Independent Comics In Focus – Dark Beach

Welcome to Independent Comics In Focus, a feature here at Word of the Nerd where we talk to independent comics creators about their work, their process, and independent publishing. Today’s guests are Michael J. Ruiz-Unger and Tucker Tota, creators of the noir sci-fi comic Dark Beach.

Tell us about yourselves as comics creators. How did you get your start?

Dark Beach #1
Dark Beach #1

Mike: This is my first venture into creating a comic book. I started getting really into comics around the time I lived in New York City. Being from Miami, Florida you really have to search for a good store but in New York they’re everywhere. Around that time I started to fool around with a story idea but knew it was something that I couldn’t film. That’s when I decided that I should give the comic book medium a chance.

Tucker: Like Mike, my background is more in film, and creating a comic book was a way for us to write something of a larger scale that wouldn’t require some mega-budget. But once we got into the process of creating the book, it became more clear that comics have a lot of advantages for story-telling. And it has a very different audience (I think the comic book audience is the most exciting for any art-form right now). So I think we’re both really stoked to create even more stories specifically for the comic book medium.

What is Dark Beach all about?

Mike: It’s a sci-fi noir story that takes place in a future where Earth no longer revolves around the sun. The story follows Gordo, a jaded black-market photographer, who unravels a conspiracy surrounding the truth of the Old Sun.

Where did the concept come from? Is it something you’ve been working on for a long time, and have you worked on noir style projects before?

Mike: I’ve never created a noir style storyline before but when I created Dark Beach I was really into films of that genre. Touch of Evil, Rififi, The Naked City, Scarlet Street just to name a few. Mix that with my interest in 40’s crime scene photographer Weegee, and out came Dark Beach. The science fiction twist came when I didn’t see the sun for weeks because I was waking up at 7pm and falling asleep as the sun was rising.

This is the first time that you’ve attempted a comic book, but you’ve worked on a number of film projects together. Has your experience with film translated at all into working on comics?

Dark Beach poster
Dark Beach poster

Mike: In the way of communication it has. We know how to communicate with each other or call each other out without our feelings being hurt. It’s easy to get sensitive or protective with your ideas but since we’ve worked on things before its easier to hear things out. We also have similar tastes in influences but most importantly similar taste in humor. Those two things go a long way when working on anything together.

Tucker: We definitely approached the script as we would a movie screenplay, but that was sort of a mistake. Now having been through the whole process, we’re definitely more aware of how a comic script needs to be structured and paced in it’s own way. Especially being conscious of what’s happening on each page and even on each panel. For example, making sure a scene ends at the bottom of a page means you might have to stretch or compress ideas to fit, but if you’re aware of page layout as you’re writing, it all tends to fit easier.

This is the first issue of Dark Beach. How many issues do you have planned? Where do you go from here?

Mike: Dark Beach will be a 5 to 6 part series. I see this as a feature film with 3 acts. No spinoffs or rebirths or surprise end credits.

Tucker: I have a few ideas for spin-offs 😉

Will you be self-publishing Dark Beach?

So far it looks like that, but I’m willing to entertain the idea of someone else publishing it. Any opportunity to have Dark Beach in more places I’m up for. It’s a great learning experience so far.

What advice would you give to your younger self about storytelling and creative projects like film and comics?

Mike: I would tell my younger self to have patience…a lot of it. In these times we live in its easy to just put out things so quickly and force feed your audience. But for me, it’s about creating those things that are truly memorable; work that can really stick in people’s heads. Thats a harder and longer process. With that, I tell my younger self…be patient.

Tucker: Making something just for the sake of making it is ok. It doesn’t need to blow up to be successful (although that would be nice). It’s really only a success if you’re happy with it.

You can find out more about Dark Beach and support it on Kickstarter.

To find a comic shop near you, visit www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook.

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About the author

Caleb Palmquist

Caleb is a freelance writer living in sunny St. Petersburg, Florida. He loves comics and science fiction, and he won't ever shut up about either. Writing about his passions is a dream come true.