Inside the Cave: Morning Star Q&A

No telephones. No electricity. No escape. Coming in March is the newest sci-fi horror series from Mad Cave Studios, Morning Star, written by DB Andry and Tim Daniel, illustrated by Marco Finnegan, featuring colors by Jason Wordie and letters by Justin Birch.

When smokejumper Nathan Garrett perishes in a raging wildfire, his surviving family’s hopes and happiness burn to ashes. In the face of grief, and malevolent forces beyond their comprehension, can the Garrett family face the flames and confront the horrors that await them in Kootenai National Forest?

Mad Cave Studios’ marketing manager, Maya Lopez, sat down with Morning Star authors DB Andry and Tim Daniel to chat about their inspirations, their creative process, the making of Morning Star, and more! Read on for the full interview!

Q: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions today, Tim and DB! Can you please tell us a little bit about yourselves? 

DB: I’m David Andry, also known as DB. I’m a physical therapist and comic book writer from Sacramento, CA. I’ve been writing comics for about 10 years now and currently I’m staying busy with a veritable zoo of critters including cats, Guinea pigs and chickens.

TD: And this is Tim Daniel, writer and designer of comics hailing from Missoula, MT where I live with my wonderful family–wife Erin and daughters Elle & Olivia.

Q: In Morning Star, we follow the Garrett family as they face malevolent forces beyond their comprehension. What was your biggest inspiration in writing this story?

DB: For me, it was Amblin style movies I enjoyed as a kid. Ones like E.T. where, as a kid watching, I was scared, thrilled, I laughed and cried. Those movies weren’t just one thing. And the kids on the screen were kids, but they were able to be heroes and make mistakes and be in dangerous situations. I wanted to recreate all that within the pages of Morning Star.

TD: David and I share similar sensibilities and when we initially discussed Morning Star he aptly described it as our lost Amblin film. That really struck a chord with me because the touchstones are genre based family dramas such as Poltergeist, and the aforementioned E.T. Add in a dash of Stephen King, particularly The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, and you know, the fact that I’m living in Montana and all and you’ve got Morning Star.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your personal connection to Morning Star?

DB: A big part of Morning Star is how people deal with loss, with grief. That’s something everyone can relate to. The three main characters all deal with grief differently and there are parts of how I deal with grief in each one of them. And like Charlie, I think I’m a big dreamer. Not always present in this reality, but in my head dancing through all the other realities I can find there.

TD: The Garrett family is in many ways inspired by my own–both the one I had as a child and now the one I have as a parent. Coming from a divorced family, my father leaving home when I was eight, created a real vacuum in my life. That space was filled by you guessed it–comics, movies, television, music and novels. As a parent, I’m aiming to stick around for my wife and daughters for as long as I possibly can and so the merger of my childhood experience and adulthood is something that really works itself out on the pages of Morning Star through the Garrett family. To take a moment to examine the role of a father in the family measured by his absence.

Q: What initially got you into comics?

DB: I’m going to have to reveal my age here! So in 1986, I’m in 6th grade and a kid new to my school brought a copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to class. Probably issue 2 or 3. I saw that and was immediately hooked. It was so different from the random Supermans or Spidermans that I would glimpse at the grocery store sitting on a spinner rack. Luckily, we had an amazing comic shop in the town where I grew up. The owner had no problem with little punk kids hanging out all day during the summer and reading comics. Probably explains my continued love of indie comics.

TD: My best friend when I was aged 12, Kevin. Damn you Kevin, this is all your fault. He had three ring binders filled with with mylar sheets stuffed with X-Men and other Marvel comics and the very first time I flipped it open it was as if I’d been struck with a 4-color lightning bolt.I probably had Kirby crackle shooting out of my ears. We’d deliver the local paper in Sonoma County, take my tips, $1.05 bought 3 “Still Only 35 Cents!” comics every Wednesday at the local Rexall.

Q: Which character in Morning Star do you personally connect with the most?

DB: Charlie, for sure. I was that kid, off in his own world of imagination. My parents sometimes had to force me to hang out with other kids because I was totally happy, on my own, just living in my head.

