One of the latest and most anticipated creator-owned series from Dark Horse Comics comes out August 21st from Carlos writer Giffoni and artist Juan Doe. In it, the protagonist, Kiara, has unlocked the ability to speak to her cat and in doing she learns her cat has the ability to astrally travel to faraway locations in the universe. The military sees an opportunity and snatches them up to help find resources to help aid humanity.
I was lucky enough to speak to Carlos Giffoni at San Diego Comic-Con, where we discussed the new series, the deeper purpose of the book, working with artist Juan Doe, and so much more!
AiPT!: How long has this story been percolating in your mind?
Carlos Giffoni: I started writing it two years ago and probably a few months before that is when the idea first came along. I was actually reading about this thing called remote viewing. It was a program that the CIA was running trying to create basically psychic spies.
AiPT!: When was this?
CG: This was like the ’80s into 1994 when they stopped doing it. It started in the late ’70s. And you can find out about it online — there are documents on it and you know I was reading all of it, and of course, it never worked. Psychic warriors do not work, but you know, it inspired me to think about it and when I was looking at my cat and my cat was kind of staring into space.
AiPT!: Is this Lou? [points at the cover]
CG: This is Louie. He’s a real cat and I kind of came up with the idea and I had like 10 or 15 other ideas. I really wanted to write a comic book and that one was the one that stuck. Whenever I told the idea to do people like I could see the light in their eyes, you know? So it’s like OK, this is the one that’s going to do something, and then I put a lot of myself into it. Besides being a relationship between a human and their pet, it’s also about how sometimes people will dehumanize other cultures to take advantage of them. So in the book, they are using Lou and his owner Kiara to find new planets that are going to be colonized and there are inhabitants there and they’re not going to have a good time, right? And that’s something that we’ve seen in history many, many times. I am originally South American, so I’ve studied a lot of that in my life. And then I contacted Juan [Doe] and he loved the concept and I was so happy to have him do it.
AiPT!: The enemy in the book are sort of the overlords?
AiPT!: Is it government or is it a corporation?
CG: It’s a little bit of both, right? I think this is a future where corporations and the government basically have merged into one. The main bad guy, let’s say, his name is Premier Oscar Healy. And in his mind, he’s a good guy. You know, just like every bad guy. Resources for humanity are running low, so he’s trying to find this new planet so that humanity could expand. It calls to question, “What would you sacrifice for that? Would you destroy a culture, alien beings for humanity?” That’s a good question to answer and it’s central to the book.
AiPT!: Sure. If we ever reached another planet…look what we’re doing to the Amazon rainforest, right?
CG: I know. Exactly.
AiPT!: And those are humans! Imagine if there was an alien race?
CG: It would be so much easier. And then yeah, you know, you can spin it too in any way. You can be like, “Oh yeah we were trying to be friendly with them and they started attacking us” right. And like, you know, when Spain colonized South America, Central America, they were like, “Oh, these are wild people.” They’re not humans, right? So yeah, that’s definitely a big part of it.
— Dark Horse Comics (@DarkHorseComics) July 19, 2019
AiPT!: You also produced music and video games?
AiPT!: You’re a renaissance man!
CG: I’ve never been called that before. I’d like to say that I just don’t like to be bored. Whenever something comes into my mind, I like to explore it. Since I was a kid, I had seen comic books and been exposed to them, and I love them and I used to draw like, robots in my notebooks but I didn’t really understand how to make comics. Once I moved to the US I started working in video games. I kind of went into that world and eventually, I’m like, “OK it’s time for me to actually try to do this thing I like.” And yeah, I started working on Strayed.
AiPT!: Were you listening to any specific music when you were writing?
CG Yeah. So depending on the book I listen to different music. So, for example, I’m writing another book called Space Riders for Black Mask, and I’m on Vol. 3 and I tend to listen to things like The Melvins, kind of heavier music. Things that are heavy and dark. For Strayed it’s more like abstract stuff like ambient music, Aphex Twin, stuff like that. And that’s more like the music I make and it’s more abstract as well, so that’s where I tend to go.
AiPT!: Would you recommend people listen to that kind of music while they are reading Strayed?
CG: So, even better. Yes, but I actually have a soundtrack that I’m releasing for each issue. So every time you get an issue you can go to my Bandcamp — it’s linked on my website, carlosgiffoni.com, and there will be a new soundtrack every time an issue comes out. It’s 20 minutes of music. You can check it out if it takes you less time. You could put the book aside. Close your eyes and just enjoy it.
AiPT!: Oh my God. That can be like a pacing strategy. Set up the playlist where they have to listen to the whole album to the very end.
CG: It’s hard to measure that way. For me, it takes like maybe six minutes, seven minutes because I wrote it. That’s the minimum. What is the maximum? So okay, if you stare at every page for a while. OK. Twenty minutes filled.
AiPT!: There’s a strategy to it.
CG: I tried. We’ll see. There’s a strategy to everything in life.
AiPT!: When I was reading the book I was taken aback by the layout design. There are a lot of double-page layouts and double-page splash pages. This must have been intentional — was it a collaborative process to get these pages?
CG: Yes. So I wrote in the script [that] I love Juan’s art and I’m very familiar with this art and it’s something that jumps at you when you go to the comic book store and see one of his books. He is very much almost like an improvisational artist in a way. The stuff he creates, I don’t think he could recreate again if you asked him to. It’s almost like he’s creating this piece of art with each page. So we talk about it for two hours before we started the project and I was like, “OK every page has to feel like a work of art. Go for it.” And this script fully plans out panels. Which is why the book is 24 pages instead of 22. I try to do like, one page or a two page where it made sense to kind of give him the chance to give the reader something beautiful to look at.
AiPT!: Draw them in.
CG: Yeah, exactly. It depends on what you want to do. So like when you look at a page it has, let’s say, nine panels, 14 panels. It takes you a long time and you’re in this world for a while and you’re kind of reading, you know, and you’re kind of processing a lot, and when you get a two page spread you get a chance to just kind of go into that world, right? Look at all the details and all that kind of stuff. So yeah, for me that’s very important. In fact, no spoilers, but the very last issue, issue five, it’s only one or two page spreads for the entire issue. So we went crazy.
AiPT!: I have to ask you, do you think that cats really are aliens?
CG: I think cats are very special beings. Some of them might be aliens. I don’t know. But you know, when you look at a cat they’re definitely different than a dog or any other species, and they’re always kind of like staring into space, looking around…they have a lot going into their minds. I mean, we’re all aliens at the end of the day, you know? Like, life was created because some particle from another planet or another universe came down to Earth and created life. So we’re all connected to the stars. We’re all made of stardust at the end of the day.
AiPT!: Is there anything you’re geeking out over at SDCC this year?
CG: Oh man. You know, I love all of it. I haven’t had a time to really go and look around, but there’s a lot of creators here that I love. Andrew Maclean, who does Head Lopper, is here. He’s awesome. He’s one of my favorite artists. So I’m always glad when I get to see him. I mean, I love Hellboy. Black Hammer‘s one of my favorite series. So I’m super excited to be part of Dark Horse. So kind of taking in all the comics and everything that’s going on and talking to as many artists as I can.
Strayed #1 will be available in comic shops August 21, 2019.