With the highly anticipated release of Void Trip imminent, Geek Genie caught up with the creative team behind the series, Ryan O’Sullivan and Plaid Klaus.
GG: Can you tell us a bit about your background, how did you guys break into the comics industry and what other work have you done?
Plaid Klaus and I broke in together as it happens, working on the webcomic-cum-graphic-novel TURNCOAT. That was back in 2016. Was so much fun working on that one together. We broke all the rules with it. They always say make your first comic a small thing, you know, just a little thing to show you can do it. We made it 164 pages. Plus it was superheroes. It was glorious.
Since then I’ve mostly done licensed comic work, such as Eisenhorn for Games workshop, and Warhammer 40,000 and The Evil Within for Titan Comics. I’ve not let Klaus do anything else. Keeping him locked in the basement working on Void Trip before it was announced was pretty much my main purpose in life in 2017.
Basement? You said it was the Batcave
GG: How did you choose your creative team? Can you tell us a little about them?
Like all great love stories, we chose each other. Klaus’s artwork is perfect for the types of stories I wanted to tell in Turncoat and Void Trip. He’s cartoony, but uses a lot of black. Perfect for a comic one-part humour one-part existential angst. His colouring is beautiful – so beautiful that it can trick the reader into thinking that the life it represents is beautiful. But as we all know, life is nothing but suffering. Plus, he gets narrative. We came up with this idea together, so he’s as invested as I am in making sure that every page is a slave to the story.
It’s true we share a lot of sensibilities, both creatively and our dark sense of humor. Also we’re both incredibly obsessed with making god damn good comics. I’ve always wanted to run the full gambit artistically so I learned to pencil, ink, color and letter (I have bad lettering which is why we’re lucky to work with Aditya). Ryan’s writing chops are next level, but he also has impeccable formatting of scripts and trimming of story far. So when I get a script it’s distilled to its literary essence which leaves me room to play around with world building and adding flavor. Also ryan was the first partner to take the business side as seriously as I always have, so it’s a perfect fit.
GG: How did you come up with the idea for Void Trip? Did you always have this idea knocking around in your head or was it a collaborative effort?
When we were finishing up on Turncoat I was reading a lot of American literature. The counter-cultural stuff like Kerouac, Bukowski, or Hunter S. Thompson. But also, the almost culture-enforcing stuff like Melville or McCarthy. I saw both sides of America in the authors I was reading. One half was the American individual dreaming of freedom, the other half was American society limiting your dreams. The more I thought about it, the more I realised this was just describing humanity as a whole.
So I had all this whirling around in my mind when I approached Klaus about the book. He dug it, even back in its earliest stages. I outlined some ideas, we bounced it back and forth. He was more like an editor or a co-writer in the early stages. Void Trip is very much something we created, conceptually, together. From there I went ahead and started scripting, and then Klaus started drawing it. It was a great way to work, and I’m sure the next thing we work on would be the same way. It’s the best way to do creator-owned collaborative comics. From a writer’s perspective, working with an artist from the early foetal stages of a concept really helps to invest both of you equally in the story.
GG: Klaus’ art work is really cool! It’s got a very unique style to it. What were you looking for when you were thinking about the visual elements to bringing this idea to life?
Thanks. The alchemical special sauce is in the collaborative process. As a team, Ryan and I produce worlds that wouldn’t be possible without both parties involved. I’ve come to feel like a good comic team is like a band. Take the Beatles for instance. Each member went on to make their own musical ventures, but none individual had the magic of the Beatles. Together we both put a life force int out project; each set of ideas one of us has spawns new ideas in the other.
GG: Without giving away too much for our audience, can you give us a run down or a “written trailer” of what the series is about?
Void Trip is the story of the last two humans left alive, taking a road-trip through the stars to the promised land of Euphoria. The problem? They’re a massive pair of hippies, more interested in getting high on psychedelic space froot than they are the usual sci-fi tropes. The bigger problem? An all-white, nameless, gunslinger is following them, leaving a path of destruction in his wake.
GG: What kind of themes do you explore in the book?
The entire book explores the question of “How can we be free in a universe, if the universe will always course-correct to limit us?” The idea that we are inherently limited in what we can do is something I find infuriating. So, I wanted to create a story about two characters who, theoretically, have unlimited freedom. They’re in space. They have a space van. They aren’t beholden to the human race (because it doesn’t exist anymore). Taking two characters like this, and having them explore what it means to be free in a universe like ours…it was eye opening.
GG: Tell us a little about the main characters, Ana and Gabe?
