SDCC: Siya Oum Wanders the Wasteland in Aspen's "Lola XOXO"

Siya Oum has been working in comics for the past decade coloring covers and interiors for Aspen Comics. Now she makes her creator-owned debut with Aspen's "Lola XOXO" as both writer and artist, announced at Comic-Con International: San Diego and slated for release in 2014.

"Lola" stars a merchant woman surviving in the ruins of a great war, as she travels from location to location, bartering goods and supplies essential for survival. With a small hand-held arsenal at her disposal, Lola tries to break free from her past and look towards a brighter future.

Oum spoke with CBR News about "Lola XOXO," revealing more details on the newly announced series and tells her story of how "Lola" came to become a reality at Aspen.

CBR News: Siya, before jumping into "Lola XOXO," can you tell us a little about yourself, how you broke into the comics scene and ended up doing steady work with Aspen?

Siya Oum: It started about thirteen years ago when Top Cow Productions was exhibiting in Seattle, WA for a convention. I brought my sample pages with me and David Wohl was kind enough to look at my work, giving me great constructive criticism. I started to keep in touch with David years later, and he showed my work to Vince Hernandez at Aspen. My skills did not quite develop enough yet for pencils, but I was coloring my work digitally since college, so they started me off on color assists, then covers. Of course, I had to keep working at my art on the side, doing other projects for whatever I could get my hands on.

Not much is out there on "Lola" aside from the image released in a brief press release -- what can you tell us about the story and who she is as a person?

"Lola XOXO" takes place thirteen years after a huge war. The majority of the United States has become a large wasteland of mercenaries, raiders, merchants and people barely getting by with their day to day lives. Lola was seven years old when she was separated from her parents right before the conflict began.The story is really about her struggle to adapt in this new world and separate herself from her past.

When did you start creating "Lola," and how did this series become a reality at Aspen?

I was living in Hawaii a little over a year ago and my boyfriend and I love "Fallout 3" and "Red Dead Redemption." We'd come up with ideas and stories that would involve the wasteland, just for fun. I started to write Lola's backstory before I moved back to Seattle. Vince Hernandez and David Wohl were always my go-to people when it came to things I wanted to do artistically -- Vince gave me honest feedback and helped me whenever I needed it. We bounced ideas off each other until I was happy with the concept I had for "Lola." Aspen Comics pushed me so much as an artist and a person, so they were a natural fit for the series.

Why does Lola wield a six-shooter? What other weapons or gear does she have at her disposal?

Lola is part of a merchant company traveling the Wasteland from settlement to settlement. Reliable guns and ammo are hard to come by in the Wasteland, so Lola stocks up and has many weapons at her disposal, including a bow, tactical knives and pistols. The revolvers are something she works up to in the story.

Referencing the only image released of the book, the landscape Lola finds herself in seems pretty desolate. What can you reveal about her environment and its denizens?

As a result of the war, many of the large cities have been destroyed. Small towns and newer wasteland settlements are very protective over whatever resources they have -- they establish population control. The Wastelanders started to create trade routes with each other, just as it were, long before airplanes, ships and trucks. It's very antiquated compared to today's society.

Is she a lone gunman, so to speak, or does Lola have allies?

Lola is part of a merchant company that traverses the Wasteland searching for goods, supplying their trade route with weapons, food and other luxury items. Due to the dangerous nature of their occupation, the merchants are trained in combat and other tactics for survival.

Can you tease a little about the villains in the book and the challenges Lola takes on?

There are many villains and malevolent types in the Wasteland. Lola gets tangled up with a motley crew of escaped carnies early on in the story. They are made up of thieves and killers that were rounded up for their crimes and forced to perform in the Wasteland circus.

On your youtube channel, you posted a very brief style test with Lola -- are there plans to bring this character to life beyond the printed page?

I've always been fascinated by different forms of storytelling -- animation, film and video games were always right up there with comic books for me. Animation always seemed so out of reach, so I started to learn the craft and did some short animation on a few projects. I'm hoping to put together a short "Lola" film on my own, or at least consolidate an idea worth pitching.

What's going on in that short video? Is it a scene from the comic series?

I had three scenes planned out for this animation test -- two of which I haven't finalized yet. Lola was tracking a Raider into the sewer when she comes across his dead body. It was animated long before I scripted the actual comic.

Can you take us through your artistic process for "Lola" and how you settled on her final design?

I've always loved the classic '30s and '50s time periods, specifically anything involving Marilyn Monroe. There was also something raw about the Wild West, which I incorporated into Lola's attire. I did some photo shoots of a model I used for Lola and she assisted me in her overall look, giving me ideas that allowed me to see how she was able to move in the attire. During the shoots, I had the model climb sand dunes in Idaho, walk through 90-degree weather with a gas mask on, all while wearing that exact outfit. It seemed practical enough and sexy at the same time.

On your deviant art page, you mention a love for She-Ra and the "Resident Evil" video game series. Why are you into She-Ra and which "Resident Evil" game is your favorite?

As a kid, She-Ra was the one female character that was not only beautiful but seemed strong to me. I'm pretty tiny so I looked up to her.

The first "Resident Evil" was the reason my brothers and I wanted the PS One. I'd have to say that game will always be special to me, however "Resident Evil 4" is my all-time favorite. They finally got the controls down and it has great graphics and realistic atmosphere!

Stay tuned to CBR News for more on Aspen Comics from SDCC.

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