Today’s episode is pretty awesome as Jeff got to sit down and chat with Ram V, author of Paradiso, Black Mumba, 24 Panels, Catwoman, Justice League Dark, Grafity’s Wall, Ruin of Thieves, Brigands, and so much more!
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Transcript by Steve, the Robot that does his best.
Ran V Interview with Jeff.output
[00:00:00] Ram V: Hi, this is Ravi and you are listening to spoiler country,
Jeff: welcome to spoiler country today on the show we have Ram V welcome Ram. How’s it going?
Ram V: Yeah. Good. Thanks for having me on Jeff.
Jeff: Oh, it’s definitely our pleasure. So I guess the first thing is how you dealing with the new reality of a COVID in a comic book world.
Ram V: I mean, pretty much things have stayed relatively the same. I’m used to locking myself in a, in a room and working in front of a monitor. So that’s not too bad. But, I’m surprised that, how yous I was to just pick up a laptop and go and sit down in the cafe and working from there, which has been difficult to do.
So I’m getting really familiar with my desk.
Jeff: So are you finding it easier to write from home or do you really feel more comfortable in a place like a cafeteria?
Ram V: to be honest, like I feel, [00:01:00] I feel better going out to cascade to right. just cause I mean, I wasn’t always a writer. I used to work in a, you know, nine to five corporate office job.
Not until about 2012. And so my brain is kind of wired to go, okay, I am now going to work. So I need to like get out of my house and find another place and sit there. which, I mean, which I think is quite useful, in that it forces you to go through a routine, you know, grab a shower, put on some clothes, get out.
So. Oh, that’s been, been messed about with, by this darn virus.
Jeff: That’s actually kind of interesting. I guess I am. I’m actually, my day job is an English teacher and we’re all remote teaching now. I do. And I, and I will totally admit teaching is a lot harder from the couch.
Ram V: No, I bet. I bet. Yeah. And also there’s a, there’s an unsaid language to personal interaction, which you completely miss.
I was just having a [00:02:00] conversation with. With Alex PAC Nadler. Who’s another comic book writer, who is talking about all these zoom meetings. And really people are like, Oh, that’s a great alternative to being in a pub. And I’m like, it’s really not. Cause it’s just not the kind of interface that you, that you can have multiple conversations in, which is really the kind of experience you have when you go to a pub or a bar.
And, you know, everyone’s having their own little conversations. So, yeah, no, it’s, it’s very difficult to adapt to the things we do in real life to digital, despite all the strides and technology we’ve
Jeff: made. I mean, I totally agree. I mean, there is something that I think when you have the more instinctual interaction of being in person, I do think there’s a, there’s a tendency to be more.
alert to, body language, to speech patterns that you do lose when you’re basically looking at a telephone, even if it’s the image itself on the telephone telephone, that just, it never, it never will measure up properly. [00:03:00] And also with attention to it, doesn’t measure up the same way.
Ram V: Yeah.
Yeah, absolutely. And, and, you know, environment has such a huge impact on the way we communicate in the way we take in information. so, you know, going to a school to teach or to learn is very different, different from teaching more learning at home.
Jeff: Now when, when you’re in the character, are you finding when you, are you listening to people talk, is that, is that happening with dialogue or do you try to block them out as much as possible?
Ram V: I, I joke about this all the time. I feel like I need. A set of people. I don’t know. So I can actively ignore them while I do. I think the act of ignoring other people focuses me on, on work.
Jeff: So, so you’re like, we need more people so I can not listen to any of you.
Ram V: I can’t work from a really quiet cafe.
I can’t do it.
Jeff: Wow. That’s, that’s very fascinating, actually. So you’re not one of the types that put on like music or something. And he’s like a soundtrack.
Ram V: I mean, I can’t put [00:04:00] on music. but again, the music is there so I can ignore other people.
Jeff: That is fascinating. That’s really cool. So how else is things affecting you from a coach or do you have conventions that you had lined up, but you canceled?
Do you have one still on the books? Yeah, I was
Ram V: supposed to be at, at Emerald city, which, got canceled obviously. I was hoping to make a dance in New York later this year, which I am very doubtful, will happen. and we’ve got, we’ve got a convention called thought bubble that I go to every year here in the UK, in London, in a hurricane.
Since last year and it’s a really lovely convention. and I hope it happens. It’s slated for October. we’ll see. We’ll see how that goes. Well,
Jeff: hopefully by, I mean, I would hate to think of this goes to that far into our Cobra and I have a, convention that I’m attending, not, not as a guest, but as a, you know, a customer, a patron and it’s called traffic con is in August and the guy is still.
Seems to suggest that it’s [00:05:00] still going to happen. And I’m kind of doubtful about August. I really hope October by October, we have something figured out. I would hate to think that the whole year is shot based. I mean,
Ram V: I don’t, I don’t think it will be in a, it’ll be in a situation where conventions are officially a sort of band, but whether it’s as a, as a working professional who needs to stay healthy to write scripts, whether it’s, Kind of tenable for me to go to a convention where I know there’s going to be, you know, XYZ, thousands number of people coming in where, you know, one kind of vector of infection is enough to set it off again.
So I’m not sure, I’m not sure that’s a wise wise choice.
Jeff: And I must admit the interesting dilemma for convention is. One, if you don’t open, you lose everything at the same time. If you spend the money and you open and people don’t show that may even be worse on some level, because, you know, you did. I mean, the money’s on the table now, you know, [00:06:00] completely.
Ram V: Yeah. Although to be super honest, the reason I go to the thought bubble specifically at this convention is I get to see everyone from, from the London comics circle, the UK comics circle, and. I enjoyed that aspect of it more. obviously it’s nice to, nice to meet people who were there to con come pick up your books, but you do get like a regular crowd of people.
Who’ve been going to this convention for years. I’ve been going to it four years in a row now. So, I will, I will miss that regardless of, so I would go to thought bubble, even if there weren’t. People showing up. My concern is more going to top level and there being the usual crowd of people showing up.
And the infection kind of still being around. So
Jeff: yeah, I mean, it must have been just because you’re talking about a meeting, the other talent from, from London, it does seem like so much combo talent does come out of England. I mean, there’s, it’s something in the water over there.
