Chennai: As a kid, James Peaty loved comics and was a big fan of Terrence Dicks’ novelisations of Doctor Who. Later, it was Stephen King, James Ellroy, Elmore Leonard and Angela Carter. The writers made a big impact during my formative years, he says.
Today, James is an author having worked with giants like Marvel and DC. His portfolio includes writing credits for Marvel Heroes, X-Men Unlimited, The Batman Strikes, Justice League Unlimited, Supergirl, among others.
The Indian touch
When Delhi-based publishing firm, Campfire approached him to write a book about legendary historical figure Chanakya, James said yes and soon released, Chanakya: Of Serpents and Kings, with illustrations done by Rajesh Nagulakonda. The project was a blessing as James was keen to step outside his comfort zone to write a historical/political story. “Luckily, this book came along and allowed me to do all of that,” he recalls. “It was a major reason why I agreed to write,” he adds.
James’ dive into world of comics happened after he met DC editor Bob Schreck at a convention in UK. “I maintained that relationship via email and pitched him some ideas, where he bought a short Batman back up strip,” James says.
There are lot of obstacles when working with top comic houses. “When you’re working for a major publisher on characters owned by a large corporation, you are a hired hand. You can be paid for work that’s never actually gets published. That’s very frustrating. However, working for DC or Marvel is obviously a great thing to have on your CV,” says James.
He further says, : There’s a lot more ‘top-down’ editorial control on titles from publishers these days – that means writers are executing an editorial vision rather than their own. I had a little bit of that when I worked on Supergirl. But overall, I was pretty lucky and very much enjoyed my time at DC.”
James walks through his creative process. “I don’t think writing screenplay, graphic novel or a novel is all that different as it’s all about planning. For Chanakya, I wrote a very detailed 25 to 30 pages outline. As for the visual element, you have to think about the story in terms of images and motifs,” he says.
James also read an old Sanskrit play called Rakshasha’s Ring to learn more about Chanakya.
Partners in ink
James speaks about comic artists. “I’ve enjoyed working with every artist. It’s different when you’re working with someone new or writing a script that hasn’t been assigned to an artist yet. Chanakya was like that. I didn’t know that Rajesh would be the artist when I wrote the script. So, I deliberately wrote a detailed script.”
He heaps praise on Rajesh saying, “His work is absolutely superb and deserves a wide audience.” The writer also appreciates Campfire. “They were excellent to work with and gave me lot of freedom,” says James and signs off.