Change is a natural part of life. Very few things stay the same, so people have to either get used to the idea of change or fortify against it as best they can. “Change,” however, is another story. The new Image Comics series by Ales Kot (“Wild Children”) and upcoming artist Morgan Jeske, just announced at Comic-Con International in San Diego, deals with the titular subject on a much grander scale and with a very colorful cast as well.
The four-issue launches in November and follows the adventures of a screenwriter-turned car thief named Sonia, a smarter-than-he-seems rapped named W-2, and a mysterious astronaut who falls to Earth. What brings them together? Well, aside from Sonia working on W-2’s biopic there’s also the matter of a mysterious force messing with time in the Los Angeles area. To stop LA from getting gobbled up by this force, the trio must band together and do their best to save the day.
In the hustle and bustle of Comic-Con, CBR News caught up with Kot and Jeske to talk about their new series, explain the time-disturbance and give a little bit more detail about Sonia, W-2, and the astronaut.
CBR News: The stars of “Change” are a car thief, a rapper, and a cosmonaut. What can you tell us about them?
Ales Kot: Sonia is an up-and-coming screenwriter and a very successful car thief. She’s young, resourceful and her taste in clothing is near-impeccable, but she doesn’t always know how to put all the pieces together for maximum effect. Sonia’s tasked with writing a movie script for W-2, who’s this RZA-meets-Kanye West type, but she’s on the third rewrite and things aren’t going that well.
W-2 raps and makes a lot of money. He’s pretty disconnected from the world around him, a bit arrogant, acts dumber than he is because the people he spends his time with are mostly vacuous and self-obsessed. Except for his wife Rhubarb, and maybe some other people we’ll meet as we get deeper into the story.
The astronaut is a cipher. Something bad happened a long time ago, and he cherishes the isolation of space. But he’s coming back to Earth, and that will change everything dramatically.
Morgan Jeske: I get the feeling that Sonia thinks herself above the material she’s been asked to write for W-2.Â It’s not a sense of superiority exactly, but rather that she knows she could do better. But hey, money.
The thing is that W-2 knows that he’s smarter than the material too, I think. But he’s got a fanbase and an image to maintain. They’re both trapped within how people perceive them in many respects. Visually he’s RZA. I spent a lot of time with the “Bobby Digital” album when I was in the design phase.â€¨â€¨Also, Riggs and Murtaugh [from “Lethal Weapon”]. There’s an element of that “No, no, we always go ON three!” to their relationship.
When drawing the astronaut, I always think about leaving the place you came from and returning to find it the same, exactly, and yet totally different too. In subtle and unsettling ways.
How did you go about designing the characters? Were they described on the page very specifically, or was there more of a back and forth?
Kot: We talk a lot, and we listen to each other. I’m interested in open collaboration where both of us bring our ideas on the table and toy with things until we find something that feels like the best possible choice for the story. It’s a completely painless process so far, because Morgan’s a joy to work with. He’s open, incredibly collaborative, well-educated and he loves comics with all his might.
For example, we spent a lot of time on W-2 before Morgan even began sketching him — we talked about our favorite rap/hip-hop/glitch-hop albums, what W-2 would rap about, his clothing, his overall attitude to life, we talked about El-P’s new fantastic record, “Cancer For Cure” — “Drones Over Brooklyn” in particular is a masterpiece of a track that says a lot about the world we live in, and it also connects to some of the themes we explore in “Change.” We talked about the visual beauty of Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus,” about our favorite costumes, Odd Future, Tupac’s hologram getting shot and such. And then Morgan sends in something like this and I know we’re doing great.
Jeske: Yeah, like Ales said, lots of email threads. Talking specifically about the things we’re into personally and then treating discussions about the characters in the same way. Music is really important to my work process, as it is to Ales. So there were playlists exchanged that were built for the story. El-P’s “C4-C” is a big inspiration for me. Lots of dark, paranoid imagery on that record. Lots and lots of music that feels like the LA in my brain: “Heat” OST, “Thief” OST, that one Wang Chung song “To Live and Die in LA” — so on the nose, I know.
We already know how W-2 and Sonia know each other, but how do they come together with the astronaut to defend Los Angeles from the time anomaly?
Kot: The word ‘anomaly’ is not quite right. At the beginning of this story, time is circular. What happens will happen again, eventually. The thing that W-2 and Sonia are trying to prevent already happened many times. But maybe time doesn’t have to be circular. Maybe it can be a spiral instead. Or a trombone.
W-2 and Sonia are already working together, albeit on something else — the film script — but they discover some previously invisible threads that explode their respective worlds. As for the astronaut, he’s just going to fall to Earth and then you’ll see.
How does the time force present itself to them? Were there certain design elements influenced by other works?
Kot: Answering the first question would mean spoiling a lot of surprises, and we want the readers to get their money’s worth — we want surprises, and storytelling density. There are design elements that are somewhat influenced by other works, definitely, but the mythology underneath the story is incredibly old. For the storytelling density, I’m looking at “Casanova,” “Watchmen,” “The Adventures of Luther Arkwright,” Frank Miller’s 16 panel grid in “The Dark Knight Returns” and anything by Crepax. “Prophet” and “Manhattan Projects” are also doing a great job of making single issues full experiences. I just saw Morgan’s layouts for the last pages of #1 and they’re so dense and beautiful that they reminded me of [ancient Chinese divination symbols called] I Ching hexagrams, so I started integrating them into the story as well. The hexagrams also feed into P.K. Dick’s personal mythology, because he was obsessed with I Ching, and lived in California and wrote SF, and suddenly threads connect and other ones grow or emerge. Things play off each other.
Jeske: Dense. I keep a stack of comics next to me when drawing. “Casanova,” “Elektra Assassin,” “100%,” “Ronin,” “Prophet,” etc. We’re trying to make this a rich, layered experience for the reader. I want to read this book when it’s finished, y’know? There’s a group of pages near the end of issue #1 that have 15-20 panels each. For me it’s kind of terrifying to draw, but so exciting and surprising.
How did you two wind up working together on this book?
Kot: I think we started following each other on Twitter around the same time.
Jeske: Yeah, we started feeling each other out in terms of what we’re into and whether we can stand one another.
Kot: Morgan showed me his work, I showed him “Wild Children,” we both liked what we saw — I told Morgan I’d want to work with him in the future, and he was open to it. So when it felt like the right time I said, “Let’s make something now,” we had a Skype meeting and we agreed on pretty much everything about the story and our approach to it.
Jeske: It’s going really well so far. Totally open collaboration. No one is precious about their ideas. There’s just THE IDEA.
Ales Kot and Morgan Jeske’s ideas come to life in “Change,” on sale in November.