The market for apocalyptic type comics and movies has been way over saturated.. I had been feeling fatigued from it- too many stories had the same feel. Sure, there's a lot that can happen; betrayals, romance, loss....and all of that can make for great stories- but to me it all tastes the same after awhile. It gets boring. However, two people managed to restore my faith and breathe some fresh air into the subject. Kevin Joseph and David Bishop joined forces to produce Morte, a story set in a post apocalyptic world. First off, this is a silent comic- which automatically gets huge points from me. I love silent comics. I believe that it takes a special talent to be able to write a script describing scenes and then have an artist interpret that vision and work their magic in bringing that to life. Kevin Joseph and David Bishop worked beautifully together on this. I would love to see more from them as a team because I think that their individual talents play off of each other nicely. You can feel the enormous amount of passion that was put into this book. This story takes a different look at an apocalypse situation and poses the question, what do you do when you are the last person standing? How do you cope? I don't want to spoil this comic for you, because I think it's something that is best taken in wholly. But I can tell you this, the man we follow is just trying to restore some normalcy. It's all he can do. And I cried.... I cried so hard when I finally realized what was happening, and it was perfect. It wasn't just perfect because of the story, it was also perfect in presentation. I really felt like David went above and beyond while illustrating this but more so in his color work. He used a dark and intense palate that really gave the vibe of despair, hopelessness, emptiness as we saw corpses piled up, and were exposed to the decay of their flesh. The lighting and mood were set just right to really encapsulate the feelings of horror, sorrow, and loneliness. I had read this initially in a PDF, and recently picked up a copy from the Source Point Press booth at Cherry Capital Comic Con. Having it in print is even better. I interviewed Kevin an David on creating this masterpiece. I encourage you to check out this find comic which can be purchased through Source Point Press directly and available in comic shops beginning in July- preorder code is MAY181980.
How did you two end up working together?
Kevin: We had heard about each other's work on Jason Clark's An Elegant Weapon Podcast. Through that we introduced ourselves on twitter and eventually I read a pdf of, "Of Stone." I came away impressed with the way he could convey deep characterization in "quiet" moments of the story. He didn't know it, but he went on my, "Hope to Work With Some Day" artist list immediately.
David: Yes. Without Jason's podcast I think it's less likely we would have known about each other. Jason suggested I check out Kevin's comic, "Tart." So I read it and loved it. It was a really cool story and so we began following each other on social media. It was a mutual appreciation of each other's work. After New York Comic Con, Kevin dropped me an email about an idea he had for a one-shot story. I let him know I would be interested and he sent me his script soon afterwards. I had no idea what to expect, but when I read it I knew it was something I had to do. We had no idea at the time what we were going to do with it but we just wanted to make it.
Kevin can you please explain what your scripting process was like for Morte? Could we see a sample of the script?
The first draft wasn't really a draft, but a Beat Sheet. Morte (we just call him Morte, but it's been fun to
see people naming him themself)
does this. Next he does this. Next he does
When I had all of the beats down, I drew out the action "badly" to see how
many pages I had written. It was pretty long so I had to
cut it back to the 24 page story we have now.
Kevin, would you say this challenged you as a writer?
Kevin: Writing a silent comic would have challenged me, if I knew that's what I was doing when I started. It's scary to think about now, and I've already done one.
But the fact is this wasn't envisioned as a silent comic. The story hit me and I was halfway through the beat sheet before I realized there hadn't been any dialogue or narration. I stopped and thought about it. There is no one to talk to. And Morte has been on his mission for a while now, so he's talked himself out.
And David what was it like for you interpreting a silent script and translating that into art?
David: One of the exciting things about drawing a silent comic, is the fact that I got to use 100% of the space for my art. One of the most daunting things, however, is that I had to use 100% of the space for my art. I couldn't "cheat" much and that was a big challenge. I think one of the things about the typical comic is that the script can help some of the panels that may come off as relatively dry. The big challenge was trying to make each panel relevant. There was a lot of redrawing of panels.
This was the first time I had drawn something with Kevin, so I had no idea what the script was going to look like. I know a lot of writers can write in a variety of ways, but Kevin was very descriptive when he needed to be, and very specific about a few items. I wanted to make sure the lines of communication were open at all time so I feel like I was constantly sending him things to approve or preview just to make sure I was living up to his expectations. Sometimes I changed panels that weren't exactly what Kevin had written but I always made sure he knew when I was changing something and sent it to him for approval before I moved ahead with it.
It's important for a writer to trust their artist, but I don't think that should be a license for an artist to change whatever they want. Making a comic as a team needs to be a collaborative effort and all parties need to be happy with the final result. The artist also has to trust the vision of the writer as well. There were a couple of suggestions that I made that Kevin graciously shot down, but only because they didn't fit his vision of the book and I think it is better for it.
Kevin, is this a One-Shot or a continuing series?
Kevin: This is definitely a one-shot that currently we have no plans to return to. I'd work with David again in a second, but I wouldn't want to diminish the power of this comic by returning to it without a very important reason/story to tell. I'm not into absolutes, but right now, I think this story is finished.
You know I have to tell you guys that this was a wonderful experience for me I think that the this genre has just been completely overrun into the ground and here you manage to restore my faith in it and bring something new. So with that I have to ask, did you know it was going to be about the zombies when you started? (I have since been corrected. They are not zombies but rather mummified corpses)
Kevin: I knew for it to work, we had to clearly establish two things. That a cataclysmic event had killed everyone in this town immediately. And that event had happened quite a long time ago. Dropping everyone where they were when the event happened and mummifying the corpses seemed to convey that information.
