Dave Cook on Killtopia: 'Cyberpunk seems to be coming back in a big way'

Attribution/author:Article by: Lynsey May

Set in a colour-soaked and hyper violent future Japan, new comic Killtopia is a cyberpunk romp from writer Dave Cook and artist Craig Paton

Salvage hunter Shinji is just trying to keep his head above water and his sister safe but not only is his city is overrun by an infestation of killer Mechs, he makes a discovery that paints a giant, neon target on his back. Killtopia is a fast-paced new series that gathered a whole host of supporters on Kickstarter before quickly finding a home with Glasgow's BHP Comics.

Artist Craig Paton keeps the graphics and colours bold, giving Dave Cook's meticulously crafted world a strong aesthetic that is both futuristic and referential to its heritage. As the book says hits the shops, we grabbed Dave to ask a few burning questions about comics, games and cosplaying/

What books or genres helped inspire the world of Killtopia?

Killtopia was mostly initially inspired by Japanese action video games; including the work of Japan's finest veteran game directors, such as Metal Gear Solid's Hideo Kojima, Shinji Mikami of Resident Evil 4 fame, and Devil May Cry's Hideki Kamiya. I wanted to make a cyberpunk comic that captured that feeling of a futuristic neon dystopia, remixed with the brash, high-octane swagger of those games, and a Japanese aesthetic.

There are plenty of other influences too, such as old school Manga movies like Akira, The Guyver and Ghost in the Shell, as well as Blade Runner, Battle Royale, and legendary artists Frank Quitely, Geoff Darrow and Moebius. It's essentially a mash-up of all the things we love most, making it a true passion project.

Ultimately, it's the kind of comic we wanted to read, but wasn't really being done at the time. It's nice to see that, since we started the project, cyberpunk seems to be coming back in a big way. We got really lucky with our timing there!

The book has a really strong aesthetic. Did you have a firm idea of the way you hoped your characters might look before working with Craig?

Whenever I start working on a new comic project, one of the first things I do is draft a 'lore bible' and character bios. They're almost like house style documents where I write down what the world is like, what's going on in it, who our character are, and to really establish all the world rules before we start. It helps keep the tone consistent, and can really help reduce plot holes too. I'd recommend that approach to all new comic writers.

Craig then took my script direction and character notes and just smashed it, bringing the cast to life through several early designs. We iterated them until we were happy with their final design, and it really is amazing when you work with an artist who just 'gets' where you're coming from, and Craig just nailed the kind of tone I had in mind. We're scarily on the same wavelength.

Dave Cook on Killtopia: 'Cyberpunk seems to be coming back in a big way'

You've already got a couple of other series running, how do you find switching between worlds when it comes to writing and promoting?

This will sound daft, but it's actually like taking a wee holiday away from one world, and jumping into another. Switching between the cyberpunk vibes of Killtopia to the dark fantasy world of Vessels, then over to the post apocalyptic wastelands of Bust is actually really fun, and keeps me fresh.

Everyone works differently, but I get restless doing one style of book and series for too long. So it's neat to take a break and work on something different for a while. I find that when I back to a series I'm far more recharged and have plenty more ideas.

The danger of course is managing your time across them all, and making sure you don't neglect the fanbase of one series for another. Learning how to market effectively online definitely helps maintain that balance. I've always got ideas for brand new stories but need to just keep the brakes on until the current ones are finished; for my own sanity.

How do you find using Kickstarter as a way to fund books and connect with readers?

I can't really downplay the sheer terror I felt the moment I hit 'publish' on my first Kickstarter campaign back in 2015, but we'll be doing our seventh campaign in 2019, and while it feels like a regular part of the creative process now, it's still hard but immensely rewarding work.

I love it, and that's because it gives you a direct line to your audience, through updates, and giving your backers regular insights into your process, and even getting their feedback on everything as you go. With so much noise and competition on social these days, it's rare that a platform gives you such a direct way to reach your fans. Kickstarter absolutely gives you that opportunity.

It helps that many backers have backed each of my books since 2015, so we've actually gotten to know the regulars all really well online and met a lot of them in person at conventions. I think that removing the distance between creators and fans like that is something really special indeed.

What's changed for you now you're working with BHP Comics?

Without giving too much away about what's next, the publishing deal is opening a lot of doors. It now means Killtopia can be stocked in comic and bookstores up and down the UK, and potentially even beyond. They've been a great partner so far, and they're supportive of how we've been doing things since before we signed with them. We've got space to just keep doing our thing the way we want to do it.

That extra reach also means we get a lot more fans coming up to our convention tables to say hi and give us feedback, which is always amazing. It's early days yet, but it's going really well so far.

Which character would you most love to see cosplayed?

I've always said that the day a cosplayer comes up to our convention table dressed as a character I created, I'll probably start greeting like a baby. I'm kind of dreading it, only because I'd get awkward and wouldn't know how to react.

But I'd love to see someone cosplay as Killtopia's Stiletto, as she's an absolute joy to write, or Vessels star Wake. I put a lot into fleshing that character out and have a fondness for her story.

She's effectively a fish out of water in a dying world that's going crazy, with plenty of traumas, fears and anxieties to battle. I think In these crazy days a lot of us probably feel that way, so I think there's maybe a little of Wake in all of us.

But seriously, if you want to make me cry, come up to our table dressed as one of our characters.

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