As we covered yesterday in a chat with the editor in chief and publisher, Vault Comics is a new publisher that’s ready and eager to make a big splash in comics. Focusing on science fiction and fantasy comics, Vault is hoping to keep their momentum going from their announcement at SDCC and grow from their. One of the titles announced as part of their launch is “Colossi”, written by Ricardo Mo and drawn by Alberto Muriel.
Focusing on a bus full of passengers that end up on a parallel Earth thanks to a wormhole, “Colossi” is a sci-fi story that has roots in old school sci-fi shows and movies, but is also doing something new and different. From the preview pages that Vault has shown, “Colossi” looks to have a diverse cast that’s brought to life expertly by Alberto.
Read on as we chat with writer Ricardo Mo about “Colossi”, Vault’s launch, the feeling of having to work with deadlines, and much more.
“Colossi” is your book with Alberto Muriel that’s debuting as part of the launch of Vault Comics. What can you tell us about it?
“Colossi” is the retro sci-fi story of a bus full of strangers who are spirited away through a mysterious wormhole and wind up on a parallel Earth, one where everything and everyone is giant-sized. The elements of our world we get to ignore or at least not see as a direct threat, because of our tall privilege, pose a real and present danger to these guys. Scorpions, cats, and birds have all just leap-frogged our protagonists in the food chain. To survive this new, dangerous environment, where these guys are no bigger than action figures, they’ll have to work together. However, anyone who’s ever found themselves on public transport will know that you may not immediately get along with all of your fellow passengers, and we definitely have a few clashing personalities.
I think fans of 60s/70s sci fi television shows might notice that “Colossi” shares some of its DNA with Land of the Giants. How far does that inspiration go?
I grew up watching reruns of shows like Land of the Giants, Lost in Space, and The Invaders, so they are right there in my DNA, not just “Colossi”’s. I would say that “Colossi” takes inspiration from all three of those shows I mentioned, as well as more recent stories that have explored the idea of a diverse group in a strange land, like Lost or Boom! Studios’ The Woods.
I should also add that, while we wear our influences on our sleeves, we have no interest in simply retreading old ground. “Colossi” has its own story to tell, and secrets to reveal. Not everyone on that bus is quite what they seem at first glance.
“Colossi” features a pretty large cast of characters. Tell us a bit more about them.
The incredible cast are all the children of artist and co-creator, Alberto Muriel. When I first pitched him the idea of an ensemble, it was with the caveat that he design the characters and then we work with whoever he dreamed up. It was my way of achieving that public transport randomness, rather than me just creating characters who would serve the story a little too perfectly.
Alberto is a wizard with character design and what he came up with was a really interesting mix. But I remember the first thing he said was that he wanted us to move away from the white male characters we’d explored at length in our previous book, Propeller. I think we’ve definitely done that and, in the process, I’ve discovered some of my favourite characters to write – Carmen, the pilot who effortlessly slips into something of a leadership role, and the craft’s only romantic couple, at least for now, Barbara and Frances.
It’s very interesting that Alberto came up with the characters and their looks, and you filled in the finer details. I have to imagine that’s a bit different than how you’d normally work. How was that experience, working somewhat within parameters but still having a lot of freedom?Continued below
It took a huge amount of faith in Alberto, to just hand over that part of the creating entirely. I’m not sure I would’ve been quite so willing with an artist I didn’t know so well. But part of the appeal was challenging myself and stepping out of my comfort zone, in the hope of telling a more interesting story. Also, I thought it would be really good practice for Work for Hire gigs, where I might be telling stories using pre-existing characters. It never hurts to add new strings to your bow.
As it turns out, Alberto’s cast was my gift. I’ve had such a good time writing them in and out of trouble, and I’m thrilled we get the chance now to present them to readers. I’m curious which of them will prove popular and which will draw heat.
You’ve already mentioned that you and Alberto worked together on your book Propeller. What makes Al a partner that you keep coming back to?
An artist like Alberto is a writer’s dream. You can throw literally any request at him and he’ll draw it like it’s his favourite thing in the world. And on a more personal level, he brings nothing but positive vibes to any book. I’ve yet to see him get mad or frustrated about anything, he’s just so easy-going.
Alberto was really the one who took a chance on me with Propeller. He already had pro credits to his name, and he obviously has talent in abundance, whereas I was just a cocky upstart with a few pages of script and, to my credit, a willingness to pay a half-decent page rate.
Both Alberto and our returning letterer, HdE, are true professionals. And, after patiently enduring my steep learning curve on that book, I wanted us to reunite on a project as something closer to equals. It was Vault who suggested Jon Adams as colorist, and he fits perfectly into the team. I couldn’t be happier with all of my collaborators on this book.
“Colossi” is one of the launch titles for Vault Comics. How did the book end up at Vault? What made the company appealing?
