Melissa got a chance to sit down and chat with the incredible writer Zac Thompson about his new books! Personally (this is John speaking) Lonely Receiver looks amazing and I just ordered my copy.
Zac also says to reach out to him on twitter for writing advice, so hit him up!
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Zac Thompson Interview
[00:00:00] Melissa: This is spoiler country and I’m Melissa searcher today on the show. I’m thrilled to welcome comic book writer, Zach Thompson. Welcome to the show.
Zac Thompson: Thanks for having me. Thank
Melissa: you. Thanks for being here. How are you doing tonight?
Zac Thompson: No, I’m pretty good. I mean, it’s been raining all day and I listened to rainy, like.
Ambient mixes all day because I’m a crazy person and wrote all day. So it’s been pretty chill.
Melissa: That’s awesome. Yeah. I love those mixes. So you got them on YouTube?
Zac Thompson: Yeah. Tons of them.
Melissa: Yeah. Nice. Are you, where, where are you where it’s raining? Because it’s sunny here in the West coast anyway.
Zac Thompson: I’m in the West coast as well.
I’m up in Vancouver, BC. Oh,
Melissa: okay. All right. I wasn’t sure. Yeah. I was like maybe Seattle and it was raining there today too.
Zac Thompson: Where are you at?
Melissa: I’m in Northern California and Monterey.
Zac Thompson: Oh, cool.
Melissa: Yeah. So we have very strange weather. It will rain randomly and then be like, you know, 70 degrees and sunny the next day.
It’s very bizarre.
Zac Thompson: That sounds like the West coast.
Melissa: Yeah, [00:01:00] totally. so yeah, you’re a really busy eyes. I really appreciate you coming out tonight and talking to me, I’d love to know. how did you get started in, in writing comics for a living.
Zac Thompson: So the short answer is sort of like fell backwards into it.
the sort of longer answer is, I went to film school, about 10 years ago at this point. And, there I met Lonnie Nadler. Who’s the guy, typically co-write some stories with, and. After going through the writing for film and television program at film school, I had a couple of scripts that I was really passionate about and it really didn’t seem like, making them in film was a reality just by, based on, you know, getting everyone together and, and sort of the amount of people that it requires to make a film is much larger than the amount of people that are requires to make comics.
So. I showed one of my early scripts to Lonnie and we began kind of collaborating on it. And we [00:02:00] just reached out to like local artists here in Vancouver. And that’s how we actually created our first book, the drags, which has set in Vancouver and is about the city that we were all in at the time that we created it.
it’s like this weird homeless. about a homeless man who believes himself to be a detective because he reads a lot of detective fiction. But it’s also kind of like a weird through-line of like cannibalism and, and, yeah, that kind of came like in the interim years because this like, sort of took a long while to get off the ground.
I had kind of. Become a journalist by virtue of just writing and writing and writing and sort of looking for every opportunity to sort of publish my own work. so at that point I was working for vice and, just that alone sort of opened the door for our first comment to get published.
Melissa: Oh yeah. I bet.
Yeah, that’s a very, that’s a large conglomerate. That’s awesome. How long did you work for rice?
Zac Thompson: about three years on and off. just sort of doing. [00:03:00] I did about 12 or 14 stories in that time. and then while I was doing that, I was also writing for HuffPost and anywhere that would really allow me to, to write
Cool. Are you, were you writing like, op-eds or political pieces, or were you actually writing about pop culture?
Zac Thompson: So for vice, it was a lot of like, I started in like the personal essay sort of stuff. then that veered into like subculture, like interviewing weirdos and, and going to different places in town and sort of just meeting wacky people.
a lot of the HuffPost stuff was more based around social justice and sort of getting to the heart of. Trump’s America really? Like it was, it was working there between 2015 and right into 2018. And so it was this weird sort of period where, a lot of politics was changing and stuff. Yeah. Yeah.
After that, I’m like never again.
Melissa: Yeah. So say you’re in the thick of it
[00:04:00] Zac Thompson: must have been
Melissa: stressful, actually.
Zac Thompson: It was. I mean, you can’t plan for that kind of thing. That’s the, we would get to work and have an idea for what we were going to write for the day. And then, you know, you would go on Twitter and be like, Oh, well actually that’s completely changed now.
Melissa: yeah. Reality is changing by the minute. Well, I’m sure about probably, you know, influenced your writing, I would assume. Right. In some ways like fear your fiction writing.
Zac Thompson: Yeah, for sure. I mean, it, it, It requires you to sort of think on your feet, a lot, working in journalism and also sort of like get to the heart of an emotional story if there’s other people involved.
And, and I think that really helped sort of helped me navigate through this stuff. I wonder. Right. Because it. It became very clear to me that a lot of the stuff I wanted to write was it the people who maybe didn’t have a normal [00:05:00] perspective in comics or in art or in storytelling. So like with the first comic being about a homeless man, that was very much shut on purpose.
After spending time in the downtown East side, here in Vancouver, where we have like a, we kind of have like a homeless population that. We don’t really interfere with. So if we have like a safe injection site for heroin and it’s sort of like a hands-off community where they can put up tent cities and that kind of thing, but it’s not, it’s not an easy place to live by any means.
And I found that really fascinating because I was I’m from, one of the smallest provinces in Canada where we basically just didn’t have any homeless people or when I was growing up anyway. And, It was very strange for me to move to a city where there was like, you know, 12 blocks of these people who.
Had a community amongst themselves, but no one was talking about it or no one was doing anything that I didn’t see any of that representation in media. And so that was became really important to me [00:06:00] in the beginning.
