First Comic News: How did “Danny and Harry Private Detectives” come into being?
Charles Santino: I found Walter’s storyboard art online. I contacted him about doing some work for me. This was for a project having nothing to do with Danny and Harry because that was his idea—an idea he introduced by showing me a set of drawings of anthropomorphic animals that he wanted to work into a detective story. I took it from there.
1st: What personalities are given to Danny and Harry?
Charles: Danny (the tabby cat) is cynical, rough around the edges, and plain-speaking. So his adversaries—who will sometimes include his clients—underestimate him at their peril. Harry (the seagull) is goofier-looking but speaks more eloquently than Danny. He’s not any smarter than Danny but his intelligence is more obvious. They complement each other nicely.
1st: Will the animals’ personalities match up with the type of animal they are?
Charles: Probably not. At least this hasn’t happened so far. But I’m not ruling it out.
1st: What kind of cases will Danny and Harry have?
Charles: The first case involves a client who hires Danny and Harry to find a missing steamer trunk that may or may not have money in it. It belonged to a notorious but deceased criminal. Lots of people (or anthropomorphic animal characters, more precisely) are looking for the trunk. And they are all trying to outwit, double-cross, or kill each other. The usual noir-detective-type stuff. The second story will probably involve illegal drugs being dealt out of a neighborhood pharmacy. After that, who knows?
1st: Do you believe an animal can be believable enough to be thought of as a human?
Charles: I hope so. I don’t think of Danny and Harry and their supporting cast as animals. Some of the characters are pets of other characters, but even the pets can have some degree of intelligence and the ability to speak.
1st: Have you watched many animated movies or read many animal based comics?
Charles: Yes. Daffy Duck seems more real to me than Superman.
1st: How often does the web comic update and what is the URL?
Charles: Currently we update weekly, on Tuesday. If Patreon contributions dictate, we will accelerate the schedule. https://tinyurl.com/dannyandharry
1st: Why do a web comic instead of a printed one?
Charles: With print, you can self-publish and distribute, self-publish and delegate the distribution, or go with traditional third-party publishing and distribution. With any of those models, there’s a long delay between creation and publication. Once you’ve published a print comic, if it sputters out right after publication, what then? It’s tough to regain the momentum. And if you’ve self- published, you’re on the hook for all the costs. With web comics, you create a page, get it on the web, and spread the word. Publication and publicity are continuous. There’s always something new being posted that can be promoted. You can build an audience that pays if they want to, but the material is essentially free. When a story is completed, printing can follow and presumably the audience is waiting. Other merchandising can be retailed as well. It’s been established pretty conclusively that a graphic novel that’s been given away online can sell as well if not better than a graphic novel that originates in print. I’m primarily talking about creator-owned projects here, not corporate-owned superhero or licensed properties. There are web-comics that have 80,000 unique views a month, 900 contributors, and are pulling down $3200 a month in contributions. And that’s by no means the ceiling of what people are doing. It can take a long time to get there, but it’s being done. Today it’s easier than ever for creators to do an end-run around the publishers and go straight to the audience.
1st: What is the best way to improve one’s writing skills?
Charles: Write a lot. Read a lot. Study how stories are constructed. Be merciless when it comes to editing yourself. It’s very easy to delude yourself. When I first started writing, I found that plotting was my strong suit and it came naturally. Creating believable characters was trickier. I think one of the biggest mistakes writers make is looking to comics, movies, and novels for characters. Look around you, at real life. The most interesting, most believable characters are going to have more in common with real people than the stereotypes you will find in most fiction. The playwright David Mamet has written extensively on story structure and drama and everything he has written about writing is worth reading. I own a copy of a long-out-of-print book titled How to Write Plots that Sell by F.A. Rockwell with a foreword by Ray Bradbury that might be the single best book I’ve read about writing. You can buy it for less than a dollar plus shipping on Amazon.
1st: What did you most like about working on “Law of the Desert Born”?
Charles: Writing with Louis L’Amour’s son, Beau L’Amour. Beau and Katherine Nolan wrote a screenplay based on the Louis L’Amour short story of the same name. I worked from the screenplay, in close collaboration with Beau. I think I now have writing “muscles” that I didn’t have before working with Beau. I feel as if everything that I’ve written since working on LOTDB has benefited from my “master class” with Beau, including “Danny and Harry Private Detectives.”
1st: Why was writing “Conan the Barbarian” such a joy?
Charles: Primarily because at that time, “Conan the Barbarian” was just another book that Marvel published. The editor was paying very little attention. So I thought it might be nice to try to slip a straight adventure story into the book, with no element of sorcery. The editor didn’t notice or at least he didn’t care. So I did it a few more times. I felt that Conan was such a great character that his stories didn’t necessarily need a wizard or anything supernatural. If there were any letters from readers that noticed the lack of sorcery, Marvel didn’t print them. As far as I know, these were the first stories ever published in that comic that didn’t have magic in them, and the book had been around for nearly 20 years at that point.
Charles: It’s a great story with wonderful art by Joe Staton. I think it’s a dystopian classic that is right up there with Brave New World and 1984. We shot the art right from Joe’s pencils, which made the book a rare opportunity to see what his pencils look like.
1st: Do you have any ideas for other comics?
Charles: There will be more Danny and Harry stories after the current story wraps up. I’m working on other creator- and corporate-owned projects, as well as the Edgar Rice Burroughs web comics.
1st: What would you like to say to readers of “Danny and Harry Private Detectives”?
Charles: Take a minute to check out the website. If you like it, subscribe. If you want to see us publish at a faster clip, become a patron.