Dave de Vries

Creator of the Southern Squadron, an Australian superhuman team from the 80s and 90s. They are springing back into the current off the Dark Nebula crossover story REBIRTH which just had a successful Kickstarter. Where does Dave’s inspiration come from? What led to the creation of these characters…. tune in and find out.


(there may be errors in the following text)

Peter Wilson (00:00:11):
Hello everyone. Welcome to the fourth episode of Sunday Spotlight with me, fearless founder of X sizzle working the buttons for me and guest comic legend in the Australian scene. Dave DeVries. How are you sir?

Dave de Vries (00:00:25):
Very well, thank you.

Peter Wilson (00:00:27):
This is exciting for me, man. I’ve been a fan for a long time. It’s awesome to get you here, chat, find out your little process, your secrets. I think we’re going to get some gems today.

Dave de Vries (00:00:36):
Oh, you’re very flattering, but I hope I can give you something to entertain.

Peter Wilson (00:00:43):
I don’t doubt you at all. So limb up, warm up. We’ve got some quick fire up questions here, mate. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> favorite color.

Dave de Vries (00:00:53):
I don’t know, maybe green.

Peter Wilson (00:00:56):
What are you reading or collecting at the moment

Dave de Vries (00:00:58):
In comic books or just in general?

Peter Wilson (00:01:02):
Comics can be general.

Dave de Vries (00:01:04):
I’m currently focusing on a lot of stuff to do with the South African wine industry in the Bross of, yeah, I live in the Brossa Valley and I was sort of looking at my family history over the Christmas break and I found out to my surprise that many of the founders of the South African wine industry and many of the wineries were established by ancestors, which I knew nothing about a couple of months ago. So I’ve been sort of looking into that because I do a show here on the Brossa radio about winemaking. Oh, that’s cool. And I have a little sort of mini vineyard in the backyard where I just sort of play around and so forth. But then suddenly I found myself with a heritage going back over 300 years. So I’ve become a little bit obsessed with that. So it’s a bit of fun.

Peter Wilson (00:01:51):
So it’s right in your blood.

Dave de Vries (00:01:52):
Yeah, absolutely.

Peter Wilson (00:01:54):
You’re a summer or winter man?

Dave de Vries (00:01:57):
I think I like the winter more.

Peter Wilson (00:01:59):
Day or night

Dave de Vries (00:02:02):
Mainly nights.

Peter Wilson (00:02:04):
Favorite drink?

Dave de Vries (00:02:06):
Oh gosh, that varies. Depends on how I’m feeling. I guess in social circumstances, probably beer over a meal probably wine after a meal, maybe some sort of spirit or cocktail sort of rather depends, but you do notice the alcohols pretty solidly all the way through all of that. So

Peter Wilson (00:02:27):
<laugh> favorite or least favorite thing to draw slash write?

Dave de Vries (00:02:39):
I don’t really have anything I dislike writing.

I guess it rather depends on what the brief is. If it’s something where you can inject yourself into it and find something in there that you feel is allowing your voice to come through it really doesn’t matter what the subject matter is. I can get into that quite well. I guess the question is what are the things I like writing more or less. I’m more inclined towards science fiction, action, fantasy, those sorts of areas where you can take a fairly heavy theme and sort of turn it into a metaphor. I really enjoyed doing that. So I guess the alternative is things which are sort of slice of life, gritty, heavy realism I find a little bit I think it’s harder to write because it’s much harder to inject yourself into the process if it’s something you’ve never actually done.

And there’s always somebody out there who will pick up and say, okay, well you haven’t lived this experience so you don’t fully get it. That being said that can be a lot of fun too because you can immerse yourself and it’s a little bit like an actor immersing themselves in a character. As a writer, I find I can do the same art I just do so little art now, other than I do a lot of color art, but actually generating images from scratch I just find that difficult because I’m just sort of out of practice with it. So again, I guess it’s the type of subject matter that’s required. I tend to subject matter, which is figurative where either human or ent, anthropomorphized characters predominate. So landscapes still life, stuff like that. I find that a little bit. I’ve done it, I’ve mind it, but it’s sort of not ready in my first love.

Peter Wilson (00:04:43):
That’s cool, man. So let’s go back a ways. Have you always been a creative person? Were you the kid that was scribbling in a corner in the class or riding short?

Dave de Vries (00:04:54):
Yeah, probably was. I think a lot of people, when they start drawing you find if you’ve got good hand eye coordination if you’re an athlete and you’ve got great hand eye coordination, you suddenly realize you can do something effortlessly that everybody else struggle with. Yeah, you’re going to be an athlete, you just do. And it’s kind of the same with art. You just find that if you are make a mark on a page and it unquote looks like something and you’re only five or six years old, it’s almost magical. And this ability to create worlds which you’ve never seen or other people have never seen before, can be quite a magical experience. I kind of feel a little sorry for kids growing up today because when I was a kid most of the images that you see on film now just didn’t exist. So I remember I was blown away the first time I saw Jurassic Park when I suddenly went, oh my God, there is nothing that you can’t put on a screen now that well won’t look realistic.

And at that point I knew that it wasn’t surprising actually, that the whole idea of comic books and the fantasy element of comics started to disappear not long after, because prior to that there was no computer games that resembled anything reapproaching reality. There were video was in its infancy. Even if you wanted to watch cartoons as a kid, you kind of had to wait until Sunday evening when Disneyland was on or maybe get up really early in the morning. These days everything’s on demand. If you want to get your fill out of comics, if you want to get your fill out of animation, if you want to have computer games, all of these different options allow you to enter any world in any form that you like. There are just so many ways that you can immerse yourself in the sort of I guess, virtual reality of fiction.

But when I was a kid, really only artists were the people who could create that. So we had a real advantage. I think some of the magic has gone now. We’re even seeing that where people are treating art almost way too casually. I mean, we’re seeing this sort of what do they call it in artificial intelligence, and to the average under it probably looks fine. I mean, it’s sort of, it’s sterile, but then there’s plenty of sterile TV that does well. So I suspect there’ll be a market for it. So I think that’s something of a shame. So yeah, I guess once I found that I was good at drawing that almost made me feel like a magician, like somebody who could create these magical worlds. Funny enough. Now as a writer, I’m rather encouraged by things like artificial intelligence, creativity, because one thing it loses is the soul of the creator. And that’s the one thing that the writer ultimately, you know, can’t get rid of that you can try to get a machine to write a story, but it will never have the same soul that a writer will have. And yes, I know that art won’t have the same, but I think sometimes people are a little bit more forgiving of the execution, but the underlying idea is something that either works or it doesn’t.

