RUIN caught my eye a few months ago. With striking visuals, an interesting take on a post-apocalyptic future and the destiny of mankind, it was hard not to be captivated by Darker & June’s dystopian vision. The pair has gathered a huge following and has received two nominations for Best Comic via The Geekie Awards for Ruin and Wicker (you can watch the show live on the 17th August at http://www.twitch.tv/thegeekieawards/profile).
This comic will blow your mind – if you’re left at the end of world to see it all happen! But don’t just take my word for it....
Hi and thanks for agreeing to an interview from eXpertComics! Can you tell us a little about yourselves and your current projects?
Thanks for having me (us). We work mainly as a creative collective and our focus is in comics currently, but we also work in animation and film. Darker & June consists of myself (Darker) and my wife, our Editor and co-collaborator, June. I use the moniker for our creative projects to separate my professional career from my creative one.
Currently we work with a dozen artists from home and abroad on various projects. Buci (Gutter Town), Marcelo Basile (Wicker), Zak Hartong (RUIN), Arturo Lauria (Runner's Blade), Mikuloctopus (Volition), Fabian Puente (Stiff Peter) and more. We post top secret artwork via our Patreon page at patreon.com/darkerjune and our website darkerandjune.com, so you can virtually watch the projects grow.
You’ve described RUIN as Mad Max meets Alien – can you tell us more about this?
I come from a screenplay background and I'm always armed with an elevator pitch or logline, but I think I've burdened the project with that mash-up to some degree. While mash-ups are a quick and easy way to get a feel for a project (i.e. "if you loved Army of Darkness you'll love this..."), it's important to know your audience and your inspiration and to encapsulate what readers can expect. Ultimately, I encourage everyone to dive in and embrace our projects without associating them as carbon copies of some other familiar franchise, but it serves a purpose.
RUIN is a dystopian world set far in Earth's future (4602). This is way after World War III, after many natural disasters and the planet's resources have been plundered by numerous alien races.
It's a world populated by survivalists, mutants and aliens; the Universes' flea market if you will. We open with a young wanderer Ayden and his canine companion Sasha (she speaks utilizing pictograms and rebus puzzles), but it's really a story about human nature and how far one can be pushed and we see the blowback of the choices these characters make in such a desolate, combative world. There are so many characters, settings, themes and emotions that will keep us busy for many years to come!
Where did the idea for RUIN come from?
I spend a lot of my spare time outdoors; I'm naturally curious about survival and what that really entails. That story wasn't on the shelves, nor could I find a story set that far ahead in time where Earth and civilization are teetering dangerously on ultimate demise or enlightenment. My sandbox for this story is the complete total collapse of humanity or possibly the next step in human evolution.
The artwork I’ve seen is very reminiscent of Jamie Hewlett’s work on Tank Girl. Was this one of your influences when embarking on the project? Who are your other influences/inspirations?
I never have a preconceived artistic direction for a project; I follow the same routine for any new project. I collect notes or "beats" for several months and think over the entire story before sitting down to write.
I usually complete five to eight pages before scouting an artist. Once I find an artist that is personally invested in the story, the style is then 50/50 collaboration.
I've read the old school Tank Girl comics and love Hewlett's style, but I think that's probably a question for Zak. He's got a unique style that is reminiscent of Hewlett and I love that. I'm more influenced by music than I am from other comics or film.
I prefer exploring complicated themes I get visually from the music I enjoy. Maybe I'll make a RUIN mix tape one day.
The project has gathered quite a following through Kickstarter and through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Do you think you’d have gathered as much steam without using these formats?
With the social media, it's a double-edged sword. While I enjoy sharing our progress and receiving the good vibes from others, the internet is vast and it eats up a lot of valuable time that I could be writing or lettering, furthering the projects themselves. Setting up our dystopian lemonade stand has been fun, but I think moving forward we will minimize that to Instagram only. The support we've had thus far is overwhelming and we love our social media family. Luckily they love us back, even when we miss deadlines because we are like feral scientists perfecting our projects.
Did you pitch RUIN anywhere else before you decided to crowdfund the book?
