Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Interview with Nicholas Da Silva, Dread & Alive Graphic Novel Series Creator


Guess who's on the blog today? Yesiree, today I am genuinely honored to be hosting Nicholas Da Silva, creator/author/illustrator of the critically acclaimed graphic novel series, Dread & Alive. I recently found out about Dread & Alive when I was searching the Web for Caribbean-flavored graphic novels. Da Silva's books were amongst the few results I got and are far and away the most reviewed on the Web. Graphic novels are a genre I'm just getting into and a fascinating one indeed. So it was a pleasure to chat with Nicholas about his inspiring work. Let's check out what this rising star had to say.

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Thanks for agreeing to do this interview Nicholas, I really appreciate it.

Thank you, too, my friend! I was delighted to receive your request for an interview and am honored to share my work with your audience.

So tell us a little bit about yourself. What makes Nicholas Da Silva interesting and what inspires him?

I think what makes me interesting is that I’m a non-stop dreamer. I’m always dreaming up new ideas to explore whether it’s a new comic book story, a website experiment or a song that fuses multiple genres. I’m also a mixed-media artist who loves to create something different, something people haven’t seen or heard of before. I don’t find pleasure in doing something that has already been done. Inspiration comes to me in many forms. I think music probably is the most important influence on my work.

Let's talk about ZOOLOOK. This is a San Francisco-based new media agency that you founded. Please tell us more about it.

I founded ZOOLOOK back in 1996 as a means to self-publish and promote my work as an independent artist. Through ZOOLOOK, I utilize my design, music and animation skills to develop intellectual properties that promote a multicultural experience, a foundation of my background and upbringing. Some of the IP’s (intellectual properties) I’ve created include Dread & Alive, HITLESS and Cavedudez. 

And of course there’s TGSNT™ (The Greatest Story Never Told). I am told that this is the world's largest digital online storytelling competition and you are its founder. I find this to be extremely cool. Please tell us more!

The Greatest Story Never Told was a global event I created to showcase all the great independent animators, filmmakers and storytellers who embraced flash as their storytelling medium. I really enjoy putting on this event because it brings independent storytellers from around the world together to share their stories to the masses. TGSNT actually spawned another IP for me with the creation of the Cavedudez.

As you know, I am all about Caribbean children’s and YA literature. That’s why I was so excited to learn about your Jamaican-inspired graphic novel Dread & Alive. I read somewhere that Dread & Alive is the first superhero graphic novel ever to feature a Jamaican protagonist. Okay so first of all, why Jamaica? What role does Jamaican history or culture play in the series?

I chose to write Dread & Alive because of my interest in Jamaica’s history, culture, music and its people. When I first began researching the history of Jamaica, I came across the Maroons of Accompong. I was surprised to read about their existence and their story of independence. The more I learned about the Maroons, the more my imagination began to take on a life of its own. Once I added reggae music to the mix, Drew McIntosh and the legend of Dread & Alive was born.

D&A hero, Drew McIntosh is kinda sexy!
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, what is Dread & Alive about in a nutshell? Incidentally, how old (or young) is the series?

Dread & Alive is a story about respect for all living things. I think it’s a story that is much needed, especially in these times of uncertainty. It’s also a story about one man’s quest to make a difference in the world by addressing problems that exist in our world today that don’t necessarily grab the headlines in mainstream news. The first issue was released on February 6, 2010, on the birthday of international reggae icon Bob Marley. Dread & Alive is geared towards 9 year olds and up. 

Many authors speak of a personal relationship with their characters. Is there any behind-the-scenes gossip or insights about Drew McIntosh (the hero/main character) or any of the other characters that you'd like to share?

Drew and I are definitely alike. We both lost our fathers during a time when we were just becoming men. Plus, we share similar travel experiences during our childhood. Drew’s father was just like my dad. He loved to travel the world and experience other cultures.

I keep calling Dread & Alive a graphic novel series but in some places I’ve seen it described as a comic book. I always wanted to know… what’s the difference between a graphic novel and a comic book? Which label do you prefer?

Dread & Alive: Night of the Animals (Book 1 of 4)Dread & Alive is actually a graphic novel that is being published as a comic book series. The reason for this is that the series is based on the first novel I wrote entitled Dread & Alive: Book Three, a.k.a. Night of the Animals. The difference between graphic novels and comic books is that the graphic novel is lengthier in size. Plus, the graphic novel has a more complex storylines similar to a novel whereas comic books stretch out a story within an issue.

Dread & Alive is actually a multimedia series with some exciting e-reading options and music collaborations. Please tell us more that. What made you decide to go multimedia with this project? Do you plan to eventually publish the series as traditional hard-copy books?

