Project: Get Known! DAVID TUCKER
“Hope you’re waiting at the airport with a sign that reads ‘Ghost Hunter Dave’ tomorrow.”
This DM in my Twitter came from the account of Imperius Rex!, belonging to David Tucker. He is referring to himself with his Ghost Hunter moniker from some YouTube clips Dave did years ago while in college. Watching these videos and corresponding with him through various internet channels, as familiar as I am with Dave, I’ve yet to meet him.
The Paperkeg podcast has enriched my life in many ways and through this community, the names Ghost Hunter Dave and Troy to the Max Extreme entered my peripheral. Together they form Imperius Rex!, a YouTube channel where Dave and Troy make a comic book review club in a great visual way. A few months back, Dave tweeted out a rare glimpse at a page from a comic he was making himself and I immediately wrote to him, requesting more details and asked him (pressured him) into an exclusive interview when it was ready.
The preview pages of MINDFRAME came in and I was blown away by the craftsmanship. The premise of switching bodies with another person is maybe not exclusive, but Dave took it to a new level with rules and possibilities, in a well thought out storytelling way. The focus of his first issue involves Eric, who tentatively decides to try out the new underground world of mind swapping. We are brought into this realm through his meeting, or rather interview, with Rebecca, whom he will be engaging in the swapping experience. As innocent as his initial intentions may be however, Eric will find himself getting more than he bargained for.
As Dave progressed into the final stages of his comic, he happened to be having a work event occurring in my South Florida area. I gladly offered a friend a ride and decided this would also be a great opportunity for a Rolling Stone type interview.
The slender frame of Dave Tucker glides briskly from the Fort Lauderdale Airport gate, perfectly timed with my walk to an information board. That energy I’m used to seeing in YouTube videos was there in real life, even after a cross mid country flight. I drove Dave to a favorite nearby diner of mine and we chatted over a plain bacon burger and a Mediterranean omelette. As the conversation drifted towards the show and his comic, I switched on my recorder so I wouldn’t miss the gold. Get to Know: David Tucker!
Mike: Did you receive a film production degree in college?
Dave: No I have a communications degree. A catch-all-kinda-thing. We had an AV class, which I could have taught.
Mikey P: You never wanted to make a comic in college?
Dave: When I was in high school, it was like, yeah, I want to do that but I didn’t want to move to a city to do it. I just wanted to do it for fun. I always thought if it was your job it would suck all the enjoyment out of it. No, the comic stuff kinda came later. I was always into comics as a kid but never hardcore. And I would read it passively or buy a trade. I was always more into movies. We made this movie The Cutting Room floor which was like a full length movie. We put it out locally that we had this scene for anyone wanting to be in it and like 50 people showed up and that was my first day. We premiered at the local theater and everything. I was writing and directing and had to plan everyone’s schedule. Like planning out who would be where and when, that kind of stuff. So after that I was sort of burnt out on movies for a while. Getting a lot of people in a room to film gave me an ulcer. Looking back it was a lot of fun but in the heat, it was like this sucks. So after that was done, I always used to write and draw but never made a comic. It’s like making a movie, but I didn’t want to rely on anyone else. And now I’ve spent more time making the comic than I did a movie. It’s just a passive thing. Nothing’s holding me accountable to it.
Mikey P: The Cutting Room floor was like ten years ago and you’ve been working on the comic since?
Dave: No not that long. Maybe four? The script for MINDFRAME was going to be a movie. That’s why it’s like bare bones. It’s only a handful of people, a few locations. I wanted it to be like a Reservoir Dogs type of thing where it’s just a few people in a place. I wanted a scope of the universe but you don’t see it all. You kinda fill in the blanks based on what they say.
But as a movie, I didn’t think an actor was going to be able to sell that. No one was going to be able to make that interesting for an hour and half. So I said I think I’m just going to turn this into a comic.
Mikey P: It would have been hard to do the Mindframe switch in a movie. Well, I guess you did sort of did something like that in that Ghost Hunter Dave clips with the -
Dave: Oh the spirit world?! (laughs) Yeah that was all Paul’s idea. (Buddy/cameraman) We always just ad-libbed the Ghost Hunter Dave stuff. No script. We’d drink a bunch of beer and go film.
Mikey P: No way. Some of the lines used were perfectly timed though.
