Monday, January 25, 2016

Kickstart the Week with Dark Beach

By: Nicole D’Andria

Dark Beach is a science-fiction noir story and the latest Kickstarter to be featured on Kickstart the Week. I interviewed the writers and colorist about the society in Dark Beach, a world in which humans live in a large Iceland habitat thanks to the Old Sun.

The idea originated from the mind of Michael J. Ruiz-Unger. He fleshed out the script with Tucker Tota. The artwork was illustrated by Sebastián Píriz with colors by Ray Jones. The official Dark Beach logo was designed by Patrick Hart.

The Old Sun started killing life on earth. For centuries, humans have lived in a large habitat on the coast of Iceland powered off geothermal energy from the Earth’s core to escape the sun’s wrath. At least, that’s what people are told is the reason by the New Reykjavik Corps of Engineers (NRCE), the closest thing to a government in this world.

Gordo is one of those people. However, he starts to question what the NRCE says when he begins dreaming of the Old Sun exploding. He listens to a police scanner, going to the scenes of homicides, taking pictures of the victims and delivering them to his journalist friend in exchange for Ghost Choker, a drug he’s become addicted to. However one day he comes across a murder scene with Old Sun symbolism. Following his dreams and the symbolism, Gordo starts to unravel the truth.

The creative team is trying to reach $1,300 by February 19th, 2016. They have already reached their goal (in under two days!), but there is still plenty of time left. The rewards go from $5 to $300. If you back the project for $5, you will receive a digital copy of Dark Beach #1. At $7 you will also receive a behind-the-scenes look of the making of the book including sketches, scripts and alternative artwork. For $10 you get a physical copy of the book. You can pledge the project on their official Kickstarter page.

I spoke with writers Michael J. Ruiz-Unger and Tucker Tota, as well as colorist Ray Jones.

Michael J. Ruiz-Unger

Me: What inspired your idea for Dark Beach?

Michael J. Ruiz-Unger: My inspiration for Dark Beach came from a combination of a couple different things. The first being 1940’s crime scene photographer, Arthur “Weegee” Fellig. He has such an amazing array of work. On one side you have the grimy New York City crime photos showing death by stabbings or gun shots. Then on the other side you have these beautiful portraits of Marilyn Monroe or Coney Island in the summer. His progression and variety of work really struck a chord with me so I knew I wanted to somewhat base a character around him. The other influence would be, at the time, living in New York during the winter and having no job. I formed a very bad habit of waking up at 7 pm. For a couple weeks I didn’t see sunlight and that’s when the idea came to me. Weegee + No Sun. 

Me: Why did you decide to work with another writer and how did Tucker Tota become that writer?

Ruiz-Unger: After formulating the idea of Dark Beach and writing some loose summaries and plot lines I needed someone else to kinda take those things and run with it. Tucker Tota and I have collaborated on a few things already, mainly short films, so the trust was there. I gave him all the notes and he turned that into something I felt was on the right path. I’ve also known him since the 3rd grade. 

Me: What aspects of the writing do you personally handle?

Ruiz-Unger: I enjoy writing alone but I really like collaborating even more. It’s a great way to check one another to see if things really do work for a story or act. For Dark Beach, I would say building the story and its overall feeling was my main handle. Tucker and I would talk for hours on the phone and he would write something that night and send it my way. That cycle went on for a couple months. 

Me: Using only one sentence per character, how would you describe the cast in Dark Beach?

Ruiz-Unger: Gordo - An existential loner who wonders why he’s an existential loner. 

Duke - Gordo’s opinionated best friend (not by choice) who will go out for beers all night but then go to work at 8 am without having it be a big deal. 

Lilith - She’ll outwit you and make you laugh at yourself. 

Julyus - He’s intelligent and tactful and that’s all he would want me to say. 

Me: What do you want people to take from reading Dark Beach?

Ruiz-Unger: I just want people to be entertained. Take them away for 10-15 minutes. Imagine earth drifting in space. 

Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book writers?

Ruiz-Unger: If you want to write or make something then just do it. Don’t wait around for anyone to come to you or wait to hear from a publisher, find your collaborators and get to it. If you’re a writer find an artist or vice versa. Also, be very patient. Things WILL go wrong but that’s okay.

Tucker Tota

Me: What aspects of the writing do you personally handle?

Tucker Tota: On Dark Beach I handled the nuts and bolts of the writing. I typed everything out, wrote the dialogue, the panel-to-panel action. But after each draft of the script me and Mike would have long conversations (like 2hrs) and we’d go over absolutely everything and then I’d go back and type it all up.

Me: Since you received art samples from dozens of artists, what was it about the art of Sebastián Píriz that stood out to you and led to you hiring him as your artist?

Tota: The really interesting thing is that almost all of the art samples were really really good. Like we could have chosen any of them and the comic would have turned out great. But the comic would have had a completely different style, a different tone. So Sebastián’s talent was amazing and his style matched the feel of our story perfectly.

Me: What do you want people to take from reading Dark Beach?

Tota: I guess all writers just want people to keep reading their story and not get bored. So it would be great if people liked it enough to grab issue #2.

Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book writers?

Tota: I’m an aspiring comic book writer myself, so I can’t speak as if I’m super successful or anything. But writing a comic versus creating it is a big difference. It has been a huge learning experience bringing this comic to life. We especially learned a lot once we started working with an artist and colorist. Sometimes the artists will interpret a page way differently from how you imagined it, and sometimes it’s a great surprise. But sometimes the page needs to be completely re-done because you didn’t communicate something properly in the script. So you gotta learn to really detail the things that have to be a certain way, but also being ok with leaving certain things vague, to be interpreted by the artist’s imagination. It’s a wonderful thing to see an artist take your words to a place you never imagined.

Ray Jones

Me: How did you become involved with the project?

Jones: Mike and Javier reached out to me after seeing my work on Deviant Art. They saw my portfolio and felt I was a good fit for the project. I knocked out the colors on a sample page they sent and a few great and inspiring emails later and we were on our way.

Me: How do your colors add to this story?

Jones: As colorist, my goal was to enhance the grim nature of this story and the artificiality of this world. I planned to depict a world essentially on life support. Whenever possible I played up the unnatural quality of the environment with very saturated colors. My work is typically rich in color or dark in content, so I felt at home helping to construct this story.

Me: Why did you decide to become a colorist?

Jones: As an illustrator and designer I spend a lot of time in Photoshop. It's my second home. Also, being a colorist is an excellent entry point to the comics industry. It felt like an obvious choice after reading the script. The comic loving kid in me, anxious to get on board, wouldn't have it any other way.

Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring colorists?

Jones: Be open to criticism. There's a lot of technical info you can only learn by doing and by finding a mentor. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Label your layers, save often. Never quit.

Me: The final date to pledge Dark Beach is February 19th, 2016. You can pledge money to their Kickstarter here.

Do you have a Kickstarter? Want to be interviewed about it and have the project featured on "Kickstart the Week?" Let me know in the comments below or message me on

Other “Kickstart the Week” features:
The Gem Users
Karl Vincent: Vampire Hunter: “Foul Blood”

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