This interview was originally published over at Graphic Policy on October 23rd.
David Baillie is a Scottish writer and artist who has been writing comics professionally since 2008. He’s had his comic book work published in the weekly British comics anthology 2000AD, Judge Dredd Magazine, as well as his first novel, Portal 666, that was published by Amazon and features Valiant’s Bloodshot. His latest project, the Vertigo produced Red Thorn is set in and around the Scottish city of Glasgow and is steeped in Scottish mythology.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with David Baillie about Red Thorn ahead of it’s November release.
Graphic Policy: So how did you come up with the idea for Red Thorn? Where did the name come from?
David Baillie: I was working up a few ideas to pitch Shelly as part of the new Vertigo slate and I had fixated on writing something set in Scotland. It was around the time of the independence referendum and everyone in the world seemed to be talking about my country. The new Doctor Who was announced and he was Scottish. Garbage reformed. Andy Murray was demolishing all-comers and even our national rugby team seemed to be getting their act together.
Shelly really liked the idea of the Glaswegian setting I was so obsessed with and from there I dug myself into a huge research hole – trying to find the weird mythology and folk horror fuel that I wanted to explore.
As for the title – when our ancient pagan demi-God Thorn amasses his army (issue 2, true believers!) it’s what his soldiers chant upon his coronation. It’s also how history will remember him when our tale is done.
GP: With Red Thorn being based around Scottish mythology, it’s easy to imagine that you’re
pretty familiar with that, where not many readers would be; with the comic being our window into
that world, so to speak, were there any challenges in writing that aspect?
DB: I deliberately chose figures that either readers will be hugely familiar with – allowing us to flip expectations straight out of the gate – or I went to the other end of the spectrum and focussed on creatures and stories that very few will have heard of. It’s a nice balance to strike, and as we continue I’m really looking forward to pulling in even more Scottish mythology and re-forging it so that it fits the world of the series.
GP: How big a part does the city of Glasgow play in the story itself beyond being just the setting
for the series?
DB: The characters all feel very, very Glaswegian. There’s a pleasant argumentativeness to Glasgow people, and I’ve given that trait to pretty much the entire main cast. While Isla, our protagonist for the first arc, was born in America her family can be traced back for generations through the streets and waterways of Glasgow and that’s reflected in her personality.
Glasgow also has a really great history, which has informed how I’ve put constructed the longer arcs to come on Red Thorn. By the last page of the final issue you’ll see that the story could not have been set anywhere else.
GP: Without giving too much away for readers, what can we expect to find when we open Red
Thorn in November?
DB: Sex, horror, pithy Scottish dialogue, magic, music, nudity, violence, great hair, fantastic abs, very bad language and perhaps the best art you’ll see in a comic all year.
GP: The initial reactions to Red Thorn have been very positive; I understand that this is a very
personal project for you, so that’s got to be exciting?
DB: Unbelievably so. Last year I was talking to Vertigo about doing an entirely different project, and while I was 100% behind that, at the back of my mind I couldn’t help but think that it might be the project that would help make my name so that I could do something more personal. To invoke the name of a Vertigo legend, I felt like I was pitching my Animal Man so that I could get a shot at writing my Invisibles. And I say that as someone who loves both (and pretty much anything Mr. Morrison does!)
When that previous project fell through and Shelly implored me to pitch the most personal thing I could, Red Thorn pushed its way to the front of my writing consciousness. There was no way to make it go away except write it.
GP: How does working on Red Thorn differ from your previous work, such as your time at 2000AD?
DB: The most obvious difference is that instead of 4, 5, 9 or 16 pages I now have hundreds in which to tell my story. Which is absolutely not a complaint about my 2000AD work, just that they’re very different storytelling modes. Sewing narrative seeds that wont flower and payoff for six months, a year or longer is a huge thrill.
The other is that I’ve now been working with the team – Rowena, Meghan, Steve, Peter and Todd – for over a year, and we’ve grown very confident as a creative unit. It’s a dynamic I haven’t had the opportunity to explore before in my career, and I’m really enjoying it.
It’s also weird doing interviews for a story I’m still writing. Usually by the time the press know about something I’ve written it’s done and dusted.
GP: You’ve mentioned in a previous interview that readers will be too attached to at least one character that they’ll keep reading just to see what happens. Any plans beyond Glasgow Kiss for where you’ll be taking the series?
DB: Huge plans. The end of Glasgow Kiss sets the scene for the next three or four arcs, as well as setting up our horrible, inevitable conclusion. And no matter who you fall in love with you’ll probably cry at some point. And for that I make no apologies.
GP: Before I finish up, one last question: aliens, cowboys, pirates or ninjas, and why?
DB: Why choose? This is comics. We can do anything we want!
The first issue of Red Thorn is out November 18th.