Peter Wilson (00:08:14):
Yeah, I think you’re right. I think it doesn’t have to be pretty, or if you can still find a way to resonate, I think that’s the main thing.

Dave de Vries (00:08:24):
I, if I see a film and I think it’s really well written, even if there’s some clunky elements in the visualizations or in the acting, or I can totally forgive that so easily. And we do it all the time. We go back and look at films from the fifties and the forties and so forth, and absolutely Hitchcock’s a good example. I mean, a lot of his special effects are pretty ordinary and really obvious, but you just walked past that and you go, okay, that’s it. In the room. I’m part of this reality. And you just adjust. But the stories I think were stronger. I was having this conversation a couple days ago actually that struggling to find films these days that are actually films that I care about that Yeah. Where I’m excited that I’ll go back and watch another one and watch it again.

I actually saw a film last night, which was the first time in ages where I’ve actually gone, oh my God, that was awesome. And it was the Northman. I dunno if you’ve seen that. I haven’t seen that. No. I’ll check that out. No, look, I could not recommend it highly enough. It is really, really good. If you’ve seen those Viking series and The Last Kingdom and stuff like that, it’s sort of playing in that area throw in a Tarantino aesthetic and with a very strong Shakespearean structure dealing with high themes, but then having that really ruthless brutality it just ticks so many boxes for me. Every character is fully rounded. And when I say that, even if they are slightly caricature ish and they all, comic book movies tend to have that quality. It’s one of those films where you would, there are plenty of movies, plenty of series where you can take a character out and just say, oh look, let’s just write ’em out of the series and it’ll be fine.

Yeah. I was watching the Vikings Halla series and kind of disappointed that Kanut just sort of dropped out of the series halfway through. He was the most interesting character. They just wrote him out for whatever reason. And then when he came back, he didn’t really feel his presence was worth bringing him back at all. It was just the that and there, a lot of the TV shows, I think I like that, where characters come and go and some they ride out, they kill ’em off, and you don’t feel a sense of loss or caring. But the Northman, every single character had an integral part in the story. And I couldn’t imagine the story with any of them being removed. And that’s kind of rare. There was another one called it was about three years ago. I must have seen it a dozen times since the death of Stalin.

If you ever get a chance to see that, I could. Again, that’s one I would strongly recommend. Brilliant. It actually combines politics and psychological thriller A, but also puts you in the mind of what it must have been like to live under Stalin’s regime. And it’s incredible and all the characters are fully fleshed out, and there’s not a single Russian accent in the entire thing. It’s like I only found this out while watching it that apparently in Russia, Russia’s like a huge multinational conglomeration, and there were as many accents of Russian as there would be in English, so they would have it to their area. We hear Scottish English and Irish English and Australian English and British English and so on to the Russian ears. It’s the same. And so they just said, all right, well, we’ll just have lots of people speaking in different accents because that’s what it would’ve felt like in Russia as well. Really

Peter Wilson (00:12:04):
Clever. That’s

Dave de Vries (00:12:04):
Interest. Yeah,

Peter Wilson (00:12:07):
That’s you’ve articulated a few things that I definitely agree with, much better than I ever could have. I definitely agree. I guess for one of a better word, absence of having whatever you want at your fingertips is better for creativity as well as having to delay gratification with watching things and finding good movies. And there is a very mass produced feel to movies these days with Marvel and Disney owning Star Wars. It does feel he’s just the next one. He’s the next one. And it was fun at first. I personally feel, but you’re right, it’s hard to find those genuinely exciting, unique movies that grip you from beginning to end.

Dave de Vries (00:12:48):
I think also I had Covid last year and I had a bad enough that I was sort of bedridden for about a week. And because my wife was in New Zealand at the time, it kind of worked out. So I just thought, right, I’m just taking a week off. And I found my concentration levels were poor, but I thought, okay, well I’ve got most of the platforms available at the moment, so I’ll start watching some of these films that I haven’t seen yet. Or in the case of the Marvel movie, some that I might have seen them in the cinema, but I’ll give them a re-look. Yeah. And I’ve found that there were a number, particularly the more recent ones, where I just started watching them and go, just got bored and went, oh God, this is terrible. And after about four or five of them, I thought, is this me? Am I just becoming jaded? And so I actually went back and watched a couple of my more favorite ones. I loved the first Ironman film, and I liked the first Ga Guardians of the Galaxy. In fact, the ones that kind of surprised people at the time. And I went back and watched those, the first Deadpool, all the ones that kind of overperformed and I could totally get why they overperformed. They were small scale, they knew what they were trying to do. They didn’t try to overcook the world, the universe, everything in it.

Peter Wilson (00:14:06):

Dave de Vries (00:14:07):
And they were just a joy. And I thought, no, it’s not me. These films had just become dull. They’re becoming incredibly formulaic. I was incredibly disappointed with the second Dr. Strange movie.

Peter Wilson (00:14:22):
I haven’t seen that one yet.

Dave de Vries (00:14:23):
When you’re dealing with magic, you have to have really strict rules. Otherwise it’s just, okay, how do we get out of this problem? There’s a pink unicorn or <laugh> bring in the giant eagles I, well, that was just one big, long, giant eagle rescue through the entire, it was just seriously. And there was a point where you just, either you like the experience of watching the pretty colors, but I kind of need more than that. I’m sure there are many people who are hating me right now, but I just found it. Well, I really enjoyed the first one, even though it sort of ticked a lot of formula boxes. There was some interesting ideas that it played around with that idea of time loops was sort of seen it before, but that did it quite well. We saw an element of redemption in the central character, which was good and wasn’t trying to it wasn’t to push an agenda of any particular type. It was just was exploring philosophy, albeit in a very simplistic manner. And I kind of enjoyed that. I don’t know what the hell they’re trying to do with the film these days. I honestly sit down, watch them. I dunno what the themes are that they’re exploring.

