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The IMAGE INTRODUCES Interview: Ryan Burton and John Bivens Talk DARK ENGINE

January 9, 2015

All January, we're focusing on Image Introduces..., our line of Volume One collections that are only $9.99. With a range of genres and styles, Image Introduces... is the place to find a comic for everyone.

Each Friday in January, we'll talk to the creators of one of the Image Introduces titles. DARK ENGINE VOLUME 1: THE ART OF DESTRUCTION introduces you to Sym, a woman who is a force of nature, the last hope of humanity... and a relentless, primal killer.

Image Introduces... DARK ENGINE by Ryan Burton and John Bivens

DARK ENGINE opens in a very dark, very alien-seeming future Earth. How does this world differ from ours?

John Bivens: I see it as an Earth that has been scarred by multiple small destructive events and one cataclysm that our Earth has never had to face. They were just at the start of becoming industrial when the shit really hit the fan, and it left people straddling a line of tangible products and mysticism.

Ryan Burton: It may not be a future Earth, but it is our Earth. On one hand, it’s devoid of the pleasantries and creature comforts we take for granted. Technology, mass transportation, that sort of thing. On the other, it’s one that glorifies dark magic, occultism, and, as John mentioned, mysticism. Essentially, it’s a horrible place to live where there is no hope, and no empathy to speak of.

Sym, whom the narrative centers on, is a woman created to perform a task for her creators. Can you tell us more about her and her mission?

JB: Sym is a self-aware weapon. There are many ways that women are actually more durable than men and in Sym's case that has been augmented by the alchemists. It makes sense that a woman would be the casing for the Dark Engine, especially when she gives birth to it (sort of). As far as the specifics of her mission... that will be easier for Ryan to answer.

RB: Well, she was created to go back in time and kill whatever it was that made the world a total pile of shit. We’ll find out what that is in issue 5. As to her character, now that she’s no longer a time-traveling vessel, she’ll find new motivation in her existence. From that new motivation, her experiences will grow, and her character will develop past what we’ve seen thus far.

When I think of a word to describe the story and art of DARK ENGINE "visceral" is the first one that comes to mind. Literal viscera is a big part of the art, but figuratively, Sym is a very visceral character in that she seems to be all instinct. What were the challenges in creating that kind of character in such a brutal story?

RB: It’s a mix of what drives the story forward and what would be great to see on page. If anything, it’s figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Sym wielding a sword made from a dinosaur’s rib happened to work and, happily, it drove the story forward. But with every one idea like her “ribsword,” twenty other ideas are thrown in the garbage. Killing your darlings is tough business.

JB: The challenges are the same as the benefits. A character that runs on instinct has infinite directions they can develop in terms of characterization. As the creators we are literally spoiled for choices in what Sym does. Since we don't have any set constraints in place that means we need to build them.

You're both relatively new comics creators. How did you come together to create Dark Engine? What is your collaborative process like?

JB: We've been talking for a long time about working together. I believe the original meeting happened on Warren Ellis's ENGINE forum, where I would post art and sketches in a thread I started there.

Our collaborative process is a lot of instant messages broken up by bi-weekly skype meetings. We have some similar influences so the back-n-forth is pretty easy.

RB: Yeah, the Skype calls are great if only to catch up and see how things are progressing.

DARK ENGINE will be landing in bookstores soon -- what kind of new readers do you think it will find there?

RB: When we first started crafting the story, John and I had a good hunch that our core audience would be sci-fi fans, fans of dark fantasy, or those who just wanted to see swords and monsters. But as the series continues, we’ve discovered that our readership is incredibly diversified, and that’s how I’d like to see it continue to develop.

JB: We're hoping to grab some of the SciFi/Fantasy audience that don't make it to the comic shops (yet). The industry has been expanding to where genres that aren't superheroes are finding readers and promotion.

I think Ryan and I are very fortunate that IMAGE took Dark Engine in when they did.