Ram V: You know, when I moved [00:07:00] to the UK, I moved to, to study writing and, I was asked this very same question by the person that interviewed me for.
my, my application, they said, why did you pick the UK? and I said, all my favorite writers are from the UK. There must be something in the water.
Jeff: I mean, it seems, I mean, I mean, you can’t even go, I mean, you got, I mean, just Neil Gaiman alone is enough to, you know, to put London on the map or being like one of the hotbeds of, you know, the great right.
And there’s so many others, Peter Milligan, a few others that are, that have been there. And it’s just, it’s amazing. I mean, obviously you have the home of Shakespeare, but. Something about, England is just phenomenal as well as a Liberty, a hotbed.
Ram V: Oh, I think, I think London’s have had a long history of being a literary hub just as, just as, you know, cities like Paris or New York have been.
So, I would, I would be very surprised if I didn’t see. Every regular influx of writing talent from places like London, from places like the UK. [00:08:00] So it’s also such a rich cultural history with literature, in the UK. So, so I’m not surprised at all.
Jeff: I mean, they, they have a 2008, which seems to be a starting point for just about every great writer from, England had something published first from 2008.
Ram V: I mean, there was a time that was true. and I think things changed to a point where now 2018 is looking at bringing in new talent again, which is great. but yeah, certainly the era of, of, gaming more and Morrison. That was, that was true. I don’t know that that’s. Been true in recent history. although, you know, there’s still, there’s still a very strong publishing house.
They still publish a lot of local, UK talent. And, I’ve certainly seen a few people kind of, have their stories published there that I think, you know, are very good writers. So artists, yeah.
Jeff: So what got you into comic book writing? What was your first foray into comic books? And obviously, I mean, [00:09:00] from a fan as a professional, both.
Ram V: well, yeah, as a fan, I used to read them. I used to read them as a kid. I don’t know that I was really a fan at that point. I used to read the stuff that was more easily available to me in India, which didn’t include a lot of, Marvel DC stuff. So I used to read a lot of Phantom Mandrake, flash Gordon.
I used to get the European stuff there, which was a 10, 10, and asterix. so I read that as a kid. And then for the longest time I stopped reading comics because my parents insisted that I should read serious books. And so they had me reading Steinbeck and that made me very, that made me very depressed as a teenager.
Ram V: sorry, go ahead.
Jeff: No, I gonna say, I teach Dimebag at, at the high school that I teach. I’m sure it does the president. I read all the time every year.
Ram V: Yeah. I mean, first time that, I mean, I’m, I’m being, I’m being facetious, [00:10:00] but the first time I read that it had, it had such an impact on me, that, you know, I was glad for it.
so, so I’m not really complaining. Steinbeck’s a great read any day.
Jeff: I had, I was gonna say I had one student who told me, he hates reading, always hates reading. We’ll never do it. We start reading a waste of men. And, you know, he was like, I don’t hate this book, hates it, but hate this book. And we’re at the end, like, you know, when, Lenny dies, you can put your back holding tears.
It’s like, you got it. You did not hit it all off. You know, you got into it,
Ram V: you’re crying your eyes out and going. I hate this book.
Jeff: Yeah. So continue. Sorry about I’m from, from India.
Ram V: Yeah, so, so, so I read, I stopped reading comics for a long time, and then I moved to the us to, to study chemical engineering and moved to Philadelphia.
and my first year there, a friend of mine. Gifted me the first volume of salmon for my [00:11:00] birthday. And I absolutely I think over the next week or so I absolutely devoured, the, the, the entire Simon series then went on to consume everything gay men had done, and then read somewhere that he got his kind of first break in comics because Alan Moore referred him, to, to DC.
and. So I picked up Alan Moore and I read all about it more than I read Morrison was this writer who had a beef with Alan more. So I was like, okay, I’m gonna read Morrison now. and so it just went on from there and, and it was a really interesting period, almost like a second childhood for me discovering, the kind of comics that.
Maybe one a right. and so I’d always had an interest in writing, not specifically comics, but, but had an interest in writing even as a kid. and comics certainly became a part of that interest from, from then on. [00:12:00] Sorry,
Jeff: I’m gonna say, you named three of the very best in, in, in the, in that category.
And like I said, salmon it’s for me as a personal idea of Neil Gaiman. So I just want it to apply to you, but
Ram V: yeah, no, I mean, I could, I could go, I only named three because we’ve only got so much time, but, I’ll put it this way. My, my naive objective of when I first decided that, Hey, I’m going to write comics.
I was talking with a friend and I said, so what, what is your kind of pinnacle in comics? Right. And I don’t know that this is true anymore, but, but I said, I want to be one of those people in that long roster of people who, who have written Hellblazer. Yeah.
Jeff: So, yeah,
Ram V: so you can pretty much go through the list of writers who’ve written Hellblazer and, and that would be my list of people that I really enjoy.
So Delano [00:13:00] more a game and, and, as a relo, a vari.
Jeff: My character,
Ram V: Carrie. Yeah. That’s right. So yeah. Yeah. So not fat, not bad company to, to, to desire to be in.
Jeff: And from doing justice, like dark, you got John Constantine in your, in your series. So you did in many ways, do John Constantine the Hellblazer
Ram V: yeah.
Yeah. I mean, that’s part of the reason why I said. It’s probably a naive thing because I never imagined this was, this was as early as 2016 when I was writing my first comic. So I never imagined in four years, I’d be, I’d be writing. Justice league dark and doing stuff at DC.
Jeff: Well, just a segue just slightly, because I am curious.
Cause you did bring up a Hellblazer and I know cause I was a big reader of Hellblazer when it was at vertigo and I am, I started actually late. I think it’s around an issue like one 99, but I completed after I went backwards, a lot of the old issues. Did you feel about [00:14:00] him being brought into the DC standard, universe?
Ram V: I mean, I don’t, I don’t have a feeling about one way or the other. to be honest, I think there’s, there’s a way to write that character that would feel right regardless of where he went. I don’t, I don’t think the character fails by being part of one universe or the other. if anything that presents an interesting challenge for the writer who was writing their character.
