Halfway down the crowded aisle in the Dragon*Con vendor’s hall, I spotted the signature backdrop for Twisted Dark – an imposing black, red and white banner with the eye-arresting cover of Volume One. Yes, it was the first day of Con, and I knew I couldn’t buy ALL THE BOOKS, but the comic book junkie inside me started jonesing hard and I drifted towards the table, ignoring Rob’s feeble attempts to hold me back.
Once I was standing next to the table, Will–like any good pusher–handed me a copy and said, “Here. Just read the first story.”
And that was that. Halfway down the first page, I knew I was going to be buying not just the first volume, but probably every other volume of Twisted Dark that came after and then cursing the team loudly for not giving me MORE! WRITE FASTER, TWISTED COMIC GENIUS!
Here’s the thing. These stories are twisted, and they have twists (well most of them do), and some of those twists are loud and blatant, and some of them are disturbing and subtle. Take, for instance, the story in Volume One, “A Heavenly Note.”** I have read long philosophical tracts on the nature of man, and the effects of power on his psychology, and none of them have ever put it quite so eloquently – and horrifically – as this story.
Luckily I returned the next day and bought the next two, and received a copy of an issue of “Tabatha” as well. Although they are set up as different short stories, the author returns to some of the characters in later volumes, which I appreciated very much. And I’m ready to buy Volume Four when it comes out of the pipe.
So, in the hopes of spreading the word about Neil Gibson Comics and Twisted Dark, which will then hopefully result in more people purchasing copies and thereby funding future issues, I have for your reading pleasure some thoughts from the man behind the comics…
Q (Infamous Scribbler): How did Neil Gibson comics come to be? (What is your origin story?)
A (Neil Gibson): My origin story? I LIKE this question – it makes me feel like a superhero.
I honestly thought I had grown out of comics, but in my 20s I walked into a comic shop in Vancouver. I wanted to buy a toy as a gift, but they heard my British accent and started asking me questions about Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman. I tried to point out that not only did I NOT know them personally, but I had never heard of them. They looked surprised but said, “You’ve read Watchmen though, right?” When I told them I hadn’t, they practically forced me to buy it by their passionate nature. I read it and it changed my life.
It made me realise how comics are just a medium for telling stories, just as music, theatre, dance, books, and TV are. And all mediums have bad content and all mediums have fantastic content. To swear off all music or books is clearly short-sighted, but I had sworn off comics and I realised how prejudiced I had been. It is not all about superheroes or sexy characters, and you can tell incredibly moving and intelligent stories in an economical manner. I truly believe that it is one of the best mediums for telling stories.
So anyway, I became a big fan of good comics, but never thought I could (or would) make them. Ten years later I was working as a management consultant helping companies improve their bottom line. I was posted to a project in Qatar and it wasn’t that demanding a project. I was done by 7 in the evening. My friends and family were back in the UK so rather than just spend my evenings watching TV, I thought I would try writing a comic. The response was very positive, so I put out my first book and it went to number one on the Amazon charts. Now I make comics full time and have made it my mission to get more people reading this wonderful medium.
Q: On your Web site, you list 13 comic books that you recommend. (I.S. Note – Haven’t read some of these…must buy more comics!) Would it be safe to assume that these are among the works that have influenced Twisted Dark? And, what are some of your influences outside of the world of graphic novels?
A: Ooof. I do think I am unusual in that until this year I do not think other creators have influenced me very much. (I.S. Note – And that, kids, is what you get for making assumptions. Learn from my mistakes.) I do think the comics I recommend are phenomenal, but I do not try to emulate their styles or techniques. I want to just write stories and tell them in a way that I find interesting.
Outside of graphic novels, I am lucky enough to have been to over 50 countries and so I try to add a bit of international flavour. I also love to learn new things so I try to add some slightly educational content which I found interesting when I first heard it – for example that sign languages are very different in each country, so a mute Brit and a mute American can both hear and write English and understand it, but they cannot talk in sign language to each other very well because they use different gestures.
Q: Which is your favorite(s) of the short stories contained in the three volumes of Twisted Dark, and why? Do you find that fans pick that one as their favorite, or is there another one that people tend to gravitate towards?
