Smash Pages Q&A: Paul Allor on IDW’s ‘Tet’

Early September saw the release of Paul Allor’s creator-owned series Tet from IDW. Allor was kind enough to give me a brief interview. Enjoy.

Tim O’Shea: You’re very precise with your language consider this advice you give the reviewers Quick tips for people reviewing Tet: Marines should be called Marines, not soldiers. Also, not all opposing forces in Vietnam were Viet Cong  Why are these details so vital to you?

Paul Allor: Honestly, those kinds of small-ish errors in reviews don’t really bother me, but I was seeing them a lot, so I thought it might be worth mentioning. I debated it, but my thinking was, if I was writing a review, I’d want to know. But yeah, no one expects a comics reviewer to be a historian.

For the book itself, though, accuracy was extremely important, and both Paul Tucker and I did a fairly massive amount of research to make sure our story had a sense of verisimilitude, out of respect for the men and women who lived through this conflict.

What is the significance that Paul Tucker gets top billing on the cover?

My personal feeling is that artists should always get top billing in comics. They’re equal storytelling partners, but put in far more time and effort on an individual book. So on my creator-owned books, I always ask my artistic collaborators if they’re cool with their name being first. And in this book in particular, a ridiculous amount of its storytelling success is due to Paul, from his extraordinary covers to his fantastic character work to his amazing use of color as a storytelling tool.

How important  were the consulting editors to your creative process?

Pretty vital. The “consulting” modifier is pretty much just there to indicate that it’s a creator-owned book, and Paul and I have final say over it. But in every other respect, they were like any other editors, offering feedback on scripts and art, serving as sounding boards for any issues we might have, and generally shepherding the project through. I love working with editors. I don’t really understand creators who don’t.

All of the scripts in this book were also workshopped through Comics Experience, which was tremendously helpful, and provided me with a lot of great insight on what was working and what maybe needed a second look.

Did you ever consider delaying the 1984 flashback to a second issue or  was it a critical that have occurred in the first issue?

No, it was always planned for that first issue. The dual timeline structure becomes more important as we go on. And since a big part of the book is about the decades-long journey these three characters take, it was important to establish that scope early in the book. Plus, it fit really well narratively, providing a nice sense of dramatic irony, following Eugene and Ha’s conversation about their future plans, followed immediately by what actually happened. It deepens the mystery, and adds some tension to the story as we launch into the second half of the issue.

How much does social media help you build your audience?

Boy, I wish I had a decent answer for this. I don’t really know. I blab on Twitter a lot – a LOT – but I don’t know how effective it is. I don’t feel like I’m good at building a brand or developing a Twitter persona, or going about it in a deliberate way. It’s just me blabbing. So if it’s helping me build an audience, it’s probably happening despite my efforts, not because of them.

What prompted you to take this creator-owned project to IDW?

I had a really good relationship with both IDW, through my work on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and GI Joe, and with Andy Schmidt, who’s overseeing the Comics Experience imprint. So it seemed like a good fit. Plus, I don’t think anyone else would have published this book. That’s not a dig on Comics Experience/IDW – it’s a compliment. This is a very niche, difficult-to-market book, and they’re very dedicated to putting out good comics, regardless of factors like market accessibility or multimedia potential. I think Andy’s philosophy is that there is a healthy market for great comics, so if you put out great comics, and you work hard to get the word out, the readers will find you. Even if, on paper, it doesn’t seem like a slam-dunk.

Care to discuss Tucker’s coloring style as well as your lettering style? 

Paul’s colors in this book are so amazing. He’s doing so many things with them – using them to set the mood; to establish the different timelines; to get us inside the characters’ heads. He’s using them as an incredibly storytelling device – and honestly, I don’t have the proper vocabulary to discuss it as well as I’d like, or give him the credit he truly deserves.

On the lettering side, I’ve always lettered my own creator-owned books, but I really tried to step up my game on this book, in terms of designing lettering that would mesh well with Paul’s art and advance the storytelling. So that’s how we came up with the rough, off-center narration boxes for our main character, and the text-only boxes, which hopefully give the feeling that you’re inside his head, as the visuals drop away for a moment. You shouldn’t consciously think that, of course, but that’s the mood we’re going for. It was very important to us that the writing, art, coloring and lettering all feel extremely cohesive in this book, that they all work together towards our common storytelling goals. To that end, we designed the visual vocabulary of our story before I’d begun scripting issue #1. And I think it paid off.

