Storm King Comics was formed in 2012 by Sandy King Carpenter and husband, Horror Master John Carpenter. They’ve been behind majorly successful titles like Asylum 1 – 2 and the annual Tales for a HalloweeNight anthologies. In the last few years they started a new series of monthly anthologies called John Carpenter’s Tales of Science Fiction. Twitch was one of the latest stories in the series and is now available in a paperback trade. Telling the story of an alien signal from outer space that is turning humankind into a collective hive-minded bunch of zombies, Twitch was written by Duane Swierczynski with art by Richard P. Clark and lettering by Janice Chiang. This past weekend at New York Comic-Com at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in midtown Manhattan, I got a chance to sit down with artist Richard P. Clark to talk about Twitch, his creative process, and working for Storm King.
Geeks of Doom: Thanks for chatting with me. When did you first start working with Storm King?
Richard P. Clark: I’ve been working with Storm King, this is five years. The first time was on Tales for a HalloweeNight Vol. 1, I worked with Duane Swierczynski on a short story. And then I did finishes and colors over Derek Robertson for David Schow’s short story. I worked with Sandy and the whole Storm King gang on HalloweeNight volumes 1, 2, and 3. In Vol. 3, I even got to write and illustrate a story called “Trixie Treat.” Since I had been working with Duane on all the HalloweeNight volumes, he suggested me for Twitch. The first five-issue mini that he did for Sandy as part of the standalone series.
Geeks of Doom: You have a history with Duane. What’s the process like between you? Does he give you a script outline for you to base drawings off, or do you have vague outlines for certain concepts you want to use?
Richard P. Clark: Duane works in a pretty traditional full-script format. He will write the whole issue as Page One, Panel 1 through Panel 5. Page Two, Panel 1 through however many panels. He will also include in addition to the individual panel descriptions of the action taking place, he will write the dialogue which is infinitely helpful because as an illustrator I can look at and say, “Wow, okay this is what happens in this picture.” If I go and truncate it and don’t leave enough room for all the dialogue, then we run into a problem. So while there is often times some more fun and flexibility to be had in the old fashioned Marvel-style where an author gives you plot breakdown and then you as the artist get to go and set the pacing and piece it out; it is so much more practical under tight deadline constraints to get the full script, like I do from Duane.
Geeks of Doom: So with Twitch, this is a story about signals from space turning people into zombie. What was your inspiration to draw this the way you did, the people hit by the WOW particle in the story?
Richard P. Clark: Well, Duane wrote a pretty cool description. He stated that it’s actually an invasion, almost a sentient being or collective hive mind that in a very clever springboard to how an invasion takes place. They hijack photons and came to Earth while riding the tails of photons. So you have to be a sub, subatomic particle; which is crazy theoretical physics for all the smart people. All I know is I just get, “here, this is what’s happening,” and I say, “that’s too smart, just tell me the dumb part” and that’s what to draw. When he wrote the description that these people started getting consumed by the energy of this collective hive mind and he also wrote in the first issue that they started vomiting up their internal organs, I thought that since these people are being turned into energy creatures, energy is light and wouldn’t it be cool if we got to see this sort of x-ray sort of look into the skeletal structure that would be left behind after all the meaty parts had been consumed. Then I thought just for shits and giggles, why don’t we have some of this energy crackling off of them like a lightning strike. It was more just me working with the descriptions that Duane gave of what happens to the people and just logically extrapolating based off that description, what would happen to a human being when that happened.
Geeks of Doom: Do you have a favorite panel from the whole series? Obviously it’s available now in paperback, but was there a specific panel from a particular issue maybe?
Richard P. Clark: To narrow it down to a singular panel would be very difficult because one of the great things about working with Duane is that he totally understands that this is a visual medium. He gets that he’s not writing a soft treatment for a TV show, he writing a visual book that’s a combination of words and pictures. So he wrote some things that make for great visuals. I would have to say, not from an aesthetic point of view or anything in particular, the final page of issue #1. Page 22 of issue #1 was probably my favorite because that was when I really got a handle on what those energy critters would look like. It was also the first fully completed piece of artwork I did out of the whole series.
[John Carpenter’s Tales of Science Fiction Issue 1.]
Geeks of Doom: You mentioned earlier that you previously wrote a story in one of the HalloweeNight books. Which do you enjoy more, writing or illustrating?
Richard P. Clark: Oof, that’s a tough one. It’s difficult because I do so much more visual art in my day-to-day life. When I’m not doing comics, I also do illustration and design for various clients out in the world, so I do so much visual art and I enjoy the heck out of it. However, when I do get a chance to write, it’s so special and so rare that it’s a nice change of pace. I dig that buzz. I will say I take to language and the constructs of language a little more naturally than I do to drawing or painting. However, I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil, so it’s close. I’m not saying I’m a genius at either one, don’t misunderstand, but not being singularly great at either I would say I enjoy them equally when I get to do them regularly. As much as I take to writing, it’s a more difficult process. Once drawing and painting gets going, I can actually plug in a book or listen to music, I can do anything. With writing I have to think about what happens next, and what the character motivations are and what this character would do logically in certain situations; I have to have complete silence for that. So it’s probably a bit harder. Sorry if that’s a shit answer because I kind of gave you a long way of saying both.
Geeks of Doom: As someone with no artistic ability who struggles at writing anything original, I greatly admire both. I always ask this to writers and artists at this booth, what’s it like working for Storm King? John Carpenter’s name is attached to every book, it’s John Carpenter’s Tales of Science Fiction. That name and his resume is what will draw people in. So what’s it like being attached to that and working with Sandy and John?
Richard P. Clark: I haven’t worked directly with John yet sadly. I’m going to try to twist all the arms I can to draw his story in the next Tales for a HalloweeNight. I doubt I’ll be successful in twisting all those arms, but you know the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Working with Sandy has been an absolute dream. Sandy understands the process. She also understands what creative people are like in all media. She’s done TV, film, authorship, so obviously she knows us creative nutballs very very well. Working with Sandy is a dream not only because she gets it, but because she’s hugely supportive of all us. As far as the pressure of seeing Sandy and John’s name on the marquee, I won’t lie and say I don’t think about that. I’ve been watching John Carpenter movies since I was in grade school. Halloween came out when I was in third grade. So he’s been a cultural icon since before I knew what that meant. And obviously he’s a creative genius of all sorts, writing, filmmaking, and music. To that end, I try not to think about it as a thing because I’ve been really fortunate in my life. Some of my biggest heroes, I’ve either worked with or worked for or tangentially about. I painted George Carlin for HBO back in the day. Stephen King actually owns a painting I did of him for the Wall Street Journal. President Clinton owns some of my originals that I did of him for a commission. I’ve had some big marquee name type jobs, but at the same time that doesn’t mean I’m beyond it or above it. I’ve just been really fortunate so I don’t feel that “Oh my god, don’t fuck it up” pressure. I just recognize this is the job, and I have to do just as good a job here whether it’s for John Carpenter or for a small private commission for a convention goer. The day I start thinking of myself as “the guy who only does these big marquee jobs,” the day after is the day I go out of business.
Richard P. Clark’s artwork is on display in the trade paperback of John Carpenter’s Tales of Science Fiction: Twitch, available in signed copies at the Storm King website. Storm King had a constant consumer presence at New York Comic-Con with Sandy King Carpenter and a slew of her writers, artists, and collaborators. Check back here to read more comic reviews from Storm King, including Tales for HalloweeNight Vol. 5 coming soon.
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