Apocrypha Entertainment Presents:
Many, many years ago this amazing graphic novel popped off the shelf as I scanned looking for new things to read. It was called A DISTANT SOIL, and I loved it immediately. It looked like nothing else I had seen; crisp, clean art, a fascinating combination of sci-fi, fantasy, and street-level drama. I went looking for more, permanently hooked. I also discovered that the book I had bought was the creation of a teenager, a wunderkind named Colleen Doran, and I was blown away that someone so young could be so unbelievably good. I’ve followed her career pretty much everywhere it’s led since then, still sticking with A DISTANT SOIL as well. And as good as she was then, her stuff now ranks her as one of the best artists working in comics, period. She’s one of the few true powerhouse talents working in the business. I had the opportunity to speak with Colleen at San Diego, 2008, and I’m pleased to present that chat here at CWR:
MM: I’m here with Colleen Doran and we’re talking about COMIC BOOK TATTOO. How did you get involved with the project?
CD: Well, they just contacted me and asked me if I wanted to do it. I remember hearing a little bit of buzz about it and I was feeling a little said- “no one has asked me yet”- and then someone did, so…
MM: How did your story come about?
CD: I was asked if I wanted to write and draw something or if I wanted to work with a writer and I’ve been trying to avoid doing any writing because I promised myself I would finish the script on A DISTANT SOIL to the very end before I would write anything else. I want to try and keep to that promise and not go off on tangents. And they introduced me to a young writer named Derek McCullough who got all these Eisner nominations for STAGGER LEE and they said, “he’s really, really good- you’ve got to work with this guy.” I checked him out and thought, “He’s really, really brilliant- I’ve got to work with this guy.” He wrote me a sensitive and interesting treatment of the song and I was thrilled. I think I did some of my most interesting work ever on it. It was a real inspiration.
MM. Very cool. Now you say you’re working on the full script for A DISTANT SOIL until the end. How is that coming?
CD: Like birth pangs! It’s very difficult. I decided I would just get it done. Finish .it, make sure it’s right… people have waited a long time for this. I know there are a lot of people who have taken their personal projects and turned them into cash cows but I never wanted to do that- I just wanted to do a good job. That’s what I’m trying to do.
MM: When you do finish, what will that feel like?
CD: I can’t tell if it’s going to be euphoric or strangely depressing, (especially) because it’s actually been occasionally depressing trying to get to that point. I’ve talked to Terry Moore and Jeff Smith about it and we’re all having the same experience at different levels of intensity. I’ve actually spent more time than either of them (on ADS).
MM: You’ve been working on A DISTANT SOIL since your teens.
CD: Yes, that’s absolutely true. I’m much more sporadic about it- my book has never been a huge moneymaker. But I’m quite determined, so when I do get to the end I’m sure it will be both a relief and a very sad experience. I’ve promised myself I’d go skydiving or something…
MM: That sounds kind of dangerous- it’s probably good you’re going to wait until the end!
CD: Exactly. Besides- it would be a violation of my insurance policy (laughs)!
MM: I suppose the good part about it taking enough time to get to the end is that you’re always in demand by other writers who really want to work with you. Is there anybody you haven’t worked with so far that you’ve really been looking forward to working with?
CD: I’m dying to work with Frank Miller! (laughs) I’m crazy about Frank Miller- when I saw Jim Lee drawing that BATMAN AND ROBIN ALL-STAR I was jealous- I just wanted to do so bad. Everybody would probably be so surprised to hear that and say “that’s totally not you” but that’s precisely why I would want to do it.
MM: That actually doesn’t surprise me- you’ve worked with Warren Ellis, Neil Gaiman, J. Michael Straczynski, so clearly you have the ability to adapt yourself to different types of stories.
CD: Yeah, I look like a soccer mom, but I’m totally pervy inside- just kidding, just kidding!!! Kidding, please (laughs)! Yeah, I really like doing dark stuff every once in a while and I like stretching and doing different things. I would kill to work with Frank Miller.
MM: As you have been working on A DISTANT SOIL for so long, do you know what the end is? Have you always had an end in mind?
CD: Yes. I do know what the end is. Part of the problem is that I sat down a while back with Jeff Smith- Jeff Smith is the only person who knows about the end of the book, he’s the only person I’ve ever told everything- and we sat down and we went over it and I decided after talking to Jeff that it needed a huge cut. Stuff that just needed to go. And reconfiguring everything and making sure all of the loose ends get tied up no matter what is tricky because it is byzantine. When I get to the end, if I leave any loose ends, my readers are going to kill me. I will hate myself and I won’t be able to function for six months.
It’s gotta be right, and I’m a little bit of a perfectionist anyway, which isn’t always a benefit if you want to work in a deadline-oriented business. “Get it done now, we don’t care if it’s good, necessarily…” Unfortunately, I will fiddle with things endlessly without any leeway, and you just can’t do that- you’ve got to get it done. And sometimes you can keep second-guessing yourself right out of making a perfectly necessary decision. So, I just spend so much time second-guessing myself and I just need to step out of it and call up Jeff or somebody else and ask “can you walk me through this?” Jeff’s been really, really great. In fact, recently as inspiration, he had his designer design “The Complete A Distant Soil.” He wanted to inspire me and make me think about how happy I would feel to see it finished, and this nice boxed set… he put it on the blog, it was really nice, it got a lot of fans happy to see it… He just kept reminding me to think about how happy and proud I would be when I was done. So it’s on my desktop.
MM: That is very cool.
CD: It was a very cool thing for him to do. Jeff Smith is gold.
MM: So should we capture and tie Jeff to a chair to try and get some hints about the end?
CD: (laughs) He’s probably forgotten it!
MM: Thank you very much for your time, Colleen- I really appreciate it.
CD: Thank you for having me. Bye, y’all!Marc Mason
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