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Interview: Dave Elliott Talks Comic Books

Weirding Willows Original Art

The very first Weirding Willow piece of art
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Dave Elliott has been in the comic book industry for more than twenty five years, working as writer, artist, editor, and publisher. He is the creator of, among other things,  Sharky, Maximum Force, and the recently appearing Weirding Willows. Other titles he has worked on include has Deadline, 2000 AD, Justice League of America, Transformers, and GI Joe. He recently teamed up with Titan Comics to revive A1, an anthology of interesting and offbeat titles that started coming out in June of 2013 and Tomorrowland , which comes out this month (July). This week, he took the time to answer some questions about his work in this exclusive interview.

JG: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this!

DE: My pleasure.

JG: Your source material for Weriding Willows is quite widespread in time. When does the story take place?

DE: Around 1895, give or take a year or three.

JG: Is this set in our England or in some alternative universe?

DE: I always think of everything I write being MY universe. To all intents and purposes it is our world but like JJ Abrams version of Star Trek some of the events that take place may split off that timeline.

JG: Alice is quite different from the little girl in the Wonderland books. Is this a result of her adventures or did Lewis Carroll sanitize things for his audience?

DE: I think Lewis Carroll wasn’t much different from Alice’s own father, didn’t know what to make of this young girl’s stories and just wrote down the bits he understood as they seemed so fantastical.

JG: How did Weirding Willows get its start?

DE: Like most of my ideas it started somewhere and ended up in another. I started with some ideas for Wonderland and started wishing I could use other characters from other works… Penny dropped and once I embraced that it took on a life of its own. But it all started with the same concept of creating a brand new world and using characters people had heard of to get them hooked.

JG: You’re also writing Odyssey. How did that get its start? How many issues do you plan for the soldier’s tale?

DE: Odyssey started as two ideas that I ended up putting together. I originally created BLAZING GLORY in the 1980’s and did a story set in the 1940’s just so I could draw it in a Simon & Kirby feel. The idea then was several creators and myself were going to create an entire line of comics no one had ever heard of but whose history went back to World War 2. The idea fell apart as the others started getting regular gigs so I started using BG wherever I could. When I started Odyssey it was still going to be about people with amazing powers and abilities, just no costumes. Realizing I didn’t have the time or budget for both I decide to merge them. I used the hook of the stars and stripes because I knew people would compare him to another character who wears the stars and stripes, but by A1 issue 6 you’ll get the first big hints that this going off on a tangent. A BIG tangent. I did a similar thing with Shark-Man, a book I worked on at Image with Steve Pugh and Michael Town. Everyone picked the book up because they thought we were doing an underwater Batman, but I turned that on its head before the end of the first issue.

Odyssey, like Weirding Willows, is a big story and I have many different stories to tell. I know the endings of both of them, so I’m just fleshing out the stuff in the middle.

JG: What about Tomorrowland? What makes it a “music festival adventure”?

DE: Tomorrowland is a fantastic music festival with a really rich and immersive design and feel created by Patrick Moerland. It was his designs and aesthetics that inspired my first ideas for what the comic would be. Then I just had to those few notes to Paul Jenkins and he breathed life into it.

 Odyssey cover for A1 by Jim Steranko and Stanley Artgerm Lau

The Odyssey cover for A1 by Jim Steranko and Stanley Artgerm Lau

JG: How do you switch from one story to another? Do you focus on one for several days or move from piece to piece?

DE: I’d written the script of the first Odyssey arc more than a year ago. While I have just finished the first arc of Weirding Willows. They’re two very different stories and the characters in WW started fighting with me to take their characters in different directions. I’ve already decided I want to do a separate line of books focusing on the rabbits Peter, Benjamin and Hoetoe (the White Rabbit) along with their friend Jack. I think when the second arc of Odyssey starts the characters will start talking to me more.

JG: Tell me a bit about A1. What are your goals there? What are some upcoming issues you are especially looking forward to?

DE: A1 was simply to get three concepts out at once and to give people a taste for all of them. My efforts at this stage wouldn’t have stretched to promoting three books so we combined our efforts.

The big book of A1 will be up next. 176 pages of short stories by some of the best creators who have ever worked in the business. That will be out in October. There will be short stories from Odyssey and Weirding Willows in both.

The idea behind everything I do at Atomeka is the concept of a co-operative publishing venture. Through A1 and Monster Massacre other creators and myself can try out new ideas and concepts in short stories. Many of us just can’t afford to do a mini-series for free and the time off from paying work to do them, but short 5-12 page stories are much easier and we can collect them later as their own stand alone books when enough material has been produced.

JG: You’re doing a lot of research for your work. What is one of the more interesting things you’ve learned lately?

DE: While researching Odyssey I came across a story about how in WW2 the German army were creating fake armies with fake tanks and fake airplanes. In a sign that you can still find humor during war, the allies took to bombing these fake air fields with fake, wooden, bombs.

JG: Speaking of research: Where do you go? What resources do you turn to?

DE: I have a very good local library that I try to spend one day every two weeks in just to do research and write. Also Wikipedia is a fantastic resource as well and can be a rabbit hole of itself. I like being inspired by real stories that I can then weave into a fantasy setting.

JG: What do you read for fun?

DE: I don’t have time for that. I don’t watch TV either. Occasionally watch something on Netflix. It’s far from fun these days but I read a lot of news articles. When you’re reading either your own or someone else’s scripts all the time, you start to avoid reading for fun.

JG: How do you start writing each day? Is there a favorite place you have? Favorite music?

DE: I usually get my head together in my local coffee shop. Their coffee is the best I’ve ever tasted so I usually sit down with a pad and plan out my day/week. Sometimes I actually get to plot out stories in there. I sometimes need a change of scenery to do some the creative thinking. When you work out of home you tend to make the most out of any chance to get out you can.

J: What is one question you wish you had been asked and what is the answer?

DE: “You’ve achieved a lot in this industry, what do you want to do next?” My real dream is to be able to scrape by doing more Weirding Willows, Odyssey, Dravn, Fenris (a new project being announced at SDCC with Dave Wilkins), putting together more A1 and Monster Massacre volumes and spending more time with my daughters. I don’t ask for much.  🙂

Links of Interest
Dave Elliott’s San Diego Comic Con Schedule
Dave Elliott’s page on Deviant Art
The A1 Anthology Trailer

JG’s note: Edited 7/18 to add the Odyssey cover which Elliott sent this AM. Couldn’t resist including it.


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