It was work, comics, sleep, repeat... and it was worth it.
Image Comics writer Angelo Tirotto turned the Wizard Of Oz into the horror story we always knew it could be. Now he's returning to comics with his self-published "Manwolfs" nearly five years in the making.
What was it about the Oz stories that pulled you in to write "No Place Like Home”?
In all honesty, anger. I was watching a pilot of a new American TV show which took characters from fiction or fairytales and presented them in modern times. I was so excited at the premise but felt totally let down no less than 20 minutes into the first episode. I remember shouting at the TV “If I was writing this I’d have a flying monkey from Oz terrorizing a small Kansan town” and, being one to put my money where my mouth is, took pen to paper and scratched the title “Flying Monkey” into my note book. A few weeks later it became No Place Like Home.
More than that, I love Bill Willingham’s Fables. I think it’s one of the most beautifully crafted comic books ever published and it subsequently became a huge inspiration when creating No Place Like Home. I loved the idea of taking something so well known and turning it on it’s head, much like Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and to a larger extent, the movie, is one of the most read and watched tales in modern history. Baum’s rich, magical and, in parts, incredibly dark Oz was the perfect place to tell my tale. It’s packed full of amazing places, characters, monsters and creatures which gave me a lot to play with plus, everyone knows The Wizard of Oz so it was always going to be an easy leap of imagination for readers.
It's been five years since "No Place Like Home" was published. What have you been up to in the interim?
A little backstory. When Richard and I first signed to Image Comics we were both completely blown away. We didn't think our silly little books (we pitched two books, both were green-lit) would ever make the cut, let alone go on to second printings with every issue selling out! We were both humbled and shocked at the great response we had, we couldn't believe there were people out there who actually liked what we were doing!
At the time we both had full time jobs; I had just opened a comic book store and Richard was (and still is) a conceptual artist for a successful computer game design studio here in the UK. We had no idea what it took to produce a comic book on a monthly basis, none at all, but we learned, oh boy did we learn. For approximately one year we juggled our day jobs with comic creation. Most, if not every night, we would be working into the early hours, grabbing no more than 3 or 4 hours sleep, before heading back to our day jobs until we could get home again and back to creating comics. This is no over exaggeration, and I am sure there are countless other creators out there who have been through the same process as us, but I didn't see the light of day, or a single friend, in that time. It was work, comics, sleep, repeat… and it was worth it.
In our naivety, we steamed ahead, determined that we would push No Place Like Home out each month for many years but it was exhausting, and we fell behind. The last few issues were late, and one was, well, really late and it no doubt pissed a lot of readers off. This didn't sit well with me and it knocked my confidence. I felt that we were not giving our loyal readers the book they deserved and it forced me to look at what I was doing from a new perspective. I realized I needed a different, sustainable approach.
After the first arc was collected into trade paperback, life decided to step in and thats where No Place Like Home had to take an indefinite hiatus. Rich had a baby boy on the way and was promoted at his work, I was trying to build a business and we just didn't have the time or resources to keep No Place Like Home on an ongoing basis. We literally couldn't afford to and, again, this is true for all the other creators out there starting their careers in the comic book industry, we had bills to pay and mouths to feed. It just wasn't possible at the time.
On top of that I suffered a number of soul destroying losses and to top it all off, my father who, after an extremely painful year, died of cancer. This had a massive impact on my mindset and I had to hand over the comic book store to my business partner and take a break from work altogether, comics included, which meant, for the foreseeable future, no more No Place Like Home.
There were a few moments over the proceeding few years we thought we could work on the next arc, but again, life just pushed back and we had to let everybody down and I decided I would wait until I was in a position to deliver on my promises.
Once I got my head and heart back into the game, I really wanted to put more comics out but I didn't want to rush into it so I spent the next few years developing my comic projects, making sure I understood the business of comics itself and sharpened my skills to a level I felt good enough to start sharing with the world. I wanted to be confident that I could give readers my best work, at the highest quality and, most importantly, deliver my comics on time.
