Barbra Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: Your series, Lou Scannon, tells the story of a soldier-turned-space mercenary trying to make his way through the galaxy. What inspired you to create this series and what can you tell us about the series’ protagonist?
Kris Carter: Well, Dan originally came up with the idea back in 2001ish, as part of an animated film for the course we were all doing back in those days. So, as much as I’d like to claim credit for the creation of the characters and the mythos, I’m afraid I can’t! But, I’ve been lucky enough to have Dan let me play with his toys and the sandpit. Lou is a good guy, with an edge to him that can sometimes be a little too blunt. Yeah, he’s out to make a buck, but not at the expense of his morals. Or at least, not too much expense.
Dan Harris: To be completely honest, it originally spawned from just a small sketch in one of my many sketchbooks at uni. I used to draw various different characters and one day I drew a sci-fi type dude who I ended up building and building and building upon. I then had to do my third year film and decided to do it based on this little science fiction guy I had called “Lou Scannon.”
Lou is a loveable fool. He plays the bada-- and can be quite cold if he has to be but really he has a heart of gold. His main aim in the serious is to basically find out who he is and where he has come from. It’s a typical story of self discovery. With knob jokes.
Jim Bampfield: Well, the idea is Dan’s but I was honoured to be there during the development of the idea during our Animation Degree days. Even to the point of providing some of the voices of the characters in Dan’s final animated film in my opinion enhancing the overall characterization and quality exponentially.
BD: Lou Scannon features quite a few references to classic sci-fi films and TV shows. How did the sci-fi genre influence the creation of your characters and story?
KC: From my point of view, the biggest influence sci-fi has had on this book is in how it affects my approach to writing and plotting. Sit-coms like Red Dwarf and the not-exactly sci-fi, but reference-heavy Spaced are a huge influence in how I initially pace and construct stories. Of course, we also love to pepper the books with refs to our fave shows too - issue 4 is a shining example!
DH: I grew up on science fiction. I’m lucky enough to have a father who is somewhat geeky himself (though I think he despairs of how far I have taken my “geekness”) and he got me in to Star Wars, Star Trek, the original BSG, and all the other classics. I particularly love the original The Day the Earth Stood Still film. So the genre as a whole has inspired me I guess you could say. It’s sort of hard with writing Sci-Fi because… Well, how ,do you do something that hasn’t already been done? We try our best to avoid things that have been done to death but when we can’t? Well, we just mock the hell out of them. Lovingly, of course.
The characters themselves though, don’t solely come from sci-fi. There are elements from various other genres that we like to incorporate. The overall story has a lot more to it that we have let on so far too. Despite it being sci-fi I think of it more in a Greek epic sort of style. But then, I know how it all finishes.
JB: Coming from the Animation background that we do I can safely say we are all huge fans of Star Wars. But I think the best thing about us is we cover a wide range of sci-fi tastes from Starship Troopers to Disney’s The Black Hole via Red Dwarf. But we don’t just look to sci-fi for inspiration. We are fortunate between us to have a wealth of literary and pop-culture knowledge to draw upon.
BD: Everyone on the team has had a chance in some way to be a co-writer, artist, colorist, etc. for Lou Scannon. Did you find that one aspect of the creative process was more challenging (or more natural) for you?
KC: Most natural for me personally would be the writing, and the colouring/shading. The writing is a natural extension of what I’ve been doing for years, and I’m a fairly established colourist having previously worked for IDW, Titan, BBC Books, and other publishers across a raft of titles including Doctor Who and Transformers. The most challenging aspects are drawing it (just compare issue 1 to the rest - I do think my art pales in comparison to Dan’s!), and I also find lettering a huge pain in the arse, but it’s got to be done.
DH: Well, the writing is a collaborative effort. We write the individual issues together, but the overall story is something I have written over the last ten plus years. There’s a start, a middle, and an end. I find this sort of thing natural but when it came to trying to figure out where to start the comic, timeline wise, I sort of got a writer’s block. Kris helped me get out of this with issue 1.
Pencilling and inking are my favourite parts though. I love how much more you can emphasise the passion someone wants to convey in a written word with just one slight change to the positioning of an eyebrow or the width of an open mouth.
JB: We’ve known each other for so long now that working together really does come naturally. We all have similar interests and influences but we all have something individual to bring to the table. That keeps it fresh and exciting. It’s a great creative collaboration and best of all we have a proper laugh.
BD: Can you tell us about the process of working with the creative team and the contributions of these individuals?
