Congrats on the success of Wayward. Not getting into specifics, but the sales information you provide shows it as a great seller, especially compared to Skullkickers. What made you want to be transparent with that information?
As a day job I teach Animation-related classes at Seneca College in Toronto, Canada, so the teaching thing is kind of in my nature. What started off as answering a few questions about how to write comics has slowly turned into 30+ blog posts covering all kinds of different aspects of breaking into and working in the comic industry. As part of that I've tried to be as honest as possible about the ups and down of doing creator-owned comics. I want people to make their own comics, but to come into it with their eyes open about the challenges involved. If I can put up some data about my own journey and it helps give people a bit of clarity and helps them avoid possible pitfalls, so much the better.
Japanese comics (manga) often seem to focus on adolescence. School is a really common starting ground for characters setup in this geographical region, but western books seem to have vastly less interest in that being a starting point. Why give us another motley cast of teenagers? Isn't puberty rough enough?
I think the commonality of going through those teen years makes it great emotional fodder. Teen drama feels all encompassing when you're in the midst of it and amping that up with something more (strange abilities, supernatural creatures, mystery, and deceit) is a fun way to play with those tropes.
I wouldn't say that western books have less interest in teens. Two of the biggest superhero comics of all time – Spider-Man and the X-Men, are distinctively focused on the teen experience and coming into adulthood as a metaphor for their dramatic conceit.
The aesthetics of the characters and creatures are notably Japanese, but the art style utilized for the style is distinctly western. Is there any particular reason you opted out of a manga-esque style for the book?
It mostly comes down to the way Steven Cummings, the artist and co-creator of Wayward, draws. We wanted to team up on a creator-owned project together and his art style rides that line between east and west in a really interesting way.
On top of that, we're not really making a manga. With Japan as the setting and a lot of the same source material (Japanese myths, legends, and culture) driving the storytelling there's obvious crossover and influence, but our goal has never been to create a "manga" story, if you can even call it that.
Rori Lane is the classic "stranger in a strange land" arch-type, but she uniquely has roots in Japan as well, they are just not all that deep yet. We see her mind culturally planted in two worlds, shifting back and forth from English to Japanese, but beyond that we see little of her Irish roots beyond her appearance. Are the two worlds ever going to meet, or is she slowly going to meld deeper into her Japanese heritage?
Keep reading. Her role as a half-Japanese outsider is a part of the bigger story. That's all I can really say right now without spoiling things coming down the pipe.
Wayward delves into Japanese mythology. Will we see any Irish mythology? Banshees, leprechauns, or the aptly named Finn MacCool?
Same thing here. Obviously Japan is our focal point for the setting and cast right now, but Rori's heritage wasn't chosen randomly.
At the end of the second arc they declare themselves the new gods of Japan. When can we expect a crossover with Wicked + Divine?
No plans. Jamie and Kieron are doing wonderful work with Wic Div, but they're very different books. We can all play with our modern mythmakers in different ways and stand out from each other.
The Scooby Gang teamed up with the tsuchigumo, or giant spiders. What other creatures from my nightmares are they going to team up with?
There are literally hundreds of Yokai stories we could draw upon for influence as the story moves forward. Some of the creatures are so grotesque and bizarre that I actually think it would be distracting to put them in the story. Zack Davisson, a professional Japanese Translator and monster scholar who writes the back matter essays in each issue of Wayward, keeps joking that we should include Shirime, a yokai who has an eyeball instead of an anus, but I think we'll avoid that one. :)
Have we seen the limit of Ohara's powers? Or is there still room to grow?
All of our wayward teens have room to grow in terms of their powers. There's more leveling up to be done.
Wayward #11 variant cover by Nick Bradshaw.
Lines have been drawn for unforeseen reasons, and monsters are just tearing one another apart. In this world, there is little difference between the monsters and the heroes. In fact, most of the heroes are quite monstrous: a man who cannibalizes the dead, a cat with homicidal rage, and a boy who has to remain emotionally dead inside. Is this meant to be a tale beyond the confines of good and evil?
When you step back and look at what they can do it is a pretty fuzzy line, isn't it? That's also by design. I avoid using the term "heroes" when describing our core cast of teenagers. The third arc will make that distinction even more difficult.
So we've gone from Rori to Ohara as our narrative voices so far. Is there any reason you have opted to stay out of the head of the male characters so far?
I wasn't purposefully avoiding male narration, but the way the two arcs contrasted each other worked best with Rori and Ohara. In the third arc our narrative focus changes again. It's a male perspective, but probably not one you'd expect.
Skullkickers, Samurai Jack, and now Wayward, each book portrays extremely dense and lush color work. So is this a written preference or do your colorists intrinsically understand you want your books to be disco ball bright and shiny?
With my background in animation I love emotional and colorful artwork. Skullkickers is supposed to look like a Saturday Morning cartoon gone wrong. Wayward is a lush and atmospheric supernatural story. Jack was obviously taking its cues from the original cartoon, so that was less up to me, but it definitely fit the kind of storytelling and art I enjoy. Same goes for Figment or Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur's Gate.
So, technically by the end Skullkickers went everywhere, and you have spent a fair amount of time in a Japanese setting, but where do you think you would like to set your next book? Don't see a ton of kangaroos in comic books, just sayin.
I'm already plugging away on my next creator-owned concept. It'll launch some time in 2016, but I don't know exactly when just yet. It's a different setting and aesthetic than anything else I've published so far. I'm looking forward to giving people something a bit different than what they might expect from me.
Where my Kaiju at, Jim? I know big G is lurking around Wayward somewhere.
Keeping the supernatural stuff relatively grounded has been our goal with Wayward so far, but we will be pushing things to a larger level as the story moves along. I don't know that it'll ever hit kaiju-level, but we definitely have some big stuff planned for the future. I hope readers trust us to keep things entertaining.
Wayward #11 drops November 18!
(Heavy lifting performed by CajunBean.)