A View from Atlas Park: Interview with Rick Dakan, Part 2
CoHW: What’s a “Blue King”? It sounds like an unhappy monarch…
Rick: Well, I liked the idea of using playing card iconography. I don’t know why, it just sort of stuck in my head and wouldn’t leave. But I didn’t want any of the existing suits so then I came up with the idea of making my own suit – Moons. Sort of a “once in a blue moon” type of thing. Thus, Blue King.
Plus I wanted a “B” title so I could be towards the beginning of the small press section of Previews (the catalogue from Diamond Comics Distribution that storeowners order their stock from).
CoHW: Having left Cryptic and successfully pitched a monthly CoH comic, how did you go about setting up Blue King Studios?
Rick: Actually, I set up Blue King first, with Mike’s help, as soon as I left.
Originally we were going to do comic, maybe a CoH comic, but definitely other stuff as well. I started several projects before we started the CoH monthly, but I’ve found it can be pretty hard to get an artist to do pages unless you’re paying him more money than we could afford at the time. Thus COH was the first title that actually got going because it was the best funded.
Having said that, now that we’ve made a little money from that, we have four or five titles in the works that’ll come out over the course of the next year.
CoHW: I’ve heard that Mario Puzo tried and failed to write comics due to the very limiting structure that monthly comics place on the writer. How are you finding the writing experience for the CoH comic?
Rick: I actually like the limiting structure. It’s a useful organizing tool to know that you have to fill exactly 22 pages, no more, no less. I’ve gotten a much better feel for pacing and storytelling as we’ve progressed through the series. I just finished writing issue 10, and the last few issues have gone very smooth. It’s really a lot of fun.
CoHW: You launched Issue #1 to a large number of people, mostly players who had signed up to CoH. Was there much pressure on you at that stage? How did you handle it?
Rick: There was definitely pressure on, but I was so busy I didn’t have time to think about it. Between setting everything up with the printers and working with people on two coasts and still doing my design stuff for Cryptic, I didn’t have time to think too much about that.
CoHW: The main characters of the monthly comic are Apex, War Witch and Horus. How did these characters come about?
Rick: Apex and War Witch were characters from the original promo comic that we did through Dark Horse, along with Thunderclap. They were pretty much just characters I came up with for that issue without a whole lot of back story to them. One of the artists at Cryptic designed them using the game’s character creation system and then we sent screen shots as reference to the artist.
CoHW: What happened to Thunderclap (who was the focus of the promotional comic, but hasn’t appeared in the monthly comic to this point)?
Rick: I just wasn’t really fond of Thunderclap for some reason. I don’t know why, but he didn’t gel with me. I wanted something a little different and, more importantly, I wanted a character with a little more going on in his background. As readers of the comic are now learning, there’s a LOT going on with Horus’ background, including stuff he doesn’t know about/remember.
CoHW: Given that you have an automatic and large reader base from the CoH side, have you experienced any professional / personal backlash from other comic publishers?
Rick: No, most of the backlash has been from the readers! While I’ve received lots of compliments on the book, the folks on the CoH message boards were pretty savage in the beginning. It looks like we’ve started to win them over now though.
Actually, I try not to read the boards too much, as I find them very distracting and harmful to my productivity, but Brandon reads them religiously and reports back to me the best and the worst.
CoHW: If someone came to you about advice in starting up an independent comics studio, what would you tell them?
Rick: First of all, remember that there’s no money in it. Well, there’s a little money, but not tons and tons.
Also, getting quality, hard working artists is the key. Making a 22-page comic is hard, especially for the artist and especially on a monthly basis. Make sure you get three or four issues done and in the can before you start releasing your book.
Other than that, just make sure you tell stories you love, because you’re going to spend a lot of time with your characters and stories, and if you don’t like them, we probably won’t either.
CoHW: Blue King Studios appears to have a fairly open policy for accepting submissions from writers and artists. What kinds of materials would you like to see come through your doors? Is there anything you would be happy to not see any more of?
