With something as subjective as a comic book there is never any guarantee of quality, even from creators you trust. I asked Paul Allor, who I’ve known for a few years, if he wanted to do an interview for his new Comics Experience/ComiXology Submit series, illustrated by Louie Joyce and Gannon Beck. He was interested, and sent me all four issues of Past the Last Mountain. I was nervous that it wouldn’t be my thing, but am happy to report that this series more than passed muster. I was blown away by the very topical story that incorporated fantasy in a way that made the make believe feel relevant, offering up exciting and insightful commentary into the world we live in. I highly encourage you to check out the series. If my testimonial isn’t enough, check out my interview with the writer of Past the Last Mountain.
How did the creative team of Past the Last Mountain come together?
I have to credit my good friend Ryan Lindsay for hooking me up with Louie. They knew each other through the Australian comics scene, and when Ryan found out I was looking for an artist for this, he was like, “I know the perfect guy!” And damn, was he ever right.
And Gannon Beck is a guy I know through Comics Experience. When Louie and I discussed bringing someone on to help with layouts, he was the first person I thought of. His storytelling is just so damn good. He and Louie have very different styles, but they mesh together incredibly well. It’s been an awesome experience working with them.
What went into the decision of having Gannon Beck do layouts?
Just a speed and workflow issue. Louie is doing the colors himself. He’s carrying a lot of weight on this book.
Were real world topics like immigration on your mind when crafting this story?
Nah. The story is what I’m calling (half-jokingly) a “geopolitical fantasy,” so I wanted it to take place in a political realm, and deal with meaty issues. But there weren’t any specific real-world issues that guided me. It’s not an allegory, you know? I just focused on trying to tell a great story.
There’s a huge twist at the end of the third issue. How early did you come up with that in the construction of the narrative?
Very early. Without being too specific, I knew from the beginning that that’s where the story was headed. I feel like that’s where the “geopolitical fantasy” descriptor really does kick in and carry its weight — I’m basically taking a very stock fantasy trope, and giving it a real-world spin. I really hope people dig it.
Given that you’re introducing a very different world from the one we’re used to, how do you build that world in a finite amount of space?
In my comics in general, I don’t really do the worldbuilding thing, in terms of, like, sitting down and thinking out a universe and how it works, even if we don’t see it in the story. That would bore me to pieces. So instead I just think about what I need to think about to tell this story. And then people ask me questions about, like, how something totally unrelated to my story works in this universe and I’m like, “I dunno.”
Maybe that’s a stupid approach, and leads to universes that feel phony or half-baked, but I feel like it’s worked okay for me so far. I just approach it like any other story.
What appealed to you about teaming with Comics Experience, when you could have published Past the Last Mountain through ComiXology Submit yourself?
It’s kind of the best of both worlds, in that it’s the standard Comixology Submit deal, with Comics Experience taking none of the profits — so in that regard, it’s exactly the same. But at the same time I get the support of Comics Experience, with publisher Andy Schmidt always there to offer advice or guidance or a second opinion, anytime we need it. It’s a fantastic deal.
How close do you consider yourself to making a living out of comics?
Very, very, very, very, very far away. But closer than I was a year ago, which is closer than I was a year before that, which is…
What are your expectations for Past the Last Mountain?
I really just wanted to tell a great story. Creators obviously have some measure of control over what happens to their product financially — marketing hustle makes a huge difference — but they don’t have a ton of control. The only thing that we truly control, 100 percent, is the product itself. I wanted to do my best to make a comic I was proud of, and I feel like I did that. The rest? Well, we’ll see.