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ARTIST ALLEY: Michael Allan Nelson

profile pictureMichael Alan Nelson is a writer currently is residing in LA, California.  With 2 awards (2004, 2011), several short comic stories based on the HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu and Supergirl to his name, his latest run has been with a rather interesting series going by the name of Hexed.

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Tell us a bit about Hexed

MAN: Hexed is about a young woman named Lucifer who makes her living as a thief in a mystical underworld, all while trying to find a way to remove the hex that has been placed on her by the mysterious Keeper of Secrets. Lucifer works for a woman named Val Brisendine who operates an art gallery as a front for hiding all the magical pieces Lucifer steals. But as Lucifer goes about her thieving way, she crosses paths with several baddies, some of whom are dangerous in the extreme. The story follows Lucifer on her quest to free herself from her hex while keeping the world safe from deadly magic and the evil creatures who wield it.

How did you get into Hexed?

MAN: I created Lucifer (and the Harlot-Keeper of Secrets) in my series Fall of Cthulhu. But as that series wrapped up, we realized that Lucifer was such a fun character that we didn’t want her story to end. We thought it would be fun to put her in a universe of my own making. Thankfully, the folks at BOOM! Studios liked the character and the idea of creating my own universe for her so they let me run with it. The rest, as they say, is history.

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Who was your favourite character to write?

The Harlot with Val running a close second. While I love Lucifer, there’s something about the Harlot’s foreknowledge that is so much fun to play with. I can also use an odd diction with her that I can’t with Lucifer. Some of the turns of phrase that I like to write would sound odd coming from a young woman, but not so much from an ancient mystical god. She can be snarky, heartfelt, and threatening all in the same sentence. That’s something that would be more difficult to pull off with a human character.

Was it the character itself or the story that made you pick that character as a favourite?

MAN: The character. Everything comes from the character. Don’t get me wrong, I love the story and the arcs the characters take, but it really is their personalities that make them come alive for me. The Harlot’s underlying madness, Val’s patient frustration, Lucifer’s cross-your-fingers-and-hope-for-the-best devil-may-care attitude. Having those characters with those traits really make writing them enjoyable. If it was just moving them through plot points, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun to write (or read).

What inspired you to work in comics?

MAN: My brother got me into it actually. He coloured comics in the 90s and knew that I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I had been struggling with novels and short stories since I was a teenager, so he asked if I thought about writing comics. So he introduced me to a few people in the industry and I started studying on the process. A couple years later, Ross Richie (the founder of BOOM! Studios) asked me if I’d like to write a short comic for his Zombie Tales anthology he was publishing. So I gave it a shot and, for some reason, he liked it and has been asking me to write for him ever since.

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What is the piece you are most proud of?

MAN: Hexed. It’s by far the best thing I’ve ever written. I’m proud of most of my work, but I think the full story of Hexed, from its very beginning to the very last issue is, hands down, the best story telling I’ve done to date.

Who is your ultimate  dream team to work on a comic with?

MAN: Oh, that’s a difficult question to answer and one that entirely depends on the project. There are so many wonderful and talented people in the industry that it’s hard to narrow down a “dream” team. To be honest I would just want to put them all in a room and eavesdrop on them talking about the craft of graphic storytelling.

What is your current project?

MAN: I’m trying to develop a few stories at the moment, just working on a few comic ideas and some more prose as well. I won’t have anything coming out in 2016, but I hope to see some of these ideas come to life next year.

What is a typical day in the life of you when working on comics?

MAN: I’m sure it would look quite boring from the outside. I wake up, drink some coffee and start writing. When the writing gets tough, that’s when I take a walk to help clear my head. Then I’ll head back to it, taking a break every now and then to eat or go for another walk. But my brain is pretty much toast by mid-afternoon. So I try to get as much done as early as I can. But if I spend my morning scanning news feeds or lurking on Twitter, the day ends up being a wash.

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How long does it take to do a single issue script?

MAN: I’ve written some scripts in 24 hours and others have taken me a full month to write. But usually I can hammer out a first draft in a week. Then it takes about another week to do any rewrites or address any notes my editor may have.

The time also depends on the publisher/creative team. For most of my BOOM! Work, I write a complete script first before sending it off to the artists. When I was writing for DC, I would write “Marvel” style scripts which were much quicker since I was only giving a general overview of what happened on each page. However, that meant writing the bulk of the dialog after the art came back. That added a bit of extra time.

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What is the process you go through?

