Feature | Taroch #1

Every now and again I read something that is, like, uber awesome. I’m fully aware of the extent this website uses the word awesome, so if you were already sick of it, I suggest skipping down a few paragraphs.

A few weeks ago, I visited the London Small Press expo at Goldsmiths University… which was nice. There I discovered many a wonderful thing, including this golden goose of a comic. The creators, Clint Green and Luke Orrin were there in their finest attire, and they were very nice indeed. They explained the finer points of their creation, which I purchased and they wished me well on my way.

Upon returning home, I put Taroch on my shelf for FAR too long before finding a nice quiet weekend afternoon to read it, but upon doing so I was spellbound (the definition of which is having your attention fixated as though by a spell). It’s an incredibly beautiful comic that sucks you in more efficiently than a dyson. I’ve always thought that the best fantasy is routed in reality, and this is a perfect example. The story begins with a protagonist who typically doesn’t have much going for him, the mundane world is presented in black and white and reflects perfectly how we all feel at useless points in our lives. Then colour is added with a bang as reality begins to alter and the world is turned upside down. It’s a bit like reading a dream that instead of slowly dragging you back into reality, drags you kicking and screaming further down the rabbit hole… Which is good, I like to dream.

The art is incredible, this is a small press comic with art that in in places, could make a Marvel publication look like GCSE coursework. I was impressed with how easily it showed movement, as I’ve always felt many comics struggle with that, not to mention movement between dimensions and psychic plains. It just has so much energy that you come away feeling incredibly charged, which is one of the reasons the back-up story hits you so hard. After the feature was full of the fantastic, the back-up is very much focused on a real world situation and packs a powerful emotional punch… almost worth the entry fee alone.

So this is an awesomely awesome comic, and something I think you should read for yourselves. We managed to get some questions to the creators; Clint (writer) and Luke (artist), and I think you’ll agree it provides a good insight into the world of this incredible piece of work.

Good Comic Books | Could you tell us how you both got into comics from your respective backgrounds? Like Clint, you have a background in theatre, and Luke, you attended The Ecole National Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris… Which sounds quite swish.

Clint | The whole process of creating a world and populating it with characters is something I have always loved. I am an only child and an army brat, so growing up – I spent a lot of time moving around to new places and one of the only constants in my life was daydreaming. I used to escape into novels and comic books for hours at a time and then I would go climb a tree and imagine huge sweeping epics of my own.

Then at school the only subject (apart from History) that really engaged me was Drama, which I eventually went on to study at university in the form of Creative Arts. My lecturers at university said I had a real knack for dialogue and scriptwriting and kind of steered me into that direction; I ended up forming my own theatre company… but all the time I was writing plays, I just really wanted to be writing comics because there are so many less constraints than those ideas that must be kept on the stage. I also used to daydream that one day I’d be able to play in the Marvel or DC sandbox.

Luke | Uhmmm, well “swish” isn’t the word I would associate with my university days, but on the other hand we did get taught in Philippe Starck designed facilities… The ENSAD is quite well regarded in the world of French art schools and the exam to get in was really nerve racking and severe.

Think the X-Factor selection process but with lots of drawing and books to read. The school is brilliant, I got to experiment in a very wide range of artistic techniques with some very unique equipment for 5 years, and as it was a French State University I got my education for free (no wonder it was murder to get in). I eventually specialised in Animated Arts because I considered it to be the best section to train my strengths in story telling, drawing (3D animation hated me) and video production in general. It was a blast, I got to make my own animated short film ‘Dear Esther’ which had a nice little life on the festival scene, and met some insanely talented people who are currently doing some really great stuff in the arts world right now.

GCB | How did you end up meeting and writing a comic?

Clint | Funny story actually! Luke was working as a barman and I bought a drink from him and we got chatting and discovered a shared love of comics and a mutual desire to create them.

Luke |
Precisely! We just got chatting about the X-Men and found out we were both huge geeks! I already had my website running so it was easy to show what sort of visuals I dealt with. I had always wanted to work on a comic book but I can’t write clear plot lines or intelligible dialogue. Then Clint mentioned he had this love project script laying around waiting for treatment…

GCB | Could you tell us a little about Taroch’s premise, and where the idea came from?

Clint | Taroch is loosely based on the Major Arcana of the Tarot deck. It’s about fate, the idea that we sometimes feel we cannot escape something coming to us and how difficult it can be to take control of our own destiny. It’s also a thrilling action romp with sarcastic quips and explosions.

It was originally inspired by a song, ‘Limbo’ by Kylie Minogue (don’t judge me, it was the 90s when I first conceived the story) and its visual of Eden leaping through portals is pretty spot on to the daydream I had listening to that song in my car. Over the years, I refined and expanded the story – changing it from a screenplay to a novel and then finally the format that it should have always been – a comic book and eventually, a graphic novel.

GCB | “Nicholas Brooks is a man who has never made a big decision in his life”… Is there anything biographic about your protagonist?

