It’s been a while since we have done anything on the UK Comics scene, which is something we hope to address moving forward. To that end, we got lucky recently and managed to chat with comics creator Dave West from Accent UK. In this interview, Dave not only chats with us about Kia Wordsmith, which is currently being crowdfunded on Kickstarter for its second issue. He also chatted about his take on Superheroes in his ongoing Blessed/Cursed imprint. You can read everything that Dave shared with us below.
SciFiPulse: First off. From what little have learned about you. You have been involved in UK comics for 20 years. So my first question is. How did your break into writing and producing comics and what is the appeal for you as a writer?
Dave West: I actually got involved in making my own comics by doing the art on a comic co-created with and written by a friend. It was a struggle. A busy day job and a young daughter made it difficult to invest the required time to improve my artistic skills. The comic ran for 7 issues and was called ‘More Than We Seem.’ It was a science fiction story about starships crashing into the Earth in prehistoric times, the survivors hiding themselves by breeding with Homo Erectus and then waking up to who they are as a race in the present day. The problem was that producing art became more and more a chore, and I wasn’t happy with it, so I switched to writing. I do still illustrate my own stories now and then but it’s done in a very cartoony style.
SFP: One of the big things you’ve done in recent years is the Blessed/Cursed imprint, which sees Superheroes existing in the real world. You’ve done several so far and am wondering if you could maybe talk about those characters and how they came about?
Dave West: The problem that I’ve always had with superhero comics is that they tend to focus on the positive aspects of having a power. With every power, there must be a downside, surely. I think that’s why I tended to like The Fantastic Four’s Thing. He could bench press a house but struggled to accept what had happened to his body. My first story was about a man who could freeze time for the world around him but continue to be unaffected himself. OK, that would mean that whilst everybody was frozen in time he would continue to age. If he used it too much he would noticeably age faster than his friends. It was pretty well received, so ‘Whatever Happened To The World’s Fastest Man?’ was the first in a series of one-shots. ‘Missing: Have You Seen The Invisible Man?’ asked the question, if light could pass right through you, making you invisible, then how would you see? These started as one-shots but there is a central story evolving within them. The latest published comic ‘Boy Abducted By Aliens Returns’, illustrated by the very talented Gustavo Vargas, is actually about a boy who can change into other people and the story is about identity, with a little horror thrown in. I plan to keep doing one of these every year or so.
SFP: I read somewhere that you have a degree in Zoology. Have you ever included your knowledge of animals and their strengths and weaknesses in your books in terms of ability that your heroes have, which is similar to say the strengths and weaknesses of a cat, dog, or bat?
Dave West: Ha. Yes, my degree is actually Marine Biology and Zoology, although it was a long time ago. I think a science degree teaches you that there are rules. One of the things with creating science fiction or fantasy stories is that you might twist some of the rules of nature or physics but you have to be consistent. Your characters have to be bound by them, otherwise the credibility of the story falls apart. In the ‘Boy Abducted By Aliens Returns’ the central character always maintains his mass. At one point he turns into a small version of his teacher, for example.
SFP: Another book you have done is WesterNoir, which kind of reminded me of ‘They Live’ crossed with ‘Supernatural’. The main protagonist felt very much like the traditional cowboy was there any particular movie character from the Westerns that inspired him?
Dave West: Gary Crutchley (co-writer, co-creator, and artist on WesterNoir) and I grew up in different parts of the country but both remember watching countless western movies on TV. In fact, it felt like every other movie was a western. When I was asked to write a Western Detective story for my collaborator on The Wolfmen comics (Andy Bloor) I went back to that source. When Gary Crutchley took over art and committed to a much bigger story we took it deeper. I’ve always liked my central characters to be a little flawed. They need to have a back story. They need to grow. Josiah Black is that drifter, he’s done things no hero would do. He goes on to do things that even he has trouble with, but hopefully, the reader can see that he’s trying to make amends. Even if the journey to doing so is long and twisted.
SFP: Is the world of WesterNoir somewhere you might visit again?
Dave West: We are just colouring, remastering, and collecting the first 4 issues into a trade paperback (which will be on Kickstarter soon (ha.. I got a plug in). The next trade paperback is complete and partially coloured and Gary is well into the art of the third one… All in all, there will be 4 trades, collecting what would be 16 comics, with extra stories thrown in here and there. For those who read a number of the books I write, you might notice a few characters popping up across the different series. You might be thinking that they are all linked and that they will come together one day. If you’re thinking this then you might well be right.
SFP: A new book you have in the works and on Kickstarter right now is the 2nd issue of Kia Wordsmith. For those not in the know. What can you tell us about Kia and what sort of genre best describes her adventures?
