I've always said that the true pure pleasure of running this site is the opportunities I get to meet with up and coming talent, be it in front of a camera, behind it, or as in the case of David Dhalia, part of the creative team behind a stunning independent comic set in a post apocalptic world. I've read a couple of the issues and was intrigued by its Walking Dead vibe. But don't be fooled into thinking that this is any kind of imitation - School of Bitches stands firmly on its own two feet, and those two feet are making creative strides.
But rather than listen to me ramble on yet again about a really cool comic book I've read, let me turn the reins over to the guys themselves and their long suffering PR Guy. Here's an interview we did........
PR GUY: How much longer do you think it will be before I have to start answering questions relating to you clowns in front of a jury of my peers and by putting my hand on a bible first… *sigh* let’s get on with this.
School of Bitches, let’s start with the title. Essentially, the story is a post-apocalypse piece, what’s the story behind that title and will it tie in somehow?
Judas: Great question.
PR GUY: Yes Kudos. Although the question should be “What’s the story behind the title – why doesn’t it tie in somehow?” Thrown at them like an accusation… like you were interrogating them.
Dhalia: No the title has no relevance to anything at all, the story, reality, nothing. Don’t waste your time trying to read into it, there’s literally no answer...
Alan Stealth: The title does hold a relevance to the story, it’s just hard to explain or demonstrate its significance yet. Let’s just say this story, is for many of the key characters “not their first rodeo” and we will begin to see that more clearly as we move on. For the time being it’s become easier to describe School Of Bitches as the people that work on the project, as we’ve also took to adopting the name. e.g. We are the School Of Bitches and this is our book of Genesis.
PR GUY: Ah (inaudible) … makes loads more sense. I don’t know if you’re being deliberately cryptic, you actually don’t know so change your answer everytim-
Alan Stealth: - It’s the same answer!!!
PR GUY: - or…or you’re just doing it to piss me off. I just don’t know anymore. I hate the name. It sticks in your head, but so does the smell of dogshit. Doesn’t mean I want to lather myself in it.
The story certainly has a touch and gritty edge to it, reminiscent of Charlie Adlard’s Walking Dead? Did that consciously play into the genesis of the project?
Alan Stealth: (The “plot” of Virtue’s Chronicles was finalized by early 2009, a while before I started work on it.) Before I began drawing for (Virtue’s Chronicles) about 2 years later, I did look at The Walking Dead, most notably the first few issues. (Which are actually the work of artist Tony Moore.) The similarities of Rick Grimes waking in the hospital and James waking in the school were uncanny. The attention to detail, the stark contrast of black and white - impressed upon me, most definitely. But the style, the “grit” is a foundation levied by my own style, way of working and love of raw materials.
Dhalia: The project was always gritty, the whole process behind it is “haphazard” in its development and presentation. The early pages you can literally see the coffee stains and bits of tobacco scanned onto the pages during late nights/early mornings awake getting the issues ready for print. If it was clean and polished it wouldn’t be a true representation, it’d just be another copy.
Alan Stealth: It’s why it’s often described as an art project, there is definitely more to the presentation than a conscious decision. It is representational. We live it.
PR GUY: …wasn’t he on the guest list (Malta Comic Con) last year too?
Judas: Charlie Adlard is a truly charming man. That's all I know.
Question to all individually - who/what are your main influences?
Dhalia: In terms of writing I was a big fan of Jack London. Stephen King showed me how to make characters real, H.P. Lovecraft showed me how to throw them into fantasy. In terms of School of Bitches and what influences me to be involved, then it’s the people I see every day that influence me the most. The ones that want to punch their boss in the face or those that were promised comfort but work themselves endlessly into the ground, I want to capture that root angst in the story of Genesis.
PR GUY: Yeah well done on that. The post-apocalyptic ruins of a Gloucester and whining monologue of a first world teenager really conveys…
Alan Stealth: …There’s a lot more to Genesis than the end of the world. The how, and the why will have the grounding contemporary edge to them. We’re just not there yet.
PR GUY: Yay.
Judas: I'm the fat kid at the food court, with what influences me. I like the look of all that's on offer, and spending too long looking around. Unable to commit.No. Scrap that. Dhalia. Kid gives me reason. Y'know?
PR GUY: He gave a much better answer in another interview, all Matt Fraction and Will Eisner…. it’s like he’s lost the will… (inaudible) I can certainly relate to that feeling.
Alan Stealth: …My influences are somewhat inconsistent. (Traditional) Art, Computer games, TV shows and movies have easily been a bigger part of my life than books and comics. I’ve never been much of a fan of traditional comic book offerings, although this stance has started to shift. For example, the artwork and presentation of works such as Torso (Bendis) and Sin City (Millar) in particular, have definitely influenced the style of the forthcoming Chapter (Tonight, The City Sleeps).
