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Strength in Numbers: An Interview with EDDIE KLINKER over THE DEVIL-PAID MEN

Comic Book Yeti contributor Alex Breen recently corresponded with Eddie Klinker, writer of The Devil-Paid Men, to discuss his origins as a comic book writer and approach to writing compelling first issues and antagonists. The Devil-Paid Men issue #1 is available on Kickstarter HERE.

 

COMIC BOOK YETI: Eddie, thank you for joining me today. First, can you tell us your origin story as a comic creator?


EDDIE KLINKER: How far back should I go? I’ve been reading comics since I was 14, but it wasn’t until my late 20’s when I started to create them. I was writing comedy sketches for the stage and videos when I had the idea to try my hand at writing a comic, and from there the bug bit me. And now here we are!


CBY: Can you tell us how you initially came up with the idea for The Devil-Paid Men? What are some of the major influences behind the story?


EK: The original idea came from a trip to the Chicago Art Museum. There is an exhibit of different swords spanning onward from the 14th century. There was this giant two-handed sword and the description in the showcase said that they were used by a group of soldiers tasked to run into an enemy’s front line to take down their defense and for their greater risk they were paid double. They were called the double-paid men. That was the spark that led us to The Devil-Paid Men.


With a story of four main characters as a team, it was hard not to be influenced by TMNT and other “team” titles. Jimmy mentioned his influence being the Power Rangers, and we’ve since leaned into that, so it’s been a lot of fun taking those influences and coating them in this world of grungy, dirty, knight battles in Hell.


"...I like to focus on introducing the emotional stakes or world for the characters in the first issue. This story is about four knights and this insane journey they go through. But I want readers to care about these four knights because, if not, then the insane stuff later on won’t hold as much gravitas. "

CBY: What is your approach to crafting a compelling first issue of a series?


EK: Being patient as a storyteller, I think, is important but also being strategic. You want to pull the reader in and get them invested so that they continue with you but you don’t want to give away too much.


I like to focus on introducing the emotional stakes or world for the characters in the first issue. This story is about four knights and this insane journey they go through. But I want readers to care about these four knights because, if not, then the insane stuff later on won’t hold as much gravitas. We have to know where the characters start so that we can see where they end up and be a part of the journey they go on.


CBY: This book feels right up Jimmy Kucai's alley. Can you describe your collaborative process so far?


EK: A dream. I’ve admired Jimmy’s work for so long that he was actually the artist in mind when I first started envisioning this project. Even still, I couldn’t have predicted the direction he would have taken the characters. When you look at the characters he designed, those were not what I had in my mind when I first started shaping this idea, but it was one of those things that informed the direction of the story and the characters so much, I was so pumped to see what he did.


He’s one of those artists that you don’t want to hold hostage to the script directions. He has his style and he’s so confident with it that I updated my panel descriptions to be as minimal as possible because they know what they want to do on the page. They will inject so much life and energy into it, that honestly, I feel like I’m just along for the ride and I love it.


CBY: Which character in The Devil-Paid Men has been your favorite to write so far?


EK: I’m going to get a little real for a second. Each of the four characters is an extension of my ongoing battle with my phobia of death. Acceptance, avoidance, fear, and ignorance. Once I found that mechanism for the characters and what I was trying to say with their journey they all became very easy to write and bring along.


But to answer your question, I think Niles has been my favorite. He’s a fine-tuned killing machine and yet he is someone who makes efforts to bring positivity and warmth into his own life and the lives around him. He doesn’t let his past mistakes define him but inform him, and I relate a lot to that.


CBY: From the preview pages provided, I haven't seen the story’s antagonist yet. How would you describe them to readers? What do you believe are the hallmarks of a compelling antagonist?


EK: This first issue really brings us into the life and world of our main characters and we won’t even see the main antagonist here. What I can say about our main baddie is they are misunderstood and neglected. I think about that Mark Twain quote about the devil, “Who has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most?” I think that does a great job of teasing our antagonist.


I think a compelling antagonist has to be a part of you just as much as the protagonist does. We’ve all done things in our life that have put us, “in the wrong,” and what is an antagonist if not someone who is unaware they are, “in the wrong?”


CBY: From a writer's perspective, what would you say are the keys to a successful collaboration with an artist?

EK: I think the first and most important thing to a good collaboration is understanding how your artist likes to work. Jimmy and I established that right away and we remain in constant communication to make sure it remains established.


I also think it’s important to find the right artist for your story. I know some writers want the panel structure on pages to be an extension of their script. Jimmy isn’t one to do your formulaic 9-panel page, and he told me that right up top. I wanted to work with Jimmy to get Jimmy’s art. I’m not trying to fit Jimmy into a different art style. I want his art and his artistic eye. I think knowing what kind of artist you are looking to tell the story is a key starting off point to a good collaboration.


CBY: I noticed in the credits that Frankee White is listed as the editor for the story. Can you share with us any tips or cool suggestions they made for the story?


EK: There was so much I loved about working with Frankee. Right away when I sent them the script they came back with these challenging questions that really made me think inward about what I’m trying to say, what I want the characters to say, and where this story, I think, needs to go. Getting an editor on your story is the most important thing a writer can do. I am just extremely lucky that I got someone as talented as Frankee to be mine.


CBY: With issue #1 slated to be 40 pages, will that be the standard length for future issues or will it vary? Do you have a rough idea of how many issues you’d expect the story to comprise?


EK: 40 will be the standard length for future issues. We really want this to feel like an epic adventure in scale. So not only will they be 40 pages, but they will also be oversized, similar to DC’s Black Label magazine size.


I think right now the story will be around 6-8 issues. If I’m putting my editor cap on it should be six (cut, cut, cut) but my writer brain is saying MORE MORE MORE. So we shall see, I guess, but this is a mini-series and will not be an ongoing title. Because I’m so excited for the climax of this story I don’t want it to take too long to get there.


CBY: Is there anything you can tease with this series moving forward?


EK: Everything is not as it seems. Oh, and also, maybe don’t get too attached to any one character.


CBY: Where can people find you on social media?


EK: I’m on Twitter: @EddieKlink Instagram @Klinkza and you can also find me up in the BlueSky.


CBY: Eddie, thank you so much for your time!




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