Dave: Oh Troy is amazing. He comes with these characters. He just comes up with these lines.
Mikey P: For me it started out as a love of making movies and comics too. And always thought I could make comics on the side. But you know how hard it is and then you get a job and you get a girlfriend and a wife and kids and time goes by…
Dave: I know. I think if I was single I could do all this creative stuff and I’m like ‘no you wouldn’t! You just slept all the time.’ (Mike laughs) But now I appreciate the value of free time and even take a day off and work on my comic. And I feel great. I won’t feel tired. Or I’ll run and I’ll feel like I’ve done something. And if I’ve done that I’ll go work on this.
Mikey P: Yeah I keep asking myself what did I do back then?
Dave: I know. I watched a lot of the same movies over and over again. I think like in middle school I started watching movies from a creator point of view. And I’m still the same way but not really the same way since I’m not involved. Now I can go see like, Rampage, and turn my brain off and have a good time with that. Whereas before that it’s like, ‘you’re gonna go watch that trash?’ I have to watch this weird grotesque Asian horror flick that only a handful of people know about. Not only that but I have to have it up on the shelf because someone might come by and check my cred and they’ll say ‘yep ok you have Gozu.’ (Mike laughs) I’m the same with comics too. Like something was disgusting. I need to have that. I didn’t enjoy that at all but that’s like a badge of honor I need that on my shelf. (laughs)
Mikey P: Your YouTube channel is taking off man. I remember that push to 300 subscribers not too long ago and you just passed 700. (807 as of this posting!)
Dave: We’re getting close to 1,000 subscribers which never ever a goal but now we’re close so I started looking into what happens when you get there. It’s difficult to make money from it. It’s like if we ever even tried to make money off this, we’d have to do like a Patreon realistically.
Mikey P: YouTube revenue maybe turns it into a job?
Dave: Yeah then it’s not fun.
Mikey P: When did you start Imperius Rex!?
Dave: End of this year will be three years. The first year we did a few for the hell of it. We both read comics and were excited about it. We both read Multiversity. I’m a huge Grant Morrison fan and I don’t know if Troy is but he’s into the craziness he comes up with. And we wanted to read it but I knew it pulled from Final Crisis and that pulls from Seven Soldiers so if we’re gonna read this and talk about it, let’s read them all, AND let’s film it since we always talked about doing that. Troy does a podcast,...
Mikey P: Review Revue. Isn’t it about movies?
Dave: Yeah but he always had comic stuff he wanted to talk about and had no outlet for it. We just thought let’s do this and upload it and see what happens and if people like it, maybe we’ll do more. We were really optimistic like, ‘oh it has 3 views. Let’s do some more.’ So we did and we sort of got burned out by it by maybe episode 17. We went around 5 months without doing it. But we came back for our season 2. We spaced them out so it wasn’t so much of a drag. And next year we just kept getting more or more people so we kept making them.
Mikey P: That’s a lot of books you guys power through.
Dave: Yeah but in the beginning we’d pick something to read and in 20 mins be done talking about it and be like well, what else? Look at the shelf and be like ‘want to talk about Swamp Thing?’ and just go off on that. Those early episode we wouldn’t go into much detail. We’d just sit there and say ‘oh it’s so good. It’s so good.’ (laughs)
Mikey P: That’s funny cause now I see you working off notes which is good because you don’t want to forget to talk about something.
Dave: Yeah the Snyder/Capullo Batman run we did, I was really upset I didn’t talk about my favorite part.
Mikey P: Did you ever hit Snyder up or anyone once you did an episode? I see you on twitter sometimes copy people like Kirkman to your Summer of Invincible episodes.
Dave: Yeah it usually doesn’t get much traction. Kaare Andrews talked to us early on. It was just one of those things like how did that ever happen?
Mikey P: Was that a goal to talk to more creators on the show?
Dave: No not really. We kinda reach out. Ryan Winn talked to us. John Lees, did who does Sink. But every time I interviewed someone I’m like I don’t know what to ask them. I sound like an idiot on it. So it’s more fun to just bullshit about comics and not feel like we have to kiss anyone’s ass. Oh and Chuck Forsman. And that was better because we had it more in format and a relationship with him beforehand. If anyone wanted to chat we certainly would.
