I first met Nicholas Doan, the writer of Pray for Death, from Zuda, DC’s webcomic division at Wonder-Con. When I ran into him in San Diego, with the comic’s artist Daniele Serra, they very kindly agreed to tell me about how their journey to publication.
Detective Abigail Jenkins is the inverse of the typical pop-culture cop; the one who is labelled a ‘loose canon’ by the press while the guys at the station indignantly talk about how he ‘gets things done’. She’s lauded by the press after an early success, but condemned by her peers. When she starts to investigate a serial killer with a religion fascination who thrills at the thought of getting caught, it seems everyone around her is setting her up to fail.
I ask Doan what inspired him.
“I think serial killers are society’s most complex, interesting and disturbed monsters,” he says. The idea flowed from there.
How did he come to work with Serra?
At first, Doan was in contact with Septagon Studios about Pray for Death. They put him in touch with Serra.
“I thank them every day for introducing us,” Doan tells me. “I came up with the concept and he made it look pretty.”
‘Pretty’ isn’t the word I would use, either for the concept or the art. The people in this comic aren’t glamourous. They have weathered faces and preoccupied expressions. The background is hazy. The pages themselves look muddy and grim, with dark splatters of pigment splashed over them in places. This style amplifies the noir tone of the book, as well as our sense of forboding as we look through it. There is a feeling that the killer could very well jump from the shadowy panels. And there’s the blood.
“The blood,” Doan says, “is perfectly used.”
He tells me that Serra used coffee to get the right pigment and texture. When I ask Serra where he go the idea, he shrugs and says, “My breakfast.”
Septagon asked them for five pages and two covers, which they supplied. Then they waited, for days, weeks, and finally months. Two months in total, which as any creator can tell you, is grueling.
Finally, they went to Zuda. I ask how their experience was there.
“They took care of us. It was a good opportunity to be placed in a big company.”
And so, outside of Pray for Death, at least, there is a happy ending. Inside?