Pen to Page: Creating a Comic Book

A brand-new comic book series has hit shelves recently called Kill Your Darlings, and one half of its writing team calls Michigan his home—Griffin Sheridan.

Sheridan’s love affair with comics started, like most other enthusiasts, at a young age with stories centered around classic superheroes such as Spider-Man or Batman. In fact, it was in his teenage years when his admiration for Dan Slott’s run of Superior Spider-Man led him to meet his best friend and creative partner, Ethan Parker, with whom he co-hosted a Spider-Man themed podcast.

“We were brought together through comic books and a lot of our friendship is based on that,” Sheridan said. “We did some more podcasting endeavors, and that eventually led us to Ryan Stegman, who is another Michigander comic book creator.”

Sheridan contacted Stegman in college for a class project and quickly began working with him through the medium of podcasts alongside Parker. Their work with Stegman would eventually introduce them to Donny Cates and Matthew Rosenberg, two other well-established comic book writers. Soon enough, Sheridan and Parker saw an opportunity for their own comic book writing dreams to come true. It was pieces of insightful advice from these new connections that would ultimately push their dream over the finish line, and thus Kill Your Darlings was born.

“We spent the next few months shopping it around to people,” Sheridan said. “There was the question, ‘Do we want to take this to Image?’ Image Comics is the biggest stage you can take this thing out on.”

In an industry oversaturated with familiar characters, Image Comics has been an incredibly successful leader in publishing work from independent writers with fresh ideas. Several television shows got their start as comics with Image, such as The Walking Dead and Invincible

One of Sheridan’s mentors, Donny Cates, reminded him that if he and Parker were to get picked up by Image Comics, they’d need to “show up.” It’s easy to throw weird ideas at a publishing house that loves weird ideas, but it’s also just as easy not to get invited back. If Sheridan and Parker wanted to establish themselves in the industry, their first bout would need to be perfect.

“We sent it to Image, and they liked it,” Sheridan said. “And so, we had no choice but to ‘show up,’ in Cates’ words.”

Kill Your Darling’s graceful blending of gruesome horror into lighthearted fantasy is reminiscent of dark twists on stories like Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz. The protagonist is Rose, and her imaginative world combines myriad elements of her own childhood interests into unique characters and places (an elephant-pig named Wallace or a unicorn-bear sanctuary, for example). However, when a nightmare invades Rose’s imaginary world and a tragedy disrupts her real one, the trajectory of her story straddles the line between terror and hope. Between reality and what may only be in Rose’s mind. 

The timeline then hops around between different young kids at equally difficult parts of their lives, but Rose’s story starts in 1995, which is by no means an accident. Sheridan looks fondly back on that time when you’d more likely see a kid simply playing pretend in their bedroom, and Rose’s love for that innocent pastime is our first introduction to the character.

“The ideas lived in just our heads for so long, and then seeing them interpreted by our incredible artist, Bob Quinn, was insane, and completely changed the idea of what this was for us,” Sheridan said. “Now, when people read it, they have their own idea of what the story is and who the characters are. To see people interact with it in that way, it is a very surreal feeling.”

The first three issues of Kill Your Darlings are out now, and the fourth will be released on December 20. Find it at your local comic book store!