Mikey P: Shows are typically like 30-45 mins, so how long are you filming for?
Dave: With notes they get longer.
Mikey P: Especially with wardrobe changes.
Dave: Yup yup. We’ll usually film like 3 back to back.
Mikey P: Oh so you’re hanging out all day?
Dave: It’s maybe like 3 hours for all 3 episodes.
Mikey P: I like how you usually keep it in one take.
Dave: Oh yeah we never go back. We don’t worry too much and makes it’s funnier.
When we started I would chop them down to like 13 mins and now they are running like 45 mins to an hour and we keep on drinking and talking. Then I look at the times to edit and I’m like there is so much. (Mike laughs) The Invincible ones were the worst. We go in like ‘let’s keep it short,’ and ends up the longest one we’ve ever done.
Mikey P: Barry Windsor-Smith’s Weapon X is what did me in as a kid. You open those credits and you see he did nearly every aspect of that book. And the first thing I saw when I flipped that Mindframe cover page was simply By David Tucker. I thought, man, he did it.
Dave: Yeah. It wasn’t something I set out to do. Originally I was going to have a co-worker color it. She did the preview pages I showed you (10 page different start to issue one). I did those 10- pages black and white. I think I gave it her to see how it would look. When I got it back I thought now I want the whole thing colored AND I want to do it myself. But making this comic was the first experience I had making anything digitally. So I’m picking it up as I go.
Mikey P: How are you doing it?
Dave: Manga/ Clip Studio. I have a Wacom thing. I love being able to change everything. I use photo references for every page. All my friends are in it.
Mikey P: No wonder that main character looks familiar. Was that a conscious decision to make it that way?
Dave: Yeah, I hadn’t drawn anything in a long time. I wanted to have this look to it and I wanted it to be consistent. Especially since it’s very character specific. I want it to look like decent characters throughout.
Mikey P: My favorite scene is in the bathroom where the main character has this moment to himself before he switches his mind with another person. He’s looking in the mirror and just says ‘see you later.’ I love the colors on that page specifically. It was very much a Dave Stewart colored page.
Dave: Thank you. The coloring is what’s taking a lot of time because I keep second guessing myself. Sometimes I color a whole page and say, this isn’t right and scrap it.
Mikey P: What was the decision for the two-tone?
Dave: Right off the bat I knew I didn’t want it to be realistically colored. I wanted it to be about the mood. Simple. I started experimenting with colors and different shades and it was becoming way too cartoony. If I do realism nothing ever feels natural. So I went with one or two colors and think it works a lot better. But then I run out of combos. Sometimes I wondered, do I want the whole book same colors.
Mikey P: When they do make the mind switch, I thought was exceptional. You took the time to show it over a couple of pages. You show transition. I was even seeing hints of other things like in the glass shatter. Not sure if it was his life or hers.
Dave: Yeah it’s like a shotgun blast of both their memories and you can only pick out pieces of both their lives. A glimpse of memories. So nothing really happens in the first issue. It really is just to set the stage and you can go from there.
Mikey P: Which is a great hand-off. You have the rules of the mind exchange and you set up possibilities that can follow.
Dave: I worry it’s too much exposition to start.
Mikey P: I think it works because you don’t know where Eric, the main character, is going at first and you need something in the middle to start explaining everything.
Dave: I’m a big fan of movies like Saw where you don’t know anything but as you go on you start learning more and more.
Mikey P: In the opening, we see the main character get shot. But when you learn things about mind swapping and body doubles, you realize that this might not be the same main character we see lead the story. Rebecca goes through a long interview process about what Eric will do with her body too, but nothing the other way around.
Dave: I might as well give you a glimpse since it will probably be like six years before it all gets told. In the next issue we meet a third main character. He took out a loan from a shady mobster and not paying family getting threatened kinda of thing. So he wants to swap bodies and kill the mobster to clear the debt. He goes to Rebecca, who’s in Eric’s body, and she swaps Eric’s body with this guy. So when Eric’s body is killed, Eric essentially doesn’t have a body to go back to.
Mikey P: Oh man! I love it!
Dave: So it starts with this initial trepidation to do it at all, and just ends up in a completely worse scenario. It’s like the guy who’s afraid to fly and his first flight goes down. And he’s just screwed in the 6 hour time period this all takes place.
