UNDERTOW - LUKE DONKERSLOOT

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So far we have had Greg and Gibson giving me their spiel about their new comic book, Undertow. But what about the other one? Luke? What does he have to say in this final installment of this rather nifty series of interviews? WHAT? You have not read the other two yet? Then I suggest that you click here and here respectively, have a look-see, before you then read what my pal Luke the Duke has to say.


Essays in the Art of Writing


1) When was the first time you knew that you wanted to create a comic book? And did the story come first or the aspiration?   I remember one particular instance around age 13, hanging out with my best friend, Derek Webster, and his family, talking with him about comics and what would or wouldn't be cool in the Marvel books we were reading. When his parents chimed in that we should make our own comics. It was literally like an electric shock in that it was so sudden, that thought. I really don't think it had even entered my head until that moment. The idea never really left my thoughts. And then, ten years later, as I'm looking for freelance artists to do sequential art for submission samples, Derek comes at me with the thought that we should just put some of our stories together in a book and self-publish it.

So for me, definitely it was the aspiration that came first. As it turns out, Derek ended up doing other things but still writes and is doing comic-related work on occasion (Merlin Prophecies from Ardden Entertainment), and it ended up being just me as the writer/editor when Undertow #1 finally saw print, ten years after it first began.

2) What was the last mainstream comic book you read? And what do you think of mainstream wares nowadays?   X-Men, baby! Last night and then this morning. I'm a bit behind on the chronology, but finally broke down and started reading the Messiah Complex trade a couple of days ago. 

Mainstream wares confuse the heck out of me, not being able to put enough time into all the books associated with any superhero/superhero group and keep up with everything that's going on. It's like a part time job, or at least that's how I remember it back when I was close to keeping up. But, despite all the reboots and crossovers and all that business, the big publishers are still full of guys doing the books because they love comics, and you've got to give them a chance to show you their stuff. At least I'd hope people would, because I would want that same chance in their place. 

On top of that, I think it would be a MAJOR challenge to tackle one of these iconic characters or teams, make a story that no one had ever seen before, and tie in some of the history that makes the character(s) the interesting and money-making properties they've become today.

3) If your style of art was a movie, a piece of music, or an object, what would it be and why?   Ha! I hadn't noticed this question reading through at first but it's a good one. Pad answer would be "The Ocean" what with my book being called Undertow and all. But as I explore this thought a little more I would have to liken my work to a stream, sometimes shallow, sometimes a little deep, often taking unforeseen twists and turns, and every now and then carrying something in its waters that no one would expect.




4) What was your first piece of commercial work? And what did you take away from this experience.   I did a write-up for my employer (my day job in marine transportation) about the area I worked in at the time and now manage, for an industry newsletter type thing that was put out by our owner/investors at the time (based out of Australia).

Having a background in English and being a self-proclaimed writer, I ended up being assigned the duty even though I think I only had one year of experience at the time. When I finally saw the thing in print (and it was pretty nice) the editor for the newsletter had totally butchered what I'd written, to the point where it didn't even make sense. Honestly, I don't know how they could have thought there was any way what they'd left on the page would even make sense. Ended up being one of those "Note to self..." moments, and if I could give some advice to fellow writers on this one--make sure you get a final edit on your stuff before it sees print, if at all possible.

5) What was your experience like when you recently visited the New Orleans Comic Con?   It was amazing--my best con by far. From my own personal experience, the difference in the way you're received by people as a self-publisher changes quite a bit after you've put out multiple issues. People take more of an interest when they see you're really making a commitment and sticking with it, because from what I've seen, a lot of the people going to these shows want to support guys like me, and when they can see my dedication and the progression of the book, it makes it easier for them to spend some dollars and buy my books. 