Jeff: Did, do you think, cause I know, like I said, you did help. you did John constantly. You did a fantastic job. We’ll get to those questions a little bit later. but do you feel that you have to change him at all in how you present him? when you put him in the mainstream DC or do you feel you do have still the same constitute
Ram V: to be honest?
we have to remember that the book at vertigo wasn’t wasn’t Constantine, it was Hellblazer and, and Hellblazer. A is a very specific [00:15:00] look in terms of its context to, British politics and, and, and class dynamics and societal dynamics at the time. And it wasn’t really until, as a relo did, the arcs that were set in the U S that, that John even came over to America, really.
So, So I think Hellblazer in that, in that regard was a very specific kind of book. And John was a character originally made to fit that style and that narrative in that context. Right. so when, when you bring John over to the DCU, you kind of losing out on a, on a, on a major portion of what made him John Constantine, right?
He was, he was British, he was reacting to British society and British politics at the time. and. So from my perspective, if you were writing John in the DCU, as a writer, I would endeavor to find things within DCU that would hold [00:16:00] that kind of a context for him. So we really haven’t seen John put in like a politically intriguing context in the DCU.
and I think that would be the direction to go with him. given the right, given the right take, if you are,
Jeff: do you think you’ll do that where it just to see dark at some point,
Ram V: I don’t know that justice league dark is the right book to do that with, because justice league dark is about a team, and with team books, you, you have to make sure that all the characters have their due and have their moments.
And so, There’s only so much room to delve into the intricacies of a, of a character, in that kind of a book. So, so I think in the context of where John is in justice league dark, you, you get these one or two moments of his takes on the DCU or, or of how he feels about other characters there. And I think that’s.
Those are the [00:17:00] little sparks that you can bring in, but doing anything else would, would be a, be a sort of disservice to the other characters in the story being told in the book.
Jeff: Well, when I read your, justice league annual with, the interaction with. Constantine and swamp thing felt very genuine constantly.
but with the character, and I think it was also great that you did do swamp thing, another, you know, Alan Moore, w Elmore did a lot, a lot with, that was classic as well. That must have felt really good. Like your writing, once again, felt more old school Hellblazer then some of the stuff you saw when you went back to DC.
Ram V: I just think that’s, that’s the style of writing to be honest. I think there’s a melancholy weight, to what a lot of, Alan Moore did. and I tend to like melancholy, weighty writing. So I think the commonality that you were seeing is more in, in my, in my tendency to write like that, especially with the annual.
it was, it was quite a heavy, dense [00:18:00] style of writing, which, which I think works well for John because he’s that kind of sardonic, sarcastic, heavy, dense kind of character.
Jeff: Yeah. I would say. Well, a lot of the DC characters. And especially when you had just really dark, you do seem in many ways, constantly fields like the realist of the bunch, the one who is grounded, not because of, you know, like the whole ground to live in the streets, kind of a, you know, street level hero type of character, but grounded in the sense that he knows.
That you don’t always win. It’s not always going to come from a place of victory. A lot of the characters in DC are so, idealistic and positive, like wonder woman, all of that. I think it’s great to see a character like John’s counseling to re realize, sometimes things just suck. You know, you’re going to be a hero.
You’re going to fight. You’re going to have to be the most minimalistic on victory, sometimes
Ram V: being idealistic.
Jeff: And that is the best part about him.
[00:19:00] Ram V: Yeah. Yeah, I think so. And I think you need people like that. I think, I think there is a romanticism in, in someone going about their work without the expectation of victory, like, like, you know, you’re going to lose, but you do it anyway because it needs to be done
Jeff: well, well, that’s comes closest to most of us living our lives on some level, like you try your hardest, you try your damnedest to do the right thing to be successful, but you know, at the end of the day, As long as you go through it, you probably did about, you’re going to do
Ram V: all the stories on some level of work like that.
They’re all about us. You know, like, like even even wonder woman is, is that part of you? That goes just this once. Just this once I wish the good guys would win. So that’s what you see. That’s why people celebrate wonder woman, because she is hope she is that, that. One little spark of righteous, justified, idealistic victory that you want to see.
and without [00:20:00] her. You know, life would be pretty depressing. So, so I think, I think all characters kind of reflect facets of us being who we are.
Jeff: Yeah. I mean, I think that’s fair. And I like to, I do, I have tons of questions for just lead up about it. I didn’t want to sidetrack you too too much before when you were going to discuss how you got into the industry, then I’ll get back to it because I literally have a list of justice league, dark horse.
I don’t want to like get too far off track. I want one of you finished your discussion about, your towels.
Ram V: I worked as a chemical engineer for awhile after that. and I was still writing, purely as a hobby, but, you know, even as a hobbyist had been doing it for awhile, I had a few things published.
and. It was in 2012 or 2013 that I really decided, Hey, you know what, I’m not really enjoying being a chemical engineer. And I’ve been doing this thing. I was, since I was a kid and never really given it the shock that deserves. So 2013 I, started, you know, I quit chemical engineering end of book fitting and started writing short stories, [00:21:00] which got published, did well.
I applied for a creative writing. Master’s course in the UK. And I moved to the UK in 2014 to study creative writing here, wrote a novel as part of the course, which, which got nominated for a couple of internal awards. And, I put together my first graphic novel while I was at university, and which is black Mamba, which I then took to the interesting story with, I took it to a bunch of publishers and a lot of them said, look, this is very good work, but.
We don’t know what to do with a black and white book Mumbai. So, Chris daros top shelf who had cold emailed out of nowhere, responded and went, Hey, this is really good work. You should self publish this. You should crowdfund it. so more people can see your work. And I said, you know what? Okay, that’s good advice from someone I respect, I’d been a huge fan of, everything.
Jeff Lamar had done it top [00:22:00] shelf at the time. So took Chris’s words to heart and, put the book on Kickstarter and we raised a bunch of money and I published it at the end of 2016. put it out there and that’s, I guess, really what. Opened up doors for me in, in international comics.
Jeff: So when you left, chemical engineering to go into comic books, looking back, do you think that was, incredibly brave or incredibly foolish looking back has taken that level of chance to walk away from a career
Ram V: it’s it was the right thing for me to do because I’m the kind of person who kept.
