Today Black Ship brings another passionate creator from the monster known as MEGABOOK 4, Mr. Nathan Slack!
Black Ship Books: What drew you to MEGABOOK 4?
Nathan Slack: I pitched an idea to Mike Rickaby last year for MEGABOOK 3, but didn’t quite get the artist to jump in with it unfortunately. This year with a new artist, what was a four-page short has blown up to be something a whole lot more. The MEGABOOK anthology is indie comics at its best, something that’s produced on a zero budget with just the love of creating comics at its heart. Mike’s had a pretty good run with MEGABOOK so far and has learnt to keep things simple, which is always a good thing.
BSB: Tell me about your stories, Devourer of Souls and The Black Hand?
NS: Devourer of Souls is set in gas-lit London, 1789 AD. It’s a gothic horror story about secret societies, an Egyptian goddess of the underworld and a cabal of vampires trying to save humanity from those that created them.
The Black Hand is a gangster-noir horror story set in Chicago in 1910 about a Sicilian hit-man that works for a mysterious organization that predates the mafia, known as The Black Hand. He doesn’t know who he works for and why he must kill the people he kills….and has learnt not to ask.
BSB: What inspired the two stories?
NS: Devourer of Souls stems from my time in London. It’s an interesting place to live, with some rich history, with some hidden and forgotten past, I wanted to explore that with this story. Having said that, I was inspired whilst walking around the city of York a year or so ago. They have an old cobbled street in its center called The Shambles which a plaque explained meant the displaying of meat. I toyed with the word “shamel”, where the Old English word “shambles” comes from and as per usual I dove into the macabre and came up with the flesh-eating Egyptian goddess Ammit.
The character of cutthroat Buckle Boy Brown just sprang from my imagination and the story of Devourer of Souls I suppose you could say was inspired by movies like Young Sherlock Holmes, The Mummy and Interview with a vampire as well as Sweeny Todd.
With my other short, gangster-noir horror story called The Black Hand, I would say that after finishing off the last season of Boardwalk Empire and the short-lived Mob City inspired me to come up with something set in the early 1900’s. That and, of course, The Godfather Part 2.
BSB: Are you more of a sci-fi/horror fan or do superheroes, romance, or gritty noir have any appeal to you?
NS: When I was growing up there were no comic book shops and no internet either; all we had was a small newsagent in my small town in England, and all I could get my hands on was weekly installments of 2000AD, Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper and Scrotum Dogs. I knew about DC and Marvel from TV shows, and I watched them and enjoyed them throughout the 80’s and 90’s, but I can’t say I was ever a fan of reading their comics — still to this day. Dark fantasy, historical fantasy and sci-fi I really love to read and always have. American Vampire, Black Science, Saga, The Wake, books like that.
BSB: Is there anything in mainstream media—book, T.V. show, movie, video game, etc.—that you have enjoyed recently that has had a major impact on you as a creator?
NS: I’ve always been a bit of a sponge and have been inspired by almost every book I’ve ever read and every movie I have seen. In the past I’d say The Crow was the first graphic novel I ever read and influenced me hugely. Maybe that’s why I enjoy creating black-and-white comics, as I loved The Crow‘s gritty violence and also the soft touches…the light and the dark.
Also Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles (and later the roleplaying table top game Vampire: The Masquerade) played a huge part in creating the world that Devourer of Souls and The Black Hand are set in, as both stories have that dark horror element, gothic in tone.
Later, historical fiction like Stephen Lawhead’s Byzantium, Robert Low’s Oathsworn series and Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon saga all played their part. From a young age my family installed a love of history. I would run around castles and stately homes across the UK, thinking up the battles that happened there. Later in life, with my wife in tow, I soaked up information whilst visiting foreign countries: like in Prague Castle’s amazing museum, Bran Castle in Transylvania, or the Mayan temples of the Yucatan — like Chichen Itza and Tulum — as well as more modest museums we visited in New Orleans and back home in London.
BSB: As a writer what has been the greatest challenge for you in working in comics?
NS: For me its two things, I have lots of ideas, and ideas that seem to expand, and before I know it I’ve got so much story. So many characters and backstories, with so much to tell, that it’s hard knowing where to start. Most would say “Easy… start at the beginning…” but that’s not always the case. You have to have somewhere to base your story, to add tension and depth. Figuring out that starting point took me several years.
Finding that passionate artist to bring your dream to life has always been the hardest part. Someone who is inspired by your script, ideas and characters, who loves to draw them and wants to be a part of their world. I used to trawl through all the comic creator forums and Deviant Art just to find that perfect artist. I had plenty who said they were interested in working with me, but plenty have come and gone. It’s sometimes hard to take and frustrating, but I wish them all the best. It’s just the trials of collaboration and you have to believe that it will only make you stronger.
BSB: Have you or the members of your creative team been published elsewhere?
NS: I’ve had a short published in a small indie publication called Sci-Borg Juice last year, and have had a project signed by a leading UK publisher which will be published early next year. My letterer Ken Reynolds has worked with me on the anthology stories and has been working on his own project in the meantime. Both artists, Camilo Ponce and Pablo De Bonis, are unpublished and this will be their first printed credit to date.
BSB: What can be expected next from you and your creative teams? Will there be any larger stories stemming from these two?
NS: Both Devourer of Souls and The Black Hand are set in the world of Instruments of Darkness, a world where vampires and werewolves exist. Though both are rare we explore its world in a full graphic novel extension of Devourer of Souls. Instruments of Darkness: Devourer of Souls is a gothic fantasy tale about cabals of vampires and mystics that seek out objects of arcane power to protect humanity and to learn where they come from. The artist Camilo Ponce Garay has nearly completed issue 1 and we are preparing a pitch package to be submitted soon. The comic is also being translated into Spanish and will be printed in the artist’s native Chile.
As for The Black Hand, me and artist Pablo De Bonis have been in talks about developing the idea of a gangster noir horror story of the same name but have yet to go forward with it as of yet. But who knows what the future holds for Instruments of Darkness!
BSB: Is there anything you would like to share with your current and potential fans or words of wisdom you would like to impart on other creators?
NS: To fellow creators I will say this, keep it original, give it depth and don’t give up.
To the fans I’d say it’s been a long road and I’ve had a few false starts with the world of Instruments of Darkness, but finally, very soon you will have something to hold in your hands. Just stick with us and we will take you along for the ride!
BSB: Thanks so much, Nathan! Hopefully our readers will check out Instruments of Darkness as well as MEGABOOK 4! And check out Black Ship for our next awesome M4 creator interview!