He Came From Southern Canada: A Chat with David Scacchi
By Ellen Fleischer
David Scacchi is a newcomer to the world of comics. For the last little while, he’s been paying his dues and getting his name out there. Recently, his comic They Came From Planet Earth was accepted by Insane Comics. David tells us more…
IM: How long have you been creating comics?
DS: I’ve been drawing superheroes and spaceships my whole life. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always had a pencil in my hand. It’s only been in the past few years that I decided to sit down and make a serious go at comics professionally. I’m faster at writing than I am at drawing, so I decided to write the stories and get others to do the art.
IM: Tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up?
DS: Male, 41, grew up (and still live) half way between Toronto and Niagara Falls! By day, I’m an industrial computer programmer. I spend my nights trying to come up with witty retorts to serious questions without annoying the interviewer. How am I doing so far?
IM: Anything you’d like to share with us about your childhood or teen years?
DS: I was a typical geeky kid/teen who spent too much time with comic books and video games and not enough time enjoying the outdoors. Now, I’m a typical geeky adult who spends too much time with comic books and video games and not enough time enjoying the outdoors. I’m hoping my golden years follow the same trajectory.
IM: Could you describe a couple of experiences/influences that helped set you on the path to comics?
IM: Can you talk about a couple of individuals/characters/works/events that have served as a source of inspiration for you?
DS: I can remember my first exposure to Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns in 1987 as a specific source of inspiration. I know it came out in ’86, but I didn’t get it until ’87. I was about 12 at the time, and although the story was probably a little mature for a 12-year-old to fully understand, I loved the art and how ‘adult’ Batman talked. I know it’s a clichéd book to mention for inspiration, but it’s one that is still teaching me to this day. Every time I pick it up, I learn something new about it, and about the art of storytelling. I was a big mainstream book fan at the time, and it really was revolutionary when it came out.
Norm Breyfogle, Frank Quitely, and Jim Lee are also very inspirational artists for me. Some writers I look up to are Michael Crichton, Alan Moore and Andrew Kevin Walker. How’s that for a random list??? haha
IM: What steps have you taken to develop your craft as a writer and artist (and letterer!)?
DS: I watch a lot of TV and movies. When I write, I don’t use typical comic book formatting. I prefer to write screenplays. I love procedural cop/law shows because they are excellent at filling dialogue with ‘necessities’ only. I’ve learned a lot studying TV and movie scripts. They’re great for understanding how pacing, blocking, and exposition work if you want to maximize storytelling. Then it’s just write, write, and write some more. Same with drawing. Obviously, the more you practice, the better you get.
As for lettering, that is something totally new to me. There are no flashy or extravagant sound effects or speech balloons in They Came From Planet Earth. Since I’m so new to it, I wanted to keep all the lettering basic and clean and simply try to make it look readable. I’m aware of the horror stories of creators doing their own letters as a budgetary short-cut. I had a budget for letters, but it was always something I wanted to try. If the artist [on the book] had hated them, then I would have hired somebody to letter, but he was happy with the final result. I used a lot of comic books for reference. YouTube is helpful, too. There’s a TON to know for lettering and I’m just breaking the surface. Knowing where to put balloons, their sizing, how many words for each one, flow, composition… you don’t normally think about all that stuff when you’re enjoying a book, but when it comes to creating your own, all of a sudden you have no idea why something doesn’t look right.
IM: What was the spark that convinced you to take the leap and start creating your own comics?
DS: When I was approaching 40, I guess I did what a lot of people do around that time. I just started looking at my job/career and began questioning if it was something I wanted to do for another 30 years. Typical mid-life crisis stuff. Is 40 mid-life?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for my job and the life it has provided for me, but if I had a choice, I would prefer to be a comic creator. It was really just a matter of ‘life is short’, and I realized I wasn’t getting any younger! Better late than never, right?
IM: You recently published They Came From Planet Earth through Insane Comics. Can you give us the elevator pitch on the story?
DS: In the near future, mankind discovers that the moon is just a giant, ancient, alien-made cage for a wormhole. They figure out how to control it and send some brave astronauts through. It doesn’t go well, though, and on the other side of the wormhole they crash on an alien planet. They are just scientists trying to do what scientists do… explore and discover. But, regardless of the intent of the humans, the ‘locals’ aren’t too impressed with their unannounced visitors and see them as a problem to be dealt with. The story is about explorers trying to get home, trying to get away from this alien civilization that has completely misinterpreted first contact.
It’s not much different from those cheesy, old, sci-fi, alien invasion B-movies from the 1950s, with giant ants and other space creatures, but with a twist: this time, the humans are the unwelcome monsters!
IM: Tell us a bit about the characters. Who are they? What makes them tick?