To do something halfway. I can’t, I can’t do two things at a time. when I, when I’m, you know, when I’m playing a video game, I will play until five in the morning and I will shamelessly play until five in the morning, when I’m practicing my guitar, you know, and nobody has to motivate me. I’ll practice till, you know, three, 4:00 AM for my fingers bleed.
Jeff: But [00:23:00] if
Ram V: you put a gun to my head and asked me to do something, I don’t like. I don’t care. Like even at the risk of getting shot, I’ll probably put in only half the effort into it. So I knew, I knew that if I was going to be a good writer and if I wanted to really put an effort into writing that I would have to.
Jump in both feet, you know, just like practicing guitar, playing a video. Okay.
Jeff: So when you say you can’t do something that you don’t fully believe in, let’s say when you’re talking about doing comic books, does that go with the, the writing itself or the store, like at DC said, I want you to write for this character, for this title, if you didn’t, if it wasn’t a character you were totally excited by, could you still do it and get, find out a way in, or even when it comes to the running itself, you need to have a character or a story that you feel.
Deeply invested in,
Ram V: characters, not so much because characters, I mean, what’s my job as a [00:24:00] writer to make the character do whatever I want 10 rehearsals then to do. Right. So the best writers, if you think about it really changed the characters that they wrote. I mean, Batman, wasn’t the Batman we know until, you know, Frank Miller wrote your one.
And then suddenly everything changed and it’s the same, same stays true for, for someone like John, where John’s personality that we know is really evolved over, over all of these Hellblazer books. So I think as a writer, if I’m given a character that I can do, I can take that character in whatever direction I want to take them.
So that’s not as much of a concern. It’s the story. It’s the potential to tell an interesting story that is most important. and so if I can’t feel excited about the story that I am going to tell, then it’s probably a, a difficult thing for me to get into. And there might have been a time where, where I was naive [00:25:00] and I would say yes to everything that I was offered.
but you know, it’s also a learning experience. And so you learn to gauge really how, how. Interested you are in a project and how much you can put into it and how much you can get to it. regardless of the fact, if you’re a professional writer, you should be able to do a good job with whatever you have in front of you.
Jeff: totally agree. I totally agree. That’s something that you had written. I wanted to ask you again about power, power, DSO. Am I pressing that correctly? So, I know it it’s talked about issue eight that’s a couple of years ago, and it said it was going to be a return to it. Are you returning to it at any point?
Ram V: It’s a very, it’s a very difficult question to answer. So the numbers at the time didn’t justify return to it because it’s 2017. And nobody knew who Ron V was or who they promoted was, or who I did there was when we started that book. I mean, there are, I can show you [00:26:00] actual reviews that are just like trying to pronounce our names and going, I don’t even know who these people are.
And so I suppose it’s a, it’s a thing of pride then to be a complete unknown and, and, you know, image showing the kind of faith to go, Hey, yeah. Do two volumes do more if you want. But by the end of the second volume, I think we’d gotten to a point where not enough people were picking up the single issue.
So it’s very difficult to justify doing that because you know, artists need to get paid and letters need to get paid and colors paid. but that’s not to say that given where I am now, I might not at some point in the future find time to go back to the book and write it because it is intended to be a five volume story and I do have all of that plotted out.
So, I guess it just becomes a question of, okay, when can I get to it?
Jeff: Well, I’m gonna say it must help the fact that you, your name [00:27:00] is getting bigger and bigger with special justice league dark. I imagine that audience will pull over to power diesel as well. And helped. obviously, like I said, bring up the numbers, I would imagine.
Or that’s part of maybe your calculus as well.
Ram V: I mean, yes it is. but also, you know, I’m already doing a book this year at image, I’m doing a book called blue and green, with, on another Christian, which will come out in October. and it would be unfair to that book to then for me, for me to go pick up project, which I had put on pause and started doing that as well.
So, It’s just a, it’s just a matter of finding time and working the schedules, in a way to be able to go back to that. there’s also creative choice, right? So sometimes, sometimes you’re telling a story and if you’re interrupted in the middle of you, you lose, you lose the, the thing that had you excited about it in the first place.
so it’s also a question of me kind of being in the creative space to go. Yeah, I want to go back to this and I want to pick this up, but I want to pick up from [00:28:00] where I left off.
Jeff: No, that totally makes sense. And hopefully when you, when you’re ready to advertise blue and green, you definitely come back here to, to talk about it.
so how did you get into, moving along? How did you get into justice league, dark, the annual, who came to who about that?
Ram V: so James Tynan got in touch with me, obviously I’d already done some work in DC. I had written, a Batman secret files. One shot. which Jane, Jamie rich pulled me into. He was my editor on that.
and I had written, a couple of issues of cattlemen for him as well. and then I put out these have a chores to evolve, which James read then he really enjoyed. So he recommended to his editor that, since I was already working on a few DC projects too, to see if, I’d be up for writing the annual and.
when James emailed me, he was like, look, I want you to do what you did with December chores. and I want you to, you know, make this a swamp thing, John Constantine, separate story. And the [00:29:00] moment he said those words, I was like, of course, of course I will do
Jeff: it. I really did love that annual and I must admit it.
There’s something about Constantine. Team being teamed on, at least for the, even for a little while with swamp thing, they’re interacting with each other. That just works perfectly. It’s hard. I’m not sure exactly why it works perfectly. It just seems to be a very organic interaction.
Ram V: I think, I think part of it’s nostalgia and history, I mean, these are characters that kind of grew up with each other if you will.
and so that’s part of probably why it works, but also they’re, they’re good foil to each other in that. Swamp thing, at least in my head is a character that is learning to appreciate the infinite beauty of, of the world around him. while John is, finds it very [00:30:00] difficult to see any beauty in the world around him, at least in my head.
So I feel like those are, does it two great point of view, points of view. to, to play off of each other.
Jeff: Well, like I said, I mean that the annual was, was phenomenal. And so you, and you did it as a collaboration with James, James Tanya, like how does that work with you both, right. I mean, is one just given like, is one more just the idea and you’re doing the scripting.
