For our latest interview we are joined by writer, artist, animator and director Stephan Franck to talk all about his graphic novel Silver. With Volume 4 of Silver currently running a campagin on Kickstarter we sit down with Stephan to all about Silver.
So what’s the elevator pitch for the series?
Silver is a graphic novel series in 4 volumes with a unique mythology inspired by Bram Stoker’s Dracula. 40 years after the events of the novel, in the noir/pulp era of the 1930’s, we meet James Finnigan, a con man and master-thief, as he teams up with Rosalynd “Sledge” Van Helsing (Grand Daughter of you-know-who), and Tao Leu, a young boy who has the uncanny gift of second sight, to steal The Silver Dragon, a mythical treasure hidden in Dracula’s castle. What follows is an epic and relentless pulp adventure with action, suspense, modern sensibilities, and gripping character moments, all done with a tone that is light and filled with fun.
Can you describe what the journey with Silver has been like over the last four years?
The journey started with a script for all four volumes before I started drawing, so in a way, it was a fairly well planned journey. Yet, there is always some unexpected emergent aspect that appears as you ink the drawings. The execution brings out an emotion that was always there in theory, but only truly manifests at the very end with the finished page. Another big aspect of the journey has been to see the readership take the journey with me. Going from town to town on my con tour and meeting people who have fallen in love with the characters has been one of the highlights of my career.
When did you first discover Bram Stoker’s Dracula?
I grew up in the late 70’s, and back then, Dracula was very present in the culture. The Hammer films would still air on TV, not to mention the old Universal versions. But the one I really connected with as a kid was Herzog’s Nosferatu. None of those films where exactly canon, but they gave me a love for the character and its lore. Then, one day in middle school, Bram Stoker’s novel was assigned as mandatory reading, and I could not believe my luck!
Could you tell us more about Dark Planet Comics and why you are using Kickstarter to fund Silver: Volume 4?
My personal relationship with comics goes back as far as I can remember, since my parents had a book store/comic shop in France, but after college, my career focused solely on animation for a good number of years. During that time, Dark Planet was the company through which I did most of my animation work for the major studios. Then, when I returned to comics with Silver, and made the choice to publish the series independently, I developed Dark Planet into a publishing company as well as a production company. Kickstarter has been a great part of that process from the start. Whenever the books are ready for print, we do a campaign that gives our fans a chance to preorder first, to contribute to the adventure of bringing these books into the world, and also helps generate a lot of buzz. There are a lot of different pieces to the puzzle when it comes to publishing independently, and Kickstarter is an important one.
What can readers expect from Silver: Volume 4?
As Volume 3 ends, the team has made the Silver Dragon disappear, and they are trying to escape before Dracula can understand how they did it, and launch some counter measures. In other words, they are far from home-free. In fact, volume 4 is the most intense and suspenseful volume yet, with the characters being tested further than they ever have been. In my opinion, the series finishes at its strongest.
What perk from the Kickstarter campaign are you most excited about?
I am super excited about the box-set. That consists of a super cool slipcase that will house and protect the 4 trade volumes. I looks absolutely kickass! Then, there is also a series of print collabs where I invited some amazing artists to do their take on the characters. In some cases, I painted their drawings. The guest artists are Takeshi Miyazawa (artist on Ms. Marvel), Rodolphe Guenoden, who is a killer BD artist and master animator, and the one and only Mel Milton. I’m talking gorgeous stuff.
Do you have a favourite character from Silver?
I have to say that I love writing and drawing all of them and I try to explore all their points of view with honesty. They all participate in a common theme, which is that they all are broken people. They all suck at life in their own way. And I think his story, is ultimately about redemption, about its cost, and about who is prepared to pay it. Now I admit, I have a special fondness for Rakshash, Drac’s long suffering right-hand man. The guy can’t seem to catch a break. I just find him a super fun character.
How long does it take you to create a volume of Silver?
The actual process of drawing a volume takes about 6 to 9 months. For the first 3 volumes, I roughed out, and then inked one chapter at a time. But for the final volume, where every piece of the puzzle had to fit in perfectly, I broke down the entire book before committing to doing the finals. Then, there is a whole machinery that gets in motion to release the books, that also takes a few months, so in shirt, a new book comes out every year.
What part of the creative process of creating a graphic novel do you enjoy the most?
I can honestly say that I love every step in the process. I love writing the script, because that is the pure joy of creating story without any concern on how I will be able to draw it. It’s obviously much easier to write “…and the city explodes while millions of people run for their lives” than it would be to draw it. But at that moment, I don’t care. I just lean in and let the story reveal itself. The second step is breaking down the pages. That is typically the easiest step for me, because I have done so much storyboarding in my career, that the “storytelling” part comes to me pretty naturally. That said, I must admit that, while volumes 1-3 >where well within my visual storytelling bag of tricks, vol. 4 pushed me well pas my comfort zone, and I’m super excited with the result. Lastly, is the actual drawing of the final pages. This is the part that is the most challenging to me, as every page must have a sense of permanence, an illustrative quality that makes it a definitive statement. I try to make every page special, but sometimes I have to dig deep (I’m looking at you, horses.) That said, if for some reason, everything was taken away, and that somehow, I could only do one part of the process, I would keep the actual drawing. There is just a magic there that I can’t get enough of.
Could we see more of Finnigan, Rosalynd and Tao in the future?
Absolutely! Beyond the main Silver series, we’ve already discovered Rosalynd as a young girl in “Rosalynd”, which is presented as her childhood diary. That was a fascinating book to make, as it is a very gritty pulp adventure processed through the innocent eyes of a child. The end of that book sees her beginning the journey that will lead her to become the woman we meet in Silver, and there is a lot of story to tell in between those two points. Meanwhile, I also have origin stories in mind for Finn and Tao, which I will also do in a diary format similar to “Rosalynd”. Lastly, while Silver volume 4 concludes the story of Finn, Rosalynd and Tao stealing the Silver Dragon—and without spoiling anything—it very organically launches them toward another storyline. So in short, I’m far from done with this universe and these characters.
What comics are you reading right now?
I may be late to the party, but I finally got a chance to read Lady Mechanika, which I love! You can always tell when a creator gets the chance to operate in full artistic autonomy. You always get something unique and inspired! On a completely different kick, I discovered Berlin, thanks to FCBD, and I am completely hooked.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m putting the final touches to Silver volume 4 right now, and it will be all wrapped up by the end of June. Meanwhile, on the animation side, I’m almost wrapped on the Playmobil Movie, on which I am an executive producer. I am starting a new comic book series in September that I have to keep under wraps for now, but that I have been champing at the bits to lean into for a couple of years. I hope people will be as excited about it as I am.
Any message for the ComicBuzz readers?
If you are looking to enter a brand new fictional universe with unique characters and situations that you will fall in love with, but doing it through a complete and satisfying story with a beginning, middle and end, this might be for you! Also, a warning: people have been known to binge read SILVER, and it is considered EXTREMELY ADDICTIVE!
The Kickstarter campaign for Silver Volume 4 is now live at https://www.kickstarter.com/p
We would like to thank you to Stephan for sitting and chatting with us.