Antony Johnston Interview

   Antony Johnston is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of graphic novels, video games and books. He’s worked on such titles as Wasteland, Daredevil and The Coldest City as well as the popular Dead Space series, and the highly anticipated WiiU title ZombiU. We are honored to have this talented author answer a few questions for us today at!

BLANKMANinc: How did you get your start as a writer?

Antony Johnston: “That depends what you mean. I’ve always wanted to write, since I was a child. My parents bought me a typewriter when I was 10, because I was always reading and coming up with my own stories.”

“I wrote for the local paper, and for my school magazine. I designed and ran hundreds of RPG scenarios for my friends. My first pro writing was articles about RPGs for magazines. Then I wrote a couple of RPG supplements.”

“Then I started writing comics, beginning with stuff for the web, including the illustrated horror novel FRIGHTENING CURVES with artist Aman Chaudhary. FC got picked up by an indie publisher. The same publisher released my next book, a graphic novel. Those, Frightening Curves graphic novel book cover along with some recommendations from people like Warren Ellis, got me in the door at places like Oni Press and Avatar.”

“If you’re looking for advice, there’s only a few things you really need to know, no matter what kind of writer you want to be: read as much as you can, keep working, and don’t quit. Doing those things won’t guarantee you a career as a writer. But *not* doing them guarantees you won’t have that career. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.”

BMi: Your fiction debut “Frightening Curves” won “Best Horror Novel” at the independent publisher awards, what led you to the horror genre to begin with?

AJ: “Why does any genre appeal to us? Tough to say. From an intellectual standpoint, I like how horror puts ordinary people through the wringer, and gives us catharsis through their suffering and ultimate victory. I actually see horror as a very optimistic genre.”

“But I was a fan of horror long before I could articulate that sort of thought. A childhood spent watching the ALIEN movies, old Hammer Horror films, and reading DRACULA? I guess, but what drew me to them in the first place? I can’t really say.”

BMi: What was the transition like from graphic arts to written art?

AJ: “Pretty easy, but that’s because I’ve always written (see above), so the only real “transition” was making writing my full-time job, instead of designing. It’s not like I closed QuarkXPress one day and started writing for the first time.”

alan moores fashion beast novel cover BMi: How did you get involved with Alan Moore and what was it like working him?

AJ: “That was all down to Avatar. They’d been looking for someone to work on Moore adaptations, and by fortuitous coincidence, I’d just started talking to them. I’m a huge old-school Moore fanboy, and British to boot, so they asked me to work up some samples to send to Alan. He liked them, and so I was anointed as “Moore’s hand-picked collaborator” or some such.”

“Alan himself is lovely. I’ve still never met him in person, which is insane. But we had many phone conversations while I was working on the adaptations, and he was never anything but helpful, generous, and even modest. I have nothing but good things to say about working with him.”

BMi: What were some of your inspirations when writing the “Dead Space” scripts and graphic novels?

AJ: “Well, the mainDead Space graphic novel cover influence on all of DEAD SPACE is the ALIEN movies. There’s more, of course; EVENT HORIZON was a big visual touchstone, for instance. And that was where I started, too. I came on board the original DS fairly early, but even so, the visual language was already established. So it was a case of fitting the style and atmosphere around those, really.

For the original comic series there was a bit of DIE HARD, a bit of ALIEN, even a bit of X-FILES in there. But unless you’re me, you’d probably be hard pressed to see most of it. I’m a sponge, as are most writers; almost everything I read, watch, or hear influences me in some way, but I don’t just regurgitate it wholesale. The whole point is to make something new, after all.”

BMi: “Dead Space Extraction” got rave reviews on the Wii but you’ve said that not enough people played it, why do you think players were hesitant to give it a shot?

Deadspace Extraction game cover AJ: “Mainly because it was a mature game on the Wii, and by the time it was released the Wii had already been relegated in many people’s eyes to a “kid’s console”. Being third-party didn’t help, as Nintendo gave it practically no publicity. And finally, it was on rails, and for a lot of players their only experience with rail shooters were shallow games with little depth or narrative.”

“Of course, all these factors were also why everyone was so amazed when they actually played it, and found it was a great game with a deep story and high production values. But by then the damage was done. I’m still very proud of it.”

BMi: Why weren’t you involved with “Dead Space 2” and do you plan on doing any other work in with the franchise in the future?

Dead Space 2 game cover

AJ: “I wrote almost everything *around* DS2 — the iPhone game, the graphic novel (SALVAGE), and the XBLA game (IGNITION) — just not the main game itself. That was 

handled by Jeremy Bernstein (a TV writer who’s since worked on LEVERAGE), who basically hustled the job out from under me! But I don’t begrudge him it at all, he did a great job and we’ve since become friends.”

“As for future work on Dead Space from me, it’s very unlikely. But you never know.”

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