Interview: Dan Boultwood – Creator Of It Came!
Dan Boultwood’s It Came! #1 was released on Wednesday and tells the story of a giant robot from space appearing...
Dan Boultwood’s It Came! #1 was released on Wednesday and tells the story of a giant robot from space appearing in a country town in 1950s England. Told from the perspective of our two heroes, Dr Boy Brett and his lady friend Doris, the comic is a funny, wonderfully drawn, and hugely entertaining comic that pays loving homage to cheaply produced sci-fi movies of this era, among other things. Dan spoke to me about his latest series and other topics, including his obsession with b-movies.
Noel Thorne: First of all, I loved this comic – congratulations on creating such a brilliant, clever and funny comic. What made you want to do a comedy about space robots coming to Earth framed as a 1950s b-movie?
Dan Boultwood: Hello Noel, I’m glad you enjoyed issue one I hope the rest lives up to expectations!
I’ve always loved B-movies, they’re my favourite genre of film so I had a look about to see if anyone was doing any B-movie related shenanigans and found that it was a sorely overlooked area. I suppose it’s that thing of write what you know, the thing being that I also love the old Ealing comedies so combining the two was a natural progression and also the fact that whenever I’ve tried to write anything it’s always been a comedy, I tried serious once but I had a headache within 4 minutes so decided against it. I think it was the Ealing influence that made me veer towards setting it in England in the 50s as I love the era so much that even my car is from that decade, in fact it’s my car that they drive around in for the whole book! As for the robot, who doesn’t like robots?! Actually originally it was going to be some sort of mind controlling brain alien but then it was too much like Quatermass and I didn’t want it to be a parody of just one thing in particular so a robot seemed like a nice classic antagonist.
NT: It Came! is your first writer/artist project and it turned out really well. The script was really funny and the art is fantastic – what’s your process, do you write the script first, do you storyboard it in draft and then work on the dialogue later?
DB: Thank you for saying so, it’s a bit nerve racking when all the onus is on me if it’s rubbish! It’s been a bit of a learning curve where the writing is concerned, I started out trying to write a script but I found the jokes staled really quickly upon several re-reads to the point I didn’t find any of it funny so I had to change tack a bit. I start off by listing each page number then writing out roughly what’s happening on each to get the flow working for each issue then I write out in a notebook a loose script that’ll just say things like ‘Panel One: Boy says something contentious, Doris looks perturbed’. After that I thumbnail it out and it usually changes a hell of a lot at this point anyway as I think of better stuff to put in and make notes next to the roughs. Most of the dialogue I think up when I’m lettering as I wanted the jokes to be more off the cuff and spontaneous. I’m sure all this would give my editor Steve at Titan a heart attack if he knew how I really put an issue together…. o… erm…
NT: Do you prefer being both the writer and the artist or you do you prefer collaborating on comics?
DB: I still like working in collaboratively as there’s the opportunity to work on different stories that I wouldn’t think of, the serious stuff being one of them and I did do so for many years up until this point. Saying that I am massively enjoying working on my own stories for the first time and it’s really nice that so far it seems to be going down well, I’m loving the freedom to chop and change things at the last minute and developing a fluid way of putting it all together is very satisfying, if knackering.
NT: How did you get started in comics?
DB: I started in about 2000 where I worked for a company called Com.X doing concept design work and their in house comics, the first comic I drew there was called N-Jinn and I think about 4 people probably saw it but I was incredibly proud of it. From there I worked for varying small press publishers and moved into Flash animation for online games and dvd releases for a few years until I shifted back in to comics in 2007/8 where I worked with the writer Tony Lee on numerous book adaptions and such for Hachette Children’s books and other publishers until ending up with where I am today, professional cynic and bon vivant.
NT: What’re your influences and who inspires you?
DB: I have to admit I don’t really have any influences, I stopped reading comics when I was about 20 as every time I read something my art would suddenly be so heavily influenced by what I’d just seen that I became really concerned with being the poor man’s somebody. So I just stopped and let how I draw develop naturally, though I should probably start again as my lack of industry knowledge is just a bit embarrassing now even if I have perfected the blank stare of false acknowledgment.
