Hello friends and readers, welcome back to the first Indie Comics Showcase of the new decade. The weekly blog where we try and bring you our pics of the top Indie Comics from across the web, as well as interviews with their creators. We have some truly outstanding crowd funding campaigns this week for you to learn about, enjoy, and hopefully support by backing one of these campaigns!
Remember that every little bit counts, from the single dollar pledges to the ten dollar, and of course the higher ones. Some of these campaigns have got some great higher tiers which add even more value by offering stuff you can’t get anywhere else. Thank you all for being the best part of Indie Comics Showcase!
Let’s jump in!
with Dave Cook
BHP Comics is an independent publishing house based in Glasgow, Scotland. They make graphic novels and art books from established creators, from Frank Quitely’s Drawings+Sketches, alongside cutting edge new talent, like Dave Cook and Craig Paton’s KILLTOPIA, described as a violent, brash cyberpunk saga set in future Japan. Killtopia is set in future Japan, and follows a salvage hunter called Shinji and his robot sidekick, Crash. Once word gets out that Crash holds the secret to curing a deadly nano-virus that’s killed millions around the world, every bounty hunter and Yakuza thug for 1000 city blocks joins the hunt for our heroes. Can they survive the night and change the course of humanity forever?
I recently spoke with Dave Cook about the book Killtopia recently and it was a fascinating discussion.
Check Out BHP COMICS Here.
John: Thank you for being a part of Indie Comics Showcase. I am happy to be discussing your Indie Comic KILLTOPIA with you today.
Dave: Hey, no worries and thanks for having me!
John: Tell our readers a bit about yourself.
Dave: Sure thing. I’m based in Edinburgh, Scotland and before getting into comics I was a video game journalist for many years. I now write and self-publish my own comics under the Card Shark Comics label, such as our post-apocalyptic series Bust, our cosmic dark fantasy Vessels and our multi award-winning cyberpunk series Killtopia.
I’ve also recently started writing a few new unannounced projects, as well as a graphic novel called BPM: Beatdowns Per Minute, which is our love letter to old school fighting games like Streets of Rage and Golden Axe. And lastly, I’m currently writing a video game art and history book that we’ll be announcing soon.
John: Without getting into spoilers, what can you tell us about where KILLTOPIA came from?
Dave: Killtopia is a cyberpunk series set in future Japan. Years ago, Neo Tokyo’s ‘Sector K’ district was suddenly infested by killer Mecha, a cataclysm that spawned the violent blood sport known as ‘Killtopia.’
Fast forward to the start of the first volume, and Killtopia attracts heavily-armed and often crazy bounty hunters called ‘Wreckers’ to Japan, who hunt the Mecha for money fame and fortune. The plot is about the appearance of the world’s first sentient Mecha, called Crash.
Crash might be the key to understanding and curing a nano-plague that is causing the human population across Earth to get sick and die. He teams up with rookie bounty hunter Shinji as they embark on a violent, neon-soaked quest to heal the planet.
That’s where the arc started, but currently, as we gear up to crowd-fund the third volume in 2020, things have changed quite a bit. We’ve learned a lot about Stiletto, the champion Wrecker. She’s on the receiving end of ‘cancel culture’ in the second volume, and the next one will look at how she’s going to deal with her fame starting to fade away. We’ll also see much more of Shinji’s sister Omi in action, which I think fans will enjoy.
We also finally get to see what our version of the dark net (called the ‘deep web’) looks like. The third volume is by far the darkest, and it’s where some big plot questions get answered. I don’t think it’s going where people expect.
John: Tell me a little bit about how the characters and story were conceptualized?
Dave: Calling back to my past as a games journalist and avid gamer, all of my books are inspired by games before anything else. I knew I wanted to make something that paid tribute to my favourite action games from Japan, such as No More Heroes, Killer7, Vanquish, Bayonetta and Resident Evil 4.
My favourite anime is also Cowboy Bebop, which is about bounty hunters. The pieces all started to click into place slowly in my mind, about some kind of crazy, Battle Royale-style blood sport full of characters that had gimmicks and insane weapons.
But I needed a reason for the people to be fighting. I thought, ‘what if the whole planet was sick, and the only way to afford the cure is to take part in a life or death blood sport?” This was inspired by what was happening in politics across the UK at the time. They were talking about the National Health Service being in trouble, politicians wanting to sell it off, and what was happening with crazy medical bills in the US.
That’s where the nano plague came from, this terrible disease called ‘The Rot’ that literally terraforms you from the inside out. If you can’t afford the cure, you die. If you need cash, you join the hunt for the Mecha in Killtopia. Shinji seemed like a good role for the lead, as his sister Omi has the Rot really bad, but he has no money or clout to get corporate sponsors or to buy good weapons.
So he enters the Killtopia hunting grounds of Sector K illegally and without permits to salvage what little scrap he can find. A bit like a cyberpunk Walter White from Breaking Bad. Shinji’s dirt poor, so of course I needed to have a character who was sickeningly wealthy, which is Stiletto, the reigning Killtopia champ. Then Crash, the sentient Mecha was the bridge between the human and automated worlds, and he plays a sort of Macguffin role that changes as the arc develops.
And that’s how it all came to be 🙂
John: That is absolutely fascinating! Tell me about some of the first comics you remember reading?
Dave: Until I started making comics I really didn’t read them at all, as games were and still are my core influence. I read lots now, but I came to them late. However, my earliest memory of reading comics properly was when I was studying journalism at university.
