INTERVIEW: DARRIN O’TOOLE CHATS ABOUT HIS VARIOUS COMIC PROJECTS

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Darrin O’Toole gave an update on his projects recently but I thought I’d put some questions to him to get a few more details and go a little bit into what it is like working with so many different artists and on such a variety of projects. Also, what is Anarchrists?!

I’m going to start with Earthruler as it was my first exposure to your work. You funded that through Kickstarter ast year. Now that you’ve had time to reflect on the whole process, how was it for you?

Stressful in some ways but extremely humbling in others. Having to start at zero and raise $4000K in 30 days was a tough task, but it made us really rope backers into not just pledging their cash, but rallying and recruiting to the cause. Team Earthruler will have a special place in the hearts of myself and artist Shawn Langley!
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You’re going to do the same thing for part 2 coming in 2015. Any hints to the story or maybe some rewards you’re thinking of offering?

Well anyone who read the book saw us deliver on the promise that it wasn’t a typical superhero book, even though we started off as a very visceral one. We teased it with the Alien father and the child and the final pages of book one saw the pieces start to fall into place regarding them and how they are part of what is happening with Rykaal on Earth. We also alluded to the 140 year war and the arrival of The Vodeni on Earth, so book 2 will see us really dive into these things from page one. Shawn is to finish some work on Rapid City for Monolith Press and then he’s back on the drawing board for book two.

I’m a sci-fi guy so that aspect of the book really appealed to me. I’ll quickly mention Tales from the Void too as that was a great science fiction collection. What is it about sci-fi that speaks to you as a writer? I was wondering if you had more sic-fi stuff in the works?

Most people know I’m a huge sci-fi fan, growing up fascinated with The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone, Planet of the Apes, Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica and so much more. My love for sci-fi is probably due to its ability to look at human nature in fantastical worlds and stories. I’ve a lot of sci-fi projects in various stages and will likely always see Sci-fi as my first love and safe zone when it comes to writing. I was working on a sci-fi version of The Odyssey, but it looks like Matt Fraction and Rob Liefeld are also doing projects similar so I had to shelve it for now. Anyone wanting a sci-fi fix should check out my story “Red Lotus” which appears in Lightning Strike issue 5 and features some great cyberpunk style art from Cormac Hughes, with colours by Dee Cunniffe and lettered by Miriam Abuin. It’s a ten page story and has all the hallmarks that people have come to expect when reading one of my stories.
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Moving on to Lady Babylon and the beautiful painting and other media work of Alan Hurley. I believe he’s hard at work on issue 2.

Yes and I can’t wait to see it in readers hands!

The book is about Leila Waddell and her relationship with Aleister Crowley. Thanks to the first issue and another Crowley book, Wandering The Waste, I have ended up getting quite familiar with the character. He’s a very interesting guy with a lot of things going on in his story (There is a book out there that is just about his relationship with WB Yeats for example). What was it about him, and his relationship with Leila Waddell in particular, that made you want to do the book?

Well I love the dynamic between the two, its such a strange pairing. What I hope to explore (aside from the occultist stuff) is how someone gets sucked into living a life intertwined with a person like Crowley. Wandering The Waste is a criminally underrated graphic novel and investigates Crowley and delves into Crowley’s life (Note: ICN reviewed the book and you can check it out here), but Lady Babylon is Leila’s story, with Crowley being the corrupt influence on her life. Ultimately Lady Babylon will be a tale of how a pure soul is pulled down a dark path thanks to misguided love and how that soul tries to find peace with how they ended up on this path.
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Would you call him the villain of the piece or is it more complex than that?

I would say it is more complex than that. Crowley is a contradiction of a man, and his actions in issue one destroyed Leila. Everything going forward in the series is Crowley trying to somehow atone for that, although that’s not essentially a good thing for Leila.

We’re also in the middle of your (first) Glimmer Man mini with Luca Pizarri. I really enjoyed the first few issues. People kid easily label his team, the League of Volunteers, as “the Irish Avengers” so I was impressed with how you went about showing how Glimmer Man wasn’t Captain America.

I thought it was pretty important to make him be his own person. I think by the end of issue 2 those comparisons are put to bed. I love Captain America but the fact that he was injected with a serum to gain an edge never sat right with me, so this way my way of showing another, nobler way of how a man can become a symbol of hope for a nation. For him to be an iconic character, he needed to stand on his own feet and have his own backstory,ideals and personality and I think he’s really fleshed out well over these 3 issues. Now that we’ve established that the leader of The League is his own man and a leader in his own right, the rest of the team can be fleshed out similarly by whoever tackles them down the line.
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You must like the character as you will be doing another story. How different is it working in someone else (Robert Curley)’s universe?

