Following four great issues of Sweet Lullaby from Darby Pop comics, we decided to catch up with the “dream” team behind the best sleep influenced assassins since the sandmen in Logan’s Run – AJ Scherkenback and J. Briscoe Allison.
CC: Hey guys, let me start by saying how much fun the first four issues of Sweet Lullaby are. How did AJ and J Briscoe break into comics and eventually meet?
AJ Scherkenbach: “Sweet Lullaby” is us breaking into comics! It’s funny because I’ve always wanted to tell stories, and I somehow just knew that writing comics was the best way for me to express myself. But, I’ve always been taught that you need to surround yourself with people more talented than you are to be successful in any industry. So, I sought out an artist and, luckily, found John! Not only is he a great artist, but John also connected with the story immediately, and we saw eye-to-eye on how it should be told. Then, once we had completed about four issues, we fooled Darby Pop into thinking that our little tale should be published; they really took a chance with two amateurs like us, and we appreciate it!
CC: Who are your inspirations that have gone on to influence your work?
AJ: When I was growing up, I remember waiting for the Fourth of July because KTLA would always air a “Twilight Zone” marathon. To say that Rod Sterling had an impact on the kind of stories I wanted to tell is an understatement.
J. Briscoe Allison: The list ranges pretty far and wide for me. My job is to tell the story, first and foremost. If I can do that, AND make it look cool, all the better. To learn to become a better storyteller, I turn to comics, films, books, music. These are all mediums used by storytellers, and you don’t have to look too closely to see the touchstones of great storytelling. Art-style wise, I grew up reading comics in the 90’s, so a lot of my influences come from there. The first step of my job is to lay out the entire issue with loose sketches, and that’s easily the most difficult part for me. I spend an absurd amount of time thinking about each page and how to frame each panel to maximize its efficiency in telling the story. After that, it’s all just details. (The incredible Fernando Ruiz taught me that in year one at the Kubert School, and I hope I’m doing him proud!)
CC: AJ, how does Lullaby fit into the current trend of strong female characters? Especially as she starts in such a vulnerable place?
AJ: To me, “strong female” characters aren’t a trend, they’ve always been there. Growing-up I loved reading “X-Men,” and not just because of Wolverine and Gambit. Storm, Kitty, Phoenix, Majik, Rogue, and Psylocke, were all great characters. But even in a book like “Spider-Man,” Mary Jane, Black Cat, and Aunt May showed how resilient and interesting female characters can be. One of the greatest stories I’ve ever read was Sam Keith’s “The Maxx.” Although the series was named for Maxx, to me the hero of the story was always Julie. Just like all great characters, Lullaby draws support from her loved ones and is a sturdy, fun, and aggressive individual whom I believe transcends gender, race, creed or labels.
CC: John, how do you break down the past and future events to still show a kinetic feel throughout?
JBA: Having a great writer to lean on helps (haha). To me, Lullaby always had an edgy, playful streak. I’ve heard from military friends of mine (both retired and active duty) that you sort of have to develop a dark sense of humour to emotionally deal with the often dangerous and sometimes tragic events that comprise your day-to-day life. AJ understands this better than most writers, having been in the Army for most of his adulthood. How to handle Lullaby and her brood was something AJ and I agreed on pretty early. I think her personality really began to take shape around the time her mother was killed. So, Lullaby would have started forming her “protective shell” from an early age. Once we’d ironed all that out, “Sweet Lullaby” boiled down to conveying the story and balancing the fantastic elements with a bit of humour and levity.
CC: Who do you think is the most important relationship in the book and why?
AJ: Lullaby and her father. I picked the Sigmund Freud quotes that are featured in the book because Freud believed in the importance of parent/child, as well. As a son and a father, I really think our parents help mould our ideologies and personalities, even after we go off to discover ourselves. When all is said and done, for better or worse, our relationship with our parents influences everything we think and do.
JBA: Seconded! There’s a lot going on in this story, but the heart and soul of it is Lullaby and Z’s relationship. I’ve read that the best villains think that they are the heroes of the story, and to some degree, Z is actually a villain. It’s crystal clear that he loves his daughter fiercely, but the way that he chooses to raise her, and introduce her into the life of an assassin, is just nuts! The trick of it is, Z doesn’t see it that way… and that makes for a great character!
CC: John, Art Adams , J Scott Campbell or Bill Waterson – who is your favourite and which has had the most impact on your work?
JBA: This feels like a trick question (haha). I suppose all of them, for different reasons. Campbell certainly had an impact on how I draw women. For my money, he’s at the top of the list. Adams is fantastic with dynamic lighting and layouts, and Waterson could draw a beheading and make it look as comforting as a warm blanket on a rainy day, so there’s a lot to learn from all of them. The same could be said for nearly every artist out there. Everybody brings his/her own magic to the table, and if you’re an up-and-comer, you’d be foolish to not take advantage of all of the lessons to be learned from others.
CC: AJ, in my recent review, I mentioned the past present angle in the book is akin to the Arrow TV show. Is this a fair shout?
AJ: I know “Arrow” is lauded for it’s great storytelling, so I’m flattered to be put in the mix with such great writing. I actually started writing “Sweet Lullaby” nearly 10 years ago, and I honestly don’t watch “Arrow,” Although, I did see the episode with the massive crossover, because I watch Supergirl (damn it, now I’m going to have to go binge watch the whole “Arrow” series to compare!).
CC: What’s next for Lullaby? How long is the series going to run?
AJ: Two issues left in this first arc! And in those last two issues, young Lullaby will finally meet young Vladimir, which also means she comes face-to-face with his father. In the present, Lullaby is going to be forced to make the decision that’s haunted her throughout the series.
JBA: This first series is six issues, and it is self-contained. That being said, AJ and I have had lengthy discussions about where things might go next, and to be honest, we’ve gotten pretty excited about it. So, if the fans decide they want more, we’ve got more to give! Plus, we want to work together again!
CC: What’s next for you both?
AJ: I’m currently rewriting an older script of mine, “Til Death,” (a vampire story set in 1930s Chicago), which I hope to pitch in the next couple of months. And as John said, if fans harp enough on “Sweet Lullaby,” we have more of her adventures lined-up and ready to go!
JBA: I have my fingers stuck in a few pies, but it’s all so early in the process that I hesitate to talk about them just yet. I can say that I am in near-final negotiations to work on another book through Darby Pop, as well as writing my own sci-fi/horror/comedy book. And AJ’s 1930’s vampire tale has my ears pricked as well, so we’ll see…
Great, will look forward to that! Thanks for taking the time to speak to me guys.
If like me, you can’t wait to see the vampire book, keep your eyes peeled for an Advance Review of Sweet Lullaby #5, over in the Review Section now!