PopCultHQ is kicking off 2018 in a new way. Each month, we’ll be selecting Comic Book Creators of the Month and interview them for a spotlight article. For January 2018’s Writer of the Month, we chose Eliot Rahal.
Rahal’s career in the comic book industry would begin with an internship at Marvel Comics. Within a few years, Eliot had a few writing projects on his résumé from Valiant Entertainment and Dark Horse Comics, but it was with 2015’s THE PAYBACKS #1 from Dark Horse that really put him on the map. The series had Eliot team with writer Donny Cates (REDNECK, BABYTEETH), whom he initially met during his time at Marvel, and artist Geoff Shaw (GOD COUNTRY).
2016 saw the writer team with another on-the-rise talent in Daniel Kibblesmith (QUANTUM & WOODY!) with the miniseries THE DOORMAN from Heavy Metal Publishing. It also saw the launch of a second volume of THE PAYBACKS. The following year, Rahal picked up some sweet one-shot stories at Valiant with SHADOWMAN/RAE SREMMURD #1, BLOODSHOT’S DAY OFF #1, and DIVINITY III: ESCAPE FROM GULAG 396 #1.
Now only two weeks into 2018 and the writer is hotter than ever, helming the recently-released, highly-anticipated, exciting new miniseries NINJAK VS. THE VALIANT UNIVERSE, as well as getting ready to launch CULT CLASSIC: RETURN TO WHISPER at Vault Comics. With the projects rolling in and with the creative teams of which he has been a part, we expect nothing but more great things from the incredibly talented writer.
So sit back, relax, and hear from the man himself as he discusses how he got into the industry, the importance of validation, and why it’s best to “just write” and “be yourself” to make it as a writer in comic books.
PopCultHQ Spotlight Interview
Writer of the Month – January 2018:
PopCultHQ: How did comic books influence your childhood? What was the defining moment in your life that you knew, from then on, that you wanted to write comic books for a living?
Eliot Rahal: Growing up I loved fantasy books (Lord of The Rings, Black Cauldron series, the Redwall books, Once and Future King). Not to mention a nonstop visual intake of Saturday morning cartoons and Sega Genesis. I started reading comics heavily in high school. Soon I was hooked. It became my favorite way to read and consume stories. I loved how a single panel — a single beat in a comic book — could move you to tears. I still love that. I wouldn’t say that I knew I wanted to write comics until I actually started writing them. I was really lost in my early 20’s. I knew I wanted to be a writer, but write what? I took a fall/winter editorial internship at Marvel Comics in 2010. It was my last college credit. That’s where I met Donny Cates. Donny and I spent (what seems like) countless nights talking comics, drinking, and talking about how we wanted to be writers. That’s how we came to be collaborators. We would stay up late working on an indy book that we would pitch together at NYCC one year later. It was in those moments of creation that I felt some magic in my life that I hadn’t really felt before. Seeing the art come in and the concepts brought to life… I felt like my creative energy had a purpose. Writing comics felt right. It still does. I’m happy to say I still feel that same magic that I did before.
PopCultHQ: Your work has been published by Dark Horse Comics, Heavy Metal Publishing, Vault Comics, and across a number of titles at Valiant Entertainment. You’ve had the opportunity to work with writer Daniel Kibblesmith and Donny Cates, and a lengthy list of fantastic artists. What do you enjoy most about collaborating with other creators? Which creator would you love the opportunity to work with on a project?
Rahal: What’s great about working with collaborators is an immediate sense of validation. All creators love validation. Or… maybe it’s just me. PLEASE SAY IT’S NOT JUST ME. Seriously though… It’s nice to be in a room with someone (or on the phone) and know that they think this shared idea of yours is good. Not only that. That it’s worth pursuing. That it’s worth putting money into. Working with Donny and Daniel gave me the confidence to trust myself because they trusted me. Then you realize, in comics, that a writer is always collaborating whether it’s with the artist on the book, the colorist, the letterer, designer, or the editor. A comic book is not one person. That’s why they are so cool. It’s a bunch of cool people coming together to make something special. Also. It’s just good fun to bounce ideas off of another person. Especially if they are as invested in it as you. In terms of others I want to work with… Woof… big question. What’s great about the line of Cult Classic books at Vault is that it’s giving me the engine/excuse to team up with a lot of talanted people. One day I’d love to get Natasha Alterici, Brent Schoonover, James Asmus, and Vita Ayala all in the same room together. That would be really neat.
PopCultHQ: 2017 was an especially busy year for you with Valiant, writing the one-shots ‘Bloodshot’s Day Off,’ ‘Shadowman/Rae Sremmurd,’ and ‘Divinity III: Escape From Gulag 396.’ With ‘Ninjak vs. the Valiant Universe,’ you find yourself writing for and about all of the major players in the Valiant Universe. Did your prior work on Valiant titles (including Unity and Archer & Armstrong) make it easier, or better prepare you, for writing a series featuring so many top-name characters with the publisher?
Rahal: Not really! Ha! Those Unity and Archer & Armstrong stories were just short backups for celebration issues. Don’t get me wrong, they were SUPER fun. I loved doing them, but the longer form work I’ve done with Valiant has been a more intense process. A welcome one at that. Before them I had done three published series, but technically these were going to be my first “solo” writing credits. I really wanted to show what I could do. Valiant has been great to work with. Especially Warren [Simons]. They have really pushed me into making myself a better writer.
PopCultHQ: With #NinjakVs, you’re also a part of a larger initiative with the publisher, one that coincides with the Valiant Digital/Bat in the Sun digital series of the same name. Has your approach to writing this 4-issue miniseries been different because of the unique dynamic?
Rahal: Valiant told me to make this my own as much as possible. I mean it is certainly a more unique project because I’m trying to stay true the tone of series. Other than that, I’m just writing a totally cool action story about a Ninja fighting his superhero friends. What could be better?
PopCultHQ: What has been the most important and/or valuable piece of advice you’ve received as a writer in the comic book industry?
Rahal: Just write. There is a lot of anxiety in creating comics — especially as you start getting more attention. I’m constantly worried about how my work will be perceived. Am I cool enough? All that horrible dumb meaningless bullshit. The best you can do is write and be yourself. That’s how great stories are made. At the end of the day that’s all people want.
PopCultHQ: On top of #NinjakVs and ‘Cult Classic: Return to Whisper,’ what’s on tap in 2018 for Eliot Rahal? Any conventions and signing appearances lined up?
Rahal: As far as work goes… there is some new and exciting stuff coming around the corner that I wish I could tell you about, but sadly I can’t. Fortunately you will be able to read it all this year! Convention-wise? It’s a growing list. So far I’m going to ECCC, Fargo CoreCon, SDCC, SiouxperCon, NYCC, MSP Comic Con, and maybe one more? I don’t know. It all depends.
PopCultHQ: If you had the power or ability to make one change in the comic book community or industry, what would it be?
Rahal: I think it would be making this a completely safe space free of sexual, or any kind, of unwanted harassment. There are other problems comics face, for sure. However, this is the most important one. This type of behavior rots our community. I think all publishers (and industry related companies) should adopt and enforce a zero tolerance policy.
Special thanks to Eliot for making time to speak with PopCultHQ. Be sure to follow Eliot Rahal online for all the latest from the talented creator!
Writer – Eliot Rahal