DC’s Young Animal has a new series coming out this week, and it’s exactly what you’d expect from this stellar imprint. It’s fun, humorous, weird, and full of heart. But it also has a much deeper message to get across.
Collapser has already had a pretty awesome impact on me, as I discussed in my review of the first issue. That’s why I was so excited to talk to three members of the creative team — Mikey Way, Shaun Simon, and Ilias Kyriazis — before its release this week. Check out our conversations below, and pick up Collapser #1 this Wednesday, July 17th.
Writers Mikey Way and Shaun Simon
AiPT: I’m always curious to know what the workflow is like between teams of writers. Take me through how you guys work together on this?
Mikey Way: I think initially we would either spend some time on the phone or we would text each other slivers of ideas, and then from there we kind of hammered together a synopsis of the broader story and the first arc. And then when we got to the issues, we chose scenes that we were really interested in, I think. I think that’s how we split it up.
Shaun Simon: Yeah, we would talk about the story and put together an outline and then we would kind of split it up from there and throw things back and forth at each other. It was very organic and very — you know Mikey and I have known each other for so long that it’s like two best friends hanging out. You know what I mean? So it was just fun and organic and things just worked. And we work well together, so there was never any problem with getting scripts done, and it was always a good time.
MW: Yeah we were always on time, and there’s a commonality between us. We like a lot of the same stuff, so the points of reference were always very similar. It made doing the story pretty easy because it’s like, if I got stumped he knew what to do and if he got stumped I knew what to do because we’re kinda in the same ballpark.
AiPT!: Shaun, you’ve been in the industry for a while, but Mikey this is a little newer to you. So what did you guys learn from each other?
MW: He taught me so much. I mean I had only done an eight page Batman story, it was like a decade ago and I didn’t know what I was doing, and I wrote it like a film script. I just wrote everything out because I didn’t know what I was doing. But Shaun, he was like, “Yo, paneling,” and he taught me how to panel a comic, which is like the main point of writing a comic — you have to learn how to panel. And it’s like the dude taught me how to write comic books and I’m forever indebted.
SS: Haha, thanks man. I mean … yes, this is his first series of comics, but he got it from day one. You know, the images and words and descriptions, I mean Mikey is very articulate and he knows how to write very well. And I was shocked at how much he knew going into this. Not shocked, but just very happy with it. He knows what he’s doing. And it was just a good time.
MW: Shaun also taught me to be way early on stuff. Like, get your sh*t done early.
SS: Don’t wait for the deadline.
MW: Yeah, he was always like, “Don’t wait for the deadline, get that s--t done.” That was like the best advice, because … you know, as an artist you change your mind over and over again to the point where you would keep going if you could. But you have to at some point be like, “It’s done.”
SS: You have to stop at some point and be like, “Here it is.” I feel like a lot of people get caught up in the work that they do defining themselves. And really, you do it, you move on. You do something else, you move on. In the whole scheme of things it doesn’t really matter, you know what I mean? You’re in the moment and you do the best that you can and you move on.
MW: I kinda noticed when we were doing the lettering draft — you know double checking everything before it gets lettered later on in the series — and you’re almost like, “Man, let’s scrap all this and do it again.” But no, that’s what you were feeling in that moment and there’s something to be said about that.
AiPT!: Speaking of lettering, I touched on this in my review and I wanted to make sure I talk to you guys about it. I first saw the amount of words on the page, in Liam’s narration, and it reminded me of my own anxiety. And that was a lot to deal with. But you guys are portraying this in such and accurate way that I needed to talk about it with you.
SS: Well, we both have anxiety in one form or the other, so we both know what that’s like, and it was very important to us to give [Liam’s] anxiety its own voice. Like, here’s what he’s saying, but here’s all the crazy s--t running through his head every second of the day.
MW: Yeah, I remember we were figuring out what his anxiety bubbles would look like and we were like, “How much can we go into it?” And it was like, we started off kind of conservative in our first draft. And then we were like, “No, go for it.”
SS: Push it.
MW: Yeah, we were like, “Do what you feel when you’re going through that. Write everything as you would be in that situation.” And it was like it kinda did it itself, because it came from a true place so it was able to be authentic.
AiPT!: Yeah, it definitely came off that way. I actually feel a kinship with you guys because it’s like, you get it.
MW: We wanted that niche of the world to have something to relate to, you know what I mean? Cause it’s like, it’s plagued both of us all our lives, but it doesn’t have to be a prison for you and it could actually make you great. Like, I feel like my anxiety makes me great. So I feel that everyone should kind of feel that, as well.
AiPT!: That takes me into the black hole. That feels like a metaphor I related to instantly. Tell me a little about using that.
