25. The Making of a Comic: 'End After End' by DB Andry, Tim Daniel, and Sunando C.
Behold scenes of a War-Fantasy and the secrets of pitching
Howdy Brave Being,
Welcome back, dear friends, to The Making of a Comic. This week, creators David “DB” Andry, Tim Daniel, and Sunando C. are joining me to discuss their upcoming fantasy series END AFTER END, published by Vault Comics. Tim even made a special header for this humble newsletter which I am honored to showcase and break my formatting for because look how awesome it is! Okay, back to the book at hand…
END AFTER END has been described as “Willow meets Saving Private Ryan,” or “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty meets Lord of the Rings.” As a huge fan of both Willow and The Lord of the Rings, I was immediately hooked, and then considering the war drama Saving Private Ryan, color me intrigued. Here they are to tell you all about it!
Constructing a Comic
Brittany Matter: Tell us a little bit about END AFTER END.
David Andry: End After End is a story that came from feeling powerless to change the world around us. Our main character, Walt, shows up in the End After End following his untimely demise in the ‘real’ world and he finds himself thrust into the middle of an endless war. He doesn’t know what’s going on, he just has to try to survive long enough to figure stuff out. For me, it definitely mirrors some of my frustration with many things going on in society today. Walt almost gets a ‘do-over’ in the End After End. A chance to be the hero he wasn’t in his earthly life.
BM: How did y'all choose the setting?
DA: That was my fault. When Tim and I first started talking about working together, I told him I had a nugget of an idea I wanted to develop. He said he was open to anything, except fantasy. And I said, well, it’s a fantasy story. But Tim’s dislike for complex rules and complicated histories of fantasy fit perfectly with the type of story I wanted to tell. This was fantasy from the point of view of a commoner, low fantasy, fantasy dragged through the mud.
Tim Daniel: I think it chose us as I don’t recall too much conscious decision making about what it would look like. Part of it came from having these long phone discussions with DB as I was sitting beside my wife’s garden. I went through her seed stores and plants and plucked names for some of our characters and beasts straight from the stakes and labels. To me, the END AFTER END is a desecrated paradise, one our characters desperately seek to reclaim.
BM: As creators coming from post-apocalyptic fiction (Andry's RESONANT) and horror (Daniel's THE PLOT), what inspired y'all to dive into the fantasy genre?
DA: I’ve always loved fantasy, probably my favorite genre when I read prose. I’ve written a fantasy novella, Coterie (available for download on Amazon!) and multiple fantasy pitches. I’m not sure if I can drag Tim back into the fantasy realm for future stories, but I will try.
TD: This is all DB’s fault. To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan or reader of fantasy. I know, shame walk for me. It’s just…the absolute weight of most fantasy stories is too daunting for me. But the challenge of telling a story for readers, specifically fantasy-challenged like me (Willow is more my speed), was very, very alluring.
We’ve seemed to have accomplished just that. Light on world-building, fast on its feet with pacing and rich with character.
BM: When you first discussed this story, I read that you spent five hours on the phone. Can y'all share with us a few things that came out of that call?
DA: Other than us both saying why the hell hadn’t we done this before?! We had the bones of the entire story after that phone call, including the ending. That was weird for me, because I almost never know the ending of the story until I’ve written most of it. We just naturally riffed with each other, like we’d been writing together for years. It’s really the easiest, most fun, creative experience I could imagine.
TD: We went from the startling epiphany of, “why haven’t we worked together?” after knowing one another for almost a decade to jogging rather briskly through this story of Walt Willem. We covered so much ground so fast the floodgates burst. We were both broad in our touchstones—1917, Saving Private Ryan, Willow, Birthright, Seven to Eternity to getting into what made Walt tick which DB is absolutely expert at finding a character’s core.
Ultimately, we arrived at a war-fantasy dragged through the mud and gut shot in the trenches.
BM: How did y'all conceptualize this story before handing it off to Sunando?
DA: I really like to work ahead, like, really ahead. So we pretty much wrote all 10 scripts before searching for an artist to collaborate with. Once Sunando came in, he added a ton of his personal influences to the character designs and really changed our perception of the story. So Tim and I went back and did some rewriting after Sunando came in to match the wonderful things he added.
TD: A war-fantasy dragged through the mud and gut shot in the trenches. The anti-chosen one tale. A regular guy thrust right into the thick of battle with no training, no context, no idea what he’s fighting for or what he’s fighting against. We had almost 10 full issue outlines and 4-5 scripts done by that time, so there was a lot for Sunando to digest.
