Four Letter Nerd

Darkly Dreaming Ryan: An Interview with Dark Engine writer Ryan Burton + a preview of Dark Engine #5

A few months ago I was in my local comic shop, picking up my books, when I noticed a new series sitting on the rack. I picked it up and flipped through it and immediately decided to get it. That book was Dark Engine #1. I have been a huge fan ever since that moment. The story is so complex and dark, and the artwork mimics that essence perfectly. There are very few series that I can go back and read again when they’ve only been out for a few months, but this is one that I re-read almost monthly.

I reached out to Dark Engine writer/creator Ryan Burton for an interview, and he kindly obliged. Check out our conversation below!

Dark Engine #1



4LN: Can you pinpoint your love of comics back to a specific moment, or event, in life?

Ryan Burton: Sort of. Memories coalesce. There’s glimpses of me on the playground acting like I

was a Super Saiyan with my good pals…running around shooting fireballs at each other;

then, after school, going to the corner store and buying the latest issue of X-Men or

Wild C.A.T.s while playing a fistful of quarters’ worth of Street Fighter II. I’ve never really

been uninterested in comics, so it seems—it feels—like it was always there.


4LN: When did you know that writing comics was something you wanted to pursue?

RB: In college, my then-girlfriend/now-wife stepped on my copy of New X-Men #121. She

ripped in such a way that, despite my terror, I caught a glimpse of the credits page. Prior

to that, I was happily ignorant to the fact that quite a bit of dedication and production

went into creating a comic. But in that moment, that moment of clarity, everything

seemed to click.


4LN: How did you officially get your start in the comics industry?

RB: JH Williams III saw what John Bivens and I were working on, and he’d asked whom I was

planning on pitching it to. He’d mentioned our project to Eric Stephenson, and about a

month later, we pitched our book. The first issue of Dark Engine saw the day of light

roughly eight months after.


4LN: Where did the inspiration for your current Image Comics series, Dark Engine, come


RB: Oof. This question, man. Put simply, it was mix of all the dark fantasy that I grew up

with, and became reacquainted with later in life. Swords, monsters, that sort of thing.

But I was really drawn to that unstoppable force of nature—that Conan, that Kratos-

type character. I just knew that I wanted a female lead, and that’s where the story

began to take shape.


4LN: One of the greatest things, for me, about Dark Engine, is the artwork. Your art team,

John Bivens and Kelly Fitzpatrick, are absolutely incredible. How did you connect with

them for this book?

RB: They’re incredible, aren’t they? Yeah, I’m terribly lucky to be working with such talented

creators. I’ve known John for roughly five years or so. We met on an old Ellis board, I

think. Incidentally, Kelly came as a recommendation from Jordie Bellaire, and she

jumped into the series at issue two, much to our delight. My favorite part of the whole

process is seeing what these two come up with after I send a script in.


4LN: I’ll avoid any specifics so as to keep from spoiling the story for anyone who hasn’t read

it yet, but Sym, the main character so far, has quickly become one of my favorite

female comic book characters. She’s just such a bad-ass! I’m a little worried about her

future after issue #4 though… Can you tell us anything about what we can expect in

the next few issues of Dark Engine?

RB: There’s a lot of change. Change in settings, change in motivations. The stakes are higher,

and while all the players work their way through the overall narrative, Sym will be

changing visually and emotionally. We’ll also get to see how a colossus dies, a dragon

survives poisoning, and how a killer can become a savior.




4LN: This next set of questions is our lightening round. Just answer with the first thing that
comes to mind… What’s your all-time favorite graphic novel?
RB: Joann Sfar’s adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince.

4LN: If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
RB: The Very Best of Otis Redding, Vol 1.

4LN: What fictional character (comic or not) do you feel you can relate to the most?
RB: Maybe Finn from Adventure Time?

4LN: What’s your absolute favorite thing to cook?
RB: Bacon.

4LN: What established comic book character would you jump at the chance to write,and why?
RB: Black Panther, Wonder Woman, Batwoman. I’m getting bored of stories with straight white male protagonists.

4LN: Last question: Best movie Santa… Tim Allen in The Santa Clause, Ed Asner in Elf, or Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa?
RB: I prefer the Ghostbusters wearing Sa nta Claus hats, which happened in part 2, right?


If you’re looking for an awesome new sci-fi adventure series, you can’t go wrong with Dark Engine. The first trade collection is out today and issue #5 will be released in February. Ryan was kind enough to also provide us some preview pages of issue 5. Check them out below and head down to your local LCS to pick up Dark Engine vol 1 today!

Screenshot 2014-12-24 at 10.46.00 AM

Screenshot 2014-12-24 at 10.46.07 AM

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Stephen Andrew

Stephen has spent most of his life reading comics, watching horror movies, listening to death metal music, and speaking in the third person. His favorite comic book character is The Punisher, and he believes that the Punisher: War Zone movie is criminally underrated. His favorite film of all-time is National Lampoon's Vacation, and his favorite album is Pantera's "The Great Southern Trendkill".

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