Daniel Cooney: Man of Many Tales. This is a header Mr. Cooney should consider for his business card, just so those he passes it out to know deep the waters run with this prolific creator. In previous articles Mr. Cooney’s work has been reviewed and recently he has taken time out of his packed schedule to talk with Examiner.com a bit about his latest work Atomic Yeti #1, the Valentine series , his creative process and what’s on the horizon. Enjoy!
MT: Atomic Yeti seems to echo with shades of the Eerie and Creepy comics of old in terms of art, panel layout and story style. Was this a conscious decision or happy coincident. What influenced this properties creation?
DC: It was a conscious decision inspired by the Eerie and Creepy comics both in layout and in tone for the story. Artist Jeff Himes had already illustrated a crime fiction story in a similar layout and thought he’d be a perfect fit for drawing The Atomic Yeti book.
The inspiration for The Atomic Yeti was based on the true story of The Dyatlov Pass incident resulted in the deaths of nine ski hikers in the northern Ural mountains on the night of February 2, 1959. As I read on, I became engrossed in the mystery of their deaths and was compelled to develop a story from this, marrying fact with fiction obviously throwing in a bit of science fiction and supernatural elements. The premise behind The Atomic Yeti is what if the Russians had their own “Philadelphia Experiment” during the cold war and a post 9-11 discredited journalist tries to uncover the truth with the help of a man claiming to be a part of it.
MT: Is Atomic Yeti an ongoing series, limited series? How often should we expect to see the title hit shelves (monthly/quarterly)?
DC: The story is one complete graphic novel, self-contained with an introductory “teaser” issue released at Comic-Con International. We’ll be launching a Kickstarter project to help fund the book due out in 2013.
MT: The quality of Atomic Yeti possesses a level of crafting that reflects a true love of the medium. Have you and the team that pulled this one together worked together before?
DC: I was first introduced to Jeff’s amazing work as my student for a graphic novel MFA class I was teaching a couple of years ago for The Academy of Art University in San Francisco, CA. I was still in the developmental stages of the story, but immediately thought Jeff has some serious talent that will take him far in the industry. Once Jeff became available, he knocked out act one of the story and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the results.
MT: Aside from Atomic Yeti, can we expect to see this creative teamwork together again?
DC: We’ve discussed working on a few other projects that I have in mind that would fit his narrative style well that we’ll revisit one day, for now, we’re both focused on completing a compelling tale that we look forward to sharing with readers.
MT: Would you consider Atomic Yeti to be a horror story or is it more of a genre bender?
DC: I’d like to think it has moments of horror that may turn your stomach, but at its cold dark heart is a tale of suspense and enough drama between the characters to engulf the reader with a bit of dark humor for good measure.
MT: Being an incredibly talented creator, you are capable of participating in many facets of your titles creation. Which part of the process would you say you enjoy the most (writing, pencils, etc)?
DC: Thank you, you’re too kind. I’ve been doing this for over 15 years now and feel like I have so much to learn as both a writer and artist to be a good storyteller. I think for me, both go hand in hand; writing and drawing a story. My approach with an idea for starting a story is immediately ask myself, “how does it end?” As well as asking if I care enough about the characters to make this a commitment now. For The Atomic Yeti, I wrote the script with certain visuals in mind, but I wanted Jeff to have some creative freedom with the page layouts from the script. This approach was a big change for me as I’m used to doing both the writing and art chores like I do on my crime fiction series Valentine. When I’m writing, I’m thinking about the images. When I’m drawing, I’m thinking about the dialogue. Jeff nailed it with the script he was given and inspired me to re-write some scenes to build on what he presented in the pages for Yeti.
MT: Atomic Yeti is being released in print as well as being available digitally on ComiXology. What are your thoughts on what this option means in terms of independent creators and how they can reach markets that they might not normally have access to?
DC: Digital comics can reach anyone at anytime and that wasn’t always how things used to be a few years ago. The traditional distribution method was restricted to the direct market (comic book retailers) and the non-direct market (bookstores and libraries). The use of portable devices like image tablets and reading hardware like Kindle and the iPad enable a reader to search for a book, buy it and download it. Instant gratification. In addition to Comixology, there is iVerse and Drive-Thru comics that carry my books as well as new platforms that are being developed for comics creators to share their work with readers because new technology eliminates the middle-man of distribution and cost to the creator. It’s not perfect and not as ideal as some creators want it to be, but developments seem to be presenting themselves to creators for new opportunities to self-publish just about every week – it’s a great time to solicit creator-owned work.
New avenues reaching readers such as Kickstarter, a crowd funding website for creators, enables a direct to reader distribution method. It’s a game changer and it’s the wild wild west with digital publishing and print-on-demand with creators. I’m excited on how things are changing to benefit creator-owned books with this ever-changing technology, social media and websites like Kickstarter as providing for comics and graphic novels. Costs are coming down from print-on-demand and the quality has improved comparable to what’s being published by established companies like Marvel, DC Comics and Image.
MT: Valentine: Prelude To A Kill is a bit of a departure from the format that your dynamic character Valentine normally appears in. What made you decide to take the approach of doing something that resembles more of a traditional novel?
DC: I wanted to branch out into the prose book world and see how a Valentine novel would fair beyond the comics world I’ve been accustomed to. I’ve always loved reading pulp paperback books and it feels like I’ve come full circle since I began in the mid-nineties. It was a Modesty Blaise paperback novel that was partially responsible for inspiring the Valentine comic series. The cover illustration by Robert McGinnis and the writing of Peter O’Donnell gave me the itch I needed to scratch to say “This is something I want to do for a living.” It goes without saying that reading comics growing up was inspiration to want to be a part of that world of producing my own stories, but it was the discipline of art school to help me realize what tools are needed to do this professionally as an artist, a writer, and a business man responsible for what I care about, telling stories.
