Writer Dwight L. MacPherson has kept busy on the independent comics scene for several years, showing great versatility all the while. In June 2009, MacPherson's career reached a milestone when his webcomic SIDEWISE became the first all-ages entry to win the monthly competition at DC Comics' Zuda Comics imprint. Dwight recently took a seat in The Outhouse to tell us all about Sidewise and the rest of his career.
How long have you worked in comics? How did you get your start? What else have you written? Do you also write outside of comics?
I've been writing comics for almost 6 years. My first published work was the pirate/historical fiction/horror mini-series DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES. I also created/wrote JIM REAPER: WEEK ONE and LIL' HELLIONS: A DAY AT THE ZOO (both published by Silent Devil Publishing), THE SURREAL ADVENTURES OF EDGAR ALLAN POO Books 1 and 2 (published by Image Comics), KID HOUDINI AND THE SILVER DOLLAR MISFITS (published by Viper Press) and several short comic stories for various anthologies such as Image's POPGUN and GENE SIMMONS' HOUSE OF HORRORS from IDW Publishing. My latest published work is the AMERICAN MCGEE'S GRIMM videogame adaptation published by IDW Publishing.
Yes, I've begun writing outside of comics. I'm currently working on my first young adult novel with my beautiful wife Rebecca.
How would you describe your work? What kinds of things do you write?
Well, my work covers so many different genres that I'm not certain it can be easily described. I would say that is versatile, intelligent, and fun.
As I said, I've written several different genres: horror and sci-fi, comedy and fantasy, superheroes and historical fiction, etc. My goal is to present a different angle or add something new and creative to that genre.
For those who aren't aware, how does the Zuda Comics process work?
As long as creators follow Zuda's submissions guidelines closely, it's a relatively simple process. If Zuda likes your submission, they will either select your strip as an instant winner or ask if you wish to compete in their monthly competition. If you win the competition, you receive a deal with Zuda/DC Comics for 60 screens. If you lose, it's back to the drawing board.
Tell us about your entry, SIDEWISE.
SIDEWISE is the story of a teen-aged genius named Adam Graham. Adam uses his parents' prototypical time machine to visit Edwardian England to gather research for a college paper. Instead of moving into our past, Adam passes sidewise in time to an alternate universe where Queen Victoria's preserved brain rules England with an iron fist. With her group of mad scientists, robot army and a demonic state police,
she appears to be unvanquishable. But, luckily for the downtrodden citizens of Britain, Nikola Tesla has a plan to overthrow the queen with his army of exo-suit-wearing teen soldiers and the exiled
"traitors" who have been expatriated to Scotland, beyond the impenetrable wall that divides the two countries. If Tesla's plan should fail, however, England will forever remain suppressed under the totalitarian regime of Queen Victoria's brain with no hope of freedom.
You use alternate versions of historical figures in SIDEWISE, such as Nikola Tesla and Queen Victoria. Did you do any research on the actual versions of these figures for the story?
Oh, absolutely. I don't start any project without first conducting research. It is imperative to draw from research to accurately portray historical characters. Of course, SIDEWISE takes place in an alternate universe where I am not bound by the constraints of history, but I still want to present each character with an air of authenticity.
What can you tell us about your artist, Igor Noronha? How did you guys come to work on SIDEWISE together? How do you guys collaborate?
Igor is fantastic. He draws, colors and letters each page which makes the collaborative process much easier.
Igor and I became friends through the Image forum and kept in touch. One day, out of the blue, Igor contacted me about working on a Zuda submission. I was pretty busy working on IDW's AMERICAN MCGEE'S GRIMM adaptation as well as several personal projects, but I went to the trusty project file and found a project titled "SteampunX." I sent it to Igor, he loved it, and the rest is history. (Pun totally intended.)
Our collaborative process is extremely simple. I write the script and Igor makes the magic happen. Igor sends sketches of each page for approval, I approve them or make suggestions and he completes them.
It's a fun, painless process.
Since users vote on an 8-page prologue, did you already have the full webcomic story prepared in the event you won? If so, what would you have done with that material had your story not won?
Well, I had an outline in my project folder, but I went back and completely reworked it while Igor was providing character sketches. Then, sketches in hand, I plotted out the entire first Season. When we won the competition, I already had the plot, so all I had to do was script Season 1, and I had that complete and turned in to Zuda within three weeks of winning the competition.
If we had not won, the project would have gone back into my folder until I had time to work on it again. I have a ton of story ideas, plots and scripts in that folder waiting to be developed. The more the
merrier, I guess. [laughs]
Will you be able to collect SIDEWISE in a print version upon the conclusion of the story?
That decision is in [DC Comics Vice President of Creative Services] Ron Perazza's, Zuda's and readers' hands. If the series is popular enough to warrant a trade version, it will definitely happen. That's why I'm encouraging readers to leave comments and share Sidewise with all their friends. The fans will decide if this book gets traded or not, so please continue reading and spreading the word!
Talk to us about your relationship with the steampunk genre. How long have you been into it? What was your introduction to steampunk?
I was a steampunk fan before it was called steampunk. I grew up reading H.G. Wells and Jules Verne--which are both steampunk authors by definition. I also loved the television show WILD WILD WEST which was definitely a steampunk show. My introduction to the genre was Wells' THE TIME MACHINE, and I've been a fan of the genre ever since.
SIDEWISE is the first all-ages story to win the monthly competition at Zuda. Do you see that as any kind of a landmark within the industry when it comes to increasing the role of all-ages storytelling? Do you think the profile of all-ages storytelling needs to be higher?
Hopefully it means more exposure for all-ages material. If readers who wouldn't normally read an all-ages title read SIDEWISE and like it, perhaps it will change their preconceived notions. There is, after all, a wonderful world of all-ages material to be discovered.
You've said that comic book readers need to "dismiss the silly notion that all-ages=kids only or dumbed down." In your opinion, what kinds of qualities does a story need in order to distinguish itself as all-ages, rather than "kids only?"
Well, by definition, "all-ages" means that it can be read and enjoyed by readers of--wait for it--ALL AGES. I don't know how readers can assume "all-ages" means "kids only." It's kind of like saying that cartoons are only for kids. The Japanese people would dismiss that notion as ignorant, yet many readers still equate all-ages with young readers only. I just don't get it.
You've also worked in comics as an editor. Is an editor better if he or she writes also?
Well, this is conjecture, of course, but I would say that writers make better editors. As writers, we are familiar with the rewriting, editing and proofreading process. We are constantly revising, editing and proofreading. If you want to appear as a professional, you would be remiss to simply write a script and immediately send it to an editor. Yes, it is an editor's job to edit, but they shouldn't have to help out in the revision and spell-checking process. A writer should have enough personal pride and pride in his or her work to ensure the editor has very little work to do.
Is there anything else you'd like to add? Now's your chance to lay it all out.
I sincerely hope that readers will check out SIDEWISE without any preconceived notions. Yes, the story is all-ages, but that doesn't mean that it's only for kids, dumbed down or weak. If you enjoy intelligent sci-fi, action-adventure or just a fun story, please drop by and read the strip. I really think you'll enjoy it.
Any websites, blogs, etc. where we can learn more about you and your work?
Well, I have a blog here that is in dire need of an update. I also have a Twitter account and Facebook page. I love interacting with readers and fans, so please feel free to send a friend/follow request.
SIDEWISE can be found here.