Will Tracy, Gabe Koplowitz, and Miguel Porto Talk Allen, Son of Hellcock
Title character Allen is cowardly, directionless, and less physically menacing than a daffodil. He’s also the only son of the mightiest hero ever to plunge his sword hilt-deep into the dark heart of evil… the mighty HELLCOCK! Enjoy the ride as Allen is thrust sword-first into a not-so-classic fantasy quest that, frankly, he would rather just sit out.
Writers Will Tracy, Gabe Koplowitz and artist Miguel Porto discuss their brand new series Allen, Son of Hellcock!
Graphic Policy: Will and Gabe would you two describe Allen, Son of Hellcock?
Gabe: Allen, Son of Hellcock is the story of a lovable slacker living in a hip, gentrified medieval town, who gets thrust into a hilarious fantasy quest that he’d rather sit out. But if you fold the entire comic Mad Fold-In style, it becomes a story about a blind Prussian goat farmer who yearns to dance in the Bolshoi Ballet.
Will: I would describe it almost exactly as Gabe did, only I’d describe it in a stereotypical Italian pizza chef accent, as in “It’s’a the story of’a the loveable’a slacker’a…” and so forth.
GP: How’d you two come together to come together for the series and where’d the idea came from?
Gabe: Will and I are old college buds who have always hade a great comedic rapport. The title “Allen, Son of Hellcock” popped into my head one day (I think I’d been reading a lot of old Conan comics), and I pitched the idea to Will. Apart from having similar sense of humor, we both love comics, so it felt like a very natural collaboration from the get-go.
Will: Yes, Gabe and I had dinner one night and he mentioned the most irresistibly dumb title I’d ever heard. From these four little words, the whole story seemed to magically appear to us. Really, the entire premise can be explained by the juxtaposition of the names “Allen” and “Hellcock”: Oh, it’s about a little twerp who lives in the shadow of a complete and utter badass!
GP: Miguel Porto how did you come on to the series?
Miguel: Gabe and Will contacted me via email, they have seen my work on the internet and liked it, I guess they thought my style was just what they were looking for ASOH, or maybe they wanted to look for an artist far enough from them so he couldn’t physically harm them in case of panels full of weird characters in medieval high fantasy villages.
GP: Miguel, how far along were they in the series when you came on board?
Miguel: They already had all the story and world set but they gave me complete freedom to think on the designs. In fact they gave so much freedom I could even rethink the designs they had in mind for some of them, for what I’m inmensely grateful.
GP: Will and Gabe, you’re both writers in your day jobs. How does writing for television differ than writing for comics?
Will: I think it comes down to control. A television staff writer is part of a large team, with numerous and varied agendas, and the writer is often serving the larger creative visions of the show runner, the executive producer, the host or cast, the network, etc. It’s not about you. And this is the way it has to work, otherwise the show would collapse into total anarchy. When you’re writing a comic, especially an independent, creator-owned comic like ours, the vision pretty much belongs to the writer and the artist. That’s it. That’s the entire totem pole. The decisions are yours and yours alone to make, and so are the mistakes.
Gabe: We didn’t make any mistakes, though. And if you find one, it was intentional.
GP: How do you handle working as a team when creating an issue? Does one plot, the other write dialogue? Do you go back and forth with ideas?
Gabe: Typically, I will consult the Altar of Grimeria by the light of the season’s first blood moon. Upon receiving instructions from Hobrir the Night Pig, I will use His Direction to place enchanted runes created from old issues of Omni magazine and Honeycombs cereal in a traditional Basque Plotting Cocoon. I’ll then play audio from season 3 of The West Wing. When Rob Lowe enters a scene, the runes reveal who lives in the next issue, who dies, and what kind of hat everyone is wearing. Then, I hand it off to Will who does dialogue.
