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Medieval Worlds, Flow Charts & Avoiding a ‘Lost’-styled Finale: A Conversation with Vessels Writer Dave Cook

We were given the chance to hear from writer Dave Cook about his comic Vessels. It mixes fantasy, sci-fi, dreamworlds, and a whole lot of awesome. If you’re intrigued, check out our interview with Dave below!

A Place to Hang Your Cape: Calling Vessels ambitious is an understatement. Where did the idea for this originate?

Dave Cook: I have difficulty tracing back the exact moments that led to the idea behind Vessels, but I have been a long-time fan of the Dark Souls game series and I knew I would love to one day make my own take on its core themes.

So I took themes like a dying medieval world, a land stricken by a terrible plague, grotesque monsters (the Vessels) that must be killed for their souls, and a world stuck in a kind of hopeless loop.

The idea to have the realm of Cairnthala merging with the our modern day reality was inspired in part by the movie Inception, and sort of grew from there. Thankfully there’s only one person (I know of) who has correctly guessed what’s going on in the story so far.

AP2HYC: As much as this is the story of Wake, it’s very much about the world of Cairnthala too. What was it like finding that balance in the writing process?

Cook: My first comic series Bust is quite a straightforward story of post apocalyptic survival, but in Vessels here are actually four subplots going on in each issue.

I’m currently finishing up issue #5 and at first found that mid-way part of our story a real challenge to juggle coherently, and without rushing the story’s pace.

So to find balance I started drawing our visual flow charts on paper, which show where everyone is in the world in that part of the timeline, where they need to be by the end of the issue and then it’s a case of working out the events that get them there.

Juggling several plot threads is definitely challenging though, but it’s something I’d highly recommend all budding comic writers to learn the process by giving it a shot. It all sort of clicks after a point and you start to understand it.

AP2HYC: While the fantasy element is undoubtedly cool, the dream portion really excites me. Was that always part of this creation or did it evolve from it over time?

Cook: The dreamscape idea was always part of the process and I actually have a bank of increasingly insane and vivid dream set pieces I’d like to use at different points of the story, but I’ve already had to cut some out as the plot evolved.

Cutting things out is part of the process too though. I find that if you’re having to force a scene into the narrative then it’s probably not a good fit at that point. All I’ll say is, the dream sequences get even weirder and more profound from here.

AP2HYC: Sometimes mixing the dream world and the real world can be tricky (*cough* Inception *cough*). Was that ever a concern for you?

Cook: I wouldn’t say it was a concern but sort of the opposite. It was liberating to have freedom to go beyond the typical fantasy setting and work in real-life elements that wouldn’t normally be found in a realm like Cairnthala.

But the real challenge then became – with so much freedom where there heck do you begin? I’ve had so many discarded ideas that either jumped the shark or didn’t quite fit the narrative. At one point I had the main characters – for no real reason – being sucked into a retro arcade machine.

It was going to be pretty fun but then I thought, “Is this actually furthering the overall plot, or is it just a fun time waste?” Sadly the answer was yeah, it was a fun diversion that didn’t really advance the plot. But, I’ve reworked the idea into something else, so it’s not completely dead. Watch this space.

AP2HYC: Lastly, without spoiling, what are you most excited for readers to discover as the series progresses?

Cook: I think I’m most excited (and nervous) for readers to discover the truth about exactly what’s going on in Cairnthala. It’ll either be a hit with some people or they’ll be like ‘oh… really?’ But that’s always the risk you take when telling stories.

One thing I hope readers do, is re-read the old issues as they get each new one. I’m a fan of the Dark Souls style of story-telling, and most recently the awesome third series of Twin Peaks.

Those two stories don’t explicitly spell the plot out for you but they do give you all the clues to form your own idea of what exactly happened. So in a way you’re a detective threading together scenes to work out your own take on the plot.

That’s said we’re absolutely not going to do a Lost and answer like 5% of the questions. You’ll get a full ending in Vessels, but there’s bits around it that you’ll have the freedom to decide for yourself.

I can’t wait to see what theories people come up with 🙂

Thanks for having me guys, I love the site and I’m really grateful for the chance to talk about Vessels. Cheers!

Cheers Dave! And that retro arcade machine does sound pretty cool! If you haven’t checked out Vessels yet you should drop everything and go read it! You can read our review of issue #1 and issue #2, as well as discover more about the comic through its publisher, Card Shark Comics.

About the author

James Leggett