Returning to 'The Lab;' talking with Scott Sava

[The Lab 2]A year ago at this time we told you about a little book from Scott Sava called "The Lab." A full CGI comic book published through Mike Kunkel's Astonish Comics, the book raised a few eye-brows for it's animated style design and use of computer generated images. Since then Scott found himself paired with writer Greg Rucka on the four-issue "Spider-Man: Quality of Life" for Marvel Comics. With that now behind him Sava is returning to "The Lab" with his second issue, "The Lab 2: Electric Boogaloo," coming this January.

"The Lab" stars Livingston and Esteban, a comedic duo along the lines of Laurel and Hardy or maybe Abbot and Costello. Each issue takes place inside a laboratory and Esteban is subjected to the whims of Livingston. Of course, things go wrong and that's where the fun begins.

"Livingston is a Mole," says Sava. "He has been working [in the lab] for 15 years as head Armpit Sniffer at 'Burns and Itchez Product Testing Labs.' Never taken a day off! His boss says he has to take a vacation and so he has to train someone. Enter Esteban, an intern from accounting. Livingston is horrified, but realizes it's time to fulfill his life's dream: getting a tan!

"Esteban wants to be an Opera Singer one day. He thinks this job is pretty easy and usually jumps into things with both feet. Unfortunately, he's dumb as a post and messes things up a lot! Esteban has a unique reaction to drugs. He's just extra sensitive. Give him an aspirin and his whole head goes numb. This of course makes him an ideal candidate for product testing at the labs. So, every day they try Product X, the wonder drug, on him to see how he reacts to it and hilarity ensues!

"In issue 2, everything's new and improved! This time around Product X's side effect makes Livingston and Esteban sing and dance to any music played! They can't help themselves! They wind up torturing each other as they make the next guy sing and dance to Michael Jackson, Elvis, Marry Poppins and so much more. It's pretty darn funny!"

Anyone who has kept an eye on Sava's work in the last year will likely notice an evolution in his artwork. If you compare the work in "The Lab" #1 to his fourth issue of "Spider-Man: Quality of Life" you'll see noticeable differences in layout and composition. So, don't expect this second issue of "The Lab" to look quite like the first issue.

Click to enlarge.

"Well, I learned so much since the first issue of 'The Lab!' For issue 2 I'm applying everything I've learned during my Spidey project. The modeling is different. The first issue was all my modeling, story, everything. I learned during 'Spider-Man' just how much better things look when you delegate work to talented artists. So, when starting Issue 2 of 'The Lab' I asked Marcello and Antero (modelers from Spidey) if I could commission them to redo my characters and environment. They did so and it really shows.

"Also, I've learned so much about layout, storytelling, composition and lighting. It just really shows. It's like a completely different book!

"The cool thing is people are telling me it looks so much better, not only than the first issue of 'The Lab,' but also Spidey! That's really cool! Artistically, it looks more refined. I feel that now, more than ever, the CGI art is closer to what it should look like. I'm just so happy with how good it looks."

Sava gives some of the credit to this evolution to his editor on "Spider-Man: Quality of Life," Axel Alonso.

"Axel spent so much time with me giving me pointers during my stint on Spidey. He'd say, 'John Romita Jr. does this' or 'Mike Allred would do that.' I'd be an idiot not to listen and apply it."

The approach to storytelling, design and marketing has changed dramatically with this issue, having brought in additional help to design the book and calling on his fans to help push the book on new readers.

"As I said before, I decided to take on some help with my modeling this time out. Marcello and Antero did such an incredible job during Spidey that I asked them to take my meager models and play. Well all I can say is wow! From now on I stick to storytelling and leave the modeling to experts!

"The Lab" #2, Pages 2 & 3

Click to enlarge.

"Another cool thing I'm doing for this issue is I asked the members of my Forum on my Web site if they'd like to be Jr. Lab Techs. This means they get to help out with the book, do some editing, help with marketing and getting the word out. It's been a blast! I think there's about 2 dozen Jr. Lab Techs as of today and they've given some great ideas for songs, helped me find glitches, helped me market it and most importantly been my friends and supporter!"

While Sava would like to see "The Lab" come out more regularly, the cold, hard truth is that self-publishing a comic is a tough business. You get paid once the book is completed, not while you're working on it, which makes it difficult to keep to a more regular schedule.

"I have so much fun doing 'The Lab' and I'd love to do it regularly," said Sava. "The only difficulty is simply financial. Doing the self-publishing thing is not easy. Making the book is easy enough. I can produce a monthly series quite easily. I just spent the last 9 months on 'Spider-Man' though and that's where my time went. If I can afford to I will at least come out with a new issue every 6 months."

As for the challenges of self-publishing a book versus working for a major publisher, Sava says there are "Too many to count! You have to do everything: pay for the printing, shipping, marketing. It's very difficult. I enjoy the freedom. I don't know if the freedom outweighs the difficulties of self publishing, but we'll see."

On the other hand, one of the joys of self-publishing is the chance to experiment with different stylistic techniques one might not otherwise be allowed to do on a title featuring a well know character. As a computer artist, Sava appreciates that freedom.

"I can write the type of stories I'd like, experiment with funky borders, layouts, and lighting. Just have fun and play. It's not a serious book, so people won't nit-pick it as they would if I did Batman or something. It's nice to be able to let go every once and a while."

One look at the artwork on "The Lab" and thoughts of an easy translation into an animated series or film might come to mind. Sava tells CBR news the book was originally conceived with that in mind and he's had a number of calls from big studios and taken meetings, but it's all too early to discuss quite yet. The same holds true for future comics work.

"Well, I've been asked by Marvel to do some other projects, and am waiting for the go ahead. Same for DC, too, but can't talk about them."

Once he can talk more you can be sure we'll bring it to you here at CBR.

"The Lab 2: Electric Boogaloo" is solicited in the November Previews, has a $2.99 covered price, is 32 pages without ads and ships in early January, 2003.

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