Ben Rhodes, Fanboy Comics Senior Contributor: I’ve read A Voice in the Dark and I loved it. This is a comic that is not afraid to acknowledge its influences, from Heathers to Pump Up the Volume. Can you tell our readers about some of your inspirations and how you brought them together into this story?
Larime Taylor: Thanks! Yeah, those are the things I grew up with. My teenage years were spent watching movies like Better Off Dead, and Heathers, both of which had this dark, quirky, and surreal quality, like early Tim Burton. Taking the existential teenage angst of the era and finding humor in it. It's cathartic. Then, with a movie like Pump Up the Volume, you bring in the rebellious and raw edge of the late '80s and early '90s. I also loved horror movies, and that era was a golden age of horror, especially slasher films. So, I have all of that bubbling away in the back of my mind as I create, and it results in stories like A Voice in the Dark.
It's a dark and fairly heavy story, but I try to layer it with that quirky humor. Doing something that's relentlessly bleak can work, but it's draining on the audience, as well as the creator. I like adding some humor to the darkness. I think it's a better contrast, and it helps make the heavier moments more powerful.
BR: I thought that one of the biggest strengths in this comic was the realism of the characters. I felt as though they were all so three dimensional. How much of a focus was the realism of your characters during the writing process?
LT: I appreciate that. I come from a playwriting background, with some additional training in screenwriting for TV, so dialogue is my strength. I also learned a lot from watching Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino films, and reading books by an author named Steven Brust. I've worked hard to pick up an ear for natural dialogue and giving each character a unique voice.
As far as the characters themselves and their designs, I've lived in a lot of ethnically diverse places, had friends who were gay and lesbian, and so I tend to write what I know. I build my characters as people first, a personality, and then build race and gender and sexuality on top of that. A lot of people think if a character is male, they'll do X, and if they're black, they'll do Y, and if they're gay, they'll do Z. People are people, first. People do what they do because of their motivations and their experiences and THEN their biology. I try to figure out who my characters are, but also why they are that way. What things in their past shaped them? What do they want in a given scene? How would they try to get it?
This book is more of a character study than a plot-driven story. There's more of a focus on psychology and personal moments than there is on pushing the plot. Not everything needs to serve the plot. If people don't care about your characters, they won't care about your plot.
BR: This comic would be an easy one for me to recommend regardless, but the fact that you wrote and illustrated this fantastic comic in spite of your Arthrogryposis is amazing. Can you tell us about your creative process?
LT: Thank you. I draw with my mouth, using a Wacom Cintiq, which is basically a big tablet screen, so I'm drawing directly on the screen. I shoot a lot of photo references with friends in various poses that I'll need, page by page, and do my page layouts with the photos rather than thumbnails or sketches. That way I can go straight to ink, which saves a lot of time. I can do about two pages a day - finished, toned, lettered pages.
My friends look nothing like the characters, except for basic body type, and I often have different people standing in for the same character depending on who is available. I have to add or subtract weight, make them taller or shorter, and the faces are always my original designs in almost every case. I have a friend who was a school teacher, and so he is Ed Dean, Zoey's professor. That's all him, beard and everything. But, that's rare. All of my major, recurring characters are designs I made before anyone started modeling for me, so that way my characters always look consistent regardless of who stood in that day.
BR: Serial killers have been fascinating us for a while, but their portrayal in popular culture has had mixed success. What drew you to the subject?
LT: I actually didn't set out to do a serial killer story. Originally, I wanted to do a horror spoof, something surreal and over the top, like Heathers set to 11. It was going to be a slasher with all the tropes turned inside out. One trope is that the ethnic character always dies first, so in my story, she was going to be the sole survivor. Then, I thought, what if she survives because she's the killer? That's subverting another trope, a female killer instead of a male. The deeper I went, the more I realized that I actually had some interesting concepts at play, and it grew into Zoey's story as it is now. Was I a Dexter fan? Sure. But, Dexter wasn't what was in my head when I was creating her.
BR: There have been various attempts to humanize serial killers, like Mr. Brooks and Dexter. I think that Zoey is a great example of this really working. Why do you think that Zoey’s character was a success?
LT: Honestly? I think it's because Zoey's not a psychopath. She's not a sociopath. We can relate to her more, because she is so much like us. She's human, she has a conscience, and feels emotions. She actively resists being a monster. Or, at least, she tries to. She has compulsions, it's an addiction for her, and we all have some bad habit on some level. So, I think Zoey might be more relatable, because she isn't a monster, wants to have a normal life, and isn't reveling in murder.
BR: I understand that A Voice in the Dark is scheduled to be an ongoing series for Top Cow. Are you able to tell our readers when it will debut?
LT: Issue #1 comes out November 20th, and is in PREVIEWS right now (item code SEP130501). As long as sales are such that we can afford to keep doing it, it'll go indefinitely. I don't yet have an ending in mind. I've written issues #1-7, and am working on the art for #4 right now. I have the next arc outlined, which would be #8-#13, and I have ideas for more arcs beyond that. I'm also trying to keep it monthly as opposed to taking a break and putting out the trade before moving forward. There will be trades, but I won't take a 3-month break or what have you around them. The first trade will collect #1-#7, so it might hit shelves while #8 or #9 is coming out.
BR: Are there any questions that you wish I had asked?
LT: Hmm. None that I can think of. You've actually asked some of the best questions I've gotten so far!
BR: Where can our readers find out more information about this excellent comic and your other work?
LT: My website, www.larimetaylor.com, is pretty sparse but will be updated soon. It has a bit about the book, about me, and lots of review links, though. As we get closer to the release, the Top Cow site will have more info on the book, as well.