TD: No doubt, Charlie. In many ways, pop culture, especially comics, helped me navigate all kinds of childhood messes–it definitely inspired me to write and draw and that was a powerful escape. Charlie Garrett is coping with the death of his father and his comics and pulps are a means to not only emotionally survive the aftermath of Nathan’s death, but may just be a key component of his family’s salvation.

Q: Much of Morning Star is set in a firewatch tower at the heart of Kootenai National Forest, with the Garrett family mourning the loss of the beloved smokejumper, Nathan Garrett. Is there any special research that went into the creation of Morning Star?

DB: That’s Tim’s home area! Not specific for this book, but I love traveling via car. I’ve actually driven from my home in Sacramento to Tim’s in Montana. Driving through America, you realize there are these massive areas of isolation. Where nobody lives, there is no cell service, and if something happens…you’re on your own. I definitely tried to bring that feeling to Morning Star.

TD: Almost ten years ago, when I was employed at the University of Montana, a former coworker of mine showed me that you could rent the fire lookouts. Eureka! That right there was the beginning of the idea for Morning Star. Thereafter, I started researching the origins of the smoke jumper program. Early smokejumpers looked like astronauts and combat soldiers and that presented highly appealing visual possibilities.

Q: What do you hope for readers to take away from Morning Star?

DB: Primarily, I hope they are entertained. I hope they feel a connection to the characters and can see themselves in this book. And maybe, some hope itself, at the end.

TD: All five issues and a trade? Too soon? A sequel series? Too much? Sincerely, I hope that the story connects, that it makes readers care and react–that Morning Star is good enough, impactful in some genuine way that maybe it makes them tell a family member that they loved.

Q: When it comes to writing comics, the two of you are notably a dynamic duo! Can you please tell us a bit about what your creative process is like?

DB: A LOT of talking! But functionally, we each basically do our favorite parts of writing. Tim will come up with visuals, some key images that capture the mood of the thing. We talk a whole bunch and then I’ll usually start writing a vomit draft. Nothing in script form yet, just what happens with dialog (my favorite part). Then I pass that to Tim and he does his pass on that draft. Back to me for changing that into script form and then back to Tim. Repeat until done! I like to have the whole series out in vomit form before the scripting starts so I have an idea where the story is going. It’s easier for me to just write a draft versus come up with an outline, so if we need an outline, Tim usually will do that first and I’ll draft off the outline.

TD: David mentioned talking, which we’ve been doing steadily now for almost 4 years almost on a weekly basis. What that really entails is iterating a myriad number of wild ideas, refining the possibilities and making countless decisions along the way. There’s been a lot of trust, very little ego and a whole much of mutual respect in the process. And I think it’s clearly translating to the stories and I feel pretty damned fortunate to have struck up this creative partnership during what was a very weird and uncertain time in 2019.

Q: Do you have any recommendations for readers who are looking for sci-fi/horror stories in the vein of Morning Star?

DB: I’ve used these for comps already but E.T., Close Encounters. Another one that Tim and I both love is Super 8. Has a great family aspect and mystery.

TD: Stephen & Steven. King & Spielberg. Morning Star is part horror, part wonder and both of those titans have their fair share of those stories and films that informed our tale. You can also go for deep cuts like Fire In The Sky, Communion, and maybe even Those Who Wish Me Dead and Interstellar.

Q: Who/what are your biggest influences as creators?

DB: Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Brian K. Vaughn. I’m a sucker for Shakespeare and mythology of every kind. I usually read fantasy for fun so authors like Robin Hobb, John Gwynne, Joe Abercrombie and I just started reading Brandon Sanderson and I’m mad at myself for not discovering him sooner.

TD: Stephen & Steven. King & Spielberg.

Q: What are your favorite stories/artists/genres?

DB: Sci-fi and fantasy for sure. I grew up on Star Wars and Star Trek in equal measure. I’m also a sucker for period pieces, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Gilded Age. And anything with sincerity and a happy ending. I’m an easy cry so gimme something with feeling. For comic artists, all time favorites have to include Art Adams, Jim Lee, Chris Bachalo, Matias Beraga, Humberto Ramos, Skylar Patridge. Honestly, this list could go on forever, I love comic art.

