Full disclosure here. Dan Wickline and I go back a few years. Maybe more than that if you buy the rumors that I’m his Good Twin, but certainly as far back as my first gig writing about comics online for Comic World News, a site that Dan co-founded. Dan gave up running CWN to write comics full-time though and he’s steadily been making a name for himself ever since.
He first caught critics’ attention with his Colorform-eqsue comic The Conversation. Not long after that he was doing one-shots like Blood-Stained Sword with Ben Templesmith and before anyone knew it, he was co-writing 30 Days of Night: Dead Space with Steve Niles. Now Dan’s writing in the 30 Days of Night setting all by his lonesome with Spreading the Disease, as well as creating his own books like Unusual Suspects and Unravel, both of which are being published by Image in the next few months. He’s also contributing a story to Moonstone’s upcoming Phantom Chronicles prose anthology and has St. Christopher’s Junior Mystery Detective League coming out from Actionopolis.
With all this work, we’re going to be hearing a lot more about Dan Wickline in the comics press, so I figured that the time was right to Better Know him.
Who’s your personal hero?
As cliché as it may be, my father. He spent his entire life doing a mundane job, never taking a day off sick so he could provide for his family.
What do you always have at your bedside?
I was diagnosed with sleep apnea a few years ago, so there is always a CPAP machine next to my bed. You don’t know just how important a real night’s sleep is until you go for years without one.
What’s your retreat?
Oddly enough, my swimming pool. There is just something Zen about floating in water with blue skies above you. It’s a great place to put things into perspective.
Do you play a musical instrument?
I play the bass guitar, but not well. I’ve been trying to teach myself how to play but I don’t get much time to mess with it.
What’s your morning routine?
Roll out of bed, go up to the loft and check my emails, grab breakfast and then a shower.
What’s your favorite item of clothing?
I have a black Carolina Panthers hooded sweatshirt that I wear as much as possible during the winter.
What’s your greatest artistic strength?
Speed. I can come up with ideas quickly and often. Jim McLauchlin once called me a “concept machine.” I asked him why he didn’t realize that when he was still the boss at Top Cow.
What’s your greatest artistic weakness?
Letting go of a project once I’ve finished it. I look over my work when it’s printed and pick it apart.
What’s always in your refrigerator?
Barbecue sauce. I absolutely love barbecue sauce. On fries, on egg rolls, whatever.
What’s your favorite food?
Chicken and dumplings. It’s the perfect dish. You have your chicken, your dumplings, your veggies and your gravy all in one tray.
Do you collect anything?
Too many things. I was collecting the Bowen mini-busts but I finally called a stop to that. I’ve been collecting original art the last couple years. Much easier to store than the mini-busts.
What’s your best memento from your work?
I have an original cover piece that Tim Vigil drew for a book I was doing called Bloodlust. Its just the pencils, I made the inker work on velum, and it’s framed on my wall in the loft.
What are you always asked at parties?
How tall are you? I’m 6’6”, so people always ask about my height. That and when people find out I do glamour photography; I get asked if I need an assistant a lot.
What do you always have with you?
A 1976 silver dollar. My wife, who was just a friend at the time, gave it to me a day before I got my first freelance writing gig. I figured it brought me good luck, so I’ve had it on me ever since.
What’s your favorite place in your home?
Definitely the loft. It’s my office, but it’s also my sanctuary. I look around and I can see all the things I love… comics, music, football, photography, horror. Everything that’s important to me is represented here.
Do you have any hobbies?
Kind of a tough question as I’ve turned most of my hobbies into jobs. Writing and photography were my hobbies in my twenties, but now it’s how I make money. So I’ll go with playing the bass guitar.
What do you obsess over?
Well, I’ve been known to obsess over the Panthers during football season. I have DirecTV so I can watch their games and I can be a little moody when they are losing.
What’s the best recent gift you’ve received?
My wife got me the version two of the Robosapien this Christmas. It’s blue and a lot more responsive than the first one. I call him Gainsborough.
What’s your fitness routine?
During the winter it’s mainly the exercise bike, 20 minutes a day. In the summer I mix in an hour in the pool every other day.
What talent do you covet?