MAN: Whenever I write a story, I usually create the interesting moments first. I’ll come up with the scenes, the tent-pole moments, then find the best way to connect them. I try to outline whenever possible since it helps if I know where I’m headed. I’ve written stories before where I had no idea where the story was going to go and, more often than not, it turned out to be a mess. Sometimes it works, but not very often. But if I have a key moment that I’m building toward, it makes creating the connective tissue that much easier for me.

Who are your inspirations?

MAN: That is a long and inexhaustible list.

What is your dream project?

MAN: A Hexed television show. It would be an utter dream to see Lucifer’s story on the screen.

If you could pick anyone to act as your mentor, who would it be?

MAN: If I could pick ANYONE, living or dead, it would have to be Orson Welles. I would give anything to have had the chance to sit in a room with him and listen to him discuss story and character, let alone have him take me under his wing. I have no idea if he could have made me a better writer, but I bet he could have certainly made me a better story teller.

Have you done anything at a convention, as in had a table in artist alley or a booth or been a guest?

MAN: I’ve been going to conventions as a guest of BOOM! Studios for over ten years now. So I’ve had a chance to meet fans from all over North America. I was even a guest at the Middle East Film and Comicon in Dubai one year. That was such a fantastic show and a great experience meeting fans from that part of the world. I also occasionally do more prose-focused shows like BEA or ALA, though not quite as much as I used to.

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What was the most memorable fan moment you have had?

MAN: I’ve had so many memorable fan moments, but I think the most surprising was when a fan of Hexed came to the booth to show me her Lucifer tattoo. I was completely stunned and amazed that my story had moved someone so much that they were willing to permanently mark their body to show their love for the character. It was an incredibly humbling moment.

Have people ever cosplayed your work?

MAN: Yes! Last year was the first time I saw someone cosplay Lucifer from Hexed, though I had heard rumours that someone had been cosplaying as the Harlot somewhere else in the country. Oh, how I would love to have pictures of that!

How has the industry changed since you first started?

MAN: When I began writing in 2005, the industry was pretty much dominated by the Big Two. However, in that time we’ve really seen the rise of the independents like Image and BOOM! Studios. They’re taking the industry by storm and I love it! We’re seeing such great stories and ideas that go beyond the superheroes that the medium has been known for. It really is a new golden age and it’s fun to be a part of it.

How do you feel about the change to mainstream thanks to shows like The Big Bang Theory and the movies now in the cinema like Spiderman and Batman vs Superman?

MAN: It’s always wonderful to see comics and their most popular characters go on to other mediums, but I would like to see that mainstream popularity transfer to an increase in popularity for the MEDIUM of comics, not just the characters that began there. People will rave about an Avengers movie making a billion dollars and that certainly is a wonderful thing. But the popularity of the films aren’t directly proportional to the popularity of the comics. Yes, the comics a movie is based on will see an uptick in sales when the movie comes out, but I don’t believe that uptick is coming from a majority of new readers coming into the medium. And that’s what I want to see. I want to see people who love these films go and read the comics those films are based on. And once they fall in love with the medium itself, go out and find other stories they enjoy. That’s why I’m such a huge fan of The Walking Dead. Because I believe the show has brought in new readers to the comics medium. I want to see more of that.

Anything extra you would like to share:

MAN: Yes, buy my books! And not just my books, but the books of any creator whose work you enjoy. If you love someone’s work, support them so they can continue to create the stories you enjoy.

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Fun time:

Who is your favourite comic book character?

MAN: Spider Jerusalem

Who is your favourite author(books)?

MAN: George R.R. Martin

What is your favourite movie?

MAN: The Princess Bride

What is your favourite band/music artist?

MAN: Joe Satriani

What is a quirk you have (like dipping fries into chocolate Sunday)?

MAN: I get really freaked out if I see someone put their socks and shoes on by covering one foot completely before starting on the next foot. You put your socks on first, then your shoes. You don’t dress one foot completely and then the other. That’s just…wrong.

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Pick-

Day or night

MAN: Night.

Star trek or star wars

MAN: Star Trek

Coffee or tea

MAN: Coffee

Summer or winter

MAN: Summer

Cats or dogs

MAN: Dogs

Batman or Superman

MAN: Batman

Movies or a book

MAN: Books

Pizza or Burgers

MAN: Pizza

Coke or Pepsi

MAN: Neither. It’s all carbonated battery acid.

For those wanting to see more of Michael’s work you can find him on FacebookTwitter and his website.