Saturday, January 31, 2009

Dog Eaters Manga

600_DEcover_final6_Dog Eaters is written by Malcolm Wong & Guillermo A. Angel and is six part graphic novel. The story follows the Black dog clan in south United States America after the fall of government and order. Holding together their world are the casino cities and the hope of making a better life for themselves. The comics are packed with action, corruption, greed and perseverance . The character’s struggle with what is a reality we all know; the power to pick ourselves up after a fall and move forward. Wong breaks down society to give a family, the Black dogs, a chance to create a new world.

I had the pleasant opportunity to ask Malcolm Wong him a few questions about the story:


After reading the first issue, I couldn't help picturing elements from the movie Road warrior and Little House on the Prairie. What inspired you to approach your story in a way that allowed you to portray a warriors and family at the same time?

malcolm_jan_2009_sketchYou know, that's exactly how I would pitch DOG EATERS in that classic "Movie A meets Movie B" stereotypical Hollywood way!  I didn't outline or make a "beat sheet," for this story, I just started writing and began with the characters.  I think that if you have real relationships, you can create a story that seems true regardless of the setting.  In this story, Lamont is not only the leader and a great warrior; he is also a wayward husband and a strict, protective father.  These aspects Lamont's personality inform his decisions and because I did not have an outline, they guide the plot.  Where Lamont led, the story followed.  Then the other characters started to demand attention.  Tracy, Lamont's young daughter intrigued me.  She nurses a stranger, Bevan, to health and develops a crush on him.  Now all sorts of dynamics come into play and when you shuffle in the threat of constant attack by the Roaches from the outside, the story sort of writes itself.

So you started from characters, which lead you to the story. It must have been really fun using them to guide the story along and very hard not to get carried away. I couldn't help wanting to know more about the lesser characters.

Well, let's say that the main characters came before the plot.  The impetus for the story, which was first written as a screenplay, was the direction that I saw the US moving in.  Living outside of the States gives you a separation and perspective that you don't get otherwise.  I think that the reality shows (obsession with celebrity), the fact that at about half of Americans voted for Bush for two terms really show what America was like when I started writing DOG EATERS.  Now, we seem to have been brought to our senses with the domino-effect of the financial problems that started sub-prime mortgages.  Actually, the world financial situation is a giant Ponzi scheme and more and more people are seeing it for what it is. 
So, to condense this all into an opening:  Mankind failed to transcend the Petroleum Age.  175 years after the DIe Off, welcome to the world of the Black Dog Clan. 
Then you start to populate this world.  Rebecca, Lamont's wife when the story opens, is past prime childbearing age.  A strong leader will take other women.  It's sort of an Old Testament scenario.  How does Rebecca deal with it?  Tracy sides with her mother.  How does that affect her relationship with her father?  Tommy, the oldest son, is a talented marksman, but does he shirk responsibility?  Then add external pressure, mix well, and see what comes out.

I appreciate the fact that you mention women in your story. You said that  Lamont's wife will be replaced with another female of child bearing age.  Which leads me to ask, in the world of Dog Eaters how do women fair?  What is the power balance between men and women in the story?

There are an equal number of women that impact this story.  Rebecca, even displaced as Lamon't wife, is still a leader -- she's the one that has set the long-term goal of establishing their own casino-city on the Gulf.  Tracy, Lamont and Rebecca's daughter, is a girl on the cusp of adolescence who also affects the story in a major way.  Chunga, a loyal squad leader is like the ballast for the rudder, keeping the clan on track. 
The world is changing -- emerging from the dark ages after the Die Off, and Rebecca has seen the future.  She realizes that the nomadic life that the clan has been leading will no longer be viable and that establishing a home base is essential.  Lamont has been and continues to be the facilitator of this dream even after he takes another wife.

It was mentioned that Dog Eaters was a script. Were there any changes you made to the script for the adaptation to a comic book?

Yes, there were changes made in the adaptation to condense the story.  The original screenplay was 118 pages and this comic mini-series/graphic novel is 169 pages.  Although there are more pages in the comic, there's also a lot of images!  Scenes were cut, characters were merged.  The Dabel Brothers Award was to make an adaptation of the screenplay and Sean J. Jordan, who was one of the main people at Dabel at the time did the heavy lifting on that to restructure and make it fit into 168 pages.  I went back in and did a lot of rewriting, but he gets an adaptation credit.  Overall, the adaptation is very faithful to the original story, though.

When it comes to the topic of sequential story telling, most would agree that there should be synergy between the words of the writer and the imagery of an artist in a comic book. Of all the art styles to choose from, why was the manga style chosen for this story?

There are a lot of different styles.  I think that Guillermo's style is actually a hybrid of manga and American comics, especially the Marvel style if you generalize.  Guillermo is from Chile and so he is equally influenced by both Japan and America.  I think that this is great because there is not the sense of place you might get from a style that you might associate with a country.  And in addition, Guillermo and I quickly established a smooth working relationship, so to be able to be on the same page an aesthetic level, you also have connect and communicate without ego getting in the way.

What impact or ideas do you want your readers to take away after reading Dog Eaters?

While I don't really consider DOG EATERS to be a "message" book, I intended the story to have an emotional reality where motivations and cause and effect would ring true.  There are family issues, relationship issues, and ideas about the purpose of life.

The question is off topic and random. If you could live in anytime period besides your own, when would it be?

Well, if you believe in reincarnation, perhaps we have lived in many other time periods!  But the question sort of implies the possibility of time travel or time travel tourism, which would be very interesting!  I think that you would have to decide on what your social position was as well as the time period.  Assuming that I was what I am now, writer, glassblower, musician -- perhaps any of the civilizations that have had an appreciation for art and treated their artists nicely!  It's sort of an evasive answer, but almost any place can be heaven or hell, depending on your circumstances.

Actually, I would like -- maybe I was -- a ronin in Sengoku Jidai Japan.  This was a time before the Shogun and it was sort of like the Wid Wild West.  I'm sure it was a tough life in reality, let's romanticize it a bit -- make it into a manga!


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