While we all enjoy the free comics part of Free Comic Book Day, we often don’t get to learn too much about those who create such wonderful books. This year however, we were able to ask the creators of one of 2019’s free comics, Hope, writer Dirk Manning and artist K. Lynn Smith a bit about the creation of their exciting new super hero series! Make sure you stop by Free Comic Book Day on May 4th to secure your free copy of Hope and check out their Kickstarter to help fund the full first volume!
How did the two of you meet? What made you decide to collaborate on a comic series?
K: We met through a shared publisher, Devil’s Due Comics, at a convention, though I cannot recall which one — You remember Dirk? I’m sure it was a dark and stormy night, with the flames of hell lapping at his heels, and I descending down from a beautiful and bright sky, haloed by light.
The collaboration came when Dirk pitched me the idea of HOPE. I thought it was an intriguing idea, but it was really when we were discussing the first issue on the phone that it was set in stone. I had some ideas that Dirk liked for the direction of the story, and BOOM, a team was born.
D: Yeah, I officially approached K. Lynn about Hope at Grand Rapids Comic Con two years ago... but we had done a lot of cons together prior to that due to both being with Devil’s Due at the time. I remember thinking “OK, she usually only sees me ‘on’ and in ‘con mode,’ so I have to let her know that behind all the pomp and circumstance of my persona at cons that I’m really a somewhat normal and professional person.”
And if I’m mistaken here, K. Lynn, I apologize, but I remember you seeming both skeptical and intrigued that me – a horror guy – was pitching you to work on a superhero book, but when we talked on the phone after you read the script to the first issue and made the suggestions for the bigger story arc of the series it became immediately obvious to me that you were the one to co-create this series with, bar none.
Hope is a new superhero series. What drew you to this particular genre of story?
K: For both of us, it was new territory. I really liked the idea of stepping into the superhero world, since it is so important to the comic world in general, and playing around a bit. But mostly, I liked that Hope was a human story first, and THEN a superhero story.
D: I joke with people how although this is a superhero story, it’s still possibly the most terrifying story I’ve ever written… and people who’ve already read the first issue tend to agree. There’s no monsters – in the literal sense of the word – in Hope, but the way we explore humanity and the human condition is pretty damn scary, I think. Expect to experience lots of “feels” in Hope.
What was the inspiration for the family dynamic?
K: I’m not a mother, but we all have someone we care deeply about. Someone we’d risk everything for. Of course, I am referring to my dog. [laughs] But honestly, drawing from the question “What would I do?” has been the key, especially asking how far you'd go if you had the power to override any authority for someone you loved.
D: For the record, I, too, am also not a mother… [laughs]
Seriously, though, to me the root of any compelling story is “What would you do if…?” That’s what has guided all my horror work to date, and it’s the same question that guides Hope. What would you do if you were in the circumstances our lead character finds herself in? There are no easy answers, here, I can promise you that… and that’s something we are exploring in this series.
What do you hope people get out of this story?
K: We hope it sticks with you. It takes a good hard look at society and how it reacts to things unknown, even when a family is being torn apart.
D: All… the… feels. All of them. Every issue.
Without spoiling too much, what has been your favorite part of developing this comic?
K: Toying with good vs. evil, and pushing the hero to toe the line of villainy. Hope may be a superhero, but she’s still very human, and she’s desperate and scared. Basically, Dirk and I like to torture our creations…. Like Gods.
D: I’ve also had a lot of fun showing how Julie – our lead character – is not a perfect person. I’ll be very surprised if everyone reading Hope agrees with every decision she makes, and that’s OK, because they’re the decisions she would make in these circumstances, and as we watch her journey hopefully we’ll learn a bit about ourselves – and society – too.
How excited are you that Hope is going to be a part of Free Comic Book Day?
K: We're [beep]ing excited! And incredibly honored. We take great pride in this book and to have Hope in the lineup of all those other great titles, well… we are just chuffed. And we can’t thank Source Point Press enough for pushing this title. They’ve gone above and beyond.
D: Point blank, both K. Lynn Smith and I have set sales records with books like the PLUME OMNIBUS (hers) and the NIGHTMARE WORLD OMNIBUS (mine) with our previous publisher. However, that was then and this is now, so for Source Point Press to see what we’ve done in the past individually, and then to give us the support and platform that comes with launching the full first issue of a new series on Free Comic Book Day – let alone on the first book we’re ever doing together and for the publisher – is something neither of us are taking for granted. This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity, and we look forward to working with Source Point Press to bring more eyes to both to Hope as well as all the great titles Source Point Press is publishing.
K. Lynn Smith is an artist and writer from the Mid-Michigan area. Her artwork has won the Michigan Press Award, as well as the Helen Victoria Haynes World Peace Cartoon Contest. She is the writer and artist of the western comic PLUME, and has been involved with projects such as GARFIELD, the Strength in Numbers Studios's video game, TUEBOR, AFTERGLOW written by Pat Shand, and HOPE, co-created with Dirk Manning. You can find her at klynnsmith.net or on Twitter @KLynnTweets
Dirk Manning is the writer and creator of comic series including NIGHTMARE WORLD and TALES OF MR. RHEE, the co-creator of HOPE with K. Lynn Smith, and the author of WRITE OR WRONG: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO CREATING COMICS. When not participating in a seemingly constant convention circuit tour he can be found at www.DirkManning.com or across almost all social media networks @DirkManning