Plenty of storytellers intend to immerse their readers in the tale they want to tell, but Jon Chad is taking the idea to a whole new level with Bad Mask. Hitting in December from BOOM! Studios, the multimedia box set not only offers a comic book filled with evil organizations and heroic synthetic beings, it also furthers story elements through trading cards, a handbook, meeting notes, a newspaper, an incident report and a magazine — and that’s all before readers uncover even more details online.
The title itself refers to a group of shunned visionaries who joined forces to follow their own paths, regardless of what society tells them. The series will also focus on a new member by the name of Gabrielle with a vendetta against the project’s main hero, a robot named Metal Metro. Readers will find out about all of these ideas and characters from the various sources mentioned above, putting them directly into the world.
With so many moving pieces — both physically and story-wise — CBR sat down with Chad to find out more about the process of bringing this massive idea to fruition as we dug deeper into the world of Bad Mask.
CBR: Before we get into the meat of the story itself, what led to the idea of doing this as a multimedia project?
Jon Chad: I’m really fascinated both by the ideas of world-building and reader immersion. A lot of that can come from reading good writing — the idea of being “sucked in” by a great story. I think there is also a type of immersion and connection that comes from interacting with mundane objects and materials like newspapers, magazines, instructional handbooks, etc. There are things that I can communicate about the world of Bad Mask through something as simple as a stock ticker that would be very hard or lengthy to do in comics.
By telling the story through a series of objects, I’m also trying to place the reader closer to the story and within the world. I’ve realized my work often places the reader at an omniscient position where they follow the protagonist through events that are only pertinent to the story. If you were living in the world of Bad Mask, you wouldn’t be able to go to the store and pick up the comprehensive book of Metal Metro and the Fight Against Bad Mask. You would be picking bits and pieces of the story in the different media and formats. I like to think the narrative about Bad Mask fighting Metal Metro is there, but there is also mortar surrounding the bricks that help flesh out the world and reinforce the themes.
What was the process like, figuring out what bits of information would make it into which formats? Did you come at them with a specific theme in mind for each?
When I started this project, I plotted out all the important narrative beats I needed to communicate, as well as the world-building details I wanted to relay through the objects. Naturally, some of these were better suited for different formats. For example, it was important for me to show the reader that Metal Metro has captured the imagination and hearts of the entire world. We live in a society that has a similar level of celebrity idolization. We’ve all seen Justin Bieber backpacks, posters and pencil cases. Merchandise is the sort of products where we see that sort of idolization, so having the cards or comic book communicate those parts of the story is appropriate.
Additionally, I also thought about what emotional components of the project would be best served by the different objects. The newspaper features a larger-than-life giant mecha battle. That feeling of scale and of awe and wonder at seeing a giant mecha would be lost if it was communicated in one of the smaller objects, like the handbook.
Were there any difficulties in funneling your writing or visual style into some of these different ways of conveying information and story?
Yeah, totally! The biggest hurdle of this project was the process of teaching myself how to create these believable objects. I’m not trained in writing investment articles, weather reports, advice columns or movie reviews, so it took a lot for me to reinvent the wheel of how I write. The writing stage of comics is already the most difficult part of the process for me, so having to write in all these different formats, using different type of voices and styles, was really tricky.
As far as my visual style goes, I had to make concessions with how my drawings would sit in these objects. The goal of the project is to recreate the feeling that you are immersed in this world, and are processing information and narrative the same way the inhabitants of this world would be. If you follow that string of logic, I should have done the entire project in photographs and live-action video. From the inception, I knew the choice to illustrate everything was a double-edged sword. On one hand, using a singular drawing style brings the objects together as a cohesive whole. On the other, it slightly breaks the illusion that you are holding a true “newspaper.”
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