Today we are delighted to be joined by writer Mark D’Anna. Mark dropped by to chat about his first comic, Blood on Sunset.
Hi Mark, it’s so great to have you here with us. We have to say congratulations on your first comic, Blood on Sunset; releasing on the 29th of December from Source Point Press.
Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Thank you for having me! I am from Los Angeles originally and have been writing in some capacity most of my life. I came to comics relatively late, I think. I was in my late 30s when I first read Southern Bastards and really came to understand the storytelling potential indie comics offered. For me, that was it. I knew I wanted to try my hand at writing one. Though it took me a very long time and many false starts before Blood on Sunset really started to come together. It will be my first published comic, nine years in the making! I can’t wait for people to read it.
Can you tell us about the origins of Blood on Sunset?
The idea came from a lot of external sources all playing on me at the same time. I’d been reading a lot about L.A. history and specifically about organized crime in the 40s and 50s. It’s just a time and place that really fascinates me. Meanwhile, I had a friend who was developing a comic book of his own and sharing pages with me daily. I thought the process seemed incredibly fun, and my writing had kind of stalled out with some other projects I had going, so I was looking to try something new. And while it’s very well-worn territory in books, comics and movies, there was no doubt in my mind that if I was going to do a comic I wanted it to be set in a supernatural version of 1940s L.A.
What can you tell us about Blood on Sunset?
It’s a supernatural crime story that takes place in 1948 in the wake of the murder of Bugsy Siegel. That event was really a tipping point in the history of Los Angeles. It opened up this considerable power vacuum in the city where we saw major forces both within the police department and the world of organized crime vying for power. So we placed our story squarely in the middle of that very tumultuous time in L.A.’s history. And we brought a lot of the real stories of some of the major players from that period to our story as well, so it’s very rooted in the city’s history. Against that backdrop the story explores what would have happened if vampires were among those jockeying for power in that post-Bugsy Siegel world. In fact, what if they were behind his murder and had orchestrated this whole power play from the beginning?
Who is Clint Braddock?
Clint Braddock is a former cop who was kicked off the force and has been working as a P.I. ever since, barely scraping by. He’s also a guy with a lot of secrets. Secrets that have forced him into a kind of hiding. When he’s framed for Bugsy Siegel’s murder he finds himself in the middle of this epic battle for power in the criminal underworld. What’s worse, whoever is framing him knows his troubled past and is using it against him. In other words, he can’t stay hidden much longer. As Braddock comes to learn that a vampire crime syndicate is among those making a play for power, he has a decision to make. He has the power to stop them. In fact, he might be the only one with that power. He just has to decide where his loyalties lie.
When you were thinking about the concept for Blood on Sunset, did you have the type of art in mind you wanted for the comic?
I love Sean Phillips’ art and have seen most everything he’s done. I felt we needed that same dark and emotionally gritty style for Blood on Sunset. To me when you’re putting these characters into these violent and emotionally charged situations you want the art to really lay all their humanity and vulnerabilities bare. If the art doesn’t allow us to connect with the reality of the characters it’s never going to work. People won’t buy into this crazy world of vampires and gangsters we’re creating. Phillips’ art has always done that for me, so I really wanted someone who could pull off that same magic trick. We were so lucky to find Arjuna!
The setting for the comic is in the 1940s. As a writer, what is it about the 1940s that fascinates you?
In the 1940s Los Angeles was emerging onto the world stage. There was a real energy and optimism here but it was being undercut by this wave of organized crime that had found its way over from the East Coast. So L.A. was really at a critical juncture, and it felt like the perfect time and place to tell our story so these external social and political forces could really drive and color the world of our characters. I’ve also always really loved the aesthetics of that time, which is why bringing it to a comic was so important to me. I just wanted to see it! It’s a rare and wonderful thing when an era has such a visually unique personality, like the 60s in Berkeley, for example.
How did Arjuna Susini join the team?
Basically I asked a friend of mine, David M. Booher, for some help finding an artist. I am very new to the world of comics, while David happens to be a very successful writer with books like Canto, Killer Queens and many others that are coming very soon. David recommended Vittorio Astone to do the artwork. But when I spoke to Vittorio, he actually told me he had this other guy whom he thought would just be an absolute perfect fit. So Vittorio introduced me to Arjuna, and the rest is history. And of course Vittorio stayed on to do the amazing color work in the book. Vittorio is also doing the art for me on another project at the moment, so it was really lucky that I got introduced to two very talented artists.
What has it been like working with the whole team on your first comic?
I’ve been amazed by how in sync everyone has been on this project. It’s really been pretty amazing. The best analogy I can think of is like when a good band comes together. Everyone is playing in perfect rhythm, working towards the same goal, with the same vision. That’s how it’s always felt to me. When I saw the first pages Arjuna drew I knew instantly he was right for the book. Same thing with Vittorio’s color. It was perfect from panel 1. It’s a rare and lucky thing when everyone on a project is in perfect tune like that. It’s made the process impossibly fun!
For some of our readers who may not know, how important is preordering for an independent comic?
It’s incredibly important! Independent comics don’t have big publicity or marketing budgets. Most of them are put together by people like me, who just want to make comics and are hoping someone will take a chance on them. So pre-orders are the best way to tell retailers that your book is important. That people already care about it, and that they need to pay attention and put it on their shelves. Without pre-orders, most indie comics would never find their way to stores and into the hands of readers. On a totally unrelated note, Blood on Sunset is currently available for pre-order.
How did Blood on Sunset find a home at Source Point Press?
I had pitched the book all over the place for a good year, and received many rejections. In fact, Source Point had rejected it originally. I was able to place it with another publisher but that deal ultimately ended up falling through, and after a year of production I found that we had an almost finished book without a home. So I went back to Source Point (some might say begging), and they were kind enough to give it another look. And for whatever reason, this time it clicked with them. They’ve been amazingly supportive of the book throughout the journey. I feel really lucky we found a home with them!
Any message for the ComicBuzz readers?
Life is better with indie comics, so please support them!
We would like to say a big thank you to Mark for dropping by and chatting with us. We wish him and the rest of his team the best of luck with Blood on Sunset.