Peter Wilson (00:15:41):
So you touched on it, you found your concentration levels not so fresh. How do you overcome something like that or a creative block, or

Dave de Vries (00:15:54):

Peter Wilson (00:15:54):
Have to go back to the drawing board a bit and

Dave de Vries (00:15:56):
Yeah, I think the why of things is something that I think people often forget. If you’re writing a story I think people over complicate stories. And I think that most stories can be stripped down to one simple statement, which is somebody wants something that’s difficult to get. Yeah, that’s true for every scene in the film. It’s actually true for virtually every line that’s delivered. If there is an exposition scene where two characters are talking, because if they don’t, then we won’t understand a scene later on in the film. That’s a pretty piss poor scene. But if there is a scene where one character is trying to achieve something and for some reason they were unable to achieve it, and in the course of that this information is revealed, then that can be quite an enthralling scene. So that’s important. But as well as somebody needing something as difficult to get, there is the other question that the audience is always asking us, why should I give a shit?

Why should I care? And all too often we don’t care about the characters because look, there are so many reasons, but I would break it down to the term protagonist hero, and central character often used interchangeably, but they’re actually three very distinct roles, usually in Hollywood combined within the one creature, but not always. And for those who unfamiliar with this, the protagonist is, it’s a Greek word. It means the first mover. They’re the one who makes the decisions. And if a story is not driven by the decisions of a character, if they’re just reacting all the time to things, then you have no stake in the journey because you dunno what they’re trying to achieve, why they’re trying to achieve it. There’s also a central character, and this is the character whose eyes we see the through. This is for one reason why I think Sherlock Holmes works better as a novel or as a series of short stories than as a film.

Because in Sherlock Holmes, a central character as Dr. Watson, it’s through his eyes that we actually see the journey. And that allows us to marvel at the mystique of Sherlock Holmes. You say, even though Sherlock Holmes is the protagonist who drives the story forward through his choices, we don’t understand those choices, but we know that there’s something interesting about it. We can speculate on what those choices are, but even, and if we choose not to, we don’t have to worry because Watson’s going to do it on our behalf. So those two characters work very well. This is why I think Watson always struggles in dramatized versions of Sherlock Holmes because the character really doesn’t serve a major purpose. And so inevitably, I think in modern time, they will gender flip the character and use it as a, something that Sherlock Holmes can bounce off. But the purpose of Watson originally was there to enhance the mystique in the mystery of Sherlock Holmes.

In the current incarnations, I find that Watson’s role seems to be to demystify Sherlock Holmes, which is sort of the exact opposite of what I believe that character’s function is The third role, the hero is a hero is somebody who protects and serves. It’s a term that’s misused. So often if somebody does something and endures and they go, oh, that was so heroic. No, saving your own ass is not being heroic. Saving someone else’s ass is, yeah Hollywood understands this. When I talk to my uni students, I talk about, have you seen Gone in 50 sec? Gone in? No, it’s not gone.

What was it? Ums about the guys to steal 50 cars. Yep. Gone 66. That’s right. Yeah. So on the superficial basis of that story is that for those who dunno, Nicholas Cage is a car thief and he has to steal a whole bunch of super cars and he’s got his steal 50 in one night and they basically have to nick them all in 50 seconds. And there’s lots of really cool muscle car chasers, and that’s what the story’s all about. And if that’s all that it was, it’d be an incredibly dull story. But what happens is the story is a little more complex than that is that the story is that Nicholas Cage has to come out of retirement. He has been a thief in the past, got away with it, and has been an honorable person who has not stolen cars for something like 10 years.

His brother, however, his younger brother wants to live up to Nicholas Cage’s memory. He’s got caught by the mob, and the mob have basically are going to kill him unless Nicholas Cage steals these cars with overnight. And to make it worse Nicholas Cage suddenly discovers that not only does he have to steal these cars, but his old antagonist cop from the past is aware that he’s got to do this or has an idea that he’s got to do it. And as a result, he is looking to put him back in jail. So Nicholas Cage has to risk his safety, his own security, his own liberty to assist his brother, and if he doesn’t do so, his brother will die. Suddenly that story becomes far more interesting than a guy stealing a bunch of cars because he wants to make a bunch of money. It’s still the same story with the same excitement in cars and insane Jerry Brook Heimer style over the top,

Peter Wilson (00:21:09):
All good.

Dave de Vries (00:21:10):
But we care now about the journey because we can all identify with people wanting to protect a member of their family. Exactly the reason why we have anti-heroes rather than villains. So for example, an anti-hero was simply a hero who just does things but with a questionable moral basis to it. So Michael Coone and the Godfather is the classic case of somebody who was reprehensible and villainous, but he’s also an antihero because he has to give up being a possible hero, a possible politician, a possible governor, a possible senator, which is what his father always had in mind for him. Kiva being a righteous man to save his family and he has to embrace the mafia’s code in order to do so, and he does that at his own peril. These are stories which draw us in. I don’t see that anymore in modern writing. All too often characters are acting for very selfish means. They’re or they’re acting out of fear. There’s usually very few stakes. Sure. You’ve heard of this idea of people sort of accusing characters of being Mary Sues. And I have to be honest, there’s a lot of truth and a lot of those accusations, characters come out of the box fully formed and without flaws. I find that kind of sad. I know I’ve been rambling. I do apologize.

Peter Wilson (00:22:34):
No, it’s great. Good. You managed to break down the protagonist and very well. What about, how would you define a creative person? Are there requirements to being a creative person or what’s the most important factor?

Dave de Vries (00:22:48):
Yeah it’s somebody who actually creates, I know that sounds a little bit twe, but it’s the truth. If you, for example, want to be a comic book writer, all you have to do is start writing comic books. I know that sounds sort of ridiculous, but nobody says that. There’s a difference between being a comic book writer and being a professional comic book writer. If you actually make a living out of it, you are a professional. But most people don’t start off becoming a professional when you join the army. They tend not to make you the general, you have to work your way up through the ranks. So there’s nothing wrong with saying, okay, I’m going to start writing my own stories. And if there’s nobody drawing them for you, well that shouldn’t stop. You just keep writing. I’m awesome. Philip k Dick, who’s probably one of the most superior writers of in intellectual science fiction he wrote for himself and very little of the work got published in his lifetime.

