Sunday, August 03, 2008

Ryan Foley Interview - Scripter for Penance Trial of the Century

For this interview we got Ryan Foley to step into the spotlight. I'm happy to report that we also have an interview with Sean Wise one to the two people who created the story for this comic. It is especially interesting to me to be able to interview some of the different creative people on a comic as you get their unique perspectives.

With further ado the interview.

Jim: Who is Ryan Foley? We want the full secret origin!
Ryan: My life was fairly inconsequential until a field trip to an academic university changed my life. They were doing an experiment with radiation and a spider… No, I’m kidding. Truth be told, I wish there was more to tell. I was an aspiring writer hoping to make in the comic book industry. My first issue was the last comic book issue of Masters of the Universe. (Thank me. I killed that wonderful comic book.) My relationship with that property led me to a short but sweet stint with Dragon’s Lair that was picked up by Arcana Studios. And that relationship led me to Tales of Penance. The rest, as they say, is history.

So the nuts and bolts are I am a husband and a father of three kids. I am working hard to turn a writing career into a lucrative, full time career. All and all, I could not be happier right now. I consider myself very lucky.

Jim: You are listed as the scripter on this book. Did you have an issue by issue breakdown or what? What was the process?
Ryan: Sean W. and Paul originally created the concept of the book. This is really their brainchild and I was just asked to baby sit it. They originally conceived the book as a trilogy with a much larger page count than your standard books. Once it was brought to Arcana, my job was to transform the story to a more standard page count format and complete the overall series based on the original outline.

They already had the first issue finished (which basically translated to the first issue that you are reading and a pretty substantial portion of the second issue). I adapted that issue and then completed the rest of the story, again, based on the outline and with guidance provided by Sean W. (Yeah, there’s a lot of Seans involved in this project.)

As with many projects like this, time is often a factor. The original story was conceived around ten years ago so I helped bring the story into a more modern timeframe.

They really welcomed my input and gave me a lot of free reign, which is always great to have as a creative individual. It became a very collaborative effort where ideas were bouncing everywhere and we all worked together to bring it all down into a really tight story.
I was really jazzed and loved the creative process for the book.

Jim: What is the process between you and GOOF?
Ryan: God bless the information super highway. Gian is located in the Philippines and I am in Adair, Oklahoma. So all our communication has been via email. I would send him scripts and he would work and email me thumbnails, pencils, and then his digital inks for suggestions or corrections. It’s all done through digital correspondence. Which works out great for me because of the low cost of living where I am. That is the technical aspect of it.

As for the creative aspect, I originally wanted to break into comics as an artist but my skills just weren’t there. I loved the writing process though and I feel like I have brought that artist perspective to my writing. I try to be as artist friendly as possible. I always have a specific vision when writing, so I try to come across with camera angles and lighting and such… but I always told Gian to think of it more like guidelines. I never want to feel like I am stifling an artist creatively. So our process was pretty simple. I wrote it and then trusted in his artistic skills. I think it worked out great for both of us.

Jim: What do you feel is the strength of this series?
Ryan: One of the biggest things that attracted me to the project was the realism of the series. In spite of all the spandex and capes, I feel like the story is very true to reality. If superheroes were in the real world, I think they would rank higher than movie stars or rock stars. Paparazzi would hound them constantly. “Brangelina’s twins” would be nothing compared to someone that could fly or crush city buses with their bare hands. Especially if they look good in spandex…

I am fascinated with Americans’ love of success but how they hate to see people successful. Why does the National Enquirer have such dramatic sales? Because people love to see the famous fall. The same would be true with superheroes. In fact, it would be amplified… on steroids… and mutant growth hormones.

In the era of the 24-hour news networks and the Internet, one slip by a hero would be broadcast around the world. It would be the most watched video on YouTube. They would be under the microscope. They would probably have their own cable network coverage like E! is for entertainment or ESPN is for sports.

I think our series really delves into that world of the microscope that superheroes would be under. And I think that makes for a fascinating read. I mean, really, could a super hero ever experience such a thing as a “fair trial”?

Jim: Lt. McCloud seems to be the main character. Do we learn more about her past as we continue in the series?
Ryan: As the writer, I loved to read the entire series from beginning to end before I started scripting. I really think we have lightning in a bottle here. I’m not trying to shamelessly shill but I think that each individual issue stands great on its own, but when you can read this series as a trade paperback or sit down and read all four issues straight, you are going to really appreciate the character arcs that our heroes (and villains) go through.

So yes, we are delving out the clues for the series and for the characters. LJ is probably the main character. She is certainly the most relatable because the readers are solving the mystery with her, learning things as she does. But there are a lot of ancillary characters that are important too. I really think readers are going to be pleasantly surprised with how deep the characters go. The last word I would use to describe them is one-dimensional.

