Kristine Chester, Fanboy Comics Contributor: First, congratulations on getting Sparrow & Crowe published! I'm a big fan of Wormwood, and it's been great seeing the characters make the jump to comics. For any of our readers who aren't already familiar with Sparrow & Crowe, would you mind explaining what it's about?
David Accampo: Thank you! Wormwood: A Serialized Mystery was an audio drama that we put out on the web over three seasons. Our idea was to use the medium of the old-time radio serials, but to treat it like a modern TV show – just without the video component. In our case, getting the chance to do a long-form story meant something that was a sort of mash-up of Twin Peaks and Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Supernatural. The series centers on Doctor Xander Crowe, a psychologist who becomes an occult detective after he fails to save a young girl from a demonic possession. It shatters his understanding of the world. His partner is Sparrow, a slightly mysterious woman who has the computer skills and magical abilities that Crowe needs in his investigations, plus the attitude to match his own. So, this new series is actually set BEFORE Wormwood, and it focuses on Sparrow and Crowe and one of their experiences with a demon possession in Los Angeles.
KC: Xander Crowe is a fascinating character who fits in amongst the other iconic characters of the crime and horror genres. Were there any particular inspirations that brought this complex character to life?
DA: When I was pitching the first vague notions of Xander Crowe to my co-writer, Jeremy Rogers, I think I maybe said something like it’s Doctor House meets John Constantine. I had literally thought of him as Hugh Laurie without the American accent he put on for House. I wanted someone who was pissed off at the world, incredibly sarcastic, and smarter than everyone around him. But, also broken. I think there’s an obvious element of Sherlock Holmes in there, too, especially given that House is patterned after Holmes, but I also think there’s a bit of Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe in there, too. He definitely took on a life of his own as the series progressed. There’s also an obvious element of the aforementioned John Constantine. Some of his swagger, but also my favorite bit about Constantine in Hellblazer – magic can provide a solution, but more often than not, there are huge, detrimental consequences.
KC: Sparrow & Crowe got its start through Kickstarter. What was the process like producing your first comic?
DA: We successfully finished our Kickstarter, which was a lot of work, but well worth it! For the Kickstarter campaign, we really tried to make all the pledge tiers worthwhile and unique. We actually had a lot of our Wormwood fans come out to support us and get some special merchandise like a limited edition Wormwood soundtrack – something fans had been clamoring for for some time.
It’s worth noting, though, that we had the deal in place to publish Sparrow & Crowe first. The Kickstarter, however, was necessary to offset the production and marketing costs we knew would come with producing a comic through a smaller publisher, like Hermes Press. They’ve been very supportive of us, but this is still very much a creator-owned, independent comic book.
I think maybe the trickiest part of all of this has been not the actual construction of the book but the marketing of the book. With a couple of relative unknowns going into the Diamond PREVIEWS catalog, we knew we’d have to do everything we could to let retailers and readers know that we were here! That’s been an exhausting effort, but our pre-orders are much better than anticipated, so we feel like it’s paid off!
KC: Were there any additional considerations when adapting the characters and setting from the audio drama to a comic book format?
DA: On the plus side, the STORY was already laid out for us. I mentioned that this was a prequel, but it’s something that Jeremy and I established right at the beginning of Wormwood. The tricky part of that was that we had to still make a riveting story that could be read without Wormwood, but was also still surprising even if you had listened to Wormwood. Jeremy and I worked hard with (artist) Jared Souza to make sure the story was a full experience – lots of twists and turns, even if you know the outcome. I think we ended up with a story that’s a successful blend of crime noir and horror. And, you absolutely 100% do NOT need to know a thing about Wormwood to read it.
Beyond that, the audio show allowed us to have a lot of fun with dialogue. We built it into the character: Crowe loves to go off on long, twisty rants. But, that doesn’t work as well in comics – the word balloons would cover all the art! So, we had to try something different. We’ve still managed to get in the feel of Crowe’s banter with Sparrow, but it’s shorter, more direct back-and-forth. It’s just a matter of understanding the medium of comics and playing to the strengths there. But, as long-time comics fans, we took it seriously and spent a lot of time figuring out the language of storytelling specifically for these comics.
KC: While The Demoniac of Los Angeles still has a while to go, it's still meant to be a limited series. Is there any hope we'll see more Sparrow & Crowe after this story wraps up?
