"I Have to Justify that Philosophy Degree to my Family Somehow" – An Interview with NICK BRYAN

Everyone's favorite Lil' Squatch (I am, right?) Jimmy Gaspero welcomes Nick Bryan into the Yeti Cave to discuss the current Kickstarter for Death of a Necromancer, a delightfully spooky tale of fried chicken takeaway shops, friendship, spells, the undead, and a bit of philosophizing thrown in for good measure.

 

COMIC BOOK YETI: Thank you so much for joining me here in the Yeti Cave, Nick! How have you been doing?

Death of a Necromancer, cover, Bryan/Ahmad/Cooper/Hopkins

NICK BRYAN: The refresh button on my keyboard only has another hour or so to live, but aside from that, I’m doing all right.


CBY: What is your comics origin story both as a reader and a creator? Have comics always been a part of your life?


NB: They’ve definitely been around for as long as I can really remember. I started off with Sonic The Comic, the UK-only Sonic The Hedgehog series. I can say with total certainty that it’s the best one, as I’ve never read any others.


And then I eventually found Spider-Man via local reprint series, read superhero stuff for a while, and finally ended up importing Vertigo comics written by British people back into the country from America.


My attempts to be a comic creator are a lot more recent – due mostly to lack of funds to commission artists, I only got started in the late 2010s. I took the oft-repeated advice to start small and made a bunch of short stories (which are still available on my website), and also got in with a few collectives of creators like The Comic Jam and London’s WIP Comics, both of which were incredibly important to getting started both for meeting artists to collaborate with and, more fundamentally, just people to talk to.


CBY: I went through and read a few of the short comics on your website and they were great, I encourage everyone to check them out as soon as you're done reading this. Your website says you can be found “lurking in pubs or playing board games.” As a fellow pub-lurker and board game player, what’s your favorite thing to drink at the pub and, any favorite recent board games?


Death of a Necromancer, p. 1, Bryan/Ahmad/Cooper/Hopkins

NB: My favourite drinks (when I can get them) are probably wheat beers like Hoegaarden or Erdinger. I’ve no idea how common those are in America, but hunt them down if need be.


And my favourite recent board game is Clank (and its spin-off Clank In Space). I thought deckbuilding games like Dominion were enough, but then I realized you could combine the deck… with a board.


CBY: I'll have to check that one out. Thanks. What’s your writing process like?


NB: I have a project in Scrivener called ‘Base Project’ which contains…at this point, probably at least a hundred separate text documents. I create a new one whenever I have a vague idea, and build on it until it reaches the point of scripting. Often what tips one of these notes over the edge is combining two or more with each other to create a better-merged concept.

And then I write a first draft, followed by a second one which often involves deleting most of the first. And if it survives all that, there’s a possibility the story might happen.


CBY: Death of a Necromancer is described as a “fun-grim pop-goth spooky provincial saga” and after reading Chapter One, I’d say that’s spot-on. What stories or characters influenced you when writing Death of a Necromancer?


Death of a Necromancer, p. 2, Bryan/Ahmad/Cooper/Hopkins

NB: Originally, Death of a Necromancer came out of chats I had with artist Robert Ahmad after our previous project And It Snowed, when I asked what he’d like to draw for our next project, and he suggested something a bit more in this vein, flex his Tim Burton muscles a little bit.


So that was probably the biggest single influence. In terms of other stories, I think there’s a weird combination in there of those Burton stories, a lot of grisly British urban fantasy like Hellblazer or The Wicked + The Divine (see my recent guest blog for the Yeti to hear more about those), and maybe a little bit of Buffy as well. I can’t resist some sincere emo-business.


CBY: In Chapter One, as Ralph Foster learns the truth behind the necromancy of Dr. Victoria Hedgewood, he begins to question whether there’s been some other change to him more than just the physical, especially in terms of his relationships with his friend, Fred, and his father. There are some great, introspective character moments for Ralph and, reading it, I was wondering: do you put any of yourself or personal life into your characters and stories?


NB: Yeah, there’s definitely some of that in there. Like many people growing into their thirties, I look back at some of my past decisions and cringe at my lack of self-awareness. Whether it’s possible to put all the blame elsewhere, like your past self is a whole different person…well, Ralph will have to find that out for himself like I did.


Death of a Necromancer, p. 3, Bryan/Ahmad/Cooper/Hopkins

CBY: The rest of the creative team is artist Robert Ahmad, colourist David Cooper, and letterer DC Hopkins. How did everyone come together and what has impressed you most about the creative team for this project?


NB: Robert was one of the first artists I worked with. I saw his work on the now-defunct Millarworld forum, liked it a lot and asked if he fancied drawing my 2017 Christmas short story. He recommended DC Hopkins as letterer way back then, and sure enough, he did a great job on that story, so I kept bringing him back.


And David Cooper was a colourist whose work I’d admired on other indie books, especially his great collaborations with Fraser Campbell and Iain Laurie. When Robert and I went into colour with 2019’s The Catalyst one-shot, we brought David in, and once again, he did such a great job that we asked him back for Death of a Necromancer.


And I think the most impressive part is the way the team have created a cohesive tone. I’m under no illusions about how odd this comic is, but Robert’s art and David’s colours, combined with the crystal clarity of DC’s lettering, have somehow made it work.


CBY: At one point the KS campaign page reads, “Without death, what truly matters? What’s more important: personal survival or community?” Is this your degree in Philosophy in comic form? Is this the graphic novel version of The Good Place where you can explore big existential questions in a spooky, fun way?


