Ferguson’s 7 Questions With… Raymond Roche
One of the initial ideas behind 7 Questions was to shine the light on some new creators and their work. In this edition we have a brand new writer. It’s 7 Questions With… Raymond Roche.
What was the first comic work you did that was published?
SOMA: EDEN. It is my first and only (so far) published comic. I really only decided to write a comic after talking to Ciaran Marcantonio and Wayne Talbot (the guys behind Rogue Comics – Go, Rogue!) and they said “Do it, it’s easy.” And, they lied. Nah, they were great. They gave me great advice and Ciaran introduced me to the Northern Ireland artist Michael Arbuthnot. Although I have never actually met Michael in person, we were in daily contact, and he was such a generously witty guy I was spoiled. Every time I got a finished page it was like opening a Christmas present. SOMA:EDEN is a story about Mothers trying to protect their sons, painted on a backdrop of “Manifest Destiny” that colonists have a right to invade and take what they want without consequences. A Kinsale artist did the cover – Fiona Boniwell, recommended by my editor, the amazing Colin O’Mahoney from Turncoat Press in Cork. I decided to self-publish under my own label Two Pugs Publishing: Hard work but very satisfying.
What is the biggest thing you have learned since that book?
Working on comics is like being on the Avenger Team. It doesn’t matter how the team is made up as long as you have Vision.
Biggest thing is to have patience. Everything takes longer than you expect and you have to trust the team. The creator has the dream but unless you can draw at a super-advanced level and have edited a million other comics, let people do their job. It’s easy to be paranoid but the person who’s going to trip you up is… YOU.
What’s your process for writing a comic book?
My process is odd. I start with a list. (I made a list when I decided to start writing comics and I’m working my way through that list with each comic) I list the main idea, then the lesser themes, then I write the last page. From there, I work backwards until I get to a point where the beginning stops just short of being esoteric. I plot the main emotional beats and action, all on Post-Its. Spread them out and add in jokes. (I love puns) Then it’s simply writing the story, referring to the lists as I go. Unbelievably, it works like a dream. I send the absolutely perfect and doesn’t need changing First Draft to the editor and he hacks away at it until it makes sense to the reader. I always put too much in so I can prune it back.
The last thing I do is build the characters. There’s no point having an impressive main character who just doesn’t fit in the book. Mostly, I design the character’s back story when I’m out walking the dog. If the reader doesn’t find the character believable it jars them out of the story. I work out what the character has to accomplish and give them those skills/traits etc but I build in foibles and try to make them interesting. As I finally write the character I imagine an actor or a person I know who embodies those traits and it is remarkably easy to hear their voice.
After the Final Draft, it goes to the artist. And magic happens there. I letter my comic because it gives me another chance to prune or add. The script is fine but when you see the visual the dialogue sometimes needs fine-tuning.
What is the biggest influence on your work?
Influences? Well, directors like David Fincher, Guillermo del Toro, Kathryn Bigelow; they tell stories that have an internal logic and play with our perceptions. I devoured Richard Matheson novels and the prolific Donald Westlake made me laugh out loud. There’s nothing better than starting out thinking… assuming … you know where the story’s going and then being surprised at where you ended up. It’s great when the writer/director has their own voice. I based the planet in SOMA: EDEN on Harry Harrison’s Deathworld series. The look of the ship and hardware is reminiscent of Ridley Scott in the early days. Comics? I stopped reading them in my teens and only picked them up a few years ago. Boy, had comics changed.
The biggest influence, the book I most wanted to emulate and still might, is POWERS: Who killed Retro Girl. I think Watchmen and a dozen Batman one-shots all fight for domination with Sin City in our group consciousness.
What are you working on right now?
Comics are a conveyor belt. I’m promoting the printed comic, we’re in the artwork stage on the next and I’m writing the third. The next comic is a police procedural supernatural story set in an alternative Dublin against a backdrop of government cover-ups and serial-killer manhunts. And, it’s a comedy. It’s called Dem Bones and is the first in a series. I had so much fun with this that I’m hoping the reader laughs as much as I did when I was writing it. It’s being drawn by the cover artist on SOMA: EDEN, the queen of cool Fiona Boniwell and is edited by Colin O’Mahoney.
What do you out now or coming out next?
I’m looking at the first finished pages of Dem Bones and thanking my good luck in finding Fiona. She’s packing every panel with atmosphere. So, I’m re-writing the Horror Western to suit her dramatic artwork. It makes such a difference if I can “see” how the pages will look as I write the script. After the Horror Western (The Talking Gun), what’s on the horizon? Hopefully back to SOMA: NIGHT and then Dem Bones Part 2, (working title is Heist, Heist, Baby), Horror Western 2 (The Russian Train) and somewhere in there I’m writing a children’s book: Stories for Kids to Frighten Their Parents.
What is your favourite Irish comic?
Well, I’m fairly new to the comic scene so much of what I’ve read recently has been suggestions from other people. My two favourite books, though stylistically opposite, are La Grand Breteche by Claire Foley and The Guards by Shane Ormond and Kevin Keane. Foley is a magician. She took a short story by Balzac and made it otherworldly, captivating and ethereal, a tale of social conforming while Ormond and Keane created a muddy world of right means wrong, up is down, the world is not what we see around us and heroes are flawed. It inspired me to write my own Police story. Ben Hennessy’s Rufus and Carrie is the closest you’ll get to an accomplished American monthly title. So many, The Hound, The Broker, Red Sands. Oh, God, I’d have to go with The Guards. They’re teasing me with a sequel and I cannot wait.