NT: The comic is framed as a b-movie and the endpapers show an IMDB-like look at the actors playing the characters – will the series go into the actors’ lives, behind the scenes of the movie, or will the focus remain on the b-movie story?
DB: The main focus is on the story in the books but I really wanted it to be a fully immersed world and play the whole movie aspect as straight as possible, so there is a slight running theme going on behind the scenes but that doesn’t affect the story of the film, wow that just sounds confusing. Saying that though this was planned as a series of different B-movie genre films so each one would have the same actors in them but playing different parts so in the future the back story would start to subtly affect the on screen interactions between the characters.
NT: There’s an intermission in the middle of the comic where we get some great ads, one of which is a poster for a forthcoming film. Is “My Reptilian Bride” a possible spinoff to this series?
DB: Not originally but I’m starting to be really tempted to do it as one! There are more posters coming up the next three issues though that point towards possible other movies from the studio.
NT: The presentation of the comic as well as the endpapers show an obvious love of cinema – is working in film an ambition of yours?
DB: I wouldn’t say no to a job in film but the reason I love working in comics so much is that it’s limitless in it’s scope for story telling. It’s not constrained by special effects budgets, if you can imagine it then it’s there on paper and there’s something really satisfying about that. I did use the old black and white cinema technique in the colouring of the book where shirts are coloured blue so they show up as white when it’s converted to saturated grey tones. Come to think of it I’m probably only able to work in 60 year old cinematic techniques so if I wanted to work in film I’d have to quantum leap back to the 50s anyway.
NT: What else do you learn at space university besides space is rather large?
DB: You also learn how to keep a pipe well stacked and lit at all times for consummate sciencing!
NT: Dr Brett is very much a product of his time – or at least a stereotypical version of a man of his time, playfully socking women while talking down to them – but I still want him to get his just desserts from Doris. Is that something we’re going to see in later issues?
DB: All I can say on that one is keep reading and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed…
NT: There’s clearly a lot of love for old-timey 50s movies – what’re your recommendations for fun sci-fi b-movies?
DB: How long have you got there’s loads! I’ll do my top 5: The Land Unknown which has possibly the ropiest man in a suit T-Rex of all time, Robot Monster which is right up there with Plan 9 From Outer Space as the worst movie of all time, 20 Million Miles to Earth which is good for the Harryhausen action and appalling Italian accents. Attack of the Crab Monsters because these poor buggers are not only being attacked by giant crabs and the disembodied electrified spirit of an evil scientist they’re also on a radioactive island which is sinking. Earth VS The Flying Saucers which is more a series than film but the beginning of It Came! where they’re in the car is an homage to this one. I could go on for hours to be honest!
NT: It Came! gets the 21st century Hollywood remake treatment – who is your dream cast as Dr Brett, Doris and the Robot?
DB: Hmm this is tricky as most of favourite actors are six feet under and probably quite ripe by now. I have to admit I’d like to see Colin Firth give Dr. Brett a go as he definitely has a plummy enough voice though really David Niven all the way! Possibly some Emily Blunt action for Doris, the ages are all about right I think. For the robot it has to be Vin Diesel as The Iron Giant is one of my favourite films so I know he gives good space robot.
NT: You go into a country pub – what do you order first?
DB: Two double Hendrick’s gins and ice, no mixer!
NT: What projects are you working on at the moment?
DB: At the moment I’m finishing off It Came but I also do a strip for the weekly children’s anthology The Phoenix, called Haggis and Quail are on the trail. It’s set in the 1930s and is about cryptozoology which has a grandfather and grandson who go around the world looking for strange creatures with their flatulent cat Bodmin the Beast of Bodmin Moor, very high brow stuff of course.
NT: What comics are you reading at the moment?
DB: Having only just started reading comics again I’ve just finished reading Hellraisers which is the biography of Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole, Richard Harris and Oliver Reed, cracking stuff!
NT: Thanks for your time, old cake!
DB: You’re more than welcome!
It Came! #1 by Dan Boultwood is out now. To find out more about this and other Titan Comics releases, check out www.titan-comics.com