Pronto Presents: Writer and Creator of Core – AG
By David Rondinelli
Core follows the story of Redd, a young boy who has a passion for robot battling, set against the backdrop of a futuristic world in which he lives a blue-collar life as a scavenger. However, a chance discovery sets Redd up for a quest that could take him from his humble life to an adventure among the stars.
Before jumping into Pronto Comics’ new action/sci-fi world of Core, get to know the creator behind the book. Although his pen name is short and to the point, writer AG has been pursuing a lengthy journey of his own into the world of comics with his new book.
While growing up in New York, AG always had a passion for the comics and animation industry. Core is his first project in the industry, but it is his love of writing that has directed the ship he hopes will lead him to a steady professional career in comics.
Despite keeping a level of anonymity, AG is excited to have a project that anyone can check out and he looks forward to feedback from the Pronto community.
AG: Core was originally written as a TV pilot. It was the second 30-minute show I’d written. I wanted to challenge myself to create a concept that intuitively conveyed its potential for a multimedia brand, but with interesting characters that were driven by something deeper (and maybe more sinister) than, for example, “catching ’em all.”
As you can imagine, it’s hard to get people to engage a 30+ page script when you’re a total unknown, so I decided to create a comic based on it. [Issue 1] is about a quarter of that original pilot, with dialogue and other elements simplified because of time and budget constraints.
PP: Tell us a bit about the process of going from initial inception to finished project.
AG: Having a rough concept is great—my sense is, people, by and large, aren’t going to engage with a project, no matter how ambitious it is, if you don’t have an interesting character with an emotional core to serve as a vector into your world. So once I had a sense of the basic robot-fighting premise, I started thinking about protagonists.
The goal was to put together something that is evocative of the shonen (boys’ adventure) genre, so I knew our hero would be a young boy. We need conflict [to drive] him on his adventure, to make bad or rash decisions, and then greater conflict trying to stop him from succeeding.
I consumed a lot of media in what I considered Core’s genre, going back to all those shows I watched as a kid, but with a more technical eye toward plot conventions and story structure. A valuable piece of advice I’d give to all writers is that, you should try to recognize patterns or tropes that reappear throughout works in a genre and consider how you can either incorporate or subvert them in your own story.
PP: What parts do you find the most challenging, and what do you feel it taught you?
AG: Every part of the process carries its own challenges—we could do a whole interview on just writing a script or assembling a pitch bible. The comic itself took a long time and really taught me the perils of project management. A number of artists worked on the Core comic and each of them had their own proclivities, sensitivities, and, of course, lives to deal with, so the bigger your team, the bigger the risk in things getting delayed. Finding good talent is tough, maintaining momentum can be tougher.
PP: What advice would you give to other aspiring creators when it comes to building a reliable team?
AG: Approach your network of friends first and move out from there, to friends-of-friends, friends-of-friends-of-friends, and so on. Try to stay local, too—a lot of the work was remote, and it can be tough to communicate complex ideas, like how shots should be framed, just by email alone. Of course, you can commission great work from artists abroad, but if you don’t have a certain level of creative chemistry with that person, you’ll need to do a lot of prep work and have the time and the money necessary.
With respect to working with artists, generally, if you’re precious about the brand you’re creating and you want to maintain complete ownership over it, your best bet is to shell out the cash to pay your artist. Consider creative pricing models where you don’t bear the full brunt of the cost up front—maybe set milestones.
If you’re open to splitting ownership of the idea, I think you’ll ultimately be able to find someone willing to work with you for free or at a steep discount, and who will probably do better work for you than if you were paying them their full rate. With a commission, good enough is often good enough, but when someone has a stake in the product, I think they’re motivated to really push themselves to give it their all.
That said, I understand there’s this sense that artists are often taken advantage of in exchange for wild promises of “exposure”—I think the defensiveness is justified but often misguided. Core, for me, is an ambitious passion project that I’m putting time and money into solely for my own “exposure.” It’s not a profitable business venture. If you’re an artist and you’re not aggressively self-promoting by networking and maintaining online portfolios containing the sort of work you want to be doing professionally (like, if you want to get into comics, narrative samples), there is value in working, at least partially, for “exposure.” You’re an unknown entity, you’re a risk, so adding a comic to your portfolio can provide real value if you take the initiative to market yourself. That’s another important part of the equation: even a finished project isn’t going to generate its own exposure. Having a competent creative partner means you’ve got one more person who will be aggressively pushing your work, so be strategic about it.
PP: When it comes to Core, is there a scene that you enjoyed writing the most?
AG: Different parts of the process have their own best parts: in conceptualizing the whole thing, I loved coming up with fight scenes, but sitting down and writing, I love sarcastic banter between characters. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole ton of space on the page for the latter when you’re making an action comic. So I think my favorite scene so far is that first conversation between Redd and Marlow—I think it’s fun and, hopefully, only as expository as it needs to be.
PP: Being the writer and creator, what do you feel makes for a good story?
AG: Character. If you haven’t got a good character, you haven’t got a worthwhile story. To clarify, a good character isn’t necessarily a likable or relatable character, but they have to be motivated by something we understand—whether its vengeance, glory, survival, etc.
World-building should always be second. I think Star Wars only works, for instance, because Luke, and now Rey, are simple to understand, are in over their heads, and characters more familiar with the crazy lore have to shepherd them into it—and we follow along. If Lucas had dumped the lore right on top of our heads from the get-go, I think most of the audience would have tuned out.
PP: What are some of the things that inspire you to create comics over other mediums?
AG: Well, as you can tell, part of it is relative cost to animation. Compared to short stories, though, I love seeing characters come to life with the creative flourishes of the artists involved.
PP: Looking at the final book, what is your favorite page? What part of the art stands out to you the most?
AG: I’m really happy with the splash page that serves as the transition from the dogfight in space to the battle in the arena. It was something I’d written in the pilot and wasn’t sure whether it could translate to a non-animated medium well. I think it looks really cool.
PP: Tell me a bit about your artists. How did you meet them, and what was it about the artwork that stood out to you the most?
AG: There are a bunch of artists on this: Zee and I have known each other since we were kids. He’s often my go-to guy for design work since he’s so damn good at it, especially robots.
I met Ariel at a Pronto Comics event at New York Comic Con in, I think it was 2013 (yes, that’s how long this process has been). I loved his artwork and style, and he seemed to really get the vibe I was going for. Unfortunately, for a bunch of personal reasons he couldn’t continue with the project—but now he’s working on on Miss Melee, which I encourage everyone to check out at Miss-Melee.com.
Eva, who did the lettering, is my girlfriend’s childhood friend. She’s a graphic designer, so I knew her experience could translate well to text on the page.
Ashe is a friend of Eva’s friend who I met at a party and recommended I check out her work. After I saw her take on one of Ariel’s unfinished pages, I was blown away.
(You can find links to everyone’s websites at CoreinControl.com.)
PP: Are there any hints you can give readers about where Core’s story is headed?
AG: I always believe things should get way worse for your hero before they get even worse. And then maybe they get better, but they should definitely get worse again.
PP: Tell me a bit about any of your other upcoming projects? Is there anything new fans can look forward to from you?
AG: I’m still working on original TV show pilots and pitches, which have remained my focus. I’ve got a whole bunch of ideas for more comics—if any artists out there want to chat about them, all my contact info is on the Core site. Folks should also feel free to reach out on Twitter and Tumblr if they have any more questions about Core or the stuff we’ve talked about in this interview.