Joel Rodriguez is the creator and owner of Metal Ninja Studios, an indie comic book company. He is also the writer of The Dusk County Chronicles, a 24-page horror mini-anthology that asks the questions; “What if Toy Story was a slasher, or Peter Pan required a sacrifice to get into Neverland?” His interesting take on familiar children’s stories and classic horror films makes this anthology a must read.
The Dusk County Chronicles was a Kickstarter project, and after reading it, we at NerdBastards knew we had to interview the twisted writer behind this intriguing book. Joel agreed to answer some of our questions and give us some insight into his future projects.
So, turn down the lights and light a few candles as NerdBastards continues it’s series of interviews with indie comic creators.
Nerd Bastards (NB): Thank you for taking the time to do an interview with us Joel. After reading The Dusk County Chronicles, we knew we had to talk to the creator of this crazy twist on some beloved cartoon and horror franchises. Without giving too much away, can you tell us about your book? How did you come up with the idea?
Joel Rodriguez (JR): Thanks for having me. The Dusk County Chronicles (DCC) is a collection of short stories that take tales we know and love and twists them into nightmares. One of my favorite parts of the concept is that all of the stories, although self-contained shorts, take place within the same geographic location: Dusk County. This means I can bring them all together in the future!
The inspiration came from my mom, who always taught me that things aren’t always what they seem. As humans, we can be very quick to jump to conclusions and assumptions, which usually gets us into trouble. DCC plays on these assumptions by taking things we remember as sources of nostalgia and happy memories and twisting them into something darker than we ever expected.
NB: Your mom sounds like a wise woman and she’s right, things aren’t always what they seem. You do a great job presenting that idea in your book. Roman Gubskii, the artist does a fantastic job bringing these twists and turns to life. Can you tell us a little about him? How’d you met? What are some other projects he’s worked on?
JR: (Roman Gubshii) and I met the same way most people meet nowadays: The Internet! We found each other on Facebook and quickly formed an excellent and highly collaborative working relationship. He’s a Russian artist that currently lives in Costa Rica, so we’ve never actually met in person. He’s been drawing as a hobby for about 10 years, but recently made the jump to full time. He’s worked for Behemoth Comics, Supercilious Comics, a comic called Crossbones, and an upcoming issue of Lizards by John Holland.
NB: What can you tell us about The Dusk County Chronicles #2?
JR: The tagline for issue #2 is “Journey Deeper into Dusk.” The tag plays on the fact that it will have four more short stories; however, each is darker and more tragic than the stories featured in issue #1. So as we journey deeper into Dusk County, more of the darkness within is brought to light.
For example, the title for the first story in issue #2 is “No Longer,” and its’ premise is simple, yet twisted: What if the Hatter was driven mad by a broken heart?
NB: I’m hooked already! When can we expect it to go live on Kickstarter?
JR: We haven’t picked a specific date yet, but we are on track for an October launch.
NB: Well keep us posted so that we can inform our readers.
NB: What influenced you to write comics?
JR: I’ve always been a fan of comics, but it was Spawn #1 that first made me consider creating them myself. I fell in love with the medium and always dreamed of seeing my name printed on the credits page. Like most other people, I let life get in the way and didn’t take it seriously until recently.
I heard a quote that changed my whole perspective overnight. I don’t remember who said it or where I heard it, but it was, “Chase your dreams or else someone will pay you to chase theirs.” After that realization, I decided that it was time; and here we are!
NB: That is a great quote. Really makes you want to get moving on your goals.
NB: Any words of wisdom for future comic creators?
JR: Finish something. Even if it’s just a 1-page short story, finish anything. DCC started as a 5-page short story for someone else’s anthology. Roman and I finished and submitted it, but they didn’t want it. The next thing I knew, the momentum from finishing that single short story pushed us forward until we were releasing a full comic with a minimum of 5 total issues planned.
NB: Now, you’re not just a comic book writer, but also a Letterer, correct? Letterers are the unsung heroes of a great comic book. A lot of people don’t realize that, when a letterer does their job right, the reader won’t notice, but when they do a poor job, it is extremely distracting. Can you tell us a little about that?
JR: Yep. I offer writing, editing, and lettering services through Metal Ninja Studios. I think my favorite quote about lettering is that it’s the “Invisible Art.” It’s the one form of comic art in which having an ego hurts you the most, primarily because the only time the reader typically notices your work is if you messed up.
I started learning to letter as a way to save money on comics, but I don’t really recommend that path unless its something that you legitimately love doing; which I do, so it worked out. There are many rules and visual design aspects that you need to learn to do it right. Plus, I’ve probably spent so much money on fonts that I could have paid for multiple issues to be lettered!
NB: What can you tell our readers about other projects and products from Metal Ninja Studios? Anything you’re REALLY excited about?
JR: Well, our primary focus right now is Dusk County #2. By the time issue three comes around, we will be starting the first full story arc of The Dusk County Chronicles, so there’s plenty of exciting stuff coming on that front; but I’ve got another series working behind the scenes that’s in the art stage right now called Before My Eyes.
I can’t reveal too much yet, but it’s the story of a man who spends 20 years searching for his family in the middle of a monster-filled apocalypse. The title comes from the fact that when we first meet him, he’s on his deathbed and we see the story as it flashes before his eyes. We see the whole tale from the perspective of a man who’s going to die, believing that he’s a failure.
NB: That sounds awesome! You had me at “monster-filled apocalypse!” Can’t wait to see that and the next two issues of The Dusk County Chronicles on the horizon.
NB: We’d like to thank you for talking with us Joel. You’re mash-up approach to horror comics is intriguing and we can’t wait to see what you do next. If our readers wanted to follow you or Metal Ninja Studios on social media, where would they find you?
JR: Thanks again for having me! It was a blast talking to you. The best way to stay in touch is to sign up for our mailing list at metalninjastudios.com. They’ll get a digital preview of DCC just for signing up. We’re also on Facebook at Metal Ninja Studios and The Dusk County Chronicles; Instagram at Metal Ninja Studios; and Twitter at MNinjaStudios.
NB: Be sure to get your free preview and to follow this darkly entertaining creator and his comic studio. Also, be sure to follow NerdBastards as we bring you more nerdy news, reviews, and interviews! (That almost rhymed)