June 19th, 2012

LF meets... Monty Nero

interview by Gavin O'Reilly

Cracking on with its exploration of UK comics and their creators, LF talks to nova-hot writer and creator Monty Nero whose new strip Death Sentence has just debuted in the high profile CLiNT magazine. Jolly good!

LF: What inspired Death Sentence?

MN: I wanted to do something which reflected real life, real attitudes.  My wife ­was three months pregnant and everyone told us our lives would be effectively over when our daughter was born. So it felt like I had six months to do something creative. 'Six months to live, what are you gonna do? – that’s the heart of the book. And on the drive home from the Hi-Ex comic con, which is about three hours, I figured out an interesting way to dramatise that central dilemma: the whole virus which enhances your skills but kills you in six months' thing, and the characters flowed from there.

’Course, what happened was we had a beautiful baby and she slept 8 hours a night! We have a much richer life now than before. But at the time all these dark warnings felt very real!

LF: Did you know Mike Dowling before showing him your ideas for Death Sentence? How did he react?

MN: I had met him, but just twenty minutes talking at a con. I really loved his Splinter Cell work and suggested we work on an image pitch together. Artists get asked that all the time so he wasn't too keen.  I sent him a three-page story a couple of months later and he was too busy to draw it, ‘cause he'd just got Rex Royd. But he said he really liked the story. So in another month or so I sent him Death Sentence - the character paintings, a synopsis and the script - more in hope than expectation. But he loved it so much he made time to draw it. He got really enthused and that enthusiasm has carried us right through. 

LF: As an artist in your own right, are you tempted to work on your own sequential pieces?

MN: Yeah, all the time. I'm always drawing, but I'm not good enough to do both on something this ambitious. Or arguably good enough to do either. I'd take shortcuts. I'd start writing scenes that are easier to draw, rather than what's best for the story. Mike’s much better at sequentials than I am. 

LF: How collaborative is the process with Mike Dowling?

MN: I'm a big fan of collaboration: creating something together that neither could create alone. No ego - just what's best for the work.  We spend a lot of time on the all-important subtleties. It's how you tell the story that makes a comic soar.  He's in Hackney, I'm in Dundee, so we email, google, sketch, ring each other sometimes.  We keep clear areas of responsibility. I write the script, the words, and he draws it. It's not complicated.  If he started trying to rewrite my scenes, or I started to redraw his pages, we'd soon be screwed. The key thing is were both grounded, considerate guys and we have a lot of respect for the labour involved in what the other guy has to do to realise the story. The story is everything – ‘is the right emotion coming across, the right information?’ We won’t let a page pass until we’ve nailed it.  I couldn't imagine a better creative partner.  

LF: What was Mark Millar’s reaction? Obviously not bad as you have a spot in CLiNT now; did he have any advice for you?

MN: To have someone you admire praise your work is a real thrill. Mark's a very positive and enthusiastic guy. Everything he's said about the comic is in the public domain, so you can see exactly how he feels.  He's a fan - in the pure way we're all fans of some comic or other -so he doesn't want to know what's coming up in the strip or have any input.  He just wants to read it and enjoy it like everyone else.  

LF: What has the length of time been, since first having the idea to publication in CLiNT?

Mmmm two years? It's gone real quick, but my daughter is 1 and a half now so I guess it must be that long!

LF: Is Death sentence a finite story, or are you creating an ongoing drama or possible world for future stories and inhabitants?

MN: I could write death sentence stories for fifty years. There's an ongoing narrative, a back story, a rich world - but the first story stands alone. So if people buy it - there'll be more. If they don’t, it'll all still make sense.

LF: How long is the initial run going to be, if that is all decided already?

MN: Six issues.

LF: Can you cite any obvious influences on your work and Death Sentence?

MN: Wow! Mmm. Asterix the Gaul. Watchmen. Dark Knight.  Posy Simmonds. All Dave Mazzucchelli’s work. Jeez. Everything I've ever read in terms of sequential grammar I guess. But the big idea was to do something original in tone, which reflected the world and attitudes engulfing us all. So I've deliberately not read anything similar while writing it. I saw Spandex the other day - really wanted to buy it cause it looked awesome - but if it's cool it might influence me. So I'm laying off buying it until I'm done with the final DS episode. I want to be influenced by life, not comics.

LF: Have you got any other comic projects in the pipeline after Death Sentence?

MN: Yeah. Mike and I are cooking up a new thing. Similar vibe to Death Sentence but a completely different idea and world. I’m working on a novel, a few pitches. More on those later.

LF: Who would win, Cthulhu or Galactus?

MN: That’s obvious, dude: Chuck Norris!

Death Sentence is currently running in CLiNT magazine. Monty Nero can be found online here. An insight into the world of Death Sentence can be found here. CLiNT magazine can be found in most newsagents nationwide, and most decent funnybook retailers.

Death Sentence #1 is also available digitally on iTunes, Graphicly, Amazon and Kobo.

Want to Discuss this article? Pay a visit to our Forum to discuss this and many of other topics!
And for even more reviews, interviews and features, visit the Graphic Novel archive!