Space is often considered the final frontier. For some it’s because they’re exploring uncharted territories, but for other’s it’s because they never return to their home planet. Silas, the star of newcomer Ken Garing’s upcoming Image Comics series “Planetoid,” hopes the latter is not the case as he crash lands on a strange alien world filled with menaces.
The series not only marks a new journey into uncharted space, but also Garing’s first foray into the world of comics. A commercial illustrator and former museum employee, Garing spent years honing his craft and having his portfolio reviewed at various conventions by people including his hero and Image Comics partner Erik Larsen.
Speaking of heroes, Garing not only gets to publish his first book alongside Larsen’s “Savage Dragon,” but also attempts to incorporate several of his other influences from the world of art, cinema, and literature. “Planetoid” features destroyed cities, mechanical monsters and cyborg militias. With so much going on with Garing, CBR News spoke with him about breaking into comics, Silas’ challenges, and his many influences in creating a sci-fi adventure story.
CBR News: “Planetoid” has a very cool, ’70s/’80s sci-fi feel to it. Were there particular movies, comics or other media that inspired you?
Ken Garing: Tons of stuff. Like you mentioned, the ’70s/’80s, so much of the science-fiction visual aesthetic was created during that time by artists like Moebius, H.R. Giger, Syd Mead, and Katsuhiro Otomo, among others. Unfortunately I feel like a lot of science-fiction has gotten watered down and made generic over the years. Like you start with Ridley Scott’s “Alien” and then wind-up with crap like “A.V.P.” So, I definitely want to bring back, or at least pay tribute to, that aesthetic. I also read a lot of science fiction novels by writers like Frank Herbert, John Brunner, Harlan Ellison, and William Gibson. The cover art on those old paperbacks is also pretty awesome. In terms of movies, I’m kind of obsessed with Stanley Kubrick. I like the way he shows the audience things in a very direct way visually while sneaking in all kinds of hidden elements. I also like listening to ambient electronic music while I draw.
You mentioned being a fan of how Kubrick shows the audience more than they might catch right away. Did you attempt to do the same with your panel work in “Planetoid?”
Yes. I like the way Kubrick shows the audience information rather then telling them. There’s a story on the surface that everybody can enjoy but then there are these labyrinth-like hidden themes and correlations between scenes. With “Planetoid,” for example, I got some criticism from an editor that there wasn’t much characterization going on with Silas throughout much of the first issue. I don’t think that’s true. I think the fact that he is shown alone and silent with his face covered for most of the first issue, does inform the audience about the character. There’s also a sort of action-reaction correlation going on between Silas and his environment. This could be accomplished by simply telling the audience through narration, I suppose, but I think it’s more interesting to show them visually. There is an info-dump near the end, but that’s more about story information concerning the planetoid itself and Silas’ background.
Then there’s Kubrick’s strong visual style. Again, I try to show things to the audience in the most straight-forward way possible unless there is some motivation coming from the story to do otherwise. I want people to be able to read the comic effortlessly and then, if they want to, go back through it and pick up on secondary themes or just enjoy the art.
Tell us about Silas. How does he find himself on this alien planet? What makes him so well equipped to survive this ordeal?
Silas was an orphan in a planet-wide refugee camp who enlisted in the infantry as a way out. Then he went AWOL and got into smuggling. His whole life he’s had to fight to survive, so he’s both tough and resourceful. He’s been through a lot but he’s not a mean-spirited guy. He has his own sense of right and wrong. He’ll have to make some moral decisions in addition to fighting giant robots.
Aside from the robotic monsters, who else does Silas run into on this planet?
He will come across tribes and small bands of people, both alien and human, who live on the planet. I think this element will actually be the most crucial aspect of the series. There are very powerful and brutal forces that make life miserable for those living on the planet’s surface. If any sort of stand is going to [be] made against these forces, Silas and the tribes will have to work together.
I read on your website that you’ve been reading Erik Larsen comics since you were a kid, is it wild now having comics coming out from the same company as him?
Yeah, it’s awesome. Growing up my friends and I all read and loved a lot of those original Image titles. Larsen in particular, because his “Spider-Man” comics were some of the first comics I ever read and I’ve been showing him work at conventions since I was a kid. He’s very generous that way. So yeah, it’s definitely a bit surreal now to be doing work for Image. Although, on the other hand it makes sense because so many of the other publishers seem completely uninterested in this type of work.
How did you wind up publishing “Planetoid” through Image?
I’d been showing work at conventions for years. I wasn’t always all that aggressive about getting published. I was more concerned with getting better. I had some earlier versions of “Planetoid,” but when I finally got it to the point where it was ready to show around I thought I might just release it digitally through Graphicly and see what happened. I think the work itself combined with the buzz created by the digital release was enough to convince Image that “Planetoid” might be a viable property, despite me being a complete unknown.
When you plot out something like this, do you script first and then start drawing or do you thumbnail, or work out something else completely different when you first get going?
It’s a pretty messy, sprawling process. Early on I don’t make a distinction between the script and art because I’m just developing the story in my head. Then comes little notes and sketches. I often plug in earlier ideas or drawings from sketchbooks. Once the story arc is locked in I can break it down into sequences and then pages. I try to have each sequence, and sometimes each page, have its own little arc. The main thing, though, is subtext. If I’m not convinced there’s some sort of point to the story I’ll shelve it.
Was it fun developing not only an entire planet, but a whole galaxy of ships, aliens, monsters and the like?
That’s probably the most fun part. Especially with “Planetoid” I’m really only hinting at the larger universe in this story. I don’t want the audience to fully know what to expect yet, so it’s really fun deciding how little or how much to show. There’s only a few glimpses of the wider universe in the first issue, which is sort of purposefully contained and somber — but there will be a lot more variety as the story expands.
Silas’ adventure begins in the pages of “Planetoid” #1 on June 13th.