Putting in the Work So Success Isn't WORLDS AWAY – An Interview with DAMIEN BECTON
COMIC BOOK YETI: Damien, thank you so much for joining me here in the Yeti Cave. This is going to be the first interview for crowdfunding creators that I’m calling CRYPTID-BITS. 10 questions about you and your project, and you are here to talk about WORLDS AWAY #1, on Kickstarter now through July 14th.
WORLDS AWAY is about Serenity, a futuristic soldier equipped with high-tech armor, who steals a cure from an alien race to save the life of her estranged 13-year-old daughter Mackenzie. The preview I’ve seen looks great! As a comics writer, how do you balance writing interesting characters/dialogue with setting the scene for the artists to create stunning visuals/action scenes?
DAMIEN BECTON: Thank you for the kind words, man. I truly appreciate it! I’ve been fortunate enough to have been able to work with a few great artists including Christian Prunesti on Worlds Away, Rachel Distler for Wildstar Press Songs of the Sea and Rafael Romeo Magat on the Mad Cave Studios project and, for the most part, I really let the artists help mold what each panel and scene looks like.
I value each collaborator's input to make it as cool as possible, so balancing is, for the most part, easy! I’ll write a specific panel or scene and I can be incredibly hyped about it and Christian or Rafael or Rachel will come back like, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cooler if we did this instead?” And I’m like, “You know what? ABSOLUTELY.” They have the minds and vision for the visual storytelling that I just don’t have, so I trust them to do a lot of the heavy-lifting.
CBY: What’s your comic creator origin story, meaning when did you first get into comics and what was it that made you want to create comics?
DB: I absolutely attribute my love for comics to my dad. He loved Marvel comics from his childhood and he would take me to the comic book store in my hometown every Saturday when I was little and it’s been on ever since. I think it’s because of that, that I’ve always loved to tell stories. I used to write my own version of superhero comics, Final Fantasy and Resident Evil stories, draw them on notebook paper and staple them together and have my own collection of books. I guess that turned into this!
CBY: Is there a comic (single issue, trade, or OGN) that made you feel the way you hope readers of WORLDS AWAY #1 will feel after reading it?
DB: It might sound like the cliche answer but I would have to say Saga. I’m a huge Saga fan and, since issue one, I’ve loved the characters that were created. Hopefully, if I’m lucky enough, someone out there will dig Serenity or Mackenzie or the other upcoming characters as much as I loved Marko and Alana and Prince Robot and Ghus and so on.
CBY: WORLDS AWAY #1 creative team is Marco Del Forno (pages 1-4), Christian Prunesti (pencils & inks), Luana Cristin (colors), Reed Hinckley-Barnes (letters), and Devin Arscott (editor). What are the strengths of your collaborators and, without spoiling anything, was there a page or panel that surprised you?
DB: They’re all so incredibly talented, man. Just about every time I message them in the Discord channel I just thank them for collaborating with me. They all have an incredible eye for visual story-telling and they’re such great communicators and always willing to give their input to make the story as great as possible.
There are two different splash pages in the first eight pages that I would say made my jaw drop. Page one by Marco Del Forno is just absolutely incredible and possibly my favorite page that I ever wrote and somehow Marco made it more beautiful than I imagined.
Christian has a splash page around page eight or nine that wasn’t initially in the script that we decided to add (shoutout to Devin Arscott) to transition a scene better and, maaaan, I’m glad we did. Christian absolutely made a calm scene into a breathtaking splash page that I want to blow up into a poster on my wall – it’s beautiful. And it’s all tied together by Luana’s colors and Reed’s letters. They’re so damn good at what they do.
CBY: Not only will you have written comics for a few upcoming anthologies (Wildstar Press, Big Hype 3, and Amongst the Stars) you were one of the winners of the 2021 Mad Cave Studios Talent Search. Talk to me about your story development process, especially pitching short comics to anthologies, and your writing process as well. Do you work on characters first or create an outline or just jump right into that first draft?
DB: Most of the time I come up with a concept for a story first and then develop it from there! I would say I try to figure out and outline the main beats of the story first – like “this thing” has to happen and “this other thing” has to happen and I develop the characters around that.
After, I ask myself “What cool shit can happen in between these moments that can develop the characters and show what they’re like” and “What situations can I put them in to make them make difficult decisions or force them to change?” All of this is the rough bullet point outlining portion and then when I get it to where I feel confident in it then I pump out the first draft. But after all that, it usually changes EVEN MORE!
CBY: Sometimes it can be tough to keep the creative juices flowing. Which comic creators working today inspire, influence, and push you to keep creating?
DB: Honestly, I’m influenced by all of the indie comic creators who have been grinding away. I see what Brian Hawkins is doing, and Jarred Lujan, Travis Hill, David Hazan, Band of Bards, CJ Hudson, Stokes, and everyone else – it’s like, “If I wanna do what they’re doing, I gotta put in the work.” Hopefully, I’m doing that.
CBY: I read that you are a 6th grade English teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina. What do you think is your biggest challenge in keeping your students engaged?
DB: The hardest thing about keeping students engaged is that a lot of times, for both teachers and students, ELA/Reading is used to “test” students and not for fun or entertainment. The students are forced to take so many tests nowadays that it often sucks the fun out of reading. We always have to prepare for the end-of-year test or the next MAP test just so they can take a multiple-choice test. So instead of reading a possibly more engaging and relevant novel, often, teachers' hands are tied and have to use a not-so-engaging article or not-so-relevant novel that most of the students can’t connect with.
CBY: What are the comics, books, TV shows, and movies that you are currently enjoying?
DB: I just finished Volume 1 of Stranger Things 4 and I’m in love. Easily the most terrifying and best season yet, in my opinion. Also, Severance was a great show! Can’t wait for the next season.
Comics-wise, I read so much like Nightwing, Stillwater, and the new Captain America are all ones I read just today. Indie comics? I just finished Jeff Schiller's two issues of Magic Powder, Ryan Hulcy and Brian Hawkins Double-Out, and I’m slowly, but surely, reading through all of the Wildstar Press’ pirate anthology Songs of the Sea to see everyone else’s stories!
CBY: I was a big fan of Severance too and I can't wait for me. Tell me about any upcoming projects or friends’ projects that CBY readers should check out.
DB: I think the only thing I’m allowed to talk about right now is Worlds Away with Christian, Luana, Devin, and Reed! There is another book I’m working on called Reveria with Gabriel Barros and Luana Cristini. Hopefully I’ll be able to announce a few other big projects soon if everything works out well! Cross your fingers for me!
CBY: Where can you be found online?
DB: Newsletter: WORDSaway.substack.com - It’s free and I have some tips about Mad Cave’s annual talent search that may be useful!
Instagram: @bectonbectonbecton / @worldsawaycomic
Also, check out my newsletter WORDSaway.substack.com!
CBY: Thank you so much, Damien, and good luck with the rest of the campaign.
DB: Thank you for the love and support. Honored to even be considered.