In BBC America‘s hit sci-fi show “Orphan Black,” Sarah Manning’s life is turned upside down when she sees someone who looks exactly like her die, leading Sarah to the discover that she’s one of many clones. Now, co-creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett bring Manning’s adventures to the comics page in IDW Publishing‘s highly anticipated “Orphan Black” miniseries, debuting this month.
Co-written by Jody Houser, each issue explores the life of a different clone-including all-new members of the clone club. A rotating series of artists will grace the title’s different chapters, with “Spawn” illustrator Szymon Kudranski opening things up with Issue #1.
Fans needing their “Orphan Black” fix before the show’s third season premieres in April can look to IDW’s series for “a new twist on a scene or two,” Houser tells CBR News. During the course of our conversation, she also revealed just how closely she’s working with the show’s co-creators to make sure the comic “holds true to the future plans for the show,” and what it’s like moving from her creator-owned webcomic “Cupcake POW!” to working on a 22-page, licensed comic.
CBR News: With the “Orphan Black” story unfolding primarily on television, what ground will the comic cover, and how does it all tie back into the show?
Jody Houser: The miniseries takes a deeper look at the clones and what made them into the (very different) women we see on the show. Each issue centers on a different clone and explores her backstory and what elements play into the “nurture” side of things.
The issues tie directly into events in the first season as a way to ground the comic in the world of the show. There are scenes that happened “off-screen,” so to speak. Comics is a great medium for really getting inside a character’s head, and we’re taking full advantage of that. You might get a new twist on a scene or two you thought you knew.
Will the clones in your stories be Sarah Manning and others we’ve seen before, or are you bringing all-new creations to the table?
You’ll definitely see your favorite clones in the mix — and the first issue features Sarah. There will be characters we haven’t met before, but whether or not they resemble [“Orphan Black” star] Tatiana Maslany remains to be seen.
What were the inspirations for your story?
[Co-creators] John [Fawcett] and Graeme [Manson] had such a rich history built for each of the clones, that a lot of inspiration for the comics came baked-in. I’d say the excitement and devotion of the fans is a big motivating factor, too. Each of the clones is beloved in their own way, and you want to do your best to capture and expand on what drew the audience to them in the first place.
What’s that creative process like, working with the show’s co-creators?
There have been quite a few phone meetings and emails back and forth. Stepping into the world of a series like “Orphan Black” that’s still airing means making sure that what you’re writing holds true to the future plans for the show. It’s a living, breathing animal you’re working with, in a sense.
Did you get any hints as to where the “Orphan Black” TV show is headed in the upcoming third season?
I’ve gotten a few. Nothing I can share, but there’s some fun stuff in store for Clone Club in season 3!
Were you already a fan of the show?
I was a big fan of the show, and tweeted about it on a number of occasions, which I think showed IDW that I’d be interested in the gig. I’m glad I got to experience the series as a fan first, because it’s just so damn good. I would have missed out on some of that joy of watching it if I’d dove into it writer-brain first.
Did any of your story ideas come from that time when you were just a fan, before landing the project?
I’d say some elements of the comics are drawn less from ideas I had while watching and more from questions I asked.
Questions like what?
It was mostly the little things that you wonder about when watching. What was this character really thinking during major events, or how did that character come about certain knowledge? How did these two characters meet? I know that’s a bit vague, but I don’t want to spoil anything.
Have you heard from the “Orphan Black” fandom since being announced as the comic’s writer?
There has been a lot of excitement from fans all over the world on Twitter and Tumblr, and I’ve seen a number of people say this would be the first comic they’ve ever bought. As a creator who’s loved the format for most of my life, that’s an incredibly gratifying place to be, and one of the big joys of working on a licensed book like this.
Where would you like to take “Orphan Black” in future series?
I would love to explore the lives of the clones that we only saw glimpses of on the show. Especially Katja, who was really the one to get the whole thing rolling when she contacted Beth.
“Orphan Black” is your first major project, but you’ve been writing webcomics, including Cupcake POW!, for many years now. What’s it like, having to adjust to a 22-page format?
It’s funny, but the webcomics have always seemed like a very different animal to me than my other comics work, which I think is more informed by my background studying screenwriting/playwriting/prose. I do think webcomics were a sort of gateway to start experimenting with comic scripts back in 2008, about two years after I launched my first webcomic. I had my first professionally published comic work in 2012 with a six-page story in “Womanthology” from IDW, and I feel like I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with the format over the years. Basically, years of practice makes that adjustment easier!
“Orphan Black” isn’t your only comic hitting shelves this year, as you made your Marvel Comics debut in “Avengers: No More Bullying.” What’s it been like as you continue to break into the industry this past year?
2014 was a pretty exciting year! I did work for three publishers (Vertigo, IDW and Marvel) that I’m incredibly proud of. My hope is to continue to tell great stories in both creator-owned and licensed/work-for-hire spaces, as I really enjoy the challenges that come with each. In particular, I’d like to do some creator-owned books sooner rather than later, and tackle more superheroes.
“Orphan Black” debuts from IDW Publishing February 25.