|DAVID F. WALKER
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DF Interview: David F. Walker deploys the Army of Dr. Moreau
By Byron Brewer
In March, writer David F. Walker’s horrific tale of Nazis and monsters, The Army of Dr. Moreau, hitherto only found in digital form on Monkeybrain, hits book shelves as a trade from IDW Publishing.
To discover more about the scribe’s creator-owned, and to see what is coming from his pen these days (I’m talkin’ about Shaft), Dynamic Forces hit the battleground and volleyed these questions at Walker.
Dynamic Forces: David, first off congratulations on your first issue of Shaft, a major happening in the comics world this year. How does it feel getting that project for Dynamite under your belt?
David F. Walker: It sounds like a cliché to say that this is a dream come true, but it really is just that. The idea of doing a Shaft comic has been kicking around in my head for a very long time, and now that it has happened, it all feels surreal. I’m coming into comics kind of late in life, having carved out a solid career in journalism, and dabbling in film. But comics have always been my first love, and had always been my career goal—it’s just that other careers got in the way. Shaft is one of those projects I dreamed of doing, while I was toiling away working at a newspaper, thinking that I’d never get a shot in comics. The fact that the first issue comes out two days after I officially enter into my late 40s makes it that much more special.
DF: While we are on the subject of writers and writing, tell us how you got involved in writing AND in writing comic books? What brought you to this industry?
David F. Walker: I wanted to write (and draw) comics since I was a kid. That was what I planned on doing after high school. I even went to the Kubert School, but my talents as an artist were lacking, and I gave up. I began focusing on writing, trying to break into comics, which ain’t the easiest thing. At the same time, writing comics wasn’t my only goal as a writer, and so I spent years developing my voice and my skills. I found a good career in journalism, self-published my own ‘zine, worked in film and television, and wrote several books. But all the while I kept comics in my sights—working on a select few projects, developing relationships with other creators, and pretending to be patient. About four years ago, I decided it was now or never, and I started pushing really hard.
DF: You have a creator-owned called The Army of Dr. Moreau getting ready to come out from IDW in March 2015, I believe? It has previously been in digital, right?
David F. Walker: The final issue of The Army of Dr. Moreau will be coming out digitally through Monkeybrain in early 2015. Monkeybrain is a great publisher that only releases creator-owned stuff digitally, and they have been super supportive. Chris Roberson, who wrote Doc Savage for Dynamite, is co-owner of the company, along with his wife Allison (who is the brains of the operation). Both of them have been great to work with, and Chris was really encouraging during the early days of getting Shaft situated at Dynamite. Some people are dismissive of digital comics, but I love the format, and no one is publishing better digital-only content than Monkeybrain.
DF: How did this property come about?
David F. Walker: I started developing Army of Dr. Moreau years ago. It started after a conversation with Brett Warnock, of Top Shelf Publishing. We were talking about taking old properties that are public domain, and coming up with something new and different. I said that I would love to do something with The Island of Dr. Moreau, which is one of my favorite books by H.G. Wells. That night, I came up with the story, and started developing it. This was probably five years ago. It took a long time to find an artist, and the script went through many different drafts. In the beginning, it was almost a comedy. I had this idea of it being Abbott and Costello on the Island of Dr. Moreau—which I still think is a decent idea. But as the story developed, and the theme really started to take shape, I knew that this couldn’t be a comedy.
DF: Tell us a little about the storyline.
David F. Walker: The story takes place in 1939, at the beginning or World War II. It seems that evil Nazis (are there any other kind?) are looking to replicate the experiments of a 19th century scientist who tried to turn animals into men. The entire premise is that H.G. Wells based his book on a true story, and now the Nazis want to know the real deal, so they can create an army of killer animal-men. It sounds far-fethced, until you read some of the nutty s*** the Nazis were doing. They had a program where they were trying to teach dogs to talk. Seriously. And then there was the Russian scientist who was trying to get humans and chimps to mate—this was a real guy. My story is about the British and American operatives sent to investigate what they think is a waste of time. Little do they know, monsters are hiding in the jungle.
DF: And the protagonists?
David F. Walker: This is something of an ensemble piece. There is a team of British operatives, and American, and an old mercenary. The old mercenary, Edward Prentiss, is the guy who told his story to H. G. Wells. He’s this battle-scarred old man, kind of like Robert Shaw in Jaws.
DF: In a book teeming with Nazis and monster-men, it is tough to ask this next one, but ... tell us about the big-bad.
David F. Walker: The big bad is Metzger, the leader of the Nazis. He’s straight out of the Sadistic Nazi 101 Handbook. Honestly, those guys make for the easiest villains. There is a character, #37, who is one of the dog-men created by the scientists, and even though he has no dialog, and is a man-eating monster, he’s also a crucial character in the story. The thing about a story like this is that you just need to establish that the bad guys are bad. If I had written a story with Nazis, and had trouble making them come across as evil, there’d be a serious problem.
DF: When this comes to print, will it be as individual comics, in graphic novel form, what?
David F. Walker: IDW is releasing a single trade paperback in March 2015. We just wrapped the final digital issue, which will come out in January. Then it all gets collected into a nice package, filled with evil dog-men eating people, and badass beast-people fighting the Nazi scourge.
DF: What was it like to work with artist Carl Sciacchitano on this?
David F. Walker: Carl was great to work with. He’s a new kid on the block, and I hope to see him do more work. Several other artists had been attached to this project, but for one reason or another it never worked out. My buddy Ibrahim was drawing High Crimes for Monkeybrain, and he introduced me to Carl. His style was very different from what I had originally envisioned, but he brought a lot to the table, including enthusiasm and lots of creative ideas. It seemed like it took forever to find an artist, but the wait was worth it.
DF: Word has it you are doing a prose novel on Shaft. In brief, the differences in working on a prose novel vs. writing a comic book?
David F. Walker: In comics, a lot of the heavy lifting is done by the artist. The writer comes up with the stories, but the artist has to render the ideas with the art. In prose, all you’ve got are your words. When I write a Shaft comic, I can literally write, “Shaft walks into a room and there are bad guys. Next panel, he punches one of them. Then he shoots another.” I might throw in a bit more description than that, but it is up to the artist to make it come alive, because comics are a visual medium. But in prose, I have to do all the heavy lifting. In prose, it becomes something like this, “Shaft walked into the room, the flickering light of the florescent bulb creating a weird effect—almost like tiny flashes of lightning. On the other side of the room, behind the fog of cigarette smoke and the blinking lights, stood the only things between Shaft and his goal. There were three of them, each built for fighting, and the bulges inside their jackets told Shaft that if they couldn’t use their fists, they could use their guns.”
To be sure, there are different writing challenges between prose and comics, but I love all those challenges with equal measure. As long as I’m writing, I’m not completely miserable. Sometimes, I’m even happy.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank David F. Walker for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. The Army of Dr. Moreau trade hits shelves in March 2015!
Pre-order your copy of Shaft #1 Rare Denys Cowan Virgin Art Edition featuring Silver Elite Signature by David Walker right here!
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