FCBD18 Interview: Gothic Drama Frames Dark Planet's Silver

In many ways, Bram Stoker’s Dracula revolutionized gothic story telling. It set the standard for future incarnations of vampire lore, and continues to influence gothic stories across a variety of mediums 120 years later.

In fact, Dark Planet’s graphic novel series, Silver, is built around the universe conceived in Stoker’s Dracula. It features the human-vampire relations established in the original novel, as well as a direct descendant of vampire hunter, Abraham Van Helsing.

In our interview below, writer and artist of Silver, Stephan Franck, talks about what new and dangerous characters to expect, like the gentleman-thief James Finnigan, vampire hunter Rosalynd "Sledge" Van Helsing, and Tao Leu, the boy gifted with second sight. After you’ve read through our interview, click here to see our PREVIEWS Prevue of the comic. 


 Free Comic Book Day (FCBD): For those who might be new to your comic book, give us a quick rundown of the story!  

Free Comic Book Day, FCBD, Dark Planet, Silver

Silver is an original universe built around Bram Stoker’s original Dracula, and it begins 40 years after the events of the novel, into the noir/pulp era of the 1930s. You meet James Finnigan, who is the most notorious conman/gentleman-thief of his day, as he teams up with Rosalynd “Sledge” Van Helsing (granddaughter of the original Van Helsing, and altogether the last of the Van Helsings), to steal a mystical treasure hidden in Dracula’s castle. Finn, of course, brings his known associates—a fun assortment of conmen and grifters of all kinds—as well as the kind of amoral attitude that puts him immediately at odds with Sledge. Lastly, the team enlists Tao Leu (or more accurately, he enlists himself), who is a 10-year-old boy with the gift of second sight and who might be the biggest scoundrel of them all.

FCBD: What genre is your title?

While Silver uncovers a deep original universe filled with tons of fun world-building and a super gothic/romantic take on DRACULA himself, the series is first and foremost a relentless Pulp adventure, with a fun tone and compelling characters who get pushed past their breaking point. The epic set pieces build one after the other, and the cons keep on coming.  Thinking of it as “Ocean’s 11 in Dracula’s castle” is not a bad way to go.

FCBD: What has been your favorite part of the book or main character(s) to tackle?

The two leads, Finnigan and Sledge are really fun to explore, as they possess the exciting qualities you want from such classic pulp figures, combined with a genuine sense of characters that feels natural and lived-in. The way they relate to each other also borrows from classic screwball comedy--which feels true to the period--but reinvented with a modern sensibility. That said, I am having a blast with the secondary characters, such as Hamilton Morley the First, a washed out burlesque actor who doubles as a conman, and who is plagued by his own demons, Rakashash, Dracula’s long-suffering right-hand man, or Lillian Duvallier, a particularly cruel, nihilistic, and totally nuts Vampire Princess who will come to play a major role in Silver’s underlying mythology. The common thread among these characters is that they are all great at what they do, but all suck at life. Some will find redemption, some will not. You will have to read and find out who.

FCBD: What other titles would you compare to yours? “If a comic reader likes _______ , they should pick up my title?”

I’ve had enough readers reference Mike Mignola, Tim Sale and Frank Miller--all creators that I love, that I’ll humbly accept that connection. Personally, I would say that if you like supernatural, pulp, and big adventure with a sense of mystery and fun, and a natural quality to the character work, this might be for you.

FCBD: Looking to the future, is there anything you can tease about what's upcoming for the title and its characters?

Silver is a 4-volume miniseries, and I am very excited that the complete 4 volumes will be coming to comic shops this year. Volume 1 and 2 are already on sale, Volume 3 in May, and Volume 4 in the fall. So, readers who dip their toes in Silver with the FCBD issue will be able to get the complete story within the year. Next, we have Rosalynd, which is a one-shot graphic novel presented as Rosalynd “Sledge” Van Helsing’s diary as a child. It is a compelling exploration of one of the series’ most popular characters’ origin. It is an intense mix of pulp horror, grits and innocence, and gets you deeper into Silver’s unique mythology. Rosalynd will be coming to comic shops in March 2019.

FCBD: What initially got you interested in comics? (or What is your favorite thing about working in comics?)

Some of my actual earliest memories in life are hanging out in my parents’ book store, where they sold among many things comics, home-movie equipment, and art supplies. That store to me was a cave of wonders, where I was able to spend my free time reading every comic they had, both American and European, and get my hands on the supplies and equipment I needed to start creating myself. To me, animation, comics, literature, film, it was all one thing. I remember being 10 years old, and drawing Spiderman pages, which I had complete confidence Marvel would publish the following month. Meanwhile, I was animating scenes by changing drawings on a dry-erase board and shooting them frame by frame with a super 8 camera. Then I saw the movie Heavy Metal when I was 13, and there was no turning back. I kept doing both animation and comics through general art college, but once I got into Gobellins (France’s main animation school), animation became such a life project that it completely took over my creative journey. It also brought me to America where I have been living for almost 25 years. Then, a few years ago, I realize that I didn’t want comics to be the road not taken, and jumped back into it professionally.

FCBD: Many newcomers will pick up comics for the first time on FCBD—what was the first comic you remember reading?

My mom literally taught my brother and I how to read with French BD like Tintin and Lucky Luke at bedtime, and I have that distinct early childhood memory of seeing the mysterious scribbles inside the word balloons turn into written words as we revisited them night after night. Then, when I was maybe 7, I came across the French re-edition of a Silver Age team up of Green Lantern and The Atom. Guy who can shrink, alien power lantern—It made total sense to me, and there was no turning back.

FCBD: Tell us why everyone should read comic books!

I often say that we’re in the business of telling the most universal stories in the weirdest way possible. I think the “weird” of it is not only great fun, but also, as a reader, gets you to put your dukes down. It’s clearly not the real world. So from that safe vantage point, we actually can talk about real stuff. For instance, I lost my dad at a young age, and characters like Superman and Batman were surrogate fathers to me. Then I became a teenager, and saw myself in Spiderman. Then I was in college when books like The Dark Knight Returns or Watchmen came out, just when, as every generation does, I was trying to understand what kind of buzz saw of a world I was walking into. So in short, everyone should read comics because there are comics for everyone, and that’s more true now than ever, as the floodgates of genre, style, and type of stories told have opened wider than ever before.  

FCBD: What is your favorite part about Free Comic Book Day? What do you think is the best part of Free Comic Book Day?

My favorite part is doing sketches on FCBD. There’s something magical about having an 8 or 9 year-old kid request a drawing of a character they clearly identify with. Some sort [of] spirit guide that takes them through their day. That sometimes requires quick on-the-spot research as you get some pretty obscure or oddly specific ones, but if it’s a very young kid, I always try to put in a little bit of their own likeness into the character. You can see the eyes light up, that’s the magic of story.

FCBD: Where do you plan to spend Free Comic Book Day?

I will be at some of my favorite comic shops around Los Angeles, signing and sketching away: Collectors’ Paradise in Pasadena and Meltdown Comics in Hollywood on Saturday, and at The Comic Bug in Culver City on Sunday!

 

Free Comic Book Day, FCBD, Dark Planet, Silver

Free Comic Book Day, FCBD, Dark Planet, Silver

Free Comic Book Day, FCBD, Dark Planet, Silver

 

Find a comic shop near you to celebrate Free Comic Book Day 2018!
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