“The Diver: Race for Atlantis” (excerpt)
JOE DELLAGATTA is a freelance illustrator from a city just north of Boston. He tweets @JoeDellaGatta, and posts both new work and works in progress on Tumblr, Instagram and DeviantArt. His work has also appeared in Brand New Nostalgia’s kaBOOMbox Vol 1. He is currently working on his own book The Diver, and probably drinking scotch.
ON DREAM GIGS
Back in ’04 when I started at the Kubert school, I wanted nothing more than to work for Marvel — to work on Spider-Man was my dream gig. In school we used to talk a lot about creator-owned books and I used to make fun of them — why would you do them when you could do Batman and make a big paycheck?
Toby Cypress was a teacher of mine for a couple of years, he does a book for Image called Rodd Racer. He showed us all this creator-owned stuff and it was way cooler than anything I’d seen in a Big Two book, and that was it. Toby had a unique style to his work, and I hadn’t seen anything that experimental before.
Since then, I’ve wanted nothing to do with superhero books. It was about then that I came up with my Diver character, and I’ve been developing that ever since.
ON SCHOOL AND FATE
I wish I had known more going into school. That’s what you go to school for, but there were so many kids who knew a lot more than I did — about inks, paper size, and all this other stuff.
There’s a lot of people out there who tell kids, “You don’t have to really go to school, you can learn things on your own. You can basically teach yourself.” And to a certain extent, yeah, but there’s also the experience of meeting other people and getting different perspectives. I have a lot of respect for that.
I had kind of a bad experience in high school with art. By middle school I was already talking to the high school art teacher about taking classes, and she was impressed with my ability and said she’d sign the paperwork to get me into advanced illustration. I was really excited about that.
Then going into freshman year we had a new principal who was really by the book, and I had to take all those intro courses. I don’t think I took a real art class until senior year because of that.
But I think he ended up getting fired for having pictures of kids on his computer, so it all worked out.
ON THE DIVERI had an assignment for one class that had to have a music theme. I was going to do a triptych, three illustrations based on three song titles — “Midnight Rider” by the Allman Brothers, “Rocket Man” by Elton John, and “Holy Diver” by Dio. I started with the diver and came up with an illustration blatantly based off a Mike Mignola Abe Sapien cover, of the Diver standing with a harpoon and shark jawbone behind him. That was my first drawing of the character, and I liked it. I abandoned the other two pieces and tried to come up with a backstory for the character. Looking at Toby’s stuff, I thought I might have something.
I came up with some short stories and tried to illustrate them, but I’m notoriously slow. I did a couple stories, including a four pager I sent to Dark Horse. They said it was decent, but didn’t have a place for it.
I kept doing research, mostly World War II stuff. A friend of mine from school offered to write a story for the Diver, and it was really good, but I did four pages on it and then dropped the ball. It wasn’t mine. I had my own story I wanted to tell.
Around 2011 I got a job working for a video game studio in Rhode Island, and that afforded me a lot of time outside of work to work on The Diver. I started researching story structure and how to write a script. I script in acts and scenes. I like the ability to pace and stretch out a scene based on storytelling.
It’s got some Clash of the Titans and WWII stuff in it, and that’s where I’m at now. Anything with nautical folklore I’m into. I have a ton of old books on it. Ever since I came up with The Diver I’ve been hooked on it, and it’s a good fit for me.
Click the top left thumbnail for more from Joe and The Diver, and check out the kaBOOMbox Volume 1 Anthology for additional Diver comics.
Want to be considered for future installments of The New Comics? Send your work to Comics Curator Keith McCleary via the Entropy submissions page.