Kickstarting Doctor Crowe: An interview with Corey Fryia

Doctor Crowe tells the tale of a hero taking on the horrific evils of London in a steampunk world. Writer Corey Fryia took the time to discuss his comic, which is now up for donations on Kickstarter. He tells us all about his creation process, his inspirations and who he would cast in a potential film.


We The Nerdy: What are your biggest influences for Doctor Crowe?

Corey Fryia: There are so many influences present in both Doctor Crowe and my writing in general. Considering the book is equal parts pulp, horror and adventure, I tried to bring elements from all kinds of my media that incorporate those things. A major comic book influence on Doctor Crowe was Frank Barberie and Chris Mooneyham’s Five Ghosts. For my money, Five Ghosts does pulp action/adventure better than anybody. There’s nothing that book does wrong. As both a reader and creator, it is one of my most anticipated books to read month in and month out. Outside of comic books, I have to mention Star Wars, if only because there is nothing more influential on my entire life than Star Wars. It’s safe to say that there’s bits of Star Wars in everything that I create, but I wanted to bring that same sense of adventure that’s prevalent in Star Wars to Doctor Crowe.

WTN: Tell us about the world Doctor Crowe inhabits.

CF: While it isn’t explicitly stated anywhere in the book, the mini-series is set in an alternate history London in the 1880’s, where horrific, supernatural creatures lurk in the shadows, but the majority of the general public refuses to acknowledge their existence out of fear and ignorance. Dr. Crowe is one of a select few who has taken a stand against the reality that these people are afraid to admit actually exists. As a result, Dr. Crowe is viewed as an eccentric, dangerous, and even mad. Some even look at him as a monster himself. Nora, Dr. Crowe’s assistant/sidekick, is the only American character featured in the mini-series. The western is perhaps my favorite genre of all time, and I wanted to bring a bit of cowboy flare to the pages of Doctor Crowe. Nora’s wildly less refined personality is written to compliment Dr. Crowe’s more straight-laced approach. Their back-and-forth banter is a lot of fun to write.

WTN: Tell us about the characters.

CF: Doctor Crowe features three main characters. The first character, and the character that book is titled after, is Dr. Victor Crowe. Dr. Crowe is an infamous, adventuring scientist, expert on the occult, and all around pulp hero who has a countless number of scientific gadgets at his disposal to take down supernatural terrors across the globe.

Nora is Dr. Crowe’s rough and tumble sidekick. She is a total cowgirl ripped from the Old West and dropped into this world. Whereas Dr. Crowe is a bit more serious and straightlaced, Nora brings a bit more humor. She is certainly more of the Robin to Dr. Crowe’s Batman.

Ajax is Dr. Crowe’s canine sidekick. He’s actually based off of one of my own dogs named Harvey. Like Harvey, Ajax is a Weimaraner, and he shares the same loyalty that my dogs have for me. He’s Dr. Crowe’s best friend and will defend him until the end. And I think it goes without saying that canine sidekicks make anything 100% more entertaining…at least as far as I’m concerned.

WTN: Any subtle nuances or Easter eggs you pepper in your book?

CF: Actually, yes, and I love doing this kind of stuff. In Doctor Crowe I’ve spread them out between issues so you would need to read them all to pick up on them, and you would likely need to be a fan of the WWE to even get the references. Without giving too much away, there’s a few character names that appear in series that I chose for a reason. Here’s a hint: “Believe in The Shield!”

WTN: What challenges did you face in the creation process?

CF: Oh man, what challenges didn’t I face? That may be the shorterer answer! I think when I decided on the serial anthology-style approach to Doctor Crowe, the most difficult challenge was finding a way to tell a complete and compelling adventure in a limited number of pages. There’s four adventures in each book and each adventure is six pages long. Fortunately, once I cracked the “secret formula” that allowed me to create those sorts of stories, the adventures just kept flowing.

WTN: What did you look for most in an artist?

CF: I’m looking for a partner. Somebody who will throw themselves as deep into the project as I will. Somebody who isn’t afraid to make suggestions and will work with me to promote the work. I think that above all else those are the top traits that I look for; whether if it’s an artist, colorist, letterer, or even a publisher. As far as art styles go, I’m really open to working with all kinds of artists. Certain art styles fit certain projects. However, I tend to gravitate towards less hyper-realistic art styles when looking for artists to collaborate with.

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WTN: Anything you changed that was originally a large part of the story?

CF: Very early on, prior to deciding on the serial anthology-style format for each issue, Dr. Crowe was going to be combating an arch nemisis. A character named Rask who was a foil to Dr. Crowe. I’d like to introduce him at some point in the mini-series, and hopefully I’ll find an opportunity that will allow me to do so without feeling entirely too forced.

WTN: What do you want readers to take away most from your comic?

CF: When I read a comic book, I want to be entertained. I want to forget about all the problems of the real world and, if for just a brief moment, be teleported to completely other world. We set out to do that with Doctor Crowe and time will tell whether or not we accomplished that goal. I’d like to think that we did.

WTN: What’s the deal with Doctor Crowe’s costume?