MW: I feel like if you were to ask someone that’s depressed how they feel, I think a great number of people would say, “It feels like I have a f-----g black hole in my chest.” I felt like that was really on the nose, but that’s what makes it cool. And I also feel like black holes are the most powerful goddamned thing in the world. If you opened a black hole on Earth it would swallow it up, you know what I mean? And that says something, too. It’s the most dangerous, and it’s the most powerful.
AiPT!: Right, and I feel like if you can survive that, it says a lot. Liam, and all of us with mental illnesses — for lack of a better term — are strong people. And I felt like this metaphor only strengthened that idea.
MW: That’s cool, that’s what we were going for. If you were able to pull that from it, it means mission accomplished.
AiPT!: My last question is kind of a fun one. I loved this image of Liam with a toy sword, totally ready to take on some robbers. I feel like many of us have a version of that. So I’m curious what you would grab in that moment, if anything.
MW: It’s funny, I have replica WWF championship belts and Shaun, you wrote that line in there about that. And it’s funny because I have replica titles, and I think that’s what I would grab because they’re heavy and made of metal and leather.
SS: Yeah, that’s why we put that in there, man. Because we have this sh*t at home.
MW: I have the classic 90’s titles — they’re, like, heavy.
SS: You should wear that to our signing next week.
MW: Yeah, man, I’ll bring it on the plane.
SS: Walk in like a f*cking champion.
Artist Ilias Kyriazis
AiPT!: Could you tell me a little bit about character design for Collapser? There are some interesting wardrobe choices and aliens — there’s just a lot going on.
Ilias Kyriazis: Oh, yes there is! I was joking online that Collapser offers cosplaying opportunities for all difficulty levels — from just putting on a black pea coat to constructing a huge set of tentacled armor.
Well, we wanted the characters to look very different from each other. We have humans, aliens (from various, unrelated planets), demons, supervillains etc. So no character design could ever look “out of place” in the book. What played a big factor in achieving that variety is that for some (like Liam) Mikey and Shaun had very specific wardrobe ideas while for others I was allowed to try whatever. I can tell you that this series has some of my favorite designs I’ve ever done though. I have a soft spot for the big guy you’ll see at the end of issue #1.
AiPT!: How did you approach some of the more cringe-worthy moments in the book — specifically Liam’s day at work at the beginning of the issue?
IK: I actually liked working on these pages. Sickness and death aren’t particularly fun to draw but the way the scene was written it felt honest and honorable. And actually liking the writing goes a long way into getting you excited to draw something. I also did a clever little thing with the composition in the third panel in page 5 (the silhouette one) that I’m super proud of and I want someone to notice it.
AiPT!: The pages in which Liam is actually confronted by the black hole are extremely intense. Can you talk a little bit about putting those together?
IK: Thank you! It made me feel very good about our approach of holding back on the use of black and only have it for the black hole effects. I think it really pops.
I wanted every time we see the hole to feel like someone stuck a black, circular sticker on our comic page – to feel like something that doesn’t belong there.
If only Vantablack wasn’t so expensive… [laughs]. That’s something that’d work great for the book!
As for the rest of the scene, tons of junk floating in a gravity-less void… I could draw stuff like that forever!
AiPT!: I feel like you have a lot going on in this book. We have the very mundane, the night life excitement, and the supernatural/other-worldly. How do you make all of that feel like the same book?
IK: That’s a big part of the appeal of the book for me — you never get bored. Keep in mind that drawing style is a powerfully unifying tool. As long as the same person draws the whole thing with a consistent style, wildly different settings and characters can fit perfectly together. Also, that roller-coaster of genres and locales reflects Liam’s anxiety. When he’s uneasy, I’ll try my best to have the reader feel uneasy too.
AiPT!: Can you discuss your process with the rest of the art team?
IK: I feel we’re very lucky to have both Cris Peter and Simon Bowland on board. What we said to Cris when it came to coloring the book was, “go nuts.” We wanted weird, we wanted expressive, we wanted unique and that’s what we got. I am a big fan of flat coloring with bold choices and I think it works very well with my line art. Also Cris’ approach was so different than what I would have done that allowed me to step back, stop trying to compare with the pages with my hypothetical colors and just be blown away by the results. Even when it came to character designs in my mind I was like, “OK, this is our guy, his cape is red but… are we ever gonna have a brightly lit, ‘day’ shot of him? His colors will be whatever the mood of the scene dictates.”
AiPT!: What excites you about Collapser? What drew you to the project?
IK: Besides creating a brand new character for DC and working for Young Animal, an imprint that feels like it was created for me? This is the book that if Mikey and Simon and me all knew each other before and we were hanging out and we wanted to do a comic together… This is the book we’d make. It’s deeply personal, it’s honest and it’s new. From an artist perspective it’s super fun to draw, it moves very quickly and every few pages I’m drawing something different. I get to draw superhero stuff, I get to draw otherworldly creatures and I get to draw real humans emote… It’s like a checklist of my favorite artistic themes.
Check out Collapser #1 on July 17th.