Some of the people there were already familiar from seeing my stuff online, which was a wonderful feeling that I'm not sure I can describe--kind of like feeling the ground beneath your feet, and the ability to run, jump, and just go and do your thing! Really exhilarating. On top of all that I had Greg Harms and Gibson Quarter (chief illustrators on the book) who really kick some tail and do great work that makes people stop and take notice of the books.

6) What is your own personal opinion on telling a tale? Or more specifically, how movies and the media in general are currently doing it.   I realize everystoryteller has their own style, but to me the biggest part of telling a story is having the discretion to know when the time and tone are right to pull something off, be it a line of dialogue or some climactic moment in the story. We end up with unreal amounts of money being spent to make things (film in particular) look so spectacular, only to have the relevance completely lost on the audience because the build was never there to really pull the viewer in and make them care about the characters in the story.

Instead of solid stories, we end up with a string of spectacular scenes and half-assed, underdeveloped characters (much like bad comics) in a story that no one cares about because the storytellers never earned the moments they're trying to create by supporting them with strong story-telling. 

I find myself more and more disappointed by big release movies every day, but do really enjoy when I find a good one, even more so when I find more obscure, contemporary films that are well done. Television, on the other hands has become more impressive to me, both as a study on the form of a serialized story, and also (when it's done well) the ability to encapsule smaller stories within the greater tale.

7) What is your all time favorite comic book creators, movie, and actor / actress? And again, why?   I think answering that first question would be implying I'm much better read than I truly am. I've been inspired by a lot of guys while collecting comics over the years--Chris Claremont, Jeph Loeb, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Chuck Dixon, Ed Brubaker, Geoff Johns, Mike Carey. A lot of them are British, now that I think about it. Not sure why that is.

Movie creators I'm not so good on because I think even the best of these guys have really had some stinkers over the years. I don't know if I can even really say if I have any favorite creators since the collaboration on them is so huge and can go wrong in so many directions. 

I think when it's a success it's really momumental for everyone involved.

One thing that does really impress me, though, are guys that write and direct their own movies and do it well. That really makes me envious of their ability to combine writing and visual story-telling that would really make for great comics! Christopher Nolan is one of these guys recently whose movies I've been enjoying. As for actors, my favorites are usually the guys that can pick good projects consistently--Leonardo di Caprio and Matt Damon being a couple of these guys in my book.

8) In your own words, how would you describe your comic book, Undertow?   Undertow is the hole I throw my stories and money into. I was starting to think for a while there that it was bottomless, but after putting some more money and comics into it I can now see that there's something in there, it's just still a long way down.

Being interested in a broad range of stories like I am, I never knew how my work would translate into comics for me until I really started looking at self-publishing. So as it turns out now after two issues, I choose the stories that I'd like to tell that I think people might be interested in, write the script, and go looking for some talent to put the pictures on the page.

Some of the stories are stand alone, but most are serialized with characters I'd like to develop and hopefully one day make into something bigger for more people to see, and maybe get some more of them to throw their money into the Undertow hole with me.

9) During your time as an artist, what is the one thing that has kept you in good stead?   Friends. You've got to have people there to support you, and more than that, to bounce your ideas off of. Nothing gets me more creatively inspired than throwing around ideas and making creative headway on a story. If you want to do comics and don't have any people around like this yet, it's time to start looking.

10) Do you have any tips or advice for an aspiring artist?   Well, if you want to be a writer you should probably start writing some stories, and before too long you'll need to make them so you've got a beginning, middle, and end, so don't be too ambitious right away--keep it short.

Write about what you know, especially at the start. You'll need to show people your stuff, eventually, and though it's going to hurt it might be better for you if you can find someone who knows what they're talking about and can give you an honest critique. As I said before, you're going to need friends, too. And a job...

Ha! Thanks for that Luke. And thanks to Greg and Gibson too! For sparing some time with me, and telling us what you feel about art, writing, culture, and pornography (OK, maybe not the last one). So when you have the time dear reader, please check out Undertow at 7thwavecomics, and may lord have mercy on your soul, ha!