Writer Ross May and artist Brett Wood talk about Devil Dealers, their new graphic novel from Markosia Enterprises.
Launched earlier this year by UK-based publisher Markosia Enterprises, Devil Dealers is a graphic novel about a group of gamblers who’ve wagered with the Devil and won, acquiring unique treasures and powers in the process. Together, this mismatched team search for the legendary notebook of Faust, which contains secrets to the afterlife. Currently available on comiXology and in print at Quick Comics as well as finer bookstores, the 128-page book is written by Saskatchewan-based writer Ross May (Tales of the TMNT, Cereal: Geek) and features pencils by Ohio artist Brett Wood (The Silver Bullet).
We recently caught up with the creative duo online and below is a transcript of our interview:
Comixverse: The idea of the Faustian “deal with the devil” has a long tradition in folklore around the world, one that pre-dates Goethe’s Faust itself. It’s been expressed in various ways through the ages, in classic short stories such as Washington Irving’s “The Devil and Tom Walker” and Stephen Vincent Benét’s “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” to the rumors about violinist Niccolo Paganini and blues guitarist Robert Johnson, and in modern popular entertainment like the Charlie Daniels Band’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” films like The Devil’s Advocate, and comics like Ghost Rider and Spawn. What is it about this particular narrative motif that appeals to you as storytellers?
Ross May: Wow, you mentioned just about every source, didn’t you? It’s an interesting idea, being able to barter your soul for wealth or magic or what have you. And as you just pointed out, there’s a lot of great source material to draw inspiration from. Personally, I’ve always thought Faust was an idiot. Part of the reason he sells his soul is that he thinks his soul is worthless. He figures he’s getting one up on Mephistopheles. But (a) he’s just proved demons exist, and (b) anyone who takes you up on a deal must know the trade is good for them. Faust might have thought he was smart, but he sure was a lousy businessman.
CV: How did the two of you end up collaborating with each other? Did you know each other before starting work on Devil Dealers?
Brett Wood: Ross contacted me via email after seeing some of my art online and sent me the script. After reading the descriptions of the characters, I realized Ross could write really well. So I decided I’d do it. So yeah, we didn’t know each other before Devil Dealers.
CV: What is the collaborative process on Devil Dealers like? Do you work from a full, finished script or is the work done “Marvel Method”-style, where the plot is first handed to the artist to break down/storyboard and illustrate before the writer comes in again to do the dialogue?
RM: I wrote a full script for Devil Dealers. I can’t say enough good things about working with Brett, both in bringing this story to life and in some story elements he contributed. There’s a couple lines he suggested that are very good.
BW: Ross had a finished script for me to work from and I’d get a tight rough page down and then send them to Ross for him to review and let me know his thoughts. Doing The Silver Bullet [using] the Marvel Method, it was quite a change for me to work from a full script.
CV: Are there any format-specific challenges in working on a full-length original graphic novel like Devil Dealers? Obviously, there’s the increased volume of work, but in terms of pacing out the story and breaking it down, how is it different or similar to working on a serial comic?
RM: The story was actually written as five 22 page comics. It just happens that the publisher, Markosia, works in graphic novels and digital. You’re not the first reader to miss that there are story breaks and instead read this only as one bigger whole. That must mean Brett and I did our jobs!
I don’t know about Brett, and other members of the team like [inker] Victor Moya [inks] and [colorist] Kirsty Swan, but I didn’t find it much different. It just required more time and dedication from everyone involved, for which I’m extremely grateful. Brett especially saw something in this weird idea I had, and devoted a lot of time and talent to seeing it through.
BW: Well it was a ton of work to pencil so many pages. Doing The Silver Bullet comic which I did nine issues for, you could see the light at the end of the tunnel after 20 pages of each issue. But with Devil Dealers I had to just keep cranking out pages. I’d do about a page a day and at the time I was unemployed so I treated it like my full-time job.
RM: I pitched to Harry Markos—guess who the company is named after—and he wanted it! Simple as that. I don’t think a lot of North Americans will be familiar with Markosia, but they’re doing cool things over in the UK. A couple of their properties have been picked up for television, which is cool to hear.
CV: Ross, you’ve previously worked as a writer on Mirage’s Tales of the TMNT, alongside Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Peter Laird. What was the experience like, and what did you learn from working with one of independent comics’ true legends?
RM: Writing for Ninja Turtles was a thrill because it’s a famous property, but even more important for me was the turtles were a big part of my childhood! And like you say, I worked with people whose work I had grown up with. Steve Murphy, who wrote most of Archie’s TMNT Adventures under the pen name Dean Clarrain, and Chris Allan who drew a lot of that series. And then Peter Laird, which was obviously just great. I have my first Turtles‘ comic framed and signed by all of them.
Lessons learned? I think I started working on Ninja Turtles already prepared. Hopefully I’m always learning new things as a storyteller, but if you want to be an actor you better be ready for any role that might come your way, and an athlete should be training for the majors, or in my case a writer needs to have the chops to tackle any story or property. Since then I’ve had the chance to work on things like The Real Ghostbusters, another childhood favorite of mine, so you never know what might turn up.
CV: Brett, please tell us a little bit about your art process on Devil Dealers. Do you do particularly “tight” and detailed pencils or do you leave room for your inker on the book (Victor Moya, assisted by Ayela Moya) to interpret your line a little bit? What tools and image manipulation software (if any) do you regularly employ?
BW: Thats a great question. On Devil Dealers I would do small thumbnails of the pages and panel breakdowns. Then I’d scan them in using Photoshop and resize them to 11″ x17″ and then I’d print those out in blue line and draw finished pencils over top of the blue line. Victor would then ink over my tight pencils. Which he did a fantastic job of.
CV: Are either of you on the comics convention circuit? If so, where will you be appearing next and if not, where on the social media sphere can readers and fans reach out to you?
RM: For the next year or so you can find me at home, looking after my baby boy, Scott! I’ve been a father for a week now, and am through with traveling for a while.
But since we live in the future, I’m not very hard to find @rossmaywriter on Twitter or at www.rossmaywriter.com. Better still, people can check out www.devildealers.com where you can find where to buy digital and print copies of the book. Help support my son’s college education!
BW: I’ve been hitting a few cons. I did C2E2 in Chicago and have done a few Wizard World Ohios. But the only con I have lined up right now is the Cincinnati ComiCon which is a fun one in September. [Brett Wood’s work can be seen at brettawood.blogspot.ca and on deviantART. On Twitter, he is @BrettAWood—ed.]