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Interview With a Creator: Q&A With Coronary Author Ryan Burke

Have you heard about Coronary? You know, that 12-episode comic with an all-or-nothing Kickstarter campaign, beautiful art, and a determined-as-hell creative team. Still not ringing a bell? You’re missing out! If you like Romeo and Juliet, or you find yourself perplexed by society’s intense, insane obsession with body image— their own or someone else’s. It’s super unhealthy but kind of fascinating, like watching The Human Centipede (don’t do it bruh)— or you like feasting your eyes on the artistic equivalent of a Swarovski crystal necklace, hey, Coronary is the book for you.

British-born, Missouri-based author Ryan Burke was kind enough to grant me with an email interview about his brain-child, whereupon I hurled questions at him like the class bully in dodgeball, and he, in an example of true sportsmanship, answered them all with frankness.

Q: First of all, tell me about you. If you’re going to be writing someone’s favourite series, they’ll want to know a bit about the author who made that happen. How did you get into comics? Are there any comics that inspired Coronary?

Burke: Hi, I’m Ryan Burke, author of Coronary, and I was born at a very early age. I got into comics kind of late to the party (if you can call it that) at seventeen with my first experience with Watchmen. It just completely rearranged what I thought of the comic medium and what it could achieve. It still impresses me in ways I’d never thought of. Without turning this interview into an essay, it was phenomenal. That being said Saga is keeping that fire alive. Godd*nm, heroin is less addictive. I wanted to make my own Watchmen. So fast forward four years and here were are, on the cusp of the first episode being complete. We’ve come a long way, and this is another step on that journey.

Q: Who in the comics industry do you look up to?

Burke: I have to look up to the modern greats: [Alan] Moore, [Dave] McKean, [Brian K.] Vaughan. And in doing so, I also look up to their respective heroes, [Jack] Kirby, [Steve] Ditko (and let’s just throw Stan Lee in there too). And Brian Michael Bendis, he’s great too.

Q: Tell me about Coronary. How did it start? How did you get the idea?

Burke: I got the idea while sitting at a tube station quite late at night. I thought it’d be a great opening for a comic book. The emptiness of the tunnel reaching out into the dark… I can’t stop thinking about it, and I’m not sure why. Maybe I need therapy.

Q: Your Kickstarter says you’re hoping to turn it into a 12-issue series. Have you mapped the entire thing out? Do you intend to publish all 12 issues in one physical graphic novel, or a digital series?

Burke: It’s all complete. The whole Coronary saga is clocked in at 350 pages, and roughly 50,000 words strong. It’s on the fifth draft, but we all know the fifth is the strongest. Later down the line I would love a collected edition of this, as a complete book. That’d be beautiful. (Hardback, the works). I would love to find a print backer for this, and work with a solid publishing house to give it the audience it deserves.

Q: What’s the most rewarding thing about working on Coronary?

Burke: The most rewarding thing is the outpour of support for this project. Every writer has that crippling inner fear that people won’t like what you’ve written and you’ll be cast out of society forever. All the supporters have been so inspiring to me, to continue working on this as hard as I possibly can. It’s been surprising that so many people share love of the project, and want it to succeed. I’ve been so lucky so far. I’m grateful for you all. You inspire me to keep pushing. And push we will.

Q: Why is your campaign “All or Nothing?” Will you continue pursuing publication if the Kickstarter doesn’t generate what you need?
Burke: Kickstarter is probably the only medium that I’d like to use for publishing this. It forces me to connect with my supporters, and even get out into the sunlight. I’m confident that the Kickstarter will succeed, but if not, I’m down to selling my kidneys. That’ll be at least two issues.

Q: What do you see in Coronary? What do you hope potential donors and readers see?

Burke: I see a classic in Coronary. Every author says that, but I know that. There’s been so much work from both myself, Joel, and Damian to make this project as great as it possibly can be. I hope that shows in the art. It shows in the bags under our eyes at least! 

I hope to inspire in others the idea that no one can ever tell you you’re less than. Coronary is about what happens when those that tell you have to dress, think and love succeed. They haven’t won in this timeline quite yet. Not if I have any say about it.

Q: Joel Saavedra and Damian Penalba will be breathing life into Coronary via art (it’s stunning, by the way). How did you meet? How did you pitch them your idea?

Burke: I met through a simple forum post, looking for an artist to do the script justice. And I managed to find two. They are both protégés of Mike Mignola [Hellboy] and they make truly stellar work. I pitched the idea to Joel, and Joel pitched it to Damian. I’m waiting for Damian to pitch it back to me.

They bring so much to the project, it’s beyond words. To go from what I think it should look like, and the finished page, it’s a giant step up. It’s perfect. The detail is down to the grooves in the pavement, the slight sloppiness of the yellow painted lines and the grubby collection of wires in the back of the cctv camera. It’s so accurate it’s scary.

Q: When you move forward with publication, are you doing so independently, or shopping your book around to publishers?

Burke: I am publishing all this independently until I feel that the project is close enough to complete. From there I can pitch to the big dogs. But I am enjoying the degrees of freedom that publishing independent gives me. I’m having a matte cover, and no one can stop me.

Q: Why did you choose London as Coronary‘s setting?

Burke: There’s that tired trope of write what you know. And that’s what I knew at the time. But the good thing is it’s cosmopolitan enough to represent most cities. Luckily there isn’t any big scenes set in Big Ben. And the queen isn’t in it. You have to wait for the sequel on that front.

Q: The two main characters in Coronary, Justin and Luna, have so much personality. It sounds like Justin is pretty reviled– without giving too much away, can you tell us what makes him tick? What about Luna? What are their motivations?

Burke: Justin survives off that very lifestyle image that so many are hooked on achieving. But it’s beginning to wear a little thin. It’s as if Tony Stark caught up with himself. Luna is the other pole of that crazy world, aggressively so. She wants to tear it all down.

Q: Mentally fast-forward 10 years: Are you still working in comics? If a hopeful comic writer asks you about Coronary, and what it became, what will you tell them? What is your ultimate hope for this book?

Burke: Of course I’ll still be working in comics. Until death! If anyone were to ask me about it, I’d tell them that with enough willpower and support, you can do what you want to do. You have to understand that while there are plenty ‘no’ people, it’s the ‘yes’ folks that really count. Find a mentor, and listen closely. That’s what I did, and it’s served me well so far. To paraphrase Shia, nothing is impossible. You simply have to believe that your voice is worthwhile, and others will too.

If the premise or the art of Coronary interests you, you can contribute to the campaign here. Given how dedicated Ryan Burke is to realizing his dream, I think it’s safe to say you’ll get your money’s worth!

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