You’ve probably heard of Ryan O’Sullivan and Plaid Klaus in the last couple of years. Whether it’s Ryan’s work with Titan Comics, Klaus’s work on self-published Glimmer Society or Psychonauts, or their collaboration on Turncoat, they’re comics stars on the rise. With their newest collaboration Void Trip set to hit stores later this month, we got to sit down and discuss the series and what it has in store!
Some of the aliens resemble Earth animals. What led to that design choice?
KLAUS: I wanted to utilize recognizable forms for some of the characters. The book is supposed to feel like a road trip, so I want a few characters that ground the reader a bit by not being too foreign. There is a mix for sure, but that’s the beauty of working with a cartoonish style. You can make a completely bizarre alien, or a bipedal character with giant bird head.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to draw so far?
KLAUS: The real challenge is always comes from properly evoking the emotional aspects of the story. So, it’s not really drawing specific things, it’s about capturing a mood, an emotion or plot driven element.
What’s been your favorite thing to draw so far?
KLAUS: I love drawing Hitch. Everytime I draw his stupid little face, I laugh a bit inside. He’s a great clown and adds a lot of humor to a scene. Even if he is completely a background element, I always try to draw him uncomfortable and “spasy.”
Ryan, a stoner comedy/space opera mash-up is pretty unique. What specific challenges have you found in writing that genre? Has it made anything any easier?
RYAN: The challenge was writing something that was amusing, but also serious. Void Trip is a tragedy, not a comedy. And while it doesn’t preach to its readers, it does pose questions that I’d like them to ask themselves. I always prefer works that make me question the nature of existence. I’m hoping Void Trip does that to others. So, because of this, I had to be very careful with use of daft humour. It had to be a tension release where relevant, without falling down the bathos-hole of completely removing all tension. A difficult balancing act.
Can you tell us a little about “frott”, the story’s drug of choice?
RYAN: Originally, we’d conceived of Void Trip as an all-ages story about taking drugs. The idea of slipping this book past the publisher’s notice, with our characters having “sugar highs” from eating too much “froot” seemed too funny to pass up. We soon realised that this was never going to happen, but by this point we were so invested in the idea of Froot that we didn’t want to remove it. This turned out to be us tossing a ball up in the air though, as it became more and more entrenched in the narrative of the story as we developed the plot. There could be no Void Trip without froot. You will see why when you read it.
Ryan, what’s Klaus’s greatest strength as an artist? What made him the right artist for Void Trip?
RYAN: His greatest strength is his love of narrative. If an artist cares about a story and becomes invested in it, they will always draw better sequentials. This is because they will look beyond your panel descriptions, consider the characters in them, their moods, their purpose in the scene being drawn, and the overall conceit of the story. Klaus is incredibly gifted at this, and anything he puts on paper is first and foremost for the telling of the story. Not every artist is like this. Some just draw the scripts. Some ignore the scripts and draw what they want to so they can have fun. Klaus is like me – a masochist for storytelling. I absolutely adore him.
Klaus, what has been your highlight in working with Ryan?
KLAUS: Ryan is the first person I’ve worked with that is as obsessed with creating comics as I am. He puts in an insane amount of hours, really cares about the story and getting the comic right. I’ll work a page until it’s right, Ryan works a script until it’s perfect. There is NO wasted space, which is an amazing attribute because I never feel like I’m having to fill pages with talking heads. Honestly, he’s gonna be the next BIG name in comics if he keeps the passion going. Also, our sentiment for storytelling and our styles blends so well together. So, yeah, the highlight is finally finding a partner who is as crazy obsessed about creating comics as I am.
Ryan, what is your daily work process like?
RYAN: I wake up. I drink coffee. I read for a few hours no matter how busy I am. I glance at my emails. I go away and write until I hit that state of “if I keep writing I am going to be overworked and get ill”. I take a break for a few hours. I glance at my emails. I sleep. Rinse repeat 7 days a week. Some days I take off to socialise/meet other humans.
Do either of you have an unusual ritual when you work?
RYAN: Despite never having smoked, I used to chew nicotine gum because I heard snipers did this and I wanted to have insane focus when writing. It worked. But it made me very very stressed as a consequence. Now I just write slower instead, and actually enjoy life a bit more as a consequence.
KLAUS: Yup. Eat some froot, burn a candle and some sage, consult the spirits to create the work. Also, a daily workout routine keeps the body/mind calm and connected.
Do you have any other projects you’re currently working on?
RYAN: I’ve just wrapped up two licensed books for Titan Comics. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, and The Evil Within. Those should be out in all good comic shops in December. I’ve got a few things planned for next year I can’t talk about yet. Including something else for Titan Comics, as well as another creator-owned series at a publisher I’ve never worked with before. Klaus and I are also at the foetal stages of our next book. But it’s too early to go into that just yet.
KLAUS: I have a crowdfunded book that is like a punk-rock D&D epic involving demons and all the occult shit that I seem to obsess over. I’ve co-created it with writer, James Potter, you can check it out on www.glimmersociety.com. Also, Ryan and I are gonna preview it in the back of issues 02-03 so look out for that. Also, I have a book I’ve been slowly developing for about 4 years involving transhumanism, that one is gonna be gnarly, but it’s a slow burner. Ryan and I have an unspoken contract to keep producing short series together and yeah our next one is a barn burner.
Ryan, you’re pretty deep in your work relationship with Games Workshop on Warhammer. How is that different from working on your own book?
RYAN: Yeah, working on both Eisenhorn and Dawn of War has been very different from Void Trip. They’re all sc-fi properties, but that’s all they have in common. The Warhammer 40,000 universe is tonally worlds apart from Void Trip – it’s very serious, has strict limitations on character behaviour, and has a massive fanbase that will tear your head off if you put a foot wrong. (And rightly so, for putting a foot wrong in service to the emperor is heresy.) I’m enjoying writing in the Warhammer 40,000 universe immensely, I lost so many years to that world, from both the wargames and the novels, that to actually play in it professionally is a dream come true. From a writer’s perspective, it’s taught me the discipline I may not have had if I’d only worked on creator-owned books. When you’re playing with your own toys, the sky is the limit. But when you’re playing with someone else’s toys, you’re limited. Learning to be creative under limitations helps you grow as a writer, and it brings a level of discipline to your creator owned work which may not have been there otherwise.
Is there anything exciting coming from the Warhammer world soon?
RYAN: Yes. There’s always exciting things coming from the Warhammer world. But from me? Nothing I can talk about just yet, unfortunately.
What comics are you reading right now?
RYAN: Berserk by Kentaro Miura. Black Monday Murders by Jonathan Hickman & Tomm Coker. Astro City from Kurt Busiek & Brent Anderson, Conan by Kurt Busiek & Cary Nord, The Maxx: Maxximized by Sam Kieth, Invincible by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley. I’m also re-reading Top Ten by Alan Moore & Gene Ha.
KLAUS: White Knight by Sean Gordon Murphy; digging through Paul Pope’s catalogue; Extremity by Daniel Warren Johnson; Doom Patrol by Gerard Way and Nick Derington; I Hate Fairyland by Skottie Young; I’m thinking about picking Spawn back up from where I left off, but I dropped off way back around issue 80.
Do either of you have anything else to add about Void Trip?
RYAN: Don’t expect a happy ending.
Thank you guys!
VOID TRIP #1 is in shops and available digitally on November 22 from Image Comics!