It was only two, I don’t think he actually was alive when Blade Runner was screened. I think he died during the, really, I may be wrong, but I was certainly very close. Either just saw it or, but he would had no idea as he was dying that so many of his ideas were going to get turned into movies. So yeah, just do it. And creativity is just having that passion and that desire to do it. And if you are putting it off, then you’re probably not a comic book writer. If you’re putting it off, then you’re probably not a comic book artist. But if you just do it because that’s what just you love doing, you won’t care whether you’re making money out of it or not. And the irony is, if you do that, you will eventually make money.

Peter Wilson (00:24:33):
Yeah. There’s a big difference between liking the idea of being a comic creator and actually creating it.

Dave de Vries (00:24:39):
Yeah. It actually requires you to put in time. Sure. What was the crazy thing I was saying that what most kids aspire to do today is to become a social media influencer. And they would love to do that if they had the opportunity. And I’m thinking, do it.

Peter Wilson (00:25:01):

Dave de Vries (00:25:02):
You can literally just sit in front of your life. How does the cost to buy an iPhone light and recording device at these days, it’s probably get a package for a hundred bucks down at one of those office works or something like that.

Peter Wilson (00:25:18):
That’s all I got mine

Dave de Vries (00:25:19):
Streaming. Streaming by next Thursday.

Peter Wilson (00:25:23):
So do you remember a specific project or just an event where you thought, okay, I’ve got a knack for this, I want to pursue this.

Dave de Vries (00:25:35):
It was literally the southern squad and the first thing I ever did. Yeah, yeah. Great. I I’d come out of art college as a painter and I was actually working on a series of paintings. Interestingly I was sort of trying to do a Cara Caravaggio version of the various different superhero characters because most of which most people had never seen or knew about other than maybe Superman or Batman. So the idea of creating characters that looked like they were sort of done in a style of an old master, but with modern iconography was kind of cool. And one of my neighbors, who was the little old lady next door sort of had noticed this ad in the paper, this is when I was living in suburban Melbourne for a comic company up in Sydney called Oz Comics that were looking to do comic books. We didn’t have internet back then.

If you wanted to phone up Sydney from Melbourne, it was like, I think about 50 cents a minute, which in today’s money it’d be like five bucks a minute. It was just, it was crazy. And I literally came up with a few ideas, got in touch with ’em, wrote a couple of letters and they said, yeah, we’d like to see what you’ve got. And so on a whim, I went down to the bus stop in Melbourne, and usually if you showed up at night at when the bus was just about to leave, you could get a what were they called? Standby ticket. And they were like 20 bucks, which again, in today’s money’s a couple of hundred, but back then was, it was still the cheapest way to get anywhere. I got on the bus and got up there, met Frank McConaughey and the guys from Oz Comics and in the meantime, I knew I had to pitch something to them.

So I came up with an idea for a character, which was basically the Night Fighter. And then I thought that this character needed a kind of robin to, its Batman. So Lieutenant Smith was created cool. And then being on a roll, I thought we’ve kind of fun to do a flying character. And then I sort of loved the Fantastic Four, so I needed a monster as well. And so that was, I had the rough ideas and I sort of borrowed heavily on the Fantastic Four. So I knew that the thing has its clobbering time, so I thought it better give the Southern Squadron something. So the Night Fighter got to say, hang on to your brain cells. I like the idea that the Southern Cross could fly, but I wanted to give him something that would cause him to fall. Like Thor has to hold onto his hammer.

He doesn’t anymore, but back then he did. So, okay, he’s got a cane and if he drops it, so then I had to justify that. And so it was trying to come up with a group of four characters that each had strengths and weaknesses. I had a mate from Sydney, I was working, so we were always having a bit of a Sydney versus Melbourne rivalry, sort of chuck around. So I thought I’d play that a bit with the characters. I was in the Army Reserves, so I sort of knew about the macho side of life, but I was also at art college and all of the gender stuff that’s going on now, it’s not new. I mean it’s got new names, but sure, just go back to the seventies and David Bowie and Come on this is nothing new.

So I just dropped all of that on the shoulders of the Southern Cross and gave the Night Fighter the most Aorist the worst case scenario kind of I guess Mick Dundee type of personality. But from the city, I could get like the idea of male and female characters sort of getting into sexual dynamics. So Lieutenant Smith and the Night Fighter had this curious sexual sort of tension between them and I needed a character that was older. So the dingo fell into that. But I also thought, okay, well I should have a bit of more diversity in this. I’ve got a young guy and a big guy, but what we don’t have is anybody who’s a migrant and in Australia, migration’s important. So the dingo easy to make him me Serbian wear, or if it was just almost like a pretty easy exercise. So I wasn’t sort of trying to be woke, although these days, I guess it would’ve been called that.

But back then it was just, no, this, it wasn’t done for political reasons. It was done because it made the stories, it gave me more things to play with, not more opportunities and so forth. And because I wasn’t doing it for political reasons, I had no problem to make any one of them look foolish or intelligent as the stories demands. So there were times when the Night Fighter, who was probably the, in today’s line, today’s world is probably the most reprehensible of them. This was still probably the most popular character. He got to say the things that we all probably shouldn’t say, but secretly would wish we had the guts to on occasion and the other character’s the same. So it was just an opportunity to play around. And so I really enjoyed that. And I wasn’t intending to write, but I needed something to write so I could draw it.

So I went up and the original idea was just to call a series Lieutenant Smith and The Night Fighter. And then over time the Southern Squadron, it evolve into that. But Frank said, no, just go straight in with that. And that without me realizing it enabled me to have this really rich backstory, which if you’re a budding writer, I would always recommend write three seasons of the TV show and then start with season three. Skip the first two. Just you keep that as backstory and you unbelief how many times I’ve got people who want to work on the Southern squadron with me, and they’ll have a look at the backstory material, and the first thing they want to do is cannibalize it. I’m going, no, that’s the gold. You dare touch that. You eat that out with a, that is the eyedropper stuff that you just, that’s a little bit of spice that you throw in from time to time.