How did that work
Ram V: out? Yeah. When, when James came to me, he said, look, I’ve got this idea. It has to start here and it has to end up here. and. I’ve got a general idea for what you could do with the story. and so that’s what he did. He said it has to, this is where the previous issue leaves off and you have to establish this before the next issue begins.
and I want to want you to try and do something with this character called the King of pedals, and, and try and outline a story or fashion a [00:31:00] plot. Based on that. And then the rest of it really was, was up to me. of course he had inputs on the plot and on the script when, when it was written, but, largely between those two goalposts, it was my job
Jeff: and must’ve been one, well, my favorite things, I think about that annual.
Is that you, you did a very fascinating comparison in, with the idea of the parliament of flowers versus the parliament of trees and swamp thing. Talking about how trees do things in the long, in the long view, in, in, in, and flowers are very, you know, very short lived they’re they’re there and how they, their, their worldview then is definitely much more immediate and much more maybe urgent than someone like swamp thing.
And I thought that was, that was a wonderful way of, a wonderful message to the readers. And was that something you were trying to focus on the idea of like dwelling in momentary defeats and instead of maybe looking at things as, from, you know, the, the big picture of everything?
Ram V: Yeah, I think [00:32:00] so. I think that’s part of what makes swamp thing a unique character to me is that, sometimes.
It’s better to wait and watch then to act. and a lot of superheroes tend to attend to act. and I suppose Swan thing would be unique in that he would know that sometimes you can’t, you can’t win, you can’t prevent losses and you have to have superhuman strength to withstand that, in any case. And so.
I think it’s part of what makes him such a beautiful melancholy character is that his view of our world is, is really that of a giant Redwood, looking at looking at lives, go by. and so that’s something that was certainly on my mind that, and potentially continues to be on my mind as I, as I write.
Jeff: Now that’s something that, do you feel that it [00:33:00] has affected his character in the other, in the regular series, or you brought that into this character or? you know, cause I mean, it’s such a, when you’re reading that annual, there is such an easy, like I said, melancholy and a very, it feels like you definitely scarred him a bit.
Ram V: so, well, he’s not been, he’s not really been back yet in the main series. and so without giving too much away, I guess you will have to wait and find out
Jeff: fantastic teas. And I think what’s in good is like, Earlier, like you said, swamp thing has a very, positive or hopeful view of humanity.
And that’s also what motivates him. I thought it was great. Cause you have John constantly that issue as well at the very beginning, not only as the catalyst who pushed him in that direction and in a, in a, in a very interestingly kind of a manipulative kind of way. But what I find intriguing about Constantine is that.
He’s, you know, you have to assume he’s motivated by something, but you know, to have such a negative view [00:34:00] on society and still motivate to fight for it, it’s just an interesting economy for a hierarchy you would think. No,
Ram V: I think, I think a lot of people are, are genuinely like that. I’m reminded of a, of a little bit, Warren Ellis had written one of his newsletters called, but enthusiastic pessimism or something like that.
Within which, in which he said, you don’t expect a positive outcome, but you work towards it regardless. and, and I think there’s a, there’s a, a strength to, to being like that, to living like that. in fact is an equally beautiful viewpoint because. What you’re saying is that it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, what matters is that pride that you did the right thing.
and, and so I think John’s obsession is, is not with whether he’s doing things for, for right or wrong, [00:35:00] but the fact that he is trying his best to do what he thinks needs to be done. So
Jeff: if that being the case. Underneath that all that, sardonic behavior, the. pessimism everything else. He actually is then on some level, very hopeful as well.
And, and maybe on some level it may sound cliche, but it may have to be more hopeful. It’s something. I mean, if you know the positive outcomes, always positive, you’re just going to, you know, you might as well join in cause it’s, you know, the outcome’s positive, cause it takes more mental energy and maybe, hopefulness to go through a situation, knowing the odds are of failure, but you still must keep going.
Cause you need to try to do this. You know what I’m saying?
Ram V: I wouldn’t say John is the optimist. I would say John is the hopeful pragmatist.
Jeff: That makes, that makes good sense. I mean, I think I love about gone constantly. I always do. It’s just he, this, the complexity of his character, I think. and I think when you put them on justice league dark, but the way you have, he’s a perfect counterpoint to a lot of the [00:36:00] characters.
Like, as, as you said earlier, like wonder woman. he though he’s even a little bit on a similar page of a detective shampoo also seems to be also very much a pragmatist as well. And in that sense,
Ram V: I think, I think each of the characters, I think trying to define the characters as these kind of specific conversation points is, is counterproductive.
I think, yeah. I think you’re right in that there are commonalities between Bobo and John, but. I find Bobo’s need to prove himself far more fascinating than his sarcasm or his pragmatism. And equally I find wonder, woman’s need to, to constantly shoulder the burden far more fascinating than her optimism.
and so, and so I think it it’s more important for me as a writer, to. Look at what [00:37:00] makes these characters unique rather than compare them to each other? If that makes sense.
Jeff: No, it totally makes it makes, it makes a lot of sense. And I think what I also find intriguing about the team is that obviously justly, dark is a magic based team.
And some of the characters I think are kind of interested in that being on it like a man bat, it doesn’t strike me necessarily being magical based. and for some reason, wonder woman doesn’t either though, I guess being Greek mythology, you would be, so. How do you fit those characters who don’t necessarily have that magic connection and make it work, and show that they belong with.
Let’s say dr. Fate and Constantine who are definitely all about ends the Tana all about magic.
Ram V: I mean, to be honest, I don’t look at it as you know, magical versus now magical characters. Although magic is an important and consistent theme in the book. I look at it as characters who belong in the weird corner of the DCU.
Ram V: And, and if you look at it that way, then man, that certainly belongs in the weird corner of the DCU and, you know, Bobo sort of only belongs in the weird [00:38:00] corner of the DCU. And I think what James has done with wonder woman, in terms of her, in terms of the Greek mythology and her history with the fates and Hector, are these done a great job of taking what is otherwise a straightforward character and giving her this dimension of, of.
Weirdness and darkness, if you will. so yeah, so that’s how I think of it. I, I want, I want justice league dark to be the weird corner of the DCU. Well, I mean,
Jeff: it definitely works. I mean, the, the issues that, that you’ve been working on and also you’ve now moved into the regular series. And what could I actually, it, for your, obviously you started off, it looks like with the collaboration with James tiny in my prostate last name, right?
Tiny in Tinian. alright, apologize to James for me.
