FERGUSON’S 7 QUESTIONS… EMMET O’BRIEN
What was the first comic work you did that was published?
Despite a lifelong love of the form “I’m Awake, I’m Alive” is my first published comics work. Over the years projects had been started but circumstances conspired to prevent them from being completed much to my chagrin. I think it was about finding the right combination of folks and collaborators and in Turncoat Press and in the artists we assembled that’s exactly what happened.
What is the biggest thing you have learned since that book?
I think the real learning is going to begin now with getting the book out but from a personal point of view, I learned how satisfying it is to have your own work be interpreted by other people. From an editing point of view other writers gave me suggestions on scripts and artists took some of the concepts into places I hadn’t imagined. So I think the biggest thing I learned is to trust the people you’re working with. I also learned that lettering is vital!!
What’s your process for writing a comic book?
Insomnia! Seriously, I’m not entirely sure as to my process. It varies based on the project. I’m prolific when it comes to scripts and I try to incorporate a range of styles and tones. My approach is a little scatter-shot and I doubt anyone should consider my process a viable template but I like to just write, write, write. For some it’s always late at night. I’m aware how easier my life would be if I could write during the day but it never quite takes hold in the Sunshine. No wonder I hated doing homework! I don’t do drafts per se but I definitely refine scripts all the time. Looking back and cutting down is a necessary evil and you have to learn to lose something you might really like for the sake of a story. The main thing I think about when writing a story is that there has to be more to it than just the surface dressing. For example one my stories in the anthology is a metaphysical piece about a woman made of fire looking for some purpose. Beyond the notion of elements interacting and having lives it’s really about that feeling of being a certain age and wondering about the future or not appreciating what you already have. Comics don’t have to have morals but they must have strong themes, things behind the set pieces or cool moments.
What is the biggest influence on your work?
That’s a very tough question. I have a thousand people I admire across many different fields. When I make films I like to channel the absurdity and humour of Woody Allen and his post modern conceits, David Lynch, Hitchcock, Wes Anderson, Luis Bunel etc. Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek in its various forms. In comics I love the pulp energy of the Silver Age when comics were fun and colourful and unafraid to tackle genre after genre. The richness of Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, Herge, Goscinny and Uderzo, Stan Lee (for his puns if nothing else!) Jack Kirby, Lee Falk, Alex Raymond, Walter Simonson, JM DeMatteis, Will Eisner, Darwyn Cooke etc. Really too many to name. I think Joss Whedon may have shaped my work considerably. Regardless of how you feel about his style, there’s a recognisable tone and he deftly balances drama with comedy and puts character first even when the work is concept heavy.
What are you working on right now?
Still writing scripts but I’m also prepping a short film with a super hero flavour to be shot in July. I’m co-writing and directing with a talented filmmaker named Ross Carey. Being so focused on “I’m Awake, I’m Alive” has meant I have some catching up to do with other stories. There’s also a short animated piece in the works with an artist named Cethan Leahy and animation by musician David Nelligan.
What do you have out now or coming out next?
I’ve just finished the film festival run with my short film “A Novel Approach to Dating” and about to gear up for promoting my second film “Sleepover” for the circuit. Hopefully it’ll go well!
What is your favourite Irish comic?
There is some really great stuff out there but I’ve always been excited by the work of Tommie Kelly. While I feel it’s very easy as a writer in comics to fall foul of the cliches of the industry (God knows I can and will in the future!) I’ve always felt Tommie’s work is uniquely his own. I never feel he is reacting to or filtering other sensibilities and there’s a bracing quality to that which makes it compelling. He has a distinctive voice and a singular talent so I will nominate “The Holy Numbers” as a wonderful Irish book.
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