No. I haven't pitched any of our projects to any Publishers. We've had several Publishers approach us, talks of movie adaptation etc. however, my vision for RUIN and Wicker was to run the Indie circuit and take them to The Geekie Awards for a win before publishing. We may just do that as both projects are nominated this year.
I wanted to see how far we could take the projects, how big they'd grow on their own steam before approaching a publisher to house our projects. Attempted publishing is the next step, but ultimately we're making comics that we truly love and if they stay indie and obscure and are only shared via social media and word of mouth, that's okay too.
It’s obvious that you have a lot of respect for those who have gotten behind RUIN – particularly after seeing the quality of the avatars that were offered as one of the incentives. Are there any other Easter eggs contained within RUIN that family, friends and fans should look out for?
I love our "fans." I really do. And I can only hope our projects are successful so that we can spend more time with the people that really dig what we're doing. If it weren't for the crowdfund support, I wouldn't be able to sit back and really focus on the story and the finest lettering details. I mean, you cannot repay someone for that as an artist. Buci did an amazing job with the avatars and that's the level of creativity we want to bring all the time. All the Backers that received an avatar are now characters that will appear in the book.
If you're an original backer, you will receive every issue leading up to volume one either digital or in print. We've got a lot planned for RUIN because it's such a big story so the Easter eggs are a plenty and we will continue to give thanks where we can.
I'm working on a write-up for issue one naming certain Backers and some other cool additions I think people will enjoy to try to personalize it as much as possible.
How far along in the process are you now that RUIN has been funded? When can we expect a release?
Y'know, we had an unforeseen major setback when our artist just dropped the ball completely mid-issue. That's something that sometimes happens and its ramifications can be totally destructive because you put all of this effort into a project looking and sounding a certain way. You have no choice but to start completely over when something like that happens. It totally sucks, but you have to accept it and move forward. And that's what we did.
Zak is kicking ass and I love what I'm seeing. I write for the artist, I letter too so I tailor fit the lettering and story per the art. Wicker will release this month (August) and RUIN is shortly behind, most likely next month. We take on many tasks, whereas other teams have more members, so that personal approach to a project takes a bit longer. Most of our projects are a two-man team handling several positions (Penciler, Inker, Colorist, Writer, Letterer, Marketing Monkey).
What does the future hold for yourselves in regards to producing more comic books?
I love the Creator-Owned comic business. I'll likely never stop simply because I have so many stories to tell. Ultimately I want to write a franchise piece. Last week I watched Edward Scissorhands and thought, man, I wish that were a graphic novel. A few days later it was announced that it was in development! That's the type of project I want; that's the level I want to be at. To pitch a franchise I love and receive a green light. Aside from that, we need to publish projects in order to survive. I don't pay myself but the artists must be paid, so this business is a fine line between moving forward and sacrifice. That's why publishing is the next step for us.
Are you fans of current comic books? What are you reading and enjoying at the moment?
I don't have as much time to read as I'd like to, but right now I'm reading the new TMNT, Winter World, The Incal and Rocket Girl. I'm reading a Philip K. Dick novel as well. I know that sounds like a lot but it's the minimum for me; I have to read a lot of different books at one time because that's how I work creatively too.
Where should we go to keep updated on the book and eventually get hold of a copy?
I post regularly and enjoy the company we keep over at our Instagram: DarkerJune, Twitter too: Darker_June. And as always you can check in at the website...I'm not the best about updating it but I do the best I can. My absence from social media is a good thing because I'm creating!
Are you touring any of the convention circuits this year and where can we meet you?
If we win the Geekie Awards this year we will have a booth at San Diego Comic Fest 2014! We will have Wicker and RUIN issues available with prints and posters. We also have a panel at "Here There Be Monsters" in Austin, September 14th. We are going to try and create a webcomic on the spot with an artist and audience member, so it should be fun. No appearances set other than that.
Hopefully 2015 will be a different story! We're also working on a new project and calling it "Volition" for now; it's a sci-fi book and a different take from what we're "known" for I guess you could say. Mikuloctopus is the artist and it's going to be awesome, so we'll look forward to sharing that project as it progresses.