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Comichaus Meets: Dave Cook (Card Shark Comics)

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Today we meet Card Shark Comics founder Dave Cook.

Please introduce yourself and your team (if you have one).

My name is Dave Cook, a comic writer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. I'm the founder of Card Shark Comics, an indie production team that works with artists and creatives around the world to make rich comic worlds with unexpected twists on familiar formats. For my latest series Killtopia, I'm working with artist Craig Paton and letterer Rob Jones.

What are some of the comics that inspired you to start creating your own? Any creators in particular?

I have to say that Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis is my all-time favourite comic series, because I found its depiction of a hipster future metropolis to be utterly anarchic and (scarily) plausible at the time. It was such a forward-thinking series, that predicted so many things right (and wrong) with our society today - including online addiction, reality TV, YouTube-style video feeds and ludicrous fads that are a dime a dozen these days. I binged the whole series while I was a journalism student in 2004 and as it's about journalism I found it at the right time in my life.

More recently, I think Rick Remender's series Low to be the best modern comic, alongside his short ten-issue masterpiece Tokyo Ghost. He's my favourite writer in more recent years by far.

What do you think people see in your character(s), or the books in general, that has really drawn them in and kept them coming back for more?

Reviewers have often praised our books to be focused on character, rather than a cheap gimmick or overworn trope. Our first series Bust was post-apocalyptic and set in a world overrun with mutants. But the creatures are almost never seen, instead, we shifted focus to the plight of people trying to live everyday lives - be it a broken father dealing with dementia, to a deaf girl trying to find a meaningful life in a world full of chaos and death.

None of my characters are saints, and I write them with sometimes gaping personality flaws. For example, Killtopia hero Shinji talks like he's a good guy trying to do right by his sick sister, but really he's a self-centred, tech-obsessed dickhead who has caused her more pain than her illness. He's got a misplaced sense of entitlement and righteousness that no one calls him on for a while, but in a few issues time they will, and it'll be catastrophic!

How much of your own personality goes into your character(s)?

People who know me well will know that I overcame a serious bout of depression about four years ago, and I still get the occasional twang of mood crashes and a sense of hopelessness. In short: we all have our bad days, whether we're prone to feeling low, being selfish, or losing sight of what matters most. My characters all have their own flaw, something that keeps rearing its head and upsetting the balance. But then again, flaws can make us endearing in a weird way - so I think I like to use some of my own hang-ups and anxieties in my stories as a way of dealing with them. It's a kind of catharsis, and I enjoy it.

Where did you draw your inspiration from?

Video games primarily. Before I started writing comics I didn't really read many, and I was working a career as an award-winning games critic for many outlets - Vice, Buzzfeed, Nowgamer, VG247, Retro Gamer, GamesTM magazine and so on. Even today I think I'd nerd out over meeting someone like Shigeru Miyamoto over Alan Moore by a clear mile, but that's not to say I don't appreciate the craft of comics. If anything, I'm doing my best to binge all the classics - reading constantly to hone my craft. I think because I'm a relative latecomer and I don't like to follow what's popular, I'll read weirder comics or those made by prominent indie publishers - over the likes of Marvel and DC. I only finished the complete Preacher for the first time last year and that is a straight-up masterpiece. I only hope to get that good one day (even though it's a snowball's chance in hell!)

What struggles have you faced with the creation of the comic and producing the final release?

The biggest challenge is money. Even though we've crowd-funded all six of our comics so far, the cost involved in producing comics literally makes or breaks people. I've seen people abandon series they've started because it became too expensive - which is why I consider myself insanely lucky to have a growing fan base of amazing friends, family and newcomers willing to back our work and pay for it at shows. I consider every sale and pledge a blessing. I often say it blows my mind when people praise or back our stuff, but I mean it. To me, they're still just silly stories I came up with as a creative outlet, but people really enjoy them, which is truly incredible.

What do fans need to know going into their first issue of your comic?

Killtopia #1 is a pure passion project for me, it's all my favourite thing crammed into one insane, explosive, brash, punky, larger than life cyberpunk world. It's set in future Japan, across a giant mega city which has been infested by killer robots called Mechs. Everyone from Yakuza gangs, the military and mega corporations are paying more solid of fortune called Wreckers to hunt Mechs and retrieve their super advanced tech in exchange for money. So there's a bloodsport element like Battle Royale or The Running Man.

But then our hero Shinji - a rookie Wrecker - finds the world's first sentient Mech called Crash, and they both become the most wanted people in the city. The B-plot is that most of the world has contracted a fatal disease called The Rot, which only Crash knows how to cure. So you have the heroes trying to cure the world while fighting off a cast of criminally deranged, dangerous and messed up assassins - like bosses in a video game.

There are so many influences, including my favourite game Streets of Rage 2, mad Japanese action games like Bayonetta, Vanquish, Viewtiful Joe, Metal Gear Rising and even western games like Horizon Zero Dawn, Borderlands and so many more. It's also influenced by old school Manga films like Guyver, Akira and Ghost in the Shell, along with live action films like Blade Runner and Ex Machina.

What have you got coming up in the future? Are you working on more issues?

Aside from the launch of Killtopia #1 at Thought Bubble in September, I'll be launching a campaign for Vessels #3 around summer, while starting production of Bust #4: Steel and Blood, which is going to be a gloriously explosive return from the series that started it all. I look forward to sharing these titles with you all, and thank you so much again to everyone who has ever liked our Facebook, shared our work, backed a Kickstarter and bought a comic at cons - we literally can't do this without you :)

You can check out all of Card Sharks Comics' releases at: http://bit.ly/CardSharkComics

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