They’ve two halves of the same coin. Or maybe they’re just the same person a generation apart? Who knows. Ana is our lead, she’s a wide-eyed dreamer, intent on living life freely, following no rules but her own, never willing to compromise. Gabe is different, he’s a bit more long in the tooth. He’s been around the block a few times. He knows you’ve got to play along with the system a bit to be free. Gabe thinks he’s a realist. Ana just thinks he’s losing his fire a bit.
Which of them is right? Well, that’s up to the reader, not me.
GG: Do we get to find out what happened to the rest of the human race? Are these two humanity’s end?
No. The story is a road trip story first and a sci-fi story second. It’s about our two characters going from point A to point B. If we started talking about what happened before point A or…even worse…started worldbuilding outside of the road, then we’d completely lose sight of the point of telling a story like this. Everything in Void Trip is a slave to the story. Including Klaus and I.
GG: What is this promised land, Euphoria? Is it real, a metaphor?
It’s both. And also a potential spoiler.
GG: What are your hopes for the series? Are there a set number of issues you have planned out?
I hope I do it justice. There’s a story in my heart I want to tell with it, and I hope I actually tell that story. There’s always a risk when writing that things can get lost in translation. I like to think I’m hard enough on myself for that not to happen. But you can never be sure. Whether people actually like the story is much less important. It has to be that way, otherwise nothing would ever get written.
As for the length, it’s five issues. There’s always the possibility of continuing on if the sales numbers are decent. But the five issues are a finite five acts. It’s self-contained. Hmm. We’re marketing it as a five issue miniseries. Let’s go with that for now.
We’ve had a few networks approach us about the TV rights, but I don’t think this is something I’m interested in really. There’s this public perception I dislike about comics. The idea that they’re a stepping stone to greater things. I don’t like the “greater things” part of that sentence. I don’t consider other mediums greater. They can certainly be more profitable, but not greater.
So no, there’s no plans to pitch it anywhere. I’m open to discussing it, but Hollywood is not something I’m chasing.
Agreed. When you make a work of art, the last thing you want is someone to give you green paper in exchange to appropriate the world you’ve built and cover it in diarrhoea to sell movie tickets.
That being said, if an amazing director ever expressed interest, we could certainly have a conversation about it.
GG: Finally, we have a lot indie creators who use our site. What advice do you have for them when embarking on a career in the comic book industry?
Just create in your own unique voice, be honest about your weak points, and develop them stronger (this means making yourself vulnerable to professional criticism). Do the work as if it’s already your profession. Also, don’t wait for an opportunity to be handed to you. I’ve gone out and made every gain I’ve had as an illustrator and comic artist. You have to make your own opportunities.
For writers? Be good at writing. Don’t work for free, unless it’s for yourself. Writing scripts is pointless unless someone is drawing them. Don’t ever be content with where you are, always strive to improve your craft and your career. Treat it like a career or it will only ever be a hobby. Always credit your collaborators, and learn the ins and outs of what they do. It’s important to have a working knowledge of everything in comics. Not just on the creative side, learn the industry too. As a comic professional you are a small business. You need to learn how to carve out your own piece of the comic industry, because no-one is going to give it to you. Surround yourself with talented driven people on a similar level to you. Have a healthy competition with them, it will drive you on. Always remember no-one owes you anything, so make it impossible for people to ignore you. Always make sure you work with great artists, they will make you look good, and they will make people think you’re a good writer. Spend everything you have, time, money, and energy, on making this happen. Sacrifice friendships if you have to. Better yet, sacrifice friends. Become a Satanist. Kidnap people. Murder is fine if you get away with it. Learn how to hide the bodies. Consider not hiding the bodies. Maybe make the bodies your friends. Maybe slowly kill your entire neighbourhood so that they become nothing but a cadaverous puppet-show. Make them wear outfits. The sort of outfits you could never pull off, but that you like to think your cadaver friends could. Colour matching is important, learn the colour wheel. Get caught colour matching outfits for corpses when an ex-girlfriend surprise visits you. Blame her for it. Let her take the fall for all the murders. So many murders. So many you have to change your name to Ryan O’Sullivan and start a new life writing comics in England. Be careful not to admit to anything in interviews. Not even as a cry for help. Not even if it’s because you miss your old life and the only way to express that is through roleplaying in an interview answer. Yes, you might miss the cadaverous puppet-show, but it was just that – a show. They were just bodies. They weren’t real friends. They were real friends before you murdered them. But not afterwards. Afterwards they were just meat. Always remember that. New comic writers don’t always remember that.
But above all, be good at writing. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Void Trip is available in stores on November 22. Order your copy today!