Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the five-year anniversary of your webcomic, Ibrahim Coyle! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the series’ premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Filip Stanković: Thank you! For the premise, I always use the short summary:
“Ibrahim Coyle is just your regular con-man and a self-proclaimed PI, secret agent or whatever the client needs, as long as there's some cash on him,“ and even though the status quo has changed over the years, it still rings true to this day. Nikola and I went to high school together and neither of us paid much attention in class, so we spent our time differently, even from each other. Nikola would be bringing every week a new novel to read and I would draw a bunch of sketches and comics. Roughly ten years ago, I drew a Sherlock Holmes – type of a character, with a tie, pompadour and a smoking pipe, and Nikola just took a pencil and wrote “Ibrahim Coyle” next to the sketch. We had a laugh and some time after that I drew a South Park-style version of Afro Samurai, who would later become Jamal, and we had a laugh about that one too. At a certain point we would make various call-backs to the characters, teaming them up, and spitballing a bunch of plot threads, that would eventually end up in the first issue. Even, though, we basically had a full outline, we never committed to it, but we were fairly optimistic that, somewhere down the line, we would come back to it and do it as a one-shot. Later, by the time we were supposed to be finishing our respective colleges, both of us were in a rut and wanted to do something new. Nikola was working on his fanzine, “The White Japanese Lapot,” and I was about to do a completely different comic book, but both of us realized that it was finally the time to do the comic, five years later, but only if we were to use the original outline we wrote back in high school. Not sure if it was a way of backtracking things and, either trying to run away from the present to recapture the past, or maybe it was a therapeutic thing, where we could reexamine everything that came before and try and rectify it in a more creative manner.
BD: What can you tell us about your shared creative process in working with Nikola Pavlović Sova to bring the story to life over the years, and what (or who) have been some of your creative influences?
FS: After I did the pencils for the first issue, I felt there were some scenes missing, especially with the antagonists. I asked Nikola to write a few scenes with a gang, so he came up with the Striped gang, but only their names and dialogue. Based on that I drew them up and almost immediately regretted that I left them to die by the end of the issue. Not only did I have to change the ending, but the comic suddenly went from a one-shot to a mini-series, because I could take them anywhere. The original idea was to have Nikola write down a pitch, or a short story that I would adapt and then call him back again if I needed help with some of the dialogue. Having already done comics myself I thought I knew the speed of the workflow, but now I had a fully colored comic, so it took a little more time than I thought it would. I asked him to pitch me a few short stories that we could post instead, so we would maintain the monthly schedule, but even a short story later became a full issue. Then I started asking some of my other friends to come in as consultants for the first few shorts. After issue #4 I looked at the comic again and saw that it fell into the same pattern, so I had to “deconstruct” it in a way. Nikola was starting to move away at the time so it was all down on me and I completed the first arc, that would become the first “book” of the series. We were uploading it through Tumblr, but the next book “The Golden Road” was published a year later over at MojStrip.com, alongside other comics. Nikola gracefully bowed out at that point, but I still managed to use some of his poems in the original version. The comic is influenced by various media properties, mostly comics like “Alan Ford”, “Lupin III”, “Sam & Max”, “The Goon”, “Torpedo”, “Leo Pulp”, “The Tick”, “City Hunter” and “Corto Maltese” and animation like “The Venture Bros.”, “Les Triplettes de Belleville” and “Cowboy Bebop”.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Ibrahim Coyle’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
FS: That part I’m, honestly, still trying to figure out. The whole idea sparked from a joke comic that had a case of, like other people pointed out, a huge tonal shift. From what I gathered, the comic basically channels my questions about adolescence, where at a certain point you ask yourself if you have come of age, and what does that really mean. Coyle is a 30-something guy who obviously still hasn’t learned to deal with his personal issues. Sure he lucked out a bunch of times and escaped from both a gang lord and a demon overlord, but he still didn’t let himself grow up, due to his emotional negligence. The third book will address this and maybe by then I’ll have a clearer way of knowing. What I do know that work on this comic has helped me deal with and understand a lot about myself and I hope it resonates with others as well. I’m a firm believer in “The Death of the Author” concept and people can take from it whatever they want, but I hope it’s only the positive.
BD: In honor of the series’ fifth anniversary, you are releasing a special issue with lots of bonus features for readers? What do you have in store for readers to mark the occasion?
FS: Funny enough – not much! At least not in terms of the story progression. Issue #20 contains a spin-off that will be running as a backup called “Snoopers.” It follows a bunch of kids, who are inspired by Coyle to start their own P.I. agency. There’s also an unpublished “convention exclusive” short featuring Coyle and Jamal, as well as some of my old comics from high school that were published in the school papers, that would later echo through Ibrahim Coyle. A lot of artists came through and sent me their own renditions of Coyle, so I made a gallery that features their art and social media, in the means of promoting them. At the end there is a huge after word, with a bunch of used and unused concepts, as well as for the stuff that is yet to come.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
FS: I’m currently working on a new project unrelated to Coyle, but as soon as I finish it, I’ll be back on doing Agent Orange which will be the third book.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Ibrahim Coyle and your other work?
FS: You can read Ibrahim Coyle through ComiXology or my Patreon, but, if you don’t mind for the short weekly updates, you can read it for free over at Webtoons and Tapas. As for the social media, there’s @IbrahimCoyle (Facebook | Tumblr | Instagram) or @BraleStudios on all social media.