David: When I first started doing comics, I had a webcomic called, "Stranger"- which was definitely within the "zombie genre". I used to call it "The Littlest Hobo, but with zombies, and instead of a dog, the main character is a dude". I have done my fair share of drawing the living dead. my experience with that certainly helped drawing this book as there are a lot of dead bodies. I really love a good zombie story and will always try out a movie or story if it has something to do with an undead pandemic.
With that being said, there are absolutely zero zombies in this book. I don't want anyone picking up this book thinking that it is a zombie story. Yes, it is a post-apocalyptic tale. Yes, there are corpses everywhere. There are a lot of corpses, but none of them are shambling about and eating people. When you see a corpse on the page, it is not ever getting back up. The people are all 100% dead, and not, as Miracle Max might say,"mostly dead". The main character is not trying to survive a violent and feral world. He is alone. He has made choices that have led him to do what he does. We don't know that story, we only know what he does. It is up to the reader to decide the "why".
Even what he is doing specifically is not revealed until near the end. We wanted the reader to spend some time with him, get to know him, and. eventually, leave the reader behind. I believe that a good story will always leave you sad that it is over. The story itself may not be sad, but you get to a point where you realize you will never see those characters again. You get to peek into their world for a brief time, but when they move on, that's it. In this world of sequels and shared universes, I think it is important to have stories that are self-contained.
David what challenges were presented to you while illustrating this book?
David: The biggest challenge is trying to tell Kevin's story and elicit emotional responses without the benefit of words. Words are extremely important in communicating how we are feeling, what we want, and establishing relationships. There is one panel in particular that always impacts me emotionally, which I won't mention because I don't want to spoil anything, but I also don't want my experiences to taint that of anyone who may read it and have a different response.
Additionally, for a writer who has never worked with me before, they would be unclear as to what I can, and can't, draw. This is always an exciting challenge for me. Kevin had elements in there where I had no idea how to draw what he asked, but I just went for it and considered it a learning opportunity. That's how I always approach situations like this. There will never be a time when I will say: "I can't draw that. Write something else."
One of our biggest exchanges, I recall, was trying to figure out what the main character's cart would look like. Would it just be a trailer? A wagon of some sort? We had a lot of back and forth on that until we decided upon what you see in the book now, which is a sort of home-made box on wheels.
Kevin what else do you have in the works currently?
Kevin: My time traveling, demon hunter comic Tart is still unfolding. Slowly, but surely as most indies do. I'm also working on a fun limited series with Shawn Langley where we dump a cowgirl into a Hell Dimension with two Cattle Thieves she caught robbing her herd. That one is called, "Hole in the Sky" and I'm loving how Shawn is putting it together.
David what else are you working on right now?
David: I am currently the artist for a part of Chapterhouse's anthology book, "True Patriot Presents" called,"Crude"- which is a superhero/monster made of oil from the tar pools up here in Canada. That comes out every two months, I think. On top of that, I am just wrapping up the coloring for the fourth issues of my fantasy tale "Of Stone" which follows the King of the Ogres, Gan, as he struggles to deal with the loss of a child, his marriage, and ensuring the safety of his people. I like to suggest that it is like Conan but from the monster's perspective. That should be completed in the next few weeks at which point I will be running a kickstarter to collect issues 1 - 4 into a trade paperback and get the story into people's hands. I'll be adding content to the book such as prose stories and a pie recipe to give added value to people who may have purchased issues 1 - 3 on Comixology already.
Where can people purchase Morte?
Kevin: It will be released in your Local Comic Shops July 18th. But David and I are new names on the LCS scene so it is imperative that anyone who wants to
guarantee there is a copy for them to preorder at their shop using the code MAY181980.
David: Both Kevin and I consider ourselves extremely fortunate to have been picked up by Source Point Press as a publisher for, "Morte". They are an amazing group that have shown us incredible support, considering we are not "names" within the comic book world. If someone wants a book, as Kevin said, it is imperative that people go to their local comic shop and ask the shop to order it for them. Especially as we are not known creators. That goes for any independent book/creator. For every person who goes in to a comic shop and orders/purchases independent comics, they are telling publishers that they believe in these creators and these tales that are being told. If there is no comic shop in a person's vicinity, they CAN order directly from Source Point Press. But be aware there are shipping charges, whereas a shop won't.
Do either of you have conventions or signings happening in the coming months?
Kevin: I'm at Supercon in Ft. Lauderdale in mid-July. I'll be doing signings of,
"Morte" at a few shops down here in Fort Lauderdale when it is released.
David: I don't do a lot of shows, as they've become somewhat expensive. It can be incredibly difficult to make money back. However I have applied to appear at Fan Expo Canada in the fall and have my fingers crossed that they accidentally accept my application, at which point I'll have copies of, "Of Stone" available.
Where can each of you be followed on social media?
@kevinjosephcmx on Twitter.
@kechalcomics on instagram (though I recommend twitter as I'm more active there).
Instagram - @renerdbishop
Facebook - Facebook.com/renerd
Twitter - @renerd
Can each of you please provide a short biography as well?
Kevin: The books I've done besides, "Morte" are "Tart," "UnderWars," and, "The Poodles of Potter's Peak." My life is a fun juggling act of family, work and comics.
David: I'm a Canadian comics creator, family man, and early childhood educator. Only one of those things helps pay the bills. I have found the strength to delete the games I want to play on my Xbox so that I can focus on finishing up the issue for, "Of Stone" as I prepare to kickstart it. I am also working on, "Crude" for True Patriot Presents but have also done work for Scholastic and their, "Amazing Hockey Stories" series. If you're a fan of the unusual, you may also enjoy my other book on Comixology, "Squirrels", which is sort of like, "Watership Down" but with everyone's favorite roadkill.