Cavan Scott is an author who is currently pretty well known for his work on the epic Star Wars The High Republic series. He’s also extensively written with other IPs such as Doctor Who, Warhammer, 200AD, Sherlock Holmes, Warhammer, Transformers and more. He’s written comics, audio dramas and full on novels. He’s a talented guy.

We at Bigger Than Capes are big fans of his creator owned works such as Shadow Service, The Ward and Dead Seas. If you have not read them you really should. We recommend them as they are all solidly good reads.

Angela was lucky enough to get some time to interview Cavan about his creator owned works and some of that interview is excerpted below. Some phrases have been edited for clarification.

If you want to listen to the full interview where highlights include monster talk and mentions of giant babies you can do so here:$/5fdbf89187b4716994cfa814/an-interview-with-cavan-scott

How did Cavan get into reading comics? Well it was that classic British route…

It was growing up in the late 70s and early 80s and being obsessed with things like The Beano and the Dandy and Nutty and Wizard and Chips, the sort of humor Comics that we used to get here in the UK every week, just full of of lots slapstick humor. And from there I sort of graduated, actually I’m what am I talking about, I still read them! So I graduated to Marvel UK titles, of which were there were many, and so that was my way into finding comic shops and from there yeah I just became a lifelong fan.

Fans of Big Finish were probably aware of Cavan long before the rest of us as that audio drama production company played a big part into how Cavan got into writing

I’d been working on Doctor Who for a few years, this is before the show came back, I was working for Big Finish a company that does audio dramas and got a little bit of work off the back of that for some Doctor Who comics and so yeah that was my way into writing as well.

I was around when Big Finish Productions started to do the Doctor Who range and so I pitched for that and so that that was the first writing work I’d done.

And it was a time where they didn’t know Doctor Who was coming back so it was a good time to jump into it. So when the show came back and was the massive hit, that again no one really expected it to be, they needed people who were sort of steeped in in writing Doctor Who at the time and so yeah that’s where it came from.

How on earth do you come up with an idea like Shadow Service? James Bond meets Doctor Who…

Around that time growing up in Britain being a lad I was obsessed with James Bond I love Doctor Who and I loved the side of Doctor Who which was the group people or the military who were fighting the alien event invasions. Because of doctor who I was massively into monsters that led me into Hammer, which led me into Universal, which led me to Stephen King and I’ve been to Horror in general so for years I used to try and write these stories about this group called MI666 who were a supernatural Spy Service protecting Great Britain from demons and monsters and they had short stories that appeared in really obscure little anthologies. I just tried to keep this going and to build it and it was it never really clicked, it never really worked. 

Then I was talking to Vault Comics to Adrian Wassell at a ComicCon in in San Diego a few years ago now and he said we’d love to work with you have you got anything you could pitch? And my brain went completely blank and then suddenly in the back of my brain there was MI666 and so I went ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Witch’.

He said well that sounds really interesting go away and come up with a pitch. What I did was I pulled lots of the elements from these stories that I’ve been writing and put in the pitch, but I still couldn’t make it work. What I needed was a lead character and it was the lead character that we came up with for the series, Gina, who is a witch who is basically someone who is very alone thinks she’s one of the only people in the world who can use magic. She gets recruited for this the shadow service for MI666 and that was when it all gelled that’s when it came together.

I think I was trying to write a story about a existing pre-existing group of characters, you know they’ve been working together as a team, and of course you need that way in and you need that and I’ve always liked in spy stories the person who gets tapped on the shoulder and you know by someone from the Secret Service saying come and work for us so yeah that that was it really.

There’s a lot of collaboration with creator owned work and that’s true of Shadow Service as Cavan revealed..

I knew Corin, we’d worked on a Han Solo story together and Adrian was the one who suggested her. He thought it’d be a good fit and as soon as he said that I was like yeah, because I knew she was a huge horror fan like me.

I never expected to be so many monsters as there are in the final book but what happened is that Corin is incredible at designing creatures and monsters and demons and that kind of thing, but then also she kept putting stuff in the background which was just spectacular.

She started to put these statues of these weird Angelic Angels, Angelic skeletons, in the back with big swords, in a lot of the buildings where MI666 operate these statues are there. It was one of those brilliant moments because I knew that actually there would be Angels playing in the story moving forward but I hadn’t really considered how that how they looked or what they how they would be involved and it tied together. It meant that we could expand that entire Mythos. There’s been loads of those cases you know things that she’s drawn that I’ve been able to pick up and go oh that that solves a plot point later on or that’s something we get a different angle we can take. There are far more demons in it now, physical manifestations of demons, just because I saw how much fun Corin was having drawing them and I loved what she was coming up with.

