Writer Justin Jordan broke through in the comics industry in 2011 with The Strange Talent of Luther Strode at Image Comics, which made both himself and artist Tradd Moore rising stars, and led to further high-profile work including Green Lantern: New Guardians, Spread and Planet of the Apes/Green Lantern.
Jordan's next Image series is set to debut next month, and this time he's joined by co-writer Nikki Ryan and artist Morgan Beem. The Family Trade is billed as " Steampunk, alchemy, and adventure meet the ocean," and takes place on an island city in an alternate history, starring main character Jessa Wynn, the youngest member of the titular "Family" of assassins and thieves.
"The world that The Free Republic of Thessala, a.k.a. The Float, is set in is Earth, but one where history is somewhat different than our own," Jordan told CBR in March. "The continents we know are all there, but the big points of divergence are that what we have alchemy, and other sorts of magic are possible, including the creation of The Float."
With The Family Trade #1 scheduled to debut in comics stores on Oct. 11, CBR has an exclusive look at Beem's character designs from the series, along with commentary from Jordan -- including looks at Jessa, "tukboats" and Beem's watercolor art.
Justin Jordan:: "So this is one of the fun bits of comics -- all these background characters? Loosely based on Morgan’s friends. And indeed, if you are my friend and a character in one of my books has the same name as you, there’s a really good chance they’re named after you."
"This was actually one of the first things Morgan did for the book, after designing Jessa. The look of the Float is based in part on places like Kowloon City, where people where limited in space got creative with their living situation. Which, like basically everything else, Morgan pretty much nailed it right out of the gate."
"And of course, cats. We’re all big cat fans here at Team Family Trade, so we made them actual characters in the book. The running joke is that Jessa, who speaks any number of human languages, is the only person in her family who doesn’t speak cat."
"So when Nikki, Morgan and I were creating Jessa the first thing we knew was that she had this massive, giant hair. It is wildly impractical for her line of work, but that’s Jessa for you."
"Character-wise, we also wanted Jessa’s look to reflect who she is. So she’s athletic, but she’s not a skinny supermodel type. She’s meant to look like someone who could jump from rooftop to rooftop. She’s also, like a lot of people on The Float, a mixture of a lot of different ethnicities."
"The far left is her work uniform, which we mostly wanted to look awesome."
"This is the magic of Morgan Beem at work. Her stuff is all full watercolor -- no digital involved. I’m continually surprised at how damn fast she is. As a non artist this looks like it should take forever but she manages to do it with astonishing speed. I assume she’s some kind of supernatural entity."
"This is an example of something that’s straight Morgan. The tukboats weren’t mentioned in the script but since the Float is crisscrossed with waterways (it is, after all, a floating island) so things like taxis would indeed be boats."
"These are actually based on things that exist in our world. They fit perfectly into the world of The Family Trade, so I was deeply pleased when Morgan came up with them."
The Family Trade #1 is scheduled for release on Oct. 11 from Image Comics.