When botanist Evelyn Ambrose left Earth for a quiet retirement, she never imagined she’d get caught up in an interstellar booze-smuggling ring. Who could have? Video game writer and aspiring comic author Rebecca Rothschild dreamt the drunk-talk inspired concept up, and brings it to life with artist Katie Rodriquez in the independently produced Warshiner. AiPT! spoke to Rothschild to figure out how the concept came about, and why Earth beer is best.
AiPT!: Where does the name “Warshiner” come from?
Rothschild: Out of my ass? I don’t know. [both laugh]. I always start thinking of new concepts late at night, just playing around with names. I thought about moonshining, I thought about — I’ve been watching a lot of Boardwalk Empire, too — and it just kind of found a place. I wasn’t sure if it was good or not, but Katie, my artist, fell in love with it, and was like, “No, keep the name.” I was like, “All right, man.”
AiPT!: You kind of alluded to it there, but give us your pitch — what is Warshiner all about?
Rothschild: When I’m at cons, I have, what, two seconds to get people interested to buy my comic and not another Harley Quinn pin-up, so I’ll be like, “Do you like space and alcohol?” So this is about Prohibition in space. There’s a lot of similar themes to a lot of the gangster movies — I grew up watching The Untouchables and all that stuff — but gone crazy, in an intergalactic, hyper-futuristic setting.
AiPT!: So what’s going on in the book? What is the main character trying to do?
Rothschild: Evelyn is like a tumbleweed, man. She is trying to make a new life for herself. She kind of, like, “Forrest Gumps” her way into this particular, admittedly convenient scenario. It’s kind of like the most conspiracy theorist, heavy string theorist, like everything pulling together at once. Right now, at the beginning of the series, she’s kind of a babe in the woods. She’s just like, “Okay, so I guess I’m here? I’m still alive? Those are pluses.” She’s a scientist, so she’s very pragmatic … She has to move on, and I think, especially at her age, she thought she was ready for retirement, she was ready to just kick back and thought adventures were kind of over, which is completely not the case. So she kind of has to reinvent herself for one thing and stay alive and make a living. She’s kind of become an entrepreneur, accidentally.
AiPT!: Yeah, in sort of a criminal enterprise. Why is alcohol so illegal in the rest of the galaxy, and why is Earth’s so good?
Rothschild: One of the running gags I had when I started making the lore, and this kind of comes from Star Trek and [Gene] Roddenberry, too, because I remember in Star Trek, certain alien species would have THE ale, like ONE. Oh, there’s Romulan Ale. Okay. Then you look at [Captain] Picard, who had the vineyards and vintages [in Star Trek: The Next Generation]. So I thought, maybe our biggest export is just that when we get drunk, it’s like an art form. We have this vast alcohol culture, and that’s our big, unique thing in the universe. I thought that was utterly ridiculous, and I was like, “I’m going to stick with that. I’m committing to it; that’s what it is.”
As for as why it’s illegal … it’s a control issue. As quickly as Earth alcohol came around, it quickly riled up the masses, and when you’re trying to run an enormous empire, multiple different planets with their own issues … it gets a little bit messy. So you want people to just kind of be mellow and don’t get shit-faced and start things like the America Revolution or something.
AiPT!: What made you want to write a story like this? Are you a drinker yourself?
Rothschild: Here’s the biggest joke of all — I do not drink. But I love being around drunk people. It inspires the best writing in the world. The shit that comes out of people’s mouths when they’re wasted is amazing. I’m from Chicago, which was a huge Prohibition town, so you always hear all the stories — there’s still tunnels under the city; just tons of lore. I’ve always loved it. It was just timing, too. A lot of times I’ll be Crock-Potting sci-fi ideas in my head for years, and I’m like, “Man, it’s missing something.” And then it was like BOOM — this story needs booze! That’s kind of how it happened.
AiPT!: How did you connect with artist Katie Rodriquez, and what does she bring to the project?
Rothschild: She brings everything. I don’t pay her enough. I met her through mutual friends. A guy I collaborate with, he has a small production studio … and he’s like, “I got a girl; she’s awesome, she’s great.” We met and it was just like, “You’re going to have my comic book baby, you’re my comic book baby momma, I love you.” She has great anatomy skills, and when you go into sci-fi, that’s kind of a big deal … She loves critters and creepy aliens and gore, [and] we do get a decent amount of gore in the books. She was just stoked about it. She’s so excited about the story.
We get to hang out together and storyboard … and with her it’s just a very fluid process. She also brings a wild imagination. I can leave a few things unsaid, as far as details, and she’ll fill in the gaps perfectly. As I tell everyone, she does all the pretties, I just do the words. She’s amazing, I love her.
AiPT!: What can we expect going forward in Warshiner?
Rothschild: Things are going to get heavy, not that they’re not already heavy now. You’ll notice that everyone, all the characters that you’re dealing with, have had prior lives. Evelyn’s not alone in this reinvention kind of thing. Everyone’s going to evolve a little bit, things are going to get a little more high stakes, a little more serious, definitely still a gratuitous amount of violence. I like to keep, despite everything, a touch of my dark humor always kind of simmering at the core of it. We’re looking to do 10 books, so I’ve got to cram all that into eight more books.
The first two issues of Warshiner are available on comiXology and on the comic’s official website. Rothschild also writes the Shero and Vex webcomic and contributes dialogue to the upcoming Injustice 2 and Mutant Football League games.