Jim: According to your blog you are starting to be able to make writing more of your “real” job. What else are you working on in comics or elsewhere?
Ryan: Unfortunately, Non Disclosure Agreements cannot allow me to talk about as much as I would like until I get closer to press time. I know that kind of sounds like a cop out but I have several projects going with Arcana Comics and a second publisher. They are keeping me busy and I am hoping to get more books out in the very near future.

Jim: Have you always been into comics or is this just a writing job for you?
Ryan: I was a comic book fan long before I was a comic book writer. Comics helped teach me how to read. I have been seriously collecting since I was fourteen. (That means I started saving, bagging and boarding my books.) I was the geek that sat around with my friends developing super hero teams for our own books. I was the geek that would argue who would win in a fight Batman or Captain America. I was the geek that “casted” the X-Men movie about eight years before it was a film. So I am a bona fide comic geek, which I don’t see as a bad thing.

Writing comics was always my destination. It is my ultimate dream job. Until editors find out that this hack has somehow used smoke and mirrors to get into the industry, I am looking to do this for the next few decades.

For all those kids who dream about being in comics, I am you and you are me. I’m one of you that made it.

Jim: Would you like to work for Marvel or DC? If yes, what would be your dream job to work on at either or both companies?
Ryan: I think any comic writer would like to work for the big two. It would be like asking a football player is they want to play in the NFL or a wrestler to be part of the WWE. I love the independent circuit because of the creative freedom but Marvel would be a dream job for me because they obviously have the biggest sandbox to play in (and have the biggest coffers to pull from). My submissions to Marvel helped put me over the top with my first publisher.

I am much more drawn to the characters at Marvel than DC. I’m not knocking the Distinguished Competition in any way. But I just don’t know the world that well. I don’t know it enough to write for them professionally and give it the quality that followers of the characters deserve.
So to answer the question, yes, I’d love to get an assignment from Marvel on day. I’ve got Joe Quesada’s autograph on about two dozen rejection letters. I’d love to see a signature on an acceptance letter once.

Jim: Who would you count as influences on your writing style?
Ryan: I pull from all sorts of different sources. All sorts of writers inspire me—print, movies, TV, anywhere. The two biggest influences on me have to be filmmaker George Lucas and author R.A. Salvatore.

I was born in 1974 so Lucas is god. Find me someone my age that is not inspired by Star Wars and Indiana Jones. R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt Do’Urden character from the Forgotten Realms is the main reason why I write. Discovering those books as a young teenager, I knew that writing was something I was going to do. If you read any of the jackets on Salvatore’s books, they always talk about how The Lord of the Rings changed his life. Well, The Crystal Shard changed mine. I just prefer the comic book medium to the novel/book medium.

If I were listing influences from comics, looking back, I loved reading series like X-Men’s Fall of the Mutants and Inferno. I looked back on those books with such wonder and amazement. Those were tremendously shaping series for me. Later I would move on to the initial era of Image Comics. I know critics will say that Image’s early comics are not exactly the best examples for writing influences but, man, I love Jim Lee’s art style.

Anything having Jim Lee art wowed me when I was younger and still impresses me tremendously to this day. Jim Lee is one of the reasons why I wanted to work in comics.
Other influences would have to include Todd McFarlane (Spawn), James Cameron (writer/director Terminator & Aliens, Titanic), Piers Anthony (Xanth novels), and Chris Claremont (comic book legend).

More recent influences would be Kevin Smith, Brian Michael Bendis, and my favorite current writer in comics J. Michael Straczynski. I look at their work and hope that I can measure up to them some day. I often read a JMS book and get discouraged because I wonder if I will ever write anything as good… but it also inspires me to try.

Jim: What are you currently reading?
Ryan: On the comic book front, Secret Invasion really has me hooked. And I am really digging JMS’ run on Thor. All the Avengers titles are typically the first ones that I read out of my weekly comic bag.

Jim: What is your dream project?
Ryan: Thanks to my publishers, I am really working on them right now. While I do like commission work, I have several original mini-series in various stages of development (again, nondisclosure agreements). But I think I can be safe to mention two words: The Praetorian. You will be happy you knew that name early.

As far as a dream job with other publishers, I know most go straight for Spider-Man or the X-Men. But me? I would crawl through a tunnel of sewage and broken glass for a chance to write Hawkeye. He is one of my most favorite characters. I would love to really sink my teeth in and create a lasting series with Hawkeye.

But I know an opportunity like that is still a world away. I still have a long way to go. I’ll get there but until then I am more than happy going on the ride to get there. And hopefully I’ll make a few memorable characters of my own along the way…

See Arcana’s site about Penance here.

Thanks again Ryan and we look forward to seeing your name as a writer for years to come.

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