“It’s dark, it’s edgy, and it’s definitely offensive!” Comicsy’s Tim West on his new cutting edge web comic Kill Spree
Tim West is known to many as the man behind Comicsy the online digital comic store. But now he has gone from publisher to writer with a new cutting edge web comic Kill Spree. Set to push the boundaries of what makes a digital/web comic Tim has taken the best elements of his favourite web comics and added great new features like animation and the ability to drill down through the page back to the pencils and script to create a truly unique and exciting way to tell stories. He’s also added in some violence and swearing just to make it a bit more lively! We catch up with Tim to find out more about the exciting and innovative world of Kill Spree.
What’s the elevator pitch for your web comic Kill Spree – how do you describe it to people you’ve just met to get them excited about the project?
TW: Hopefully this will grab your attention. “A group of disturbed ‘special needs’ kids seize control of America’s most high-tech shopping mall and embark on a deadly game of competitive mass murder, broadcasting the entire event live as the world watches on in horror. Only Mikey, the gang’s ex-leader, can prevent his fallen childhood friends from unleashing the full force of Kill Spree on the unsuspecting shoppers.”
I’ve a huge passion for writing horror, however, I’m bored of sparkly vampires and the zombie zeitgeist. I believe there’s much horror to be found in the human condition and the atrocities we inflict on each other. I wanted to take a truly terrible real-world problem, in this case mass shooting and murder sprees, and turn up the terror to ten. The story also contains a healthy dose of sci-fi, action, adventure, and (I hope) comedy, which always works so deliciously well with horror. It’s written to have broad appeal even though some people will find the actual subject matter to be extremely distasteful.
What makes Kill Spree stand out from the other web comics online?
TW: There are thousands of web comics available on the web so making ours stand out was a top priority. Talking to web comic creators, I’ve been able to make sure the site contained all the elements that work best in web comics, like a comments section, newsletter, RSS feed and web store. On top of that, I’ve included original features such as an animated version and the ability to view the various stages of comic creation. The site has also been designed to fit any device it is viewed on, meaning whatever your screen size the site will adapt. We wanted to make sure EVERYONE can enjoy/dislike Kill Spree.
How did you and artist Eliseu Gouveia come to work together? Is Kill Spree a collaboration between you both or is it your dream which Eliseu is making into a reality for you art wise?
TW: The initial idea for Kill Spree came to me around 15 years ago while playing the murder simulator, Grand Theft Auto 2. The game contained ‘Kill Frenzy’ missions which encouraged players to kill as many people as possible in a short amount of time. While immensely enjoyable, I recall thinking what an abhorrent idea it was to encourage young gamers to murder for fun, and also what a great book that subject would make. It wasn’t until a few years ago, after I’d written several short comic scripts for various indie anthologies, having been well and truly bitten by the comic making bug, that I realised my old idea would be a perfect fit for a graphic novel.
I spent the next 3 years writing Kill Spree, naively hoping the story would be interesting enough to snag an artist that would draw it all for free. It wasn’t until the script was completed, and the 8 issue monkey on my back that I’d been obsessing over for so long was actually ready for the next step, that I realised if I really wanted to create a professional product I’d have to pay a pro artist.
After posting a paid ‘artist wanted’ thread on Digital Webbing I was able to whittle down from 100 applicants to just one. Eliseu ‘Zeu’ Gouveia was the perfect fit for the project. We felt each other up for a bit, Zeu doing some initial sketches for me to check his style matched my vision, and we moved forward from there. His experience as an illustrator of children’s books brings a wonderful visual contrast to the horrific storyline and bad language that permeates the script. It’s been a fantastic experience seeing an idea that’s been burning a hole in your head finally drawn on paper. Zeu has brought loads of great ideas to the project and it has been a pleasure collaborating with him.
You offer the project in both a flat web comic version and also an animated motion version. What made you decide to do that and what do you think the motion elements bring to the story? Are they just there for effect or are they integral to the story? Will you be developing the sophistication of these elements going forward?
TW: As I took a ‘kitchen sink’ approach when building the website it seemed only right that there should be a motion version too. The comic was drawn with print in mind, as that’s where our hearts lie, but the comic industry is still exploring the wild frontiers of digital and I wanted to show what’s possible using existing web technologies.
The animation, while not integral to the story, does add an interesting new dimension to storytelling. It’s great to be able to emphasise a panel by adding movement to it. The preview version has a great example of this, our story’s protagonist receiving a blow to the head feels a little more real when the panel shakes at the right moment. It’s very cool.
The whole motion comic version is still very much an experimental process so they’ll definitely be a few new tricks developed in the future.
One of the most unique features about Kill Spree is that you also give readers the chance to drill down and see pages in progress from script through pencils and inks to the final lettered page, what inspired you to do that? Are you a secret process junkie or did you get feedback from readers that this was something people were crying out for?
TW: As a comic creator, I’m fascinated to see how others creators make their own comics. Comics are such a collaborative process, with potentially so many people involved, it’s great to see what each member of the creative team brings to the finished article.
By allowing readers to peel back the layers of creation, we’re allowing them to delve deeper in to the story and become more immersed in the comic. I can see a day when all digital comics will offer this function as it gives buyers additional content for their cash.
You’ve gone for quite an adult tone with Kill Spree, are you at all concerned that the strong language and violence in the first issue might put off some potential readers, or are you relying on the Mark Millar method for making a comic successful?
TW: The best piece of advice I’ve read about creating comics is to write what you want to read. Kill Spree is exactly that, my ideal comic.
Part of the story is told via flashbacks, set when our characters were young kids. These scenes are homages to the childhood influences that I enjoyed the most when I was young, such as the sense of adventure found in The Goonies or Stand By Me, or the sense of identity and independence found in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five or Secret Seven books, all mixed with the modern puerile humour you’d see in The Inbetweeners. At its heart it’s a story about friendship and the things friends will do to help each other out, harking back to a time when I was young and unburdened with having to understand the crazy world we live in today.
In contrast, the scenes set in the present are a reflection of the dark times in which live in, an angry attack on consumerism, pop culture, and the media, which are eroding innocence and becoming increasingly intrusive in the lives of the young. I’m getting some issues off my chest while not taking it all too seriously.
Kill Spree is dark, it’s edgy, and it’s definitely offensive, served up with a shit-load of foul language and lashings of murder and mayhem. I’ve no doubt some readers will be put off by the content but that simply means that the story is not for them. Some people can’t stomach offensive material, while others have become so desensitised to death and disaster, through violent TV, movies, and video games, that they want to be appauled. It’s one of the many themes the comic explores. Personally, I’m convinced there’s a huge market for the type of lunacy I’m peddling, a market Mark Millar has tapped into with great success.
What are the plans for the book going forward? You mention Kickstarter and even print version on the website, but what about apps or ComiXology versions? Does it all depend on money and people liking them?
TW: As I mentioned, Kill Spree was created to be a print comic but that’s a long way off. The entire script has been completed but I’ve only been able to afford to pay Zeu to illustrate the first issue. That’s why it’s being given away for free on our website. Hopefully, the bonkers plot, cool art, and unique site will gain enough interest to help crowd fund the art for issue 2, which will then be created and made available for free on the website. It’s a proper seat of the pants project that’ll live or die based on its popularity, which is fair game considering the controversial storyline. I like to think of it as an digital comic pitch to the world.
Tell our readers how they can read Kill Spree and where can they find out more?
TW: Currently, there’s a 4 page preview available to view on the site www.KillSpreeComic.com. We’ll be launching on October 1st with 10 pages and releasing 1 per week until the 28 page first issue is all online. After that…well, that’s up to everyone else.