With that said, one of the most notable influences in terms of the story overall, is the TV show, Lost. Despite it’s eventual shortcomings, the all-encompassing character arcs, twists and serialized format really helped me to understand what it is that makes people a) invest in characters and b) care enough to figure out what the fuck is going on for themselves. That was all part of the fun for me. I was at University when Lost came out – so week on week a bunch of us would gather for the “premiere” and then spend the next week arguing over what it all means, only for the next episode to completely dismiss it, or move on to something else entirely. It was awesome. Granted, eventually it appears that the writers of Lost arguably “bit off more than they could chew”, but don’t worry, that isn’t us. We’ve got a plan, unaltered by the perceptions and desires of fans and TV exec’s.
PR GUY: Well shit, that’s a relief.
At the time of writing, we’re three issues in - how far ahead have you scripted the story arc?
Judas: (actually) Scripted, not far. Plotted, miles.
Dhalia: The story arc is long, trust. Three parts have been released out of 5 which makes up a single Chapter, (Virtue’s Chronicles) Then there are (potentially) 49 more chapters to go!
Alan Stealth: I truly want the tone, story and setting of individual Chapters to dictate the style an artist approaches the work with and subsequently, scripting entire Chapters verbatim ahead of release isn’t realistic or productive. Once artwork was finished for Virtue’s Chronicles we’d find ourselves going back through the script and ripping pieces out that weren’t needed anymore. But as (Judas) said, a LOT has been plotted. Every key character’s journey, their “arc” from start to end has been figured out, that’s a “timeline” that spans nearly 30 years, and approximately 50 Chapters.
No spoilers - but do YOU know how it all ends?
PR GUY: Well I’m older than these lot - so hopefully it won’t be long… (inaudible)
Judas: The comic? Or everything? (Well)….Either way, I answer in the affirmative.
Dhalia: Yes I do.
Alan Stealth: Yep. A chosen few know how it ends. Two of them being sat next to me.
The storyline seems to be one that can keep going indefinitely - is that the plan?
Dhalia: No, the story has a very definite end but the universe in which the story takes place is always expandable in different areas.
PR GUY: …what?
Judas: … the vast scope the story will take could allow us, or anyone, to continue and develop stories which feed off the main narrative.
Alan Stealth: Essentially this is our story in the universe, but it’s a microcosm. It only follows a select few through the environment, but acknowledges that the landscape of this (environment) is much larger - worldwide as it were. So you could consider it an aspiration that eventually the universe becomes bigger than the story… but this story sets the goalposts.
How can readers buy copies of the magazine?
Judas: Online, and stuff…
Dhalia: From our website or Kindle…
PR GUY: (inaudible) …That’s it. Trail off like he’s stopped you in the street and you’re doing a fucking survey… do any of you actually know?
Alan Stealth: Issue 1 is completely sold out, with limited copies of Issue 2 and 3 still available through our website (www.schoolofbitches.co.uk) and local independent retailer Fish4Comics in Cardiff. Digital copies of all three are currently only available on the Amazon Kindle Marketplace, but will be available digitally through alternative retailers via our website by the end of the month (September). Watch this space.
Can you give a hint of broadly what’s coming up?
Dhalia: Broadly speaking we have a very busy year ahead of us, there will be a lot of work being published and we plan to attend a lot more events across the country.
Judas: Business is about to pick up...
Alan Stealth: In the short term, the next chapter (Tonight, The City Sleeps) introduces arguably the most important character in the story, Anthony - who was being held captive at RAF Fairford before ‘The Event’ happened. In the “long term”, by the time this volume (first 7 Chapters) is out, the scene will truly be set. A war is coming…
When can we expect the next issue to be released?
Alan Stealth: Well despite the fact that Issue 3 only launched on August 11th we’re moving ahead with the next issue pretty promptly. Issue 3 was the last time Virtue’s Chronicles will be featured though – with only the full trade paperback (due next year) telling the remainder of that story…
Dhalia: Issue 4 will be released in November at this year’s Malta Comic Con and will be available to order via our website afterwards. It features the first part of the aforementioned ‘Tonight The City Sleeps’.
If there’s anything that I haven’t covered here but you wish I had, please add it in.
PR GUY: Is that it? Can I go now? This really could have been done via email. Or by Amy. Now I know having me on conference call, or on speakerphone makes you feel like businessmen or some shit, but I really do hate conference calls and being on speakerphone – as I do it as part of my actual job quite a lot. So you know think about that before you pick up the phone. Bye. (dial tone)
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