“Jova’s Harvest” by Steve Uy
Is no ordinary book.
It’s completely written in rhyme,
And worth more than a quick look.
But if I had to write
This article in rhyme?
I’m sure that I would scream
Many, many a-time.
This November, Arcana Studios will be releasing Steve Uy’s latest work, “Jova’s Harvest.” The comic is a three issue miniseries, and as indicated above, it’s written entirely in rhyme. CBR News decided to check in with writer-artist Uy to find out more about this project and what possessed him to channel his inner Dr. Seuss.
To explain what he is trying to do with this series, Uy began with a brief description of the book’s tale. “The story takes place in the mortal world of Wigg’d. With the creation of the world, God decreed that there must be an eternal balance for its continued existence. More specifically, Light and Dark must always be more or less even or Armageddon will begin.
“Jova, our main character, was assigned as a Harvester, a collector of souls for Heaven,” Uy continued. “He goes around collecting pure souls, by facilitating the deaths of good-hearted people.
“His beloved brother, Luci, was assigned the role of the devil, forever the scapegoat of the mortal world. It was a role both proudly held in the beginning, but naturally, over the course of a few millennia, Luci would begin to grow tired of his position and miss his estranged family in Heaven.
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“Every century, Luci gets a reprieve from Hell. The gates to hell open and he is allowed a brief time in the mortal world. This is when he gets to ‘enjoy some quality time’ with his brother in a brutal battle to reseal the gates of Hell. Jova has always won these battles and prevented Armageddon, but this century their sister from heaven joins the fray. Having dearly missed her brothers all these years, she has sold her soul to Luci so that she may live in the mortal world with Jova.
“Just how this will impact the war between heaven and hell I cannot reveal just yet. That is, after all, the reason why it’s important to buy the book, is it not?”
From this explanation, it’s clear that Uy is trying to cover a lot of ground for a three issue miniseries. With regards to why he wanted to tell this particular story, he explained, “With my last book, ‘Feather,’ for Image comics, I created a very clean world with a lot of seemingly innocent characters. Towards the end of that production, I wanted to do something entirely different. I wanted something more organic, more sketchy – more ugly – so to speak. I wanted to do something no one had ever seen or read before. I wanted to do something so original, it could only be described as ‘totally fucked up.’
“As I developed ‘Jova’s Harvest’ more and more, the story got quite a ways more ‘sane’ than I originally envisioned, and a lot less ‘drugged up,’ but I think the originality is still there somewhere. It still has the same cinematic approach and approachable characters that ‘Feather’ did, for better or for worse.”
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In addition to the wild ideas of the story, the wildest element is most likely the rhyming aspect. This was something Uy considered essential to the type of characters he had in the story he was trying to tell. “In ‘Jova’s Harvest,’ the characters are gods. Now typically, when a writer writes about gods they simply give them immortality and super-strength, but I had no desire to take such a lazy approach,” Uy explained to CBR News. “If you’re going to write gods into your stories, you cannot differentiate them by something as simple as a physical trait. If you’re going to write gods into your stories, you better damn well make them do godlike things, and in ‘Jova’s Harvest,’ these characters can’t even sneeze or cough without rhyming it, and that to me is truly a godlike feat, unlike blowing up a mountain or lifting up a building.”
As you might imagine, writing the story entirely in rhyme was not an easy feat. There are a lot of details one must take into consideration, from scripting to layouts to lettering. Uy definitely experienced a few of these struggles and more.
“I’ve never written a script before on my actual projects until now,” Uy said. “I usually know what’s going to happen, scene by scene, jot notes, where the conversation is going to go and how it gets there, and then do the thumbnails and eventually get to work on the actual pages themselves.
“With ‘Jova’s Harvest,’ I had no choice but to write the entire script before even working on the designs. It was important to know if a book like this was even possible in the first place. This is not a fairy tale or some action-packed superhero book. With those, you can get away with any rhyme.
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“This book is an ethical drama, about the grayscale between good and evil. It had to have proper grammar. And if a word was not in the dictionary, I wasn’t going to use it in the book. There were a lot of rules I set for myself, which only led to making the book more and more difficult to write.
“After completing the script, I broke up the dialogue into their own panels, allotting room for transitional actions and the like. This was a very complicated process that I would never want to do again, and I’m surprised it was even possible to begin with.
“Scripting was a nightmare. Lettering it was a bit tricky because the dialogue dictated the size of the word balloons, not the art or panel sizes. Since there will always be an even number of lines in any given word balloon, and since the top and bottom lines of dialogue will not always be shorter than the middle lines like in every other comic out there, I had to use a squarish shape for the actual word balloons. After figuring that out, the lettering process took no more time than usual.”
Uy’s previous book, “Feather,” was published through Image. And while he indicated that moving to Arcana was something he was unsure about at first, Uy sounds pleased with his decision. “Image gave me an incredible amount of support with ‘Feather,’ and that is something I will never take lightly. Sean [O’Reilly, Arcana’s Editor-in-Chief], however, was bound and determined to lure me over to Arcana, so after months of deliberation, I ended up in his clutches.
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“One of the biggest reasons is simply the market conditions. It’s tough out there, and although I can create, write, pencil, ink, color, and letter a book all on my own easily enough, the marketing and promotional stuff makes my head spin. ‘Feather’ burned me out on the promotional end and I did not know if I could do another project through Image and pitch myself with the same enthusiasm as I had before, so hopefully Arcana can help me out on that end. Production-wise, Arcana prints overseas, so for fans, the heavy-stock paper and top-tier printing will more than make up for the switch.”
Issue #1 of “Jova’s Harvest” will come out in November and will be a 40-page double-sized issue. The following two single-sized issues will be released monthly thereafter.