During those years I spent considerable time helping other creators with their scripts, story and character building as well as advising and helping them put their own pitches together, lettering or helping them refine the mechanics of making comics. It was a lot of fun and I discovered I really enjoyed being, for all intents and purposes, an editor. It’s something I would really love to do on a regular basis alongside creating my own comics.
Tell me about Manwolfs.
Manwolfs! I’m really excited about this project. I’ve been a skateboarder all my life and I was introduced to a very surreal skateboard film which featured these characters. I instantly fell in love with them and approached the creators about the possibility of using them for a comic book. Fast forward a few years later and it’s about to become a reality.
The Manwolfs are a motley crew of bohemian, beer drinking, skateboarding, anti-corporate, fun loving extroverts. Led by an enigmatic, and somewhat unbalanced, leader, conveniently named, The Leader, and are never far away from trouble, mainly because they are usually causing it.
In their never-ending quest to “Stay Sensitive", the Manwolfs have spent hours (literally) honing and training their bodies to better prepare for the adventures and mayhem that inevitably follows them around.
Fuelled by beer, the finest takeout food and armed with a "Kick To Kill" mentality, the Manwolfs are ready to tear down the walls of consumerism and injustice wherever they find them. Failing that, a nice cup of tea and newspaper will do.
Basically, it’s just a lot of fun with a gang of crazy guys trying to right wrongs and bring some justice to the world. It will poke fun at the greed of corporations and on a lighter note show how these guys have evolved through the ages with some fun stories set in the 70s, 80s and present day.
Dean Beattie has the main art duties, you should check out all of Dean’s work! His style is really unique and expressive and it brings these characters to life. I could sing his praises all day long, he’s a brilliant artist and illustrator. Plus, I want to butter him up so he’ll spend longer at the drawing board producing lots of Manwolfs art.
I’m also working on another horror book, with the working title of MALEFICIUM set in the 1980s, a dark, spooky murder mystery about a dead witch, a female hypochondriac werewolf and a 2,500 year old mummified Egyptian princess with a bad attitude and a gutter mouth. It will be incredibly dark but have some humour too.
If all goes well, we might even see the next installments of No Place Like Home but thats all down to schedules, so no promises there I’m afraid.
What makes now the right time to return to comics?
I needed the money. No, just kidding. The truth is I would have returned a lot earlier if the opportunity had presented itself. I’m much more settled now and things are going really well in my private life. Mainly, I just really, really missed comics. I’ve spent over 20 years in graphic design, which I enjoy immensely, but nothing compares to creating comics for me. Taking an idea from nothing to flipping open the finished product is one of the best feelings ever and, more than that, doing something you love all day long sounds pretty good to me.
Also, initially, I wanted to self publish and maybe talk to some of the creator-owned companies once Manwolfs is out. I’m always open to anything and putting Manwolfs out myself has taught me a lot about how to make a book successful (other than producing good work) and given me my confidence back too.
Hopefully, people will like what we’re putting out there and, combined with my newly launched Patreon, I hope to be in a creative and financially stable position to just that for many years to come.
How's the comic's scene in Portsmouth?
There’s a healthy following of readers spanning all ages and a very creative art scene in general. To add to that, Portsmouth University prides itself on its creative student output so I’d say there is a good fan base locally. Comic book movies are a big hit here and that always helps bring new readers into the fold. Other than that, there is one serious comic book store in the center of Southsea but, if you want Comic Conventions you have to travel outside of the city.
Watch out for Manwolfs, coming soon from Angelo Tirotto.
Support Angelo Tirotto on Patreon https://www.patreon.com/room237
Visit Angelo Tirotto's website http://noonemournsthewicked.com/
Find Angelo Tirotto on Twitter https://mobile.twitter.com/room237
Get No Place Like Home via Comixology https://www.comixology.com/No-Place-Like-Home/comics-series