NYCC: The Walking Dead: An Inside Look with Robert Kirkman
Comic Books, TV
There’s nothing in the world that’s scarier than a pink bunny. Especially when he stands six feet tall, he’s from Detroit and he carries a hammer.
An international team of comics creators came together to create The Hammer, which won Zuda’s February competition. As their reward, Sam Little, Gabe Ostley, Rob Berry and Steve Steiner have launched the ongoing comic at the site this month. I caught up with Sam about the comic, which is being updated daily right now on Zuda.
JK Parkin: You guys won the February 2009 contest. So what happened between then and now, in between winning the Zuda contest and getting the strip up on the site as a regular feature?
Sam Little: Well, we’ve been steadily working on grinding out Hammer pages since before the contest even started. We decided when we first got together to do this thing that we would make a commitment to each other and complete the story regardless of whether or not we actually won the contest. It would’ve driven me crazy to just do eight pages and then let the rest of the story remain untold. Since we won, we’ve just kept at it, chipping away steadily and laying plans for the future. Besides that, all four of us have got our own solo projects and collaborations (not to mention day jobs) that have kept us mightily busy.
JK: I was going to ask why you chose a giant (not to mention really mean) pink bunny as your main character, but really, I can’t think of a better character to wreck havoc in Detroit. So I’ll ask — why Detroit? Have you ever been there?
Sam: The giant pink bunny was actually the brainchild of Gabe Ostley (the penciller). Before Gabe came on board it was just going to be a straightforward crime comic. Every evening I raise a glass to the heavens and thank the comic book gods for Gabe’s particular brand of insanity. The Detroit setting was Rob Berry’s idea. He grew up in Motor City and has chipped in with a lot of background info and reference from those days. I drove through town once as a kid, but have never really spent any time there myself.
JK: I was curious about the genre. So besides the main character, should readers expect any other strangeness from the strip? Or will the rest of the strip be based in reality?
Sam: My intention from the get-go was to write a straightforward, hard-boiled crime story. That continues to be my intention. However, as the pages roll in, I realize that I’m not entirely in control of this thing we’ve created. The strangeness creeps in, it seems, with or without an invitation.
JK: The strip is daily versus weekly, like most Zuda strips typically are. How far ahead are you guys having to work to meet the schedule?
Sam: We had 35 pages penciled by the time the contest went live and all 60 by May. At this point we’ve got nearly the whole thing in the can, inked and colored with just a few more pages to go. Since it was decided to go daily, we and Zuda editorial wanted to make sure there was a really nice cushion before launch to avoid any speed bumps along the way.
JK: What’s the work process like, since you and the rest of the team are spread out all over the world? Is there an hour in the day when all of you are awake at the same time? And give us a rundown on where everyone is.
Sam: Rob and Steve are on the East Coast (in Philly and Meadville, Penn.) and I’m in Oslo, which is six hours later, and Gabe’s in Hong Kong, which is another six hours later than that. I guess we’re probably all awake for a few hours at the same time in the morning, afternoon and evening respectively. But all our communication is pretty much done by e-mail. The fact that we’re scattered around the globe is another reason why it was important for us to have so much of the story in the can before launch. We’ve all ever only met once at the New York Comic Con during the competition. That was a terrific experience and it was really great to not only sit down in the same room together, but to get to meet and hang out with the whole Zuda crew of staff and creators – a really friendly and fun group of people.
The actual work process goes something like this: I write a basic script and do layouts, usually in about 8 page chunks, and send them on to Gabe for pencils. Gabe pencils ‘em up, scans ‘em and sends ‘em on to Rob who prints out the pencils and inks over them on a new page on a lightboard. At the same time, I’m doing the lettering over Gabe’s pencils on the computer. Then Rob sends the inks over to Steve who lays down the colors at lightning speed and then back to me to layer in the lettering on top, flatten the files and ship ‘em off to Zuda. It’s an involved process. but it’s working pretty well for us so far.
JK: What are you and the rest of the team working on, besides The Hammer?
Sam: We’ve all got our own solo projects. I’ve got a webcomic called Untrue Tales that was in the Zuda January competition in 2008 and continues weekly on its own site. Plus I’ve got a few new things in the works with Gabe that are too much in the early stages to talk much about. Gabe is continuing his previous Zuda entry Teachers at Amalgamated Artists, but that’s kind of on hiatus at the moment as he’s got a ton of collaborations with other folks in the works. Rob Berry has taken on the Herculean task of adapting the James Joyce novel Ulysses into comic book form at the Ulysses Seen site. Steve Steiner is probably the most prolific of us all, he’s already had three entries in various Zuda competitions and has a whole passel of projects in the works. Steve is the guy to watch out for of the four of us.