“I’m commanding you to buy and read as many comics as you can in every possible form!” D4VE writer Ryan Ferrier discusses his new Monkeybrain series and why you should read digital comics

ryan_newThis week sees the debut of one of our favourite new MonkeyBrain titles in some time – Ryan Ferrier and Valentin Ramos’ D4VE – which we recently described as like “the Terminator meets The Office”. If that’s not a tantalising enough hook to get you to check it out then we got in touch with writer Ryan to find out more about how he came up with the idea of a robot hero stuck in a dead-end office job (not to mention asking him about slobbering aliens and robot strippers!). So if that’s not enough of a hook to keep on reading, I don’t know what is?!

D4VE #1

D4VE is the tale of a former robot soldier now stuck in a dead-end office job who is about to have a mid-life crisis (or the robot equivalent!).

How did you come up with the idea of using robots in dead end jobs as the inspiration for D4VE? Was it one of those ‘what if’ moments or did the idea evolve out of a desire to write a story about kick ass world conquering robots?

RF: It’s funny, the concept of the dead end job is pretty widely exploited, for sure, but I still think there’s a smaller part of the population that’s actually truly experienced that kind of total misery. In the backmatter of D4VE #1 I described arriving to work in the morning and crying in the car, which is a whole new kind of trapped, a much more dire situation than the typical working-for-the-weekend day-job blues. But the common factor here is that a fair amount of people, whether they’re crying in the parking lot or not, are dissatisfied at the place they spend the majority of their lives.

The idea for D4VE came during a formative time for me, it’s partially the product of a particular amount of distress. The personal, emotional aspects of D4VE were very natural though, and worked their way into the story quite organically. It really did start as more of a big monster fighting comic, and then the serious stuff made it’s way into it from there. Valentin and I have always intended to make a fun story though. The first page of D4VE #1, with the monster punching daydream, that was the immediate vision I had in my head from the first second. But it really it isn’t a mopey comic at all, I swear!

Did you take any personal experiences from your own time working in offices that you have filtered into the story?

RF: Oh yes, definitely. There is quite a bit of “us” in there. In reality, the moment-to-moment of a bad day job is entirely unremarkable and wouldn’t make for a good comic if we put them right into the story. So really we’re trying to capture the tones and the perspectives surrounding that kind of situation, and depict shades of them through robot lenses.

D4VE 01 page 3

The first page which sees D4VE punching out a giant alien monster is how Ryan originally envisaged the series would be

How important is it for you to keep an element of ‘realism’ to the story and keep it grounded or do you intend to just go off on crazy tangents with more crazy aliens and robot strippers as the series progresses?!

RF: I think D4VE is an equal amount of both. As the series continues, you’re definitely going to see a lot more craziness and some big action. D4VE’s mid-life crisis starts out very internally, but evolves into a very physical external crisis. D4VE has a lot of learning to do, a certain amount of penance, if you will, in the forms of personal and extraterrestrial battles. It’s important to be able to relate to the characters in the story, but at the same time we want to explore the medium and have some real fun with it. Valentin is so amazing at creating the world of D4VE and giving it that realism, while also designing environments and characters that are really unique.

I love all the little details in the book – from adding the numbers into the characters names to the way they talk to each other with little robotic elements added in – do you have an idea of what you want to add in when writing the script or do they all come later once you have the artwork back from Valentin?

RF: The beauty of lettering your own work is that it makes it easier to edit scripts after the artwork is done. Working with Valentin is a real collaboration, and his work shapes and directs the story much more than words on a page could. So it’s a little bit of both. One specific thing Valentin is really great with is physical comedy and body language. To me, the funnier parts of the story are the moments without a spoken punchline, and that’s all Valentin. Certainly the book doesn’t come together until that last lettering pass is done though. If I could, I would always letter a project I’ve worked on because the story isn’t what it is until the artist has worked on it.

D4VE page 5

According to Ryan, artist Valentin Ramos brings the ‘punk rock’ to D4VE

Speaking of Valentin he does an amazing job of adding to the details – his style reminds me a lot of Geof Darrow, which is never a bad thing – how did the pair of you hook up and how much input does he have on the look and feel of the characters?

RF: Valentin is so, so great. His details and designs just blow me away constantly. He’s got this real kind of “punk rock” thing going on that I can’t quite describe, but it’s amazing and I love it. Valentin most definitely has total input into the look and feel of the characters and the world of D4VE. The monsters, the robots, the technology in the comic is all Valentin. But more than that, the feeling of the comic, the atmosphere, is him too. Doing this book with him has been such a great experience, his work is incredible.

Valentin and I connected through a comic forum, I’d say about a year and a half ago. I had just started putting the concept of D4VE down on paper, and had just begun looking for a collaborator when Valentin reached out. I knew instantly that we were going to do D4VE.

