The Reading Pile #12
Hey gang, The Reading Pile is back with part 2 of this interview with Tony Wright, the creator of Day 165 (which is now going to a second printing) from Source Point Press. If you missed part 1 of the interview you can check it out here.
You have described Day 165 as “a blend of old school war comics and Twilight Zone.” Can you give us a history of the title? The book was originally slated as a one off, but there are now plans to continue the title. Is that accurate? It was originally planned as a web comic? Any trials or tribulations?
When I was doing the webcomics thing, I was writing multiple titles with a handful of artists. There were times when I’d go looking for new artists and there was this moment when I had this urge to write a John Hughes type of webcomic that blended teen angst and comedy. I placed an ad online looking for an artist to collaborate with, and one of the people who responded was Italian artist Giovanni Ballati. I looked over his portfolio and I couldn’t let that guy get away, so we talked about working together.
We emailed each other to discuss the John Hughes project, but Giovanni politely shot it down in a very diplomatic way. He proposed we do an eight to ten page webcomic about the War in Afghanistan. Giovanni thought about something about the day in the life of a US soldier, and he said “like day 165”. That pitch caught my attention because I used to read GI Joe, The ‘Nam, Fightin’ Army, and Fightin’ Marines back in the day. As a writer, I didn’t want to do a military story that was pure jingoism, but I didn’t want to write something that was disrespectful to the military either. Also, when I saw “day 165” I thought to myself, “OK, that’s the title”.
I told Giovanni that I needed to get a story together, but I had to do a war story that had something different to separate it from the pack. After some brainstorming, I decided to make Day 165 a war story blended with The Twilight Zone. I proposed to Giovanni that this would be a series that examines soldiers on their 165th day of service and the unusual things that happen to them on that day. Giovanni told me that it was a good idea and we did a story together, which was great. Joe Haemmerle, my cousin and an artist that’s been my comic book and webcomic partner in crime since the beginning, did the color for Day 165 and designed the cover for the webcomic series. It was supposed to be an ongoing series, but Giovanni was way too busy to commit.
During my webcomics hangover, I had three titles that would be perfect for print comics. Day 165 was one of those titles. I reached out to Giovanni and told him we were going to do a twenty-two to twenty-four page comic, and he was interested. I had a few wars selected and finally decided on a World War II story because as a kid I loved the World War II story that was featured on the TV show Amazing Stories.
I wrote out the entire story from start to finish and developed the characters. This was a point in my life where I was trying to do too much at once. I had a full-time job, I was teaching at a community college part-time, my family life was busy in a great way, plus I was trying to develop three comic books. Frank Allen was a writer from England I connected with at Champion City Comics, and he submitted this dark project called Innocence. I knew Frank was a history guy like me, so I asked him to turn the Day 165 story into a script. My story was a US Army unit of paratroopers, so I asked Frank to change the characters into a British Army unit of paratroopers.
The first story you are credited as Story & Editor with the Script by Frank T. Allen. Can you explain this process?
Frank took my story and developed it into a great script. He did a wonderful job, so I submitted the script to Giovanni. He completed four pages and then informed me that he was going to take a break from comics. Life happens and people make career changes. We agreed to move on with a different artist, and we both agreed Joe Haemmerle was the obvious choice. Giovanni lettered the first story, and Joe was going to do the pencils, inks, and colors for the comic book, so I emailed a colleague Martin Perez (MaGnUs) from Uruguay, and he agreed to letter Day 165.
MaGnUs started to review the panels and compared them to the script. He was concerned the script and panels were not going to work well in regards to lettering, so I made the decision to edit Frank’s script. The goal was to stay true to the fantastic script and the end result was a great comic book. This wasn’t an easy process, but everyone did their job and that’s what counts.
The 2nd story looks like it has been published before. Is that correct?
The issue of Day 165 that’s hit shelves has the World War II story and the War in Afghanistan story. We’ve also included a few pages of additional artwork by Joseph Haemmerle, Erik Roman, and Victor Pozzi, another artist friend of mine.
The artists you work with, do you approach them or are they provided by Source Point Press? Can you describe the creative process?