CF: This question is probably better suited for Matt Horak since he really took my basic idea for Dr. Crowe’s look and made it 100 times better! However, the initial inspiration for Dr. Crowe’s character/look came when I stumbled upon a really stunning picture of a plague doctor. There was something about the mask that captivated me. I sent some plague doctor reference photos over to Matt as well as a picture of Vincent Valentine from Final Fantasy and let him loose. What Matt came back with was unique character that has garnered a lot of attention from readers. When people see Dr. Crowe for the first time they usually remark about how much they like the character design. That’s not me blowing my own horn though. That’s more me giving credit where credit is due to Matt Horak and his amazing talent. The guy has an incredible eye for this stuff, and it’s no wonder why Rob Liefeld snatched him up for The Covenant.

As for the practicality of Dr. Crowe’s costume — he wears what he wears for exact reasons why real life plague doctors wore what they wore centuries ago. He wears the mask to protect him from potential airborne diseases that may be associated with the creatures that he encounters. Back in medieval times, plague doctors were under the belief that these diseases were spread by smell. So they would fill the beaks of their masks up with perfumes, straw and pleasant smelling flowers to help act as a “filter” from a potential airborne threat. Matt took this idea a littler further by adding the smoke stack to Dr. Crowe’s mask. This smoke stack acts as a respirator filled with aromatic items to help mask the putrid smell of death and disease around him. Dr. Crowe’s wide brimmed hat signifies his profession as a doctor and the puffy flowers you see hanging from his neck are actually a bundle of lavender flowers. These lavender flowers are also meant to further help with horrid smells that Dr. Crowe encounters.  The rest of Dr. Crowe’s costume is meant both protect him and allow him to move freely at the same time. His utility belt comes in handy for storing elixirs and other advanced gadgets that he needs in his battle against otherworldly beasts. At the end of the day though, Matt and I just both wanted a really cool looking character and we’re both really happy with how he turned out.

WTN: Did your vision of the comic change after seeing your artist’s interpretation?

CF: As a writer, I think it is important to play to your artist’s strengths. When Matt first sent over the designs for Dr. Crowe, I was blown away and suddenly I envisioned him to be a bit more athletic than I had initially planned. I always wanted him to be a hero, but Matt’s designs inspired me to take his level of heroics to a whole new level. Suddenly, I had him shooting grappling hooks, swinging over enormous snake creatures, and just generally kicking some more ass than I had initially pictured him doing. These changes gave me the freedom to write Dr. Crowe into some pretty daring situations and think up unique ways for him to get out in one piece.

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WTN: Do you see Doctor Crowe going beyond your one graphic novel?

CF: Doctor Crowe is actually a 4-issue mini-series set to be published by 215 Ink. So far the current plan is just for those four issues and then the inevitable collected trade paperback. However, right now I feel as if I could write an unlimited amount of Dr. Crowe stories. If the demand is there then perhaps we’ll expand beyond these four issues. We’ll have to wait and see.

WTN: How long was the process of drafting to the Kickstarter?

CF: The first Doctor Crowe adventure was completed back in May of 2014. I took a break from doing anything else Dr. Crowe related for some time to focus on some other projects. In May 2015, I dove back into the world of Dr. Crowe to complete what we had started. So in all, I think it would clock in at around five to six months off and on. However, had I just focused on Dr. Crowe exclusively then we could have churned out issue #1 much, much quicker. Ideally, this first issue could have been completed in a month if we all didn’t have to take short breaks to work on other things to help pay the bills. That’s the reality of being a freelancer though, and I am certainly happy with being able to take some extra time to handle this first issue with care. I think the results speak for themselves.

WTN: How has the feedback influenced you and/or your writing?

CF: The response to the Kickstarter has been an extreme confidence builder for me as a writer. I never in a million years expected to see that kind of support for the character or my writing. I’ve also been fortunate enough to share bits of the first issue with fellow creators and editors as well. They’ve had nothing but positive things to say about what we’ve created. Little did I know that that this world that we were creating was something that other people were actually going to enjoy as much as I do. To see so many others jump in and express they like what we created was a really incredible experience that I’ll never forget.

WTN: If someone were to adapt this as a film, who would you cast and who would you have behind the camera?

CF: As somebody with a screenwriting background, I would be lying if I said that I hadn’t thought about this before. Three of these choices are actually really easy for me. The man that I’d want behind the camera would be Guillermo Del Toro. His fascination with monsters and his ability to blend fairy tale and horror would make him the ideal candidate for the job.

The character of Nora is actually based off of actress Karen Gillan. I sent reference photos of her to both Tony Gregori and Matt Horak. So without a doubt, she would be my personal choice for Nora.

My own dog, Harvey, would play Ajax. That’s a no brainer!

Dr. Crowe himself is the trickiest character for me to cast. I’ve gone back and forth thinking about who could play him and I’ve settled on three candidates. Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, and Christian Bale would all be on my short list. I’d be ecstatic with any of those three, but I’m sure they’re maybe somebody else out there that could nail the role as well. A younger Jeremy Irons perhaps?

You can currently donate to Doctor Crowe on Kickstarter.