MT: In what way did this experience differ from that of working on the comics/graphic novels?
DC: Unlike comic scripts, I have to provide the visuals, all the emotion through words as well as being responsible for every aspect of storytelling. Writing a novel like this has more words, over 72,000 and typically more pages, 280 as opposed to a single issue comic book script.
I owe much of the development for the novel from the mentoring of literary agent, Kirby Kim of William Morris and Endeavor Entertainment and veteran novelist, Noel Hynd (Ghosts, The Russian Trilogy). Both offered plenty of advice and hand holding as I made my way through my inaugural first attempt writing a prose story. I pitched the original outline intended to be my next graphic novel about the assassin’s origin to Kirby and he suggested doing it first as a prose novel. I was reluctant, but with guidance from Kirby and Noel on board developing the story, I sensed we had something special being created here to share with readers. I felt privileged to be part of this storytelling process. There were a few bumps along the way like with any project you commit to, but at the end of the day, the property is yours to produce. You need to make the necessary decisions that reflect the work that has been published in the past and yet, still strive to build to make it better for the fiction book audience, while remaining true to the original material.
MT: I noticed the great quote from work by Dashiell Hammett, would you say that this is an study in Hardboiled story telling?
DC: Absolutely, the settings range from derelict to exotic with a mix of sophisticated and crude, rough around the edges characters. It’s a story where the protagonist is always in trouble and not always deserving of it with tough, colloquial dialogue and plenty of action and gritty atmosphere.
MT: How did you pair with Noel Hynd to craft this origin story for your character Valentine and why a novel as opposed to a story that utilized sequential art (as we are used to seeing this character featured in)?
DC: Noel and I share the same literary agent, Kirby Kim, who introduced us to one another before committing to the project. Kirby wanted to pair me up with a veteran novelist for my first foray into writing prose work and Noel was a good fit for the book based on his experience with strong female characters featured in his stories. I think part of the decision to produce a novel is my desire to work more as a writer, particularly as I get older and cannot produce comics and graphic novels as fast I used to when I was younger. My body just cannot sit at a drawing table with the same intensity it once had 15 – 18 hours a day drawing comics, whereas writing on a laptop I can be more relaxed and sitting in a reclined position completing far more work hammering the keys to finish a story (unlike drawing a page to a page in half a day). Drawing is my first love to storytelling, without a doubt, but developing my skills as a writer is where I see my contribution to stories as my skill sets as an artist decline with age. Obviously, I’d like to think my artwork hasn’t peaked yet and I still strive to produce the best work I can, the passion is still there, I just have to work smarter and not harder at it to sustain longevity as a storyteller. I can hammer out finished stories faster as a writer than as an artist, which can take up to two years to complete.
MT: Valentine is a strong, capable, and engaging character. How do you craft a woman character that stands out so prominently in an industry notorious for, at times, not investing the depth into female images that are merited?
DC: It’s all about the character, the character is the story. I find when reading or watching a film, if I do not care about the main character(s), I lose interest. It’s the same approach I have with writing, it’s a commitment to care about the characters you write about and what happens to them during the story, because they are the story. I’m aware what the readership of comics has been in the past, but how much it has changed since I started. I don’t write with the reader in mind, what’s the point? To me that’s pandering, I write for what I enjoy about the characters and what I see them get involved with as if they’re real people in sometimes extraordinary circumstances. If a reader likes what I write and draw, great, I made a connection to that reader. However, you’re going to have folks who do not care at all for what I’ve written and that’s okay. Writing and drawing comics is still fun for me and that’s an important part of the process.
MT: Any possibility of this being just the first shot fired in a salvo of Valentine centered novels?
DC: I’d like to see how this novel does first before going forward with the next one, that I can promise you, Mark. Let’s just say there’s a lot of story left to tell between how she started and where she currently is in the comic books.
MT: Anything else big on the horizon for you?
DC: The Complete Guide To Figure Drawing For Comics and Graphic Novels published by Barron’s. This is the follow-up book to Writing and Illustrating the Graphic Novel that came out a couple of years ago. I’m pleased how the latest book came out and the editorial team was everything you could ask for in helping me assemble it.
If you want to draw for comic books or graphic novels, this book is the definitive guide to getting your figure drawing absolutely right that works for you as you develop your drawing skills. The book helps aspiring comic artists as well as all skill levels with an understanding and application in drawing the human form. You’ll also learn how to pose and photograph models, and then use those photos as reference for your finished drawings. The book is comprised from my lectures and workshops while teaching at The Academy of Art University in San Francisco as well as what I learned from my instructors at SVA and my peers. The book in principle is suitable for all skill levels to learn the foundations of the human figure and apply what works for them as their style develops. Another aspect important to the book’s contents was how the figure is drawn for comics and graphic novels; it covers essential elements related to making sequential art, including concept and composition, characters and backgrounds, facial expressions, emotions, atmosphere and action.
There’s even a preview of The Atomic Yeti with commentary by me on its development with artist Jeff Himes. The book is now available for pre-order on Amazon or available in your local bookstore or library in September. If they don’t have it, ask them to order it!
Thanks for sharing Daniel. Keep up with Daniel Cooney’s work and developments on his website as well as pick up his latest works. You will not be disappointed.