I was recently able to read Chris Northrop’s graphic novel, The Reason for Dragons, and found that there wasn’t much written about Northrop nor this great story. To rectify this problem, I was lucky enough to be able to interview Northrop about his background, his inspiration for The Reason for Dragons, and what he learned from publishing this text.
Nicholas Yanes: There isn’t a lot about you on the internet. This leads me to believe that you are either a spy or in the Witness Protection Program. With that said, is there anything that you can share about your background?
Chris Northrop: I’m not in witness protection but I’m a pretty private person! Even so, I have zero problem getting up in front of tons of people at Comic Con, doing signings, whatever. When a book comes out, I’ll do all that stuff. When the press run is over I just go back home and work feverishly on the next book. That’s the cycle for me. The Harvey nomination, articles, interviews, I just want to get it all done and write more.
Yanes: Growing up, was there a moment in which you knew you wanted to professionally write one day?
Northrop: I knew it deep inside. I always wanted to tell stories. I get so passionate talking about it people probably get annoyed sometimes, or conversely really listen to me rattle on. But that’s why I’m also a teacher I guess. I’d watch movies and have opinions about things like structure and balance, and my friends were concerned more with how the special effects looked. I still do that. Story and character is so damn important. It’s easily overshadowed, but very noticeable.
Yanes: What was your initial inspiration for The Reason for Dragons?
Northrop: My father. He’s so different than me. Dragons is about father figures and what they mean to us. I’m still this small guy, 5 foot 6. My father was into some serious military service in Vietnam. He would try to show me things when I was a kid in the ’80s and I’d shy away. I would run off and read books or watch old VHS tapes, pretty much everything you see at the start of Wendell’s character arc in Dragons.
Yanes: While writing The Reason for Dragons, were there any classic stories you thought about for inspiration?
Northrop: Everyone mentions Don Quixote. I actually never read that until I was about halfway through lettering the final proof of Dragons. But it’s pretty obvious why people would point that out. I was looking more at ’80s fantasy movies like E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial.
Yanes: Given how important art is to a graphic novel, how did you decide to work with Jeff Stokely on this project? Specifically, how do you feel his style adds to your narrative?
Northrop: Art is very important. I picked Jeff on purpose. He’s got a very whimsical type of art. Sean Murphy was way too busy and locked up. We had developed the character designs a long time ago in 2007 when we both lived in LA. We’d hang out for hours just rapping about how my characters would look. I’m actually glad Sean did not end up drawing it (no offense, buddy!). Jeff ended up being PERFECT. His take on the characters brought even more life and energy to the story and coloring it was a blast, especially the ending.
Yanes: Since so many graphic novel properties are being developed into films, television shows, or games, what are your thoughts on the potential of The Reason for Dragons being adapted into another format?
Northrop: I’d love for that to happen for any number of reasons. There have been meetings and conference calls with several really talented screenwriters and producers at the larger studios for film versions. It’s something Archaia and BOOM! excels at setting up. Every time we have one of those calls I am in complete shock that they are fans of Dragons, and it’s a huge compliment.
Yanes: If The Reason for Dragons was ever turned into a movie, what are some elements that you feel the screenplay would have to keep exactly the same?
Northrop: Ted can NEVER see the actual dragon. He has to take Wendell’s word for it. It’s part of Ted’s arc. Ted does not care why Wendell ran away at the end and only cares that his son is OK. That is the whole point of the story.
Yanes: After working with an editor and publisher to bring your story to market, how do you think you have grown as a writer?
Northrop: I’m much more organized than I was. I am also much more aware of the very real rewards of doing this sort of work and also how to handle problems as they come up. I got an awareness boost. It’s not something they can teach you in school, or you can read about and learn. It’s trial by fire all the way. I am running two projects right now. I’ve really got production clocked on one of them. It’s partly confidence from working with Archaia/BOOM! and part of it is the experience from other freelance comic book, film, and video game projects where I do coloring and painting as part of a production team.
Yanes: At the end of the day, what are you hoping a reader will take away from reading The Reason for Dragons?
Northrop: Bottom line? Simple. Connecting with others is important.
Yanes: Are you currently working on some long term projects that fans can look out for?
Northrop: Crazy that I have fans. It’s all new to me still. I have a something I want to say here and unfortunately I can’t speak about it yet. I swore up and down I wouldn’t. So that one’s off limits. But’s it’s really important to me and the two other creators I’m working with. You’ll know when it’s announced and it shakes the retro scene. When I look at the people on board for that book I seriously think I’m dreaming.
I can say that I have been working with Mike Kennedy, the editor over at Magnetic Press, on an original graphic novel called Beer-O. It’s a crime/comedy about an alcoholic detective in Burbank, California. Aside from being really wild, it has a lot to say about addiction, self respect, and eventually, recovery. That book is about two thirds done at this point. It is illustrated by Kevin Castaniero and colored by myself and Mike Dake. It will come out in the spring and we’re well over halfway done with production. There will be an official announcement about that one soon. 2015 is going to be a great year; I can’t wait to grab it by the horns.