Review and Interview with Dean Fenech, Creator of Apocalypse Rocked
Format: Running Series (Available both in print and digital format) – Issues #1 and #2.
Created By Dean Fenech
Cover Art by Dean Fenech
And Stefan Agius
Forward By Chris Le Galle
I was kindly asked by the talented Mr. Dean Fenech to review his comic book “Apocalypse Rocked” and it was a great honor!
Apocalypse Rocked was an intriguingly mad roller-coaster ride and a really different read. It has a very original story line that I have never seen before except for maybe in the movies.
It’s a story about a group of superhero rock stars in a post-apocalyptic world where a virus has hit Africa soon spreading out across the entire earth, leading to everywhere turning to chaos. There are women being raped and murdered in alleyways and peoples ears are bleeding from listening to what some people call music…Rap! The story slowly evolves from issue to issue but I found this was a great way to get to know the characters more. Issue two was great, I had a lot of fun reading it when Dean introduced the female rock lead singer “Erica Tonika” and her band “Sweet Toxin” because the dialogue got way funnier and more interesting due to her extremely cocky personality.
During my reading of the first issue I noticed an homage to Jack Kirby’s Captain America and his super soldier serum which really made me smile. That’s something I really liked about this series, you can get to know the writer a little as each page goes by, I could see many influences from Guns n’ roses, Kevin Smith, Batman and more.
I found the art really interesting because I got a manga feel from it, but it’s actually Americanized comic book art. I felt that some of the panel work lacked in originality and the proportions and composition were a bit off, but overall the art was very eye catching and different and it complements the dialogue nicely.
Being a Rocker myself who just so happens to also appreciate a good comic book, I have to give this series a 4/5 because it was relative and satisfying to my own personal taste.
Charlene: Hi Dean, I have read both issues of your comic book series which I enjoyed very much. How did you get involved in comic books?
Dean: I’ve always drawn. My mum says I could draw a recognizable Superman when I was 2. But I got started with the old Max Fleischer Superman cartoons. Same with the Ninja turtles and all the 90s Marvel comic cartoon series too. So my passion for these characters started from TV and movies. Then I found out they came from comics and that’s where the obsession began.
C: What kind of books would we find on your bookshelf?
D: A mix between graphic novels, academic books (mostly social studies related as I’m a Social Studies teacher and history books) and Autobiographies.
C: With you being both writer and artist, how do you plan and structure your work load?
D: I usually think of the story first, writing it mentally in my mind. Then when I’ve plugged up all the plot holes I write the script which is a fairly quick process as I love writing dialogue. Then I start character designing. Sometimes I know exactly how the character should look as I based him on someone, other times I have to work on them for a while. Then I draw the first drafts of the page layouts as very rough drawings. Then goes the pencil work and inking which I do by hand. I scan all the pages, color them with Photoshop and add the lettering.
C: Can you tell us a bit about the origin of Apocalypse Rocked?
D: A friend of mine, Stefan Agius (he colored my inks for the front cover) kept bugging me to go to a meeting with his friends that were organizing the first ever Comic book convention in Malta. So to shut him up I agreed to go to one meeting. They knew that if I met the organizers, I would have to agree to be part of it. I meet a bunch of like minded geeks (that’s a compliment) that like everything I like (at the time I had a trailer of Kevin Smith’s “Clerks” on my mobile just so I could show people what I bloody hell was talking about, and they loved Kevin Smith, which is instant cool points in my book). We instantly hit it off and I decided, then and there, that I was going to be part of the Malta Comic con. During this destined meeting they urged me to start my own comic. At the time I had the basic elements of “Apocalypse Rocked” in my head (rock stars that are super heroes in a post-Apocalyptic future) so I told them I would have the first issue ready for the comic con (which was held in October 09). I finished a black and white version of issue 1 about 4 hours before the comic con began. Everyone really liked it, they laughed in all the right places, wanted to buy it and was angry that it ended with “to be continued” as they wanted to know how it ended. This really encouraged me and made me think that I should actually sell it. So after the comic con, I spent a few months coloring it and finished on Easter 2010. Everyone loved it. So I started issue 2. After I finished issue two I decided to publish Issue 1 and 2 together as they felt like one story. The rest is history.