Ram V: No, no, no. I did this mistake too. It’s not Tinian. It’s Tynan
Ram V: title. Okay.
Jeff: James Tynan for [00:39:00] you apologize for him. Cause like I said, for some reason I thought it was teeny tiny in or something like that,
Ram V: but I made the same mistake that first time I met him and I asked him, how do I pronounce your last name?
And he went, it’s timing.
Jeff: Well, at least he was nice enough to just correct it without being like, what the hell, man.
Ram V: I find it better to ask than to presume,
Jeff: especially to keep saying it the wrong way. And he eventually, you know, a year later it’s like, dude, what the hell is tiny tendon or whatever. So, but I think it was issued 22 or 23 or solicited as being the solo writer.
Is that going to be the state of things or are you going to stay, are you still sticking with being a collaborator after that?
Ram V: To be honest, I feel it would be a disservice to readers for me to come in after James has built a story for, for, you know, my 22 issues for me to, you know, 19 issues, for me to then go, yeah, I’m just going to take it in a completely different [00:40:00] direction.
So even though I am a solo writing the books, I am certainly. Continuing James plot, and, and tying it up to a place where I feel like, okay, that’s done. And now I can tell another story, a different story. Cause I think it would be unfair to readers to, to, to get to, to two quarters or, of the story.
And then we go, yeah, no, it’s completely changing now. so yeah,
Jeff: but, but you are going to be sold credited or
Ram V: yeah, because, essentially the way it worked was after this art James handed me his pitch documents. And he said, it’s up to you now where you take this. and so I am continuing to take his narrative forward.
and I, and I check back with him. I give him a call every now and then, and then go, Hey man, this is what I’m doing with this next bit. And this is how I’m tying [00:41:00] it up. and, and so far, James seems pretty excited with what I’m doing with it.
Jeff: So how far ahead are you plotted so far?
Ram V: we’re working at this point.
I mean, I’ve been working through the quarantine, so I think we’re working on issue 26, 27. Right now. They want us out.
Jeff: Yeah. Yeah, 2021 is a I, but I think that the last, the next three, I think are solicited anyway. Cause at least I’ve seen the, the plot or that the plot, but the some nap synopsis for the next few.
Right. well I guess the question everyone’s going to have is obviously, Just leave dark, just to see goddessy and just the all came out of what, just Scott Snyder was doing with, dark metal and obviously has the next big event planned. I guess it’s coming out within months. I imagine.
Well, depending on the whole COBIT and what’s happened to shut down everything, but hopefully a few months, I assume that it’s going to eventually hit justice league dark, or you or you, or is it gonna exist outside it?
Ram V: I don’t want to give away anything that. Might be a nice surprise for readers. [00:42:00] So I will, I will hold my tongue on that.
Jeff: I won’t press though. I’m I’m, I’m extremely curious. I
Ram V: am very. I’m very forthcoming about stuff that I can and cannot talk about. And this is one of those things I cannot talk about.
Jeff: Well, maybe this is a question you probably can. Also, you can not, you can also not answer that because it would imply on the answer, but I’m going to ask it anyway, just for the hell of it.
when you, because of your cause you are writing in DC and you’re writing in that larger part of that larger universe, which obviously is impacted by many things. Is it difficult as a writer to write something that also is going to be. Yeah, something else is impacting that story from the outside of your series.
And you know, and also as a writer as well, who has to, like you said, be impassioned by it. Does it say, is there ever a concern that you are being constrained by what’s happening outside your series?
Ram V: No, I think I think constraints are good. I think not having any constraints [00:43:00] means you often tend to not have any challenges unless you present yourselves.
Yourself with those challenges too. Right. And there’s the joy of doing that? You do that in your create around stuff, or you even get to do that when, you know, when you’re writing stuff at DC or Marvel, where you go, Hey, this is my thing. I’m, I’m running the show with this book. and so those stories certainly tend to be, you know, interesting in their own way, but that isn’t to say that.
Having something happen that affects the events of your book is in any way a limiting constraint, because it’s not a, it’s just another challenge that as a professional writer, you should be able to not only navigate but thrive off of. So I’m all for stuff happening to my characters. As long as I get to decide how they react to it.
Jeff: Let me tell us, I mean, how have the editors ever told you not to do something or told you, you had to do something [00:44:00] where either some, somewhere along the line you were, you know, you just made a stand on being like, I don’t want to do this or said, all right, I’m going to, I’ll stick it in. But I mean, do you have ever had that kind of interference?
Ram V: I’m never the kind of guy to go. Alright. I’ll just take it in. because that’s just not how I function, not how I work. I think it goes back to my personality being. Either I made it 100% or I’m not right. So I don’t make those kinds of choices. And fortunately, I’ve only ever worked with editors who have come back to me and said, Hey, you can’t do this because this is what we’re doing.
And this is what the character is, has to be. And these are the, these are the constraints that, that are around the character. I’ve never been told that you have to do something. I think there’s a big difference between being told, sorry, we can’t, you can’t do this with a character, versus being told you have to do this with a character because not being able to do something [00:45:00] means, you know, one route’s closed off and you go, okay, well this, this part, this door’s closed.
How do, how else can I climb in? And maybe I can use the window. Right? Exactly. But, but telling, but being told. You have to climb into this, this particular window means all of their options are closed and that’s a far more restricted way of doing stuff. And I don’t think any of the editors that I’ve interacted with so far.
Have ever come up with a thing where they said, this is what you have to do.
Jeff: So when you did, as you’re doing just sleek, dark, your issue, you, you introduced animal man. Well, that’s something that, that’s where that came from you. you know, I w I want to introduce a man to the team and is also that’s something that’s gonna be permanent.
Ram V: No, I think, I think that was originally James’s idea to bring in animal man, and it’s comics, nothing is ever permanent, but, I think. What I want to do is look at a way where I can bring in characters [00:46:00] occasionally and then bring them out and then bring them again, you know, a few issues later. I think it would be nice to have a core cast and a rotating cast aspect to it.
Because I think it’s exciting to bring in characters and then let them go and do stuff on their own for awhile. Well, I
Jeff: mean, that’s been, those are like the hallmark of one of ’em the satellite era. It seems like with justice league where they did have a, seem like a large team, but it was rotating and seeing what the cartoon was just, again, limited to the similar thing where each episode was a rotation.
are there characters that you’re, that you would want to rotate in or rotate out? That you’re, that you’re planning or already plotted.
