There’s nothing like stumbling into small press horror both at a comic convention. Dark Planet comics sits at the independent comics aisle, which is located somewhat in the middle of the show floor, at booth 1041. This strip of indie comics booths deserves more attention than it usually gets, which is not surprising given NYCC becomes an even bigger entertainment event each year. This is why Dark Planet was such a great booth to come across, especially when I learned their flagship comic Silver is basically a mix of Ocean’s Eleven and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Dark Planet was founded by Stephan Franck, who worked as a supervising animator in the movie The Iron Giant (1999). He was also a story artist on Despicable Me (2010). Franck is the writer/illustrator of the previously mentioned Silver, the book that currently drives the publisher’s main offerings.
Silver is a noir-tinged tale about a conman that plans what is perhaps the most dangerous con in history: stealing silver from a vampire’s castle. It’s a character-driven story where the supernatural aspects come into the story to complicate things for the thieves rather than just take over the story’s tone entirely. It’s smarty written, with a pulpy feel to it that echoes old French noir films.
Franck has brought Dark Planet to NYCC for some 6 years now and his booth was definitely in tune with Silver’s overall feel, which means it felt like horror-noir spot that you couldn’t help but stop and look at.
I had the chance to interview Franck on all things Dark Planet and expensive vampire silver.
Ricardo Serrano: Tell me a bit about Dark Planet’s origin story. What led to going the independent, small-press route?
Stephan Franck: I grew up in a comic book store in France, my parent’s store. So I grew up with all kinds of comic and eventually was drawn to animation, which I studied in France. After college, my career started in animation, leading to work in The Iron Giant and currently on Marvel’s What if? streaming series. So some six to seven years ago I started thinking about comics and all those stories that I wanted to do that could fit well within that form. I had to decide whether to seek out a publisher for these comics or publish it myself. I really wanted to go through the perennial direction, looking at publishing schedules, understanding the mechanics of it. And that’s how we got here.
Serrano: Silver was described to me as Ocean’s Eleven meets Dracula. What led to this pairing of stories for your comic?
Franck: I always loved vampire stories, Dracula in particular, but I also loved long con stories. Matchstick Men, The Drifters. When you think about it, vampires and conmen and very similar creatures. They live by night. They don’t really engage socially well with people, they take advantage of them. For the vampire, they’re dead. Their souls have already been corrupted or destroyed. They’re unredeemable. It’s a struggle amongst soulless creatures. The conman is still alive and he still has a shot at redemption, but can be seen as soulless. When you put them together, it becomes a struggle between the literally soulless and the figuratively soulless. So Silver takes place 40 years after the events of Stoker’s Dracula. These conmen hire a vampire hunter to help them infiltrate a vampire’s castle for the heist of a lifetime.
Serrano: Being from France, did you bring some French horror elements into your book?
Franck: It’s a really classic story from the Dracula end. I would say there’s more of an influence in the conmen side of the story as I looked at a lot of French noir films while putting my characters together. I liked the idea of the gentlemen thief, which comes from the Arsène Lupin character.
Serrano: This is your sixth NYCC, correct?
Franck: Yes, and the show has been pretty good to us each year. It’s been consistent. We sell a lot of books here, especially since we’re used to bigger booths in other conventions. Here we have a smaller booth, but it works and it brings in readers.
Serrano: I see you’re featuring a newer graphic novel called Rosalynd, which comes out of the Silver universe.
Franck: This book is done in an entirely different artistic style and is about the girl who’s name is in the title. Her full name is Rosalynd Van Helsing. The story is told in the form of a diary. This is Rosalynd’s diary and it reflects that. It’s not a traditional comic, but it expands on the events of Silver. It’s interesting that it’s from the perspective of a child. So you get a different entrance into the story.
Serrano: What’s next for Dark Planet?
Franck: Right now, we have a four-volume collection of Silver in a new slipcase available at the booth plus the Rosalynd graphic novel. I’m working on another graphic novel called Palomino and am also developing more Silver.
Franck: Thank you!
Dark Planet is located in the main convention floor, booth #1041.