Talkin' about Super! and Below Zero

Rapid City Below Zero writer Josh Dahl recently talked with the people make the comic book series Super! about making comics.

Josh: Hi, who are you

Laurie:  Hey Josh!  I’m Laurie Foster, the inker, editor, and co-owner for Unlikely Heroes Studios and our book, Super!  How about you, who are you and what is your current project? :)

Josh: I’m Josh Dahl. I write and publish Rapid City Below Zero. That’s a super villain revenge drama.

My book is fairly “high concept” (a villain-on-villain revenge story with a female lead)... What sets your book apart from other superhero books?


Laurie:  Josh, I’m gonna pause this one sec and bring in Zack and Justin [Piatt], who write the book and will give some better answers than me!

Piatt: Villain on Villain revenge story with a female lead doesn’t sound too high concept. It’s a revenge story, and then you tweaked it from there. I think a lot of the best stories can be summed up into a phrase or core idea, and if you can’t, there’s trouble! :)

There’s a lot that sets Super! apart. Yeah, we’ve got tons of brand new Supers all using their powers in crazily imagined ways (i’d pay to see what goes on in Zack’s head for 5 minutes!), but our Supers are different. For starters, they age, as evidenced by the old-age home for Retired Superbeings (Super! issue 4!). That really hasn’t been done before because superhero comics are thought to go on forever. Think about it, in Spider Man, Aunt May has been nine-thousand years old since the ‘60’s! That’s insane.

More than that, our story is going to build to an awesome conclusion - and superhero stories that nail the ending are really rare indeed. We’re going to be able to shout “hey Superman, where’s your ending?” because if the whole planet being destroyed thing wasn’t enough to depress good ol’ Clark, out-comicing him most certainly will (in a certain 4th wall breaking way).

My turn? Yeah, my turn! Josh, it kind of seems like Rapid City Below Zero is the opposite of Super!, something a little more serious instead of light-hearted. Zack’s more of a comic buff than I am so I haven’t read all that much dark and gritty or serious comics, and when I have, they usually involved Batman or the Punisher or someone without powers. Am I right in thinking that you’re going for something a little on the serious-side, and if so, can you talk about what it was like mixing superpowers with a serious tone (Rapid City has legitimate super-beings, right?)


Josh- I hadn’t thought of it like that, but yeah, Below Zero might be the opposite of Super! It is dark, and heavy, and not much fun/ Unless you get some kind of thrill out of watching selfish, violent, powerful, individuals drag each other down into destruction.

To me, telling stories about super characters with a dark tone, and dark subject matter, just makes perfect sense. I take superheroes and super villains very seriously. These characters can fit into any kind of story. Fun, scary, exciting, silly, sad, compelling. Rapid City Below Zero just happens to be on the darker end of that spectrum.

Both comics are currently being Kickstarted. Please consider backing them.

Super! and Rapid City Below Zero.

Appetite for Discussion

Last night, I went down to the offices of Dig Boston and was interviewed by Ashley Amber Bottoms on her Unregular Radio show Bottoms Up: Appetite for Discussion.AAB and Josh She asked me all about Rapid City and how it came to be. It was super fun. But one of the most exciting parts (for me) was near the end when we got a call from a guy who could not get the show to play on his computer and was trying to work out why. The caller and I talked about the comics that he likes for a few minutes before I realized who it was. It was Kav!

He and I have only worked online and have never actually talked before! So, that was our first auditory meeting!

On the way home, it occurred to me that there is an episode of DECOMPRESSED that Kav and I really like where Keiron Gillen talks to the creative team of Hawkeye. Hawkeye is a book that Kav and I really like. And on that episode... Matt Fraction and David Aja actually speak for the first time.

How cool is that?

Michael Lark on Breaking in. 9/5/12

pretty good Michael Lark interview -I found one part especially telling as I have been saying this myself for years:

"The thing to remember about drawing is that it’s a verb, not a noun. The ONLY reason to be doing it is because you like the verb. If you want to have done a drawing, then you’re doing it for the wrong reason. And if you’re doing it only to get paid, then you’re doing it for the wrong reason. The process is all that matters, and you’re going to be spending all your time doing the verb, so you better enjoy that part of it!

If you’re aspiring to do this for a living, you need to be prepared to start working at the minor league level. If you think you’re going to go straight to inking or doing art for Marvel and DC, I’m afraid that’s not how it usually works, at least in my experience. It takes a while to develop your own style and to cultivate the discipline to work at their level. So, self-publish, work for small publishers, and get as much experience as you can – it will pay off in a longer and more satisfying career in the end. Those who go straight from obscurity to stardom rarely have much longevity, which is too bad. Were they given more time to develop, that probably wouldn’t happen.

I think the other important part is to discover how YOU draw – I see way too many young artists who are just trying to draw like they’ve always seen in comics. Stop looking at comics, and start looking at real life. Then translate what you see into black and white lines and shapes. It takes lots and lots of practice, and most of us will never get it “right” 100% of the time. Shoot, I’m lucky if I come close 20% of the time. The constant trying and pushing forward and learning and growing is what matters."

I always said you have to draw every day and train yourself to produce at least 22 pages a month or you're gonna crash and burn Josh- and now Michael Lark confirms this is indeed what happens...


Decompressed podcast

I have been listening to Kieron Gillen's podcast, Decompressed. It is, without a doubt, the best thing I have ever heard on the craft of making comics.

It is a writer talking to other comics creators about the craft of making comics. I have heard some good writing podcasts where a writer simply gives advice, or podcasts where creators tell stories from behind the scenes, and there are others (like ifanboy's Make Comics)... and they are great. But none of them do what Decompressed does.

Decompressed is comics creators discussing the application of theory to the craft of making comics. Form first-day novice to Comics Grand Champion, you have something to gain from discussions like these.

I wish there were new ones every single day.

If you make comics, go listen to these. -Josh