True North Strong and Free 2: Canadian Corps, An Interview With Rod Salm

There’s four days left in the Canadian Corps Kickstarter, and while they’ve funded, they’re also very close to hitting one more stretch goal. Rod Salm, letterer for Canadian Corps, took a stab at some of my questions too. Here are his replies.

CG: What ís the first comic you remember buying?

RS: Uncanny X-men 141 when it first hit the shelves. That was the first comic in the Days of Future Past series written by Chris Claremont. Comic selection in Churchill, Mb, back then was pretty limited so there was no guarantee the next issue would ever show up or how many (my brother tended to scoop up any cool comics before me, the ratter) and with no comic book stores it was a pretty scattered affair collecting comics back then. It was so different than everything else on the shelves but it was months before another X-Men title came in so I was left hanging on for a very long time to find out what happened next. Epilogue: I was lucky enough to have met Chris Claremont and his wife at a convention and had him sign that very book.

CG: (As an aside, Days of Future Past is one of my favourite X-Men stories, and it introduced one of my favourite characters, Rachel Summers/Rachel Grey! Good choice.)

CG: When did you decide you wanted to make comics?

RS: I’ve always been a creator (art or writing) of some sort, it’s only recently, with Andrew prodding me, to take it to the next step and work on a group project with him and this crew to get into comic storytelling.

CG: What is the appeal of superhero comics for you?

RS: They are epic! All the skills for lettering are needed in graphic design layout  but what’s more exciting: super powered individuals battling an alien invasions or selling a furniture. I’ll let you decide.

CG: What aspect of the book are you most proud of?

RS: Andrew, as well as writing a top notch story, has assembled a team of really talented people to pull it off. We feed off each other and are pushing to make this a book of the highest standard. From lettering, to colour, to the pencils and more, we’re all contributing our best work.

CG: Is Canadian Corps part of a larger, shared universe?

RS: I hope so! I was inspired by the drafts of the script I saw that I wrote a character within it, Tundra, that I hope I can work with Andrew in getting published.

CG: What makes a Canadian superhero different from the superheroes south of the border?

RS: Geography. Canada is really, really big. For a superhero to be effective they have to have a way to transverse this vast expanse. We can’t write one mega-city where all the action takes place because that’s just not Canada. The country has to be taken into consideration in any storyline involving a Canadian superhero. American comics may move locations, but in Canadian comics the location is fundamental to the storytelling aspect.

CG: What’s next for you?

RS: I’ll be getting my webcomic back up and running, www.deathatyourdoor.com, and working on more books with Andrew as well as searching for concept artists for Tundra.

CG: Thanks for stopping by, Rod! Good luck!

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Loki’s Guide To Norse Mythology: Tilda Eilífsdóttir

Tilda

Similar to my protagonist, Ted Callan, Tilda doesn’t appear in the myths, not specifically, anyway. The fortune telling and fate spinning Norns, however, certainly do.

My fascination with fortune telling and precognition was always tempered by potential downsides, a feeling that probably came out of the various comics I read and RPGs I played. The X-Men definitely took a turn for the more fatalistic after “Days of Future Past” knowing what was in store for them (in at least one of their futures, I’ve read X-men for thirty years and even I can’t keep it all straight anymore). I also had a sadistic gamemaster who’d punish you for using those very helpful powers and spells because they required more planning on his part. You know who you are.

Tilda showed up out of the blue in Ted Callan’s life and world. She popped up just as suddenly in my writing, there was no short story antecedent. One moment there was a dark highway, and then there was Tilda. She didn’t live in Gimli until that popped out of her mouth. I sort of knew I wanted a fortune teller of some kind to be a part of the book eventually, but just as the dwarves weren’t dvergar yet, that seer wasn’t necessarily going to be one of the “capital-N” Norns either.

I had a friend who used to hitchhike all over the place. She scared the bejesus out of me at times, but she was fun, and she had some great stories. She had seen some amazing things in her travels, and while Tilda is not her, there is definitely something of that friend in the young Norn’s literary DNA. I wanted Tilda to have a wealth of stories in her past, and to be more knowledgeable about not only the magical world, but the real world than Ted. Her broader life experience also helped close the age gap between them.

Spoiler alert for those who haven’t read book one:

Tilda gets all of the powers of the Norns, visions of not just the future, but the past and the present as well. I did this because Ted gets a lot of power in Thunder Road, and I wanted Tilda to be Ted’s match both physically and magically. Even though the book is about Ted, Tilda needed to undergo a journey of her own. And just as I wanted to write a post-Ragnarök story, I liked the idea of playing with the maiden-mother-crone concept. Mixing the magical and the mundane is one of things I love most about writing Urban Fantasy. Ted and Tilda fell together very quickly, fueled in part by the Norn’s belief that they are fated to be a couple, so in Tombstone Blues I wanted to examine how much “destined for one another” means when you move in together for the first time.

Loki’s Guide To Norse Mythology: Ted Callan

Ted Callan

Who?

Ted Callan doesn’t appear in any of the Sagas. But my protagonist certainly has roots there. One of my favourite stories growing up was the Story of Sigurd; a hero who became invulnerable–except for a spot where a leaf had landed against his body-when he bathed in dragon’s blood. I was checking this out of the library in between my obsessive readings of D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths and D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths.