Music was a key influence in writing the series so I wanted my fans to experience Dread & Alive the way I envisioned it. The music helps the reader feel the vibe of Drew McIntosh as he fights to protect the rights of all living things … humans, animals and the earth. I’ve actually written 2 of the 3 books that make up Dread & Alive…Book One, which chronicles Drew’s life growing up in the Cockpit Country and receiving the amulet and Book Three which follows Drew as the dreadlocked hero armed with his amulet and fighting the good fight. I’m currently writing Book Two. I will offer the 3 novels as a bundle this fall, just in time for Christmas.

In the Caribbean, as far as I know, an indigenous graphic novel/comic book industry is practically non-existent. The only other Caribbean graphic novels I’ve heard of are The Zabime Sisters and Ziggy Marley’s recent title Marijuanaman. Do you have any insights into why this might be so? Also, what do you think are the affordances of this genre?

I do remember Marvel putting out a three issue series on Bob Marley called IRON LION ZION. It focused more on his life but did so in a graphic novel way. I think Bob Marley’s legacy with reggae has made music such a focus in Jamaica for young artists. I think we will start to see more artists venturing into the comic book world. This genre has the ability to educate younger minds by offering entertainment that has bits of history embedded in it. Graphic novels stimulate both sides of our brain. 

Please share with us your creative process. Do you work from an outline or is it a stream of writing/drawing?

I always start with a written treatment. I then create outlines from that treatment and add to it as ideas come to me. A script comes next which gets translated into storyboards for each page. Usually one chapter can equate to one comic book issue as in issues #1 and #2 of Dread & Alive. Research also plays an important part of my creative process. In creating Dread & Alive, the goal was to mesh cultural fact with fiction in an effort to tell a compelling story.

Is it just me or is this illustration extremely cool???

What sorts of books did you enjoy as a child? What are some of your favorite books today?

I was big into comic books and science fiction novels as a kid. I read a lot of Robert Heinlein novels. Any stories that took me to another planet peaked my interest. Today, I read a little bit of everything. My favorite author is Dean Koontz.


Dread & Alive has reached its sixth issue. Congratulations on that by the way. Can you tell us anything about upcoming issues in the series?

Yes indeed! We will see Drew and Brandy join forces with Casey Forrester as they try to stop Gryphon the hunter and his men from hunting an endangered tiger for profit. We will also see Shadowcatcher pursue Drew in his attempts to take back the sacred amulet of the Jamaican Maroons. As a shape-shifter who has the power to make the dead walk among the living, Shadowcatcher will start turning people into zombies and eventually build an army of zombies to go after Drew.

Wow, sounds exciting! And what about readings and appearances? Do you have any lined up and if so, where and when can Nicholas Da Silva be seen in the flesh?

I will be at San Diego’s Comic Con this summer as well as New York’s Comic Con in the fall. I’m also planning to attend the 10th Anniversary of the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention (ECBACC) on May 21, 2011. I was nominated for the sixth annual Glyph Comics Awards as a Rising New Star, which is part of the ECBACC. 

Where we can learn more about your exciting career and where/how can we purchase the Dread & Alive books?

To learn more about what I do at ZOOLOOK and to view the different IPs I have created, you can visit my studio website at www.zoolook.com. To purchase comic books, music, t-shirts, posters and novels from the Dread & Alive series, you can visit www.dreadandalive.com and click on MERCH button. We deliver worldwide and ship orders in 24 hours.

Nicholas, thank you so much for chatting with us. I wish you all the best with Dread & Alive and everything else!

Thank you, again for this great opportunity. Much respect and success to Anansesem! One love, always!

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Nicholas Da Silva is the founder and creative director/producer of  As an avid reader growing up in the U.S., Nicholas Da Silva was disappointed in the lack of positive multicultural heroes and fictional characters in American literature. Coming from a diverse background, he made a promise to change that by meshing cultural fact with fiction. The result was the publication of two comic book series; HITLESS and Dread & Alive. HITLESS, published in 2007, was the first digital comic book/music series produced for the fourth generation iPOD and SONY PSP. The series featured an original soundtrack produced as the background theme for the comic book series. The award winning series got Nicholas featured in Web Designer Magazines HOT 100 for 2008 three times. It also garnered Nicholas his own Web Designer issue (#143) where he shared his creative vision to the masses.

Nicholas was recently nominated for the 2011 Glyph Awards in the Rising Star category for his work on Dread & Alive. He’s also been featured in Riddim Magazine (Germany) and is the only 4-time recipient of Web Designer Magazine’s HOT 100 honors (2008-2011). He is currently working on his next big comic book project, HITLESS, a spy-thriller/tragic love story that meshes fact with fiction. When Nicholas is not being creative, you can find him, an avid snowboarder, traveling around the world, looking for the perfect snow with his daughter. He also enjoys sampling cuisine from around the world, reading comic books, playing soccer and watching movies that don’t suck.


Related Links

The supercool official Dread & Alive website
(longer bio and lots of cool merchandise including CDs and posters!) 

The supercool Dread & Alive Facebook page

Nicholas Da Silva's Studio Website