Comic Book Yeti contributor Lauren Smith welcomes Dereck Weiford and Nate Taylor in the Yeti Cave to discuss their comic What Makes a Man. They discuss the inspiration for the comic, their collaboration, and why Westerns are still so great.
COMIC BOOK YETI: You’ve done it, Dereck!! You’ve published your first comic! That’s no small feat. How does it feel?
DERECK WEIFORD: I feel like I did when I was 10 years old and came home from Vacation Bible School with some sick-ass macaroni art. I ran up to my parents screaming “LOOK LOOK!! LOOK WHAT I MADE” except Twitter has become my parents and y’all cheer me on instead of just saying, “it’s just macaroni.”
CBY: One of the first pages of What Makes A Man contains a beautiful dedication to your father, whom you lost to COVID. Did the title What Makes A Man come from this experience? Is this something you asked yourself after losing your father?
DW: The title definitely came from this experience. I wrote this synopsis 2 or 3 years ago and it sat on my desk all this time. The original has differences of course, but losing my dad definitely has played a part in some story elements now as well as the title. I feel like I’ve been asking myself this question my whole life. I’m sure most everyone has asked themselves some iteration of it too. Do we really know who we are until we’re put into these difficult situations of our lives?
CBY: How did the illustrator of this book, Nate [Taylor], and you start working on this project together?
DW: Nate is one of my best friends I’ve made on Twitter. I started The Weekly Pulls last year and he sent me his comic Wonka Mania to review on my YouTube channel. Which, may I add, kicks ass and people need to check it out too. I tweeted out one day I finally finished my script for issue 1 and he asked to read it. He fell in love with it too, and that’s that. None of this happens without Nate.
CBY: Why choose to tell a Western story?
DW: I love Westerns. I feel like a lot of great stories have Western elements in them and we don’t even realize it. The Mandalorian is a fancy space Western. One of my favorite examples is El Camino, the Breaking Bad sequel film showing us Jesse Pinkman’s path after the fall of Heisenberg. Heavy Western elements play a part in that film. I had just finished RDR 2 and I’d never felt so inspired. I fell in love with those characters and the storytelling of that game. When the credits rolled I picked up my notebook and pen and just started writing.
Needless to say, cowboys are cool.
CBY: What was the hardest to write for you: narration or dialogue?
DW: Narration was definitely harder for me. I knew where I wanted this to go, but I had to really submerge myself in Bo to find the right words to say. Dialogue for me is much more fun because there’s so many ways you could have these characters interact, but the narration is the core of the story.
CBY: Can you describe Bo, the main character, to us? Where did he come from?
DW: Bo embodies part of the human spirit I believe we all carry within us at least at one point in our lives. We’ve all run away from ourselves. Granted, we’re not all vicious outlaws in the Wild West, but we’ve all had things we didn’t like about ourselves, our lives, or both and had to either come to terms and accept it, or make changes and move on.
CBY: This story has a lot of grittiness to it. What made you want to embrace the gritty with What Makes A Man?
DW: I like my Westerns with a lot of spaghetti. The story is important, but what people remember the most is the gunplay and violence. People don’t think of ranching and honest living in the Wild West. They think of the gunfight at [the] OK Corral. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love the film Tombstone. The Harder They Fall has become one of my favorite films of all time and it’s a gunslinger bloody mess with a story to break your heart. That’s the goal for me.
CBY: What can we expect from the next issue? Will you and Nate continue to create this series together?
DW: Nate and myself are in it for the long haul here. We’ve started issue 2 and it’s coming along great. Issue 1 sets all the pieces in place. Bo left the gang with the orphan baby boy. Abner and the boys have learned there’s a reward for the boy. There’s a lot of moving pieces here. I’ll say Bo is going to meet someone he least expects and will further his journey to figure out who he truly is. This story is very much setting up the dominos just to watch them keep falling. The readers are in for a treat.
CBY: First of all, a HUGE congrats on this book, Nate! How did you get involved with What Makes A Man?
NATE TAYLOR: Thank you! Both Dereck and I are extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished with this first release. In regards to my involvement, it started once I read about it through Twitter. He created a post describing he’d written a western comic and asked people if they wanted to read it. At the time, he had no idea whether or not it’d ever become an actual comic. This intrigued me, and I decided to volunteer my art services. Intuition compelled me to do this, it just felt like a great opportunity to take on. Besides, I’d never collaborated with someone on a comic before, so why not give this a chance? Considering he already presented the ability to follow through with writing his story, it just felt right overall.
CBY: Throughout the comic, you use several unique textures to tell the story. How did you decide on these textures?
NT: Experimenting [with] what works visually and what doesn’t is the short answer to this question. Although, I’m still partial to using methods I’m already familiar with. For instance, if you were to compare What Makes A Man to my comic Wonka Mania 4, you would notice a lot of similar characteristics artistically.
CBY: Your use of color vs black and white is heavy. What made you want to mix the two styles together?
NT: Ever since I started creating comics, I’ve primarily utilized this style. For this comic, it worked perfectly in my opinion.
CBY: There are two pages in particular that have the most color on them – bright reds and oranges. Why did these two pages have the most color on them?
NT: Honestly, at the time I really didn’t dive too much into the overall significance of why I chose to do this. Now that I’ve been asked directly, it has me realizing that I made the right decision artistically! I mean, those pages happen to be critical turning points in the story, so it makes sense now that so much emphasis was placed in them.
CBY: How did you go about separating panels? On some pages, it’s almost seamless and separation seems done in a non-traditional way!
NT: One of my favorite ways to create panels for a page is exploring whether or not I can sort of “blend them” together. Again, this would be another instance where I experimented with what works and what doesn’t.
CBY: You also did the lettering on this book! Is this your first time doing lettering?
NT: That’s right! Not to mention I edited it as well, haha! In fact, this marks the 9th comic I’ve completely lettered.
CBY: Did lettering the book in addition to illustrating it pose its own challenge? If so, how so?
NT: Deciding upon what portions of the artwork I can sacrifice for the sake of dialogue, that’s really the challenge. If you want to avoid this dilemma, then try to keep in mind where to leave space for lettering.
CBY: What was your favorite thing about working on What Makes A Man? Will you be continuing to work with Dereck on issue #2?
NT: Earlier I mentioned Dereck never knew whether or not his story would be turned into an actual comic book. Helping him make it a reality? That was my favorite thing about this project.
So, are Dereck and I working on the next issue?
Hell yes, we are!