Melissa: Yeah. Yeah. Well, it’s, it’s they become sort of like this faceless nameless or, you know, they just become this entity of like the homeless people, but people forget that they have, you know, individuality and, you know, lives and things like that.
still going, even though they are homeless. So that’s an interesting perspective.
Zac Thompson: Yeah. And that again, like I, because I spent time down there writing about that area, you get to talk to people down there and hear their stories and learn so much about them. And it gave me so much, like, I guess, like texture to how the city worked, when I was new to it.
And it really showed me that, you know, We’re not, we’re not always publishing things, in our stories that sort of represent the reality of, of different experiences and that. yeah, that really guided me early on.
Melissa: Wow. That’s awesome. so you’ve, you’ve been doing a lot of comics lately, very busy, which is awesome.
[00:07:00] your, your one comic, I want to talk about first undone by blood. It’s a comic you wrote for aftershock, with Lonnie and Adler. What was that process like? Working with a co-writer as far as. For that particular project. Did you take turns doing the POV or do you write it together seamlessly or symbiotically?
Zac Thompson: Lonnie and I are weird, in that, like, I hear a lot of other co-writers sort of like trade scripts back and forth, or sort of like do one page and then do the other, Lonnie and I live in the same neighborhood and we are pretty like. We’ve always been pretty close. so during undone, by blood, there was like, it was written over the course of like a summer, probably about six or seven months.
And, I would like bike to his house one day and we would hang out in his living room and we both have a Google doc open. And, we would just like, Workshop every line [00:08:00] of dialogue and every panel together and sort of like co-write in the same document at the same time. And then the next day he would come over to my place and we would just go back and forth until the scripts were done.
And that’s sort of how Lani and I’ve, co-written everything. it’s very much like hands-on in the room together, workshopping everything. so, you know, someone will suggest a panel. And the other person might be like, Oh, that’s cool. But what if we did this on top of that? Or like, I don’t really like that, but what if we did this instead?
And it’s that collaboration in the room, as opposed to sort of like. Working in silos and then trading back and forth.
Melissa: Yeah. Well that seems to work really well because I think it’s important, you know, when you are co-writing you want to make sure that you, the voice of the, of the, you know, of the actual book itself, not necessarily each individual character, but just the general voice, you know, has to sort of sound like the same in a sense, you know, otherwise I think it distracts people when they’re reading.
So that’s really cool that you guys [00:09:00] work that well together where you can kind of just, make that happen, you know?
Zac Thompson: Yeah. And that was a, that was a big thing for us, was like, we’ve read some stuff where you can definitely see the fingerprints of one person or another. And not that that’s necessarily bad, but it was sort of a decision early on for us that like, That helped both of us as writers that also helped both of us as storytellers.
It’s sort of like, almost like having your editor in the room with you and, and coming up with like a mutual consensus on everything. I creates this like really neat experience of like, You’re always sort of testing everything as opposed to like, when you’re writing by yourself, you can sort of get lost in the weeds and think that you’ve done something amazing and then read it the next day and be like, what was I think,
Right. Yeah. You have someone like literally in real time to, to tell you. Okay. No, let’s, let’s change that, which is nice. and volume one just released on November 4th. And so for those who aren’t familiar, [00:10:00] can you just give us a short, you know, a brief description on what the premise is for undone by blood?
Zac Thompson: Yeah. So undone by blood follows a 17 year old girl. Her name is Ethel Grady lane. As she returns to an Arizona town with just a pistol and a Western novel in her hand, she is there to kill the man that murdered her family. But, in typical like comic book fashion, we have added an element where you also follow the old West story of the novel that she’s reading.
So both stories unfold simultaneously and inform one another for better or worse. it’s sort of showing the juxtaposition between the myth of the Western and the reality of the Western.
Melissa: Wow. That’s really cool. Now I know that’s categorized as meta fiction, right?
Zac Thompson: Yes.
Melissa: Yeah. It’s something I’m actually not that familiar with.
I’ve just been sort of reading up on it. what do you think for you was the allure of that or the [00:11:00] goal exactly. In wanting to do meta fiction with this story?
Zac Thompson: so for Lani and I we’re both Canadian. and so the Western genre is sort of this. Quintessentially American John rhe. It’s sort of this it’s enraptured in the myth that Americans tell themselves about their own exceptionalism or their own sort of, triumph.
And it’s all, it’s this very like whitewashed version of history. That’s very interesting, from an outsider’s perspective. And so I think the goal of using the meta fiction was to sort of show that the myth. Of westerns, informs the reality of America for better or worse. and so creating that like sort of friction and between the intertextuality of the stories and, and showing that like, you know, this is what we’ve been told, and this is the result of these like, stories are always, or the Western sort of pulps that, [00:12:00] Ethel is reading.
Are very like highly stylized and, you know, the, the main character of that really, never misses a shot. And then he’s sort of this legendary cowboy, but for her, you know, she doesn’t really know, what it means to point a gun at someone and what can happen if you point a gun at the wrong person, or, you know, what.
People tell themselves about who the Cowboys of the 1970s are rather than the 1890s and sort of how that’s influenced American culture for better or worse. And I think that with that Metta ability to like, have that conversation between those two stories, you also kind of see, us having a conversation with what we.
Believe is like the impact of that fiction on the societies that created it.
