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AICN COMICS Q&@: Lyzard talks about vampires and beyond with SILVER’s Stephan Franck!

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Q’s by Lyzard!

@’s by SILVER’s Stephan Franck!!!

Lyzard here! This week Stephan Franck will appear as a panelist at the Kansas City FilmFest. While in town, Franck will also be doing a signing at Elite Comics at 6:00pm on Wednesday (April 9), for the trade paperback of his pulp-gothic comic, SILVER. And since Franck is a big fan of us over here at AICN, Stephan will also give an exclusive collectible lithograph of SILVER to the first 5 AICN readers mentioning they read this article at his Elite Comics signing.

Obviously the Dracula angle caught my attention when I first reviewed it here and it was maintained by the kick-ass Sledge that appeared in the second chapter. The third chapter, sort of the end of act one, changes the feel of the story yet again. The adventure is finally kicking into gear, but no longer is it merely pulp or gothic, but almost swashbuckling like Indiana Jones ala TEMPLE OF DOOM. The shift in mood and tone are much more fluid when read as a collection, aided by consistent witty banter and strong characterization.

I recently had the opportunity to talk to the creator of SILVER, Stephan Franck to discuss not only his numerous influences but also the state of comics and films.

LYZARD: SILVER takes place about thirty years after the events of BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA. What drew you to his material?

STEPHAN FRANCK (SF): One of my greatest pleasure as a kid was watching a show we had on French TV called “Midnight Cinema”, which was all black and white movies from the 30’s and 40’s. Monsters, gangsters, vampires, etc… Whether it was a crime drama in the city, or some lost city in the jungle, it felt like the world was bigger then and full of mystery. That’s the era and the feel I’m trying to connect with. Then specifically, I was always a fan of Vampires and the Dracula mythos in particular, which I thought not only was a lot of fun, but had a lot of existential depth. What does it really mean to be alive? Does walking the earth forever mean anything? Lastly, the fact that the lore stretches across the centuries is also very exciting to me, as it is ripe with that pulpy breadth of adventure.

LYZARD: You have such a different take upon the story, barely even touching the vampire element in the first chapter. Was this a purposeful step to separate yourself from the pack or did you just see a hole in the growing mythos that you wanted to see filled?

SF: This story does take place in Bram’s Stoker’s universe. So that’s a world where Dracula is a real person, not a household name of fiction. I really wanted to start with the normalcy of that world, before revealing its hidden side. It’s always fun to do that through the eyes of a character that lifts that curtain, and to follow his journey through a complete paradigm shift. Also, although there is hardly a hint of the supernatural in the first chapter, it poses all the thematic moral questions that will eventually be answered. Beyond the fun of the genre blending, the reason why Finn is a conman is because on a certain level, vampires and conmen are very similar. They are figuratively soulless, predatory in nature, living without genuine human connection… So in other words, the intro to Finn is about setting the question “what does it mean to be a person—to be alive?” Then the vampires come in.

LYZARD: You’re mainly known as an animator. How was it handling both the artwork and story for SILVER?

SF: Well, I did start out as an animator and did quite a lot of it, but even then, I was always bouncing back and forth between story and animation on most movies. Since, my career has turned towards writing and directing, with a lot of scripts written, 2 TV shows created (one going to pilot at Nickelodeon now), and also a lot of script consulting and lecturing on the structure and esthetic of story. So even if I still storyboard a lot, ironically, it’s really my drawing that I needed to get back in touch with in a major way. This has been a great experience for me. I don’t think I’ve had so much fun drawing since I was 17, back when I was trying to copy Howard Chaykin’s drawings of THE SHADOW…

LYZARD: Besides Stoker, who were other writers or artists that had an influence on SILVER?

SF: Beyond the imagery of old pulp cinema, I feel that the themes in this story are very personal to me, and it’s hard to disentangle where literary influences come from. On the art side, my main inspirations are Will Eisner, Kirby, and Steranko. That Steranko Nick Fury story that is a riff on Hounds Of Baskerville is a huge inspiration on ‘Finn in his burglar outfit vs gothic setting”. I tried to connect with a little bit or Kirby-ness especially in the third issue, to evoke the mythical elements, and all the gangster stuff is coming from my Eisner obsession. The thing, though, is that when I draw those pages, I never crack open any of their books, because the pull would be too strong. I just try to connect to my memories of how those images made me feel as a kid.

LYZARD: Being part of both the film and comic industry, can you give us an insider’s perspective as to why comics have become such a popular medium to adapt?

SF: I think in a way, studios see comics as a proof of concept for all the weird ideas that they don’t trust themselves to generate out of their own internal development process. The stakes are so high on those movies that “common sense” too often prevails over “weirdness”. Once the whole room is “cool with it”, or “not bumping on anything” (to use the lingo), there is nothing left in it. The problem is that, as scary as it is, weirdness is what makes art interesting. The indie books can develop their own weird stuff freely, while the corporate books already have all the weirdness anybody could ever want culturally grandfathered-in (Superhero costumes, the hammer of Thor, whatever, you couldn’t not create that now). I mean, if you lived in a parallel universe where Marvel didn’t exist, and you walked into any studio pitching them an original story about a super soldier dressed in the American Flag who has a shield and was frozen in the ice for 60 years, they would have you escorted out in 10 seconds. But like I said, it’s grandfathered-in and awesome, so as long as the movies are good and people go see them, they will keep making them. To summarize, the studio will find all the logical reasons why not to do something, while comics, they can just go for it.

LYZARD: Finally, you decided to go the self-publication route and formed Dark Planet Comics yourself. Why did you choose to go in this direction and what type of stories do you want Dark Planet to produce in the future?

SF: One reason is related to your previous question. I found that while other publishers were interested in SILVER because of the “high concept” of it, what they wanted was a 4-issue movie pitch in comic book form. I respect that, but that was not my interest at all. I have a different commitment to this story, and I want the real estate to do it at the length that it needs to be to have texture, depth, and be a thing a reader can engross themselves in for a while. So little by little I came to the realization that I wanted to create a space where not only SILVER but also other stories could find the same kind of commitment. As far as what type of stories, it is wide open. My only motto is stories that feel true, and art that feels good. It may sound naïve and insane, but so far, the response has been great.

LYZARD: You can also catch Stephen Franck at WonderCon (booth 113) in Anaheim and check Dark Planet’s website for other upcoming appearances and online ordering.

Lyzard is Lyz Reblin, a graduate student at the University of Texas pursuing a master's degree in Media Studies... which is just a fancy way of saying she plays a lot video games, watches far too many horror films, and then tries to pass it all off as "research."

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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