Jason Sacks talks with Scott McCullough and Douglas Franchin about their new comic, “Doorkickers.”
Jason Sacks for Comics Bulletin: Tell us a bit about why members of the US military are fighting monsters.
Scott McCullough: What starts as a relatively mundane raid on an Al-Qaida cell turns into something right out of H.P Lovecraft. Our history is full of examples of U.S. service members who answer the call and run to the sound of the guns. In our history, like this story, it’s the bonds of brotherhood (or in Jigna’s case, sisterhood) that stick with our warriors as they face danger together. In the end they stick together and do what they can to eliminate the threat, be it terrorists or monsters.
CB: Why are supernatural phenomena such a threat?
McCullough: In “Doorkickers,” we see that when the veil is lifted and the borders of our world interact with the parallel dimensions around us we are faced with creatures and substances that threaten the balance of our existence. I would say that these creatures have a corrosive effect– they corrupt our very reality. But some of the people in our world would try to harness this corruption.
CB: In the first story, there’s a sense that the battle happens around the Afghan War. Will future issues be based around real life events?
McCullough: One of the basic concepts of this series was how would a real government agency that could exist in our world utilize “enhanced” methods to deal with these otherworldly threats. I wanted to ground “Doorkickers” in the reality of the warrior culture that I have experienced over the past decade and also show how the real threats that exist in our world would turn to enhanced threats to further their evil ends.
CB: How much work do you to do ensure that weapons and other material is accurate?
McCullough: It’s important to me that if veterans pick up our book they won’t be taken out of the story by a technical slip. On the other hand I have to understand that I’m not working with guys who have been reared shooting and spent most of their adult lives associated with the military. So that said, I work hard to get it right, provide the right references and give notes that make this book as close to the real deal as I can.
Douglas Franchin: We have real military personnel on board this series. Scott knows the business.
CB: Are you calling on creatures from specific mythologies? For instance, if the team goes to Romania will they meet vampires?
McCullough: Our creatures are generally unique. We tend to draw from Lovecraft’s ideas of cosmic horror and evil from the other side that is totally unimpressed and disdainful of our meager existence. But you bring up a good point, there are certain traditions and forms of magic that have a basis in our myths from ages past. I doubt though we would just pick something from existing myths and just encounter it. We would put our spin on it with our understanding of how this world works.
CB: Douglas, how did you stay true to the classic mythology of these monsters?
Franchin: Actually, the Shon (Bury, CEO of Space Goat and co-creator of “Doorkickers”) and Scott asked me to do something inspired by Lovecraft’s creatures, but I was free to create. It was fun to search for references and do all of the research until we got the final image.
CB: Who are these mysterious heroes who are part of the attack team?
McCullough: ESD has taken some of the mostly high trained and honed men and women the U.S. has and paired them with experts and enhanced agents that understand and live in the comic shadows. Together they fight to hold back the threats on the other side of the veil to both protect us and to minimize the proliferation of enhanced methods and materials.
CB: How did you design your characters to seem like real military men and women?
Franchin: I think this is a matter of style. As my work is always changing, I always try to get over myself. In this case I needed to make the story seem visually realistic, it was something important to the storytelling. Fortunately, Scott is the US military, so he gave me all of the information about clothing and weaponry, all accurate and functional military stuff. All I have to do is draw it!
CB: Are these creatures working together? Will the story arc be building?
McCullough: Well so far there isn’t intelligence behind their actions but it’s fair to say that enhanced activity is on the rise and ESD will continue to fight against enhanced threats and humans who seek to use these enhanced assets to further their worldly ambitions. Needless to say in Lovecraft’s work there was always the “ancient ones” drifting in the void ready to crush us without a thought.
CB: How much have you discussed the themes of this series with armed forces members?
McCullough: Well, as a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan I am very sensitive to portraying our military service members in a positive light and in a way that bring honor to their service. Many of the most basic themes we will explore are very familiar to anyone who has served. Honor, loyalty, service and sacrifice for both the mission but also your brothers-in-arms.
CB: How did you approach production on this series? Any key guidelines you’ve kept in mind?
McCullough: One of the things that I have worked to preserve in this series is the processes that lead to the action. It’s really easy just to focus on the sexy action sequences we all love. But often there is real tension and conflict developing before we ever see a gun. So in a way I wanted to make this a bit of a procedural as well as an action story. Many of the processes that lead to a successful raid are too tedious and long to show in a series like this, so I’ll work to keep just enough of these processes in the story to give the reader a feel for the fact that these warriors are more than just shooters.
There are hours of work that go into the minutes that the team spends on the objective. The last major guideline that really helped me along the way was the support and encouragement from my partners. In fact I’d like to thank Shon for his literally endless patience and wisdom. Also, if it weren’t for the support and care of Nicole, the best and probably most underpaid project manager at SGP, this series would never had happened.
CB: Who are some of your favorite characters in the series?
McCullough: I would say Bill, Jigna and Stilon still remain my favorites and, for now, they form the core of the story. It’s interesting how you start out really enjoying one or two characters, but as an example, I wrote something recently and a character that began as a throw-away ended up as one of my favorites. So I’m sure I’ll bounce around.
Franchin: My favorite character is Stilon. It’s that kind of gross character with a hood that covers his eyes. I think, visually speaking, Stilon was the funniest character to design.
CB: What can we expect in the first arc?
McCullough: At this point we are really just trying to flesh out the characters and the world they live in. We want to establish some of the things that will stay will us moving forward such as recurring allies and villains. I’m also interested in establishing the way magic and other mechanics of this world work.