Noah Dorsey on partnering with Mile High Comics and how he created Saint Chaos
Colorado Native Noah Dorsey will release his first solo comic, Saint Chaos, today with production help from Mile High Comics and illustrations by Zsombor Huszka. Dorsey took time out from preparing for his comic's release to answer a few questions about how he got into comic book writing, his partnership with the local comic stores, and what to expect from Saint Chaos.
How did you come up with the idea for Saint Chaos?
Noah Dorsey: I actually wrote Saint Chaos as a screenplay back in 2006 or so. A small production company in LA picked it up and tried to get it made. They collected some investors, got a director, spoke to some actors and then the whole thing fell apart. The rights for the screenplay went back to me and I threw it in a drawer for a while. I started writing a couple of other things that I never finished. I would just get to the point on a project that made it evident that it wasn't going anywhere or I discovered I was no longer invested in the story. After the success of Non Humans, my other comic that I co-created with Glen Brunswick and Whilce Portacio -- and was published by Image -- I dug out the screenplay and integrated elements from those unfinished stories that became the story of Saint Chaos. Initially, what I wanted to accomplish with the comic was create a different kind of hero. One that is based in reality and that his destiny is to become something he never thought was possible; a destiny that he fights against. Characters like Batman choose to be a hero. It isn't Bruce Wayne's destiny as it is a conscious decision. Imagine if Bruce Wayne wasn't rich and was forced to join a fight club. That's what I pictured when I wrote the first story arc -- raw and unapologetic. It was amazing that I was able to find Zsombor Huszka because he illustrates the world perfectly.
Why did you decide to create this one on your own instead of partnering up like you did for Non Humans?
In a way Saint Chaos is quite a personal story. My partnership with Brunswick and Whilce was an amazing experience because they are both so talented. I learned a lot by working with them. But I knew this story was going to be dark, and the inspiration came at quite a difficult time in my life. I never had it as bad as Simon does in the comic nor did I ever have his extreme mindset, but the hardships that I endured forced me to think up someone who thought that life was no longer worth living. What if that person's wish was granted and only left a few days before his or her Death Day? What would they do? This first issue is only the beginning. I promise that Simon's journey in the first four issues (which is the first story arc of the comic) will have many twists that the reader won't see coming.
I've never met the owner of Mile High Comics, Chuck Rozanski, but I made friends with his daughter while at CU Boulder. When I decided to go the independent route with this comic and start my own production house I reached out to Chuck to see if he'd be interested in putting it on the shelves at MHC. Then, just to see how he'd react and I tend to be recklessly bold sometimes, I wrapped up the email by bluntly asking if they could even partner up with me to get it published. I mean, the worst thing they can do is say no, right? Sometimes it pays to just speak your mind because they responded with interest. In the span of a month or so I was able to get a local printer involved and everything was good to go.
Why are you trying to keep this comic predominately local?
I created eR Studios as a Denver-based company. I want to work with as many local companies as I can to express the company's creative vision. The fact that Mile High Comics wanted to work with me is fantastic, and we made a point to use a local printer to print the comic. But Saint Chaos isn't predominately local, just the production of it. We partnered up with MHC because they have a system in place that can ship comics all over the world. We have actually been pre-selling it online through MHC and have received orders as far as England and Hungary.
Does Denver inspire your work in any way?
Denver, or even Colorado in general, has a huge population of very talented creative people. I'm surprised that since the approval of a tax break for filming here we haven't seen more of Hollywood taking advantage of that. I'm even working with a producer on a television show that I've written that is based in Colorado that we're hoping to shoot a pilot for in the next year or so. I love Denver, which is why the partnership with Mile High Comics means so much to me. This will hopefully be the beginning of something much bigger.
How did you get involved in comic writing?
I was very, very lucky. When I first sold the option for the screenplay of Saint Chaos, I worked closely with the production company that bought the rights. The director they hired was Michael D. Olmos who is the eldest son of actor Edward James Olmos. We became friends and when the movie fell apart we kept in touch. I told Michael about an idea for a movie that I had and that he really liked. We pitched it around to some people but nothing came of it. A few years later I decided that it might be a great premise for a comic book. I had no idea how the comic industry worked so I looked up eight literary agents that said they represented comic book writers and pitched them the idea. Only one replied to my email and that was Glen Brunswick. Glen told me that he used to be a literary agent, but now he writes his own comic books and he really liked my idea. After a few email exchanges he offered to work with me to publish what became Non Humans. So literally, getting into the comic business was simply a random email to the right person.
What is your comic writing process?
Saint Chaos-page 13.
Not very structured at all. A lot of writers I know outline everything they write and make sure they have a complete treatment before they even think about starting a comic script, but I can't do that. Every time I've written a treatment to get each story beat and then went to script I've found that the story changes dramatically. I've found that the best way that I write is organically. I know who the characters are as well as a vague idea of a story and I just let it ferment in my head. It is much like the process that Quentin Tarantino describes in an interview a decade or so ago. He creates the characters of the story and then when he starts writing the script he puts those characters in a situation and then just lets them interact. Then he just writes down what they say and do. I think that is the best way to explain it. I believe that stories have to be character based to be effective. Once I have the characters I'll start the script and just let them talk. Then I just write it down.
What's your favorite comic?
Neil Gaiman's Sandman. Hands down. It is the comic that I refer people to who don't read comics but are intrigued by them. The run on Sandman is literary genius from start to finish. Gaiman is the one most responsible for my approach to writing comics. He didn't want to write about superheroes and their epic battles with his or her enemies. He wanted to write a layered story that is illustrated. And his writing is smart, poetic, and so, so good. If Shakespeare wrote a comic book Sandman would be it. I have read it over and over again and I still discover things that I didn't catch before. It is both a fun ride that entertains, but also one that can be appreciated as literature.
Saint Chaos-page 28.