Planetoid was a fantastic series back in 2012 and its new spin-off seems to suggest it’s not letting up soon. It’s the kind of science fiction that is so comprehensive in its art you’ll wonder if a place like this is real. We had the opportunity to speak to its writer and artist Ken Garing about the new series as well as his time in comic books.
AiPT!: One of the reasons I enjoy the original Planetoid series and the recent follow-up is because it fully immerses you and I’m wondering, are you the type of creator who has notebooks filled with ideas, character bios and what not? I could see this world being someone’s D&D campaign!
Ken Garing: I have a lot of notes and sketches but it’s all very messy. I do a lot of working things out in my head too. The thing that is really rock-solid are my breakdowns which are basically just lists of scenes for each issue. The scenes themselves are the most important. There’s some world-building stuff that would be great in a novel but boring in a comic book, so I try to have scenes that forward the story and include world-building elements as well.
One of the great things about Praxis is that the story allows for me to present some of the more detailed world-building material that didn’t have a place in Planetoid.
AiPT!: What have you been up to since Planetoid wrapped up 4 or so years ago?
Garing: Right after Planetoid I got an offer from a big publisher to work on a project. I worked on this thing for months; writing, drawing, and coloring it. And then prior to it’s release they suddenly decided that they didn’t like it and wanted me to completely redo it! So, I walked away from that and went abroad for a few months.
When I came back to San Francisco I had to start from scratch. All of my lead time was long gone. So, I started work on a couple different projects and Praxis was the one that made it to fruition.
Also during that time, I had some work published by IDW and DC and Planetoid was optioned by a company called IM Global. All of that stuff has been positive and fun.
AiPT!: Planetoid: Praxis seems so well timed given the recent ban on people entering the U.S. from seven countries as a character who is an outsider is instantly deemed an enemy. Will a fear of foreigners be explored further as the series goes on?
Garing: The first issue definitely deals with that theme, and the timing with what’s going on now politically is interesting. But the series will touch on even more varied political themes as it progresses.
I like political science fiction. I never liked this idea of it all being “escapism.” As a kid I learned a lot about the real world from reading science fiction, but it has to be done right.
Stanley Kubrick has a great quote about how art shouldn’t attempt to provide answers but rather it should ask questions… and I think that’s the right approach. It’s freeing because you get to explore and reframe things, and that’s a good head space to be in as a creator and hopefully for the reader too.
In Praxis, these themes are layered in there, but I tried to ground it all in a simple family drama.
AiPT!: What’s your favorite thing about writing and drawing comics?
Garing: Getting to make the kind of comics I want to see. As a reader, I always liked comics by writer/artists. Comics like Richard Corben’s Mutant World, Frank Miller’s Ronin, Serpieri’s Druuna, Otomo’s Akira, Kirby’s DC titles.
Even as a kid, my favorite comics were things like Eastman & Laird’s old TMNT comics and McFarlane and Larsen’s respective runs as artist/writers on Spider-Man. Making your own comics is just a really awesome way to express yourself, and it’s amazing to see what people have done with it over the years. Getting to work in that tradition is a real honor.
AiPT!: There’s so much detail in the world with all its metallic tubes and what not. What inspired such complexity?
Garing: My Dad worked in manufacturing so I got to tour some factories in person as a kid. Then in ’90s there was a lot of “downsizing” (i.e. factory closures), and you’d see these shuddered factories on the landscape. It’s an interesting visual; an abandoned factory. It’s an image that tells a story. A rise and fall. It’s like ancient ruins, or something. And I think we all know that this industrial project of the last 100-plus years will in fact collapse at some point … anyway.
So, there was a real-world exposure to industry and then my lifelong interest in science fiction, where there’s lots of that imagery as well.
Also, I should mention, around the time I was deciding that I should try to do a mini-series (maybe 2008), I was in Japan and a friend showed me Tsutomu Nihei for the first time. His approach to large-scale science fiction really clicked with me and soon after I started work on Planetoid. The series evolved over time but If you look at Planetoid #1 you’ll see there’s lots of heavy black; that’s all Nihei.
AiPT!: Is there a part of the comic creating process you love the best? And a part you don’t like?
Garing: Laying out the pages is fun, because there’s always a moment where it goes from a blank page to a comic book page. It’s truly like discovering something. That part is great.
The part I dislike is the end-production part. I get nervous that there’s some odd mistake that I’m missing. Or that the colors are over saturated in one area and that it might warp the paper during printing. So I wind up spending extra hours in front of the computer looking over everything.
I’d like to do a series that I can color and letter by hand so I can cut down on the time I spend in front of the computer. I’m trying to eliminate screens from my life.
AiPT!: With the four or so year gap between the first series and the recent first issue of the follow-up, how has the art changed, or your approach changed writing and drawing this world?
Garing: Planetoid was my first published work so there was a lot to learn about how things appear in print. I’ve learned to be a lot more bold since then. With the inking, I hate that scratchy line look, so I’m trying to be more bold with the line work. I’m looking at a lot of Walter Simonson for that.
And the colors too … I don’t like some of those muddy grays in the first volume, so I tried to experiment more with saturated colors in Praxis.
AiPT!: The title Planetoid: Praxis makes me think of it as a spin-off. It’s greedy for me to say, but is there a possibility we’ll see other arcs and mini-series in this world?
Garing: Actually, “spin-off” is a better term for Praxis than “sequel.” I wish I would have thought of that!
I do have a third arc in mind but it will have to wait. It’s not fully formed yet. I could also see doing a one-shot.
But I want to do some other stories too. Planetoid was just supposed to be this quick mini-series, but the damn thing keeps growing. The next project will be something completely different but I would like to do more Planetoid comics, too.
AiPT!: What’s your favorite method of procrastination?
Garing: I live in a beautiful part of San Francisco, so when I go out for a cup of coffee I’ll usually wind up procrastinating by walking around or people watching … although, sometimes that’s when I get my best ideas.
You can read Planetoid: Praxis #2 when hits shelves March 8th.