The following is an interview with comic book writer Scott Davis, who is the co-writer for Bluewater Productions’ new comic book series, Dorian Gray. In this interview, Fanboy Comics Contributor Tony Caballero talks with Davis about his inspiration for returning to the classics, the challenges of working with an unsympathetic protagonist, and what the future holds of the series.
This interview was conducted on August 7, 2012.
Tony Caballero, Fanboy Comics Contributor: While most comics are going for new and original stories, you chose to go back to a classic tale for Dorian. What drew you to this material?
Scott Davis: It’s a timeless story that still resonates. When Oscar Wilde wrote the book in 1891, he was crafting a scathing rebuke on the morals and mores of Victorian England; how they repress their true nature (even to themselves) and hide behind trappings of material possessions. Because of its supernatural angle, people don’t often see the book as satire, but as a horror story. It might be 120 years later, but many of the same failings in society still exist. Wilde was truly commenting on human nature. Back in the 19th century, Wilde cleverly created a unique way of wrapping his very progressive views in a horrific manner. What everyone remembers from the book is, of course, how the painting degrades over time and becomes more and more horrific as Dorian indulges and eventually loses himself. The painting itself embodies the horror while Dorian Gray gets to wear the mask of polite society. This juxtaposition is the anchor in which our take on the story lives, and it is this true-life horror is what is embodied in the demons that plague our characters.
TC: Can you talk briefly about your prior works and how they prepared you to tackle Dorian?
SD: How does one move from TekWar to Dorian Gray? I think both are character studies when you get right down to it. You place a character in very unusual situations and give them free reign to react. In one respect everything I’ve done before is filtered into Dorian. I started with Orion the Hunter and that taught me the importance of mythology—not the Greek or Roman kind, but the setting the rules of the universe. My Harryhausen books, Wrath of the Titans, 20 Million Miles More, The Elementals, offered up pacing and character development and TekWar provided the right-sizing of dialogue. Now with Dorian, my experiences have all come to bear. And, of course, I read the book again, right before I started writing!
TC: The original novel by Oscar Wilde and subsequent adaptations have mostly fallen short, because the title character is not the most sympathetic of characters. How are you working around that?
SD: I don’t see this as a follow-up to such a classic piece of literature. I would never be so bold as to place my skills or my storytelling next to someone like Oscar Wilde. What Wilde did is allow me to play in his sandbox. He created a universe and a set of circumstances that I simply hijacked to tell my own version of the story. My story is not meant to be compared to, or thought of, as a sequel or a follow-up. In some respects it is an homage. In others, it’s an attempt to frame some of the same themes within a modern setting. In terms of a protagonist being unsympathetic, I think my story’s Dorian starts out as the same arrogant a– as his ancestor, but as certain events come to light, he fulfils more of traditional hero role. Some of the traits we find in the original Dorian are transferred to other characters in his friend circle.
TC: The premiere issue of Dorian deals with setting up a lot of elements to be fleshed out later. What is the projected arc for the series? Will it be limited or long-running?
SD: You’re absolutely right. The first issue was meant to introduce the characters, give them some depth and set up the mythology. The rest of the story arc unfolds over the next three issues, but leaves the universe open for additional stories. At present it is a limited series, but is wide open for a long run. If the book does well enough, I would welcome the chance to revisit Dorian, how he deals with his dark legacy, and his drive to rid the city of the dreaded Morbi.
TC: Federico DeLuca’s artwork is beautiful in this. What is the process of working with him? How much input does he have in the story?
SD: When I saw the first few pages of what Federico brought to the table, I knew the book would be something special. I just hope the words live up to his interpretation of them. In terms of process, Darren (Davis) and I map out the story arc, haggle over some of the details, and then I write the script. From there Federico gets his say; although the script is pretty specific, he has a free hand in its presentation. So, if the mood is what draws you into the book, that’s all Federico.
TC: OK, Spielberg comes to you and says he will pay for you to do your dream project. Money is no object. What is it?
SD: I have this kooky idea about a young boy who finds a turd-shaped alien in his backyard. Nah, they’ll never go for that. I’ve got this other idea about this archaeologist who fights a giant shark in the future where robots are precocious kids . . . kinda still flushing that one out, but I figure if I put them all on an island inhabited by man-eating Nazi dinosaurs, then just maybe. But, to more directly answer the question, I would love a chance to do an honest adaption of Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land or have him take a swing at my TekWar updated graphic novels I did with Bill Shatner. Or maybe a Twilight Zone movie in which Rod Serling is a character . . . that would be fun.
TC: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about your work with Bluewater and your other upcoming projects?
SD: I mentioned a few earlier like TekWar, Wrath of the Titans, The Elementals, etc. In terms of upcoming projects, I am toying around with a comedy concept about octogenarian zombie hunters based on my grandparents, and I have a couple of anthology one shots done in the Twilight Zone vein. There are one or two others up my sleeve.