Ram V: There are absolutely characters that I have already rotated in and rotated out, and we’ll be continuing to do so, but I won’t give away which characters there.
Jeff: No problem.
No problem. is there any chance, cause obviously I’m a as, as, as a fan, a fan boy, [00:47:00] is there any chance we’re going to get some demon and trigon or Zuora into our comic book of justice league? Dark.
Ram V: You’ll have to, you’ll have to wait and watch.
Ram V: Did you,
Jeff: did you at any, ever read a shadow pack, which seemed to be almost a precursor justice league, dark.
Ram V: No, no, I haven’t read it.
Jeff: Oh, shadow pack came out. I think it was early 2000. It was a, it was a team of, like a magic based team. I know you said Jessica is more like the weird corner. Oh, turn it back was more metric oriented. I only lasted like 15 or 16 issues, but eventually they had entered again and they had Zuora.
I must say it was, I always enjoyed the interaction. The idea of the demon and the angel character.
Ram V: Yeah. Yeah, no, I think, I think, I mean, Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of ed trigon as a character as well. and, and there’s certainly nobody’s said no to anything so far. So there’s certainly room for me to, to play around with that.
But, there’s also, you know, we have to be mindful that it is a, it is a team book and you need, [00:48:00] and you need characters who, who work well with each other. You don’t want. To bring in characters that will absolutely steal the show equally. You don’t want to be in characters that are going to sit in the corner and not do anything.
So, there’s a lot of thought that goes into which characters kind of can be brought in and then belong there and work well. So, all I can say is read on
Jeff: now, when you’re thinking about which characters you are rotating in, are you thinking first, this is the character I want to write, or are you thinking this is the plot?
I need the characters to work within it.
Ram V: I think to an extent, I have an idea of what I can do with certain characters. and so I guess, I guess it’s a, the answer is somewhere in between both because there are certainly characters that I want to write that I would never dream of rotating into JLD.
and there are certainly plot elements in JLD that. I would love to do, but I know as [00:49:00] soon as I take them to the editor guy, I want this character in. I’m going to get, Nope, you can’t
Jeff: do that
Ram V: now. So yeah,
Jeff: those are ruin things. If you tell me which characters you want it to rotate and just see darkly never will.
Ram V: yes it does. Because again, there is no, there is not, nothing is ever permanent than comics.
Jeff: And that totally makes sense. Oh, one of the character that was in a shadow pack and I thought it was a fun serious, so I’m bringing it up again was detective Chimp. And you also, you have them in your justice league dark, and I must have say just a detective champion, one of those characters that must be extremely fun to write.
I can’t help him imagine that he’s one of the more fun ones.
Ram V: Yeah, I think, I think so. I think, I think at least given my writing style, writing grounded characters is certainly an entertaining, exercise for me. And I think, but it was a very grounded character. So to put him in these kinds of absurd situations, and ask him to deal with them always provides for a good writing fuel.
So, no [00:50:00] disagreement there and he’s very exciting character to write. I enjoy writing him. And, I think he’s got a, he’s got a very unique voice within the team, because it’s the kind of character that. Is you can’t take too seriously. And yet it’s probably the best choice for delivering some really serious moments.
Jeff: Why do you think he hasn’t been more popular? I mean, I mean,
Ram V: there’s so much that goes into, into making a character popular or not. I don’t, I don’t really think about whether a character is popular or not, but when I’m. Given the opportunity to use a character. I’m thinking about what can I do? That’s entertaining and fun popularity in itself is a thing you can’t design for.
You could do things that, that, that means your character, is, is read well and received well, but who knows what makes characters popular? Right.
[00:51:00] Jeff: Yeah, no, I agree with you completely. I think the other thing I find interesting about justly dark as well is that you’re dealing with a scale that’s much larger than you deal in most other titles and the power levels of your characters outside of maybe detective shampoo obviously is lower power and maybe compare it to the man bad at this point.
But if you’re dealing with characters on a massive scale of power and is that, so that make it difficult to come up with new challenges for them considering me, you got fate, you know, a swamp thing, constantly wonder woman. You know next, you know, who’s almost not quite questioning where it’s from, but she’s up there.
I mean, is that that’s gotta be daunting.
Ram V: I mean, yeah. I called us the dragon ballsy effect. Right. Once you’ve punched a plan it out, where do you go from there? Exactly. And so I think it’s something as a, as a, as a writer and a creator to be very aware of. and there are ways there are interesting ways to gently bring the storytelling back to a place where.
Well, and also, you know, I don’t want [00:52:00] stories to get too far away from being relevant to everyday people. And I think, I think I miss a little bit of that and I want to inject more of that into the stories is where are the everyday people? Exactly. And so. And so you will see me potentially nudging the stories a little bit more in that direction.
Let me let’s talk about characters. Let’s talk about the everyday people. Let’s talk about relationships as well. How side of. You know, moving mountains through reality and quantum spaces
Jeff: stuff. Yeah. And I must say the other thing that must be, I’m always fascinated from a writing standpoint is when you’re dealing with magic characters who, whose powers are less defined.
I mean, for instance, a Tana, I mean, from last, you know, I knew of the character, anything she says backwards she can do, which opens a lot of different avenues of what. It’s possible, you know, doc fate magic. Do, do you feel, [00:53:00] cause the power is so unlimited like that. Do you feel a need to define it more or do you think part of the fun is the unexpected what they can do?
Ram V: I think, I think more than whether it’s too much or too little, I think they have to be different. I think the danger in saying. You have unlimited power is at some point all unlimited power looks the same, you know? and, and that’s something that, that I will do. And I want to do going forward is really kind of going okay.
Let’s, let’s define what these powers, how these powers are different, more than whose powers are stronger or weaker. or more limited, I want, I want characters powers to, to reflect the characters themselves rather than be this kind of all [00:54:00] encompassing term of quote unquote
Jeff: magic. Yeah. And I must admit.
Sort of when I think about magic and kind of how it was handled, I guess. Well, I don’t know if you ever saw the Harry Potter movies, where they do tell you what can be done before they do it sort of, as far as early in the book or early in the series, it says, shows the characters doing a, B and C types of magic.