Dave West: I’ve played Dungeons and Dragons since I was about 15. I’ve always wanted to do a fantasy comic. The problem is you need the right artist. At a Comic Convention a few years ago an artist came up to show me his portfolio and I knew the wait was over. Ian Ashcroft’s work is fabulous. He brings a fantasy feel to the world we are creating that is beyond anything I could put down in words. So, here we have the story of a young woman who follows a thief across the rooftops of the city she lives in. She follows him into a Wizard’s tower. Once there she frees a small harmless looking creature from a cage. It seems like the right thing to do. The creature bonds with her in ways that have yet to be fully shown to the readers. Little did she know at the time, it was the Wizard’s plan that this would happen all along. We’ll see her grow from the youth who feels herself to be invulnerable, as many youths do, into a woman who tries to find her place in the world. Oh, all the while being hunted by someone who wants the creature she freed for himself but don’t worry too much, she picks up a few very useful friends along the way.
SFP: From what I’ve read. It took you quite a while to develop Kia Wordsmith. Aside from the obvious in regards to publishing and so forth. What was the biggest barrier to getting her story out there?
Dave West: It’s the same problem that all independent comic creators and publishers have. It’s very difficult to get our work into the hands of people who might enjoy it. Comic shops are driven by their need to satisfy their customers. These customers tend to want the latest superhero comic from Marvel or DC, and a few of these expect the variant covers or the incentive covers. Comic shops have little cash left over after buying all of these comics to try something new, to take a gamble. Comic Conventions are our main outlet and we do pretty well at them. Kickstarter helps fund the projects and gets our work out to the likes of the USA (although we have done some Cons over there) and Australia. It’s all about cash flow. We need to sell enough of what we have in order to be able to produce more.
SFP: The artwork in most of the books have seen from you is really strong and unique to each of your creations. How much of a process is it for you to find the right artist and how much back and forth is there when it comes to story and visuals in terms of that right balance?
Dave West: I’ve been lucky. Really lucky. If an artist’s work really strikes me then I’ll work with them on something that I know they would love to draw. The Wolfmen with Andy Bloor came from a doodle (I say doodle but it was a fabulous little drawing) in his notebook. It was Andy who approached Gary Crutchley with WesterNoir as he just couldn’t fit it in and Gary and I then took the initial concept in a completely different direction. INDIO! worked on a short story in one of our anthologies and he and I then took that short story and are almost finished on the 7 issue Stephenson’s Robot that it became. The Blessed Cursed one-shots are the exception. I tend to have a story and then just wait for an artist to come along. Kia Wordsmith was an idea I’d had for a while but it needed the right artist. It needed Ian Ashcroft.
SFP: From the little have been able to read about your work in a very short time. I can easily see your creations working well on TV, Film, or in Video games. So am wondering if there is a particular one of your creations that you’d personally like to see get adapted for Film, TV, or Video Games, and who could you see voicing some of your characters?
Dave West: I’ve been approached by people who wanted to make Whatever Happened To The World’s Fastest Man? into a movie, then someone was interested in making a movie of WesterNoir and more recently a TV series of the Blessed / Cursed line. Nothing has happened with any of those so far. I don’t hold my breath. I love making comics. If anything else happens then that’d be very cool, but it’s a bonus.
SFP: Aside from Kia Wordsmith, which sounds like a fun mix of magic, science, and the supernatural. What other things if any do you have in the pipeline?
Dave West: Ha. I think I’ve got enough going on The problem is that I really have too many ideas but comics take a while. The writing is actually the easy bit. The artist has the hardest part in my view. Then I need to get it coloured (I colour Stephenson’s Robot myself to keep costs down), then it needs to be lettered and finally printed. I have another Blessed / Cursed story drawn and greyscaled, but can’t really afford to print it yet. I have the last issue of Stephenson’s Robot to colour and letter. I’ve written the third issue of Kia Wordsmith which is with Ian to illustrate and WesterNoir (which I leave mostly to Gary) is rolling on. Andy Bloor is looking to finish our Wolfmen trilogy, which would be great. To keep me occupied whilst all of that is going on around me I have started to try writing Whatever Happened To The World’s Fastest Man? as a book. We’ll see how that goes.
SFP: Finally. UK Comics and Comics, in general, are in a bit of an unusual place of late with COVID 19 and everything that’s happened in recent months. Once we are all out of lockdown. Where do you see comics going in say 5 to 10 years’ time?
Dave West: Blimey. That’s a question and a half. I think the major companies will reduce their comic output and concentrate on the much more lucrative movie and merchandise markets. I think Comic shops will struggle to keep their customer base and will turn to the likes of Funkos and movie merchandise. I think comics will move more and more to subscription models and platforms like Kickstarter. It’s a bit gloomy if I’m honest. Whatever does happen we’ll keep doing what we love doing, almost regardless. Independent Comic creators are a pretty thick-skinned bunch.
SciFiPulse would like to thank Dave West for his generosity for agreeing to do this interview with us. You can learn more about Dave and his work by checking out the links below, which include his current Kickstarter Campaign for issue 2 of Kia Wordsmith.
- Kia Wordsmith #2 Kickstarter
- Find Kia Wordsmith Artist Ian Ashcroft on Instagram