Interview - Patrick Purcell and Pablo Verdugo Munoz

Winter City is a solid indie comic from a couple of great folks that looks at one individuals quest to stop corruption in a bleak, desolate city. There's a supernatural element to it, as one man fancies himself an incarnation of the Grim Reaper. It features the writing of Patrick and Carl Purcell, illustrations by Pablo Verdugo Munoz and colors by David Aravena Riquelme. The book is top-notch and both Pat Purcell and Munoz were gracious to answer a few questions about their work, the art and what an oligopoly is anyway.

Omnicomic: Where did you get the idea for the book?

Pat Purcell: First, let me just say thank you. Jonathan, you have been an avid and unconditional supporter of our comics since the very first issue. Words can't express how grateful I am. I wish there were more folks as willing as you.

I've always been a fan of the Grim Reaper. I believe Death to be one of the most under utilized figures in contemporary horror and to that end, I decide that I wanted to create a comic book with Death as the central antagonist. Originally, I wanted to make something supernatural and ghostly, but over time, as my interests and likes/dislikes changed, I decided that a serial killer guised as the Grim Reaper would be far more compelling.

The trick was always going to be how we delivered a character that embodies Death, but does so with a believable backstory and a compelling agenda.

Omnicomic: How did you get hooked up with Pablo Verdugo Munoz and David Aravena Riquelme?

Purcell: Originally, I wanted to be to illustrate to comics myself...but after a few pages I realized that it was never going to reach the quality I wanted and felt the story deserved. Took me a while to accept that I wasn't good enough, but when I did, it became a matter of scouring the Internet for a freelance illustrator.

My searches lead me to DeviantArt and the "Work for hire" forum. I sifted through scores of profiles until I found a few different artists with styles that appealed to me. I approached Pablo, asked him if he was interested in the project. I also requested a test page. The test page was fantastic. Better than I could have hoped. I immediately offered him the job, and the rest is history.

The story is pretty much exactly the same for David. I discovered his work on DeviantArt. Liked what he was doing and I offered him a trial. The results were great and David became our colorist.

Omnicomic: Can fans find your work anywhere else besides Winter City?

Pablo Verdugo Munoz: This is the first comic book series I have been involved with. I've had a few short stories published in magazines, but Winter City is the biggest project I've worked to-date. I have a Deviant art profile where I upload personal paintings and drawings. If you’d like to visit you’re most welcome:

Omnicomic: Did you find it difficult to illustrate such a destitute and decaying city? For a book like Winter City, the setting has to be desolate and it looks like you nailed it!

Munoz: Thanks Jonathan. Yes, it was difficult to take the concept to the paper. I used a lot of night city landscape photos as references to get a real sense of place. This city is one more character in the story, we try to show it as characteristic and realistic as possible.

Omnicomic: How would you pitch Winter City to a new reader?

Purcell: I actually find it really difficult pitching the story. On the surface it's simple. It’s a story about a serial killer who believes himself to be Death of the four horseman. The problem is that it really is simplistic and completely misses the point of the story and the direction the story is headed.

The other "pitch" is that Winter City is the origins story for an antihero and vigilante who dresses like the Grim Reaper and brutally murders sinners. Again, this is overly simplistic and doesn't do the complexities of the main character any justice. For me, Winter City is simply the story of a boy. It's a glimpse into the life of a person without the love of their parents, life in an abusive foster home, a need for a family and social acceptance. The result, the sum of a lifetime of sadness, pain and suffering, is a disturbed and angry man without empathy or remorse.

To draw comparisons, Winter City and the Reaper is a combination of Hannibal Lector, Batman and the Punisher all mashed up into something unique and entertaining.

Omnicomic: The series is about halfway done and the reader knows a little bit more about certain characters' pasts. Do you plan on fully revealing the Winter City universe by the end? Or leave a few things open-ended for future installments?

Purcell: Definitely, we'll be leaving a few areas in the gray. Some things we might never truly reveal... They are not plot breakers, just ideas that are best left for readers to ponder. The twelve will wrap up nicely, but there is a whole lot more ground to cover. We certainly intend to keep the story going beyond twelve.

Omnicomic: Creator-owned works are taking the comic book world by storm. Do you feel that going that route has given you more creativity?

Purcell: Of course, when you do it all yourself you get complete control of the story and the production. The downside is, most creators have no idea what they are doing, if their work is any good, or is something that has an audience. Sure, I can look over Winter City and say "This is my vision. My way. No compromise" and that is a wonderful and valid thing. But at the same time we struggle to get the book into stores, reach new fans, and get taken seriously by media.

Creator-owned is taking the world by storm, but the thing that people seem to forget is that the best selling creator owned stuff is really ex-Marvel, ex-DC, etc, writers and illustrators "Creating their own", and when they do, they have a ready-made fan base and are welcomed by fans and publishers with open arms.

Omnicomic: Did you ever consider (or are maybe planning to) pitching the series to a bigger publisher?

Purcell: I "to and fro" over this constantly. In the end, I think it'll be a hard sell. We don't have any "names" attached to our books, we are seemingly competing in the super-hero space (though I debate it, I accept first impressions lean that way), and we are writing about mature, and often difficult, subjects that an all-age, mainstream audience won’t accept. Winter City is one of those stories that will find an audience, and I hope becomes an underground/colt classic. Unfortunately, I don't think any publishers will be jumping on-board. Too much risk, not enough "no brainer" reward.

Omnicomic: Speaking of creator-owned works, does the Winter City team have another title they're working on? Or are you really just focused on finishing up Winter City right now?

Purcell: Yes. I have an artist who has committed to starting production of a new series in 2014. Omnicomic will be the first to know once we're ready to go live :)

Omnicomic: Is there one individual in the comic book industry that you would say really drove you to get into comics?

Purcell: Not one single person, and this is a completely cliched list, but is the truth. Jim Davis got me hooked, Frank Miller showed me how cool comics can be, Alan Moore convinced me comics can be intelligent and Todd McFarlane proved that art is the number one, most important element.

Munoz: I have many artistic influences. Some are more obvious like Mcfarlane, Greg Capullo, Marc Silvestri, but also have many Manga influences like Ryoichi Ikegami and Naoki Urasawa. The American and Japanese comics have a lot to teach each other. I believe something of a mix of influences can be extremely compelling.

Omnicomic: What's your convention schedule looking like for the upcoming year?

Purcell: Mostly just local stuff. It's hard to justify international travel when working with an indie budget.

Munoz: I don't yet have a convention schedule for the next year.

Omnicomic: Anything you want to plug while you have the floor?

Purcell: I meet a lot of people who want to break into comics; either as writers or artists. I always ask them what local creators and independent stuff they are currently buying, reading and supporting. 90% of these people don't buy indie, they buy Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and Image books. I put this to them and everyone else...

When you are trying to break into comics, you start by working in a local scene. It's a struggle to find paid work; it's a struggle to find an audience. If more comic book readers supported the bottom end, there would be more books, better quality books, more diversity and most importantly more work.

If every comic book reader decided to invest $5 at the indie-end of the market, instead of buying into the big publisher twisted web of interconnected titles, the comics scene would actually be an industry and not an international oligopoly. Oligopoly: a state of limited competition, in which a market is shared by a small number of producers or sellers.

Munoz: First, thank you for your support of Winter city. We all appreciate the great reviews and exposure. Second, I want to thanks all the fans and people who have support us until now. Please keep reading Winter City because it will get better every issue :)