Rich Tommaso takes aim at 'Dark Corridor'

With the debut this week of his new Image Comics series Dark Corridor, creator Rich Tommaso embarks on some changes.

First, as opposed to his recent Recoil Comics stories that focus on one or two characters, Dark Corridor features an ensemble cast. Second, the writer/artist has opted to end the grind of producing six comics at once (his Recoil pace) for this one ongoing, set in the crime-ridden city of Red Circle, whose mobsters suddenly find themselves the target of female assassins.

To mark the arrival of the series, Tommaso fielded some questions about Dark Corridor from ROBOT 6.

ROBOT 6: What do you most enjoy about building the Dark Corridor universe?

Rich Tommaso: Creating so many characters! I normally do stories that only focus on one or two main characters, a lot of following one guy or girl around while they narrate their lives to the reader. But I've always wanted to do an ensemble piece, and I'm having a lot of fun doing just that. Also, just tying everything in the city together with marquees that read: Red Circle Theater, Red Circle Motel, etc., etc. Every time I do that, the city becomes more alive and real to me. Hopefully, it will to the reader as well.

What are the biggest challenges to tackling an ensemble piece?

Making sure you don't have a dozen characters who are basically all the same. That's one thing I'm constantly worrying over. "Are these people reacting to things in the exact same way? Do they all have the same voice? " Using real-life sources for each character helps to make them different from one another. That's a big help. But I don't know if I'm successful in doing this -- it is a revenge story -- filled with people who have similar goals -- and it's heavy on action sequences, so it is filled with a bunch of angry, reactionary people, for the most part. Every time the action slows down and I'm able to draw them doing everyday things and having conversations with others, that's where their individual voices come through. Hopefully. The other challenge is just keeping up and following through with everyone's own personal storyline and making sure there aren't any loose ends as the plot moves forward.

Was it a hard choice to mothball Recoil and opt to work with Image?

No, I was getting burnt out doing six comics at once for no money at all. The press and general excitement surrounding Recoil was quickly dying out as well. Not surprising in our Twitter ADD culture. I was ready for a bigger challenge and doing a full color monthly (as opposed to the bimonthly Recoil stuff) was just what I was looking for.

Not a lot of folks realize how much is entailed in self-publishing. How long did it take for you to realize you were burning out?

I had taken a break from working on comics due to some personal obligations, and during that time I had realized that an entire year had already gone by with Recoil. When I'd come up for air, I felt so tired and thought a lot about how -- in that year, not much had changed; I wasn't making any money at all -- in fact, I was losing money. I had spent perhaps too much of my time at the post office, was exhausted with keeping up with pending payments and back orders (which got very hard to fulfill toward the end of that year, since I had six books to deal with at that point), was fed up with assembling of all the books, designing the covers (which sometimes took me weeks for each comic, out of being overly obsessive). Again, once I had paused from the work, that's when I'd worry about the other aspects comics. Right around this same time, Image had approached me. It was a relief and I hoped and prayed that it would actually lead to doing my own series with them. The toughest part of the self-publishing game for me was the constant self-promotion. I'd try to get the Recoil label to be widely known or get one of the comic titles to catch on big. It was a ridiculous thing to attempt: to compete with the vast sea of comics that are out there with a small label.

You do everything on your comics. Would you ever considering letting someone else color your work, just to ease your load?

Yes. If I could afford to hire someone, there are plenty of people I can think of that have the skills to ape my brush-like coloring style.

This project is incredibly ambitious. Are you more nervous or happy at this juncture?

Both. I get very nervous at times, but that's only when I take a breather from working. When I'm hard at work -- on a daily basis, I don't have time to think about what I'm getting myself into. I just try and get the work done as efficiently as possible.

I love your approach to dialogue -- some of the panels have an Aaron Sorkin level of crosstalk. What inspired you to do this?

I think you're mainly describing the scene in the South Bank ghetto? That's where there's the most crosstalk. I think that came from just living in a city and always hearing a lot of conversation going on around you. I sometimes like to pull in comments from the people in the background, especially if the scene doesn't require much concentration on the main characters' discussion. Also, Pete totally sticks out like a sore thumb in that neighborhood -- a big, old, well-to-do, white guy. I just thought, you don't walk around a neighborhood like that -- toting a barking pitbull, no less -- and not get some shit for it.

Would it be too much if you ever did an entire story with that dialogue pace?

If I was working on another French New Wave film type of book again, which was exactly the inspiration and motivation behind my Clover Honey project years ago, I may attempt that. It would have to be a story where the plot is not only secondary, but of almost no importance at all. A naturalistic, character-driven piece. Maybe some day I can try that out.

Tommaso will sign copies of Dark Corridor #1 today from 6 to 8 p.m. today at Oxford Comics Games & More in Atlanta.

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