Melissa: Oh, cool. Interesting. So you kind of, you had to write two stories essentially, or a story within a story, basically. Yeah. Yeah, but that was what was that
Zac Thompson: leg? It’s always [00:13:00] interesting. We didn’t. And really, anticipate how difficult it will be, when we originally pitched the book and then it quickly became apparent that like you, you have to do satisfying things in both stories per issue, and you have to really make sure that there’s this narrative momentum.
and we’re currently writing the second storyline in the book and that’s, that’s always interesting too, because we, we had sort of. Figured it out the first time and we’re really happy with the way it worked and the way it all played together. And then. You think, because you’ve done it once before that it’s, you’ll be able to do it.
No problem. The second time and the same problems cropped up again, but it’s fun. It’s an interesting challenge and it’s a good, it helps you sort of see the economy of. Of space that you have within a single issue of a comic book and sort of like how to make things satisfying and also the trims or some of the fat between the stories.
So, you know, things [00:14:00] might speak a little bit more subtly, but if you’re paying attention over time, you’ll see that like some of the things that we leave out or the jumps that we take in this story are for very specific. Purposes that later become much more impactful. The deeper you get into the storyline.
Melissa: So you’re leaving like little breadcrumbs, essentially.
Zac Thompson: Yeah.
Melissa: Well, and it’s also been recently announced that it will be adopted for television by Norman Redis, this company, big bald head productions. Will you have any influence over the script at all?
Zac Thompson: we are currently pretty involved with Norman and his production company in terms of building at the world.
And we’ve also sort of, welcomed Norman into sort of collaboration with us about the comic book as well. because, We’ve early on with this book. For some reason, it sort of struck a chord with people in Hollywood. And we started taking a lot of calls about, hospital adaptations and that kind of thing.
[00:15:00] And Norman was Norman and his producing partner. Amanda Verdun. Both were very quickly like onboard with the book, but also sort of really understood the themes and how it could translate to television and, and what it meant to sort of move it to another medium. And it was really awesome. I it’s only happened once before.
and it’s super cool just to see people who are completely like. Kind of intuiting what you’re putting down on the page. so they’ve been very, very welcoming for Lonnie and I to sort of be involved, on a level that we weren’t really expecting, but completely appreciate. So, we’re still in the very early days because.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has kind of put everything in this weird. Yeah,
Melissa: everything’s on hold.
Zac Thompson: Yeah. And it’s like, it’s basically like Christmas time now in Hollywood because they’re just like, [00:16:00] well, the vaccine will be around next year. So we’ll take everything back up in 2020.
Melissa: Right. Well, that’s good. No, that’s fantastic that you found, a home for it in it.
With, with someone that you trust with, you know, your artistic baby, essentially, you know, because there’s so many stories of people, you know, they sell the rights and then they don’t have any say in it. And then, you know, it doesn’t always, get translated the way that maybe they intended to. So that’s really good to hear that you found someone who’s as passionate about it as you are.
Zac Thompson: Yeah. And yeah, that’s a, that’s a big fear and Lonnie and I. Coming from film school, you know, like think about these things a lot and, and really, I guess. You never expected it to be the best case scenario. And this ended up being the best case scenario, which is like very rare. We feel very lucky.
Melissa: Yeah. No congratulations. That’s awesome. Yeah. So will this series have, a set amount of issues or [00:17:00] was it always going to have a set amount and maybe now you’re changing that because it’s being adopted for television and keeping it ongoing. How, how does that work?
Zac Thompson: yeah, so it was originally five issues and we finished writing it about, Oh, wow.
It’d probably be over a year ago at this point. and then since the option agreement and everything went through, I’ve moved the series into like a second storyline. So every, storyline will sort of be. This anthology approach, where it’s a different character in a different era of American history, picking up one of these novels and being inspired to sort of seek revenge in their own life.
and the idea behind that is that like the cowboy story will be the through line where you’ll sort of see that story progress over time. But the individual people who, are inspired to sort of like take. justice into their own hands are varied, with the intention being that it’s always [00:18:00] highlighting perspectives that are outside of like a white, straight dude.
So very nonconventional westerns with, different time periods and trying to say something about different areas in American history.
Melissa: Really cool. I look forward to seeing more of that. And, another comic I want to talk to you about is lonely receiver. you’ve another one you’ve written for aftershock.
So this is a really dark story, a mixture of horror Saifai suspense. What inspired you to write this one?
Zac Thompson: so, I’ve done a lot of therapy in the last couple of years and done a lot of like accounting for my past and my dating history and all of that kind of stuff. And it, it sort of occurred to me that, as a man, we are usually encouraged to talk about.
These types of things, we’re not usually encouraged to be emotionally [00:19:00] vulnerable or sort of be emotionally open or honest, a better experience. And I thought about a lot. How that sort of steered me the wrong way in life and steered me in the direction where I maybe had relationships with people where I didn’t have very good boundaries or that were borderline abusive.
And sort of, this was a pattern that was occurring in my life. That was part of my own design. so I really wanted to create a horror book that encapsulated that, but also. No flirted with the madness of like romance and breakups and what it means to sort of redefine yourself. I found that like a reoccurring theme in my life when I was in my late teens and early twenties was like, I was defining myself a lot by how other people were looking at me.
And then I would go through this huge breakup. It would be explosive. And then I really didn’t know who I was and outside of the context of the relationship. And so it occurred to me [00:20:00] that, that, you know, 10 years later and a lot of like work on myself later, it occurred to me that. That is a ripe area for horror.
