Interview with Stephan Franck: Dark Planet Comics storyteller


Stephan Franck, the creator of Dark Planet Comics dropped by our offices at 1428 Elm to talk about his latest Kickstarter for the third volume of his vampire graphic novel series Silver. We also chatted about Rosalynd, a story which dives deeper into the Silver Universe.

Get ready to vamp it up!

The Background

Stephan Franck has some serious credentials. He is the Head of Story for the PLAYMOBIL movie and he was a supervising animator on The Iron Giant. He also hung out with the Minions as a key story contributor to Despicable Me.

The current Kickstarter campaign for volume three in his Silver series will also include his latest effort, Rosalynd. This book focuses on one of Silver’s most beloved characters, Rosalynd “Sledge” Van Helsing. Her background is revealed and followers of the graphic novel will get to know how she became the beloved vampire hunter.

In the latest volume of Silver, a group of cons align with Rosalynd to hunt for treasure hidden in Dracula’s castle. It sounds exciting and pulpy to the maximum!

The Interview

SILVER-Vol3_page6 – Courtesy of Stephan Franck

Starting Out

1428 Elm: How did you become interested in comics?

Stephan Franck:  For me, comics have been a life-long passion. It started as I was growing up in France, where my parents were retailers. They had this awesome shop that sold comics, magazines, toys, and art supplies.  By the time I was in college, the great graphic novels of the late 80s like the Dark Knight Returns, Born Again, The Watchmen, and many more, all came out, combining the comics that I had loved as a kid with what I would call “the Great American novel.”

After that, there was no turning back. That was the impulse for Silver. It expands on the universe implied in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and takes place 40 years later in the 1930’s Pulp era. There, we have a group of con men teaming up with Rosalynd Van Helsing (granddaughter of the Van Helsing you already know) to steal ancient silver from a castle full of vampires.

It combines my childhood fascinations for black and classic horror and gangster movies, with a modern sophisticated sensibility when it comes to the character voices and their inner lives.

SILVER-Vol3_page7 – Courtesy of Stephan Franck

Creator of Worlds

1428 Elm: Was it tough to start Dark Planet with a saturated market?

Stephan Franck: It’s true that the market is very competitive, but so is every market these days, so you can’t let that stop you. Personally, I approach any project from the inside out–by finding a character that I find compelling, and trying to tell their story as honestly as I can. Hopefully if the character is interesting, the story will naturally be interesting and it will connect with readers and somehow cut through the noise.

But of course, there are never any guaranties that anything will resonate. So, I would say that bringing Silver to readers independently has been a lot of work but it has not been difficult in the sense that people who have found it seemed to have connected with it strongly. You can always look for ways to scale up, but you need that response at the core. It’s something that money can’t buy, and for Silver, I’m super happy to say that it landed that way.

Then, there is the conventions, which have been an incredible way to meet people and introduce them to what we were doing. The thing is, I like people, and there is a genuine interest from me to connect with folks, and basically to talk story with them.

So, when they come to the Dark Planet booth, people have come to expect a meaningful interaction. It’s a great experience on both sides of the table, and I think there is a lot of value in that.

Roz_2 – Courtesy of Stephan Franck

An Origin Story

1428 Elm: Rosalynd was based on your mother. Was it a tough story to write considering your family history?

Stephan Franck: The interesting thing is that I didn’t set out to write Rosalynd with any level of metafiction in mind. I was just feeling that Sledge, aka Rosalynd, had a lot of story in her that needed to be told beyond the main Silver arc. But then, the deeper I got into it, the more parallels with my family history became obvious and began to add their own level of truth to the story.

I was alone on a trip out of town, in a strange city, working on the book in my hotel room – just me, my computer, and a weird disco ball hanging from the ceiling, and it did turn into an intense emotional experience. I found myself retelling my mother’s stories, channeling her emotions.

It was kind of intense, but it was not exactly hard–It was more like it came gushing out. The stream of consciousness feel to the book ended up being a direct representation of my experience creating it.

I was in it, and I just couldn’t stop – I was even working at the airport gate with people looking over my shoulder, wondering what I was doing. I always knew I would have to tell that story someday, but I had no idea the tale of a young vampire hunter would be the vehicle.

End Game

1428 Elm: Tell us about your Kickstarter goals, Stephan. What would make the campaign a success in your mind?

Stephan Franck: On a practical level, the goal is of course to help fund the printing of Silver Vol.3 and Rosalynd, since we are a 100% independent company. But on a deeper level, it’s also a chance for new readers to discover the world of Silver and for existing readers to keep building a fictional universe they have been a part of. In a way, we’re all shaping our cultural reality together, it’s awesome.

1428 Elm: Do you have any plans to take Silver and Rosalynd and turn them into an anthology series for cable television?

Stephan Franck: We shall see, but until then, I’m having a blast with these books! I get to deliver a take on Dracula, vampires in general, explore the mythology of the Van Helsing family, and weave my own mythology around it. It has gothic horror, epic adventure, a sense of humor, and characters I have fallen in love with. I’m having a blast with this.

Next: SDCC ’17: Todd McFarlane inks deal with Blumhouse to direct Spawn

What do you think of the Silver series? Do you think Rosalynd sounds like a great read? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you!