In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, artist D.N.S talks about illustrating the surreal and suspenseful slasher tale, Doll Island (Source Point Press). Find out what happens a group of friends are trapped on an island with a madman.
Located off the coastal beaches of an idyllic small town, a fabled island draws the curiosity of a tight-knit group of friends. Considered nothing more than a local ghost story, hardly anyone in the town gives more than a passing, shuddering thought to the strange dolls nailed to the thick, ancient trunks of the darkly wooded little isle.
With Doll Island arriving in stores on December 18th, 2019, D.N.S reveals how the story came about, the horror movie and pop culture references throughout the narrative, and coming up with color schemes. Check out our review as we head off to the artist’s studio to discuss the craft of making comic books.
Villain Media: Tell me how you became involved with Doll Island.
DNS: I had the initial idea for Doll Island about 6 years ago after watching a documentary about a place in Mexico City called, “The Island of the Dolls.” It got me thinking, “Wow! This would be the worst place to visit for any reason!” And then it dawned on me! It’s exactly the right kind of location for teen hijinks and mayhem. Cut to around 3 years ago, after finishing the graphic novel, Modern Animals, Mira [Mortal], the writer of Doll Island, and I were bouncing around ideas on what to work on together next. And it came up in conversation. She really liked it and before I knew it, she delivered me the script that was above and beyond my outline for the story.
VM: I love that Doll Island feels like a slasher movie. What horror/slasher movies did you use as reference for Doll Island?
DNS: Mainly for me, it was the chaos of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that I wanted to get into the book, That feeling of “WTF is going on here? Why us? Why now?” vibe, add in a splash of Friday the 13th, and oddly, a touch of The Goonies for good measure.
VM: Tell me how the look of Bagans Island itself came about. Dolls with missing limbs are nailed to the trees.
DNS: The look of the dolls on the trees came directly from the real place in Mexico City. The rest of the island, basically I wanted everything to look dead and barren apart from the pink flowers.
VM: Tell me about referencing horror movies and ‘80s pop culture through the clothing. Angie has on the red and green sweater that Freddy Kruger wears in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Parker wears the same shades Tom Cruise has on in Risky Business.
DNS: Angie’s jumper cracks me up! The idea is that she has never seen A Nightmare on Elm Street! It just happens to be a jumper she loves. She wears it with no irony at all. Parker’s shades; that’s all Mira! She wanted him to be cooler than cool! Or at least, he thinks he is. They work really well; using them to hide his eyes until pivotal moments in the story. With CJ’s Charlie Brown shirt, that’s just me loving Peanuts. And I think CJ’s surname might well be Brown. There are a few other nods and references in there too! But I think it’s more fun to let people find them for themselves .
VM: Tell me about creating the look of the slasher, Moses. Moses looks like a handyman because of his overalls.
DNS: He is indeed the handyman/caretaker of the island. So we kept him looking functional. And there is something really creepy about that.
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VM: Tell me about how you used color in the story. The skies are red and the pages turn gray when the teens are hiding from Moses.
DNS: The book only uses around 8 colors in total. I wanted to keep it limited, but also use the colors like code. Hence, the pink flowers or the red beetles act as Moses’ theme. So the color at times is used as a visual cue; a lot like music in a film.
Most of the book is made up of tones of blues; very cool colors. The kids also wear gray/blue, either a shirt, a hoodie. Or in Parker’s case, a jacket. This was meant to be their high school color. I’m not sure if it comes across that way, but that was my idea. Apart from Angie, that girl is too cool for school.
VM: Tell me how Doll Island changed you as an artist?
DNS: It made me much more aware of the use of color and space on a page. I love working on layouts. Finding interesting ways to take your eyes around a page, or to slow down the pace of reading; I find that very interesting.
VM: What are you working on now?
DNS: Mira and I have a few ideas on the boil. One of them may or may not be a sequel to Doll Island.
Doll Island arrives in stores on December 18th, 2019.
[Writer’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Links are highlighted in bold.]