An Interview with Kevin Parnell: Hogtown Spirits

Posted December 2, 2014 by Josh McCullough in Comic Books

Josh recently had the chance to interview Kevin Parnell about his new book Hogtown Spirits #1: Wyatt Blake. Josh personally loved this book, you can read his review here and buy the book through Comixology or Gumroad.

We The Nerdy: For those who don’t know, what’s the premise of Hogtown Spirits?

Kevin Parnell: Hogtown Spirits is a 22-page noir one-shot comic, about a down-on-his-luck jazz trumpet player who has one night to scrape together enough cash to save his life, but his goal is quickly forgotten about after he stumbles into an old flame.


WTN: What sort of influences have impacted this book for you?

Kevin Parnell: A general love of noir stories, Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe books, films like In A Lonely Place, Sunset Blvd, and in comics absolutely Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Criminal series, specifically their last volume, The Last of the Innocent. Their whole series was one of the main books that got me back into reading comics again and that last arc really made me want to make comics. I love a good mystery or heist but I tend to be drawn in more by moody, introspective noir stories. Listening to jazz and having a lot of friends who play jazz influenced me on this too, as well as just the city I live in, which you touch on in your next question.

HS preview page 1

WTN: When reading the book the city felt like a character in and of itself, how important was the setting and atmosphere for you when writing Hogtown Spirits?

Kevin Parnell: I’m glad you picked up on this, the city itself and its atmosphere is incredibly important. Before I had characters, before I had a story, I had the world. The comic is named after the city specifically, rather than a character or other title. I live in Toronto, Canada, and I wanted to set a story in a fictionalized version of it. I feel Toronto doesn’t show up enough in fiction. Hogtown was a nickname the city had so I went with it, and spent some time developing the background of this fictionalized place. It’s a mix of altered places currently found in Toronto, as well as historical places that no longer exist, or places that were planned for the city but never came to fruition. In this first issue some of the Toronto inspirations can be found in The Rex jazz bar, the historic Colonial Tavern, the Gladstone Hotel, the TTC, and others. They’re not always obvious but they’re there, little nods to a city I love. I think it helps make the city of Hogtown more of a character in the book than just the setting, or a place that feels alive, lived-in, a place with a past, with memories. I think that’s key for our characters, whom might be haunting its streets, or being haunted by the city itself.


WTN: The romance element seems like quite a modern twist compared to the noir setting, what encouraged you in this decision?

Kevin Parnell: The romance developed in the story over multiple drafts. It started out more about Wyatt’s attempts to get the cash to pay back the big bad, but it wasn’t clicking for me, whereas some sort of troubled or unrequited romance usually does. When I shifted the focus to Wyatt’s internal struggle after stumbling into his old crush, it opened the story up to become a more moody, dreamy nostalgic trip, which I think was the right way to go, it really let Barb play with the art and layouts. A part of the reason to focus on the romance was also because in writing this I was challenging myself to write a self-contained 22-page story, which is terribly difficult. Focusing on the characters rather than a tight plot made it easier to approach the book, and brought it closer to the elements I like in a lot of noir fiction.

 HS preview page 7

WTN: How have you found working with Barb?

Kevin Parnell: Working with Barb has been fantastic.  We met at a party, introduced by another artist I’m working with, who knew Barb and I were both fans of noir. We talked about Criminal and other books and decided that we should try working on something together. I had a couple of early drafts of scripts, which I sent her, and from them she picked what became Hogtown Spirits #1: Wyatt Blake.  As she worked on the pages she pushed herself to experiment more and more, with the layouts and art, and really digging into the mood and emotions in the book, which in turn, really helped focus the script. I completely scrapped and rewrote most of the dialogue and captions once I saw her finished pages. They told the story better than words. I feel like I didn’t know exactly what the story was until I started seeing the art. That collaboration is the best part of making a comic, and Barb brought as much passion to the book as myself.


WTN: How has self-publishing this book affected you? Do you have any more creative freedom?

Kevin Parnell: I have a few other comics in the works but Hogtown is the first one I’ve seen fully completed and put out there. As a first comic and a noir one-shot story, we didn’t think there were very many places to approach regarding publishing so self-publishing was really always the end goal for this book. To that end we had 100% creative freedom, the only restraints were what we placed on ourselves, like sticking to 22 pages. I’m brand new to making comics so I’m more interested in just getting the comic out there for people to read, get some feedback, and then getting to work on the next book. I’m hoping to put out another two comics next year, maybe in the sprHS preview page 4ing, there are some previews of them on my website now. We chose Comixology Submit to self-publish Hogtown Spirits because it’s a great platform for reading and collecting digital comics, but we’ve also put the book out through Gumroad for anyone who doesn’t use Comixology. Self-publishing the book digitally also allowed us to keep it at a really low price, to make it readable for anyone interested. Though we are planning a limited print run in the new year, maybe it’ll be in local Toronto comic shops or a special mail order on my website, we’ll see.


WTN: While this comic is a one-shot, can we expect anymore comics set in Hogtown Spirits?

Kevin Parnell: We certainly have hopes and plans, but like any passion project it depends on time, money and interest. I have two more scripts written and some other outlines, all one-shot stories featuring new characters in different parts of Hogtown. One focuses on a professor at a version of the historical Trinity College in Toronto. If we do more issues you’ll see more connections in the world building, on the outskirts of each story. This first issue has a few hints of that, the mentions of Thurston and Savoy Sharp, both characters that will appear or be mentioned in future issues. Savoy Sharp is sort of Hogtown’s ultimate femme fatale, floating around the edges of every story. I don’t plan to have a grand connecting narrative arc, but characters may be mentioned or show up in the background of other scenes, locations revisited, events mentioned, etc. Each issue would focus on a new character, but the story of the overall series is the story of the city itself. Hopefully we get to tell it!


WTN: Any closing remarks?

Kevin Parnell: Thanks so much for anyone out there checking out the book, your support for our first comic means a huge amount to Barb and I, and let us know what you think, reach out to us on our websites, Twitter or Tumblr!

As Kevin said, you can get in touch with Kevin on his website, twitter and tumblr, and with Barb on her website and tumblr. Don’t forget too that you can buy the book on both Comixology and Gumroad.

About the Author

Josh McCullough

A writer at WTN Josh is a huge comic fan whose tastes edge towards the strange and surreal. If there's one thing he loves more than comics then it's Doctor who. Never try and argue with him that there's a better doctor than Sylvester McCoy. Any fedoras that would make good press hats should be sent to his PO Box.