Geek Retreat Interview: Dave Cook of Card Shark Comics!

By: Dominic Kelly

3rd November 2016

I’ve long held the belief that Scotland has one of the best comic scenes in the world today.

A tide pool of talent, Scotland’s comic scene is as vibrant as it is varied. From bone chilling horror comics to out there sci-fi, if you have a preference, the Scottish comic scene is more than likely able to cater to it. This can especially found in in the work of local publishers Card Shark Comics. A frequent guest of the site, the good folks at Card Shark are responsible for some phenomenal books these last few years. From the post-apocalyptic stylings of the comic Bust, to the dark fantasy of Vessels, they certainly showcase the diversity of Scotland’s comic scene with their work.

Now, with the third issue of the acclaimed Bust on the way, I was lucky enough to get a chance to chat with writer and Card Shark Comics founder Dave Cook about his work.

Dominic Kelly: Let’s start simple. What made you want to get into comics?

Dave Cook: Before I founded Card Shark Comics I worked for ten year as a gaming journalist. The thing about online articles is that they get forgotten pretty fast and there’s only so much imagination and creativity you can put into that sort of writing. I wanted to create something that had a longer shelf life and gave me space to let my imagination run wild, so comics felt like the ideal scratch to that itch.

DK: Were you nervous getting into comics at first?

DC: Oh definitely yeah, although comics is an industry where reaching out to ask other creators for advice is absolutely encouraged. I was lucky that to have a few videogame contacts who knew comic creators I could lean on and ask for advice. I also found Bust artist Chris through gaming circles as well, we had a few chats about my idea then before we knew it, we were creating pages. I then took the pages to Edinburgh Comic Con where I met other creators, and I was able to show them the work we had done so far and gather feedback. That early positive feedback kept us going and the lack of confidence quickly ashed away. I’m always happy to do the same for other new creators out there, seriously, come find me at shows!

DK: You’re the writer for the comics Bust and Vessels, as well as a contributor to the horror collection The Grime.  Is there anything that drew you to horror comics in particular?

DC: Not especially, but when I was accepted to contribute to The Grime I actually thought it was a very fun genre to work with – especially in the anthology format where you need to come up with a twist. The horror genre really gives you license to just run amok with all sorts of weird, scary, gruesome concepts, so I think I’ve been converted to a fan.

DK: You’re already deep into developing issue 3 of your comic Bust. Have you found that writing the world of Bust is coming easier to you now that you’re a few issues in?

DC: I think it has yeah. The way I work is perhaps a little different to other creators I know, who write out all issues back to back. I leave gaps between writing each issue, because I like to write in the moment. Perhaps I’ll be feeling differently about things a few months later, or I’ll have been influenced by something that has really struck a chord with me. That could lead to things feeling disjointed, but I always work out the start and end of my whole arcs before writing anything, along with a few pivotal scenes that get my characters to the finish line. That approach, together with carefully crafted lore bibles, are the key to staying on track, making sure your world works, and helping to bring everything together much easier.

card-shark-comicsDK: You’ve utilized Kickstarter for your last few comics. Do you believe that the platform has allowed you more flexibility in how you can publish your work?

DC: Without a doubt. We’ve now successfully funded four comics, and we plan on using the platform until the bubble bursts, basically. It meant that I didn’t need to find a publisher to get my work out there, and I could start building my fan base and stories now, instead of waiting six months to a year to get rejection letters from all the pitches I put out there. It’s a competitive industry, and your comic needs to meet many criteria for a publisher to consider it, while pitching it at the right time. It’s very difficult, but Kickstarter has helped put control and autonomy back in the indie creator’s hands.

DK: Do you see Bust going on long into the future after issue 3, or do you have a point at which you’d like to round it out?

DC: Issue five is our final issue, and it’s the next comic I’ll write. I’m seriously putting it off though, as it feels pretty sad to be bringing that world to a close. It’s even a little intimidating, because I know it needs to end with a killer issue, but the plot is 90% there in my mind. I just need to figure out a few things here and there so I can get it written down. That said, I may bring the world back after some time working on other projects, but the idea I have is quite a different take on that world. Never say never.

DK: I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up your comic Vessels, as I remember you saying it was inspired by From Software’s Soul Series. Having covered the games myself, I have to ask, what drew you towards doing a story in that style?

DC: I had the idea of doing a comic about dreams and strange realities not long after I started writing Bust, but I wasn’t sure about what kind of world it’d be set in. I’ve been obsessed with the Souls series since I bought Demon’s Souls on day one (a Souls OG!), and I always wanted to write a comic set in that world. Our old friend Copyright meant that was never going to happen, so I decided that a dying medieval world would be the setting of Vessels. The rest fell into place pretty quickly after that.

card-sharkDK: How do you plan to build on the world of Vessels going forward? Is there anything in particular you’d like to explore?

DC: Oh man, issue #1 readers have no idea haha. My biggest hint is that it’s going to get a hell of a lot weirder with each passing issue. Our big twist in the first issue was just the beginning, and the whole dream hopping concept is going to let us have tonnes of fun, from trans-dimensional travel and alternate realities, to strange other-worldly anomalies and of course, clashes with the Vessels themselves. I’ve currently written half of issue #5 and I sometimes stop writing and thing, ‘OK, this is getting nuts, is this going to break the lore in some way?’ But then I remember it’s in a world where anything is possible. You’ll see!

DK: Also, as a side note, who or what is your favourite Souls boss?

DC: Ornstein and Smough, only because of the sheer joy when I finally beat them solo. I got a tattoo of them on my arm for my birthday that year to celebrate. No joke.

DK: After Issue 3 of Bust and issue 2 of Vessels, what do you plan to do next?

DC: Myself and Bust cover artist Craig Paton just finished the script for issue #1 of the third Card Shark Comics series Killtopia, but it likely won’t see the light of day for some time yet – maybe even late 2017. We’re really pulling out all the stops on this one, so we want to take as long as possible to ensure it’s the best it can be. It’s my tribute to the old Manga movies Akira and Ghost in the Shell, as well as the games of Suda 51 and Platinum Games. So we’re talking over the top Japanese-influenced action, larger than life characters with memorable styles, all set to a backdrop of neon-lit skylines, pink cherry blossom petals twirling in the air, and the rusted, polluted husk of a near future metropolis gone wrong. It’s going to be epic.

DK: And finally, do you have any words of wisdom for anyone who may be interested in getting into the world of comics?

DC: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There’s absolutely no shame in doing it, and you definitely won’t annoy other creators if you ask them for advice at a convention. We all do it, we all show each other scripts, work in progress art and more to get feedback, because we’re all friends in the Scottish scene, we trust each other’s opinions and give each other lots of time and patience. If in doubt, ask your local comic creator, we don’t bite!

The third issue of Bust is set to debut early 2017. Issue one and two of Bust however are available now, as is the first issue of Vessels. Both are available through Comichaus and Card Shark Comics’ online store. I’m sure if you ask nicely enough though, Geek Retreat will be able to hook you up.