For artist Randy Queen, comics have been a passion that has consumed his life for the past 14 years. He’s one of the few creators in mainstream comics to work almost exclusively on his own creator-owned characters, and his work has garnered a significant fanbase that follows his every release.
Queen burst onto the comics scene in 1996 with his series Darkchylde. Queen had done some small formulaic work at Top Cow up to that point, but Darkchylde was his first full-length comic and proved to be so popular that it’s been his calling card ever since. The series has been published in many different iterations, including a manga version at Dark Horse a couple years, and most recently re-appeared in a crossover with Top Cow’s the Darkness in a one-shot written & illustrated by Queen. In recent months, Queen has teased a new sci-fi project entitled Starfall, with several teaser comics being realized during conventions... but the big news as of late has been the release of test footage from a live action Darkchylde movie put together by famed special effects house Weta Workshop.
With Darkness/Darkchylde in-stores and Queen working furiously on Starfall and the Darkchylde feature film, we talked with him and his wife and collaborator Sarah in this in-depth interview.
Newsarama: Now that you’ve got the Darkchylde/Darkness out the door and in stores, it seems you two are jumping straight into finishing Starfall. Can you tell us where you’re at with this project?
Randy Queen: Certainly after spending four years developing it on spec, we're anxious to get pages, and books in the can. We're working hard to produce an evergreen title the publisher can still move ten, twenty years from now. Starfall is a hell's a poppin' love letter to the medium, honoring the pulp legends of lore and fusing that with a modern technical sensibility. But not an easy mountain to climb at the level we wish to do it. The support and kind words of fans and friends go a long way.
Nrama: For people interested in it, do you have any timetable in mind for a release of the first issue of Starfall?Randy: Discussing a timetable until we have more information would be premature at this point, but I'm thrilled the response has been so positive. We want it as much as they do. It's developing and we'll keep fans in the loop. Top Cow has been terrific, and I'd be happy to camp there for the foreseeable future.
Nrama: Although Starfall is front and center in your mind, you’re also continuing work on the Darkchylde feature film – with rumors that we might be seeing from test footage from WETA at some point. What can you tell us about that?
Randy: It's very hard fought test footage for a proposed $20-25 million budgeted film. We'd prefer to do it independently so it doesn't get turned into something it isn't due to a higher budget. So it's important to not expect Avatar or Iron Man 2 footage, you know? This is a smaller, more intimate horror film we are cultivating, something like the first Ginger Snaps, or Carrie, but with a more impressive FX resource. As a horror fan, I want to see more new ideas. The books has a very successful pedigree, we have a script, and we have the world's best FX house on board, so it's just about finding the right people to attain lift off. We're excited about it, and hope to reveal our teaser soon. Lots of Ariel Chylde energy in the air right now.
Nrama: You’re primarily known for your character Darkchylde, which you created early on in your career and at the same time the comics industry was at a sales peak. What’s it been like to continue with the character over the years, going way back to the foundation of it at Rob Liefeld’s Maximum Press then later to a pre-DC Wildstorm imprint, your own company, Dark Horse and now Top Cow?
Randy: Objectively, so many factors contribute to successes or failures. The market conditions have to be there, but so to, does the idea, because they don't all strive even if conditions are great. Sometimes the idea is great, but the market conditions aren't. Look at what happened with John Carpenter's The Thing. The forthcoming prequel, which will likely not be as brilliant, will probably fare better at the box office due to market conditions. The trick is always to get the stars to align. I'm delighted the character of Ariel Chylde was embraced and people are still talking about her, despite that I am not the most prolific.
Nrama: The core of the Darkchylde character is someone who can become the creatures from her nightmares – literally taking the things she hates most and turning it around for positive good in defending her small town. This idea of nightmares – is it something you have a lot of, either now or in your childhood?Randy: I think everybody's haunted by something. So then it becomes how you take that universal truth and spin a story context around it? We're very excited about our beautiful new statue from PopCultureShock which effectively communicates the contrast between Ariel and her Nightmares. The Sideshow exclusive sold out in 5 hours, but the primary edition with translucent blood base is available now at this link http: //www.sideshowtoy.com/?page_id=14515
Nrama: In the past few years, both you two and Darkchylde have been out of the public eye – so what’s it like to get back onto shelves with Darkchylde/Darkness?
Randy: It's always great to come up for air and receive the best universal reviews of our careers. That's tough to get in any entertainment arena, so we're thankful the blood, sweat and tears were acknowledged about as well as we could have possibly hoped. Some of those reviews are getting framed. Very happy about it. Thanks to everyone who picked it up.