And then those magic abilities pop up later on is very rarely a surprise when they do something. And that’s sort of how your approach to the magic is going to be where you kind of approach what. Is possible with them and then you’re going to have later showing it.
Ram V: no, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t quite put it that way.
I think, I think that’s, to be honest, I think that’s a very cursory way of building a world where you go, these are my rules. And so everything has to, has to work to them. And so when you do break those rules, then it’s very interesting, but. I don’t think we need to do that with these characters because they’ve been around for so long.
People [00:55:00] already know what to expect when they see these characters. I think what’s more interesting is to go, this is what you expect to see from this character, but. What if I change the expectation and this really one quirky way that makes all of their powers very unique. So I don’t, I don’t know that a lot of people have noticed this, but in, in so far in my issues, John doesn’t really cast, spells.
Okay. He doesn’t because he’s never been that kind of magician in my head. John’s John’s magic is it’s. The little tricks is the little slight of hand is the, is the quiet stuff that he does in the shadows. He’s not the kind to, to cast a spell and throw a fireball at someone. So I like writing John like that.
That’s not to say he can’t do it. But I like giving him that character quirk, where John’s magic is [00:56:00] really, you know, pulling out a quarter from behind someone’s ear when they least expect it.
Jeff: No, there’s a, there’s a cool, there’s that kind of what you’re cause I know one of the majors storylines that you’re working right now is the idea that magic is being rewritten.
Is that kind of where you’re going to go with the idea of rewriting magic?
Ram V: revealing too much. No, not really. I mean, I, I want to use this as a general approach for writing magic based characters is to make the magic suit the character, rather than be this objective third person thing where it just exists, regardless of who’s using it.
Jeff: no, I totally, I totally get that kind of, the other thing that’s kind of interesting when you’re looking at the world, you’re building is you’re creating these different parliaments obviously, then you eventually get to the parliament of life and it seems what you did with the department of flowers you have.
This seems like your concept where anything giving any kind of power is definitely corrupted [00:57:00] immediately by it. And. It seems like a very interesting thing. So when you deal with something like the, department of life, is that also going to suggest that life on its own is corrupted as well?
Ram V: I think you should.
I think you should read more to see how I’ve treated the parliament of life. And you might rethink the question. So again, again, not something I want to spoil it because, Because I want readers to look at what the parliament of life actually is and take it from there. And interestingly, I’m not, I’m not the one who, who created these parliaments.
There’ve been part of DC Canon for years. And James really sent me a list and I went. Wait, there are so many parliaments.
Jeff: I must admit. It seems like, I believe it was a Jeff Lameer. I think who’s kinda got the ball rolling with that during the new 52. I think I may be wrong on that. it didn’t seem like it kinda came.
this might be a bad comparison or a, or definitely correct thought is that when justice with green lantern came out with the idea of the multiple rings [00:58:00] with Jeff Johns, that swamp, that sorta like swamp things, emotional spectrum on some level.
Ram V: I mean, it might have come from there. that’s not how I’m treating it.
I am more in the sort of more and Morrison school of things where, you know, they, they really. Define what, what the red was and what the green was and what the, what the black was. and I find that to be much more interesting rather than creating something out of the spectrum. because again, that runs into the danger of there just being infinite possibilities, then, you know, why stop at seven, create the eighth one, the main one in the 10 to one.
And, and eventually you’re just left with. Things that are kind of same similar, but, but only delineated by what looks like arbitrary ideas of what they should be. So, no, I I’m I’m I think there are quite enough parliaments. [00:59:00] I think, I think the question is how can you use them in interesting ways
As you’re plotting this, this series, what is it that you think your readers will walk away with from your, from what you’re doing with just from just sleek, dark from either from a character standpoint, maybe big picture standpoint, or is there something in the storyline you’re trying to, or a message trying to bring to them?
Ram V: I’m interested in? Well, I can’t define what readers walk away with. Right. I, I I’ll tell you what I’m exploring. And I’m exploring the idea of magic and what gives it power. Why does magic exist? You know, outside of forget, forget justice league, dark, forget DC magic. Just the idea of magic. What is it? Right.
And I’m exploring that. Through two of these [01:00:00] books. and, and I think it leads to some very interesting places about how we define what is real and what is not real and how we, we create rules about what is allowed to change in reality and what is not. and so, so, so I I’m. Hoping to take it in that direction, whether the readers walk away with that, or whether they walk away with an entertaining story about characters, going through their, their troubles and their journeys, who knows?
Jeff: Yeah. I, I must say one thing I always, fascinated me with the potential of the magic world of DC is just to think of like, what kind of was that say for the average person to live in a world where that is possible, you know, I’m like, that would probably change your, how you define just about everything in existence.
I would imagine.
Ram V: Yeah. And I think, I think that goes back to what you were talking about with, with power levels escalating. Right. I think it’s important to keep in mind the [01:01:00] view that, okay, how does this, how does this translate to an average everyday person? and even if that’s. Even if that everyday person is in fact a superhero, like every superhero still on some level also in everyday person.
So, so yeah, so I am certainly looking in those directions.
Jeff: Oh, that’s fantastic. so we’ve been, we’ve been talking for about an hour, so I’m thinking, so what would be your, I guess my last question, what would be your pitch for justly dark to, for new readers? To what, what do you, what should draw?
What do we think is the key draw for them?
Ram V: if, if readers want to find a corner of the DCU where weird characters, can be seen in full bloom, dealing with the weird parts of the DCU, but also dealing with what is, what it’s like to be a character with a weird set of powers, in the DCU, that’s certainly a way you should be coming to justice league dark for, Everyone can throw fireballs [01:02:00] and conjure lightning.
but we’ll have, we’ll have our characters do. Stranger stuff.
Jeff: That’s very cool. Thank you so much. when I say mr. Ram or rom, alright, also, Rob, yeah. Thank you so much for talking with you. You’re fantastic. I, I love your insights into, magic in the, in the bigger ideas of writing. I think you’re a fascinating person.
And in your view of it, It was a pleasure.
Ram V: My pleasure. Thanks, Jeff.
Jeff: Have a great day.
Ram V: Yeah, you too. Take care.