As soon as preview pages dropped for The Stone King I knew I wanted to read it. Tyler Crook is one of my favorite artists, and I was excited to see his beautiful painterly style applied to a fantasy story. I was familiar with Kel McDonald but didn’t know their work particularly well. The Stone King was an amazing introduction, and I was very glad they agreed to take part in an interview about the series. Read our Stone King interview where they discusses writing a story Tyler wanted to draw, their experience with ComiXology, and how The Stone King’s themes resonate in the modern day.
Art by Tyler Crook unless otherwise noted.
You were an early adopter of ComiXology Submit, and one of the first creators I noticed partnering with ComiXology for digital copies of books you Kickstarted. What made ComiXology instantly appealing to you as a self-publisher?
When self-publishing you need to take advantage of as many revenue systems as possible. Most of my readers and fanbase came from webcomics. Comixology, however, is aimed more at traditional comic readers, so it put my books in front of a completely different audience. At the same time, Comixology was fairly easy to set up. The prepress work they ask for is a lot of the same things I put together when printing a book. So that low amount of additional work made it easy to jump on board.
All of your self-published titles are part of ComiXology Unlimited. How has your experience been with the program as a creator?
It was trickier than Comixology Submit since it required creating some files types that were new to me. I put it off longer than I think I should have. But since I’ve joined, it’s been going great.
How did you become involved with ComiXology Originals?
Since I use Comixology Submit, I talk to several Comixology folks fairly frequently. They told me about Comixology Originals and I sent them a few ideas. Stone King was the one they liked best.
When did Tyler enter the mix?
Before Harrow County came out I told Tyler I wanted to work with him and asked what he’d like to draw. He described what is basically the first splash page in Stone King. I wrote a story to go with it and sent it to him. Then Harrow County started to do really well, so Stone King went on hold until Harrow County finished. Since I mostly self publish it was easy for me to work on other projects in the meantime.
Comixology Original just happened to pop up around the time Tyler was available to draw Stone King.
Your Writer Notes show you were very mindful of Tyler’s abilities and wanted to spotlight them. Did you plot the story differently knowing you would often let him control the pacing?
For the most part, it didn’t change how I wrote the series. When I write for someone else, I try to keep in mind what they’re good at and what they like drawing. That’s hugely important for the comic to feel cohesive. My scripts only go a lot of detail if I have something very specific in mind for a scene or a page. I said not to combine a silent panel with another panel. Other than that, I wasn’t too precious about panel breakdowns.
There were two be departures in my usually scripting style. One was the scene during which Ave enters the city and Phul chases her. I wrote in the script that the scene was designed to show a bunch of details of the city. I included some dialogue and asked him to draw what he wanted to focus on. The actual details of the city weren’t too important, but the scene set a tone and made the city feel lived in.
The other scene involved Phul chasing Ave. I thought that the environment was key to making the chase feel more interesting, but Tyler was still working on Harrow County and didn’t have time to design the city. I scripted the important plot bits and explained how many pages the chase could be. I then waited for Tyler to do thumbnails for the scene before adding dialogue.
A story about privilege, especially one featuring a poor criminal and a rookie policeman, is extremely relevant today. Did feelings about current events inspire it?
Current events affected the story, especially classism. But that’s a dynamic I’m always drawn towards. The themes just become more obvious and deliberate as I grow older. Current events probably helped me articulate my views faster.
How does a story about privilege resonate differently in a story set in a world unlike our own?
When you set a story in any place that isn’t right now, you can use a more extreme example of what you’re talking about to make your point or catch someone off guard. Current events can be too close to home or feel too mundane for us to be aware of what’s really going on. A few degrees of separation make it easier to discuss an issue.
Following Sorcery 101, most of your work has been short form, either stories for anthologies or one-shots. Lately, do you find making comics that can be finished in months more satisfying than ongoing series that might last years?
I attend a lot of conventions. When you hit up the same con it’s important to have a new book each year. That’s part of it. But The City Between is technically an ongoing series, but other, paying work came up.
I still like telling longer stories. I enjoy the slow buildup and digging into details. I just like to sit on them for a while before launch. Sorcery 101 was 1600 pages. Misfits of Avalon was 500 pages. I’m currently developing a series called You Are the Chosen One about 23 kids who get the same prophecy dream telling them they are the Chosen One. That will probably be around 1000 pages. I want to start posting it as a webcomic next year. In the meantime, folks can peak at my concept art on my website.
Thanks to Kel for a really fun interview about The Stone King. Follow them on Twitter @kellhound and back their Kickstarter to reprint the Can I Pet Your Werewolf Anthology. And, of course, check out The Stone King on ComiXology.
Matt Chats is an interview series featuring discussions with a creator or player in comics, diving deep into industry, process, and creative topics. Find its author, Matt O’Keefe, on Twitter and Tumblr. Email him with questions, comments, complaints, or whatever else is on your mind at [email protected].
(Updated 8/25 to reflect McDonald’s preferred pronouns.)