Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Exclusive Interview with 2012 Top Cow Talent Hunt Winner Eugene Ward

I was lucky enough to get the chance to ask 2012 Top Cow Talent Hunt Winner Eugene Ward a few questions on being a winner of the contest.

How does it feel to be a winner of Top Cow’s Talent Hunt?

It was really exciting when I heard my script was one of the entries that Matt had selected. It was one of those things where I thought it was good experience to set myself the task of fulfilling the Hunt’s criteria and getting a story down, rather than something that I was totally concerned with winning. With the large number of entrants I honestly didn’t think I would be one of the winners.

It has been a great source of encouragement, to be recognized like this, and it has been highly motivating in terms of really getting to work on my creator-owned pitches.     

What influenced you in becoming a comic book writer?

Like probably anyone who enters into it, it really starts with being a fan of comics. The desire to create the same kind of worlds that I had long been immersed in, to work in a unique medium that delivers such a kinetic thrill but works with nowhere near the budget of film.

I was also encouraged by the fact that my prose work in high school generally got good feedback. In tenth grade I placed runner up in a short story competition in my state here in Australia. So creative writing has always been on my mind as something I would like to give a serious crack at, but it’s a pursuit that can be very hard to plan out, whether you’re looking to publish novels or comics.

Like any creative pursuit it’s a long road and at times it’s hard to find opportunities when you’re up-and-coming. That’s why I think that Top Cow’s Talent Hunt initiative is so important and so impressive.

What comics or writers inspire you?

My first exposure to comics didn’t include Marvel and DC, as they weren’t on Australian newsstands by the time I was old enough to be interested, and I wasn’t aware of the direct market stores here in Sydney at the time. It was also before the average bookstore had many superhero trade paperbacks at all. They generally had manga and the more ‘arty’ independent publishers. Shirow Masamune and Christopher Ware were what I had when I was 11. So I guess I am informed by the action beats of manga and the humor of Ware, as well as Clowes and Crumb.

I basically continued to read Japanese manga and American independent graphic novels right up until I was 17 or 18, when I finally decided to check out some superhero stuff. My favorite writers whose work includes runs on Big 2 series would be Greg Rucka and Grant Morrison.

One of the positive things about this delayed exposure to mainstream comics is that I don’t hold any of the widespread stigmatic views concerning a lot of 90’s books. I enjoy comics for both their mental and visceral stimulation - the writing doesn’t always have to be a revolutionary or deconstructive exercise. It’s a visual medium and the visuals can carry it very far. I am as much enamored with the iconography of comics as I am with any mental wit. I love Spawn, Venom, Rob Liefeld’s X-Force etc…

I’ve been enjoying Copra by Michael Fiffe a lot, as I think it reflects this diverse combination of ‘high’ and ‘low’ – or maybe just the casual rejection of that divide - as well as genuine, non-nostalgic affection for the action of 80s and 90s books that are too often characterized as being insubstantial diversions that are a far cry from the ‘respectable graphic novels’ that dominate commentary from outside the medium.

How does it feel working for a company like Top Cow?

It’s still hard to believe that I will have a script in print with such a big name in comics, and a book that will be distributed by Diamond to my local store here in Sydney.

How does it feel to work on a series as popular as Artifacts?

I hope it exposes people to what I can do as far as writing, whether they are readers or in the industry. I’m not assuming anything about getting more work-for-hire jobs off the back of one issue and I will continue to work hard on my own pitches, but it is a very prominent book and you never know who might see something in what I have written. So it’s exciting for sure.

What do you love writing the most (dialogue, action, character interaction ect.) and what is your favourite genre to write?

Comics allow for the depiction of physicality and actions that defy what’s possible in reality, and they are able to sell these physical feats through their art so that it is plausible within the context of the narrative. So I find the action the most fun to write - the opportunity to be wild and inventive in the construction of fights, chases etc.

I wouldn’t say I have a favorite genre, so much as I enjoy writing a story that makes use of comics’ potential for capturing imaginative action and images. It doesn’t matter if it’s crime or high concept sci-fi, I just want to give readers something they will really remember when they think about what came out that week or month.

Were you a fan of Artifacts prior to working on the series?

My favorite Top Cow series has always been The Darkness, particularly Garth Ennis’ issues right at the beginning. But I enjoy Witchblade and of course Artifacts as well, particularly the arcs post-Rebirth. Top Cow is fairly unique in comics in that it publishes books set in a shared universe with some very popular properties, but with greater real world grounding in the sense that there isn’t a superperson on every corner. 

How do you feel about working alongside a fellow winner of Top Cow‘s Talent Hunt?

Martin is a really talented artist and it was a great experience to work with him. He gave me a lot of insight into how to better script for the artist, and he offered his own thoughts on the action and layouts that I might not have initially loved, but in the end proved to be constructive and collaborative. I look forward to following his work in comics and checking out what he does next.

Are you planning to work on any more issues of Artifacts and if not what are you planning on working on next?

I do have a pitch that follows up on a possible conflict between Nottingham and Ji Xi, but I am waiting to see how well my issue is received before contacting Bryan or Matt about it.

Otherwise, I have a number of creator-owned pitches that are in progress. Some are for mini-series while others would be serialized shorts suitable for an anthology or backup. I’m also working on a pitch with a co-writer, a friend of mine, Drew Kim, who I met through my work as a DJ and music producer and it turned out he is a big comics fan as well and has some really cool ideas.

What advice would you give an aspiring writer about tackling Top Cow’s Talent Hunt in the future?

It’s something that every writer will probably say but I think it’s true: originality. Yes, when you’re doing work-for-hire there may be boxes that should be ticked in terms of fitting the general context of the company’s books, however, I’d suggest never letting this be what dictates your idea for a story. 

Think about what you have to offer over any other writer. I guess it comes back to what I was saying earlier about inventive action – come up with images that the artist can really go wild with, so that the final product is hopefully something that readers will remember.

Artifacts #34 is on sale 29th January.

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