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DF Interview: Martin Simmonds renders conspiracy theories aplenty in new thriller, ‘The Department of Truth’
By Byron Brewer
Cole Turner has studied conspiracy theories all his life, but he isn’t prepared for what happens when he discovers that all of them are true, from the JFK assassination to flat Earth theory and reptilian shapeshifters. One organization has been covering them up for generations. What is the deep, dark secret behind the Department of Truth?
Writer James Tynion IV (Batman, Something is Killing the Children) debuts his first Image Comics ongoing series alongside artist Martin Simmonds (Dying is Easy) with The Department of Truth! DF was anxious to learn more about the new mag, so we chatted up the comic book – and, as they say, more – with illustrator Martin Simmonds.
Dynamic Forces: Martin, before we touch on the coming of your ongoing series, The Department of Truth, tell readers how you happened to fall in love with art, and then comic book art.
Martin Simmonds: Reading comic books and discovering I had the ability to draw pretty well both happened around the same time, or at least that’s how I remember it. I guess I’ve always enjoyed drawing and painting, so it was pretty natural for me to be attracted to comics both for entertainment and as a possible career. I remember reading my brother’s copies of 2000AD, and picking up Marvel and DC single issues from the local newsagents, and as time went on, I discovered the local comic shop, and that opened my eyes to what could be achieved in comic art, especially in painted comics like Stray Toasters, Blood: A Tale, Moonshadow, Arkham Asylum, etc.
DF: Who are some of the artists, in or out of comic books, whom you might admire or look to for inspiration?
Martin Simmonds: Primarily, comic artists that painted, so Bill Sienkiewicz, Kent Williams, Dave McKean, and Jon J. Muth, but also commercial artists such as Coby Whitmore and Bob Peak, and artists such as Edward Hopper, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele.
DF: Tell readers what kind of world you and writer James Tynion IV are creating for this series.
Martin Simmonds: The Department of Truth is set in the modern day, where all conspiracy theories have the potential to become reality. The book goes to some pretty dark, shadowy places, part conspiracy thriller, part horror.
The first issue tackles the Flat Earth theory, and subsequent issues take a dive into everything from false flag allegations through to UFOs.
DF: Introduce us to Cole Turner. Who is he as a man, as a character and what challenges does he face as readers meet him in issue #1 of The Department of Truth?
Martin Simmonds: I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s Cole who we follow through the series. At the start of the book, he’s unwittingly thrown into the world of The Department of Truth, and it brings into sharp focus what this new world could potentially mean, rewriting history and shattering what society believes is true.
DF: Without spoilers or ruination of any storytelling, what CAN you tell us about the Department of Truth, which I assume is a federal governmental organization?
Martin Simmonds: The Department of Truth has been covering up these conspiracies for decades, from the assassination of JFK to the existence of Atlantis, and everything in between. There’s a lot to learn about The Department of Truth, and we will get into that as we go through the series.
DF: How have you used your artist’s toolbox to set the mood for the book? Any favorite characters or set pieces which you’ve enjoyed or have presented unexpected challenges?
Martin Simmonds: Well, this is the first project where I’m not working digitally, apart from some color work. All the artists that influenced me have worked mostly with traditional media, and I’ve spent a long time trying to recreate that painterly feel using software, and this project seemed the perfect fit for me to go back to ink, paint and paper. To be honest, it’s felt like the most natural process, and has allowed me to loosen up my style even more, and not get bogged down by too much unnecessary detail, which is a danger for me as software allows you to zoom in on the smallest areas, and I’d often find myself noodling away at the smallest background detail, zoomed in at 300%! That not only eats away at precious time, but it can look terrible in print.
I’ve had a lot of fun with collage too, the covers are all done using collage techniques, and I’ve incorporated those techniques into some parts of the sequentials too. Once I’m able to, I’ll post some process work for the collage elements, but for now I can’t as it’ll reveal a bit too much of the story, and I don’t want to spoil anything for people reading the book.
DF: Talk about your collaboration with co-creator James Tynion IV.
Martin Simmonds: Working with James has been an incredible opportunity. I was familiar with, and loved, James’ work on The Woods and Memetic before we talked about working together, and since then he’s worked on some incredible books, both licensed and creator-owned, so to be working with him on an Image book, a first for both of us, is very exciting.
We first started talking about working together a couple years back, mid-2018 I think, and James had already done a lot of work on the project, and the enormous amount of research that went with it. Other projects kept us both busy for a little while, so it’s been some time in the making, but I reckon the end result is worth it. I hope readers agree.
DF: Martin, what other projects of yours, in or out of comics, can you tell readers about?
Martin Simmonds: My last project was Dying Is Easy for IDW, which meant I got to collaborate with Joe Hill. That project was an absolute blast, and I hope we get to do more with Syd ‘Sh*t-Talk’ Homes in times to come.
Before that, I worked on Friendo for Vault Comics with Alex Paknadel, and that was a great experience. Alex is one super-talented writer, and we’ve chatted about what we can work on together next. Whatever we manage to come up with, I know it’ll be a blast to work with Alex again.
A really big break for me was getting to work with Shelly Bond and her IDW imprint Black Crown. Shelly got me together with David Barnett, and we created two volumes of Punks Not Dead, a buddy story about a teenager from the north of England and his new best friend who happens to be the spirit of a dead punker.
I’m going to be pretty busy with The Department of Truth for quite a while, we’ve got a lot of story to tell, and I can’t wait for people to check it out.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Martin Simmonds for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. The Department of Truth #1 from Image Comics is slated to hit stores Sept. 30th!
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DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #1
PUNCHLINE #1 RARE KAEL NGU LIMITED EDITION VARIANT SIGNED BY JAMES TYNION IV!
BATMAN #99 ELITE GOLD SIGNATURE SERIES EDITION SIGNED BY JAMES TYNION IV COVER A & B DUAL PACK!
BATMAN #100 1:25 JORGE JIMENEZ CARD STOCK VARIANT ELITE GOLD SIGNATURE SERIES SIGNED BY JAMES TYNION IV!
BATMAN #100 ELITE GOLD SIGNATURE SERIES EDITION SIGNED BY JAMES TYNION IV COVER A & B DUAL PACK!
PUNCHLINE #1 FRANK CHO VARIANT SIGNED BY JAMES TYNION IV DUAL PACK!
PUNCHLINE #1 SIGNED BY JAMES TYNION IV DUAL PACK!
BATMAN: THE JOKER WAR ZONE #1 SIGNED BY JAMES TYNION IV
DETECTIVE COMICS #1027 SIGNED BY JAMES TYNION IV PLUS 1
DETECTIVE COMICS #934 ULTRA-LIMITED SILVER SIGNATURE SERIES SIGNED BY JAMES TYNION IV
BATWOMAN #1 ULTRA-LIMITED SILVER SIGNATURE SERIES SIGNED BY JAMES TYNION IV
DETECTIVE COMICS #950 FIRST PRINTING ULTRA-LIMITED SILVER SIGNATURE SERIES EDITION SIGNED BY JAMES TYNION IV!
DARK KNIGHTS RISING #1 SIGNED BY JAMES TYNION IV
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