I love working on Glimmer Man, I feel myself, Luca & Rob have built him really well.(I should also nod to Neil Sharpson who did an outstanding job writing him in his League of Volunteers arc). It’s great fun writing in the Atomic Diner world because there’s so much scope to reference events from the world and it’s characters. Rob’s done a great job coming up with the world and then getting some great creators in to help him flesh it out, and I love being in that group!

You have gotten to work with a great bunch of artists. A diverse bunch of styles too. I was wondering how your scripts differ for the guys you are working with. I’m thinking of Alan Hurley in particular as his style is so different.

I’ve been extremely lucky with the artists I’ve worked with on my projects. Scriptwise they all get the same type of script from me, but they all move from there in their own unique ways. Luca for example will send an issue worth of thumbnails that are en par with some finished comics! He’ll then re-do them with more style and flair to each panel. His preference is to work with a thickly worked script, so likes to have all the panel descriptions and dialogue already there before he begins. He’ll use the scripts direction as his map, but will then apply a ton of visual tricks to make the story flow. I think when writing a script I’m a pretty visual thinker but Luca takes my layouts to another level once he starts working on them. Anyone who bumps into him at a con should buy him a beer and pick his brain on how he works!

With Shawn we worked very closely on a day to day basis and Shawn followed the script to a tee. There’s probably one extra panel in the first 3 issues and Shawn put his attention into making it as dynamic as possible. There’s obvious stylistic nods in Earthruler to dark sci-fi comics and Shawn really gave the book a great feel.

With Alan it’s a little different as it’s more “artistic”. Alan will draw inspiration from the script but will then start thinking of ways to attack the feel of what I want to convey. A great example would be the image of Crowley which is made up entirely of cut up newspapers. Allowing Alan freedom to do what he is good at meant we got several moments like that in the book, rather than just standard panel to panel stuff.

Another thing you are working on is Anarchrists. I say “thing” as I’m not entirely sure what it is yet. Do you want to go into it or maybe just give some cryptic hints? (Note: people can check out Tumblr for the hints so far)

Well, firstly what I will say is that Bernadett Sarosi is going to be the next big artist out of Ireland judging by what I’ve seen so far, definitely a creator to watch! Will Sliney put me in contact with her and I could immediately see why. She’s going to be a star.
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Anarchrists is Fight Club meets Battle Royale. It’s The Invisibles minus the magick. It’s The Prisoner meets Big Brother society. It’s Anonymous, it’s Columbine. It’ll offend everyone and anyone and takes the extremes of the world to extremes in themselves. It’s punk rock, it’s not just a comic you read, it’s a comic you can live. People are going to have a lot of fun with it. People can check out @anarchrists and use the hashtag #weresometa to get in on the fun!

The most recent thing of yours to be released was a one page story in The Sakai Project. Can you tell us something about the project?

I only got a copy today and it’s a stunning book. For those who aren’t aware, the proceeds of the book are going to Usagi creator Stan Sakai and his wife Sharon, who are going through a lot right now so it’s worth picking up on that basis alone. But looking at the content of the book alone, it’s got some of comics biggest names in there from personal favourites like David Mack, Adam Hughes and Dave Gibbons to Mike Mignola, Bill Sinkevitch, Brian Bendis, John McCrea,Matt Groening and hundreds more of the industry’s top names. It’s extremely humbling to have been included amongst them and even more so as it’s for a great cause. 26371

I looked through the book and there are a lot of excellent pieces but you (and artist Luca Pizzari) got to tell short story. It kind of stood out for me. That must be kind of special.

Yeah it’s pretty awesome. I had noticed that myself earlier when browsing it, so to be one of the only writers included in The Sakai Project is extremely humbling. For Luca and I to do it together made for a fun project and it’s nice to say we’ve a story published by Dark Horse…hopefully the first of many!

I think we’ve covered everything. You have a lot of stuff and a lot of variety in it. How do you balance it all out?

I think it’s jumping from genre to genre that gets my creative juices flowing to attack the next script with enthusiasm. There’s no better feeling than wrapping up 3 issues of Earthruler’s surreal sci-fi and then jumping straight into horror fantasy with Lady Babylon, then finishing that and begin researching the Spanish Civil War for Glimmer Man. It’s the genre jumping that keeps it so fresh I think, or at least hope!

What’s your con schedule like for the rest of the year?

I’ll be a guest at Dublin Comic Con in August and then DICE in Sept, and then I’m off to Malta Comics Expo in October which I can’t wait for. There’s a seminar/workshop in the works for Sept but that’s still being finalised by the event planners. I look forward to seeing everyone at all of these events so be sure to drop by and say hello at a con!