Like most kids born in the late 70’s, I grew up on Star Wars. Laser swords, talking robots, spaceship dogfights, a princess, and a scoundrel; the world of Star Wars entranced me as a child. I remember watching A New Hope as a child on VHS and when the movie was finished, I would watch it backwards as it rewound. I remember watching Jedi in theaters and crying when the Ewok, Nanta, was killed in battle. At my wedding, my wife and I walked out to the Throne Room score from Episode IV. Even today on a lazy Saturday morning, I will often sit down on the couch with my son, Luke, and my dog, Leia, and watch Clone Wars episodes on NETFLIX. I am a big Star Wars nerd, and from that love sprang a love of all things science fiction.
In college I worked at a mom and pop video store. We used to get advanced copies of movies called screeners, and for repeat customers who were fun to talk to, I would sometimes loan them out. One day, one of these customers decided to repay the favor, and knowing my love of Star Wars from the constant loop of Empire on the store TV, he walked in with a garbage bag filled with old paperback science fiction novels to give to me. Ender’s Game, Starship Troopers, Battlefield Earth, 1984, Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep, and my all time favorite novel, The Sirens of Titan; it was an untold treasure chest of imagination, and from those faded pages of worn paper, sprang rich worlds that opened my mind to an endless parade of possibilities. I loved reading science fiction, but writing science fiction, well … that was a challenge.
Science fiction, more so than any other genre, is about world building. You can have the most brilliant characters, the most amazing plot, yet if the world built around your story does not feel believable, none of it works. The science has to be real, even though the technology doesn’t exist, and it is a delicate tightrope the writer must walk, peppering in just enough science that the reader’s imagination fills in the rest. There is no such thing as a Hyperdrive, yet we know that if its motivator is damaged, then it is impossible to go to light speed. We know that without precise calculations from the NaviComputer, one could fly right through a star, or bounce too close to a supernova. These rules built around the concept of light speed give it weight and allow the reader to accept the fact that faster than light travel is possible, we just haven’t figured it out yet.
Need further proof? Google, “How does the transporter work in Star Trek?” There are hundreds of articles, containing thousands of words behind the theory and science of teleportation, often quoting brilliant minds in the scientific community. Now search, “How does Harry Potter’s wand work?” It is made of holly and has a phoenix feather core. Magic requires no further explanation. Neither action is something that can happen; at least in today’s world, yet one is universally believed to be possible, and one is fairy tale nonsense.
Science fiction is hard, and that’s why when it is done right it deserves to be recognized. The comic I am about to spotlight, WYNTER, does science fiction right. That is why I decided to create this Indie Spotlight. To help show people on the fence about jumping into the independents, some of the great works available on Comixology Submit. Granted everyone’s taste is different. Some people might not love the things I love. However, these books all share a common theme. They are projects that feature writing and art quality that I feel is on par with the stuff being produced by the bigger publishers, and in many cases exceed those standards.
So without further ado, or as Han Solo would say, “Punch It!”
My third spotlight is on GUY HASSON and ARON ELEKES comic WYNTER.
I picked up WYNTER on a light Wednesday, after exchanging some tweets with writer/creator, Guy Hasson. Sitting on a bus on my daily commute to my day job, I cracked open the iPad and decided to check it out. From the very first page, I was impressed, this series felt different from a lot of the independents I read, and in all the best ways.
The immediate impression was on the art. Artist, Aron Elekes, uses a realistic, painted style that gives the characters an authentic feel. The characters look like real people, feel like real people, and thus the world feels real as well. Color choice is the perfect use of shadows mixed with blues and gray, giving the world an ominous feel. The facial expressions are loaded with emotion; married expertly to the narration with consists mainly of inner monologue. Everything coupled together to provide a presentation that looks and feels like art and not just comic book art. Elekes is an amazing artist and someone who deserves to be a much bigger name in comics.
