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Interview/Review: The Ghost Fleet #1

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By Donny Cates, Daniel Warren Johnson and Lauren Affe

The Ghost Fleet from Donny Cates (Buzzkill) and Daniel Warren Johnson (Space-Mullet.com and the designer of the two ravens in our fantastic logo) is not available until November 5th but thanks to Dark Horse we got an early look at the book and after digesting it, there’s way more questions than answers in between the two covers. So, let’s try something a little different. Donny Cates has agreed to answer some of our questions as we mash together our review and an interview into one.

All-Comic.com: First and foremost, where did the idea for The Ghost Fleet come from?

Donny Cates: From a lot of different places really. Kurt Russell movies, sweet horror movie posters from the 70’s, dime store truck stop action novels like The Executioner, stuff like that. Things with a wink and a nod to their own ridiculousness. Also, oddly enough, from real life. The Ghost Fleet is kind of this trucker myth, or urban legend… they really exist. In real life I very much doubt the Fleet is as hardcore as they are in the book, but that’s why we have comics, right?!

What’s the significance of Trace’s “1812” tattoo?

Donny Cates: It’s a kind of status thing. It refers to the war of 1812, where, as the first page outlines, is where the Fleet was founded. If you’re hardcore enough to be recruited as a “Handler” (the dudes who protect the trucks) you get the tat on your driving hand to rep your status as a stone cold badass.

There’s so much going on in this issue it’s hard to know where to begin. Two guys who, seemingly, have been working together for a long time are escorting some important cargo in what appears to be a routine run. Things go wrong, of course, and everything is turned on its head (pun not intended, promise). Writer Donny Cates introduces his two main characters effectively, which isn’t always accomplished in first issues, while simultaneously setting up what guarantees to be some bat-shit crazy moments to come. By the end of it, Ghost Fleet takes on a bit of a B.P.R.D. vibe and anybody who’s read and been reading that series knows that’s a good thing.

Since it’s been mentioned, what are some of your influences for a story like The Ghost Fleet?

Donny Cates:

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We’ve seen the ending, presumably of the series, but will this series take a long time to reach that point? Are there already a certain number of issues planned?

Donny Cates: It won’t take as long as people think really. And I never said that’s how the series ends. I just said that’s how this story ends…. 🙂

Granted, some of that feeling might come from artist Daniel Warren Johnson who sets up a tone and feel, while certainly his own signature style, that will just bring to mind some of the work that James Harren has done. Particularly a brilliantly laid out and designed page where the truck absolutely destroys a would-be rocket launcher-er. Shut up, that’s a word.

Daniel, where the hell did this page idea come from? The angles, the speed, the James Harren-ness of it all are breath taking.

Daniel Warren Johnson: Thanks so much!  I should mention that James’ work got me back into comics.  I was teaching art in a Chicago public high school when The Long Death [B.P.R.D.] came out, and seeing the dynamics of his figures and action scenes got me so excited about the comics medium again that I knew I had to get back into it!  So obviously, he’s been a huge influence on me. Also, the angle and layout of the shot was just the best way to get all the visual information across.  It’s moving from left to right, there’s enough of an “awesome” factor, but in the end, it’s very clear what’s happening, and that’s what’s most important.

Will Ghost Fleet affect the frequency of Space-Mullet or are you already far enough ahead on the series that there won’t be any interruptions?

Daniel Warren Johnson: Heh, well, it’s been interesting to keep up with Space-Mullet in the midst of a full-time comic gig.  One thing that’s helped is that Space-Mullet has always been on the side of freelance work for hire stuff, so it wasn’t too much of a change. Other than that, there have been times where I’ve finished a SM page on the day it’s supposed to come out!  I’ve had to take a few more breaks than I have in the past (especially around cons), but for the most part I’m still plugging away at it and I still love creating it.

Adding to a page like that are the colors from colorist Lauren Affe. From the purples of the rushing background, to the red of the gore she hits every mark. Even throughout the rest of the book, the colors are just expertly chosen; nothing is too dark or bland and everything that’s meant to pop off the page, like some of the sound effects, really explode off the page.

Not seeing your work with the blue highlights, like your work on Space-Mullet, was a shocker at first, but colorist Lauren Affe did a great job. How was she brought on board for this series?

Daniel Warren Johnson: Donny from the very beginning wanted Lauren as a colorist.  He (and I) really liked her work on Buzzkill, so she was an obvious choice.  And it was a shock to me as well!  Having my work colored is new, but I’m getting used to it more and more!

The Ghost Fleet #1 is off to a crazy start. We’ve seen the beginning and the ending and now we get to sit back and enjoy how we get there and with both Cates and Johnson throwing themselves at this book, and very clearly giving it their all, the comic world is in for a treat. It’s fast paced, beautifully crafted and intriguing as hell. Dark Horse has been on a hell of a roll as of late, and this just might be another big hit when it drops in November.

Okay, seriously, The Ghost Fleet was great. Can either of you tease what we might expect in the issues to come? Waiting until December for issue two, personally, is going to be hell.

Donny Cates: Trace is coming back and he’s coming for blood. The person he loved and trusted more than anyone in the world has sold him out, that’s not going to end well… for anyone really. Issue two sets up the new status quo; we meet the big bad behind the attack in the first issue. Some motivations are made clearer… there’s a lot of things on fire… a cute little dog named Axl and the sickest pages of badass action you’ve ever seen from Daniel!

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Daniel Warren Johnson: All I can say from an artistic standpoint is that issue 2 was HECKA fun to draw.  Donny’s script really called for me to put all I had into the art, and I think I did a pretty good job of doing that.  I don’t want to brag, but the best truck I’ve ever drawn is in issue 2.  Just sayin’.

Thanks for doing this little experiment with us, and congrats on a great first issue.

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