Mikey P: That’s fantastic. How do you envision keeping track of each character in their real voice?
Dave: I think I’m going to use color to indicate which voices are associated with each character to keep track when they switch bodies.
Mikey P: I also wondered if when they switched, they got the physical talents of that person. Like could I switch with a great guitarist and know what that feels like to play? But you explain it very easily when he can’t walk in her heels. You thought it through.
Dave: Yeah I had to put a lot of thought into it because it was going to be a movie.
Mikey P: Can still be a movie too.
Dave: Yeah really every comic these days….
Mikey P: No I didn’t mean it felt like a movie. Sometimes I get real annoyed when I read a comic I can tell it was obviously written for screen…
Dave: Yeah Mark Millar…
Mikey P: Right. But I did not get that sense at all from your book.
Burger and omelette done, we journeyed back to the car to make our way towards the fancy Boca Raton hotel Dave was being put up in. He had tweeted out a photo earlier that day of him watching the old HBO series of Spawn so we discussed our mutual love for growing up in McFarlane’s world. This transitioned into Dave’s love of Grant Morrison and all things Mike Mignola, especially the amazing opportunity he had meeting him.
The Waldorf Astoria is an obnoxious representation of South Florida glut as we make our way through the edifice. Choosing from one of the thirteen bars in its campus, we continue to discuss his creative processes over a couple local craft beers.
Mikey P: When did you start running so much?
Dave: I started because in college, my wife had this overnight shift job and I would stay up all night watching movies and drinking with my friends. Then I just slept in and didn't do anything.
So I thought, I need to do something. Took up running and it's been 6-7 years.
Mikey P: When I run, all I can think about is how I wish I wasn’t running. I could see though how it's a good way to clear your mind. Are you able to think of things? Do you think of your comic?
Dave: I would call it like a meditative state. Like how people talk about meditation. You just exist. Thoughts come in and leave and you don't have to think about them. You're not stressed about anything. I'm doing this mindless thing like mantra and eventually you get in a trance. You kinda think of stuff but you don't focus on them.
Mikey P: That's why they are so long?
Dave: Yeah pretty much. Used to be normally like 2-4 miles. And this summer I kept increasing and one day I ended up doing like 18 miles.
Mikey P: Do you get those jitters if you don't do it you become a madman?
Dave: Yeah I'll get antsy. I have to go clear my head. I like when you're out there you don't have to do anything but just run. Especially with kids and work, I just get time to myself.
Mikey P: You ever listen to Kevin Smith’s Fatman on Batman?
Mikey P: He interviewed Jim Lee once and Jim talked about when he was training to be an artist, he also went to a track to physically train. He ran with this internal mantra of the artists he strove to be like. He’d say to himself ‘Byrne. Romita. Byrne…”. I thought maybe you were doing the same thing.
Dave: No not really. It’s more of a relaxing thing. People ask are you training for a marathon? And I have no interest in that.
Mikey P: Do you research how to get better or faster?
Dave: No. Not really.
Mikey P: What ideas have come out of this?
Dave: I don’t think I’ve solved any of life’s big questions. It just sort of cools me down. If there’s a lot of stuff going on in my head, it just sort of evens things out.
Mikey P: Do you think it primes your mind to create? Like you say before I write, I need to go run?
Dave: Yeah. Yeah. Just a good way to wipe the slate clean and if you have thoughts jumping around in your head, it gets you ready.
Mikey P: How open are you about telling people about the show and the comic? Like would you tell people at work?
Dave: Not very. Never thought anyone would be into it. It’s one of those things were my parents saw it, and forget the name of it. If I talk to a comic fan, I’ll mention the show.
Mikey P: What about the comic?
Dave: I mean it’s been going on for so long. Maybe when it’s done I can have something to give them.I just like to tell a story make something and get it out there for me. If someone else likes it, cool. But I’ve been doing this since I was a kid. I’d be stapling paper together and selling them to my aunts and uncles. Just what I did as an only child. I didn’t do sports I just drew. Then I got a camera. I did movies and then I went back. That’s all it is too, just telling stories.
Mikey P: The passion for storytelling.
Dave: Yeah that’s all it is just different mediums.
Mikey P: I could tell how much thought you into this comic.
