After several reports about Black Metal in the boulevard press and on TV, Timo Wuerz and Niki Kopp from Germany created a comic book mini series (4 issues) around this musical phenomenom. The impressive art and interesting story line (dealing with three teenage girls who discover the Black Metal scene) should be interesting enough for everyone reading this to check it out. We hooked up with both creators to find out a little more…
To kick things off I think it would be a good idea if you could introduce yourselves in a few words to our readers… Like who you are, what you’ve been doing so far, if you already worked together prior to this current project and so on…
Timo: "Nik and me are cousins and did comics together many years before we considered the possibility of professionally publishing our work."
Nik: "After school I studied a little bit and now I’m working in the internet field."
How did you both get into the world of comic books? I suppose you have been reading / collecting comics yourselves previously, so please tell us about your personal fave series in that department and what actually inspired you to get into this business as well.
Timo: "My first printed story in a book was at the age of 15. Later, Niki and I did a comic book that we liked and thought a comic book should look like. The first publisher we showed it to agreed to print it. That was 1993 and was called "Aaron und Baruch". Then followed several more books, for example "XCT" for Carlsen and "Drakan", the comic version of the computer game from Sony with the same name. I also do a lot of illustrations worldwide for magazines, companies like Lucasfilm or IBM, CD covers, architectural design… whatever comes my way and sounds like an interesting project to expand my talent. I hardly read comics but I grew up reading "Spiderman" and "Batman", now I like "Calvin and Hobbes" by Bill Watterson or "Why I hate saturn" by Kyle Baker."
Niki: "My favorites are Marc Hempel’s "Tug & Buster" and Peter Bagge’s "Hate". The book that caused me to write comics myself was Dave McKean’s "Arkham Asylum". Anyway I "read" weeklys like "Bessy", "Silberpfeil", "Buffalo Bill" since I was three. Later I switched to "Batman" and "Spider-Man"."
When and how did you find out about your own talent? And how did things develop from there?
Timo: "I started drawing at the age of two and never stopped, that’s just my way of expressing myself. So everything after that (a career if you will) came very naturally…"
What were the first more serious works of yours and how was the response in general?
Timo: "The response so far was fantastic! We need to get much more negative reviews to keep the balance… this is not an invitation ;o)"
Was it difficult to impress companies with your stuff? How did you hook up with Infinity Comics in the end? Have you been working for other companies previously already?
Timo: "First Carlsen was about to publish "Black Metal" but we decided that it was not the right publisher for what we had in mind. So we parted and immediately we got offers and Infinity’s ideas about the project sounded good to us and they’re cool guys so we signed the contract. This was a bit time consuming ("Black Metal" #1 should’ve been out in October 2000) but it finally worked out great."
When did you come up with the basic idea for your most current project, the mini series "Black Metal" and how did you continue from there?
Timo: "We were asked to do a sequel to our quite succesful comic "XCT" (1997) but didn’t come up with a new story we liked. Among the stories we were working on was one about Black Metal. That didn’t fit "XCT" but we nonetheless liked and persuaded the idea to do a whole new different series."
Niki: "I got aware of the drift of Black Metal towards mainstream in 1997. Around that time I started to develop the idea for the book."
Was your main concern to create a comic book, dealing with the happenings in the Black Metal genre and then you wrote a story line around that which is more or less connected to that? Or was the actual story first and then you decided to incorporate the Black Metal phenomenon into it?
Niki: "Black Metal was definitely first. Everything else developed around that."
After having just read the first issue, I’m not quite sure yet about your personal interest in this form of music… I mean the main characters in the story (Asako, Corky and Nina) are not necessarily what I would consider "die hard Black Metal" fans. You more or less present them as three kinda bored girls, that jump on every new trend there is just to enjoy life a little more… So, how about yourselves – do you share that philosophy of life or are you more the type of guys that are true to the bone in everything they do?
Timo: "I don’t consider myself as part of any movement. But listening to oldschool Hardcore music for quite some years now parts of that philosophy play a role in my life. I’m very fond of traditional bands who write their own stuff and tour forever opposed to producer created acts. I’m very unlike the girls in the comic. I have strong beliefs and stick to them. One of the starting points for the story was the question for how long as you get older can you hang on to a certain philosophy or way of life? Hanging around playing computer games, gonig to Hardcore concerts although your body hurts every time a little bit more, doing comic books, staying true to a popcultural scene etc. and most of the people your age you know start families, got a normal job and live a traditional suburban life."
Niki: "I think you can be interested in lot of completely different things and at the same time be true to yourself. One direction was always too boring for me. As far as Black Metal is concerned: I really appreciate the music and sometimes also the lyrics, if they are clever. My favorite bands are SATYRICON, LIMBONIC ART and indeed ASTARTE."
How about your personal tastes in music? I mean, to do such a dedicated project as this comic book series, which deals with the Black Metal genre quite obviously needs a lot of research and / or personal interest in it… And the mentioned bandnames in issue number one (ASTARTE and SIGH) are not necessarily mainstream bands… So, the obvious question is: do you listen to any (Black) Metal yourselves?
