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NYCC 2015: Shawn Richison Interview

Interview conducted by James Ferguson

Shawn Richison is the artist behind the new sci-fi secret agent graphic novel, Fisk: The S.U.B.S.T.I.T.U.T.E., set for release through Under Belly Comics thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign.  James caught up with Shawn at Artists Alley at New York Comic Con to talk about the project.

James Ferguson: Tell me a bit about Fisk.

Shawn Richison: It details the activities of a special agent that works with the board of education.  When the principal notices an alien crash landing in the playground or the lunch meat's gone bad and there's a zombie incursion in the lunchroom, he calls this hotline and they send in Fisk who has to clean it all up before the bell rings because you don't want the parents to panic.  He thinks he's seen and done it all, but then forces from his past that are targeting him and trying to get his special briefcase, which is the only tool that he really uses in his job.  At the same time, he's training a new protégé, so he has that to deal with as well while he tries to figure out who's trying to take him down.  

The whole thing is a bit of a mystery / action-adventure with definite horror and supernatural overtones, although it's a little bit lighter.  We're not doing that gore and gross-out stuff.  It's an all-ages horror.  Less on the Hostel end of things.  More on the Tremors side.  

JF: So is it kind of like a supernatural version of Harvey Keitel's character in Pulp Fiction?

SR: Yeah, maybe.  I always liken it to X-Files meets Archie Comics.  We've got the idea of X-Files where there are these agents that go in and check out these supernatural or otherworldly situations, but in a school setting.  We're not dealing with a bunch of teens.  He's trying to do all this without the students knowing about it, so it's all dead-of-night.  There are aliens and ghosts and definitely an animated skeleton sequence in there.  

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JF: Is Fisk just one of a number of agents in this organization?

SR: We're not giving that away at this point.  The way we're looking at it is that it may be the genesis of the S.U.B.S.T.I.T.U.T.E. Department.  He's definitely the only agent that works in this board of education.  Do other boards have S.U.B.S.T.I.T.U.T.E. Agents?  That's a possibility.  That will be something that will be ripe to plunder for a spinoff series if this one does really well.  Who were the Men in Black before they were the Men in Black?

JF: I'm imagining a superintendent's budget meeting and him allocating this.  “What do we put towards this budget?”

SR: It's all done at the same time as, “We have to pay $60 for a toilet seat,” and that kind of thing.  So you can just imagine that the teachers are not too keen when they don't get time off approved because there's no budget for it.  

JF: The Kickstarter campaign is for the first graphic novel, correct?  

SR: Yes.  We've actually completed 96 pages of story.  We're going to release it on comiXology as well in individual issues.  The reward tiers include digital versions as PDFs as well as physical copies all the way up to original art.  Jason Copeland is doing the covers and he's amazing on it.  We have those available as well at a higher level of reward.  So far we've actually exceeded our goal to get it printed and we're into the stretch goals.  

The first stretch goal that we're looking at is adding a bunch of annotations and special features to the back of the book like production sketches, script snippets, maybe some back-and-forth with Dino [Caruso] and I.  After that, the book will be available at UnderBellyComix.com.  

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JF: You've covered zombies, ghosts, and skeletons.  Do you have a dream adversary for Fisk?  

SR: I think it would be fun to see him face off against the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  That was one of the first images I did for Inktober.  I just love the look of that reptilian fish-like creature.  You can get into the whole swamp thing.  How would Fisk deal with something where he's the fish out of water?  The Creature has always had a soft spot in my heart and that would be fun.

JF: Since it's a school setting, it would have to come out of the toilet, right?

SR: Out of the toilet or some of these schools have a big pool, so maybe he's taken up residence there.  Is Fisk just going to use a life preserver and float out there?  How would he deal with that?

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About The Author
James Ferguson
Lord of the Funny Books
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.
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