KC: Well, Dan is the guy who has the biggest veto on ideas and story concepts, as the book is his vision, but his vision with myself and Jim distorting it and bending it in places! We write it as a very cohesive and open group. The three of us will brainstorm ideas, one of us then writes up a first draft, and the others then re-write and adjust until we’re happy. Dan then will generally take hold of all the art duties, Jim flats the pages, and I shade them. Once that’s done, Jim works up some of the background content while I letter and Dan answers the letters page. Ongoing, a new chap by the name of HdE is on board to help with the lettering, and he makes his debut on issue 5. I then pull the book together for final proofing in InDesign, and Jim and Dan proof it and make edits as needed. We’re all hands on for this.
DH: Basically they’re both fame hungry parasites, riding on the coat tails of my brilliance. Actually, it’s a lot of fun working with Kris and Jim. They’ve both been good friends of mine for pretty much half of my life now so the fact that we can work on something like this together and have yet to kill each other can only be a good sign. We meet regularly to discuss our progress with the current issue and discuss reprints etc.
Without Kris, I don’t think we would be making the comic now, as although I created it, it was Kris who gave me the kick up the arse I needed to make sure it actually got out there for people to actually see and read.
Without Jim, the comic wouldn’t be half as funny as it is now either. He has the knack for rounding off a sentence that… just isn’t quite there yet. He’s a great finisher. He also looks uncannily like Harold Ramis.
JB: Well….the overall idea is of course Dan’s. He’s the got all the knowledge on the universe and backstory. A bit like a Lou Scannon Wikipedia on legs. That said we all come together to write a story outline. That is then turned into a script, usually by Kris, which we then redraft together to sharpen the story, and remove all the WW2 Fighter Pilot dialogue that Kris uses, until we are happy that it has the right balance of action, drama and humour. Dan usually takes up the biggest chunk of the art work while I and Kris sort the colouring and shading. We also put together the extra content which is something we feel passionately about including as a reward to the readers.
BD: As you have already released Issues #1 through #4 of the series, are you already at work on the next issue, and how many total issues do you foresee for the series?
KC: Yep - we’ve just released #5, with a little help from our latest team member, letterer extraordinaire HdE! Total issues - well, it could run and run. We know the ending. We know bits in the middle. I personally think we could tell a good tale inside of 36 issues, Dan feels it could be much more. We could easily generate enough story to fit 60 issues.
DH: As for how many issues, Kris keeps saying 60 when we meet up, but I always foresaw there being more than that. With that in mind though, at the rate we’re going at producing the comics, I think we’d all be dead before the end of the story if we aimed for as many issues as I would like.
JB: Issue 5 has been written by my fair hand. We have the story for issue six waiting to be developed into a script as well as the basis for the second story arc. There are enough ideas for a really epic story which I think people would really enjoy. Then, when the saga is complete, we’ll sell it to Hollywood and get rich! Oh yeah!
BD: Given that you are based in the UK, have you been able to glean audience reaction to Lou Scannon from both the UK and the US?
KC: The joy of the internet! International reaction has been very good. We’ve sold the bulk of the book in the UK, but we’ve sold (via our site www.louscannon.co.uk) to Ireland, the Netherlands, Australia, Cyprus, and the USA, so it’s building a decent following, and everyone’s been very positive about it. It’s humbling and gratifying at the same time!
DH: Yeah… We’ve had folk from all over the world read Scannon and feedback has always been positive. Which is nice! We would like to reach more people in the States though so… If anyone reading this is based Stateside and knows or is a stockist of small press, get in touch with us and maybe we can touch you. Right in your heart. You big softie, you.
UK reception has been fantastic, too. Far better than we could have hoped really! Though I still haven’t been able to get my dad to read a single bloody copy.
JB: Firstly, I’d like to thank everyone who supports us. From family and friends to the loyal readership. It’s a really rewarding experience. The reaction from the audience has been amazing. People really seem to connect with the characters and the story. It is selling internationally and we always try and keep that audience in mind without losing out British sense of humour. I think we manage to strike a fair balance.
BD: Being that we focus on all things “geek” at Fanboy Comics, would you care to geek out with us about your favorite comic books and graphic novels?
KC: I don’t read comics really. I pick up IDW’s Transformers now and then, and that’s it. I enjoy sit-coms more. Currently, I’ve been really loving the return of Red Dwarf, and the political satire of The Thick of It.
DH: Oh jeez, how much time have you got? Well, I am a big fan of Preacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. That has to be one of the greatest comics of all time.
Jeff Smith’s Bone is such a good fantasy tale that I think it’s a crying shame it has yet to be made in to a series of animated features. It’s phenomenal. I used to work in a comic shop where folk would say, “Err no I’m not reading that! It’s in black and white.” Which used to wind me up something chronic as you are missing out on one hell of a treat if that’s the only reason you’re refusing to read Bone.