I was already in talks with Vault about possibly publishing another book I’m working on with a different artist. I liked everything I was hearing from them about their structure, their plans, and their approach to their creators, so I asked if they might be willing to look at “Colossi”. All credit to Adrian and Damian here, for entertaining my shenanigans and looking at a second pitch from an unknown writer. They are one of the few publishers who are serious about letting new talent tell their own stories in their own voices, and that continues to be their biggest appeal.
As a new creator, I imagine it must be daunting to have to market both yourself and a book to comic shops and comic readers. How are you hoping to make a good impression and get the book in their hands?
I don’t know how much of this I’m allowed to talk about, but Vault have been adamant from the start that the comic shops on the frontline need as much help from us as possible. To that end, we’ll be well into production on the series before it is solicited, and extensive previews will be available to any stores interested in stocking Vault’s line. I think once people see the quality of the books Vault will be putting out, much of that good impression will be made in advance. In addition, I personally will be open to any and all suggestions from shops as to how I can make “Colossi” a more appealing prospect. Dignity is not an issue.
As we’ve already touched on, you, Al, and “Colossi” are part of the launch of Vault. That first wave of comics also features titles from the likes of FJ Desanto and Tim Daniel, people that have a bit of storytelling experience under their belt. How is it sharing the initial spotlight with these sort of creators?Continued below
It’s both daunting and reassuring. Nobody wants to be the new boy, letting down the side, especially when the fate of a new, really promising publisher is part of the deal. Thankfully, I genuinely believe we have a good book on our hands and we certainly won’t be lagging behind any of the other titles in terms of quality.
The flipside is that something that could have been a very isolating, pressured experience has, in fact, turned into more of a team sport. The other creators are, without exception, outstanding talents, and this launch boasts a wealth of great-looking books with intriguing premises. Everyone has brought their A-game, us included.
I think something that’s interesting is that in a relatively short amount of time, you’ve done self publishing, like with your book Propeller, done some work for hire, as with your story in the Millarworld Annual, and also done creator owned with a publisher and editor, now with “Colossi” and Vault. Though it’s still early in your career, what have you taken from these three different modes of comics?
I only have limited experience on which to draw, but I certainly noticed a difference. Work for hire will always involve an initial boost to the ego, as someone has plucked you from a crowd to work on their property. The downside is that you have zero control over anything. You rewrite what you’re told to rewrite until your employer says they are satisfied. When the comic is published and you finally get to see it, hopefully there’s enough there to make you proud. But being able to let go is absolutely vital. If pages of dialogue have been rewritten and your voice has been lost in the shuffle, you just have to say thank you very much and move on. Anything else would be a waste of energy.
With Creator-Owned, the writer’s role doesn’t simply end with the script. And if the finished pages are a surprise to you, something’s gone very wrong somewhere. There needs to be a healthy back-and-forth throughout with the artist, colorist, and letterer. It’s an ongoing conversation (and occasional battle) that can lead directly to comic gold.
In my opinion, anyone serious about breaking into comics should be self-publishing. There is no substitute for the experience it will provide – everything from learning how to interact with collaborators, to getting an idea of just how bloody difficult and expensive it is to produce a single issue. Even if you’re lucky enough to get a pitch or competition entry noticed by the right people, nothing says, “I’m capable of completing a full comic,” better than having actually done it. Self-publishing isn’t for the feint-hearted, but it can be incredibly satisfying.
Throwing an Editor and Publisher into the mix on “Colossi” was something new for me but, thankfully, I’ve lucked out with Adrian and Damian. There are no demands, only suggestions, and a real sense that they trust in our take and are interested in elevating our work rather than making it fit some pre-existing vision. Humble as they are, though, these guys know comics and they know what they’re doing, so their ideas and advice have proven invaluable.
With “Colossi”, you essentially went from making comics at a leisurely pace in your spare time to suddenly having a serious schedule and having to write scripts for a series on a deadline, along with revisions and whatever else. What sort of learning curve did you have on that?
In fact, it was a case of suddenly having to write scripts for two series on a schedule. The Wassels had always said that Vault weren’t interested in letting down readers or retailers with delays, so they wanted to get a good headstart on production. This is an absolutely great way to approach publishing, but it meant I went from slowly self-publishing and pitching to having to plan, write and revise two entire first arcs. The release dates were both still some way off, but once you factor in giving the rest of the team plenty of time to do their jobs, I’ll admit I put more pressure on myself than was helpful. I never quite froze, but I certainly felt the timer running down every single day.
I kept going though, because really the alternative was blowing my big chance and giving up on my dream. I’m now clear of that initial hurdle and it feels good to have so many completed scripts under my belt. I’ve also learned a lot in a short time thanks to the insights of Adrian, my editor. Honestly, I’m just hungry to push forward now and keep telling these fantastic stories. Hopefully, they’ll resonate with a readership and we’ll get to take them along on the entire journey with us. It’ll definitely be a wild ride, as we have some big, some might say colossal, plans for the future.