It will color everything that you do and people will know that there’s this backstory and there’s this rich history there. But once you tell everybody that you’ve taken away the mystery and the interest of the characters, I don’t understand why, for example, marble always does an origin story would with every character I would introduce, I start off with the character already formed and I, I’ll cite you two examples. The recent Batman movie, which I saw recently, they just jump into the story. We don’t see the origin of Batman. We just jumped straight in with Batman, obviously being an existing character. And I thought that was great. And the most recent incarnation of Spider-Man, we never saw his origin either. We just, he’s are treated with the respect of knowing enough about the character to know that he’s got these powers. We’ll just get into it from there.

And that’s enough. Yeah, I don’t want to know all the background of the characters. I want to keep a mystery. I want to keep it interesting and suspenseful. So without realizing I was kind of I’d been given a real advantage by Frank and that he’d set me up to have a really rich sort of series of characters. And then it was just about having fun with ’em. And because there was all this backstory, it was so easy to pull ’em all together. And at the end of the first week of drawing and this is finally coming, I’m landing now on the question you asked. I actually sat down and said, okay, I got to draw this damn thing now. And after a week, I’d drawn the first episode, not particularly well, but I’d loved every second of it. And then I found myself saying, I could see myself getting up every morning and doing this and going to bed at night and feeling this was how I wanted to live my life. Awesome. And at that time in Australia, I don’t think anybody was doing that. I thought, all right, well, that’s the goal. And there were people like Glen Lumps and Gary Cliner and Petkoski and so forth who were having that same in internal conversation with each other. And we eventually found each other,

Peter Wilson (00:33:57):
No history in the making. So we talked about how and why. Let’s talk about where, what’s your ideal creative sanctum? Are we looking at it now? Is it this little room here?

Dave de Vries (00:34:11):
Yeah. Well I’m actually 90% of the room’s over there so I know a lot of people that put the screen up against the wall. And you can see the room in the background. I’m the opposite. I like to actually look into the room. So I live in the Brossa. I used to live in inner city Sydney and as I said before, grew up in suburban Melbourne, but I’d been living in the inner city of Melbourne for about three to four years before I moved up to Sydney. I loved all of that right up until the point where my first son was born. And then at that point you can’t afford to rent in the inner city of Sydney. If you want to raise a family, it’s just too hard. Just finding childcare is next to impossible. And I had a look at Adelaide. Glen was already living in the Brossa interesting in a caravan park.

So I came down and had a look at it, and I was blown away by the fact that in Adelaide, for half of what I was paying in Sydney, I could live in basically a me mansion in a really posh suburb. People in Sydney and Melbourne have no idea how much money you guys spend and how much of your disposable income is swallowed up just to survive. And also Adelaide being a smaller city the other huge advantage was that even if I commute in and out of Adelaide, the longest I’ll ever spend is an hour. And it’s usually a very easy on the freeway type trip. And because I’m actually out like a hundred and something Ks from the city, most people in Adelaide spend 20 minutes getting from anywhere to anywhere. So while when I was in Melbourne or Sydney, I was stuck in a traffic jam in Adelaide, they were in the bar.

So people say, oh, you make more money in Sydney or Melbourne. Yeah, you do, but your disposable income, ie. The money you get to keep after all the bills are paid, is less. And it was no surprise that when Glen and I started being successful in South Australia, there was a time when I think there was something, I think it was maybe 15 to 15, 18 Australians who actually professionally working for DC and or Marvel and or some other comic company. And all of them were living in South Australia or Queensland or Western Australia in the smaller cities because they could afford to do that. Because I remember when I was in Sydney, I could work professionally, but I had to do a lot of job jobs as well, like graphic artwork and commercial artwork and so forth, just to be sure of paying the rent.

So I actually say to my students here in South Australia, if you have the ability to, you need to travel to Melbourne and Sydney to get work, you can actually fly over and back in and spend a week there. And the savings of living in South Australia over one month will pay for that week in Melbourne. So you are so better, so much better off financially if you do that. And that’s what I actually did when I first came down here. I thought, okay I’ll accept that I may have to fly to Sydney once a month. And I think in the first six months I went up three times and then I might have gone up once in every six months. I haven’t been to Sydney in about five or six years. And of course now with Zoom and all of the other facilities I would strongly recommend if think about your lifestyle and do you really, really, really need to live in two of the most expensive cities on planet Earth? And I’m not exaggerating, actually, just check the numbers. They are really, my brother lives in Tokyo. It’s deer here than it is in Tokyo now. Used to be the other way around. And your disposable income is all either going to into your landlord’s pocket or the banks, whether you’re paying off your house or not. There is a lot to be said for Shane. I’m sure you got the advantage living in Queensland. Yeah.

And Brisbane’s a more expensive city than many, but it’s not surprising. Glen and Glen and Gary are both in Tasmania, and I don’t blame them, but hey, I’ve got the Bara, so that’s not bad either. But that’s the other thing too. I get to come home to here if I’ve spent an hour I’m driving through vineyards and I’m not a stressful drive. And when I finally get home, I’ve got just wall Towa wine bars and pubs and some of the best restaurants in the world. I know this cause I’ve been a Paris and New York and London and I’ve been to some of the best restaurants in the world and many of them are here. And there is a lot to be said for picking your lifestyle and then building your career and your life around it. And that was a bit of an accident. I did originally head for Adelaide, but I never got there. I sort of stopped in the Brossa for a few days with my wife and said, well hell, you can commute in and out. And that’s the thing, in these smaller cities, you can commute in an hour, you can basically travel 150 Ks.

Peter Wilson (00:39:22):
Yeah, right.

Dave de Vries (00:39:22):
Well actually no, that means you’re doing 150 kilometers an hour, but you get the,

Peter Wilson (00:39:30):
What about tools of the trade? Are there any you use routinely? Ones you swear by?

Dave de Vries (00:39:36):
No, not really. I mean, when I was drawing, I loved the rotting pens because my hands tend to sweat. And I found that if I used any ink that was water based, I tended to smudge. And I like that sort of thick, dark shellac. I used to use panto markers for coloring in the days when computer coloring was in its infancy. Now I learned how to color on Photoshop. The other, there’s free versions of that, similar things that are just, but I, I’m comfortable with the interface, so I just stick with it. I tend to, so I like Photoshop with my writing. I just use Word really. I don’t love to be able to get a program. And I know they exist where you could just dictate and then it would sort of print it all out for you and that that’d be fun. And I must admit, I like hard copy. So particularly for editing, I can’t edit on the screen. I need to print it out. And then the moment I printed out, I can actually then suddenly see the errors. There’s something about it being on the screen that makes you think it’s probably right.