My room mate gave me her copy of Transmetropolitan to read and said, “You’ll like this, it’s about journalism.” She wasn’t wrong, I blitzed through the entire run in a short span of time, and it’s still my favourite comic book series to date. Artist Darick Robertson even did a print for the first Killtopia Kickstarter campaign. That was a surreal moment.
John: I bet it was, that’s amazing! Any other comics that have made the big impact on you, besides Transmetropolitan?
Dave: I’m a huge fan of both Preacher and The Boys. I love just how off-the-wall Ennis can be. I recently finished the final omnibus edition of The Boys, and I used to read it on my morning commute. I’d be sitting next to someone on the train, only yo turn the page to find it full of either insane violence or extreme nudity. For fear of the person sitting next to me seeing it and thinking I was weird, I’d just calmly put the book back in my bag, haha!
I also have to give a huge shout out to Rick Remender, as his work on Low and Tokyo Ghost have been hugely influential. They’re both quite different ideas but they have the same central themes of relationships, technology clashing with nature and other concepts that just really click with me.
John: What does KILLTOPIA mean to you, what about it makes it a story you want to tell?
Dave: Everything I write is something I also want to read. To me, Killtopia capture the brash, punky spirit of those Japanese game developers that I love. Our lead character is called Shinji Kamiya, and his name is a mash up of Resident Evil 4 director Shinji Mikami and Bayonetta director Hideki Kamiya, two creators who stick to their guns and make crazy, over the top and highly enjoyable games that I love.
The second Killtopia especially deals with many heavy themes that are happening right now. The healthcare thing is one of them, there’s a cancel culture plot in there too, and the third book will touch on disability, self-doubt and not doing things a certain way because people tell you to.
In short, Killtopia is a way for me to get my own thoughts on paper, and in that respect it’s almost a bit like therapy. It keeps me going.
John: What are some of the things that have served as a source of Inspiration when working on KILLTOPIA? Do you read anything, watch any shows, listen to music as you work?
Dave: I make Spotify playlists that I listen to while writing each volume of Killtopia. They’re usually tracks that fit the vibe of the next book, or tap into how I’m feeling at the time. We always post the playlists on our Facebook page so readers can catch that vibe as well.
They’re usually tracks that feel a little brash, with abrasive synth like Death Grips, The Prodigy, Pertubator, metal bands like Periphery, and darker hip hop like MF DOOM. Of course, some tracks from the Akira soundtrack are in there too.
John: Great tunes! Can you tell me a little bit about your overall creative process?
Dave: I’m all over the place if I’m being honest. I don’t write if I’m not in the mood for it, as over the years I’ve learned that it’s never my best work. I tend to do very basics script notes on my iPhone during the morning commute, then over time I’ll flesh it out if I think the idea has legs. I tend to write most of my stuff on the train, as it’s when my head’s most quiet.
Once I have the short arc done, and I know it all fits with where the overall arc is headed, I’ll start doing pages. When it comes to dialogue I always say it out loud, and sometimes it just flows like an actual conversation. I think about what questions would a character naturally have if they just learned something, or how would they react to something bad happening and so on. When that flow happens the script can mostly be a few scenes of just dialogue, before I’ve even written a single panel description. But it flows and it feels real, you can almost hear it in your head.
John: What have some of your influences been over the years and how have they affected your work?
Dave: Video games is really the big one. In games you typically have a world-state that’s in peril, and it’s your job as the hero to save it. Subconsciously, I think that’s led to all my books being set in some type of dystopia or mid-apocalypse scenario.
Vessels, for example, is about the fabric of reality literally tearing apart, which causes logic and reason to decay to a point where very little in the world makes sense. It’s a grim setting that was inspired by the Dark Souls game trilogy, easily my favourite game series ever made.
I’m also a fan of South Korean cinema. Oldboy is my all-time favourite movie, and the tone of that film has definitely worked its way into some of my stories. There’s even a tribute to the hammer corridor scene in Killtopia: Volume #2. The movie Battle Royale was also a huge influence on the Killtopia bloodsport idea.
John: What are your hopes for KILLTOPIA for the future?
Dave: I’m hoping that by the end of the fifth and final book, our fans will have stuck with us to the end. The third volume might be a turning point for some people as it’s when the true nature of the plot is revealed, but I know how it all ends and I can’t wait to get it all out on paper.
Some people have asked me about spin-off stories, prequels and sequels, but I don’t like to think about that stuff while the main story is still ongoing. There is one character who’s mentioned in passing in the third book that could maybe carry a sequel, but for now I’ve got no plans for it.
The obvious one is that I’d love to see it adapted into some kind of animation or live-action project, but that’s for the IP and licensing gods to decide.
John: I’ve enjoyed talking to you today. Is there anything else you want to share with our readers before we sign off?
Dave: Sure thing! Just a little plug for our 2020 releases, Killtopia: Volume #3, Vessels #3, BPM: Beatdowns Per Minute and Bust #4. There’s also some unannounced things too, which I’ll share on Twitter at @davescook. There’s plenty of fun stuff to come 😀
John: Once again Dave , I would like to say thank you for being a part of indie comics showcase. We wish you the best of luck on this campaign and all future projects.
Dave: Thanks so much for taking the time John, it really means a lot to me 🙂
Grab a copy of Killtopia on Amazon here!
That’s it for this installment! Support indie comics!!!
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