Michael Alan Nelson is one of BOOM! Studios' senior writers, having authored Fall of Cthulhu, 28 Days Later, Hexed and a heap of others. His current book, Valen the Outcast, is an action fantasy epic and issue one is on the stands right now. Michael took time out of his busy schedule to talk comics with me.
CBNAH: Your new book Valen the Outcast delves into the fantasy genre. Is that something you've always wanted to write?
MAN: I've always been a fan of fantasy. It's what I started reading as a kid and it was a fantasy story that inspired me to become a writer. So, I've always had a soft spot for the genre. But ever since I started writing professionally, I've never had a chance to write a more traditional fantasy series. Which is why I'm so excited about Valen the Outcast. I'm finally getting to scratch an itch I've had for years.
CBNAH: What excites you the most about writing this book?
MAN: Just the chance to play in a universe of my own creation. Quite often, I'm writing stories in already established worlds or helping other creators develop their stories into comics. With Valen, I have a level of creative freedom that I didn't often have with other titles.
CBNAH: I think one of your strengths as a writer lies in action comics - how do you go about finding the balance between action and drama?
MAN: It's tough. Though I'm sure there's probably a formula out there (X pages of drama with Y pages of action for every Z pages of story), I just try to go by what feels right. If I start to grow bored writing a scene, I know the reader is going to be bored reading it. And action can get boring as well so I have to choreograph action in a way that keeps it interesting and, if I'm lucky, will introduce some things we don't normally see in action scenes. Also, I have really good editors. They're great at letting me know if something is dragging or doesn't have enough punch to it.
CBNAH: what's the process in plotting out an action sequence?
MAN: I approach it like I do most any other scene. I figure out just how much space I have to show the scene then focus on a specific "moment" that I'm moving toward. Once I have that, I'll work out if there are any specific actions that I want to see. To give you an example, there were certain things that I wanted to do with the battle scene at the end of Valen the Outcast #1. It was the first time we were seeing Valen fight and I wanted to showcase how a man who is already dead would approach battle. That's why I wanted to include Valen running himself through with a sword to stab an enemy behind him as well as taking a dagger in the side of the face, biting off the blade, and spitting it in his enemy's eye. So instead of just hack and slash, there are specific moments in the scene that emphasize aspects of his character. And Matteo did an incredible job of taking those moments and really making them so wonderfully effective.
CBNAH: Talk us through the collaboration with Valen artist Matteo Scalero - How did you guys end up working together? what was your reaction when you first saw a completed page?
MAN: I don't have much contact with my artists because my editors act as liaisons. Once I have a script polished and ready, it goes off to the artist. If there's anything specific I want Matteo to know, I'll include it in the script, but I don't really have any other communication with him other than the final script. But I'll tell you, I just love it when I get to see his pages. I'm always bothering my editors. "Did you get pages yet? Didya, didya? Can I see?" I'm sure it's rather annoying for them. But when I saw what Matteo was bringing to the table, I was beyond ecstatic. It just looks so good, beyond anything I could have hoped for.
CBNAH: I'm a huge fan of Dead Run - any chance you and Andrew Crosby will return to the world of Dead Run? Or even a completely different mini series with Andrew?
MAN: There's nothing in the works right now. Dead Run was written to be a nice little 4 issue mini so there were never any plans to do more, though it's certainly open for more story. Of course, Francesco Biagini is now doing a great job with BOOM!'s Elric series so he's been a little busy lately.
CBNAH: What comics are you reading at the moment?
MAN: Scalped, Locke & Key, and Irredeemable are the ones I'm really big on at the moment. I'm also playing catch up with The Walking Dead since I had to stop reading it when I started writing 28 Days Later (I wanted to avoid any accidental influences while writing it). Jason Aaron and Joe Hill are two of my favorite writers and, of course, Mark Waid could write a grocery list and I'd pay money to read it.
CBNAH: Finish this sentence: Comic book nerds are hot because...
MAN: there are few things sexier than a love for reading and art.
CBNAH: Thanks for taking time to answer these questions. Keep up the great storytelling.
MAN: My pleasure.
Valen the Outcast #1 is on stands right now, and it's only $1! Buy it!