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DF Interview: Breaker-breaker: Donny Cates with the 10-43 on Ghost Fleet
By Byron Brewer
All myths are based on some reality, they say. And on the highways, these lifelines of our nation, there is a well-known trucker myth that there are government truck drivers who aren’t aware of the cargo they’re carrying and who cannot be pulled over, even by law enforcement.
That is the backbone of Ghost Fleet, a new Dark Horse comic from writer Donny Cates and artist Daniel Warren Johnson. To get the skinny, Dynamic Forces took to the CB and pulled over the vehicle of Cates for a confab. Here is what he told us.
Dynamic Forces: After wrapping my mind around your mini-series Buzzkill, Donny, I do not know how you have enough grey matter left for a 12-issue book. Buzzkill was awesome! So tell us, where do you get the energy as a writer and the inspiration for these continuing sagas?
Donny Cates: Well, the easy answer is that my landlord doesn't accept back issues of Spider-Man as rent and I hate getting up early for a real job! But really it's just a lifetime of pent up stories that I've always wanted to tell. Buzzkill was a blast to write and yeah, it did take a lot out of me emotionally, but you kind of have to let that wound scab back over so you can rip it off for the next book, you know? I try to stay open and just kind of let new ideas and stories come to me, keep a journal, meditate. That kind of thing.
DF: How did Ghost Fleet come about? Is it something you pitched to Dark Horse?
Donny Cates: Yeah, Ghost Fleet had been something I’d been working on for a number of years. It was always going to be a big story so I knew it kind of had to wait until I’d proven myself on some smaller projects. Buzzkill was almost this little character piece with not a ton of moving parts. Ghost Fleet is this huge leviathan of big rigs and conspiracy, it wasn't going to fit in four issues.
I pitched Ghost Fleet and The Paybacks (the new ongoing set in the Buzzkill universe) on the same day actually. I thought, best case scenario, one of them will get a four issue commitment. Both got approved and both are ongoing. So I've kind of been thrown into the deep end!
DF: Tell us about this world of Ghost Fleet that kinda blends big rigs with conspiracy.
Donny Cates: Well, the Ghost Fleet is actually a real thing. When the government needs to haul dangerous or secretive cargo they hire out this group of big rigs known as the Ghost Fleet. They can’t be tracked or pulled over and the drivers have no clue what they are hauling….the first rule of Ghost Fleet is you never look at your cargo. In my story a Ghost Fleet operative breaks that last rule. Takes a peak at something he’s hauling. Something he shouldn't have ever seen.
Things…kind of get out of hand after that.
DF: Who are your protagonists?
Donny Cates: That’s a tough one. I can tell you who our main character is, but the division of good and bad in this book is a bit muddy. Everyone in this book has made some horrific and selfish mistakes, and every single one of them is trying to stay alive in a very violent and shadowy world.
But to just answer the question: Our two main characters are Robert Ward and Trace Morales, two Ghost Fleet operatives who, through one reason or another, find themselves at the center of a conspiracy that could destroy the world itself.
Trace is a raw nerve, Ward is a bit of a cowardly lion. It’s going to be a long haul. (Sorry.)
DF: Can you give us any clues as to what kind of secretive/dangerous cargoes we might be dealing with in these initial issues?
Donny Cates: Well…that’s the big question! What is in that truck!? As far as hints…I’ll say this:
Pay attention. Pay close attention to every panel, every line of dialogue. We tell you everything you need to know in the first issue.
It’s really at the core of the entire series. These mysterious big rigs…and the secrets they carry.
DF: So Ghost Fleet is planned for a 12-issue run with Dark Horse, no longer? Even if sales demand continuing this world?
Donny Cates: We’ll see, won’t we!? If it takes off and people dig it then sure! Why not? I could honestly write these secret action trucks of doom forever. The ball’s in your court, comic book readers!
DF: What do you think of working with artist Daniel Warren Johnson?
Donny Cates: Daniel is just a great guy and an incredible talent. Just astounding to work with. He has really and truly made me step my game up in a big way….when you’re getting pages coming in from Dan it makes you want to rise to the level of his art, you want your words and story to match the emotion, gravitas and pure kinetic thrill that he is slinging in these pages. Look….if I can’t convince you that this book is badass, just do me a favor….walk into a comic shop on November 5th and flip through the first issue. If Dan’s art doesn’t hook you, then I can’t help you. You hate fun. And puppies.
DF: Can you tell us a little about the book as its story continues?
Donny Cates: It’s going to get worse before it gets better, I’ll tell you that. Trace is on a collision course that he can’t even fathom. Everyone is in over their head here. The story moves quickly, it’s about fast trucks and bullets so it kind of has to. But we’ll find moments to slow things down and really get into some of these characters’ heads. There’s a lot of crazy mother truckers coming down the road…
Just wait until you guys meet Mickey Reno.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Donny Cates for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Ghost Fleet #1 hits stores TODAY!
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