Rick: Well, we’ll look at anything, but we accept very little. The most important thing is to send sequential art pages – actual comic book panel work.
Beyond that, we’re not really interested in any other superhero-related stores besides City of Heroes. Almost any other genre is more interesting to us at this point. Really, the things that would get the most interest at this point are finished projects that’re looking for a publisher.
CoHW: Apart from the CoH comic, what else is currently in the works at Blue King Studios?
Rick: Well, we’re finally getting back on track with Macbeth, which has been languishing for ten months while the artist did work that pays him much better (a decision I can’t fault). But he’s back on the job and hopefully we’ll wrap that all up in the next three or four months and be able to print that bad boy. It’s a complete text adaptation of Macbeth, which will be a five issue mini-series.
State of Fear, my sort of experimental comic, is also coming along, with the first three issues done art wise and ready to be lettered and laid out. Boy and Robot was going strong until I hired the artist to do the colors for City of Heroes, but he’s working his schedule so he can get back to that. We also have a title called Black Heart Irregulars that’s in the works, with a brilliant artist from Argentina doing great work. Hopefully all of those will hit in the next year.
CoHW: What would be your dream project (apart from those you already have)to have Blue King release?
Rick: I’m very excited about Macbeth and I want it to be the first of many Shakespeare adaptations. I’d like to have a whole line of those that I can sell to schools and libraries and bookstores. As for my own stuff, I’ve got a project called Gorilla Guerilla that I’ve been playing around with and am looking for artists for (once I finish the script).
My big dream is to write novels though. I’ve written everything else it seems, but that’s where I really want to go next. I’m working on one now, and am about halfway through. When it’s done I might shop it around to publishers but I also might just publish it myself. We’ll see what happens.
THE FUTURE: OF HEROES, VILLAINS, KINGS AND PRESIDENTS
CoHW: CoH is just about to enter its first Halloween event. How far into the future is the narrative for CoH planned? How flexible is it?
Rick: With regards to the game, that’s well beyond my balliwick these days, so it’s a question better addressed to Cryptic. I know they’ve got at least another year’s worth of material planned and in the works, leading up to City of Villains. You’ll have to ask those cats out in San Jose for more specifics.
With regards to the comic, we’re planned through issue 12 right now.
CoHW: The rumour that is floating about is that the Fifth Column will no longer exist as we know them at the end of this in-game event, or series of events. Do you have any comments (however cryptic) about these rumours?
Rick: Not much I can say other than this is a topic we’re dealing with in the comic as well, although it’ll appear in the comic after the in-game event I think.
CoHW: What plans do you have for City of Villains?
Rick: My role in City of Villains was pretty limited. I did a fair amount of early design work for possible settings and NPC and villain groups and so forth, but I don’t know how much of that will end up in the final product. They’ve got some great new designers/writers working on City of Villains now, so it’ll be exciting to see what they come up with.
CoHW: What does the future hold for City of Heroes?
Rick: Well, I know the city and its environs are going to keep expanding. But there are also some very cool new game systems in the works that I’m sworn to secrecy about but which promise to add new depth to the overall game experience for everyone. Or so I am told.
CoHW: What does the short-term future hold for you, Rick? What’s coming up?[p]Rick: Short term I’m on sort of a break right now, in semi-retirement besides working on the comic (which is still a fair amount of work). My artist for Macbeth just freed up time in his schedule so that’ll be my other big project for the next few months – writing the script adaptation for that and cracking the whip. [p]CoHW: Where would you like to be 12 months from now? What would you like to be doing? [p]Rick: Hopefully the novel will be done and Macbeth will be out and our second Shakespeare adaptation as well. Likewise, hopefully I’ll be writing issue 23 of the CoH comic. And Kerry will be 10 months into his first term as President, although by the time this runs I reckon we’ll know one way or the other…
[p]CoH Warcry would like to give a big thanks to Rick for agreeing to be interviewed. [p] – UnSub [email protected] November 10 2004