Melissa: Yeah. And relatable. Very relatable too. I mean, everyone’s been through a breakup, so yeah. I mean it’s and, and I think at the time we probably think we are going through a horror movie when it’s happening.
Zac Thompson: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And that was a, that was a big thing. And my pitch to aftershock was like, I was like, I want to do something that is.
Inherently romantic, but also like kind of heartbreaking and really gets to the, the, the crux of what it means to go through a breakup when you really built your life around this other thing, like what it needs to go through a very cup that almost pushes you to the brink of insanity. And luckily they were onboard for some reason.
Melissa: and then there’s the technology aspect as well in it, which is interesting.
[00:21:00] Zac Thompson: Yeah, that that came because, I was in a, a very long-term relationship that ended, in a pretty poor way, but it, it ended of my design and I sort of got out of that and I was finally sort of feeling healthy and.
And better about myself. And then I was like, I’ll try online dating. And I, was horrified by how dating had changed, since I had been in that relationship. And I just remember using Tinder for the first time and being like, shocked just about the way that it sort of like. Commodify as speed. And it felt like a weird, it just, it was very perverse to me.
So I immediately came up with this idea where I was like, well, what if people. Are married to their phone and they sort of are able to design their perfect partner. And then I was like, but you, you know, you make the book about someone losing that and the irrationality of a certain thing, like losing a certain thing or being rejected [00:22:00] by a thing that’s supposed to love you unconditionally.
Seemed pretty, right?
Melissa: Yeah. Well, and also, you know, it, it touches on the whole concept of AI, you know, cause there’s been a lot of talk in recent years from scientists and philosophers about, you know, the potentials, of potential dangers of AI ghetto. if, if it’s in the wrong hands, then if it, if it keeps growing and use for the wrong things, is that another like theme that you kind of explore in this one?
Zac Thompson: Yeah. So, I’m really obsessed with the work of David Cronenberg. he’s a Canadian film director sort of makes stuff that is often called body horror. and he has these ideas about how technology and the human body are sort of. Creating heading for this sort of intersection. don’t know, like AI, to me feels like something that like, it could only exist in the eye of the holder, which is to say that like, it would only exist in our own design and it would be, it would succumb to the same problems that [00:23:00] we do, or at least I that’s the way I look at it.
And it felt fascinating to me to sort of like, Again, show it as this like certain thing. We, we all have this interpretation that these machines that we use or, or the technology that we use is like very truthful and perfect and, and capable of, flaw or emotion. And I feel like that’s not inherently true.
just given the way that our lives are shaped by social media and the validation that we get from posting and, you know, It, it shapes the way that we develop emotionally and it shapes the way that we feel about ourselves. and, but that’s also dictated by a company on the other end that has its own goals.
And so it was all this like multi textured thinking about like, how do you represent a lot of that, but in a way that is like, Physical and, and has a relate-ability to it that people will immediately understand.
Melissa: Right. Well, which is a nice segue [00:24:00] into my question about one of your other comic books, which is, I breathed a body.
You, you know, you examine the dangers of social media and its effects on society. also in a supernatural horror genre setting. so. What did you, what kind of research did you for this then? And what did you kind of discover as you were creating this story and, and why? take it to this, you know, super extreme of like what would happen in the worst, you know, situations.
Zac Thompson: so that came as I was talking earlier about the work that I did at HuffPost, one of the things that I did there was I was in charge of like a partnership with. YouTube. So YouTube is we’re given access to right on HuffPost. and it was like, I thought it was going to be this really cool. So, or sort of forward thinking, vertical for lack of a better term, that’s sort of like what they call different aspects of journalism.
So if you write about politics, that’s its own vertical. so it was supposed to be this like [00:25:00] influencer fronted, social justice. aspect of the website and what ended up happening was I sort of, became horrified by, the views and interpretation. Some of these people had about the world and not only that, but then being confronted with sort of the corporate structure of.
The company that I worked for and, and raising some, ringing some alarm bells about some things that were being posted or some things that were being said and no one seeming to give a shit. so the example I give all the time was, one of the people that we were like working with, I forget which one it was, but either Jake Paul or Logan Paul, and there was that right after new year’s I think in 2018, one of them went to the Japanese suicide forest and filmed.
I did a body.
Melissa: Oh my God.
Zac Thompson: And then it was on YouTube for several hours. And this was someone that we were working with and I had came into work and I was like, we [00:26:00] need to take this down. We need to, you know, like, this is just what the sensible thing to do is, and what I was quickly confronted with was like a lot of bureaucracy as to like why it’s creating hits and why it doesn’t need to be taken down.
And, It was, it was quite interesting. And so I, I started walked away from that, with this idea that like, okay, we actually, we have a lot of talk about the things that, are prohibited content on online, but in reality, if people can make money from it and if people can get away with it, they’ll leave it up there for as long as they can get away with it.
And we’re also in an era right now where like, you know, the truth doesn’t really matter to a lot of people anymore,
Melissa: right? Yeah. It’s, it’s the whole, debate. And I’ve gotten into several arguments with people about this, but the whole debate of freedom of speech. And I think a lot of people don’t really understand [00:27:00] what.
The definition of freedom of speech is in a lot of regards, especially in entertainment when you have a platform and you’re a public figure, you do have a responsibility to not censor yourself, but, but to not, you know, do what you just described that they did in that video.
Zac Thompson: Yeah. To just be sensible.
Right. I think like, I think a lot about how I was actually talking about this earlier today, about how. You know, movies have ratings boards and video games have ratings boards or whatever. And like maybe people don’t abide by them, but it’s a literally qualifying certain types of content to say, this is what this is sort of intersecting with.
