Peter Rogers: Faith in British ImaginationA comics interview article by: Jason Sacks
Peter Rogers has created a rollicking and fun fantasy comics with The Interactives. I think you'll have a great time reading Rogers's comments about his comic.
Jason Sacks: Can you tell Comics Bulletin’s readers about The Interactives?
Peter Rogers: The Interactives is a British based graphic novel. It centres around scallywag, a blogger with a very loyal geek following. When the creatures from fantasy fiction start to break through to the real World it is up to scallywag and a team of his online followers to keep them at bay. The only weapon they have to fight back is their own imagination.
Sacks: Tell us about the heroic characters in all their quirky glory.
Rogers: All the characters to a certain extent have alter egos as their online personas aren't necessarily completely reflective of what they're like when they aren't logged on.
There's scallywag himself who is quite self-assured and confident. When he isn't doing his blog or fighting dragons he runs a retro shop called "Killed the Cat" where he sells second hand memorabilia from the 70s-90s. He sees himself as pretty self-sufficient so working with a team is quite a challenge for him.
girl7 is a librarian who really wants to work in animation full time, she's a big fan of anime and enjoys cosplay too. She is very confident in who she is and exudes positivity, she is most definitely a people person.
deadlynightshade plays bass in a band and has a very credible musician persona. He's confident in his own views and has the potential to be a leader in his own right. As time goes by his growing feelings for girl7 start to dominate his decision making process.
kingofallisurvey is most definitely what you'd describe as a snarky fanboy especially online. He likes to put people on a pedestal and hero worship them but also revels in knocking them off their perch, lots of this comes from jealousy. He sees himself as honest and forthright but he borders on the insensitive and rude more often than he realises.
james_lake is the most straight laced and uptight member of the team, the fact his username is so close to his real name reflects that. He finds it hard being part of a group, he's socially awkward and is struggling with the remnants of a broken relationship which shattered his confidence.
Sacks: One of the most fun parts about the book for me was how the villains are all mythological creatures who are annoyed at being forgotten. Do you think we’re in danger of forgetting our historical roots?
Rogers: I think we’re always in danger of forgetting to look back when he focus so much energy on looking forward. I really hope the success of Harry Potter and the film versions of Lord of the Rings have encouraged a new generation to explore the British landscape, visit our Museums and castles. The first draft of the script focused more on British history than it did on fantasy fiction.
When I did make the change I was inspired by recent reports into the falling literacy rates in Britain, with school children reading less books than ever and some schools even closing their libraries. I thought that this kind of information would give a character like Lord Legend some real ammunition. With no-one reading their books would these characters still exist? Not unless they reminded everyone who they were.
Sacks: A big part of the back story of the book is that Britain is getting less imaginative. What are your feelings on that? Is it true?
Rogers: I think it would be easy to think that this is the case, not just here. I'd say that the mainstream media has become far less imaginative as a whole because it takes far less risks. Lots of things have become homogenised to keep them in the safe confines of the middle of the spectrum so they can appeal to the widest demographical group. It's death to creativity by over analysis. The same kind of thing is making reboots and remakes more prevalent, music less vital and horror films less horrific.
I think the reality is that you just need to look a little harder and be willing to put in the effort to find things that aren’t delivered on a plate. They are so many talented people creating things especially in the digital world without the confines of working within the system. With user generated content and less need to have someone else validate your work before you release it we might actually be more imaginative than ever. The character Myth still has faith in British imagination, and so do I.
Sacks: One of the odd paradoxes of the internet is that it can fracture conversation at the same time that it encourages fans to share their passions. How do your characters navigate that world?
Rogers: I think that each character navigates the online world in different ways. It really depends on their role at any particular time. scallywag gets to control more than the others due to his elevated position but in doing so loses some of his real identity.
I think that although conversation can indeed fragment online the internet also pulls people together. Friendships and relationships form over shared interests rather than solely based on age, career or geography. This means in many ways we can all choose our own path and choose to be associated with the people we pick. That is a really empowering thing, as we aren’t defined by the traditional boundaries we once were.
Sacks: As an American, I was intrigued by the way that the heroes have a battle on an international border between England and Wales. Is there really a different mystical culture between the two countries?
Rogers: Most definitely. I am English myself but I've been living in Wales on and off for the last 18 years. Both countries have different folklore and mythology, equally rich, varied and interesting.
The first third of the book is set in Monmouth, the town I was living in when I wrote the book. It is within an official area of outstanding natural beauty and is a place that is steeped in history. Geoffrey of Monmouth was one of the first writers to bring the Arthurian legend to life and England’s warrior King Henry V was born in Monmouth Castle (Agincourt Square is seen in the book, named after the battle of the same name). It’s also in a county that has been seen as part of Wales or England at different times in history, still leading to debate as recently as in 2007. I wanted the town’s border location to parallel the midpoint between The Realm and The Real.
Sacks: How did you get hooked up with artist Luciano Vecchio and what do you think of the way that he told your story?
Rogers: Back in 2009 I posted an ad back on a number of different sites looking for someone to work with me on the book. I think there were 17 artists that did test pages for the book, it was a very tough decision but Luciano was the perfect artist for this story. His take on the characters and his storytelling is exemplary, and the acting in the faces he draws really brings the story to life. The whole process was very collaborative with both Luciano and colourist Yel Zamor bringing so much more to what’s on the page than what was in the script. He’s from Argentina and had never been to Europe when he worked on the book, but he came over the Bristol Comic Expo in May and we finally got to meet in person. He is definitely someone to watch, I hope that Marvel or DC don’t give him an exclusive deal before we get to do a sequel!
Sacks: What is the background of the backup strip "Seniors" in the book, and how did it end up being published with The Interactives?
Rogers: I've been working with artist Azim Akberali for a number of years and back in 2008 we started to work on this short story. Azim’s fully painted style really lends itself to silver age superheroics so we decided to put something personal together that played to that. The idea of an old hero in a retirement home looking back on his life gave us real scope, and writing it Marvel style gave Azim more flexibility with the art.
The first half came out in Eleventh Hour Volume 1 from Markosia, so when they picked up The Interactives it made sense for us to put the whole story in the back.
Sacks: Tell us about your background at Orang Utan Comics.
Rogers: Back in 2006 I co-founded Orang Utan Comics with Ian Sharman initially as a virtual studio and it has grown to become a well-respected indie publisher. We'd both been getting positive responses to our writing at that time and had our work accepted to various small press and indie anthologies. When almost all of these books failed to get as far as print we decided to put the stories out ourselves and created the anthology book Eleventh Hour. It went on to be nominated at the Eagle Awards for Best Black & White British comic book. Since then we've put out a number of books ourselves and also all gone on to do work in our own right with publishers like Image, Top Shelf, Panini, Bluewater, Markosia and Slave Labor.
Sacks: Is Orang Utan still a going concern?
Rogers: Very much so, although I haven't personally been anywhere near as involved as I used to be. Ian's series Alpha Gods has been getting very good reviews and it has been optioned for a film adaptation. We've put out books by other creators like Dead Men and Wolalina and we're in the process of relaunching our anthology book FTL as well. I think that OUC will evolve and adapt in the coming years as the landscape of comics changes even further.
Sacks: How can readers find The Interactives either on newsstands or digitally?
Rogers: The book came out last month from Markosia and is available in all good comic and book shops as well as direct from their site. You will also be able to pick it up digitally as three issues via the likes of Comixology and Graphicly, I'll have updates on that very soon. People can find out more by following me on twitter @peterogers or by visiting my blog.