BOOM! Studios hopes to have another cartoon-based gem on its hands when “Steven Universe” hits stands in August. Written by Jeremy Sorese (“Adventure Time 2014 Winter Special”) and drawn by Coleman Engle (“Bravest Warriors”), the new ongoing series documents the further adventures of the cosmically powered 12-year-old and his compatriots, the Crystal Gems.
The series, created by “Adventure Time” multi-hyphenate Rebecca Sugar, follows the exploits of a quartet of intergalactic guardians known as the Crystal Gems. Usually an all-female group, Steven found inducted into the gang when his mom, Quartz, gave birth to him and eschewed her physical body. Now surrounded by Amethyst, Garnet and Pearl, Steven goes on a variety of surreal adventures each week on the Cartoon Network series and soon, each month thanks to the KaBOOM! imprint.
Sorese colored the very first comic book appearance of Steven Universe and company in the pages of “Adventure Time 2013 Spooktacular,” a story written by Sugar. Now, he’s looking to take over full writing chores as Steven leaps from television screen to comics.
CBR News: How did you nail down the gig writing “Steven Universe?”Â
Jeremy Sorese: Before the opportunity to write for “Steven Universe” came up, I had already been doing work for BOOM! for a full year, but on projects where I got to write and draw my own material. So the prospect ofÂ justÂ writing made me a little nervous. I’ve been a huge fan of the show from episode 1, so with every new audition that was thrown my way, I was both excited and terrified that I’d actually get the job.
What’s the key to getting into the heads of Steven, Pearl, Amethyst and Garnet?
The “Steven Universe” crew has been very helpful in introducing me to this very complete world they’ve been building, so I’ve had a fair amount of help in getting started. The trick with each of these characters is the fact that they are deceptively simple. Sure, Steven is an optimist and Pearl is fussy and Garnet is commanding and Amethyst is a little wild, but they aren’t as flat as most cartoon characters on television, so it requires a lot of patient contemplation. As a trick, I’ve been watching each episode twice — once to fully enjoy it, and then a second time on a minimized window to just listen to the dialogue.
It sounds like you’ve got a pretty good working relationship with the cartoon’s creative staff.
Though I’m not based out of L.A. like the rest of the crew, I’m actually good buds with a fair amount of the creative force behind the show. Most of us have met through comics and the Internet, which I think accounts for the show’s feeling of being created by one big happy family. With a show like “Steven Universe,” the impossibly high quality of the work coming out of it could only be created by a group of people legitimately excited to work together. There’s something incredible about watching an episode and not only feeling blown away by the caliber of the show itself but also feeling pride that a friend of yours is succeeding. Hopefully the comic is our way of passing that feeling back on to the “Steven Universe” team.
Do you think there are certain aspects of the comic book medium that will allow you to explore different aspects of Steven and his pals?
The luxury of storytelling in a comic versus on television is just the amount of time we’re able to dedicate to all of the characters. A major goal of the “Steven Universe” comic is to include the entire roster of the Beach City residents. With the show taking care of the major plot points, I’m free to really chase after every random idea I come up with — except for the bad ones, of course.
What can you tell us about what fans will see in the first issue? Will the issues be broken up into smaller stories, full stories or are they individual chapters of longer arcs?
The first three issues are all single stories, but I’m excited to tackle multi-issue stories once I feel like I’ve gotten a firm footing in the “Steven Universe” universe. As for the first issue, it’s called “Vacation” and focuses on our main Crystal Gems out on a mission in a maze, battling an amorphous smoke knight.
You mentioned getting to the other Beach City residents. Do you have any favorite non-primary characters you’re looking forward to focusing on?
I’m really excited about writing about the Pizza family after seeing Lamar Abrams’ writing on the “Beach Party” episode. If I can find a realistic way to get Nanafua and Steven to tool around Beach City on the back of Lion, I may already have the plot of Issue 4.
With something like the “Adventure Time,” there are several years’ worth of stories to pull from when creating comics, but “Steven Universe” is still in its first season. Is that a positive or negative when trying to develop comic stories?
Definitely positive. Any time I’ve done work for “Adventure Time,” the sheer volume of details already set up by the multiple seasons of the show felt daunting, trying to shoehorn my plot ideas into the universe with the aid of intense Wikipedia research. With only 20 episodes of “Steven Universe” out, I feel like I’m actually contributing to the canon of the show, which of course ups the pressure to deliver phenomenal work — but in a good way.
What’s it been like working with Coleman Engle?
We’ve actually been friends for around seven years now, so there’s definitely an ease to working together. We’re both familiar with each other’s working methods as well as the references our work pulls from, so writing with Coleman in mind feels very natural. I couldn’t be happier with the creative pairing on this project.
You’ve been writing and drawing your own comics for a while now. Was it difficult transitioning into working on monthly comics with an artist?
Yes and no. In a given week, I jump between working as a freelance illustrator, finishing my graphic novel and writing for “Steven Universe,” which can get a little hairy. I’m finding working as just the writer to be really refreshing, though. I really enjoy writing, but allowing myself the title of “writer” has always felt false, a sentiment I’ve heard other cartoonists mention as well. That even though we write and draw our own work, the drawing part legitimizes our words and gives us something to forgive ourselves with for whatever shortcomings we feel our writing has. With “Steven Universe,” there are no doodles to hide behind, which is allowing me to not only believe that I can write but also feel not as weird saying that I “write.”
“Steven Universe” #1 from BOOM! Studios, Jeremy Sorese and Coleman Engle hits stores on August 6.