Dave: Yeah probably more than it needed. One of those one of those I kept trying to examine. Some panels I’m not happy with but I’m like, I’m not fixing it at this point. Then I interviewed Chuck Forsman or I look at something Jeff Lemire puts out and they are purposefully loose to be able to tell a story relatively faster.
Mikey P: One of the selfish goals of interviewing people with this site was to learn from other creators too. Chuck is someone with the confidence I need and the process I envy too. Sometimes it throws me off creating though because everyone I talk to and everything I read is so amazing. When you read so many comics and you analyze them as much as you do, does it ever throw you off? Like, ‘I’m never making a comic now because I’ve seen so many amazing things out there.’
Dave: Oh yeah. There’s plenty. It works both ways. For a while I would love watching indie horror movies cause I’d think I could make something better than this. Or you see something where I’m not in love with it but it inspires me that it got made. And there there are the ones where it’s so good, how is there room for anything else? There’s this Isreal based vampire movie called, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. All B&W. Made in California. And it’s not a great movie but beautifully shot and it looks like something I could make. It’s inspiring. If I watch it, it makes me want to make a movie. And there’s certain comics like that.
Mikey P: Yeah speaking of Kevin Smith again, I’d watch his flicks I think we all could have made but think he did it, why wouldn’t I try.
Dave: Yeah he was a big inspiration for me. I remember the bootleg tapes I had all his on one tape.
Mikey P: One of the pieces of advice he gave filmmaker hopefuls was to max out every credit card offer and if you’re hesitant, go back to the drawing board because you don’t believe in yourself and your work enough. I sometimes use that as a gut check in whatever I’m doing. Like would I go into that much debt for this? Would you for Mindframe?
Dave: No. (laughs) It’s a hobby.
Mikey P: Yeah there’s no returns in comics. But I mean more of a gauge to how badly do you want to get this story out?
Dave: I don’t know. I have a lot I want to tell. This is the comic I’m working on now. I don’t know if it’s the best idea. But I want to move onto other ones. Done. Put it on the shelf. After we made the Cutting Room Floor and Murder Party movies, I don’t think I watched them since the premier. But in the process, I breathed it all in.
Mikey P: Now that you have made movies and a comic, do you have a deeper appreciation for what was made?
Dave: Yeah definitely. This is my first comic so I’m doing everything I can to make it perfect but the next one, I will probably do it differently. Art should just service the story and move it along.
I’ve come to appreciate solid storytelling however it’s told. Hellboy in Hell was just like chiseled statues. Mike Mignola’s stuff is easier to read than his earlier stuff. Chuck, and Lemire and Matt Kindt, their best stuff to me is the slice of life story. And when they are their own writer-artist. You describe the story and look at the art, it would seem whatever. But you sit down to read it and you’re like, this is great.
Declining our next round of beers when the waitress offers, we head to Dave’s room which overlooks an array of docked yachts in the bay. I thumb through a copy of Sullivan’s Sluggers Dave brought for his flight. A hotel member stops by to bring chocolates to the room. Waldorf Astoria for you. As Dave makes a call back home to his family, I set up the mics once again to get a little more out of him about Mindframe and comics.
Mikey P: Once your done with this first issue, will you keep on going?
Dave: Yeah I probably have 5-6 pages drawn on the second issue already.
Part of me also wants to start a new issue on something else but I know if I do that, I won't come back to Midframe. This talk is good though it definitely is lighting a fire for me to get back to it.
Mikey P: What's good about your premise is you can have even a side comic with different characters in this universe.
Dave: Yeah even if I do something quicker and tell a side story. Something different. That's what turned me onto the Lemire stuff. It's not great art but there's something about it that's fine for the story. Makes me want to develop my own sketchy style.
Mikey P: Lemire writes in a way that he needs to be able to put out a lot of books too because his stuff typically is a slow burn.
Dave: Yeah I appreciate his pacing. There might be a page with 3 panels and none of them have words. I like books that can breathe. Opposed to a book loaded with word balloons.
Mikey P: That was another aspect of Mindframe I loved. You do have a lot of exposition in the middle but when the switch occurs towards the end, you spent the time to illustrate this process without words and over a few pages. Another writer might have gone through describing what it feels like…
Dave: Like Alan Moore.
