It’s not often that I finish a book and say “holy shit.” But I did. Out loud. Sink is one of those rare comic books that will make you laugh, terrify you and have you begging for more all in one issue.
From the first few panels, I knew I immediately would like this story. Sink takes place in Glasgow, Scotland and its’ districts. My connections to Scotland and my heritage are one that I am rather proud of and when I find characters and stories highlighting that I take to them immediately. There’s William Wallace, a certain immortal from shores of Loch Shiel, Mary, Macbeth and I’m pretty sure I’ll be adding Mr. Dig to this list.
To start, we get to meet Allan and his friends as their time out on the Glasgow nightlife draws to a close. The dialogue in this book is natural and flows – as does the story – and you can’t help but read their interactions in your best Scottish accent.
As Allan misses his bus just as his phone dies, he is thrust in to this dark, seedy underworld on the midnight streets of this “forgotten East End district” of the city. He encounters criminals, killers, sadistic misfits, horrifying drug-fueled murderous clowns and – of course – Mr. Dig. Cormack’s art is the perfect compliment to Lee’s storytelling. It starts off clean and crisp, representative of the normalcy of Allan’s life at that point but descends in to a loose, rough stylized art style full of broken panels and art cut with black and blood-red splatter. It has a sort of reckless abstract expressionist flair to it. It’s an artful descent in to madness.
The creative team behind Sink stopped by my digital office today to talk about the book, its’ massive success and what we can expect from the future. Already, the book has sold out and both John Lees (writer) and Alex Cormack (artist) are incredibly busy; their weekend at New York Comic Con was nothing but signings and fan appreciation. There are some amazing exclusive variant covers for the book as well. For issue #2, Steven A. Wilcox drew a phenomenal homage to Jock’s Detective Comics #880. This will be made available at Dallas Fan Days at the end of October 2017. We spoke with him too.
Here are the interviews, up first is writer John Lees:
Jesse: How long have you been writing and at what point did you realize you could go professional with your talent?
John: I think I’ve always told stories, in some form or another. I remember when I was a little kid in school, I’d write little 10-page “books,” made up of 3 sheets of paper folded in half. My class ended up setting up a little “library” for me and other students to display their books for reading. And I always had the ambition of being a writer. But exactly what form that would take or how I would go about doing it remained vague for me. It was around 2008 that everything clicked into place and I started writing comics. Up until then, I’d always loved writing, I’d always loved comics, but never thought to combine those two passions.
Jesse: Can you tell us a little about your journey through prior projects, such as The Standard?
John: The Standard started when an artist friend asked me to write a comic script for them to draw. They had a very particular style that would have been suited to a psychological crime noir story. So, of course I came up with this big, daft superhero epic called The Standard. My friend agreed he wasn’t the artist to draw this particular story, and so the project got tabled, but the idea wouldn’t leave me alone. And so I continued to develop The Standard, writing out the full issue #1… my first ever comic script. I submitted that to an online column called The Proving Grounds, where editor Steven Forbes would review comic scripts. And Steven ended up liking it so much that he took me under his wing and became the editor of The Standard, helping me shape it into a full series. From there, we got Jonathan Rector onboard as artist, and the rest is history!
Jesse: Let’s jump right in to Sink. How did the concept and the story for this book come about?
John: I always find it tough to hone right in on the specific origins of an idea, as things can take shape in unexpected ways over a long period of time. But with Sink, I guess the starting point was my love of crime books like Scalped, Southern Bastards and Stray Bullets, which so often felt rooted in a sense of place, and me wanting to do something like that for Glasgow. But at the same time, I wanted to make it MY kind of crime comic, injected with the sense of weird and uneasy that permeated And Then Emily Was Gone. The title of Sink came early in the development, that just seemed striking and memorable to me. I also had the idea of drawing from the offbeat nature of Coen Brothers crime stories like Fargo or Blood Simple. Originally, I had the notion of doing various oneshot comics, standalone tales that I’d just release sporadically at conventions and the like, connected by being in this shared Sink universe. Then I had the notion that just because it was built around oneshots didn’t mean it couldn’t also be a series, which is where the anthology-style format came from.
Jesse: Can you tell us how the process has been not only getting the book to print but your process in working with Alex Cormack and Colin Bell? How has their work impacted the story you wanted to tell?
John: Working with Alex Cormack is always a pure delight. After the fun we had working together on Oxymoron: The Loveliest Nightmare, we were both keen to come up with a new project together. We’d chatted about a few things, but nothing was quite clicking. Then I had this Sink idea, and I had to propose it to Alex, as I thought he’d kill on it. Thankfully, he was excited to jump onboard! And our relationship ever since has been so smooth and harmonious. Colin Bell is someone else who I have a long and stable relationship with, a dependable letterer and a good friend, too. I was sad when he had to depart the book after issue #1, but new letterer Shawn Lee is also fantastic!
