Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Exclusive Interview with S.H.O.O.T. First Writer Justin Aclin

I was lucky enough to get the chance to ask S.H.O.O.T. First writer Justin Aclin a few questions about working in the comic book industry as well as the future of S.H.O.O.T. First.

What influenced you in becoming a comic book writer?

I've wanted to be a writer since I was about 10, although originally I was interested in writing stories and books, Very shortly after that I fell in love with comics and started creating my own heroes and universes, and that was when I decided I wanted to write comics. I'd always had comics around in the background - my dad had been an artist for Marvel in the late 70s - but I started collecting around the time of Marvel's "Mutant Genesis" X-Men relaunch and that was when the bug bit me hard.

What comics or writers inspire you?

The biggest influence on my current writing is Kurt Busiek. I've read tons of comics over the years and I've been inspired by many different writers, but I don't really aspire to be a Neil Gaiman or an Alan Moore. Busiek, to me, is someone who consistently tells stories that say something true and relatable about the human condition, and they say it with great characters who happen to have superhero or sci-fi battles. That's absolutely the kind of comic I want to write and try to write.

How did you get into the comic book industry?

I started out as an intern for Wizard Magazine during college, then was hired right out of college as an editor for Wizard's sister publication ToyFare. Eventually I became the head editor for ToyFare and the head writer for Twisted ToyFare Theatre, the popular comic strip that ran in the magazine every month. During that time I wrote my first original graphic novel, Hero House, which was published in 2009 by Arcana Comics with art by Mike Dimayuga. That lead to the opportunity to pitch S.H.O.O.T. First to Dark Horse.

How does it feel working for a company like Dark Horse?

Working with Dark Horse has been my proudest professional accomplishment. They have a nearly 30-year history of putting out amazing comics. On top of that, they've been incredible to work with. Every comic I've published since Hero House - S.H.O.O.T. First, two Star Wars graphic novellas and an adaptation of the online game Akaneiro - has been published through Dark Horse, and I'd love to keep working with them as much as possible.

How do you feel having developed S.H.O.O.T. First from a short story in MySpace Dark Horse Presents into a mini-series?

S.H.O.O.T. First appeared for the first time, in prototype form, at the end of the run of MySpace Dark Horse Presents, which was a free online anthology that ran on MySpace. It was actually in the second-to-last "issue." At the time, that was Dark Horse's venue for trying out new talent, but they weren't using it as an active platform to develop new creator-owned titles like they're doing with the current print incarnation of Dark Horse Presents. So I wrote a story that established this team and this world with no guarantee that it would ever appear again, but with the hope that I'd get to tell more stories with them. That prototype story, "The Wooden Saint" with art by Ben Bates, will be collected with the mini-series in the S.H.O.O.T. First trade paperback this May.

S.H.O.O.T. First is a story that sees Atheists take on Angel. How did you come up with the concept and how much of your own opinions on religion have influenced the final story?

Originally I was hoping to come up with an idea in the tradition of Dark Horse's supernatural action titles like BPRD, but with a unique twist. And the twist I came up with is a team that doesn't fight monsters on the monsters' terms, but treats them all with skepticism and attacks them with science. And that happened to dovetail with something I was going through at the time, which was dealing with losing my own sense of religious faith and identity. So that became an extremely important element to the story, and writing it actually helped me sort through what I was feeling and answer some questions for myself. So it became, in the end, an intensely personal story for me, even though it's also a big, crazy action-adventure comic.

S.H.O.O.T. First will return for a three part story in the pages of Dark Horse Presents. But what exactly does the future hold for S.H.O.O.T. First in the long run and will we see anything following this?

There aren't any solid plans right now for more S.H.O.O.T. beyond the Dark Horse Presents story, but I'm thrilled that Dark Horse has shown a willingness to publish more S.H.O.O.T. adventures by including them in their flagship anthology title. Right now, I need to figure out what more S.H.O.O.T. adventures would look like. Without getting too heavily into spoilers, the status quo for the team changes significantly at the end of the mini-series, and it's up to Nico and I to figure out what that means for future stories. I chose an ending that was right for these characters...not necessarily one that would make it easy for me to go on writing more S.H.O.O.T.  First stories in the vein of what's come before.

How does it feel to work alongside Nicolás Daniel Selma and how easy do you find writer/artist relationships to be?

I've had an awful lot of luck with my writer-artist relationships. Nico has been a joy to work with. I had the pleasure of meeting him and his wife Amanda, who's our letterer, when they came to the U.S. to launch the book at New York Comic Con, and they're wonderful people. The art that Nico and our colorist Marlac have contributed are the key ingredient that makes S.H.O.O.T. First come to life. It's gotten better with every issue!

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

Character interactions are definitely my favorite thing to write, although of course that could include dialogue, action and everything else. I consider my comics to be largely character-driven, though.

Are there any other projects or series you plan on working on in the near future, or are you just sticking to S.H.O.O.T. First at the moment?

I'm working on a few non-S.H.O.O.T. projects as well, and hopefully at least a couple of them will see the light of day this year. Stay tuned!

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer about getting into the comic book industry?

The advice I always give is don't set out to write a 100-page epic. Figure out the story you want to tell, then come up with a smaller story within that world that can stand on its own and do that as an 8-or-so-page comics, start to finish. Make that your calling card. It worked for S.H.O.O.T. First!

You can pick up S.H.O.O.T. First #1-3 now with SHOOT First #4 coming out 15th January and the TPB coming out 14th May.