In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, writer Paul Cornell talks about romance and funny satire of the comic book industry in Con & On #1 (Ahoy Comics)! Cornell and artist Marika Cresta take readers on journey through the decades of America’s most colossal comic book convention.
The Plot: The story follows “five different years in the life of the Festival—one year per issue, spanning three decades—from the points of view of a diverse bunch of desperate people whose lives revolve around this greatest show on Earth. Meet close friends Eddie and Deja, aspiring young comics talents whose ambitions threaten to tear them apart; Anthony, Don & Finn, brilliant, boozy and bombastic British creators; and all of the crusty veteran editors, forgotten TV stars, and enthusiastic fans who make the convention experience something to revisit year after year.”
Ahead of the release date on July 12, 2023, Paul Cornell opens up about what readers can expect with the first issue and working with artist Marika Cresta. Join us as we head on over the writer’s studio to discuss the craft of storytelling.
Villain Media: Tell me how Con & On came about.
Paul Cornell: I’d been keeping a pile of anecdotes from comic conventions, with the thought of maybe writing a murder mystery set at one, but then I just thought: Why do I need the murder, with all this great real life material?
VM: The story for Con & On covers five different years in the life of the Festival. One year takes place per issue, spanning within three decades. Did creating a timeframe become a challenge when putting the narrative together?
PC: No, it was baked into what I wanted to do. The leaps between time frames give us a lot of energy: how things have changed and how they haven’t.
VM: Tell me about centering the narrative on a single location: the convention known as Vista Al Mar Comics Festival.
PC: This convention is life. It’s how myself and a lot of my peers feel about their favorite enormous comics events. All human life is there, and we glimpse everyone from TV stars to the security and cleaning staff, all with their takes, their worlds, their satire.
VM: Tell me about having close friends Eddie and Deja interact with such a large cast of characters.
PC: They each have their own arc, and each arc only bumps into one of the others from time to time. We cut between this large cast of characters, from the three British comics creators to the upcoming TV actor (‘a TV panel at a comics convention?!’) to the ever-present comics dealers to the SF novelists very aware of how the wheel is turning.
VM: Tell me about working with artist Marika Cresta.
PC: She has amazing acting and her character designs were spot on immediately. She’s also done a load of research to get the feeling of what, say, the line waiting for Hall H in San Diego looks like.
VM: How did Con & On change you as a storyteller?
PC: Interesting! Everything you write changes you, but here I think it was about reaching into how I feel about this one big experience I have every year and the anecdotes people tell me about it and piecing together a history of the comics industry in the last few decades using it as a focus. The leaps in time are something I’m doing in a few places lately.
VM: You can totally shut me down on this question, but I wouldn’t be doing my journalism thing if I didn’t ask. You’ve written episodes for Elementary, Doctor Who (‘Father’s Day’ and ‘Human Nature’), and Primeval. What are your thoughts on the current Writers Guild of America strike?
PC: I’m 100% onside. They’re fighting for all of us, creator and fan alike.
VM: What are you working on now?
PC: I have a couple of stories in another upcoming AHOY comic, the anthology Project: Cryptid, comedy stories about monsters. I, of course, picked the Mongolian Death Worm, before everyone else did.
Con & On #1 will be available in stores on July 12, 2022.