Twisted Dark: The Beginning

Many of you have been asking about Twisted Dark and how it came about. So I thought I should reveal the inspiration behind it and how it came to be my biggest selling comic book.

It All Started in Qatar.

Most people seem to follow their passion after some lifechanging moment, but mine was nothing like that. I was working on a project in Qatar and staying in a lovely hotel. Normally I’d work until 10 each night, but as the project was quite easy, I was home by 7 and I wasn’t used to all this free time.

Better Than TV!

Rather than watch TV or take up a new hobby, I thought I’d give writing comics a go – and I’ve not looked back since. It’s quite funny really, as I never wanted to be a writer. I just love good comics. Twisted Dark was the first thing I ever wrote and frankly, I was surprised at the fantastic reaction to it!

Ain’t it Cool News said – ‘the best book I’ve read this year and the best self published book I’ve EVER read.’

Reviews like this helped me believe that I was on the right track.

I was also slightly scared though, because pursuing it meant leaving the safety of a well-paid and steady job. But life is no fun without passion, and I couldn’t think of a better job than getting to do what I love every day – writing my comic book.

Using a series of short punchy stories that explore the darker side of human behaviour, my aim is to shine a light on why exactly people do things. I’m a huge fan of Black Mirror, Tales of the Unexpected and The Twilight Zone (can you see a theme here?). My favourite comics and books generally are the ones which I enjoy on the second – or even third – run, with the idea of learning new things the next time around. So naturally that is something I would like to do with my writing.

I don’t know if I’ll ever achieve that with Twisted Dark, but that’s my goal, and one reason people will get more from it in the second or third reading is because all the stories connect.

Three Simple Tasks

When I decided to bring Twisted Dark to life, I had to do three things:

  1. Write the stories
  2. Find artists to illustrate them
  3. Get it printed

I screwed up all three!

Starting out, it’s only natural to make mistakes. For example, looking at my first volume, I feel that it relies too much on narration. One way I used to get feedback was to send the script round to friends and colleagues, but as someone with a happy disposition, they were quite surprised to read such ‘dark’ material – with a few wondering what happened to me! In the early days I valued feedback too strongly, which meant cutting several stories that nowadays, I would not have done.

Mistakes – I Had a Few

Trying to find the right artists was difficult, especially when it came to talking money. I learnt this the hard way: some would take a deposit and they’d disappear, while I’d accidentally offend others by offering way below the standard rate. On the flip side I’ve since found some brilliant artists, whom I’ve worked with for almost a decade.

I’ve also learnt a lot about how I want the art to look. Below you can see the original art for ‘Routine’ which wasn’t what I was looking for. On the right, you can see how it ended up. Much more how I’d imagined it in my head.

Later on the process became easier. I had learned how to work with the artists and go from idea to rough to finished.

I used to try and tell the artists how I wanted each page to look, but now I only do that with a handful of key pivotal scenes and pages. I trust them to do a far better job than me and you have to let creatives have freedom to create.

Then there was lettering – so much I didn’t know. It’s plain to see when you look at the difference it makes when you find great people to help and then you get it right, or at least a whole lot better.

And finally printing – ha! Let me list a few of the things that went wrong:

  • I made the book the wrong size
  • Used the wrong paper
  • Didn’t use an ISBN
  • I didn’t understand ‘bleeds’
  • Failed to grasp how word balloons should look
  • Made loads of spelling and grammar mistakes.

But to reiterate my point from before – it’s OK to make mistakes. That’s the only way to know what not to do for the next time, and I can tell you, our books since then have improved greatly.

What Was I Trying To Achieve?

With Twisted Dark, I want to entertain, surprise, educate and leave people thinking.

Using a series of short punchy stories that explore the darker side of human behaviour, my aim is to shine a light on why exactly people do things. I’m a huge fan of Black Mirror, Tales of the Unexpected and The Twilight Zone (can you see a theme here?). My favourite comics and books generally are the ones which I enjoy on the second – or even third – run, with the idea of learning new things the next time around. So naturally that is something I would like to do with my writing.

I don’t know if I’ll ever achieve that with Twisted Dark, but that’s my goal, and one reason people will get more from it in the second or third reading is because all the stories connect.

You can read the stories individually, because they work as stand alones, but read several volumes and you’ll see the same characters again and again and their backstories are revealed.

For example, El Nudillo is a recurring character and chronologically the stories featuring him jump around. Even though we met him in volume 1, we only discover his back story in vol 7. All the stories all tie into an overarching plan and the very last story has been written. 

Most readers know the stories all connect, and people tell me they look for the connections – I even had one guy tell me that he had read the series 10 times which, believe me, is impressive! But amazingly some long time readers don’t know that all the stories connect, so I am telling you now!

More Twisted

So there’s a whole lot to get your teeth into. That’s why I decided to break the story into seasons and why the first 6 volumes make up Season 1.

Spoiler alert

Season two starts with a prison break, and readers will see many of the characters they have seen before (this is the catalyst to move the main story along). Who they were really after in the break and who organised it is a secret that you’ll only find out if you read it!

I’ll break down more about the characters in another blog post, but I’ll end this post with a particular image from Volume 1.

It’s my favourite wide shot from my first book and it sums up what I was trying to get across. It’s the shock factor and the guy on the left dropping his toothpick that I loved.

It’s what Twisted Dark is all about.

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