Timo: "1983 at the age of ten I bought my first IRON MAIDEN album and it went downhill from there, soon I was listening to heavier stuff like VOIVOD, SLAYER, POSSESSED etc. So I knew a lot of that music that would soon be known as "Black Metal". My musical taste extended from there but basically I still love loud guitars. But we did indeed a lot of research about the scene and especially about the incidents happening in Norway, adding to what we know already coming from that background just to make sure we know enough about what we’re doing."
How about the pictures of yourselves at the end of the first issue? I’m not quite sure whether to take them serious or if they were meant as some kind of parody on Black Metal related topics (such as burning down churches, corpsepaint etc.)?!
Timo: "No, not a parody. It’s not our intention to make fun of the scene. We just found it to be adequate… and we had two pages left ;o) "
Niki: "It’s just a holiday picture of me in front of Holmenkollen Church, so what?"
The main and most controversial (non musical) happenings took place in Norway several years ago, but your comic is written in German… Don’t you feel limited because of that? I mean, it could be really interesting for you to find out how people from up there in Scandinavia think about your project, don’t you think?! Or will there be an English version published as well?
Timo: "We’re really interested in seeing this book in different languages and we’re talking with some publishers about it but no deals have yet been made. We’ll let you know."
Niki: "I know a lot of Norwegians, because I work in a Norwegian company. So there’s no information problem for me. Apart from that: in the first half of the 90s also enough happend in Germany, and with such fine bands as MAYHEMIC TRUTH or MYSTIC CIRCLE (uuurgh – Ed.) I consider Germany the Black Metal country number 2 in the world."
How long did it actually take you to finish this whole series? Aren’t you afraid that people might already be pretty bored with the whole Norwegian happenings due to the fact that almost every TV station, newspaper and magazine had reports on it a couple of years ago? So, where’s the point to release a comic, dedicated to all that now?
Timo: "First of all, only very few readers who usually read comic books know much about what happened in Norway. And as far as I know nobody did a book like this before. "Black Metal" isn’t about these specific incidents, we use them to deliver the backdrop for our story about pop cultural and underground scenes."
Other story related topics are drugs and today’s computer technology… How’s your personal opinion about that?
Timo: "Nobody can escape that, right?" (well… – Ed.)
How detailed was the original storyline written and how much was Timo able to interpret certain things with his drawings on his own? I’m referring in particular to the fact that the girls are presented in a rather erotic vein… So, who’s idea was that and do you think it was necessary for this story?
Timo: "Since we’ve been doing comics together for so long Niki knows when he writes a chapter how’s it probably gonna look like when I painted it and I know when I read a scene in Nik’s script how he pobably intended it to look. And we talk a lot about it. So now I basically get a script like for a movie with most of the dialogues and settings and action in it and after we’re both happy with it I draw it and send the pages to Niki. Last changes get made shortly before the book goes in print so it’s always a work in progress until the very last minute (and I mean that literally). Hey, we’re talking about 17 year old girls… how can I not make them appealing? Besides, it’s more fun to draw and the readers like it as well."
Black Metal is quite obviously a pretty male dominated genre, so was that the reason to create a story like this around girls and not letting play three boys the main role in it maybe?!
Timo: "We’re both not that much interested in guys ;o) And a story about the macho Black Metal scene starring girls is more unusual."
Niki: "It would have been hell for Timo to draw 200 pages about ugly guys."
Timo, I was very impressed by the entire artwork in the debut issue and often felt reminded on pictures instead of drawings… Would you like to tell us a little bit more about the techniques you use? Do you use real pictures in any way as references when you draw? Where do you get your main inspirations from? Any fave artists you admire?!
Timo: "All the pictures are painted in a rather old fashioned way with mostly acrylics and ink, then scanned into the computer and rendered digitally using various tools. I hardly use real pictures as reference, my imagination works better for me… and lots of routine from painting my whole life. Favorite artists? Too many to mention, but among them are certainly Pablo Picasso, comic book artists Bill Sienkiewicz and Bill Watterson and photographer Matt Mahurin. My main influence would be Canadian painter Robert Bateman."
The whole series consists of four issues in total, which I unfortunately not know at this point of time. So, can you already tell a little bit more about how story is gonna continue (without revealing too much secrets of course)?
Niki: "All I can say is: Volume 2 and 3 will be just what everyboday expects while the last book will be quite a surprise."
What kind of expectations do you both have in this mini series? Could you imagine to do something similar in the future again? Are there any other new projects of you in the making that people should look forward to?
Timo: "As far as I’m concerned I’m happy when the 200 pages of "Black Metal" are done, this project took us about 4 years of designing, writing, rewriting, painting, organising etc… not all the time as a full time job. But I guess it won’t take too long until we start working on new books. My first children’s book will be published eventually this year."
Anything else you’d like to mention?
Timo: "Well, I’d like to repeat that we don’t intend to make fun of the Black Metal movement but the book is not a guide for hard core Black Metal fans but a story using the Black Metal scene as an example of an underground movement (with cool looks) we needed for the story to make our point."