Death of a Necromancer, p. 4, Bryan/Ahmad/Cooper/Hopkins

NB: Look, I have to justify that philosophy degree to my family somehow and after twenty years, this might be the closest I’ve come.


But yes, this is the most hardcore existential questioning I’ve yet squeezed into a comic. Partly it’s the concept, also just the page count. It’s great to finally stretch out beyond one-shot length and have some space to dig into things.


CBY: I previously backed and read FairyFare #1 that you wrote and created with artist Rosie Alexander. It’s a great concept of fairies/pixies embracing the gig economy. There’s a great balance of serious/spooky and humor in both of these projects. What are your biggest influences in terms of comedy and your sense of humor?


NB: My biggest comedy influences are probably a combination of Aaron Sorkin dialogue (The West Wing got to me at a young age), Christopher Priest & M.D. Bright’s Quantum & Woody (note the childhood flashbacks and funny livestock in Necromancer) and, of course, incongruous internet humour.


CBY: Along with Alastair JR Ball, you host the Moderate Fantasy Violence podcast. What do you like about the medium of podcasts and is there any unique/obscure topic you’d like to host a podcast about that you wish there was an audience for?


Death of a Necromancer, p. 5, Bryan/Ahmad/Cooper/Hopkins

NB: I must admit, I’m a bigger adherent of podcasts which are just 2-3 people having a chat than the expensively produced audio documentaries. That chance to eavesdrop on a passionate conversation between two people is exactly what I love about them.


I keep threatening to make a podcast where I force some poor co-host to read the entire Spider-Man Clone Saga with me, but I’ve never found anyone willing to volunteer. For some reason.


CBY: Well, readers, there's your call to action. I think I have read every Sherlock Holmes story Doyle wrote and I’m a sucker for any recent/current Holmesian adaptations so I’m excited to check out your Hobson & Choi series of novels. What’s the hardest part of writing a compelling mystery/detective story?


NB: The hardest part is threading the needle between making the mystery complex enough to not be obvious, but logical enough that the final resolution doesn’t feel like a cheat. You want people to somehow both gasp with surprise and feel you’ve tied everything together beautifully.


CBY: Are there any comic creators working today whose work inspires/influences you?


Death of a Necromancer, p. 6, Bryan/Ahmad/Cooper/Hopkins

NB: I’m a big admirer of John Allison’s work. He’s another big recent influence on my sense of humour. Like many, I discovered him via Giant Days, then went back and read all his solo webcomics I could get my hands on. If you like the tone of Death of a Necromancer, definitely go read his Steeple series.


Christopher Priest is a lifelong influence, and I also massively respect the writings of Kieron Gillen and Simon Spurrier, both creators who mix self-aware cleverness and humour with sincere emotions in ways I admire.


CBY: What comics/books/TV shows/movies are you currently enjoying?


NB: I just read Dig, the latest Sink one-shot by John Lees and Alex Cormack, and that was great. Sink’s been one of the best titles on the indie circuit for a while in my opinion, the crime/horror tone is beautifully managed, and now they’ve started to mix action into it without missing a beat.


Also been catching up on the X-titles on Marvel Unlimited, and they continue to be a lot of fun. I know the appeal of the Marvel universe is meant to be the world outside your window, but I like how the Krakoa-era X-Men are diving into stranger circumstances, yet still keeping the characterizations grounded.


Otherwise, I’ve finally watched Ted Lasso, and found it as warm and reassuring as everyone says. Not to mention, impressive how convincingly these yanks wrote their Brits – though an English character did refer to a car park as a “parking lot” in one scene, so the mask sometimes slips.


CBY: I'm a big Ted Lasso fan myself. If you were the curator for a comics museum, which 3 books do you want to make absolutely sure are included?


Death of a Necromancer, p. 7, Bryan/Ahmad/Cooper/Hopkins

NB: This is one of those questions where the answer would change depending on the day you asked. But trying to think about important comics which did a lot for me (and maybe aren’t obvious perennial classics):

  • Ultimate Spider-Man by Bendis and Bagley, which both left a huge impression on me personally and basically changed the way mainstream comics worked for about a decade.

  • Giant Days by Allison, Sarin, Tremain and others, which introduced me to the work of John Allison as mentioned above, but it’s also one of the most enjoyable times I’ve had reading comics.

  • Essex County by Jeff Lemire, a comic which made me stare and cry, introduced me to Lemire as a creator, and more than deserves a place among the greats.


CBY: In all the times I have asked this question I'm not sure anyone has answered with Essex County and it's a comic I absolutely love. Great choice. Any other projects CBY readers should check out?


NB: A few talented folk I know have cool-looking Kickstarter projects up at the moment - Matt Garvey and Arjun Susini just launched Voudou Cowboy, along with Steve Thompson and Daniel Caval’s SpeedRun, and the Scottish publisher BHP have just launched their Bold Universe Collection which features a whole host of good folks.


And I’m hoping to be back in a few months with Rosie Alexander and the second issue of FairyFare!


CBY: Where can you be found online?


NB: Mostly Twitter at NickMB, although I also have a website at http://www.nickbryan.com/ with full details of my various comics, plus a monthly newsletter you can sign up for where I often talk more about the actual work.


CBY: Nick, thank you so much for joining me here in the Yeti Cave to chat about Death of a Necromancer and so much more!


NB: Thanks for having me!




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