Interview With a Comic Book Creator: Richard Macrae

 

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“I’ve always found that true of Aberdeen – it seems like a totally normal town till you go poking around in the dark, and that’s when the place really comes alive.” Comic book artist and writer Richard Macrae says about using the Granite City as the setting for his comic, ‘Dillion and Richmond’.

Richard is a local comic book artist and writer from Aberdeen, and he has been drawing and reading comics from a young age. He began work ‘Dillion and Richmond’ as a way to keep himself creatively active, whilst also focusing on other work commitments.

The graphic novel is inspired by Macrae’s own experiences within Aberdeen, and follows the two title characters, who are werewolves, as they introduce a novice vampire to Scotland’s dark side. It originally began as a web-comic, but just last year, a successful crowdfunding project saw the writer and artist able to turn the story into a 246 page printed novel.

I had the pleasure of meeting Richard at this year’s Granite City Comic Con, and he is friendly and incredibly easy to talk to. I picked up a copy of Dillion and Richmond, as it was one of the graphic novels this year that really peaked my interest. During our interview, Richard discusses his career and the influence Aberdeen city has on his own work;

“So, how did you begin your career in comics, and what initially got you interested in this form of storytelling?”

My Mother bought me my first comic when I was 12,

Astonishing Spider-man #3, the UK collected reprints, she knew I was into drawing, cartoons, adventure and science fiction in general so thought, rightly so, that it’d be up my street – from that first page I was hooked, the drama, the action, the power and dynamic nature of the artwork, the costumes, it all just sang to me. And naturally, being into drawing and doodling I wanted to tell my own stories –  I got quite into creating my own characters and that’s been something that’s never gone away and I continue to do to this day.

“I have heard, that as an artist, you are largely self-taught. How did you find out that this was a skill set that you have?”

I don’t know that it was ever something I had to discover, I genuinely can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a pencil or pen in hand so it’s always been an outlet for me from before I could stand – that said, I’m a firm believer that everyone can draw, it’s just that many people don’t practice and let their current skill level stop them – it’s something you work at and cultivate, but having a love for it certainly helps.

“Do you feel as though the city of Aberdeen has provided you with many opportunities to work creatively?”

Aberdeen is great for anyone wanting to work creatively, there are multiple groups for writing, drawing, etc – though I wouldn’t say these groups are necessarily well advertised – as is typical of the day the internet is probably the best tool for finding opportunities and making connections through forums and the like but I’m pretty insular and generally tend to just work on my own projects.

“As a writer and an artist, is there anything that inspires you and your work?”

I’d love to say a strange mix of the people I meet, the events of my life, and the various media I consume – all of which have shades of truth, but generally speaking my brain is constantly running narratives and character tropes, daydreaming up stories of high adventure and blatant idiocy which I can’t pin down onto paper fast enough.

“Your comic book, ‘Dillion and Richmond’, is also set in Aberdeen. What is it about the city that made it the ideal setting for your story?”

I guess I’m just a sucker for the place, it’s always been my home – the point with Dillion and Richmond was always meant to be that the surface of society was about the only normal part of it, and just beneath that veneer were all the things we’d choose not acknowledge, the darker nature of things and I’ve always found that true of Aberdeen – it seems like a totally normal town till you go poking around in the dark, and that’s when the place really comes alive.

20180729_164715“In this first volume we are introduced to some wonderful characters. Could you tell me a bit more about these characters, and if you had any influences for creating them?”

Dillion and Richmond themselves, as characters, spun out of a long standing joke about myself and one of my best pals – our ability to somehow get into trouble and turn it to our advantage but still come out of it unscathed – Dillion looks for the easiest way to do anything, he’s the smarter of the two but less interested in whats around him generally, Richmond is impulsive, thoughtless in action but full of heart – he means well but oftentimes escalates the situations they find themselves in.