It gives it context, right? Like there’s going to be nudity in this thing or whatever. Right. But you also have to abide by those rules in order to have your content. Released to movie theaters or published or whatever those things don’t exist for social media. And often they’re given to teenagers who are too young to understand what is good or what [00:28:00] is bad.
And they’re sort of growing up in real time online. and we’re sort of all watching in horror. and it’s created this like really weird, economy of attention that is, It’s kind of rewriting the rules of morality in real time. And I find that very fascinating.
Melissa: Yeah. I grew up in an era before social media as though I remember what it was like when we just went and played outside, you know, and I often wonder what the psychological effects will be, you know, for, for those who have been born into this era and don’t know any different.
Zac Thompson: Yeah, I think about that all the time too. Cause like, you know, it’s simple things, but yeah, I grew up in the same era and it’s sort of like, you know, for the first. Probably, I don’t even think I had a cell phone until I was 18. And it was like a flip phone that you had to like pull an antenna to send like a [00:29:00] video message.
yeah, it it’s, it’s very funny to me that. You know, we don’t think about those things. And I can, I feel like I, I can barely check out sometimes. Like sometimes I get like, sort of just caught up in what’s going on online and then you’re sort of like caught up in it and maybe two or three hours go by.
And like, I know that’s not good. And I know all the reasons I’ve done all that research and I still find myself drawn to it. And the only reason I can walk away is because I remember a life without it.
Melissa: Right. Exactly. And I think too, like with the kind of, you know, business that you’re in, there’s a certain amount of time that you do have to spend online because that’s part of your job as well as networking and, you know, promotion.
And it’s just keeping a platform relevant, you know, so that people know who you are and know where to go. You know, see your work and things like that. So I think that’s also the challenge too, is, you know, setting aside that time for the [00:30:00] promo marketing, you know, career stuff, and then actually just closing the phone and having like some downtime.
Zac Thompson: Yeah. It really, and truly, and like I found that, this year in particular, as I started to learn more and more about social media and the ways that we are manipulated, I, I turned off all notifications on everything on my phone. And that’s really, really, really, yeah, because now I don’t, I only get like dinged if I get an email and that’s, that’s the only thing that can reach me right away, because that’s where actual work that needs to get done will land on my lap.
And then people will be like, Hey, we need this right away. outside of that, I, I don’t let any social media sort of bother me constantly because it’s also like. A weird thing at a certain point when your online audience gets large enough, if like, you know, say something goes viral and, and it just hammers you for hours.
And it’s sort of like, if you’re, if you [00:31:00] get caught up in it, you can sort of just lose so much time just staring at the same image, going like, Ooh, likes are coming in. And it’s like, it’s so silly. And then you have to sort of like remove yourself from it and go like, okay, this doesn’t matter. Yeah,
Melissa: no, exactly.
Yeah. There’s, there’s also seems to be like an increase in, and this is just from, you know, what I realized from, you know, maybe 20 years ago to now, there seems to be an increase in people that have anxiety. You know, it, it seems to be growing and, it’s, it’s interesting how we can deal with the more technology we have and the more access we, we have to social media.
I feel maybe the lack of physical, actual social engagement, you know, with people like the actual intimate one-on-one conversation you have with someone at a coffee shop, Isn’t there anymore. and this is pre COVID. You know, this was happening way before the pandemic where people just weren’t talking to each [00:32:00] other, in person and, and then you see this increase in anxiety and social anxiety and, and you have to, you know, you can’t help, but wonder if the two are connected.
Zac Thompson: Oh, yeah. I think they’re 100% kind of, just, just because it’s so easy to get caught up in online interactions and get so used to that being reality. And I think I always, I try to remind myself. Constantly like, you know, whatever happens online is not indicative of reality. and it’s cool and it’s fun and it’s a nice place to go and hang out with friends or, or, you know, post memes or laugh at stuff.
but it also can be a really easy way to get pulled into a certain view of yourself and, or to feel worse about yourself just by sort of looking at all the things other people have.
Melissa: Yeah. No, absolutely. And so in, in I breathe the body without giving away any [00:33:00] spoilers, of course, for those who haven’t.
well actually I don’t, when does that one come out? That’s not out yet, right.
Zac Thompson: That’s out in January,
Melissa: January. Okay. So without giving away spoilers, does that, the overall theme of that, you know, just with everything we’ve talked about, is that, is there a hopeful arc in there?
Zac Thompson: it was written almost entirely this year, and sort of conceived of this year in the tail end of the election and sort of like, I think, A purposely set out to write something ugly that tells ugly truths with ugly people. and it very much trying to evoke like a Clive Barker sensibility who his early work was very dark and featured people who are sort of reprehensible.
And though, there is humanity to be found in. Some of it is a lot about the [00:34:00] things that we. slowly become accustomed to if exposed to it for too long.
Melissa: It’s like where we become numb to it. And it just accepted as essentially a new normal.
Zac Thompson: Yeah.
Melissa: Okay. All right. Well going in a slightly different direction with a narrative direction, actually with no one’s Rose.
You, it’s a, it’s a slightly different topic, but still somewhat related, I think, at the large grand scheme of things, but can you expand upon the concept of solar punk and it being an anti dystopia?
