Douglas Barre, writer of the new Image/Powerhouse book “Defiance”, which hit stores last Wednesday, has travelled a hard road to get to where he is today, but his commitment to follow his dream and stay the course has finally paid off. Barre spoke with CBR News about his new book “Defiance.”
“It’s the story of a war between Hell and Earth,” Barre told CBR News. “It’s also the story about what happens when you refuse to do what you’re expected. When Satan defied, he fell from heaven. Our story is about what happened after that, and how every act of defiance causes great repercussions.
“On a narrower scope, it’s about Ivan, a mortal brought back to life by a demon lord to deliver a message to earth. This message is the only hope Earth has to resist a new invasion by the Devil. Helping Ivan are two demons named Cleo and Lym, who were left on Earth after their side lost the last war in hell. What is the message? What is the Devil’s plan? What does this have to do with Ivan’s craving for scrambled eggs? It’s all in ‘Defiance.'”
What sets this book very much apart from most other comic books is the production process. See, with “Defiance” the art came first and the story came second. How’s that, you ask? Let’s begin.
Powerhouse is the U.S. publishing representation for this book created by Korean artists Kano Khang and Zach Suh. The book was laid out and finished by the Korea natives, containing just a bare bones plot. In steps Barre and Powerhouse who provided provided the dialog and a more complete plot. Barre explains the process. “I had to discern the artists intent and story and find a way to tell that, while simultaneously advancing the story elements I had added. At first, I found myself relying a lot on my script to tell everything, but as time went on, I got more comfortable with pulling back and letting the art speak for itself. In some ways, it was just as much a puzzle as it was a story. There’s a great writing exercise where someone gives you five words and you have to tell a story with all five words in it. It forces you to work not just with your own ideas, but with an externally placed structure. In some ways, scripting the first few issues of ‘Defiance’ was like that.”
Luckily for Barre “Defiance” won’t always be created in this unusual manner. “As of Act Two, ‘The Scabbard,’ I’m plotting as well as scripting. Of course, in some cases, plotting is saying to the artists, ‘Here’s three pages for you, doing what you want to draw’ because I don’t want to cramp their imagination or style. I just want to make sure that we eventually get a scene of Ivan eating eggs.”
For Barre landing as a writer in the comic industry was an arduous journey. “Before breaking into comics, I spent my time trying to look busy and beating my head against the wall looking for a job. I spend two days a week working at one of the great comic stores in America and learned a surprising amount about what makes comics work and what doesn’t while there. Mostly, though, I tried my wife’s patience and rewrote resumes. Again and again.”
After many fruitless attempts to find work, Barre finally hit paydirt. “When I was busy trying to get a job, I entered one of those job counseling programs. They suggested that I find people who had jobs in industries that I was interested in and meet them for a short interview to ask their advice. I lucked out here, and the person I wrangled into lunch with was the inestimable [former Image Comics’ Director of Marketing] Anthony Bozzi. There is literally no one I’ve ever met with more passion for making good comics than Bozzi. Ask anyone. Anyway, after getting his advice…Bozzi introduced me at San Diego to Robert, who needed an editor and script clean-up guy. I met with Robert a week later to follow up, and he asked if I could help them rework ‘Defiance.’ I took ‘rework’ to mean ‘take over writing’ and hoped that they liked what I did. Since then, I’ve had a few great talks with Robert and we’re looking forward to going forward with some exciting new projects that I’m writing from the ground up.”
Now, Barre finds himself busy working on a number of various creative projects. He just can’t talk about all of them yet. “You know, I never used to believe people when they said they couldn’t talk about things until they had contracts signed, but wow. Hey, I can’t mention a few of my current projects until, well, they’ve been bought. I have a few interesting series with Robert [Chong] waiting for the right artist to be found, including an eastern-style fantasy book and a Victorian Age adventure story. I’m also continuing my weekly Web site, Chimerical Comics, and I’m on board with Nixonvision designing a Justice League version of their X-Assault game.”
So, when it’s all said and done, what sets a book like “Defiance” apart from other sci-fi, horror and action comics that are on the shelves now?
“Well, the art is in a beautifully computer-painted style that will really catch the eyes, by Korean artists Kano Khang and Zach Suh, and storywise, I’m more interested in telling something that has a rich payoff at the end than just a never-ending series of events and cliffhangers. We set things up in #1 that don’t pay off until the final issue, #12. My goal was to give readers a story that doesn’t cheat them, that when all is said and done, hangs together well and satisfies emotionally. On the other side, though, I’m trying to tell a story that builds on the actions and choices of the characters, who grow and change and, well… defy. On that level, fans of books like ‘Midnight Nation’ or, heck, even ‘Ultimate Spider-Man,’ who like strong character and dialogue will enjoy the unfolding mysteries.”
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