By Robin Jones
Welcome back to the Inter-Comics Indie Spotlight, this column aims to make you, the readers, aware of cool indie/crowd funded comic book creators and projects!
We have writer/artist Zak Simmonds-Hurn in the spotlight this week, he is the sole creator of his own series Monstrosity, which has issues #1 & #2 out already and he is a regular contributor to The Phoenix, an all ages comic which was recently featured in a Guardian article entitled ‘The Phoenix: The best kids’ comic in ages’, where it was proclaimed as “a phenomenon: a beautiful, enjoyably silly story magazine for girls and boys”. Zak does work on the Simon Swift and Sky Drifters segments!
Me: Where did the idea/inspiration for Monstrosity come from?
Zak: To begin with it was inspired by a strong love of action manga and Videogames and wanting to create a really dynamic, action-packed comic full of cool monsters and fighting- something that had the same impact as the battles in God of War or Bayonetta.
It evolved a lot though- Monstrosity still has plenty of action, but the focus in the finished comic is definitely mostly on the characters and story; if you don’t care about what happens to the character then even a great action scene is ultimately meaningless.
Me: What sets Monstrosity apart from other Anime style comics?
Zak: I think that despite there being some design elements that may be familiar to anime and manga fans, my approach to storytelling in Monstrosity is probably more westernised. I grew up reading British and American comics from a very young age, and although I was first exposed to manga when I was about seven I didn’t start reading any myself until Viz released Dragonball in English eight years later.
Monstrosity is a hybrid of many influences from around the world, but I’d like to think that when people read it it just feels like its own unique thing, rather than a weird amalgam.
Me: If you could sell Monstrosity in one sentence, what would it be?
Zak: Monstrosity is an action-adventure comic about a man who is given demonic powers which he will be slain for possessing, unless he can learn to master them for himself.
Me: Which artists and writers have most influenced you in bringing Monstrosity to life?
Zak: For me it all started with Sonic The Comic in the early 90′s. The creators really gave their all to produce a fantastic comic and, aged 7, it made me want to be able to do what they did for a living one day! So that would be Nigel Kitching, Richard Elson, Nigel Dobbyn and Lew Stringer to name just a few.
Since then, other influences include Mike Parobeck and Rick Burchett’s Batman Adventures work, Joe Mad’s Battle Chasers stuff, Juanjo Guarnido, Eiichiro Oda, classic Disney animation and anything by Katsuhiro Otomo!
There are loads more but it would take forever to list them all!
Me: One of your stories, Simon Swift, appears in The Phoenix, a comic which The Guardian recently did a great piece about, calling it the best kids comic around. How did that come about?
Zak: I worked on The Phoenix’s predecessor, The DFC, quite a few years back.
Robin Etherington and I did a series of short tales for it titled The Strange, Strange World of Weird! It was sort of like a kids version of the Twilight Zone, but with a very wacky sense of humour!
When The Phoenix started up they got in touch and asked me if I had any ideas I’d like to pitch to them. After a couple of rejected pitches they accepted my idea ‘Sky Drifters’, a story about a Puffin called Tod who pilots a flying cloud and gets separated from his people. After that, the Editor Will put me in touch with Tom Fickling who had written a fantasy adventure tale called Simon Swift, they asked if it sounded like something I’d be keen on drawing and it absolutely was!
Me: Do you still have time to read comics? And what comics regularly appear on your pull list?
Zak: Whilst time can be pretty tight sometimes, I just can’t resist reading comics.
First off, I’m obsessed with One Piece; when it’s at its best I think it’s the best comic around. I’m also really glad that Berserk seems to have started up again, that is an unbelievably great series, it’s just a shame it comes out so slowly!
Obviously The Phoenix has loads of amazing work every week; I’ve really been enjoying Neill Cameron and Kate Brown’s Tamsin and the Deep.
I started reading Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman run recently and have been blown away- also Tradd Moore on All New Ghost Rider and Stuart Immonen on All New X-Men are ridiculously impressive too.
Image are releasing tons of amazing books at the moment, Saga, Lazarus, Walking Dead- there are so many great series out right now. In fact I think the comics scene is the most vibrant it’s ever been!
Me: What can we expect in the future from Monstrosity and from yourself?
Zak: Well, in issue 3, Daigo will have to find a way out of his current, very tricky, situation; but soon enough he’s going to have to come face to face with the Demon Trolle Vengus, who for some reason believes he has history with Daigo. We’ll also learn much more about the Ninja clan and the history of the city, all things which will change how Daigo sees the world forever!
I’m currently working on both Monstrosity issue 3 and a brand new Sky Drifters tale for The Phoenix- I think it’s Tod’s most exciting adventure yet- lots of twists and turns to look forward to! Also Tom is writing the next series of Simon Swift at the moment, so expect more of that in several months’ time.
I’m also working on sketches for something else that it’s probably too early to talk about at the moment, but I think it’ll be really exciting- watch this space!
Me: What’s your favourite aspect of making comics?
Zak: It always used to be drawing, but now it’s harder to pin down for me. It sounds a bit vague but I think it’s the thrill of creating something.
Inventing characters and worlds and weaving a story that brings them to life on the page is a very potent thrill and I feel incredibly lucky that I get to do it every day.
Me: Hypothetical now, who would win in a seaside boxing machine contest: Goku or Daigo Bezalel?
Zak: I think they would both break the machine!
If it came down to an arm-wrestle then Goku would have to win though. Daigo’s demon-powered form is tough, but Goku makes even Superman look weak, so I think there’s no shame conceding defeat to him!
You can catch Zak on twitter here, he has his own website packed chockablock with goodies here and he’ll be selling Monstrosity at the following conventions this year: Comica Comiket (16th August), N.I.C.E. (13th-14th September) and Thought Bubble (15th-16th November), so make sure to head out and say hi!
Until next time…
Rob Jones is an honourary Yorkie, but for the life of him, he can’t understand why. He writes articles, is attempting to write comics and his life ambition is to own a solid gold Donkey… For more comic news, reviews and the odd bit of sense, follow Robin on twitter @Hulksmash1985