Alexis is the conscience of the group, the one who worries about the rules, but she keeps some dark secrets that will find their way to the light – she spends half her time cleaning up Dillion and Richmond’s messes and the other half wondering how they’ve survived this long. Her creation was inspired by my girlfriend (Misha) who holds these same thoughts about me and my pal (Doug)

“One of my favourite characters, the Dread Lord Chlorophyll, stole the show for me whenever he popped up. Might I ask how you came up with this character?”

In terms of design I cannot take credit, as an old friend came up with it to mock the fact that I don’t eat my greens. I’d be 100% carnivorous if it wasn’t for the fact that potatoes usually get served with whatever meat I order – so the idea that my greatest enemy was made of vegetables birthed the look – then I came up with the idea of him being some sort of eco-terrorist anti-vegan and wrote him to be as grandiose as I hope I’d be as a villain and he seems to steal the show!

There are big plans for him, as DnR continues.

“Despite having supernatural and horror elements, ‘Dillion and Richmond’ also has a lot of comedic moments woven throughout the story. Was it always your intention to have those comedic elements as well?”

Yeah, anyone who knows me knows I don’t really do “serious” well, there’s enough of that in reality without locking it down onto the page as well – and I never like the idea of sticking to a singular genre, when it’s appropriate there’ll be romance, when it’s needed there’ll be grief, when there has to be there’ll be violence, blood, sex, horror, adventure, intrigue and peril – but the lads’ will always find the time for a quiet pint a good laugh.

“The supernatural and horror genre is quite popular and boasts wide varieties of work. What do you think that it is about your comic that it sets is apart from all the rest?”

The only thing that sets it apart is probably that the main characters aren’t the focus of the story – the tale kind of happens around them – that, and the setting – there may come a day when I take DnR out of the Scottish setting but it’s very unlikely, we’ve a rich history and mythology to draw on and interpret so the boys will be waving the saltire for a long while yet.

“You said that the story started out as an attempt to keep yourself active as an artist, due to work commitments. How did you find juggling your work commitments and creating this first volume?”

It wasn’t easy, admittedly – as everyone undoubtedly experiences, sometimes after a days work all you want to do is put your feet up and watch a movie – but when you’ve got a deadline to keep it isn’t that simple, every hour chilling out you feel that weight and pressure build up, but it’s been a fantastic experience and keeps me drawing so regardless of any challenge it’s ever given me, it’s always been vastly more rewarding.

 

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“Are you currently working on any other projects that you can discuss at the moment?”

I am! The book that SHOULD have been my first book, one of my first creations and certainly the character I have that has the most lore – Silverback.

It’s a superhero adventure story, beginning once again in Aberdeen with the intention of taking the story from here to the very edges of the universe eventually – the story follows Marc Walker, a young man who is found in a secret island facility with no memory, as he tries to piece together what happened to him and how he became the superhuman powerhouse he now finds himself he’ll have to deal a variety of superhuman threats, invasions by aliens and undersea monsters, extra dimensional threats and gods of old – y’know, the usual. Hahaha

it’ll launch as a webcomic much the same way as Dillion and Richmond did, hopefully updating weekly – I’ve got about 56 pages finished at the time of this interview and as soon as I sort out a website (which is my plan for the next week) all of those will be uploaded and the story will off and running so I hope that you and your readers come and check it out!

 “And lastly, what piece of advice would you pass on to other aspiring writers and artists?”

Make what you love for the love of making it – if that turns it into a job, or something you can make money at that’s great, but ALWAYS do it for the love – and don’t let doubts get in your way – if you think you cant draw (but trust me, you can) then do it anyway, draw your comic and get better through experience, if you don’t like your writing (even though it’s great)  power through and finish your stories and learn from whatever mistakes you see, but no matter what your making or how you’re making it, make it for the love.

Also, tip your bartender, be good to your mother, and never get a steak cooked past medium rare.

You can keep up with the adventures of Dillion and Richmond over here .

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