Nrama: We’ve seen Darkchylde all over the place with various miniseries, crossovers and one-shots. Any chance we’ll see a definitive collection of all the Darkchylde work in one big book?
Randy: Talking to a few people now. Seems like a good time.
Nrama: I know you’ve worked almost exclusively on your own comics, writing and drawing, but have you ever put thought into enlisting an artist to draw your stories so you could get your ideas out there more quickly?
Randy: YES! Weeks to script, months to draw.
Nrama: When Darkchylde was first introduced, it was initially compared to Top Cow’s Witchblade – who debuted months before your character, and became popular quite quickly. Although you were with another publishing company at the time, it seems you’ve come full circle now landing at Witchblade’s publishing company. What do you think it was about that time creating Darkchylde and the comparisons to Witchblade, and why you think powerful female characters with a touch of darkness become so popular?
Randy: Billy Tucci's Shi had lit up at the time, and that was a strong female character from an independent, and people realized a female lead could be viable. But Darkchylde wasn't an answer to Witchblade anymore than Witchblade was an answer to Shi. I think it was the respective people felt they had interesting stories to tell in a market that would be receptive. For myself, it wasn't any more calculated than crafting something that would play to my own strengths, and creating something I would like to see personally. Same thing with Starfall.
Nrama: Randy, you originally created Darkchylde on your own but in recent years your wife Sarah has been side-by-side with you on projects, not only coloring but lettering and designing as well. What does having her here do to influence what you do for the story and the art you develop?
Randy: I run everything by her, but also the risk of her crinkling her nose and telling me it sucks. It's a blessing to have an intelligent set of eyes and ears around to be collegial with, and Sarah can do anything.
Nrama: Sarah, you’re a bit more shrouded in mystery than Randy is – but this interview is out to remedy that. Can you tell us about your background and the work you do?Sarah Queen: I like mystery. That's very calculated! Let's see, I was a buyer for the largest distributor of comics in North America. Shortly after, I co-founded Darkchylde Entertainment. with Randy and our very first title, Dreams of the Darkchylde # 1 was the highest selling independent book right out of the gate for that month. So that was pretty exciting. Currently, we are working with WETA on producing the film version of the property and all the meetings that entails, and aside from coloring and lettering the books, I also do all the design, lettering and production for the website and the comics. Recently I just spent several weeks readying our digital content for Wowio's relaunch! http: //wowio.com/darkchylde
Nrama: Can you describe what the general working process is like for you two in your studio? Where does Randy end and Sarah begin?
Randy: Sometimes her ideas are better than mine, and sometimes my ideas are better than hers. It's looking at all that's on the table and choosing what you feel is strongest, to the best of your ability. I originally wanted a fiery sky on the crossover cover, but Sarah wasn't excited about it. The cover was done, but she spent another 3 days of her time for no extra pay to produce a different, cooler palette that was 10x stronger. So the lesson is, even if it's not what you originally wanted, what you end up with may be significantly stronger if the talent follows their own contrary intuitions.
Sarah: Creatively, the process is I get a piece and spend untold hours agonizing over it to try and bring it to life with color while still complimenting the line art. I strive for the maximum emotional register that color can provide for any given scene. Sometimes Randy will have a change that makes a world of difference, and sometimes I go contrary to his notes and deliver something he still likes anyway. Sometimes not! It's the same with his art. He asks for feedback, but I think we generally know when something is working and when it isn't. The trick is to get the "working" ratio higher. It's a challenge, but that's creating art!
Nrama: There is a lot of pressure on comics’ creators out there to release issues on a monthly schedule. Some artists can do it – like Mark Bagley or John Romita Jr. – but it seems like a hard thing to do 22 pages in 30 days and still have time for a life, especially when you’re working on your own. From your point of view, what’s that like to experience that kind of anticipation and demand from fans?Randy: Each situation is unique onto itself and you can play to a persons strengths if you realize that. To try to crowbar every artist into the exact same template seems pretty narrow minded to me. Not everyone is monthly, but you've got plenty of monthly guys who supply that fix. Some guys are built differently, and take a little longer. Where is it written on the scrolls of time you can't have a shelf of books created with both equations? Should we not appreciate the work of an Al Williamson or a Travis Charest, or a Mike Mignola because it didn't happen quickly? No where is it written that Hellboy has to be monthly, nor should it be. To throw eggs that it isn't is incredibly simplistic.
I think if you're truly in the creative business, you'll find creative solutions with your colleagues.