Mikey P: Right.(laughs)
Dave: Sometimes you don’t need that. Frank Miller even. When we did our event on him, sometimes there are pages and pages without words. It could have easily been a small panel but I love it was breathing.
Mikey P: This isn’t a comic you can really show your kids for a while..
Dave: I know! It’s just a story I had in mind. I’ve always gravitated towards the dark stuff. Probably because my parents showed me Predator at a young age. I’ll talk to Troy about what he watched as a kid and it’s like musicals and I’m like Aliens, Robocop….I didn’t watch any kids movies. Went straight to 80’s sci fi horror. My dad and I watch Predator every year together.
Mikey P: Would you ever get to a point where you’d let someone else do a side story or something?
Dave: I would totally up to collaborating with someone else for the other ideas I have but I started this and want it to finish. I was even telling Troy dude just do something, roughs, I don’t care let’s do something together. Could be like workout buddies.
Mikey P: Yeah I could see how the show you guys push each other to keep creating.
Dave: Yeah it’s like a work out buddy. And with the comic, you get close and you start to think ‘I’m almost done’, and then like a year goes by and there’s no one to blame but yourself.
Mikey P: Well, good for you for picking it up again. Because it is hard to maintain for that long.
Dave: On the plane, I was listening to an interview with Bryan Hitch who I love. And he was talking about this period he fell off for like 9 months. And it wasn’t for anything. Nothing personal. No other books. And now he’s just churning stuff out. His art maybe isn’t as good as Ultimates. Ultimates was the greatest though. I also think the greatest runs of all time are the same writer artist teams.
Mikey P: Are you going to put all your issues together and do a hardcover? Kickstarter?
Dave: Yeah I wanted to release just a whole story but it takes so long I wanted to see something as an issue.
Mikey P: Well I loved it. I genuinely think it’s great and not saying that just cause you’re sitting in front of me.
Dave: Thank you I appreciate that. I haven’t shown that many people.
Mikey P: It’s interesting you put yourself in the comic too. Not only that but your character is a comic book creator.
Dave: If I was going to draw this, I needed a crutch in the beginning. That’s why I end up in my movies because I needed someone who knew what I wanted and to be there so I just ended up saying I’ll do it. I guess every writer writes as themselves.
Mikey P: You put that exact line in Mindframe actually.
Dave: Yeah. Right.
Mikey P: Are the sexual aspects of the comic something that people around you have a hard time with?
Dave: My wife said she thought it was going to be steamier. (Mike laughs) But yeah, some people maybe. It’s not for everybody. My favorite stuff isn’t going to be something I’d show everyone in the world. The weirder something is, the more it’s only going to appeal to a certain group of people. But then they attach themselves more to it. I feel like I could have toned it down to make it more manilla but then it would lose the edge that makes it worth getting into.
Mikey P: The Grant Morrison approach maybe. Just occurred to me his influence.
Dave: Yeah it probably seeped in there. There definitely is in the movies I’ve made. As I’ve filmed them, it wouldn’t be until later I would recognize the nod I made to something I watched.
Mikey P: Well, congrats on your first issue. I know there’s more to come.
Dave: I was done. It was black and white and it was done. And then I wanted to color it and I looked at it and said, now it’s not done again. I also wanted to give the different timelines a different feel and I think a black border looks more complete than a white border, so I chose that for the beginning sequence. When he goes through the interview, it’s a white border. And when he flashbacks to a story, it’s black border again. Still rethinking the cover. I’m not a big George Lucas fan but he said art is never done and the more you sit there and think, you’re never going to finish.
Mikey P: What keeps going through my head when I try to make comics for some reason is, I could die and I didn’t do this.
Dave: I would get the same way. When I was in high school, I was writing stories. I got really sick once, nothing life threatening but just like the flu. And I’m laying up vomiting and all I kept thinking was, I gotta finish this story. I can’t die I need to get this done.
Mikey P: Well thanks for talking to me about all this. Really appreciate it.
Dave: Yeah man me too.
Mikey P: You gonna run tomorrow?
Dave: Nah probably not.
Check out and SUBSCRIBE to the Imperius Rex! channel for a ton of very entertaining and fantastic comic reviews. He and Troy are beyond excellent. At the very least, follow the Twitter account to stay informed and entertained. Look for MINDFRAME and jump on early before it becomes a movie.