A: It amazes me how everyone has different favourites. Some people’s least favourite is easily someone else’s favourite. It was a good lesson in how you cannot please everyone and you shouldn’t try to. My personal favourite is the last story in Volume 3, but my team have read Volume 4, (I.S. Note – I totally stopped reading to go to the Web site and see if Volume 4 has been released. It hasn’t yet. *Sob*) and they seem to love the Little Piggy story. It is the most brutal story I have written and the fact that I can still surprise/shock/delight my team who know the story ideas I have mapped out is quite nice.
Q: With self-publishing comes self-marketing, self-promotion, selfies…other things you do by yourself… What is/are the hardest/most frustrating/most rewarding/most surprising aspects of publishing yourself?
A: The most difficult area is easily distribution when you are a start up. Once your distribution is all set up it is simply following set procedures, but it is currently my biggest headache by far. I estimate that of the time I spend working on comics, less than 5% is spent writing.
The most rewarding thing for me is not the fan mail (which is nice), but rather it is the personal stories fans tell me where they are new converts to comics or they convert their friends and family into trying the medium and realising it is not what they expected. That gives me the most satisfaction.
Q: In the intro to Volume Two, you mentioned that people thought Twisted Dark was a little too … well, twisted and dark. In the second volume, there were some stories that weren’t as twisted, and then in the intro to the third volume, you wrote that you went back to writing what you wanted to, on the basis that you can’t please everyone. With this in mind, how does the feedback you receive on previous projects affect the creative work on stories that are currently in progress?
A: I believe in feedback, but what I have learnt is that not all feedback is useful. I encourage feedback to make the company and my wiring better, but I reserve the right to listen politely and then reject suggestions that I disagree with. Ultimately I want to make the best product we can and listening to good feedback will help that happen whilst listening to bad feedback will make a worse product.
Q: After reading your comics, I definitely felt taller, thinner and sexier, which makes “Twisted Dark” one of the few products in life that lives up to its marketing promises.
Where can people wishing to get these same results find your work?
A: Back to distribution again! 🙂 Because I only started making comics recently, and we formed a new company, we had a lot of learning in how to create world-class quality. Our initial books were not of the highest standard so we are currently remastering the first 3 volumes to improve some of the art and all of the lettering. Some people do ask why we are bothering with the expense of doing this when fans are currently happy enough with the product. My view is that I want to show off how great the medium is and get more people to read comics and if I want them to make the effort to try something new, we should make the effort to give them the best product we can.
In the mean time the best place to get our stuff is currently through our Facebook page or for digital copies I recommend Comixology because it is a better user experience. However, if you would like to read a free digital copy of our original copies your readers can download free copies here: http://goo.gl/N57v40
(I.S. Note – As of a couple of days ago, you can also buy copies from the Twisted Dark “Buy” Link. … Well? What are you waiting for?)
Q: And…what’s next for “Twisted Dark”?
A: We are in talks about converting it to a TV series, but as those in the industry know, it is a long road. Volume 4 is almost out and I have written all of 5 and 6 and most of 7. I had planned to end it at volume 10 (the last story is already written), but I have more ideas than I thought and I might need to expand the number of volumes. We also released Twisted Light for those who like happy stories, and I have drafted most of Twisted Sci fi and Twisted Fantasy. Depending on how well those go, I might expand the Twisted series.
But we are also making full graphic novels with the same characters in a long continuous story. “Tabatha” is out in a couple of months and I think it is the best thing I have made so far, with great art from Caspar Wijngaard. I will also release Theatrics (set in 1920s New York), Traitor (set in the second world war) and Trickster (a massive story here which I am writing with Conor McCreery of Kill Shakespeare fame).
In case you missed the link above, you can learn more about Twisted Dark, and purchase Neil Gibson’s work, at: http://www.tpub.co.uk. Thanks to Neil for sharing a little about his work, and I hope to be reading some more Twisted Dark (and maybe some Twisted Light.)
Until then, hope you enjoyed the interview. Now, go read some comics. I’ve got my own reading to do.
**As a note, I left the Volumes on my bookshelf when I returned to Kuwait so as not to damage them with travel. Autographed, you know. I had to have my sister track down the story by rough description, so if there has been a mixup with the title … totally blame her. However, as she says, “Hey, these stories are pretty good,” which, coming from Thea, is quite high praise. So the moral of the story is – go buy Volume One and read it because the stories are, indeed, good.