Clint | Like Nick, I consider procrastination my greatest talent.  There are some elements of Nick’s character that echo my own experiences. I have worked in a call centre and I did spend a period of my life simply coasting along. But then, what writer doesn’t use their own life experiences to help flesh out their characters? I actually think the receptionist Tasha is more like me. She was originally only intended to be a small character in Issue One but Luke and I fell in love with her so much that we have used her as a major viewpoint character thoughout… Luke is blatantly the creepy child at the beginning…

GCB | The back-up story in the issue is incredibly sobering, especially after the high fantasy of the feature. What was the story behind it and why was it included?

Clint | There are a couple of reasons for the back-up stories in each issue.

Firstly, we love telling stories and have so many ideas we want to get across. Some of which are full scale epics, some of which are smaller and we thought it would be an ideal format to tell some of those smaller stories.

Secondly, we want every short to differ from each other in storytelling technique, tone and artistically. It helps us flex our creative muscles and also, from a purely commericial point of view, it shows readers and publishers what we are capable of.

For ‘When I Grow Up’ we wanted something that incorporated a dark twist; something that could only really be told in a short story format; I came up with the idea whilst rifling through Luke’s previous work in his portfolio. It was a surprisingly quick story to produce but also one that had me very teary-eyed whilst writing. I shan’t spoil it for people that haven’t read it, but it does tend to get a very visceral reaction.

GCB | What or who has had the biggest influence on your writing and art?

Clint |
Comic book-wise, I am a huge fan of Peter David, Gail Simone, Ed Brubaker and Warren Ellis amongst many others. From a wider perspective I love the worlds created by George R R Martin (I might actually wet myself with excitement at the upcoming HBO adaptation of ‘A Game of Thrones’), Chuck Palahniuk and Neil Gaiman!

Luke | Oh good grief this could go on forever… Well, in short, my 2 loves are comic books and Japanese animation, and that’s what I’ve been emulating all my life pretty much. As a kid my first big obsessions were Paul Smith’s and Rick Leonardi’s fluid artwork on the X-Men, and I was also nuts for Alan Davis, Marc silvestri, Shingo Araki (character designer on Saint Seiya, Japanese 80′s animation), Bill Watterson, Winsor Mccay (I had a lovely book of Little Nemo which I destroyed through repetitive reading) and Swedish painter Karl Larsson because we had reproductions of his on the wall at home. Then at 11 I discovered Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira and I’ve never been the same since. It opened new doors for me, and I would resort to dark rituals if it would ensure me that sort of excellence. Yes I would… No shame in that…

Really, I’ll stop now before this gets too ridiculous. Cheers!

GCB | What was your process for creating some of the outlandish visuals in Taroch? Some crazy stuff happens…

Luke | Thank you! I try very hard to make it nice to look at… I basically love drawing action sequences above all. I guess that comes from drawing movement constantly in my animation work. And I think each page should be as rich as possible in content, right to the border of the paper. I fell in love with mainstream Marvel and DC comics as a kid in the 80′s, when every issue was visually crammed with entertainment! Such good memories and value for money! So I try to keep things in that high energy and wide scope tradition. Keeps the child in me very happy.

Clint’s scripts are great to work on, I have lots of space to stretch my pencils on and the characters are a delight to bring to life! It’s been extremely fun designing everything  from scratch and transposing some London life to paper. Taroch is going some wild places, keep watching!

GCB | There’s a mixture of black/white panels and coloured panels. Why the use of both, rather than just one of the other? (other than the fact it looks incredibly cool).

Luke | Foremost, we thought this graphic device helped and suited our story well. It highlights certain characters and key supernatural elements as the plot develops. It brings forward Adventure from the bland routine that consumes our protagonists at the beginning of this adventure. And, well, this is a comic book that vows to entertain, and this system just makes things go POP! on the pages. Just the way I like it…

Ironically, colouring is the part of the process I dread the most… It’s not something I’ve felt comfortable with and done (with pleasure) that much before, and I’m educating myself as the work moves along. But it does give Taroch a unique identity along with it’s format, so we’re quite proud of that.

GCB | How have you found the small press world?

Clint |
Great so far! It was incredibly daunting at first putting our comic out there for the world to see, but the response has been inspiring and everyone we have met has been absolutely wonderful. It is such a supportive and exciting atmosphere at all the events and there is some lovely work out there. I saw your review of Moon by the guys at Beyond the Bunker and that was one of the pieces I saw at the SPEXPO event and was bowled over by the quality of it.

Luke | It’s very rewarding getting Taroch out in the open and witnessing first hand the interest towards it. Makes the countless hours slaving at my desk on these pages very worthwhile! There are really lovely encouraging people out there, from the readers to event organisers, shop managers and even our printers. It’s very inspiring meeting authors and artists in the same situation as us. Seriously, it gives me wings. I used to love hanging around this world as a devoted shopper and supporter, it’s even better now that we’re involved with our own comic book.

GCB | How long is the story you have to tell? What is the future of Taroch?

Clint | Taroch is a 12 issue run and a self contained story. In some ways, it is constrained by its premise (something that will become apparent in Issues 2 and 3)  but we do have ideas on how to tell more stories in the same world, with some of the same protaganists should the demand be there!

Taroch is a comic for which the term ‘awesome sauce’ has never been so apt. It’s a quartely series, so I insist you go and purchase issue 1 before the 2nd is released in July… And while there are still any left, you can so HERE 

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