The greatest tool I use is the word check on spell check on word. I love it.

Peter Wilson (00:41:07):

Dave de Vries (00:41:07):
Got the puppy fingers and I, I’m constantly screwing up. So I just love to hit the keys hard and pour out my thoughts and not worry about whether or not I’m getting the spelling and then solve that in the edit. And so sometimes I read, what the hell was I writing there?

Peter Wilson (00:41:28):
I think we all have that.

Dave de Vries (00:41:30):
When I used to write I to would write in hand and then I would actually cut up the strips and then move them around to get them in the right order. So I like the cut and paste approach to computer writing. I would’ve been terrible in the days when you had to write everything out longhand. I would’ve been a disaster. So I was sort of born in the right era. The computer’s fantastic for the type of writing. So when I write tend to as you were sort of talking before about your creative approach, I tend to start off, I guess with a little bit of stream of consciousness. Consciousness. And as I’m writing, if a new idea comes halfway through idea, I just abandon that idea straight away, just hit enter twice and then start the new thought. And then if that lend enters another one, I’ll just double click and then I’ll just keep going down until all of these sort of trails run out.

And then I go back a step and then carry that trail back on again that I abandoned because I was got this new idea and I worked my way back up to the start again. Oh, cool. And then begin again. And if I dunno what I want to write, I will sometimes write little love notes to myself. I’ll literally write, I dunno what I’m trying to write, why am I doing this? And I’ll literally write it out. And physical act of hitting the keys and writing words isn’t enough to often trigger, there is a part of your brain that’s actually triggered by physical action. Sure. Mm-hmm. Males, females a little different. They’ve done tests on this. The female mind tends to resolve conflict and problems through verbalization. So when women are stressed, they’ll tend to talk to each other, they’ll talk it out, and that relieves their stress.

Males have a very different approach. We tend to internalize. In fact, if you are struggling with a problem and people are asking you, how can I help that’s going to actually stress you out more than actually, and often. And my wife knows just to leave me alone, I, I’m in my cave, let me sort it out. But I was, when I have enough of an idea, I’ll come out and I’ll say, right, I know this is wrong, but now I feel I need to, I don’t do get in touch with the yin of the yang. Alright, so this is what I think has got a bit working. And I sort of tell her the stuff I think is right. What do you reckon? And then she’ll always find the obvious floor flaws in it straightaway. And then I’ll get angry and then I’ll realize that she’s right.

And then so sometimes bouncing ideas does help, but I find usually I have to have 90% of it sort sifted through. And I noticed this with my students at uni that the, they’ll always tell you the bits of the idea that they, they’ve know. And my job is to help them with the bits they don’t know. And so I’m one of these annoying people says, okay, so what do you think about this? And then they’ll try and sidestep it and go back to the bit that they’re comfortable with it. And I’ll just keep picking away at the wound until finally they’re forced to answer the question which they can’t answer. And that’s fine. Then I say, okay, good. So now we’ve identified there are three areas in this idea that you don’t get. So you don’t now goo over the stuff you’re doing. Well, you now go and research the stuff you’re not sure about.

That’s incredibly easy to do when you’re doing it with someone else. But when it’s you, it’s really hard to have the ability to step outside yourself. So that’s where bouncing on an idea of someone else can be useful. The trouble is if you do it too early in the process, I find they then start to tell you their ideas rather than help you develop your ideas. And absolutely, there’s nothing worse than offering, I never offer advice to a creator unless they seek it out, because inevitably I’ll be offering them my solutions to their problems and then suddenly it’s not their story anymore. My story

Peter Wilson (00:45:36):
Makes sense that that brings us nicely to the last question. I think over the years, what’s the best criticism or encouragement you’ve ever gotten that really sort of stuck with you?

Dave de Vries (00:45:55):
Yeah, there’s been a few.

There was a guy at art college called Andrew Sibley and he had these little pearl that were really just stuck with me. One of them was when we were in first year, we all had uni. Students think they know bloody everything. They suddenly free to think the way you want to think. You are suddenly exposed to a whole bunch of things which are new and exciting, and they all seem to make sense to you. And you suddenly think you have the keys to the kingdom and you understand how the world works. The trouble is you don’t know what you don’t know. But then you take to the streets and you protest and you do all of these lovely things, which you feel is the first time this has ever been done. And of course it’s, it’s been done by every generation ever since we crawled out of the primeval ooze.

And as you get older, you start to realize that the world is a lot more nuanced. But curiously young people who think they’re progressive are actually the most conservative human beings alive. They all think the same way as each other. They’re very cliquey with each other. They all look the same, they all wear the same clothes, they all have the same attitude. They all, yeah, it is quite amusing but it’s kind of cute too, because we’ve all been through it and I was exactly like that as well. But it’s that humility of being wrong, willing to not be sure. That’s the really hard thing to do. And I found actually in my life, the most successful times are when I’m the only one in the room was the balls to ask the most obvious question. I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you just said. Can you please explain that?

And then everybody’s secretly going, oh yeah, yeah, I didn’t get it either. But nobody wants to look like a fool. And that’s one of the biggest things. So anyway, getting back to Andrew’s Sibley, that just putting a contextual background to it what he said was that you should never reject an idea and particularly an, and he was talking primarily about art, but it actually extrapolates out to virtue anything in life. You should never object reject any idea until you fully understand what it is that you’re rejecting. Don’t destroy something until what it is. And until you can do. And he said, and once you understand that what that idea is, you won’t reject it anymore because you will now understand it. Most people we like to other everyone else young people like to think that everybody else is othering them. And in doing so, then other everybody else who’s not them.

Yeah, it’s really, the irony is incredible. I could say all this, cause I’ve got kids, they’re just in their early thirties now and I teach at the uni and I see it, and I totally get where they’re coming from and they keep me fresh as well because I’m always fearful of getting into traps and so forth. And anytime something comes up which is new and different and you are convinced that this is the pathway forward, the road to the promised land, and that everything else should be rejected as a result, that is always dangerous because it means that you are no longer open to the possibility that you might be wrong. And the moment you lose that, I think because how can you change? How can you improve? If you are everything, then you are a fully, fully worked, fully formed person. People who rate themselves 10 out of 10.