Sandman by Neil Gaiman and it’s spinoff Lucifer by Mike Carey are just incredible reads. I’ve met Mike too and have to say he is one of the loveliest, friendliest guys. Very approachable.
I’m currently loving House of Mystery, too, by Vertigo. I like comics that can play with mythology and theology and fantasy. Mash them all up in to one and whisk you away. That’s good story telling.
Barry Ween: Boy Genius is one of Judd Winick’s earlier works, and it is just so funny that if you can read it and not laugh out loud heartily? Well, sir, you are dead inside.
JB: Well obviously Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns are in the list. I am also really into the Marvel Ultimate universe especially Ultimate Spider-Man. Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass is another favourite of mine. I’m also partial to a bit of Batman. I love the classic stuff especially Jim Aparo’s artwork, but I also enjoyed the recent Batman and Robin stuff and the New 52 Court of Owls.
BD: What is the most important piece of advice that you can offer to comic book fans, young and old, who aspire to work in the comic book industry?
KC: Don’t think about making your book. MAKE your book. Prove to editors that you’ve got the drive and commitment to a project; it’s a great calling card. Also, just be a polite, pleasant person. Common sense that last one I guess... oh, and if someone offers you good constructive criticism, heed it. Anything to help you improve.
DH: Don’t. Go work in Tesco’s and never have to suffer the crushing feeling that is rejection. Nah, just kidding folks! The only advice I can really give worth a damn is to never give up. Never stop trying. If it’s what you want to do, then it’s what you want to do regardless of how many times you get knocked down, hurt, or trodden on.
Also, never think that you can’t get better. Never ever think that. You should always think you can improve on what you have done so far. Always strive for excellence yet never achieve it. In fact, I always tell myself, the day I look at my work and think that I can never improve on what I have done, I’m going to put down my pencils and never draw again for the day I think that. I’m not an artist anymore.
Be your own worst critic. Be your own biggest supporter.
JB: The best piece of advice I can give is quite simply to go for it. The independent scene is a great place to get your ideas into the comic community. You can get honest and constructive feedback from people just like you which is the best way to develop yourself and your ideas.
BD: On that same note, which creators have inspired your work?
KC: Rob Grant and Doug Naylor. Garth Ennis. Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. Steven Moffat, Simon Furman, and James Roberts. All the above have had some impact on my writing. Art-wise, I love Geoff Senior’s stuff from back in the Eighties, and his new covers for IDW’s Transformers: ReGeneration 1 keep getting better! Also art-wise, I love the cartoony expression that Nick Roche works into his art.
DH: Neil Gaiman is my all-time favourite author. If I could write something with half as much punch as he does, I would be a very happy man. I’d probably also be getting sued by him for copyright or something, too.
Michael Turner. This man is a personal hero of mine. If it wasn’t for him, I would never have thought of comics as something I could ever do myself. He got me back into comics as a teenager and without him my life wouldn’t be where it is right now. I owe him a lot and his death at such a young age is a massive loss to the comics community. It has always been a great regret of mine that I never actually got to meet him in person.
JB: The writing process is probably my real passion. I am a massive Monty Python fan, and I love their surreal and subversive humour. It’s hard not to give credit to George Lucas. Yes, he has not been on top form in recent years, but you can’t deny his revolutionary influence on cinema. Stan Lee and his boundless enthusiasm is always a joy. I could listen to him talk about his inspirations and creative process all day. Oh and Trey Parker. Everything he does is gold.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about the Lou Scannon comic book series?
KC: First of all, swing by the site and read the previews in our Issues section, and people won’t go far wrong! The books form an ongoing narrative, but each issue is a complete stand-alone story, so you can dive in anywhere! We rely on support from the book’s fans to keep getting these things printed, so the more the merrier if people want to get onboard!
DH: READ IT! I guarantee it will be the best comic you have ever read with… that title. It’s got something of a great mix which makes it accessible to more people – comedy, violence, monsters, aliens, sci-fi. In fact, at a convention we were at recently, a girl who was only at the con to keep her boyfriend company picked up LS and read the first two pages and said, “This is actually really funny.” She got involved even though the geek scene wasn’t really her thing. I thought that was great!
An,d if they have any questions, they can always write in and ask us. Or join our official Facebook group or even follow the three of us on Twitter!
The comics are available on our website and also at various different stores around the UK which are also listed on our website for those people who can make the trip out to the shops!
JB: Obviously, check out the website, www.louscannon.co.uk, as well as the Facebook group and Twitter feed. Message us, tweet us, but best of all . . . come and see us in person at the conventions. We are always happy to chat . . . even if I do sit there with my arms crossed. I’m not unapproachable honest; I just like resting my arms.