Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of your comic book, Scratcher #1-2! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the series’ premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
John Ward: Judging by our sales, I’m sure most people are unfamiliar with the book.
Scratcher’s a horror story about tattoos that possess people. Expanding beyond that a little, it’s about an unfulfilled tattoo artist who discovers her clients have become possessed by their tattoos, so she sets out to try and save them.
The genesis for this story began a long time ago when I was still living in the UK. Alternative and skate culture had crossed over to become mainstream and seemingly everyone was getting tattoos. But, for the most part, these tattoos were of the generic, “off-the-wall” type, so you’d often see people proudly sporting identical tattoos. I always thought it was interesting that people viewed their tattoo as a mark of individuality, yet were getting the exact same ink as everyone else. This tension between individuality and conformity fascinated me but wasn’t really a story idea, so I filed it away while I worked on other projects. I’m not sure when I hit on the idea that the tattoos were somehow “alive” but that seemed to make sense, and helped pushed the story in a horror direction which eventually led to Scratcher.
Although the book is a spin on the “possessed people” genre, I also wanted to include elements of everyday horror. Dee, the book’s protagonist, is a talented artist who’s essentially given up on her dreams and now struggles to find meaning in her life. I think this is a pertinent issue for many of us, particularly because our culture often venerates instant success and refuses to acknowledge failure, even though the latter is a crucial part of our development. I was interested in exploring those issues through Dee’s perspective as she confronts her fears (e.g., the loss of her job, her friends, and the ability to do what she loves).
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in writing the comic book, and what have been some of your creative influences? Likewise, what can you tell us about your process in working with your other creative team members?
JW: I’m a bit of a process nerd, so I apologize in advance if this is long-winded.
Firstly, I’m lucky to be working with two incredibly talented artists on the book: Juan Romera and Eric Grissom. Juan’s black-and-white art is simply amazing, and Eric’s lettering brings new depth to every page.
In terms of the creative process, I usually start with a brainstorming session to figure out interesting themes or character moments I’d like to explore in a given issue. Once I’ve kicked these around for a while - and I think I know what I want - I’ll being breaking the story at a high-level. I usually try to structure it so my even pages end on some kind of emotional beat, while the odd pages end on a more plot driven beat. It doesn’t always work out, but that’s life. Once I’ve broken the basic story beats I write an outline for myself which fleshes out the scenes in more detail. I don’t share this document with anyone, it’s just for me but it helps to figure out some of the “organic” story moments that crop up during the process. Once I’m happy with the outline I’ll go to script. I write full script for Scratcher, but I try to be as loose as possible because I want to give Juan as much creative freedom as he needs. I usually do two revisions and a polish before I have my “first draft” and then I’m ready to share with Juan to get his impressions and also to point out any mistakes (or things that suck). While he’s reading the draft I’ll go back to it and try to tear it down, making notes for myself, and then I combine them with Juan’s notes to generate a revised draft. I let that sit for as long as possible then review it. If Juan and I both like it, then we run with it. If there’s something off, then I’ll revise again until we’re both happy.
Juan sends me thumbnails for approval and then his inked pages, and he often comes up with a new (and better) way of telling the story visually. After I get the pages, I’ll go back to the script to make changes based on Juan’s art before sending them to Eric for his lettering pass. Usually, Eric will ask a bunch of great clarifying questions, and he helps to pick up on any remaining typos/issues.
BD: What do you hope that readers will take away from your work?
JW: A few things. First, think twice before getting a crappy tattoo! Second, Juan and Eric are creative geniuses. Third, if this guy can make a comic book, anyone can!
BD: Given the release of issues #1 and #2 of the series, how many total issues do you have planned?
JW: We planned four issues in total. I think there are many other stories that could be told in this universe, but we always intended this to be a four-issue mini-series.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
JW: I’ve been working on a '50s crime thriller ("Tintin meets Tarantino”) called Offbeats which was previously called Lowlives, but we had to change the title - with Tom Sacchi, Giles Crawford, Lee Milewski, Dan Thompson, and Henry Bajaras. That book should be out soon. I’ve got a couple of stories scheduled to appear in upcoming anthologies, including “Death of the Horror Anthology” put together by fellow Vancouver creator Kelly Brack, who recruited an amazing lineup for the book. Look out for both of these later in the year.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Scratcher?
JW: For more information about Scratcher (and my other projects), you should check out my website, and you can buy the first two issues on ComiXology.
The initial pitch we made for Scratcher is available for free here, and, of course, you should check out Juan’s work on his site and Eric’s projects on his site.