Zac Thompson: Yeah. So, so our podcast sort of grounded in a more hopeful re-imagining of the future, with sustainable technology, Sort of giving a inter interiority to the lives of plants and animals and making sure that those things sort of have an emphasis within the narrative, and sort of dismantling all the [00:35:00] drab and dreary imagery of cyberpunk and then rebuilding it in, in the eyes of the natural world, with forward-thinking, technologies that are sort of at, you know, that are.
Pioneering sort of climate science right now.
Melissa: Okay. Can you tell us a little bit about the storyline for that one?
Zac Thompson: Yeah, so, that one I co-wrote with Emily Horn and it is a story about two young teenage siblings. We sort of find them at selves at an ideological impasse about how they live. In their city, which is known as the green zone, the green zone is sort of this last bastion of, nature.
That’s protected by like, a dome. And within it, there’s all kinds of biodiversity. It’s basically like a forest city and within the center of it, there’s this large oxygenating tree that has the power to sort of restore the atmosphere of a desiccated earth. And it’s a lot about [00:36:00] the politics of climate change.
in that the story itself is an adventure. Fourteens, but it also looks at the complicated sort of strata of things that are, intersected within the problem of climate change, which is like class consciousness and technology, and sort of like, you know, the ideological risks that are created by people who either want to work with nature or treat nature as like a tool that needs to be sort of, harnessed and.
Harvested. And it was really written as an attempt, for both Emily and I to sort of like capture some of our, our fears around climate change, but also a lot of our hopes and sort of looking at research that seems really incredible and hopeful and putting that within a narrative that young people could read.
So they can sort of feel, some degree of identification with. the natural world, because, you know, looking [00:37:00] around in comics, there’s not a lot of stuff that prioritizes nature, especially in Saifai. And it was a really big thing for both of us that, like, we’ve been talking for three years about doing a story and we kept coming back to the idea of how do you put nature back into Saifai and how do you make it a huge part of, of what the conversation is about going forward?
Because. I feel like part of the reason that we’re in this mess with climate change right now is that we’ve prioritized these visions of the future that are purely technological and purely exploitative. And we’re not addressing real problems like corporate greed and class consciousness that have a lot to do with climate change and the activism around it.
Melissa: Yeah. And that’s, that’s awesome because, you know, you’re, you’re completely right now that I think about it, like the scifi concept, you know, people’s minds automatically go to, you know, space ships and technology [00:38:00] and cool, you know, gadgets and even, you know, like the cyberpunk and now it’s like these tall skyscrapers and, you know, they don’t think about the actual planet.
You know, and, and the trees and, and there’s this some interesting, I think misconceptions about, you know, what, what you can do with Saifai in that sense, like you were
Zac Thompson: saying, Yeah. It’s a lot about leaving this planet. Not a lot about staying on it and preserve it.
Melissa: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And you can even see that in the past things like with, you know, like the Terminator and total recall and where the machines are gonna take over.
but yet nobody. You know, those, those were created a long time ago. No one seems to have been heating the warnings.
Zac Thompson: Yeah, exactly.
Melissa: So do you, I think it’s really also really interesting that either with the lack of critical thinking that ha is happening in our society right now, I find it interesting that a lot of [00:39:00] comics are becoming.
Are containing more aspects, you know, of, of civics and critical thinking and, and politics, you know, not into the point where they’re preaching at you, but there’s these messages. do you feel like you have that responsibility, you know, being, being an artist and writer?
Zac Thompson: Yeah, I think for me, I keep thinking about how.
I want, I want to create stories that I would have been excited about when I was younger, but also to talk about things that I feel like are important to explore in art now that are sort of perspectives of ourselves and our planet is changing so much. and I think that the cool thing about comics is that the team.
It can be so small to make a comic. They can really hone in on something and create this really cool, text that sort of [00:40:00] speaks intimately to a certain issue. And you have a lot of control about how that comes out and how that looks and how that’s interpreted by people. Because you know, you’re only working in maybe even at the extreme end of things.
You’re working in a team of like six or seven people to create one book. And that’s awesome that that creates this level of, level of control, but also this level of intimacy where you, you get together with people who share a passion for these, these ideas or, or these social problems that you’re sort of addressing.
and the other thing is the comics can be created rather quickly. you know, you can see something happen in the world and if you’re self publishing, I mean, you could get something out there within six or eight weeks of that thing happening. But even in, in the publishing world, like, you know, something happens in six months later, you could have a comic on the stands talking about it.
and it would look professional and it would, it would read really well. And I think that there’s something. [00:41:00] That I really like about that speed, because I feel like now I’m consuming so much and I’m getting really passionate about things that I want to sort of just like, I. I consume a ton of knowledge about something.
Then I write a book about it. Then I sort of like move on to the next thing. And it changes me and I, I, as a person sort of, now I’m passionate about that thing and I’ll carry that with me, but I’m also sort of like, I get to sort of share that passion with other people and that feels really fun.
Melissa: Yeah. And as far as your process goes, when you are, you know, creating characters, how does the character creation affect the world building?
Zac Thompson: that’s a good question. That’s, it’s different for everything, but I think the big thing for me is like I try and come up with rural building. usually first. And it’s sort of like do all this, the rules of how the world works and the way it’s going to work. [00:42:00] and then I create a character with a certain perspective that I think would be interesting in that world.
So, they’re not sort of like a one-to-one with reality. Reality will be there in the background of the book and sort of. Hopefully in the details of the art and certain elements of the plot, you’ll put together everything you need to know about how the world actually works. But I think it’s always interesting.
If you take a character and you allow them to be sort of the conduit into the world and like, A lot of, no one’s Rose is sort of the tension and no one’s roses. You have a character who’s sort of aligned with the political party who runs the dome, and then you have a character who’s part of this resistance movement within the dome.
