Mad Cave Studios Talent Search
DH: I’ve always been writing, but unlike most in the comics world I started reading comics quite late (in some part due to parental discouragement, but that was the general consensus at the time, I suppose). I’ve always had an affinity for other media that drew on comics, for example, my obsession with television is something I attribute almost entirely to shows like Smallville and Heroes.
In about 2018, by virtue of some kind colleagues I was encouraged to pick up Batwoman Elegy by some work colleagues. Rucka and Williams’ work on that book is so beautiful and so convincingly queer that it hooked me and I haven’t stopped reading comics since…and when I love something that much, I can’t help but try to make it myself.
2019 Mad Cave Talent Search Winner
DH: I entered on whim, really. Luckily, I came from a place of zero pressure. I had no comics credits, and I wasn’t hugely invested in writing comics as a career at the time that I entered. Not to single anyone out, but I feel like I see a lot of people trying to break into this industry talking a big game on social media, often to their detriment. It takes the focus off actually doing the work.
The Talent Search process itself is very rewarding, and you have to have fun with it, or your enjoyment won’t come across in whatever you submit. Mad Cave’s big, Genre-with-a-capital-G stories lend themselves to you taking the biggest swing that you can. So naturally I wrote a Battlecats story and killed almost the entire cast in the first few pages. For anyone reading this and thinking of entering a Talent Search (there are a few other than Mad Cave’s), I have one big piece of advice – stay true to the source material, of course, but make it you. Make it the most you thing you’ve ever written. Sell your soul through the script or the art.
DH: Mad Cave asked me to pitch them a noir, but I really wanted to set it apart from whatever was already in the market…and so I decided on an unconventional setting – a medieval police procedural. At that point, something stood out to me about the Robin Hood story. It wasn’t only because it’s an entrancing myth – it’s also because it’s about people coming home from war, in this case, the Third Crusade. This is very much a reflection of the birth of the noir genre from the darkness soldiers brought home with them on their return from WWII.
From there it was easy to cast the characters in familiar noir roles, but in ways you might not expect. For example, the Sheriff of Nottingham is our brooding detective-protagonist, our eyesand ears into the world of Nottingham. Maid Marian we transformed from some-time heroine, most-of-the-time disempowered love interest, into a formidable femme fatale.
From a practical perspective, with only five issues to tell a story, it helps to come into something with an instantly recognizable. It allows you to put a lot of worldbuilding into a kind of shorthand and dive right into the action. On the flip side, however, it also allowed us to subvert our readers’ expectations and serve them a fresh take on characters they think they know so well.
Not Your Everyday Sheriff
DH: I think for me, it was more about the kind of story I wanted to tell and the lens I wanted to tell it through. A wacky, moustache-twirling, incompetent Sheriff didn’t really fit the plot or setting, so I made the character edgier, and stifled not by his own incompetence but by the political and social forces at play in the world around him.
DH: Whenever you’re working with a publisher in a work-for-hire capacity, outlines are just something that have to happen, because that’s how the business works.
If you’re asking if I prefer Marvel method or full script, then the answer is most definitely full script. It’s part of the way my brain processes writing comics, with pages as a unit of storytelling. I also have a penchant for formalism that I can’t seem to shake. The way I write my scripts and the level of detail does scale up and down by artist, however.
Working with Shane Connery Volk
DH: Shane actually was another Talent Search winner in 2019 (on the art side) and Mad Cave put the two of us together when they realized how much I enjoyed writing unhappy characters and how much Shane enjoyed drawing frowns.
In all seriousness, Shane absolutely transformed the way I saw the story. His iterations on my ideas dialled the unsettling ambience up to eleven and this story doesn’t work without the detail he put into all the faces and acting that goes on in the book. There’s also a lot of exaggeration on certain details (for example, our Sheriff’s cloak) which had an effect that I hadn’t envisioned, adding volumes to the dramatic tension.
DH: Ooh – this question is so different to live action casting. For our Sheriff, I’d say Sean Bean. For Hood – say either Tom Hiddleston or Henry Cavill.
GVN: Thanks again David and we look forward to following Nottingham and your future projects. You can find our review of Nottingham here.
Senior Writer at GeekVibesNation – I am a 50 something child of the 70’s who admits to being a Star Trek/Star Wars/Comic Book junkie who once dove head first over a cliff (Ok, it was a small hill) to try to rescue his Fantastic Four comic from a watery grave. I am married to a lovely woman who is as crazy as I am and the proud parent of a 17 year old boy with autism. My wife and son are my real heroes.