After I finished geeking out over the art, I dug into Guy Hasson’s tale of a young adult named Liz Wynter, struggling to find her identity in a world where every possible combination of DNA has been achieved hundreds of thousands of times before. Every thought, emotion, action has happened or is happening thousands of times over at any given moment. Individuality is all but extinct. She isn’t, nor will she ever be special. I found this to be an engaging dilemma, especially one that is introduced at the onset of the story. The conflict between our perceived individuality in the world and how the world actively values our existence is an existential crisis that all humans, regardless of gender, race, or religion, wrestle with at some point in our lives. We grow up being told we are special, believing we are special, and then the day comes when we look around at the world and realize, by and large, outside our immediate circle of friends and family, no one thinks we are all that special. It is a tough moment, a defining moment in everyone’s life. Seeing Liz struggle with this conflict that is all too familiar makes her sympathetic, even though she is sort of a lost soul.
Layered on top of the personal crisis is the world of WYNTER, where each person essentially has a smartphone built into their brain, complete with their own version of Siri who is capable of speaking to the person with or without their consent. This unique twist on the modern day smartphone obsession creates a fascinating supporting character and great subplot that keeps you guessing. As a member of an older generation that remembers a world without cell phones, and as a father of children who learned how to group their apps before they could talk, it is a portrait of a terrifying world, but one that it seems we are marching towards.
I won’t go much further into the plot, as Guy does a far better job pitching the book in the interview than I ever could. WYNTER issues 1 through 4 are available on Comixology priced at $1.99 an issue, a bargain price for a book of this quality and entertainment value.
Do yourself a favor and pick this book up and give it a shot, and help support independent comics.
GUY HASSON, writer and creator of WYNTER was gracious enough to agree to an interview, to talk WYNTER, what it is like being an independent comic creator, and what’s in store for NEW WORLDS COMICS in the future.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GO AHEAD AND MAKE YOUR OWN INDEPENDENT COMIC BOOK COMPANY?
One word: Empowerment.
After more than 24 years in theater, 14 years as a published SF author, and 10 years writing scripts, I wanted to find a place where I can create the best stories possible without being subject to marketing decisions and others like them that are so often the reason behind the comic books we know.
In creating New Worlds Comics, I wanted to empower the artists, too. Every artist gets a nice cut from every comic book s/he helped create in addition to the usual payments for the art. I know how hard it is to be a struggling artist, and figured that if an artist creates something that’s popular, s/he should profit from it.
Once I’d created New Worlds Comics, I found how to empower readers and their reading experience by creating the Comics Empower Project. And I found how to empower indie companies like New Worlds and started the Indie Power Initiative.
There are other small ways New Worlds Comics is empowering its audience and artists. We’re empowering women – more than 50% of our titles will always have female leads. All our female characters are realistic three-dimensional women. We empower writers and readers by making sure that all titles have endings – all titles have a beginning, middle, and an end, allowing the writer to tell a story from start to finish. Stories with no endings are stories with no middle. And we further empower the writers by ensuring that every title is written by only one writer. A story is a writer’s dream, and can’t be written by anyone else.
WHERE DID THE IDEA FOR WYNTER COME FROM?
Remember why people liked science fiction in the first place?
Once upon a time, there was stuff that’s new, and SF stories explored what would happen.
I wanted to create that experience for today’s audience, including today’s teens. Wynter takes all the social platforms (Facebook/Twitter/etc.) and the apps, and amps it up a thousand fold to create a world you’ve never seen, but that you know is coming.
In the far future, 17-year-old Liz Wynter sees ads embedded into her dreams. When she wakes up, she checks how many people followed her dreams and how many have seen them and liked them. When she feels, ‘I’m special’, the AI in her head tells her that exactly this feeling was felt by 5.4 billion people in the last 4 seconds.
That’s because there are so many people in the galaxy (all connected) that every emotion you feel was felt by billions in the last few seconds. There is no more DNA combinations possible, so 300,000 people have YOUR DNA.