But the political party seems to be pretty good and, and running things pretty well. And the resistance seems to be kind of crazy. But as you get deeper into the story, you realize that neither character has the full sort of perspective on what’s [00:43:00] actually happening. And if only they talk to one another, they would be able to solve the problems that they’re both facing.
And I think that’s really interesting. And that’s the fun of sort of like doing those things and in the order where you build the world, and then you build the perspective second, because you get to really play with. People’s expectations and also sort of how you Dole out information. it can really, you can trick people, which is fun.
Melissa: Yeah. Yeah. That’s really cool. Do you, do you outline through and through, or do, does some of it, do you pants?
Zac Thompson: so I’m a crazy outliner. usually what happens is like I will, Sort of sign onto a project and I will sit down for three or so weeks and I will outline everything. and. It usually gets pretty loose towards the end because I kind of know that, I leave myself a lot of room to sort of figure it out as I go along at the same time, because I know that [00:44:00] by the time I get to the last issue or towards the end of the story, my perspective on the characters and what things may need to happen in the last issue will definitely change.
So I try to always leave myself the room, for movement. And so at. Early on. I was, you know, militant about keeping to, outlines and just like, ah, nothing can change. And now I’m realizing that like, when my gut tells me that something needs to go in a different direction, I’m more willing to drive my book off a cliff and burn my outline to the ground.
Melissa: Yeah. You have to be flexible I guess, right?
Zac Thompson: Yeah.
Melissa: Do you keep story Bibles at all?
Zac Thompson: Yes. for everything, I. I think going to film school was a good, a good thing for me because it taught me a lot of process. It taught me a lot of like creating a lot of structure. So I, I have a very structured sort of backend to my writing.
and you know, things move in a certain direction every time. And it’s always like, I built my [00:45:00] world, then it built my character. Then I build my Bible. Then I build my outlines and then I’m off to the races and I don’t change that workflow. At all. And it’s worked really well for me. And it also creates that ability to, I think, work on three or four things at the same time, because I have all of that.
Material available. And I can like, you know, if I’m like, Oh, what the hell is going on in this story? I can just go back and read all that stuff and sort of get reacquainted and jumped right back in.
Melissa: Yeah. Yeah. And I was wondering about that because you do work on so many different things, how you balance all of that and sort of wake jumped from one, you know, at the most, I think I can work at on two stories at a time, but you know, you, you probably work on four or five at sometimes.
Is that difficult? Do you have any kind of like meditation process to sort of like get one story out and then get into another again?
Zac Thompson: I found that, Early on. There was no process. It was mostly just chaos. And I have been lucky in my career in that, [00:46:00] shortly after I finished, my first comic was the third issue of it was out in the editor in chief at Marvel, found it and sort of hired Lonnie and I to come onto the X-Men books.
and we had only written three issues of one comic book ever. And so. we moved from the indie world where we were doing everything on our own, and it took us two and a half years to, to write three issues to the Marvel world where we were writing five issues in like three months. And. you kind of just like you keep your head down and you, you know, you pray to whatever higher being you believe in and you, you figure it out and going through that process, like the sort of like crazy context switching, Taught me that now what I do is like, I typically work on like four things and I, I say week, one of the month is this thing.
And I work on it from Monday to Friday and then I’ll set it aside. And [00:47:00] then week two is the second project. And so it’s always, at least controlled. So they’re not like cross-pollinating with one another, just because like, you might have to read Saifai for one project and then watch a Western movie for another project.
If you’re doing those on the same day, it’s like, who knows what things look like after
Melissa: that? Right. You’re like, who am I? Well, I’m also in writing for Marvel, so you’ve worked on X-Men and Spider-Man. just to name a few, how, how has the experience and process writing, you know, for someone else’s, you know, established universe late versus writing in your own, is that much
Zac Thompson: different?
it’s interesting. Cause like, I, I really like writing, other people’s characters because it comes, easier. In a sense because you have these very clear boundaries on what you’re allowed to do and what you aren’t allowed to do or what you sort of need to achieve. and that [00:48:00] direction can be very helpful, because it sort of.
You know, your sandbox might be smaller, but it also means you’re not getting lost in the weeds or in the details. And some things are already figured out for you. whereas like when you’re writing in your own world, if you know, you need a certain character to do a certain thing, you have to come up with it all on your own and you have to sort of like, you know, it’s very easy to go into like the Marvel Wikipedia and be like, Is there a character that does this type of thing.
And then you’re like, Oh yeah, there is cool. So I’ll write a scene with that guy in it, or that race of aliens will work perfectly here. And so it’s really, it’s nice. You can just kind of go into like the buffet line and get whatever you need and then like go back to your script and put it all together at, but like, you know, when you’re doing your own stuff, you can really get lost and you can really spend.
You know, an entire Workday fixated on a single page and maybe not even finish it because you’re just like, what the hell have I agreed [00:49:00] to do? Or what have I told people I could do that now I’m a fraud and I can’t. Make happen?
Melissa: No, read it imposter syndrome,
Zac Thompson: right? Yeah. Yeah. But the thing is, is like, you know, other side of it is that ultimate freedom is amazing and it allows you to sort of like challenge yourself and tell interesting and different stories that you could never do with someone else’s characters.
And I think there’s, you know, I like doing both because you kind of get the best of both worlds in that, You have things that are sort of fast and frantic and fun, and you can’t by virtue of what they are. You can’t take them as seriously as your original work. And then you have your original work where you kind of get to go do.