BM: Tell us about your collaboration with Sunando C. When did he come into the process?
TD: What a serendipitous discovery! I came to know Sunando’s work through his collaboration with Curt Pires on MEMORIA. By some strange twist of fate, he reached out to me on social media unaware I was doing the design for the collected edition. So, I was already darned familiar with his work and to say I was impressed with his lines and storytelling is underselling their impact.
I was smitten by the humanity in his work. The mannered messiness of it all. I jumped at the chance to work with him and shared his portfolio PDF with DB.
The biggest gain here is Sunando’s lines play against genre type as far as I’m concerned. The raw nature of his work contradicts our expectations of fantasy illustration, which tends to be incredibly ornate and abundant in detail. There’s a lot of frills and delicacy especially when I think of the likes of Charles Vess, P. Craig Russell or Brian Froud all of whom I greatly enjoy, but we’ve seen a lot of iterations of that style over the years.
Sunando’s work kind of takes a battle axe to all that and it gives END AFTER END its own unique voice.
BM: What were each of your responses when y'all first saw Kurt Michael Russell's colors?
DA: Holy crap. Wow. Amazing. Stunning. Magic.
Sunando C: Funny story but I told Kurt about this as well. A few years ago I was coming on board a series at another publisher and they'd asked me for some names of colorists I'd like to work with. I had seen Kurt's work on POSTAL for Top Cow and I had his name on that list along with Mark Dale and now, while that series never happened, I've worked with Mark on MEMORIA and Kurt on END AFTER END. It's been incredible to see the pages come back from him because he does so much more than I'd have thought possible. He's as much a storyteller as the three of us. Truly a magician.
TD: Is this a family publication? Honestly, it was “FUCK YES!!! Kurt, you mad fucking genius!!!” Kurt accused me of being dramatic. But with his work mine is a very authentic and real enthusiasm. He was trying different things, new techniques and so forth. The prompt we gave him was Ralph Bakshi’s animated The Lord of the Rings and Fire & Ice and what he arrived at is something wholly unique to our book and something that stands apart stylistically from his work in Money Shot or The Plot. There’s a rough-hewn edge and texture, a noise in the signal and a human imperfection to the beautiful palette that is perfectly evocative of this flawed protagonist of ours.
BM: What about Jim Campbell's body of work inspired y'all to bring him on the team?
TD: I was very lucky to meet Jim through my collaborations with Michael Moreci. Jim lettered Curse, Burning Fields and The Plot. At this point, if it’s not Deron Bennett’s AndWorld lettering my books, it’s going to be Jim. The thing with Jim is this—his letters are always seamlessly integrated. He’s a complimentary collaborator in that regard, there’s a stoicism in what he does and I can honestly say I’ve taken some cues from him in my design work.
The Artist’s Perspective
BM: Sunando, tell us what it was like coming into this fantasy series off the heels of MEMORIA, which is more of a detective drama.
SC: I first spoke to Tim about doing something at Vault around the time I was working on the last chapter of MEMORIA, and what I told him was that after 100+ pages of real-world crime and some reality-based horror projects before, what I really wanted to do now was create something entirely out of my imagination—design creatures, costumes, create environments—and a few hours later Tim sent me the first script for EAE. It's been the most fun I've had so far in comics.
With a project like MEMORIA or Work Nights, which was a short I did for an Image book, a lot of the touchstones that the writers and I would discuss would be films. MEMORIA was Fincher, Taylor Hackford or Michael Mann. With EAE my personal influences are Walt Simonson's THOR or Art Adam's LONGSHOT and I think Tim wishes I would stop breaking panel borders every chance I get.
BM: Tell us a little bit about your artistic process. What's your first step and when do you decide when something's finished?
SC: I can never decide when something's finished. I keep 'fixing' things for as long as I possibly can till I absolutely need to upload final line-art for Kurt. The first step is always to collect references—locations, weapons, costumes, etc. I spent years in a design firm as a visualiser, where my former boss/mentor would stress verisimilitude and that's an ideal that I've brought into my comics work as well.
BM: What about working on END AFTER END has challenged you and how has it contributed to your growth as an artist?
SC: I do a lot of studying before each project and with my earlier comics work, a lot of my staging, composition, transitions, etc. came with a heavy influence from film or prestige TV. EAE looks like how I draw in my sketchbooks or when I'm on the phone and doodling. It's me trying to tell this story in a way that makes it look like something that came directly from my head instead of a well-planned film still.