And you do hear people doing this and you go, well, okay, so you are a finished work, well done you, yeah, yeah, the only human being in history that’s ever achieved that, but how magical are you? So that was one and that stuck with me forever. And it’s really good for art, but it’s also really good for anything creative. So if you see something that you don’t get in politics, for example people really try to narrow me. They say, oh, are you, oh, you’re a conservative. Oh, you’re a liberal. Yeah, no, neither. I’m not ideologically driven. I have my own personal views, but that’s shifting sand.

And it’s because I don’t believe that anybody has a monopoly for the truth. I think that the world is really complicated and every situation has varied. And no matter how much we think we’ve got it right, we are going to continue to evolve. And this won’t end in a hundred years or a thousand years. This will carry on until the universe is over. We’ll always be looking for something new and different and we’ll cycle back and the universe, society will go and cycles. And I think artistically that’s really helpful. Couple of other bits of advice. One is that things tend to swing backwards and forwards in a pendulum. So I mean, in art it’s really easy. You’ve got the art of the head and the art of the heart, and so everything swings from one direction to another. So it’s classic, romantic, and you can look at the entire history of world art and you can actually see that I was working on a development of a TV show on the fashion industry.

And I found that that was fascinating because it turns out that people talk about gender these days. The fashion industry’s been doing this since day dot. Fashion trends tend to trend from masculine to feminine and back again. And they just a very long swing that I found really interesting. And when you actually dig into it, it’s never as linear as that because some aspects of it will go feminine and some will go masculine and so on. So these sort of patterns and rules I find have been really, really influential. The other one was kind of on a similar theme. Another one by Andrew Sibley was this idea that he said that every creation is a battle between the artist and the artwork. And if the artist is lucky, the artwork will win. And I like that one a lot. That’s where we were sort of touching on this before.

If you’re writing a character in a film or a story or you are writing, or if you’re an actor and you’re actually developing a character the background to the character to flesh it out if you allow the character to take you over and take you into places where you wouldn’t normally go that will then open up new possibilities. And it’s sort of boring on the same theme again. Because if you think the character should go in this direction, partly in service plot, and partly because ideologically that’s the correct way to go then you are just a propagandist. You are now not actually exploring the human experience. Got an idea and you’re pushing it. And I think that’s probably the greatest weakness I see with storytelling in the modern era is that there is so clearly strong I’m trying to think of the right word agendas feels wrong.

And I’m not talking about left wing or right wing here. I’m talking about this desire to be right. And then using your stories to educate. Yeah. Okay. I think that’s really dangerous because again, you’ve got this assumption that what you’re doing I was a big fan of the first Star Trek series, Kirk Spock and McCoy. The idea, the foundation of that series was very simply that it was a story about science serving humanity or humanity serving science. Those are the counter narratives that ran through it. It was basically a bunch of nerds in a souped up vehicle heading through the most amazing world. You can see why characters, the characters in the Big Bang Theory loved those characters because it was the same idea. It was a bunch of nerds, scientists who were often spaced pretending that they’re superheroes. And that’s what you could see the resonance.

But what was fascinating was that you had McCoy who believed that science served humanity, that humanity was central and that what was all about and that science, if it wasn’t serving humanity was pointless. Spock believed the exact opposite. He believed that humanity was there to serve science, that the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few or the one in other words, he was Alf Hitler and that No, he was totally, and they even designed him to look like a devil. And he had the point of years, and he is the most evil character you can imagine when you really drill down to it. And the devil is always charismatic. And so Spock was charismatic as well. Everybody loves Spock. Yeah. But he is reprehensible character. If the world was run by people like Spock, and it has been attempted would be a disaster.

That, and our whole political system, for example, is based on not the will of the majority. It’s to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority, which is the exact opposite of the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few. It’s quite the opposite. But what is so brilliant about Star Trek is that you’ve got these two disparate points of view, narrative and narrative. Then you’ve got the every man in the middle, which is, and these days it would be the every person, but it was back in the sixties. We then had the classic male sort of figure that was the leader of the team. And also he was the stand in for us. And so Kirk would wrestle with these conundrums. The other two were very certain about their situation. And this is why we cited with Kirk, because he was the one who was in doubt, but would ultimately fall in the right direction. But they then created basically a series of moral conundrums where the characters would go through space and discover different metaphoric lessons about humanity and about life and how that worked within the world of science. And of course we were going through the sixties during the science age, the space age, the fear of what is going to happen to humanity as science becomes more and more prevalent. It was a very powerful idea and I think that’s why it lasted far beyond just being a really dodgy poorly.

I know that the fans are going to hate me, but hey, the special effects were not great. But intellectually they were fantastic stories. I still think those stories stand up better than the modern ones because they were taking us down moral roads. They were getting us to think. And the genius of the writers were, they never took a position. They didn’t straw man one argument or the other. They allowed Spock to in fact be, if anything, the superhero in the story often putting up the most reprehensible ideas, but in such a charismatic and compelling way that people often went away thinking he was right.

Peter Wilson (00:57:09):
That’s real. That’s really interesting. I’d never considered that. Yeah, neither.

Dave de Vries (00:57:13):
And that I think is what’s missing today is that there is something that humility of just allowing the ideas to be presented in the most entertaining way possible and letting the chips fall where they may, and trusting that the audience are not a bunch of idiots. I think those are the things which actually make compelling stories. And I fear at the moment I, I miss those days. I want to see more of them then. It’s not like those stories don’t exist, but it’s harder and harder to find them because the characters these days are not allowed. Certain characters can never be flawed because of politics. Other characters must be flawed for the same reason.

And I look, the world will always cycle round. It’s just a phase in the cycle. I think this reminds me of where we were in the late eighties when films were becoming really sort of formulaic and predictable. And then we suddenly went into the early nineties and we had that whole movement with guys like Tarantino. And that coming in from the artist was allowed to explore different ideas. And Tarantino was hugely pillared because he was doing things which were not politically correct, but he created almost a genre in his own by doing it. And those, if he did another film, I would absolutely go and see it in the cinema because I know it’s

Peter Wilson (00:58:41):
To look forward to then.