Your esoteric weirdness and you know, it either works or it doesn’t
Melissa: awesome. And well, yeah, you are quite in demand these days. has, has anything about your, your journey that you’ve been on up to this point so far? Has anything surprised you, about the [00:50:00] industry that maybe you didn’t realize before you got into it?
Zac Thompson: yeah. I mean, comics is. continues to surprise me in a lot of cool ways and that there’s like, it was a really wonderful tight knit committee with people who are creators, who are very supportive and, and wonderful. And they’ve, opened doors for me or answered questions for me when I was feeling very overwhelmed or very unable to sort of solve problems on my own.
I think that biggest thing that has surprised me. Okay. And like, I guess the biggest thing that I would say to young creators is that, there are some systems in place in comics that are very highly manipulative, and we’ll try to go do in, to taking deals, to get your work published. That might not be very good for you.
And that there is plenty of people who really like to. [00:51:00] tell you something is great and then they will own your idea forever. I think the big thing that I would always say, and I try to say this all the time is that there’s anyone out there who has questions or wants to get into comics? They can actually DM me on Twitter.
My deans are open and they always will stay open because I want to, I want to create more transparency around comics and I want to help people wherever I can. I will not tell you publicly. You know, because there’s a lot of liability with that, but I will always talk to people privately and, and help them because I think like that’s what happened for me.
And it’s, that’s the magic of something really small as like this, no matter what, even though comics feel big and in the world where we’re all watching Marvel movies, that people who read monthly comics is a small niche group of people. And we got to take care of one another.
Melissa: That’s really cool of you.
cause I’m sure there are a lot of, you know, young kids that want to get into comics, but just don’t know where to even start. You know, like you said, it [00:52:00] seems like this, the circle, you know, that you can’t breach if you’re on the outside of it. So, yeah, I think that’s really generous that you’re, that you’re willing to talk and give advice to people that want it.
Zac Thompson: Thanks. Yeah, I think it’s super important.
Melissa: Yeah. And what is your Twitter handle? So everybody knows we can bombard you
Zac Thompson: Zack B E Thompson. Okay.
Melissa: Okay, awesome. So what is your ultimate bucket list goal that you’d like to achieve in your career?
Zac Thompson: Oh, man. I talk about this a lot. I think, I think probably starting my own publisher or at least having my own small imprint, where I can dovetails nicely with the last question is help people to publish stories that might not otherwise get published.
you know, it’s a pie in the sky type of thing because getting into publishing can be a really expensive endeavor. But, I grew up in a really small [00:53:00] place in Canada where. There was not a whole lot of opportunities for career in the arts. A lot of people were just farmers or fishermen and, I was always so interested in that kind of stuff.
And I felt like I just didn’t have the means to sort of, acquire any of that information or, or the tools or, or which to sort of like succeed in my artistic career. And, you know, I, I figured it out on my own by hook or by crook. But I think that the big thing that I see is opportunities to go to specifically my own experience to places in Canada that may not have a lot of arts funding look for people who want to publish comics, from marginalized groups or identities or, or, you know, anyone who has the fire inside them to do it and try and find ways to, to help those people publish their stuff.
you know, along with publishing my own stuff and create sort of a home for. For Canadians, because I feel like Canadians and comics [00:54:00] mostly work in America. And it’d be cool to kind of bring some of that back here.
Melissa: Yeah. Back home. Yeah, that’s a good point. Well, that’s sounds like a really good goal.
and then finally, before we go, I just want to ask, so you’ve worked with a lot of people and a lot of companies is they’re still, a dream comic book, writer or artists that you haven’t worked with, that you would love to work with in the future.
Zac Thompson: yeah, so, Lonnie and I have talked a lot about doing a crazy book with Ian Bertram, who, did little bird at image last year.
and we met, we got to meet each other last year in New York and we all got along very, very well, and we’re all way too busy to, to make anything happen. But that’s a pipe dream is to sort of do a weird. I don’t even know what we would do, but it just, the idea of getting to create with someone on that level, would be incredible in sort of like this hyper detailed, artists that sort of takes, you know, years to draw as books, but [00:55:00] they’re, they’re like more UBS level.
Insanity that just no one right now, in my opinion, maybe tries more as well. Who did silver surfer black last year. he’s up there as well, but yeah. And then like, you know, big two characters. I don’t even know. I think like, I want to write the X-Men for so long and I got to do that. so I don’t even know what comes after that.
I’ve I’ve, you know, I’ve spent a year now and I’m like, I don’t know. Yeah, that’s pretty good to me.
Melissa: Yeah. You’ve, you’ve achieved a lot. and just a shorter amount of time. I mean, no one sees the uphill climb where they just see from, from when you hit, you know, the, the public eye. But, but yeah, you have achieved a lot.
so congrats on all of your success.
Zac Thompson: Well, thank you.
Melissa: Yeah. Well thank you for coming on today. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you. I just want to make sure our listeners know for everyone to go check out, lowly receiver issue. Four releases on December 9th. I breathed a body [00:56:00] releases January 20th and then no one’s burrows and undone by blood are both out now.
Zach Thompson, it has been an absolute pleasure chatting with you.
Zac Thompson: Thank you so much for having me.
Melissa: Yeah. Please come back anytime. We’d love. Love to have you back on.
Zac Thompson: I’ll stay busy and you’ll come back anytime.
Melissa: I don’t doubt that. Yeah. All right. Thank you so much.