Will: That’s essentially how it worked: Gabe and I talked out the story and characters together, Gabe fashioned a detailed, step-by-step outline of the whole narrative, I then took that and wrote the first draft, then Gabe took that and did a polish, then back to me, then back to him, then back to me, then back to Gabe, then over to Kelsey Grammer, who sends it Derek Jeter, who reads it over the phone to Diane Keaton, who screams it at Dakota Fanning, who transcribes it, burns it, and scatters its ashes over the Yangtze River.
GP: From the description, it sounds like the comic is a comedic fantasy story. Is approaching comedy in comics different than how’d you approach it for something live action?
Will: Yes, in the sense that there is no consideration of time or resources needed to realize a scene. You can write the craziest idea in the world and know that it will be, generally speaking, no less expensive or time consuming to produce than any other idea, since it only exists on paper.
Gabe: The bones of what’s funny haven’t really changed though. Pratfalls, hapless oafs, a protagonist named Allen who’s in way over his head.
GP: What got you interested in telling this story through comics as opposed live action?
Gabe: While we’d love to see Allen on the big screen one day (in fact, we often kill time by coming up with our dream cast), telling his story in a comic just seemed so much more feasible. It’s much easier to draw dragons, ogres and horse-donkeys than it is to create them for film.
Will: Plus, we tried for years to get Harvey Weinstein to produce a movie version and that only resulted in heartache, two restraining orders, and reduced sentences for stalking, with time served.
GP: Who decided on the style/look of the characters and series as a whole? I’ve seen a couple of pages (just three pages), and it reminds me more of some slice of life indie graphic novel versus some fantasy series. It’s actually kind of cool of seeing this style with this type of genre. It’s different and caught my attention.
Gabe: We knew from the get-go that we didn’t want to use the visual language of Frazetta and his ilk to tell this story. It’s really just a comedy that happens to take place in a fantasy universe. Plus, we instantly fell in love with Miguel’s art as soon as we saw it. He’s so good!
Miguel: When they talked to me I like to think they wanted the series to look like I draw, and I come from an alternative (“alternative to what?” some may say) Spanish comic background and I also have a deep love for indie and experimental comics from USA and Canada (Eleanor Davis, Emily Carrol, Hernandez Bros, Chris Ware, Adrian Tomine, Clowes, Seth, Chester Brown, Joe Matt, Mazzucchelli… and many more) even though I have a strong ligne claire flair.
When we work on the designs of the characters and the world it goes like this; they give me a description, I do it my way, and then they comment which aspects they like and which they don’t. I’m happy whenever I succeed in surprising and convincing them at the same time.
GP: Miguel, working with two folks who do a lot of television work, do you find the communication is different as far as visuals and narrative compared to working with a comic writer who doesn’t work in television?
Miguel: Working in a comedy the thing you must be most concerned of it’s timing, and though TV and comics have different ways to deal with it I think Gabe and Will handle it perfectly. Plus, I’ve worked with few comic writers, because I also write myself, but I can assure you that each and everyone of them I’ve worked with had its own way so it’s difficult for me to say which of them was doing the tipical comic script.
GP: What type of lessons have you learned about creating comics while you’ve put together the series?
Will: I’ve learned patience is a tremendous virtue in this business. It takes a while to write something you’re happy with, it takes a while to find a publisher who is both interested and fits your sensibility, it takes a while for the final art to materialize after much planning and designing, and it takes longer than you ever imagined for the finished product to finally arrive. Comics take time. But the payoff can be magical.
Gabe: I’ve learned that comics are printed on seal pup skin with highly toxic ink, which is absolutely horrifying.
GP: Is there anything that’s surprised you about the comic industry versus your experience in the rest of entertainment?
Gabe: Everyone’s so nice!
Will: And yet the murder rate is so high!
GP: Is there any more comic projects on the horizon for you two?
Gabe: We’ve written part of a sci-fi comedy that we’d love to develop further one day. Working with Miguel and the awesome folks at Z2 has been such an awesome experience.. we want more!
Will: Gabe and I do indeed have a comic space opera in the works, but not much more we can say about that for now. Stay tuned!
GP: Thanks so much everyone!