“It’s got this real sense of anarchy and punky rebellion that raises a finger to the established order!” Dave Cook on the inspirations for his new series Killtopia

Packed full of monster mechs and ultraviolet mercenaries who hunt them down, Killtopia from Card Shark Comics is one of our most eagerly anticipated indie Kickstarters of 2018. It’s already doing gangbusters on the crowd-funding site, but we couldn’t resist catching up with writer Dave Cook to find out the secrets of this ultra-stylish dystopian world.

For those who are new to the world of Killtopia, tell us about the concept and the story you are telling?

Dave Cook: Killtopia is set in future Japan and focuses on a mega city infested by a plague of killer robots called Mechs. They’re all swarming around a ravaged district called Sector K, which is know on the streets as Killtopia.

The government, mega corporations and Yakuza gangs send skilled assassins called Wreckers into Killtopia to hunt Mechs and bring back their advanced tech in exchange for money, fame and glory.

Our hero is a rookie Wrecker called Shinji, who hunts in Killtopia to pay for his dying sister’s medical care. She has a nano disease called the Rot, which is basically millions of nanomachines in her blood terraforming her from the inside. 

One day Shinji encounters Crash, the world’s first sentient Mech, who has the power to cure the Rot. So pretty quickly a bounty goes out on them both, and they become hunted by every Wrecker, Yakuza and low-life in the city.

The race is on to cure the Rot before someone claims the bounty!

It feels like it has a lot of inspirations from Japanese manga and anime to Running Man and other dystopian sci-fi, so what books inspired you and were there any you were keen to avoid?

DC: Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis is the most direct comic influence, as it’s my favourite series of all time. It’s got this real sense of anarchy and punky rebellion that raises a finger to the established order, and that definitely translates through Shinji’s character.

There’s also hints of Japanese Manga movies like Akira, The Guyver and Ghost in the Shell. But primarily Killtopia was inspired by Japanese videogames – most notably the world of Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil 4, Vanquish), Hideki Kamiya (Bayonetta, Neir: Automata) and Goichi ‘Suda51’ (No More Heroes, Killer7)

I love the frantic pace and brash tone of their games, with hyper violence and a punk vibe throughout. Fans of those games will definitely get a kick out of what we’re making here 🙂

What is it about this kind of dark and gritty future world that inspires you to tell stories in this kind of world? Does it allow you more freedom to be more extreme and more violent with some of your ideas?

DC: Killtopia has some dark and hyper violent scenes, but mostly I’m fascinated by weird future trends, like the idea of strange fad micro cultures. 

For example, our other anti hero is Stiletto, the world’s best Wrecker. The hype around her has spun out into cult like fandom, with people willing to sell organs to see her in action live. This is scarily similar to people today, who would give their left arm to appear on TV, and the way we idolise people like YouTubers and celebrities.

The weirdness of Killtopia and the odd nature of those micro cultures means we can get pretty wild thematically, and that’s been insanely fun so far.

How did you team up with artist Craig Paton on this – did you develop the world together or did you bring him on board at a later date?

DC: Craig worked with me on our first series Bust, and he produced our glorious covers. He is such an incredibly talented artist and we just get together really well, so there was no doubt in my mind that we’d team up on Killtopia

I had the world fleshed out on paper but Craig’s art gave it a real sense of vibrancy, and he has added so much detail to every panel that doesn’t appear in my script. He really has gone above and beyond. 

 

We also worked with his brother Garry who lives in Japan, to culture check my script. He was a massive help in making sure we were being culturally sensitive, that our kanji text was correct, and that every aspect was as correct to Japanese culture as we could make it.

He has an amazing visual style, which reminds me a lot of Frank Quitely – and the colours are incredible. Did you do a lot of work developing the look and feel of the world? Or did it evolve over time? It works as an amazing contrast to the subject matter, but also feels like a really strong look which helps it stand out from other small press kick-starters.

DC: Craig is actually a massive fan of Frank’s, and you’re absolutely correct – we spent a lot of time going over the world’s aesthetic. A lot of it comes from my panel descriptions on the script and it’s them fleshed out in the art. There’s a lot of back and forth, bouncing the ideas around until we’re happy with them. 

We made a pact to not settle for second best, in that nothing would be finalised until we were 100% happy with it and sure it was our best work. Essentially, we aimed to make a book as if it was for a big publisher. 

It feels like you have been pushing this for quite a while on social media, giving yourself a really long run up to the start of the Kickstarter. Was that part of a concerted plan for the campaign? Did you always plan to launch it in February as a prime time for campaigning? Have you picked up tips from previous campaigns?

DC: My 9-5 career is in digital marketing so making marketing campaigns and pitching to press has been my bread and butter for a decade. So absolutely, we worked out a month by month plan of what we’d say, and on what platform (Facebook, Instagram, the site etc) and when we’d say it. It’s been about a year of slow, carefully planned momentum, and it’s paid off wonderfully.

February was the plan at the start, as the 2nd was the first pay day of the year for a lot of people. All of this knowledge came from our previous five campaigns. It’s all been building to this.

It feels like you have taken a lot of time to establish the Killtopia brand as much as the comic, was that key to hitting the ground running on this series?

DC: It was absolutely the key yeah. A lot of thought has gone into what our first art reveals would look like and if they’d convey the style of our book instantly. I think they worked well in giving people a visual taste of our world and what to expect.

Is Killtopia going to be a one shot or the start of something huge? It certainly feels like the latter!

DC: It’s planned as a five parter for now, but who knows what the future will hold.

If fans like this, what other books do you have available that people should check out?

DC: I have the dark fantasy series Vessels, which is a Game of Thrones meets Inception saga inspired by the Dark Souls games, about a band of warriors with the power to enter the realm of dreams. 

I’ve also got the post apocalyptic road tip series Bust, about a grieving father with dementia transporting a young girl across the southern states of America. 

You can pledge your support for Killtopia on Kickstarter here. And find out more about Dave’s other books at www.cardsharkcomics.com

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.