Jesse: What is your favorite part of Sink?
John: I think it’s just the world of Sinkhill that we’ve created, and the freedom to tell a wide range of stories within it.
Jesse: Sink was a huge hit this year at New York Comic Con? Tell us about the weekend for you. Did you think this book would take off like it has?
John: This year’s New York Comic Con was my most successful convention ever. Of course I had high hopes for Sink like I do for all my books, but the response to this has been overwhelming, beyond my expectations. People were positively clamouring for our Sink stock at the show, and we ended up selling out of almost everything. It’s super gratifying to have readers really get behind your story and for it to resonate with them so strongly.
Jesse: I know you saw the Ryan Kincaid exclusive cover at NYCC. Did you see Steven A. Wilcox’s variant cover for issue 2? It’s a beautiful homage to Jock’s Detective Comics #880. What did you think when you first saw the finished work?
John: Over the weekend at New York Comic Con, we had a whole lot of people coming to our table, asking about Steven Wilcox’s issue #2 cover. We had to explain to them that we weren’t the ones who’d be doing it, and that it would only be available via the Brain Trust at Dallas FanDays. But it goes to show you that there’s certainly a lot of interest in the cover, and a lot of people keen to pick it up.
Jesse: Anything you want to tease for upcoming issues of Sink?
John: The issue Alex is currently drawing up – Sink #4, “Young Team” – is maybe my favourite issue of the whole series, and one of my favourite scripts I’ve ever written. It has a twisted Stand By Me vibe to it. It’s about a group of kids who go out in search of the blue van clowns, armed with makeshift weapons, and find something unexpected instead. The series will run for 5 issues… but if the strong response holds up, there are already plans for more in 2018!
Jesse: If you’re available, how can folks get ahold of you?
John: You can find me on Twitter, @johnlees927. I also have a Patreon page, patreon.com/johnlees, where I post original stories every month. And I have a weekly newsletter, which you can sign up to here: eepurl.com/cxlzWf .
Thanks, John! Now let’s find out what artist Alex Cormack had to say about Sink.
Jesse: How long have you been drawing and at what point did you realize you could go professional with your talent?
Alex: I’ve been drawing since I can remember, the story goes that I was in kinder group, a step under kinder garden, and we had to draw pictures of animals in a zoo. I didn’t want to, I wanted to go play with the trucks, but they made me do it so I drew a monkey as fast as I could then went back to playing. It turns out the monkey was pretty good, my parents still have it framed at their house, and that’s pretty much where I got started. As far as going professional, being an artist is always what I wanted to do, so one way or another I’d be trying. To go full time and quit my day job, that was a scary moment but I had enough jobs going that it was either drop some of those or go full time. Thank god my wife and my family encouraged me to go for it.
Jesse: Can you tell us a little about your journey through prior projects, especially Bliss on Tap’s ‘Train 8: Zombie Express’? That was one of your more recent books that I enjoyed quite a bit. I understand you have some experience on the film side of illustrations. Are you involved in the Train 8 motion picture project as well?
Alex: Just that I’m drawing the comic, I am going to try and see if I can pop as a zombie somewhere in the movie. With Bliss on Tap I also illustrated the prequel comic to the movie HARDCORE HENRY (with my wife Ashley on flats) HARDCORE AKAN, that was a hectic schedule but a lot of fun. TRAIN 8 and HARDCORE AKAN I got those jobs through Brian Phillipson who I also work with on WEED MAGIC, and FUTURE PROOF, he did all the leg work on those.
Jesse: Ok, let’s get to Comix Tribe and to Sink. How did this book and creative team come about? Did you know John Lees or the Comix Tribe teamprior to working on Sink?
Alex: Yep, John and I first worked on a short for Joe Mulvey’s SCAM. Comixtribe was putting together some shorts to accompany the hardcover collection and John specifically asked for me, we became friends after that. He knew my work form the OXYMORON Anthology, where I did the art on maybe the goriest of the stories written by Yanick Morrin. So from SCAM John and I worked together with Tyler James on the mini series OXYMORON: THE LOVELIEST NIGHTMARE and after we wrapped on that John and I kicked around some ideas and finally landed on SINK.
Jesse: Alex, tell us how it’s been during your process working with John Lees and Colin Bell? Some writers are “looser” with artists while others will send over a script for the artist. Some work geographically close while others are in different states and even countries. How does this look with the 3 of you and editorial?
Alex: Since I’m in Massachusetts and John and Colin are in Glasgow, we talk mainly through twitter or emails. Actually I think I’ve only talked to Colin maybe twice…? As far as the scripts, what John wants is right on the page, I’ve gotten a lot of credit for a splash page that you’ll see in issue #3 but that was all John. If you ever get a chance to read one of his scripts I highly recommend it! Especially if you grab the trade for AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE he puts a panel description in the back that’s fantastic!
Jesse: What is your favorite part of Sink?