Dave de Vries (00:58:42):
Yeah, because I know it’s going to be, even if I don’t like every aspect of it, it’s still going to be compelling and I don’t think he’s trying to beat a drum. So

Peter Wilson (00:58:51):
Speaking of things to look forward to, have you got anything you want to plug?

Dave de Vries (00:58:55):
Yeah, we’ve just brought back the Southern Squadron with the dark Nebula for, that’s just come out on Kickstarter. There’s a new Kickstarter that’s about to start and I can show you some pages of it. This has been drawn by Ben Sullivan. It’s been co-wrote by me and Rob Lyle. Is this the one you got on the screen? Yep. So we are playing around with little goblins and ferries and so forth. So this is torn, this is the dingo. They meet up. I won’t spoil the story, but you get the idea.

Peter Wilson (00:59:37):
It’ll be good for our dealership if you do though

Dave de Vries (00:59:40):
<laugh>. Sorry.

Peter Wilson (00:59:41):
It’d be good to have viewership if you do though.

Dave de Vries (00:59:43):
Yeah. So it starts off with the characters are sort of meeting up the usual thing. It’s going right back to the early days of Stan and Jack, where the X-men would meet the Fantastic four for the first time. Think that the others are a bunch of villains, and then get into a big pumbling thing and then team up and track down name or insert the villain of the week and the way we go. So it’s not about trying to reinvent the wheel, it’s about taking some fun ideas and sort of exploring it. Ben’s done a lovely job with the black and white art. I’ve been coloring it up. Again, trying not to overcook the colors just to keep them in Ben’s art, really do the work and yeah, it’s looking good. So this will be coming out in a Kickstarter pretty soon. Actually, I think we’re talking about end of January, so gee, that’s only, well, that’s like next week.

So maybe it’s a week or two away and then it starts. Oh, cool. So this is part of a three part story. Cool. And then there’s the Southern Squadron and Dark Nebula, dark Nebula, Southern Squadron crossover. And then there’s a torn and dark Nebula crossover. So by the time all of these are done, there’ll have been nine stories, or sorry, three stories, each of three parts. And so that will then give people a chance to see these characters all interacting with each other. And I think Gary Deller is looking to perhaps see these characters all meeting up on an ongoing basis. Fantastic. And Jardine, who did the Nightside and the Rock, he’s bringing the Nightside back and the Rock back. I think Lieutenant Smith and the Southern Cross are appearing in some of those stories. So we’ll see the characters there. And he’s also done a series oh, it’s called the Southern Squadron Dark, and it’s basically an alternate reality version of the Southern squadron where they’re dark, evil, mean bastards.

And just so people understand how it’s all playing out, the reality or the universe of the southern squadron is that basically there are these things called mind gates where the way your mind behaves will open will then resonate with these things called mind gates. And the mind gates will open up various doorways to different dimensions depending on the type of person that you are. So if you’re an evil prick, it’ll send you to hell if you’re, and so on. And if you have strong willpower and focus on a particular reality strongly enough, that can then become a portal to take you where you want to go. So these have been used by different beings, creatures, characters, whatever, for a very long time on earth. But the Earth has a sort of a, I guess an Illuminati group that are kind of keeping this group from coming in.

And the deal they’ve done is they’ve said that, look, you can use Australia as the doorway to come in and out because nobody cares what happens in Australia. It’s our center nowhere. And if Australians see people weird looking people wandering around, they’ll just figure they’re <laugh> wearing fancy costumes anyway. They won’t, they’ll just have another beer and carry on. And the idea is that then the Outback can be one of the areas where these characters come from. So the Southern squadron’s job is to basically be the gateway guardians to make sure that these clowns, it’s a little bit like men at Black, I guess the same idea. So then they can chase them into these other worlds if they so desire and so forth. And the other advantages and all the various different comic companies are doing this. So it’s nothing particularly original, but it gives me the ability to team my characters up with any characters from any universe or any storyline or whatever if I so choose. So that’s kind of the backstory behind it all. And that way I can even have past versions of Southern Squadron appearing with the modern ones if I want. Beau and I have worked out a steampunk version of them back in Paris in the 1880s, which is going to be a lot of fun. Interesting.

So these will all start to come out over the next year or two. This year is actually the 40th anniversary of the Southern Squadron.

Peter Wilson (01:04:24):

Sizzle (01:04:25):

Peter Wilson (01:04:27):
Which very exciting. Very,

Dave de Vries (01:04:28):
Very old.

Peter Wilson (01:04:30):
Well that’s great. Thank you so much for joining us.

Dave de Vries (01:04:33):
No, it’s been my pleasure.

Peter Wilson (01:04:35):
Thank you for your insightful answers and it’s really exciting. Shane, is there anything you wanted to plug to the store?

Sizzle (01:04:44):
Sorry the normal plugs I’ll do. Yeah, I’ll just do the normal plugs. Okay. So we’ve got this show on Sunday nights. We have the show on Tuesday, the Chinwag. We have the show on Wednesday, the OS comics show. We have drink and draw on Friday. And then next week we’ll be back with this show on Sunday. So I’ll just do that as the plug. And also remember if you’re watching to and subscribe to the channel

Peter Wilson (01:05:12):

Dave de Vries (01:05:12):
Drink South African wine.

Peter Wilson (01:05:14):
Yes, please. And you can find me by Peter Wilson on Instagram. And quick shout out to my mom. It’s her birthday tomorrow. I’ll talk to her then. Ah. But she’ll love the public. Shout out. So happy birthday mom.

Sizzle (01:05:27):
Nice. Happy birthday. Don’t have to worry. Happy birthday.

Peter Wilson (01:05:32):
And we like to end with a quote here on Sunday Spotlight,

Sizzle (01:05:35):
So I’ll bring it up.

Peter Wilson (01:05:37):
Thank you, sis. This is from Jeff Smith of Bone fame. The design process at its best integrates the aspirations of art, science, and culture. Nice. And I think we can all take something from that. So thank you everyone for watching. Thanks again to Mr. Dree for coming on and we’ll catch all you guys. Next week we’re talking to NS K?

Sizzle (01:05:59):

Peter Wilson (01:06:01):
Fantastic. See

Sizzle (01:06:02):
You next week everyone. Thanks. Thanks everyone. Thanks guys. Thanks Dave.

Voice Over (01:06:15):
This show is sponsored by the Comics shop.

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