In a world like that, how can anyone be special? You just can’t.
Problem is, Liz accidentally steals an app she shouldn’t, and the government is out to kill her. The police/government knows who she is and since there were hundreds of thousands exactly like her before, they know what she’ll do before she does it.
Liz’s only way to survive is to become truly special. If she doesn’t, she’ll die.
CAN YOU WALK ME THROUGH YOUR PROCESS? HOW DO YOU BREAK AN ISSUE AND HOW DO YOU WRITE A SCRIPT? IS IT MARVEL STYLE OR FULL SCRIPT?
I write the script Alan Moore style – it’s a full script, broken down to panels. The panels are often broken down to angles, and always include everything that should be in the picture.
The process is simple: I write the script, and then send it to the artist. The artist sends back sketches for comments, then the pages themselves. We’re all in different countries, and we’ve actually done all our comics so far without ever speaking to each other on the phone or on Skype and without ever meeting.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR EXPERIENCE AS AN INDEPENDENT COMIC BOOK CREATOR? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU HAVE LEARNED OR PERHAPS A MISTAKE YOU MADE THAT YOU WOULD SUGGEST ANOTHER CREATOR ENTERING INTO INDEPENDENT COMICS DO DIFFERERTLY?
When I created New Worlds Comics, I thought I knew my audience. After all, I’ve been a fan for 30 years, too.
Here are the things I thought were facts:
Fans are aching for some really good comics.
Fans are aching for some really original comics.
Fans control the Internet: If they like something or dislike it, everyone knows about it.
So the math was simple: Create a fantastic original comic book, and it will spread like wildfire!
Well: Wrong, wrong, wrong!
New Worlds Comics’ flagship title is Wynter, which got unbelievably good reviews all across the board. From “sci-fi extravaganza” to being called “the best sci-fi comic on the shelves today” by quite a few blogs. And these are the things I discovered:
Good reviews don’t increase sales.
Ads don’t work if you’re an unknown indie.
People will refuse to read you for free.
Fans don’t care about previews.
Fans don’t want to hear you talk about your comic books.
It took the better part of a year to figure out how this actually works, as opposed to how I thought it should work.
And ever since, New Worlds Comics’ Twitter account has been gaining a thousand new followers a month, the traffic to the website has doubled every week for the last few weeks (knock on wood), and people are suddenly talking about how much they like Wynter.
THERE SEEMS TO BE A GREAT DEAL OF WORLD BUILDING NEEDED FOR WYNTER. HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT THAT PROCESS CREATING THE LAYERS AND RULES THAT DICTATE SUCH A COMPLEX FUTURE SOCIETY?
You forget that I’ve been writing science fiction for more than 20 years now. World-building is second nature.
I’ll give you a few tips:
Every world needs doors that never open. Every world, like ours, has paths you’ll never take, doors you’ll never open, and things you’ll never see. If you, the writer, expose everything about your world, you give the readers a feeling that this world is fake. I say: Create closed doors and untaken paths on purpose.
History never ends. A great mistake in world-building is thinking that what happens now is the end of history. As we learned in the 80’s, everyone who sees history as something that ends is just wrong. Even everything that happened in Lord of the Rings, as huge an event as that was in the world, was just a sentence in the big history of that world, Silmarillion.
Worlds need dust and rust. One of the great things Lucas did in the original Star Wars trilogy (episodes 4-6) is that he made everything dirty and old and rusty. A shiny world is a fake world.
YOU HAVE SAID THAT ALL NEW WORLD COMICS HAVE AN ENDING. WHAT ISSUE DO YOU PLAN TO BE THE END OF WYNTER?
Wynter is planned to have around 50 issues.
WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE COMIC BOOK CHARACTER?
Oh, there are so many!