Singing. I would love to be able to belt out a song like Rob Thomas or Geoff Tate.
What’s your evening routine?
My wife works swing shift, so I do most of my writing at night. I’ll grab dinner and sit down at my computer, figure out what I need to work on next and just go heads down for a few hours. I stop long enough to watch Craig Ferguson on the East Coast feed and then work through till Debbie gets home after midnight.
What’s the greatest misconception about your life?
That I’m not really working. Most people see writing (and photography) as fun; they don’t see the actual work that goes into it. Because I don’t go to an office every day and sit in a cubicle, I must not be working hard.
What movie have you seen more than any other?
I want to come up with some deep and introspective response here… but the truth is its probably Young Frankenstein, Star Wars or Silverado.
What book have you read more than any other?
I don’t have an answer for this. I honestly can’t recall ever re-reading a book. I’ve re-watched movies and re-read comics… but never a book. The closest thing I could come to on that would be Macbeth, but that’s a play.
What household chore do you absolutely hate to do?
Dusting. It just seems like you’re never finished.
What obsolete item can you not part with?
My electric kettle. I boil my water for my tea in that. I don’t know if it would be considered obsolete, but very few people use them here in the states.
What’s your travel routine?
For the last eight years, I only travel to places I can drive to. So my travel routine is to print out a specific and detailed trip route that includes where to stop for gas and food. Pack up my big green bag that I stole from my brother and head out in my truck with either the Sirius satellite or my iPod plugged in.
What’s the worst thing about traveling?
Comfort or lack of. I’m a big guy; so flying is the most uncomfortable thing imaginable. That’s why I drive, but even then it’s still uncomfortable.
What superstitions do you have?
My good luck silver dollar is about the only one.
What do you do to procrastinate?
I’ll do a Sudoku puzzle… or fifty. I can waste a lot of time doing logic puzzles.
What’s your biggest self-indulgence or guilty pleasure?
I’ll go back to my original art. I spent a nice chunk of change on two Jim Lee pages.
What gadget can’t you live without?
There would be two. My computer where I do my writing, make contacts and edit my photos and my Canon digital Rebel that allows me to take all those photos. Now if I could get a handled computer that I can write on and can take high quality photos and be a phone, then I’ll be down to one.
What’s your most prized possession?
I have a fifteen-issue run of The Black Panther signed by Jack Kirby. I met him when I was eleven and he signed every issue I could find, even the ones he didn’t work on.
What kind of vehicle do you drive?
The Behemoth. It’s a 2004 black Ford F-150 4×4. It came with the 18” rims, running boards, bed liner and bed cover. The thing looks like a monster coming down the road.
What’s your next big purchase going to be?
We have a pretty small bedroom, and the TV is off to the side. I want to get one of those flat screens that I can mount on the wall at the foot of the bed so Debbie and I can lie around in bed watching old episodes of MST3K.
Which historical figure would you most like to meet?
Ben Franklin. He could see so much more about the world than anyone in his time.
Why should people read 30 Days of Night: Spreading the Disease without either Steve Niles or Ben Templesmith attached to it?
Horror, mystery and one of the largest body counts in comics; plus it looks at what happens when a religious zealot becomes a vampire.
Is there a theme or some other element that connects the individual stories in Unusual Suspects or are you the sole connection?
There is a linking conversation between a comic writer and his best friend. It’s a sardonic look at the comic industry with the individual stories being the pitches the writer has done over the last year.
Tease your Phantom Chronicles story a little.
I’ve always felt that the legacy of the Phantom was far more important than any one man to wear the suit. I got to address that in my story.
It’s a murder mystery with a touch of horror and a dash of forensic science. Its starts this April from Shadowline and Image. When everything you know to be true becomes a lie, the unbelievable becomes all too real.
Tell me about your Actionopolis project.
St Christopher’s Junior Mystery Detective League is a fun tale about secret societies and alchemy. I’m not sure who’s illustrating it yet. If all goes well, I have at least two other story ideas written up and ready to go.
What are you going to work on tomorrow?
Tomorrow will most likely be dedicated to the third script for Unravel. If I get that finished, then I have to start researching a project that I just got offered while answering these questions today.