Characters get killed off in his work but it’s not done lightly…

I’m getting a reputation for killing characters it’s something I get a reputation for in my Star Wars work quite a lot and it’s it isn’t something I do on a whim.

One character was destined to die always and they had a very purposeful shelf life in the story because it it plays into the wider story. 

Another of the character major characters died because when I was working out the story it suddenly realized that it was the way it had to go. I don’t do it just for shock value but sometimes the story you go in such a way. I know exactly where Shadow service ends but I’ve given myself the freedom to explore the characters as we get there and one of them I honestly thought was going to be right to the end and then I suddenly realized as I was plotting out one of the arcs I was like yeah they’re not going to make it are they? You want to create a world where all bets are off you know any kind of super secret agent work is dangerous, especially if you’re in this kind of this heightened reality that MI666 operating and again I wanted to give an idea that you know not everyone is going to make it through because that’s the reality of the situation in this strange Twisted demonic World.

It’s always an interesting thing when you kill off a character and and there’s one in particular the the last major character who died I really struggled with. I wasn’t ready for them to go but it told me that it was probably right because if I was grieving them then hopefully the readers would too and more importantly the other characters would. I think that’s why you do it when you’re creating a world like this where you do have deaths, because they have to mean something for the other characters and it has to change their trajectory. I’m not talking about fridging a character just because you want to make someone angry.

I know you know you don’t really talk about Star Wars but in the Big Star Wars project I’m working on, the High Republic, it’s become known now we killed off a character we expected to see through to the end of the project  after a long conversation because we suddenly realized what it would do to the other characters in a way of it would complete their story in a very different way. Their presence would actually be felt more would them not being there.

You look at all those kinds of things before you work out if you’re gonna give someone the old heave ho.

The Ward has been described as ER with monsters so what leads to that idea?

There was one program in particular called ‘Code Black’ a brilliant documentary which is about the oldest emergency room in the states, it’s phenomenal. It’s an incredible documentary and they did a spin-off drama series of it  and I love that one too. But I spent the entire time going ‘this would be so much better if one of the characters was a Minotaur’ and so that’s where it came from.

On the technical aspect of writing a comic about an active ER full of monsters…

I’m not actually a medically minded man at all and I did end up watching a lot of medical dramas.  I was very lucky that one of my co-writers on Star Wars Daniel Jose Alda used to be a paramedic so he was exceptionally good to have around. Also the editors wife is a doctor so the address for the hospital is is on the corner of their both their names.

They were great because I was running past ‘imagine if a Minotaur would come in with his home missing what would you call that?’ it’d be de-horned? Excellent, and what would they perhaps do in that situation if someone lost an arm or a leg or a head?

I’ve tried to build a bit of folklore in there as well. So some of the medicines they use are sort of based on folklore as well so it was that kind of like halfway house of going you know it’s got to appear realistic. Thankfully I haven’t got to write an episode of ER or Gray’s Anatomy and get things right because that would be hell on toast . You can play a bit with some of the cures because it’s magic.

Dead Seas continues the monster tradition Cavan enjoys…

If I like something put monsters in it. I was a huge fan of 1970s disaster movies and when we were working on Star Wars The High Republic, The Poseidon Adventure was one of our key stone movies, we all watched over and over again. We had a group of movies that we we’d all watch when we were planning. 

I was watching it going never see these things have amazing death counts these films you know people die every five minutes what would happen if they were coming back as ghosts

Immediately? And that’s where where it came from.

Nick Brokenshire, who’s an amazing artist, he’s providing the art and his ghosts are just incredible.

We started work on that, this was pre-pandemic we started to work on Dead Seas, and we just spent a good six months just making up ghosts when we should have really been making up the story. Nick just kept sending me more and more of the most bizarre, like people with horses heads and entrails hanging out.

So, so many ghosts….

It’s a six issue series so after that it has a very definite end. I’ve written it all now Nick’s on issue five I think, but we have obviously talked about how we could do more if the need arises.

For me Dead Seas is very much a one and done. Excuse me sorry that’s the spirit of Nick Brokenshire reaching across the Earth and saying don’t tell people it’s finished no I’m doing more of this! I’ve done designs for 978 ghosts so you need to fill them all!

That’s the thing you know, one thing we don’t do in that story is we haven’t explained a lot of the back stories of the ghosts and they’ve all got them so that’s something we’ve talked about, find out more about who these ghosts actually are. So there is definitely a jumping on point for a lot of other stories if if there’s an appetite for them, for those particular characters it’s their story, but the world has a lot to explore.

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