A few weeks back, Dark Horse comics released a new original graphic novel called Echoes from Mike Richardson and Gabriel Guzmán. It's the story of a troubled pilot who, through a freak accident, gets a chance to change a major moment in his life. It's the type of story that could easily be taken and made into a movie. I talked with Richardson about the project, how it came about and what other things he has in the works.
DAN WICKLINE: I'm always fascinated with the creative process, so let me start by asking you about the concept for Echoes. What sparked the original idea and how did it grow through the writing process? Was this the type of story that fell into place quickly or did it shift and change as you wrote it?
MIKE RICHARDSON: Echoes is a story that I started thinking about around ten years ago. I pitched it to a few people who loved the idea, but I never got around to actually writing it. Over the years, I'd pull up the outline and play with it a bit. It finally was in a place where I just decided to go ahead and write it. It deals with a concept that I think is appealing to most everyone: the chance to go back and change something in one's life. If we could, would we be willing to risk the changes it might bring about?
DW: Your main character is Fred Martin, who has a traumatic event happen in his childhood and we see immediately how it has affected him as an adult. But when given the opportunity to change things, he's willing to do anything to make it happen. Is Fred a good man who went through bad things or is it more than that?
MR: Fred is a man no different from the rest of us; he's been shaped by the events of his childhood. It's clear he knows that he's made a mess of it. Initially, the anger building up in him over the years leads him toward murder, but the opportunity to spend time with someone he feels very close to actually allows him to change. As a result, he takes a different, if no less brutal, path.
DW: It's mentioned in the synopsis so I think I'm safe to ask you about the time travel aspect in the story. It happens early on and you set up the situation where it happens but you don't go into the explanation of how it happens. I can see how the explanation could take away from the heart of the story, but I'm curious about the thought process behind the decision.
MR: Things happen in real life that can never be explained. I've experienced moments such as those. I think most people have. The story gives just enough information to allow the reader to speculate as to what caused Fred's situation. Later in the story, when Fred sits down with his boss, that same point is made about the mysteries we come across in life.
DW: What is your writing process? Do you do full script or do you dialogue after the page is drawn? And how long did this script take to finish?
MR: I like to first write a three-act outline of the idea. I keep tweaking what I've written until I find I have enough to proceed on to the script. In the script I include some dialogue, but only when it helps to imagine the scene. I never dialogue a book until I'm able to see the finished pencils. By waiting, I have one last chance to consider any nuance created by the artist.
DW: You're working with Gabriel Guzmán on this book, who did a wonderful job. What made him the right choice for this project? What was the collaboration process like between the two of you?
MR: First of all, Gabriel can draw. Cars, buildings, locations, he handles all of that. He's also good at taking our characters and turning them into actors—that is, the facial expressions and body language so important to an illustrated story. I loved his work on Father's Day and was eager to work with him again.
DW: This is being released as a graphic novel. Why go that route over doing individual issues and then collecting them together?
MR: Well, that decision was an easy one. I just didn't feel that this type of story was best presented in chapters and spread out over months. I thought releasing it as a graphic novel and allowing the reader to finish in one sitting was important.
DW: With Echoes now in shops, do you have any other writing projects lined up in the near future?
MR: Yes. People don't seem to realize it, but I've been writing since I launched Dark Horse. It's surprising how many people wonder why a publisher is writing comics, but back in the earliest days of the company, Randy Stradley and I wrote a fair number of the books we put out. It's never really changed, at least as far as I'm concerned. The next project for me is one called Best Wishes, on which I'm collaborating with Paul Chadwick.
For more information on Echoes, click here.