Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery, writers of Sherlock Holmes vs. Harry Houdini #5, talk with writers Ben Acker and Ben Blacker about KING: Flash Gordon #3, both on sale now. Art by Lee Ferguson.
ANTHONY DEL COL & CONOR McCREERY: You guys love your pulp classics (Yay, Thrilling Adventure Hour). What is it about this meta-genre that gets you all frisky and ready to write? And is wearing pants crucial to the process?
BEN ACKER: First of all, hello and thank you for yaying Thrilling Adventure Hour.
BEN BLACKER: As to the question of pulp classics, we grew up with the stuff that loved pulp classics. Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. So our love of the classics is due to the love of the classics the things we loved had.
A&C: You talked about how Flash Gordon's Defenders of the Earth was a touchstone for you both. What was it about that that stuck with you? And where is the line, for you, between homage and mimicry?
ACKER: The theme song for sure. Youtube that and see if it's not stuck in your head. Sound effects and backup singers and glam metal infusion? It's amazing.
BLACKER: Acker liked Defenders of the Earth more than I did.
ACKER: I don't know if I liked it. But I sure absorbed it. It was a touchstone – I'm not backing away from a previous answer, I don't think – in that you simply couldn't be 10 and not know about the Defenders of the Earth. It simply wasn't done. Did you know that DotA took place in 2015 – the future!
BLACKER: I didn't know that.
BLACKER: As for mimicry vs. homage – we are pro-homage and anti-mimicry.
ACKER: Homage is much more honest and loving and, most of all, way easier.
BLACKER: A hundred times easier.
A&C: From one writing duo to another, what are your secrets to bring the best out of each other and minimize time spent circling ideas?
BLACKER: It's not a secret – we share a sensibility that has developed in the very long time we've worked together, but it was there in some form from the start. We like the same things and think in similar enough, if complimentary, ways.
ACKER: We don't circle ideas very much. We tend to land on the broad strokes quickly and together. It's the minutiae in the execution that can send us circling. But we tend not to be too precious about overthinking those.
BLACKER: As for bringing out each other's best, we tend to try not to let each other get away with stuff we've already seen from each other.
A&C: You'd mentioned before that your comic writing hasn't influenced your TV or radio-drama writing, but do you find you use a very different writer's hat for your comic work when compared to your other work?
BLACKER: Absolutely. Having to write for an artist means getting in there and describing all of the stuff we never had to for a purely audio medium.
ACKER: And the dialogue is the last and least of comics. Totally opposite hat.
A&C: You've compared working with an artist to working with an actor. Be honest, which one is more likely to make you want to poison the doughnuts on the craft table?
ACKER: Maybe we've lucked out with both because we haven't wanted to poison any of our collaborators.
BLACKER: Also it is important to remember that doughnuts are to be cherished and eaten. They are for good and not for evil. Please send us doughnuts.
A&C: Alright, fine, you guys are NOT homicidal maniacs, braaavooo. But with actors you get a cast. If HE can't do X type of scene you write it for HER, etc… But you only get one artist and as good as they are many of them have their weak(er)-spots. How do you approach that?
ACKER: I'd put the blame on us, not artists. If they can't execute what we've written them, odds are it's because we're new to the medium. And it's not that they can't, it's that they have a more visually dynamic way.
BLACKER: So what we do is change the dialogue after we've seen the art to make sure the story still gets told. There hasn't been anything too dramatic in terms of the difference in what we've written and what we get back from the artists with whom we've worked.
A&C: So, uh, contradicting that last question: Lee Ferguson! (Continuing the trend of these things in making his name a shocked utterance of awe, and not a question.)
BLACKER: Right? He is good at it!
A&C: Oh, screw that. Is Lee an Art-God, or an Art Ur-God? Or is he rising to some other element of divinity that our feeble ape minds cannot comprehend?
ACKER: He's just a man. With a man's courage. Nothing but a man, who can never fail.
A&C: And finally … Ming is the worst, right?
BLACKER: You're nuts. Ming's the best. Who is more fun to write scenery-chewing dialogue for than a merciless guy?
For more on King: Flash Gordon #3, click here.