag it in any way.
Yanes: Where has Darkchylde been for the past few years? I still hear people talk about it in comic book stores. Are there any plans for a new miniseries?
Queen: That’s terrific to hear. She’ll be back. In what medium, in what format remains to be seen. I already know how I’d handle her return to comics, but the stars have to align first, and we’ve got a full plate right now with Starfall. Once Starfall is firmly established, I’d love to do a crossover. But I think it’s important I re-establish my voice in the marketplace first, and who knows what surprises may come. Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.
Yanes: For years now there have been rumors of Darkchylde being turned into an animated series, miniseries for a cable network and movie. Are you able to comment on Darkchylde’s potential future on in television and film? Any actresses you’d love to play Ariel?
Queen: A movie makes so much sense it’s ridiculous, and all I can say is that we are working on it. I know that’s a frustrating answer for fans, but it’s a frustrating process. It’s probably best for me not to comment on actresses, so we’ll just all have to wait and see.
Yanes: Beyond Darkchylde, it has been under reported that you have a new series set to appear called Starfall. What’s the premise of this series?
Queen: She’s the Galaxy’s Greatest Warrior, and this is the tale of her last mission. This is the tale of how her crew comes undone, and what she has to do to preserve the fight internally as externally, things that are precious to her are dying. Again, it’s about answering the compelling questions an artist asks oneself to be inspired.
Yanes: Starfall appears to be nothing like what DC and Marvel are doing. What inspired you to create this title?
Queen: It’s about creating what you want to see. That’s really the essence and call of any artist. To create what you don’t see. Something that does not already exist. It’s owes much to pulpy roots in King Kong, Tarzan, and Flash Gordon, but Starfall is a modern and unique animal. It’s the best work I am capable of doing right now, and it has epic color work by Sarah. We hope fans dig it.
Yanes: On the Darkchylde homepage it is written that Starfall “will not be solicited until all the issues are finished.” Are you as feed up with delays as most fans are?
Queen: To be fair, Darkchylde had an erratic shipping schedule and I know that frustrated many fans and retailers. With Starfall, I want to get it absolutely right. That means across the board. The concept, the writing, the art, the colors, the production package, the marketing and the shipping schedule. If you get them done before you solicit, lateness is removed from the equation completely.
Yanes: Similar to Darkchylde becoming more than a comic book, what are your long term goals for Starfall as a property?
Queen: It’s a good idea when developing an entertainment property over years of your time to make sure it can have more than one life. If you’re going to spend five years on something, why should it be palatable in only one format? So I think it could be anything if the fans embrace it and make it their own. I hope to deliver at the highest possible standard I am capable of, and the rest isn’t up to me.
Yanes: There is an ever increasing number of female comic book fans, what do you think the industry will have to do in the future to attract more women in order to financially stay afloat?
Queen: All I can say is what appeals to me personally, and that is more diversity as a medium. No medium should be as singularly defined by a genre as comics are by super-heroes. I love them, but we are stymied by popular perception. When people think of films, they don’t just think of westerns, and if people thought that all they’d see at the multiplex were westerns, you’d see less people lining up. Comics have to be perceived as stories, and not super powers.
Yanes: According to your website, Sarah Oates has been your “publisher, editor, designer, letterer and colorist.” Do you see the industry gaining more female creators or do you think that it will remain a boys club for the foreseeable future?
Queen: I think terrific people and beautiful work is where you find it. I can’t wait for people to see what Sarah can do, because you know what? She’s one of the best already, it just isn’t in shops yet.
Yanes: Finally, besides doing an interview with me, why are you so awesome?
Queen: I couldn’t possibly answer that with a straight face, but I’m thankful people enjoy my work, and I hope to get better and get more out there. Please be sure to visit our websites and say hello!
For more information about Randy Queen, Darkchylde, and Starfall check out Queen’s homepage: http://www.darkchylde.com