BM: What has been your favorite part about working on this story so far?
SC: It's a cliche to say, but everything. The scripts go from epic widescreen battles to quiet introspective moments and I love being able to switch gears like that.
BM: Do you have a favorite character and what about them are you excited to share with readers?
SC: Right now, it's the Catha who is like this badass female warrior who I get to draw a great reveal for but I've read ahead and there's a character in issue #5 that I'm really looking forward to designing and then drawing.
BM: What was your pitch process like for this series?
TD: I kind of just cajoled Adrian and Damian Wassel. Working at Vault, I do have the small advantage of grabbing their ears once in a while. While I never wish to take advantage of my position I’ve never wanted to stop writing because I’m busy with design or other Vault related responsibilities. I try to pick and choose my spots.
BM: In your collective experience, what do y'all think is best to put in a pitch package?
DA: Tim is really the master of the pitch package. He’ll add visual references and logos and make it look totally professional. I like to add what makes this story personal for me, why do I want to tell this and especially why am I the right person to tell this story. Then a short summary, character list and who I think the audience is for the book.
TD: More and more I’m trying to move away from copy-heavy pitches into graphic presentations akin to those I’ve prepared for film and television. After all, this is a visual medium first and foremost and it makes less and less sense to me to have these text top-heavy packages that overwhelm time-pinched editors. I once overheard someone saying at the Image/Skybound booth that you can determine the fitness of a pitch in 3 pages of art. There’s some truth to that.
BM: What sold Vault Comics on the pitch?
TD: I’d like to think it was the success of Resonant and The Plot combined with the promise and potential of this creative team. It might also have to do with the fact that END AFTER END is hitting upon one of Vault’s three core genre pillars: fantasy, which seemed fairly light on the 2022 calendar at the time.
Get the Scoop on DB, Tim, and Sunando
BM: What do y'all do in your spare time when not making comics?
DA: Think about making comics, read comics, talk about making comics. And then I have a full time job as a physical therapist, and the beginnings of a small farm including chickens, quail and rabbits.
TD: Watch movies, read everything, talk to DB on the phone. Mostly, I just love being with my family in our little Montana fortress of solitude creating things with my wife and two daughters and watching them grow and flourish creatively in their art, sculpting, and writing. It’s a very art-driven household and I’m forever impressed by their talents.
SC: I spend a great deal of time doing animal rescues, feeding and providing medical care to strays and the like. Animal welfare/care in India is a completely undeveloped area and one I feel very strongly about and have invested in greatly. I live with 6 cats and a dog at home so any free time I have is usually spent with them.
BM: What books are on your bedside table?
DA: Right now I have the first 2 trades of Shadow Service (Vault Comics) that I’m rereading, Coda (Boom) which I’m also rereading and The Priory of the Orange Tree which I’m excited to start.
TD: Dune. Dicken’s Christmas Carol. Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince. My Heart Is A Chainsaw and a stack of comics led by a very healthy amount of James Tynion, Tom King and Vault titles.
SC: Right now I'm working my way through Naoki Urasawa's 20th CENTURY BOYS. I love PLUTO and this has been a gap in my reading that I'm finally getting around to plugging.
BM: What are y'all up to lately?
TD: DB & I are working on roughly eight projects, spanning just about every genre and one of which is a super-wicked prose thing. Can I say that DB? I can say that, right? It’s too good not to tease. A couple are already placed at publishers and others are in the hunt for a home.
SC: I'm working on new pages for EAE everyday. Occasionally I'll do a one-sheet or cover usually something for a book/pitch that a friend or collaborator is putting together and I always enjoy doing those.
BM: How can folks get their hands on END AFTER END?
DA: Pre-order it from your local comic book shop! With the current paper shortages and printing delays, pre-orders are more important than ever.
TD: Coming in 2022! We’re spending a little extra time with it than originally planned, but like most things over the last 20+ months, everything requires a little extra attention, care, and focus. I think judging by all the art and covers we’ve revealed here, it will be worth the reader’s patience.
And I just want to sign off by thanking you Brittany for having us all on A Matter Of Fiction. As a subscriber, I really appreciate your exploration of the creative process with your many quests!
BM: Absolutely and thank you so much for subscribing!
Dear readers, END AFTER END will be in shops January 26, 2022, so don’t forget to pre-order this fantasy series asap. The button below links to PREVIEWSworld and there are several variants to choose from listed under “Show Variants” from Liana Kangas and Sunando C. so be sure to check those out!