Sigurd obviously isn’t the only influence on Ted. He carries Mjölnir; he can control the weather, so obviously Thor was also in the mix. The earliest origins of Thunder Road are in an abandoned short story–the first thing I ever set out to write when I decided I wanted to be a writer–a story about Thor and Sif living in suburban Winnipeg and Sif deciding to divorce Thor. The seeds of Ted exist in that first version of the Thunder God (there’s a very different aspect to Thor showing up in Tombstone Blues): a blue collar job, the dissolution of a long relationship, the GTO–although it was not called The Goat yet.

I always knew I’d write something influenced by Norse myth, the stories have been a part of my life for too long not to creep into my work. I didn’t have a plan for it to necessarily be Thunder Road, I just wanted to write a story about a blue collar guy who got thrust into a weird and terrible world. The first scene I wrote for Thunder Road, was where the dwarves attacked and tattooed Ted, and at the end of that scene, I wondered: “who is this guy?” and “How did he up in that hotel room?” And so I went back and wrote that. Once I put him in a GTO, it was all over, and I was hooked. Ted voice showed up almost fully formed and steamrolled his way through the rest of the book.

I didn’t just read mythology as a kid. I also grew up reading comic books. In fact, they were the first things I read on my own. Looking back, I can see echoes of DC’s Viking Prince or Marvel’s Mighty Thor and Uncanny X-Men. Thor has faced Ragnarök  several times in the comics, which was one of the reasons I decided to set Thunder Road after The Fate of the Gods, because I found what the Thor writers did when they ended the cycle to be fresh and new. X-men probably gave me a taste of the dysfunctional family dynamic that exists between Ted, Tilda and Loki. Chris Claremont’s epic run on the book was also my introduction to long-form storytelling, which is why I’m hoping that even when the Thunder Road Trilogy is done, that I can keep telling stories in this world. And besides, super powers are cool!

Join The Fight, Make Comics!

The first Saturday in May is fast approaching, and that means: Free Comic Book Day!

I love comics. I have for as long as I can remember. Comic books were a huge part of my developing and maintaining a love of reading as a young boy. And while I haven’t made an effort at it since I’ve been concentrating on writing prose, I have always wanted to create my own comics. Unfortunately, I’ve been hamstrung by one very unfortunate fact:

I can’t draw.

Okay, that’s not the whole truth. I’ve done a fair amount of illustration in my time, and I can do passable, posed versions of my D&D characters or superheroes. Passable, but not great. And I never bothered to learn how to draw anything else. This is a bit of a problem. Regardless of whether you’re telling your story in our world, or one of your own creation, it needs to be populated by more than people posed heroically (and stiffly) on an otherwise blank page.

Which brings me to something I forgot to mention in my C4 Lit Fest Roundup. I promised GMB Chomichuk (author of Aurora Award nominated Imagination Manifesto and Raygun Gothic graphic novels) that I would “Join the fight, make comics!” after attending his “Words to Page” workshop about turning your novel into a comic book. It’s his workshop, so I won’t go into too much detail, other than to say that it was awesome. He’s a great teacher and really knows how to engage with his audience and students.

What I will reveal about the workshop is his Step #1 for turning your novel into a comic:

Don’t Do It.

That was kind of a relief, actually. It followed my instinct that comic book adaptations of novels tend to, and I’m being generous here (and also not naming names), suck. I’ve been told by more than a few people that there are comic book elements to Thunder Road, and that it would make a great graphic novel. I take this as a compliment. I’ve read so many superhero comics that it is completely unsurprising that it has bled into my fiction. But I don’t think I would be the right person to turn my book into a comic. I like it as a book. It was designed to be a book. But mostly because comics are collaborative, and Thunder Road is mine.

Not to say that I wouldn’t be open to telling new stories in that world with characters that were co-created with an artist, but what I really want is to tell a story that needs to be a comic, whether it’s set in the Thunder Road ‘verse or not. I have tons of stories that I want to tell someday (there is always that nebulous someday). I just need to find the right story and the right artist (and to learn how to actually script a comic).

I know how important that pairing of writer and artist can be. While I will read books just for the art, or just for the writing, there is something magical in just the right mixture of art and words that makes comics so perfect for telling stories. Pairings like Matt Fraction and David Aja on HawkeyeBrian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples on Saga, Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener on Atomic RoboEd Brubaker and Sean Phillips on Fatale (and stretching back a great ways, to my formative years, Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s epic run on Uncanny X-Men) are current standouts for me. After reading the preview pages, I’m also anxiously awaiting the September release of Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe Meg Dejmal, and John “Roc” Upchurch.

Lately, I’ve cut down my comic pull list to just those sorts of books, the ones that speak to me on both levels. It means I have had to bail from a lot of my Marvel and DC books, as long, character defining runs seem to no longer exist in the corporate comic book world. The usual best case scenario is getting one trade paperback collection of a pairing you really like these days. I think that by sticking only with the books that I love, I’ll find the comic story that I would love to tell.

I’ll be attending C4 Comic Con this year, hanging out in Artist’s Alley selling my books (Tombstone Blues will be out by then, yay!), but I’m also hoping to meet some fine folks and talk comics, and hopefully, talk about making comics. See you there.

Write on!