Daniel Warren Johnson is a talented comics creator. His art is top notch and everyone should be following his Instagram account to see his awesome commissions. More recently, people have been noticing his ability to write like in his creator owned Skybound/Image series, Extremity. This year at NYCC, he sat with Comicon.com to talk about his newly released title, Murder Falcon.
Gary Catig: You’re here at New York Comic Con. What do you feel this show offers that other cons you’ve attended doesn’t?
Daniel Warren Johnson: I think first and foremost, the amount of people who are from overseas. A lot of people from the U.K. and from France. Some people are from Ireland. My first New York Comic Con was in 2016. I came in 2017 and I’m here now. One consistent thing has been the amount of people that are not from States. It’s really cool. It’s so fun to talk to people who aren’t part of the American comics culture. The fact that they’re excited about my stuff and they’re not from America is even cooler. That’s the first thing I noticed. That would be the biggest thing.
GC: A lot of people know you as an artist from your sequentials, cover work and your commissions, which are ridiculous. However, for your creator owned work, you also serve as the writer. Your series, Extremity, received critical acclaim being on people’s “Best Of” lists and it even garnered an Eisner nomination. How did it feel to you to receive acknowledgement and recognition for your writing ability as well?
DWJ: Surprising to start. I don’t feel very confident as a writer. I feel I make up for a lot of my writing problems as an artist and try to fill in the holes with my art. It felt awesome. It was surprising but it also felt great of course. I have to take the reviews and the acclaim with a bit of a grain of salt. Extremity was something that I really believed in. I was proud of Extremity before I read any reviews. I would hope that it would be the same if it got bad reviews. I don’t know, we’ll see. It feels great. I’m proud to have made it. I don’t know how Murder Falcon’s going to do, but I’m proud of it none the less. It feels good, though.
GC: That seems like a perfect opportunity to transition. You have a new series officially coming out next week, Murder Falcon. For our readers not familiar, can you describe it for us?
DWJ: Yeah. Murder Falcon is a lover letter to all things heavy metal, kung fu, beer. The elevator pitch is that it’s about this burnt out metal head named Jake. He used to be in a band but the band broke up. He used to have a girlfriend but we don’t know where she is. His guitar is broken and, in the corner, he hasn’t played it for months. It’s not until a magical force comes in and transforms his broken guitar into a super shredder from straight out of the 80’s, guitar glory days. Through Jake playing this guitar, he channels the energy of Murder Falcon, who is a mythical being that fights evil. The better Jake plays this guitar, the better Murder Falcon fights the powers that want to destroy the world. It’s crazy. It’s fun. I love it. All I can say, whether people love it or hate it, is that I had a blast making it. I’m pumped to share it with people.
GC: At the end of the first issue, you describe how this title was very important to you personally. It helped you cope while you were in a dark place. Can you elaborate on that a little more?
DWJ: Yeah. I don’t want to get too deep into it, but I had a lot of health stuff going on in 2016. Stuff that was a lot of chronic pain. Stuff that would come out of the blue. It was a really bad time. One thing I found out about chronic pain and sickness is that it has a tendency to isolate. For me at least, I would turn very much inward in a very unhealthy way. It was almost if I would feel this physical pain, then everything would turn gray that I would see. It was harder to smile. Harder to laugh. Harder to enjoy regular things like a nice day out.
I think that translates in a lot of ways for people who have different kinds of pain. It has a tendency to gray out the good parts of life. For me, one thing that really helped in that regard, though it didn’t fix it, was playing music. I played guitar and listened to music. It never fixed anything, but it made it just a little bit better. I would consider that to be the healing power of music which is what essentially what Murder Falcon is about, even though the title is insane.
GC: You can’t deny the musical influence in Murder Falcon. You’ve described it as a series that shreds, some of the variants are homages to classic rock album covers, and my personal favorite were the guitar picks given out at San Diego Comic Con. What songs did you listen to to put you in the mood creatively? Some people have playlists associated with their comic, so which performers would be on the Murder Falcon playlist?
DWJ: First off, instead of specific songs, I’m going to mention some bands. There’s an 80’s band that featured Paul Gilbert on guitar, who is one of my favorite guitarists. From the 80’s glory days, the guitar gods, the complete overplaying–he was in a band called Racer-X in the mid to late 80’s. Fantastic group. Yngwie Malmsteen is another amazing guitarist I would listen to a ton. I also listened a lot to Marty Friedman, and a lot of his solo work. He’s a great, great musician. These are 80’s legends. Vinnie Moore. I love Vinnie Moore. For some more traditional metal stuff, of course we’ve got Iron Maiden. We got Manowar. We have Judas Priest. I can go deep. I also listen to more current metal. There’s a doom metal band called Pallbearer that I really love. There’s a great thrash group based out of Texas called Power Trip. I’m a big fan of them. They have some great, great tunes. If I ever need to get pumped up to get ready to draw, I’ll throw on some Power Trip, rock it out, get some inking done.
That’s a lot of homework to catch up on but if you become familiar with the work of these musicians and bands, hopefully it will enhance your Murder Falcon experience. We would like to express our gratitude for Daniel taking the time to chat. If you’re interested in his work, please pick up either this series, Extremity or even Space Mullet, which are all out now. Our very own Josh Davison reviewed the first issue. He wasn’t the only one to enjoy it since the book is set for a second printing.