FERGUSON’S 7 QUESTIONS WITH… HUGO BOYLAN AND KERRIE SMITH
Another different kind of 7 questions. I’ve been enjoying the webcomic Superhero Helpdesk so I decided to get the the 2 writers together. It’s 7 questions with Hugo Boylan and Kerrie Smith.
What was the first comic work you did that was published?
Hugo- The first comic work of mine to be published was the Superhero Help Desk webcomic. I’d tried a few times in the past to get something together, but nothing really worked out until I started working with Kerrie and Tree. It makes life a lot easier having a very good team to work with and those two make the SHHD a treat to write for.
Kerrie- Superhero Help Desk. I loved the idea of taking something as big as and colourful as superheroes and putting them in a really mundane situation, like an office. It’s a self-
published webcomic so there’s always a lot of work to do.
What is the biggest thing you have learned since that book?
Hugo- Listen to everyone else. I mean it. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience out there. They’ve done it before you and they know what they’re talking about, so ears open, there’s always more to learn.
Kerrie- I’ve learned a lot of technical things since then. If I had to pick a most important, I’d say it’s learning how to organise printing for marketing. If I had to pick the biggest I’d have to say lettering. When we started I had absolutely no clue, but I picked it up as we went along, now I can’t stop noticing the lettering in everything I read.
What’s your process for writing a comic book?
Hugo- The process is different depending on if I’m doing a full comic script, or if I’m just writing a short strip. If I’m writing a full issue or series it’s a solitary job. I tend to sit myself down at the computer for eight or so hours and write. I start with a quick pitch, so there is always have a reference for what the story is supposed to be and where it’s supposed to go, and follow that up with a little breakdown of each issue, so I can keep a little structure on what I’m doing and not wander too far off topic, because given the opportunity I know that I’ll digress over and over again; no story gets told that way. Once all that preliminary work is done (it usually takes about 30 minutes to an hour), it’s time to write. I don’t have any real process from this point; I just put one word down after another until the job’s done, and always with consideration to the page and panel layout. In that time I can usually finish the first draft of an issue and then obsess over it for a little while, before forcing myself to walk away. Hey presto, I’ve got a script!
Kerrie- This is going to sound more complicated than it needs to, but bear with me. It starts with a high concept. I take an idea and I break it down into its smaller parts. When I’ve worked out what those parts are, I build on them by attaching other ideas to them, and build them up into smaller components that all interconnect with each other, and the higher idea. I know that sounds a little silly and complicated, but trust me it makes a lot of sense. It’s just like building an academic argument. You have your central thesis, and then you just take the parts that make that thesis relevant and you build on them until you have something that works and then turn it all into something cohesive. Then you just put everything in the right order by breaking it down issue for issue, working out where different scenes go, and then bridging the gaps between one idea and the next.
What is the biggest influence on your work?
Hugo- Can I say store owners? The lads at the Big Bang comic shop are hugely influential and supportive, if only to tell me to keep working away at what I’m doing. You can’t ask for much more than that from a comic shop, and yet these guys go ahead and make DICE happen every year. DICE is an incredible opportunity to meet the local and international pros in the industry and learn a hell of a lot. In terms of artists, I can’t really say too much, my knowledge of art is limited to what I think looks good. When it comes to writers, I’d have to say Jonathan Hickman. I both love and hate Hickman’s work and I’ll tell you why; about 5 minutes after I read a Hickman title, I realise that I’ve always wanted to write that exact story. It happened with Manhattan Projects, it happened with East of West and it happened with Secret Warriors. In terms of TV, I draw a lot of my humour from Monty Python, Black Adder, Black Books, The IT Crowd and anything in that vein. Thinking of movies, I’m a life time fan of Star Wars and James Bond, and I’m certain that none of that shines through in my writing, but trust me, the influence is there.
Kerrie- Good, unapologetic horror, in whatever medium it chooses to appear.
What are you working on right now?
Hugo- Well my nose is always to the grindstone with the SHHD, and there has been some movement to start another website to host a few different kinds of webcomics and expand the portfolio. I can’t say more on that right now because I’m not sure how far off that is. Leaving that aside I’m currently editing a couple of projects that should see fruit before the end of the year.
Kerrie- The Superhero Help Desk work never really stops, so I always have something to write, edit, update or letter (or prop up our website with a broomstick). Right now I’m just focusing on steadily turning my supply of pitches into scripts so I can show them to artists and get a book out as soon as possible.
What do you have out now or coming out next?
Hugo- I’ve actually been working with Amanda Spitzner of Exploding Comics on a book called High Fantasy. It’s a fantasy/comedy adventure comic book that we’re hoping to have for Dublin Comic Con. It’s chock full of Dungeons and Dragons jokes and visual humour and has been a lot of fun to work on so far; Amanda’s art style really lends itself to the humour of the book.
Kerrie- I just started working on a book called Memory Thief with Katie Flemming, who writes and draws a really cool webcomic called The Devil Sells Faulty Goods. Memory Thief is a fugitive conspiracy narrative about a woman who has the power to steal people’s memories, I won’t say too much more but it’s a story that I’ve had in my head for a while and I’m really happy to be turning it into a comic at last.
What is your favourite Irish comic?
Hugo- I’ve always loved Commando Comics, so seeing Stephen Mooney recreating that style and adding dinosaurs (because everything is better with dinosaurs) with Half Past Danger was really appealing to me.
Kerrie- I really like Big Bastard by Danny McColgan and Neil O’Driscoll, I thought it was a wonderful idea and it’s so great to see a team like this working together to publish a creator owned comic. I tracked down the team at DICE last year to grab issue #1 and read it under the SHHD table (good thing Hugo didn’t notice) and I’m looking forward to seeing more.