TD: Horror and Sci-Fi are probably my staples, but I also enjoy historical fiction, documentaries and novels of all varieties–Cormac McCarthy, Glen David Gold, Michael Chabon, Stephen King, Don DeLillo, and more recently Daniel Kraus (Whalefall) and Nathan Ballingrud (The Strange).

For television I’m hugely enjoying Issa Lopez’s True Detective: Night Country which is an excellent return to form and evolution of that show while my likely favorite in the last several years is HBO’s Station Eleven.

Comic artists are a tough call, as DB notes, that list is long. Hard not to be biased though and note many of the people we’ve worked with; Chris Shehan, Joshua Hixson, Sunando C, Chris Evenhuis, Liana Kangas, Tula Lotay, Maan House, Skylar Patridge, Alex Sanchez, Angela Wu, Conor Boyle, Heather Vaughan and many more. Also love Greg Smallwood, Dan Panosian, Mitch Gerads, Jacob & Sean Phillips, Charlie Adlard…and colorists Jason Wordie and Kurt Michael Russell…please, somebody stop me!

Q: Any upcoming projects we should know about?

DB: The complete Resonant series omnibus is on the way along with the full Denizen trade which was part of Nightfall Double Feature. Those plus the second volume of End After End, all out through Vault Comics. Not sure what else I can mention at this time, but I will say that I’m looking forward to many more books with Mad Cave after Morning Star.

TD: We’ve got a lot of projects in the development and production process right now and I know the next two years are going to be action-packed on the shelves with our collaborations. One highlight from the new year already is Creepshow, Vol.2 Issue 5 that DB and I had a chance to write a story for, Keep It Fed, and the amazing Matthew Roberts’ art transcended the script. It’s a beauty and was a real moment for us both to write for such a venerable horror touchstone.

Q: Any cons you’ll be attending in the near future?

DB: This year, ECCC for sure. I’m also trying to get out to Heroes Con and Rose City.

TD: ECCC for sure and with a little scheduling luck, Rose City in Portland for the very first time!

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

DB: I’d like to say how thankful I am to the readers who are taking a chance on this series, to James, our editor, and the whole Mad Cave team, how amazing it has been to work with them. I feel very lucky to be able to tell stories in my favorite medium and hope I can continue for many more years to come.

TD: Indeed. The Mad Cave experience has been a professional and creative highlight for me and I get the distinct feeling that what we’ve enjoyed will translate directly to the reading experience. There’s an unmitigated focus and enthusiasm that extends from Mark London all the way out to our creative team and I know for a fact readers will sense that immediately in the pages of Morning Star.

ABOUT DB ANDRY & TIM DANIEL

Writer, David Andry (He/Him)
David “DB” Andry is a physical therapist and comic book writer from Sacramento, CA. His previous works include RESONANT, END AFTER END, DENIZEN, CREEPSHOW, and he has contributed to multiple anthologies such as FTL Y’ALL and LOWER YOUR SIGHTS. He has partnered with Christopher Alvarez on the self published DEAD BLOOD and can usually be found in his backyard, trying to figure out where all the chickens came from.

Writer, Tim Daniel (He/Him)
TIM DANIEL is a comic book writer and designer. His previously published works include ATOLL, BURNING FIELDS, CURSE, DENIZEN, END AFTER END, ENORMOUS, FISSURE, SKINNED, SPIRITUS, and THE PLOT. He is responsible for the design of countless titles spanning nearly 20 years in the comics industry for almost every independent and major publisher including A Wave Blue World, Dark Horse, Dauntless, DC Comics, Icon-Marvel, Image, Mad Cave, Scout, Shadowline, Skybound, Valiant and Vault Comics.

Tim resides in Missoula, MT with his wife and two daughters.

SNEAK PEEK!

The Garrett family’s harrowing journey begins here. Click through for a sneak peek into the pages of Morning Star!

Morning Star is now available for pre-order on the official Mad Cave Studios website, and will be available at your favorite bookstore, local comic shop, and digital comic reader on March 27th, 2024! Be sure to keep up with Mad Cave Studios on social media for updates, sneak peeks, and so much more!

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