“Blood and death framed with cute, adorable little winged babies” James Stafford on the inspiration behind webcomic The Sorrowful Putto of Prague

A cherubic angel takes care of various supernatural charaters in Prague in the upber webcomic The Sorrowful Putto of Prague. Recently described by Samuel L Jackson as ‘dope ass’ we caught up with writer James Stafford to find out more about his angelic hero and his celebrity endorsement!

Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration for The Sorrowful Putto of Prague? Are the characters based on real myths or just created for the story?

James Stafford: The characters are a mixture of completely made up figures (Xavier, The Hanging Man, Miss Svetla, for instance), historical figures (Rudolf II, Saint John of Nepomuk) and mythical figures (Golem, Rusalka, etc).

It’s inspiration comes from the contrast in art, especially during the baroque period, in which you had these paintings, monuments and sculptures of dramatic scenes full of war, martyrdom, disasters, blood and death framed with cute, adorable little winged babies! It fascinates me.

And why set it in Prague? Is that your home town?

JS: I studied in Prague as a student for a semester and simply fell in love with the place. I’ve been back about four times a year since and am shortly moving there to live.

Did you have to do much research to get things accurate?

JS: I’m not sure I have to do lots of research, but I certainly do. My shelves are groaning with Prague books, Czech folklore and history, art books, comic books, etc. But that’s not a chore at all for me, I love it.

I also spend a lot of time in Prague taking photos of possible locations or references. I then bundle this all up and send to artists when I send over scripts.

Is this your first comics project? Or have you worked on others? What are your influences as a writer?

JS: If you don’t count felt pen drawings as a comic mad child, yes, this is my first project.

I’ve grown up reading comic books so could probably reference dozens of the usual writing heroes that must writers do. It’s a cliche, but Alan Moore is a huge inspiration. But to be honest, I’m a huge fan of storytelling. I’ve probably been as much inspired by any good storytelling whether it be film, books, plays, theatre, audio books or whatever.  

You’re just writing short stories at the moment, any plans to extend them into longer form adventures, or do you prefer the short and sweet anthology approach?

JS: Yes, I’m currently writing a few longer stories. I have one particular story in mind involving a journey on a Prague tram which needs a lot more space than I usually take. I love writing short stories, it’s a tough discipline but really pushes you as a writer.

At the start, as I can’t draw and have to hire artists, short stories were as much a practical thing as anything else. But I’ve also quite got addicted to doing it as well.

You’ve assembled quite an eclectic team of artists, how did you get them all on board and how did you pick who would work on which story?

JS: I’ve been hugely lucky with my artists and also lucky to write at a time when artists can be found online via forums and member groups. Something that wouldn’t have been possible when I was younger.

I found my artists by advertising for artists on platforms like Penciljack or other comic and art forums where people look to collaborate. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to find all of them.

As for which artist does what story, different artists suit different moods, so I tend to have a think of what style fits what tale. Sometimes as well there are tight deadlines and an artist may not be available too, so that plays a role.

It’s currently available as a free webcomic, any plans to release it on other platforms? And will you be continuing to release new stories on there going forward?

JS: It’s being published in a beautiful hardback edition in the Czech Republic (in Czech) by Argo this May. Argo are the nation’s best literary house, so it’s a huge honour. I’m hoping it will lead to other editions and, eventually, an English language edition. So follow us on social and keep your eyes peeled!

And finally I noticed you were picked up for praise by Samuel L Jackson on twitter, what was it like having Nick Fury/Jules Winnfield big up your comic and did you get much of an upsurge in interest as a result?

JS: It was, to quote Sam himself, pretty ‘dope ass’! It certainly brought us a lot of extra traffic for a few days, that’s for sure. Luckily we had just serviced the website so it was able to cope. But just as importantly it really does help add a bit of credibility. Sam is a genuine comic fan, so it was pretty cool to have the man that brought the Avengers together give us a shout out. Hopefully we’ll get Black Widow on board next!

You can read The Sorrowful Putto of Prague online at theputto.com/comic and follow the latest on twitter @theputto