Tell us a bit about how you got involved with the guys at MonkeyBrain? Was it a title you’ve wanted to pitch for a while or did they come to you with an idea for a new book?

RF: As well as writing, I’m also a letterer and have the pleasure of working on a few MonkeyBrain titles at the moment. That started with getting the chance to letter Theremin for Curt Pires and Dalton Rose, both formidably talented creators. Curt and I are good friends, and he’s a dude I look up to in a big way, and Theremin is a triumph of comic books. After that I met the equally talented Michael Moreci and he graciously brought me on to letter Skybreaker, his book with Drew Zucker, which is a phenomenal story. I’m also lettering Prime-8‘s for Michael, Steve Seeley, Kyle Latino, and Jordan Gibson. Michael’s been great to me and working with him has been a true pleasure. Pardon the plugs, I’m rambling. Basically, lettering these books was a good step for me to have the chance to show D4VE to Chris Roberson and Allison Baker, the amazing, wonderful people who run MonkeyBrain, and they kindly have allowed us to tell our story.

MonkeyBrain is such a great source for creator-owned projects, and everyone involved is putting their hearts and hard work into creating really unique work. Valentin and I are so thrilled to be able to work with MonkeyBrain and tell our story through them. They have a really focused avenue of distribution, and a wonderful audience. They also have a fantastic reputation and passion for the medium. Above all though, Chris and Allison are incredibly supportive and excited about bringing new stories to people. I’ve been hooked on everything Chris and Allison, and all the MonkeyBrain creators, are doing on a weekly basis, it’s incredibly inspiring.

How big an advantage is it for you as an indie creator to be producing your book digitally for them rather than struggling in print? What do you make of the digital comics revolution and are you a fan?

RF: I am a fan of digital comics, I think they’re great. When ComiXology first came out, I went all digital for a while just out of personal convenience. I’m back onto weekly floppies now, but I still very much purchase and consume both print and digital. I just love the medium, and having the options to read comics however I choose, in multiple ways, is more than ideal. As newer creators with an indie book, it’s also incredibly advantageous for us. There’s less overhead for the publisher, and less risk for the consumer. Digital-first gives us a chance to build a readership more easily and quickly, and the digital price-point helps. It also minimized the lead time for actually creating the comics themselves, which keeps our heads really in the game and makes for tighter work as our page-counts can be a little more fluid.

I think we’re in a really interesting time for comics. We’re definitely full-swing in a shift towards creator-owned and self-published work, and more than anything digital platforms are accommodating the creators and the readers quite well. I think it’s important to the medium to have a fluid approach as to how we consume our books though, as we really do need a flourishing, supported retail market as well. So basically I’m commanding you to buy and read as many comics as you can in every possible form!

As well as writing D4VE Ryan also letters MonkeyBrain Comics titles like Prime-8s and Skybreaker

As well as writing D4VE Ryan also letters MonkeyBrain Comics titles like Prime-8s and Skybreaker

You’ve done a lot of lettering for other MonkeyBrain titles, which do you prefer writing or lettering and do you ever write with one eye on creating an epic bit of typography?!

RF: Writing is absolutely my passion, my dream, and hopefully someday my primary livelihood. I started out writing and found myself lettering my first mini-series (Terminals, Penny-Farthing Press) inadvertently. I’ve been a designer for close to 7 years now (that’s my day job, also: completely unrelated to D4VE day-job) and my editor at the time thought I could take on that role, as I knew my way around the software. So I did, and immediately realized that lettering is its own intricate, specific skillset. After that mini-series, my lettering became much better, and I began taking on a lot of lettering jobs for indie stuff and all of my own work, and now I’m happy to be a part of some really cool books, like the above mentioned Monkeybrain titles. I’m also really having a blast lettering RoboCop: Last Stand for Boom! Studios, which is super cool.

Being a letterer as well really has helped my writing though, I completely recommend that writers understand the intricacies, the “rules” of lettering. Not only has it helped with formatting, but it really does change the way you can approach writing pages. Bless letterers, man, they’re a wonderful, integral part of comics.

Finally, how long will D4VE run for, will it be a mini series or do you see it running and running and running?

RF: D4VE will run for five issues! We always set out to tell a finite story, and although it’s at points large in scale (you kind of need to be when there’s an alien invasion), we still want it to feel very personal. We want to follow these characters through a very short period of time. The whole series really only takes place over a few days, and has a very concrete conclusion. Maybe. Now you’ve got me thinking…

D4VE is available from MonkeyBrain Comics exclusively via ComiXology. To find out more about Ryan follow him on Twitter or visit his website 

Author: Alex Thomas

Alex Thomas is the Editor and founder of PIpedream Comics. He grew up reading comics in the 90s, so even though he loves all things indie and small press, he is easily distracted by a hologram cover.