Joe Haemmerle is my cousin and I contacted him back c.2004 to collaborate on a comic book, which never made it to print. Within five years we moved to webcomics and from 2010 to 2011 I recruited artists A. Kaviraj (Kav), Erik Roman, Victor Pozzi, Ryan Cairns, and Giovanni Ballati for various projects via forums for connecting writers with artists. SPP has connections to artists, but I’ve created some great relationships with artists due to my work at Champion City Comics. I told all of my artists that I’m not a panel-by-panel dictator, so put your touches on the comic book, webcomic, or graphic novel. I’ve been lucky connecting with artists. Sure, a few have flaked out on me, but I seem to gravitate towards artists who see things the way I see them, which leads to a beautiful result.
All of the aforementioned artists will have limited panel descriptions in scripts because they know what I’m looking for and they’ve delivered on a consistent basis. I’ve got a ton of trust in those artists and they know what to expect from me when it comes to scripts. They’ll bounce ideas off me from time to time and I’ll make something work in the story. What I like about those artists the most is that they’re not afraid to tell me if an idea sucks.
Can you speak to your influences? Stuff you loved as a kid and/or anything out today you might be reading?
Larry Hama was a huge influence because I read GI Joe religiously as a kid during the 80’s, plus I was a fan of his work on The ‘Nam. Military comics caught my attention as a young reader for some reason, plus I was a fan of science-fiction and fantasy when it came to TV and movies. There were times when I’d read stuff from Marvel and DC, but it was the late 90’s when I really got into their comics.
From ’98 to ’08 I was reading anything I could when it came to titles like Batman, Daredevil, and The Flash. I really liked the Bendis and Brubaker runs for Daredevil and at the time someone told me that if I was a fan of those guys then I should read something called 100 Bullets, which was a fun series by Brian Azzarello. I’m a Geoff Johns fan and I was introduced to his work during his great run as the writer for The Flash.
Currently, I’m reading Jason Aaron’s work with Southern Bastards and Star Wars. Jeff Lemire is another favorite and I’m a fan of titles like Royal City and Roughneck. Working on Day 165 lead me to discover some other great war comics like the reprints of Titan Comics’ Battle Classics and I really enjoyed Alan’s War: The Memories of G.I. Alan Cope by Emmanuel Guibert. There was a period where I read the works of Guy Delisle, who wrote some amazing graphic novels about traveling to different countries. The Burma Chronicles and Pyongyang are really good.
You also have a graphic novel out, The Chronicles of Doctor Death. Can you tell me more about it?
The Chronicles of Doctor Death is House meets The Watchmen. This noir inspired superhero horror story follows Doctor Death on two adventures where he comes face to face with a vampire clan and a zombie that's terrorizing Vegas. Doctor Death has the ability to detect villains/monsters/etc and acts as judge, jury, and at times the executioner
This started off as a webcomic project c.2011, which turned into a graphic novel. A. Kaviraj (Kav) and I worked on a crime noir webcomic series called The End of Paradise at Champion City Comics from 2010 until 2011. That turned into a 100 page plus series and one day Kav said something along the lines of, “Can we wrap this up, dude?” I think Kav was getting a bit burned out on that series and then he told me about a great short story he read called Doctor Death vs The Vampire, which was written by this guy named Aaron Schutz. Kav asked Aaron if he could turn that into a webcomic and Aaron gave Kav his blessing. Kav then convinced me we should work on a sequel to Doctor Death as long as we had Aaron’s blessing. Aaron once again agreed and after some creative brainstorming with Kav, I wrote the script for Doctor Death vs The Zombie.
The webcomic series ended in 2012 and this year, I talked to Aaron and Kav about making it into a graphic novel. We agreed to submit it to Source Point Press and they published it this summer.
Source Point Press seems to have a ton of titles out. Anything else you would recommend?
SPP has a little bit of everything for fans of comics and graphic novels, so I’ll give you a few examples. Salvagers by Bob Salley is a fantastic space saga that blends Firefly with Sanford and Son. Greg Wright – no relation to me – has created a wonderful all-ages series with Monstrous, which takes elements of classic monsters and blends it with some steampunk elements. No Rest for the Wicked by the Minor brothers is a cool supernatural western revenge story, while Sol Survivor by Freddy Packard is a fun sci-fi revenge story. Kasey Pierce and David Hayes both have popular sci-fi stories with Norah and The Rot.
And that's all folks. I want to thank Tony Wright for his time, this was really fun to put together. I want to encourage everyone to purchase and read Day 165. More information about the second print is available here.