You know what? At the end of the day, I remember the thing that got me into comic books. The most basic, pure hero experience in comics as read by 13-14 year old me is Stan Lee’s Peter Parker. He took a regular, dorky teenager and secretly turned him into the best and wittiest heroes out there.
Okay, so we’ve learned a lot since then, and I would not repeat what’s already been done. But that core experience is with me to this day.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR GOALS IN COMICS?
To create a new quality standard in comic books.
WHAT IS ON YOUR CURRENT “MUST READ” LIST?
Sigh. So many again, damn it.
Locke and Key, Hawkeye, & Saga.
HOW DID YOU MEET ARON ELEKES AND HOW DID HE COME TO BE THE ARTIST ON WYNTER?
When looking for artists, I look for undiscovered geniuses. There are so many out there, and no one finds them.
I search for them on DeviantArt and Behance. I found Aron on Behance and he turned out to be an absolute genius. His art is jaw dropping. Just jaw dropping. He is the next Alex Ross.
I HAVE READ THAT ARON IS LOCATED IN HUNGARY? IN TODAY’S WORLD OF INTERNET AND MOBILE DEVICES, INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION HAS BECOME MORE AND MORE COMMON. CAN YOU SHARE WITH US YOUR THOUGHTS AND EXPERIENCE?
Right. Like I said before, Aron created a world in Wynter #1-#3, and I’ve never spoken to him once, just because I never had to. Today you can do everything with email.
IS THERE ANY ADVICE YOU CAN OFFER TO A CREATOR LOOKING TO BREAK INTO COMICS IN TODAY’S MARKET?
I got an email the other day. Someone wanted to intern in New Worlds Comics. I sent him a detailed email back, which basically asked: “Are you sure?” Turns out he was looking to get his foot in the door. I told him, “Well, the door is two streets in that direction. I am nowhere near the door.”
All this to say: I don’t have special insight about breaking into Image or Marvel or any of those companies. I do know that if you’re already an indie company with at least one comic book to sell, you should join the Indie Power Initiative. We can increase your exposure by a hundredfold.
And if you want to break into New Worlds Comics, you’d better have the best script anyone has ever seen, something so brave that no one else would dare take you.
DO YOU HAVE ANY PROJECTS PLANNED FOR THE FUTURE?
We’ve got three new titles coming in 2015.
Lost in Dreams: Two parents go to a hospital to give birth. But the baby never appears. The little girl is born into Dream, that place we go when we dream. In Dream, she’s raised by a man who is only there when he sleeps and does not remember his dreams when awake. It’s an epic fantasy adventure, as we follow the little girl from birth to death. She explores the Dream, has adventures, learns the Dream’s secrets, and learns who and what she is – and why she’s in the Dream.
Lost in Dreams is a graphic novel series. Every graphic novel jumps ahead 3 years, as she grows older and the adventures grow hairier.
Next is the series Time Warriors. Imagine a future where there’s a time war. What would a military squad be like? They have the technology to go back in time and reverse decisions. And although that time line is wiped, the information that existed remains.
So basically you’ve got a suicide squad who goes into the heart of enemy territory, collects information, and dies. After that, time is reversed, and they never leave for the mission, having collected the info. It’s a unique type of a suicide squad where everyone dies all the time and no one ever does.
I can tell you that in the first issue, our squad must pass the last test to graduate: They are all going to get assassinated sometime during the night. So the issue examines what each of them does those last few hours before their first death.
Lastly, at the end of 2015, we have a graphic novel written and drawn by Ara Carrasco. She’s writing an anthology of short stories in comic book form, poignant, painful, artistic, wonderful. It’s stuff you’ve never seen in comic books before. Remember I told you that to get accepted you have to be better than anyone? This is it!
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR FAVORITE MOMENTS FROM WYNTER?
Seeing people’s reactions to that world, and seeing them fall in love with Liz and the story.
Ah, no, no. I’ve got an even better experience: Seeing fan art. That’s just amazing!