© Herald photo by Matt Gardner
Local writer Ross May holds a copy of his new graphic novel Devil Dealers, an original collaboration with artist Brett Wood.
A new graphic novel by local writer Ross May promises a devilishly entertaining experience for comic book fans.
An original collaboration with artist Brett Wood, Devil Dealers tells the story of a motley cast of characters with exceptional skills and their encounters with Lucifer as he lays claim to their eternal souls.
“It is a lot like the story of Faust, but is set today and there’s a group of people and they all have different abilities,” May said.
“There’s the world’s greatest card shark, a chessmaster, a guy who can play the fiddle extremely well and a woman so fast that every time the devil comes to claim her soul she can outrace him, and they are all working for different ends.
“Some of them are after fabulous wealth, some of them are after eternal youth and one of them is trying to save the soul of a friend.”
As the novel begins, ace card shark Greg Gagné has been invited to a high-stakes card game, during which it dawns on him that he is playing against the devil himself.
“The devil gives him one of those classic offers where it’s your soul for incredible wealth,” May said.
“It turns out to be half of all the money in the world and he takes that bet, realizing that it’s genuine … and he actually wins.”
With money flying at Gagné from all different directions, the gambler must figure out his next move, eventually meeting other characters who have also had close encounters with Satan.
In writing his work, May drew upon influences ranging from the German legend of Faust to the Swedish film The Seventh Seal (in which a medieval knight plays chess with Death) to the Charlie Daniels Band song “The Devil Went Down To Georgia.”
“I was working at it for a while,” the writer said. “It wasn’t super-long to write, and then I spent a lot of months editing it and it took over a year to get the art done.”
The publication of his first creator-owned graphic novel represents a landmark in May’s career, which has included stints writing for comic books, magazines and DVDs.
Growing up in Prince Albert, May attended École Vickers School and later Carlton Comprehensive Public High School.
Moving on to the University of Saskatchewan, he obtained a degree in English and history as well as his education degree, which he parlayed into his current career as a substitute teacher at schools across the Prince Albert area.
May’s love affair with comic books began as a child when he began reading issues of Archie, a publication that also introduced him to superheroes through their inclusion of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Later on, May would go on to pen numerous Ninja Turtles comics.
“I’ve been writing since I was a kid and did my own little poorly made comics,” he recalled.
After years developing his craft, May contacted Mirage Studios, the comic book company that owned the Ninja Turtles.
“They liked what I did, and we worked out something together, and then I started working for them for around three years,” he said.
As a writer, I just try to be unobtrusive in the story. Ross May
During those years, May had the chance to work with many of the same people he had read as a child, such as editor Steve Murphy and artist Chris Allan.
He also took part in email correspondence with Ninja Turtles co-creator Peter Laird, who appeared to react positively to May’s work on the title.
“I really like my first comic, because it was one of those superhero things where the villain sort of tied into old elements of Ninja Turtle storylines,” May said.
“It ended up being a relative of the Shredder that I got to work with, so that was a lot of fun.”
Aside from his work on Ninja Turtles and horror comics, the P.A. writer also contributed his talents to writing liner notes for a number of DVD productions, including the 1940s Max Fleischer Superman cartoons and The Real Ghostbusters.
The latter stemmed from magazine articles May had written for James Eatock, an English animator known for producing DVD releases of cartoons from the 1980s.
“He knew that I knew a lot about that cartoon Real Ghostbusters, and so he brought me in for that … I provided some liner notes and a commentary track,” May said.
For the author, Devil Dealers represents the culmination of much of his previous work.
While citing Batman writer Dennis O’Neil and Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko as personal favourites, May described a distinct philosophy when it comes to his craft.
“When writing, I sort of follow the idea what Bruce Lee said. He was talking about martial arts, but Bruce Lee said, ‘The ideal is for your style to have no style at all.’
“So when I write a story, it’s obvious to see what maybe my influences are that I like -- some supernatural things here, people with interesting abilities. But as a writer, I just try to be unobtrusive in the story.”
Aside from the publication of his first graphic novel, May has another major milestone on the horizon as he and his wife await the birth of their first child next month.
“That’s sort of my focus right now, and I’ll be working on more comics in the future,” the author said.
Copies of Devil Dealers are available at select book and comic stores, with shoppers able to order copies to their local stores through www.devildealers.com.
To promote the book, May will make two appearances in Saskatoon on Saturday, May 3 -- also known as Free Comic Book Day -- signing copies at Amazing Stories from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and at 8th Street Books and Comics from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Another talk and signing will take place at McNally Robinson on Wednesday, May 7 at 7 p.m.