DA: If we have our way you will DEFINITELY see more Sparrow & Crowe after this wraps up! Hermes Press is interested in doing more with us, but in the end it’s all going to be about business . . . can we find an audience for Sparrow & Crowe and get them into stores? As crass as it may sound, if people vote with their wallets, you will see more Sparrow & Crowe.
KC: For NaNoWriMo 2009, you wrote the novel Red Right Hand, which was all about Xander Crowe. Any chance we'll ever see Red Right Hand hit the shelves or be adapted as a Sparrow & Crowe story?
DA: As we developed Crowe over the course of the Wormwood series, we left a couple of stories relatively untouched. So, yes, as the series was wrapping up, I did use National Novel Writing Month to crank out an entire draft that spans TWO of Xander Crowe’s most defining early moments. I’m still working through a revision of that, and I still hope it will see publication soon, but I’ve had to take a break as we put all our effort into the launch of the comic series. I will say, however, that Red Right Hand definitely INFORMS this series. There are flashbacks in some of the issues that tie directly into the content covered in that story. So, my hope is that anyone who reads the series will want to know more about Crowe’s past. And then, we could put out the novel, or we could adapt it to comics – we’ll have to figure that out as we go. But, the story is there!
KC: You also co-host on a number of podcasts including The Fuzzy Typewriter and The Deceptionists where you dispense invaluable writing advice. For the aspiring comic creators in our audience, is there any advice you'd care to share?
DA: I love chatting with the Deceptionists about various writing topics, but I hesitate to call it advice. I feel more like we’re sharing experiences and asking questions of one another. So, I feel like my advice would be to take your craft seriously and learn from everyone. There’s a Zen Buddhism concept called “Beginner’s Mind” which I feel is incredibly useful to writers. It just means that you have to keep yourself open – treat everything as a potential learning experience. When you do that, you’re open to learn from EVERYWHERE. And, I think that’s valuable, because the writing “opinions” I’ve formed over the years have come from so many different sources. Reading comics scripts, creative writing teachers, editors, director commentary tracks on DVDs, books on writing, interviews with writers, your peers. And, most importantly: the act of writing itself. You can and should be learning from everything. And, that’s something that Paul Montgomery and I also share in our sensibility with the Fuzzy Typewriter podcast – we both genuinely love stories and storytelling, and no matter what we’re talking about, I think we both are trying to examine the art and also crack it open a little to see what makes it tick.
KC: This being Fanboy Comics, would you care to geek out with us about your favorite comics?
DA: Right now, I’m really enjoying Mark Waid’s Daredevil, Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga, Scott Snyder’s Batman, Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man, all of Mignola’s Hellboy stuff, of course -- oh and any time Adrian Tomine puts something out. Growing up, I was a big fan of Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men run in the '80s, and then, as the '80s closed out, I discovered the books that would become DC’s Vertigo line: Sandman, Hellblazer, Doom Patrol, Shade the Changing Man, etc. Those books definitely had a huge impact on my early 20s. Oh, and James Robinson’s Starman. That was a book that felt like someone trying to integrate the Vertigo feel back into a superhero comic, and since I loved both it was the perfect synthesis. And Starman’s Opal City definitely shaped my love of creating a unique location (like Wormwood) where the town itself is almost a character.
KC: Lastly, what would you like to tell our Fanboy Comics readers who would like to learn more about you and your upcoming projects?
DA: Well, right now we’re completely immersed in getting Sparrow & Crowe up and running. Folks can visit sparrowandcrowe.com to see more about that. We have a Halloween Special we’re planning for Sparrow & Crowe that is in ADDITION to the main series – as we get that going, we should have more details on our site.
Folks can also visit us at habitformingfilms.com to see the breadth of projects we’ve done. In comics, we have completed the art for the entire first issue of Vostok, a science fiction thriller that is the first part of a trilogy of series that we call our Maitland Trilogy. We’re looking for a publisher for that series. And, hopefully, Red Right Hand will see print before too long. We’re also talking about doing another audio drama series, but development on that project had to take a backseat while we ramped up Sparrow & Crowe. So, we shall see! We’re definitely weighing our options, but we still have four more issues of Sparrow & Crowe in various stages of productions, so we’ll be busy for a bit!