After working together on projects like the all-ages Star Wars: Return to Vader’s Castle title, Cavan Scott and Nick Brokenshire continue their partnership with Dead Seas, a six-issue miniseries that was announced earlier this year as part of the first wave of titles from IDW Publishing’s new Originals line.
Dead Seas merges horror, science fiction, action and corporate greed in a story about a convict-turned-reluctant-hero, who finds himself trapped with guards, pirates and his fellow convicts on a prison ship filled with ghosts. Scott and Brokenshire hit the familiar tropes from each genre while at the same time taking a unique approach to the subject matter, particularly regarding how the ghosts appear on our plane. If the rest of the series is as fun as the first issue, we’re all in for a treat.
The first issue arrives in stores Dec. 21, and Scott and Brokenshire were kind enough to answer a few questions about it.
Cavan and Nick, thank you for your time in doing this interview. I thought I’d start with your secret origins — how did each of you first discover comics?
Cavan Scott: It was largely through the myriad of weekly humour comics that we had in the UK, things like The Beano, Dandy, Nutty, and Whizzer and Chips. From there I discovered the many superhero titles that Marvel UK pushed out every week and 2000AD, which opened my eyes to the wider world of comics. The real Damascus Road experience was finding my first DC comic, an issue of DC Comics Presents featuring Superman, The Green Lantern and the New Teen Titans. DC’s titles weren’t readily available in the UK at the time, and most of the heroes were completely unknown to me. But I wanted more, so I ventured into my first specialized comic store. It was like stepping into a new world, and I haven’t looked back since!
Nick Brokenshire: Very similar for me. I read The Beano, The Dandy and Whizzer and Chips as a child. Then from the age of 10 or 11 onwards I read 2000AD, The Eagle and Starblazer. The occasional DC or Marvel reprint would cross my path, but that was rare. When I was 15, I discovered Moebius and Druillet when my school library was getting rid of a bunch of stuff. Then around 15 or 16, I stumbled into my first comic shop (the only one in Aberdeen) and discovered everything else. I jumped into Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen as they were being released. I did lean toward DC and Vertigo, but I did have some Marvel faves. I always loved Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer, as well as Daredevil and some X-Men. Batman was my guy though. Yep. Then I discovered Love And Rockets, and I never looked back.
You’ve both spent a lot of time creating stories in different universes — Star Wars, Teen Titans, Transformers — which have their own set rules and guidelines attached to them. Is it appealing then to be able to create a world with your own set of rules, and do you approach the work differently on something like Dead Seas vs. a story in a galaxy far, far away?
Cavan: The first thing I do is set my own rules and guidelines! Good stories need those perameters, which obviously you can later break, but they’re essential for world-building. You need to know what works, and what doesn’t.
Nick: For sure. We certainly did a lot of figuring out of the rules very early and throughout the development. Even now, we tweak the system here and there to spice up the story. It’s tons of fun. Working on a property like Star Wars helps in understanding how to work within the rules of universe. Often it’s when you butt up against those rules that you discover new storytelling options. It’s very interesting.
Could you talk a little bit about your influences going into a story like this? It has that “disaster” feel built into the premise, where you know something’s going to go wrong, and of course the horror elements. But the “evil corporation” putting profits over lives kind of gave me an Aliens vibe.
Cavan: Ha! You’ve pretty much described the inside of my head. Disasters, monsters and Aliens! Dead Seas is heavily influenced by the disaster movies of the 1970s, all of which I thought would have been even better if they included ghosts! There’s a little bit of Ghostbusters in there too, as well as various prison movies.
Nick: I was certainly giving the nod to Ghostbusters for sure. And Aliens as you say. Beetlejuice most definitely. I am hugely influenced by manga and anime. I particularly like how Japanese creators have an unfettered approach to their storytelling. There’s often a very restrained and grounded component to their stories and then they go completely insane. For Dead Seas I’m drawing a bit from Berserk and Urotsukidoji, as well bits of Akira and Death Note.
Nick, I love the designs of the ghosts in the first issue. What were you going for in creating them?
Nick: In part I’m guided by the rules of our world in that the spectres are manifestations of the person’s psyche at the time of death – not just a faded photocopy of their body. They are psychic projection of shattered consciousness. The Id, The Ego and Super-Ego mashed through the process of dying and recombined into this horrendous manifestation. Also, part of it is me trying to draw something I haven’t seen before, and better still – something that makes me feel somewhat queasy even though I’ve just drawn it!
Cavan, speaking of ghosts, I know you studied theology. Since this comic does deal with the afterlife, did your studies have any influence on your work here?
Cavan: Not so much my university studies, but I am obsessed with folklore so I did delve into the many books I’ve collected over the years. Nick and I were keen to create our own folklore for the world of Dead Seas, working out why the ghosts look the way they do and what that says about the people they were when they were alive.
How did you end up working with IDW on this project, and what’s it like being part of their broader “Originals” initiative/comics line?
Cavan: I’ve done a lot of work with IDW over the years, from Star Wars to Star Trek and lots of things in between, and after Transformers / Back To the Future, I was asked if there were any original ideas I’d like to pitch. Nick and I had been working on Dead Seas for a while — although it was called “Ghost Ship” at that point, I think — and IDW seemed a perfect home for our tale of supernatural disaster on the open seas. My first experience reading IDW was through the Steve Niles horror books of the early 2000s, so it’s great to see them returning to their horror roots. And what a great lineup of creators! It’s an honor to be included in that roster!
Nick: I’ve been working with IDW since around 1952 when they published my first comic series Amelia Cole. Five volumes of me learning to make comics while juggling a day job (high school teacher). FIVE volumes, you guys. I have IDW to thank for a lot of good things. They brought me on board for Star Wars Adventures and we’ve been working closely since then. It’s a wonderful honor to be part of the Originals line-up. So many ace creators and great storytelling!
What can fans expect from the rest of the series?
Cavan: More weird and wonderful ghosts. More revelations about our casts’ past. Oh and pirates. Really cool pirates.
Nick: Some twists and turns. Hey, I literally cried at my drawing desk at one point. You have that to come. Twisted sisters. Bloated blokes. Washed up weirdos. Vomity violence? Is “vomity” a word? It should be.
Besides Dead Seas, what else are you working on at the moment?
CS: I’m just finishing up Titans United: Bloodpact over at DC and am continuing with my work on Star Wars: The High Republic, both the ongoing comic series from Marvel and my next novel in the series, Path of Vengeance, which hits next May. Away from comics and books, I’ve been busy setting up a production company with my fellow Star Wars writer George Mann and we’ve got some really exciting projects on the go at the moment!
NB: More Star Wars on the horizon and the collected edition of Cold Iron by me and Andy Diggle, which is out in July from Dark Horse. This and that! Bish Bash Bosh!