DS: The story hits the ground running as we join the four-person crew of the spaceship about to crash on the alien planet. We begin to learn about these characters, both from the way the crash plays out, and by how they react in the following scenes.
The crew are Wakefield, Shelly, Mathis, and Stone.
Shelly, the mission commander, is a good leader, capable of weighing the odds and making split-second decisions during unexpected and risky moments. She’s a realist who understands that you can’t have it both ways sometimes. Hopefully, that will make more sense when you read the book! (LOL)
Wakefield is the pilot. He’s loyal and level-headed, but isn’t afraid to question questionable orders! Ultimately, he’s a compassionate scientist who doesn’t want to cause any trouble. He’s a voice of reason and will always err on the side of caution.
Mathis, a mission specialist, isn’t as ‘composed’ as Wakefield. He’s a bit of a hothead and isn’t very helpful during dangerous and stressful situations. He cares deeply about the mission and his fellow crew members. However, sometimes his emotions get the best of him. I wouldn’t get too attached to Mathis, if you know what I mean! 😉
Stone is another mission specialist. Brilliant in the fields of science and math, she is also able to keep it together during stressful situations. She is very self-aware and capable of stepping outside her emotions in order to calm herself down. When at a loss, she knows enough to just stick to her training instead of panicking.
IM: Did you do any particular research to help your story feel more authentic? Were there any elements that needed to change from the way you’d initially pictured them, whether due to your research, or your characters steering the plot in a different direction from what you’d envisioned (or any other reason)?
DS: I tried to keep all the technology within the realm of possibility. I don’t want the reader to be too distracted by technical realism. My main concern with authenticity is making sure the characters react in a realistic manner. I want the characterizations to be realistic enough so that the reader can identify with a character if they were in the same situation, however extraordinary it may be.
As for elements that changed from conception to execution… the lead characters of the book changed when I began fleshing out and filling in backstories. As the story and characters grew, some of the themes changed as well. It was supposed to be a high concept, trippy, sci-fi story, but once I nailed down the main characters, I decided to pull back on the high concept part and simply focus on things that were easier to identify for a reader. Typical human things, like feeling lost and just wanting to get home. Or wondering if you’re ever going to see that special person again (I’m looking at you, Mathis’ family! LOL).
IM: How did you connect with the rest of your creative team?
DS: I simply asked a mutual friend if he knew any good artists I could hire. He gave me Gary’s contact info.
IM: What is it like working with Insane Comics?
DS: Awesome! The gentleman running it, James Munch, is really great to work with. The best part of Insane Comics is they don’t place any controls on creators. If you have a story to tell, they’ll let you tell it! They are pretty open about that, and super supportive and helpful. Not to mention, the books they print are reminiscent of the high quality of those early Image books in the 90s.
If you’re a creator working on a book, send it in to Insane Comics. They open their submissions quite often. There’s also no specific requirement for genre. They take anything. I’ve recently been reading a lot of Insane Comics books and they’re all terrific! Whatever your taste, they will have something for you!
Seriously, this company (and James) is a jewel in the rough. It’s hard getting noticed out there in the indy publishing world, and Insane Comics is a welcome light in the storm. I’m trying to think of another metaphor to compliment them with, but I’m drawing a blank.
DS: Yes. I have another title coming this fall, called Rogue. It’s also from Insane Comics. It’s about a covert CIA operative who begins suffering from mental illness and tries to manipulate the world into a nuclear war. Another agent, a specialized hunter-killer, is assigned to track him down and eliminate him. This killer just lost her family in a tragic accident, though, and she must supress the grief long enough in order to stop an apocalyptic nightmare.
It’s a character study. One person is unaware of their deteriorating mental state, attempting to destroy society with carefree abandon, while another is hyper-aware of her emotions and fragile condition, and struggles moment to moment trying to keep it together to prevent global war.
The story basically studies these two people dealing (or not dealing) with differing mental states against the backdrop of an impending World War III. I would characterize it as a cross between Black Hawk Down and the TV show, Homeland.
IM: If you could give one piece of advice to someone looking to create their own comic, what would you tell them?
DS: Commit to having to hire and pay your talent. Just accept that you’re trying to produce a product, and like all products, it will cost real money to make. Sure, there are a few people willing to collaborate and work for ‘exposure’, but when a project gets rolling, it’s pretty hard to demand deadlines (or changes) from an artist who is working for free. I find you tend to get what you pay for. Even just getting to the finish line is a struggle if you don’t have a binding business agreement in place.
Just like anything in life, if you want something done properly you have to pay for it. The hope is that eventually, your book will find enough success to begin paying for itself.
IM: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers that we haven’t touched on yet?
DS: I warned you about Mathis, right? Poor, poor Mathis.
IM: Finally, how can folks keep up with you and your work?
IM: Thanks so much!
DS: My pleasure, Ellen, thank you!