Dilraj Mann on bringing Dalston Monsterzz to life
Illustrator Dilraj Mann talks us through the process of creating his debut graphic novel with Nobrow Press.
In the vein of Joss Whedon, Attack the Block, and Saga, Dilraj Mann’s debut graphic novel with Nobrow Press explores friendship and corruption in a vision of the future not far from today. We knew we had to get out hands on a copy of Dalston Monsterzz as soon as we read it’s tantalising blurb…
“Everyone remembers the day the monsters emerged. From deep within the earth, these huge creatures ran riot across Dalston, spreading terror. Then some kid rode one. Gangs formed, territorial battles ensued… and now two friends must fight for their lives as they discover the true depths of Dalston’s darkest secret.”
And once we did get our hands on a copy, we were not disappointed! The story starts with a bang and keeps up an excitable pace throughout. Riveting plot aside, the book itself is a thing of beauty. From the character’s totally on trend outfits to the pattern-covered, pastel-coloured monsters they are fighting against – each element of the aesthetic works to add a contemporary twist to this classic adventure genre.
We caught up with Dilraj to find out more about how he brought Dalston and it’s many monsters to life…
Hi Dilraj! Can you tell us a bit us about yourself and your creative process?
I’m an illustrator and I create comics, prints, animations and other assorted art. I’m all about drawing the human form. I’ve done work for Sony, Image Comics and Kodansha.
My process for Dalston Monsterzz – I write and write until I’m happy with the structure of the story and then I thumbnail it. Next I move on to the final artwork; I tend to rough pencil which I tweak digitally for composition, final pencils and then brush and ink on Bristol board. I scan that and finally colour digitally.
How did the idea for the story of Dalston Monsterzz come to you?
When I first moved to Dalston there were hookers on Kingsland Road but there seemed to be new studio flats popping up everywhere, cranes in the sky, and I imagined that there would be a monstrous consequence to the gentrification.
“I wanted to do a kind of urban Harry Potter where the ethnic characters weren’t just an afterthought but central to the story.”
Have you always been a storyteller?
When I was young my neighbour worked for a paper mill and would give us rolls of wallpaper lining paper so I’d fill those with drawings and stories. My school report one year said I didn’t show any imagination but they didn’t know about me. I always drew which lead me into animation and comics but give me some lino and I’ll bust out a windmill. Music has always inspired me so I really try to find ways to incorporate beats and rhythm into my work.
How long did it take you to create the book?
Too looong. I was juggling the creation of the book along with doing illustration work and I also edited it a number of times to make it tight.
What were the most difficult and most rewarding parts of the process?
I always enjoy the thumbnail process as it’s when I can be purely visual in my storytelling. It can be a challenge but I enjoy the problem solving aspect and it fills me with excitement as it’s the stage where the story grows in to something close to the final book.
When did Nobrow get involved and what were they like to work with?
I pitched three ideas to Nobrow and they went for Dalston Monsterzz. I then developed it and had regular meetings with them as it progressed. They were awesome to work with and so SO patient with me. I hope to do the other two ideas at some point.
Do you have any advice for illustrators starting out and dreaming of getting a book published?
Try to complete your book or at least part of it as publishers are much more likely to take a chance on something that’s already quite developed – make sure the story is strong.
“Be aware of what’s out there but do your own thing and do it for yourself”
I self-published a zine a short while ago called QUEUE and it’s now been republished in the Island anthology by Image comics, as part of a book, as a record promo and the Spanish version will be out soon – so it really pays to do YOUR thing.
Did you have a favourite character or monster to draw?
Lolly is always lovely to draw and I really like drawing the monster on the title page with lots of eyes.
Do you have plans for a sequel?
I have plans…. Hope that doesn’t come across like a Bond villain.
Finally, how do you think you would get on in Dalston if you were a character in the book?
I’d be dead in a second.
You can order a copy of Dalston Monsterzz here