Anything else we should discuss 

Probably! But my lunch hour is ending at the ole’ day job.  And thank you for taking the time to discuss it with me. It’s been such a joy to see media, readers and retailers discover and embrace this book. Paul and I are so incredibly proud of it. I hope folks check it out, and if they do, I hope they enjoy it.

Continue reading “Smash Pages Q&A: Paul Allor on IDW’s ‘Tet’”

Smash Pages Q&A: Ed Brisson on Creator-Owned Boom Studios! ‘Cluster’

With issue 7 released of Cluster in early September writer edbrisson was kind enough to grant me an interview for his creator-owned Boom Studios! series.

Written by: Ed Brisson\Illustrated by: Damian Couceiro\Coloured by: Cassie Kelly

Midlothian is on the brink of a full-scale war between GOE and the rebels led by Samara and Grace.

Tim O’Shea: While the bulk of this interview pertains to issue 7, I would love focus on the opening of issue #1 with Samara Simmons’ arrest. How did you decide on that for your open?

Ed Brisson: It felt like a good place to seed the initial mystery of WHY Samara had ended up in prison, which eventually leads her to Midlothian. Love giving the reader just enough info so that we can get on with the story and then slowly doling out details as we go.

Also I love in issue #1, the story beat shown here. 

What prompted you to play it that way?

Samara has a lot of baggage and she’s trying to deal with it in her own way, without any help from others. She could have easily turned to her father and NOT ended up on Midlothian. She could try to make friends in  Tranent to make her time easier, but she didn’t. She’s in a self-imposed exile to pay penance for her crime.

What made you want to tell this original series at BOOM?

It was an idea that I’d been batting around in one form or another since high school. At one point, in early 2014, I’d picked it back up and was working on it and thought that Damian would be an amazing collaborator for it (He and I had done SONS of ANARCHY for BOOM, but had also done a few indie things together, going back to 2004). I was about to draft him an email and, I shit you not, as I was writing it, an email from Eric Harburn (my editor at BOOM) arrived in my inbox asking if I had any interest in doing a creator owned book with Damian at BOOM. It was fate! I told him that I was 100% interested and sent the short pitch for CLUSTER and, well, here we are now.

Who are some of the old-school, hard-boiled action storytellers that inspire you?

I’m a huge crime fan. My favourite authors are Elmore Leonard, Jim Thompson, Richard Stark, Charles Willeford, Richard Price, etc, etc.

I’m also a kid of the VHS generation and am a fan of 80s horror and sci-fi films. I tried to bring a lot of that influence into this book – movies like ALIENS (of course), DEADLOCK (rereleased as WEDLOCK), ROBOCOP, ENEMY MINE, THE BLOOD OF HEROES (basically any sci-fi with Rutger Hauer!). While CLUSTER is, of course, a comic first and foremost, giving it the flavour and feel of an 80s sci-fi flick was important to me.

Damian designed everything you see in the book. He’s responsible for bringing that feel to it. CLUSTER would be nothing without that.

Were there other names you considered or was the Punch always the Punch?

It was always The Punch. I like that it works two ways: that it’s your punch/time card and that if you mess with it, you’re gonna get hurt.

Compare the early issues to issue 7, which characters have grown on you?

McHenry is a character that really grew on me. He’s an awesome unstoppable force. If we were ever to do more CLUSTER, I’d love to do his origin story. Milton, one of the Pagurani, was a lot of fun to write, mostly because he doesn’t talk. His primary mode of communication is a big thumbs up.

I was struck at the scene were multiple dead bodies are draped next to active soldiers. Can you talk about not shying away from the casualties of war.

In that scene in particular, I just wanted to get across the idea that McHenry was this deadly bad ass that is not to be messed with. He’s not the type of guy who’s going to try and escape by sneaking around, he’s going to escape by cutting a path through anything (and anyone) that stands in his way.

I think it’s also important to pull back and show scenes like this sometimes to show what the actual devastation looks like. I mean, you can have a spaceship dog fight and ships explode and it becomes almost like a videogame, where once an avatar is killed, they just vanish. We really wanted to show that there are victims. There are bodies. People who once were are no longer. There’s a real devastation to this level of war and that should always be something that we think about – otherwise, why does the rest of it matter?

Do have anything else on the creator-owned horizon?

Well, although I can’t say much about it just yet, CLUSTER isn’t it for me and BOOM. Not long after it wraps, I’ll be writing a new creator owned book with them, due out in very early 2016, I believe. In fact, after this interview, I’m back onto writing the script for it. I’m very excited to get down to work on it and I think people are going to really dig it.

BUT, I can’t get into details! Just keep your peepers peeled.C