Chris Ryall is the Chief Creative Officer and Editor-In-Chief at IDW Publishing. He’s also the writer of such books as Zombies vs. Robots, The Hollows, Groom Lake, and more. Now, he turns his attention to a classic Douglas Adams character in IDW’s Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. Westfield’s Roger Ash got in touch with Ryall to learn more about this upcoming series.
Westfield: What attracted you to the project?
Chris Ryall: The idea of working on a Douglas Adams project in any capacity feels like one of those things that’d ever only be an unrealized dream, so when there was a chance for it to become a reality, I leapt at it.
Westfield: Are you trying to keep a Douglas Adams feel to the series?
Ryall: That would be about the best compliment any reader could give me, that the comic had any kind of Adams feel to it. I’m certainly striving for it, while also knowing it’s not exactly in my means to deliver that to anywhere near the same degree. But if I can somehow push my sensibilities, which have always been of a sort to allow me to “get” Adams like I do few other writers, to deliver on the promise of the books, then I’ll be happy.
It’s a great challenge because Douglas’ wit and sense of wordplay, and just ability to tell an off-kilter story that nevertheless wraps up nicely and never goes off the rails is pretty unmatched. It’s a nice thing to strive for, to be sure.
Westfield: What can you tell us about the story and who are some of the characters we’ll meet?
Ryall: Well, Dirk arrives in the states—San Diego, specifically—following a case (but also owing to a big problem at St. Cedd’s college that we’ll delve into later). He meets a couple who run a detective-themed coffee shop—they’re big detective fans, only they run up against a detective who is about as non-traditional a private dick as anyone ever, so they’re not quite sure what to make of Dirk.
And even moreso when he decides that one of them will become his partner. But amidst a couple other nutty types who hang at the mostly deserted place (I mean, a detective-themed coffee shop, really?), he also runs into and afoul of an immortal man, a serial-killing couple and two reincarnated Egyptian would-be rulers. All together, they give the first storyline its name, “The Interconnectedness of All Kings.”
Westfield: Why did you decide to move Dirk to San Diego?
Ryall: The developing TV series is transplanting Dirk to San Diego, so I just went with that. Although I will say, it’s fun to know that Dirk is prowling around my back yard here.
Westfield: You’re working with artist Tony Akins on the book. What can you say about your collaboration with him?
Ryall: I can say that Tony’s mastery of playful body language and facial expressions, as well as his ability to ground characters in realistic scenes and keep even brutal killings feeling rather playful make him the perfect partner on this book.
Westfield: If the miniseries does well, would you like to tell more Dirk Gently stories?
Ryall: Actually, the first storyline, running over the first 5 issues, is just that, the beginning of an ongoing series rather than a miniseries. So I’ve got my plan for issue 6 and then the next big storyline in the series to follow this one; and then one after that, too. So, market – and fandom – willing, this’ll run for a long time and give me plenty of chances to really try to hone the Adams-ness of it all.
Westfield: Are there any other projects you’re working on that you’d like to mention?
Ryall: Why, yes, thank you. I just started on the second arc of my Zombies vs. Robots series, which is likewise an ongoing. The first storyline, “Inherit the Earth,” runs in issues #1-6 alongside a Steve Niles/Val Mayerik 6-parter. Issue #7 will be a standalone thing that features some very fun guestwork by a few artists, and then in August, issue #8 will kick off another big story. And also in 8, I’ll be bringing in another creative team to do a story, one I’m very excited about (and will be announcing at ECCC in a few weeks).
I’m also announcing two other series at Emerald City end of this month; a thing that Locke & Key artist Gabriel Rodriguez and I created together, and another title I’ve yet to mention anywhere else.
I’m certainly not looking to do four titles a month on any regular basis but these things all sort of coalesced at the same time. And other than the sleep deprivation and the mental energy required to keep all the characters and storylines straight, god, I’m having a blast with them. All four are scratching itches I’ve long had, and all are very different in tone from one another, too. That was another goal of mine this year, to not fall back on old tics and to try to stretch in different ways with the comics I’m writing.
Westfield: Any closing comments?
Ryall: Just that I really hope Douglas Adams fans like what I’m doing in the comic; and if they don’t, I hope they understand that I am being twice as hard on myself as they could ever be…