Ciaran Marcantonio is a comic book writer and editor from Dublin, Ireland.
Since 2012 he’s been the Managing Editor for Lightning Strike, an anthology comic published by Eoin McAuley. He is also an avid Podcaster for both The Irish Pubcast and The Comic City Cast. Occasionally, he help run comics events such as The ComicCity Festival and the former 2D Festival in Derry and more recently Small Press Day in conjunction with Forbidden Planet Dublin.
When did you start writing and know this was it?
I first started writing in my teenage years, god awful stuff let me tell you. But I was hooked from then on, I had always been a pretty introverted person in my formative years and I found writing was a great way of getting the things that were in my head out into the world by scribbling them on paper. It would be a few more years before I worked up the courage to actually show anyone anything I had written. In my early twenties I began doing some small indie comics that again I was too scared to show anyone, until a friend of mine Liam Browne got a hold of one of my books one day and convinced me to help him develop a comic (a book we are still developing years later!). It wasn’t until Eoin McAuley came along and formed Lightning Strike in 2011 that I tried solid comic book scripting, with an eye to being published. After the release of Lightning Strike #1 there was no going back for me, I was all in. I decided making comics was going to be a full time part of my life.
What are the challenges of being a comic writer?
I think the challenges are the same that any creative type faces. I think the number one challenge, at least for me, was not in the writing itself. Writing is difficult don’t get me wrong, but writing has always been easier for me than actually showing someone the work. Once you get over that fear and learn to accept an honest response from the reader (even if they say well that sucked) then you can really begin to develop. So don’t be afraid to show others your work and don’t be deterred if they think it’s bad, learn from it.
The next challenge any comic book writer will face is finding an artist to work with and learning to collaborate. Luckily, and again thanks to Eoin McAuley, I learned by working with Lightning Strike how to build up a working collaborative partnership with an artist. My first comic with LS was a Clockwork Universe strip I did collaborating with artist Cormac Hughes, an artist I still work with today, and hope to continue to do so for many years. Collaboration is key in comics writing, without an artist to draw a book you don’t have a comic. Learn to listen and collaborate, don’t just see an artist as a way to visualize your idea; they’re your partner, treat them like that and you may find a collaborator for life.
How do you manage the balance between work and you own creative pursuits?
Honest answer, badly! I’m joking. I am still a full time 9-5 person so yes, it can be difficult to balance. I found a working rhythm over the years where I generally write either in the evening time or at weekends. It’s not difficult to find the time to work if that’s what you really want to do; all I really need is a laptop with an internet connection so I can work from pretty much anywhere, home, the office, the bus! (Some of my best work is done on the bus, no joke). Thanks to the internet it’s not hard to stay in touch with collaborators either, which makes it less time consuming to keep everyone up to date on where you are with a particular project. So the bottom line is if you are dedicated to the work you will find the time and come to your own working balance.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I take most of my inspiration from the great works of others. I love comics obviously but you can find inspiration anywhere, books, music, tv, films, videogames the list goes on. I find the best stories, the ones that inspire me, are ones that even if they have the most out there premise they manage to connect on a human level. Superman for example. I lost my Dad quite young, I also saw Superman The Movie when I was about 5 years old. I connected with that film on a massive level that stuck with me throughout my life, here was this kid who felt like a weird outsider that lost his Dad but went on to become a symbol of hope and inspiration. I took that to heart – now I’m in no way saying I’m Superman, but he certainly inspired me and I try to carry an element of that hope into every story I write.
How do you get ideas for your stories?
I generally try to write stories that I myself would like to read. As a result of that I tend to write in genres that interest me like science fiction, steampunk, dieselpunk, cyberpunk and superheroes. I like to think about the future and the past and I suppose writing about my own hyper-fictionalised versions of both is where most of my ideas come from.
What is your favourite medium to work with?
Comics. Full stop, next question?
Is there anything you are currently working on?
At the moment I have two projects that are taking up most of my time, both are for Lightning Strike. Red Sands which was originally a 10 page post-apocalyptic horror strip for Lightning Strike now has its own solo series. Issue #1 will be 40 pages and launches at Thought Bubble on November 5th in Leeds. The team working on the book is sensational. We have my co-creator Cormac Hughes on art, Triona Farrell (Boom Studios) on colours, Louise Fitzpatrick on flats, Kerrie Smith on lettering, Wayne Talbot on layout and design and Gill Dempsey as editor. It features a backup story called Testament by with Robert Carey on art, Ruth Redmond (Marvel, Boom Studios) on colours and Miriam Abuin on letters. We were also lucky enough to get Stephen Mooney (DC, IDW) to do a cover for us, which I was completely blown away by, I’m so lucky to have them.
Red Sands Cover By Stephen Mooney & Ruth Redmond
I’m also developing Neon Skies, a 120 page cyberpunk noir graphic novel with art by my co-creator Kevin Keane. We are still nailing down the rest of the creative team, but so far Kevin has been doing some stunning design work and the first few pages look absolutely fantastic. I’m lucky to be working with Kevin; he is a stunningly talented artist so much so I can’t even hold it against him that he’s from Cork. All going to plan Neon Skies will be released in the second half of 2017. We have booked a table for ICE in Birmingham and we hope to have the book ready for that show, if not before.
Neon Skies Promo By Kevin Keane & Ashwin Chacko
What does your workflow look like?
On a basic comic it works like this. I brainstorm with the artist. I loosely, and I mean very loosely, thumbnail out ideas to help me find the flow of the script. Once the script is complete, I then pass it to the artist. When line art is completed and inked those pages then go to a flatter. From there they go to the colourist and finally to the letterer. Once the book is completed it’s off to the printer. I generally keep an eye over the whole process and help with any bumps in the road along the way. Gill Dempsey is my safety net and why I asked her to edit my work, she generally catches any mistakes I miss and questions EVERYTHING. Value your editor people; they torture you because they care.
Is there any insight or words of advice you would like to give to help others in their creative journey?
Don’t be afraid to show your work. Learn to collaborate and take constructive criticism. Finish your projects and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Are they any creative people you are a fan of that deserve some exposure?
Too many to mention, but I’ll try. First off any of the people I mentioned above. They all deserve all the work! Hire them! I’ll just write a list of the first few that come into my head. Hugo Boylan is a massively talented writer. Anthea West is a fantastic artist and a giant nerd. Leeann Hamilton, again massively talented artist. Ben Hennessy, Sean Hogan, Derbhla Kelly, Stephanie Revelle, Colin O’Mahony, Shane Ormond, Isabella VM… see once I start, I can’t stop. In short, look to the Irish creative community there are some amazing talents already out there and more are developing every single day.