C: There is a lot of conflict between artists these days over the Digital means of creating art as opposed to using the good old fashioned pencil. What made you choose the more modern Digital approach?
D: As I have already mentioned I do all my pencil and ink work manually. I’ve tried inking with a tablet but it felt too “unnatural” to me so I went back to the traditional means. Coloring is a different story. I like the digital feel of digital coloring. I like how they complement each other (best seen in Jim Lee’s work in my opinion). So I only color digitally. And coloring digitally saves more time (no waiting for paints to dry) and is less messy. It’s just easier for me.
C: I felt reading both issues, that you were influenced by some of the Rock and Roll legends such as Axl Rose and the madness that he portrays on stage, but can you tell us who your other major influences were during the process of making Apocalypse rocked?
D: The first part of the story is basically a rock band’s biography (before the twist) which was mainly influenced by the autobiographies and documentaries I read and watch about my favorite rock bands (especially Guns n Roses and their early years). The lead singer, Bronzer, for sure has some Axl in him but he is also influenced by many others such as Russell Brand, Jim Morrison and a bit of Freddie Mercury too. All the madness packed into one. Other influences for sure are TV and movies. There’s a whole Batman reference (or tribute if you will) in the story too. The whole virus/post-apocalyptic feel was influenced by a New Zealand TV show called “The Tribe”. It’s set in a near-future in which all adults have been wiped out by a deadly virus, leaving the children of the world to fend for themselves. The show’s focus is on an unnamed city inhabited by tribes of children and teenagers.
C: Who is your favorite character from the story and why?
D: Ah now this is a tricky one. My favorite is probably Dean Starr for obvious reasons. He is based on myself. That’s why he is the narrator; he is my voice, my alter-ego. Maybe what I wish to be sometimes. That’s why he gets all the best jokes. But all the characters have bits of me in them I guess. Or else they say things I wish I can say to people in real life. Erika Tonika is also a favorite of mine. She is my leading lady and is based on a few women I know (or knew) in real life. She’s really going to come into her own in the next issue. There is going to be one particular scene that she’s in, in Part 2, which is probably my best writing to date. It’s a very personal and emotional scene.
C: Looking back at the finalized piece of Apocalypse Rocked, is it what you imagined it to be from the beginning?
D: Oh very much so. There are certain pages I would change (some of the first few pages, I was still rusty. I was out of drawing comics for a while when I began AP). But as a whole I love how it came out and people who have seen and read the final product seem to agree with me too.
C: Did you come across any obstacles during the making of Apocalypse Rocked?
D: In the creative part no. I had a clear vision of what I wanted. I might have had some problems with some of the accents of certain characters (but I had friends that helped me with that). The real problems came afterwards with all the publishing issues (in fact I opted to self-publish), printing of the book, distribution, etc.
C: Can you tell us anything about the third installment of the series?
D: Part two is going to have the same format as Part one, as in it is going to have two chapters (or issues as I call them). The first issue (issue 3) is going to be about the guys’ dual roles as rock stars and superheroes, further development of the “girls” and their relationships and the bad guys gaining power and scheming. There is also going to be more deaths within the group. For issue 4… let’s just say it’s going to be “civil war” (a Guns n Roses AND comic pun… a double whammy)
C: If you could have any super power or be any superhero who or what would it be?
D: Batman that can turn invisible and fly… time travel would be cool too. In fact the next story I’m doing after Apocalypse Rocked is a time travel story called “The boy who saved Rock n Roll” (the Marty Mcfly style of time travel not the Hiro Nakamura – from Heroes – style of time travel).
C: Is there any advice you can give to struggling artists out there?
D: Keep on practicing. If there is an area that you don’t feel comfortable with, then practice until you can’t anymore and then practice some more. Another suggestion is to show your work to people who aren’t going to tell you how good you are but to people who will give you an honest, informed opinion and this goes for both drawing and writing.
Thanks Dean for taking the time to do this interview!
Dean is an Australian born Artist who immigrated to Malta in 1994 where in 2008 he graduated from the University of Malta with a B.A in Art and Social Studies.
To find out more about Dean or to check out Apocalypse Rocked for yourself, kindly give his website a look, at www.Deanfenech.com